Category: Games

Markets in everything the culture that is Sweden (England)

The odds were always going to favor the Swedes; after all, the sport originated in the small southern town of Varalov in the 1970s, and Swedes have been breeding show-jumping rabbits since the 1980s. Today, close to 1,000 active bunny jumpers can find at least one competition somewhere in the country most weekends, and there are two national championships a year. The U.K., on the other hand, hosts just a handful of competitions a year and is home to only about 10 rabbit jumpers.

In Sweden, where the fluffy competitors train for up to two hours a day, there is an established network of breeders who are always looking for talent. “Our bunnies are so used to competing, so they know what to do,” Ms. Hedlund says.

Choosing the right breed of rabbit is also important. Sweden’s 200 or so breeders are experimenting widely, and charge more—up to 1,500 kronor ($225)—for a rabbit with prizewinning parentage.

“You want mini lop for the cool and positive attitude and hare for the bigger size and long back legs,” Ms. Hedlund says. “But you don’t want too much temperament; you’d want a mix of a cool and a competitive attitude.”

Here is more, and it goes without saying, interesting throughout!  And the sport is supposed to be good for the animals.  For the pointer I thank Richard Herron.

p.s. Not all is well in Kaninland:

Despite their dominance of the sport, Swedish bunnies are bested by their Danish neighbors when it comes to world records. In 1999, a Danish rabbit called Yaboo set the world long-jump record when he flew over a three-meter, or nearly 10-feet, hurdle, while his compatriot Tösen bounced 99.5 centimeter, or about 40 inches, to nab the high-jump record in 1997.

Addendum: Photos and video here.

Toward a theory of praise

Rogoff’s real hero, however, was Bobby Fischer, the American chess champion of the 1970s. He remembers following the games from the famous Fischer-Spassky world chess championship in 1972, and being awed by Fischer’s play – “It was like seeing the hand of God at work; the originality, the simplicity.” He shakes his head in delight and amazement. Fischer even paid the teenaged Rogoff the compliment of analysing and praising one of his games in an article. But Rogoff did not let that go to his head. “I took that to mean that he knew I could never beat him. Because I knew he was hyper-competitive. I completely understood the message,” he chuckles.

Not sure if you can get through the FT link to the rest.  It is interesting throughout.

The economics of role-playing games

Here is an excellent and varied article on that topic, by Ryan Dancey.  Excerpt:

The more segmented those brains became, the weaker the overall social network was. Every new game system, and every new variant to those systems, subdivided that network further, making it weaker. Between 1993 and 1999, the social network of the TRPG players had become seriously frayed. Even if you just looked at the network of Dungeons & Dragons players you could see this effect: People self-segmented into groups playing Basic D&D, 1st Edition, 2nd Edition, and within 2nd Edition into various Campaign Settings that had become their own game variants. The effect on the market was that it became increasingly hard to make and sell something that had enough players in common that it would earn back its costs of development and production.

We looked around the industry and saw the same problem at virtually every company that had become successful: White Wolf had 5 World of Darkness games which were all slightly different, surrounded by a more diffuse constellation of games somewhat related to the Storyteller system but designed to be mutually incompatible. FASA had 4 games, none of which shared anything in common. Palladium & Steve Jackson Games both had “house systems” that they tried to use across their entire product lines, but they had ended up with the “Campaign Setting” issue that was bedeviling TSR; the variant rules at the edges of their games were creating independent game networks despite the shared DNA of the core. And we knew that inside every one of those companies they were seeing the same financial information we were seeing: Each new release was selling fewer and fewer copies, and in response, the companies were increasing the pace of releases trying to sustain planned revenues by volume of titles, not by volume of units. And it was killing everyone.

…My opinion is that the hobby gaming industry is going to transform into a very small niche business. It will cater primarily to an aging group of players who have made TRPGs their lifetime hobbies. As those players age, they’ll need less and less support in the form of commercially produced products. They will instead seek out community support tools to help them remain in touch with their hobby even as the social network they’re directly connected to becomes ever more frayed.

The piece is interesting throughout, and for the pointer I thank Will Koenig.

Computer chess breakthroughs and imitations

This new series of articles, by Dr. Søren Riis, here, and here, and here is of general interest and does not require chess knowledge.  They are an excellent case study in innovation, IP, reverse engineering, incentives to copy, market leadership, and other currently important concepts.  Excerpt:

This program was immediately thought to be a very close derivative of Rybka because its solving of test positions was extremely similar. But, beyond the objective measures of similarity testing, Strelka had to have been a reverse-engineered Rybka derivative because, at the time, a new program of such strength and manifest similarity in its playing style could hardly have come from anywhere else. Thus a very public precedent was established: someone had reverse-engineered a closed-source program with impunity.

Markets in everything but is there a core?

Ireland would need to get a significant reduction in its debt burden in order to get any referendum on new European budgetary rules passed, Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes has said.

“The idea that we could have a referendum without that agreement, on a substantial re-arranging of our debt, wouldn’t fly,” Mr Hayes said in an interview with the Sunday Business Post .

“We would have to have that in place before we put the question (to the people) and that’s beginning to be understood at an EU level, which puts us in a stronger position,” he said.

Story here, via Economistmeg.

Rational loss of addiction, if you can

As a former chess grandmaster, who at the height of this career he was ranked number forty in the world, Ken [Rogoff] has not been able to abandon his love of the game. Last year and this year again he visited the London Chess Classic, and in fact even joined in the live commentary of games. In the VIP room he was consulted by practically everybody, especially at a time when the world economy seems to be in serious trouble and the European monetary union on the verge of collapse.

Every year Harvard Economics Professor Ken Rogoff says he receives an unsolicited letter from one of the world’s top chess players. It is a different one every year but the question is the same: how can I get out of chess.

There is a podcast at the link, on this topic, go to 11:20 or so.

It’s already dead in the water

“Right now, there is not much more than a blank sheet of paper and even the name of the future treaty might still change,” said Petr Necas, the prime minister of the Czech Republic. “I think that it would be politically short-sighted to come out with strong statements that we should sign that piece of paper.”

There is so much more at the FT link, and from numerous countries.  Of course on day one they were all going to say it is great and that they support it.  Then the new equilibrium is revealed.

Rising in status: Timur Kuran’s theory of preference falsification, Buchanan and Tullock’s Calculus of Consent, Thomas Schelling’s Strategy of Conflict.

Falling in status: French rationalist constructivism, claiming that the failures of social democratic multinational collective governance stem mainly from a misguided belief in fiscal austerity.

That was then, this is now

German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle reacted negatively against what he described as plans by the Spanish EU Presidency to “sanction” member states who do not comply with the European Union’s growth objectives.

…Spanish daily El País writes that little time had elapsed between the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the beginning of the first conflict between federalists – who want a stronger Union – and eurosceptics. On the side of the federalists, El País lists rotating EU President Zapatero, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Liberal group leader in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt, who have all spoken in favour of more economic power at EU level with sanctions against those who do not comply.

“This initiative has raised the alarm in Germany and in the UK…”

The link is here, I cannot tell exactly when it is from (you will recall that Germany was an early violator of the three percent rule), and the pointer is from @sisifa1.

From the comments (pleasing David Wright)

There seem to be an awful lot of arguments floating around the economic blogosphere lately that try to use “credibility” as a kind of magic trick to claim that some institution can get some desired result without having to do the yucky things it would have to do to, you know, actually get that result. I would love to see a post on this topic from our host.

That was from David Wright…and now he has his post.

How to leave the Uros zone (no typo, if only it were so easy)

…the Uros have managed to retain their independence and lifestyle by living on 93 floating islands, which they build and maintain from totora reeds, some five kilometres off the coast and accessible only by a 20-minute boat ride from Puno.

…Should there be disputes between families living on the same island it is easy to cut a single home off and float it to another island.

The full story is here, much more information here.

Somebody’s culture, I am not sure whose

Last week, restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland, held a competition to eat the extra-hot Kismot Killer curry. Some of the competitive eaters were left writhing on the floor in agony, vomiting and fainting.

According to reports, two British Red Cross workers overseeing the event at the Kismot Indian restaurant in Edinburgh but became overwhelmed by the number of casualties and ambulances were called. Half of the 20 people who took part in the challenge dropped out after witnessing the first diners vomiting, collapsing, sweating and panting.

It turns out that eating a few pounds of the stuff probably can kill you; hat tip goes to Steve Silberman.

From yesterday’s New York Times

They are experimenting with different models of human behavior, here is from Modern Love:

At first his behavior was endearing. He constantly gave me attention, lavishing me with compliments, calls and sometimes gifts. But one morning when I slid out of bed from next to him, things felt different. All his wooing suddenly repelled me.

I crawled back in and tried my best to pretend things were O.K. He showered and dressed. I clenched my teeth when it was time to kiss goodbye, then shut the door behind him, sighed and wondered if he had any idea.

We learn from this same column that butterflies can see with their genitals.  And from the NYT Sunday Magazine, here is a Death Row love story:

“I knew you were going to say your favorite color is blue,” he wrote. “It belongs to you. My favorite colors are black and crimson. I love deep, dark red things made of red velvet.”