There is a new product to help you with getting things done, writeordie.com:

Write or Die is an application for Windows, Mac and Linux which aims to eliminate writer’s block by providing consequences for procrastination and, new to this version, rewards for accomplishment. Historically Write or Die has specialized in being the stick in the carrot/stick motivation continuum, but it’s time to experiment with encouragement.

One of the biggest improvements is the inclusion of visual stimulus. Instead of just writing to avoid annoying sounds and alarm warning colors you can now customize your stimulus. If you like to see a cute puppy after you’ve reached a certain number of words, you can. If you’d like to write in fear of a jiggling spider, you can do that too.

Under some modes, if you spend too much time without typing, it starts erasing the words you already have created.

For the pointer I thank Jonathan Falk.

Assorted links

by on October 11, 2014 at 4:20 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Is luxury consumption a female mating competition strategy?

2. Brad DeLong on whether QE is destabilizing.

3. The man who discovered Ebola.  And how one district in Sierra Leone contained Ebola.

4. Amazon is not a monopoly.

5. How bad are the remaining losses in Spanish banks?

6. Might the changes in Yemen endanger some of world trade?

Comedy club average is over

by on October 11, 2014 at 3:17 am in Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

 One Barcelona comedy club is experimenting with using facial recognition technology to charge patrons by the laugh.

The comedy club, Teatreneu, partnered with the advertising firm The Cyranos McCann to implement the new technology after the government hiked taxes on theater tickets, according to a BBC report. In 2012, the Spanish government raised taxes on theatrical shows from 8 to 21 percent.

Cyranos McCann installed tablets on the back of each seat that used facial recognition tech to measure how much a person enjoyed the show by tracking when each patron laughed or smiled.

Each giggle costs approximately 30 Euro cents ($0.38). However, if a patron hits the 24 Euros mark, which is about 80 laughs, the rest of their laughs are free of charge.

The full story is here, via Mark Steckbeck.

Assorted links

by on October 10, 2014 at 11:16 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The last one-sentence book review.

2. Lead role in Kafka’s Metamorphosis given to a robot.

3. Lev Grossman reviews Kerry Howley.

4. Jesse Rothstein revisits the value of a great teacher (pdf).  Maybe it’s not so high.

5. 5700 video games for $164k.

6. Claims about carbon capture (speculative).

7. America fights Chinese plan for a rival to the World Bank.

8. Economic policy in Hong Kong isn’t as good as many people think.

A New York appeals court will consider this week whether chimpanzees are entitled to “legal personhood” in what experts say is the first case of its kind.

For Steven Wise, the lawyer behind the case involving a chimp named Tommy, it is the culmination of three decades of seeking to extend rights historically reserved for humans to other intelligent animals.

On Wednesday, a mid-level state appeals court in Albany will hear the case of the 26-year-old Tommy, who is owned by a human and lives alone in what Wise describes as a “dark, dank shed” in upstate New York.

Wise is seeking a ruling that Tommy has been unlawfully imprisoned and should be released to a chimp sanctuary in Florida.

A victory in the case could lead to a further expansion of rights for chimps and other higher-order animals, including elephants, dolphins, orcas and other non-human primates, Wise said.

“The next argument could be that Tommy … also has the right to bodily integrity, so he couldn’t be used in biomedical research,” the Boston attorney said.

The full article is here, via Charles Klingman.

Assorted links

by on October 9, 2014 at 11:46 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The favorite books of fifty famous people, though not Ben Affleck.

2. Hong Kong people.

3. Peter Thiel on creativity.  And Virginia Postrel on Peter Thiel.

4. Do kids need simplified non-fiction?

5. Captive orcas speak dolphin.

6. It works best if all jurisdictions depenalize marijuana use (pdf), JPE gated version here.

David wrote:

the point about unnecessarily fancy infrastructure with weak maintenance is endemic to all the corrupt east asian economies, really

if you want to quickly assess a city’s transport infrastructure, look to see if all the roads have good sidewalks and all the streetlights have a number. the head honcho is only driven past, he doesn’t walk on the pavement – if the project exists only to impress him, then the pavement will be subpar and cracking. if the streetlights are not numbered, then nobody is tracking failures and replacing parts.

Tyler [not this Tyler] wrote:

A week in China often leaves Westerners impressed. So shiny! So new! So big!

Live there a year and you yearn for the Newark Airport…

Douglas Levene wrote:

I live and work in Shenzhen and can add a few observations. First, the food in Shenzhen is generally not very good, and does not compare to Hong Kong or Taipei. Second, a lot of the infrastructure (the subway, the parks) is new and shiny (and there is excellent cell service on the subway), but construction quality being what it is on the mainland, you can expect much of it to look terrible in a short time. Third, although Shenzhen is much cleaner than it was four years ago, it’s still very dirty compared to Hong Kong and Taipei. Fourth, you can’t get decent internet service to foreign (English) language websites anywhere in Shenzhen, even with a VPN. This is probably due to the Great Chinese Firewall. Fifth, it’s very hard to find housing built to Western standards of comfort, size, and cleanliness. Sixth, western style toilets are still a rarity in Shenzhen. That all said, Shenzhen remains the beating heart of the capitalist South and is the best hope for China.

Assorted links

by on October 8, 2014 at 2:02 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Chinatown’s kitchen network.

2. David Leonhardt calls it “The Great Wage Slowdown.”

3. What the applied economists are up to at Microsoft.

4. Dating app average is over.

5. Some scholarly literature on Ebola outbreaks.  Jeff Sachs and others on how to control Ebola, in Lancet.

Google’s driverless car may still be a work in progress, but the potential for semiautonomous vehicles on American roads is no longer the stuff of science fiction.

By the end of the decade, a growing number of automakers aim to offer some form of hands-off-the-wheel, feet-off-the-pedals highway driving where a driver can sit back and let the car take control.

The very nature of driving, experts say, will be radically reshaped — and the biggest players in the auto industry are now vying to capture a slice of the revolutionary market they see coming within a matter of years.

From Aaron M. Kessler, there is more here.

Assorted links

by on October 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Why does Bangladesh have a much lower open defecation rate than India?

2. Why many Catalans wish to leave Spain.

3. The growth of interest in Mexican Coca-Cola.

4. Stephen Chow film retrospective opening at BAM.

5. How good are Senators at backward induction?

6. Geoffrey Holder has passed away.

Twitter’s science stars

by on October 7, 2014 at 9:48 am in Science, Uncategorized, Web/Tech | Permalink

Science picks a list of the top one hundred, I am flattered to have been selected.  Other designees from economics include Krugman (his bot actually), Sachs, Roubini, Florida, Goolsbee, Basu, Dambisa Moyo, Rodrik, Stiglitz, Wolfers, Jared Bernstein, Dean Baker, Mark Thoma, and Noah Smith.  “Science” is not quite the right word here, but “markers to science” might do, or in my own case perhaps “library science.”

The real news in the list is that economists are overrepresented and other scientists are, on the whole, underrepresented.  They don’t see the returns to it that we do, and if there is more room in our science for persuasion, you should slot that into your Bayesian estimates too.

Shenzhen notes

by on October 7, 2014 at 2:23 am in Food and Drink, Travels, Uncategorized | Permalink

Many parts of the city are indistinguishable from Hong Kong, and even China pessimists should find it easy to imagine Shenzhen gliding into fully developed status.  At times Shenzhen looks better than Hong Kong, but that is due to what I call the myth of infrastructure.  Shenzhen being poorer than Hong Kong, and having developed later, are coincident reasons with the peak parts of the city having newer-looking infrastructure.

The OCT Design Center was impressive.  China probably will never dominate world music, but my bet is China will be the most important country for the visual arts within the next ten to fifteen years.

It didn’t strike me as a great city for food, if only because the place barely existed thirty years ago.  I passed by a bunch of places, but none were especially tempting and some parts of the city don’t seem to have many non-corporate restaurants at all.  Finally, I had a tasty meal at the Muslim Hotel Restaurant, food (and servers and diners) from the western part of China.  I believe that Cantonese food is due for a steep relative decline, given how much it relies on low labor costs and super-fresh ingredients.  It’s already the case that people thinking of taking you out to eat in downtown Hong Kong fixate on other options.  It is the New Territories part of town which will carry Cantonese traditions forward.

By the way, visiting Shenzhen will make you think that wages in Hong Kong and Taiwan are due for decline.

Assorted links

by on October 6, 2014 at 11:56 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Leland B. Yeager just turned ninety.

2. Gloria Trevi update.

3. #economicsinthreewords

4. Our understanding of giraffes does not measure up.

5. The Reagan years added more public sector jobs than did Obama.

6. Does social but not economic ideology follow a common path?

In case you had forgotten:

The degree of political participation in Hong Kong is actually at its highest in history. Before 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony for 155 years, during which it was ruled by 28 governors — all of them directly appointed by London. For Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, to now brand himself as the champion of democracy is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Only after the return of sovereignty to China 17 years ago did Hong Kong gain real public participation in governance. Today, half of the legislature is directly elected by the public and the other half by what are called functional constituencies. The chief executive, a native Hong Konger, is selected by a committee of 1,200 other Hong Kongers.

Further, Beijing has now devised a plan for voters to elect the next chief executive directly, rather than by committee, in 2017 among candidates fielded by a nominating committee — also made up of Hong Kongers. The proximate cause for today’s upheaval is the protesters’ demand for direct public nomination of candidates, too.

That is from Eric X. Li, all good points.  Please note however that I disagree with the general argument of this piece about inequality and the general tone that everything is fine under Chinese rule.

Assorted links

by on October 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Average is Over Hollywood, the monkey too.

2. Robot octopus takes to the sea.

3. Christopher Balding is more optimistic about Hong Kong than I am.

4. The world’s loudest sound.

5. Modernizing the Swiss yodel.