Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

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Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

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(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   roofless short IIsi
Monday, January 9 2006
Have you ever noticed that the Financial Page in the New Yorker is never mentioned in the magazine's table of contents? You find yourself picking through the whole magazine page by page trying to find it, but since it only runs in every other issue there's no certainty that you'll actually find it. Given the level of mental firepower behind the New Yorker , there's probably a fiendishly-clever reason for doing things this way. Whenever I'm sent hunting for the Financial Page I end up getting a good sense of the articles and seeing all the advertisements just as a side effect. But I can't imagine there are all that many people whose favorite article in the New Yorker is the Financial Page. And if there are, they're probably like me and never buy the sorts of things advertised in a mazagine otherwise well-tuned to our æsthetic.
The thing I like about about the Financial Page is its gradual revelation of all the little fascinating nooks and crannies in the field of economics. There's a lot to these to learn, and not everything is intuitive.
I saw an article today in Slate that reminded me of a New Yorker Financial Page. It was about the tendency for a powerful brand to deliberately render its inexpensive products unattractive. The main example given in the article is that of Starbucks and their "short cappuccino," their cheapest (and best) cappuccino. But you won't see it on their menu; you just have to know it exists and order it by name, at which point the cashier will know exactly what you're talking about. By not listing the short on the menu, Starbucks makes their cheapest cappuccino less attractive, forcing people who like the Starbucks brand, are price-sensitive, but still unfamiliar with their options, to get the "tall," which has a higher profit margin. (This finally explains the mystery of why "the tall" is the smallest coffee on the Starbucks menu.)
According to the article, other powerful brands and functional monopolies do the same thing. 3rd-class passenger cars used to be built without rooves, and the British supermarket chain Tesco has a line of budget food items that comes in nauseating packaging. Another example I can think of dates to the early classic period of the Macintosh, when the IIsi was deliberately underclocked at 20 MHz instead of 25 so as not to compete with the more expensive IIci (though it was an easy hack to get it up to 25 or even 30 MHz).

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