Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 01 Feb 10 by Tatyana in Books

From: Karl Marx’s Capital Volume One, Part III: The Production of Absolute Surplus-Value, CHAPTER TEN: THE WORKING-DAY

[66] l. c., p. xiii. The degree of culture of these "labour-powers”
  must naturally be such as appears in the following dialogues with one
  of the commissioners: Jeremiah Haynes, age 12 — "Four times four is 8;
  4 fours are 16. A king is him that has all the money and gold. We have
  a king (told it is a Queen), they call her the Princess Alexandra.
  Told that she married the Queen’s son. The Queen’s son is the Princess
  Alexandra. A Princess is a man.” William Turner, age 12 — "Don’t live
  in England. Think it is a country, but didn’t know before.” John
  Morris, age 14 — "Have heard say that God made the world, and that all
  the people was drownded but one, heard say that one was a little
  bird.” William Smith age 15 — "God made man, man made woman.” Edward
  Taylor, age 15 — "Do not know of London.” Henry Matthewman, age 17 —
  "Had been to chapel, but missed a good many times lately. One name
  that they preached about was Jesus Christ, but I cannot say any
  others, and I cannot tell anything about him. He was not killed, but
  died like other people. He was not the same as other people in some
  ways, because he was religious in some ways and others isn’t.” (l. c.,
  p. xv.) "The devil is a good person. I don’t know where he lives.”
  "Christ was a wicked man.” "This girl spelt God as dog, and did not
  know the name of the queen.” ("Ch. Employment Comm. V. Report, 1866 "
  p. 55, n. 278.) The same system obtains in the glass and paper works
  as in the metallurgical, already cited. In the paper factories, where
  the paper is made by machinery, night-work is the rule for all
  processes, except rag-sorting. In some cases night-work, by relays, is
  carried on incessantly through the whole week, usually from Sunday
  night until midnight of the following Saturday. Those who are on
  day-work work 5 days of 12, and 1 day of 18 hours; those on night-work
  5 nights of 12, and I of 6 hours in each week. In other cases each set
  works 24 hours consecutively on alternate days, one set working 6
  hours on Monday, and 18 on Saturday to make up the 24 hours. In other
  cases an intermediate system prevails, by which all employed on the
  paper-making machinery work 15 or 16 hours every day in the week. This
  system, says Commissioner Lord, "seems to combine all the evils of
  both the 12 hours’ and the 24 hours’ relays.” Children under 13, young
  persons under 18, and women, work under this night system. Sometimes
  under the 12 hours’ system they are obliged, on account of the
  non-appearance of those that ought to relieve them, to work a double
  turn of 24 hours. The evidence proves that boys and girls very often
  work overtime, which, not unfrequently, extends to 24 or even 36 hours
  of uninterrupted toil. In the continuous and unvarying process of
  glazing are found girls of 12 who work the whole month 14 hours a day,
  "without any regular relief or cessation beyond 2 or, at most, 3
  breaks of half an hour each for meals.” In some mills, where regular
  night-work has been entirely given up, over-work goes on to a terrible
  extent, "and that often in the dirtiest, and in the hottest, and in
  the most monotonous of the various processes.” ("Ch. Employment Comm.
  Report IV., 1865,” p. xxxviii, and xxxix.)

Posted 30 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Fun math

Here’s a very practical (and somewhat simplified) math problem that I was faced with today.

You’re deciding whether or not to take the bus or the subway. The stations are right next to each other, they cost the same amount of money, and they’re equally uncomfortable to ride. Suppose that the subway runs every five minutes, but you don’t know how often the bus runs or when the last bus came. Once you get on the bus, it only takes you 20 minutes to get to the destination. It takes 40 minutes by subway. You’re running late, so you want to minimize your travel time. If you’re really into economic details, assume you’re risk neutral and there’s no discounting.

Question 1: How do you figure out how long it’s been since the last bus came?

Question 2: What other piece of information do you need to figure this out exactly? (There are at least two acceptable answers here, but there may be more)

Question 3: Assume that piece of information is 30.  Do you take the bus or the subway?

Question 4: Wasn’t that fun?

If you see me standing at a bus stop, this is a good example of what I’m thinking about.

See the first comment for the answer!

Posted 29 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 In a recent Economist article, there was a brief mention about the cost of compliance with the new credit card regulation (something like $500 million for one of the banks). A lot of the regulation was (supposedly) aimed at making it more difficult for companies to take advantage of inattentive or self-control-lacking consumers.
I wonder if anyone would make the argument that this legislation is harmful because it decreases the benefits of education. Think about it: if we allow ignorance to be taken advantage of, there will be less ignorance in the world. The benefit of education will rise, leading to an increase in demand!  

Posted 28 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 One of the best things about this new blog that I’ve discovered so far is that I can create posts by sending an email! Lower the cost of creating an entry, and what happens? More entries! Let’s not think about the quality though…  

Posted 28 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General
 This is the new beer-or-quiche (unfortunately, WordPress didn’t let me keep the dashes). As much as I enjoyed having my own domain name, it was infinitely more expensive and the periodic site downtimes got annoying at some point. I was using WordPress anyway, so the cost of switching was pretty low. Now I just have to figure out how to get my posts out of the other website (they might make a nice book of jokes someday!)  

Posted 18 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

This will probably be the last "blog spammers jokes” publication, mostly because I’m tired of sorting through the spam comments to dig them out. And after a while, they do get kind of old and repetitive.

  1. Fresh joke! What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn’t matter what you call him he ain’t gonna come. (I know, it’s mean)
  3. A joke for you! Where do polar bears vote? The North Poll.
  5. I have a nice joke for you) Why wouldn’t the bike move very fast?? It was too tired!!
  7. Wanna very nice joke?)) What would you get if you crossed a potato and a frog? A potatoad.
  9. I have a good fresh joke for you! Why do bagpipers walk when they play? They’re trying to get away from the noise.
  11. I have a fresh joke for you) Why did the bald man put a bunny on his head? He wanted a full head of hare.
  13. Wanna very nice joke?)) Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve? Because it SOOTS him!
  15. Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby” when babies wake up 10 times every hour?

My friends also suggested the following jokes. I’m pretty sure that the fact they’re both religious dyslexic jokes is a coincidence (please don’t be offended!):

1. What do dyslexic, agnostic insomniacs do?  They lay awake at night wondering if there really is a dog. (by TR)

2. Did you hear about the dyslexic devil-worshipper who made a deal with the devil and sold his soul to Santa? (by MP)

Posted 18 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics
 In the past couple of months, I’ve started reading a few economists’ blogs. I’m thinking of stopping because it’s beginning to interfere with my productivity. Brad DeLong is perhaps the most prolific of them, producing several pages of postings a day. Assuming he doesn’t just post everything he reads, he must read an insane amount. I have no time to read his exerts. It’s mind-boggling. Is that what it’s like to be a genius tenured economist?  

Posted 16 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

In college, one of my friends took a philosophy class where the professor didn’t adjust the grades based on which of the two TAs you had (they were responsible for grading the papers). One of the TAs was much tougher than the other one, but the professor’s reasoning was that people didn’t know this going into the class, so they had as much of a (random) chance to get the hard TA as the easy one. Because it wasn’t ex-ante unfair, he saw no need to adjust based on ex-post TA harshness.

At first, I thought the reasoning was kind of ridiculous. If you see that the highest grade one TA gave was a B and the other one gave out A’s to 60% of the class, do you really want to argue that nothing should be done about this outcome because of ex-ante equal probabilities of getting the harsh TA? Sure, you’ll be "redistributing” some of the good grades away from the people with the easy TA, but wouldn’t they have wanted that if they didn’t know which one they would get? By the way, this also happens with professors teaching the same class at very different difficulty levels and not adjusting for that when they give out grades.

Of course, the story can be a little more complicated. What if the "easy” TA’s session was at 8am and the "hard” TA’s session was at 2pm? Could it be that the TAs are the same, but the people signing up for the 8am session were smarter than the people who wanted to sleep in? And what if people knew about the TAs’ reputations going into the class?

In this case, of course, you can solve the problem somewhat by having the TAs grade random papers, not just their own students’ and then de-meaning the grade by each TA’s average. Or you can have them both grade each paper (not like they have anything else to do) and take the average grade. Or you can find out which one the easy one is and sign up for her section.

Posted 14 Jan 10 by Tatyana in General

I’m not going to try to make a sophisticated argument about why people should donate money to victims of random disasters. I didn’t even consider making a donation to the victims of the Haiti earthquake (read more about it here) until a good friend of mine sent a mass email to her friends. Her boyfriend has some family in Haiti who are missing right now. I’ve never met her boyfriend, much less his family, but it did make the event slightly more personal to me.

OK, I will make a short argument for donating as little as $10. I personally would not notice if $20 disappeared from my wallet or my bank account. Even though I know that my donation has a tiny chance of making a difference, I do think it makes even less of a difference to my well-being.

Here’s a list of organizations that are accepting donations. I personally donated $20 to the Red Cross by texting "Haiti” to 90999. Each message you send will be a $10 donation, You will also have to send a text to confirm, so you might have to pay something like $0.50 for the donation itself, but I think the convenience is worth it.

Posted 02 Jan 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

Whenever surveys ask people whether they’re saving too much, too little, or not enough, the overwhelming majority claim to be saving too little. But you always get a few people who claim they’re saving too much. I’ve lately been wondering who those people are and how they manage to save too much. Do they not know what to spend their money on? Are they constrained by a controlling spouse? Did they read the question wrong?

If we allow people to make random mistakes, we would expect the proportion of people saving too much and too little to be similar. If anything, there should be more people saving too much if credit card companies realize people may borrow too much. Maybe there are people who are saving too much but don’t realize it.

An easy answer is that certain things like spending money are tempting and people’s long-run self conflicts with their short-run self, resulting in under-saving. But lately I’ve been wondering how social norms and expectations contribute to how much we think we should be saving. An interesting aspect of this is that social norms can make you save too little (because buying a house, a car, and an expensive vacation is something every American should be doing) AND make you think you should be saving more (because it’s good to prepare for the future).

Since it is January, a related question is why are New Year’s resolutions so one-sided?  Think about how the following sounds to you:

This year, I resolve to spend more money, eat more junk food, exercise less, gain weight, travel less, spend less time with loved ones and more time on facebook and on drugs…

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