Sunday, September 30, 2007

Good, cheap wines...

An article from NYTimes on good, cheap wines! Okay, so it's cheap in the US but maybe not here, after the taxes. But something to look out for.


For most consumers, wine-buying is an emotional issue. The restaurant industry has a longstanding belief that the lowest-priced wine on the list will never sell. Nobody wants to be seen as cheap. But the second-lowest-priced wine, that’s the one people will gobble up.

Buying retail is a slightly different experience. Most people don’t feel as if their retail purchases are windows into their ignorant, miserly souls, the way they do in restaurants, and so are less inhibited.

And go for Portugese wine?

Our No. 1 wine, the 2002 Padre Pedro from Casa Cadaval in the Ribatejo region of Portugal, is a case in point. This wine indeed had personality, with cherry fruit, spice and smoke flavors and enough tannin to give it structure. Alas, the Padre Pedro may be hard to find now, because Casa Cadaval has changed importers since this vintage. But in general Portugal is an excellent source for good, inexpensive wines, especially those from the Douro and those, like the Padre Pedro, from the Ribatejo region.
Go to the site to see the rest of the wines selected!

For birthday, darling Key bought me a ....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Something to try on the new year

From Thomas Friedman's book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem".
Before Yom Kippur every year, Shaul the bartender and I and a few other people go sit on Dizengoff Street and we drink beer and eat hummus, and as people come by - if we know them and, as we get progressively drunker, even if we don't know them - we stop them and say, 'If I did something wrong to offend you this year, I apologize. Please, forgive me.' It's great fun and people smile and laugh and say, 'Yeah, me too, brother. Forgive me, too,' and they just walk along.

Want to try this in general...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Morality, not efficiency

Found an interesting post on the morality of health-care financing yesterday.

McArdle makes a good point about the two concerns which are often tangled up in all kinds of conversations about transfers, that is
In discussing the morality of a single-payer system, those efficiency considerations are irrelevant. In discussing the morality, one thing matters1: who is made better off, and who worse off, by the system?
Basically, rather than caring about whether the problem is solved, the morality aspect looks at whether we should (normatively, morally) task the people subsidising the system to pay for those being subsidised. And in my personal capacity I think it's useful to consider, for all kinds of government-mandated transfers... including particular annuity payments.

I liked three particular points:
1. Anecdotes are pointless
A gigantic single-payer system is a pretty blunt instrument; it transfers money from one group, the young and healthy, to another group, the old and sick. It does not distinguish much more finely than that between the deserving and undeserving within that class. This is why discussions of particularly deserving or undeserving people within the larger class, such as your fine old Uncle Bob who served his country in two wars before becoming a minister, are irrelevant; as with the surfers and taxi drivers, almost any class we can specify will contain some very worthy members who deserve more from society than they have gotten. What we need to know is whether the class of old and sick people as a whole are much more deserving than the class of young and healthy people; whether our transfers do more good than harm.

Anecdotal arguments are just so... ew. Both sides will be able to point to their favourite anecdotes, ignore the other's point, and come out with a moral victory and no agreement.

2) Risk pooling is a morality argument (and not an efficiency one)
She quoted someone else:
If you're healthy, a world in which Giuliani's plan was law would be a world in which it was economically foolish of you to purchase high quality, comprehensive coverage. And that would be fine -- for the healthy individual. But insurance works based on risk pooling. If our hypothetical 23-year-old only uses $10 of health care a year, but is now paying $80 rather than $100 for his plan, that's less money that can subsidize someone with a chronic illness.
So what's the problem with not pooling? It seems that the problem is that someone else is not being subsidised, not that risk pooling makes the system more efficient...

and lastly

3) How do we determine if those being subsidised deserve to be subsidised by the paying group?

She suggested:

1. They are needy. The class we propose to benefit has greater need for the money than the class from whom we propose to take.

2. It's not fair. The class we propose to benefit has been unluckier than the class from whom we propose to take.

3. They are responsible. The class from whom we propose to take has in some way contributed to the problems we are trying to rectify.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Connecting to the internet, anytime...

So I know I'm a digital immigrant, but I've been feeling a need to be accessible to the internet 24/7.. The handphone's data access is fairly expensive so I don't feel that's an adequate solution, and with free wi-fi in Singapore (in most places) I've been tempted to buy a wi-fi capable pda or phone.

For instance, when I was at work in Jogjakarta this week, there was an social event where we needed to sing a song and I quickly went online to download the song lyrics. I'm shuddering to think what the bill would be because it's overseas access to GPRS. Hopefully not too much...

Nonetheless, in the end I decided not to buy a wi-fi pda. And frankly, I'm not going to use wi-fi in public places much because a laptop is just too heavy to lug around.

That's why this article at Wired about how plans to have wi-fi in cities around the world are failing, is quite striking to me. High setup costs and low demand - a killer for most commercial apps, basically. There's a separate commentary over at Communities Dominate Blogs as well. Which makes me glad that somehow we managed to force ourself past that barrier here.

One more reason to use Firefox

Because you can save your Youtube videos...

No need to play checkers anymore?

By way of marginal revolution - checkers has been solved and it's a draw. No need to play anymore?

But I guess even though that's the case, people would still want to play because people can't actually comprehend the best play to make on their own.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

No other day

Just watched Rent with Keying.. As with when I caught the musical back in Bristol (waayyy back when) it's not a show that wows you immediately - not with absolutely beautiful music, nor brilliant setting and props and mise-en-scene, not even with a storyline filled with dramatic tension.

Instead, it's more like life itself - all the little bits don't naturally seem to fit together into a huge congruent whole where every line makes sense at the end, but despite that everything is significant because of its context - a day in the year of the life of this highly dysfunctional "family". It's filled with a thousand little snatches of beauty, and a thousand little deaths and tragedies. And some of those are both beautiful and tragic and the same time....

So when I caught the musical, the song that caught my mind was "Seasons of Love". But after the movie, the song that sticks in my head is "No Day But Today".

There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today....


There's only here
There's only now
Give in to love, or live in fear
No other path
No other way
No day but today...

Sort of a poignant, sad, lyrical end-of-your-life version of "Carpe Diem"..