Guest Post: The Deadweight Loss of Gift Giving

There is a pretty substantial amount of literature on the deadweight loss associated with gift giving. In short, when one buys a gift for $50 for someone but that someone does not like it and in fact would have only paid $10 for it, then there is of course a $40 deadweight

Some economists estimate the deadweight loss during the holiday season alone is roughly $13 billion in the US and $145 billion worldwide. On a net basis, this is of course viewed as a transfer of wealth form households to private sector businesses. (Note: net basis since some
of the money flows from businesses back to household employees who work at stores, etc).

So how to we rid ourselves of this deadweight loss without being complete scrooges? Well, cash and gift cards vastly reduce the deadweight loss, since gift receivers can use $50 to buy something they deem worth $50. There could still be some deadweight loss, think of a gift card to a store someone doesn't really like, or a person who attributes value to receiving a wrapped present versus cash.

Another potential solution, not surprisingly, is trade. In this story, kids at a Brooklyn school rated their satisfaction with gifts which in aggregate was around 50. After students were allowed to trade gifts with each other, that satisfaction jumped to 82 in aggregate.

A simple rule then is "if the value one attributes to receiving a wrapped present is less than the expected outcome of the deadweight loss, where deadweight loss is equal to confidence in gift choice (various probabilities) multiplied by the value the receiver atributes to the gift (various payoffs) all of which is then subtracted from the cost of the gift, then give cash." Gift receipts work too, but in order to return the gift we need to take gas prices multiplied by miles to store multiplied by...HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Steven Quattry is a recent graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and works in macroeconomic research.



caps lock key abandoned

google's new laptop, the google cr-48, has no caps lock key. in it's place on the keyboard is a search button. as a further statement all of the printed letters on the keyboard are in lower case. this slate article goes through the history of the caps lock key. the article ends on the sentiment that capital letters may soon become obsolete all together to streamline language.


Park Slope Plane Crash

Brooklyn Based and the New York Times cover the plane crash that still remains fresh in many Brooklynites memories. As the Times writes:

It was 50 years ago this Thursday: Dec. 16, 1960. If you look closely, the signs can still be seen around Park Slope — a row of bricks newer than the rest, a building of more recent design than those on either side. Rusty pieces of the fallen jet still sit in one man’s backyard.


Cash Cab is a Fraud

Discovery advertises Cash Cab as a show where unassuming people enter a taxi and are suddenly shocked to discover they are contestants on a game show. However, according to this article Cash Cab is a total fake, with contestant's being pre-screened; the viewer is given the impression that the person is simply hailing a cab.
Also fake money given at the end of the ride with a check mailed at a later date.

Off-Track Betting Shuts Down

The New York Times reports that the state's OTB parlors have been closed after a deal in Albany fell through. It might seem odd that a legal gambling establishment has failed to prosper, but this quote says it all:
“It’s terrible,” said John Grassley, 77, a retired postal worker who said he had been an OTB bettor since it began. “I thought they would solve it at the last minute. They ought to privatize it, or turn it over to the Gambinos. Government can’t run anything.”
The man knows of what he speaks. After all, he's a retired postal worker.


Amsterdam Today and Yesterday

Check out these amazing overlaid images of Amsterdam by Jo Teeuwisse, and her interview at My Modern Met. More info also at the Daily Mail.


Band Break-Ups of 2010

Flavorwire pays tribute to the many bands that broke up and went on hiatus this past year. Of all of them, Ponytail is the one I'll miss the most:


Sex and The City is So Over

Linda Holmes in a recent article appeals that sources using references and examples Sex and the City as evidence of recent culture phenomenons are inaccurate. She argues that Sex and the City is no longer modern since the show premiered 12 years ago and went off the air 6 years ago. It's time to move on, beyond Carrie, Mr. Big, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte.


The Con Man

Jason Jellick wrote a controversial article published by Salon earlier this week on his life of being a self proclaimed amateur con artist. He started by returning things that he hadn't bought, but only to corporations. He moved on to conning McDonald's drive thru's, hotels and gyms. He got a thrill from trying out different personas, until he realized that what he was doing was not only targeting individuals, but also putting him and his wife in danger.
He caused lost profits, until he realized that he had to leave behind his persona and become someone different.


The Lost Art of Reading

David L. Ulin writes about how he has stopped reading as regularly. He says, "I am too susceptible, it turns out, to the tumult of the culture, the sound and fury signifying nothing."


Lost Advertisements

We can't help but laugh at some of these vintage advertisements, but also be glad that many of these sexist, racist and outrageous advertisements aren't still gracing our magazine pages. We have made progress.


As the Book Goes, So Goes the Bookshelf

Nathan Schneider writes in The Smart Set about the demise of the bookshelf as a visual of our intellectual development.

As I look over my own shelf, I see my life pass before my eyes. The memories grafted onto each volume become stirred and awakened by a glance at the spine, which presents itself to be touched, opened, and explored. Without the bookshelf's landscape to turn to, that manifest remainder from a lifetime of reading, how would one think? What would one write?


Target Euthanized, Accidently

While in Afghanistan Target confronted a suicide bomber and received a heros welcome by Oprah to the United States. Unfortunately, she escaped her owner's yard and was caught and put into shelter where she was accidently put to sleep.

Comparing the Brooklyn of Then and Now

Brooklyn Based featured the work of journalist Mitchell Trinka, who has matched up old photos with the current locations to give a visual example of how certain neighborhoods in Kings County have changed.

For more images in this vein, check out SepiaTown.


England's Most Eligible Bachelor

Prince William has become officially engaged to long time girlfriend, Kate Middleton.

Advanced Loss

via Best Week Ever.

Lost Last Month

October 2010

The question over the fate of 33 miners trapped in a copper-gold mine in Copiapo, Chile since the beginning of August, when they are all safely rescued. Many trees, when author Jonathan Franzen asks British fans to stop reading his latest novel – which is actually a mistakenly-published old draft – in advance of thousands of copies set to be pulped. Father of fractal geometry, Benoit Mandelbrot, aged 85. Peace and sanity in France, as millions of people demonstrate President Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age by two years. MGM's creditors, as the film studio announces plans to file for Chapter 11 to rid itself of $4 billion in debts. Nepalese Sherpa, Chhewang Nima, known for climbing Mount Everest 19 times, dies in an avalanche. Classified information regarding the Iraq War, released by WikiLeaks. President Obama's "sharp elbowed" Chief of Staff, after Rahm Emanuel decides to move on to (possibly) greener pastures.


“So I would hate to lose everything I’ve spent a lifetime building, I suppose." -Leo Whittle

New Zealand is facing the possibility of significant losses to their Kiwi industry due to the discovery of a bacterial disease. The destructive canker spreads easily, but doesn't effect the fruit, only the vine.


The Best Distance Distance Runner of All Time Retires

Haile Gebrselassie announces his surprisingly retirement today after he dropped out of the ING New York City Marathon at mile sixteen. He is arguably the best distance runner in the world having broken twenty seven world records over the course of his career. He has the top time in the marathon; 2:03:59 set in the Berlin Marathon in 2008.

"It was a fairy tale and it didn't end the way that everybody wanted it to end." -John Shirreffs

Zenyatta, the crowd favorite and arguably the best race horse that has ever lived, lost the Breeders Cup Classic last night. Now it is debatable whether she will lose winning the horse of the year to Blame, the winner of yesterdays race. Zenyatta was undefeated before yesterday's big loss.


Lost Last Month

September 2010

Actor Tony Curtis, ne Bernard Schwartz, aged 85. Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy, won while playing for the USC Trojans, voluntarily returned after controversy unfolds that he received improper payments while at school. The U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, found to be in violation of the First Amendment by a US District Court Judge. The Daley stronghold of Chicago, after Richard M. announces he will not seek reelection as mayor in 2011. Parole, for John Lennon's murderer, Mark David Chapman. Probation, for actress Lindsay Lohan, following a failed drug test. The 2010 US Open Championship, by Novak Djokovic to Rafael Nadal, and Vera Zvonareva to Kim Clijsters. The despair over the loss of more than 600 Mesopotamian antiquities, found and returned to the National Museum of Iraq after being mysteriously misplaced during repatriation.


Excessive Candy from Halloween Goes Overseas

Dentists are hoping to take over Halloween; at least the candy part. Parents who have determined their kids have acquired excessive Halloween candy now have a good source to give it to. Participating Dentists through a "Halloween Candy Buy Back" accept candy and pay a dollar a pound to send the candy to US military serving overseas. The benefit is two fold, helping lower the onset of cavities/obesity in children and providing soldiers with a simple pleasure.

The Candy Professor examines this phenomenon through studying the history of candy and nostalgic advertisements emphasizing the patriotism of sacrificing candy on the home front for those fighting for the country.


LimeWire Guilty

LimeWire was found guilty of helping users commit online copyright infringement by a federal judge this morning. Damages will be assessed and may total up to one billion dollars. The website has gone the way of it's predecessor Napster and has been shut down.


Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.

The much anticipated Volume I of the Autobiography of Mark Twain was set to publish on November 15, 2010, but was released slightly early. It is available for sale now.
The autobiography was dictated by Clemens during the last years of his life, it is not arranged in any particular order, but it is the dictation of a wandering mind. One of his dying wishes, which was honored for the most part, was that his autobiography not be published until 100 years after his death. He wanted to be able to speak with brutal honesty about his life and didn't want to implicate people or their family members. Clemens died in coincidence with Halley's Comet in 1910, marking this year, 2010, a 100 years later.
In the next few days and weeks many "Twain-iacs" will eagerly begin the plunge into volume of I of his autobiography. The volumes (three in total) are set to be around half a million words. Will the public emerge from these works with completely altered perceptions of Clemens and his beloved books?
According to this New York Times article, people might not like what they find about Clemens and his political opinions when they read the autobiography. Will Clemens lose some of his luster in his attempt at being honest?

Paul, the clairvoyant octopus, dead.

After a fulfilling life of 2 1/2 years Paul, the octopus, has died of natural causes. Paul became famous by correctly predicting the outcome for the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament in South Africa. "A modest permanent shrine" may be erected in his honor, according to the manager of the German Sea Life Center, where Paul spent his life.


How We Lost an Entire Magazine Issue

Even though Lost Magazine publishes only online, it still takes quite a while to create each issue. Corralling writers, creating a design, and giving our webmaster time to lay it all out add up. So we like to plan ahead. No time to rest on our laurels here.

Our last issue, Wilderness, published in June. And right after it went live we sent out a call for submissions to the next issue. Our new theme would be scheduled for September. What better topic for that month than School? A return to pencils, books, teachers' dirty looks. It seemed a natural fit.

Only after we sent out our call for submissions and received pure silence in return did we realize how wrong we were. Nobody wants to write about school. The song is called "School's Out", not "School's In".

Once we accepted our failing marks, we decided to go for a topic that most people like to discuss at least three times a day: food.

This time around, we were flooded with so many responses we eventually had to close the gates on what will be one of our biggest issues ever.

Have we learned anything from the experience? I'm not so sure. Our goal is to take on a new theme with each issue. Until we put out the call for submissions, we won't know how much an idea resonates with writers out there. But at least I know of a stopgap option if we ever stumble again: who wants dessert?


Lost Last Month

August 2010

The status quo for Texas Rangers, one of three Major League franchises to have never played in a World Series, when the team is sold at bankruptcy auction. Acclaimed actress Patricia Neal, 84. A small piece of literary history, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s house, Undershaw, in which he wrote many Sherlock Holmes stories, is set to be turned into apartments. The piece of literary history that should have been lost, J.D. Salinger’s toilet, now on sale on eBay for $1 million. Musician Wyclef Jean’s political career, when he is formally declared unsuitable as a presidential candidate in Haiti’s election. Vincent Van Gogh’s Vase with Flowers, stolen from a Cairo art museum. 100 meter race, by Usain Bolt, in Stockholm, only the second time in his professional career.


Lost Last Month

July 2010

$550 million, a record fine paid by Goldman Sachs to settle civil fraud charges. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, 80. 2010 FIFA World Cup Final, by the Netherlands to Spain. Future divinations from Paul the Octopus, when he retires after correctly predicting the winner of Germany's seven World Cup matches, as well as the final. Mel Gibson's career and any further chances with sane women, after vulgar phone conversations with his ex-girlfriend are leaked to the press. Hometown love, after Ohioan and NBA free agent LeBron James opts to "take his talents to South Beach" and signs with the Miami Heat. The footloose criminal career of Colton Harris-Moore aka the "Barefoot Bandit", when he is arrested in the Bahamas while trying to escape police in a stolen plane. Peace in the sleepy town of Rhinebeck, when it is announced former first daughter Chelsea Clinton will wed there by month's end. The irrelevance of the movie Salt, released at the same time a network of Russian sleeper agents are found living in America.


Lost Last Month

June 2010

The Gore marriage, when Al and Tipper announce their separation following rumors of Al's infidelities. Helen Thomas's reputation, after she resigns from the White House Press Corps following her comment that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine." The social lives of six men, upon entering a sealed facility in Moscow where they will spend 18 months in isolation as part of the MARS-500 project simulating manned flights to Mars. Some mysteries of the young life of James Joyce, after the earliest surviving complete census of Ireland is made public online. Class in advertising, when British Airways publishes a photograph showing Osama Bin Laden to be a first class frequent flier. Some of the mystery of Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba, after her suspected killer, Joran Van Der Sloot, is arrested for the murder of a young Peruvian woman. The longest match in tennis history, by Frenchman Nicolas Mahut to American John Isner, 70-68 in the fifth. Writer and Nobel Prize Laureate Jose Saramago, 87. General McChrystal's job as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, following critical remarks about the administration appearing in Rolling Stone. A chance to actually hear the commentators, after FIFA decides not to ban the vuvuzela for the duration of the 2010 World Cup.


Farewell to a Kink

Peter Quaife, original bassist for The Kinks, has passed away, reports Pitchfork. Listen to two of the classic tracks he played on below:


Lost Last Month

May 2010

Some sense of security among New Yorkers, after a car bomb is discovered and disarmed in Times Square. Singer, actress and civil rights activist Lena Horne, 92. Peace in Greece, as thousands gather to protest the government. The fate of the beleaguered Gulf Coast, as oil continues to gush from the busted Deepwater Horizon rig. Faith in the President, as the media compares his time on the golf course with his time working on the spill. The first floor of the Grand Ole Opry, after the rising Cumberland River floods Nashville. Injustice, when a Chinese man is freed from prison after ten years because the man he had been convicted of killing is found alive. A grave oversight, when Poland disinters Copernicus from his unmarked resting place and reburies him with honors. The notion that it's difficult to rob museums, after yet another art heist, this time five paintings worth over $100 million stolen from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.


Our summer issue (plus ice cream cones)

The redesigned, summer issue of LOST will be up on Monday--it's on a "lost wilderness" theme. But in the meantime, follow us at Facebook and watch our new photo series unfold--a summer tribute to fallen cones.


Images of the Future that Never Was

The website Paleofuture.com offers a fascinating look at what past eras predicted for our future --and how wrong it was. There are plenty of charming images of flying machines, lunar colonies, and refrigerators of the future:

If you're looking to read more about these type of hopeful predictions that never came to fruition, then check out the book Where's My Jetpack? by Daniel H. Wilson too.

via Very Short List


Altered States of America

Michale Trinklein's new book, Lost States, charts the boundaries that might have been if American history had taken a different course. What would have happened if Daniel Boone's proposed state of Transylvania actually came into being? Our vampire craze might have been averted, perhaps.

via i09.com


A Disputed Island Disappears

New Moore Island in the Bay of Bengal had been claimed by both Bangladesh and India for decades. Now, that territory is no longer up for grabs:

New Moore Island in the Sunderbans has been completely submerged, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said.

"What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Hazra.

Read the full story here at Yahoo! News. As the article notes, Bangladesh is one of the countries most at risk because of rising sea levels.


NPR's Collection of Obsolete Occupations

Cigar makers, lamplighters, pinsetters (as in bowling pins): today, these jobs are done by machines. But decades ago men, women, and children earned a living completing these tasks. NPR's Jobs of Yesteryear presents images and descriptions of these no-longer-necessary careers (though the occupation of "Milkman" may actually be coming back into style).

via Very Short List


A Lost Shakespeare Play Sees the Light of Day

The BBC reports that Double Falsehood, a "new" play attributed to Shakespeare will be published soon as part of the Arden Shakespeare collection.

Theatre impresario Lewis Theobald presented the play in the 18th century as an adaptation of a Shakespeare play but it was dismissed as a forgery.

But scholars for British Shakespeare publisher, Arden, now believe the Bard wrote large parts of the play.

Researchers think the play is based on a long-lost work called Cardenio, which was itself based on Don Quixote.



Big news at LOST--we're redesigning our site and going quarterly, and we're seeking submissions for our upcoming, June issue: Lost Wilderness.

Since December 2005, LOST Magazine has published writers including Mary Roach, Alan Weisman, Rick Moody, Wayne Curtis, Rebecca Solnit, and many others. We truly appreciate our readers and contributors, and our aim is to do a lot more of the same--to publish original nonfiction and fiction that examines ideas of loss in a novel way. With each contributor’s story, we'll use writing to reclaim what we’ve lost.

The change is that we're going quarterly, and each issue will be a theme issue and feature theme-specific design, much like the theme issues we've published to date. Submissions to "Lost Wilderness" are due by April 1st, 2010. Nonfiction submissions can be sent to nonfiction@lostmag.com and fiction can be sent to fiction@lostmag.com. For more information, shoot us a note at lostmagazine@gmail.com.

The Editors
LOST Magazine


Preservation funding in peril

We're all tightening the screws on our budgets, watching our bank balances, and sitting on our wallets. Almost all of us would agree that the government has to do the same, and earlier this month, President Obama released his 2011 budget request. If passed it would eliminate funding for Save America's Treasures and Preserve America, and cut funding for National Heritage Areas by 50%.

Some would argue that if something has to go, this is it. We would argue that sacrificing the future for the present is never a good idea.

Is there a better way? Let us, and your elected officials, know.


A Person Dies. And with Her, a Language Disappears

BBC News reports that the last speaker of the language Bo has died at age 85.

Professor Abbi - who runs the Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese (Voga) website - explained: "After the death of her parents, Boa was the last Bo speaker for 30 to 40 years.

"She was often very lonely and had to learn an Andamanese version of Hindi in order to communicate with people.


The Lost Man Booker Prize Longlist

At long last, those authors who missed their chance when the Man Booker Prize's rules were changed in 1971 have a chance at glory. Via Shelf Awareness:

The Guardian reported that the new award "aims to commemorate the works that 'fell through the net' in 1970 after changes to the Booker rules. In 1971, two years after the prize was first given, it ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is now, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. The date on which the award was given was also moved from April to November, creating a gap when a wealth of 1970 fiction could not be eligible."

The list is below. Based on just what I've read from this list, I'll be rooting for Master and Commander, though the prize might offer a chance for a lucky author lesser-known to get their name back out there.

The Hand Reared Boy by Brian Aldiss
A Little of What You Fancy? by H.E. Bates
The Birds on the Trees by Bawden
A Place in England by Melvyn Bragg
Down All the Days by Christy Brown
Bomber by Len Deighton
Troubles by J.G. Farrell
The Circle by Elaine Feinstein
The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard
A Clubbable Woman by Reginald Hill
I'm the King of the Castle by Susan Hill
A Domestic Animal by Francis King
The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
Out of the Shelter by David Lodge
A Fairly Honourable Defeat by Iris Murdoch
Fireflies by Shiva Naipaul
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
Head to Toe by Joe Orton
Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
A Guilty Thing Surprised by Ruth Rendell
The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark
The Vivisector by Patrick White


Is Indie Dead?

Paste magazine's February issue wondered whether indie music had gone the way of disco. Now, Flavorwire.com and a slew of music critics have responded here.

They're all good responses, but still unanswered definitively is another question: "What is Indie?"


Update: Kirkus

We're staying tuned--it's asked publishers for new galleys, and it might be back!