Quotulatiousness

August 26, 2010

If you like Eminent Domain, you’ll love Montgomery’s version

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:02

Christina Walsh reports on an Alabama city’s even-more-tyrannical-than-eminent-domain law:

Imagine you come home from work one day to a notice on your front door that you have 45 days to demolish your house, or the city will do it for you. Oh, and you’re paying for it.

This is happening right now in Montgomery, Ala., and here is how it works: The city decides it doesn’t like your property for one reason or another, so it declares it a “public nuisance.” It mails you a notice that you have 45 days to demolish your property, at your expense, or the city will do it for you (and, of course, bill you).

Your tab with the city will constitute a lien on your property, and if you don’t pay it within 30 days (or pay your installments on time; if you owe over $10,000, you can work out a deal to pay back the city for destroying your home over a period of time, with interest), the city can sell your now-vacant land to the highest bidder.

H/T to Institute For Justice for the link.

The (real, true, terrifying) risks of working at home

Filed under: Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:35

Working from home is one of those mixed blessings, you don’t have the morning commute, you don’t have to fight for parking space or room on the bus, and there’s no dress code. You also tend to lose some of that all-important human contact with your co-workers. But I didn’t realize it could be this bad:

H/T to holykaw.alltop.com.

WWII German spy success in Norway

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:41

Newly released MI5 information shows that the allied defeat in Norway in 1940 may have been caused by a German espionage triumph:

[Marina] Lee is said to have infiltrated the headquarters of the British Expeditionary Forces in Norway and obtained information about the plan drawn up by British commander Gen Auchinleck.

German commander, Gen Eduard Dietl, who was holding the Norwegian port of Narvik, was reportedly considering a withdrawal, but the disclosure of these details meant his forces could block the Auchinleck plan.

British, French and Norwegian troops were later forced to withdraw from German-controlled Norway.

Born in St Petersburg, Russia, Lee was married to a Norwegian communist and had trained as a ballerina before becoming “a highly valued and experienced German agent”, according to the files.

She is described as “blonde, tall, with a beautiful figure, refined and languid in manner” and reportedly spoke five languages.

One account says she personally knew Stalin — leading to conjectures she was working for both Berlin and Moscow who, at that time, were on the same side, our reporter says.

Understanding why nerds tend to be fanatical gamers

Filed under: Gaming, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:15

Robin Hanson attended his third GenCon and postulates a theory for why so many nerds are so dedicated to their gaming:

Since nerds are, in essence, folks with low natural social skills (relative to their other skills), you might think nerds would favor movies & TV over games, as movies don’t require one to be as social. And among games you might think they’d prefer games with less social interaction. But you’d be wrong on both counts.

[. . .]

Another explanation is that while nerds like to socialize, they are terrified of making social mistakes. This explains why they tend to avoid eye-contact — it is too easy to make the wrong eye contacts. Games let nerds interact socially, yet avoid mistakes via well-defined rules, and a social norm that all legal moves are “fair game.” Role-playing has less well-defined rules, but the norm there is that social mistakes are to be blamed on characters, not players.

An third explanation is hinted at by the fact that we use the word “game” to refer both to “fun/frivolous” and to “seriously selfishly strategic.” While social norms usually forbid overt strategic selfishness in social behavior, such strategic selfishness is allowed in games.

Tyler Cowan likes this explanation:

I endorse this explanation (I am not sure if Robin does) and I notice some testable predictions. If nerds are otherwise constrained and thus underconsuming social experiences, nerd-run games should be especially boisterous and enjoyable. Nerds should invest more resources to play these games than non-nerds will find explicable; to non-nerds the games will seem superfluous. Nerds should seek out games with intensely social elements. In my limited sample of experience (I don’t like these games myself, but every now and then they are played in my place of employment), I see these predictions being validated.

H/T to Tim Harford for the link to Marginal Revolution.

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