Also, it's odd to see Tabarrok attacking this particular statement in the first place. For an economist, isn't the idea that insurance companies would try to avoid unhealthy customers kind of trivial? They are trying to make money, yes? Isn't it natural for them to respond to incentives? That is, if there isn't a market failure of some kind.
Recently, a friend asked me about the prospects for photographing Betelgeuse when it goes supernova. Not as far-fetched as it might seem. Betelgeuse is a very late stage red giant (it's the brightest star in Orion, the left shoulder), with large-scale instabilities. It's in the last moments of life.I don't why this interests me so much, but it certainly isn't because of the possibility of photographing it. I suppose I just like the idea of "participating" in cosmic events, which are usually so inaccessible because of the time scales involved. Or, maybe I just like massive explosions.
A red giant lives a million times longer than a human being, so the fact that Betelgeuse has anywhere from "seconds" to "days" to live doesn't have quite the immediacy it does when we're talking about a human being. Still, there's a finite chance the wavefront is already on its way and will arrive in our lifetimes.
1. Malcolm Gladwell on overconfidence, recapping a bunch of this William Cohan book (and even pulling the same quote I did). I'm looking forward to the new book on the financial crisis from Ben Bernanke's perspective.
2. Ezra Klein on the problem with Obama's health care strategy. Ezra is the person to listen to on the health care mess.
3. A long feature on Valerie Jarrett and her influence.
4. Advice on how to become a regular at a restaurant. I'm not sure why you need a guide to this... don't you just start going all the time? But I suppose some people, once they get there, will find a way to thwart themselves.
7. And here is Tyler Cowen on the future of libraries and his own reading habits. His latest book, Create Your Own Economy, deals with this more. UPDATE: More from Cowen on reading.
I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people everyday. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books.My dad's habit of dropping interesting items into books to be happened upon later rubbed off on me, so many of my books contain old letters, train tickets, newspaper clippings, etc. It can be fun to find these things later and be transported back, but it can also be a problem if you are lending or getting rid of books. I hate the idea that some personal memento could find its way onto a blog from someone at a used bookstore (although of course I love reading about others' mementos).
The notion of picking 400 individuals at random to work with experts reminds me of this quote from William Buckley that my dad used to like to repeat (though I wonder what Buckley would think of the plan to have experts educate them beforehand):
I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.Personally I can see the attraction of this idea, but isn't this sort of romantic direct democracy (in the form of propositions) what got them into this mess in the first place?
No posts around here beacuse I've been busy reading House of Cards, the William Cohan book on the Bear Stearns collapse. It's fascinating for someone who's never really had any exposure to the culture of Wall Street, but it's ultimately going to be really unsatisfying because it ends far too soon -- the Lehman and AIG deals, along with the concurrent political machinations by McCain and Obama, will have to be in the sequel I guess.
One thing that's amazed me is the language some of these people are willing to use in interviews that were obviously on the record. Since Tim Geithner is so popular these days, here's a quote from Jimmy Cayne, a former Bear Stearns executive, on the then New York Fed president:
The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan. Like he was the determining factor, and it's like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate bridge, getting a hard-on, saying "Raise the bridge." This guy thinks he has a big dick. He's got nothing, except maybe a boyfriend. I'm not a good enemy. I'm a very bad enemy. But certain things really -- that bothered me plenty. It's just that for some clerk to make a decision based on what, your own personal feeling about whether or not they're a good credit? Who the fuck asked you? You're not an elected officer. You're a clerk. Believe me, you're a clerk. I want to open up on this fucker, that's all I can tell you.
I should probably start a new blog called The Refrigerator Door for this, but...
My daughter Miriam has built a lot of things out of Legos, but this one really blew me away. Maybe it's my own failure of imagination with other things she's built in the past, but to me these seahorses have a creative vision all their own apart from anything I've showed her how to do. When I saw them my first reaction was to think they were very strange and wonder where they could possibly have come from.
According to Miriam the one on the left has a baby inside. Interesting fact about seahorses: it's actually the fathers who incubate the eggs after they are fertilized, in a small pouch on their bellies. Miriam and I learned this from an Eric Carle book a while back, but I don't think she remembered it.
2. And Ross Douthat is going to be a columnist for the New York Times, replacing Bill Kristol. There's apparently never been a younger columnist for the Times, but I can't think of anyone better -- and better for the conservative movement -- than Douthat. It'll be interesting to see how conservatives see the move; I suspect Douthat will end up moving the debate measurably.
Just some books we took back to the library today. I wanted to take a picture so I'll remember what we had and what we liked, and it occurred to me to post it here in case others are interested. I sure wish I'd done this from the beginning. Miriam's favorites were probably Corduroy (which we'd had out before), When the Elephant Walks, Kitten's First Full Moon, Hugo at the Window, and especially Bruno the Baker, which is basically a recipe for a cake disguised as a story (Miriam loves cooking).
MORE: So after I looked at this again, I realized that she probably asked for The Owl and the Pussycat more than any of the others, but that was sort of an oddball choice because she knew the poem before. Anne Mortimer's illustrations are really something though.
Here's what Sun-Times responded with after seeing the story:
Since we're on the list of dying/going digital - I don't buy it - a question: Why is going digital equated with dying in this media age?Well, in the case of the Sun-Times, going digital probably will mean death. This is the same company that cut all of their permalinks for a redesign three years ago. I don't read the Sun-Times website much these days (although a quick look reminds me how clumsy it is), but the Pioneer Press site -- the series of local news outlets that has the potential to be a huge cash cow because of the opportunity for highly targeted advertising -- is an embarrassment. It loads so slowly that half the time I give up one it. When it does load, the content I'm looking for either doesn't exist yet or is very difficult to find. As a photographer, what amazes me most is that they almost never bother to link photos to the relevant stories. Instead, photos are listed in a gallery where users are invited to purchase prints. Now I don't know how much money they make off these prints, but it speaks volumes that they think this kind of direct sales project is more important than getting all the related content in the same place so that people can find it and use it.
I don't really understand why it has been so difficult for print journalism to make the kinds of transformational changes needed to get the most out of their content online. Other industries have figured it out. Is it just that the transformation is somehow more fundamental to what the press does? Some of these organizations will obviously survive, but it seems to me the next round will go to publications that have been built from the ground up with a new business model in mind. In fact, if I had the time and the resources to invest, I'd be working on building an online only local news source myself.
Researchers are familiar with the idea that poor people have a harder time getting access to healthy food. But Franco said the two studies his team published are the first to take a look at the issue in a large city; in this case, it was Baltimore. Previous research, he said, only looked at a few neighborhoods or areas.I only have limited experience going into grocery stores in the poorer parts of Chicago, but a big part of the problem is a lack of sufficient grocery stores to begin with. It would be interesting to know what Franco means when he says that "neither the store owners nor the residents themselves are entirely to blame." What dynamics are at play here?
Researchers visited 226 food stores in the city of Baltimore and Baltimore County -- including supermarkets and convenience stores -- and looked at the availability of healthy food. They then tracked the availability of healthy food in each of 159 neighborhoods.
I guess this kind of critical discussion of the organic and local food movements resonates so much with me because I've always felt a little uncomfortable with the self-righteous moral positioning that seems to go along with these products. Of course, I buy organics (less so locally produced food),and I do so in large part because they taste better and I have a vague sense that they are healthier. I am willing to pay a premium because I value better taste and health. But there's also a feeling that when I purchase these items, I'm also buying a sort of environmental indulgence.
Do people really miss the irony of using the term "sustainable" to refer to this kind of production? I understand that (among other things) it's referring to the unsustainability of using petroleum, which is a limited resource, as a motivator of food production. But if you can't scale it up to a place where it provides food for the whole world because of limitations on another natural resource -- land -- then doesn't it end up being equally unsustainable? Doesn't it just become a luxury product, a way for some people to feel like they're doing their part while the hoi polloi keep eating their corn? It's certainly sold like a luxury product. I don't see it at WalMart.
As I write this I'm in the middle of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma (highly recommended based on what I've read so far, but of course you've probably already read it) and while Pollan's description of our industrial food production is deeply troubling, there's this inescapable question of scale that it manages to satisfy. These ugliest features of our food production are also the same ones that allow us to live in the modern world, that support our populations and our largely urban lifestyle. Obviously the current system can't continue, but it seems pretty clear that any system that replaces it has to satisfy the same question of scale.