Shared posts

10 Oct 14:59

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - A Higher Order


Hovertext: 10 points to anyone who tries this.

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Seattle BAHFest is TOMORROW! 


25 Sep 14:30

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Babies are Weird


Hovertext: I hate you! I hate you!

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24 Oct 20:02

The BLAST Supper

by Justin Pierce

You see, something special happens when a holy spirit loves an engaged woman very much...

30 Sep 14:25

Leaving Things Unsaid

by Sandeep Baliga

You are debating a point with a colleague. Your colleague is wrong but to prove they are wrong you have to use information you know but cannot share. So, you leave things unsaid. Of course, someone who does not know the facts would also leave things unsaid by definition.

The listener knows that silence either conveys the fact that something is known but cannot be said or that nothing is known. Their inference takes the fact that you might know something but cannot say it into account. They should give you the benefit of the doubt. The benefit depends on how likely you are to know things that cannot be said. Hence, if the person leaving things unsaid is senior to the listener, the listener might defer to the speaker. Hence, seniority leads to authority via the inference content from leaving things unsaid.

11 Sep 04:00

I Could Care Less

I literally could care less.
22 Aug 17:47

How would America evolve under open borders?

by Tyler Cowen

Nathan Smith has a very thoughtful speculative essay on that topic. Here is one interesting bit of many:

I would tentatively envision the US experience under open borders as resembling the British and Roman cases, inasmuch as the protocols and ideals of the US polity, as well as its merely ethnic characteristics, would persist in attenuated form, but governing a much larger population would necessitate improvisational and sometimes authoritarian expedients that would cumulatively transform the polity into something quite different, even as it claimed descent from the historic constitutional polity of the United States as we know it. The illusion of continuity would deceive the subjects of the new polity, native-born and immigrant, to a considerable extent, though on the other hand there would be a good deal of lamentation and triumphalism, and only after several generations would historians be able to look back and assess the bewildering transformation in a sober, balanced way.

Certain American ideals would die of their own increasing impracticality, e.g., “equality of opportunity,” the social safety net, one person, one vote, or non-discrimination in employment. Americans might continue to feel that these ideals were right long after they had ceased to be practiced, as the Romans seemed to feel that Rome ought to be governed by its Senate long after real governance had passed to the emperors. I don’t see how public schools could adapt to a far larger and more diverse student body.

In sum:

I think the most wild-eyed predictions of the open borders optimists will come true, and to spare, but I think a lot of the forebodings of the grimmest open border pessimists will also prove more than justified.

The article is interesting throughout, do read the whole thing.

31 Aug 11:07

Will Syria *ever* come back?

by Tyler Cowen

In just 4 years, over half of Syria’s population of 22m has been killed, displaced or fled the country.

Tweet here, by Paul Kirby.

16 Aug 15:05

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Ethical Fourier Transform


Hovertext: There's a lot of networking to be done on the Dark Side.

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03 Aug 05:51

What kind of blog post produces the most comments?

by Tyler Cowen

Imagine if I wrote a post that just served up a list like this:

The people who deserve to be raised in status:

Norman Borlaug, Jon Huntsman, female Catholics from Croatia, Scottie Pippen, Yoko Ono, Gordon Tullock, Uber drivers, and Arnold Schoenberg,


The people who deserve to be lowered in status:

Donald Trump, Harper Lee, inhabitants of the province Presidente Hayes, in Paraguay, doctors, Jacques Derrida, Indira Gandhi, and Art Garfunkel

You might get a kick out of it the first time, but quickly you would grow tired of the lack of substance and indeed the sheer prejudice of the exercise.

Yet, ultimately, the topic so appeals to you all.  So much of debate, including political and economic debate, is about which groups and individuals deserve higher or lower status.  It’s pretty easy — too easy in fact — to dissect most Paul Krugman blog posts along these lines.  It’s also why a lot of blog posts about foreign countries don’t generate visceral reactions, unless of course it is the Greeks and the Germans, or some other set of stand-ins for disputes closer to home (or maybe that is your home).  Chinese goings on are especially tough to parse into comparable American disputes over the status of one group vs. another.

I hypothesize that an MR blog post attracts more comments when it a) has implications for who should be raised and lowered in status, and b) has some framework in place which allows you to make analytical points, but points which ultimately translate into a conclusion about a).

Posts about immigration, the minimum wage, Greece and Germany, the worthiness of entrepreneurs vs. workers, and the rankings of different schools of thought or economists all seem to fit this bill.

Sometimes I am tempted to simply serve up the list and skip the analytics.

Addendum: Arnold Kling comments.

27 Jul 14:47

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Importance of Education


Hovertext: In fairness, my entire existence is an affectation.

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25 Jul 18:52

What the Not Very Serious People among the Not Very Serious People were up to

by Tyler Cowen

Arresting the central bank’s governor. Emptying its vaults. Appealing to Moscow for help.

These were the elements of a covert plan to return Greece to the drachma hatched by members of the Left Platform faction of Greece’s governing Syriza party.

That is from the FT, and there is more:

The plan demonstrates the apparently ruthless determination of Syriza’s far leftists to pursue their political aims — but also their lack of awareness of the workings of the eurozone financial system.

For one thing, the vaults at the Nomismatokopeion currently hold only about €10bn of cash — enough to keep the country afloat for only a few weeks but not the estimated six to eight months required to prepare, test and launch a new currency.

The Syriza government would have quickly found the country’s stash of banknotes unusable. Nor would they be able to print more €10 and €20 banknotes: From the moment the government took over the mint, the European Central Bank would declare Greek euros as counterfeit, “putting anyone who tried to buy something with them at risk of being arrested for forgery,” said a senior central bank official.

“The consequences would be disastrous. Greece would be isolated from the international financial system with its banks unable to function and its euros worthless,” the official added.

For all the flaws of the euro, the case for it has never been made more effectively.

15 Jul 09:43


by Li


11 Jul 13:46

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Village and the Tower


Hovertext: This comic is an allegory for, of course, the 1896 presidential elections.

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20 Jul 14:04

That little bird, getting his wings

by Jason Kottke

Former convicts Roby So and Carlos Cervantes pick up inmates on the day they get released from prison to help ease their reentry into society.

By now, Carlos and Roby -- officially, A.R.C.'s Ride Home Program -- have done about three dozen pickups, either together or individually, waking up long before dawn and driving for hours toward prison towns deep in the desert or up the coast. Then they spend all day with the guy (so far they've picked up only men), taking him to eat, buying him some clothes, advising him, swapping stories, dialing his family on their cellphones or astonishing him by magically calling up Facebook pictures of nieces and nephews he's never met -- or just sitting quietly, to let him depressurize. The conversation with those shellshocked total strangers doesn't always flow, Roby told me. It helps to have a wingman.

"The first day is everything," Carlos says -- a barrage of insignificant-seeming experiences with potentially big consequences. Consider, for example, a friend of his and Roby's: Julio Acosta, who was paroled in 2013 after 23 years inside. Acosta describes stopping for breakfast near the prison that first morning as if it were a horrifying fever dream: He kept looking around the restaurant for a sniper, as in the chow hall in prison, and couldn't stop gawking at the metal knives and forks, "like an Aztec looking at Cortez's helmet," he says. It wasn't until he got up from the booth and walked to the men's room, and a man came out the door and said, "How you doin'?" and Acosta said, "Fine," that Acosta began to feel, even slightly, like a legitimate part of the environment around him. He'd accomplished something. He'd made a treacherous trip across an International House of Pancakes. He'd peed.

Tags: Carlos Cervantes   prisons   Roby So
27 Apr 14:30

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - On the Topic of Early Birds and Worms


Hovertext: The early human gets to keep its job!

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17 Apr 04:00

Code Quality

I honestly didn't think you could even USE emoji in variable names. Or that there were so many different crying ones.
23 Mar 20:30

Foss by Jeff Love

by Kieran

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

Sci-Fi-O-Rama proudly present a very special feature on Chris Foss, as profiled by Jeff Love, owner and admin of the sublime Sci-Fi art blog Ski-ffy.


Born in 1946 in Guernsey, Channel Islands, Chris Foss is a British illustrator and a powerhouse of science fiction design and invention. His work is a celebration of future machinery, impossibly sized constructions exist on a planetary scale; a showcase of hardware so large that the human figure is dwarfed by comparison.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

Arriving in the SF illustration field in the early 1970s, he is a cult figure, influential and universally admired. For British SF and SF art, his work can be seen as a catalyst; his prolific output was used abundantly in the UK paperback market, particularly by publishing houses like Panther, Coronet (Hodder & Stoughton) and Granada. Foss’ iconic paintings adorned the covers of American classics; E. E. Smith’s Lensman and Family d’Alembert series, reprints of the works of Asimov, James Blish and Philip K. Dick. These colourful scenes of gargantuan spacecraft, space-scenes and enormous robots not only influenced an entire school of imitators, but instilled a love of future-tech amongst several generations of science fiction fans.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

His early life encouraged an interest in art, his endeavours with pencil won him a scholarship to a public school in Dorset. Exploration of the surrounding area yielded numerous influences; elements of post-war, semi-derelict, bombed-out buildings and shipyards can be seen in numerous examples of later work.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

As a young man during the 1960s – by way of compromise – he found himself studying architecture at Cambridge University. His parents (both teachers) disapproved of his wishes to become a commercial artist. Finding architecture too drab a subject, Foss was reportedly something of an absentee student and by his second year he found himself providing strips of erotic artwork to Bob Guccione’s (later to publish OMNI) Penthouse magazine. The former being so impressed with the young artist that he put him on retainer to illustrate a Barbarella style strip.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

Though he found steady work working for an architectural sculptor, the following years were not easy. After a few false starts whilst working various jobs to support himself, Foss career finally began to grow following an introduction to a design agency. Though he produced cover art for miscellaneous non-SF titles at first, this also included interior illustrations; careful line drawings for Alex Comfort’s The Joy Of Sex (1972) that showcased his talent as a varied and capable draughtsman. Meanwhile his reputation for skilfully depicting starships and future themes become so, that authors such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke would specifically ask for his work to be used on the covers of their novels.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

As Foss’ name and portfolio grew, Hollywood called. Conceptual work followed for the planet Krypton (Richard Donner’s Superman – 1978) and early designs of the Leviathan and Nostromo spacecraft (Ridley Scott’s Alien – 1978) but perhaps most famous are his contributions to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unrealised 1975 film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Science Fiction classic Dune.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

It is as a cover artist, however, that Foss is best-known. His arrival and rise in popularity initiated something of a renaissance amongst publishing houses and art editors. Previously (particularly in the UK), paperback covers – more often than not – were one of two ways: utilizing (or re-using) artwork previously found on the covers of American novels, nebulous, bland patterns or photography that suggested space as a theme, but depicted very little. There were exceptions of course, but Foss’ creations surely motivated on two fronts: in the eyes of the book buying public, as well as that of the publishers and art editors who had on their hands a skilful demonstration of the importance of jacket design, proof – if any were needed – that books can sell solely on the merit of the cover.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

A new wave of artists soon followed in his footsteps as publishers sought artwork similar in tone and execution, similarly talented, wielding airbrushes. Not to diminish their talents: Tim White, Chris Moore, Peter Jones and Angus McKie’s early works often bear more than a passing resemblance, each frequently mistaken for the other, though each developed into their own, individual and recognizable artists in their own right. However, unlike the majority of his contemporaries, Foss is not a fan of SF, and as such did not read the books his was commissioned to illustrate jackets for. Scenes are rendered entirely from the imagination and as such do not illustrate scenes found inside novels. In this sense they can be seen as vague, or meaningless abstraction – but serve the purpose of creating interest in the books they appear on very well. The attraction is the technology; art for art’s sake.

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

Chris Foss by Jeff Love

Foss’ legacy is a body of work that informs us that in regards to fantastical spacecraft, elegance in appearance is not strictly necessary. Spacefaring vehicles could be as floating cathedrals, organic, asymmetrical leviathans as large as the imagination might allow. His visualisations of space hardware show incredible attention to detail: behemoths with scale reinforced by scatterings of pinpricks of light. Rejecting the needle-pointed, aerodynamic and militaristic rocket shapes established by pulp heroes, he opted instead for enormous and colourful industrial vessels, floating relics rendered with a weight of authenticity; free from the restrictions of mass in a vacuum.

Foss’ vessels may be enormous, but space is always bigger.


Many, many Thanks to Jeff Love for this bloody brilliant article! be sure to check out his blog

To read up more about Foss please check the following articles:

Sci-fi artist Chris Foss talks through his inspirations

Chris Foss on the Nostromo (Alien 1979)

And finally If your interested in the very latest from Chris Foss himself check his site:

30 Mar 05:26

How a genre of music affects life expectancy of famous musicians in that genre

by Tyler Cowen


That is from Dianne Theodora Kenny, via Ted Gioia.  Kenny notes:

For male musicians across all genres, accidental death (including all vehicular incidents and accidental overdose) accounted for almost 20% of all deaths. But accidental death for rock musicians was higher than this (24.4%) and for metal musicians higher still (36.2%).

Suicide accounted for almost 7% of all deaths in the total sample. However, for punk musicians, suicide accounted for 11% of deaths; for metal musicians, a staggering 19.3%. At just 0.9%, gospel musicians had the lowest suicide rate of all the genres studied.

Murder accounted for 6.0% of deaths across the sample, but was the cause of 51% of deaths in rap musicians and 51.5% of deaths for hip hop musicians, to date.

Beware selection, because of course most rap musicians aren’t dead yet.  This problem will be more extreme, the younger is the genre.  Another selection effect may be that getting killed, or dying in an unusual way, contributes to your fame.

13 Apr 04:09

Is happiness inequality up or down?

by Tyler Cowen

Steven Quartz writes:

…our current Gilded Age has been greeted with relative complacency. Despite soaring inequality, worsened by the Great Recession, and recent grumbling about the 1 percent, Americans remain fairly happy. All of the wage gains since the downturn ended in 2009 have essentially gone to the top 1 percent, yet the proportion of Americans who say they are “thriving” has actually increased. So-called happiness inequality — the proportion of Americans who are either especially miserable or especially joyful — hit a 40-year low in 2010 by some measures. Men have historically been less happy than women, but that gap has disappeared. Whites have historically been happier than nonwhites, but that gap has narrowed, too.

In fact, American happiness has not only stayed steady, but converged, since wages began stagnating in the mid-1970s. This is puzzling. It does not conform with economic theories that compare happiness to envy, and emphasize the impact of relative income for happiness — how we compare with the Joneses.

Here is part of the answer, consistent with what I argued in my book What Price Fame?:

…social status, which was once hierarchical and zero-sum, has become more fragmented, pluralistic and subjective. The relationship between relative income and relative status, which used to be straightforward, has gotten much more complex.

…A new generation of ethnographers has discovered an explosion of consumer lifestyles and product diversification in recent decades. From evangelical Christian Harley-Davidson owners, who huddle together around a motorcycle’s radio listening to a service on Sunday mornings, to lifestyles organized around musical tastes, from the solidarity of punk rockers to yoga gatherings, from meditation retreats to book clubs, we use products to create and experience community. These communities often represent a consumer micro-culture, a “brand community,” or tribe, with its own values and norms about status.

The article is very interesting throughout, hat tip goes to Claire Morgan.

Note that the closing bit of this piece is…this: “Money may not buy happiness in the long run, but consumer choice has gone a long way in keeping most Americans reasonably content, even if they shouldn’t be.”

14 Feb 05:00

February 14, 2015

26 Mar 14:50

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Relatively Terrible


Hovertext: We're all doing relatively terrible. Thanks to the Information Age, we never forget!

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02 Apr 15:00

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Car-Boat


Hovertext: Now, Subma-Plane, that's a different story...

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 Do you have yours yet?

30 Mar 15:28

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Robot Horror


Hovertext: In Robot romantic comedies, everyone finds their perfect mate with no difficulty. The humor comes from imagining doing that without a digital brain.

New comic!
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 Cards Against Humanity Science Packs are funding a scholarship!

17 Jan 05:00

January 17, 2015


This is so accurate....

Realizing I hardly ever post anything in this blog. Probably nobody checks it much any more. Penguins penguins penguins penguins penguins.
19 Jan 05:00

January 19, 2015

So far, the experiment has worked. Those of you paying attention are now part of a secret society.
25 Dec 05:00

December 25, 2014

29 Dec 05:00

December 29, 2014

Bonus comic over at THE NIB!
30 Dec 05:00

December 30, 2014

Hey Bostonoids! I'll be delivering a fake theory of economics that'll change the world at this event. This is free and open to the public, so please come say hi!
31 Dec 12:20

Top Ten MR Posts of 2014

by Alex Tabarrok

Here is my annual rundown of the top MR posts of 2014 as measured by page views, tweets and shares.

1. Ferguson and the Debtor’s Prison–I’d been tracking the issue of predatory fining since my post on debtor’s prisons in 2012 so when the larger background of Ferguson came to light I was able to provide a new take on a timely topic, the blogging sweet spot.

2. Tyler’s post on Tirole’s win of the Nobel prize offered an authoritative overview of Tirole’s work just when people wanted it. Tyler’s summary, “many of his papers show “it’s complicated,” became the consensus.

3. Why I am not Persuaded by Thomas Piketty’s Argument, Tyler’s post which links to his longer review of the most talked about economics book of the year. Other Piketty posts were also highly linked including Tyler’s discussion of Rognlie and Piketty and my two posts, Piketty v. Solow and The Piketty Bubble?. Less linked but one of my personal favorites was Two Surefire Solutions to Inequality.

4. Tesla versus the Rent Seekers–a review of franchise theory applied to the timely issue of regulatory restrictions on Tesla, plus good guys and bad guys!

5. How much have whites benefited from slavery and its legacy–an excellent post from Tyler full of meaty economics and its consequences. Much to think about in this post. Read it (again).

6. Tyler’s post Keynes is slowly losing (winning?) drew attention as did my post The Austerity Flip Flop, Krugman critiques often do.

7. The SAT, Test Prep, Income and Race–some facts about SAT Test Prep that run contrary to conventional wisdom.

8. Average Stock Returns Aren’t Average–“Lady luck is a bitch, she takes from the many and gives to the few. Here is the histogram of payoffs.”

9. Tyler’s picks for Best non fiction books of 2014.

10. A simple rule for making every restaurant meal better. Tyler’s post. Disputed but clearly correct.

Some other 2014 posts worth revisiting; Tyler on Modeling Vladimir PutinWhat should a Bayesian infer from the Antikythera Mechanism?, and network neutrality and me on Inequality and Masters of Money.

Many posts from previous years continue to attract attention including my post from 2012, Firefighters don’t fight fires, which some newspapers covered again this year and Tyler’s 2013 post How and why Bitcoin will plummet in price which certainly hasn’t been falsified!

19 Dec 15:50

The best magazine covers of 2014

by Jason Kottke

Piketty Bw Cover

The picks for the finest magazine covers of the year are starting to trickle out. Coverjunkie is running a reader poll to pick the most creative cover of 2014. Folio didn't pick individual covers but honored publications that consistently delivered memorable covers throughout the year; no surprise that The New York Times Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek were at the top of the heap.

See also the best book covers of 2014.

Tags: best of   best of 2014   design   lists   magazines