Quotulatiousness

May 16, 2017

Exploring Fort Douaumont With The VERDUN Developers I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, France, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 15 May 2017

Join our Live Stream with the Developers: http://twitch.com/tgw_series
Check out Verdun: http://www.verdungame.com/

We went to the Verdun area in France this winter and visited Fort Douaumont together with the developers of the video game VERDUN. They rebuilt the fort in their game and their knowledge of the sight shows when Indy is walking through the fort.

Freaky Friday Politics: Republicans And Democrats Keep Switching Positions

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 15 May 2017

Democrats and Republicans are pivoting on issues faster than a bipolar swing dancer on a merry-go-round. Republicans are now big government protectionists. Democrats support free trade and states’ rights. It’s like the two parties switched bodies! It’s almost as if… they were FREAKY-FRIDAYED!

How service companies might respond to a mandated increase in the minimum wage

Filed under: Business, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

At Coyote Blog, Warren Meyer discusses how real world service companies that employ a lot of minimum wage workers are likely to respond when the minimum wage is raised:

When I discuss this with folks, they will say that the increase could still come out of profitability — a 5% margin could be reduced to 3% say. When I get comments like this, it makes me realize that people don’t understand the basic economics of a service firm, so a concrete example should help. Imagine a service business that relies mainly on minimum wage employees in which wages and other labor related costs (payroll taxes, workers compensation, etc) constitute about 50% of the company’s revenues. Imagine another 45% of company revenues going towards covering fixed costs, leaving 5% of revenues as profit. This is a very typical cost breakdown, and in fact is close to that of my own business. The 5% profit margin is likely the minimum required to support capital spending and to keep the owners of the company interested in retaining their investment in this business.

Now, imagine that the required minimum wage rises from $10 to $15 (exactly the increase we are in the middle of in California). This will, all things equal, increase our example company’s total wage bill by 50%. With the higher minimum wage, the company will be paying not 50% but 75% of its revenues to wages. Fixed costs will still be 45% of revenues, so now profits have shifted from 5% of revenues to a loss of 20% of revenues. This is why I tell folks the math of absorbing the wage increase in profits is often not even close. Even if the company were to choose to become a non-profit charity outfit and work for no profit, barely a fifth of this minimum wage increase in this case could be absorbed. Something else has to give — it is simply math.

The absolute best case scenario for the business is that it can raise its prices 25% without any loss in volume. With this price increase, it will return to the same, minimum acceptable profit it was making before the regulation changed (profit in this case in absolute dollars — the actual profit margin will be lowered to 4%). But note that this is a huge price increase. It is likely that some customers will stop buying, or buy less, at the new higher prices. If we assume the company loses 1% of unit volume for every 2% price increase, we find that the company now will have to raise prices 36% to stay even both of the minimum wage increase and lost volume. Under this scenario, the company would lose 18% of its unit sales and is assumed to reduce employee hours by the same amount. In the short term, just for the company to survive, this minimum wage increase leads to a substantial price increase and a layoff of nearly 20% of the workers. Of course, in real life there are other choices. For example, rather than raise prices this much, companies may execute stealth price increases by laying off workers and reducing service levels for the same price (e.g. cleaning the bathroom less frequently in a restaurant). In the long-term, a 50% increase in wage rates will suddenly make a lot of labor-saving capital investments more viable, and companies will likely substitute capital for labor, reducing employment even further but keeping prices more stable for consumers.

As you can see, in our example we don’t need to know anything about bargaining power and the fairness of wages. Simple math tells us that the typical low-margin service business that employs low-skill workers is going to have to respond with a combination of price increases and job reductions.

Terry Teachout remembers Dragnet

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I vaguely remember watching Dragnet on TV, but the version I watched is apparently just a pale imitation of the original series:

If you’re fifty or older, you won’t need to be told the source of these half-recalled phrases: “The story you are about to see is true.” “This is the city.” “I carry a badge.” “My name’s Friday.” If you’re much younger than that, though, I doubt that you’ll remember Dragnet with any clarity. In the early days of network television, Dragnet was the most successful of all cops-and-robbers TV shows, as well as the most influential. It’s still influential — every episode of Law and Order bears its indelible stamp — but TV has since moved in flashier directions, and I doubt that the narrative conventions brought into being by Jack Webb, the director, producer, and star of Dragnet, will remain conventional for much longer.

For baby-boom TV viewers, Dragnet is both iconic and ironic. The version of the show that ran on NBC from 1967 to 1970, in which Webb was partnered by Harry Morgan, was an exercise in unintended self-parody, full of hippy-dippy druggies and the earnest cops who locked them up and threw away the key. A few of the episodes remain effective in their quaint way, but most are embarrassingly stiff. Part of the problem was that Sergeant Joe Friday, Webb’s character, was the squarest of squares, and it was already chic to smirk at such straight-arrow types by the time I reached adolescence. My father watched Dragnet religiously, though, so I did, too, little knowing that what I was seeing each week was a recycled, watered-down simulacrum of the real thing.

The real Dragnet was the black-and-white version that aired from 1951 to 1959. That series, in which Webb was partnered by Ben Alexander, was pulled out of syndication long ago and has never been legitimately reissued on DVD, nor is any “official” version, so far as I know, currently in the works. Fortunately, a few dozen episodes were inadvertently allowed to go out of copyright, and it’s easy to track down copies of them. […]

Like the later color version, the Dragnet of the Fifties was a no-nonsense half-hour police-procedural drama that sought to show how ordinary cops catch ordinary crooks. The scripts, most of which were written by James E. Moser, combined straightforwardly linear plotting (“It was Wednesday, October 6. It was sultry in Los Angeles. We were working the day watch out of homicide”) with clipped dialogue spoken in a near-monotone, all accompanied by the taut, dissonant music of Walter Schumann. Then and later, most of the shots were screen-filling talking-head closeups, a plain-Jane style of cinematography that to this day is identified with Jack Webb.

The difference was that in the Fifties, Joe Friday and Frank Smith, his chubby, mildly eccentric partner, stalked their prey in a monochromatically drab Los Angeles that seemed to consist only of shabby storefronts and bleak-looking rooms in dollar-a-night hotels. Nobody was pretty in Dragnet, and almost nobody was happy. The atmosphere was that of film noir minus the kinks — the same stark visual grammar, only cleansed of the sour tang of corruption in high places. But even without the Chandleresque pessimism that gave film noir its seedy savor, Dragnet was still rough stuff, more uncompromising than anything that had hitherto been seen on TV. In 1954 Time called the series “a sort of peephole into a grim new world. The bums, priests, con men, whining housewives, burglars, waitresses, children and bewildered ordinary citizens who people Dragnet seem as sorrowfully genuine as old pistols in a hockshop window.”

The Virtual Lorenz machine

Filed under: Germany, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At The Register, Gareth Corfield discusses the new virtual coding device simulating the WW2 German Lorenz cipher machine:

The National Museum of Computing has put an emulation of an “unbreakable” Second World War German cipher machine online for world+dog to admire.

The Virtual Lorenz machine has been launched in honour of WW2 codebreaker Bill Tutte, the man who broke the crypto used in the twelve-rotor cipher machine.

As The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) puts it, Tutte’s work “shortened the conflict” – even though he had never even seen the cipher machine or its crypto scheme, the breaking of which the museum added was “the greatest intellectual feat of the war”.

TNMOC unveiled the Virtual Lorenz today to celebrate Tutte’s 100th birthday. Built by computing chap Martin Gillow, the simulation accurately reproduces the whirring of the cipher wheels (you might want to turn it down as the “background whirr” is a little too realistic).

The BBC profiled the “gifted mathematician” a few years ago, highlighting how the Lorenz machine whose secrets Tutte cracked was “several degrees more advanced than Enigma”, the cipher famously cracked by Tutte’s colleague Alan Turing. Tutte cracked the Lorenz in about six months, reverse-engineering its workings by reading intercepted Lorenz messages. When the Allies wanted to fool Hitler into believing the D-Day landings would take place in a false location, our ability to read Lorenz was critical for confirming that the ruse had worked – saving thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen’s lives.

[…]

The Virtual Lorenz can be found here. Word to the wise – it’s not on an HTTPS site, so if you’re hoping to use it to thwart GCHQ, you might want to think again.

11 Things to see in Athens

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Mar 2017

On February i got a few days away to relax from everything. I left you with some automatic videos, so you wouldn’t be without new documentaries and i went on holiday to Athens, Greece. I wanted to share a little bit about what i saw. This video is the first video made by me. (Be good, please!)

QotD: Politics as an auto-immune condition

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

From living with eczema, which is a chronic auto-immune disorder, I can tell you that it much resembles the way we stumbled through from the forties (perhaps earlier. But in the forties, Heinlein described the communists taking over the Democratic party. And considering it took him till the eighties to vote Republican for the first time, I don’t think he can be considered a biased source.) through to 2001 like I live – most of the time – with my eczema: it flares up in a specific part of my body, and it itches like heck, which of course means that I don’t give my full attention to anything much, but because I’ve lived like this since I was one, it doesn’t really bother me or I should say – I don’t know what it’s like when it’s not bothering me.

[…]

For those who’ve been following our politics in puzzled wonder, it might help if you think of our issues as an autoimmune disorder. Let’s for the moment forget where it came from. Most autoimmune disorders are a bit of a mystery. Yes, part of it was the same bad philosophy that affected Europe at the time, and some of it might have been Soviet agitprop leaking over the ocean (as someone who grew up in Europe and in a fractured country, I know most Americans ignore the chances of that.) Part of it was a predisposition to it. The US and the ancient Israelites are the only people I know of formed on a set of principles and engage in detailed criticism of themselves over their principles. (Most other nations engaged in a criticism of OTHER countries over their own principles and blame OTHER countries for their own failures. For further study, I recommend Europe.)

Anyway, mostly we’ve been living with it and ignoring it, like I do with eczema. The areas where it was chronic: college campuses, “intellectual” areas were relatively minor. Even when it affected Hollywood, as long as it wasn’t flaring up too badly, most people rolled their eyes and ignored it.

[…]

The problem is this – the flare up continued growing. All through the sixties and the seventies, and the eighties, and yes, of course, the nineties, the flare up of self-hatred grew. And just like the eczema in my hands, it started affecting areas we can’t live without: K-12 schools, business, news.

And it’s not just a little. The news have been biased left for a long time (yes, I know the left thinks they’re biased right, but that’s because the left is to the left of Stalin, while the media are basically propping up a state-capitalism system much like China’s.) If you consider Fascism right, then you’re darn tooting the media is biased right. Since I consider it a misnomer, well…

But more importantly, unlike the manifestations of totalitarian impulse in other countries – Russia, Cuba, China – the autoimmune problems are NOT affecting just our governance or our industry. It’s not a matter of destroying our industry so we’ll all be poor. That would be bad enough. The problem is far worse, though: the problem is that the statist ideology now in control of our government, our media, our education and what passes for “high culture” doesn’t just hate this or that part of us. No, they’ve been told/convinced/brainwashed that what’s wrong with the world is US – that the country and its existence ARE the enemy.

It might be the first time in history where in a non-occupied country flying the flag is an act of daring that in certain neighborhoods can get you shunned by all your neighbors. It might be the first time in history where teaching the good parts of your history in school is considered an act of defiance, and where the higher-class and all the bien-pensants push distorted histories and documentaries that run down the country that hosts them.

Autoimmune. Systemic.

Sara A. Hoyt, “Auto-Immune — A blast from the past post from February 2013”, According to Hoyt, 2015-07-01.

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