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August 2009

Writer for Wired is really, really ticked off at craigslist

In "Why Craigslist Is Such a Mess", Gary Wolf unburdens himself of a considerable amount of angst and irritation at craiglist and its founder, my brother-from-another-mother, Craig Newmark:

With more than 47 million unique users every month in the US alone—nearly a fifth of the nation's adult population—it is the most important community site going and yet the most underdeveloped. Think of any Web feature that has become popular in the past 10 years: Chances are craigslist has considered it and rejected it. If you try to build a third-party application designed to make craigslist work better, the management will almost certainly throw up technical roadblocks to shut you down.

It goes on like that, gripe after gripe, for a long time. It's amazing. Don't read the whole thing.

He won't reply this way--he's too nice--but if I were the real Craig Newmark I would say this: Dear Gary, what part of F-R-E-E do you not understand?

Oh, and there's this arresting paragraph:

Newmark's claim of almost total disinterest in wealth dovetails with the way craigslist does business. Besides offering nearly all of its features for free, it scorns advertising, refuses investment, ignores design, and does not innovate. Ordinarily, a company that showed such complete disdain for the normal rules of business would be vulnerable to competition, but craigslist has no serious rivals. The glory of the site is its size and its price. But seen from another angle, craigslist is one of the strangest monopolies in history, where customers are locked in by fees set at zero and where the ambiance of neglect is not a way to extract more profit but the expression of a worldview.

As the kids today say, "Jealous, much?"

Some people are *not* happy with their i-Phones

"I am not alone in my anguish. You might say an anti-iPhone movement is afoot. When I told a fellow journalist friend that my iPhone was going to end my career, she exclaimed, "I told that to the guy at the AT&T store yesterday!" There is a Web site (ihatemyiphone.com) devoted solely to iPhone animosity."

After a lot of details there's this crack: "I began to wonder if iPhone ownership wasn't like marriage in the '50s, everybody pretending they're happy with their spouses but secretly, behind closed doors, feeling awful and taking pills in the basement."

"Six cutting-edge jobs you can get without a piece of sheepskin"

Having taught at a university for a while, I've seen more than a few students who seemed to deperately want to be somewhere other than in the classroom. I think it's a shame that, at the margin, some kids are pressured into going to college when they could be more productive and happier doing something else. So I applaud this short article from Mother Jones.

The 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

A car that Dan Neil describes thusly:

. . . as wretched and routine a hunk of Detroit iron as ever freighted down an assembly line. Spot-welded together with the craftsmanship one might expect of unsupervised political prisoners, the Monte Carlo -- with a 402-cubic-inch V8 engine and four-barrel carburetor -- was and is a sidewalk-fumigating stink bomb, with no steering or handling to speak of, and brakes that are more rumor than fact.

But one sold at auction last week for $60,500. Mr. Neil exclaims, "Good Lord. The clunkers of my youth have become classics."

Two rather amazing science stories

"Arrow of time no longer double-ended".

A physicist claims to have solved one of the more persistent problems in physics: why time flows in only one direction.

"New Research Shows Life Hardwired in the Universe".

A recent mathematical analysis says that life as we know it is written into the laws of reality.  DNA is built from a set of twenty amino acids - the first ten of those can create simple prebiotic life, and now it seems that those ten are thermodynamically destined to occur  wherever they can.

You just can't beat academic research for surprising findings

Part of the abstract for "Accounting Faculty Job Search in a Seller's Market" by Steven C. Hunt, Tim V. Eaton, and Alan Reinstein, Issues in Accounting Education, May 2009, 24(2), 157-185:

This research examines accounting faculty job search and selection in the tightening academic job market. Surveys were sent to all new accounting Ph.D.s and to faculty who relocated from 2002 to 2004. The survey included 37 factors of importance (e.g., salary, geographical location) to new Ph.D.s in selecting their initial faculty position and to relocating faculty. Overall, faculty appear to be very concerned with their teaching load, criteria used for promotion and tenure decisions, and compatibility with other faculty. Most faculty viewed likelihood of getting tenure as very important. . . .

"Obamacare's Bait & Switch"

Another interesting column on health care reform by Cato's Michael D. Tanner:

President Obama has stopped talking about "health-care reform." The new poll-tested phrase of the day is "health-insurance reform. Specifically the president says he wants to protect people with "pre-existing conditions." He would require insurance companies to accept anyone who applies for coverage, regardless of their current health (a rule known as "guaranteed issue") and prohibit them from charging higher premiums to people who are sick (called "community rating").

But if that's what the president wants, he could already have a bill through Congress, with significant Republican support. In fact, even the insurance companies have agreed to it.

But the 1,017-page bill making its way through the House devotes all of six pages to insurance reform — 30 pages, if you count all the definitions and supporting provisions, still less than 3 percent of the bill.

So why the bait and switch?

Read the whole thing. One interesting thing about the rest is Tanner's reference to what happened when a few states adopted guaranteed issue and community rating. There's a lot of experience from the states with various reforms; in my view, both the Left and the Right should be discussing that experience more.