Tatyana Deryugina (Twitter: @TDeryugina)

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Posted 27 Mar 11 by Tatyana in Books

I just started reading "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer. First of all, I want to say that seeing advertisement over and over works: it wasn’t until I saw an article about the book and an interview with the author that I decided to buy it. Second, I’m really happy to be reading books again – I haven’t read any since the New Year holidays.

I don’t have a review yet, but I have decided to take up a challenge in my spare time: memorize the map of the world using the techniques described in the book. Just country names for now, then maybe capitals. My geography is terrible. I could tell you which countries I can’t find on a map and you would be shocked, but I’m afraid to put anything that embarrassing down in writing.

I’ve tried using the techniques I’ve read about so far and it’s working amazingly well. I memorized a random shopping list from the book and hours later, I can still recite it in the right order (pickled garlic, cottage cheese, peat-smoked salmon, six bottles of white wine, three pairs of socks, three hula hoops, a snorkeling mask, etc…). I remember the locations of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (those are all grouped together), Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and a few others. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

FYI, the book is not really a how-to book. It’s a lot more exciting than that  so far :) .

Posted 26 Mar 11 by Tatyana in News

I was looking at lists of hobbies (for a research project, of all things) and found some pretty "exotic” ones that I decided to share. I picked them mostly because they sounded obscure, interesting or unusual, not to make fun of them.

Click to find out what each hobby involves:

Know any other obscure hobbies?

Posted 08 Mar 11 by Tatyana in News

The Economist recently published an article about the relationship between loneliness and health. As you may have guessed, lonelier people are less healthy. The authors of the study even identified a pathway through which this may operate: a decreased activity in the virus-fighting genes in the lonely people and an increase in the bacteria-fighting genes. The latter can lead to a chronic inflammatory response if loneliness is chronic, subsequently reducing your chances of survival.

Posted 28 Feb 11 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

I’ve been flying a lot in the past couple of months. Luckily, I tolerate it pretty well. I’m short enough to have plenty of leg room and I can sleep just fine. My pet peeve about flying has turned out to be overhead bin space. I hate checking luggage, so I fly with a carry-on suitcase and a backpack. I dutifully put the latter under the seat in front of me.

However, many people do not appear to exhibit altruism toward total strangers. On many of the flights, the attendants announced that the overhead bins would likely fill up and asked people to refrain from putting their second item and jackets up there until everyone has boarded. I can confidently declare this to be one of the most violated rules in flying. You would think that if people were generally altruistic toward others, more of them would comply. Even though not putting your jacket in the overhead bin probably helps less than donating money to a good charity, it’s also less costly.
  There are two possibilities here: most charitable behavior is warm glow (I doubt there’s warm glow from not putting your jacket in the bin) or people really don’t understand the annoyance of having to check your carry-on. Or I don’t understand the annoyance of having your jacket on your lap.

Posted 22 Feb 11 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing
 My sister has also recently started a blog. If you want to read the opinions of a newly minted lawyer living in New York, go to http://newsfromtheafterparty.blogspot.com/. It’s very well-written and generally more detailed than mine!  

Posted 04 Feb 11 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing
 In recent years, a lot of cities installed credit card machines in cabs – Chicago, Boston, New York and Philly are examples. Cab drivers, however, hate it when you pay with a credit card. One time, a cab driver offered me a non-trivial discount for paying in cash. I’ve heard stories of drivers claiming their machine wasn’t working only to back down when they realized the rider had no cash.
I’ve had a few discussions about why cab drivers hate credit cards. One popular theory was that it takes them a while to get the money from a credit card transaction, but they get it immediately with cash. Another was that credit card payments made misreporting fares and tips impossible. Finally, the third was that credit card companies charged hefty fees.
Today, at least one of those reasons was confirmed. I rode a Boston cab that prominently displayed the following sign on the glass divider: "Driver pays 6% fee on all credit card transactions.” Now standard economic theory would say that me seeing this sign would have no effect on whether I pay cash or credit. After all, maybe there’s also some person working for the credit card company who counts on these fees to keep her job. But I promptly paid for that cab with cash.
By the way, the high 6% may be due to the cost of running a wireless credit card network (see this slightly outdated article).  

Posted 30 Jan 11 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

I read this in a book yesterday:

"The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.”

~ Old Arab Proverb

Posted 30 Jan 11 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

Seriously, what is it with turning off electronic devices when planes are taking off? My three guesses (ordered from least to most likely) were (a) it’s an old rule left over from when plane equipment and electronics did not get along (I’d read that somewhere before), (b) it’s a rule meant to prevent people from being distracted when the plane is taking off and landing, as those are the high-risk times, and (c) there’s some chance that the plane’s communication systems will be negatively affected if everyone is talking on their phones AND reading their Kindle while the plane is taking off.

Funnily enough, when I started researching this, I found this New York Timesarticle that came out only a few weeks ago. The Federal Communication Commission was also worried about cell phones in the air interfering with ground cellular networks. The bottom line is: there seems to be not much evidence for electronic devices interfering with planes’ communication systems, but there is the theoretical possibility coupled with the fact that things would not be pretty if a plane went down because of people’s iPhones. Maybe if no one turned their cell phones off, we’d be in trouble? It seems like there’s more justification for this rule than for (a) believing that cell phones cause cancer, (b) using full body scanners in airports and (c) believing that Obama was not born in this country.

Posted 29 Jan 11 by Tatyana in Simply Amusing

It seems as though wherever you go, you see "Free Public Wi-Fi”, an "Unsecured computer-to-computer” network. As far as I could tell, it’s completely useless, but maybe that’s because I have no idea how I could use it productively. So I decided to look into it, and here’s what I found out. The basic message is: don’t connect to these networks!

A "computer-to-computer”  network allows two computers that have Wi-Fi to connect to each other without an external internet connection. In some cases, you expose yourself to risk by connecting to networks like these: it could be someone trying to get into your computer by promising you "free” wi-fi and hoping you’ll connect to their computer. In other (probably most) cases, these networks are other people’s computers sending out signals. In particular, if your computer can’t find a preferred network (and it’s running an older version of Windows XP),  it will create an ad-hoc network with the same name as the last network it connected to, according to this article.

For interesting details about how these networks spread, see this article.

Posted 07 Nov 10 by Tatyana in Musings on Economics

About two months ago, I registered for the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) annual meeting. Yesterday, as I was reviewing my credit card statement, I saw a $10 "cash equivalent transaction fee” and a $1.50 "minimum interest charge”. I always pay my bill in full and on time, so this was really surprising.

My first thought was that the credit card company changed their policies in a devious way without me realizing it. Incensed, I called the credit card company, only to find out that the reason for the charge was an ASSA $18 hotel processing charge. It was submitted by the ASSA as a cash equivalent instead of the normal credit charge, resulting in the transaction fee and subsequent interest. Seriously, ASSA? I thought only consumers were allowed to make mistakes (I assume they didn’t mean for people to get charged with these fees). Most credit card companies have similar policies, so I wonder how many other economists and social scientists will be surprised with these charges.

To give my credit card company credit, they promised to remove the charges after I talked to them. But the 30 minutes I spent figuring this out was definitely a waste to society.

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