Sunday, July 27, 2008

Freaknomics and Charity

Can people really change their behaviour easily, if resources were available to help them change their lives?

They believed that poverty was largely a result of resource deficiencies and organizational inefficiencies: if the poor had more money and their service providers could simply manage their giving more efficiently, change would happen. None placed much emphasis on feelings of self worth, the long-term nature of behavioral change or, most important, that staying above water is itself an accomplishment for a poor household. Everyone modeled their expectations after their family business or other corporate workplaces where they saw the “bottom line” motivate people to meet certain standards of achievement.

Very interesting post overall, for all of us who've burnt out on this in one way or another... and a few other interesting posts under the philanthropy tag on the site.

There's one particular post, on how to give away $70million to charity. Interesting comments, and I particularly like the comment by Shine:

I can’t tell you how many n– -s do stupid shit because they couldn’t get no food. Lot of people rob and steal to put some food in their belly. Make sure people got food. A man stops feeling angry against the world when his belly is full.

and this other comment:

I can’t believe all these people think we should first give outside America! That’s exactly the problem.

I go to the Hamptons, and they have these stupid fund raisers for things going on that are thousands of miles away. And, then you go back to 5th Ave (on Manhattan’s Upper East Side), and you tell your doorman to make sure no homeless people ask you for money on the block. It’s sick.

In my mind, there's an closer dilemma even before I get to the international-domestic line. What business do I have donating my time to other people, when I don't spend quite enough time with my own family? :<

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch has passed away...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Interesting factoid on mirrors

From the NYTimes:

Imagine you are standing in front of a bathroom mirror; how big do you think the image of your face is on the surface? And what would happen to the size of that image if you were to step steadily backward, away from the glass?

People overwhelmingly give the same answers. To the first question they say, well, the outline of my face on the mirror would be pretty much the size of my face. As for the second question, that’s obvious: if I move away from the mirror, the size of my image will shrink with each step.

Both answers, it turns out, are wrong. Outline your face on a mirror, and you will find it to be exactly half the size of your real face. Step back as much as you please, and the size of that outlined oval will not change: it will remain half the size of your face (or half the size of whatever part of your body you are looking at), even as the background scene reflected in the mirror steadily changes. Importantly, this half-size rule does not apply to the image of someone else moving about the room. If you sit still by the mirror, and a friend approaches or moves away, the size of the person’s image in the mirror will grow or shrink as our innate sense says it should.
Hmm... I was fooled, too!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kuriya Dining

We ate at Kuriya Dining at Great World City today.. quite a pricy place, starting at $35 a head for set lunches, so you get the picture. But celebrating Wing's birthday, so that's okay, of course.

Of course, someone pointed out - if it's such a fine dining place, why are we using disposable chopsticks? It's a very good question, which was answered by MC. Basically, from his 5 years' experience in Japan, all the fine dining restaurants used disposable chopsticks. Anyone can verify?

On to the food - Konniyaku(?) soba comes with a raw quail's egg.. how strange!

My own dish was sashimi...

accompanying a codfish teriyaki.

The main dishes were.. decent not fantastic, but the chawanmushi was wow!

Food: Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge

An excellent, excellent place in Geneva, near Paquis and the Hotel Beau Rivage. Here's one of those really cool chalkboard menus...

And that last dish? The Tournedos Passini?

Wonderful beef, topped with foei gras that melts in your mouth, topped with caviar (which was to me, only meh... )

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lessons in Love, by Way of Economics

Wonderfully offbeat article, with great learning points, like

In general, and with rare exceptions, the returns in love situations are roughly proportional to the amount of time and devotion invested. The amount of love you get from an investment in love is correlated, if only roughly, to the amount of yourself you invest in the relationship.
If you invest caring, patience and unselfishness, you get those things back. (This assumes, of course, that you are having a relationship with someone who loves you, and not a one-sided love affair with someone who isn’t interested.)


Realistic expectations are everything. If you have unrealistic expectations, they will rarely be met. If you think that you can go from nowhere to having someone wonderful in love with you, you are probably wrong. You need expectations that match reality before you can make some progress. There may be exceptions, but they are rare.


Ben Franklin summed it up well. In times of stress, the three best things
to have are an old dog, an old wife and ready money.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

iPod Game: The Song Summoner

That's right - an RPG for the iPod! I think KeY might really dig this. By way of Penny-Arcade.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Reading: Never Let Me Go

I borrowed Kazuo Ishigaru's Never Let Me Go after reading LiCh's excellent post on the book. I haven't yet finished, even though I tear through huge chunks of the book each time I start. Somehow I feel like I don't want to read the book in snatches the way I usually do, I'd rather really read the text and understand what's being said. I feel like there's something beneath the surface there, that I'd only grasp if I could understand it better.

Plot-wise, it's quite clear that it must be alternate-universe - somehow, a world in which cloning was available in, say, the 1980s. I mean, cassette tapes and Walkmans. But I'm willing to suspend disbelief, and let meaning override consistency. In the meantime, here's a short excerpt which made me stop reading on that page, just so I would remember to blog it.

What I'm saying is that we were all of us struggling to adjust to our new life, and I suppose all of us did things back then we later regretted. I was really upset by Ruth's remark at the time, but it's pointless now trying to judge her or anyone else for the way they behaved during those early days at the Cottages.

Regret's a big part of my life. So many things I said that were cringe-worthy, so many things done that I should never have, can barely forgive myself for, so I simply try to forget, and hope that everyone forgets as well, that in others' memories only the best things are preserved. But then again, would I really extend the same benefit to those I know? If I don't blame others for their transgressions, it's likely because I did not notice, or don't remember.....

An unintuitive argument about the mechanism of suicide

In the late 1970s, Seiden set out to test the notion of inevitability in jumping suicides. Obtaining a Police Department list of all would-be jumpers who were thwarted from leaping off the Golden Gate between 1937 and 1971 — an astonishing 515 individuals in all — he painstakingly culled death-certificate records to see how many had subsequently “completed.” His report, “Where Are They Now?” remains a landmark in the study of suicide, for what he found was that just 6 percent of those pulled off the bridge went on to kill themselves. Even allowing for suicides that might have been mislabeled as accidents only raised the total to 10 percent.

More here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

On Milgram:

...those who stopped generally believed themselves to be responsible for the shocks, whereas those who kept going tended to hold the experimenter accountable...

One more reason to hold yourself accountable for your own actions.