Assorted links

by on April 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Reforming the finances of Madrid, and Greece cannot stabilize its own money supply.

2. The price of nails.

3. Gods as Topological Invariants.

4. Will Turkey prove a volatile economy?

5. Why the Antipodes are better than we are.

6. Good interview with Thomas Quasthoff, who is retiring.

Cyrus April 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm

3) Sumbitted on April 1, 2012.

Andrew' April 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Oh good. I was going to call that as the official end of the internet.

Ironic April 6, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Re: #5: less diversity?

Deepish Thinker April 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm

There are many reasons to love the antipodes, but the absence of tipping is not one of them. Consider the following options:

1) Low prices, tipping expected, generally good service
2) High prices, tipping not expected, generally crappy service

Is (2) really better?

david April 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Why would competitive forces tend to favor crappy service in (2)? Would not restauranteurs attempt to enforce good and in particular consistent service to attract customers, ultimately tending to the same average, other things equal?

Finch April 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm

You’re adding a level of indirection and that would presumably make the market operate less efficiently, much as having a third-party payer leads to an ineffective market in health-care.

If that reasoning is correct you would presumably get better food the more directly you paid the chef, so a comparison between chef-owned restaurants and chains might be apt. Of course, all else is not equal.

Daniel Dostal April 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

But the societal norms of tipping coupled with the inability to choose a waiter in most situations removes the incentive of waiters to respond positively to a reasonable tip. Further they respond negatively to the lack of a tip, even if the service was sub-par. YMMV, especially if societal norms introduce other conditions, such as waiters in LA hoping to be noticed.

cthulhu April 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm

My experience is that good tipping for good service pays off if you visit a restaurant enough times to become somewhat known to the waitstaff. You get known as a good tipper, and the waitstaff actually compete for your business and keeps the level of service high. It probably doesn’t work the other way though – but if a restaurant consistently has poor service, I just stop going there.

Scotty April 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I can say from experience that the service in Australia is atrocious by American standards. Even the nicest restaurants and bars have fairly run of the mill service compared to their American equivalents.

Still, if we could have a decent minimum wage in the US (18/hour or so) I’d be more than happy to give up the good service. As it stands the only way to make decent money in the US if you don’t have any skills and don’t want to do manual labour is to bartend.

msgkings April 7, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Why should you be able to make decent money if you don’t have ANY skills and don’t want to do hard work with your body?

Bender Bending Rodriguez April 8, 2012 at 3:42 am

Because mumble mumble mumble. Why don’t you just move to Somalia, you libertarian meanie!

Ghengis Khak April 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Yea, what a win-win. Higher prices and crappier service.

Jeff April 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm

It is interesting that the link to the paper “Gods as Topological Invariants” has the following remark:

“Please note that the publication date is April 1st 2012″


Miley Cyrax April 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm


What is the point of beer paddles, other than to look cool and serve as a fraternity hazing device? The other beers sit there, warming up, while you’re working on one.

db April 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm

The point is you order five ~3 oz beer samples instead of one 16 oz beer. Great for tasting all of a brewery’s offerings before setteling on the one you want a full serving of. They only warm marginally faster from the increased surface area, and I have found in practice that this is not a problem. If you want to nurse the samples long enough that they will warm then you are doing it wrong and/or are probably better off just getting the larger beer to sip. The good news is that these seem to be catching on as standard in the U.S. at bars where you would want such samples.

Finch April 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I thought they were dying out… Weren’t they really common 15 years ago?

The trouble is they’re only appealing to the customer who can’t figure out if he wants IPA or stout, and that’s an unusual customer. Probably a tourist or an inexperienced beer drinker. There’s also Miley’s complaint, which I second.

Marie April 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm

No, beer flights are great when visiting a brew pub or microbrewery. You can taste all their wares easily and get a good idea of what kind of beer maker they’re trying to be. We visited Blue Mountain Brewery near Afton, VA and shared a paddle before settling on the beers we wanted. They have a large in-house selection and pretty good quality across the board. It would have been a shame to not get to at least sample all of their beers.

Think of them like a wine tasting at a vineyard, but with a bowl peanuts instead of those little crackers.

db April 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I’ve seen an uptick in the number of bars that offer more than one version of a particular style. For example, Dogfish Head alone offers 3 different IPAs, and places in the DC area like Churchkey and Rustico offer rotating lists of 50 beers on tap at any one time, many of which are from low volume breweries. At places like that saying you want a stout, IPA, or Pilsner (or even a subgenre thereof) might only narrow things down to half a dozen choices. Enter the beer paddle.

Miley Cyrax April 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Gotcha. The author did warn the beers were smaller than they appeared, but they still looked 8-10 ounces.

Rahul April 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I’ve been to several microbreweries in the midwest and North West that have these “samplers”. Seem to have caught up in the US too.

MD April 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Correct. Also, some beers actually taste better when they are a little less cold.

Scotty April 6, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I lived in Oz for six years and I don’t think I ever saw one of those.

Jim April 6, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Ha! Me too.

Neal April 6, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Evidence for an odd-dimensional universe.

kent April 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Re: the gods/topology paper … Tyler, please stop linking to April Fools jokes without noting the date. First the chess one and now this. I wasted several minutes trying to work out just how anybody could be dumb enough to think an argument like that even made sense before I noticed the date.

Tyler Cowen April 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Obviously a joke on any date…no?

Becky Hargrove April 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Aw shucks! Jesus could use a little help! That made my day.

db April 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm

#5. On/off outlet switches seem like a nice idea in some cases, but I’m not sold on a regulatory mandate for on/off switches on all outlets. Is there anything stopping someone in the U.S. who wants such outlets from installing them?

Rahul April 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I always assumed the switches were a result of 220 V supplies rather than 110 V. Sometimes the spark from a un-switched outlet is a wee bit scary.

Slocum April 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I’ll take the safety of 110V vs 220V any day. And power adapters with no load on them use a really negligible amount of power (I’ve checked with a ‘kill-o-watt’ meter) — and that minimal power isn’t even wasted during the portion of the year when you’re running the heat. Why would you be any more likely to remember to switch off the outlet than unplug? And how on earth is this childproof? Couldn’t pretty much any kid who could figure out how to stick things in the outlet also figure out how to operate those switches?

Tipping? Meh. Mildly annoying, but dining out in the U.S. is still a much better bargain (and with better service) than in any other first world country I’ve visited. As somebody who works in a home office and lives by neighbors with lawn services, I will admit that the noise of leaf blowers does suck. But they raise the productivity and income of lawn service people, so I guess I can survive 20 minutes of annoying noise a couple of times a year (lawn mowers, because they are used much more often, are a much bigger annoyance).

Sigivald April 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Beat me to it!

Especially with modern power adapters and appliances, trickle use when “idle” is very low; not worth the effort of flipping a switch.

And any kid who can stick a butter knife in an outlet and get shocked? Can flip that little rocker switch by accident by poking it with the same knife. Yeah, it’s unlikely. But so is the first case. (People worried about that use outlet covers.)

Switch-outlet Combos are available in the US – just not common, and I can’t find a dual-outlet one… but someone could gang two single-width boxes.

(As far as I can tell, the National Electric Code allows for switch-outlet combos, but since you have to pay for it, I can’t be certain.)

Bender Bending Rodriguez April 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm

One of my Australian co-workers prefers the American system because it’s much easier to multiply the outlets. Any Wal-Mart will have an expander for $5-10 that lets you plug 4 or 6 low power devices into
a regular outlet without the hassle of a power strip.

Rahul April 7, 2012 at 12:16 am

Why is the Australian system harder to multiply with a similar expander?

Bazza April 7, 2012 at 7:51 pm

The switches themselves physically block outlet multipliers, though not power strips.

> Especially with modern power adapters and appliances, trickle use when “idle” is very low; not worth the effort of flipping a switch.
A reasonable claim except:
(1) The number of such gadgets in homes has exploded over the past several decades, and ‘very low’ times 40 isn’t very low anymore.
(2) Very few of us have the most electricity-frugal appliances. The TV in the lounge is likely to be a few years old and consume far less than its predecessor, but what about the water heater or the refrigerator?
(3) Electricity costs vary quite a bit in the US, but in my experience are typically far lower than in the Antipodes, as are the salaries to pay the electric bills.

Someone from the other side April 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

I hated them all my time in Singapore and the UK. There is really no excuse for the humongous UK style sockets, either.

Jim April 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm

So what does it mean if the Euler characteristic is negative?

Paul Johnson April 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm

5. “what they call “Medicare” is like our Medicare”. He’s incorrect. The Australian Constitution has a provision that explicitly prohibits “civil conscription” of physicians. This was originally intended to prevent the creation of a national health service along British lines. But it also has the effect of allowing extra-billing by doctors when reimbursed for treating patients who are covered by Medicare. So Medicare in Australia acts like a true safety net, but with a market for medicine layered on top to generate market prices for medical services. Patients can buy private insurance to cover gaps between the Medicare rate up to what’s called the scheduled fee. Doctors can still charge even more than the scheduled fee if the patient is willing to pay the extra out of pocket. To a tourist it will look like a completely nationalized system, but it isn’t.

Rahul April 6, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Rather than have separate cab-cards, bus-cards, airplane-cars and dinner-cards isn’t the American alternative of having a single card more efficient? We just call it a credit card. Don’t most cabs accept them nowadays?

Bender Bending Rodriguez April 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Last time I was in Brisbane, the cabs accepted credit cards but there was an additional fee (2 AUD IIRC) for privilege of using your card.

JWatts April 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

I thought most American cabs now take credit cards. Taken major credit cars is much better than some specialty cab card.

Ed April 6, 2012 at 8:08 pm

American wall outlets are better. First of all, we eliminate the redundant switch at the outlet. No need to control an outlet at the outlet itself; outlets are inconvenient to reach. For the safety aspects, better to assume the outlet is always ON (as it is in America) than to have outlets sending ambigous messages.

Ronald Brak April 7, 2012 at 2:13 am

No, Australian sockets are better because they’re almost identical to the ones in China, except for the Australian wall sockets being upside down. But that makes sense since they are ‘down under’.

Saturos April 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Damn, April fooled. But why *can’t* God ever be a testable hypothesis (with a chance)?

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