Windows 8.1: The Good

Prequel post.

* The Charms. Probably no better idea was ever devised for touchscreen computers. They will be missed in Windows 10. Seriously, the whole idea-search, print, share, go to Start or go to relevant Settings from anywhere was brilliant.
* The split-screen. This is not a built-in feature in either Android or iOS and is quite useful.
* Switching back and forth between apps by swiping right (and, for multiple apps, by swiping first right then left again).
* A full-screen Photos app.
* A full-screen (PDF and TIFF) Reader app that can rotate pages and save them..
* Printing works like in regular Windows, not via stupid specialty requirements like in iOS or stupid Cloud services like in Android. So I am told, printing works like in regular Windows even for RT.
* An option to view Windows store apps on the taskbar or have either large or small taskbar icons.
* The Weather app is a good place for rough guides to seasonal temperature and precipitation patterns in various places around the globe.
* A decent video-taking app (Movie Moments) is available in the Windows App Store.
* Help and Tips (installed by default) provides a partly offline list of what you can do with Windows 8, which is better than no help at all.
* The Metro Alarm, Sound Recorder, and HERE and Bing Maps apps work well on a tablet (certainly more so than their desktop equivalents, which require a mouse to use).
* Windows Speech Recognition (English only, foreigners!) isn’t half-bad, especially if you allow it to practice listening to your voice.
* The whole concept of an app store with pre-approved (thus, no viruses) full-screen apps that aren’t too dependent on what goes on in the desktop.
* Two (or three, depending on what computer you have) ways to turn off your computer (the Charms are much more useful for touchscreens).
* Various legacy desktop applications, such as Notepad and Paint (even though there are good Metro replacements for them) are still a nice gesture to show that Microsoft still cares.

This is for the 1 month that Windows 8.1 will continue to stay relevant.

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True Facts About World History

* Just before Columbus, the island of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco contained a population roughly the same as that of the island of Hispaniola. It also contained ten times the population of the capital of the Inca empire.
* The Japonic-speaking Korean farmer settlement of the islands of Japan, which finally brought agriculture to those islands, took place after the end of the Western Zhou and during the rise of the first Korean kingdoms. Both the Koreanic and Japonic-speaking Koreans were, unlike the Chinese, speakers of a non-Sino-Burman language, but the language families, if they have any common origin at all, diverged exceedingly long ago. The Japonic language family split up from the late first millennium BC. The Jomon predecessors of the modern Japanese had a small (Cambodian-level), but noticeable amount of Melanesian ancestry, but were well within the East Asian racial cluster. The Ainu, the group carrying the largest proportion of Jomon ancestry, may preserve some trace of the Jomon language in their language.
*Of the four great empires of India from 322 BC to 1947 AD, only one was Hindu. Two were Muslim, one was Christian, and one was Buddhist.
*The first people in Madagascar were not Black. They were Austronesian. The Austronesians began their migration out of Taiwan only after the unification of Egypt under Narmer.

List of Modern Empires

The term empire is defined here. Even though the post was written more than two years ago, I still feel like I wrote it a week or two ago.

There are no empires in the Western hemisphere.

1. China, obviously.
2. Laos
3. Sudan
4. Morocco
5. Turkmenistan (non-negligible number of Uzbeks within its territory).
6. Uzbekistan (non-negligible number of Tajiks within its territory).
7. Chad
8. Cameroon
9. Republic of Congo
10. Equatorial Guinea
11. Zimbabwe (the elections there are an obvious farce).
12. Ethiopia (uncompetitive elections).
13. Djibouti (uncompetitive elections).
14. Eritrea seems to be an empire, rather than the nation-state of the Eritrean people.
15. Azerbaijan

Belarus doesn’t count, because it is the nation-state of the Belorussian people and there’s no substantial difference between Belorussians and Russians. I haven’t heard of any Russian separatist movement in Belarus. Kazakhstan doesn’t count because it is the nation-state of the Kazakh people.

Syria would have counted before the war, but doesn’t anymore, as the Kurds have broken away. The Islamic State doesn’t count, because its ethnic cleansing has forced all those who don’t want to live under it out of its territory. Vietnam doesn’t count because the ethnic groups other than the Vietnamese are too small.

Burma isn’t an empire; it’s a mess.

Measuring Economic Growth Using Engels’ Law

In the second sentence of this fine paper linked to by Tyler Cowen, I saw a reference to Engel’s Law, the stylized fact that when income rises, the proportion of income spent on food falls. I, in my firm conviction that all laws should be tested, thought to examine this by using FRED.

The proportion of national income spent on food in the United States:
Screenshot (15)
So this is the implied (per capita) economic growth over this time:
Screenshot (16)
http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=1eZu

Works pretty well, I guess. Implies stronger growth in the 1980s and weaker growth after the Great Recession than usually accepted.

Adam Smith’s Agricultural Paradox

According to Adam Smith, classical economist, in his Wealth of Nations,

 

In agriculture, the labour of the rich country is
not always much more productive than that of the poor; or, at least, it
is never so much more productive, as it commonly is in manufactures. The
corn of the rich country, therefore, will not always, in the same degree
of goodness, come cheaper to market than that of the poor. The corn of
Poland, in the same degree of goodness, is as cheap as that of France,
notwithstanding the superior opulence and improvement of the latter
country. The corn of France is, in the corn-provinces, fully as good,
and in most years nearly about the same price with the corn of England,
though, in opulence and improvement, France is perhaps inferior to
England. The corn-lands of England, however, are better cultivated than
those of France, and the corn-lands of France are said to be much
better cultivated than those of Poland. But though the poor country,
notwithstanding the inferiority of its cultivation, can, in some
measure, rival the rich in the cheapness and goodness of its corn, it
can pretend to no such competition in its manufactures, at least if
those manufactures suit the soil, climate, and situation, of the rich
country. The silks of France are better and cheaper than those of
England, because the silk manufacture, at least under the present high
duties upon the importation of raw silk, does not so well suit the
climate of England as that of France. But the hardware and the coarse
woollens of England are beyond all comparison superior to those of
France, and much cheaper, too, in the same degree of goodness. In Poland
there are said to be scarce any manufactures of any kind, a few of those
coarser household manufactures excepted, without which no country can
well subsist.

-In fact, France was substantially less physically productive in agriculture than England in the eighteenth century, and Poland was a bit more productive in agriculture than France. This paradox of agriculture applies even unto this day, with America, which has much higher agricultural productivity than, say, Russia, also having much higher agricultural product prices than Russia. This is due to labor costs in the U.S. being much higher than in Russia (by roughly five to tenfold in nominal terms), while the difference in physical output per worker in agriculture is much smaller. This is because a typical American worker has many more options than a Russian one, leading to farms paying much more to attract workers in America. However, the prices of tropical food products (quality-adjusted) may well be a little higher in Russia than in the U.S. due to PPP being much more likely to apply to tradeable goods.

The Tightwad Fed

In January 2012, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced a 2% PCE price level “goal” in these words:

The inflation rate over the longer run is primarily determined by monetary policy, and hence the Committee has the ability to specify a longer-run goal for inflation. The Committee judges that inflation at the rate of 2 percent, as measured by the annual change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures, is most consistent over the longer run with the Federal Reserve’s statutory mandate. Communicating this inflation goal clearly to the public helps keep longer-term inflation expectations firmly anchored, thereby fostering price stability and moderate long-term interest rates and enhancing the Committee’s ability to promote maximum employment in the face of significant economic disturbances.

Let’s see how the PCE price level is doing more than three years later.
pceindexlevel
The Fed is not on track to meet its goal anytime soon. And that’s putting it mildly.