Senin, 27 Oktober 2014

The Popcorn Palace Economy - The thirsty moviegoer fuels the business.

Interesting brief article on the movie theater business. As an aside, I swear the popcorn doesn't taste as good as it did 5-10 years ago.

Not too many surprises in this article. However, one thing did jump out at me:
"in 1948, the government forced the studios to divest themselves of the theaters". That doesn't seem right to me. Why does the federal government have the authority to decide whom gets to own a movie theater?

The Popcorn Palace Economy - The thirsty moviegoer fuels the business. By Edward Jay Epstein: "The Popcorn Palace Economy
The thirsty moviegoer fuels the business.
By Edward Jay Epstein

Once upon a time, movie studios and movie theaters were in the same business. The studios made films for theater chains that they either owned or controlled, and they harvested almost all their revenue from ticket sales. Then, in 1948, the government forced the studios to divest themselves of the theaters. Nowadays, the two are in very different businesses. Theater chains, in fact, are in three different businesses."

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Minggu, 26 Oktober 2014

Thomas Jefferson quill and dip Pens

Great article by Dr. Ron Dutcher on presidential pens, this one specifically of Thomas Jefferson. Worth a read, and some nice pics too.

Thomas Jefferson quill and dip Pens: "The modern fountain pen can actually trace its roots back to Thomas Jefferson. It was he who talked with John Isaac Hawkins about his problems with letter writing. Jefferson was a prolific writer and he went through quills painfully fast. He wished for a a pen with the same elasticity as a quill, but something that would last. Hawkins was a young inventor, and moved to London to study the pen making industry there. Hawkins with Samson Mordan developed and patented the first Mechanical pencil. Hawkins heard of a pensmith named Doughty who had experimented with soldering rubies to gold pens."

Germans flock to see silent monks

This is interesting, and impressive. I have the utmost respect for the monks and nuns. We have some Carmelite nuns and Trappist (Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance) monks that live near us. The Trappist monks make some of the best bread around. We buy a loaf nearly every week. Some Trappists brew beer, and it's quite good! ;-) The Abbey of the Genesee is in Piffard, NY. The bread they bake is wonderful.

This story is about Carthusian monks. Here's the official site for the order.

BBC NEWS - Germans flock to see silent monks: "An unlikely film has been filling cinemas in Germany in recent weeks: a three-hour documentary with hardly a single spoken word, set in a monastery.

The film Into Great Silence is an intimate portrayal of the everyday lives of Carthusian monks high in a remote corner of the French Alps.
The Carthusians are the strictest Christian order and this three-hour, almost totally silent film about them, was not expected to be a hit. But it is playing to packed cinemas, fascinating audiences with the unique glimpse of a contemplative life, unknown beyond the monastery walls."

Monopoly - A Zero-Sum Game

Russell Roberts has a good post (as usual) over at Cafe Hayek about the board game Monopoly. He clearly explains that the board game is not even close to a good analogy for the real world. The economy in the board game is a zero-sum game, very different than our reality.

Cafe Hayek on Monopoly, the game.

Starbucks Economics - Solving the mystery of the elusive "short" cappuccino

Starbucks, coffee, economics, intrigue, this story has it all! ;-)

Starbucks Economics - Solving the mystery of the elusive "short" cappuccino. By Tim Harford: "Here's a little secret that Starbucks doesn't want you to know: They will serve you a better, stronger cappuccino if you want one, and they will charge you less for it. Ask for it in any Starbucks and the barista will comply without batting an eye. The puzzle is to work out why.
Economics has the answer: This is the Starbucks way of sidestepping a painful dilemma over how high to set prices. Price too low and the margins disappear; too high and the customers do. Any business that is able to charge one price to price-sensitive customers and a higher price to the rest will avoid some of that awkward trade-off."

Wired News: Wound Up Over Windmills

This is right in my backyard. And Not In My Backyward (NIMBY) seems to be part of the issue here. Well, not literally, but within an hour's drive. If this is privately financed I think it's probably a good idea. I don't know the answer, but I would be very interested in learning if the windmills provide a net gain. That is, they generate more than they cost, without any kind of subsidies. How long until the initial start-up costs are made up?

That said, some of the critics sound downright loony:
"Group members also warned of health problems ranging from strokes caused by the sunlight as it pulsates through the spinning turbine blades to mange in cattle. Others claimed that women living near the wind farms are having as many as five menstrual cycles a month."

The article mentions a "power crunch" which I presume means a shortage. But a shortage can not really exist (well, maybe briefly) if the market is allowed to clear freely. But there is so much interference with this industry that I doubt it is clearing even close to efficiently.

Wired News: Wound Up Over Windmills: "Upstate New Yorkers are up in arms about widespread plans to install wind farms. In some cases, they're fighting the green power plants with scare tactics more often associated with the anti-nuclear lobby.

The whole state of New York is experiencing such a serious power crunch that Gov. George Pataki has taken drastic measures to help combat energy-supply problems and decrease the Empire State's ecological footprint.

Part of his plan includes dotting the rural upstate lake region with windmill farms because they provide clean and practically free energy once they're installed. It sounds like an excellent solution, unless you dislike the look of hulking white shafts supporting giant propellers on your horizon."

Wizbang - We Need More Nuclear Power

Jay Tea has a good post over at Wizbank today on the subject of nuclear power and nuclear reactors. I agree completely that we need to build and use more nuclear power plants. The eco-nuts have stifled plans to build more plants in the U.S. for the better part of thirty years. And as Jay said, "Ted Kennedy's driving has killed more people than Three Mile Island has".

I still believe that the modern nuke technology is much safer than it used to be and well worth the risks considering the trade-offs. Think of all the coal that wouldn't be burned?

The opponents of nuclear power do a lot of hand-wringing about what to do with the nuclear waste. Doesn't Europe use a lot of nuclear power? Let's ask them how they deal w/ the nuclear waste. Liberals seem to want to look to Europe for guidance for everything else.

Wizbang On Nuclear Power: "New Hampshire has a nuclear power plant. The Seabrook Station was originally intended to have two reactors, but due to huge protests from the anti-nuclear crowd and economic necessities, only the first was completed. The incomplete containment dome sits next to it, a spectre of what might have been.

But with the increase in oil prices and the steadily rising demand for electricity, some people are looking at that second structure and wondering if the time has come to complete it."

IBM Watch : The making of a champion: Deep Blue

Interesting brief column on chess, Garry Kasparov, and IBM's Deep Blue computer.

IBM Watch : The making of a champion: Deep Blue: "The making of a champion: Deep Blue
IBM is a vast subject, and even an expert is bound to have a gap or two in his or her knowledge of the company. One of such gaps for me was in just how the so-called "Deep Blue" computer was programmed with the necessary expertise to beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov.

During a recent visit to IBM's Somers, New York, offices, I met with Bill Pulleyblank, vice-president of the center for business optimization for IBM Global Services. His job is to make connections between IBM Global Services and its clients, and IBM research.

Before he took his present position, Pulleyblank was the brains behind Deep Blue, if that's the right way of putting it. And to hear him talk about it is to understand that computers are the object of passion in their creators in much the way that sportscars are in theirs.

Pulleyblank recounted how Kasparov beat Deep Blue in their first match. The computers' designers took the lessons of the defeat back to their workshop and made some crucial tweaks."

Sabtu, 25 Oktober 2014

The Sick Used to Die - Mises Institute

Quote of the month!! ;-)

"Alas, it seems that ignorance continues to be a renewable resource ..."

The Sick Used to Die - Mises Institute: "As more and more Chinese attain standards of living and wealth that approach what has been known as middle-class in the developed world, they are discovering a 'luxury' not previously known to them: chronic disabling illness.

I remember when such matters first came to my awareness at the tender age of twelve, on a family visit to Canada. I remarked to my father, a man who understood and cherished free markets and freedom itself, on how healthy all the Canadians looked. Handicapped parking places hadn't yet been invented, but it looked as though they wouldn't have been needed in Canada anyway.
Alas, it seems that ignorance continues to be a renewable resource..."

The Bureaucrat in Your Shower - Mises Institute

This is a good column. It shows the level of interference we now have in our lives from bureaucrats. I doubt that the founding fathers had this level of federal government control in mind when the drafted the Constitution.

The Bureaucrat in Your Shower - Mises Institute: "The Department of Energy may soon be paying a visit to a certain shower-head manufacturer in Arizona. The company is Zoe Industries Manufacturing. It runs, a popular site that sells amazing equipment for bathrooms.

Consumers love the company but one man doesn't. He is Al Deitemann, head of conservation for the Seattle Water Board. Al ordered some products and sent them to BR Laboratories in Hungtington, California, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And sure enough, Bureaucrat Al gained enough data to report Zoe to the feds, accusing Zoe of 'blatant violations of environmental protection laws.' Now the heat is on."

Faber Castell Grip 2001 Pencil

I stopped into local art/pen store today and bought four of these pencils in different grades. I love the look. I'm already happy with the Faber-Castell E-Motion mechanical pencil I have. These woooden Grip pencils are pretty slick, worth checking out.

Faber Castell Grip 2001 Wooden Pencil: "Can pencils still inspire people in the age of computers and the internet? They can: be they short, long, round, angular, smooth, with integrated sharpener and eraser – FABER-CASTELL has always offered and will continue to offer an attractive range of innovative products.

Now, Faber-Castell has introduced another new concept – an inspirational world first for pencils."

Check out a great review at The Pencil Revolution.

Classic Cars - The Plymouth Road Runner

I used to have one of these Road Runners, a 1969 model that looked nearly identical to the yellow one in the pic, minus the hood scoop. It had a bored out 440 engine with a big cam, big four-barrel carb, traction bars, battery in the trunk, headers, etc. I miss the acceleration, but I don't miss the 6mpg or smelling like exhaust all the time thanks to leaky headers. I especially miss the "Beep-beep!" horn.

In 1969 or 1970 there was a also a limited edition Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Charger Daytona available. These things cleaned up in NASCAR races. NASCAR eventually outlawed them, they were too successful.

Thank God this never happened. According to Wikipedia, "A prototype 1981 Road Runner was built on the Plymouth Reliant body, but it never made it to production".

It was all an homage of course to Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner.

The Plymouth Road Runner from the Stock Mopar site:
"It cost Plymouth $50,000 for the rights to use the Road Runner name and other bells and whistles ( beep - beep horn ). Plymouth's main goal in producing the Road Runner was to be able to run 13s at the race track and still be able to sell the car for under $4,000."

My Watch: An Instructive Little Tale - Mark Twain

This was posted by Todd over the Purists watch forum. It was written by Mark Twain and appears to be in the public-domain. Here's a snippet of it, it's not much longer and definitely amusing, especially if you've owned mechanical watches.

My Watch: An Instructive Little Tale / Mark Twain (1835-1910): "My beautiful new watch had run eighteen months without losing or gaining, and without breaking any part of its machinery or stopping. I had come to believe it infallible in its judgments about the time of day, and to consider its constitution and its anatomy imperishable. But at last, one night, I let it run down. I grieved about it as if it were a recognized messenger and forerunner of calamity. But by and by I cheered up, set the watch by guess, and commanded my bodings and superstitions to depart. Next day I stepped into the chief jeweler's to set it by the exact time, and the head of the establishment took it out of my hand and proceeded to set it for me. Then he said, 'She is four minutes slow -- regulator wants pushing up.' I tried to stop him -- tried to make him understand that the watch kept perfect time. But no; all this human cabbage could see was that the watch was four minutes slow, and the regulator MUST be pushed up a little; and so, while I danced around him in anguish, and implored him to let the watch alone, he calmly and cruelly did the shameful deed. My watch began to gain. It gained faster and faster day by day. Within the week it sickened to a raging fever, and its pulse went up to a hundred and fifty in the shade."