36 Chambers – The Legendary Journeys: Execution to the max!

October 31, 2010

The Penguatroll’s return!

Filed under: The Truth about The Penguatroll, Where's Poochy? — Tony Demchak @ 5:04 pm

I finished my last exam today. I haven’t submitted it yet — since it isn’t due until tomorrow, I’ll take a look at it then, make any appropriate edits and then send it in. Since I am largely done, however, I am announcing my return to the blog! I’ll have some reviews for everyone in the coming days for Force Unleashed (1), Dead Space, Dead Rising 2, and Smackdown vs RAW 2011.

I discovered The Office (US) while on my hiatus and am absolutely hooked. I always liked Steve Carrell on the Daily Show, but he’s brilliant as the oblivious boss who thinks he’s cool but he isn’t. Good stuff.

October 30, 2010

Sound Advice For Continued Living

Filed under: Wacky Theories — Kevin Feasel @ 8:29 pm

Follow every piece of advice here.  And follow it up with this stuff, especially the part about avoiding Japan.  Remember:  a good offense is your best defense, and supernatural beings often get more time to think up plans than you do.

October 28, 2010

Fedora Season Begins Anew

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness — Kevin Feasel @ 10:03 pm

One nice thing about it getting cold is that I can start wearing my fedora again.  I can trade cycling for styling.

Next up, I’m going to have to get a good image so I can join the Axis of Fedora, though not if I have to wear a tie…

Via Paco, who remains the cat’s meow.

October 27, 2010

Buffalo’s Defense Sucks In Two Dimensions

Filed under: Sports — Kevin Feasel @ 5:43 pm

The Bills have started incorporating a “heavy 4-3″ front with 3 defensive tackles and a 3-4 end on the line.  This is to help deal with their porous run defense.  Naturally, given how bad their pass defense has been, it probably can’t hurt all that much (more) there…

I compare this to the Four Aces rotation that the Giants had back in 2007 and weep.  The Giants had 4 defensive ends, meaning four guys who could penetrate the line, including a couple of guys who weren’t slouches defending against the run.  Buffalo, meanwhile, needs four heavy guys on the line, at least two of whom struggle to get to the quarterback, just to keep their run defense from looking absolutely pathetic.  Instead, it just looks normally pathetic.

October 26, 2010

Rogue Water Bottles Soon To Be Allowed Again

Filed under: Terrorism — Kevin Feasel @ 6:17 pm

In Europe, airports will soon get bottle scanners.  Via Samizdata.

The liquids thing was, for the most part, security theater rather than an effective security mechanism to deter legitimate threats.  But there’s always somebody willing to work out how to make a profit off of security theater.

October 25, 2010

Efficient Markets

Filed under: Economics, Wacky Theories — Kevin Feasel @ 7:07 pm

xkcd, via Alex Tabarrok.

It’s a fair point in general.  But take it in the other direction as well:  take a wacky theory that you believe in, and try to monetize its implications.  If you are capable of doing this, you get to update the priors of everybody who thought it was impossible while making a big bundle of cash.  Of course, if you fail, you then have to update your own priors, as well as those who were not convinced either way.

Roy, in the comments (skip through most of the off-topic discussion and politics…), notes that things like dousing were used Back In The Day, and to the extent that this worked, it was because surface features could tell you a fair bit about underground features (like water or oil reservoirs).  So it’s also possible to use a wacky theory accidentally to approximate reality.  So you’ve got that going for you if you believe in something crazy.

October 24, 2010

Harry Reid: “I’ll Lose This Thing Yet!”

Filed under: Curmudgeonliness, Specific Stupidity — Kevin Feasel @ 2:27 pm

Patty Murray is one of the dumbest members of Congress.  I don’t mean this in a polemical sense—at one point, as I recall, Murray was voted (by Senators) in an informal poll as the dumbest Senator.  I think she should be happy that Harry Reid is trying his very best to take on that mantle, at least until November.  Fortunately, there’s a good chance that Reid will lose and a more outside chance that Murray will lose, so maybe both of them will be released from that burden very soon.

October 23, 2010

Krugman-Murphy Debate

Filed under: Economics — Kevin Feasel @ 9:15 pm

Bob Murphy is trying to raise enough money (for a New York City food bank) to entice Paul Krugman into debating him.  I would absolutely love to see this happen, and so I plan on pledging a few bucks.

October 22, 2010

Where’s the Penguatroll?

Filed under: Where's Poochy? — Tony Demchak @ 2:44 pm

Beginning today, I will be on hiatus from the blog, as I have my doctoral exams beginning later today. Penguatroll… away!!

October 21, 2010

In The Papers: Social Networks

Filed under: Computinating, Economics, In The Papers — Kevin Feasel @ 5:41 pm

Joan de Marti and Yves Zenou have written on the formation of social networks in a working paper entitled Social Networks.


We survey the literature on social networks by putting together the economics, sociological and physics/applied mathematics approaches, showing their similarities and differences. We expose, in particular, the two main ways of modeling network formation. While the physics/applied mathematics approach is capable of reproducing most observed networks, it does not explain why they emerge. On the contrary, the economics approach is very precise in explaining why networks emerge but does a poor job in matching real-world networks. We also analyze behaviors on networks, which take networks as given and focus on the impact of their structure on individuals’ outcomes. Using a game-theoretical framework, we then compare the results with those obtained in sociology.

The authors write that sociologists explain most networks via their unintended outcomes—the results of birth, social standing, or choices you make.  Economists, on the other hand, explain social networks as the intended outcome of strategic interaction:  I get to know somebody because I want to use my expanded network to gain something later.  Finally, applied mathematics does not really attempt to explain why social networks form; they emphasize how they form and how they look (3).  The authors compare and contrast the three methods of explaining social networks.

One interesting aspect of social networks is that weak ties between individuals foster widespread diffusion of information, whereas strong ties increase the probability that a particular piece of information will spread to members in the network, but can create an echo chamber effect as new information becomes difficult to spread through.  In other words, the “quality of information decays with distance” (5).  Social networks also tend to be scale-free (7).  There are a few individuals around whom most people coalesce, and a large percentage of individuals with relatively few links.  In the sociological literature, preferential attachment is the most common explanation (9).

The authors note that, in the economic approach, there are no examples of equilibrium networks that have real-world properties.  In economics, we see networks created via mutual consent and as the result of a Nash equilibrium.  The end results of these networks, however, does not look much like a real social network (12).

I should note that social utility theory rears its ugly head on page 14.  TANSTAASWF, folks (see the continuing series).

If you want to tie this to a real-world case of interest, think about crime.  In the standard view of crime, we deter crime by increasing punishment uniformly, which raises the costs of crime for everyone (17).  Because there are certain individuals with a comparative advantage in crime, raising these costs will drag some of them out into productive work.  We could also increase their benefits in non-criminal activities, which works the same way.  But in the network view, we should target/remove criminal hubs and the highly inter-connected nodes.  If you isolate these hubs from the rest of the group, entire networks can collapse.  This isn’t necessarily the same thing as rolling up criminal networks by taking down the members at the top of the list.  Instead, take out the guys with special skills, the guys who keep lists of other guys (in their heads or on paper), and the guys who introduce groups to other groups.  In business terms, instead of eliminating the financiers, it may pay to eliminate the sales and marketing folks.

Finally, I have to point out some really poor writing, the kind of writing which can only appear in an academic paper:  “for a given farmer, (i) he/she is more likely to change his/her fertilizer use after his/her information neighbors who use similar amounts of fertilizer achieve lower than expected profits; (ii) he/she increases (decreases) his/her use of fertilizer after his/her information neighbors achieve unexpectedly high profits when using more (less) fertilizer than he/she did” (21).

First of all, I hate the whole “increases (decreases) means more (less)” thing that academic writers do.  It destroys the flow of the writing and saves you maybe three words.  Second of all, do you really need to use “he/she” and “his/her” so much?  This is English—“he” is sex-neutral unless used to describe a specific person.  It’s writing like this which kicks me out of “this is interesting” mode and into “this is just poor writing” mode.  Which is a shame, too, as it’s a rather interesting paper.

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