Lone Gunman http://www.lonegunman.co.uk Sat, 10 Jun 2017 08:34:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.25 Congestion Tolling at the Supermarket http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/10/20/congestion-tolling-at-the-supermarket/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/10/20/congestion-tolling-at-the-supermarket/#comments Sat, 20 Oct 2012 10:40:53 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=7046 To help explain why toll lanes might not be the great solution to traffic congestion many believe them to be, Timothy Lee goes to an unexpected place to draw parallels: your local supermarket.

Supermarkets are a good analogy, suggests Lee, because they operate in a free market, are ruthlessly efficient, intensely competitive, and employ ‘lanes’ (checkout queues)… but they don’t use congestion pricing. The reasons why they don’t, he says, can also be applied to traffic congestion:

First, we have strong and sophisticated social norms, cultivated since we were young children, for waiting in lines. This bit of self-organization is cheap oakley sunglasses extremely important for the smooth functioning of civil society. We see waiting your turn as an obligation we have to one another, and therefore not as an obligation that a supermarket or transportation agency can waive in exchange for a cash payment. I suspect customers would see people using a tolled checkout lane as breaking an implicit social contract.

More importantly, customers would be suspicious that the supermarket was deliberately under-staffing the free lanes to gin up demand for the express ones. […] In the low-margin grocery business, it would be a pretty effective way for a manager to pump up his short-term profits, while the long-term harm to the store’s reputation would be hard […] to quantify.

This latter concern seems particularly relevant to the case of toll roads. The revenue-maximizing pricing schedule is not the same as the congestion-minimizing schedule. An effective congestion-pricing scheme might generate relatively little revenue if people shift their driving to off-peak times (which is the whole point). The operator of a monopolistic toll road will face a constant temptation to boost revenues by limiting throughput on free lanes and jacking up the off-peak toll rates. The widespread voter perception that cheap oakley sunglasses they’ve “already paid for” many tolled roads through other taxes isn’t exactly right as a matter of fiscal policy, but I think it’s based on a sound intuition: there’s no reason to think the political process will set tolls in a way that’s either fair or economically efficient.

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The Statistics on Link Rot http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/08/11/the-statistics-on-link-rot/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/08/11/the-statistics-on-link-rot/#comments Sat, 11 Aug 2012 16:47:06 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=7037 By sampling 4,200 random URLs spanning a 14 year period, Maciej CegÅ‚owski, the creator of bookmarking website Pinboard.in, decided to gather statistics on the extent of link rot and how it progressed across time. Interested in finding out if there is some sort of ‘half life of links’, he found instead that it is a fairly linear, fast deterioration:

Links appear to die at a Ray Ban outlet steady rate (they don’t have a half life), and you can expect to lose about a quarter of them every seven years.

And even that is an optimistic result, says Maciej, as not all dead links were able to be discovered programmatically. There are also several unanswered questions:

  • How many of these dead URLs are findable on archive.org?
  • What is the attrition rate for shortened links?
  • Is there a simple programmatic way to detect parked domains?
  • Given just a URL, can we make any intelligent guesses about its vulnerability to  link rot?

Interestingly, link rot is what inspired the creation of Pinboard.in (it features page archiving funcitonality). This is similar to why I started Lone Gunman: I was losing track of interesting links and articles, and wanted a way to easily find them again as well as help me build connections between disparate articles and topics.

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Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Tips and Rules: An Economist’s Take on Eating Out http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/08/06/tyler-cowens-ethnic-dining-tips-and-rules-an-economists-take-on-eating-out/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/08/06/tyler-cowens-ethnic-dining-tips-and-rules-an-economists-take-on-eating-out/#comments Mon, 06 Aug 2012 12:55:07 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=6996 When it comes to finding, ordering, and eating at ethnic restaurants there’s only one place to look for advice: economist Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide. I’ve mentioned Cowen’s guide before (if only in passing), but it’s time I dedicated a post to this treasure trove of dining advice and, especially, the tips from Cowen’s General Remarks.

From an article in The Washington Post, four strategies for finding good restaurants and ordering well (click through for details):

  1. For good value, avoid high-rent areas (those will be expensive or chains).
  2. Look for competition (possibly a sign of a large immigrant population, providing expertise).
  3. Know how to order ‘strategically’  from waiters.
  4. Be aware of the restaurant cycle (from opening, to accolades, to mass production).

Four rules-of-thumb for choosing from the menu (be aware of the exceptions):

  1. Avoid “ingredients-intensive” dishes, opt for “composition-intensive” instead (i.e. contains sauces or complex ingredient mixes).
  2. Appetizers are superior Ray Ban outlet to main courses in some cuisines; be willing to have a ‘side-dishes-only’ meal.
  3. Avoid desserts, especially Asian ones.
  4. Order for variety, not quantity (order more than you think necessary).

And finally, from a recent article by Cowen in The Atlantic, six rules for dining out:

  1. In the fanciest restaurants, order what sounds least appetising.
  2. Beware the beautiful, laughing women (you’re there for food, not the scene/drinks).
  3. Get out of the city.
  4. Admit what you don’t know, and search/ask intelligently.
  5. Exploit restaurant workers (if you see expensive labour, think about what your return is… family-run restaurants may offer the best return).
  6. Prefer Vietnamese to Thai, Pakistani to Indian.

Cowen can be a bit outspoken on the topic of food, so bear in mind this comment:

It all makes perfect sense if you like what Cowen likes, which is interesting food for a reasonable price without much ambiance. Which is not what everyone likes.

Whether that’s what you like or not, you’ll still definitely like Cowen’s book on the subject, An Economist Gets Lunch.

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Misunderstood Salt: The Facts About Limiting Intake http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/31/misunderstood-salt-the-facts-about-limiting-intake/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/31/misunderstood-salt-the-facts-about-limiting-intake/#comments Tue, 31 Jul 2012 09:33:45 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=7021 For decades we have been told, with certainty, to limit our salt intake or risk heart disease and high blood pressure—but is this advice based on sound scientific findings? The short answer is No.

The evidence is inconsistent, inconclusive and contradictory, says prominent cardiologist Jeremiah Stamler (who used to be an advocate for the eat-less-salt campaign back in the 60s and 80s), and therefore the “eat-less-salt” message is premature and may even be harmful.

Last year, two [meta-analyses] were published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international nonprofit organization founded to conduct unbiased reviews of medical evidence. The first of the two reviews concluded that cutting back “the amount of salt eaten reduces blood pressure, but there is insufficient evidence to confirm the predicted reductions in people dying prematurely or suffering Ray Ban outlet cardiovascular disease.” The second concluded that “we do not know if low salt diets improve or worsen health outcomes.”The idea that eating less salt can worsen health outcomes may sound bizarre, but it also has biological plausibility and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, too. A 1972 paper in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely. […]

[Four studies] involving Type 1 diabetics, Type 2 diabetics, healthy Europeans and patients with chronic heart failure — reported that the people eating salt at the lower limit of normal were more likely to have heart disease than those eating smack in the middle of the normal range.

via The Browser

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Equipping for Emergencies: What Items Disappear First? http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/26/equipping-for-emergencies-what-items-disappear-first/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/26/equipping-for-emergencies-what-items-disappear-first/#comments Thu, 26 Jul 2012 14:10:11 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=7001 As someone who lives in an economically, climatically and politically stable Western country, the chances are somewhat remote that I’ll ever encounter an emergency that requires forethought and careful planning1. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying this list of the 100 most in-demand goods during an emergency.

This list apparently originates from someone called Joseph Almond who created it in 1999 after observing the behaviour of consumers preparing for Y2K-related problems. I say “apparently” because I can’t find any suggestion that this is actually true.

Neverthless, there’s something about this Ray Ban outlet list that is inherently intriguing, even though I’m far from a member of the survivalism movement. Oh, and feel free to share this with the more voguish title: How to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Now that will get you some of them precious retweets.

via Ask MetaFilter

1 Although I’m not know for my futurism.

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Mid-90s Quotes from Wired http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/10/mid-90s-quotes-from-wired/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/10/mid-90s-quotes-from-wired/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2012 17:14:25 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=6977 Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired, found an old file containing a selection of quotes from the first five years of Wired. This is a nice wander down memory lane, with Wired‘s trademark embracing of technology in the face of huge change quite evident (as well as some mid-90s prophesying, positivism, and–dare I say it–fear-mongering).

Some of my favourites:

Roadkill on the information highway will be the billions who will forget there are offramps to destinations other than Hollywood, Las Vegas, the local bingo parlor, or shiny beads from a shopping network.
Alan Kay, Wired 2.05, May 1994, p. 77

The very distinction between original and copy becomes meaningless in a digital world — there the work exists only as a copy.
Daniel Pierehbech, Wired 2.12, Dec 1994, p. 158

For a long time now, America has seemed like a country where most people watch television most of the time. But only recently are we beginning to notice that it is also a Ray Ban outlet country where television watches us.
Phil Petton, Wired 3.01, Jan 1995, p. 126

The future won’t be 500 channels — it will be one channel, your channel.
Scott Sassa, Wired 3.03, Mar 1995, p. 113

Isn’t it odd how parents grieve if their child spends six hours a day on the Net but delight if those same hours are spent reading books?
Nicholas Negroponte, Wired 3.09, Sep 1995, p. 206

The most successful innovators are the creative imitators, the Number Two.
Peter Drucker, Wired 4.08, Aug 1996, p. 118

It is the arrogance of every age to believe that yesterday was calm.
Tom Peters, Wired 5.12, Dec 1997

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Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion and the Importance of Recognising “Enforced Compliance” http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/05/cialdinis-principles-of-persuasion-and-the-importance-of-recognising-enforced-compliance/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/05/cialdinis-principles-of-persuasion-and-the-importance-of-recognising-enforced-compliance/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 11:20:14 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=6976 Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is Robert Cialdini’s 1984 book discussing what he calls the six fundamental psychological principles of compliance: consistency, reciprocation, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity.

The conclusion to Cialdini’s book points out why, in this increasingly complex world, resisting attempts at “enforced compliance” (deception) through these key principles is as important as recognising and responding to truthful instances of their implementation:

Because technology can evolve much faster than we can, our natural capacity to process information is likely to be increasingly inadequate to handle the surfeit of change, choice, and challenge that is characteristic of modern life. More and more frequently, we will find ourselves in the position of the lower animals—with a mental apparatus that is unequipped to deal thoroughly with the intricacy and richness of the outside environment. Unlike the animals, whose cognitive powers have always been relatively deficient, we cheap oakley sunglasses have created our own deficiency by constructing a radically more complex world. But the consequence of our new deficiency is the same as that of the animals’ long-standing one. When making a decision, we will less frequently enjoy the luxury of a fully considered analysis of the total situation but will revert increasingly to a focus on a single, usually reliable feature of it.

When those single features are truly reliable, there is nothing inherently wrong with the shortcut approach of narrowed attention and automatic response to a particular piece of information. The problem comes when something causes the normally trustworthy cues to counsel us poorly, to lead us to erroneous actions and wrongheaded decisions.

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The Licensing Effect and the Unhealthy Habit of Vitamin Supplements http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/04/the-licensing-effect-and-the-unhealthy-habit-of-vitamin-supplements/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/04/the-licensing-effect-and-the-unhealthy-habit-of-vitamin-supplements/#comments Wed, 04 Jul 2012 12:55:50 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=6970 The licensing effect is the phenomenon whereby positive actions or decisions taken now increase negative or unethical decisions taken later. I’ve written about this previously, before I was aware of a general effect:

A Taiwanese study has provided us with a new instance of the licensing effect in action, this time with vitamin supplements. The study found that taking vitamin pills or dietary supplements for health protection increases unhealthy and risky behaviour.

Afterwards, compared with placebo participants, the participants who thought they’d taken a vitamin pill rated indulgent but harmful activities like cheap oakleys casual sex and excessive drinking as more desirable; healthy activities like yoga as less desirable; and they were more likely to choose a free coupon for a buffet meal, as opposed to a free coupon for a healthy organic meal (these associations held even after controlling for participants’ usual intake of vitamin pills). […]

The vitamin-takers also felt more invulnerable than the placebo participants, as revealed by their agreement with statements like “Nothing can harm me”. Further analysis suggested that it was these feelings of invulnerability that mediated the association between taking a postulated vitamin pill and the unhealthy attitudes and decisions.

BusinessWeek also points out that this loop of benevolent and self-indulgent behaviour is plainly evident in the shopping habits of consumers… something that marketers know all about.

via @vaughanbell

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Long Reads and the Stockholm Syndrome http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/03/long-reads-and-the-stockholm-syndrome/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/07/03/long-reads-and-the-stockholm-syndrome/#comments Tue, 03 Jul 2012 06:01:46 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=6963 Since reading one of the longest novels I have shied away from other lengthy tomes despite thoroughly enjoying my 1000-page adventure. When considering this choice, I frame my decision as defending against a type of literary post-purchase rationalisation: after investing such an enormous amount of time in reading a book, will I be able to objectively consider both its merits and imperfections? After 900 pages, are the quotes I’m highlighting really as profound as I think? I’m doubtful.

Apparently I’m not alone in this, as Mark O’Connell makes clear in a light-hearted essay asking how much of the enjoyment we get from reading long novels can be attributed to a literary Stockholm syndrome?

You finish the last page of a book like Gravity’s Rainbow and—even if you’ve spent much of it in a state of bewilderment or frustration or irritation—you think to yourself, “that was monumental.” But it strikes me that this sense of monumentality, this gratified Cheap Oakley Sunglasses speechlessness that we tend to feel at such moments of closure and valediction, has at least as much to do with our own sense of achievement in having read the thing as it does with a sense of the author’s achievement in having written it. When you read the kind of novel that promises to increase the strength of your upper-body as much as the height of your brow […] there’s an awe about the scale of the work which, rightly, informs your response to it but which, more problematically, is often difficult to separate from an awe at the fact of your own surmounting of it. […]

And there is, connected with this phenomenon, what I think of as Long Novel Stockholm syndrome.

via The Browser

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Apple’s Implementation of the Duration-of-Exposure Effect: Screens at 70Ëš http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/06/27/apples-implementation-of-the-duration-of-exposure-effect-screens-at-70%cb%9a/ http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/blog/2012/06/27/apples-implementation-of-the-duration-of-exposure-effect-screens-at-70%cb%9a/#comments Wed, 27 Jun 2012 19:03:44 +0000 http://www.lonegunman.co.uk/?p=6949 Hours after writing about the duration-of-exposure effect (whereby merely touching an unowned object increases our attachment to it and how much we value it), a post came into my feed reader pointing out how Apple Inc. take advantage of this effect in their “painstakingly calibrated” stores.

Carmine Gallo, providing a glimpse into his upcoming book, The Apple Experience, explains how every aspect of an Apple Store is designed to foster “multisensory ownership experiences”. This on the (very specific) tilt of laptop screens (from another great article on the topic):

The notebook computers displayed on the store’s tabletops and counters are set out, each day, to exactly the same angle. That angle being, precisely, 70 degrees: not as rigid as a table-perpendicular 90 degrees, but open enough — and, also, closed enough — for screens’ content to remain visible and inviting to would-be typers and tinkerers.

The point […] is to get people to touch the devices. “The main reason notebook computers screens are slightly angled is to encourage customers to adjust the screen to their ideal viewing angle,” [Gallo] says — “in other words, to touch the computer.”

A tactile experience with an Apple product begets loyalty to Apple products, the thinking goes — which means that the store exists to imprint a brand impression on visitors even more than it exists to extract money from them. “The ownership experience is more important than a ray ban outlet sale,” Gallo notes. Which means that the store — and every single detail creating the experience of it — are optimized for customers’ personal indulgence. Apple wants you to touch stuff, to play with it, to make it your own. Its notebook computers are tilted at just the right angle to beckon you to their screens — and, more importantly, to their keyboards.

When Apple do it right, they do it perfectly.

via Kottke

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