Friday, March 31, 2017

The Leedle Lightbulb in the Ice Dispenser

Frigidaire part number 5304506475 (120v, 6w.) Around $20 from various appliance parts stores.

Apparently equivalent Philips part no. BC6S6 120v-12/2PK. (At least, it works in the dispenser.) Around $3 for two from Home Depot.

Little bit greedy, aren't you, Frigidaire?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Personal Finance in a Trump Administration

(See also "Personal Finance in a Deflationary Period" and "Don't Care If the Money's No Good," both from 2010.)

Avoid debt. There appears to be a long-term policy goal of making it impossible to get out of deep debt, once one is in it (student loans, bankruptcy "reform," etc. etc.) and with Mnuchin the likely Treasury Secretary this will only get worse. I think there will probably be an explosion in the national debt and, at the same time, possibly inflation, so that most financial assets will lose their value. Ownership of useful property is probably valuable; if you can buy your own house or capital property without taking on debt that might be wise. Insured bank deposits are not a bad bet, but do not expect the government to make good on bank deposits should the banks be brought down again: the FDIC and NCUA may run out of funds, and these may not be replenished.

(Based on a short note on John Scalzi's blog.)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to become an Amazon bestseller

What a marketer has to say about Amazon bestseller lists.
Last week, I put up a fake book on Amazon. I took a photo of my foot, uploaded to Amazon, and in a matter of hours, had achieved  “No. 1 Best Seller” status, complete with the orange banner and everything.—Brent Underwood.
I've made an archival copy, since it is entirely possible that Amazon will be able to persuade the author to take the post down.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Intellectual Property for Jewelers

My wife noticed this morning that some jewelry she had bought was a knock-off of a local craft artist's work. Which inspired me to do some research on intellectual property for jewelers.

Turns out that designs can be copyrighted or (if three-dimensional) patented. Copyright protection is easy and cheap, but patents provide more protection. This bird's short take on this is to copyright almost everything; patent only designs that you expect to make a lot of money from.

Oooh, shiny!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Book Review: Phishing for Phools

Akerlof and Shiller, Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception. Princeton University Press, 2015. 257 pp.

This book, by Nobel-winning economics professors George A. Akerlof (Georgetown University) and Robert J. Shiller (Yale University), is an extended discussion of the role of fraud in economics. The authors argue that fraud is a natural feature of unregulated markets and that fraud is as subject to economic equilibrium as any other product. They back the argument with multiple historical examples, including a short history of advertising, abuses in the pharmaceutical industry, a history of the discovery of the health risks of cigarettes.

One entire chapter is spent on the return on investment of lobbying (at least 100 to 1, in the examples they give) while avoiding partisanship and current issues. Their examples are chosen to be safely in the past. It must have taken serious self-restraint not to talk about the financial disasters of the 2000s and the influence of lobbying and publicity on environmental politics. Instead they discuss the S&L crisis of the 1980s and the way the tobacco industry twisted and continues to twist the public reporting of the health risks of cigarette smoking. Application of their arguments to current issues is left to the readers.

The book makes a powerful case against the libertarian model of economic policy. In what sense is there meaningful freedom if the public is widely deceived and if every common error of thought and, indeed, simple human sympathy and self-interest, is exploited? It seems to me that Akerlof and Shiller have done for microeconomics what Keynes did for macroeconomics; exploded the case for anarchism and even what libertarians call "minarchism"--simple minimal laws governing economic behavior; such simple laws are invariably phished. Instead, they have made a case that law and regulation--governance--is required for a peaceful and prosperous society.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Where All the Drivers Are Above Average

I remember, back when I rented cars regularly, I would get enormous pressure from the rental agents to say that I was “completely satisfied.” I was pressured to give them fives on a one to five scale. They hinted, probably honestly, that their management penalized them if a customer gave them less than those ratings.

I hated it. I despise pressure to give complements. On top of which, what would I say when someone did an unexpectedly good job, or an extraordinary one? There was no space on the scale.

And then, it got worse. Firms like Uber fire drivers who get ratings less than 4.5 stars. Customers all know it, and drivers know what the customer ratings are, so if you want to do business with these firms, you are under enormous pressure to give five-star ratings.

Thanks to this, five stars is a C. There is no way to give A’s and B’s. Maybe the drivers were all born in Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average.”