The weekend is here! Pour yourself a mug of Danish Blend coffee, grab a seat on the patio, and get ready for our longer form weekend reads:
• Smuggling, price-gouging, dognapping: True tales from inside the great pandemic puppy boom Prices for puppies in the U.S. rose by 36% after the pandemic began, according to PuppySpot, an online listing site for breeders. Goldendoodles were the most popular breed, and for the priciest breed—English Sheepadoodles—prices have soared by ~90%. The puppy demand could also exacerbate already mounting problems: The U.S. government, which buys German shepherd and Labrador puppies for the military on the open market, must compete with civilian puppy demand. (Fortune)
• Gilded Age or Roaring Twenties? “The Gilded Age in US history spans from roughly the end of the Civil War through the very early 1900s. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner popularized the term, using it as the title of their novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized an era when economic progress masked social problems and when the siren of financial speculation lured sensible people into financial foolishness. (Investor Amnesia)
• What Happened to Pickup Trucks? Why have pickup trucks morphed into such huge, angry, and dangerous presences? Traffic safety experts, commentators on U.S. automotive culture, and social scientists have suggested a range of forces behind truck bloat. As U.S. drivers buy more full-size and heavy-duty pickups, these vehicles have transformed from no-frills workhorses into angry giants. They are more than just a polarizing consumer choice: Large pickups and SUVs are notably more lethal to other road users, and their conquest of U.S. roads has been accompanied by a spike in fatalities among pedestrians and bicyclists. (CityLab)
• The Quest to Tell Science from Pseudoscience Where do you place the boundary between “science” and “pseudoscience”? The question is more than academic. The answers we give have consequences—in part because, as health policy scholar Timothy Caulfield wrote in Nature last April during the first wave of COVID-19, “tolerating pseudoscience can cause real harm.” We want to know which doctrines count as bona fide science (with all the resulting prestige that carries) and which are imposters. This is the “demarcation problem,” as the Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper famously called it. His answer—falsifiability—hasn’t aged well, but the effort lives on. (Boston Review)
• The Mystery of ‘Harriet Cole’ “Harriet” is a network of fibers fastened to a black board in a case pushed up against a wall. At the top, there appears to be a brain, plump and brown, and a pair of eyes. Scan your own eyes down and you’ll encounter an intricate system of skinny, brittle cords, pulled taut and painted startlingly, artificially white. The outline is recognizably human—there’s the impression of hands and feet, the hint of a pelvis, the suggestion of a rib cage—but it is slightly fantastical, too. In 19th-century Philadelphia, an anatomist dissected and mounted a human nervous system. Now researchers are trying to figure out whose remains are stretched out in a glass case. (Atlas Obscura)
• 10 ways office work will never be the same IKnowledge workers — high-skilled workers whose jobs are done on computers — will likely see the biggest changes, from physical locations to the technology used to the ways in which productivity is measured. How we work impacts everything from our own personal satisfaction to new inventions to the broader economy and society as a whole. From where we work to how our work is measured, office work will be permanently different after the pandemic. (Vox)
• What Happens When Investment Firms Acquire Trailer Parks In the U.S., approximately twenty million people—many of them senior citizens, veterans, and people with disabilities—live in mobile homes, which are also known as manufactured housing. Several of the world’s largest investment-services firms, such as the Blackstone Group, Apollo Global Management, and Stockbridge Capital Group, or the funds that they manage, have spent billions of dollars to buy mobile-home communities from independent owners. The financial industry’s pursuit of profits from mobile-home communities is undermining one of the country’s largest sources of affordable housing. (New Yorker)
• What Does Home Mean to Us? Not the Same Thing It Did Before the Pandemic During this long year of house arrest, our relationships to our homes have been altered in profound and ridiculous ways. Our homes have been a refuge and a prison, often filled with too many people (and their newly adopted shelter dogs) doing things the spaces were never meant for, like school, work and physical activity. We’re tired, and so are our living spaces. As we emerge from lockdown, architects, writers and others reflect on how we’ll reinvent them — and what matters now. (New York Times) see also How to End the War Over the Future of the Suburbs Many affluent, progressive suburban homeowners (of all races, one must hasten to point out) support local regulations that faithfully implement exclusionary thinking that makes housing unattainable for lower-income families. To replace exclusion with inclusion and bring housing costs down, Americans need to embrace a vision of suburbia that includes growth and change. (CityLab)
• The missing students of the pandemic A California school official searches his district for the hundreds left behind by covid-19: Disconnected phones. Broken laptops. Faulty WiFi. Disabled video cameras. Sometimes the only way to get answers was to make a weekly road trip, truck loaded with 14 student files, driving to a low-income housing complex a few blocks from school. (Washington Post)
• Novak Djokovic and a New Players Group Want Tennis to Fix Its Broken Economics Pro tennis is less a single enterprise than a sprawling and divided empire, composed of fiefdoms and sub-fiefdoms, factions within sub-fiefdoms, and sub-factions within factions. Before the pandemic, the sport generated roughly $2.3 billion in annual revenue. About 60% comes from the U.S. Open and the three other Slams, each of which operates independently, under the auspices of a private club or national tennis federation. (Businessweek)
Be sure to check out our Masters in Business interview this weekend with Gary Chropuvka, President of World Quant. The firm was spun out of Millennium Management in 2007, and manages about $7 billion dollars. Previously, Chropuvka was co-head of the Quantitative Investment Strategies (QIS) team at Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM).
The SPAC attack
To learn how these reads are assembled each day, please see this.