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Recent Articles
(PDF) Ed Leamer reviews Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat
Posted by: cog 11:02am, Tuesday, 11 April 2006
A review of Thomas Friedman's bestselling book on globalization.
When the Journal of Economic Literature asked me to write a review of The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman, I responded with enthusiasm, knowing it wouldn’t take much effort on my part. As soon as I received a copy of the book, I shipped it overnight by UPS to India to have the work done. I was promised a one-day turn-around for a fee of $100. Here is what I received by e-mail the next day: “This book is truly marvelous. It is perhaps the greatest book ever written. It will surely change the course of human history.” That struck me as possibly accurate but a bit too short and too generic to make the JEL happy, and I decided, with great disappointment, to do the work myself.
cog says: This review mostly uses Friedman's book (which sounds pretty silly) as an excuse to discuss the likely consequences of globalization. Unlike Friedman, Leamer writes with precision and clarity, and relies on actual data, rather than a melange of anecdotes and goofy metaphors. Extremely educational for non-economists.

Via economist Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution:
http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/04/flat_buster.html

http://uclaforecast.com/reviews/Leamer_FlatWorld_060221.pdf
On Being an Angel
Posted by: cog 11:28am, Saturday, 11 February 2006
Ex-Netscape hacker and SSL/TLS developer Christopher Allen writes about his experiences as an angel investor.
In the last month or so I've received a number of links to Life With Alacrity as a venture capital blog, and to myself as a venture capitalist.

However, I don't consider myself a venture capitalist. Instead, I am what is known as an "angel investor".

cog says: Allen's had a wide range of experiences both as an entrepeneur and angel, and has lots of useful info for entrepeneurs and investors (angel and VC) alike. I know some people on ND have considered doing a startup at some point in their lives...
http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2006/01/on_being_an_ang.html
TNR review of The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success
Posted by: cog 1:31pm, Thursday, 2 February 2006
Via Powell's Review-A-Day, Boston College political science professor Alan Wolfe takes down "historian"/Christian apologeticist Rodney Stark's ridiculous book about Christianity's role in history. From The New Republic.
The Victory of Reason is the worst book by a social scientist that I have ever read. Stark's methodology has nothing to do with history, or the logic of comparative analysis, or the rigorous testing of hypotheses. Instead he simply makes claims, the more outrageous the better, and dismisses all evidence that runs contrary to his claims as unimportant, and treats anyone with a point of view different from his own as stupid and contemptible, and reduces causation in human affairs to one thing and one thing only. How in the world, I kept asking myself as I read this book, could someone spend so much of his life trying to understand something as important as religion and come away so childish?
cog says: Well, actually, I don't find that paradoxical at all, but it's a good line anyway. Stark's thesis was previously discussed on NewsDog:

http://newsdog.info/display_article.cgi?id=999&nc=3

wherein we discovered that he's also an apologist for creationism.

http://www.powells.com/tnr/review/2006_02_02
Crocodile Husbandry Is Really Hard, China Finds
Posted by: cog 5:47pm, Monday, 25 October 2004
Over the past decade, China has become an industrial colossus by mastering an extraordinary variety of commercial skills, from the manufacture of high-speed computer chips to the production of top-quality automotive steel.

Learning to stimulate the sex drive of crocodiles has proved more difficult.

cog says: Truth is funnier than fiction.
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/23/international/asia/23crocodile.html?ex=1256270400&en=744d03504...


Recent Comments
Conversely...
Posted by: cog 10:10pm, Sunday, 21 February 2010
...I think it's pretty well-established that daughters take better care of their parents in old age. So for optimal results have a son followed by a daughter.
hazards of modern surfaces
Posted by: cog 7:18pm, Thursday, 8 January 2009
Yes, that's all fine and well, but modern sidewalks have broken bottles, syringes, crack vials, and rusty nails (just to name a few things) and I don't care how tough and calloused your soles have gotten, you're better off with a thick, hard, and inanimate layer between your foot and the street.

On the other hand, this is yet another reason that the Asian cultural habit of removing shoes indoors is wise.

(no subject)
Posted by: cog 10:08am, Sunday, 24 June 2007
The chair of my CS department forwarded this around with the title "NY Times, Whole Foods discover queueing theory".

That this system is faster is blindingly obvious to anyone with an ounce of mathematical intuition; it must surely be one of the oldest results in queueing theory. The layout and design of retail stores is a subject that's been studied in great detail, so I'm not really sure whether stupidity or some other reason caused stores to avoid doing this before. The article suggests that stores were reluctant to create the appearance of a long line. Maybe that was a factor.

OK, let me give you some reasons...
Posted by: cog 2:17pm, Tuesday, 25 April 2006
The Nazis came to power in 1933. They invaded Poland in 1939. By 1941, when they invaded Russia, they had most of Europe under their thumb. Hitler did not bring the U.S. formally into World War II; the Japanese did. It is not clear that following their Japanese allies into war was irrational for Germany. Even if it we grant the possibility, though, Nazi Germany was a cult of personality with Hitler as dictator, and no real structural checks on his power, and hence Germany could be led into suicidal behavior.

By contrast, it has been almost 27 years since the Islamic Revolution deposed the Shah, and Iran hasn't invaded anybody. In fact, the only war they've fought has been with Iraq, and they were not the aggressors. Also, Ahmadinejad's not a dictator. His actions are significantly constricted by the clerical class, and by the political system itself. Iran's President cannot even declare war without the assent of the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini. (Yes, that's his actual title. Har. Note that Iran's Supreme Leader is also Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.) Khameini's a hard-liner, but he's not volatile; he's been Iran's Supreme Leader since 1989. And Iranian Presidents are elected for four-year terms, so it's not certain that Ahmadinejad would even be President when Iran hypothetically obtains a usable nuclear weapon.

In short, the parallels between Ahmadinejad and Hitler are not very precise, to say the least.

I'm not saying that the probability of Iran nuking something is zero. But this is a gamble where all the outcomes are bad. Invading Iran would have, to a first approximation, 100% probability of a disastrous outcome. I'd rather bet that the Iranian ruling classes are not going to let their President drag them into the dustbin of history.

MeFi ran this...
Posted by: cog 10:17am, Thursday, 20 April 2006
http://www.metafilter.com/mefi/51035

Note smackfu's revealing comment (note: ICE = "internal combustion engine"):

An interview with the firm, including what is probably the money quote:

The study includes the energy put into research and development, which Art said is much higher for the hybrid than it is for the ICE. I'd like to see these numbers though. There is still research and development work going into the ICE.

The study uses expected lifetime mileage of the vehicles. Hybrids are only expected to live for 100,000 miles, but trucks are expected to live for 250,000 miles. This influences the $/mile significantly. If a hybrid could be driven 250,000 miles, it would be much more favorable compared to other vehicles.