1. Reinstall

    July 31, 2007 by Craig

    Something happened to my WordPress install which caused the site to stall. A week of bickering with Dreamhost got me nowhere, but I reinstalled WordPress and now it seems to be working just fine. If you see any errors please let me know.

  2. New House

    July 20, 2007 by Craig

    Laura and I just closed on our new house. So far it’s looking good. There’s lots of scuffs on the walls so we’ll end up repainting most of it, but overall it’s in good shape.

    If you’re in the neighborhood, give me a call and I’ll give you a tour… although there’s not much to see besides the house itself yet. We will be moving our stuff over the course of the next month.

    I’ve posted our address and a link to Google Maps; if you’re a fried, e-mail me and I’ll give you the password.

  3. Protected: New Address

    by Craig

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  4. Bookish Economics vs. Empty Bellies

    July 16, 2007 by Craig

    Fark says it best: “What happens when you give an old crazy man with no understanding of economics the reigns to a wealthy country?”

    The answer is obvious: rampant shortages, the collapse of the business environment, black marketeering, and riots. Poverty and starvation are right around the corner.

    Zimbabweans are shopping like there’s no tomorrow. With police patrolling the aisles of Harare’s electrical shops to enforce massive government-ordered price cuts, the widescreen TVs were the first things to go, for as little as £20. Across the country, shoes, clothes, toiletries and different kinds of food were all swept from the shelves as a nation with the world’s fastest shrinking economy gorged itself on one last spending spree.

    This sort of market-blindness isn’t just in Zimbabwe of course; Chavez has been putting in price caps in Venezuela too. The difference there is that Chavez can buy out his mistakes with a steady income of Venezuelan oil money. It’s not just an “over there” issue either; hurricanes such as Wilma and Katrina bring up talks of anti-price-“gouging” laws.

    What most people (including national leaders apparently) don’t understand is that the number involved in a price (including the price of labour: wages) is pretty much arbitrary: it’s just a placeholder for actual value/wealth. Changing prices across the board doesn’t make things more or less valuable or available; all it does is change the value of the cash itself, both in hand and in bank accounts. Force people to sell at below the market price and you’re not making goods more accessible: you’re simply transferring value from the business to the consumer in a one-time shot. You can’t afford to do that forever (or even more than once); there’s no incentive to create more wealth if you’re going to have it taken from you.

    The same goes for minimum-wage increases by and large: by dictating that business pay employees more, you’re not creating more wealth to better the lives of those employees, you’re just moving the goal posts. A employee who earns the minimum wage is also earning minimum value, and that doesn’t change when you increase the number attached to the law. What does happen is that you evaporate the value of anything that’s tied to a particular amount: things like savings accounts and old-age pensions which aren’t indexed to inflation.

    Mugabe doesn’t realize (or intentionally ignores) the relationship between money and value — and so he’s going to get hit in the head with the reality of “bookish economics” in short order. Let’s hope everyone else learns the lesson.

  5. Trading Money for Rights

    July 12, 2007 by Craig

    Scott Adams does it again. This time he’s prosing (with tongue in cheek) that, in exchange for higher taxes, the super-rich get extra privileges that don’t really have a significant impact on the rest of us.

    For example, let’s say the super rich are granted the right to use the carpool lane even if no one else is in the car. They’d need special stickers on their cars so they didn’t get pulled over. It wouldn’t clog the car pool lane because there are so few super rich people, and half of them have chauffeurs, so they use the carpool lane already. Society wouldn’t notice the difference.

    While I’m not expecting any of this to actually happen, it did make me think. Consider that:

    1. The super-rich already get special privileges. They’re just not official ones.
    2. They’re paying for them with money that they’d otherwise keep.

    The idea of special rules for special people is an obvious affront to egalitarianism. However, that same egalitarianism should, in theory, be affronted by the difference in wealth. Adams’ idea is about trading one inequality for another; they should really balance each other out.

    So why does the special rules suggestion offend me (and I suspect everyone else as well) so much? That is what makes me wonder.

  6. Unintended Consequences

    July 11, 2007 by Craig

    This is perfect material for a third Freakonomics book: Using promiscuity to slow the spread of AIDS.

    The premise is this:

    1. Person A and Person B, under normal circumstances, would decide to hook up. Both are infection-free.
    2. Person A decides against having sex due to STD concerns.
    3. Person B still wants to find a partner.
    4. Person C is not dissuaded by STD concerns, and is both available and infected.
    5. Since Person A is out of the partner market, Person B sleeps with Person C instead, and becomes infected.

    Had Person A decided instead to sleep with Person B, Person C would not have had a chance to infect B, and so the disease slows in its progress.

    The author then goes on to discuss individual vs. group benefits, how the interest of the former can directly conflict with that of the latter… and how to work around that so that both can benefit. Great stuff.

  7. Airport Insecurity

    July 9, 2007 by Craig

    You probably guessed this already: airport screeners are so busy confiscating water bottles that they are letting actual (test) bombs through.

    Of course, there’s a TSA attempt at spinning the situation:

    “We don’t discuss the results because they tend to paint an inaccurate picture of the competency of our work force,” she said. “The tests are designed to be incredibly difficult and TSA does anticipate a fair level of failure.”

    Apparently they believe actual terrorists will be less adept at hiding their bombs than their testers.

    It’s too bad that this wasn’t an isolated incident, but this sort of story has cropped up a few times at other airports.

    Airport security is mostly there to give the appearance of safety. If more people understand that it’s largely smoke & mirrors, then maybe we’ll get rid of the facade and stop enduring the hassles.

  8. Plotformers

    July 8, 2007 by Craig

    I am not planing on seeing Transformers in the theaters, and I probably won’t bother with the DVD either. What sealed it for me was the complete lack of robot dialog in the trailers… despite there being plenty of speaking clips from the humans. The Transformers of the 80s wasn’t just about robots and explosions; there were actual characters involved.

    So, Transformers is on my not-worth-the-bother list… however this quote was good enough that I figured I’d post.

    The robots had the predictable and tiresome “but humans are so violent” philosophical debate. At this point we’re pretty much used to sanctimonious aliens showing up and tut-tutting at us in movies, although it was pretty irritating to hear it coming from a bunch of robots who’d had a war that destroyed their entire homeworld, to the point of making it uninhabitable for robots.

    That pretty much sums it up. From everything I’ve heard so far Transformers is just more Bay/Bruckheimer silliness. I’ll catch the South Park parody instead.

  9. Looniebucks

    July 6, 2007 by Craig

    It figures: now that I’m living in Canada and earning US dollars, the exchange rate between the two hits its worst level in my lifetime.

    Still, I’m not complaining too loudly: I did pay off my student loans while the exchange rate was near the historically best levels (circa 1999). Complaining that the exchange rate is poor is like complaining about the weather: you can’t do much about it, unless you’re willing to move… and it’ll probably change by the end of the week anyway.

  10. July 5, 2007 by Craig

    File this under “things that you hope would get funding so that they can fail miserably and become a lesson to others”: free nationwide wireless porn-free Internet.