Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The dark ages are over

The 50-year historical blip in which a tiny percentage of artists were able to get rich off of prerecorded music is blessedly over. With the plummeting cost of recording and mastering songs has come a great democratization in music creation, in which anyone, not just those backed by labels, can create great music.

Back in the day, the labels were the investors: recording good music was expensive and difficult, and getting it promoted required paying off the gatekeepers of terrestrial radio, and so labels ponied up the startup capital and therefore got the lion's share of the profits.

Today, the startup capital required is several orders of magnitude lower, and the promotion channels are infinite and free or nearly free to access. Yes, it's much less likely for an artist to get filthy stinking rich off recorded music today, but you know what? I'm okay with that. We have an embarrassment of riches in terms of great new music today, being created by tons of people who are now free to act on their creativity because recording and distributing music is basically free today.

Labels are dinosaurs. Paul Stanley is a dinosaur. File sharing was the extinction-level event. The dust just hasn't completely cleared yet. Mark my words: we have entered a new golden age for music, something that will be obvious only in retrospect.

(Copied from my replies to a post by Matt Vicente on FB.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

I hate when a good comment gets buried

I hate when I post a good comment to reddit and it gets buried because either no one noticed it or it was a tangent to the OP. Here's one such case:

One of the consequences of MMT is that the national debt is meaningless: it's an accounting fiction.
One of the interesting properties of fiat (government-issued paper) currency is that the government must run a net deficit or there can be no money in circulation: if government doesn't spend the money first (i.e., before collecting taxes), how can there be any in circulation for private payments or tax payments?
Note that MMT isn't prescriptive, just descriptive. It's critical for people to understand how our monetary system actually works in order for sane policy to be created. Of course what I said above isn't true on a gold standard, for instance; but we aren't on a gold standard, so unless we go back to that we should stop treating taxes and government spending as if we were on one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Demand pricing, parking, transit, and autonomous vehicles

Today's blog post is just a link to a post on Facebook where I have a few comments about parking and transit and autonomous vehicles.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Second Monday of October?

"It's not garbage night. Tomorrow's a holiday."

That was me yelling to my downstairs neighbor out the window after I heard the rattle of trash bins being pulled down the driveway. Of course, I've done similar things before, and it's perfectly understandable: I mean, really, who actually celebrates Columbus Day? Its main use seems to be as "fall break" for college kids: I've never even had a job that recognized it as a company holiday.

So, while I appreciate the movement toward Indigenous Peoples Day as perhaps a more "just" variant on the same holiday... really, no one celebrates that either. ("No one" in this instance is intentionally hyperbolic, for effect; but it's basically a fact that very few people care beyond the philosophical.)

So this brings up the question of what holidays are actually used for, which should motivate a redistribution of them to more meaningful or useful times.

Is it celebration? There's a disconnect between holidays in the US and what events people actually celebrate. Some, such as Christmas and Memorial Day, are actually used as days of celebration by large numbers of people, regardless of whether the celebration is actually connected to the original purpose of those holidays; but some, such as Presidents Day and Columbus Day, achieve nothing more than a collective "Yay: a day off!" Why not a day like the Monday after Superbowl Sunday, when it would actually be useful for a ton of people whose livers are still working off the previous night's festivities?

So, is it time off? Disregarding the fact that many private sector workers don't get all US holidays off, there's also the problem that national holidays are distributed poorly for purposes of providing a freebie day every so often. Here are US federal holidays:

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • MLK Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January)
  • Presidents Day (3rd Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas (December 25)

Look at how poorly distributed they are:

  • 3 in the space of four weeks (Christmas, New Year's, MLK Day), then one a month later, followed by a 3 month abyss until Memorial Day.
  • Only one in the middle of summer (July 4).
  • Finally, two in the colder part of autumn, after they would typically be useful for outdoor activity in large parts of the US.

If holidays are about time off, it seems they should be better distributed.

Purely for the sake of intellectual masturbation, let's free up some holidays for redistribution by eliminating some of them:

  • Presidents Day. Fuck them.
  • Columbus Day. Fuck him.
  • Veterans Day. Combine this with Memorial Day.

I would keep the others for the following reasons:

  • New Year's Day: people need this day for recovery.
  • MLK Jr. Day: poorly timed so close to New Year's, but an important holiday in the context of American race relations. I would maybe argue for moving it to some other significant date in American race relations.
  • Memorial Day: by far the more widely-celebrated of the two veterans' holidays, this should be expanded in scope to cover both.
  • Independence Day: the only summer holiday (summer=June, July, August) and an important holiday in the context of American self-determination.
  • Labor Day: not really celebrated for its own reasons anymore, but this is the traditional end-of-summer BBQ holiday.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas: important traditional family holidays.

Clearly one needs to be added for the Monday after Superbowl Sunday, which unfortunately now gets us back to 4 holidays in a month and a half, further arguing for moving MLK Jr. Day elsewhere; but let's just deal with that constraint.

So, now we need to deal with three major issues: the gap between Superbowl Monday and Memorial Day (3½ months), the singular summer holiday, and the nearly-3 month gap between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. We just freed up three holidays, but used one for Superbowl Monday, so we'll have to add one more federal holiday to cover all three of these issues. I therefore propose a spring Monday or Friday holiday at the end of March or the beginning of April, a summer Monday or Friday holiday in the beginning of August, and an autumn holiday in the middle of October.

Shit, now we're back to celebrating Columbus Day.

Fuck that. Instead, loosen the schedule slightly and make the holiday on October 31st, so parents can take their kids out trick-or-treating. Don't give it an official name, so people can call it Halloween or Samhain or whatever they like. If it becomes a federal holiday, you might even be able to move it to the Monday or Friday of the Oct 31/Nov 1 week and get the culture to move Halloween celebrations to match.

The final change I would make would be to move Independence Day to a Monday or Friday, so the number of 3-day weekends is maximized. Everyone knows the Declaration was adopted on the 4th, but what people really care about is a long weekend to go away or have guests and a huge barbecue, something that is hard to do in the middle of the week. Many companies already observe July 4 adjacent to either the previous or succeeding weekend. One might even argue for moving Thanksgiving to Friday, except that many companies already consider that Friday to be a company holiday, so moving it might actually reduce the amount of time off for the typical worker.