Sunday, January 31, 2010

At home but not

All the airports kind of feel and look the same now. Some are more beautiful, some are less beautiful, but for the most part you’re going to find a Starbucks in every airport. You’re going to get your coffee and the USA Today or New York Times in every airport. All the things that you want are there, so you can land anywhere, and you feel at home. You’re given the sense that you’re everywhere, but you’re nowhere; that you are constantly with your community, yet you have no community. There’s kind of a terrific irony to that.
--Jason Reitman, director of Up in the Air, on the false community airports offer

Steve Jobs declares war

We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them. ... This don’t be evil mantra: “It’s bull****.”
--Steve Jobs on Google

They are lazy. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. ... Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash. The world is moving to HTML5.
--Steve Jobs on Adobe

HT: MacRumors

A dangerous thing you should let your children do

--Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler, Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). HT: Boing Boing and Kris-Stella Trump

Imitating the high type

I can cry like Roger. It’s just a shame I can’t play like him.
--Andy Murray, in tears, on being dusted by Roger Federer in the 2010 Australian Open final

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nothing but long tail

The dirty secret of the Billboard classical charts is that album sales figures are so low, the charts are almost meaningless. Sales of 200 or 300 units are enough to land an album in the top 10. ...

A leaked copy of the SoundScan figures for a single week from the fall tells an equally sad tale. In early October, pianist Murray Perahia's much-praised album of Bach partitas was in its sixth week on the list, holding strong at No. 10. It sold 189 copies. No. 25, the debut of the young violinist Caroline Goulding, in its third week, sold 75 copies.
--Anne Midgette, Washington Post, on the small classical pond. HT: Marginal Revolution

We can't solve our problems at home, so...

In one small step for preservation and one giant leap of logic, the official historical commission of California voted Friday to protect two small urine collection devices, four space-sickness bags and dozens of other pieces of detritus, all currently residing nearly a quarter of a million miles from the state [on the Moon].

This is not a joke. I repeat, Houston, not a joke. ...

“I think there’s a threat from private companies,” [state historic preservation office Milford Wayne] Donaldson said. “And with today’s technology, they could probably pinpoint this.”

That said, Mr. Donaldson admitted that there were no “space cops” available to safeguard the state’s newest historical resource. But, like the Apollo astronauts themselves, he seemed optimistic that Friday’s vote might lead to bigger and better things.
--Jesse McKinley, NYT, on California's extraterrestrial jurisdiction. If California state university officials have the power to end wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, then why not?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sheltered by Mother Harvard

My entire adult life has been lived at Lowell House - except for the year I was at Oxford.
--Overheard by CS at Burdick Chocolate Cafe in Cambridge, MA

i'm so glad I wrote that down word for word so it could be quoted far and wide. The guy speaking was about 34, I'd say...

Why isn't household finance more academically prominent?

Consumer finance is the study of how institutions provide goods and services to satisfy the financial functions of households, how consumers make financial decisions, and how government action affects the provision of financial services. ...

Corporations are central to financial economics. Surely, businesses produce goods and services, and provide employment. Yet in sheer size, the household sector dominates the corporate sector. ...

Recent economic events have demonstrated the importance of the consumer sector to the economy. ... Some finance academics argue that the field of finance is defined by whether the activity affects asset prices. Even by this narrow definition, consumer finance deserves a prominent place in the field of financial economics and in business schools. Curiously, it has a remarkably small footprint in both, and as [John] Campbell notes, suffers from lack of status. Why? ...

It may be that our current state of research and teaching reflects a century-old split that left consumer and business topics separated by gender and geography. Elite urban universities emphasized businesses and prepared men to lead them; rural land-grant universities studied households and prepared women to lead them. In essence, the study of consumers’ financial needs was subsumed under the field of home economics or consumer science, which was, and still is, divorced from mainstream economics and business. ...

Nearly a century later, this schism still largely persists. What we call consumer finance is most often studied in consumer science programs, not in business schools or economics departments. ...

Scholars from these two worlds rarely interact. Their conferences are distinct, and their journals are quite separate. Furthermore, to this day, the ratio of men to women faculty members in these respective programs, as measured by their professional associations, continues to reflect their history. Male faculty members comprise between 83% and 89% of finance departments at the top 20 business schools, as measured by membership in the AFA. In consumer science programs, women dominate, comprising 62% of faculty in the top 10 most active departments, and 84% of the American Association of Family and Consumer Science’s Higher Education Unit. Land-grant universities continue to be a dominant force in this field.
--Peter Tufano, Annual Review of Financial Economics, on why all business schools teach asset pricing and corporate finance, but few teach household finance

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse

Presidential candidate John Edwards' former mistress has gone to court to suppress "a personal video recording that depicted matters of a very private and personal nature."

Rielle Hunter's bid for a temporary restraining order to prohibit Andrew and Cheri Young from possessing and distributing certain photos and videos comes as Young, also a former Edwards aide, details what he believes is a sex tape involving Edwards and Hunter.
--James Hill, Teri Whitcraft, Nadine Shubailat, and Lauren Sher, ABC News, on John Edwards mining new depths of low

The political power of economic collapse

After a complete economic collapse, inflation [in Zimbabwe] last year about this time had reached 230 million percent; GDP "growth" was negative in all senses of the word. It was in this nasty environment that the new finance minister, Tendai Biti, came along and began what few would argue is the hardest job in the world.

Now less than a year later, he was in Washington to tally the progress (and damn, Milton Friedman would be proud...)

- Inflation is completely gone, thanks to the abolition of the Zimbabwean currency in favor of a basket of other notes (including the dollar and the South African Rand). The highest rate seen in 2009 was a slim 1 percent. ...

- GDP growth this year was probably around 4 percent; Biti expects 6 percent in 2010. ...

Biti has an interesting theory about this. The collapse of the economy, he said today at a Freedom House event, was in fact the reason why President Robert Mugabe's government finally had to accept the power-sharing agreement in the first place. "Everything else they could deal with -- the opposition, they could beat us up," he said, "but you cannot implement violence against the economy."
--Elizabeth Dickinson, Passport, on forces beyond any despot's power of fiat. HT: Chris Blattman

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tablets across the millennia

Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.
--Martin Peers, WSJ, on the iPad when it was still a rumor

Newsday and the pay wall

In late October, Newsday, the Long Island daily that the Dolans bought for $650 million, put its web site,, behind a pay wall. The paper was one of the first non-business newspapers to take the plunge by putting up a pay wall, so in media circles it has been followed with interest. Could its fate be a sign of what others, including The New York Times, might expect?

So, three months later, how many people have signed up to pay $5 a week, or $260 a year, to get unfettered access to

The answer: 35 people. As in fewer than three dozen. As in a decent-sized elementary-school class. ...

The web site redesign and relaunch cost the Dolans $4 million, according to Mr. Jimenez. With those 35 people, they've grossed about $9,000.

In that time, without question, web traffic has begun to plummet, and, certainly, advertising will follow as well. ...

[Newday publisher Terry] Jimenez was in no mood to apologize. "That's 35 more than I would have thought it would have been," said Mr. Jimenez to the assembled staff, according to five interviews with Newsday staffers.
--John Koblin, New York Observer, on the price elasticity of demand for Newsday. HT: Mike E. Lee

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The ant on the elephant

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs, and for increases no greater than inflation after that, an initiative intended to signal his seriousness about cutting the budget deficit, administration officials said Monday. ...

The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time. ...

Administration officials also are working with Congress on roughly $150 billion in additional stimulus spending and tax cuts to spur job creation. But much of that spending would be authorized in the current fiscal year, the officials said, so it would not be affected by the proposed freeze that would take effect in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
--Jackie Calmes, NYT, on weak signals

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nudging the leviathan

Since Ronald Reagan tried and failed to purge Washington of wasteful spending, nearly every major attempt at reforming the way our government does business has found itself where the Democratic health care bill is now — losing altitude, shedding supporters and tailspinning toward defeat.

If the legislation fails, liberals will have a long list of scapegoats. ...

But they might want to save some blame for the welfare state their predecessors built.

Under Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, liberals created a federal leviathan that taxes, regulates and redistributes across every walk of American life. In the process, though, they bound the hands of future generations of reformers. Programs became entrenched. Bureaucracies proliferated. Subsidies became “entitlements,” tax breaks became part of the informal social contract. And our government was transformed, slowly but irreversibly, into a “large, incoherent, often incomprehensible mass that is solicitous of its clients but impervious to any broad, coherent program of reform.” ...

[Jonathan Rauch] suggests that sweeping reforms are difficult because we’re all special interests, in one sense or another. We all benefit from something (or many things) the government does, and so we all have an incentive to resist dramatic changes to the way Washington spends money. ...

None of this means that government cannot be reformed. Rauch’s book does not counsel despair. Rather, it counsels modesty, simplicity and incrementalism in legislative efforts. You can make big changes to small programs, and small changes to big ones. But comprehensive solutions tend to produce comprehensive resistance. And the more sweeping the stakes, the greater the chance of political disaster — whether your name is Clinton or Gingrich, Bush or Obama — when your bill goes down to defeat.
--Ross Douthat, NYT, on why revolutionizing government is so difficult

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Best save-the-date ever

Checklists for everybody but me

Doctors often overlook or omit steps in the multitude of tasks we perform every day. As Atul Gawande argues in “The Checklist Manifesto,” these are situations where a simple to-do list could help. ...

Doctors resist checklists because we want to believe our profession is as much an art as a science. When Gawande surveyed members of the staff at eight hospitals about a checklist developed by his research team that nearly halved the number of surgical deaths, 20 percent said they thought it wasn’t easy to use and did not improve safety. But when asked whether they would want the checklist used if they were having an operation, 93 percent said yes.
--Sandeep Jauhar, NYT, on doctor exceptionalism

Friday, January 22, 2010

Chess, artificial intelligence, and human intelligence

The AI crowd, too, was pleased with the result and the attention [created by supercomputer Deep Blue's defeat of world chess champion Garry Kasparov], but dismayed by the fact that Deep Blue was hardly what their predecessors had imagined decades earlier when they dreamed of creating a machine to defeat the world chess champion. Instead of a computer that thought and played chess like a human, with human creativity and intuition, they got one that played like a machine, systematically evaluating 200 million possible moves on the chess board per second and winning with brute number-crunching force. ...

It was an impressive achievement, of course, and a human achievement by the members of the IBM team, but Deep Blue was only intelligent the way your programmable alarm clock is intelligent. Not that losing to a $10 million alarm clock made me feel any better. ...

In what Rasskin-Gutman explains as Moravec's Paradox, in chess, as in so many things, what computers are good at is where humans are weak, and vice versa. This gave me an idea for an experiment. What if instead of human versus machine we played as partners? ...

In 2005, the online chess-playing site hosted what it called a "freestyle" chess tournament in which anyone could compete in teams with other players or computers. ...

The surprise came at the conclusion of the event. The winner was revealed to be not a grandmaster with a state-of-the-art PC but a pair of amateur American chess players using three computers at the same time. Their skill at manipulating and "coaching" their computers to look very deeply into positions effectively counteracted the superior chess understanding of their grandmaster opponents and the greater computational power of other participants. Weak human + machine + better process was superior to a strong computer alone and, more remarkably, superior to a strong human + machine + inferior process.
--Garry Kasparov, New York Review of Books, on machine-augmented intelligence. HT: Marginal Revolution

Human bed warmers

International hotel chain Holiday Inn is offering a trial human bed-warming service at three hotels in Britain this month.

If requested, a willing staff-member at two of the chain's London hotels and one in the northern English city of Manchester will dress in an all-in-one fleece sleeper suit before slipping between the sheets. ...

Holiday Inn said the warmer would be fully dressed and leave the bed before the guest occupied it. They could not confirm if the warmer would shower first, but said hair would be covered.

Florence Eavis, Holiday Inn spokeswoman told Reuters that the "innovative" bed-warming method was a response to Britain's recent cold weather and marked the launch of 3,200 new Holiday Inns worldwide.

She could not explain why the beds were not being warmed by hot water bottles or electric-blankets, but admitted the human method was quirky.
--Reuters on creepy hotel services

Institute for Unethical Studies

I just tweeted out something about how I was considering starting an institute for unethical studies, and is anyone interested in participating. And loads of people got back to me and said, “Oh yeah! Let me know what you’re doing.” Because today it’s so hard to get anything past the ethics boards, compared to the good old days, when you could just electrocute people and call it science. You can hardly do anything these days!
--Richard Wiseman, Freakonomics, on those pesky IRBs

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Money talks on late-night TV

Conan's show sucked at 11:35. That's the reason the ratings were down — not because of his lead-ins. What's Jon Stewart's lead-in? What's SNL's lead-in? Conan did a watered-down, toothless version of his 12:35 show, and even his die-hard fans weren't crazy about it. These are the facts. Only after they canned him did he show flashes of the old Conan again. ...

Look, it's television. His job was to deliver ratings and revenue; he lost nearly 50 percent of Leno's 11:35 audience in six months, but took none of the blame and made no effort to fix his show. This wasn't his fault? ...

Leno's 11:35 show made $35–40 million profit for NBC; Conan's show was on pace to lose $5 million and had zero critical buzz. So it was a big deal, I think; look at where Conan was five years ago and where he is now. It's one of the biggest falls in TV history. NBC paid $43 million to get rid of him! It was the TV version of the Knicks buying out Stephon Marbury last year, only without tattoos, Kathleen Decker, and a truck party.
--Bill Simmons, New York, on why NBC was right to axe Conan

A private fat tax

Obese passengers [on Air France] who don't reserve a second seat may not be allowed to board, at the captain's discretion and if there is not an unoccupied adjoining seat.

"It's a question of security," spokesman Nicolas Petteau said.
--Associated Press on security as an alibi for anything air-travel related. Remember when they used to say that economy class customers couldn't use the business class lavatory for "security" reasons? They seem to have dropped that canard now. HT: Alex Tsai

Pack heat to protect checked luggage

Many travelers fear that someone will rifle through their checked luggage and steal their valuable items. ... In fact, there may be reason for concern. More than 400 TSA officers have been fired for theft since early 2003. Every year, the agency pays out about $1 million in claims for missing possessions or damaged bags.

There may be a creative solution to the problem, though, for domestic flights. Pack a weapon with your valuables. Once you include a firearm, your case is super-duper-locked and receives heightened scrutiny until reaching your destination. ...

So here's the idea: Buy a starter pistol for around $16. Be sure the firearm is not loaded, of course. Put it in a secure, hard-sided case (from $99) along with your most precious camera, jewelry or other item. Read the TSA instructions on traveling with firearms in checked luggage. Go to the airport for a domestic flight. Declare the weapon at the check-in counter. They'll check it and give it priority care during transport.
--Sean O'Neill, Budget Travel, on making heightened security work for you. HT: Alex Tsai

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cramdown vs. modesty

Gail Collins: I only have one thought, which is that the Democrats should pass the health care bill now. If that means having the House pass the Senate version, fine. Even the stupid parts. Even the part about how Nebraska doesn’t have to pay its share of the Medicaid bills, which is so ridiculous that even Nebraskans are embarrassed.

They can fix it later. Or take the money out of the ethanol subsidies. ...

David Brooks: Gail, first, let me give you a hypothetical. Let’s say we had a year-long debate in the run-up to the Iraq war. Let’s say at the end of that debate, 33 percent of Americans thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq, 46 percent thought it was a bad idea and the rest weren’t sure. Then let’s say that there were a bunch of elections in places like New Jersey and Virginia in the middle of this debate and George Bush’s party lost them all badly. Let’s say at the end of this debate there was a senate race in Wyoming in which a Democratic candidate made preventing the war a central plank in his campaign. Let’s say Bush went out to Wyoming and told voters they had to support the Republican to save the Iraq invasion. And let’s say the Democrat still went on to win that Wyoming Senate seat by more than 5 percentage points.

Would you have advised George Bush under these circumstances to go ahead and invade Iraq? Would you have advised him to call a special lame duck session of Congress to push through a war resolution before the new senator could be seated? Would you have advised him to invent some legislative trick so he could still have his invasion? Or would you have said, George, I know you really want to invade Iraq. I know you think an invasion will do a lot of good for the world. But the American people are pretty clear about this issue. Maybe you should show a little doubt. Maybe you ought to listen and give this whole thing a second look. ...

If the Democrats act like the country hasn’t voiced a judgment, if they try to ram this through, there will be an explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen. It will be a supreme act of insularity.
--Opinionator, New York Times, on the political suicide of cramming the healthcare bill through before Scott Brown is seated as Senator

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Let's give unions tax subsidies

According to a labor source familiar with the talks, the agreement [between the White House and labor leaders] calls for a 40 percent tax surtax on [health insurance] policies that cost more than $24,000 for family coverage and $8,900 for individuals... Health plans negotiated on behalf of state and local workers, or as part of collective-bargaining agreements, would be exempt for five years after the 2013 effective date...
--Lori Montgomery and Michael Shear, Washington Post, on the health care bill sausage getting made

Forgetting the Lucas critique

For nearly a decade, three industrial and organizational psychologists from the United States and Europe followed more than 600 medical students in Belgium, where premedical and medical school curriculums are combined into a single seven-year program.

At the start of the study, the researchers administered a standardized personality test...

The investigators found that the results of the personality test had a striking correlation with the students’ performance. Neuroticism, or an individual’s likelihood of becoming emotionally upset, was a constant predictor of a student’s poor academic performance and even attrition. Being conscientious, on the other hand, was a particularly important predictor of success throughout medical school. And the importance of openness and agreeableness increased over time, though neither did as significantly as extraversion. Extraverts invariably struggled early on but ended up excelling as their training entailed less time in the classroom and more time with patients. ...

By using standardized assessments of personality, a medical school admissions committee can get a better sense of how a candidate stands relative to others. ... While standardized tests like the MCAT and the SAT have been criticized for putting certain population groups at a disadvantage, the particular personality test used in this study has been shown to work consistently across different cultures and backgrounds. “This test shows virtually none or very tiny differences between different ethnic or minority groups,” [study author, psychology professor Deniz] Ones noted. Because of this reliability, the test is a potentially invaluable adjunct to more traditional knowledge-based testing. “It could work as an additional predictive tool in the system,” she said.
--Pauline Chen, NYT, on forgetting that it's really easy to fake conscientiousness on a multiple choice personality test. That historical correlation between personality test results and performance would rapidly disappear if the tests were used to make actual admission decisions, courtesy of Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2-year-old terrorists

The first time [eight-year-old Mikey Hicks] was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried.

After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this year’s vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home. ...

It is true that Mikey is not on the federal government’s “no-fly” list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger “selectee” list, which sets off a high level of security screening.

At some point, someone named Michael Hicks made the Department of Homeland Security suspicious, and little Mikey is still paying the price. ...

Several Web sites, including the T.S.A.’s own blog, are rife with tales of misidentification and strategies for solving them. Some travelers purposely misspell their own names when buying tickets, apparently enough to fool the system. Even the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy once found himself on a list. ...

Mrs. Hicks said the family was amused by the mistake at first. But that amusement quickly turned to annoyance and anger. It should not take seven years to correct the problem, Mrs. Hicks said.
--Lizette Alvarez, NYT, on the TSA bringing Kafka to life

What is gardening doing in our curriculum?

Imagine that as a young and desperately poor Mexican man, you had made the dangerous and illegal journey to California to work in the fields with other migrants. There, you performed stoop labor, picking lettuce and bell peppers and table grapes; what made such an existence bearable was the dream of a better life. You met a woman and had a child with her, and because that child was born in the U.S., he was made a citizen of this great country. He will lead a life entirely different from yours; he will be educated. Now that child is about to begin middle school in the American city whose name is synonymous with higher learning, as it is the home of one of the greatest universities in the world: Berkeley. On the first day of sixth grade, the boy walks though the imposing double doors of his new school, stows his backpack, and then heads out to the field, where he stoops under a hot sun and begins to pick lettuce. ...

The Edible Schoolyard program was born when [Alice] Waters noticed a barren lot next to the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley. ... Waters offered to build a garden and help create a curriculum to go along with it.

An Aztec dance troupe performed on the day the first cover crop was planted (imagine it as a set piece for The White Man Calls It Romaine), and soon the exciting garden had made its influence felt across the disciplines. In English class students composed recipes, in math they measured the garden beds, and in history they ground corn as a way of studying pre-Columbian civilizations. Students’ grades quickly improved at King, which makes sense given that a recipe is much easier to write than a coherent paragraph on The Crucible. ...

[B]y 2002, 2,000 of the state’s 9,000 schools had a garden, and by 2008 that number had risen to 3,849, and it continues to grow. ...

I have spent many hours poring over the endless research on the positive effects of garden curricula, and in all that time, I have yet to find a single study that suggests classroom gardens help students meet the state standards for English and math. ... We should remember, by the way, that the California high-school exit exam, which so many are failing, is hardly onerous: it requires a mastery of eighth-grade math (students need to score a mere 55 percent on that portion of the test) and 10th-grade English language and composition (on which they need to score 60 percent or higher). And so I would say this to our state’s new child farm laborers: ¡Huelga! Strike!
--Caitlin Flanagan, Atlantic Monthly, on less gardening, more studying

Bathroom humor from CES 2010

--From Engadget's CES 2010 behind the scenes gallery

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Headline of the day

Skywalkers in Korea Cross Han Solo
--Headline for Bo-Mi Lim's Associated Press article on high-wire walkers across the Han River. HT: Jenny 8. Lee

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Staying on message

What questions do you have for my answers?
--Henry Kissinger on how he handled media questions

Dead minority candidate walking

Pete Carroll has reached an agreement in principle with the Seahawks on a deal to be their next head coach, multiple NFL sources confirmed early Saturday morning....

The hangup could be locating a candidate to interview that would put the Seahawks in compliance with the [Rooney] rule, which requires teams to interview a minority candidate for head-coaching hires.
--Adam Schefter,, on the search for a sacrificial token minority candidate

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rainy day interview blues

We analyzed the results of consecutive medical school interviews at the University of Toronto between 2004 and 2009. ... A total of 2926 candidates were interviewed over the 6-year period. ... Overall, those interviewed on rainy days received about a 1% lower score than those interviewed on sunny days (average score 16.31 v. 16.49, p = 0.042). ... The difference in scores was equivalent to about a 10% lower total mark on the Medical College Admission Test.
--Donald Redelmeier and Simon Baxter, Canadian Medical Association Journal, on Asian parental dreams getting derailed by the weather. HT: Freakonomics

Nothing new under the sun

We’re wired to be protective of our young, so it will always be much easier to convince people that children are at risk than to argue otherwise. That’s why these moral panics rage through the country at regular intervals. In the 20th century alone, marijuana, rock music, Dungeons & Dragons, Satanic cults, and first-person shooters have all seized the minds of American parents. And yet each successive generation graduated to adulthood largely undecimated.
--Jesse Singal, Boston Globe, on why we should refrain from hysteria over sexting. On the other hand, see this.

Are you a New Yorker at heart?

Here are three questions to ask yourself. You need to answer yes to at least two in order to be a good fit in NYC.

1. Are you a maximizer?

Optimizers are people who are always looking for the best of everything. ... New Yorkers skew heavily to strong maximizers.

This is because you can find pretty much the best of everything in NYC. ...

I know you have heard that NYC is expensive. But you will never really know how insanely expensive it is until you live there.It’s like having children. Everyone will tell you having kids is really, really hard. Harder than anything they’ve ever done. And everyone will also say that after all those warnings, they still were not prepared for how hard it was when the baby came. This is what money is like in NYC – you absolutely cannot imagine how expensive it is there until you are there, living day to day.

So New Yorkers constantly have to ask themselves: What am I paying so much for? What am I suffering so much for? Life in NYC is very hard (here's funny commentary on that), and if you go to any city in the US, there is a bond that ex-New Yorkers have because they know they each understand how hard life was.

I say this to tell you that the only way to justify the cost and hardship of NYC is because you’re an optimizer. ...

2. Do you want to be at the top of your field (or marry someone like that)?

In many cases, people have to work in NYC in order to rise to the top in their field. (Or, they want to marry someone like this – NYC is a very competitive place to find a husband but only because women recognize that the pickings are superior: Maximizing knows no bounds.) ...

But the truth is that NYC is very, very competitive, because it's a magnet for ambitious, strong performers, and if you are not in the top, you will probably not do very well there. So if you do not go to NYC thinking you will work your way to the top of your field, you probably don’t need to be going there for your work. ...

3. Do you value an interesting life over happy life?

New Yorkers are not known for being happy. In fact, they are known for being unhappy, and they don’t care.

On balance, New Yorkers understand that most people who are happy are complacent – they like the status quo. And people who like what they have do not do innovative things to change the world. ...

What you really pay for with the exorbitant cost of living and the hard lifestyle is to be surrounded by strong performers, huge ambitions, and constant need for change and innovation. To live in New York City, you have to trade happiness for this. To most New Yorkers, it’s a no-brainer. They would take that trade any day. To most people outside of New York City the trade-off is crazy.
--Penelope Trunk, Brazen Careerist, on the costs and benefits of New York City

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Previously unknown in China

While at [Yale] SOM, [Lei Zhang] worked for David Swensen at the Yale Investments Office. He translated Swensen’s Pioneering Portfolio Management into Chinese, a task that required him to create Chinese words for "fiduciary" and "endowment." ...

Zhang, raised in Central China, placed first out of 100,000 students in his province for the national university entrance exam.
--Yale Office of Public Affairs on Lei Zhang, Yale SOM class of 2002, and recent donor of $8,888,888 to Yale

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Service" animals

San Francisco has become a city filled with "service animals," meaning the owner has a permit that allows him or her to take their dog, cat, or snake (seriously) into restaurants, libraries, and often even rental properties that don't allow pets. In 2004 the city's Animal Care and Control Department issued 244 permits. In 2008 the number was 500, and interim director Rebecca Katz speculates that 2009 numbers are at least as high. ...

The [Americans with Disabilities Act] legislation, enacted in 1990, is so vague that it has created two classes of service animals. ...

The problem is the second classification - emotional support animals. All animals - lizards, chickens and snakes - have been designated service animals because they lend emotional support to the owner. In most cases they have no task-specific training. ...

It is terrific that your hamster makes you feel better, but you shouldn't get to take him on the bus.
--C.W. Nevius, San Francisco Chronicle, on broad definitions of service. HT: Alex Tsai

Friday, January 1, 2010

How to fight antibiotic resistant staph

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria [Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus areus (MRSA)]. But Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics. ...

"We don't throw antibiotics at every person with a fever. We tell them to hang on, wait and see, and we give them a Tylenol to feel better," says [Dr. John Birger] Haug. ...

In Norway, MRSA has accounted for less than 1 percent of staph infections for years. That compares to 80 percent in Japan, the world leader in MRSA; 44 percent in Israel; and 38 percent in Greece. ...

But can Norway's program really work elsewhere? ...

[English doctor Lynne Liebowitz] turned Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn into a petri dish, asking doctors to almost completely stop using two antibiotics known for provoking MRSA infections.

One month later, the results were in: MRSA rates were tumbling. And they've continued to plummet. Five years ago, the hospital had 47 MRSA bloodstream infections. This year they've had one. ...

So far she has replicated her experiment at four other hospitals, all with the same dramatic results.
--Martha Mendoza and Margie Mason, Associated Press, on not taking antibiotics for the sniffles