Calpundit Interviews Paul Krugman

by Tom on September 16, 2003

I suppose lots of people will have seen it anyway, but for those who didn’t it’s worth pointing out that Kevin Drum has an excellent but thoroughly terrifying interview with Paul Krugman.

An appropriately spine-chilling taster:

Train wreck is a way overused metaphor, but we’re headed for some kind of collision, and there are three things that can happen. Just by the arithmetic, you can either have big tax increases, roll back the whole Bush program plus some; or you can sharply cut Medicare and Social Security, because that’s where the money is; or the U.S. just tootles along until we actually have a financial crisis where the marginal buyer of U.S. treasury bills, which is actually the Reserve Bank of China, says, we don’t trust these guys anymore — and we turn into Argentina. All three of those are clearly impossible, and yet one of them has to happen, so, your choice. Which one?

I’m almost certainly spending too much time reading lefty American blogs, but I now have far more emotional investment in the result of the US Presidential Election in 2004 than I have in that of the next electoral flurry in the UK.

Micropayments, microprobability

by Daniel on September 16, 2003

We’re having a good old back and forth slagging off each other’s music tastes and calling each other fascists in the comments section at John Holbo’s site. As you can see, the issue of “whither the music industry in a world of reduced intellectual property” is bound to bring out a lot of interesting opinions; I think this is because a) we don’t know what the heck will happen b) we’d all like to believe that the answer will involve us all owning loads and loads of fantastic music for next to no cost but c) we all suspect that it probably won’t. As you can see if you follow the link, my role in the debate appears to be partly to snipe about obscure, irrelevant and probably wrongly remembered points of price theory and partly to act as the de facto defender of the music industry as she currently stands. I’m not sure that this reflects my genuine views, but in all similar discussions, I have historically ended up in it because of a number of points on which I think people are badly misunderstanding the economics of the music industry. I don’t want to start on a five thousand word thesis which will never be finished on this, so I’ll try to list my points of disagreement one by one in a series of posts. Starting with the easiest point and the one on which I’m most sure of my ground; micropayments are not going to happen any time soon.

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Writing, thinking, daydreaming

by Chris Bertram on September 16, 2003

Musing further on whether technological development has helped or hindered thinking, and especially philosophical thinking, it occurs to me that the ideas of which I’m (rightly or wrongly) most proud have generally started not when I’ve been trying to do philosophy, but when I’ve been daydreaming about it whilst doing something else: travelling on a train, riding a bicycle, swimming or whatever. Purely mechanical and repetitive activities can been good for this too, though it is for good reason that there are a whole range of philosophical stories in which philosophers let cooking pots boil over, poison people or run them down whilst in the middle of their reveries.

Then there’s the business of writing, of trying to turn ideas into publishable prose. I’ve adopted two strategies for getting this done – both of which work very well, but eventually seem to run their course.

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Word Salad

by Kieran Healy on September 16, 2003

Originating from who-knows-where (Uncle Jazzbeau is looking) but spreading fast comes the following:

bq. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.

Language Hat was my source. There’s also a Slashdot story.

Now this is very neat. But the explanation — “we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe” — raises some questions. The original researchers may have answered them, of course, but a post’s reach should exceed its grasp or what’s a blog for? If the first and last letters must always be in the right place, then any word three letters long or less will always be spelled properly. Having those words around adds a lot of context to a sentence, helping the reader to process the other words. To really test the idea, we need samples of text where that kind of context is missing.

Recrsheears souhld csrncotut secntnees unisg olny wodrs edxcieneg terhe lttrees. Tihs wlil psoe seevral polrbems beaucse wwreell-ittn Esglinh sluohd nlurtaaly cointan mnay sorht wrdos iunidnlcg pvrn-eborses, gtienvie csaes, cncoeinvets and (howpos) penrpsoitois, aongmst many ohtres. Lnoegr wrods soluhd povre useufl when tteinsg tihs ieda. Fatiensnredg wdors dviorecd form hplfeul cnotext mhgit aslo mkae fnie cidenadats for (siht) iiulsocnn. Eelhapnt. Preorpritay. Mainargl. Avtrinmdatiise. Boyend. Caainnbl. Wree tsohe tcekriir tahn tpyical sentecens? Ppostecirve linigusts wlil find csnuotntrcig w-llromefed, ativce senetcens fere form tohse mnay hfepull sroht wrods raehtr dcffiuilt. Tihs txet semes edecnive eonguh of (carp) taht ponit. Neevretslhes, linigstus slohud sitrve twoards tihs gaol. Cvioncning sitedus msut searapte ecah slaml wdor’s cepvidnino-troxtg rloe form the (admn) sipecfic ieda taht praticular otparhghiroc tosntrianipsos gaurantee taht sesne wlil reiman eevn toughh itrnael snbairmclg occrus. Fanlily dleabielrty minlaaitpnug sacmrbled lteter order sohlud mkae tihngs eevn mroe duffiilct. Raeeedrs wlil fnid wdros wtih vbres or (fcuk) cooatsnnns aaenrrgd ceiuoesctlnvy mkae uiansmnrbclg mroe dcffliiut.

(Tankhs to Jmaie Zainkswi and Pehobus for saciftoiimrbclan asstasince.)

One of us

by Henry on September 16, 2003

The “New Yorker”: reveals that Wesley Clark has outed himself not only as a Democrat, but as a sf fan.

bq. “I wanted to be an astronaut,” Clark said. “That was back when we had a real space program. We all wanted to invade the red planet, right out of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Martian Chronicles.’”

bq. The Oxonian looked puzzled, and Clark asked, “Are you familiar with Ray Bradbury?” He was not. “Not a science-fiction fan? What about ‘Lord of the Rings’? ”