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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 02:48:48 AM EST) Reading, Watching, Me, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "City of Bohane", "Seek My Face". Watching: "Moneyball", "Coriolanus". Links.


What I'm Reading
City of Bohane by Kevin Barry. Like "Chez Max" and "Salvage", this is another SF-ish book, set in a broken-down future, by a mainstream author in mainstream packaging.

This one is set in a thoroughly-envisaged City of Bohane, a tough city in a future Ireland. The plot is about a conflict between gangs.

Beautifully written, with larger than life characters. Well worth a read.

What I'm Reading 2
Seek My Face by John Updike has an interesting format. The book is set over one day, without any chapter or section breaks, describing a biographical interview between an elderly artist and a young art journalist, combining the artists words and vivid memories

I liked this one a lot, found it very compelling and was reluctant to put it down. It has all of Updike's characteristic brilliance at getting into people's heads and lives, but having both characters female makes it a bit of a change from most of his books.

Early on our attention is drawn to a still life painting seen by the artist as a child, who even then is aware of how difficult it is to paint the realistic textures. The book seems to be a similar exercise to a classical still life, it's a big technical challenge to do all the textures on such a small scale without a big dramatic subject.

The characters are heavily based on real artists, mostly in the abstract impressionist movement, and it nods to real events. The artist Hope Chafetz is based on Lee Krasner, who was married to Jackson Pollock who becomes Zack McCoy here. However, they're not always literal: Hope's second husband Guy Holloway is a composite of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, while the real Lee Krasner never remarried. This seems to have annoyed some of the reviewers, who seem to feel characters should either be thinly-veiled real people or entirely fictional.

I thought this was a great book, well worth reading, and up to the standards of Updike's best.

Review, review.

What I'm Watching
Moneyball (DVD) is a decent movie, based on a true-ish story, of a baseball manager and an economist using statistical analysis to hire undervalued players for their low-budget team. Found it quite interesting though I'm not a sports fan and definitely not a baseball fan, might be much more enjoyable to those who are more into it.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw Ralph Fiennes recent version of Coriolanus that got a lot of attention lately. Very modernized version with lots of assault rifles and gun battles. Great central performance from Fiennes as the arrogant tragic hero Coriolanus. Gerard Butler is his antagonist Aufidius, who glowers a lot, though Shakespeare didn't actually write much of a part for that character.

I liked some touches a lot, like having the messengers be TV newsreaders (Jon Snow is one!) which highlights their importance, I think it's hard for modern viewers to feel the importance of such minor characters. Not quite sure if having elements of modern democracy works so well, someone like Coriolanus couldn't really function in a democracy with his open disdain for the people.

Vanessa Redgrave gives a great performance as Coriolanus' mother Volumnia, one of Shakespeare's best female parts.

Overall, a great version of the play, well worth seeing.

Me
Started the new job. Still settling into it, it's a big change from the last one. Not doing any private surfing/tweeting/blogging from work so far, they're a pretty focused bunch by comparison.

Commute's a bit of a nightmare at the moment, since I was spoilt by being able to walk to work, an hour and a half on two trains feels like it doesn't leave me with much free time. Commute should be easier once we're moved into the new place in Twickenham, though that will bring its own problems as I'm used to having everything exactly the way I want it in my own flat.

Girl B has her wedding ring now, I still haven't bought mine. Apparently they're more comfortable if they're curved not flat on the inside, but also more expensive as it takes more gold to make the curvy bit. Tempted to go back to titanium and avoid the cost issue. Seems a bit daft to spend so much money on a metal like gold, a metal so weak and heavy they don't even make planes out of it.

Links
Socioeconomics. Why devaluation is not a viable option for Greece. The real bailout. The Rocky Balboa recovery? Quantifying bank subsidies. Christianity growing in UK. China bubble. French Presidential portraits.

Politics. Should civil servants be "ranked and yanked"? Sovereign decisionism. Myths: US EPA drone Doctor disciplined for just mentioning his faith.

Video. "Alien" movement test, via. Yo-yo steady in frame. Cat fights rabbit.

Sci/Tech. Beware stimulus effects in psychology.

Pics. Prometheus, spaceship concept art. Writing rooms. Ansel Adams 1940s LA. Shorpy: Army and Navy Tea Room.

Random. Richard Feynmann, Natalie Portman and Bryan May are the only three people to have Erdos-Sabbath-Bacon numbers. You're not ready for a baby, via. Male witches unevenly distributed across history. Lionel Shriver thinks British cyclists are competitive (via wiredog).

< Andriod | A good time... >
Action is eloquence | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Governor of the CB of Barbados by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 08:33:03 AM EST
It's definitely a well written article about currency depreciation.  It does miss the point that Greece isn't Barbados.  Not only does Greece have more to import, but Greece is in easy reach of richer EU countries.  Greece is already an attractive vacation spot, but add in a devalued currency and it makes it more attractive. 

I think the architects of the Euro and the EU would argue that this is the type of crisis which they would use to strengthen the EU.  If Europe is going to be united, then they need to be united fiscally.  There needs to be a system of transfer payments from the wealthy states to the poorer states.  The transfer of payments system is one of the big reasons the United States holds together as a federation.  The confederation prior to the US Constitution lasted about ten years before imploding.  The federation has lasted over two hundred. 




---------------
Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
To put things in contect by lm (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 10:49:19 AM EST
The Articles of Confederation amount to the political philosophy known as federalism in the rest of the world. The Constitution, despite being backed by a the partisans known as Federalists, isn't actually federalism but is something far stronger.

And, yeah, fiscal policies are a large part of that. One of the reasons that the Articles of Confederation were deemed to have failed is that the individual states could not agree on who should pay off the debt from the War of Independence.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Easy reach by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 12:10:10 AM EST
The nearby US doesn't count as easy reach? Stats would be interesting.

Interesting to hear Will Self say recently the EU failed as a political union not with the current financial crisis but a decade ago with the Yugoslavian wars
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18119242

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
What's missing from the Barbados... by Metatone (4.00 / 2) #12 Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 06:57:34 PM EST
picture is any sense of devaluation changing the position relative to competition.

The big win for Greece is that tourism and low end industries (e.g. textiles) have moved from Euro-inflated Greece to Turkey and East Europe (e.g. Croatia, Bulgaria). Exit and devaluation could make sensibly be claimed to make Greece competitive with those nations again. Shipping also has the potential to benefit and it's big (if tax-avoiding) industry.

Barbados on the other hand... well it can devalue relative to other islands, but it's not going to change the balance relative to (for example) Mexico that much...

Key point is perhaps that both for Barbados and Greece, the big import is energy (oil) - difference is that Greece has much more industrial potential and history and has more indigenous agriculture.


[ Parent ]
Possibly by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 01:30:24 AM EST
Devaluation sometimes helps an economy: for instance the UK after Black Wednesday. But as the book "Econned" by Yves Smith points out, sometimes it doesn't: it didn't help the US regain exports from Japan.

More importantly, the chief way that devaluation helps an economy is by rapidly and stealthily lowering local wages. A factory still has to have imports, which haven't got any cheaper after devaluation. Holiday costs include flights, imported products, which don't get any cheaper with devaluation.

Greek wages already dropped 23% last year for full-time workers last year alone. That takes it down to less than half of German wages. So, they've already had a substantial devaluation of wages. Their current situation already incorporates a significant devaluation advantage.

OK, so a currency devaluation might be even bigger. But even then, I doubt they're going to be competing with China and Inida for textiles. And their holiday market is still going to be competing with Prague and the other "new" Eastern Europe holiday destinations.

A Greek devaluation might give tham a small boost. But I don't think it would be the panacea that some people think.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I guess for Greece by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #14 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 01:50:20 AM EST
The advantages would be coming more from an accompanying (additional) partial default, and being able to set their own interest rates again. They really are screwed every way at the moment though.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Interest rates by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #15 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 02:23:02 AM EST
Maybe, but I think ECB interest rates are 1% at the moment, so the ability to cut them further to boost growth isn't that helpful in the short term.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
One hundred basis points of solitude by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #18 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 10:10:02 AM EST
1% is better than a kick in the head. Honestly they might choose to run a currency board to build confidence, with a mix of euro, USD, yen and a smattering of francs and other minor currencies. But  they could then still tune it to suit domestic conditions.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Nothing is a panacea... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #16 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 05:26:19 AM EST
but there's reason to think it might help.

And I mentioned Turkey specifically because they won't take textiles back from China and India, but there's definitely room for them to get some back from Turkey. Likewise, a major advantage the Eastern European holiday destinations have is that they are not in the Euro. A new drachma would fall against the Euro and once again Euro tourists will be able to go to Greece and get as much for their money as they do in Eastern Europe.

All of which is to point out that there is reason to believe that in this case, contra the Barbadan comparison, it would help.

Would it help enough?
Hard to say for sure - but if it's a choice between the vicious circle of austerity which kills demand and thus debt/GDP doesn't improve, or default and exit and devaluation, the vicious circle looks less and less like the better option.



[ Parent ]
someone like Coriolanus couldn't really function by wiredog (4.00 / 2) #2 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 08:38:02 AM EST
s in a democracy with his open disdain for the people.

Been watching the elections in the US?

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

The thing abou a titanium wedding ring by MartiniPhilosopher (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 02:06:33 PM EST
and a point thoroughly explained to me by a firefighter friend, is that given the choice between cutting said ring and cutting your finger off (if you are trapped or caught in any way by it) means that they are going to be cutting your finger off.

You might be better off sticking with the expensive, heavy, soft metal.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

Hmm by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 03:28:29 PM EST
Snopes disagrees.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I stand corrected by MartiniPhilosopher (4.00 / 1) #10 Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 10:55:08 AM EST
And I also wonder if I shouldn't show that to my friend...it might save a few fingers in the future.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

[ Parent ]
Though it does make a good point: by gzt (4.00 / 1) #19 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 10:55:26 AM EST
hard to resize titanium.

[ Parent ]
my first thought by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #20 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 01:36:22 PM EST
was that titanium was brittle and likely to shatter if you hit your hand too hard. Best guess is that is the commercial alloy as well.

Wumpus

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by johnny (2.00 / 0) #6 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 08:07:44 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by johnny



Sheesh by johnny (4.00 / 2) #7 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 08:15:59 PM EST
Wander away from HuSi for a bit -- no excuses -- and what do you know but Theophile's (evidently) engaged. And you missed it.

Congrats; not sure how belated. I think that's just wonderful.

Also, I liked the titanium ring snopesification. I was lucky that I wasn't wearing my ring two years ago when I took a spill and busted the knuckle on my wedding ring finger. I had already busted that knuckle once playing hockey and twice playing basketball, so this last injury was one too many, and that ring will never go over it again. I'm sentimental about that ring; I really should get around to having it resized one of these days. But anyway, as a firefighter I've wondered whether about that titanium ring myth. Thanks for the link.

Re: Moneyball: I liked it for the way it depicted how men interact with each other. For example, the frank talk between David Justice and Billy Beane. Between Billy Beane and Art, the team manager. Between Beane and Scott Hatteberg. This forgoing observation just occurred to me, by the way. So it's provisional. But if I remember right, other than Beane's daughter, all the significant characters are men, and they all interact with each other in ways that are stereotypically masculine -- honest and blunt with a nearly Klingon directness, saying harsh but true things, but without being assholes. There's even a scene where Beane tutors his protege in how to professionally fire a baseball player. (In fact, the Beane character makes a point of getting rid of baseball players like Jeremy Giambi who act masculine in the "stereotypical masculine asshole" mode.) In so, so many "guy" movies, "being masculine" == "being an asshole". I think Moneyball was refreshing in how it avoided doing that.

Also, I am a baseball fan.

By the way, when Beane turned down the offer from John Henry to be the General Manager of the Red Sox, the job went to Theo Epstein, a student/fan of Beane and Bill James, the "father of saber metrics". With Epstein as GM, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 and 2007. Epstein's was given a lot of credit for the Red Sox's success, and their victories were considered a vindication of the Beane/James philosophy.

Epstein left the Red Sox for the Chicago Cubs -- who haven't won the world series for 100 years -- two years ago. Last I looked, the Cubs were in last place in their division, with virtually no hope of making the playoffs. For non baseball fans: it's June. The playoffs aren't until the end of September. Which means that for Cubs fans, every game this summer -- about 100 of them remain in the season -- are essentially meaningless. The Cubs, as usual, are just a really, really sucky baseball team. What that has to say about Theo Epstein and the "Moneyball" approach to selecting & paying players is a topic for endless debate. But not, I suspect, on HuSi. Especially not in Theo's diary.

She has effectively checked out. She's an un-person of her own making. So it falls to me.--ad hoc (in the hole)

Thanks! by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #11 Sun Jun 24, 2012 at 01:22:10 PM EST
I got engaged about a month ago.

Apparently some jewellers will fit a hinge or "adjustable ring shank" to a ring so you can get it on despite a swollen knuckle, but I think it's pretty expensive.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I liked Moneyball by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 11:59:40 PM EST
... Though I have little interest in that team trading / stats aspect of sport. Just a great Sorkin script and an interesting story. I find it easy to forget Brad Pitt is actually a great actor, which means watching him is often a pleasant surprise.

Good China article. Also liked this recently

http://brontecapital.blogspot.sg/2012/06/macroeconomics-of-chinese-kleptocracy.html?m=1

Iambic Web Certified

Erdos et al by gazbo (4.00 / 1) #17 Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 07:05:57 AM EST
The linked article actually lists four people - Hawking is the person with the lowest combined number.

I recommend always assuming 7th normal form where items in a text column are not allowed to rhyme.

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