Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quote of the Day

Vinod Khosla, one of the world’s leading clean tech investors, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference (TechCrunch):

Environmentalists get in the way…and do more damage than they know
TechCrunch goes on to explain:
Self-described environmentalists demand or adopt technology that sounds promising without a sense of its true cost or impact to the environment. “Painting your roof white is better for the environment than driving a Prius or similar vehicle,” Khosla pointed out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit (via Greg Mankiw): "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Simon Sinek: Start with Why

Simon Sinek: "We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves. It is those who start with 'why' that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them." Another interesting thought was that people should be hired not for what they do, but why they do it. Another book to add to my ever flowing list of books to read. In the meantime, watch his TED presentation here (via Swissmiss):

A Warning for "Smart" People

"Stupid people think you are as stupid as they are." It's sometimes a bit difficult to tell if you're the stupid one in the equation. Colorful anecdote here (

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More from Steven Johnson: "Chance favors the connected mind"

I guess they're bringing out the PR wagon for the upcoming book launch, and based on this presentation and the TED presentation, it looks like it'll be a very worthwhile read:

More @ the WSJ: The Genius of the Tinkerer. Steven Johnson - Where Good Ideas Come From

An interesting talk from Steven Johnson (based on his coming book, Amazon) exploring how and where we come up with good ideas:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

PSA: Love may be hazardous to your friendships

I may be immune to this disorder but for those who are prone to suffering from it - "falling in love comes at the cost of losing two close friends, a study says" (BBC):

"People who are in romantic relationships - instead of having the typical five [individuals] on average, they only have four in that circle," explained Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford.

"And bearing in mind that one of those is the new person that's come into your life, it means you've had to give up two others."

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Passes as "Cool"

Something to forward to those who wear Mao or Che Guevera logos - from recently examined Chinese archives (The Independent via Ann Althouse, em mine):

At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million. [...] Between 1958 and 1962, a war raged between the peasants and the state; it was a period when a third of all homes in China were destroyed to produce fertiliser and when the nation descended into famine and starvation, Mr Dik├Âtter said.

For those who committed any acts of disobedience, however minor, the punishments were huge. State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.
In the face of this evidence, what defies imagination is that there are those who blame colonial powers for China's poverty, saying they robbed China of its resources prior to Mao's ascendence.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Surprise!" Exactly What You'd Expect to Happen

For similar reasons that I'm skeptical that gold will remain being a useful/safe peg of value, there are supposedly smart people from the dawn of time who believe that they can manipulate or corner the market on XYZ commodities (and the corollary of politicians who flame fears of shortage).

Needed in everything from electronics to small motors, "rare earth metals" are only the most recent scare that China has restricted exports for domestic production needs (The Australian). While it's true that in the short term resources are finite, in the long run, they're only limited by human ingenuity. And as Forbes is reporting, so it's true here - Japanese companies (and I'm sure others around the world) are responding to high prices to generate alternatives:

With prices spiking following the latest in a series of annual export quota reductions by Beijing earlier this summer, miners have been scrambling to develop deposits of the essential industrial minerals worldwide. Now Japan’s Nikkei business daily reports that Japanese manufacturers have developed technologies to make automotive and home appliance motors without rare earth metals. Hitachi has come up with a motor that uses a ferrite magnet made of the cheaper and more common ferric oxide. Meanwhile the chemicals conglomerate Teijin and Tohoku University have co-developed technology to make a powerful magnet using a new composite made of iron and nitrogen.
Take another step back and you also see the remarkable power that pricing communicates to the market. While the reactionary political response invariably is to further restrict and regulate trade, it would be refreshing if the opposite were pursued - that measures to innovate and unleash innovation to find additional or create alternative resources were pursued. Alas, dare to dream.

More on that topic of gold (Sept 13, BusinessInsider): Reasons that gold is a religion masquerading as an asset Class.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Politician to Like...

From Roger Kimball (Pajamasmedia):
Christie didn’t “lambaste” teachers, he said, he lambasted the teacher’s union, especially its leaders. Why were so many teachers laid off in New Jersey? Because when the Governor called upon teachers to take one-year pay freeze and contribute 1.5% — one-and a half percent! — of their salaries to the cost of their health care (full-family medical, dental, and vision coverage, by the way), the union leaders said “No way. Not a penny.” Result: nearly a billion-dollar shortfall in the budget, which necessitated scads of lay offs. (Had Gov. Christie’s proposal been accepted, the state would have saved more than $700,000,000.) “So who’s really to blame?” he asked: the Governor or the intransigent teachers unions?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Pursuing Job Security

Scott Adams, the cartoonist of Dilbert, has a few thoughts on skills that can help make you more marketable as an employee (Dilbert):

I think technical people, and engineers in particular, will always have good job prospects. But what if you don't have the aptitude or personality to follow a technical path? How do you prepare for the future?

I'd like to see a college major focusing on the various skills of human persuasion. That's the sort of skillset that the marketplace will always value and the Internet is unlikely to replace.
Not sure if I agree about all his specific ideas but I think the basic premise is a sound one - taken one step further, it's businesses that maximize the potential of its people who are most sustainable. And it's difficult to do that without managers and staff who have those skill sets. Read the whole thing.

Fidel: 'Cuban Model Doesn't Even Work For Us Anymore'

Wow (The Atlantic). Of course, this presumes it ever did...?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Confirmation Bias?

Something to explore later when I have more time, but is Megan McArdle saying that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was developed to fit his view of the world rather than his observations of it? From a passage she quotes on her blog [emphasis mine] (the Atlantic):

Maslow admired many people I admire, Abraham Lincoln for example. But he and I can't admire Lincoln through some objective lens as psychologists or scientists. We can only say we admire Lincoln with the same level of objectivity that someone else might admire Jefferson Davis. Maslow wanted to give an objective validation that, for example, the Viet Nam war protestor was objectively superior to the Viet Nam general, the environmentalist was objectively superior to the captain of industry etc. Many cultural elites ate it up, just as Soviet elites ate it up when their psychiatrists said that anyone who didn't love the government was mentally ill and needed electroshock treatment post-haste.

Psychologists and social scientists generally still venture repeatedly today into the territory of human values and attempt to claim the ability to make objective judgments about which are the most healthy or scientifically validated. They don't ever seem to learn that they are often just trying to rationalize cultural fashions: In the 1940s the "mentally healthy" person was one who respected tradition, but he morphed into the to-be-pitied "organization man" in the 1950s. Psychologists valorized divorce as the "mentally healthy choice" for those who were not "growing" in the 1970s, whereas today they tend to say that it's better to stick it out and stop complaining so much.
Over the years, I've heard that the Hierarchy of Needs wasn't evidence based nor had there been much corroborating research but this is the first time I've heard how it was developed. Definitely something to explore further.

Sounds about right to me...

Not sure about the original points he was trying to make since there is an element of uncertainty in the whole sausage making process of regulations and pork barreling but... (Forbes):

For the time being, we’re in a vicious cycle. Consumers won’t step up their spending until unemployment eases, which won’t happen until consumers step up their spending enough to make it profitable for companies to hire additional employees.

Over the long run, though, the economy will perform better and unemployment will be lower if we reduce the drag of taxes and regulations that can’t be justified by tangible benefits. That’s the story business leaders should make if they want to help themselves and allow Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand to help the country
The fact that the BBC is reporting that the US has been overtaken by Sweden, Switzerland and Singapore in the World Economic Forum competitiveness survey should only underscore this point.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

More on School Choice

via Fred Wilson - "I saw this film last night. It made me angry and upset. Go see it. It will be in the theaters on Sept 24th.":

It would seem that the movie has been getting a lot of press. More here (NYMag):
For decades, the conversation about our schools has been the preserve of the education Establishment—and the result has been a system that, with few exceptions, runs the gamut from mediocre to calamitous. Waiting for “Superman” is no manifesto. It offers no quick fixes, no easy to-do lists, no incandescent lightbulbs to unscrew. What it offers is a picture of our schools that isn’t pretty, but that we need to apprehend if we’re to summon the political will necessary to transform them. “Nobody ever wants to call a baby ugly,” says Duncan. “This is like calling the baby ugly. It’s about confronting brutal truths.”

Monday, September 06, 2010

Relationship "Best Practices": Four Minutes in the Morning

It takes a special kind of someone to use the words "best practice" and marriage or relationship in the same sentence. Not that I have any expertise in the area - quite the opposite really, this showed up on one of the VC blogs I follow, from Brad Feld:

Amy and I created a tradition about a decade ago we call “four minutes in the morning.” We try to – fully clothed – spend four minutes together every morning 100% focused on each other. [...] Of course, the “four minutes” is metaphorical. Sometimes it’s 15 minutes. A few times a year it turns into an hour when we end up in a discussion about something. But it’s always 100% bi-directional attention, except for our dogs who often want in on the discussion.
Seems like a good idea, makes sense and something to try (if I'm ever lucky enough to find myself in that situation).