Changing the Rules of Survivor

by Henry Farrell on February 18, 2005

“Kevin Drum”: takes a break from politics-blogging to opine on the new series of _Survivor_. It’s shaping up to be more fun than last season, because there are new – and unpredictable – rules; Kevin suggests that the show’s designers ought to make the rules more unpredictable still.

bq. The appeal of the show is in the human interaction. How do you keep from being voted off? How do you make and break alliances? Who gets betrayed this week? That’s where they need to throw in a few curveballs. The contestants need to learn that the standard way of forming alliances and screwing competitors is subject to change.

He’s probably right – although one of the fun things about _Survivor_ is that there has usually been a high level of unpredictability, even under stable rules. Last season’s show was the very dull exception that proved the rule – the producers threw together tribes in such a way as to generate stable, gender-based cooperation for most of the game. They later made a rather desperate _post-hoc_ attempt to mix things up and weaken alliances, but it didn’t work very well. This season, they’ve deliberately generated tribes in a way that mixes up the sexes.

Anyway, I talked about some of these issues at greater length in a long post on my old blog about the applicability of sociology and game theory to _Survivor_ a couple of years ago. I reproduce it below the fold, if anyone’s interested.

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Best wishes

by Ted on February 18, 2005

One of the nice thing about being an amateur blogger is that, as soon as I’m five feet away from the computer, none of it matters anymore. Would that all troubles were this simple.

I’m sure that I speak for everyone at Crooked Timber in extending our best wishes to Glenn Reynolds and his wife. May her recovery be speedy, and may they spend many more happy years together.

Some dare call it treason

by Henry Farrell on February 18, 2005

I don’t know if we have any readers who don’t also read Fafblog; if there are any out there, they should check out his “intervention”: in the recent “blogospheric debate”: on treason.

bq. Treason isn’t just providin aid an comfort to the enemy. It’s providin not-aid an discomfort to America. Treason is hurting America’s feelings.

bq. Now you may think “oh well Fafnir America’s a big country it can take care a itself” but in fact it is very sensitive. When you say its mom’s ugly or criticize its foreign policy or kick sand on its face at the beach it is just as hurt as if you’d sold its state secrets. Like every emotional young superpower America needs love and care from its citizens. We’ve put together a brief guide to treason so you can understand it a little better.

bq. Q: Which of the following is treason?
1. Not wishing the President a happy birthday even when he is clearly wearing a party hat and a “Kiss The Birthday Boy” shirt
2. Questioning the progress, purpose, or justification of the Iraq war
3. Providing material aid to a hostile enemy of the United States
4. Telling America “Hey America yo mama’s so fat by the time she bends over it’s Daylight Savings Time.”

bq. Answer: All of them are treason but number four is the worst treason of all on account of America is real sensitive about the fatness of its mama.

Budapest sights (& a conference)

by Eszter Hargittai on February 18, 2005

I just came across some beautiful pictures [link to PowerPoint slides] of synagogues in Budapest most of which I have never seen despite it being my hometown. You will notice that they are tucked away with quite some care in several cases, which makes it easy to miss them. The photographer has many other slideshows available on his Web site.

I have also posted some photos of the main synagogue and my high school, but mostly of communist era statues gathered up in a Statue Park on the outskirts of the city.

Social scientists looking for a conference excuse to see these sights may want to consider submitting an abstract to the annual meetings of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics to be held this summer in Budapest. Abstracts are due March 1, 2005.

Home Cooking

by Maria on February 18, 2005

There’s a wonderful passage in Colm Toibin’s ‘The Master’, a fictional biography of Henry James, where the hero is on his way to see the house in Rye where he’ll spend the rest of his life. It came to mind when I sat down to list my favourite cookery books.

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Beat the Market

by Kieran Healy on February 18, 2005

My friend “Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas”: has co-authored a “very interesting paper”: with “Hélène Rey”: called “International Financial Adjustment.” (Here’s the “PDF version”: You might think that’s not a title to set the world on fire, but don’t be fooled. A more appealing — though perhaps less responsible — alternative would be something like “Dude! We can predict exchange rates!” Here’s the abstract:

bq. The paper proposes a unified framework to study the dynamics of net foreign assets and exchange rate movements. We show that deteriorations in a country’s net exports or net foreign asset position have to be matched either by future net export growth (trade adjustment channel) or by future increases in the returns of the net foreign asset portfolio (hitherto unexplored financial adjustment channel). Using a newly constructed data set on US gross foreign positions, we find that stabilizing valuation effects contribute as much as 31% of the external adjustment. Our theory also has asset pricing implications. Deviations from trend of the ratio of net exports to net foreign assets predict net foreign asset portfolio returns one quarter to two years ahead and net exports at longer horizons. The exchange rate affects the trade balance and the valuation of net foreign assets. It is forecastable in and out of sample at one quarter and beyond. A one standard deviation decrease of the ratio of net exports to net foreign assets predicts an annualized 4% depreciation of the exchange rate over the next quarter.

Now, I am not a macroeconomist so I should leave further discussion to Daniel and John. The guts of the paper are really beyond my competence to evaluate. But this is a blog, so naturally I will carry on regardless and make three points anyway.

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Why Does Porter Goss Hate America?

by Belle Waring on February 18, 2005

From the Washington Post, “Blinding Flash of the Obvious” Department:

The insurgency in Iraq continues to baffle the U.S. military and intelligence communities, and the U.S. occupation has become a potent recruiting tool for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, top U.S. national security officials told Congress yesterday.

“Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists,” CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism,” he said. “They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.”

On a day when the top half-dozen U.S. national security and intelligence officials went to Capitol Hill to talk about the continued determination of terrorists to strike the United States, their statements underscored the unintended consequences of the war in Iraq.

“The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists,” Goss said in his first public testimony since taking over the CIA. Goss said Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist who has joined al Qaeda since the U.S. invasion, “hopes to establish a safe haven in Iraq” from which he could operate against Western nations and moderate Muslim governments.

“Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment,” Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate panel. “Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the U.S. has a negative policy toward the Arab world.”

How long before our doughty friends at Power Line realize that Porter Goss and Vice Admiral Jacoby are…ON THE OTHER SIDE!!!!