August 5th, 2013

A Purple Straw Hat

Weak Analysis in _The Social Meaning of Money_, Viviana A. Zelizer

It's mostly a good book -- I've had it since 1998 and just never got around to reading it. It's my current procrastination motivator: it is supposedly my top priority, but whenever I decide I don't want to read it and do something else, there's a strong inclination to do something _else_ from the to do list (or something else of value to me) to justify not reading it. Hence the laptop project leaping forward.

Anyway. Zelizer tends to repeat what her sources say without a lot of skepticism, which is a problem when you are working with etiquette books and other late 19th century/early 20th century advice givers. Also, a real lack of context provided, in terms of what was going on in the larger political economy. So for example, she recognizes changes in in-kind vs. cash relief and that it changed back and forth, but doesn't actually spend a lot of time on why that might have happened. I'm not sure you could come up with a compelling single explanation, but some of the influences would be worth discussing (pushback from farmers against in-kind relief is _never_ mentioned, for example, and it was a huge influence at least in the early 20th century).

In an earlier chapter, she talks about earmarking and other delineation of "gift" currencies, and then in the chapters about money for the poor she talks about relief agencies and gifts to the poor (money and other). In the "gift" currencies stuff, she gets into the advice books saying you have to send a thank you note saying what you did with it if you get a cash gift. But when the agencies gift gifts to the poor (which are supposed to be real gifts, not further relief), she critiques them as not, and here's her analysis, from page 165:

"But just as the Christmas bonus or the tip never did quality as an intimate personal gift, charitable Christmas money was still earmarked as a special currency, never fully a free gift." [Mind you, she never made that criticism about having to report back about what you spend the cash gift on, at least for adults.] ... Notice what happened to the Berks County, Pennsylvania, mothers who were allowed by a mothers' pension agency to become their children's Santa Claus. Each mother received $10 to spend "as she saw fit"; yet after the holidays they dutifully reported how the money was spent."

Exactly as a well-behaved cash gift recipient should, according to contemporary etiquette books!

"When another private agency decided to give each of the children a dollar to buy a present for his or her mother, a visitor accompanied them to make the purchase."

Not knowing the actual age of the kids, hard to know for sure, but I'd want someone going with a kid to buy a parent a present, and not making mom do it seems extra special, imo.

Weak. Very, very weak.
A Purple Straw Hat

iTunes Match initial review, a few comments on Remote

I set up iTunes Match yesterday. I was not optimistic, however, it apparently was able to match absolutely everything I had, whether I'd downloaded it from the store or ripped it off a CD. I have historically ripped using Apple Lossless, and it looks like 256 (or better) or Lossless works a lot more reliably than lower bit rates. This may or may not be why I had no issues.

Because the mini had no music on it at all, I set it up to use the cloud for music; thus, I can see on that device exactly what has or has not made it up to the cloud.

My current iPad had music on it already, and I had set up Remote to point to the laptop. I turns out that if you redirect iTunes to a different directory, Remote will follow right along (Remote is thus following a softlink, rather than a hardlink to whatever you pointed at when you set it up). The decision at implementation could have gone either way, and I think they did it the right way, altho R. notes that it has caused him some consternation on occasion.

In any event, Remote can see what I've uploaded as it is uploading: it's a true, current window, which is nice. None of this caching and getting out of date and re-syncing nonsense. If Remote can't reach what it is trying to point at, it doesn't show you anything at all.

So far, iTunes Match is a massive win. I'll update this as I encounter different aspects of it.

ETA: I've been ripping discs all day, and iTunes Match seems to (mostly) keep up. It can get ten minutes or so behind at times, but it's pretty fast.

ETA still more August 8: The project continues (altho the end is now in sight!). I continue to have 100% matching [ETAYA: turns out I was wrong here and am still investigating what's going on. I misunderstood the display and didn't have one of the columns turned on; more is uploading than I realized], so I don't know what people are talking about in all those reviews about a fifth or more of their music not matching. I will note that historically, I ripped at lossless (so going to iTunes Match is actually a slight decrease in quality, but I'm okay with that), and for the rip-everything-I-own project, I'm using 256 (which is exactly what Match uses). While I have ripped some of my husband's CDs (in the past, and, most recently, I realized that while I owned Graceland on tape, I apparently did not buy it on CD and that just seemed insane. He had it handy, so I ripped his rather than buy it again. I feel like this has to be okay.), I have never put music into my digital library that came from music services, and I'd be hard pressed to identify stuff I got from anyone other than my husband (ripping of non-owned CDs, that is). I did have a few non-commercial CDs (friends gave me copies of stuff they owned), which I trashed without copying. iTunes Match really isn't just about legitimizing piracy; it really is about separating from the plastic.

I did have a lot of network errors yesterday, that caused a lot of stuff to not upload to the cloud. :( I ultimately shut everything down, restarted my computer, and tried again. Same problem. I was getting worried, but I tried again today (without more restarting, and it worked fine). However, I am now noticing that while the mobile devices window onto my cloud catalog were keeping up the first day, they are not currently keeping up and I'm not sure how to force an update (that is, stuff that I _know_ is in the cloud is not in the cloud listing on my phone, type of thing).

I think I still trust this enough to continue. Worst case scenario, at least my entire library of CDs is in iTunes _on a portable hard drive_, which is Not Nothing.

There are more limits on iTunes, iTunes Match, etc. than I had realized. Specifically, there's a 5 computers for one iTunes account limit, and 10 devices for one iTunes account limit. I'm not worried about the computer limit, but the device limit has me worried, since all the mobile devices except for R.'s phone are all on my account. However, they don't all have cloud/match setup, so I mostly have to worry about the implications for accessing video purchased on the account.

I think that when the kids start to outgrown "kiddie" stuff, and develop their own distinctive tastes, I'll have to set them up with their own Apple Store accounts, to prevent this from becoming a bigger problem when they are older and we have still more devices, and also to handle their ultimate transition to Hey Mom I Don't Want You to Know What I Buy with My Own Money, which, if I recall correctly, I was not technically allowed to feel as a child, but I still acted upon starting around age 11 or 12.

Which is not very far off now.

ETA Still more: Well, I didn't figure out how to force a refresh on the mobile device side, however, they are working better now. I took a look at the 10 devices listed on my account page at the iTunes Store and realized that there were Problems. We only have the one iPod Touch, but we had to replace an old one, and the old one never was removed from the device list. There were some other problems with an old iPad as well. I may have been over the 10 device limit, and that was causing some problems. By removing known-gone devices, perhaps the problem fixed itself. Or maybe just enough time went by. *shrug* As with de-duping, cleaning things up probably isn't _bad_ per se.
A Purple Straw Hat

_The Social Meaning of Money_, Viviana A. Zelizer

Subtitled: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies

Alas, while all kinds of payment system changes were occurring between 1870-1930 in the United States (the scope of this study), Zelizer ignored them all. Her focus is largely on domestic monies: how husbands controlled the family money, how social replacements for husbands (relief agencies -- not her formulation) did the same, with some sidelights on gifts, tipping, and payment for ambiguous social services (taxi dancers and charity girls).

You'll hear no argument from me on the basic thesis (it is wrong too think money somehow operates outside of all the personal/social forces, acting as a leveling/greying/rationalizing agent). Nor do I have any problems with where she choice to zoom in. I am a little sad that she missed opportunities to explore how forces in the larger world may have influenced relief agencies (domestic arrangements, gift practices, etc.) -- they only finally break through in the discussion when it reaches the 1930s.

What I will say is that a close look at payment systems might have been a more compelling way to argue the thesis. But I don't think the basic thesis is the real thesis. Zelizer seems to hover at the intersection of a white/male centric view of the world (the "normal" consumer is person with a paycheck and without dependents, typically not a dependent) and a desire to validate the perspective of, well, everyone else: the people who don't have paychecks, the people with dependents, the people who are dependents, etc. Those not-"normal" consumers are the natural prey of people who think they know better how to spend the money that is so hard for them to acquire, and Zelizer does a bang-up job of describing out how didn't just fight back. They reframed successfully. But Zelizer doesn't seem to really get framing, which is hardly surprising, given the time frame this was written. (Har de har har there for the inadvertent pun.)

Not a waste of time, but I won't keep my copy. I will hopefully eventually read the other Zelizer book I have lying around, _Pricing the Priceless Child_.
A Purple Straw Hat

Procrastination failure

Well, I inadvertently finished reading my book, and I've ripped a lot more than 10 CDs today. Not sure what happened there. If I'm not careful, I might wind up reading the book group selection, which I was sort of hoping to avoid for ... a lot longer.
A Purple Straw Hat

Abandoning Kindleberger

I'm giving up. I've given _Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises_ four tries (at least), three more than I would have for anyone else. Kindleberger was respected and beloved by just about everyone, as near as I can tell, and I'm at a loss to explain why. Well, that's not true. I think the guy could talk your ear off with a million facts and your eyes would just glaze over and people mistook that for being right and actually understanding things. I think he must also have been a genuinely wonderful human being.

But the book is terrible. It's just list after list after list, and every list is riddled with identifiable errors: errors in spelling terms, errors of analysis, blah, blah, bleeping, blah. You can't learn much from a list anyway, without enough detail to make sense of it, which Kindleberger does not supply. If you want to learn about financial crises, look elsewhere. Not sure where -- this is sort of a _catalog_ of financial crises, which I guess is something (altho now that I think about it, I don't think I've seen a catalog of financial crises that didn't stink to high heaven, so I may have an absurdly high bar for this stuff).

Possibly Kindleberger's other work is better. I would certainly hope so.n