April 9th, 2013

(no subject)

You can't make a lot of progress trying to figure out human behavior unless you start from the premise that people are not rational but their actions can follow some observable patterns.

That premise tends to derail observers who assume rationality. They often have difficulty getting their analyses back on track. Worse off are those who refuse to incorporate human irrationality and proceed to build a theoretical structure on false premises.

My own understanding of people improved enormously after I understood this.

On poutine.

This Buzzfeed post has been making the rounds. The comment thread that followed was pretty epic. Two questions I had after reading the thread:

Is the poutine at Saus in downtown Boston any good?

Have the Belgians learned to make poutine with their excellent frites, and if so where can one try them?

I can answer the first question fairly easily and inexpensively, and intend to go over there myself.

For the second, there is the internet. Four years ago, someone asked "Ou en Belgique peut on manger de la Poutine, LE plat québécois par excellence?" on Yahoo! Answers France, but all they got was a recipe. (Other Google hits are mostly about Vladimir Putin in Belgium, not helpful.)

So perhaps not.

3D printing with metal will revolutionize coin counterfeiting.

There have been real advances in 3D printing with metal lately. At some point it's likely that this will require changes in circulating coinage.

According to the Royal Mint, 3% of pound coins in circulation are fake. I got my first fake pound coin--one that I identified as such, at least--a couple of weeks ago. (I'll post photos when I get a chance.)

In the modern world, where the metal value of circulating coinage has little relation to its face value, counterfeiting to capture the difference becomes attractive. Once a circulating coin has a high enough face value, it starts to be worth counterfeiting. Empirically, that value appears to be somewhere above $1, as the pound and two euro coins are both among the most counterfeited coins.

Circulating coins aside, coin collecting has in recent years been dealing with a wave of fake coins produced in China for the collector market. While it hasn't been particularly cost-effective to make fake American coins for circulation, it has definitely been worthwhile to fake collector coins.

In the same way modern laser and inkjet printers have made it necessary to incorporate new security features to paper (and polymer) money, 3D printers will drive the adoption of security features to circulating coins. It may also drive the incorporation of security measures like the EURion constellation recognition features into 3D scanning and design software.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, on "Why 'Accidental Racist' Is Actually Just Racist".

The assumption that there is no real difference among black people is exactly what racism is. Our differences, our right to our individuality, is what makes us human. The point of racism is to rob black people of that right. It would be no different than me assuming that Rachel Weisz must necessarily have something to say about black-Jewish relations, or me assuming that Paisley must know something about barbecue because he's Southern.

It is no different than the only black kid in class being asked to explain "race" to white people, or asking the same question of the sole black dude in your office. The entire fight is to get white people to respect the fact that Mos Def holding a microphone is not LL Cool J holding a microphone, that Trayvon Martin is not De'Marquise Elkins, that wearing a hoodie and being black does not make you the same as every other person wearing a hoodie and being black.
The whole piece is worth reading.