Bill Cutshall’s Weblog

August 26, 2008

Naive Allocation

Filed under: Intellectual Crush — billcutshall @ 5:00 am

People are epically poor decision makers.  In fact they are almost perfectly designed bad-decision-making machines.  The evidence is everywhere.  Take a look at people’s naive approach to choice allocation.

People are uncomfortable putting all their eggs in one hypothetical basket and will allocate their choices to avoid it, if possible.  Even in a situation where the consequences of being wrong are so minimal as to hardly be called consequences at all, we can see people attempting to mitigate decision risk.  I read a beautiful example the other day dealing with Trick-or-Treating children choosing which Halloween candy to put in their baskets.  When presented with a pile of Milky Ways and a pile of 3 Musketeers and told they were allowed to take two candy bars, children overwhelmingly chose one of each type.  When the same decision was structured differently and the kids were asked to choose one candy bar at each of two houses, they heavily chose the same bar twice.  Given the opportunity to diversify within a single choice, kids selected to do so even though when asked to choose twice, they showed a clear tendency towards having a preferred bar.  It turns out adults do the same thing.  When I worked in the financial services industry I saw the same phenomenon in action as people chose how to allocate investments among mutual funds in their portfolio.  Sure, the consequences were a little more real with mutual funds instead of candy bars but the principle holds true.

I wonder how often I water down my preferences in the course of a single day.

The example above is from  Nudge, a book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein available at Amazon.com, where it is presented in much more interesting detail and with far greater context.  I highly recommend reading it.  It is a fascinating look inside the head of humans facing decisions.

August 24, 2008

Protected: A Story

Filed under: Things I am too Lazy to Categorize — billcutshall @ 12:37 am

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August 22, 2008

I Can’t Believe That Actually Worked

Filed under: Things I am too Lazy to Categorize — billcutshall @ 11:15 pm

I hate computers. That’s a pretty odd thing to hear from somebody that chooses to make their living writing software but its true. I hate computers. I also wouldn’t live without them.

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August 20, 2008

Things I Learned Today

Filed under: Things I am too Lazy to Categorize — billcutshall @ 10:14 pm

1. People are epically bad decision makers.

2. CNN is perfectly comfortable passing off hearsay as news.

3. If you are flying out of the International terminal on a domestic flight you will still get an anal probing at security.

4. I write less when I am tired.

August 14, 2008

An Epically Off Day

Filed under: Things I am too Lazy to Categorize — billcutshall @ 1:08 pm

I know I am probably inviting further disaster by writing this before the day is well and truly done but every now and then you have a day in which things go wrong in an epic fashion. Today has been that kind of day for me.

I had planned to spend the morning at work, meet a friend for lunch, pick up a suit at the tailor, fetch my dry cleaning, go to the gym for a swim, and get home in time to let the nanny beat rush hour traffic by a few minutes. Ah, that would have been a nice day.

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August 11, 2008

Back From the Reunion

Filed under: Things I am too Lazy to Categorize — billcutshall @ 1:21 pm

There was no train wreck.  There were more than a few people there expecting that there might be a train wreck but the gawkers were disappointed.  As it turns out, 20 years is more than enough time for the cliquish, immature teenagers you went to school with to grow up and turn into adults.  The event was pleasant.  It was a pleasant time for pleasant adults to exchange pleasantries.  The stilted nature of the required conversations (where do you live?  are you married?   do you have kids?   what do you do?) and the  sheer number of attendees lent the whole affair a speed-dating quality.  Still, I would recommend a 20 year reunion to anyone with the opportunity to attend one.

August 6, 2008

Lego Weaponry

Filed under: Things I am too Lazy to Categorize — billcutshall @ 3:00 pm

Hot on the heels of my Lego Ferrari post, here come a Lego gun and a lego crossbow. Neat.

Lego Gun

Lego Crossbow

August 5, 2008

Materialism this Month

Filed under: Materialism,Things I am too Lazy to Categorize — billcutshall @ 5:01 am

These are the gadgets or baubles that will solve all the problems in my life this month.


Eye-Fi Wireless SD Card

Eye-Fi Wireless SD Card

Eye-Fi Wireless SD Card

The problem with digital cameras has been the total lack of immediate consequences to clicking the shutter button. Since you can always delete the bad pictures but you can never go back in time and take the shot you missed, filling up a 4G memory card with 400 nearly identical pictures is almost inevitable . Finding the time to managing the bazillion (est.) giant image files I create never seems to make it to the top of my to-do list, though. I have to admit that it has often been easier to simply buy another SD card than take the time to empty one of the ones I already have. Clearly a self-emptying SD card is a little slice of Heaven for me.

The Eye-Fi wireless card is precisely that, a self-emptying SD card. It stores up to 2G of photos just like a regular SD card but get the camera in range of a WiFi hotspot and it upload those shots to one of 30 or so online photo services like Flickr or Walgreens (depending on if you choose to organize your photos for online use or just get your family off your back about prints). Prices vary depending on connection options. $79 buys you a card that connects to your home network and loads photos to your PC. $99 buys you a unit that will perform the same function or connect and upload to an online service. For $129 you can get the unit that will automatically connect through your network or any of Wayport’s WiFi hotspots and will geotag your photos for you.

I feel that I am only $99 cool. Geotagging is a bit too Birkenstock for me.

Price: $79 – $129

Status: Ordered

Review: Pending


Mako Mini RC Submarine

Mako Mini RC Submarine

Mako Mini RC Submarine

One of the great things about having kids is that you can buy nearly any toy under the pretense that it is for them. Of course those toys often need to be set up and tested extensively before turning them over. I went to Radio Shack after being surprised by the dearth of radio-controlled boats available at Super Target, Mega-giant Walmart, and Toys-R-Us. The Radio Shack I went to only had a single style of boat but they also had this awesome submarine. It has dual propeller pods, adjustable ballast plates, and a headlight and it is an absolute blast to play with despite the limiting control set.

Also, at about 5 feet down the sub loses touch with the transmitter and sinks straight to the bottom. But you knew that would happen, didn’t you?

Price: ~$25

Status: Drying off on my shelf

Review: Simple and made from awesome. Prone to sinking.


110 Volt 12 Volt Adapter

110 Volt 12 Volt Adapter

110v-12v Adapter Plug

In a world where it is possible to buy an inverter to turn a 12v car outlet into a 110 volt house outlet at nearly any gas station, I was surprised to discover how difficult it was to find something as simple and useful as a plug to turn a house outlet into a car outlet. I finally found one and it has saved my sanity. I can plug my cell phone’s car charger into this and then I can get juice anywhere. OK, I know, your phone charges off any USB port or from the sun or something but mine only uses a charger that I have to order from a factory in China and I misplace it a lot.

Price: $7

Status: Saving my sanity

Review: Simple, useful, brilliant. You don’t have to like it but I love it


Nikon CoolPix S600

Nikon CoolPix S600

Nikon Coolpix S600

There are slimmer, sexier point-and-shoot cameras out there but the Nikon’s combination features including 10.1 megapixel sensor, image stabilization, big LCD screen, non-proprietary SD memory, and familiar Nikon menu system made this the perfect portable match to my D80. Combine this with the Eye-Fi SD card and you have have a point-shoot-forget camera.

Price: $299

Status: In my pocket

Review: Pending, but I get a good feeling


Lego Ferrari F430 and FXX

Lego Ferrari F430 and FXX

Lego Ferrari Kits

These kits were a part of my birthday present. That should explain the lack of a cord or any functional purpose. Still, as a kid I loved Lego and as an adult I am a big fan of Ferrari so these are great to make me feel good. I put one of the two kits together already and the process really brought back the memories of searching through a pile of plastic pebbles for one that is exactly the right size and color.

Price: ~$40

Status: One assembled, one au natural

Review: For me, a little slice of awesome


AARP Approved!

AARP Approved!

Sunsetter Retractable Awning

Alright, this one was tough to swallow since every person I see in their marketing material and on TV using or promoting the product has silver hair. I don’t have silver hair. I don’t want to think of myself as that old. I don’t have any desire to own a “power chair” or a big button cellphone. Well, maybe a power chair if the range and speed could be improved for… no no no no. Focus.

Sunsetter basically sells this product by telling you “if you are old, you will enjoy an awning.” The truth of it is one layer more complicated. If you are bothered by sun on your head when you sit on your patio, you will enjoy an awning. Old people are frequently bothered by sun on their head ergo they will enjoy an awning.

I have to say, it is a nice product and turns my deck into a pleasant place even in the face of shadeless 105 degree Texas summer days we have been privileged to lately. I bought the 16′ wide unit with the electric motor so we were near the top of the line. The sales process was impeccable. No high pressure annoyances; their representatives were courteous and well informed about the product; ordering was easy; delivery was fast; installation was easy.

Price: ~$1700 delivered

Status: installed and open, unless my daughters are playing dress-up with the remote again

Review: Opaque


Join the Social

Join the Social

Microsoft Zune

I have to admit to having questionable taste in music for this gadget to make much sense. Some have described my audio penchant as immature, annoying, Euro, and worse. I like club music; trance, techno, elecronica. I listen to it like others listen to classical. I still haven’t figured out how to balance all the demands of creating and maintaining a decent music library when all your music is performed by one hit wonders and then remixed into hundreds of different versions only 2 of which are tolerably good. It also tends to wear out quickly and takes time to replace with new music. If you do manage to find that must-have version of that must-have song, the file information and ID3 tags are generally cluttered or grossly inaccurate. Thirty gigs of music files takes up a lot more of space in your life than they do on your drive.

The Zune promises to help with finding new music and keeping it synced between devices by allowing you to browse your friend’s catalogs and swap songs wirelessly. The wireless sync aspect of it is pretty sexy too. No plugging stuff in. Put a new song on your PC and the Zune in your gym bag grabs it. So do the other Zunes you may own (surely you don’t carry your big airplane Zune to go jogging, do you?).

Price: $299

Status: In my pocket

Review: Too early to tell but it looks promising so far.

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