Sunday, December 28, 2008
The question is: What happens to the music itself when the way to build a career shifts from recording songs that ordinary listeners want to buy to making music that marketers can use? That creates pressure, subtle but genuine, for music to recede: to embrace the element of vacancy that makes a good soundtrack so unobtrusive, to edit a lyric to be less specific or private, to leave blanks for the image or message the music now serves. Perhaps the song will still make that essential, head-turning first impression, but it won’t be as memorable or independent. ...
The old, often legitimate accusation against labels was that they sold entire albums with only one good song or two. Now there’s an incentive for a song to have only 30 seconds of good stuff. It’s already happening: Chris Brown’s hit “Forever” is wrapped around a jingle for chewing gum.
--Jon Pareles, NYT, on music and incentives
Saturday, December 27, 2008
--Bill Simmons, ESPN.com, on Princeton grads
Thursday, December 25, 2008
--Mel Gussow and Ben Brantley, NYT, on preferences elliptically revealed
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
--Edward Jay Epstein, Huffington Post, on why Harvard's FAS is "panicking" (in the words of one Harvard professor I spoke to)
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
--Bestselling Chinese self-help guru Ding Yuanzhi on a proven path
While there is something to be said for charities that know how to keep their administrative costs under control, lower costs are not always better. For example, many nonprofits seem to cut corners on backroom tasks like bookkeeping and record-keeping because these expenses aren’t viewed as critical to the “mission.” But spending less money on such administrative costs can actually make a charity less effective because it invites embezzlement, a crime that perpetually afflicts nonprofit organizations.
--Catherine Rampell, NYT, on why low administrative expenses aren't always a good thing
Thursday, December 18, 2008
There's no time limit on the gains they'd have to give back, so any fund that outed Madoff could be on the hook for any profits it had gained from its Madoff investments for years back. So, as my fund-manager friend puts it, “The question people have to ask is not, 'Do I have money in a fund that has exposure to Madoff now?' but, 'Do I have money in a fund that that has ever invested with Madoff?' ” ...
The Bayou precedent means that the discovery of a huge fraud leads to a whole chain of liabilities that stretches back for years and may hit investors who hadn't dealt with Madoff in a decade. ...
The consequence of this is that any longtime Madoff investors who'd gotten suspicious could very well have seen that publicizing their suspicions and outing Madoff's scam would not have saved their money but actually exposed them to greater losses. As the law stands, post-Bayou, a major fund company that finds itself entangled in a scam like Madoff's has every incentive not to out the fraud but, rather, to keep its fingers crossed and maybe hope that the whole thing can be written off as just another multibillion-dollar stock market blowup.
--Mark Gimein, Big Money, on "just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in"
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Perhaps the finest precis is the (true) tale of a foreign girl who married a Finn. Bemoaning her husband's cool and incommunicative nature, she pined for more affection. "I have already said I love you," said the husband. "If I change my mind, I shall tell you so."
--Nigel Wallis, Helsinki: A Bradt City Guide
Monday, December 15, 2008
--Henry Blodget, ClusterStock, on some just deserts
Friday, December 12, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
--Ron Rosenbaum, Slate, on why secondhand smoke risk sounds pretty good in the Obama White House
Investors accepted the zero percent rate in the government’s auction Tuesday of $30 billion worth of short-term securities that mature in four weeks. Demand was so great even for no return that the government could have sold four times as much.
In addition, for a brief moment, investors were willing to take a small loss for holding another ultra-safe security, the already-issued three-month Treasury bill.
--Vikas Bajaj and Michael M. Grynbaum, NYT, on another sign of the troubled economic times
It’s definitely starting to feel very painful. I met up with a friend in the venture business tonight, and he was complaining (very mildly) that it’s just not fun anymore. I responded that most jobs aren’t fun these days, and it’s not because our jobs changed.
My job is the opposite of fun.
My job is where fun goes to die.
My job actively seeks out and exterminates fun.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
--Aaron Task, Yahoo Finance, on the stealth bull market
If those riding intellectual fads are sometimes guilty of sloppy reasoning, imagine what happens when two fads collide.That’s what happened when the British Medical Journal elected to publish a study analyzing 1) happiness in 2) social networks. The study, by James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, concludes that happiness is contagious within social networks. ... Indeed, according to Fowler, “if your friend’s friend’s friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket.”
Unfortunately, it’s probably not true. Here’s the crux of the research: the authors show that your happiness is positively related to the happiness of your friends, and that this holds even after accounting for a number of other variables, including how happy you and your friends were a few years back. That’s correlation; what about causation?
There are (at least) three reasons why happiness is correlated within social networks. ... The third reason is perhaps the most likely: if you and I are friends, we are often subject to similar influences. If a buddy of ours dies, we’ll both be less happy. Or, less dramatically, if our favorite football team wins, we’ll both be happier. But this isn’t contagious happiness — it is simply a natural outcome of the shared experiences of people in the same social circles.
Interestingly, the same issue of the BMJ contained a very careful article by Ethan Cohen-Cole and Jason Fletcher making precisely this point. They employ a pretty cheeky research strategy: if you want to show that a research design is silly, show that it leads to silly conclusions.
They use Fowler and Christakis’s approach on another dataset, and show that it leads to the unlikely conclusion that height, headaches, and acne are also contagious. The more likely explanation, of course, is that all are subject to similar environmental influences.
--Justin Wolfers, Freakonomics blog, on why it's not true that your spouse's happiness matters less for your own happiness than a complete stranger's
Monday, December 8, 2008
--Jan Swafford, Slate, on making do with what you have
Rhinoviruses infect the lining of the nose. But surprisingly, these viruses don't live in saliva, says Dr. J. Owen Hendley, a leading rhinovirus specialist and professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The lining of the nose "is a different form of epithelial tissue from the lining of the mouth and throat," he says. And the cold virus, having come from the nose, does not fare as well in the dissimilar environment of the mouth.
Colds typically spread when virus-laden mucus from a sick person's nose gets onto the fingertips of a well person who then rubs his own nose or eyes. In short, says Hendley, that means that "kissing is okay, but hand holding is not." ...
As for those increasingly popular alcohol-based sanitizing gels, sorry, but they may not measure up to plain soap and water. "Rhinoviruses like alcohol. They think it's tasty," says Hendley. For whatever reason, adds Zachary of MGH, "cold viruses are not as susceptible to alcohol-based hand disinfectants as other viruses and bacteria."
--Judy Foreman, Boston Globe, on good news for kisses
Sunday, December 7, 2008
In that scenario, the endless tanks of endless Soviet divisions would come racing through this valley -- which looks not unlike the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia -- headed for Western Europe. The American 11th Armored "Blackhorse" Cavalry was there on hair-trigger alert to complicate their lives as thoroughly as they could. ...
While the fast and technologically superior 11th Cavalry tanks were supposedly killing Soviet tanks at a 7 to 1 ratio, so the theory went, the 747s from the States were disgorging troops, who would run to their prepositioned main battle tanks to really bring it on. When the 747s turned around to get more American troops, so the scenario went, they would not return empty. They would be full not only of American military kids, briefers told reporters, but also their pets, in cages stockpiled for exactly this scenario. Yes. They had figured it out to that level of minutiae.
The 11th Cavalry dads, meanwhile, knew exactly where they would stop their tanks to get warm pastries and hot coffee on the way to Armageddon. They knew which German bakeries would sell them stuff out their window at 4 a.m. because they'd responded to surprise practice alerts a zillion times.
Oddly enough, that level of guaranteed certainty produced one of the least likely futures in history. It is the one we have today, in which we have survived as a species and even thrived sufficiently to create credit default swaps that possibly will do what the Soviet nuclear targeters failed to do: bring us to our knees.
--Joel Garreau, Washington Post, on foreseen versus unforeseen disasters
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 5:02 PM--A Citigroup employee on what Citi learned from the AIG resort trip debacle
To: *Citi Finance Controllers 909; *Citi Finance CBS 909; *CFA All Staff
Subject: Join Us For Some Holiday Sweets
You are invited to bring some of your favorite and/ or traditional holiday cookies (treats) and exchange them with our Finance colleagues as we gather to sample these tempting treats and a holiday moment.
If you are interested in participating, bring your treats to Conference Room C by Noon on Wednesday the 17th.
When: Wednesday December 17, 2008
Time: Beginning 2:30 p.m.
"Who's that?" I asked.
"That's you," she said.
--A professor at a top U.S. university on how Spaniards now count as "Hispanics" for affirmative action counting purposes
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
No one can say what's causing this absurd situation. The government accuses Argentines of hoarding coins, which is true, at least to some extent. When even the most insignificant purchase requires the same order of planning and precision as a long-range missile strike, you can hardly blame people for keeping a jar of monedas safe at home. The people, in turn, fault the government for not minting enough coins. In fact, the nation's central bank has produced a record number of monedas this year, and the problem has gotten even worse. Everyone blames the bus companies, whose buses accept only monedas. These companies, exploiting a loophole in the law, run side businesses that will exchange clients' bills for monedas for a 3 percent service fee. This is legal, but the business community also routinely complains of being forced into the clutches of a thriving moneda black market—run by the local mob, or the bus companies, or both—in which coins sell for a premium of between 5 percent and 10 percent. The bus companies steadfastly deny any involvement in this racket, but their claims were undercut by the discovery of a hoard of 13 million coins, amounting to 5 million pesos, in one company's warehouse this October.
--Joe Keohane, Slate, on a curious lack of coins
Saturday, November 29, 2008
--Anne Case, Anu Garrib, Alicia Menendez, and Analia Olgiati, "Paying the Piper: The High Cost of Funerals in South Africa," on one last extravaganza
--Jonathan Gruber and Daniel Hungerman, "The Church vs the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?," Quarterly Journal of Economics
--Robert Hall and Susan E. Woodward, "The Burden of the Nondiversifiable Risk of Entrepreneurship," NBER Working Paper 14219
Friday, November 28, 2008
--Joseph J. Doyle, Jr., Steven M. Ewer, Todd H. Wagner, "Returns to Physician Human Capital: Analyzing Patients Randomized to Physician Teams," NBER Working Paper 14174
--Michael M. Grynbaum, NYT, on sacrifices to the altar of consumerism
UPDATE WITH MORE DETAIL:
At 4:55 a.m., just five minutes before the doors were set to open, a crowd of 2,000 anxious shoppers started pushing, shoving and piling against the locked sliding glass doors of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., Nassau County police said. The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.
People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid the man. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.
--Jack Healy and Angela Macropolous, NYT
“I wrote her back,” Dr. Chalfie said, “to say, ‘Why are telling me this now? Back then, it would have been a very useful piece of information.’”
--Clyde Haberman, NYT, on Martin Chalfie's new life as a chemistry Nobel laureate
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
He who puts up security for another will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe.
A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge and puts up security for his neighbor.
Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger; hold it in pledge if he does it for a wayward woman.
--Proverbs 20:16 on the wisdom of demanding collateral when lending to AIG
--September 2008 seasonally adjusted Case-Shiller index housing prices relative to peak
Friday, November 21, 2008
These views may seem extreme. But I invite the reader to try and identify a single instance in which a "deep structural parameter" has been estimated in a way that has affected the profession's beliefs about the nature of preferences or production technologies or to identify a meaningful hypothesis about economic behavior that has fallen into disrepute because of a formal statistical test.
--Larry Summers, "The Scientific Illusion in Empirical Macroeconomics," Scandinavian Journal of Economics (1991), laying the smack down
--Tamara Gignac, Calgary Herald, on special considerations for the morbidly obese
Thursday, November 20, 2008
As one commentator asks, if we humans killed them off in the first place, does that mean we have any obligation to revive them now?
--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution, on the impossible becoming the inevitable
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
The same would be technically possible with Neanderthals, whose full genome is expected to be recovered shortly, but ethically more challenging.
--Nicholas Wade, NYT, on a brave old world
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sally Im, a Korean-American from Honolulu, recently traveled to Wooridul for back surgery. After her husband paid two months’ worth of premiums — about $90 — on their arrival, a portion of Ms. Im’s medical bill was covered by the South Korean government. The couple ended up spending $3,200, rather than the $30,000 that her operation would have cost in the United States, Wooridul said.
--Choe Sang-Hun, NYT, on a little-known backstop available to ethnic Koreans
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Deciding whether to speak to your Wall Street acquaintances about their misfortunes is like that, too.
--Philip Galanes, NYT, on what to say to friends whose firms are imploding
Thursday, November 13, 2008
--Roger Ebert on the lameness of Quantum of Solace's villain
--Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution, on how to pay for the bailout and more
Friday, November 7, 2008
The business school is being renamed the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
--Catrin Einhorn, NYT, on how much it costs to slap your name on Chicago's business school
Our price tag is $1 billion.
--A Stanford GSB professor I talked to yesterday
Monday, November 3, 2008
Objectives To determine whether parachutes are effective in preventing major trauma related to gravitational challenge.
Design Systematic review of randomised controlled trials.
Data sources: Medline, Web of Science, Embase, and the Cochrane Library databases; appropriate internet sites and citation lists.
Study selection: Studies showing the effects of using a parachute during free fall.
Main outcome measure Death or major trauma, defined as an injury severity score > 15.
Results We were unable to identify any randomised controlled trials of parachute intervention.Conclusions As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.
--Gordon Smith and Jill Pell, British Medical Journal, on things we know without exogenous variation of the explanatory variable
"I'll never forget that order, 'hold and die'," Ripley said. ... "When you know you're not going to make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt."
--Associated Press on gaining life by losing it
The world is a tough place. You’re never going to get out of it alive.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
--Cornel West on why the presidency might be a booby prize
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Not far away, there's a marker where a yellow poplar tree used to grow. By 1976, it had gotten so big that the UN observation post at upper right couldn't quite see the goings-on at a checkpoint just out of the frame to the left.
At the time, soldiers from each side could move about the JSA [Joint Security Area] freely.
So a group of UN soldiers, including U.S. Army Cpt. Arthur Bonifas, went to cut the tree down. The North Koreans took exception, and pretty soon, a bunch of them ax-murdered two of the UN guys, including Cpt. Bonifas.
Ever since, soldiers from each side can no longer move about the JSA freely.
And that's why the camp where we got our briefing is called Camp Bonifas.
Three days later, a complex raid ("Operation Paul Bunyan") involving a reported 813 men, 23 vehicles, 7 Cobra attack helicopters, a parade of B-52 bomber and F-4 and F-5 fighter planes, and a US Navy aircraft carrier placed into position offshore...
... and managed to cut down the tree.
So, yes. Kinda tense sometimes.
--Rob Harris, Boing Boing, on visiting the Korean DMZ
Saturday, October 25, 2008
The video showed how, in a few easy steps, the Nintendo Wii remote controller — or “Wiimote” — could transform a normal video screen into a virtual reality display, with graphics that seemed to pop through the screen and into the living room. So far, the video has been seen more than six million times.
Interactive whiteboards, which in commercial form generally sell for more than $1,000, make it possible to control a computer by tapping, writing or drawing on an image of the desktop that has been projected onto a screen. Mr. Lee’s version can be built with roughly $60 in parts and free open-source software downloadable from his Web site.
Some 700,000 people, many of them teachers, have downloaded the software, Mr. Lee says.
--Leslie Berlin, NYT, on one of MIT's Technology Review's top innovators under 35
After a week the responses stopped coming in and were ready to be tabulated. Fifteen people said they were attending, and 60 said maybe. A few hundred said not, and the rest just ignored the invitation altogether. I figured that about 20 people would show up. That sounded pretty good to me. Twenty potential new friends. ...
I would learn, when I asked some people who didn’t show up the next day, that “definitely attending” on Facebook means “maybe” and “maybe attending” means “likely not.” So I probably shouldn’t have taken it personally. ...
By now it was nearing midnight. My head was clouded by drink, and it was finally starting to sink in: no one else was coming. ...
Seven hundred friends, and I was drinking alone.
--Hal Neidzviecki, NYT Magazine, on the difference between Facebook and real life
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Some of Heckman’s comments set off alarm bells for his fellow Institute committee member, GSB professor John Cochrane, who has long argued that the Institute will maintain academic integrity.
In an e-mail to Heckman, Cochrane wrote, “My strong, personal suggestion is that you are digging yourself deeper and deeper into public statements that you will regret. Now, not only is Friedman’s name expendable, the GSB political, but President [Robert] Zimmer ’rushed this through.’ He’ll be delighted to see that in print. You may have long, convoluted explanations, but that won’t do much good when this sort of thing gets out.” ...
Heckman e-mailed Cochrane a terse response to his concerns: “Screw off, John,” he said.
--Sara Jerome, Chicago Maroon, on drama in Chicago
Sunday, October 19, 2008
one two three
my name is sarah palin you all know me
vice president nominee of the gop
gonna need your vote in the next election
can i get a ‘what what’ from the senior section
mccain got experience, mccain got style
but don’t let him freak you out when he tries to smile
cause that smile be creepy
but when i be vp
all the leaders in the world gonna finally meet me
how’s it go eskimo
tell me what you know eskimo
how you feel eskimo
tell me tell me what you feel eskimo
i’m jeremiah wright cause tonight i’m the preacha
i got a bookish look and you’re all hot for teacha
todd lookin fine on his snow machine
so hot boy gonna need a go between
in wasilla we just chill baby chilla
but when i see oil lets drill baby drill
my country tis a thee
from my porch i can see
russia and such
all the mavericks in the house put your hands up
all the mavericks in the house put your hands up
all the plumbers in the house pull your pants up
all the plumbers in the house pull your pants up
when i say ‘obama’ you say ‘ayers’
obama. (ayers) obama (ayers)
i built me a bridge - it ain’t goin’ nowhere.
mccain, palin, gonna put the nail in the coffin
of the media elite
(she likes red meat)
shoot a mother-humpin moose, eight days of the week
now ya dead, now ya dead,
cause i’m an animal, and i’m bigger than you
holdin a shotgun walk in the pub
everybody party, we’re goin on a hunt
la la la la la la la la
--Lyrics courtesy of TKBB
“I feel like I’m at home,” Ms. Palin said, looking out at a boisterous crowd of about 6,000. “I see the Carhartts and the steel-toed boots,” she said, the first reference being to a clothing brand favored by construction workers and the burly types who make up much of the “Sarah Dude” population. “You guys are great,” she said while signing autographs.
The fact that the NYT has to badly explain the "first reference being to a clothing brand..." is a nice giveaway about the Times, and the NYT readership. Imagine a parallel in a small-town paper: "I feel like I'm at home - I see the pumpkin soy chai lattes and iPhones," he said, the first reference being to a hot beverage favored by urban yuppies who make up much of the Obama base.
--Sophist on a cultural disconnect
Friday, October 17, 2008
A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful. And most certainly, fear is now widespread, gripping even seasoned investors.
--Warren Buffett, NYT, giving investing advice
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The law firm representing Barclays filed the motion (download PDF) on Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to exclude 179 Lehman contracts that it said were mistakenly included in the asset purchase agreement. The firm — Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP — said in the motion that one of its first-year law associates had unknowingly added the contracts when reformatting a spreadsheet in Excel.
--Heather Havenstein, ComputerWorld, on a lawyer who's about to get fired
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
--Tina Fey on how long she'll do her Sarah Palin impression
Presidential impersonators do influence elections, and in this one, Tina Fey is well on her way to ruining Sarah Palin's political career.
--Jerald Podair, Professor of American Studies at Lawrence University
Prasher, 57, works as a courtesy shuttle operator at a Huntsville, Ala., Toyota dealership. While his former colleagues will fly to Stockholm in December to accept the Nobel Prize and a $1.4 million check, the former Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist will be earning $10 an hour while trying to put two of his children through college.
After the American Cancer Society gave Prasher a $220,000 grant in 1988, he set about isolating and copying the GFP gene. ...
Four years later, as Prasher's grant dried up and he was no longer able to continue his own research, he voluntarily gave samples of the GFP gene to Chalfie. ...
"(Prasher's) work was critical and essential for the work we did in our lab," Chalfie said. "They could've easily given the prize to Douglas and the other two and left me out." ...
After stints at a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory and working for NASA in Huntsville, Prasher was out of work for a year before he took a job at the car dealership.
--Aaron Gouveia, Cape Cod Times, on tough luck (HT: Boing Boing)
Quote of the day (from a trader): "This is worse than a divorce. I've lost half my net worth and I still have a wife."
--Credit crunch jokes posted at BBC News
Monday, October 13, 2008
The capital injections are not voluntary, with Mr. Paulson making it clear this was a one-time offer that everyone at the meeting should accept.
--Mark Landler, NYT, on the U.S. government's "offer" to invest in banks
Saturday, October 11, 2008
--Joe Nocera, NYT, on how deeply the efficient market hypothesis goes against our intuitions
Friday, October 10, 2008
The economics Nobel is announced Monday. If I’m not mistaken, this very colleague is sporting a snazzy new haircut.
--Steve Levitt, Freakonomics blog, on who thinks they're all that
Thursday, October 9, 2008
--Yale economics professor Ray Fair, via the Economix blog, on the genesis of a global financial meltdown
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
When you enable Mail Goggles, it will check that you're really sure you want to send that late night Friday email. And what better way to check than by making you solve a few simple math problems after you click send to verify you're in the right state of mind?
By default, Mail Goggles is only active late night on the weekend as that is the time you're most likely to need it.
--Gmail Blog on preventing drunk e-mailing (HT: Chris Blattman's Blog)
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Over several rounds, the game involved the investor choosing how much money to pass to the trustee. The investment was automatically tripled and then the trustee had to decide how much money to pass back to the investor. For maximum returns, both parties need to cooperate. If the trustee is unfair in the returns he gives back, the investor will likely reduce his investments on future rounds, meaning less profit for everyone.
The researchers found that cooperation broke down when a person with BPD played the role of trustee. They failed to recognise smaller investments as a sign that the investor was losing trust. Healthy trustees, by contrast, responded to a distrustful investor by increasing the returns they gave, thereby coaxing back the investor's trust and provoking a return to larger investments.
Brain scans taken while the participants played the role of trustee showed that healthy participants, but not participants with BPD, showed greater activity in the anterior insula as investments reduced in size (this is a brain region known to be involved in fairness, as well as sensing the body's internal states). Perhaps because of their low expectations for how others will treat them, the participants with BPD didn't appear to recognise a low investment [return] as unfair.
--Research Digest blog on why BPD people are so difficult to interact with
Friday, October 3, 2008
--Christopher Carroll, RGE Monitor, on Woody Allen's insight into adverse selection
UPDATE: Whoops, both Chris Carroll and I misattributed this Groucho Marx insight to Woody Allen.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Could there be a clearer metaphor for Americans refocusing on the basics after a decade of greed and excess?
--Henry Blodget, Yahoo Finance, on who the market thinks is the ultimate producer of inferior (in the microeconomic theory sense) goods
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
--Juliet Lapidos, Slate, on paying for the Wall Street bailout
Lastly, in apocalyptic terms, $700 billion really isn't all that much. If nothing is done to change the way we finance Social Security, the trust fund reserves will be exhausted by 2041. This means that, in 75 years, there'll be a shortfall of $4.3 trillion—or about six bailouts. According to the Stern report (issued by U.K. economist Sir Nicholas Stern), global climate change could cost the planet $9 trillion (or 12.86 bailouts) if we don't address the problem within the next decade or so.
--Juliet Lapidos on why it's not so bad after all
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
--Douglass K. Daniel, Associated Press, on Biden's public words on contributing to the public good
The most surprising fact I learned yesterday:
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden released 10 years of tax returns Friday...The Bidens' joint gross income hovered between $215,000 and $320,000 a year during this period...The amount they gave to charity during this period never exceeded one-half of 1% of their annual income. The Bidens never gave more than $995 to charity in any of the tax years, and usually gave much less.(Source)
The IRS reports that those who itemize deductions on their income tax returns have claimed, since 1975, that between 1.6 percent and 2.16 percent of their income went to charitable concerns. (Source)This contrast is an example of a broader phenomenon:
conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure. Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone's tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes. (Source)If Biden's below-average charitable giving is typical of those with his political views, why am I surprised by it? Because this man has run for President more than once. He must have known there was a good chance that his tax returns would at some point be made public and undergo close scrutiny.
--Greg Mankiw on the disconnect between private actions and public policy stances
Monday, September 15, 2008
--Greg Mankiw on the interplay between Wall Street and the ivory tower
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
--Ivo Welch, "The Consensus Estimate for the Equity Premium by Academic Financial Economists in December 2007," documenting another example of scientific belief being driven by something other than empirical "proof." See also my thoughts on the scientific method and religious faith here.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Fact one: 30% of Medicare expenditures are incurred by people in the last year of their lives.
Fact two: NASA spends billions a year on astronaut safety.
Maybe you see where I'm going.
Why not shoot the elderly into space? Stay with me. Because I'm not just thinking about the budget here. I'm talking about science. Just think how many more manned space operations NASA could undertake if they didn't have to worry about getting the astronauts back.
--Al Franken, 1996 White House Correspondents Dinner, on a way out of our budgetary problems
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
In Japan, if you have the money you can sort out virtually any problem in your love life. If you want to get rid of an unwanted spouse, retrieve a straying one, get back with an ex or even get together with someone you’ve seen but don’t yet know, there are companies that will help you, using all the technology and expertise in human psychology at their disposal. ...
Jobs such as separating Mr A from his wife take an average of two to four months. For this the client pays £2,500 a month, plus expenses. ...
Bringing separated people back together is altogether more complicated – and more expensive. It also takes longer. ACYours charges £7,500 for three months for breaking up, but £12,500 for bringing together. In some ways the procedure is the same, explains Mishima.
--Lesley Downer, Sunday Times, on what money can buy in Japan
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
--Emily Yoffe, Slate, on unexpected presidencies
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
It's the type of comedy that only works in a culture where lawsuits don't take precedent over a nationwide commitment to make fun and have fun.
In a nutshell, a real funny Japanese TV show will have you thinking, over and over:
This is embarrassing to watch.
This is so wrong.
I'm so glad that's not me.
This is f-ing hilarious.
--Lisa Katayama, Boing Boing, on real-life Oldboy scenarios broadcast for giggles
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Some studies suggest humans who sleep in an East-West position have far shorter rapid eye movement or REM sleep cycles, in which dreams occur, compared with North-South sleepers who got more REM sleep.
--Reuters on a new way to optimize your sleep to the nth degree
Not only was the Sydney Symphony just going through the motions of a live performance while speakers pumped out recorded versions of its musical selections, some of the recordings were recorded by another group altogether, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Both countries defended the sacrifice of authenticity to avoid putting the nation’s image at risk, and considered the trade-off a no-brainer.
--Mike Nizza, NYT, on how it's not just a Chinese thing
Sunday, August 24, 2008
--Brooks Barnes, NYT, on the sad status of LinkedIn
Monday, August 11, 2008
If elite adult athletes were allowed to push the limits of human performance in return for glory, they might point the way for lesser mortals to coax more out of their bodies. If a 50-year-old sprinter could figure out how to run as fast as her 25-year-old self, that could be useful to aging weekend warriors — or any aging couch potato.
I’d like to see what would happen if someone started a new anything-goes competition for athletes over 25. If you have any ideas for how to run it or what to call it — MaxMatch? UltraSports? Mutant Games? — submit them at nytimes.com/tierneylab. Maybe fans would object to these “unnatural” athletes. But maybe not. The fans, after all, include people with laser-corrected eyes, chemically whitened teeth and surgically enhanced anatomies. Not to mention the pharmacopeia coursing through our veins.
--John Tierney, NYT, on the case for legalizing performance-enhancing drugs
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Down one aisle and up the other, I paced but found no trace of what I'd come for: the world's finest pseudo-cookies. The shelf that once held those delicious McVitie's wafers coated with milk chocolate was now stocked with less desirable items.
At length, I went to the middle-aged shop owner and asked where she'd hidden my favorite treats -- this gift from the gods to those of us who want to pretend our cookies are merely crackers.
"We used to stock those,'' she said, sweetly, "but we kept running out, so we've stopped.''
Right then I thought: Thatcherism is doomed.
--Michael Lewis, Bloomberg, on pre-Thatcher England
In case you missed it, Nicolas Sarkozy, the new French president, has decided that the French need to become more productive. He eliminated the law forbidding work weeks longer than 35 hours, and he's making noises about changing the rule that allows unemployed Frenchmen to turn down job offers that they feel are beneath them and remain on the dole instead. ...
Sarkozy's poll numbers have plummeted. The very same middle- class, white-collar workers who elected him have taken to the streets to protest his callous disregard of the role of leisure in French life. ...
Inflicting market values upon the British circa 1980 felt a bit cruel, but visiting it upon the French circa 2008 feels almost like an unnatural act, like forcing a cat to fetch.
Their problem isn't an incapacity for selfishness, or for individual initiative. Anyone who has ever watched a middle-aged Parisian male muscle aside a pregnant lady with a baby and steal her taxi can see that the French have what it takes to succeed in the modern world. They just don't want to.
They want to take all those selfish impulses that might be directed into improving productivity and efficiency and wealth- accumulation and channel it into being ... French.
And if you want to be French -- if you want to be able to describe the smell of thyme or the sound of cicadas or simply to lounge around some tropical island in a disturbingly small bathing suit -- you need time. And not just a little time. You need so much time that when your president puts an end to a preposterous law limiting the work week to 35 hours, you think nothing of going out into the street and marching around for hours protesting.
There is also the question of competitive advantage. Most nations gain their advantage by making things more efficiently, and at lower cost, than their competitors.
To the extent that the French enjoy a natural advantage, it is in their inefficiency: They are the world's most efficient producers of structured indolence. They are the kept women of the global economy; their status depends, in part, on their practical uselessness.
Reinvent the British and you get a global finance center, edible food and better service. Reinvent the French and you may just get more Germans.
--Michael Lewis dissing the French
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
--Matt Bai, NYT Magazine, on lost opportunity
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
--Jacob Leibenluft, Slate, on why you should use revolving doors
Monday, July 28, 2008
50 minutes long in total, but well worth it. And I usually have a pretty low tolerance for any YouTube video that extends beyond 2 minutes.
The LA Times, for example, wrote:
The study also undermined the assumption -- infamously espoused by former Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers in 2005 -- that boys are more likely than girls to be math geniuses....
All of these reports and many more like them are false. In fact, consistent with many earlier studies (JSTOR), what this study found was that the ratio of male to female variance in ability was positive and significant, in other words we can expect that there will be more math geniuses and more dullards, among males than among females. I quote from the study (VR is variance ratio):
Greater male variance is indicated by VR > 1.0. All VRs, by state and grade, are >1.0 [range 1.11 to 1.21].Notice that the greater male variance is observable in the earliest data, grade 2. (In addition, higher male VRS have been noted for over a century). ...
Does this mean that discrimination is not a problem? Certainly not but we need the media and academia to accurately present the data on ability if we are to understand how large a role other issues may play.
--Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution, on what the latest study really says about differences in within-gender ability variance
Monday, July 21, 2008
--L. Gordon Crovitz, Wall Street Journal, on Chicago's honorary degree policy
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
A Christian, a Jew and Barack Obama are in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean. Barack Obama says, "This joke isn't going to work because there's no Muslim in this boat."
--Borowitz Report on Obama jokes
Sunday, July 6, 2008
“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated abuses in Iraq, declares in a powerful new report on American torture from Physicians for Human Rights. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
--Nicholas Kristof, NYT, on the need for a U.S. Truth Commission
--Father Pat Connor on what a man's friends say about him
Thursday, July 3, 2008
--Jacob Weisberg, Slate, on the refining of the Declaration of Independence
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I'm not talking about steroids. I'm talking about brain enhancers, such as Ritalin for concentration and Provigil for sleep reduction. ...
[The] really interesting comment comes from Zack Lynch, the executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization:
Neuro-competitive advantage. There's the leverage point for pushing brain boosters into the workplace. The good news is, these pills might make you more productive. The bad news is, if you don't take them, some guy in Dubai will, and he'll eat your job.
If you're GE Capital and you have offices in 154 financial centers around the planet, and these [brain-drug] tools are available in Dubai, and your workers there are trading more effectively, 5 to 10 percent better—they'll have a neuro-competitive advantage over workers where these tools are not legalized.
--William Saletan, Slate, on the pressures of "everybody else is doing it"
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
“The allergic response evolved to help expel parasites, and we think the worms have found a way of switching off the immune system in order to survive,” he said. “That’s why infected people have fewer allergic symptoms.” ...
[The] National Health Services ethics committee let him conduct a study in 2006 with 30 participants, 15 of whom received 10 hookworms each. Tests showed that after six weeks, the T-cells of the 15 worm recipients began to produce lower levels of chemicals associated with inflammatory response, indicating that their immune systems were more suppressed than those of the 15 placebo recipients. Despite playing host to small numbers of parasites, worm recipients reported little discomfort.
Trial participants raved about their allergy symptoms disappearing. Word about the study soon appeared online among chronic allergy sufferers, and a Yahoo group on “helminthic therapy” sprung up.
--Elizabeth Svoboda, NYT, on an old-school antihistamine
Saturday, June 28, 2008
On June 27, Overbye reported, again inside the Times A section, that the United States was seeking to dismiss a lawsuit by two worried citizens aimed at preventing anyone from throwing the big switch at the Large Hadron Collider. The government's principal response, I'm sorry to report, wasn't that there's no chance that switching on the Large Hadron Collider will bring about the end of the world, but rather that a six-year statute of limitations has already passed.
--Timothy Noah, Slate, on how the world could end on a legal technicality