No sooner did I post the link to the Welsh weblog then I got a nice message from Nic Dafis who runs it. Fortunately he wasn’t at all miffed that I made a little joke about some Welsh that I quoted at random. In fact, I did happen to pick a joke of his, which is that the transliteration of the word “weblog” into Welsh is “gweflog” which is an actual (though archaic) Welsh word which means “having large blubbery lips.” :-) I mean :-))
According to Nic, if you want to learn more about Wales and the debate about Welsh language, visit http://cymuned.org/. Keeping a language alive raises fascinating public policy questions because it affects so many issues of day-to-day convenience. What do the signs say? What will your child learn in school? Are some people more equal than others? Suppose you were to move to Wales next week. Would you make a special effort to learn Welsh? Would you make any effort at all? Your answer spells the difference between colonization and in-migration.
It’s been a while since Beautiful Mind came out, but I recently came across this well-written piece by someone who was actually in the math department at Princeton and saw John Nash slinking around (before the movie made him more famous than the Nobel already had). The author, Daniel Grech, does a good job of capturing the essence of what “Nash equilibrium” means.
Read What Nash’s ‘Beautiful Mind’ Really Accomplished for the details, but here’s the key example the Grech provides about how market equilibrium is not always efficient.
Two gas stations are being built in a small town made up of a single, one-mile long Main Street. Town planners agree that the gas stations should be placed at one-quarter and three-quarter mile marks, so that no one in town has to drive more than a quarter mile to fill up. And since residents are distributed evenly along Main Street, both stations would share exactly half the business in town.
But try explaining that to the station owners. The owner who should build at the one-quarter mile mark knows people at his end of town will never go to the competing station because it’s too far away. So he’d want to build closer to the center of town to dip into his competitor’s mid-town market. Of course, the other owner is equally wily and he too edges his station closer to the center of town. Game theory tells us—and an astute business sense dictates—that the two gas stations will both end up on the same corner in the exact center of Main Street.
Mark Frauenfelder (another member of the Boing Boing tribe) has written a fascinating piece on cam girls in Yahoo Internet Life. What’s a cam girl? She’s a new member of the net generation: a teenage girl who wants you to buy her goodies from her Amazon Wish List just ‘cuz she’s so darned cute. As Frauenfelder writes, “Now meet Natalie. Or better yet, don’t meet her, just buy her an RCA CC9370 AutoShot compact digital camcorder ($450). If you do, this 14-year-old girl from a small Kentucky town ‘will love you forever.'” But since nothing in this world comes for free, cam girls may be willing to exchange pictures of themselves in order to shake the giving tree a little. Mom and dad might not approve. Frauenfelder continues, “To them, their situation seems ideal: They get convenient, digitally delivered affirmations of their desirability without the strings of a real relationship. Modern technology allows these girls to make their virtual presence available to anyone while remaining physically inaccessible.”
It reminds me of the story about George Bernard Shaw that has him dining next to a famous actress one evening. He proposes that she join him for the evening in return for a gift of ten thousand pounds. She enthusiastically agrees, but when he suggests dropping the price to five pounds, she is incensed: “What do you take me for?” To which Shaw coolly replies, “We have already established that. Now we are dickering about the price.” These girls may not know what they’re about just yet, but they’re on their way to find out. Indeed, some of them have gone all the way over to the dark side, listing with a site called, simply, Cam Whores (we warn our delicate readers not to follow this link). Their parents might not be proud, but George Bernard Shaw would be.
Which reminds me: buy me something. If you do, I swear I won’t send you any pictures of me. Of course, if you refuse, I can’t make the same promise…
By the way, in case you’re wondering what the little # sign is next to the time stamps in all my posts, it’s what the Blogger folks call a permanent link (a.k.a. “permalinks”). As they put it, “Permanent links allow other people with websites or blogs to link directly to certain posts you’ve made on your own blog, and without fear that the post will slide off your front page and no longer be accessible. It is done by linking to a post at its archived location, which won’t change.” So grab that # doohickey and link without fear.
Get some fun stuff from EAMES OFFICE, a comprehensive site dedicated to the work of Charles and Ray Eames. Somehow their stuff manages to look both dated and trendy, and not simply because it’s hip to be retro. The forms (furniture, architecture) don’t appeal to me nearly so much as the ideas (movies, exhibitions). Power of Ten must be one of the most influential nine minute movies of all time.
Here’s yet another Piece About Blogs… but a good one. Cory Doctorow, one of the keepers of the Boing Boing flame, has written a blog analysis that resonates with me: My Blog, My Outboard Brain (at the O’Reilly Network). Blogs are the thing that, at one time, I thought bookmark lists were going to be. That is, they are useful citations of where you’ve been and why you admired or detested what you saw. But bookmark lists are brittle and opaque. They don’t provide enough context (even if you do bother to carefully categorize them), so you never revisit the sites you bookmarked. Eventually you stop adding to them. You can instantly pop any page onto a bookmark list, but to add to a blog (a blog worth keeping, that is), you have to focus your net-addled brain for more than half a second and describe why a given page interested you in the first place. That extra effort makes your record worth returning to. I stopped bookmarking pages about the time I started blogging.
NPR has a good page about Ron Popeil’s Ronco empire. The Pocket Fisherman, the In-the-Egg Egg Scrambler, the Smokeless Ashtray, Mr. Microphone, I watched all of these many, many times, always wondering who bought the stuff. But people did buy it — Popeil’s pitches changed our relationship with the TV. The Veg-o-Matic actually has a home in the Smithsonian now. In fact, on the NPR page you can watch the original Veg-o-Matic commercial. Go look at it. You may be tempted, like boy who saw Hamlet, to dismiss it as one cliché after another. But it’s not. The man’s establishing a genre. That’s worth a little respect.
By the way, these links to NPR constitute an act of civil disobedience. NPR now requires that you fill out this special form before you link to them. But I didn’t fill it out. Do you suppose they’ll actually enforce this? As Voltaire might have said: I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to link to my extensive and extremely clever web site. Voltaire would’ve had a blog. Oh yeah.
Random interface design note: I have a Bose Acoustic Wave radio/CD player. It’s a solid machine that has served me well, and it has a digital volume control that goes up to 100. Why 100? I guess their industrial designers considered 100 a nice round number (although, like with the car speedometers that go up to 160 mph, I only ever crank mine up to 30 even on a loud day). But the funny thing is, when you increase the volume, it only goes up by two at a time. So you can only land on the even numbers between 0 and 100. Why avoid the odd numbers? Why not just go from 0 to 50 in steps of one at a time? Now perfect happiness eludes me. I can never be truly happy until my volume is set to 17.
Hard drives just keep getting smaller and denser: IBM’s ‘Millipede’ Project Demonstrates Trillion-Bit Data Storage Density. Now you have a place to keep all the files you’ve ever created, all the intermediate drafts of those files, all the movies you’ve ever seen, every song you’ve ever heard, every picture or home movie you’ve ever shot. Okay, there it all is in a great big pile. How will you find anything?
Here’s a good column by Michael Wolff (appearing in New York Magazine) about one potential future for the post-Napster music industry. It’s seems safe to say that the music business won’t disappear, but it sure might turn into something like the book business. Not a terrible business to be in, but also not one with millions of dollars to throw away on frothy extravagance. I recently spent a while talking to a friend of mine who works in the music industry. He said everybody sees the business model imploding, but nobody knows what to do about it. It’s like drifting in a canoe towards the waterfall… Later I sent him a link to this article, and he had not only read it, but everyone at his office was talking about it. It seems to come pretty near the mark: Facing the Music.