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April 08, 2014

"10 Lessons of an MIT Education"

From 1997, but is relevant and useful today. I'd certainly show it to any high school students thinking about attending MIT. Sample:

Lesson One: You can and will work at a desk for seven hours straight, routinely. For several years, I have been teaching 18.30, differential equation, the largest mathematics course at MIT, with more than 300 students. The lectures have been good training in dealing with mass behavior. Every sentence must be perfectly enunciated, preferably twice. Examples on the board must be relevant, if not downright fascinating. Every 15 minutes or so, the lecturer is expected to come up with an interesting aside, joke, historical anecdote, or unusual application of the concept at hand. When a lecturer fails to conform to these inexorable requirements, the students will signify their displeasure by picking by their books and leaving the classroom.

Despite the lecturer's best efforts, however, it becomes more difficult to hold the attention of the students as the term wears on, and they start falling asleep in class under those circumstances should be a source of satisfaction for a teacher, since it confirms that they have been doing their jobs. There students have been up half the night-maybe all night-finishing problem sets and preparing for their midterm exams.

Four courses in science and engineering each term is a heavy workload for anyone; very few students fail to learn, first and foremost, the discipline of intensive and constant work.

Bonus from the same author (on teaching and on being a mathematician): "Ten Lessons I wish I had been Taught".


It's good to be MJ

"How Michael Jordan Made $90 Million In 2013".

Nike released the Air Jordan 10 “Powder Blue” retro sneaker on Saturday, 20 years after the first Jordan 10s hit shelves. Like all the Jordan retro releases, this one was highly anticipated and first-day sales hit $35 million. For perspective, in all of 2013, Adidas sold $40 million in the U.S. of the signature shoes of its top star, Derrick Rose. The Bulls’ current star guard isn’t the only one operating in the shadow of Jordan. Reigning MVP LeBron James is the top seller among current NBA players with $300 million at retail last year for his Nike shoes, according to data tracker SportsOneSource. Jordan crushed those numbers with $2.25 billion in U.S. retail basketball sales in 2013. It has been more than a decade since Michael Jordan last appeared in an NBA uniform, but MJ most certainly has still got it.

"A Guide to Congress's Gimmicks"

It would be so good if they would just stop lying

See also Ruth Marcus, most definitely not a member of the vast-right-wing-conspiracy: "The budgetary fix we’re in".

Two answers to MIchael Lewis's new book and the HFT panic

"Michael Lewis’ high-frequency bull".

It’s easy to bash Wall Street as the root cause of all financial problems (and some non-financial ones), which is why Michael Lewis is getting away with blowing so much smoke about the latest supposed ripoff of the “little guy.”

Easy, but completely and utterly disingenuous.

"Michael Lewis’s HFT Book: More of a Dark Market Than a Lit One".

In sum, there doesn’t appear to be a lot new in Lewis’s book. Moreover, the morality tale doesn’t capture the true complexity of the markets generally, or HFT specifically. It has certainly resulted in the release of a lot of heat, but I don’t see a lot of light. Which is kind of fitting for a book in which a dark pool is the hero.

Three on Paul Ryan's new proposed budget

"An Overview of the Ryan FY2015 Budget".

"Paul Ryan's 2015 Budget: Playing It Safe — and Disciplined".

"Paul Ryan Announces Balanced Budget Plan With Massive Spending Cuts". ("Massive," of course, is in the eye of the beholder.)

April 07, 2014

"Which Side Are You On?"

Kevin Williamson beautifully admonishes the conservative nit-pickers: "If you don’t care whether Republicans win, care that Democrats lose."

"How to Give an Applied Micro Talk: Unauthoritative Notes"

Useful and funny. Should be required in econ graduate schools. Sample:


Your audience does not care about your topic.

You have 1-2 slides to change their minds.

Make them count



policy questions

"California's Vanishing 'Surplus'"

Kind of hard to believe. And California's finances are notably convoluted. 

Last year, California’s Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed an end to the state’s worrisome and persistent deficit. How did he do it? In the 2012 election he had fed voters the notion that a proposed income tax increase would be spent on education. California voters treat education as a sacred cow, even though the state ranks near the bottom in test outcomes. They passed the ballot issue.

On January 31 last year, the state’s General Fund had a deficit of $15.7 billion. The higher tax rates brought in new money. This, along with internal and external borrowing, made it look as if the deficit had gone with the wind, but it hadn’t. Brown called it a surplus, amid much cheering by the spendthrift legislature. 

Fast forward to the end of January this year. The deficit had been whittled down to $12.6 billion. Some surplus!

But on second thought, these days I'd believe almost anything about politics. 

"Fort Hood attack: My son, our soldiers, are defenseless, sitting ducks"

Astonishingly stupid:

Ironically, my son is a concealed handgun permit holder. He can carry a concealed handgun whenever he is off the Fort Hood base so that he can protect himself and others. But on the base he and his fellow soldiers are defenseless.

See also "Here’s What Happened to Crime in Chicago After Illinois Finally Passed Concealed Carry Law".

"The Next Age of Invention"

Joel Mokyr, distinguished professor of economics and history at Northwestern, is optimistic, and I agree:

Certainly, it is difficult to know exactly in which direction technological change will move and how significant it will be. Much as in evolutionary biology, all we know is history. Yet something can be learned from the past, and it tells us that such pessimism is mistaken. The future of technology is likely to be bright.

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