10 Sunday Reads

My early Sunday morning, pre-bagel reads:

• Why this is not the start of a bear market (Humble Student of the Markets)
Rattner: Carly Fiorina Really Was That Bad (NYT)
• I.R.S. Ruling Makes After-Tax Contributions More Attractive (NYT) see also Tips for deducting more at tax time (Fidelity)
• Go Midwest, Young Techie: Silicon Valley Too Pricey for Startups (Bloomberg)
• Apple’s brilliant assault on advertising — and Google (Calacanis)
• The transformative potential of self-driving electric cars (Vox)
• Wherever You Go, Your Personal Cloud Of Microbes Follows (NPR)
• The West is on fire – and the US taxpayer is subsidizing it (The Conversation)
• Mystery Solved? How Universe’s Brightest-Ever Galaxies Formed (Space) see also The formation of submillimetre-bright galaxies from gas infall over a billion years (Nature)
• Is Twitter Tech Parody Persona ‘Startup L. Jackson’ the Banksy of Silicon Valley? (Re/code)

What are you reading?


The Euro Zone Had Another Record Trade Surplus

Source: Quartz





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Discussions found on the web:
  1. RW commented on Sep 27

    Do We Always Follow The Crowd? Some Surprising Evidence from Peer Savings Information

    John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian, and Katherine L. Milkman provide a fascinating example of how telling people what their peers are doing can induce people to change their behavior in surprising ways, in their paper, …

    It turns out that using peer information as a tool for behavior change can have a pernicious, unanticipated effect: it might actually discourage people from improving, rather than encourage them to catch up to the pack. This result has its roots in work on demotivation and self-efficacy, where research suggests that people may avoid activities for which they feel poorly equipped, or succumb to what Beshears and co-authors call “discouragement from upward social comparison.”

    “When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”
    Eric Hoffer

  2. Jojo commented on Sep 27

    Employer Health Coverage for Family Tops $17,000
    Share of the 2015 family-plan premium borne by employees was 29% of the total
    Anna Wilde Mathews
    Sept. 22, 2015

    The average cost of employer health coverage passed $17,000 for a family plan this year, despite continued muted growth on a percentage basis, according to a major survey.

    The average annual cost of an employer family plan rose 4%, to $17,545, from $16,834 last year, according to the annual poll of employers performed by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation along with the Health Research & Educational Trust, a nonprofit affiliated with the American Hospital Association. The share of the 2015 family-plan premium borne by employees was 29% of the total, the same percentage as last year.

    For an individual worker, the average annual cost of employer coverage was $6,251 in this year’s survey, also up 4% over last year. The employee contribution was 18%.


  3. Jojo commented on Sep 27

    Your Stuff Really Is Breaking Faster Than It Used To
    written by Julia
    March 18, 2015

    You aren’t imagining it. Turns out, your stuff really is breaking down more quickly than before. A recent study by a European environmental agency just confirmed it: the lifespan of your electronic goods is—indeed—shrinking.

    Performed by researchers at the Öko-Institut in Germany, the study was commissioned as part of an investigation into planned obsolescence—the practice of designing products to break or wear out easily. (Think here: non-replaceable batteries that make otherwise useful products into disposable ones.) The end goal of planned obsolescence: force consumers to buy something a little newer, a little earlier than is actually necessary.

    While the German study stopped short of actually confirming the design phenomenon, it did find something pretty interesting: the percentage of appliances sold to replace a broken appliance more than doubled over the course of 8 years—from 3.5% in 2004 to 8.3% in 2012.


    • rd commented on Sep 27

      A couple of thoughts on this:

      Things like non-replaceable or very expensive to replace batteries are highly annoying (hello Apple).

      In areas (e.g. smartphones) that are evolving at a high rate, building them like a brick outhouse would likely increase their expense and environmental footprint without necessarily changing their replacement rate very much.

      Some components, like gas tank fuel gages and ignition switches, should be highly reliable given how long cars last. However, car companies have struggled to make these parts that should have lifespans of 15 years plus that reliable.

      Things like clothes washers etc. have become very automated. I have found that some of their components like circuit boards do not have anywhere near the reliability of the main components like motors etc. However, they are often quite expensive to replace.

      In this day of modern electronics, the developed countries should have real systems in place to recycle rare earths etc. in these rapidly obsolete products. The lack of recycling is one of the reasons that there are frequent complaints of potential shortages of rare earths.

  4. Jojo commented on Sep 27

    The Difference Between a Fact, Hypothesis, Theory, and Law In Science
    Patrick Allan

    Words like “fact,” “theory,” and “law,” get thrown around a lot. When it comes to science, however, they mean something very specific; and knowing the difference between them can help you better understand the world of science as a whole.


  5. RW commented on Sep 27

    Don’t forget to look up this evening.

    Sunday’s ‘Supermoon’ Total Lunar Eclipse: When and Where to See It

    On the evening of Sept. 27, the moon will once again become immersed in the Earth’s shadow, resulting in a total lunar eclipse — the fourth such event in the last 17 months, …

    You can watch the harvest moon lunar eclipse live in a webcast by the Slooh Community Observatory. You can also watch the total lunar eclipse on Space.com, courtesy of Slooh. The lunar eclipse will also feature the “biggest” full moon (in apparent size) of 2015, since the moon will also be at perigee on the very same day — its closest point to the Earth — 221,753 miles (356,877 km) away. [Visibility Maps for the Supermoon Lunar Eclipse (Gallery)]

    NB: Those of us on the north west coast of the US or west/central Canada will miss the start of the big show (deep shadow or umbra) because it is still too light out at 7pm PST but everyone else in N. America should see it from start to finish clouds permitting.

    PS: And forget the “blood moon’ stuff; that’s strictly Christianist apocalyptics.

  6. RW commented on Sep 27

    A wiki linking every species on Earth to its evolutionary history.

    Tree of Life

    Ambitious and, needless to add, a draft edition.

    • rd commented on Sep 27

      Clearly erroneous. Adam and Eve don’t appear on it.

    • RW commented on Sep 27

      I’ll jump into the wiki and complain about the lack of A&E [lol]

      The first time someone seriously laid the young-earth creation (YEC) myth on me I thought they were putting me on and laughed, making jokes about Adam’s belly button and who Cain must have had children with (in rather crude terms), until it became clear the person arguing with me was serious whereupon my reaction could best be described as outrage: Compared to the verisimilitude, richness and beauty in the story science tells, the YEC story is not simply anti-factual and illogical, it is unbearably cramped and putrid, a theory for midges and maggots.

    • Jojo commented on Sep 27

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      The Pre-Adamite hypothesis or Preadamism is the belief that humans existed before the biblical character Adam. This assumption is contrary to beliefs describing Adam as the first human, as stated in the Bible and the Qur’an. Preadamism is therefore distinct from the conventional Abrahamic belief that Adam was the first human. Advocates of this hypothesis are known as “pre-Adamites”, as are the humans believed by them to have existed before Adam. Preadamism has a long history, probably having its origins in early pagan responses to Abrahamic claims regarding the origins of the human race.


  7. GoBigRed commented on Sep 28

    I don’t support Carly Fiorina, but I think her tenure at HP is not necessarily as relevant as Rattner believes. Harry Truman bankrupted a haberdashery before going in to politics and he did OK. People have to understand that a business person and a politician are two different jobs. Donald Trump had been very successful in NY real estate (there is nowhere in the world with a more complicated real estate market than NYC) but that’s completely different from being President of the US. It’s also possible to learn from your mistakes.

  8. Alex commented on Sep 28

    I’m not a fan of Carly Fiorina, but I feel like I should make one point in her defence, or at least, in defence of her candidacy. I have long been a believer in skill sets, and don’t believe that skills always transfer – just because someone was good at running a business doesn’t mean they will make a good political leader. I said this about Mit Romney, because in his case, I thought it was especially clear that skills acquired in moving money around might not have anything to do with being President. So, to be fair, just because Fiorina was a bad CEO, which I believe she was, I don’t think it follows she will be a bad elected official. It doesn’t mean she will be good, either, but I don’t think the two are that tightly linked.

    • Jojo commented on Sep 29

      You should try to make your point to HR and recruiters, who are forever advertising for “proven” people who are top 10%’ers. Nobody wants to hire people who have failed, regardless of the oft repeated maxim that failure is a better teacher than success.

      That being said, I think Fiorina is an excellent speaker but would not make a good president.

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