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Down again: Oh well.

I made up an Onion headline in my sleep this morning: Good-Natured Readers Charm Cynical Onion With Offbeat Letters. Sumana tells me they don't have a letters-to-the-editor section, though.

Next: The Even Newer Economy

The Even Newer Economy: Sometimes I try to get a mental picture of the economy, and of course I fail because it's too huge. But in general it goes something like [sunlight, natural resources, goods, information, labor] ==> [goods, services, information]. Now, I have this subterranean fear that the entire world economy actually does nothing but move things around, which is obviously bogus for the entire economy but which I think can be true for huge subsets of the economy, like the banner ad companies who stayed afloat selling banner ads to other companies whose only source of revenue was banner ads on their sites.

I was therefore disturbed by my discovery of a new toy known as Rokenbok, which is sort of Lego but not, and which has exactly this sort of economy. The pieces are much larger and more complex than Lego pieces (even the newer decadent Lego pieces which should properly be made of three or four small pieces or not exist at all), and all the sets have an industrial or construction theme: RC Tower Crane, Construction World, Piston Plant, Motorized Conveyer, etc. There are remote-controlled vehicles which you manipulate through Nintendo-like controllers. If you buy enough sets you can have this huge industrial plant/construction site setup with monorails and vehicles buzzing around.

The Rokenbok economy is based on the circulation of small plastic balls. The balls come in red and blue, and the blue ones are slightly smaller: this provides the raison d'etre for the Action Sorter and Conveyor. A few sets also contain small plastic barrels, but these are of only passing interest since they probably only contain more balls.

My mind boggles as to why the little plastic Rokenbok people would create so much infrastructure and devote so much labor to the sole purpose of sorting little balls and moving them around. The plastic balls are not any kind of storehouse of value, they're not valuable in and of themselves, and they're certainly not neccessary on a construction site.

I also don't see how driving the vehicles around could be fun for any length of time. Rokenbok takes the construction metaphor from Lego, but despite all the apparatus there's no construction (whereas with Lego there is a lot of construction even though you are the extent of the apparatus). It's not even cool the way Rube Goldberg devices which carry things around endlessly (like the penguin stair climbers sold in airport gift shops) are cool, because one of the big selling points is your constant supervision of the process through your waldos, the vehicles.

Maybe I just don't like the way they suggest you set up the sets. But it really seems like the vehicles are where the action is, and I don't understand the action.


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