Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On how technological advances affect expressions and a peerless cocktail

Moore’s law describes the long term trend in computer hardware where the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. While this trend is currently slowing down, it has remained relatively consistent for the past sixty years. Although Intel co-founder Gordon Moore was originally writing1 about transistors, this phenomenon applies to processing speed, hard drive capacity, server capacity, and the overall capabilities of many digital devices.

We experience this “law” in everyday life and price this into our decision making3. Last year’s model although state of the art at the time of purchase is now, for lack of a worse word passé. Every year the maximum processing speed or hard drive space increases and pushes down the price of what was previously the top model.

And now that we have some shared context, let us get down to the crux of this article.

I very much like expressions. I would self-describe myself as someone who has a fair number of personal expressions, sayings, expressive hand-motions, diction, and who has a general tone of voice. This is all greatly accentuated if I am telling a story, a yarn, or even recounting a flimflam4.

Four days ago at approximately forty minutes past noon I was taking my lunch in Madison Square Park, enjoying the welcomed nice weather and Shack Burger. I happily divided my time between reading, drawing, and being pensive in thought. My thoughts tend to be jumbled, convoluted, and alternate between the rather complex and thoughts that simply are not getting their due time and attention and are at risk of being classified as unimportant by many.

In some way or the other I started thinking about the phrase:

“Nothing to write home about”

I have certainly used this phrase5; the last time being in regard to an un-eventful lamb burger. The expression would be used to describe something not particularly exciting, nor special, or was not newsworthy. According to the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings the expression in its current form dates back to the late nineteenth century citing; “he was bleeding a bit, but nothing to write home about. G.D.H. Cole, "The Man from the River." There is also a foot note mentioning that this expression gained favor among WWI troops stationed far from home.

While the surface level purpose of the expression has remained constant, the underlying connotation of what constitutes “something to write home about” certainly has not. Over time the marginal cost and barrier to convey news has exponentially diminished. The extraordinary number of technological outlets that spring everyday allows me to express any opinion with increasing speed. The barrier to write home is so low that nearly everything can be written home about at virtually no cost other than the time based opportunity cost. The wounded soldier who was bleeding in the initial citation would have no doubt tweeted home if the technology was available. The type of news that would eclipse the “Writing Home Threshold” from a WWI foxhole is quite different than what the threshold is today. I speculate that in the 1890s you diligently thought about when you would write home and if the information would in fact be timely by the time it arrived. Late hours into the night, scotch in hand and peering out the window from that space you stand when you are thinking, would be devoted to evaluating if this news is in fact something to write home about. The drink in hand would probably be something like this:

The Peerless Martini:

  • One cap full of dry vermouth
  • 3oz of Plymouth gin
  • Ice
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters

Remove your martini glass from your bar. Fill the cap of the vermouth bottle with dry vermouth (this should be approximately 1/7th of an oz). Swirl around the vermouth coating the inside of the glass. Pour the excess vermouth into a shaker filled 3/4th of the way with fresh ice. Pour the 3oz of gin plus that additional extra ounce if it has been a long day or a day ending in “y”. Vigorously shake for approximately 28 seconds. Strain and pour into the glass. Take a generous twist of lemon and twist over the martini releasing some of the natural oil; run over the rim of the glass and place on top. Add two dashes of orange bitters and stir.

The orange bitters takes a perfect drink and truly makes it peerless.


1Moore’s original thoughts can be found in the April 19th, 1965 issue of Electronics Magazine in a piece entitled “Cramming2 more components onto integrated circuits.”

2Excellent diction in the usage of “cramming”

3I have another conceptual idea about how activity based peak performance will effect pricing of personal computers for the next 10 years. Conceptually Moore’s law is also slowing down because the demand for capability utilization on some electronic will be significantly less. The marginal difference between yearly models will diminish.

4I was surprised flimflam was one word in the OED

5You are probably thinking about when you did right now

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

On Economic Principles and the Barney’s Warehouse Sale

Semi-Annually Barney’s holds its warehouse sale at the Co-Op location conveniently located on 17th street and 7th avenue in Chelsea. Hordes of shoppers flock to find deals, whether it is that men’s two button Jil Sander suit, a pair of Louboutins, or a more haute-couture piece that doesn’t quite fit well and was scuffed in transit and was inevitably an expensive mistake.

I have been attending the warehouse sale for a few years now. I self describe my style of dress as classic and style conscious with an affinity for craftsmanship and detail. Over the years I’ve had some great finds; a Burberry trench, a classic pea coat, a Margiela button down, and a Band of Outsiders suit to name a few. Factoring in a few purchases that didn’t really work out I’ve probably saved as much as I have could have buying at the proper end of season Barney’s sale and could have traded shopping in a controlled and sane environment for trying on clothes in the corner of the Chelsea passage. I always stop in and like to take in the maelstrom that is the Barney’s Warehouse sale.

This year I went to browse and noticed a few things. Some of these things were blazers, some were economic principles.

Pre and Post Price Expectations:

Everyone forms price expectations in making a purchasing decision. The expectation of price becomes a reference point of compare that influences the propensity to buy a product. In the case of the warehouse sale we are exposes to both pre-price expectations and post-price expectations.

Pre expectations would dictate what we would expect to pay for a Dior shirt and post price expectations would factor in our expectations to purchase a Dior shirt at another occasion, after being exposed to the Barney’s warehouse price. The forward looking expectation is typically more responsive in reacting to store prices in forming price expectations. I believe this is accentuated for discounts on luxury brands.

“When is the next time you are going to find Lanvin on sale” or the infamous “Chanel never goes on sale”

This concept of a ticking-time window for the deal becomes very important. The cramped and crowded mob environment of the sale makes you ponder the time when your “future self1” will not only want this item, but also have the money. This sense of pressure, time, and desire for exclusive goods is a driving force why Gilt is one of the fastest expanding sites.

The Effect of Price Framing: Deal versus Sale:

I was thinking about how different generations talk about shopping. My grandma very much enjoys getting a sales price at the supermarket. To a point I believe she thinks she is pulling a fast one on the supermarket for some reason. I recall a time when I mentioned that I enjoyed an occasional ginger-ale. A week or so later ginger-ale went on sale with a maximum purchase of 2 per customer. My grandma decided it would be prudent to go back and forth and make separate trips to stock up on ginger-ale for the apocalypse so I could have a refreshing beverage. I think the majority of the bottles went flat years ago.

The diction has changed. The word choice of “sale” has this association of “cheap” and of “diminished quality or value.” The deal is for the savvy. The deal is for the individual who has done the research and is making an informed decision on both price and quality. There is a semblance of pride in being able to snag that luxury piece at a most favorable price.

Luxury goods are prone to framing the sale as a deal. Designer goods often have very high margins as a layer of the cost is the design and not a cost of goods sold component such as leather.

This is the point in the blog post where I have more ideas and graphs on the subject but instead I am going to provide a punch recipe.

Punch is great at parties because it:

  • Can be prepared in a large quantity prior to the party where diligence and time can be devoted
  • Classic punch recipes are very tasty, awesome, and quite alcoholic
  • Those crystal punch bowls or fountains are very cool
  • Inspires a group atmosphere and festivity as everyone is in the same proverbially boat (or drink)

Below is an alt on a classic punch2 recipe. The addition of rhubarb is great for parties in the spring. Poire Williams is great substitute for applejack for a fresh flavor.

Mother’s “Apple Rhubarb” Ruin Punch

  • 10 cubes of brown sugar
  • 3oz soda water
  • 3oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 6oz fresh squeeze grape fruit juice
  • 3oz Carpano Antica Vermouth
  • 5 tea bags of earl grey tea
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 6oz of Plymouth Gin
  • 2oz of Applejack
  • Split of champagne
  • 6 drops of Rhubarb bitters
  • 1 grapefruit


  1. Earlier in the day place the tea bags and the cinnamon stick in the Carpano Antica bottle. Let sit and chill
  2. Earlier in the day fill a bread loaf pan with water and freeze. When this freezes it will create ice. The ice cube will be about the size of a loaf of bread.
  3. Coat the sugar cubes with the drops of bitters and muddle with the soda water
  4. Use a chinoise to strain 3oz of vermouth
  5. Combine all of the ingredients except for the champagne
  6. Place the big giant ice cube in the center
  7. Stir the mixture and garnish with slices of grapefruit
  8. At the appropriate time add the champagne and gently stir
  9. Serves 1-2 people


1 I too often let future jason deal with problems
2 Punch dates back to the 1600s, predating the term cocktail by over two hundred years. Punch literally translates to "Five," referring to the five original ingredients of sugar, tea, lemon juice, spices, and spirits