Category Archives: Culture

When is competition beneficial?

Over on DanThinksAbout, in a discussion of the public and private sectors, Dan mentions the benefit of markets: that “competing firms innovate in the hope of getting ahead, and successful innovations make the firms that adopt them successful”. This left me thinking about the nature of competition, and of how it leads us to expend our effort. When it is beneficial?


When we think about competition in markets, we tend to think about Asus, Dell and Lenovo all competing to build better laptops at lower cost, and the resulting downward pressure on prices — which is obviously good for consumers.

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How much are e-books worth compared with physical books?

We all have a good intuitive grasp for the value of a physical book. We grew up with them. We know roughly what they cost new (£5-15), what they cost in a second hand book-shop (about half that) and what you’d expect to pay in a charity shop (20p-£1).

We don’t really have a sense yet of what an e-book is worth. Continue reading

e-Book piracy: a moral dilemma

Here is a moral dilemma that I’ve not seen discussed before — maybe surprisingly, since it’s one that I imagine lots of us have run into. However I think through this, it leads me to a stupid conclusion. Can anyone help me to see what mistake I’m making?


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Old music was better

For a long while — decades at least, I’ve had the impression the modern popular music is not as good as it was in the 60s, and indeed when I was growing up in the 70s or even the early 80s. What do I mean by “not as good”? I mean less melody, less harmony, less lyrical invention and most of all, a growing uniformity, where every song songs increasingly the same as every other song. Continue reading

Help me understand poetry

Here is the well-known poem The Red Wheelbarrow, by William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

That’s the whole thing. The line-breaks are as in the original.

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My struggles with git have been well documented. One thing I didn’t touch on is its tendency to suddenly change the behaviour of core commands from release to release. I’ve got used, over the last months, to seeing this:

mike@thor:~/git/other/kindle-backup$ git push
warning: push.default is unset; its implicit value is changing in
Git 2.0 from ‘matching’ to ‘simple’. To squelch this message
and maintain the current behavior after the default changes, use:

git config –global push.default matching

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To Kill A Mockingbird is a fine example of how copyright is failing us all

I read this recent piece on how Harper Lee has finally allowed an e-book edition of her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, to be produced. Of course, in the absence of an authorised e-book that readers can pay for, there are plenty of unauthorised ones — it’s trivial to find on any torrent site. My eye was caught by a comment on the article, discussing the existence of these pirate e-books:

This is sad, but doesn’t surprise me. Its the reality of the world we live in today. I suspect the biggest purchasers of this e-book will be over the age of 40 – those under don’t tend to realise the purpose or value of copyright.

That is exactly wrong.

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