Monday, December 31, 2012

A comet so bright it can be seen in daylight

In December 2013 a comet will pass near Earth, astronomers are saying it has the potential to be the brightest in hundreds of years - brighter than a full moon!

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57561294-1/2013-could-be-the-best-year-for-comet-spotting-in-generations/



Thursday, December 27, 2012

Today I learned patent infringement is more serious crime than laundering terrorist money

A patent lawsuit wipes out over a year of profits at a tech company. HSBC launders terrorist money and losses 2 weeks of profits. No way has this infringement done more harm to people and to the incentives for companies to "play fair." Ridiculous (this class is ridiculous)

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/12/jury-slams-marvell-with-mammoth-1-17-billion-patent-verdict/

Update: Maybe I could patent a money laundering scheme and sue HSBC for infringing on that patent.

Quite the year for Chicago politics

I did not fully appreciate how eventful of a year this has been Chicago

http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/Top-10-Stories-of-2012-184958741.html

1. Given the extreme lack of credibility / common sense in the Republican party right now I was glad to see Obama reelected. Plus he's probably further to the right than most would care to admit.

2. The teachers strike really put Chicago front and center in the national debate on pensions and public sector employees. Many people forget that despite a relatively light tax burden at the national level people in high-tax locales such as Chicago, New York and California face overall tax burdens comparable to many European countries. In these cities the non-federal taxes often exceed federal taxes.

3. I was pretty shocked when Jesse Jackson was reelected but I am glad he choose to resign. If he is truly not fit for work then it would be a huge disservice to his constituency to stay in Congress.

4. The pension crisis is one of the biggest reasons I'm hesitant to buy a condo, even if they double property taxes there's still a hole in the state and local pensions. Now the scary part I did a quick back of the envelope calculation suggests that if they double property taxes Chicago home prices will drop by ~20%. Admittedly it wouldn't be an instant drop but rather an "under-performing inflation" type of stagnation. In any case I'd rather not have my money tied up in a Chicago condo right now.

5. Its so strange how for me Chicago feels like a very safe city, but for thousands and thousands of others its not. The murder stats suggest that being in a Chicago gang is more dangerous than being a US soldier in Afghanistan. Crazy. And the worst part is I don't see any solutions, sometimes all we can do is try to make the best of a bad situation.

6. I'm pretty shocked Walsh got as many votes as he did. Demographics alone will end the Republican party as it currently stands. The question is can we last long enough?

7. With their new majority it'll be interesting to see what the Illinois Democrats come up with as solutions to the state's problems. And also what impact those solutions will have on my desire to stay in Chicago.

8. I remember the huge show of police force during the NATO summit, dozens of police officers lining the bridges over the river, it was a very vivid reminder of the tradeoff between safety and freedom.

9. Kirk is one of the few Republicans in Congress who I respect, being from Illinois he is (or at least has to be) liberal on many issues. I voted for him hoping the GOP would move in his direction rather than in the direction of the Tea Party. Perhaps if he and other like-minded (i.e. reasonable) members of the GOP left they could win the support of many independents and centrist Democrats who have left the GOP because of its craziness. I was very sad to hear about his stroke but after a long recovery he appears ready to return to Congress.

10. Blagojevich, good riddance.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Failure #1

Yesterday I got an early start on my year of failure. My garbage disposal has been broken for nearly 2 months and has resisted all my half-assed repair attempts. It was time for a whole-assed attempt. I bust out my working gloves, my screwdrivers and my wrenches - I am determined not to let some 2 horsepower motor get the better of me. I unscrew the pipes, clear the clog and get the disposal running again. Its time to reassemble. First pipe, no problem. Second pipe, won't fit. I push a little harder. Crack, the second pipe breaks, it was too corroded to handle the pressure. There I am sitting on my kitchen floor, staring at the broken shards of pipe. What a cruel twist of fate, I've fixed the disposal but I cannot use it because the drain pipe is broken.


Music by Cities

Great maps from the Atlantic showing the geographic distribution of billboards top 100 tracks and pitchfork's top 100 songs from 2012. The biggest surprise is just how many of billboard's songs are "from" Nashville.

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/arts-and-lifestyle/2012/12/where-2012s-top-music/4228/

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Doppelgangers / The Cooler Me

A couple of weeks ago I discovered my doppelganger, his name is Guillaume. He's a freelance photographer living in Paris, he rides a Japanese motorcycle and was recently in Prague taking pictures. Needless to say I am quite jealous. So when I saw this article come up in my google reader it got me thinking about Guillaume again.

http://www.gq.com/news-politics/mens-lives/201205/cooler-me-eric-puchner-gq-may-2012-doppelganger

I've never really been one for grand dreams or ambitions. I periodically try to come up with life goals (usually around new years) but I can never come up with something that gets me really fired up. So this year rather than trying to accomplish something I'm going to try to fail at things, at a lot of things, a lot of different things. Here's to 2013, a year of failure, a spectacular failure.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How Couples Meet

With the rise of the online dating for the first time there is tons of easily accessible data on how people look for and choose their partners. A few interesting findings in this paper:

  • The internet has done a lot for gays and lesbians meet but has mostly displaced other forms of socializing for heterosexuals.
  • Relationships formed online tend to last as long as other relationships.
  • Despite the internet, the partnership rate for heterosexuals has remained roughly constant.
Good read through (fun with statistics!)

http://asr.sagepub.com/content/77/4/523.full

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Worst Case Scenarios

Whenever an article references the Stoics I already know that I'm going to like it.

The author suggests that instead of thinking about the best case scenario we ought to think about the worst case scenario. If the worst case scenario is manageable then we ought to proceed with our action. If we think about the best case scenario then more often then not we're going to be disappointed. Thought provoking read throughout.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324705104578147333270637790.html

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Life in your 20's

Brilliant article:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/21-ways-you-should-take-advantage-of-your-20s/

Let's see how I've done by their standards.

1. If anything I sometimes take too long to respond to people.

2. My attitude is generally that I'm not owed anything by anyone. So I guess this one is a failure.

3. "Never turn down an open bar" - life's motto here.

4. I struggle with this, I'm always afraid that I'll be changing just for the sake of change. It takes me a long time to identify what specifically is making me unhappy.

5. To the fullest.

6. I have no problem when older more successful people pick up the check.

7. Volleyball.

8. Done.

9. Work in progress.

10. Yup.

11. I keep swearing off 4 am bars yet I keep going back to them :)

12. Paris Club was my "weeping puddle of regret"

13. YES!

14. Viva Barcelona!

15. Meh, probably the worst suggestion on here.

16. Since I know a few people who went last year and it made me lose all desire to go.

17. Done.

18. Uhmmm - probably not applicable, unless I decide to start cross dressing.

19. I like the spirit of the idea but I'm not a fan of road trips.

20. Hahahahahaha, so perfect!

21. Probably the most depressing line of the article. I hope its not true.

Brilliant all around, loved it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Colder Than Average

The world hasn't had a colder than average month in over 27 years:


Coincidentally, the last colder than average month was March 1985. Since I was born in April 1985 the natural conclusion is that the world is a warmer place because I'm here - just don't ask me to test this hypothesis anytime soon! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Income Inequality

Interesting blog posts about how income inequality is greater in the top 10% of incomes. Its all about second derivative, the higher the income the higher the inequality.
For example, those who aspire to hop from the 30th percentile to the 35th percentile would need to increase their cash income by $4,000 annually (or by about 17 percent); those who aspire to hop from the 94th percentile to the 99th percentile would require an increase of $324,900 (or 171 percent).
http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/where-do-you-fall-on-the-income-curve/

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/why-so-many-rich-people-dont-feel-very-rich/

Now if we assume two things, (1) relative differences matter more than income level and (2) you mostly interact with people within 10% of your income percentile, then at high-ish income level the problem of inequality becomes even worse from a psychological perspective. Someone who is earning 17% more than you doesn't really live that different of a life, someone who is earning 171% more than you is living in a completely different world. Maybe this is why people get so caught up in i-banking, corporate law or climbing the corporate ladder.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Random songs stuck in my head

Drive By ~ Train
Bring 'Em Home ~ d.veloped
Technologic ~ Daft Punk
Set Fire to the Rain ~ Adele (Thomas Gold Remix)
Night by Night ~ Chromeo
Tongue Tied ~ Grouplove
Searching Through the Past ~ Bleached

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Can you feel that boomboomboomboomboomboomboomboomboom PAC?

I'd never heard the names Harold Simmons, Bob Perry, Miriam Adelson or James Simons but each has personally donated over $10 million to one of the major super-PACs. Though I suspect I'll be hearing some of those names again in the near future. Is this legalized bribery? The only upside is that at least we know who's doing it!

http://projects.propublica.org/pactrack/contributions/tree

Friday, October 26, 2012

Brilliance from the Onion

God Distances Self From Christian Right
“What these people are saying betrays a worldview that is, frankly, completely different from my own, and it embarrasses me to even hear my name mentioned alongside theirs,” God told reporters, emphatically. “For example, I’m not into capital punishment at all, or really killing in general, so I’m not sure where that whole talking point came from."
Amen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Something Different

I'm going to try something different here. Instead of writing about facts I'm going to think, write and speculate about a subject that I know little about. Then I'll do some research and see where I was right and where I was wrong.

For the past few days I've been trying to answer, can you choose who you're attracted to? Is attraction innate or a product of society? Is it shaped by past experience or a product of present circumstances? And if I were living somewhere else, in a different time, would I find the same physical features and personalities attractive?

This question really touches a dozen different topics. First, what do I mean by choice. I suppose what I mean is can attraction be willed, if I'm not attracted to someone but for whatever reason I want to be, can I make myself feel attracted to them? So its similar to the question, does believing something make it so? First I'll go over what I already know about this. No doubt part of attraction is due to nature and a part due to society. Fundamentally it is necessary for the continuation of the human race, plus throughout history many of the same physical features have been considered attractive even if other aspects have changed. For example while tanned skin is generally considered attractive today a few hundred years ago it signaled farm work and peasantry and consequently not leisure and nobility. So there are certainly components of both.

But how big are these two components? As I grow older, have more experience and my circumstances change will what I find attractive change as well? Or is my current perception of attraction set for life? And if it does change should I consider how it will change in my choice of a long term partner? So far over the last 14 years or so there really hasn't been much change, with the exception of being attracted to women my age - thankfully as I've grown older I'm no longer attracted to 14 year old girls. But that makes me wonder if I was or if that attraction was just a product of my circumstances?

Now that I've been writing for a while I realize that I haven't made clear what I mean by attraction. Its one of those things that easier to feel than to describe. In the spectrum of positive and negative feelings it certainly falls on the positive side. Being around someone I'm attracted to makes me feel good and being apart creates a desire to be with them. I can simulate the feeling of attraction via certain thoughts, not much differently than simulating happiness or sadness, but can I change the trigger for those feelings? Its hard for me to think about WW2 and not feel sadness, much less force myself to feel happy while thinking about it. Is it similarly difficult to change who we find attractive?

And finally is there is a difference in all this with respect to men and women? Is one sex more influenced by society? More capable of shaping their feelings?

What I've been up to (while not blogging)

The past 5 weeks have been pretty crazy but pretty incredible, thought with little time for blogging. After getting my wisdom teeth out I went to Europe for 10 days, Barcelona and Munich. It was my first time in Europe since 2004 and it was incredible! Looking back it was one of the best, if not the best vacation of my life. The trip also confirmed a long held belief of mine that its not so much where you go but who you go with. For the last few years I didn't really travel abroad at all, unless you count the Caribbean. And I hate saying this but it was largely because traveling with my ex was not very much fun. We just weren't on the same page on a lot of things. We didn't really get into fights when we were on trips but it just never felt right - though I guess that was a broader issue in the relationship. I also don't have anything against traveling alone but its difficult to justify a solo week long trip to Europe when you're in a serious committed relationship. Now I did find some incredible traveling partners who were on the same page about nearly everything and it worked out incredibly. Further evidence that who you go with is just as important as where you go. Maybe that's good advice for life in general.

Anyway, in summary Europe was great, it was my first full week of work since 2009 - and I feel ready for another! Lots of random funny stories, many of which probably shouldn't be made public :). Barcelona may be my favorite vacation city ever, it has beaches, culture, food and nightlife. What more could anyone want?? Though its probably best to visit before the age of 30 since I imagine 5 or 10 years from now I'd have a lot less patience for it. Oktoberfest was pretty incredible as well, I'd highly recommend the Hofbrau tent to anyone who goes. It has the most international people in it but a good number of Germans too. Of the tents we went through it seemed to have the most diverse / English speaking place to go, plus the beer was very drinkable.

After Europe I was in Chicago for 10 days, then off to the West Coast for the wedding of two incredible friends - Jillian and Ilya. The wedding itself was perfect, ideal size, beautiful venue and a great blend of religious and secular elements - I only hope my eventual wedding works out so well! The whole wedding night I could see the two of them in their own world, not entirely separated from their guests but in a world that we could only glimpse into, one which only the two of them know. Seeing this was truly incredible, such a deep and dynamic connection between two people!

Now after all my fun its back to reality, and to blogging. I have piles of work in front of me that I'm dutifully procrastinating! My vacation days have dwindled to nearly 0 so I'm going to be in Chicago for a while. I feel like I've barely spent any time here recently. Last night I was walking around my neighborhood and noticed 3 new places had opened up! Time to do some exploring!

Writing is Hard

Writing publicly or for any large audience is gut wrenching. Most of the time I prefer public speaking to public writing because once something is written, saved and published its out there forever. When I'm speaking my words are ephemeral and they seem to hold less weight than the words I write. Consequently whenever I'm writing I will analyze every word, every sentence and every paragraph. I'll go through a dozen synonyms, multiple sentence arrangements and periodically restart the whole thing from scratch. Needless to say this process takes a lot of time, but I'm trying to get better at it. Part of why I started this blog was to force myself to write more. I figure the only way for me to become better at writing is to keep practicing and judge my own successes and failures. Or better yet have others judge my successes and failures - though I get enough of that at work. Although blogging has definitely helped I've found that recently I haven't been writing enough of my own thoughts in my blog.

Today is the unofficial 1 year anniversary of my blog. The actual anniversary was a couple of months ago but that day came and went and I entirely didn't notice. I guess I'm not very good at being sentimental. Maybe that's what I should work on next. Which reminds me that I need to send someone a VERY belated happy birthday message. It seems like for some people being sentimental comes naturally. On the spectrum of rational vs. emotional I fall pretty squarely on the rational side. I've always thought, what's so special about doing something for 1 year? Like one of my friends often says "every day I'm setting a personal record for consecutive days alive." Now I'm starting to think that's the wrong attitude. It's not that there's something extra important about a year but rather that its a convenient time to reflect. I can't spend all my time reflecting, if I did I would never get anything done. But without reflecting every once in a while its all to easy to live without asking "why am I doing this?" or "what do I value about this?"

So what is it that I value about my blog? First is the sharing aspect, here I get to share whatever I might find interesting and my thoughts about it. To me sharing has been one of the most rewarding parts of life, watching other people get excited about things that I get excited about is incredible and hearing their take on it even more so. In a way it becomes a virtuous cycle of sharing. Second it helps me keep track things that I found interesting for later on. On several occasions I've been in the middle of a conversation and referred people to something I've written about in my blog - always an awesome feeling. And finally it helps me organize and focus my thoughts. I find it really easy to get overwhelmed by information and my endless to do list that keeping focus for a blog post, especially one this long is difficult. By forcing myself to sit down and spent 15 or 20 minutes writing and thinking about one subject I feel that I can understand it much better than if I didn't have to write about it.

Now finally what more do I want to get out of it? I want to write more about experiences and feelings rather than thoughts. I try my best to think and write objectively. This is good when thinking about politics or economics but bad for life since so much of life is subjective and its the subjective parts that are unique and interesting.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

From the Department of Crazy Tax Policy

26 highly valuable public companies who paid their CEOs more than they paid in taxes:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2189264/Institute-Policy-Studies-26-companies-paid-CEO-paid-taxes.html

Gang of Four / A Eulogy

Dear wisdom teeth, it was nice sharing the last 27 years with you but deep down we all knew it could never last. I'm very sorry that our parting was so traumatic for you but it was no walk in the park for me either. I will always fondly remember the meals we've shared, the fights we've had and the friends we've lost. But alas, it is time to move on, I hope you can find it in your roots to forgive me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Zurich Style

I can't believe I didn't discover Gangnam Style until I was in Zurich! (more on Europe later)

The message behind the video according to time:

http://business.time.com/2012/09/24/the-wholesome-hidden-message-of-gangnam-style/?iid=obinsite

Monday, September 17, 2012

IRS: We will not enforce the individual mandate

What's the point of passing laws if our government won't enforce them? Last week the IRS said they don't plan on punishing people who fail to pay the penalty for not having health insurance under Obamacare. This whole policy is turning into a mess, first Obama argues that its not a tax, then the Supreme Court says its only constitutional as a tax and now that its a tax the IRS says they don't plan on enforcing it. So much for resolving the adverse selection problem.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/16/irs-agents-will-not-be-involved-in-tax-audits-pursuing-americans-without-health/

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tanner v. United States

You learn something every day... apparently getting hammered during a trial is not "improper conduct."
The [Supreme Court] justices ruled 5-4 that the drugs and alcohol were not an improper "outside influence" and didn't constitute jury misconduct.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanner_v._United_States

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teachers on strike

Some 29,000 teachers in Chicago went on strike meaning that 400,000 students aren't in school today and won't be until an agreement is reached.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/09/10/usa-chicago-schools-idINL1E8KA3HY20120910

The arguments for both sides sound pretty reasonable so I don't really know who to support here. In general I'm all about accountability and more power to dismiss bad or non-performing teachers. But according to Reuters 80% of CPS students qualify for free lunches because they come from low income families so I can see how teachers are worried that students are often "non-performing" for reasons far beyond what goes on in the classroom. Clearly this outcome is pretty extreme but hopefully this marks a new era for Chicago politics away from the Chicago Machine and toward something new. Financially the city is in pretty awful shape and no doubt that has an impact on businesses and people who want to call the city home.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Now this is art!

The premise is pretty incredible - the girl lays sleeping and if she awakens to the kiss then the two are legally obligated to wed.

http://hyperallergic.com/56479/a-lesbian-kiss-awakens-sleeping-beauty-in-the-ukraine/

Friday, September 7, 2012

Living on $250 a day

Article in the NYT about long term health care and what will happen to it under the Romney-Ryan budget.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/07/health/policy/long-term-care-looms-as-rising-medicaid-cost.html?pagewanted=all

I don't understand how people can expect Medicare or Medicaid to pay for this - living at $250 a day is a pretty lavish lifestyle. Before taxes you've got to be earning close to $150k to live that kind of life. Now I get it, those who need long term care are typically in pretty bad shape - if you can't bathe or feed yourself life kind of sucks. So if people or their families want to pay $250 a day themselves for this type of care then they should be free to do so. I only take issue with the fact that with regards to health care the government is handing out Porsches when Hondas will do. I hate to say it but the Republican idea makes some sense here - cut spending by a third. If the cost were $80 per day that's almost exactly in line with the lifestyle of an average American - $250 per day will bankrupt future generations. To me that sounds like a very reasonable and very fair compromise between the old and the young (and especially the unborn).

Friday, August 31, 2012

Obama, I think you just won my vote

He came out and said he'd support a constitutional amendment to end Super-PACs. No doubt there is some political motivation here since Romney is dominating the Super-PAC game but the rules around campaign finance are certainly contributing to the current disaster in DC.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-29/obama-says-amendment-may-be-needed-to-limit-campaign-finance.html

Monday, August 27, 2012

Music + Dancing = Beheading

In case anyone doesn't already think Afghanistan is a screwed up place - 17 people were beheaded for attending a party. This is the closest I've come to supporting the war since 2001.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/27/afghanistan-beheadings-idUSL3E8JR1GG20120827

Gentlemen, its been a good run

Op-ed in the NYT asks - Men, Who Needs Them? I can't argue with this kind of logic:
If men were cars, who would buy the model that doesn’t last as long, is given to lethal incidents and ends up impounded more often?
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/25/opinion/men-who-needs-them.html

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I didn't realize this was legal...

If you have a life insurance policy you can sell it to someone else, they will pay your premiums and collect the money when you die. If your life expectancy is 40 years then this policy isn't worth much because there are a lot of premiums left to play but if you have cancer and your life expectancy is say 1 year then this policy is very valuable. But then whoever owns the policy wants you to die as soon as possible so they get the biggest possible payout. Apparently banks and hedge funds can buy pools of these policies from brokers. Is it just me or do I see another wall street scandal coming?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/magazine/are-you-worth-more-dead-than-alive.html?ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=all

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Songs stuck in my head part 1

I periodically get songs stuck in my head and listen to them like a hundred times over the course of a week so I thought I'd share what's been going through my head of late:

Talk about the passion ~ REM
Part of me ~ Katy Perry
Without me ~ Eminem
Wrong 'em boyo ~ Clash
Real wild child ~ Iggy Pop

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mitt Romney = everything that's wrong with the tax code

Mitt Romney said today that he's paid at least 13% taxes over the last 10 years.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/08/16/us-usa-campaign-romney-idINBRE87F10T20120816

Yes that sounds pretty ridiculous, to give you an idea of just how ridiculous this is I did some math. Let's say you were unemployed last year and collecting unemployment benefits all year at the national average rate of $300 per week. So over the year you collected a total of $15,600 of benefits. Naturally our tax code says that unemployment benefits count as income and are therefore subject to income taxes. The first $8700 is taxed at 10% and the remaining $6900 is taxed at 15%. That means you would have paid a tax rate of 12.2%. Think about this for a second - this means there are millions of unemployed Americans defaulting on their loans, losing their houses and they're paying essentially the same tax rate as Mitt "250 million dollar" Romney.

Moving and Minimalism

Every time I move I'm appalled by how much stuff I have so inevitably I throw out or donate a lot of stuff (i.e. 4 of the 6 sets of xmas lights that I found). I don't think I could get down to 15, 39 or 60 things as described in this blog post but maybe I'll start a donation bag with old winter clothes next month.

http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/13/you-probably-have-too-much-stuff/?src=me&ref=business

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Falling behind or leaping ahead?

Article in the NYT today about how social welfare programs in the US are lagging behind the rest of the developed world.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/15/business/economy/slipping-behind-because-of-an-aversion-to-taxes.html?_r=1&ref=business

The crux of the argument is "we're richer than they are so we should be able to provide the same programs they do." But the author fails to consider the point that maybe the reason we're richer (approximately 40% richer than other developed countries) is because we don't have those programs. Yes our unemployment insurance is less generous, but too much unemployment insurance creates a disincentive for people to get jobs and produce. Yes our health care system excludes millions of people, but universal health care leads to mis-allocation of resources and over-consumption of health care. We haven't necessarily made the right choices on these issues because citizens in each country collectively decide what's right for themselves. But so far we've chosen that we want to be richer and freer (on average) and consequently less equitable than other developed countries. The argument that "the rest of the world makes different choices" isn't a sufficient reason for change. I certainly agree that alleviating human suffering should be a big priority for the country but everything comes with a cost (debt, taxes, lost productivity etc) and if that cost means hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and lower incomes (i.e. becoming more like Italy) then I'm not sure that we would be better off with more social welfare programs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to become a member of the Swedish 1%

What is the most important predictor of professional success in Sweden - is it cognitive capacity? Personality type? Educational attainment? Where/what you studied?

http://esr.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/07/27/esr.jcs070.full?keytype=ref&ijkey=5zxdE2LtXSzwuWq

The results are pretty surprising to me - early on total schooling is most important but then later on personality type is most important. Cognitive capacity is of limited benefit net of schooling. Which school you attend and what you major has only a minor impact as well.

EU winners and losers

This article has me wondering about who the winners and losers in the EU really are. 6 years ago Greek companies were selling their freight ships to German companies, now they're buying back those ships at huge discounts as German companies are go bankrupt.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/transport/9473476/World-shipping-crisis-threatens-German-dominance-as-Greeks-win-long-game.html

The more I think about it the smarter the Greeks sound. They took out lots of debt to buy German cars, debt which the Germans are now on the hook for... brilliant. Although I've said it before and I'll say it again - don't push around the Germans you won't like them when they're angry.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The history of central Asia / Procrastination

I love the title of this essay "How to Be a Better Procrastinator"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443537404577579033271214626.html?google_editors_picks=true


Is it ironic that I'm writing a blog post about procrastination while at work? And that I put off writing this post to write a comment on a previous post?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Retirement

No I'm not retiring from blogging, but I did just read a very interesting op-ed on retirement policies in the new york times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/opinion/sunday/our-ridiculous-approach-to-retirement.html

The stats on how little people in the US have saved for retirement are depressing. Many people are facing poverty due to either lack of planning or poor decisions. Yes some people can keep working to ease the blow but many can't. And though I'm generally against government intervention its clear the current system needs to be fixed. Retirement is an area where I feel the ideas of libertarian paternalism are most applicable. If someone doesn't want to save for their retirement that should be their choice, but right now we have an opt-in system - meaning that the default choice is don't save. If the government mandated an opt-in system the evidence suggests people would save a lot more. Under such a system you're automatically enrolled in 401k contributions unless you fill out paperwork to the contrary. Furthermore the government should mandate that all companies offer everyone better low cost investment options and make it more difficult to withdraw money. I follow all this stuff pretty closely and it still feels overwhelming at times! And I manage risk professionally. I can't imagine how someone without all that experience must feel. All this is basically at the heart of libertarian paternalism, let people do whatever they want but nudge them toward better options.

Chicago Parklets

I've always liked the idea of big pedestrian-only areas with lots of restaurants and shopping. Although I enjoy al fresco dining in Chicago there isn't anything really akin to say  Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Having cars drive by you when you're eating dinner outside definitely takes away from the experience. With street festivals we get rid of cars but add all kinds of tents and music that no one really cares about - so its a bit of a wash. But this latest plan to build parklets in Lakeview and Andersonville is a step in the right direction!

Abandoned Subway in NYC

Next time I'm in nyc I'm going to ride the 6 train just so I can get a view of this abandoned subway station. It looks incredible!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Zynga misses big on earnings

Zynga, maker of games such as Farmville, is down BIG after reporting a $22 million loss. How could this widely successful social gaming company possibly lose money? These games are huge cash cows, they don't require massive servers, complex development etc. In fact the company had nearly $1.2 billion in revenues last year. So what happened? One trip to their Wikipedia page is very telling:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zynga

At the company's headquarters in SoMa:
employees enjoy perks such as free gourmet meals, access to an in-house nutritionist, personal training, and insurance coverage for pets. Zynga headquarters features a coffee shop, gaming arcade, gym, basketball court, and wellness center
...the building is only 7 stories tall - are there actually any offices in there??

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kelo strikes again?

Article in rolling stone about a plan to use eminent domain to seize foreclosed houses and write down mortgages en masse. San Bernadino County is at the forefront of this plan and its pissing off a lot of bankers. I think this plan is brilliant and has the potential to reshape the housing market for the better... that said I should probably drop my position in BAC.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/from-an-unlikely-source-a-serious-challenge-to-wall-street-20120720

Monday, July 23, 2012

Now this is civil disobedience!

Judge ruled that stripping to protest the TSA's full body scans is protected by the 1st Amendment! This also serves as a warning to anyone who has to fly with me anytime soon :)

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/judge-rules-ok-strip-naked-protest-tsa-182446590.html

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

By the 1% for the 1%

After the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission enabled super-PACs the campaign finance game has gotten worse than ever. According to this article in the Atlantic a mere 196 donors have provided 80% of the super-PAC money in the presidential election so far. The numbers are quite large, pro-Romney's super-PACs took in $20 million last month and that total is sure to grow as the election nears. When are candidates are so beholden to corporate interests can we really trust them to rule for the best of the people?

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/07/big-campaign-spending-government-by-the-1/259599/

So what can we do to end this ridiculous system? Jon Soros (son of billionaire George Soros) has started his own super-PAC with the primary goal of ending super-PACs. Basically he's going to use this money to campaign only for candidates who support campaign finance reform. I'm still trying to figure out how I can donate to this. Although I'm reminded of a classic Nietzsche quote "Be careful when you fight monsters, lest you become one."

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/17/the-super-pac-that-aims-to-end-super-pacs/

Firefighters

Fascinating post from Marginal Revolution about what firefighters actually spend most of their time doing (hint: the answer isn't fighting fires)

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/07/firefighters-dont-fight-fires.html

Classic problem with government spending, we see this in the military all the time. If you give an agency more money they will find ways to spend it, whether or not it actually benefits the public.

Trial about no potential for jail-time

Banker from Citi is being charged by the SEC with negligence for some CDO deals. But if criminal bankers only have to give up a portion of their ill-gotten gains it won't serve as much of a deterrent. Start throwing them in jail and people will think twice about lying to investors, defrauding clients and manipulating markets.

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a5e535f6-cd1f-11e1-b78b-00144feabdc0.html#axzz20n9l2D6W

Monday, July 16, 2012

21st Century American Life

Great article about a study of 32 families in LA.

http://www.boston.com/community/moms/articles/2012/07/10/new_study_says_american_families_are_overwhelmed_by_clutter_rarely_eat_together_and_are_generally_stressed_out_about_it_all/?page=full

Some pretty depressing observations:
American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff.
And in particular:
50 of the 64 parents in our study never stepped outside in the course of about a week 
And this sounds like my mom:
Her children, ages 9, 13, and 17, have largely outgrown the toys, but she can’t bring herself to give them away. “I’m saving them for my grandchildren.”
...how can I be sure to avoid this?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Higher Taxes and More Regulation

At heart I'm a libertarian, I believe the government should interfere with my life as little as possible. But today I am advocating higher taxes and more regulation. Why? Because at some point more freedom actually results in less freedom. The richest people in this country have a significant capacity to endure higher taxes, especially on capital gains and dividends. Its ludicrous how income derived from labor is treated differently than income derived from capital. On the whole jobs are created by new, small companies not large existing ones. What large and established companies are good at is generating lots of profits and to some extent innovation. Neither of these functions will be hurt by higher taxes.

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/07/picking-on-the-job-creators/

With regards to regulation, it has become clear that the only thing that the only institution that can protect us from reckless and fraudulent corporations is government. Many American corporations are so large that they control more assets than entire sovereign states! That's far too much power going unchecked. We have the military to protect us from foreign invaders, comparatively how little do we invest in protecting ourselves from domestic enemies?

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/07/only-government-intervention-can-stop-corrupt-capitalism/259687/

To maximize our freedom and to keep markets fair we need government - or more accurately, we need a functioning government. Big banks, big pharma have advocated deregulation for years and while that has meant more freedom for them it has resulted in less freedom for us. By freedom I mean the freedom from exploitation. We have learned the hard way that we cannot trust these companies to be honest. Perhaps through no fault of their own - there will always be bad apples. I trust the vast majority of the people employed at these companies are honest. But because of their size and their impact we need to make sure they're not in a position to exploit the public.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

LIEBOR

After subprime mortgages, shadow banking and robo-signing I shouldn't be surprised by another fraud that the banks have gotten themselves into. There's a good article in the economist describing what exactly Barclay's (and inevitably others) are guilty of:

http://www.economist.com/node/21558281

LIBOR (london inter-bank offered rate) is everywhere, anyone who borrows or saves money is touched by it. The fact that these banks were brazen enough to manipulate this rate for their own profit is appalling. As the scandal spreads so will the outrage. In previous scandals the banks were generally ripping off "sophisticated investors" i.e. greedy people who should have known better. But scandal takes their fraud to a whole new level. Litigators must be thrilled about this - shit's about to get real.

The Next Shoe to Drop

Ever since the subprime debacle lots of folks in the industry have been worried about commercial real estate mortgages (i.e. multi-million dollar mortgages for office buildings, apartments, malls etc). But the commercial crash never really materialized despite lots of vacancies. This author attributes that to bias at the banks, but I don't think that's the primary reason:

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/easy-street/one-financial-crash-we-avoided

The biggest reason in my mind is leverage. During the go-go years you could buy a house with 5% down or less! This causes two problems. First if you're only putting a few thousand dollars down instead of tens of thousands have you really thought this decision through? And second if you only put 5% down then a 20% drop in house prices puts you hella underwater - unable to move, unable to refinance. Worse still, after the crash in house prices banks face an incentive compatibility problem. Financially its in their best interest to reduce your principal and get as much as they can from you. But if they do this for one person then tons more people will stop paying their mortgages trying to get their principal reduced and the banks would be screwed.

But we don't have this problem with commercial mortgages. In the commercial world 40% down payment is the standard and almost no one is allowed to put less than 25% down. So even if commercial property prices drop 40% (as they have) the property securing the mortgage is still valuable enough to cover the mortgage! I feel this is the key difference, if borrowers stop paying the bank can seize the property and not lose any money. Consequently there is no need to reduce principal, no incentive compatibility problems. Instead the banks can work out extensions, lower rates etc and everyone is happy. What happened with residential mortgages is that people took out too much debt and consequently were too leveraged. No doubt a good portion of this was reckless speculation and runaway consumption, but soaring health care and education costs also played a big role. These consistently rank as two of the top uses for home equity withdrawals. The more I think about this the more I feel our economic issues are all interconnected.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

On Condos

Interesting blog post on the history of condos in the US and around the world, titled "Why do condos even exist?"

http://marketurbanism.com/2012/07/01/why-do-condos-even-exist/

The author's big problem with condos is that once a condo building is developed and sold it becomes nearly impossible to tear down and redevelop. He gives a few explanation for the popularity of condos but overall I share his skepticism. If you live in a condo in downtown Chicago you're paying at least $1000 per month for assessments and taxes. At that point do you really "own" the condo? Plus you have to give up a lot of rights and freedoms for living in the building. To me this really seems like a version of long-term renting, you have to pay a lot of money up front then deal with the hassle of selling it down the line.

No posts in 10 days

There's a big backlog of posts that I haven't had time to write, I'm hoping to catch up a bit this weekend. Between 4 days in new york, apartment searching and clients who actually want me to do work time has been at a premium of late. This month is certainly going to be a transition in many ways. I'm coming up on 5 years at my job - from what I hear it's an important one. Hopefully this will be a transition to higher level role, i.e. creating work for other people and higher level advisory work. Personally there will be a lot of transitions as well, much of my social circle over the past few years is moving away. Although all the going away parties are a lot fun they leave a void that lasts longer than the hangover. August will certainly be a rebuilding month, but I do look forward to making new friendships and expanding existing ones. I find it remarkable both how easy and how difficult it is to form new friendships. With the right person it is very easy and very natural, the difficult part is finding those right people. I imagine by winter my day-to-day life will be quite different than it is now - not necessarily better or worse but different. For the most part I think I've become pretty good at accepting uncertainty without worrying too much about it. Its not easy since people are hard-wired to hate uncertainty but there is some comfort in not knowing what the future holds - without surprises life would get pretty boring.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Prison = Detention for adults?

In Brazil now, prisoners can shorten their sentence by 4 days by reading a book and writing an essay about it. I like the idea but the parallels to high school (i.e. doing homework in detention) are eerie.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-rt-brazil-prisonreadingl2e8hp75l-20120625,0,7694158.story

Sunday, June 24, 2012

wow wow wow

For those of you not familiar with TED talks (technology, entertainment and design) I would highly recommend either subscribing to them on itunes or checking out the website. The TED conference is put on by a non-profit several times a year all around the world. Leaders from various fields come and give 15-20 minute talks about a subject they're passionate about. I've probably listened to nearly a hundred at this point and there are many excellent ones - but tonight one in particular just blew me away. Jill Taylor, a neurobiologist, had a stroke 16 years ago. She had the opportunity to study her own brain as it was shutting down. Though she survived but it took her 8 years to fully recovery. Hearing her story is equally haunting and uplifting.

http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

Perception, New Jersey and Wine

Great article in the new yorker this month about how in a blind taste test a panel of experts recently judged that a series of inexpensive wines from New Jersey were better than expensive wines from Bordeaux. Other blind taste tests have found similar negative correlations between enjoyment and price, on average people tend to enjoy expensive wines slightly less than cheaper ones. However the most interesting part of the article is about how the perception of wine quality is a big factor in the enjoyment of wine. If people expect they are getting an expensive bottle they will enjoy it more and if they expect a cheap bottle they will enjoy it less - even if its the same wine with two different labels! But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised people are paying big margins for fancy labels with little to no different in quality.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/frontal-cortex/2012/06/wine-taste.html



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chinese mega-building

China is planning to build the world's tallest building... in 90 days.

http://inhabitat.com/sky-city-chinese-company-bsb-to-build-the-worlds-tallest-building-in-just-90-days/

I can't tell how serious this is, but I do like how all the pictures show this building as part of Chicago's skyline. I hope this isn't the same company that built all those high speed rail lines.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Now for something good from the Atlantic!

I feel bad about hating on the Atlantic in my last post so I'm gonna show some love here. There's a great article on how foreign guidebooks describe the US. Its always interesting to hear about what foreigners think of us and our customs because it provides a great perspective on both them and ourselves. In particular I like the part about sitting down at tables where others are eating - I can imagine if I tried it I'd get some interesting reactions!

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/welcome-to-america-please-be-on-time-what-guide-books-tell-foreign-visitors-to-the-us/257993/



Dear Atlantic I thought you were better than this...

In general I'm a fan of the Atlantic, their articles are quite often interesting and thought provoking and presented at a level that accessible to non-experts. But last week there was an article which commits the worst logical errors I've seen them make - correlation does not imply causation. In fact part of me thinks this article is a satire. The author argues that graduation rates would improve if more students take out debt. His whole argument is based on a study which found that 29% of students who take out loans drop out while 44% of students who don't take out loans drop out. But there are a thousand reasons why this might be the case! Making the leap to "students should take out more loans" is an outright logical fallacy! It's like saying people who drive luxury cars are rich so if you want to be rich buy a luxury car.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/06/more-student-debt-please-why-college-students-dont-borrow-enough/258205/


Thursday, June 14, 2012

At least our bailouts work...

Regardless of what you think about the politics of the 2008/2009 bailouts in the US, they worked. Or at least "worked" in the sense they stabilized the system and prevented a systemic collapse. Europe's approach to the banking bailouts has been so piecemeal that it fails to address the core issues - i.e. Spain, Greece and others are bankrupt. Pretending they're not and "lending" them more money is only going to make the problem worse. Good article from Bloomberg about why the most recent 100 billion euros won't accomplish anything.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-12/how-germans-botched-the-spanish-bank-bailout.html

I like Greg Weldon's solution to the problem - get Germany off the Euro. Everyone else wants to monetize their debt but the Germans are so afraid of hyperinflation that they refuse. Germany's economy is so big and so productive that the other countries can't compete while on a common currency. Kicking Greece out of the Euro, then Spain, than Italy would be far too disruptive for the European banking system. They have too much debt, the French mega-banks would be instantly insolvent if they got paid back in drachmas or lira. Something has to give, the French will never give up their sovereignty to the Germans (by choice), the Germans will never pay for Italian pensions and French health care. There is no tidy solution, its a question of which solution is the least messy.

http://www.investorsinsight.com/blogs/john_mauldins_outside_the_box/archive/2012/06/04/macro-eu-the-solution-illusion.aspx

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

50% Increase in Chicago Murders

What is it about warm weather that makes people want to kill each other? I suspect the huge contrast between last years frequent blizzards and this years record warmth is largely to blame for such a drastic jump... though I'm not sure that makes me feel any better about it.

http://newsone.com/2020339/chicago-murders-2012/


College

via Marginal Revoultion, "College is mostly about human capital, not signaling."

http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/college-is-mostly-about-human-capital.html

The author argues that the 3 big reasons we go to college is to build networks, motivation and gain perspective. I agree with a lot of his points but there is definitely a material difference between what a communications major and engineering major gets out of college. I suspect the people who will be the most valuable in terms of networking, motivation and perspective will likely be working pretty hard in their area of study. Overall I think he's overstating the value of the social / partying aspect - gotta say I wasn't surprised to learn author is a lifetime academic.

I don't say this a lot...

...but this is quite possibly the most idiotic article I've ever read. Or at least the most idiotic since the last time I went to foxnews.com

http://www.marketwatch.com/Story/story/print?guid=5690DE5A-B033-11E1-AB8D-002128049AD6

Thank you Mr. Farrell for making the world just a little bit dumber.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More on the Absurd

A lot of people look down upon theists for having such strong beliefs without any evidence. But what about atheists? Aren't atheists making a similar leap of faith without any evidence? Yes, we know a lot more about the universe than we did 4000 years ago, but we've barely scratched the surface. So much remains unknown. And how much remains unknowable? Uncertainty is all around us, we can choose to ignore it or at this blogger argues be liberated by its embrace:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/05/15/152745489/the-liberating-embrace-of-uncertainty

The Opposite of Loneliness

I was in a pretty lousy mood Saturday night / Sunday morning. I couldn't sleep, I was stressing out about the upcoming week, my next apartment, my career, my family, my relationships - no matter how hard I tried I couldn't stay asleep. I tried all my usual distractions: music, fiction, dark chocolate, comedy, porn but nothing was working for me, I couldn't shut my brain off. After hours of alternating 30 minutes of sleep with 30 minutes of drowsy consciousness, I gave up and went to Chipotle for breakfast. While eating my burrito bowl I was browsing some articles on my phone and stumbled on this link titled The Opposite of Loneliness, written by Marina Keegan for Yale's commencement paper. Just days before she died in a car accident. It was one of the most depressing things I'd ever read. Yet somehow it almost instantly made me feel better. In many ways its quintessentially existentialist, like something out of a Camus novel. Its haunting to read some of her last thoughts:
"I plan on having the parties when I'm 30. I plan on having fun when I'm old." 
"We're so young... we have so much time." 
"We can't, we must not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have."
But at the same time, the cure for pride and fear its realizing that our existence is so delicate, so absurd. No amount of stressing out, wishing or praying is going to change the world. We need to get over our pride and our fear and do something about it. In Marina's words "Let's make something happen to this world."

http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2012/may/27/keegan-opposite-loneliness/

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The hardest working member of the EU

Greece! On average, the Greeks work nearly 50% more hours than Germans. Overall a great article in the Atlantic about how European countries perceive each other and really emphasizes that hard work doesn't necessarily equal wealth.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/why-does-the-laziest-country-in-europe-work-the-most/257792/



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mad Men Is So Good / Monogamy and Cheating

I'm pretty sure that somewhere someone on the internet has made a relatively intelligible argument supporting almost any viewpoint. Not saying this blog post is one of them but it kind of gave me that impression. Given that I just finished Mad Men Season 4 I think this article fits nicely with the theme of my night. Its titled "Is Cheating a Rational Choice?"

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-anderson-phd/cheating_b_1528890.html

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who's to blame?

According to economix, more people blame Bush for our economic problems than Wall Street. That may be a little extreme but I would agree that the Bush presidency was the most disastrous since... Nixon? No wonder Romney refers to Bush as "Obama's predecessor." OUCH.

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/would-romney-be-another-bill-clinton-or-another-george-w-bush/

Monday, May 21, 2012

One of the best articles I've read this year

From NY Magazine, titled "Paper Tigers: What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test taking ends?"

http://nymag.com/print/?/news/features/asian-americans-2011-5/

Its not just an article about Asian-Americans but really about what makes people successful and why lots of hard work isn't enough. I find it very fitting that the protagonist (if articles can have such a thing) went of the UofC.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Scary Math

With all the kerfuffle about student loans of late I decided to do some of my own research and forecasting. For the past 25 years tuition at private universities has risen an average of 3.47% in real terms (adjusted for inflation). Given that my theoretical future children will be starting college about 25 years from now I decided to calculate the real cost of their college if this rate persists. Here's where things get scary. Last year the UofC estimated $62,425 in total expenses per year, per student - already about $20,000 more than when I started undergrad. If the current growth rate persists, the REAL cost of 1 year at the UofC will be $146,460 per student. In other words I'll need to be making $500,000 (pre-tax) just to send 2 kids to college - assuming no other expenses. This situation seems unsustainable, that is unless private university is to become for only the 0.1%. Also can you imagine college students living a $146k per year lifestyle? Massages and jacuzzis available in every dorm room, personal chefs, hummer limos driving you to class. At some point universities will have to run out of things to spend money on... right?

Thanks Lucretius

As if death weren't bad enough, now you've got me depressed about my non-existence prior to birth.

http://chronicle.com/article/Is-Death-Bad-for-You-/131818/

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How to Live

There are only a few books that have made me think as much as this one - road to serfdom, genealogy of morals, no exit first come to mind. And although at the core of this book is Montaigne, Bakewell does an incredible job of illustrating Montaigne's philosophy using examples from his life. Anyone who is interested in classical Greco-Roman philosophy or just feels like they're stuck in a rut should definitely read this book.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Live-Montaigne-Question-Attempts/dp/1590514831/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336943530&sr=8-1

Friday, May 11, 2012

More on JPM

Great post from financial times' blog on JPM's trade that blew up:

http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2012/05/11/996131/too-big-to-hedge/

I don't blame Dimon, how can anyone possibly keep tabs on all $2 trillion of JP Morgan's assets?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Moral Hazard Bitches

JP Morgan just announced a $2B trading loss with more certainly to come as they unwind their positions. Given how big this loss was the size of their position must be tremendous. Blood on the Street.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304070304577396511420792008.html

Who in the world approved this? Actually a quick Google search yields an answer:

http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/fortune/1109/gallery.highest_paid_women.fortune/8.html

And more importantly why in the world are too big to fail banks still prop trading?!?

Lunch In Sweden

The latest big thing in Sweden - lunchtime raves. Complete with DJs, smoke machines and strobe lights. I want in, how do we get one of these in the Loop?!?!


Instead I'm going to close the door to my office, put on my headphones and dance to Avicii. OooOoo sometimes I get a feeling!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Leaving Banking

Two great stories about people who left wall street / i-banking. They pretty much give all the reasons why I didn't get into this in the first place.

http://nplusonemag.com/leaving-wall-street

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/life-after-investment-banking

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Broken Promises

Another great thought provoking link c/o Marginal Revolution:
The industrial countries have a choice. They can act as if all is well except that their consumers are in a funk and so what John Maynard Keynes called “animal spirits” must be revived through stimulus measures. Or they can treat the crisis as a wake-up call and move to fix all that has been papered over in the last few decades and thus put themselves in a better position to take advantage of coming opportunities. For better or worse, the narrative that persuades these countries’ governments and publics will determine their futures—and that of the global economy.
I don't understand how anyone who has studies the causes of the crisis can believe that our current situation is the result of Keynes' "animal spirits." We've made too many promises that we can't possibly keep - whether in the form of credit default swaps, Medicare, mortgages or pensions the story is fundamentally the same. How and when these promises get broken will be one of the biggest issues over the coming decades.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April

WOW, what a month! Still trying to absorb all the experiences and catch up on sleep. I can't believe the month started with FRC Duffy's, Marcus' goodbye party, Coast and a Cubs game. It feels like those things happened ages ago. After much discussion we finally bit the bullet and went to Duffy's for their $20 all you can drink / all you can eat special. Given my low expectations for the night it was surprisingly fun - maybe a little too much fun! The following night was Coast which is always a great crowd and a sake-fueled shit show. Michael may have video of me starting a dance party in the middle of the street around midnight - good times. The next weekend was our (now annual) NYC trip with me, Jake, Michael and Marcus. It's sad to see Marcus leave Chicago but we definitely showed him a good time in his first weekend in NYC - I'm really glad we got to spend it with him. Between hanging out with the three bulls and my mom at dive bars in Brooklyn, a party in Yanni's hotel room and craziness around Nolita with Patrick it was quite the weekend. And even Greek Easter was a smashing success! I was very happy that my mom agreed to go after all the drama this year. She hasn't been on speaking terms with my sister for months so hopefully this was a step forward toward mending their relationship and helping my mom accept my sister's relationship with Yanni. A delicate process indeed.

So that was the slower half of the month.

3 days after getting back from NYC, it was time to leave for Coachella. (Jake: We went to Coachella bitches!) In retrospect I was certainly underestimating the awesomeness of this trip in the weeks leading up to it. But when I got on the blue line to head to o'hare I met a guy who was also going and my energy level went through the roof. By the time I got on the plane I was downright giddy. And that feeling still hasn't faded! Hanging out with Kyle in LA was a blast on Thursday night, the drive to Indio was beautiful on Friday morning and arriving at the festival in 106 degree heat was out of this world. All of a sudden it is the middle of summer and music festival season - life is good. The festival itself was perfect in many ways, a great mix of energy and relaxation, natural and man made beauty. And the music... if the bands I had to miss were headlining a festival I would definitely go to that festival! Didn't get the chance to see: Black Keys, Explosions in the Sky, Bon Iver, Kaskade, Feist, Florence and the Machine, Calvin Harris, AVICII and DJ Shadow. Jeez! The trip home was fun too, we stayed up all night Sunday to catch the early flight out of LAX. We were certainly the happiest/rowdiest bunch on that flight - much to the annoyance of all the business travelers I'm sure. And finally 3 days after Coachella, Abigail came to Chicago for my golden birthday weekend. Saving the best weekend for last! My golden birthday fell on a Friday - of course I had to go all out and that means a trolley ride with 20 of my closest friends. It was my first time on a trolley and it definitely exceeded my expectations - that seems to be the theme of April! As Elizabeth put it, just the challenge of drinking and dancing on a moving trolley is worth it. I really do have incredible friends and I'm very thankful for them. The rest of birthday weekend was quite spectacular as well - thanks to Abigail. Whether it was dancing together at Danny's or listening to Canon in D together on my couch it was really the perfect mix of fun and relaxation. I'm smiling a ton while I reminisce.

And now its May. A few days to catch up on life and then time for more adventures!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Meditations on Coachella

Still haven't fully recovered from the 106 degree heat and lack of sleep. But wow, it was incredible. Certainly the most beautiful festival grounds I've ever seen. It felt like a mini-paradise, very intimate atmosphere. All the stages were so close together and (for the most part) everyone was super friendly and thrilled to be there. Not to mention the music, Saturday was also probably the best day of shows I've ever seen - Radiohead, David Guetta, Shins and Jeff Mangum. Spectactular! Even the bands that I had to miss on Saturday (Bon Iver, Kaskade, Miike Snow and Feist) would have made for a solid day! Pictures coming soon to Facebook.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The dangers of cohabitation before marriage

Interesting opinion piece from the NYT. I certainly agree with a lot of the authors points, especially about the different perceptions that men and women have about cohabitation. I also really like her point about "sliding not deciding." Its all too easy to agree to something without thinking about what it means if it doesn't really feel like a big deal. Good read throughout.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/opinion/sunday/the-downside-of-cohabiting-before-marriage.html

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What the world will look like 2500 years from now

Fantastic blog post via Marginal Revolution, if our energy consumption continues to grow at its current rate we will be consuming an entire galaxy's worth of energy in 2500 years. I'm not sure if I should be optimistic or pessimistic about this...

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/04/exponential-economist-meets-physicist.html

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

More awesomeness from Google

I just spent the last half hour browsing through the new Google Art Project:

http://www.googleartproject.com/

Time to get back to work.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hitchcock's Rear Window in 3 minutes

Thanks to my sister for sending an incredible video! This guy recuts the entire movie into a single panoramic shot and speeds it up. I'm a huge fan of Rear Window (and Hitchcock in general) and the quality of this is amazing.

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/04/a-mesmerizing-time-lapse-composite-of-all-the-views-in-rear-window/255385/?google_editors_picks=true

The entire TSA paradigm is flawed

This former FBI Special Agent really doesn't like the TSA. Given all my upcoming travel I agree with him 100%. According to a guy in charge of auditing the TSA:
“The ability of TSA screeners to stop prohibited items from being carried through the sterile areas of the airports fared no better than the performance of screeners prior to September 11, 2001.”
OUCH. Great (and depressing) stuff throughout.

http://gmancasefile.blogspot.com/2012/01/tsa-fail.html

Almost Alcoholics

From the Atlantic, some of the warning signs of an almost alcoholic... should I be worried?
  • You look forward to drinking
  • You drink to maintain a buzz
  • You drink to relieve stress
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/04/are-you-almost-alcoholic-taking-a-new-look-at-an-old-problem/254585/

How actuarial tables changed my life...

A few months back I thought it would be interesting to look at an actuarial table to find the conditional probability of a 26 year old living to 27. What I discovered really changed my outlook on life:

http://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html

A 26 year old male has a 0.1412% chance of not seeing 27, that's approximately 1 in 708. If you had asked me to estimate that probability I would have been off by a couple of orders of magnitude - I didn't think it was anywhere NEAR that high. So what does that mean for me? Well it makes a lot of my problems, my fears etc seem pretty trivial. Fits in pretty well with my life philosophy, don't worry about it, make the best of it and don't do anything (excessively) stupid.

Speaking of living in NYC

Interesting chart about how condo prices in NYC vary by floor:

http://nymag.com/realestate/features/high-rise-appraisals-2012-4/

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Death squared

I find this experiment both very fascinating and deeply disturbing. They locked up a bunch of mice in a fixed space and provided their every need. As expected the mouse population exploded, many of the usual constraints didn't apply - there were no predators, no diseases, unlimited food and water. But as space became very constrained the population started to decline - they collectively lost interest in breeding. Very dystopian.

http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/42/wiles.php

Makes me never want to live in NYC.

Student loans... for elementary school

I'm not surprised but WOW, this seems like a pretty bad decision. I wouldn't want to be paying off high school loans (either mine or my kids) well into retirement.

http://www.smartmoney.com/borrow/student-loans/student-loans-on-rise--for-kindergarten-1332957614617/?link=SM_hp_ls4e

Monday, March 26, 2012

Existential Risk

Interesting piece in the Atlantic about how we're underestimating the probability that the technology we create will ultimately kill us:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/were-underestimating-the-risk-of-human-extinction/253821/

I eat this stuff up, in particular his simulation argument. The idea being that exactly one of the following must be true:
1) All civilizations go extinct before reaching technological maturity.
2) All technologically mature civilizations lose interest in creating computer simulations detailed enough detailed enough that the simulated minds within them would be conscious.
3) We're living in a computer simulation.
Let's hope for #3... I think.

Facebook is trying to trademark the word 'book'

Apparently they've already got 'face'.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/03/facebook-asserts-trademark-on-word-book-in-new-user-agreement.ars

Thursday, March 22, 2012

10 Days Without Posting

I think that's a new record for me, after a very prolific January and February my blogging has definitely suffered. Recently I've had a lot going on and the world has settled down a bit of late so I haven't been as motivated to write. So I guess I'll write a little bit about myself.

Two weeks ago I was in LA for the first time - have to say I was quite impressed. I had this vision of a smog-filled, car-infested, suburban sprawl... and I was right. But there is so much more to it. Driving around there were certainly many neighborhoods with a great vibe. The people didn't seem any worse than the type you see in NYC. The weather was spectacular and the mountain scenery breathtaking. We went up to Griffith Observatory on a perfectly clear day, it was one of those times that really made me marvel at the incredible size and beauty of the world. I hope to go back there someday soon.

Then last weekend Abigail visited. WOW, what an incredible time! The whole experience felt like a vacation, it was 80 degrees and sunny the whole time. All the bars and restaurants had their outdoor seating set up, everyone was outside wearing shorts and t-shirts. It was like spring break in Chicago. And as for Abigail, there are only a few people I've met in my life with whom I get along so well. I don't know how it'll end up, a spectacular success or a spectacular failure, but I'm confident it'll be spectacular.

Just how big is our defense budget?

From the perspective of the entire Federal budget we only spend something like 25% on defense. But when compared with the amount of money other countries spend our defense spending looks ridiculous!


Just think of what we could be doing with all the money. We could cut our defense budget by $450 BILLION and still be spending more than TWICE as much as China. Crazy. As % of GDP we're on par with the most volatile region on Earth - the Middle East.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One of the most important articles you'll ever read...

I love the title: Why incompetent people are too incompetent to know they're incompetent

I'm sure Montaigne would have appreciated this as well.

Edit: Maybe the article isn't as important as I originally thought? But then doesn't my skepticism validate the author's point? I'm starting to see a paradox here...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reflections on 2011

So I don't write much about what's happening in my life here but once again I've been reflecting on 2011. While the year certainly had its ups and downs I'm going to reflect on some of my favorite and most significant memories from the year - in no particular order.

First, lots of great parties in 2011:
Marcus' goodbye party: somehow we kept this secret from him. We got a keg of his favorite beer and practically everyone from work came out. Probably the best party I've ever thrown.
Chiditarod: bummed I'm not doing it this year because, despite the shitty shitty weather, it is such a unique experience. Between all the decorated carts, costumes it feels like Halloween. Plus the after party is a MESS, everyone is drunk, sweaty and there's a live band.
BSM Conference: yes falls under the party category since I went out with clients every night. Thursday I stayed up all night drinking with the South Africans, I get home at 6 am and decide its pointless to sleep so I go run 4 miles - in retrospect I was probably still drunk.
Emil's 10,000th Day Party: first of all celebrating your 10,000th day alive - phenomenal idea. And the party delivered - hanging out with old college friends, discovering Malibrew, getting nearly everyone to dance and making out in a hammock. Best party of 2011.
QRM Holiday Party: I swear, I have the best coworkers in the world. Whenever we hang out its a blast this was no exception. Plus the Elysian is swaaank.
Andre Party: How was this my first Andre party?? Nothing gets me in the spirit of the season like drinking Pink Andre from the bottle. Studio apartment was a great venue choice. And thankfully I avoided getting FADED.
Pat's NYE Party: He had me at the Masquerade theme. Add the fact we sang all the verses to Auld Lang Syne for each time zone. Then add a dozen college friends flying from out of town. Without doubt my best New Years.
Next, memorable trips:
Barbados: I spent 5 days in Barbados with family, despite being very difficult to get to the island itself is beautiful. Its very different from any other Carribean island I've been to. Its very safe, the locals and tourists all hang out at the same bars! I met a guy at an Irish pub who works at Ernst & Young in Barbados.
NYC / LCD Soundsystem: LCD Soundsystem was playing their last show ever at Madison Square Garden... NO WAY could I pass that up. Plus a trip to NYC is always fun. The show itself was fantastic and the trip had many other highlights - PDT, Hi Batman, Peculiar Pub and spending the night practically next door to where I grew up.
San Fransisco / Outside Lands: First time to California, first trip entirely by myself. While I was there I started this blog, I learned a lot about myself and overall had a fantastic time. Plus the atmosphere at this festival is perfect. The people are all super nice, the temperature in the 60's and they have a wine tent with wines from over 40 vineyards!
I'm On A Boat: Thanks to the Wagners for inviting me on their 4 hour long party cruise on Lake Michigan. It was such a great time, I need to do this again. Nothing says summer like swimming in Lake Michigan with a beer in hand yelling at some guy on a jet ski.
Deadmau5: Not a trip, but probably the most memorable concert experience of my life. The show is at the north end of Grant Park, we can see the skyline. The show is about to start, ominous clouds start rolling, one by one the buildings start to disappear, the trump tower, the aon center, seconds later it starts pouring. Everyone is instantly soaked but through the rain we hear the opening to Some Chords and everyone starts dancing as if the world were about to end. Unreal.
Las Vegas: I already wrote about my impressions of Vegas earlier. The trip was a lot of fun, but running into David Massant was one of those one-in-a-billion events. I still have trouble believing it happened.
Miscellaneous important memories:
Track & Trough Racing Team: Joining this group was great, lots of unique personalities on the team plus its awesome having 20+ training partners to keep pushing me.
Breaking Up With Stephanie: Long time coming I suppose, but still the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
Taking Every Friday Off: I didn't work a full week from mid-June through mid-September. If I lived somewhere warm I might never go to work...
New Relationships: Last August was the first time I was single as an adult. I've certainly met a lot of girls since then and dated several. The most significant one being Lauren. At the time it was quite ideal, we had some good times and I learned a lot from her. But sadly it wasn't right for me so I had to end it.
 Wow, quite the year. 2012 is already shaping up quite nicely.

Friday, March 2, 2012

And what if we don't listen to you?

Spain recently announced that they're not even going to try to meet the EU's required 4.4% deficit, instead they think 5.8% should be good enough. Over the last decade there has been no punishment for the Greeks, Portuguese and others who have blatantly disregarded the EU's rules about debt and deficits - so why should this time be any different? In fact the worse they act the more free German money they get. What could go wrong? And this is exactly why I think the EU bailouts are doomed to failure. If EU doesn't make an example out of someone, no one is actually going to follow the rules.

http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2012/03/02/spain-defies-brussels-on-deficit-target/?intcmp=obnetwork

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Denial isn't just a river in Egypt...

Apparently the PIIGS owe (Swiss) big pharma some $20 billion. For the past 3 years they've been issuing IOUs instead of paying cash.

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/business/Recession-hit_nations_owe_pharma_firms_billions.html?cid=32185254

Who else have they been not paying? And who do they think they are, writing all these IOUs, California?

Friday, February 24, 2012

And on a lighter note...

The top 5 regrets of the dying:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying

Some great lines throughout.
"Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."
"Many developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried."
"Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Private prisons

The Corrections Corporation of America is offering states an up front cash payment in exchange for privatizing their prisons for the next 20 years. The catch? States need to guarantee they're generating enough criminals to keep the prisons at 90% capacity... this has me worried.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/14/private-prisons-buying-state-prisons_n_1272143.html

Friday, February 17, 2012

Entrapment / At what point do we start creating terrorists?

News today that a man was arrested for trying to blow up the Capitol Building.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/17/justice/us-dc-security-threat-arrest/?hpt=us_c2

Apparently law enforcement "has been intimately involved" for some time now. Did we supply him with the inoperable vest? How far would he have gone on his own? This reminds me of the guy who thought he had left a bomb outside of Sluggers on a Friday night - but in reality undercover police had given him the fake bomb and arrested him soon after. Part of me worries that we are intentionally creating criminals - its certainly a good way to justify the hundreds of billions we're spending on "Homeland Security."