Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fifth and final reader request

Is it advisable to apply game theory to parenting
(a) from the point of view of the parents but more importantly
(b) from the point of view of the children?

The answer is in this book:

Reader request on Ayn Rand

Read my old post on her.

How have my political views changed with age? -- request #3

Most of all, I've become more moderate, and also more conservative, I mean that word in its literal rather than partisan sense. Living in Germany for a year, in the mid-1980s, was a big influence. I don't think the U.S. should try to copy those institutions, but it did make me more of a "every country is different" sort of guy. I also, over time, have come to see civilization as more fragile than I had thought. So if a set of institutions shows some ability to keep a civilization going, we ought to have (critical) respect for what has been accomplished, and not always be so quick to suggest radical changes.

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

What secrets are better kept from our spouses? - request #2

So asks a loyal reader.

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

Thanks to Jacqueline Passey

Anonymous comments are now available, I never meant to prohibit them...but I'm new at this secret blogging...

Questions from Dan Drezner

I had to give a lecture today -- on globalization -- with Dan Drezner and Jacob Levy in the audience. Not the presentation of an academic paper, but rather I was supposed to be instructing them. Ha!

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

From the comments

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.

How to travel - request #1

A loyal RagandBoneBuffet reader asks:
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

How to get people to remember things

If you tell them to forget something, they are more likely to remember it, than if you tell them to remember it.

Here is the link. Forget about that now!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Request for requests

I'll take five requests for coverage on this secret blog...comments are open...

My strangeness

My assistant is called Jane, which is in fact her middle name. But her email begins with the letter "e," referring to her true, but otherwise unused first name of Emily.

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


That's for you. For my loyal MR readers. And others too.


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!

Leave comments

Your comments would be most welcome. Leave them on individual posts.

Your last chance to become an honest man (or woman)

Of course you have probably already pre-ordered. But if you haven't, do it here. That is our agreement. (I don't care how clever your googling was!) If you read this blog, the price of entry is pre-ordering the book. And yes, you have to pre-order first, before reading.

Adverse selection, hee!!!!!!!!!!!

The Amazon link.


Another benefit of flaxseed oil

I sleep much better. (But you have to take it fairly late at night; as Seth Roberts reports, you sleep less well if you take it in the morning.)

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

Topics you think you are totally sick of

I am very much enjoying the new Diana book by Tina Brown. It is a great read and insightful on matters of love and game theory.

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.


They used to call them pluots, now they call them plumcots. Might this represent the dumbing down of America?

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.

Why I hate toasts

Toasts seem increasingly barbaric to me, a product of a pre-modern society. They are supposedly about praising a special guest or family member. But are they not more about control? Shades of Bentham's Auto-Icon. And is not the so-called toaster/praiser in fact praising himself? Listen carefully next time you hear a toast, I bet the toaster will cite values that reflect well on the toaster most of all.

Beware the toast, and beware the toaster. Don't let them toast you, if you can avoid it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why the work of Daniel Klein is so important

Science looks so proper and objective, but beneath it lie the passions and interests of real human beings. What's the point of abstract disputations over economic method? The real issue is to know the man (woman) who produced the work, and to have some insight into his motives. The real economic method is determined by human psychology, no matter what method we might pretend to practice.

(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.

50 cheap ways to be romantic

Here is the list. About a third of these aren't cheap at all, such as "Take a moonlit walk on the beach." That will depend on where you live.

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

Good sentences sent to me in emails

I would not have hated the movie if I considered it a documentary of the animal world.

Why don't they give car salesmen bonuses for being nice?

It is easy enough to tape them (hey, England tapes the whole country). You might have two hundred clips of a particular salesman interacting with a customer, but the incentive will work if someone watches only two or three of them. Pay for the input, not the output of sales or profit.

Repeat business really does matter, and so does being nice.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sentences to ponder

It's not uncommon, Schenck explains, for male sexsomniacs to display much rougher behavior during sleepsex than waking sex.

Here is more.

Friday, June 1, 2007

I am irrational and environmentally destructive

Sometimes I leave my clothes for too long in the dryer. It is weakness of will. To combat this problem, I will turn on the light in the cellar, right next to the dryer. I then later know I must go downstairs to turn the light off (can't contribute any more to global warming!), and while I am downstairs I will bring up the clothes from the dryer.

I can't even imagine how to write down a utility function for such an idiot.