A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Links, June 2014

A proposal to reduce distracted driving, by making things less distracting rather than banning them.

Middle Ages prohibitions on people having sex.

Tom Lehrer is, in my opinion at least, the greatest musical satirist to have existed - equally competent as a bitingly sharp critic of society and as a composer of wonderful melodies. This is a fascinating article on his life  - I was vaguely aware that he'd invented a drink of sorts, I didn't realise it was the FREAKING JELLY SHOT. I knew he'd studied at Harvard, but he went there when he was FIFTEEN. And I (grade eight piano, grade seven cello) would struggle to play a Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto, if I even could; he would do so, with his hands playing in different keys!

It's probably too late to make this change for the 2014 World Cup, but Lindybeige's suggestion to replace the penalty shoot-out makes a lot of sense. I'd quibble with some of the details, but so far as I can tell it would a) better represent actual football, b) involve a larger proportion of the team, c) generally take less time than 30 mins of extra time plus 5-15 mins for a shootout.

A tour of British accents. It's far from complete - indeed, none of the three accents which I most regularly encounter (Estuary English, Brummy, and Mancunion) appear - but it does an excellent job of bringing out the differences between accents.

"Factors that were independently associated with increased probability of extra-marital partnerships [included]... spouse longer erect penis." Also, boys contribute more to marriage stability than girls.

Suppose Tyler was right when he wrote this post, which argues that libertarians will never achieve their goals but will always be intellectually important. That's probably bad for people in general, but possibly good for me personally, as an aspiring libertarian intellectual.

"Normal" people are strange. That has consequences for the rest of us.

As a former RPS champion, it's nice to see that I was automatically doing much of this in my normal gameplay.

Evolution, destroying all that is natural, beautiful and loving. This week: motherhood!

Poetry of Afghan women. There are some excellent lines in there, I'll quote a couple of my favourites:
When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers.
When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others.

My lover is fair as an American soldier can be.
To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.
See also the accompanying podcast.

A fascinating attack on home ownership. There are obvious good reasons for home ownership - principal-agent problems regarding landlords, tenants and maintenance, for example - but there are serious downsides too.

Sporting governance - all the idiocy of real politics, but without the constraints of people having ever though about economics or ethics!

I read Scott Alexander's Piano Man parody by singing it while playing along on my piano. I frequently had to stop, torn somewhere between laughing and being utterly horrified.

A genuine success of government. It'll be interesting to see if this can be replicated on a wider scale: it seems silly to me to think that government can never improve things, the key question is whether it can do so on a predictable basis without spiralling out of control or large unintended consequences.

Speaking of unintended consequences, the assault on the Bin Laden compound has led to an outbreak of Polio.

Frozen and higher education? I just had to link to this...

A new arrangement of Siegmund's Horn Call.

Is there a poster version of this really pretty picture of Elsa's ice palace?

It's often remarked when looking at maps of Africa that whole national boundaries were created by lazy bureaucrats with maps, pencils and rulers whereas "real" borders - those determined by genuine links of language and culture - are far more complicated and nuanced. This analysis of actual borders shows this to be the case largely for the Americas too. I'm quite fascinated by the tendency towards horizontal borders in the more "natural" continents or Europe and Asia - perhaps it's just a chance result caused by the existence of Russia, but I don't see any a priori reason why countries should tend to have greater variety of longitude than latitude so this is an interesting thing to think about.

Another thing I need to turn into a poster.

One of the most common arguments in favour of a need to equalise incomes and wealth is that unequal distributions lead to unequal political influence. There's a crucial problem with this: they don't.

"Because he composed the music without the benefit of knowing what the title was going to be, Copland was often amused when people told him that he had captured the beauty of the Appalachians in his music".

A profile of Paul Krugman. Reading this was what led to me deciding to actually read Pop Internationalism, as opposed to merely keeping it on my Amazon wish list.

Going by the books on this list which I have actually read, I come out as four parts Ravenclaw, four parts Gryffindor, three parts Slytherin and only one part Hufflepuff. From the same author, One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful as a Goedel sentence.

Despite what this says, The King's Gambit seems (to me) to be pretty popular online. I personally play the King's Bishop's Gambit as one of my favourite openings (others of my favourite openings include the Benko, the Queen's Gambit, the Sokolsky, and the Grand Prix Attack).

Pakistanis would rather turn down free money than fill in an anonymous form acknowledging gratitude to the Americans giving it to them. At first I assumed this was a failure of US soft power caused by the War on Terror, although thinking over it I wonder if it has more to do with cultural factors - I'm reminded of responses to the Ultimatum Game where people would turn down generous offers for fear of acquiring costly obligations.

Andrew Cuomo might not be so terrible compared to many other Democrats - what with cutting spending and promoting civil rights he could even be one of the small-l libertarians (stereotyped as right-wing on economic policy, left-wing on social policy) thought to make up around 20% of the US population. My key worries is that he could end up running against someone like Rand Paul, in which case I daresay most self-described libertarians would flock to the Paul banner and do a lot of damage to those of us who are trying to reclaim the whole "compassion for the poor" thing from the left.

Very hi-res picture, very pretty.

Harry Potter, as Ayn Rand might have written it.

Sweden, utopian model of income equality, turns out to have high wealth inequality. I'd be interested to see the level of social mobility alongside these.

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