Tuesday, June 26, 2007
My paper "When Are We Being Too Utopian?", found on my home page, is a very good place to start for understanding my political views.
That all said, my core instincts are still quite libertarian.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
As a first order approximation, the set of items best kept as secrets from one's spouse...well...that includes knowledge of the set of items best kept as secrets from one's spouse.
Here is a link to Bertrand Russell's theory of types.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Dan wrote down three questions he wanted me to address, here they are, with my answers:
1. What are the five heavy metal CDs which you like?
Mastodon's *Leviathan* is my current favorite, try also Metallica's *Enter the Sandman* and early Black Sabbath. If you count Led Zeppelin -- and why not -- that's a bunch more right there. Pelican is also a good group.
2. Should we think of cultural critics as a rent-seeking guild?
Rent-seeking yes, guild no. There is plenty of free entry.
3. Has your opinion of TV changed since *In Praise of Commercial Culture*?
Absolutely (some readers will know I was no fan of TV back then; at that time Hill Street Blues was considered a good show, so can you blame me?). It is not just the advent of cable. Smart people simply wish to consume culture in bite-sized chunks, and also on small screens, and this favors quality TV. Right now TV is more interesting than are the movies.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Sam Samstone as postmodernist.
Blogging and secret-blogging; ethnic dining; likes Monteverdi and “snowman”; has a passion for amates and an indifference toward Paul Klee; addicted to beauty in its variety and scarcity; occasionally guilty of treating mainstream artists and their works as common-pool resources; believes in mean-reversion despite being obsessed with Knightian uncertainty; may well be keeping a few black swans in his backyard for cooking, looking, blogging, secret blogging, and…who knows, secret-secret blogging.
Due to job constraints, you're allowed one 3-week vacation every year to travel the world. You're young and have never been outside the United States before. Money, within reason, is no object. Over the next couple decades, you want to see as much as the world as possible. What's your strategy?
When I started traveling, I thought I would love Asia most of all and be least interested by Latin America. The opposite has turned out to be the case. Since most people are not good at forecasting which places they will like, I suggest a simple strategy: see each major world area as rapidly as possible and figure out where you love it most. Then concentrate your attention there.
Here are a few three-week trips you might take:
1. Europe: Amsterdam-Paris-Switzerland-Florence-Rome
2. Latin America: Mexico City-Macchu Picchu-Buenos Aires-Rio (don't shoot!)
3. Asia: Tokyo-Hong Kong-Shanghai-Bangkok
Also, figure out whether you want vacation or travel; I love the latter and hate the former. I much prefer work to vacation, and use work to recover from my travel. That entire distinction is usually more important than where you end up going.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I see and type her email all the time. She has worked in the building for months now, but I still cannot stop calling her Emily.
I am hoping that writing this post will make a difference, though according to at least one theory it will only worsen the problem.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Many thanks for pre-ordering my book. It is much appreciated. I also hope that the revenue will help me continue my career as an independent, unpaid blogger.
Blogging is what I want to do, otherwise I would not have written this secret blog.
Secret of course means secret, remember what Aristotle wrote? Please do not pass along the site information or otherwise clue people in. Not even if they have told you they will buy the book. They need to email me and tell me they *have* bought the book.
Thanks, and happy reading!
Adverse selection, hee!!!!!!!!!!!
The Amazon link.
On the down side, because my sleep is deeper, I don't remember my dreams nearly as well. Now I'm not one of those people who thinks we can interpret our dreams accurately. But our dreams are excellent for shaking us up and forcing us to views things or people from another perspective.
"Hey, what's going on!? Huh?"
Having dreams is like reading a corny management advice book, no? Those books have no real content, they simply force people to think about what they are doing.
Or are dreams like viewing the blog of one's subconscious?
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I can forgive it sentences such as: "Women who love horses usually love sex."
I thought I was so sick of the Diana topic. Maybe I was. But once you are reading an excellent book, that former satiety simply doesn't matter much. This is a Daniel Gilbertesque difference between our memories and what we actually enjoy. You can arbitrage that difference in your favor. Figure out what you think you won't like, but will be wrong about. Because the sad truth is that we are wrong lots.
I am so often on the lookout for new and better algorithms for finding good books. This suggestion is one of them. When you see a book (with some good reviews) on a topic you think you are sick of, look twice. Or thrice.
But I am more worried about the fate of any fruit that requires two names in the span of ten years or so. No one was suggesting renaming *The Sopranos*, and that is arguably a stupid name too. For quite some time my wife thought I was watching a show about opera singers.
Beware the toast, and beware the toaster. Don't let them toast you, if you can avoid it.
Monday, June 11, 2007
(This, by the way, is why it is so nice to see Mankiw, Rodrik, and Borjas blog; we receive insight into how they really think, and of course we see that each of the three is quite different from the other two.)
No one understands this better than Dan Klein, and he has now spent years compiling data about the biases and peculiarities of academic economists. Some of what goes on is simply a joke. Why aren't there at least two thousand of us studying ourselves? There aren't. Two hundred? No way. Twenty? not quite. And what does that mean?
Dan is still a lone voice in the wilderness. Please support what he is doing.
Others are too easy, such as the gifts of dark chocolate. I make sure the house is always full of dark chocolate, no matter how mundane the day. "Kiss in the rain" is a good idea, though one must contrive to be out in the rain. The stupidest might be: "Recreate your partner’s favorite romantic movie scene." Can I do Tarkovsky? Would it be better if I were supposed to mimic Tom Hanks?
Love notes are a good idea, but the general danger is inflation of meaning. After a while the notes don't carry the same wallop of emotion.
One strategy is to outrace the inflation of meaning with bigger and grander gestures each time. Another strategy is simply to give up. You might try to redefine the terms of the signalling competition, but good luck. In any case I view the list as better for seduction than the long-term.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Repeat business really does matter, and so does being nice.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Friday, June 1, 2007
I can't even imagine how to write down a utility function for such an idiot.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Porn, at worst, makes you think your partner is fat, blemished, and ugly. Either sophisticated intellect or raw animal desire (but which one? can both work, or do they operate against each other?) can get you over that hurdle. But what is to get one over being "a marital purist"? After all, to think a marriage can be perfect feels like such a noble sentiment.
Maybe porn (of all things) plays a positive role here. It convinces its viewers that desire is invariably laden with ambiguities and contradictions. Might even the stupid porn users be capable of picking this up?
If a New Yorker is two minutes late, their companions are tapping their feet and tearing their hair, because small delays can quickly translate into big ones during off peak hours.
Here is more. In car-heavy, traffic-jam prone, but rarely a sig alert with all lanes closed suburbia, late people, if indeed they are late, are almost always just about twenty minutes late.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Peer effects, as passed down from older generations, are the obvious mechanism for how these faces get shaped. So sometimes when I walk around in other countries I see, in my mind's eye, the older people pulling on the faces of the younger. All over the street, I see face-pulling cosmic rays emanating from eyes of the older brothers, yanking and tugging on the skin of the younger brothers.
Does it ever hurt? How many other body parts get shaped this way?
I remember reading somewhere that the laugh tracks that they use on most TV shows are sometimes 50 years old, and that [cue spooky music] you're laughing along with dead people. And I was just idly sitting here thinking, really? Is it true? Or is it an urban myth? I just can't believe that laughing then and laughing now are exactly the same.
It seems to be true, read the comments.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Kierkegaard was himself a pastor, though he retired from church work in the later part of his life.
The difference between the theater and the church is essentially this: the theater honorably and honestly acknowledges being what it is. The church, however, is a theater that in every way dishonestly seeks to conceal what it is.
An example. On the theater poster it always states plainly: money will not be returned. The church, this solemn holiness, would shrink from the offensiveness, the scandalousness, of placing this directly over the church door, or having it printed under the list of preachers on Sundays... The actor is an honest man who says outright: I am an actor. Never for any price, never for any price would one get a pastor to say that.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
But he fought long and hard.
Is there any chance they simply split up over this episode? Are there any scenarios under which this has improved their relationship? Would an early quitting have caused them to split up, or suffer several very hard years, due to the feeling of asymmetric sacrifice? How does that compare to the asymmetric sacrifices they must suffer now?
I've thought far more about these issues than all that conflict of interest stuff or whether W. was ever a good World Bank president. Does that make me crazy? Why is no one asking whether Coase Theorem applies within their relationship?
Friday, May 4, 2007
Once a couple have their own, they can dispense with the rentals. In the meantime, they are building their relationship around the presence of a child. They know what to expect.
Alternatively, one might vow to only date people who already have kids.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Great sex may be a negative predictor. The less frequent and thrilling the sex, the easier it is to give it up and focus on the kid.
So what are the predictors?
1. Lack of other common interests, beyond the child. That makes it easier for the child to be the new center of attention.
2. Religion, and the belief that child-rearing is essential to God's plan, and not just in terms of agnotheist Bayesian expected value.
3. Ability to talk oneself out of building resentments, which are inevitable.
4. Clearly defined division of labor within the household.
5. Similar taste in television programs and/or childrens' movies.
6. Resources to hire outside help, or nearby friendly and grandchild-loving parents.
I suspect #2 and #3 are most important on this list, maybe #6 too.
If a friend doubts herself, often it is better to respond by doubting that same friend all the more.
It is as if the friend needs a fixed amount of doubt. The more you carry that load, the less the friend has to doubt herself to reach the fixed level of doubt needed to produce preemptive protection and reassurance.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
But alas, one of your friends sees an opportunity to pull off an above-average marriage! He strikes. Why? Not out of love, but rather backwards induction. He knows that sooner or later all the others will marry and he will be left out in the cold. Others in the group all see the need to marry too. Everyone pairs off and loneliness sets in.
Addendum: As for a cure, somehow the image of the nursing home recurs in my mind.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Out here in The Suburbs looks really don't matter, at least not for the married. Some couples are better looking than others, but that doesn't determine their relative social status. Perhaps "Job" is the primary determinant of status, and yes it does seem to come before income.
I think of The Suburbs as a revolutionary development. Pull people apart from their neighbors and pair them off in separate parcels, so that looks don't much matter. Enhance some of the new realms for inequality competition, namely jobs and income. Overall lower the level of inequality competition. Subsidize the ugly. Put them in cars.
I am always intrigued by peoples' attitudes toward The Suburbs.
Monday, April 23, 2007
What do the Skin Jobs maximize? It is far from obvious. They are so deeply, deeply imperfect in this gnostic world. They are among TV's best creations, which is saying something.
Sharon is now my favorite character on the show. Does every created being rebel against its creator(s)? Will the Skin Jobs rebel in full against The Toasters?
Will modern humans -- as found on Earth -- turn out to be descendents of the Cylons? (What would that say about us, yet one step down in this chain of creation?) Then what sort of creatures are Adama, Roslyn, and the others?
Thursday, April 19, 2007
But say you use this argument, and suddenly you are asked to advise Japan. Should you endorse their gun control regime? Probably. It is hard to believe that Japan should seek to move to the higher-gun equilibrium found in the United States.
Gun control critics often use the "cultural argument," and indeed I do too. But we often the invocation of this argument with a kind of mental and emotional partition. How willing are we to raise our hands and say "I favor gun control in many of the world's countries." Why do we think that these other countries somehow do not count? Why do those cases not disturb our self-images as "gun control critics"?
Note that the more you cite "American Exceptionalism" the less likely your American views will hold around the world and that means your views are really just a special case for a few outlier countries.
It is especially worrying when cosmopolitanites are inconsistent in this manner.
I *wish* gun control could work. I doubt if it does, at least not "locally." (There might be some very long-run way to get to the low-guns equilibrium.) I suspect most critics would be, no matter what they say, unhappy to learn that it could work, if indeed it could.
What does that mean about their motives?
What does this mean about *my* motives?
Sunday, April 15, 2007
It feels like trying to park in midtown Manhattan.
Friday, April 13, 2007
"Bark like a dog, and I'll save an Indian life!"
This is perhaps one reason why people have so little altruism for very poor strangers. They have evolved so they are not open to these kinds of manipulation.
Imagine using charity to, in effect, pay altruists to embarrass themselves, just for kicks.
Oddly I had a conversation about this topic in a taxicab today. If you are altruistic, it is easy to precommit. Hire someone to give money to India, and require them to pull away the money from the Indians if you don't lose those pounds on your overweight frame. What should we conclude from the fact that no one seems to do this?
Thursday, April 12, 2007
What are they doing, negotiating over the price?
I have a modest proposal: let us ban such conversations, on penalty of death.
Of course zero conversation does not mean zero communication. The sales clerks will be given, by their employers, little signs to hold up, communicating the most frequently needed pieces of information. Customers might carry around little signs as well. Like "no, I won't give you my email address." On the whole I expect the transactions to become more efficient.
I fear only the second-order effect that fewer sales clerks will be hired.
Or if these conversations go away, might customers flee and Borders would close down altogether?
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Are there exceptions to the rule that movies about the Irish are bad? Scorsese's *Gangs of New York* comes to mind. Most of the other exceptions you wish to cite aren't exceptions.
Monday, April 9, 2007
The non-religious, in contrast, might base the case for their favored social structures on empirical questions. They might be very dogmatic on empirics, precisely because so much is at stake in the empirical debates.
When looking for open-minded people, should we look for people who are closed-minded but in a very concentrated way in just a few areas? Their dogmatism is "soaked up" by the religion, and then they are free to be open-minded.
Or does a dogmatic attitude in one area simply predict dogmatic attitudes more generally?
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Oddly I wonder whether IM is less prone to saying something really stupid. It will encourage more minor blunders in the rapid crossfire, like jokes which are not funny. But the very rapid back and forth discourages truly major idiocies, which require a bit more contemplation.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Her very love of blogging is an attempt to reestablish the connection between author and reader, contra literary modernism.
If you put her in the Mondrian room at MOMA, probably her head would explode.
Must she so firmly reject the creation of a new world through the constructive yet distorting powers of art? Must she so strongly reaffirm the powers of transparent language to see through to reality?
Yes, yes, and more yes.
As recompense she opts for plain English, strong plain English. And baking.
Her anti-Modernism is the key to understanding her libertarianism, which is neither strictly rights-based nor strictly utilitarian. She holds a metaphysical commitment to the idea that Strong Language, as a formal and indeed didactic concept, can straighten out moral discourse better than any abstract philosophy. She promotes the writer as self-reflective moralizer, and morality as embedded in the writing itself. The writing creates a new space for the intermediation of complex principles, just as with Jonathan Swift. As if she is baking -- slowly -- some new social concoction.
I call it Betty Crocker Libertarianism.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Now our insulated 20-year-old is about to enter the so-called real world. How much worse off is he?
I'm not asking about the net value of ads, but rather their gross value for a single individual. What benefits is the kid missing? Will he be a simple moron, unable to understand whether a Starbucks coffee is to be slurped or poured down the carbureutor? Or will he figure out the right cues in some other way?
I think the individual benefits from watching ads are pretty small. Is this just because the kid is still free-riding upon others' knowledge of advertisements? For the ads to provide their social benefits, how many people have to view the ads? Five hundred? Five hundred in each community?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Was the hotness in any case just anticipation, or perhaps just memory?
Is there an arbitrage opportunity to be had by tracking down the formerly-hot-now-ugly?
Or, does self-confidence vanish with the looks, and the hotness is gone forever.
I believe that most people, at least men, are overvaluing the anticipation. Tracking should start.
Are the truly hot people actually about fifty years old?
Let me know.
"Marie Antoinette" -- This has to be the girliest movie ever. The French didn't think it was an accurate biopic of the young wife of the King Louis XVI, but that's missing the point. The film is more about what it was like to be Sofia Coppola growing up in a Hollywood royal family. surrounded by such regal characters as her father Francis Ford Coppola and her cousin Nicholas Cage, in the 1980s, complete with KROQ classics like "I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow and "Hong Kong Garden" by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
My sons each watched thirty seconds of it independently, then both announced Marie Antoinette deserved to have her head chopped off. Personally I liked it exactly because you don't get to see such a purely feminine film often: "Clueless" at Versailles. In contrast, try imagining a typically macho director's version: e.g., "Oliver Stone's Marie Antoinette."