Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Oh boy I'm behind on book reviews.

In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson - You definitely want to read this book. Then you'll definitely want to come visit me and Matt in Australia, which you should definitely do (Seriously - I'm confident that not enough people will ever read this for that to become a dangerous invitation :) And when you do, you'll definitely want to move there too. Bill Bryson is the funniest writer I've maybe ever read, and every three pages I had to add another destination to my Australia travel list.

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler - Fun, entertaining. I got confused halfway through and watched the movie twice to try to figure it out, but the plots aren't exactly the same so who knows. But that's an indictment of my own ability to focus on fiction, not the book.

Only Children, by Rafael Yglesias - Oof. I loved the other two books I read by Yglesias (father of Matthew Yglesias), but this one was so uncomfortably unpleasant I couldn't even look past the subject/plot enough to be able to tell whether it was literarily well done. If you're on the fence about having kids, this will definitely make you shy away.

The Reason I Jump, by Naoki Higashida - Book written by a boy with autism who learned to communicate using an alphabet board device. Quite interesting. I have many more thoughts about it, actually, but they'd be comprised too much of ignorant speculation, so it's hardly worth the time to write them down. But, that does mean that I'd recommend it for its thought-provokingness.

Unbearable Lightness, by Portia de Rossi - Um. So I maybe perhaps have a huge enormous crush on Ellen DeGeneres, and this maybe perhaps led me to watching a bunch of old clips of her show with her wife and former girlfriends, and this maybe perhaps induced me to look up Portia's new book, which I maybe perhaps finished before I even realized what was happening. Scary story.

Boy, Tales of Childhood, by Roald Dahl - I have no idea how I didn't read this one as a kid when I read everything else by Dahl I could get my hands on. It's fantastic.

Digital Photography Just the Steps for Dummies, by Frederic Jones - I flipped through this on my flight to Berlin after getting my new DSLR with the hope it'd give me a super quick introduction to making the most of it. I don't recommend it for anyone with any preexisting technical literacy whatsoever.

Monday, June 9, 2014

notes from Scandinavia

I suppose before I head to Haiti and Cuba, I should put up my notes from Denmark and Sweden.
  1. People address me universally in the local language, more than in any other non-English speaking country I've been to (Germany is close). Probably has something to do with the fact that the plane from Amsterdam to Copenhagen looked like it was full of my relatives.
  2. I'm not sure I understand Copenhagen. It has 1/3 as many people as Berlin but 1/300 as much going on, and everything costs 3 times as much. Not an un-nice city, but how does this imbalance survive the free within-EU migration?
  3. Despite necessarily inelastic demand, it's hard to find food items that meet my reservation price. Mostly diet coke and beer, the former because I have truly inelastic demand for it and the latter because it's truly cheap.
  4. What they don't tell you when comparing obesity statistics in Europe versus the U.S. is that northern Europeans are on a diet of incessant chain-smoking. I think I actually prefer the notorious scentscape of the Mission to the clouds of tobacco smoke.
  5. I even moreso don't understand the fetishizing of Scandinavia I seem to be surrounded by. Sure, if you happen to fit like a glove into a society so homogeneous and tiny that it can basically agree on a way of life and then regulate/subsidize/nudge the population collectively to it, then by all means, move there. I'll stay here move to Australia and do my own thing.
Yep, that's all I can remember. Scandinavia isn't exactly an exotic locale or significantly different from other European places I was earlier in the year, so not much to report.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

minimum wage vs. EITC, as of 1987

Amazingly, the New York Times got the issue exactly right twenty-seven years ago, and yet it remains a point of debate now. This despite the fact that this graph I previously posted shows that those twenty-seven years of experience with an increasingly relevant EITC should make it even more of a moot point.

Politics makes me sad.

[Stolen from MR].

Sunday, June 1, 2014

bleeding heart libertarian auto-mechanics

There's this common problem that those who advocate for minimal* regulation of trade are accused of not having a heart, when in fact free trade is the most important ingredient in helping people. But since it happens in a disaggregated, non-anecdotal, indirect process as equilibria shift to something better, thwarting at every turn those who wish to restrict trade either out of self-interest or out of misguided concern for others, salient examples are hard to find.

This one is great. A couple guys who would otherwise be unemployed helping out some people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford their car repairs, and the big city government can just sputter "but but we aren't getting tax revenue from them! And we need to be able to protect big businesses who want strict licensing requirements to protect their partial monopolies and make sure I get re-elected consumers from shoddy work!" I mean, sure, who would willingly forego the highly competent and integrity-filled interactions we get from certified mechanics for the sake of saving hundreds of dollars? That kind of crazy decision-making has to be snuffed out by the benevolent nanny state.

Three cheers for Autozone. Not that they would be so tolerant if they had their own repair shop that these guys would be competing with. But that's exactly the point.

On a lighter note, this is amazing.

[Links stolen from Anna and Dan]

*Minimal, not none.