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Dr. Doom did not get approval for the tub from the Department of Buildings, which resulted in the violation. He’s been ordered to remove not only the tub, but also the deck and party room (replete with a bar and bathroom) which he had constructed on the roof of his $5.5 million East First Street pad. The ruling apparently came about after a complaint levied in February.

If you’re still grappling to get a sense of what will be lost now that these parties—at least, in the form they previously inhabited—will cease to exist, here’s a wonderful quote Roubini gave toNew York which paints quite the picture of both his allure and the nature of the shindigs.

“[The models who attend my parties] love my beautiful mind. I am ugly, but they’re attracted to the brains. I’m a rock star among geeks, wonks and nerds,” he said. “[What makes the parties so great are] fun people and beautiful girls. I look for 10 girls to one guy.”

The full story is here.


  1. When you turn a bottle over to pour out its contents it is less messy if you do the tilt thing to make sure there is a space for air to flow back into the bottle. But which way of pouring is faster if you just want to dump it out in the shortest time possible? I think the tilt can never be as fast.
  2. I aspire to hit for the cycle:  publish in all the top 5 economics journals. But it would be a lifetime cycle. Has anyone ever hit for the cycle in a single year?
  3. If you know you’ll get over it eventually shouldn’t you be over it now? And if not should you really get over it later?
  4. The efficient markets hypothesis means that there is no trading strategy that consistently loses money. (Because if there were then the negative of that strategy would consistently make a profit.)  So trade with abandon!
  5. I predict that in the future the distinct meanings of the prepositions “in” and “on” will progressively blur because of mobile phone typos.

Drawing:  Scatterbrained from (yaaay she’s back.)

I had just eaten a little plastic carton of yogurt and I tossed it into the recycling bin. She said “That yogurt carton needs to be rinsed before you can recycle it.” And I thought to myself “That can’t be true.  First of all, the recyclers are going to clean whatever they get before they start processing it so it would be a waste for me to do it here.  Plus, the minuscule welfare gains from recycling this small piece of plastic would be swamped by water, labor, and time costs of rinsing it.”  I concluded that, as a matter of policy, I will not rinse my recyclable yogurt containers.

So I replied “Oh yeah you’re right.”

You see, I didn’t want to dig through the recycling bin and rinse that yogurt cup. By telling her that I agree with her general policy, I stood a chance of escaping its mandate in this particular instance. Because knowing that I share her overall objective, she would infer that was that my high private costs of digging through the recycling that dictated against it under these special circumstances.  And she would agree with me that letting this exceptional case go was the right decision.

If instead I told her I disagreed with her policy, then she would know that my unwillingness was some mix of private costs and too little weight on the social costs. Even if she internalizes my private costs she would have reason to doubt they were large enough to justify a pass on the digging and rinsing and she might just insist on it.

I have a theory that your siblings determine how tidy you are in your adult life, but I am not exactly sure how it all works out.

My theory is based on public goods and free-riding.  If as a kid you shared a room then you and your sibling didn’t internalize the full marginal social value of your efforts at tidying up and as a consequence your room was probably a mess.  At least messier than it would have been if you had the room to yourself.

This would suggest that if you want to know whether your girlfriend is going to be a tidy roommate when you shack up one easy clue is whether she has a sister.  If not then she probably had a room to herself and she is probably accustomed to tidiness.

But here is where I start to think it can go the other way. A kid who shares a room needs to adapt to the free-rider problem. It pays off if she can develop a tit-for-tat strategy with her sibling to maintain incentives for mutual tidiness. This kind of behavioral response is most credible when it stems from an innate preference for cleanliness. Bottom line, it can be optimal for a room-sharing sibling to become more fussy about a clean room.

As I said I am not sure how it all balances out. But I have a few data points. I have two brothers and we were all slobs as kids but now I am very tidy. My wife has no sisters and if I put enough negatives in this sentence then when she reads this it will be hard for her to figure out how untidy I am herein denying she never fails not to be.

Her brothers also cannot be accused of coming dangerously close to godliness either but I don’t think they shared a room much as kids. One of them now lives in an enviably tidy home but I credit that to his wife who I believe grew up with two sisters.

My son has his own room and at age 5 he is already the cleanest person in our house. He is also the best dressed so there may be something more going on there. My two daughters have been known to occasionally tunnel through the pile of laundry on their (shared) floor just to remind themselves of the color of their carpet.

I have a cousin whom I once predicted would eventually check herself into a padded cell mainly because those things are impeccably tidy. She always had her own room as a kid. Sandeep is an interesting case because as far as I know he has no brothers and while his home sparkles (at least whenever they are having guests) his office is appalling.

My son and I went to see the Cubs last week as we do every Spring.

The Cubs won 8-0 and Matt Garza was one out away from throwing a complete game shutout, a rarity for a Cub.  The crowd was on its feet with full count to the would-be final batter who rolled the ball back to the mound for Garza to scoop up and throw him out.  We were all ready to give a big congratulatory cheer and then this happened.  This is a guy who was throwing flawless pitches to the plate for nine innings and here with all the pressure gone and an easy lob to first he made what could be the worst throw in the history of baseball and then headed for the showers.  Cubs win!

But this Spring we weren’t so interested in the baseball out on the field as we were in the strategery down in the toilet. Remember a while back when I wrote about the urinal game? It seems like it was just last week  (fuzzy vertical lines pixellating then unpixellating the screen to reveal the flashback:)

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.

So naturally we turn our attention to The Trough.

A continuous action space.  Will the trough induce a more efficient outcome in equilibrium than the fixed array of separate urinals?  This is what you come Cheap Talk to find out.

Let’s maintain the same basic parameters. Assume that the distance between the center of two adjacent urinals is d and let’s consider a trough of length 5d, i.e. the same length as a 5 side-by-side urinals (now with invincible pink mystery ice located invitingly at positions d/2 + kd for k = 1, 2, 3, 4.) The assumption in the original problem was that a gentleman pees if and only if there is nobody in a urinal adjacent to him. We need to parametrize that assumption for the continuos trough. It means that there is a constant r such that he refuses to pee in a spot in which someone is currently peeing less than a distance r from him.  The assumption from before implies that d < r < 2d.  Moreover the greater the distance to the nearest reliever the better.

The first thing to notice is that the equilibrium spacing from the original urinal game is no longer a subgame-perfect equilibrium. In our continuous trough model that spacing corresponds to gentlemen 1 and 2 locating themselves at positions d/2 and 7d/2 measured from the left boundary of the trough.  Suppose r <= 3d/2. Then the third man can now utilize the convex action space and locate himself at position 2d where he will be a comfortable distance 3d/2>= r away from the other two. If instead r > 3d/2, then the third man is strictly deterred from intervening but this means that gentleman number 2 would increase his personal space by locating slightly farther to the right whilst still maintaining that deterrence.

So what does happen in equilibrium? I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news first. Suppose that r < 5d/4. Then in equilibrium 3 guys use the trough whereas only 2 of the arrayed urinals were used in the original equilibrium. In equilibrium the first guy parks at d/2 (to be consistent with the original setup we assume that he cannot squeeze himself any closer than that to the left edge of the trough without risking a splash on the shoes) the second guy at 9d/2 and the third guy right in the middle at 5d/2. They are a distance of 2d> r from one another, and there is no room for anybody else because anybody who came next would have to be standing at most a distance d< r from two of the incumbents. This is a subgame perfect equilibrium because the second guy knows that the third guy will pick the midpoint and so to keep a maximal distance he should move to the right edge. And foreseeing all of this the first guy moves to the left edge.

Note well that this is not a Pareto improvement. The increased usage is offset by reduced privacy.They are only 2d away from each other whereas the two urinal users were 3d away from each other.

Now the bad news when r >5d/4.  In this case it is possible for the first two to keep the third out.  For example suppose that 1 is at 5d/4  and 2 is at 15d/4.  Then there is no place the third guy can stand and be more than 5d/4 away hence more than r from the others.  In this case the equilibrium has the first two guys positioning themselves with a distance between them equal to exactly 2r, thus maximizing their privacy subject to the constraint that the third guy is deterred.  (One such equilibrium is for the first two to be an equal distance from their respective edges, but there are other equilibria.)

The really bad news is that when r is not too large, the two guys even have less privacy than with the urinals. For example if r is just above 5d/4 then they are only 10d/4 away from each other which is less than the 3d distance from before.  What’s happening is that the continuous trough gives more flexibility for the third guy to squeeze between so the first two must stand closer to one another to keep him away.

Instant honors thesis for any NU undergrad who can generalize the analysis to a trough of arbitrary length.

Hotels provide you with two different media with which to cleanse your corpus after a long day of giving talks and going for coffees:  plain old soap and then a substance packaged under various labels whose modal variant is something like bath and body gel.

The soap is delivered in the form of a solid bar and the bath and body gel is poured out of a plastic vessel like the shampoo that it’s usually paired with. Now I generally prefer to shower with a liquid detergent, (Lever 2000 is my go-to solvent, it’s hard to resist the industrial counterpoint to the traditional fay branding and the pitch on the squeeze bottle is “for all your 2000 parts.”  My lifelong project is to count my 2000 parts one shower at a time) but I never reach for the shower gel in a hotel.

The reason ultimately stems from the fact that there are two choices available to begin with, but lets work backward to that.  The proximate reason is that shower gel makes me smell like a geisha at a tropical fruit stand.  Not that I have any objection to that smell, indeed it’s exactly how I would like a geisha to smell, especially when I am in the mood for a refreshing snack. It’s just not a smell that I personally wear very well.  On the other hand, you can usually count on hotel soap to smell like soap or at least something more manly than the bath gel.

Liquid/gelatinous soap doesn’t have to smell girly, viz. Lever 2000, but in hotels it always does. What gives? As usual when pondering the deepest puzzles of lavatory accoutrements, the answer can be found in the theory of labor market discrimination.  The little bottle of shower gel is like a job market applicant.  It is sitting there asking you to try it out on your body.  And indeed you will only really discover its cleansing qualities when you are fully awash in its lather. Whether you want to take that risk depends on how you expect it to smell, not on how it actually smells. This is just the theory of statistical discrimination where the true quality of a worker matters less at the hiring stage than what the potential employer expects based on her demographic characteristics.

Once we arrive at an equilibrium in which everyone knows that the shower gel is for her and the soap is for him, everyone who opts for the gel is expecting a girly fragrance.  Just as in the theory of statistical discrimination this feeds back to the initial investment decision of the applicant, in this case the decision of how to scent the product.  There’s no choice now but to make it as attractive as possible for the sub-market appearances have restricted it to.  Thus the girly scent, and thus the expectations are confirmed.

  1. If you have a blog and you write about potential research questions, write the question out clearly but give a wrong answer.  This solves the problem I raised here.
  2. When I send an email to two people I feel bad for the person whose name I address second (“Dear Joe and Jane”) so I put it twice to make it up to them (“Dear Joe and Jane and Jane.”)
  3. If you have a rich country and a poor country and their economies are growing at the same rate you will nevertheless have rising inequality over time simply because, as is well documented, the poor have more kids.
  4. Are there arguments against covering contraception under health insurance that don’t also apply to covering vaccines?
  5. The most interesting news is either so juicy that the source wants it kept private or so important that the source wants to make it public.  This is why Facebook is an inferior form of communication:  as neither private nor fully public it is an interior minimum.

Here’s a pretty simple point but one that seems to be getting lost in the “discussion.”

Insurance is plagued by an incentive problem. In an ideal insurance contract the insuree receives, in the event of a loss or unanticipated expense, a payment that equals the full value of that loss. This smooths out risk and improves welfare. The problem is that by eliminating risk the contract also removes the incentive to take actions that would reduce that risk. This lowers welfare.

In order to combat this problem the contracts that are actually offered are second-best: they eliminate some risk but not all. The insured is left exposed to just enough risk so that he has a private incentive to take actions that reduce it. The incentive problem is solved but at the cost of less-than-full insurance.

But building on this idea, there are often other instruments available that can do even better. For example suppose that you can take prophylactic measures (swish!) that are verifiable to the insurance provider. Then at the margin welfare is improved by a contract which increases insurance coverage and subsidizes the prophylaxis.

That is, you give them condoms. For free. As much as they want.

During my recent unexpected visit to New York I tried to make the best of things and hit up a legendary pizza place in Brooklyn, di Fara Pizza.  It’s a real hike from midtown Manhattan but I had an afternoon to kill.  I was hoping it was going to brighten up an otherwise gloomy day, but guess what?

Damn you Health Inspectors!

So to make it up to myself I headed back to Manhattan for my go-to Napolitano Pizza, La Pizza Fresca in the Flatiron district.  A second tragedy.  The pizza guy there was a master, and now he has gone.  I didn’t find this out until the pizza was before me but it was obvious immediately.  Same oven, same ingredients, different pizza guy; amazing the difference between superior pizza and just average.  Here’s your picture of the not-, and won’t-be-empty plate:

Barack Obama was not the first to wear flip flops in the Oval Office:

That and other flip flop trivia here.

I wore exclusively flip flops up until the time I moved to the Midwest.  My standby ride was the 99 cent pair found at the pharmacy checkout line. They would disintegrate in about a month but 12 bucks for a year of footwear is like Divine Grace. As a bonus, that day when the stem blows out and you wind up dragging the rubber carcass around is bound to attract some fun conversations.

My high water mark came in the 9th grade which saw the greatest innovation in flip flop history:  Cheap Charlie’s Sole Suckers. These are nothing more than slabs of polyurethane that you literally glue to the bottom of your feet.  No flipping, no flopping. (Also, it turns out no running, skateboarding, stepping in puddles, or being victimized by the dreaded flat tire else you destroy the fragile adhesive and spend the rest of the day barefoot and sticking to dirt, shag carpet, NoDoz, PeeChees, Djarums, NoSkote, bus fare, bottlecap rebuses, Rocky Horror rice, Galaga, duct tape, Space Shuttle debris, jacuzzi bubbles, and hall passes.)

I passed through the flojo phase, and now I am a shamelessly gentrified Reef-o-phile once the temperature rises above 60F which in Chicago is the day before it rises above 80F.

Porkpie plié:  Courtney Conklin Knapp.

Navy Captain Owen Honors was relieved of his command of The USS Enterprise. This is the guy behind the viral videos that made the news this week.

I want to blog about the news coverage of the firing. For example, this Yahoo! News article has the headline “Navy Firing Over Videos Raises Questions Of Timing.”  Here is the opening paragraph:

The Navy brusquely fired the captain of the USSEnterprise on Tuesday, more than three years after he made lewd videos to boost morale for his crew, timing that put the military under pressure to explain why it acted only after the videos became public.

Two observations:

  1. Sadly, it does make perfect sense to respond to his firing now by complaining that he wasn’t fired earlier.  (And to complain less if he wasn’t fired at all.) The firing now reveals that his behavior crosses some line that the Navy has private information about.  Now that we know he crossed that line we have good reason to ask why he wasn’t punished earlier.
  2. Obviously that fact implies that it is especially difficult for the Navy to fire him now, even if they think he deserves to be fired.

The more general lesson is that there is tragically too little reward for changing your mind due to social forces that are perfectly rational and robust.  The argument that a mind-changer is someone who recognizes his own mistakes and is mature enough to reverse course cannot win over the label that he is a “waffler” or other pejorative.  And the force is especially strong when it comes to picking a leader.


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?

For while O’Donnell crusaded against masturbation in the mid-1990s, denouncing it as “toying” with the organs of procreation and generally undermining baby making, the facts are to the contrary. Evidence from elephants to rodents to humans shows that masturbating is—counterintuitively—an excellent way to make healthy babies, and lots of them. No one who believes in the “family” part of family values can let her claims stand.

You will find that opening paragraph in an entertaining article in Newsweek (lid lob: linkfilter.)  It surveys a variety of stories suggesting that masturbation serves an adaptive role and was selected for by evolution.  The stories given (hygiene, signaling (??)) are mostly of the just-so variety, but this is a case where we don’t need to infer exactly the reason.  We can prove the evolutionary advantage of masturbation by a simple appeal to revealed preference.

There are lots of ways we can touch ourselves and among these, Mother Nature has revealed a very clear preference.  You cannot tickle yourself. Because the brain has a system for distinguishing between stimuli caused by others and stimuli caused by ourselves. Nature puts this system to good use:  such a huge fraction of sensory information comes from incidental contact with yourself that it has to be filtered out so that we can detect contact with others.

Mother Nature could have used this same system to put an end to masturbation once and for all:  simply detect when its us and mute the sensation. No gain, no Spain.  Instead, she made an exception in this case.  She must have had a good reason.

Naming rights raise a lot of money.  Think of professional sports stadiums like Chicago’s own US Cellular Field  (does US Cellular still exist??)  The amazing thing to me is that when Comiskey Park changed names to “The Cell,” local media played right along and gave away free advertising by parroting the name in their daily sports roundups.  Somehow the stadium knew that this coordination/holdup problem would be solved in their favor.

We should seize on this.  But not by selling positive associations to corporations that want to promote their brand.  Instead lets brand badly-behaving corporations with negative associations.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill is a name that stuck.  Every single time public media refer to that event they remind us of the association between Exxon and the mess they made.  No doubt we will continue to refer to the current disaster as the BP Gulf spill or something like that.  That is good.

But why stop there?  (Positive) advertisers have learned that you can slip in the name of a brand before, after, and in-between just about any scripted words and call it an ad.  The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  The Bud Lite halftime show. The X brought to you by Y.  These are positive associations.

Think of all the negative events and experiences that are just waiting to be put to use as retribution by negative association.  “And today I am here to announce that the BP National Debt will soon reach 15 trillon Dollars.”  Or “The BP recession is entering its fifth consecutive quarter with no end in sight.”

Why are we wasting hurricane names on poor innocents like Katrina and Andrew?  I say for the 2010 hurricane season we ditch the alphabetical order and line em up in order of egregiousness.   “Hurricane Blackwater devastates the Florida Coast.  Tropical Storm Halliburton kills hundreds in Central America.”

The nice thing about negative naming is that supply is virtually unlimited.  Cities don’t go selling the names of every street in town because selling the marginal street requires lowering the price.  But you can put the name of every former VP at Enron and Arthur Andersen on their own parking meter and the last one makes you want to spit just as much as the first.  Hey, what about parking tickets?  This parking ticket is brought to you by Washington Mutual.

Suddenly the inefficiency of city bureaucracy is a valuable social asset.  Welcome to the British Petroleum DMV, please take your place in line number 8.  And some otherwise low-status professions will now be able to leverage that position to provide an important public service.  “There’s some stubborn tartar on that molar, Ms. Clark, I’m going to have to use the Toyota Prius heavy-duty scaler.  You might feel some scraping. Rinse please.”

“Good Afternoon, Pleasant Meadow Morturary, will you be interested in Goldman Sachs cremation services today?” Or  “Mr. Smith we are calling to confirm your appointment for a British Petroleum colonoscopy on Monday.  Please be on time and don’t eat anything 24 hours prior.”

Just as positive name-association is a lucrative business,  these ne’er-do-wells would of course pay big money to have their names removed from the negative icons and that’s all for the better.  If the courts can place a cap on their legal liability this gives us a simple way to make up the difference.

And I am ready to do my part.  As much as I like one-word titles Sandeep and I are going to add a subtitle to our new paper.  Its going to be called “Torture:  Sponsored by BP.”

You often hear that an incomplete course of antibiotics can promote the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria.  Patients are told not to stop taking antibiotics just because you feel better but instead to always complete the full dosage.  This is obviously partly for the health of the patient.  But it is also said to guard against drug-resistance.

I have never been able to understand the logic.  So I sat down to try to figure it out.  I came up with one possible answer but it seems second-order to me so I am not sure if its the primary reason.

One thing that seems obvious is that every time you  ingest antibiotics you create natural selection pressure within your body that favors any drug-resistant mutants that are there.  This is why the headline cause of super-bugs is overuse of antibiotics.  For example antibiotics are often prescribed and taken for non-bacterial illnesses like the common cold.  Also, antibiotics are given to livestock that people eventually eat.

But this doesn’t get us to the recommendation to complete your course of antibiotics.  Since the problem is the antibiotics, it tells us to use them as little as possible.  How could it be that the first dose helps the super-bugs, but the last dose hurts them?  They are drug-resistant after all, right?

I used to think that it must be that the selection pressure increases the rate of mutation.  This may be true but I don’t think it’s enough to support the complete-course policy.  Suppose I am halfway done with the recommended dosage and I stop.  My usage so far has encouraged mutations and I may be infected now with a drug-resistant strain.  Now the mutation-inducing effect is irrelevant because the superbugs are already there.  Their natural growth rate is going to dwarf any additional growth due to mutations.

More generally, since every prescription of antibiotics is a public health cost, then every time I continue to take my doses I am creating the same externality.

I finally hit on one idea which has to do with competition within the body among bugs of differing levels of resistance.  Start with this observation.  If I have a super-bug in me and I continue to take anti-biotics, I kill off all the wimpy-bugs leaving the super-bugs to have free reign over my body.  Presumably they grow faster without the competition.  OK.  But that seems again to suggest that, at least from a public health perspective, I should stop taking the drug so that the wimpy-bugs can outcompete the super-bugs.

So we add one twist to the model.  Suppose that my body has a baseline system of defenses that can fight off any bad guy, super- or otherwise, as long as there are sufficiently few of them.  Then, if I stop taking the drug too early, my defenses may still overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.  All the bugs start growing again and if I started with just a few super-bugs in me, then when I start to show symptoms again I now have lots of them.  However, had I continued to completion, all of the wimpy-bugs would be gone and my body’s natural defenses could have mopped up the few super-bugs that were left hanging around.

It’s a coherent theory.  But I am not sure I believe that it is quantitatively important.  So I still find the advice a little mysterious.  Any of you know better?


And this is what I sometimes worry about: do I put them back on top of the stack? Do I put the bowls back in the empty front spot on the shelf? Because if I do that, then guess which dishes are going to get reached for the next time? That’s right, the same ones.

I think about this every time I put our dishes back in the cupboard. I assumed it was just me and that I was crazy.

The worry is that the dishes in regular rotation will depreciate faster than the ones that get stuck at the bottom of the stack.  I would say that if this was a potential problem then you have more dishes than you need.  Do you go a month without a single day in which you work your way to the bottom?  Then you can safely get rid of a number of dishes equal to the number that never gets used.

Maybe you have occasional large gatherings and the extra dishes are there just for those occasions.  Then it would seem that the question turns on a comparison of the time it takes before the difference in wear is noticeable and the frequency of these gatherings.  Still I would say the trade-off is non-existent.  First, unless you are buying really cheap dishes, the time span we are talking about here is measured in years not months.  You can always rent dishes for your party.

Second, we are talking about just a few extra dishes.  Forcing them into the rotation will indeed ensure uniformity.  Now they will all be dented and scratched.  Again, renting is the remedy if your concern is the impression you make on your guests.

A city in Taiwan is trying to keep the streets clean by offering cash for collected dog poo.

City officials in Taichung, which has a population of one million, said on Wednesday the environmental protection bureau would give vouchers worth 100 Taiwan dollars ($3) for every kilo of dog poo collected. In areas of the city especially affected, the reward will be for every half-kilo.

In related news, Taichung is witnessing a sudden surge in demand for high-fiber dog food which is now being sold in convenient single-serving sizes priced at 99 Taiwan dollars.

“Tell the guys on Death Row that I’m not wearing a diaper.”

In my neighborhood trash and recycling are collected separately, on different days, by different entities.  On Tuesdays the trash collector drives his little trash shuttle all the way to my garage to empty the trash cans.  On Wednesdays, I am required to wheel the recycle bin out to the curb to be collected by the recycling truck.

At first glance the economics would suggest the opposite.  The recycling is valuable to the collector, the trash is not, so when bargaining over who has to carry the goods down the driveway, the recycling collector would seem to be in a worse bairgaining position.

But on second thought, it makes perfect sense.  Can you see why?  For a (admittedly obscure) hint, here is a related fact:  another difference between the trash and recycling is that the recycling bin is too small to contain a typical week’s worth of recycling and most households usually have recycling overflowing and stacked next to the bin.

If you are following me on Twitter (and have I suggested recently that you should be following me on Twitter?) you will know the answer.  For the rest, follow the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Something I watched recently made me want to write on a topic that I have no interest in and only passing experience with, but which is intriguing once you think about it for a moment.  I decided I would blog about the first such thing I could come up with.  After thinking for more than a few moments the first thing I came up with fitting this description was:

Barbicide. It’s that blue liquid that every barber/hair salon uses to store combs and scissors, presumably to disinfect it in some way.  Before reading that Wikipedia article, some obvious questions about Barbicide come to mind:

  1. Is there really no competition for Barbicide?  How do they maintain their monopoly?  There doesn’t seem to be a monopoly on the combs or the scissors, just the blue liquid that cleans them.
  2. Why always blue?  Presumably it is some kind of branding.  Does Barbicide have a patent/copyright on that particular shade of blue?
  3. The name suggests that it is a special chemical agent for killing some kind of mythical organism whose name has the root Barbi-.  But I don’t believe that.  In fact, I believe that Barbicide is just de-natured alcohol colored blue.  But I must be wrong right?
  4. How often do you have to change a jar of Barbicide?

The wikipedia article didn’t answer many of these questions but it did say something about 3.  In fact barbicide

… is a United States Environmental Protection Agency-approved hospital disinfectant. It is a germicide, pseudomonacide, fungicide, and viricide. In addition, it kills the HIV-1 virus (AIDS virus), Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

And it raised new questions.  Like, is it true as “Barbicide techinicians claim” that

it is the only disinfectant of its kind which holds its power and color over time; all of its competitors’ products eventually turn green or brown.

?  That at least tells me that there are indeed competitors and presumably they are all blue (at first.)  I checked the Barbicide Material Safety Data Sheet, a document prepared by OSHA and confirmed that alcohol is the primary active ingredient, although it also contains Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride (DBAC), and Sodium Nitrite.  I checked the Wikipedia page for DBAC and found some uninteresting (to me) facts like that it is a

nitrogenous cationic surface-acting agent belonging to the quaternary ammonium group

and some interesting facts like that it is toxic to fish.  Apparently it is not patented.  So Barbicide must be a patented formula combining these chemicals in some specific proportions with other, presumably blue, chemicals.

I went to the homepage for Barbicide.  Did you know that a jar of Barbicide is in the permanent collection at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution?  Now you do.  King Research, which produces Barbicide also makes other products, for example a drain cleaner that apparently excels at breaking down hair clogs. Natch.

I found this discussion forum where exactly my question 4 was raised and after many forum members professed ignorance, a call was placed directly to King Research who suggest replacing it every day, or when it gets cloudy.  This surprised me because when you factor in the claims of the Barbicide technicians, it seems to suggest that the competitor’s product turns brown or green in less than a day.  Well, no wonder they can’t compete.

Finally, I assumed that somewhere there must be a dark side to all of this, so I googled “Against Barbicide” and “Barbicide Controversies” and after many such attempts I finally came across the following transcript of a case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeal in which Barbicide was allegedly improperly used to sanitize a tub used in a pedicure:

Ms. Detraz demonstrated that Virgin Nails did not follow proper sanitization procedures when cleaning its equipment, specifically the pedicure tub in which Ms. Detraz immersed her feet and lower legs during the pedicure.  Virgin Nails used Barbicide, a disinfectant, to clean the whirlpool tubs attached to the pedicure chairs.

So, I learned a lot and it is not all for naught.  I think that I might actually have an interesting topic of conversation the next time I get my haircut.

I have disturbing condition that needs a bill of rights and a support group, at the very least it needs medical terminology.  You know those “motion activated” faucets and towel dispensers that are now ubiquitous in public facilities?   They don’t work for me.  Well, at least 30% of the time they act as if I do not exist.  I wave my hands in front of the fixture and nothing happens.  I show it my palms, my wrists, my fingernails.  I clap, jump up and down, step out of and then jump back into its line of sight and nothing happens.

Sometimes  showing the right body part does the trick, other times a shoe or my phone has to be pressed into service.  It gets really embarrassing when I am standing there dripping and I have to ask a total stranger to repeatedly trigger the air-drying device on my behalf.  This is not an option at the hand-washing stage when all of the faucets are activated by infrared sensor.

The engineers who designed these devices must be aware from pre-market testing that there is a small segment of the population that is deficient in motion-activating-aura.  You would think that they would equip the devices with some fallback analog instrumentation, but no, we the unreflective, the hypo-present, the less-than-solid,  we are subjected to the tyranny of digital sanitation and the mockery of little infrared panels that stare back at us like HAL9000 saying “I wouldn’t do that if I were you Dave” as we sneak back into the stall to dry our hands with toilet paper.

The worst part of being a member of the infra-undead is that its a condition that seems to ebb and flow.  And that is a disaster when you are sitting on a toilet that is flushed by motion-activation.  If you think about it for a moment you will understand what I mean.

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