The Star Wars alphabet

Joe Wight has created the Kawaii Star Wars alphabet, with a different character for each letter of the alphabet. D, of course, is for that mean-looking fella above.

HT (and a full list of the letters in alphabetical order) Designers Couch.

by datacharmer | Sunday, October 17, 2010
  , | 0 comments | | The Star Wars alphabet @bluematterblogtwitter

Quitting smoking

I quit smoking four days ago.  I am (was?) a very keen smoker, but after ten happy years of inhaling burnt tobacco I felt that the risk of cancer was starting to outweigh the pleasure of smoking.

Well, I said I quit, but I need to qualify that. I have not decided to quit for ever; I have only decided to quit for three weeks, and I will then evaluate whether I want to continue abstaining from smoking. This helps for two reasons:

  1. Quitting for three weeks is easier than quitting for ever. The former is a project I was willing to undertake; the latter sounded (and still sounds) too daunting to attempt.
  2. My nicotine addiction has already subsided somewhat, and will have subsided a lot more by the end of week three. So when at the end of week three I pose the question of what I want to do next, I'm more likely to opt for the 'quit' than the 'restart' option compared to making that decision at the height of my addiction.
A second, related, trick is this. I've promised myself that I will allow me to have one more cigarette, and one more cigarette only. Well, I've been feeling like having a cigarette about every 20 seconds, but given that I really want to enjoy and savour my one cigarette I keep postponing it for tomorrow. You can think of it as an inverse application of the Akerlof procrastrination observation. I realised this could work when last week I realised it's actually been six months in which I've had a bottle of expensive champagne in my fridge, always meaning to drink it tomorrow. Well, I'll hopefully be popping that cork to celebrate six months as a non-smoker.

Trick number three, I've started telling people - I find it hard, and painful, to break commitments and go back on my word, and even though I'm not really making any explicit commitments or promising anything to anyone, announcing that I'm undertaking this project creates expectations and I do not want to disappoint. Trick number four, I'm buying myself an iPad for Christmas, but if and only if I am still a non-smoker in two months' time.

The self-deception is, of course, crystal clear. But so far it's working.

by datacharmer | Friday, October 15, 2010
  | 4 comments | | Quitting smoking @bluematterblogtwitter

Crazy, post-midnight thoughts on fiscal and monetary policy

When inflation is too low and you've hit the zero bound on the monetary side, and debt is too high to do anything on the fiscal side, you need to break the last taboo: direct financing of government debt by the Fed.

The only thing the Fed needs to do is to announce it fully intends to keep x amount of government bonds purchased under QE in its books till maturity - with the benefit naturally accruing to the Treasury. There would need to be some clarity on exact numbers so that nobody panics, but that's basically it.

A crazy idea - but note that this is merely a quantitative, not qualitative, deviation from the standard arrangement (even in normal times).

Debt to the penny

That's US debt held by the public tracked in real time since 1993, and it stands at 9,017,482,214,669.27 as of two days ago.

The Chinese seem to be holding about 10% of that, although the true figure may be somewhat higher - according to the table, the per capita holdings of Luxembourg stand at an astounding $200,000.

by datacharmer | Wednesday, October 06, 2010
  | 2 comments | | Debt to the penny @bluematterblogtwitter