Writing November 1, 2016
So it’s a bit over a year since I wrote about writing. Has anything changed? Well, yes. I initially thought I’d be sharing many more blog posts about my own thoughts, but for some reason those all end up in half-baked Google docs. Hitting publish is hard. It is much easier to write one or two lines of commentary on someone else’s writing, than to produce any essay worth sharing. But there is a gray area right next to content creation: Continue reading...
Napa October 31, 2016
Hannah’s grandma was in town this weekend and we drove up to Napa. The art, the wine, the landscapes, and the food, were all wonderful. We enjoyed our time there. More...
Links - October 30, 2016
I meant to post these on Wendesday, which became Thursday, which became Friday… then Saturday. But here we are!
- What Do Trump and Marx Have in Common? Jochen Bittner - The New York Times
TL;DR, they were both “Wutbürgers,” or “Angry Citizens.” I don’t think they had much else in common. Despite the poorly chosen title, the article does a good job of recounting previous political movements driven by anger, some more constructive than others, and showing how history echoes across time, as well as geography.
- The Great Cooling Off Kim-Mai Cutler - Modern Luxury, San Francisco
Are we at the tail end of the up-cycle in San Francisco? The economic indicators make it seem like we might be. With rents flattening over the past few months, and unicorns falling from their sky-high valuations, the Bay Area might become a little less insane in the near future.
- It’s Trump’s Party Paul Krugman - The New York Times
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Republican Party after Trump. Many key players have lost their credibility, but, sadly, I don’t think that really matters.
- Static typing will not save us from broken software David R. MacIver
Writing software is a matter of trade-offs. There are costs to runtime errors, but there are also costs to over engineering. In the end, each feature, and each project ends up mixing and matching processes and strategies, but I haven’t seen types pay-off their upfront expenses yet. Someone should spend the time modeling these choices in an economic model. I am sure several companies would be willing to fund such research.
- The secret behind Italy’s rarest pasta Eliot Stein - BBC
I want to eat this. On a more serious note, I think the most interesting part of this story is how a very specific skill, which has been passed down as a secret through generations is about to be lost because of lack of interest, and indifference.
- A Tale of Two Stagnations Noah Smith - Bloomberg View
Consider two very different options for why growth seems to have stoped: either people have stopped consuming enough to drive the economy forward, or we have stopped innovating and creating products as we used to. Each situation requires very different remedial policies, but as Smith explains, we’re not sure which of the two worlds we’re living in.
- The stock market looks cheap Antonio Fatas
One of the few things about finance that I actually enjoyed learning about in school was Gordon’s Growth Model. In his post, Fatas applies the model and plays with the equation to come up with a “Bubble Index.” While I wouldn’t bet on it, the equation makes for an interesting exercise.
- Contempt Culture Aurynn Shaw - The Particular Finest
Holding others in contempt for not working with a real language is a problem. Putting down PHP, a commonplace occurence, is as bad as mocking Java for having industrial strength. As a Python guy, I constantly get comments on when I’ll graduate to a static language. Making fun of each other’s tools of choice, and marking them as being beneath consideration is a mistake.
- Jane Jacobs’s Theories on Urban Planning—and Democracy in America Nathaniel Rich - The Atlantic
I was first exposed to Jane Jacobs through a class in college. We were assigned an excerpt of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” and it was odd how much Jacobs’ line of thought, once extranous, was so internalized into our own views that many of us didn’t understand why her writing was interesting. After learning more about her, and putting things in historical perspective, it all made much more sense.
- Shadowed Qualities Startup (podcast)
While I don’t yet know the pressures of being CEO, it is well known that depression, anxiety, and other issues are common among the startup crowd. Gotta hand it to Alex Blumberg for exposing himself as he did in this episode. It takes courage to let others into one’s life as he did.
- The No-Brainer Economic Platform Planet Money (podcast)
People do not understand second order effects, and have trouble forseeing policy implications. I keep going back to how whenever we think of economics in terms of the study of “rational agents,” we’re making a mistake. And I don’t mean it in the behavioral econ “we all have biases” way, but in the “People are dumb and don’t have full information to make rational decisions” way. Democracy is hard.
NYC October 26, 2016
I spent this past weekend in New York. Each time I have visited the city, I have come back with more respect for it. I’d love to have more time to explore it in the future. More...
Links - October 19th, 2016
As my friend Leo would say, my lack of link-posting has been circumstantial, not intentional.
Last week found me busy, and uninspired. The weekend, on the other hand, gave me a lot to think about. I listened to the audio-book version of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, and watched 13th, both of which I would highly recommend. I also attended a few LitQuake events, one of which was especially worthwhile.
For a while now, I have been saying that I want to write more, and this weekend gave me even more ideas, as it put a lot of things in perspective. The goal for the upcoming weeks is to put my thoughts down on paper.
Also, I read a bunch of interesting things about the election, but you’re probably tired of that. I am too.
In the mean time, here are links worth reading.
- Developer hiring and the market for lemons Dan Luu
A critique of Spolsky’s Finding Great Developers, based on solid microeconomics. Luu compares the software engineering labor market to Akerlof’s market for lemons. The argument against Spolsky’s model seems to be based on two ideas: first, that there is an information asymmetry for both hiring managers, as well as engineers, and second, that the proportion of dysfunctional teams is larger than Spolsky implies. The article goes into an extensive study of the market structure, and possible solutions for both managers and engineers. The main takeaway, is that job hunting and hiring for software engineers is hard.
- The White Problem Quinn Norton - The Message – Medium
An explainer on race in the US, which I can’t recommend enough. Norton’s two part post helped me re-contextualize the present via history I was unaware of (part two, here).
- Echo, interfaces and friction Benedict Evans
We are nowhere near a transparent general AI, and all the companies buidling voice interfaces know that. By now, Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant have all been positioned away from such an all-encompassing solution, pushing for ever narrower use cases. Like the AIs out of Facebook’s bot fiasco of 2016, voice interfaces seem to be adding more friction than they take away.
- An Economics Nobel for Examining Reality Noah Smith - Bloomberg View
When people think of economics as a discipline, they tend to think of the broad themes they read about in the newspaper: interest rates, trade, unemployment, the housing market, etc, usually analyzed at the macro level. However, as Smith points out, microeconomics has slowly gained steam, developing more reliable models than macro in the last few years. Better tools, new methods, as well as data, are driving this change. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in more Nobel Prizes going to the microeconomists as of late, including this year’s winners.
- A half-million Brazilians want to break away and form a new country The Washington Post
More of the same. I still believe modern nations might be unraveling. Another case of “we don’t want to pay for them, because they are not us”.
- The Hard Raise Fred Wilson - AVC
From an anecdote of a “hard raise,” I think what Wilson makes in this post is an argument against easy money. When companies persevere against hard conditions, they come out stronger, with smarter theses, and better strategies.
- How the Fed Turns Good News Into Bad Narayana Kocherlakota - Bloomberg View
In which Kocherlakota explains so much of what’s wrong with techno-pessimism, while making a case for paying attention to second and third order effects.
- A Great Fight of Our Times David Leonhardt - The New York Times
Throughout history, not all generations get to be better off than the previous ones, and that seems to be the case of the United States today… unless things change. “The moral case for a fairer society is clear. But there is also a self-interested case.”
- Our Need for Purpose and Recognition Albert Wenger - Continuations
I have been thinking a lot about Maslow’s hierarchy as of late. Luckily, I am part of the minority that gets to worry about these things.
- A Short Primer On The Thiel Dust-Up Alex Wilhelm - Mattermark
Tech Twitter blew up on YC’s face this week. It is rare for tech celebrities like David Heinemeier Hansson, Marco Arment, Thomas Ptacek, Jeff Atwood, and even Maciej Cegłowski to agree on things, but they have all come out with pitchforks after Sam Altman and Paul Graham for their defense of Peter Thiel. Even if Hillary wins, Trump has put strain on the Silicon Valley technorati.
- Angus Deaton on Inequality, Trade, and the Robin Hood Principle EconTalk (Podcast)
Not suprisingly, the idea of redistribution is not taken well by Roberts, but the underlying themes are more interesting anyway. Touching on cosmopolitanism, identity, and other recurring subjects of this blog, Deaton and Roberts discuss the state of the US’s poor, questioning whether a poor person in the south is objectively worse off than a poor person in Africa, for example.
- The Wells Fargo Hustle Planet Money (Podcast)
The stories coming out of the Wells Fargo scandal are rough. Incentives in the financial markets are turned on their heads, and it is amazing that the extensive regulation can’t handle these issues. Golden parachutes and bail-outs aside, this is insanity.
- Half a House 99% Invisible (Podcast)
Necessity is the mother of invention, quite literally. This episode makes it easy to imagine what the village might look like, but after seeing the photos I think the audio doesn’t do it justice. An excellent idea, and an important example of why the US sometimes lags on the innovation side.
- In Line The Memory Palace (Podcast)
A short episode, based on a 1964 New York Times article. Nate DiMeo tells us a story we’ve all heard before, but which, sadly, must be retold over and over again.
- Map of the Internet Quartz
I am sharing this, even though I honestly did not read the whole thing. An 11 part epic on how the internet works. A good production, even if a bit overwhelming.