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Wednesday assorted links

by on August 16, 2017 at 12:59 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Here is the transcript and audio (no video).

We discuss what makes Florida special, why business writing is so terrible, Eddie Murphy, whether social conservatives can be funny (in public), the weirdness of Peter Pan, how he is so productive, playing guitar with Roger McGuinn, DT, the future of comedy, and much much more.  Here is one excerpt:

COWEN: If I look at old slapstick, it doesn’t seem funny at all. Intuitively, you would think slapstick, being only physical, would have a much longer half-life. What I find funny is very culturally specific references. Now, am I strange?

BARRY: Well, not about slapstick. When I was a little guy, I maybe thought that the Three Stooges were kind of funny but that stopped a long time ago. Some physical humor is still funny to me. Abbott and Costello were pretty physical, but they were funny without being slapstick. Just hitting each other in the nose and going, “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk” never struck me as funny at all. I have forgotten the second part of your question.

On different comedians and what’s not funny anymore

COWEN: You mentioned Abbott and Costello. If you’re willing, I’ll talk about a few comedians, or mention a few, and you can tell me what you found funny with them, didn’t find funny.

Let’s start with Abbott and Costello. Favorite of my father. I’ve watched almost all the movies. As I kid, I didn’t find them funny, but I actually started to find them funny in retrospect after having watched a bit of Seinfeld and Larry David. What’s your take on Abbott and Costello?

BARRY: Yeah, I can see the connection there. It more relies on you letting it — the humor — slowly develop and the characters themselves being the humor without coming right out and saying what’s funny about it: The one who never understands what’s going on, the one who’s always losing his patience with the other one. The first, maybe, three or four times, it’s just mildly amusing. But after a while, when you see it coming, that becomes very funny to you.

It’s very rare to find that kind of patience in humor anymore. I don’t think the audience is as generous as it used to be, allowing humor to build the way it did in an Abbott and Costello sketch.

COWEN: And is Abbott or Costello funnier to you? Abbott being the straight man.

BARRY: Yeah, I think Abbott is funnier.

COWEN: I think he’s much funnier.

Most of all, I was impressed by Dave Barry as a managerial force for his own career.  Again, here is the link.

Tuesday assorted links

by on August 15, 2017 at 1:34 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

It is long, and thus below the fold… Read More →

Monday assorted links

by on August 14, 2017 at 11:47 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Sunday assorted links

by on August 13, 2017 at 1:37 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Saturday assorted links

by on August 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Does cutting the corporate income tax boost the demand for labor?

2. “By threatening to sabotage their own interests but hurt the impatient state even more, citizens can compel the state to deliver broader policy benefits. We illustrate this logic with the case of polio vaccination in northern Nigeria, where entire communities have resisted the vaccine as a strategy to bargain for more desired services.”  Link here.

3. Germans who swim to work.  And Bill Kristol will interview me Sept.13 in Chicago.  And apply to become new host of NPR’s Planet Money.

4. The quickest and slowest economics journals.

5. When the government (Venezuela) loots checked luggage.

6. Why democracy is safe in America.  And are we overrating those North Korean ICBMs?

7. Ray Dalio’s succession plan.

One in eight American adults are alcoholics.  Here are some more details:

The article by Grant et al describes substantial increases in alcohol use and related problematic behaviors that occurred between the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions evaluations in 2001-2002 and in 2012-2013. The validity of the results is underscored by the impressive methodology, which at each time applied virtually identical well-validated face-to-face interviews and analytic approaches to about 40 000 nationally representative participants 18 years and older. The concept of high-risk drinking demanded 5 drinks per occasion for men (4 for women) at least weekly, with a standard drink defined as 14 g of ethanol, and alcohol use disorders (AUDs) were defined by the DSM-IV.

The results documented substantial increases in the prevalence of past 12-month drinking, high-risk drinking, and AUDs. The largest increase related to the rate of the most serious problems, AUDs overall, which shot up by 49.4%, from 8.5% in 2001/2002 to 12.7% about a decade later. These figures are limited to the past 12-month, or current, diagnoses and do not include individuals who are in potentially temporary remissions. Respondents with lifetime but not current AUDs are also likely to carry future health care costs through enhanced vulnerabilities for cancers, cardiac disease, and other serious disorders associated with histories of heavy drinking.

The overall changes in prevalence over the decade were even greater for several population subgroups including women (an 83.7% increase in AUDs over the 11 years), African American individuals (a 92.8% increase in AUDs), individuals aged 45 years to 64 years and 65 years and older (with 81.5% and 106.7% increases in AUDs, respectively), those with only high school educations (a 57.8% increase in AUDs), and individuals with incomes less than $20 000 (a 65.9% increase in AUDs). During that same period, high-risk drinking, described using the previously mentioned criteria, increased from 9.7% to 12.6% (a change of 29.9%), with similar subgroups as reported for AUDs demonstrating the greatest increases. The proportion of drinkers increased from 65.4% to 72.7% (an enhancement of 11.2%). Similar results have been reported in other national surveys, indicating that the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions findings are not anomalies.

As noted by the authors, in 2010, the cost to society for alcohol-related problems was estimated at $250 billion per year.

That is from JAMA, hat tip goes to Anecdotal.  Is limiting alcohol use one of your main issues?  If not, why not?  And what about causes?  Here is some media coverage:

There’s no single explanation for the increase. Researchers point to economic stress in the aftermath of the Great Recession; more easily available alcohol at restaurants and retailers; and the diminished impact of alcohol taxes. As a percentage of average income, than at any point since at least 1950.

Pervasive marketing by the alcohol industry and new products such as flavored vodkas or hard lemonade and iced tea may also be driving some of the increases among women and other demographics, says Jernigan.

Of course this also has implications for future health care costs, although whether higher yearly care costs will offset lower life expectancy I do not know.  In any case, it is unlikely to boost productivity.

Friday assorted links

by on August 11, 2017 at 11:57 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The body language of Angela Merkel.

2. University of Georgia limits professorial stress reduction policies for students.

3. “1,800 toadlets an hour…

4. Why is American chess great again?

5. Josh Barro of BI.

6. How reliable are North Korean nuclear weapons?

7. From the Philip Tetlock people: “It’d be fantastic if you could share the signup link – https://www.hybridforecasting.com/ – with your readers, to whom I can promise a rare chance to work with a range of prototype human-machine hybrid forecasting systems in the experimental stage…”

Thursday assorted links

by on August 10, 2017 at 11:57 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

Alt coins may be effective hedges for at least two reasons. First, the value of the coin may depend on how well the original rules for the coin were written, or how well it is governed in the case of managed coins like Ethereum or Ripple. Those factors may be fairly independent of what’s driving returns in traditional stocks and bonds, which in turn creates an opportunity for diversification.

Under these scenarios, alt coins are primarily stores of value rather than media of exchange. There is a notable tendency for exchange media to consolidate into a dominant currency in a given geographic region. But the very large number of financial assets in the world shows that thousands of stores of value can coexist and compete without much consolidation.

Second, alt coins to some extent are used for money laundering. If you think the world might be moving toward greater authoritarianism, the demand for money laundering could go up, to evade capital controls or asset restrictions. The value of alt coins would rise in turn, and that means alt coins would provide partial insurance against this very possible but unpleasant future path.

There is much more at the link.  Overall I believe it is a mistake to focus too much on the medium of exchange function of such coins (“Can I use it in the store?  I heard there are some food trucks taking Bitcoin!”, etc.).  Instead think of them in terms of services offered.  A new coin also may back, complement, and introduce a new protocol, though I didn’t have space to cover that in the column.

A few of you have asked me about the recent Bitcoin fork, here is one technical look at the issues.

I am struck by the notion that, of the two forked assets, the old-style, slow, and “immutable” Bitcoin retained most of the market value and trading interest.  While that happened for a few reasons, I wonder if the market isn’t telling us that, at least when it comes to selecting the most dominant asset, it prefers a “rigid coin” to a coin managed by a company such as Ethereum or Ripple, or to a coin “managed” by votes and forks.  In other words, the governance problems with coins may be larger than we had thought, and voting may deepen rather than solve those problems.  The market seems to like fairly rigid constitutions.  And for all the pledges made by company-run coins, is there really no way for those companies — in their post-founder futures if not now — to pursue their own interests over those of other coin holders and users?  Since Benjamin Klein (1974) or earlier, we have known that is a classic problem with non-convertible private monies.

To what extent does the market prefer the “dogmatism” of classic Bitcoin to the discretion of private management?  Not long ago, I had edged toward the view that Ethereum and its neat properties will displace Bitcoin, but now I suspect both kinds of coins will persist.

The brilliant Matt Levine will make your head spin.

Wednesday assorted links

by on August 9, 2017 at 12:03 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Let’s cut to the chase:

1. Symphonies #1, 5,  and 7 are dominated assets, the latter two being too sprawling.  #8 is meant to be seen live, and #10 isn’t Mahler’s finished version.  #4 is attractive, but somewhat lightweight.

2. #2 requires a very good recording, my favorite is Stokowski with the London Symphony Orchestra, even though he changes the score.  If you can’t find that, try Abbado or Levine, both of those two being good default choices for Mahler.  Those two conductors are also good choices for #3, another symphony in the Mahler pantheon.

3. #6 is the most nerve-wracking and insane and requiring of full volume.  I’m still looking for the perfect recording of that one, sometimes I like Barbirolli.

4. #9 is the best music, I recommend von Karajan.

5. Pierre Boulez offers an alternative perspective on any of these symphonies, plus he has one of the very best Das Lied von der Erde recordings, that song cycle being part of the canon of essential Mahler works.

6. The quality of your listening conditions is especially important for Mahler.  And during any listen a) try to spot the Austrian folk tunes, and b) think of Mahler as one of the greatest opera conductors, including for Mozart, of his time.

7. A short piano piece by Mozart, as a palate cleaner, sounds especially good after a Mahler symphony.

That’s what you need to know.

A University of Georgia professor has adopted a “stress reduction policy” that will allow students to select their own grades if they “feel unduly stressed” by the ones they earned.

According to online course syllabi for two of Dr. Richard Watson’s fall business courses, he has introduced the policy because “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.”

Here is a bit more, but you get the idea.  On RateMyProfessor, some considered him tough.

Tuesday assorted links

by on August 8, 2017 at 11:52 am in Uncategorized | Permalink