Thursday, July 10, 2014

"I had a little friend, but he don't move no more."
Well, I had a little blog, but I hadn't posted in four years. I'm more successful now, but not much older, wiser or richer. I am now what I wanted to be then, or close to it. It wasn't hard to keep up a blog. There's plenty to say, plenty to link. Nobody cares if you bore 'em a little, with modern attention spans we don't know the difference between bored and excited. The truth is, I just stopped caring and moved on.

I'll be posting everyday, at least for a little while, and for a generous definition of "posting". If you want the future news, know that I am planning posts about Disney princesses, posts about various books I've read (a lot of them!), TV shows I've watched, things I've experienced, and of course numerous posts about things I want to pretend to read, watch and experience (spot the difference and win a prize!).

It's bad taste to write a post that is nothing but promises (and threats) of more posts. I'll try and write something of interest ...



I've recently purchased a wonderful book by Leonard Savage and Lester Dubins called How To Gamble If You Must. In a very short summary, it's about optimal strategies for playing various lotteries, called "casinos". If a casino is unfair, it's often best to play as boldly as they let you, to try and get out of the law of averages. This kind of thinking has lead to much more work in optimal planning under uncertainty that I'm pretty ignorant of. However, seeing as how Savage is a famous Bayesian, I knew something would bother me and it did. That thing is "finite additivity". What this means is that Savage allows for a wider range of probability assignments than we do. A typical argument allegedly in its favor is this: If you pick a random number 1 through infinity, and I tried to guess what you picked, then it supposedly makes sense to believe some sort of flat distribution over the integers. This is impossible with the kinds of probability I would grant you, but not with the looser rules that Savage and Dubins play by. Needless to say, I find this wild. For those strong in math here is a good explanation why. If you can't follow it, but for some reason find this interesting (and the debate is actually much more technical than even that post), ask and I will write a full post on my thoughts about the foundations of probability theory.

Space Dandy is one of the few Japanese cartoons I've seen that looks like it was just fun to work on. The general director of the work obviously let his artist, animators, etc. express themselves, but in a way that makes sense as a general work (more controlled than, say, Ralph Bakshi) - and a comedy! Definitely check if you like brilliant, tightly controlled childishness and chaos. Episode 7, the race episode, is probably the best introduction to the series so far.

I've had a few stray thoughts and observations on economics recently. Instead of keeping them to myself, I'll bother you with them.

A good deal of modern capital is intellectual property. If we taxed patents, trademarks, etc. wouldn't that get rid of patent trolls? Wouldn't it encourage business to keep the laws sane, to keep their taxes down? These laws exist to give out rents, so why would the taxes devolve on the consumer? Wouldn't it be much easier and more textbook to control the level of reward rent through a tax than by limiting the length of the IP? Couldn't we get rid of this? Is there any downside to this idea

Sun Tzu clearly understood the concept of iceberg transport costs. Section 2, part 15: "Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own, and likewise a single picul of his provender is equivalent to twenty from one's own store.". This makes a rate of .05. Sun Tzu's other thinking about transport costs in war is also in line with this model. Is economic geography an important part of military economics? Particularly the concept of "power projection" seems like it could easily succumb to an iceberg model.

To Be Continued! See You Soon!

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