Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fastest lesson in human biology:

From a new mom, re: her son: "He's just about the coolest thing I've ever seen."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Does official metion of "gouging" do harm or good?

In a competitive marketplace, such as that for gasoline and other motor fuels in the USA, outside of lifeboat situations (which are few), there is no such thing as "price gouging".

That having been said, the term seems to have lodged permanently in the popular consciousness as slang for "the price is higher than I'd like it to be and I don't understand why."

A conundrum: does use of the term by public officials such as President Bush, including reassurances that the practice--whatever it is--will be "investigated", do good by keeping demand for price controls and other harmful interventions in the marketplace low, or do harm by perpetuating the myth that there is such a thing as "gouging" and that increases in gasoline prices in the wake of a natural disaster may be it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scenes from a game of Settlers (2 of 2)

Last Saturday's Settlers of Catan was between four physicists, an astronomer, and a classical musician. MF is the astronomer, WF is one of the physicists; YHN is "your humble narrator":

MF: There should be a computer program to tell us the prices of the commodities.
YHN: But the value of each is subjective; why would you trust a computer program to value them for you?
MF: It's just supply and demand!
YHN: So you're going to assume the players are rational and devise a utility function for Settlers?
WF: By that point, you might as well let the computer play for you.

"It's supply and demand" is a slogan, not an answer. Should I take it as a good sign, though, that economics has injected something of that sort into the popular consciousness?

Scenes from a game of Settlers (1 of 2)

...and I'll trade you three sheep if you exchange two through your port for one bricks and then give me the bricks...

It looks obvious now, to trade for use of ports in Settlers of Catan, but last weekend's game was the first time I'd seen it. The rules make no mention of trading for services, but it appears to emerge naturally. The rules of Go don't mention deadly shapes or ko threats, either.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Quotation du jour

"Democratic politics, in the end, is not about rational deliberation. It is about coalitional signaling. It is about expressive solidarity. It is about identity and emotion. That’s why I have a deep mistrust of democratic politics."

That doesn't at all imply its context; it's from a Will Wilkinson post regarding Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican convention.