Humanities People

Mandatory Thursday

Just what the hell is a Maundy anyhow?

I must confess (ha) that my Catholic upbringing has let me down a bit here. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday I’ve got a handle on but Maundy Thursday (which always seemed the coolest of the three names) is a bit of a mystery.

As a kid I always pictured Maundy as a sort of tawny pink colour. It’s actually:

…from Old French mandé, from Latin mandatum “commandment” (see mandate); said to be so called in reference to the opening words of the church service for this day, Mandatum novum do vobis “A new commandment I give unto you” (John xiii:34)


On Maundy Thursday, priests, popes, cardinals and kings around the world will wash one another’s feet (this is the command referenced above).

In the UK, Queen Elizabeth won’t be washing any feet but will give out Maundy Money to some of her poorest pensioners in a ceremony with all the pageantry and period strangeness you’d expect from a tradition stretching back 800 or so years.

The ceremony features the Yeoman of the Guard, The Lord High Almoner (a role that apparently still exists) and six wandsmen. I have no idea what a wandsman is.

Specially minted coins are paraded in on 400 year old platters; the Maundy pennies are presented in a white leather pouch with green string, regular coinage (in lieu of clothing and gifts) in a red leather pouch with white string.

Over time the clothing and gifts have been phased out in favour of money. The practice of giving clothing to women was stopped in 1724 after the event turned into a swap shop as recipients tried on each other’s clothes for size.

The ceremony also features four ‘Maundy Children’, historically these were four old men paid to dress up in linen scarves (nowadays four actual children are used).

In the past there were also mathematical considerations, the number of recipients (and coins given) was equal to the monarch’s age in years, and recipients were for life. Upon Queen Victoria’s accession the number of eligible recipients dropped from 71 to 18. Recipients are no longer for life but selected each year.

Design Humanities

American Shillings

20 Shillings
20 Shillings
12 Shillings
4 Shillings

American currency from the 1700s.


Dolphin economics

In response to a question at Marginal Revolution about potential alien economies:

I can imagine a dolphin-like civilization which lacks money.  Dolphins seem to have relatively few goods of value, yet they are highly intelligent and have well-developed emotional lives, or at least they could be so even if you are for some reason skeptical about current-day dolphins.

Current dolphin goods seem to be food, sex, kids, and conversation, with a fairly tight PPF.  They don’t buy lampshades.  Most of “dolphin economic growth” seems to come from finding more and better food, getting more and better sex, finding safer environments for the children, and learning to enjoy other dolphins more.  It’s hard to store dolphin goods and thus it is hard for the Mengerian origin of money story to get underway.

Also covered are bird-like and bee-like economies.

Comics Economics


Henceforth there will be three kinds of money: Money got evilly, money got goodly, and money got in a morally neutral manner! Evil money can only be used to buy evil things, good money to buy good things, and neutral money to buy everything else.


SMBC on the money as usual, the last panel will raise a smile, but really it should make you despair at the world we live in.

Economics People

Buying happiness

…a rich person getting even richer experiences zero gain in happiness. That’s not all that surprising; it’s what Norton asked next that led to an interesting insight. He asked these rich people how happy they were at any given moment. Then he asked them how much money they would need to be even happier.

“All of them said they needed two to three times more than they had to feel happier,” says Norton. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that money, above a certain modest sum, does not have the power to buy happiness, and yet even very rich people continue to believe that it does: the happiness will come from the money they don’t yet have.

To the general rule that money, above a certain low level, cannot buy happiness there is one exception. “While spending money upon oneself does nothing for one’s happiness,” says Norton, “spending it on others increases happiness.

The full article is worth a read, there’s interesting stuff about the effect of wealth on empathy and the inclination to cheat and steal. I would’ve assumed they were cause rather then effect but it may be more circular than that.

There are other good tidbits and observations: the effect wealth can (or can’t) have on politics, the difficulties of philanthopy, a favourite has to be:

The American upper middle class has spent a fortune teaching its children to play soccer: how many great soccer players come from the upper middle class?

That final line of the blockquote above is the most important though: spending money on others increases happiness. I am certainly nowhere near the wealth status of the participants of these studies but little makes me happier than giving. You have to give. Make sure you can eat, you’re housed and clothed and all that but then give things away: your time, your expertise, whatever. If I’m feeling down my quickfix method to cheering myself up is to bake a batch of something and give to everyone I work with. It doesn’t have to be material wealth, giving just makes you happier.

(via kottke)



…you will do the things you love for free, but once you do them for money it seems like work.

You will probably get advised to find out what you love to do in life, and then try to find a way to get paid doing it.

It’s a nice thought, but if the extrinsic rewards outweigh the intrinsic ones, your dream job might take something dear from you.

From ‘Fines