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This is sublime writing.  It will make your week, go and read it.  Thanks to The Browser for the pointer.

From the blog of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, via Markus Mobius:

What Shapley and Roth had in fact worked on was how to allocate resources to needs in a non-market context. As the Times went on to say, they worked out in theory (Shapley) and practice (Roth) how to match ‘doctors to hospitals, students to dorm rooms and organs to transplant patients,’ adding ‘such matching arrangements are essential in most Western countries where organ-selling is illegal, and the free market cannot do the normal work of resource allocation’ (like allocating organs to those who can pay the most).

And this:

So, we really are talking about a non-market way of allocating resources. As socialism will be a non-market society where the price mechanism won’t apply to anything, the winners’ research will be able to be used for certain purposes even after the end of capitalism; which is not something that can be said of the work of most winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics.

No doubt it would continue to be used to allocate organs to transplant patients and students to rooms. In fact, this last could be extended to allocating housing to people living in a particular area. While they may not get their first choice, people would get something for which they had expressed some preference and that corresponded to their needs and circumstances. It might even help answer Bernard Shaw’s question, ‘Who will live on Richmond Hill in socialism?’ Since socialism will be a non-market society the answer can’t be, as it is under capitalism today, ‘those who want to and who can afford to.’ This would not only be ‘repugnant’ but impossible.


You must watch Balasz Szentes’ talk at the Becker Friedman Institute. At the very least, watch up until about 7:00. You will not regret it. (Note that Gary Becker was sitting in the front row.)

Skip ahead to about 13:00.  It seems a little too neatly staged but it’s still hilarious.

Hardee heave:  Emil Temnyalov

Not even your thought experiments are safe.

Saul Kripke resigned yesterday from his position as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center.  While similar allegations have been circulating in unpublished form for years, a team of philosophers from Oxford University has just released a damning report claiming that they were systematically unable to reproduce the results of thought experiments reported by Kripke in his groundbreaking Naming and Necessity.

(…) The report, forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, claims that 74% of the book’s thought-experimental results could not be reproduced using the standard philosophical criteria for inter-researcher agreement.  A second version of the analysis, employing a generous application of the principle of charity, still left 52% of the results unverified.

That’s from fauxphilnews. Skullcap skip:  Marciano Siniscalchi.

Great prelim question:

 To provide some interpretation, consider a set of equidistant urinals in a washroom and men who enter the room sequentially. Men dislike to choose a urinal next to another urinal which is already in use. If no urinal providing at least basic privacy is available, each man prefers to leave the room immediately. Each man prefers larger distances to the next man compared to smaller distances. The men enter the bathroom one by one in rapid succession, so men will only consider the privacy they have after no further men decides to use a urinal (e.g., the privacy the first man enjoys before the second man enters is too short to influence the first man’s utility).

One of the paper’s main results is that maximizing throughput (Beavis!) of a washroom may, paradoxically, entail restricting total capacity.  Consider a wall lined with 5 urinals.  The subgame perfect equilibrium has the first gentleman take urinal 2 and the second caballero take urinal 5.  These strategies are pre-emptive moves that induce subsequent monsieurs to opt for a stall instead out of privacy concerns.  Thus urinals 1, 3, and 4 go unused.  If instead urinals 2 and 4 are replaced with decorative foliage, and assuming that gentleman #1 is above relieving himself into same, then the new subgame perfect equilibrium has him taking urinal 1, and urinals 3 and 5 hosting the subsequently arriving blokes.  See the example on page 11.

Free cowboy hat tip:  Josh Gans

From Ariel Rubinstein of course, here’s his answer to question 5:

Q5. I have already written 30 pages. I have repeated myself several times and my proofs are much longer than necessary. I have added uncertainty wherever I could and I have moved from a discrete case to Banach spaces. My adviser still says I hardly even have enough for a note. How long should my paper be?

If you don’t have a good idea, then keep going. Don’t stop at less than 60 single-spaced pages. Nobody will read your paper in any case so at least you have a chance to publish the paper in QJE or Econometrica.

If you have a really good idea, my advice is to limit yourself to 15 double-spaced pages. I have not seen any paper in Economics which deserved more than that and yours is no exception. It is true that papers in Economics are long, but then almost all of then are deathly boring. Who can read a 50-page Econometica paper and remain sane? So make your contribution to the world by writing short papers — focus on new ideas, shorten proofs to the bare minimum (yes, that is possible!), avoid stupid extensions and write elegantly!

The rest is here, via Jakub Steiner on Facebook.

A laudable use of brain scanner methodology.

Regular joke: Why did Cleopatra bathe in milk? Because she couldn’t find a cow tall enough for a shower.

Funny pun: Why were the teacher’s eyes crossed? Because she couldn’t control her pupils.

Unfunny pun: What was the problem with the other coat? It was difficult to put on with the paint-roller.

The regular joke and the funny pun are both amusing, but for different reasons: in the decidedly unfunny parlance of humor theorists, the pun has “semantic ambiguity” and the joke does not. Part of the fun in the funny pun, in other words, is thinking through the two meanings of pupil.

But now compare the funny pun and the unfunny pun. Both have semantic ambiguity. So why is the funny one funny? The researchers say it’s because both meanings of the ambiguous word (pupil) are true at the same time, whereas in the unfunny pun, only one of the meanings of the ambiguous word (coat) is true.

Read the article to find out why.

Quoting The Angry Professor:

I need a gmail filter that sends a custom vacation message to certain people. The filter needs to scan the message for the latest date mentioned and determine the geographical location of the sender. It must next add four weeks to that latest date. The longitude of the sender’s geographic location must be advanced by 180o and the latitude multiplied by -1. After triangulating the dry land nearest to the rotated coordinates, the filter must finally send the following “vacation” message:

Thank you for your email. I am [on dry land nearest the point exactly half-way around the globe from you]. I will not have email contact until [computed date], but I will try to respond to your message as soon as I return.

This joke has been internetting for the past week. (Karakul kick:  Noam Nissan)

Here’s the game theorists’ version:  Three game theorists with identical preferences but asymmetric information walk into a bar.  The server asks “Does everyone want a beer?”  They respond in sequence:

  • Game Theorist #1:  “Yes!”
  • Game Theorist #2:  “Yes!”
  • Game Theorist #3  “I don’t know.”
  1. There is an inverse relationship between how carefully you stack the dishes inside the dishwasher and how tidy you keep it outside in your kitchen.
  2. In addition to funny-haha and funny-strange there is a third category of joke where the impetus for laughter is that the comedian has made some embarrassing fact that is privately true for all of us into common knowledge.
  3. It would be too much of an accident for 50-50 genetic mixing to be evolutionarily optimal.  So to compensate we must have a programmed taste either for mates who are similar to us or who are different.
  4. It is well known that in a moderately sized group of total strangers the probability is about 50% that two of them will have the same birthday.  But when that group happens to be at a restaurant the probability is virtually 1.

Or is it chronostasis?

Real luxury is now the ability to stop time. This week Luc Perramond, chief executive of Hermes’s watch division, presented the “temps suspendu” (suspended time) model, starting at 18,000 Swiss francs, which stops time at the press of a button and brings it back again.

For 240,000 Swiss francs you can pick up an Hublot watch whose time can be slowed or sped up and another which is all black, making it difficult to tell the time at all.

That luxury can set you back upwards of 15,000 Swiss francs.

“The value of a watch is not to give you time,” Hublot Chief Executive Jean-Claude Biver told Reuters.

“Any five dollar watch can do that. What we are offering is the ability for example to stop time or make it disappear… Time is a prison and people want to get out of it sometimes.”

In case you might still want to know whether it is day or night you can always wear this one on your other wrist.

(via Gizmodo)

From MR, I read this story about how the San Francisco smart parking meters will be designed to adjust meter rates in real time according to demand.  There wasn’t much detail there but this bit gave me pause.

Rates at curbside meters in the project area will be adjusted block by block in an attempt to have at least one parking space available at any time on a given block.

This was going to happen eventually.

Una advertencia: el lector desprevenido podrá suponer que el contenido de este artículo es irónico, exagerado o hasta apócrifo. Han sido recurrentes las ironías acerca de los efectos letales de los planes de ajuste que han impulsado e impulsan ciertos economistas. Marcelo Matellanes, el fallecido filósofo y economista, sostenía que a los economistas se les debería exigir, como a los médicos, el juramento hipocrático, pero con un detalle adicional: la mala praxis de los médicos tiene efectos más acotados que los programas de ajuste estructural que algunos economistas han puesto en práctica en las economías latinoamericanas. En otras palabras, los malos médicos matan de a uno; los malos economistas hacen un daño generalizado.

The article, in Spanish obviously, is here.  (Google translate is at your service.) My translation:  two evil economists from the center countries (??) named Sandeep Baliga and Jeffrey Ely have written a paper which demonstrates how to use torture optimally.  They, and all economists for that matter, should report at once for ethical reprogramming.

Gat grope:  Santiago Oliveros.

After winning her Australian Open semi-final match against Caroline Wozniacki, Li Na was interviewed on the court. She got some laughs when she complained that she was not feeling her best because her husband’s snoring had been keeping her up the night before. Then she was asked about her motivation.

Interviewer: What got you through that third set despite not sleeping well last night?

Li Na: Prize money.

Writing naked puts a man at risk of ruin due to financial crash blossoms.

Stare at it a while before clicking through for the disentanglement.  (You might want to read the MR post which inspired it.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Responding to the flap about the Pope’s new stance on condom use by male protsitutes, Rev. Joseph Fessio, editor in chief of Ignatius Press which published the book in which the Pope is quoted provides this clarification:

But let me give you a pretty simple example. Let’s suppose we’ve got a bunch of muggers who like to use steel pipes when they mug people. But some muggers say, gosh, you know, we don’t need to hurt them that badly to rob them. Let’s put foam pads on our pipes. Then we’ll just stun them for a while, rob them and go away. So if the pope then said, well, yes, I think that using padded pipes is actually a little step in a moral direction there, that doesn’t mean he’s justifying using padded pipes to mug people. He’s just saying, well, they did something terrible, but while they were doing that, they had a little flicker of conscience there that led them in the right direction. That may grow further, so they stop mugging people completely.

Side topic:  is the Catholic Church revealing that sin is a problem of moral hazard or adverse selection?

The never-enigmatic Presh Talwalker analyzes the strategic bobbling occasionally effected by the heads of Indians.

I have personally witnessed this maneuver in two contexts which fall outside of the categories Presh identifies in his post.

  1. Indian students asking me a question and getting an answer.  The ensuing head-bobble has always suggested to me something like “of course.  obvious. so obvious in fact that the thundering stroke of clarity is making my head roll around.”  I have also noticed that on these occasions the bobble is contagious.  The Indian student sitting next to the questioner bobbles sympathetically.
  2. Indian classical music.  The tabla player, say, will bobble just after a rapid-fire phrase. There might even be a sound emitted.  It’s something like “Chella.”  The whole display says something like “Behold, the rhythm is so frenetic that it is rebounding back through my arms and neck and dissapating through the top of my head. Chella.”

I thank Presh Talwalker for the pointer.  Pretty soon I won’t have to do any teaching, I’ll just play YouTube clips for 90 minutes, pass out the chocolate and send them on their way.

This is a very interesting article that has the unfortunate title “Plants Can Think And Remember.” (Unfortunate because the many links to it that I have seen come with snarky comments like “Whatcha gonna do now vegetarians??”)

It reminds me of a great joke:  Three scientists are on the committee to decide mankind’s greatest invention.  The engineer is arguing for the internal combustion engine, the doctor is arguing for the X-ray machine and Martha Stewart is arguing for the Thermos.  “The Thermos, you’ve got to be kidding?”  Sez Martha “Well you see it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold.”  They look perplexed.  “Yeah, big deal.”  Martha:  “How does it know??”

The article is about some pretty sophisticated ways that plants respond to signals in their environment.  That is very cool.  Kudos to the Plant Kingdom.  But while, there may be something in the underlying research that justifies saying that plants “think”, I rather doubt it, and it is definitely not to be found in this journalistic account.  Look:

In their experiment, the scientists showed that light shone on to one leaf caused the whole plant to respond.

“We shone the light only on the bottom of the plant and we observed changes in the upper part,” explained Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, who led this research.

When I light a match to the coals at the bottom of my charcoal chimney, eventually all of them ignite and turn red even the ones on the top.  My charcoal can think.

Then there’s stuff about “memory.”  But I already knew that plants had memory.  When I give my grass water today, it is green next week.  When I don’t give my grass water today, it is brown next week.  The grass changes its color next week depending on whether I give it water today.  It remembers.

Out now is a collection of academic essays on The Big Lebowski.

Where cult films go, academics will follow. New in bookstores, and already in its second printing, is “The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies,” an essay collection edited by Edward P. Comentale and Aaron Jaffe (Indiana University Press, $24.95). The book is, like the Dude himself, a little rough around the edges. But it’s worth an end-of-the-year holiday pop-in. Ideally you’d read it with a White Russian — the Dude’s cocktail of choice — in hand.

Chullo chuck:  gappy3000.  And here is a Big Lebowski random quote generator.

Ahh, Evans Hall…  (this is old yes, but still funny.)

Sara Silverman wants to end world hunger (and get those disturbing images off her 48inch plasma TV).  Her solution:  sell the Vatican and use the proceeds to feed the world.

This is good, but only second best.  The buyer who values the Vatican the most is in fact its current occupant.  So selling the Vatican would lower its value.  (It is true that the new owner knows he can sell it back to the Pope and takes this into account when deciding how much to offer.  However, this adds needless transaction costs, plus the Pope will have bargaining power in the resale which would not be internalized by the buyer.)

A better idea is to give the Vatican directly to the poor and allow then to charge the Pope rent.  Subject to this small ammendment, I wholly endorse the following (although the bit about the Holocaust may require the consent of more than just Ms Silverman and me.)

Q: How do you prove the existence of Spring in Chicago?

A: By continuity.

In February it was zero Farenheit. Today it is muggy and approaching 90.  By continuity, Spring happened somewhere in between.  But note that this existence proof is not constructive.  It is of no help in telling us exactly when it was that Spring fluttered by.  I must have been sleeping at the time.

One theory: Broadway is vulnerable to boors because it is under pressure. More new shows opened this past season than at any point in the past 25 years, which means more seats to fill in a recession. In response, shows have been offering steep discounts on tickets, which can normally cost upwards of $100 apiece., an entertainment site, is promoting a “Lucky Sevens” discount that offers a “Guys and Dolls” ticket for $7.77 with the purchase of a full-price seat.

That’s the theory.  Here are the data:

The litany of misdemeanors is long. During a Saturday matinee of the Holocaust drama “Irena’s Vow,” a man walked in late and called up to actress Tovah Feldshuh to halt her monologue until he got settled. “He shouted, ‘Can you please wait a second?’ and then continued on toward his seat,” recalls Nick Ahlers, a science teacher from Newark, N.J., who was in the audience. He says the actress complied.

During a recent matinee of “God of Carnage,” which explores the lives of two couples, a woman in the mezzanine screamed, “How ’bout those Yankees!” — filling one of the play’s intense silences. At “The Norman Conquests,” an elderly man familiar with the British comedy script recited his favorite lines as the actors read them, prompting audience members to confront him at intermission. Steve Loucks, a theater blogger from Minneapolis who was sitting near the man, was stunned. “What is with people who think they’re in their own living rooms?”

In this case . . . while the challenged packaging contains the word “berries” it does so only in conjunction with the descriptive term “crunch.” This Court is not aware of, nor has Plaintiff alleged the existence of, any actual fruit referred to as a “crunchberry.” Furthermore, the “Crunchberries” depicted on the [box] are round, crunchy, brightly-colored cereal balls, and the [box] clearly states both that the Product contains “sweetened corn & oat cereal” and that the cereal is “enlarged to show texture.” Thus, a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the Product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist. . . . So far as this Court has been made aware, there is no such fruit growing in the wild or occurring naturally in any part of the world.

see here. (Shako shake:  BoingBoing)

Storn White, lifestyle artist.


hmmm…. On the night Sandeep and I did our bit for Mark Bazer’s Interview Show at the Hideout in Chicago, Tito Beveridge, proprietor of Tito’s Handmade Vodka was one of the headline guests and he suggested a simple path to profound happiness.  Take out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.  On the left side, write down what you are good at.  On the right side, write down what you want out of life.

I tried that, but I am having a hard time figuring out how to get the two ends to meet.  Clearly it worked for Tito though, check it out:

From Michael Schwarz:

A Russian soldier comes home after years as a POW in Afghanistan. He tells his story: “I was cold, hungry, beaten, tortured and interrogated every day.”  Asked if he confessed to anything, the soldier says,  “Not a word, they would beat me and beat me but I simply told them again and again I do not know how the AK47 is designed. They got nothing out of me.”

“Very good,” his commanders were pleased.  They asked the soldier if he has any words of advice to the new recruits, and the soldier replied, “Yes.  You should pay close attention when they teach you the design of AK47.”

This video would be identical if played backwards.  That by itself is not so impressive (just make a video and play it first forwards and then backwards) but the way it was done here is clever and funny (via BoingBoing.)

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