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This conversation took around 15 minutes as I was working on other things.

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You:I’m buying your $45 mobile package – and porting my number

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You:Yoo hoo

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You:This isn’t much of a ‘live chat’ is it?

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You:Sure you will

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Attack of the Stupids

Oh aren’t they so tough our current leaders? Beating their hairy chests over the ISIS threat to Western civilization. Here’s Cigar chompin’ Joe Hockey Wenesday morning

We will not be intimidated by the threats of murderers; we will never be intimidated as a nation or a people by the threats of murderers.

And here’s Tony Abbott, reaching for a line from his copy of George W. Bush’s classic Presidential Decision Making for Dummies.

This is a hideous movement that not only does evil. It revels in evil. It exults in evil

Have these people learned nothing from the last decade of disastrous engagement in the Middle East? It’s exactly this kind of  simplistic sloganeering that got America and its cocksure little deputy, caught up in this folly last time.

Continue reading

Chess history made

Busy Troppovians have no-one other than Troppo to let them know when something serious has happened in the chess world. If Troppo had been going at the time, Troppovians would have been the first non-chess aficionados in the world to hear of Bobby Fischer’s extraordinary exploits, of his game of the century when thirteen, his winning the American open for the first and only time winning all games with black and white and his march through the candidates matches in the early 1970s on the way to Reykjavik destroying the 8th best in the world, and then the fifth best in the world (Taimanov and Larsen respectively) 6-0. Three wins with white and three with black on each occasion. Neither player was ever quite the same again.

Well, I am here to tell you that an achievement of similar magnitude occurred overnight in the United States of America in the Sinquefield Cup 2014. Was it by chess phenomenon Magnus Carlsen the player stupidly called the Mozart of Chess (Mozart was no good at chess – I guess Ludwig van Beethoven was the Alfie Langer of the piano). Well no it wasn’t. Was it by the second rated player in the world, the hapless Levon Aronian? Well no it wasn’t. It was by the only other player currently above the rating strength of 2800 – American born Italian  Fabiano Caruana. Caruana has just participated in a ten round tourney against five other players that is the strongest of all time – with three players over 2,800 and the other three in the high 2,700 (This is well above my rating and even Ken Parish’s – though he was quicker into the blogosphere than these gen-Y layabouts – but I digress).

Caruana has just finished the first round of the tourney – having played five of the best in the world and has scored a cool 5-0. Cleaned up Carlsen here. Carlsen was amazed at 20. . . . Nd3 which the commentator said was quite the best move – even if the computer didn’t agree. Here at Troppo we don’t get into ‘he said, she said’ analysis of chess moves so I’ll say no more.

Anyway, you heard it first on Troppo. We will wait a long time for another performance of either its ilk, kind, genre or oeuvre.

Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul? | Jesse McCarthy at The Point

In this marvellous essay, Jesse McCarthy puzzles over why there is “a bloody knot in the social fabric that is as vivid in Ferguson, Missouri today as it was in Baldwin’s Harlem half a century ago.”

He starts with “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: a Letter from Harlem”, James Baldwin’s essay from 1960.

It is hard on the other hand to blame the policeman… he too, believes in good intentions and is astounded and offended when they are not taken for the deed… He moves through Harlem, therefore, like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country; which is precisely what, and where, he is. … He can retreat from his unease in only one direction: into a callousness which very shortly becomes second nature. He becomes more callous, the population becomes more hostile, the situation grows more tense, and the police force is increased. One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up. Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.

“Want to be treated like men.” That wish, together with all its many ramifications, is in McCarthy’s view ground zero. Continue reading

Turnbull

Following David’s excellent post on the NBN, a somewhat related aside.

Malcolm Turnbull was interviewed on AM yesterday about the NBN review, followed by a brief minuet around some current political dramas.

What a contrast. By comparison, his colleagues still seem be struggling with the basic craft of politics. And, for that matter, with the English language.

Viewing the broadband future

The latest cost-benefit analysis of various Australian broadband proposals is out. It’s part of a report from an inquiry chaired by former Victorian Treasury head Mike Vertigan.

And it says in essence that Australia’s expected growth in demand for bandwidth is big enough to make the NBN viable, but small enough to make the government’s alternative look better.

I would have expected to hear the report’s authors out there defending it, but Mike Vertigan has never been keen to put himself forward in the public debate. So today much of the media I saw has been dominated by critics, and they’ve mostly been saying that a useful cost-benefit analysis is impossible, so we should just build the NBN. Paul Budde was making the claim this morning on ABC Radio, and lesser-known experts such as Sydney Uni’s Kai Riemer have been saying the same thing.

This claim – that we can’t usefully analyse the NBN’s costs and benefits – is hooey.

We can’t do a precise cost-benefit analysis, given how much Internet use is likely to change over the next decade or two. And whatever analysis we do should be up-front about how much guesswork is involved. But cost-benefit analyses are not just helpful; they’re also inevitable. Indeed, everyone who says “we should just build it” actually is doing a cost-benefit analysis. Typically they’re just doing a really sloppy cost-benefit analysis in their head, and setting their median estimate of the benefits at, approximately, Unimaginably Huge.

And Unimaginably Huge is almost certainly an overstatement.

“We can’t begin to imagine what people could do with upload speeds on an industrial scale,” Riemer told News Limited.

But of course we can begin to imagine that. Here’s how. Continue reading

Israel Film Festival

It is remarkable – non? – that, with the vast amounts spent on arts marketing it’s so hard to know what great arts events are on, where they’re on and whether you should go to them ahead of other arts events. In other words that it’s so hard not just to ensure that the information turns up on some feed of yours in a form that’s easily accessible and comprehensible, but also in a form that allows you to ignore dross, unless you want dross.

As a small contribution to solving this problem (with larger contributions in the wings), as you know Troppo hosts film festival highlights in a form that makes it easy for you to identify when and where good films are on. Here’s the Israeli Film Festival films that score around four stars or more from decent independent reviewers.

What’s there not to like?

Top Picks

A deeply compassionate depiction of the intricate and complex relationship between Jews and Arabs in the late 1980s, based on Sayed Kashua’s bestselling novels Second Person Singular and Dancing Arabs. Leaving his Arab home town of Tira to attend a prestigious Jewish boarding school, Eyad faces a dilemma: can he be accepted in this new environment without sacrificing his sense of self and culture? Though this opportunity suggests a positive future, Eyad struggles among Israeli Jews, feeling shame at simple things like not knowing how to use silverware, what music to listen to, and not pronouncing Hebrew correctly.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
This multi award-winning comedy is set in 1991 during the immigration wave from Russia to Israel and depicts one family’s hilarious experience through a video recording when their aunt dies in-flight causing all kinds of problems with entry paperwork!
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
From around the world, a group of thirty somethings return to their homeland of Israel to attend a mutual friend’s wedding with dramas forcing them to reexamine their relationships and desires.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Zohara decides to travel to her estranged sister’s wedding, but on the way becomes an accomplice in a young Bedouin woman’s desperate escape from an arranged marriage.
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ Vox Magazine
Show Timings:
Aidan Bloom is a 35-year-old man who finds himself at major crossroads, which forces him to examine his life, his career, and his family. A struggling actor, father and husband, he is still trying to find his identity; a purpose for his life. He winds up trying to home school his two children, when his father can no longer afford to pay for private education and the only available public school is on its last legs. Through teaching them about life his way, Aidan gradually discovers some of the parts of himself he couldn’t find.
☆☆☆☆ Examiner.com
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
Show Timings:
Two men, spy and handler, whom history insists must be adversaries, forge an unexpected trust and friendship. A Palestinian in Ramallah, Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father is a Hamas leader, grows up angry and ready to fight Israel. Arrested for smuggling guns at the age of 17, he’s interrogated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, and sent to prison. But shocked by Hamas’ ruthless tactics in the prison and the organization’s escalating campaign of suicide bombings outside, Mosab astonishingly agrees to spy for Israel. Focusing on the complex relationship with his handler, The Green Prince is a gripping account of terror, betrayal, and unthinkable choices, along with a friendship that defies all boundaries
☆☆☆☆ IMDB
☆☆☆☆ The Guardian
Show Timings:

Continue reading

Help!

I managed to trigger the warning email below, presumably by installing Gmail Meter. But I’ve uninstalled it. It comes every day or so. The first link generates a “Forbidden: Error 403″ while the latter link invites me to do some programing at Google Developer. I can’t unsubscribe, and Gmail won’t let me mark it as junk. The Troppo Mercedes is available for a two week respite from the panelbeaters for the person who can answer this question:

What the hell can I do?

Your script, Gmail Meter, has recently failed to finish successfully. A summary of the failure(s) is shown below. To configure the triggers for this script, or change your setting for receiving future failure notifications, click here.

Details:

Start

Function

Error Message

Trigger

End

8/19/14 1:17 AM

activityReport

Authorization is required to perform that action.

time-based

8/19/14 1:17 AM

Sincerely,

Google Apps Script

Need help? Visit the Google Apps Script documentation. Please do not reply to this message. (c) 2014 Google

Free, marginal cost pricing and policy

Chris Anderson managed to get an article, and then a book of the article (a pet peeve of mine, but we’ll move on) out of the idea that ‘free’ is a big deal. Better than a low low price, free avoids ‘mental transactions costs’ and is all round a Big New Thing. One thing that I don’t think he mentioned is that the ‘free’ of the internet revives to practical relevance an old insight from textbook economics which was theoretically clear but always of less use than some economists appreciated because of the practical difficulties of implementing it. (Sound familiar?)

There’s always been a ‘textbook’ case for governments to help subsidise from general revenue their own or even other service providers’ fixed costs to make marginal cost pricing (as supported by Economics 101) financially viable. But the incentive perversities and institutional complexities of doing so were usually formidable. If you issue subsidies for fixed costs, how will you get those fixed costs met at lowest cost? How will you prevent various tricks to maximise fixed costs to further lower marginal costs? How do you even define fixed costs in contradistinction to marginal costs – there can be difficulties making the distinction in practice.

Web 2.0 platforms will often provide a much cleaner opportunity to trial these ideas. Take, for example, the Australian firm CultureAmp, which successfully sells browser based employee engagement software to large and small firms whilst also offering a cut down free version. Government could negotiate with CultureAmp and its competitors to fund one of them to supply a full suite of web-based services within a certain jurisdiction for free. (It might make more sense to do this for businesses within a certain size also as larger businesses may well require customisation). Continue reading