Month: February 2015
As families around China prepare for Lunar New Year celebrations next week, shoppers in one southeastern city can add another delicacy to their shopping list: “patriotic fish.”
Photos of shoppers in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, thronging around cases of frozen fish and sea urchins circulated in China on Wednesday. This was no ordinary seafood, however. It was from Mischief Reef, which has been controlled by China since 1994 but is part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
“You can steam it, make soup, braise, slice or fry it — it’s all possible!” Lin Zailiang, 82, a former government official who heads the fish-farming program, told the gathered shoppers. Behind him, a blue billboard advertised the products as “South China Sea ‘Patriotic Fish’ — the Third Season.” The entire 8,300 pounds of seafood sold out in two hours, according to the state-run China News Service.
But Mr. Lin, white-haired and wearing a garland of orchids around his neck, also made it clear that the program was about more than just providing delicacies for the table.
Cultivating fish at Mischief Reef, called Meiji Reef by the Chinese, is equivalent to “safeguarding national sovereignty,” Mr. Lin was quoted as saying. “Because once there are residents there — us — it becomes our territory, according to international ocean law.”
There is more here.
Those questions are considered by Jeffrey Ely, Alexander Frankel, and Emir Kamenica in their new JPE paper “Suspense and Surprise.” Here is one to the point excerpt:
In the context of a mystery novel, these dynamics imply the following familiar plot structure. At each point in the book, the readers thinks that the weight of evidence suggests that the protagonist accused of murder is either guilty or innocent. But in any given chapter, there is a chance of a plot twist that reverses the reader’s beliefs. As the book continues along, plot twists become less likely but more dramatic.
In the context of sports, our results imply that most existing rules cannot be suspense-optimal. In soccer, for example, the probability that the leading team will win depends not only on the period of the game but also on whether it is a tight game or a blowout…
Optimal dynamics could be induced by the following set of rules. We declare the winner to be the last team to score. Moreover, scoring becomes more difficult as the game progresses (e.g., the goal shrinks over time). The former ensures that uncertainty declines over time while the latter generates a decreasing arrival rate of plot twists. (In this context, plot twists are lead changes.)
4. Those least admired by Arnold Kling (not Anthony Mason).
5. Is Washington in economic decline? An interesting argument, although I would put more weight on high asset values.
6. Data about on-line education (pdf).
Showing that you care:
“It’s always about upping the ante,” says Meredith Waga Perez of Belle Fleur in the Flatiron District, who says clients drop as much as $5,000 for the big day.
Last year, Aleks Degtyarev spent $6,000 at Flower District-based rose-delivery service, Ode à la Rose, to propose to his girlfriend of three-plus years, Lulu.
“I wanted 1,114 roses,” says Degtyarev, a 33-year-old from Bay Ridge. “A rose for every day we knew each other.”
A friend helped him strew the thousand-plus loose stems across a Montauk bluff.
There are a variety of other anecdotes at the link. You don’t have to be a proponent of romantic countersignaling, or a member of Kakuhidou, to think this is overall counterproductive.
For the pointer I thank D.
On February 14th, Kakumei-teki himote doumei (革命的非モテ同盟) — literally, “Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Woman Are Not Attracted To”– will gather in Shibuya, an area of Tokyo popular with young couples, to protest Valentine’s Day and its roots in what they call “romantic capitalist oppression.”
The group, known as Kakuhidou for short, was started in 2006, when its founder, Katsuhiro Furusawa, returned home one day after being dumped by his girlfriend and began reading the Communist Manifesto. He quickly came to the realization that being unpopular with girls is a class issue.
Since then, the group has held several demonstrations each year, all coinciding with holidays that are associated with romantic love in Japanese culture, such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and White Day .
Kakuhidou’s slogans combine Japanese internet culture with classical Marxism, and its origins in cyberspace can be charted through its choice of language. For example, one frequent target of the group’s admonitions are the so-called “riyajuu” (リア充）, a neologism frequently used in online communities such as 2chan to refer to those who experience fulfillment in their offline lives (riyajuu is a portmanteau that combines “real” with “jyuujitsu”, the Japanese word for fulfillment).
The release posted on Kakuhidou’s website for this year’s anti-Valentines parade says “the blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine’s Day, driven by the oppressive chocolate capitalists, has arrived once again. In order to create a brighter future, we call for solidarity among our unloved comrades, so that we may demonstrate in resolute opposition to Valentine’s Day and the romantic industrial complex.”
At previous events, leaders of the group have yelled slogans such as “I hope all riyajuus explode! But we’re still a little jealous!” while wearing shirts that say, roughly, “sex is useless.”
There is more here. By the way, the group’s official vehicle is a Mercedes-Benz.
For the pointer I thank Andrea Castillo.
So says my Twitter feed.
For the last few weeks there have been three models in the running:
1. The Greek government is calling the Germans Nazis because they figure Grexit is coming no matter what and they want to get the populace riled up as a distraction from the disasters, or
2. The Greek government will cave so cravenly on the substance that they want to have it on the record books that they supplied some expressive goods for a few weeks’ time, namely insulting the Germans and claiming that the Troika is dead and buried, or
3. The Greek government is simply full of out-of-control, ideological maniacs.
Right now it is looking like #2 — however unlikely it may sound as a model of retrospective voting and intertemporal substitution — is closest to reality. What the relevant legislatures will go along with, however, still remains to be seen. Arguably the insults and posturing have narrowed the possible bargaining space by hurting feelings all around.
I had never heard of this novella, and yet it is a splendid and and indeed frank exhibit of Hardy’s rather brutal and tragic view of human psychology. It is explicitly a version of the Romeo and Juliet story, except the pair end up marrying rather than dying. What happens then? The story is full of behavioral economics and rational choice dilemmas.
Here is one excerpt:
“The only woman whom I never loved, I may almost say!” he added, smiling; “and therefore the only one I shall ever regret!”
Hardy later rewrote this novella under the title The Well-Beloved (available in the same Penguin volume), but a brief skim indicates to me that the first version was much better (here is one analysis of the differences in revision, pdf). In any case there is much Thomas Hardy out there waiting to be rediscovered. Some Google searches indicate this novella is not extremely well known, commonly read, or analyzed in detail. Yet it will turn out to have been one of the best things I have read this year. Caveat emptor: this one does not pull any punches about the male romantic psyche.
2. The invisible network that keeps the world running. Good photos too, recommended.
Better-known and more mainstream European politicians are also cozying up to Putin: French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was recently re-elected head of the powerful UMP, came out this week in support of the EU formally ceding Crimea to Russia, and had some kind words for the Kremlin. Another UMP figure, the mayor of Nice, has come out in even stronger support of Putin.
The petroleum sector is about 21% of gdp and half of exports. It’s not just that prices are down, rather quantities produced have been declining throughout the oughties. (That is the less well known angle here.) Currently Norwegian oil production is at about half of its 2000 level, and the sector is now bracing for 40,000 job cuts.
The group has documented how Norwegian politicians all too often have approved major investment projects that benefit far too few people, are poorly managed and plagued by huge budget overruns. Costs in general are way out of line in Norway, according to the group, while schools are mediocre, university students take too much time to earn degrees and mainland businesses outside the oil sector lack enough prestige to help Norway diversify its oil-based economy. The group mostly blamed the decline in productivity, though, on systemic inefficiencies and too much emphasis on local interests at the expense of the nation.
Is this entirely reassuring?:
Prime Minister Erna Solberg recently spoke of the need to invest in areas where people actually live…
After you adjust for wage differences, it costs 60% more to build a road in Norway than in Sweden.
“Approximately 600,000 Norwegians … who should be part of the labor force are outside the labor force, because of welfare, pension issues,” says Siv Jensen, the finance minister.
The country has largely deindustrialized, oil of course aside. And there is a fair amount of debt-financed consumption.
The country has falling and below average PISA scores by OECD standards.
Not everyone admires Norway’s immigration policy, and there is periodic talk of banning begging in the country. It seems there are only about 1000 beggars — mostly Roma — in a country of about five million, so you can take that as a sign they are not very good at processing discord. Far-right populist views do not seem to be going away.
For sure, Norway will be fine. Did I mention per capita income is over $100,000 a year and they have no current problems which show up in actual life? Hey, the “over” in “overrated” has to come from somewhere! The country also has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and owns about one percent of global stocks. Still, the idea of a rentier economy makes me nervous. When most people don’t “have to” do that well, often cultural erosion sets in.
They’ve made a new film : “Here’s a beautiful video of Iceland and Norway, time-lapsed and tilt-shifted to show the hustle, the bustle, and the beautiful splendor of Scandinavia from a more toy-like perspective. Called The Little Nordics, it was filmed by Dutch design team Damp Design. Happy Friday!”
Addendum: Here is my earlier post on whether Sweden is an economically overrated country. At least it is cheaper to build a road there.
No, not your own. Here is one view:
The main effect of reading Hamlet a 100 times was, counter-intuitively, that it lost its sense of cliche. “To be or not to be” is the Stairway to Heaven of theatre; it settles over the crowd like a slightly funky blanket knitted by a favorite aunt. Eventually, if you read Hamlet often enough, every soliloquy takes on that same familiarity. And so “To be or not to be” resumes its natural place in the play, as just another speech. Which renders its power and its beauty of a piece with the rest of the work.
That reader is Stephen Marche, the link is here, interesting throughout. Can you guess which is his other pick?
By the way, I believe that to do this you need to own many copies of the work (can you figure out why?), and indeed Marche owns at least ten copies of Hamlet.
I have seen this future in the eighth-floor apartment of Lee Chang-hyun in Seoul (pictured at work, above). At around midnight, he goes online with a couple of friends and performs his meal, spicy raw squid one day, crab the next. “Perform” is the right word. He is extravagant in his gestures, flaunting the food to his computer camera to tantalise the viewers. He eats noisily and that’s part of the show. He’s invested in a good microphone to capture the full crunch and slurp.
This is not a private affair. Some 10,000 people watch him eating per day, he says. They send a constant stream of messages to his computer and he responds verbally (by talking) and orally (by eating, very visibly and noisily).
If the audience like the performance, they allocate him what are called “star balloons” and each of these means a payment to him and to the internet television channel on which he performs. He is coy about how much he earns but the BBC has estimated, by noting the number of star balloons on his screen, that it would run into several hundred dollars for a two-hour stint.
Natasha and I will be there too, not just Birmingham, your suggestions would be most appreciated, thanks!
2. $2 per comment at Tablet. Hmm…
3. The culture that is France (America).
6. The Republican alternative to Obamacare? A very good analysis.
In a Ramsey model this can be true.
I went to see a Thunder-Clippers game with Kevin and Robin, and as usual parts of the live experience were rather distasteful to me, including the noise, the arena announcer, and the cheerleaders. These features of sports have, overall, become worse over time.
That said, NBA basketball largely succeeds in appealing to both high-status and low-status men. (Roller derby and pro wrestling can’t quite bridge that gap, NASCAR is doing this more than it used to. On arena strategies for making everyone feel exclusive, try this interesting piece.) Neither group goes away from the experience fully happy, but each receives something of value.
High-status men receive ancillary products related to the NBA, such as statistics and clever analytics, from say Bill Simmons or fivethirtyeight or Zach Lowe. These make the experience of watching the game more high brow and also more satisfying. In response to that improvement, some other aspects of the experience can be dumbed down, without the high-status men defecting. The stupid promotions and halftime shows, for instance, becomes less suited to what the high status men might be looking for. But you can ignore them when you’re happy to sit there and think through PER for this year’s Kevin Love, whether the Wizards should take so many long twos, or why the Atlanta Hawks were such a surprise.
And thus we have another unintended consequence: making an experience smarter, as do the clever sportswriters, can also contribute to making part of that same experience more stupid.
Addendum: Watching the game, I also learned that the Thunder have a deeper team than I had thought, and that Chris Paul is no longer a quick point guard.