Observations from Costa Rica, 2017

Observations from Costa Rica, 2017 Every time I come back home to visit my family I notice how differently things run here in Costa Rica than in the US. There are some blaringly obvious contrasts, while others are details so subtle that it took me 7 years abroad consider. Continue reading...

Links - November 24, 2017

This was in drafts for a while, so posting without comments.

San Francisco, Downtown

San Francisco, Downtown

Light can be instantaneous. You must be ready, and you must have the damn camera with you.

-Jay Maisel, Light Gesture And Color

I have been trying to take my camera with me more often when I go about my daily life. I usually bike to work, but when I take public transit instead, this is what happens: More...

Halloween 2017

Halloween 2017

This year for Halloween we went out in the Castro. It was a fun night, but to be honest the costumes were not as interesting or outrageous as I expected them to be.

I had planned to go to the Dia De Los Muertos event in the Mission a couple of days later, and post photos from both days in one set, but I messed up, and went to MoMa the day of instead, so you only get the Halloween photos. Sorry. More...

Links - November 09, 2017

  • Tech Goes to Washington
    Ben Thompson - Stratechery

    If you have been following along lately, I’ve been talking a lot about tech and politics. Here, Ben Thompson summarizes last week’s hearings. He describes the controversy as “largely centered within the coastal tech-media bubble,” and I could not agree more. The real question is what average Jane and Joe in the rest of the country think about this, and those are exactly the voices that these politicians (in theory) represent. I’m convinced the hearings were useless in the grand scheme of things, but the arguments presented will be tested in other arenas in the months to come - I can’t wait to see where this ends up…

  • Can Washington Stop Big Tech Companies? Don't Bet on It
    Farhad Manjoo - The New York Times

    …Especially because government doesn’t seem to be the right answer here. Regulation of tech companies is especially hard because the zero marginal cost model in which they operate does not match the original point of antitrust. Consumer surplus might be high, but the real problems being tackled here are not simply about prices, supply, and demand. Having the government police feeds is a freedom of speech question, but we also don’t want Zuck & friends to explicitly start censoring what can and can’t be seen. Lots of stuff to think about.

  • Maybe Index Funds Will Destroy Capitalism
    Matt Levine - Bloomberg View

    There are interesting questions about centralized decision making, organization, and coordination here. For example, if the same people own all the airlines, via indexing, does competition still emerge? The answers matter, but I think we’re still pretty far from having enough concentration of capital for this to be real concern.

  • @20
    Paul Ford - Ftrain.com

    The internet has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Ford does a little recounting of his time online, and the rise of walled gardens versus the open web.

  • Square, the Twitter Boss’s Other Company, Could Pass It in Value
    Nathaniel Popper - The New York Times

    Square is a more interesting company than Twitter. They don’t sell ads, nor nudge customers into buying things. Their product reduces friction in other companies’ transactions, which sets them apart from the rest of the pack of Silicon Valley startups. I am particularly intrested in how quiet Square (and PayPal and Stripe and others) has been about crypto. I wonder not what Chase and Goldman are planning to do with these new technologies, but what Stripe and Square have in store.

  • Fashion, Maslow and Facebook's control of social
    Benedict Evans

    I like Evans’ analogy of Facebook as a company that surfs on user behavior. As he says, “we attribute vastly too much power to a handful of product managers in Menlo Park, and vastly too little power to the billions of people who look at their phone screen and wonder which app to open.”

  • Rise of the Creative Class Worked a Little Too Well
    Noah Smith - Bloomberg View

    In this column, Smith discusses Richard Florida’s argument that “by creating a good environment for knowledge workers […] cities could attract the human capital that would bring in businesses and ultimately re-invigorate their economies.” As Noah points out, and Florida concedes, this helped many American cities kickstart a new phase of growth, but that came together with increased inequality, and other undesired side effects. I agree with Florida that cities should “invest in things that improve the lives of their poorer residents,” but I am skeptic of Noah’s claim that the federal and state governments should get more involved. There is too much local knowledge required to solve urban ailments, but in the end, these are problems of fragmentation, and short vs. long term incentives, both of which governments are well fit to solve…

  • How to save San Francisco
    Justin Krause - Medium

    …speaking of which. Krause makes good arguments of how to fix up San Francisco. Some make sense, and some don’t. I agree with him that it’s not a problem of resource constraints. It’s an issue of political will. There’s no BART going up to Marin because of NIMBYs, not because there was no money to build it. I remember listening to a similar arugment on the YIMBY pocdast, where they discussed how the arbitrary geographic divisions in the Bay Area’s landscape makes coordination basically impossible.

  • The Line Between Aggressive and Crazy
    Colby Davis - RHS Financial

    Investing is hard. Mostly because of the uncertainty, but also because even the parts of it that seem intuitive are underneath quite complex, making us wrong more often than not. This article discusses optimal strategies for repeated bets (aka the Kelly Criterion) in the context of the stock market. Their test seems biased, given the strategy’s return over the bull market of the last ten years, but the article is interesting nonetheless.

  • Debating Where Tech Is Going to Take Finance
    Tyler Cowen and Matt Levine - Bloomberg View

    In a short conversation, Levine and Cowen discuss recent innovations in the fintech space. From blockchain, blockchain, blockchain to index funds and globalized diversification, the two bring up good examples across the spectrum. What’s interesting, and which neither Cowen nor Levine really discuss is the fact that the surplus of innovation in finance has not really gone to the consumer. Perhaps the only exception mentioned is the expansion of access to credit products, which is not necessarily a net positive.

  • La Sagrada Família (podcast)
    99% Invisible

    With everything happening in Cataluña right now, this was a timely podcast. I did not know the back story behind the cathedral, but now that I’ve learned a bit more about it I am even more excited about visiting Spain at some point in the near future.

  • Hume and Smith, and The Infidel and the Professor (podcast)
    Dennis Rasmussen and Russ Roberts - EconTalk

    If there is one thing I love (and also hate) about EconTalk, is that nearly every episode ends up with me adding a book to my list. In this case, its Rasmussen’s book on the Hume and Smith, and their role in the Scottish Englightenment. I keep thinking that I should just go back to the origin, and read the classics first - Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature and The History of England, as well as Smiths’ The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations - and then go into the modern analysis of their work, but it is nice to have your hand held as you learn these. I always thought it was odd than in 4 years of economics courses I was never asked to read any Smith. As an aside, I found Smith posthumous editorializing of Hume’s work to be fascinating.

  • Elizabeth (podcast)
    The Memory Palace

    A story of the discovery of insulin, and the strange interaction between disesases, cures, and time.

Would you like to get content like this directly in your inbox? Sign up below: