venn diagrams

A little White Noise

Reader, and blogger on things Calvinistic and other stuff, Lee Shelton IV, doesn’t just have a numerically cool last name. He has skills of an artist (if you think that sentence is grammatically incorrect go here).

He has started a whiteboard cartoon blog called “White Noise”. And I’ll be following along.

So far he has zombies, politics, venn diagrams, and pacman. How could I resist?

The best thing is the lack of comic sans.

Church History Trading Cards

Sitting in church history today trying to grapple with the different figures from the early centuries of the church I thought “wouldn’t it be great to have trading cards of figures in church history” I was all set to start blogging them in the lead up to exams, when I decided to google it. It seems someone else has had the idea and is going to actually produce them. They’re doing theologians more broadly.

But I will not be deterred. So coming soon, in the spirit of Ben’s Jane Ayre trading cards, will be the St. Eutychus (and Andrew Bain) guide to historical figures. I’m also going to venn diagram heretical views of the trinity. Because everybody likes a good Venn diagram.

Work, Rest, Play and utility

Al has done some thinking about the concept of play. He wrote a good essay on the subject of play where he introduces his view that play can not, by its nature, contain utility. He reiterated that in the comments of my post on utility. Given my views on utility it seems likely that I’ll disagree on his conclusion. And I do. Here’s why, in Venn diagrams.

My friends Kutz and Simone differ on whether we should look forwards, or backwards, when approaching such questions of ethics. So I’ve covered both.

I think play is of most value the more overlaps that occur in these diagrams. Rather than of least…

While I think the externalities in the current situation are of merit, for example, I enjoy sleep (which is just rest) and playing computer games (which is just play). But I enjoy sport more – which is fun (play) and exercise (work). I think areas of overlap are of greater value as rest. We intrinsically know this in our approach to finding a job. We look for, and get the most out of, jobs that are a combination of work and rest (something menial where we can let our minds focus on things that give us pleasure), or work and play (something that we actually enjoy), otherwise we need to be financially compensated in order that we can enhance our experience of play and rest outside of work.

So if I take pleasure from cooking and end up with a meal for myself and others at the end of an enjoyable, and restful, process, I think that’s better. If I give that meal to somebody else it also nicely fits in with my gospel utilitarian framework.

I think taking the things that give us rest, and using them for the service of others, is pretty much the best way to rest.

Unclutter your cutter

Lif e is full of redundancies – nowhere moreso than the humble cutlery drawer. I grew up with splayds (and other cutlery too) – and regret not receiving any as wedding presents. 

For those not familiar with splayds or the myriad other food consuming implements I present this Venn Diagram…

From here.

Self Help Books for Dummies – The Topic

Picking a topic is fairly easy. There are four recognised sub-categories in the self-help market. These are: mind, body, soul and status. The relationship between these categories, when it comes to self-help writing, can best be explained by this diagram:
Figure 1.1 A diagrammatical representation of the 4 categories of self-improvementFigure 1.1 A diagrammatical representation of the 4 categories of self-improvement.
As you can see, each circle represents one of the categories for self-improvement. There is a natural overlap between categories. In fact, the more overlaps you can manage the more successful your book is likely to be. The ideal area of this diagram, or the self-help bull’s-eye is shown in this diagram:
Figure 1.2Figure 1.2 The coloured in area is the “self-help bull’s-eye.

Like in darts, the further you move from the bull’s-eye the lower your score will be. Another secret for picking a successful topic is being aware of current trends. The recent real-estate bubble is a prime example of a good bandwagon to jump onto. Another current issue, which appears to be under represented in the self-help market, is the boom in the fresh fruit juice industry. Franchises like Juice BoostTM are being set up all over the country.

Protect and serve?

Discussion is ongoing on yesterday’s post about protectionism and misguided “buy local” campaigns. I didn’t mention the “sustainability” side of that debate – which is probably valid. It doesn’t make sense for major grocery stores to ship produce from North Queensland to warehouses in Victoria then back to North Queensland for sale – at that point I will join the brotherhood of sustainability and cry foul (fowl if we’re talking about chickens…). I didn’t mention it because it’s not the problem I have with “buy local” campaigns – which is that they don’t do what they claim to do, namely “protect local jobs”.

Buying local works to protect Australian farmers. There’s no denying that. But the insidious campaigns stretch further than the farm gates But we have plenty of other primary producers whose cause is harmed by drops in demand for our resources overseas (which are in part due to drops in demand for all sorts of product on a global level – particularly from the US).

But that’s just rehashing the point I’d already made yesterday. In a slightly more coherent form.

There were a couple of points raised in the comments that are worth rehashing – particularly if you haven’t read them.

“Buying coffee grown in Australia at a local coffee store, rather than coffee grown in Costa Rica at Starbucks.” – Stuss.

Ahh, a subject close to my heart. The argument I’d make at this point is that Australian made doesn’t necessarily guarantee quality. You might feel nice paying three times the price you’d pay for foreign grown produce for local stuff – but in some cases you’re paying more for an inferior product. Coffee is a great example. If you want premium quality Australian coffee you’ve got to pay a premium price – and it still won’t be as good as stuff grown in the ideal conditions.

Her next point in a subsequent comment touches on the whole fair trade debate.

“There are ethical implications in buying goods made elsewhere. A big reason why companies shift that manufacturing off shore is that it can be done cheaper. Much, much cheaper. Which means the people doing the manufacturing aren’t getting a lot of money for the job. On one hand, it is good that some of these people are getting the employment at all. But on the other hand, sometimes these people are being exploited, and not receiving a fair wage. Or they are coming away from their villages and subsistence farming lifestyle to work in the factories and losing traditional skills. Which one outweighs the other?”

Those sweatshops employing and exploiting workers for the sake of fashion are a different matter, that’s an ethical question not a question of economics – and therefore not within the scope of this rant.

I don’t see how buying local and doing these overseas people out of the jobs they’ve won that are often literally putting food on the table – particularly when following through the argument using coffee farmers as an example – is doing the coffee farmer a service. In the case of agriculture – and particularly for argument sake the case of coffee – we’re not talking about farmers leaving subsistent living, we’re talking about third and fourth generation farmers who have been exporting coffee since coffee exporting began. Aussie Joe who decides to plant his coffee plantation in Atherton – where conditions aren’t as good as conditions elsewhere and thus the coffee flavour isn’t as rich – is doing a disservice both to the palate and to the global coffee market.

The fundamental economic principle of supply and demand means that if there’s an oversupply of a poor quality version of a particular variety of product and a largely uneducated audience the price of the good stuff either has to significantly alter or die out (or become an “exclusive” product for the rich and famous). Throwing in a “buy local” campaign artificially inflates the price of local coffee and punishes the foreign growers. It’s not a level playing field. And it’s an incentive for businesses that should probably fail. Because their product is inferior.

Amy made a similar point about rice but from a sustainability rather than quality standpoint in the comments on the last protectionism post…

“I don’t think it is okay to buy Australian grown rice, because rice is totally unsuited to our environment and therefore needs far more resources than an imported product.”

I wonder what the typical elements in the purchase equation are? You could no doubt express it as a funky Venn diagram – in fact I’m sure it’s already been done somewhere… but I’d say price, sustainability, ethics, and quality are all in the mix. Are there any others?

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