Sunday, August 25, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

How to tell if a coffee shop serves good coffee, part 2...

Without drinking it, obviously.

This is continuing in the 'news you can use' category, among the trivialities that have been occupying my life of late while the events of the world pass me by.

I used to go with the smallest cup size offered by the cafe. There's a tendency among bad coffee shops to serve you up enormous bathtubs full of bilge water. Of course, to get a larger cup of coffee, they simply run the water through the same set of grounds until it turns into a burnt mess. The places that offer you a small sized coffee are more likely to know what they're doing.

But this was superseded by a tip from AL - the number of milk jugs on display. Good places will never heat their milk more than once. As a result, they tend to have a lot of small milk jugs around. If you see that, it's very likely somewhere that knows what they're doing. On the other hand, I've never had a good coffee from a place that had a single giant milk jug that kept being reheated.

If the place is failing the above signals and you still need a coffee, at a minimum order the smallest size you can.

(For the previous best signal, see here)

Short Answer Exam Technique

If confronted with an exam question of the following form:

"Two friends are having a discussion. Simon say that [ABC]. Sally, on the other hand, claims that [XYZ]. Who do you agree with? Why?"

and you are unsure of the answer, assume that the female is right. Social rules in exams follow television ads - in a mixed sex group, the man is almost always depicted as the stupid one. This is the mirror image of the default assumption in TV ads in the 50's and 60's, where the silly housewife was the staple reason why you should buy a given product, and society seems to have been furiously overcompensating ever since.

There's another similar rule on TV - in a mixed race group of males, the white guy is depicted as the stupid one. The latter case oddly doesn't seem to feature as commonly in exams, as Marmeduke isn't frequently in discussion with Jamal. But if he were, I'd bet that way too.

Truancy, etc.

I have been rather tardy with this particular web diary of late. As usual, a lack of posts either means that my life has gotten a lot less fun or a lot more fun.

Thankfully, in this case it's the latter, as part of an extended holiday/general goofing off. So as between my two readers and myself, there's been a conservation of total utility, rather than a pareto loss.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Wackiness of Hotel Pricing

As far as I can hotel, there are only two possible prices for services at a hotel:

a) 5 times market price, or

b) Free.

And that's it. Nothing is charged at market pricing, and nothing is charged at marginal cost either. It's just cross-subsidisation up the wazoo.

To make things weirder, the list of which stuff goes into the 'free' category and which stuff goes into the 'massively expensive' category seems to vary widely from hotel to hotel.

In some places, internet is free. In others, it's $15 a day. Breakfast is either complimentary, or $30. Parking is either free or $30 per night. The fitness centre is either free or $20 per day. etc.

Personally, I'd gladly trade the crappy hotel room coffee and widescreen TV (both nearly always complimentary) for free internet, but of course that option isn't on offer.

When wifi first became a thing, I was very much hoping that it would be put in the 'TV' category of 'essential services that every room gets gratis'. This battle for social norms seems to be ongoing, currently in the trench warfare stage where neither side is making any particular progress.

A lot of this seems to be just weird mental accounting and salience. Some places now charge a single, mandatory 'resort fee' to cover all the incidentals. Of course, if it's a mandatory fee, you could just add it to the cost of the room and make it all truly free. My only guess as to what's going on here is that this is a ruse to fool price comparison websites into displaying a lower price than the total value.

For all the IO models we have, sometimes it just seems like the best working model is 'companies fool around with pricing and charge as much as they think they can get away with'. This is probably a crude version of some of the IO models, like the Gabaix and Laibson model.

Pricing is weird.

Monday, August 5, 2013

With the evening set out against the sky...

How strange it is to be in the twilight of one's youth!

To gaze around and reflect on the set of choices you made (whether deliberately, accidentally, or some combination of both) that now see you still out in the fading embers of the sunset.

By now, most of your peers have gone inside and given up skylarking for the day, and are busy preparing dinner, stoking the home fires, and other such responsible things.

In a few short hours, night will have set in in earnest, and it will be cold and inhospitable to be out here alone.

But in the meantime, the sky is a brilliant orange. The sun still bathes the world in a glorious light, but without the same heat as before.

Let us stay and linger here just a little longer...