Print Story It's not actually a very interesting psychological phenomenon
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Jan 18, 2008 at 11:14:07 PM EST) Watching, Reading, Money, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Escapement", "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City". Watching. Ha'penny. Web.

What I'm Reading
Finished The Escapement, last book in the Engineer trilogy by K.J. Parker. Definitely one of the best fantasy-ish series I've read lately.

In some ways it's more alternate-world than fantasy, with imaginary geography and civilizations, but no magic, monsters, non-human races and so on. In one interview Parker says she's inspired to write fantasy by "Being able to write history how it should have been."

Another line from the interview is in response to the question "If you could write your own quote for the front cover of your novel, what would it be?", and the answer is: "'Technically accurate' Siege-Engine Builder's Monthly." The books don't really go into Tom Clancy territory on technical detail, but you get a pleasant impression that plenty of research has been done and the machines hang together.

The Hari Seldonish plot requires a little bit more suspension of disbelief, but the good thing about it is that it does fit intricately together. No pointless McGuffin chases or quests for the magic plot-resolver here. There is quite a lot of warfare, depicted in a realistically brutal way for some of it.

It also has a fair amount of character and plausible relationships between the character. Even has some philosophical musings at the end.

Overall, it's just a very well-balanced series. Well worth reading.

What I'm Watching
Saw cult comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy. Features various African plot-strands, of which the most famous is the Bushman tribe who discover a Coke bottle, one of whom decides to journey to the edge of the world to return it to the Gods after it disrupts their peaceful life with greed.

Charming in places with some nice wildlife photography. Couldn't really get into the slapstick though, which made very heavy use of speeded-up footage for pretty much every scene. Overall, nice idea but not very watchable.

Also tried watching the first two episodes of WW2 doc "The World At War". Seemed OK. Noticed a lot of the footage was in colour despite the recent trend to advertise colour as if it was very rare. Despite that sent back the disc with the last one unwatched. Just too saturated with WW2 to bother.

What I'm Reading 2
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. Autobiographical book by a man whose estranged alcoholic father eventually turned up in a homeless shelter where he worked. Had a few decent insights into the lives of the underclass in Massachusetts. Ultimately though, not really enough material to sustain a whole book: feels very padded-out by creative writing school gimmicks.

Folk economics
Thought about this again after my CBI diary

Principle 6: The market acts like an individual.
I notice that whenever we talk about the market tending to do something, "the market" is always interpreted as being an individual called The Market. In other words, the market is assumed to act like a monopoly.

So in the case of the vaccine example: if a single company has a monopoly on a vaccine, it can maximize its profit by charging a relatively high price that not everyone can afford.

However, if there is no monopoly on a vaccine then any manufacturer can make it. So, since there is an open market, there is an incentive for some other provider, or even a new provider, to come in and start making the vaccine at a lower price.

Now there are monopolies, cartels and imperfect markets. But you can't assume that every market is automatically a monopoly, any more than you should assume that every market is perfect.

I think this also came up back when we were discussing the Rover bailout ages ago. People were basically saying that even The Market had decided Rover wasn't salvageable, that didn't mean the government should step in.

The thing is, it's not that one single entity called The Market had decided that Rover was unsalvageable. The problem is out of everyone in the market: the other car makers, the banks, the venture capitalists; none of them believed it was a viable business.

Tried to think of another one about not differentiating exogenous and endogenous variables, but I think that might be too hard for practically anyone to understand.

The halfpenny coin was officially abandoned in 1984, though most banks had refused to handle such small change for a while.

According to this, a ha'penny then would be worth 1.00552 pence today.

Time to drop the penny I think.

It's interesting that people and banks are still handling pennies though. I think while services and property prices have gone up, the price of small goods and food has dropped relatively speaking.

Can Marx and Hayek be reconciled?

Industrial robot throws bowling balls.

High Dynamic Range photos (WP)

"You have got the wrong person" finally gets outed.

The myth of Putin's competence.

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It's not actually a very interesting psychological phenomenon | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden)
You can't abolish the 1p coin by komet (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 03:30:37 AM EST
without also getting rid of either the 2p or the 5p, otherwise you haven't really changed the step size.

In my view, it would make better sense to get rid of the 1p and 5p coins for a step size of 1/50 £. But you just know the politicians would be silly and abolish the 1p and 2p.

And if the 2p is abolished, those fairground coin-pushers, and therefore society as a whole, will cease to exist.

<ni> komet: You are functionally illiterate as regards trashy erotica.

I would have said abolish 2ps too by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 04:21:41 AM EST
But the coin-pusher thing is a powerful argument.

They did have £1 versions of them, but you'd have to be pretty rich to play.

There must be a Flash version of those online somewhere...
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 ]
They' ve been advocating abolishing the US penny by georgeha (4.00 / 2) #3 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 05:07:10 AM EST
for decades, we still have it. If I'm thinking, I bring 5 with me when shopping for exact change, otherwise they pile up until I get enough to roll a few dollars worth.

I do the same thing by houser2112 (4.00 / 1) #23 Tue Jan 22, 2008 at 02:29:25 AM EST
although you really only need 4.

[ Parent ]
Why was the Euro made so small? by herbert (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 05:44:50 AM EST
When they invented the Euro, I was thinking pounds were getting a bit small.  And then they made Euros even less than a pound.

If they'd made Euros worth about 5 or 8 times what they actually did, then even with some inflation you would probably have had a couple of decades before they got annoyingly small again.

I think they wanted it to be by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #6 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 06:21:44 AM EST
Slightly more valuable than the dollar.
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 ]
Pah, too subtle. by herbert (4.00 / 1) #13 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:18:48 AM EST
They should have made it a real showoff currency by setting it at about 50 dollars, and having millis instead of cents.

[ Parent ]
The Gods Must Be Crazy by superdiva (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 05:52:21 AM EST
Hm. I watched that film in a freshman film class. I liked the film or, actually, the unconventional film techniques. The comedy was obvious, but I appreciated the larger point it made about our perceptions of "civilized".

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I'm not so sure that it has aged well by lm (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 07:48:46 AM EST
When it was released back in the eighties, it was a notable film in many respects. The more interesting techniques have long since been widely adopted and make what used to be exceptional into something that seems more commonplace. Unless you understand that this or that convention or technique was not popular until it was used in this film, you miss out on a lot of what made it such a great movie.

Actually, I had the same experience when re-watching Bladerunner with my wife the other day. So many things that were hugely innovative back then have become so part and parcel of the sci-fi film industry that they are more notable when they're lacking.

But in both cases, they do still have fairly powerful themes that are regrettably lacking in most other films.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
heh, which version of Blade Runner? by superdiva (4.00 / 1) #12 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:14:21 AM EST
I'm assuming that you've watched the recently release Final Cut.  I watched the Director's Cut version, but I doubt the artistic changes by Ridley Scott will be that much different.

Interestingly enough, I like Blade Runner because it's the closest movie version of Neuromancer I can watch even though Blade Runner is adapted from Do Androids.....

Rumor has it there's a Neuromancer movie coming out in 2009.  Fingers crossed.

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[ Parent ]
That poor book. by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 2) #16 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:09:13 AM EST
If IMDB's info is solid, the rat-tailed Anakin (Hayden Christensen) will be Case and the director is the dude behind Torque (a dumbed down Fast and Furious on motorbikes instead of cars) and not one, but two Britney Spears videos.

I wouldn't say suckage is a foregone conclusion . . .

[ Parent ]
Oh, fuck me with chainsaw... by superdiva (4.00 / 1) #18 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 12:08:03 PM EST
Hayden Christensen?

Let's hope something drastic happens during filming, like, a stunt accident or something.

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[ Parent ]
The one we watched was ``the final cut'' by lm (4.00 / 1) #20 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 06:33:53 PM EST
Most of the differences were insubstantial to everyone except the Bladerunner cultists.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Relative purchasing power by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #7 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 06:40:06 AM EST

According to that conversions site, a fiver today buys just under 8 shillings worth at the time the ten bob note was withdrawn.

I agree by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #11 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 08:58:41 AM EST
I think we'll have a £5 coin before we lose the penny. It's psychological.

And as the most valuable currency unit in the world (as of 1st Jan), I'd assume that the pound will lose its hundredth pretty much after everything else. The last currencies I've used which have no hundredth have been worth much less than a pound. I can't remember if the one pfennig lasted to the end of the deutschmark, but it's only the ore and the centime that I recall having been available as a minimum denomination of 5.

[ Parent ]
They'll need to do a redesign by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #15 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 10:16:54 AM EST

The Mint started issuing five pound coins when it got too expensive to make crowns (five shillings, 25p) for special occasions. They're big though, an inch and a half across (the crown dates back nearly 500 years, so a lot older than metric measurements!) and weighing an ounce. You wouldn't want a hundred quids worth in your pocket for long.

I suspect we'll not see widespread use of five pound coins though, Gordon will decide the various criteria have been met and we'll get to use whatever the design they come up with for the five euro coin.

[ Parent ]
Well yes, by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 04:24:40 PM EST
the commemorative £2 coins were different to the ones now in circulation, too.

[ Parent ]
You sure they weren't colourised? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #9 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 08:24:29 AM EST
It was pretty expensive back then, especially in time of war.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

They had a mini "Making-of" documentary by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #10 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 08:31:54 AM EST
Where they talked about colour, mentioning that most of the US footage from the last couple of years of the war was in colour.
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'm not familiar with the tech timeline for film. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #14 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 09:20:18 AM EST
I suspect they had created a newer, cheaper technique for making color film at that point.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Color film in World War II by Christopher Robin was Murdered (4.00 / 2) #17 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 11:36:49 AM EST
My understanding is that it wasn't a price issue so much as a curious quirk of frame size that kept so much of the visual record in black and white.

Color film was cheap and available by 1935, but it was mostly sold in 16mm format with the amateur filmmaker in mind. Professionals and army photographers usually preferred shooting in a larger format to get a bigger visual frame. It wasn't a technical limitation as much as a aesthetic choice: Most felt the larger frame was more important than the color.

That said, color film was made throughout the war. John Ford's film unit shot extensive color film of the immediate aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack. Multiple documentaries were made in color: John Ford's The Battle of Midway (1942), Darryl Zanuck's At the Front in North Africa (1943), William Wyler's The Memphis Belle (1944), and To the Shores of Iwo Jima (1945).

But this recent spate of "unknown" color films comes mostly from non-official photographers, soldiers that (against standing orders, actually) filmed the conflict with their personal 16mm cameras. This is why it was "lost" for so long - individual soldiers and civilians had it in their private collections because they took the images for their own personal record. 

[ Parent ]
I blame Adam Smith by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #21 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 07:13:35 PM EST
The Invisible Hand must have seemed like a bloody clever metaphor at the time, but it's biting (or perhaps punching?) him in the arse now. It's all like, why does Rover have to shut down, and the answer isn't that they make expensive shit that no-one really likes, but that the Invisible Hand has pushed it into bankruptcy. The response of "stupid hand, if I run into him down the pub I'll teach him a thing or to" is almost inevitable.

As for endogenous vs exogenous variables, go for it, I'm not feeling stupid enough today. One starting point might be that occasional American bit of economic folk wisdom, "What this country needs is another war, WWII was great for the economy".

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

Actually by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #22 Sat Jan 19, 2008 at 07:27:17 PM EST
Not sure if that's an example of endogenous vs exogenous at all. This is why you should post about it :)

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
It's not actually a ve by garlic (4.00 / 1) #24 Tue Jan 22, 2008 at 05:42:38 AM EST
I was hopeing the rest of the title would turn out to be 'neral disease'. I was disapointed.

Sorry to disappoint you [nt] by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #25 Tue Jan 22, 2008 at 08:25:18 AM EST

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 ]
It's not actually a very interesting psychological phenomenon | 25 comments (25 topical, 0 hidden)