« August 2009 | Main | October 2009 »

September 2009

Important point

I tell my students worried about the effects of "environmental poisons" on their health that they'd be better off worrying about the things they more directly control. I'll have a new study to cite, by Ralph Keeney:

A remarkable 55 percent of deaths for people age 15 to 64 can be attributed to decisions with readily available alternatives. In other words, most people are the agents of their own demise. That's a vast difference from a century ago, when, Keeney estimates, a scant 5 percent of deaths were brought on by personal decisions (infectious diseases account for most of the rest).

"Is the Internet melting our brains?"

No, argues Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics at Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Baron seeks to provide the historical context that is often missing from debates about the way technology is transforming our lives in his new book, "A Better Pencil." His thesis is clear: Every communication advancement throughout human history, from the pencil to the typewriter to writing itself, has been met with fear, skepticism and a longing for the medium that's been displaced.

Here, as usual, history provides useful perspective.

What Harvard trademarks

From the Boston Globe, 8/1:

Harvard University has sought for decades to protect and profit from its good name, one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

Now it is also claiming the rights to a growing number of common phrases, trademarking the famously familiar (“Ask what you can do’’) and the seemingly mundane (“Lessons learned’’). An application is pending for “The world’s thinking.’’ It also has dibs on the Harvard “H.’’

"Recommended Curriculum For [Undergraduate] Students Interested in Finance"

By Ivo Welch, noted professor of finance at Brown. Includes interesting advice, too. Samples:

In my opinion, advanced math courses (such as real algebra) can be interesting, but they also have little direct application in financial economics. (They are great for students who want to enter a PhD program in economic theory or math.) The important math courses from a financial economics perspective are [a] basic high-school algebra, [b] intro calculus (up to basic one-dimensional integration), and [c] basic linear algebra. Mathematical aptitude and comfort with working with equations is much more important than mathematical sophistication. Exception to the Rule: If you want to go into fixed income or options, then there is one advanced math course that would be very good: stochastic calculus. . . .

Although last, the following may be the single-best suggestion that I can give you: If you are not comfortable speaking up or presenting yourself, you should take a course in theatrical acting . . . . If you cannot do this, try to see if there is an amateur acting company or acting workshop that you can join. Being able to play roles and speak up (as a stage actor has to) may be as important to your success in life than all the economics&finance courses you may ever take. When you interview or talk to a client, you are in effect playing a role!