Nonetheless it is worth reading.  From Tim Redmond, here is one bit:

…let’s remember: San Francisco is already by far the densest city West of the Mississippi, and third in the entire country…

And another:

Seriously: If you take the city’s own studies, which show that every 100 units of market-rate housing create a demand for 30 units of low-income housing (because new rich residents want people to serve them coffee and fine wines and clean their clothes and their toilets and provide security etc., and those new jobs mean new people who need places to live), then any high-end housing that isn’t 30 percent affordable is making the crisis worse. Got that? When you are in a hole, stop digging. If you’re in a crisis, don’t make it worse. And right now, building luxury housing is a net loser for the city.

The same goes for Muni. It costs the city far more to serve new housing than the new housing pays. Which means every time the rest of us pay higher fares for Muni, we are in effect subsidizing market-rate housing developers.

And yet another:

Please: Show me any evidence, any credible evidence at all, that allowing the private market to build, baby, build in San Francisco today (without demolishing hundreds of thousands of rent-controlled units and creating a city like Manhattan or Hong Kong without the social housing, that none of us want to live in) will actually bring down rents and allow the middle class to stay, and I will listen. But as far as I can tell, that evidence doesn’t exist.

In contrast I would stress that we need to count the welfare of the in-migrants.  But I nonetheless hope that market urbanism can do a better job outlining how cheaper housing might be expected to come to San Francisco, and with which complementary regulations if any.

On the limits of restrictive housing policy in San Francisco, this NYT story is also worth reading:

The Chamber of Commerce and the tourist board are calling for harsher measures to improve what is euphemistically called the “condition of the streets,” a term that encompasses the intractable homeless problem, public intravenous drug use, the large population of mentally ill people on the streets and aggressive panhandling. The chamber recently released the results of an opinion poll that showed that homelessness and “street behavior” were the primary concerns of residents here.

It’s funny but also sad how many people attacked me when I predicted this in my book Average is Over:

Visitors come to bask in the Mediterranean climate, stroll through the charming streets and marvel at the sweeping views of the bay and the Pacific. But alongside those views are tent encampments on sidewalks and rag-covered homeless people in front of some of the most expensive real estate in America.

Property crime is up more than sixty percent since 2010.

I say they eventually get cleared out, but to where?  Here is my previous post on market urbanism and whether it is overrated.

Monday assorted links

by on April 25, 2016 at 1:56 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

The female coyote nurses the pups after they are born, yet they are hard to feed and the mother is not in ideal condition for hunting.  She therefore regurgitates her food regularly for the pups, and furthermore the biological father brings food too.  And yet:

Dogs have evolved a different parental strategy.  Human waste tends to show up at the same place daily and so the dogs, as we have noted, have very low transportation and acquisition costs.

The pregnant female village dog can stay by her food source all through pregnancy and lactation.  She can locate her den in the middle of the food source.  frequently, she goes to some quiet place outside the village (but not too far outside).  There are many quiet places in the Mexico City dump.  All over the dump are fat nursing pups.

Regurgitation is occasional rather than regular, and the father is absent altogether.  In evolutionary terms, it seems that is the result of cooperation with humans.

That is all from the new and excellent book What is a Dog?, by Raymond Coppinger and Lorna Coppinger.  The best parts of this book draw inferences from what is observed in Mexican town dumps.

Here is the transcript, the video, and the podcast.  We covered a good deal of ground, here is one bit:

COWEN: You once wrote, I quote, “My substitute for LSD was Indian food,” and by that, you meant lamb vindaloo.


COWEN: You stand by this.

PAGLIA: Yes, I’ve been in a rut on lamb vindaloo.

COWEN: A rut, tell us.

PAGLIA: It’s a horrible rut.

COWEN: It’s not a horrible rut, it may be a rut.

PAGLIA: No, it’s a horrible rut. It’s a 40-year rut. Every time I go to an Indian restaurant, I say “Now, I’m going to try something new.” But, no, I must go back to the lamb vindaloo.

All I know is it’s like an ecstasy for me, the lamb vindaloo.

COWEN: Like De Quincey, tell us, what are the effects of lamb vindaloo?

PAGLIA: What can I say? I attain nirvana.

And this:

COWEN: This is Sexual Personae, your best known book, which I recommend to everyone, if you haven’t already read it.

PAGLIA: It took 20 years.

COWEN: Read all of it. My favorite chapter is the Edmund Spenser chapter, by the way.

PAGLIA: Really? Why? How strange.

COWEN: That brought Spenser to life for me.

PAGLIA: Oh, my goodness.

COWEN: I realized it was a wonderful book.

PAGLIA: Oh, my God.

COWEN: I had no idea. I thought of it as old and fusty and stuffy.

PAGLIA: Oh, yes.

COWEN: And 100 percent because of you.

PAGLIA: We should tell them that The Faerie Queene is quite forgotten now, but it had enormous impact, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, on Shakespeare, and on the Romantic poets, and so on, and so forth. The Faerie Queene had been taught in this very moralistic way. But in my chapter, I showed that it was entirely a work of pornography, equal to the Marquis de Sade.

COWEN: [laughs]

PAGLIA: How interesting that you would be drawn to that.

COWEN: Very interesting.


You also can read or hear Camille on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Byrds, Foucault, Suzanne Pleshette vs. Tippi Hendren, dating, Brazil, Silicon Valley, Harold Bloom, LSD, her teaching career, and much, much more.

Typically a Conversation with Tyler is about ten thousand words, this one is closer to fifteen thousand.

James Crabtree directs our attention to this symbol at Nanyang Technological University:


That is in fact the motto of their School of International Studies.  Right now the Singaporean improbable is deflation for seventeen consecutive months, let’s hope for better news on that front.

Apps vs. bots

by on April 25, 2016 at 12:49 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

By Dan Grover, this is a consistently fun and stimulating piece, and it also comes out in favor of China’s WeChat.  Here is one excerpt:

QR Codes — When I left the US, QR codes were a joke. Putting them on things was a way to tell people you’re a douche, like using lots of hashtags or wearing a Bluetooth headset. They were once this way in China, too, until WeChat doubled-down on them. Now, they’re used for people, group chats, brands, payments, login, and more. They’re in plenty of other apps as well. In a place where everyone has adopted them and knows how to scan them, they’ve become a wonderful, fast way to link the offline and online worlds that saves untold amounts of time. But they have a few downsides. One is that they look like robot barf. The other is that, at least here, if you scan a code in the wrong app, you’ll get a webpage telling you to go install the right app, if not something totally inscrutable. Something that was once defined as an open standard is now non-inoperable. I predict great things for Facebook and Snapchat’s de-uglified take on QR codes. Still, I wish my phone’s OS could scan any such code (or detect them in photos) and do the right thing, but it seems the window of opportunity has passed for this.

And this:

I want the first tab of my OS’s home screen to be a central inbox half as good as my chat app’s inbox. It want it to incorporate all my messengers, emails, news subscriptions, and notifications and give me as great a degree of control in managing it. No more red dots spattered everywhere, no swiping up to see missed notifications. Make them a bit richer and better-integrated with their originating apps. Make them expire and sync between my devices as appropriate. Just fan it all out in front of me and give me a few simple ways to tame them. I’ll spend most of my day on that page, and when I need to go launch Calculator or Infinity Blade, I’ll swipe over. Serve me a tasty info burrito as my main course instead of a series of nachos.

Recommended, including for those of you who don’t see the Chinese as innovators.

Sunday assorted links

by on April 24, 2016 at 12:10 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

It offers many interesting facts and angles (pdf here).  Here is one instructive paragraph of note:

Relative to other factors, rising prison admission rates have been the most important contributor to the increase in incarceration. Raphael and Stoll (2013b) decompose the growth in the prison population into changes in crime rates, prison admissions and time served. If criminal justice policies remained the same as they were in 1984, State imprisonment rates would have actually 20 declined by 7 percent by 2004, given falling crime rates. Instead, State prison rates increased by over 125 percent. After accounting for falling crime rates, over two-thirds of this increase was attributable to rising prison admission rates, and 14 percent to increases in time served. In Federal prisons, longer sentences and rising admissions rates have been equally important, each accounting for approximately 20 percent of the growth in the Federal prison rate that is not due to changes in crime…

That is from pp.19-20.  Here is a related post from last year.

Balázs Bodó has a 2015 paper, “Libraries in the post-scarcity era,” here is the abstract:

In the digital era where, thanks to the ubiquity of electronic copies, the book is no longer a scarce resource, libraries find themselves in an extremely competitive environment. Several different actors are now in a position to provide low cost access to knowledge. One of these competitors are shadow libraries – piratical text collections which have now amassed electronic copies of millions of copyrighted works and provide access to them usually free of charge to anyone around the globe. While such shadow libraries are far from being universal, they are able to offer certain services better, to more people and under more favorable terms than most public or research libraries. This contribution offers insights into the development and the inner workings of one of the biggest scientific shadow libraries on the internet in order to understand what kind of library people create for themselves if they have the means and if they don’t have to abide by the legal, bureaucratic and economic constraints that libraries usually face. I argue that one of the many possible futures of the library is hidden in the shadows, and those who think of the future of libraries can learn a lot from book pirates of the 21st century about how users and readers expect texts in electronic form to be stored, organized and circulated.

Much of the paper focuses on what we learn from the competitive, digital, “guerrilla” libraries of Russia — most of all Aleph — with respect to what users really want; this is a striking and original piece.

For the pointer I thank Michael Rosenwald.

SolidOpinion leaves the bulk of the comments section to operate as it always has, but it adds three slots at the top for “promoted comments,” which can be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Publishers have the option of using SolidOpinion’s software to moderate all their comments. The startup’s service is free to use, but it takes a cut of all cash transactions.

…Last year, Tablet magazine, a New York-based Jewish publication, started charging people to post any comment on its website. Readers can pay $2 a day, $18 a month, or $180 a year. Alana Newhouse, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, said she was sick of anonymous commenters haranguing her writers but wanted to leave an option for people willing to prove their good intentions by making what amounts to a donation.

The result has been far fewer comments, but Newhouse doesn’t mind.

Here is the Joshua Brustein Bloomberg story, no comments allowed.

The pointer is through Ted Gioia, don’t forget his new and excellent book How to Listen to Jazz.

Saturday assorted links

by on April 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

Here is a very good point:

…the importance of maps to the self-driving market is another reason that car companies may struggle to remain market leaders as the industry shifts to fully autonomous technologies. Google, Apple, and Uber have a lot of experience collecting, analyzing, and distributing vast quantities of fast-changing geographic data. Ford, GM, and Toyota don’t.

The rest of the analysis by Timothy B. Lee is interesting as well.

Larry Summers says it is worth a rethink:

Former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers suggested that the school consider curbing annual payouts from its world-record $37.6 billion endowment to reflect the likelihood of lower investment returns.

Real, or inflation-adjusted, short-term interest rates have been falling steadily since 1999 and are effectively projected by financial markets to be around zero percent in the long-run, Summers said in a presentation Friday to a National Bureau of Economic Research meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard is based.

“If it makes sense for Harvard University to pay out 5 percent of its endowment in 1999 when the real interest rate was 4 percent, it’s really quite unlikely that it makes sense to pay out 5 percent of its endowment in 2016 when the real interest rate is zero,” said Summers, a former U.S. Treasury secretary who is now a professor at Harvard.

I’ve never had a good handle on what you might call “the welfare economics of endowments,” in part because I don’t think economists have a good theory of endowments period.

One normative view is that if g > r, funds should simply accumulate in the endowment, more or less indefinitely, to further maximize societal wealth.  The g > r condition might hold for Harvard, though it is hard to measure what the school’s borrowing rate consists of.  Arguably new money at the margin comes from donations rather than from loans or bond issues.

A second view is that inequality is bad, and institutions tend to become sluggish and excessively bureaucratic in the longer run.  Perhaps every now and then they should be required to “start afresh”; a’ la Jefferson: “every now and then higher education must be refreshed…” etc.  That would suggest a higher payout rate.  You will note that the law mandates a payout rate of five to six percent for charitable foundations; Harvard isn’t a foundation, but analogous factors might apply.

A third view is to note that income inequality has gone up, and that means higher returns from investing in Harvard students, even if overall rates of return in the economy are low.  We know that the variance of corporate returns is much higher than it used to be, and many of those successful corporations stem from Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, among other top schools.  That would suggest spending more money today, because the Harvard endowment may not always be so valuable in terms of the uses to which it can be put.  Low rates of return on (most) investments are more reason to follow this advice and keep on spending, not less reason.  Can you imagine a better investment these days than Harvard human capital?  You will note that in this view “keeping Harvard at the top,” while a goal, is not the number one consideration.

There is something to be said for all of these perspectives, but mine is closest to number three.  In any case the question deserves closer consideration than I see it receiving.

The advantages of being CEO?

by on April 22, 2016 at 10:56 pm in Science | Permalink

Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of Bioviva USA Inc. has become the first human being to be successfully rejuvenated by gene therapy, after her own company’s experimental therapies reversed 20 years of normal telomere shortening.

Telomere score is calculated according to telomere length of white blood cells (T-lymphocytes). This result is based on the average T-lymphocyte telomere length compared to the American population at the same age range. The higher the telomere score, the “younger” the cells.

In September 2015, then 44 year-old CEO of BioViva USA Inc. Elizabeth Parrish received two of her own company’s experimental gene therapies: one to protect against loss of muscle mass with age, another to battle stem cell depletion responsible for diverse age-related diseases and infirmities.

Here is more, via Helen Greiner and @pmarca.

Here is the one file, print it all out version, just revised.  Here is the blog version, which is easier to follow in bits and pieces, looks nicer, works better (thanks to the estimable Chug), and accepts comments.  Here are the links on Twitter.

The old trends were good hamburgers and pizza.  Those haven’t gone away, but the new area trends are Yemeni, Filipino, and more more more Chinese of many different kinds.  Good Mexican is on the way, finally.  Vietnamese and El Salvadoran are fine but stagnant.  Persian is growing, Ethiopian is robust, and will more African be next?  The biggest growth in quality and interest has come in DC (!), not the suburbs, at least this time around.  In Virginia, Chantilly has made the largest gains.

The good news, at least from a culinary point of view, is that the gentrification of northern Virginia — northern and central Arlington excepted — is proceeding at a much slower rate than people might have expected say ten years ago.