February 27, 2005

you can use whiskey as an antiseptic

and I was wondering if v would be more or less effective.

*These are the thoughts that go through your mind when you drive too much behind people who insist on an average speed of 80km/h and don't let anyone past.

Posted by carla at 05:35 PM

February 22, 2005


A possible definition of leadership:

Leadership is:

* a proactive action

* which makes a positive difference.

Posted by carla at 05:03 PM

February 21, 2005

incomplete information as labour market failure

I thought of a small point in the great 'is the labour market a special market, and should the government therefore set special rules for it" debate today. Generally speaking, employers know more about wages and conditions for a labour market than employees do. This means employers will tend to have more information to base their employment contract decisions on than their employees, and will do better out of the deal over time. This idea is based on my current understanding of the market failure of incomplete information*, the idea that poor information leads to poor decisions. Why is this a market failure? Because market theory is based on the assumption that all parties in the market have perfect information (how much all the alternatives cost, any hidden flaws in the product, whether or not they will still like green in 2 year's time).

I may well be wrong in my assumption that employers have more information about employment than employees. I'm basing my assertion entirely on the fact that I don't tend to ask people about how much they get paid unless they are a friend of mine, so pretty much all my info is from ads in the paper. Specifically I don't know what gets paid in my company, so I feel at a distinct disadvantage thinking about what I should ask to be paid.


* Incomplete information.

The market failure of incomplete information (as I remember it from 1st year varsity) is where people don't know important things when they make a decision to purchase something. This may mean they undervalue something (and therefore the market doesn't provide enough of it) or they may overvalue something (in which case the market will provide and distribute too much of it). And yes, the definition of how much is the correct amount is defined as the market clearing price#.

A simple example is purchasing a lemon when you thought you were purchasing a car. The amount you would have paid for the lemon if you knew it was a lemon is usually substantially less than the amount you actually handed over.

This idea can be extended to girlfriends who turn out to be incapable of remembering your birthday or the dress which looks awful when you get it home.

The thing I find most interesting about incomplete information is that it affects all market transactions to a greater or lesser degree, and yet is largely ignored by economists. Given the huge scope for not knowing the important stuff (particularly about things like jobs and house purchases) it seems a miracle to me that markets work at all.

Posted by carla at 09:03 PM

February 16, 2005

Writing NCEA style

This is the official standard for writing for 7th formers. So much for the NCEA not being a clearly defined standard.

I was particularly interested on the emphasis on impact of the writing being required to achieve excellence. I'm not at all convinced that I ever produced anything which had impact, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get points for it in my current work (though the Alarms sections probably have scope for sensationalism - "This alarm means your entire system is about to go up in FLAMES! Grab the nearest fire extinguisher and run, Run, RUN! No really, ... stop reading this nonsense and just get out NOW!").

I'm also practically offended at the craft definition (reworking and reshaping the writing). The only way I can work is to write the final draft immediately. Trying to retrieve writing of poor quality is almost impossible for me when I'm that close to it. It also ignores the importance of writing exact material quickly.

Posted by carla at 09:57 AM

February 14, 2005

looky, looky

Various things you may be interested in:

Wonderful floating diagrams (unfortunately using American baby name data - but interesting and pretty nonetheless).

Fire engines! Local firetruck museum. I think they are also available for hire. Wee-ooo, wee-ooo!

Te Awa (in case you haven't been referred to it by *everyone* else). Find out what the government wants us to believe about ourselves.

Posted by carla at 04:20 PM

February 11, 2005

bonza bill

Just a small note to say you should all go to this year's Summer Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing. It is genuinely funny (something I find rare in Will's comedies) and using 1950s New Zealand as the setting makes the whole thing substantially more effective - for me anyway. It also uses the space well, has pretty costumes and some darn good acting.

Go see!

Posted by carla at 02:10 PM

February 10, 2005

editorial drinking games

Ok, so maybe I've been working with words for too long. Today I had an idea for a proofreading drinking game.

Each of you turn up with a decently sized example of your work. One which hasn't been proof read yet, but ideally one which you would be prepared to release to a wider audience.

You all swap documents.

Everytime someone finds a new error in your document, you take a drink.

No doubt there could be many, varied and complicated rules around the penalty for different infringements. For example, missing a full stop at the end of a sentence should probably incur more of a result than creative use of a hyphen.

The original context for this was with a group of colleagues (as this sorts out the style guide issue). Not sure how you would establish common ground for documents of varied provenance, but maybe trying to write the style guide would be part of the fun. In fact, I am getting steadily more sure that designing the game would be the entire point. :)

Posted by carla at 10:09 AM

February 09, 2005

show me the money

I am bemused by the upset created by the odd results of the Scholarship exams. Without wanting to sound like members of a Monty Python sketch, I don't remember any opportunity to win $6,000 towards my university study. I got 3x$200 from an A bursary which (almost) covered books and student union membership for three years out of the five I studied for.

In addition, because the scholarship part of the exam was about 5 questions (say 40 minutes of exam time) the results reflected a tiny part of the student's knowledge, and were probably wildly inaccurate. In some cases (e.g. English) the same questions worked towards both the bursary and scholarship results, but the criteria used to judge the answer were different.

So long as the results are all within one year, none of the students will be disadvantaged with regards to getting into New Zealand tertiary institutions.

Interesting to hear Bill English sounding very dangerous on radio this morning. Positively passionate.


Probably most interesting out of the whole debacle is the notion that science students can't get good marks if they can't write well. I think the two parts of science (actually doing it vs. communicating about it) are both valuable. But I think incommunicative scientists are fine so long as they are accompanied by science communicators. Requiring them to write is like requiring software developers to write good help files. The chances of finding the two skill sets (let alone enthusiasm for both areas) in one body is unlikely, thus risking the loss of a hell of a lot of good code being developed.

Perhaps I'm just biased because I like translating. I get to play with very pretty ideas - and add value by making them understandable.

Posted by carla at 09:37 AM

February 01, 2005

tools for professionals

I know this is probably just an example of a dumb process making a rare mistake, but it is just ... *so* ... microsoft.

I often feel that their software is attempting to make me travel from one province in Norway to another province in Norway via Newcastle on Tyne and Antwerp "because it's quicker".

Mind you, I often feel that way about standard corporate practice, so maybe microsoft are just getting closer to their customers...

Posted by carla at 07:39 PM