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Birthday picnic in Finsbury Park, Sunday 10th July

I’m moving back to London in 2 weeks.

I’ll be arriving on the July 4th. My birthday is on July 8th.

Combined, that’s sufficient excuse for a gathering of londoners I love.

Conveniently, mirabehn and mirrorshard are already organizing a readthrough in Finsbury Park on Sunday 10th. I’m going to hijack it.

So: let’s meet in Finsbury Park from noon that day. There will be food, and drink, and Shakespeare, and at least a 30% chance of sun. Those of you who don’t know the readthrough crowd can be overwhelmed by how lovely they are. Those of you who do — well, surely you’ll want to come anyway? Anybody with a hotline to God, please hint that sun would be really convenient

Details of location, plans in case of rain, etc, to follow once we’ve figured them out

frobbing markets

Market volality provides information about a market. In just the same way as you learn what a gizmo does by applying different input to it, so you piece together the shape of a market by watching what happens under different circumstances. A market could seem utterly stable, until a little volatility reveals that it had always been at the edge of a precipice.

Tyler Cowen sees this in the fate of USian symphony orchestras after the financial crisis. The financial crisis pulled out much of their institutional support, thus showing how shallow was their backing. This caused secondary effects:

The initial negative shock of the crisis, among its other effects, caused donors and potential donors to see that support for these projects was weaker than they thought. Many of these donors are now less than keen to keep pouring money into losing endeavors. An unraveling process has set in. It’s not just the negative wealth effect, but new information has been revealed about popularity and sustainability of the underlying venture. Neither monetary nor fiscal stimulus will prove any kind of easy cure for these institutions or, potentially, for these jobs.

There is a well-known literature in finance about how trading, combined with the possibility of sudden price dips, causes market participants to learn the shape of the market demand curve and thus revalue the appropriate overall level of prices. The mere act of trading can generate market volatility. This kind of insight is not yet sufficiently appreciated in macroeconomics. The financial crisis caused us to see that many market institutions were on shakier ground than we had thought.

This is analogous to the ‘tipping-point’ understanding of political protest. Marches aren’t themselves important. But they show the strength of support, and so can win you the support of actors hedging their bets. So the time to march (leaving aside movement-building reasons) is when you believe that your support is greater than generally understood

Sexy gadgets

Jonathan Franzen stumbles on a parallel between ‘sexy’ as applied to humans and to gadgets: it’s inherently one-sided:

Do I need to point out that — absent some wild, anthropomorphizing projection in which my old BlackBerry felt sad about the waning of my love for it — our relationship was entirely one-sided? Let me point it out anyway.

Let me further point out how ubiquitously the word “sexy” is used to describe late-model gadgets

Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.

UK parliamentary constituencies, with party currently in power there

[mainly for the benefit of google]

Something I was surprised not to be able to find online: a list of UK parliamentary constituencies, and the party currently in power there. Something I needed, and I imagine a lot of people have put together for themselves over the years.


here’s a CSV file

, pulled from the They Work For You API today (18/6/2011).

code will go up on github soonish, along with a bunch of related things.

Multiuser screen

To make a screen multiuser:

-a : multiuser on

You can also include _multiuser on_ in .screenrc to make all screens start multiuser

Then you connect to it with screen -x

Donations and university admissions

Large donations to prestigious universities, so goes the common belief, will help your offspring get places there.

The universities deny this with varying amounts of vigor.

The rumour, though, probably does them no harm at all. If the rumour were mostly baseless, they would be in the best possible position. They can whip up donations with the belief, and not be constrained to live up to their not-quite-promises.

Such is the benefit of being a powerful player in an illegal market, where most of the other participants will only play once, have poor information and jdugment often clouded by emotions.

[vaguely in rsponse to Tyler Cowen, and more indirectly to the New College of the Humanities]

Mongol tolerance

The Mongols, famously, were not much interested in religious conformity. People who managed to avoid being massacred during the Mongol invasions were at least unlikely, subsequently, to be persecuted for their religious beliefs. What interested the Mongols was that holy men of all religions should both pray for the Khan (for there was no knowing who might have the best hotline to heaven), and, at least as important, provide the regime with access to their specialist skills. The Mongols were nothing if not pragmatists.

— David Morgan (?) in the TLS

[you hear this a lot. I do wonder how psychologically true it ever was]


This is fantastic, and fantastical. It’s something like the origin myth of k-punk, in a self-consciously edgy philosophy sub-faculty over-exposed by Simon Reynolds:

Still nominally affiliated to the famously poststructuralist Philosophy Department of Warwick University, England, the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit is a rogue unit. It’s the academic equivalent of Kurtz: the general in Apocalypse Now who used unorthodox methods to achieve superior results compared with the tradition-bound US military. Blurring the borders between traditional scholarship, cyberpunk sci-fi and music journalism, the CRRU are striving to achieve a kind of nomadic thought that to use the Deleuze & Guattari term—“deterritorializes” itself every which way: theory melded with fiction, philosophy cross-contaminated by natural sciences (neurology, bacteriology, thermodynamics, metallurgy, chaos and complexity theory, connectionism), academic writing that aspires to the future-shock intensity of jungle and other forms of post-rave music.