Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
From the WWF: "Of all the species that have lived on the Earth since life first appeared here 3 billion years ago, only about one in a thousand is still living today."
From Carl Jung: "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."
Monday, December 28, 2009
Fifty-two children who no longer believed in Santa Claus were individually administered a structured interview on their reactions to discovering the truth. Their parents completed a questionnaire assessing their initial encouragement of the child to believe in Santa and rating their child's reactions to discovering the truth as well as their own reactions to the child's discovery. Parental encouragement for the child to believe was very strong. Children generally discovered the truth on their own at age seven. Children reported predominantly positive reactions on learning the truth. Parents, however, described themselves as predominantly sad in reaction to their child's discovery.By age seven, the story of Santa Claus seems to exist more for parental enjoyment than for their children. Not even considering the complications of explaining the purpose for celebrating Christmas (Jesus) and how it mixes with elves and flying reindeer, the bottom line for me is the dishonesty. To continue the charade, parents must lie to their children. Whether it's leaving cookies for someone who doesn't exist, having them meet an impostor in the mall, or attempting the explain the scientific impossibilities of Santa; parents who want to convince their children St. Nick is real must deceive them. Though I'm not in their situation yet, it seems most parents tell their children Santa is real for the same reason they circumcise them, peer pressure. They don't want to be different, so they go with the flow. As for now my wife and I plan to treat Santa like a game that some people play more serious than others. My kids will know he's not real, but it's fun to tell fictional stories about him.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
1) Unconscious Incompetence: "The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it." This is most people. May have heard of improv, or seen Whose Line is it Anyway?, but don't really know what it is because improvisation is hard to understand. It's not a play, stand-up, or sketch, but something completely different all together.
2) Conscious Incompetence: "Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it." This is the regular improv audience member. Likes to watch it, but doesn't really understand the mechanics. Many times they believe the performance was scripted or at least partially pre-planned. What they don't understand is that would be much harder than playing and supporting.
3) Conscious Competence: "The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration." This is a student of improvisation. They are learning the basics (characters, games, and "Yes, and"), but have it has yet to be completely natural. They constantly remind themselves of ""the rules" and play tightly to them.
4) Unconscious Competence: "The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply)." These are the experts. Like a pro-athlete who relies of experience and muscle memory to complete their task. Though I do realize that even experts are still learning. Michael Jordan did peak when things became natural for him. Hopefully neither will I. Also, this stage would make a great name for an improv team.
I think that I am currently transitioning from 3 to 4. I can feel myself naturally reacting on stage in ways that would have been calculated before. I haven't put in the 10 years or 10,000 hours that many claim are needed for expertise, but I hope I don't have to wait until 2014 for that. The other major difference from Unconscious Competence and the first 3 stages is that they are equipped to train others. In fact, starting on January 13th I will be teaching my first class at the Dirty South Improv Theater. The cost is usually $195/$150 for students, but there is a holiday price of $125 that expires December 31st. There is no obligation to take another level of classes and many community members use it as a tool in their work. You also get to see shows for free during the 6 week course. However, if classes aren't for you, maybe you should consider Conscious Incompetence; seeing me perform every Friday.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
- Sumerians Look On In Confusion As Christian God Creates World from the Onion
- Uninsured in 2009, in terms of life expectancy, is as bad as insured in what year? (earlier)
- Christmas today is better than ever [video].
- What English sounds like to foreigners [video].
- From me: Blogging Under the Influence from the Mister Diplomat blog.
- How to avoid Christmas inefficiency, GiftCardRescue.com.
- Good analogy for inflation [video]. But wouldn't money saved in banks go back out into the market as investments?
- One small health care idea: Teladoc.com.
- Scientific evidence for ripping the Band-Aids fast, but apparently there's support for slow too.
- John Hanson, the first of 7 total US "Presidents" before Washington.
- Doodling helps you focus (earlier on yawning).
- Hilariously interesting review of The Phantom Menace (video part 1 of 7)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Whatever your gift philosophy, you may be thinking that you would be happier if you could just spend the money on yourself – but according to a three-part study by Elizabeth Dunn, Lara Aknin, and Michael Norton, givers can get more happiness than people who send the money on themselves.
Liz, Lara and Mike approached the study from the perspective that happiness is less dependent on stable circumstances (income) and more on the day-to-day activities in which a person chooses to engage (gift-giving vs. personal purchases).
To that end, they surveyed a representative sample of 632 Americans on their spending choices and happiness levels and found that while the amount of personal spending (bills included) was unrelated to reported happiness, prosocial spending was associated with significantly higher happiness.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
- The total number of Wikipedia articles tagged in each country [map].
- Genius idea for scamming the credit card companies out of frequent flier miles.
- 56 newspapers in 45 countries printed this climate change editorial.
- For a group of states' rights advocates, the Confederacy looked a lot like socialism.
- My worst economic fear is the end of social cooperation.
- Fair Trade is mostly a marketing gimmick.
- The original RedBox.
- Apparently the diminishing marginal utility of wealth begins at $40,000 (earlier).
- Time flies and you're having fun.
- I figured out way too late that the key to interacting with people is asking questions.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
- Amateurs are better than experts.
- Boys are the biggest victims of sex discrimination.
- Hard work is more important than intelligence for success.
- Breast-feeding's benefits are more correlation and causation.
- Car seats are less safe than just a seatbelt.
- Global cultural homogenization is good.
- Drug dealers don’t make more money than the working poor
- Gay marriage is good for Conservatism.
- New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt.
- Obesity is not an epidemic, but America's obsession with it is.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I found that women were more attracted to humourous men, but men's mate choice was uninfluenced by women's humour production. I also found that women were most attracted to a partner's production of humour, while men were most attracted to a partner's receptivity to their own humour. Men and women also differed in the extent to which they reported producing humour in the presence of the opposite sex; men reported a greater increase in their use of humour around the opposite sex than did women.This must be at least part of the reason women are underrepresented in comedy improv, even at the theater I perform with. There is little doubt that women have the ability to be funny (I can name plenty of examples), but it seems men are socially groomed for it.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
1. The Upper Right-Hand CornerVia Marginal Revolution
That’s the prime spot where diners’ eyes automatically go first. Balthazar uses it to highlight a tasteful, expensive pile of seafood. Generally, pictures of food are powerful motivators but also menu taboos—mostly because they’re used extensively in lowbrow chains like Chili’s and Applebee’s. This illustration “is as far as a restaurant of this caliber can go, and it’s used to draw attention to two of the most expensive orders,” Poundstone says.
2. The Anchor
The main role of that $115 platter—the only three-digit thing on the menu—is to make everything else near it look like a relative bargain, Poundstone says.
3. Right Next Door
At a mere $70, the smaller seafood platter next to Le Balthazar seems like a deal, though there’s no sense of how much food you’re getting. It’s an indefinite comparison that also feels like an indulgence—a win-win for the restaurant.
4. In The Vicinity
The restaurant’s high-profit dishes tend to cluster near the anchor. Here, it’s more seafood at prices that seem comparatively modest.
5. Columns Are Killers
According to Brandon O’Dell, one of the consultants Poundstone quotes in Priceless, it’s a big mistake to list prices in a straight column. “Customers will go down and choose from the cheapest items,” he says. At least the Balthazar menu doesn’t use leader dots to connect the dish to the price; that draws the diner’s gaze right to the numbers. Consultant Gregg Rapp tells clients to “omit dollar signs, decimal points, and cents … It’s not that customers can’t check prices, but most will follow whatever subtle cues are provided.”
6. The Benefit Of Boxes
“A box draws attention and, usually, orders,” Poundstone says. “A really fancy box is better yet. The fromages at the bottom of the menu are probably high-profit puzzles.”
7. Menu Siberia
That’s where low-margin dishes that the regulars like end up. The examples here are the easy-to-miss (and relatively inexpensive) burgers.
A regular trick, it’s when the same dish comes in different sizes. Here, that’s done with steak tartare and ravioli—but because “you never know the portion size, you’re encouraged to trade up,” Poundstone says. “Usually the smaller size is perfectly adequate.”
Friday, December 11, 2009
From Milton Friedman: "The minimum wage is a law saying that employers must discriminate against workers with low skills." or "We regard the minimum wage law as one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books."
From the Tax Foundation: "Remarkably, the share of the tax burden borne by the top 1 percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined."
From USA Today: "The marketplace doesn't determine how many doctors the nation has, as it does for engineers, pilots and other professions. The number of doctors is a political decision, heavily influenced by doctors themselves." (and also the government)
From Bryan Caplan: "In the thirties, governments had Four Year Plans. Today, they have Four Year from Now Plans - big policies that basically don't kick in until the next election."
*Past worthwhile sentences.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
results show a strong correlation between economic growth and certain shifts in beliefs, though only in developing countries. Most strikingly, if belief in hell jumps up sharply while actual church attendance stays flat, it correlates with economic growth.I think it's because of the good qualities religion encourages that are important for economic growth. Trust, self-control, sympathy and fairness are all vital to economic cooperation.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
But two new research papers suggest that microcredit is not nearly the powerful tool it has been made out to be. The papers, by leading development economists affiliated with MIT’s Jameel Poverty Action Lab, have not yet been published, but they are already being called the most thorough, careful studies yet done on the topic. What they find is that, by most measures, microcredit does not offer a way out of poverty. It helps a few of the more entrepreneurial poor to start up businesses, and at the margins it may boost the profits of existing microenterprises, but that doesn’t translate into gains for the borrowers, as measured by indicators like income, spending, health, or education. In fact, most microcredit clients actually spend their borrowed money not on a business, but on household expenses, on paying off other debts or on a relatively big-ticket item like a TV or a daughter’s wedding. And while microcredit champions point to microloans as a tool for empowering women, the studies see no impact on gender roles, and find evidence that if any one group benefits more, it’s male entrepreneurs with existing businesses.That's not to say they aren't helping, but they aren't a miracle solution.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Trustworthiness. Why do people keep their promises? There are surely many reasons. According to Smith, one of the more prominent is self-interest. He writes: “Where people seldom deal with one another, we find that they are somewhat disposed to cheat, because they can gain more by a smart trick than they lose by the injury that it does to their reputation.” Thus, the principal sanction that holds dishonesty in check is the loss of business that would follow the damage to the businessperson’s reputation. A reputation for being trustworthy will create business opportunities, while even a hint of suspicion of untrustworthiness may preclude such opportunities.All of the complaints against capitalism, except for maybe equality of results, are when we stray from markets and towards an intrusive government. Whether it's bailouts, bonuses, or stimulus packages, when the government does more protect property rights these virtues are skewed. What do you call a system where costs and benefits are returned to those who caused them? It's not Karma, it's capitalism.
Self-Control. Trustworthiness assumes self-control. What, after all, is promise-keeping if not the ability or disposition to pass up an immediate advantage or gratification? That explains why, for Adam Smith, “self-command is not only itself a great virtue, but from it all the other virtues seem to derive their principal lustre.” Self-control is not a tradeoff between self-interest and the public interest; it is instead a tradeoff between short-term and long-term self-interest.
Sympathy. In a market economy, the fortune of an economic agent depends upon successfully meeting the needs of other people. To the extent that sympathy—or what might be called empathy—helps an entrepreneur to anticipate those needs, it contributes to economic success. Smith knew that sympathy is indirectly linked to self-interest because it might be in our self-interest to work to understand the needs of others.
Fairness. Like the other practical virtues, a reputation for fairness or equity is likely to create business opportunities. Since it is virtually impossible to regulate complex transactions by means of simple written contracts, in many cases parties prefer to restrict their business to those on whom they can rely not to take advantage of them if circumstances change. They are spared considerable transaction costs such as attorneys, auditors, and inspectors of all kinds.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
- In a world where consumers choose their own health care, the "uproar" over mammograms would be a non-issue.
- When government tries to control the economy, it does crazy things; like move Thanksgiving.
- A reliable Scrabble strategy: keep the most common letters in hope of the bonus.
- The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting richer.
- Yawning is good for your health and your attention.
- Facebook is linked to lower grades.
- Great summary of clear ways health care can be reformed [video].
- Tiger Woods' wife isn't just sticking with him, she's leasing herself to him.
- Peak oil is a lie because we will naturally move away from oil, though maybe not as fast as environmentalists want.
- In the future computers only connect to the web. With Google, the future is now [video].
Friday, December 04, 2009
1) What is the Ad Council?
Privately funded organization that helps other non-profits and the government advertise their public service announcements. To me it sounds a lot like the United Way.
2) What continent is Hawaii in?
Apparently there is a lot of controversy over how many actual continents there are. From I can gather it is part of the Oceania ("I remember when Australia was a continent"). This is further evidence for why continents are useless structures of human geography.
3) Who paid for Michael Jackson's funeral?
The memorial cost Los Angeles $1.4 million in security and traffic control. The rest was paid for by the family, the Staples Center, and the Jackson estate.
4) What does "ZIP code" stand for?
It stands for Zone Improvement Plan. It's a backronym from the 1960's that was originally named to imply the mail was quick.
5) After the Bible, what is the best-selling book of all time?
To my disbelief, the answer is Quotations from Chairman Mao at almost 1 billion sold. Here are the runner ups.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
subjected [mummies] to whole-body CT scans to look at their insides. 16 mummies still had identifiable hearts or arteries. And 9 of them showed hardening of those arteries.and here's us:
more than 11 million Americans have been diagnosed as with coronary artery disease
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
I believe people are totally depraved and rationally self-interested (or maybe this justifies our inherent extra selfishness). The Bible and other faiths say we should love or neighbor as a ourselves, assuming loving ourselves is the default. You don't have to teach children to be selfish, though sadly we do. So if we are our number one, then number two must be people who are like us. This is true racially, geographically (neighborhood, city, state, nation) and even within our social class. Not only is it easier to put ourselves in someone else's shoes who is like us, it is also more likely to be us in the future. My bet is that people from Boston were more sympathetic to 9/11 victims in New York or that people from Miami better understood the pain felt by Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. There is even evidence we are nicer to the siblings that look like us. The good news is as the world becomes more connected we see how similar humans are all over the world, the less prejudice we there will be.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
From Lindsey Jones: "This is not to say that I need my students to love – or even like – what I’m teaching them in order for me to like and appreciate my job. But I gotta say, I’ve started to feel more like a parking cop and less like a purveyor of life-enriching knowledge."
From Tyler Cowen: "Vampires do not seem to mind social disapproval, and in this sense many teens look to them as role models."
From Mark Perry quoting Larry Summers: "male intelligence is inherently more variable than female intelligence."
From Penelope Trunk: "In typical parent fashion, parents stress what they are lacking so that their kids don’t lack it."
*Past worthwhile sentences.