Guitar Hero for Conductors?

I just got back from the Dance Repository Theatre’s preview of CanciĆ³n del Cuerpo, which was intriguing enough that I’ll want to see it when it’s finished.

One interesting gimmick William Meadow’s use of Wiimotes to control the score. I can imagine a fun version of Guitar Hero or Rock Band where you conduct with Wiimotes, but I’m not sure I see the value in a real performance (other than the novelty). If you’re going to rely on digital recordings, having a human at the helm is like having a human umpire call balls and strikes: the human element can only add mistakes.

I can understand the appeal of a live orchestra: even my uncultured non-audiophile ears appreciate the difference between a real orchestra and a pair of speakers. But once you have the speakers, what’s the point of having a live conductor? Why wouldn’t you just use the best recording?

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Guitar Hero for Conductors?

How does the Austin Public Library come up with its fee schedule?

I spilled some soy sauce on a book, staining the edge of a few pages. Considering the condition I’ve seen some APL books in, I doubt the damage would have been noticed had I not pointed out the damage and volunteered to pay whatever fine they wanted to impose. Today, on attempting to renew a book, I find that my account is blocked because I have a $26.50 fine. That would be a bit surprising for any book, since it’s just a few drops of soy sauce, but it seems especially strange in this case because the book retails for $15 and the exact edition I damaged is available new on amazon for $10 (and used for $.01). Does it really cost them $16.50 to stock a new book?

I’m not complaining: considering how much benefit I get from the library and how much I donate, I’m still getting a great deal; I view this as an additional (well deserved) donation to the library. Just sayin’, this fee structure strikes me as being a bit unusual.

How does the Austin Public Library come up with its fee schedule?

The Deadwight Loss of Thanksgiving Dinner Potlucks

I’m not one of these people who complains about the deadweight loss of Christmas. If you want to get all homo economicus, presents are a valuable signal: finding out how well someone really knows you is hard (expensive), whereas buying a book or even a TV is easy (cheap). Potlucks, on the other hand, bug me to no end.

Cooking has obvious economies of scale: cooking ten times as much of a dish takes perhaps twice as long; and cooking ten times as many dishes has about the same overhead, because so much can be done in parallel (and the relative overhead is even lower, if you consider cleanup time). Having each person prepare a single dish is the most inefficient possible way to go about it. Furthermore, not everyone has the same aptitude for cooking: division of labor, people! Worse yet, each person inevitably brings at least one dish or dessert that’s large enough to feed five or ten people (and oftentimes more than one), so there’s an order of magnitude food than necessary, much of which goes to waste (leftovers aren’t as good as freshly made food, so this is lossy even if the food gets eaten).

P.S. If you’re in Austin, and want some leftover pie (apple, pecan, or pumpkin), cake (chocolate), side dishes (green bean casserole, stuffing, or gravy), meat (turkey or chicken), or meat substitute (seitan or tofu) let me know.

The Deadwight Loss of Thanksgiving Dinner Potlucks

UT Algorithmic Game Theory / Computational Mechanism Design / Multiagent Systems Reading Group

There are at least a few groups doing related work here at the University of Texas: a handful of people working with Greg Plaxton, a couple of people doing mechanism design in the Laboratory for Intelligent Processes and Systems (LIPS) with Suzanne Barber, and the trading agents folks working with Peter Stone, but we don’t run into each other much. Not to mention the people in the Economics, Operations Research, and Business Schools that I haven’t even heard of.

To remedy this, I’m starting an AGT / CMD / MAS reading group. I’ve run the idea by a handful of interested ECE students who have promised to show up. I imagine there’s more interest for this topic among CS and Econ students, but I don’t know how to reach those folks. Please forward this to anyone you think might be interested, and shoot me an email, leave a comment here, or subscribe to algorthmic-game-theory-reading-group@utlists.utexas.edu, if you want to join. Thanks!

UT Algorithmic Game Theory / Computational Mechanism Design / Multiagent Systems Reading Group