Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Transcript: Startup Geometry Podcast EP 004 with Brad DeLong

Scott: Hello again and welcome to the Startup Geometry Podcast. I'm your host, Scott Gosnell. For more episodes of this series, please visit iTunes or Stitcher and look for a Startup Geometry Podcast. For show notes, please go to bottlerocketscience.net or to windcastlevc.com/podcast.

Today's interview is with Brad DeLong who is the chair of the Economics Department at California, Berkeley and is a senior economist with the Center for Equitable Growth in Washington, DC.

Brad: . . . intelligent swarm of bees masquerading as a human being for purposes of preparing delay for alien invasion. I thought everyone knew that.

Scott: You're perhaps the third person who said that to me this week or at least in my presence.

Brad: Bees?

Scott: Bees, yeah. John Scalzi said that on Twitter yesterday.

Brad: I think Scalzi must be the source of the meaning then.

Scott: It could be.

Brad: He is the person who has the potential reach to do so to get that meaning into people's minds. So have you read his latest?

Scott: I have not, no. Although I've been reading his battles with the Sad Puppies.

Brad: I see. Well, yes.

Scott: And the other puppies.

Brad: That's a sad story, or a rabid story, or simply a crazy story. I suppose it's ultimately the craziest because the font and origin of social justice warriorhood and weird gender presentation of self stuff in science fiction is really not so much Joanna Russ who is always way out there or Ursula Le Guin who was an elite taste, but rather Baen Books' Lois McMaster Bujold who has been writing space opera and military science fictions. But it's really about gender relations and similar things for three decades or so now, and winning huge numbers of Hugo Awards doing it.

So it's just that a lot of people who've been reading Lois McMaster Bujold's books from Baen Books have simply not been understanding the authorial intent or indeed authorial execution at all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Startup Geometry Podcast EP 005: Claudia Azula Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher is an idea machine; an accomplished yoga practitioner and teacher; and a popular podcaster, author and YouTuber. Today, she brings all of this to the podcast to help you get your life on the move. She'll teach you what you need to do to clean up your life, how to get your idea muscles sweating, and why she should be the next CEO of Twitter. You canfind her online at claudiayoga.com, through her podcasts, which include Ask Altucher and Claudia Yoga, and through the Claudia Yoga YouTube Channel. Her books, including, Become an Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are the Currency of the 21st Century are available through Amazon and, as they say, wherever books are sold. From the book's description:
HOW DO I TRANSFORM MY LIFE? The answer is simple: come up with ten ideas a day. It doesn't matter if they are good or bad the key is to exercise your 'idea muscle', to keep it toned, and in great shape. People say ideas are cheap and execution is everything but that is NOT true. Execution is a consequence, a subset of good, brilliant idea. And good ideas require daily work. Ideas may be easy if we are only coming up with one or two but if you open this book to any of the pages and try to produce more than three, you will feel a burn, scratch your
head, and you will be sweating, and working hard. There is a turning point when you reach idea number 6 for the day, you still have four to go, and your mind muscle is getting a workout. By the time you list those last ideas to make it to ten you will see for yourself what "sweating the idea muscle" means. As you practice the daily idea
generation you become an idea machine. When we become idea machines we are flooded with lots of bad ideas but also with some that are very good. This happens by the sheer force of the number, because we are coming up with 3,650 ideas per year (at ten a day). When you are inspired by an extraordinary idea, all of your thoughts break their chains, you go beyond limitations and your capacity to act expands in every direction. Forces and abilities you did not know you had come to the surface, and you realize you are capable of doing great things. As you practice with the suggested prompts in this book your ideas will get better, you will be a source of great insight for others, people will find you magnetic, and they will want to hang out with you because you have so much to offer. When you practice every day your life will transform, in no more than 180 days, because it has no other evolutionary choice. Life changes for the better when we become the source of positive, insightful, and helpful ideas. Don't believe a word I say. Instead, challenge yourself to try it for the 180 days and see your life transform, in magical ways, in front of your very eyes.
If you enjoy the show & would like to hear more episodes, please download, rate and subscribe through iTunes, as your enthusiasm for the show means a lot. Please comment below if you have suggestions for future episodes.

The book on organizing your house Claudia mentions is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Startup Geometry Podcast EP 004: Brad DeLong

Brad DeLong visits Startup Geometry today to talk about economic currents and current economics. He may or may not have confessed to being a hyperintelligent swarm of bees in human form, a historian in disguise as an economist, and/or a Keynesian. He reviews the effects and effectiveness of US economic policies including the 2009 Recovery Act; the Trans-Pacific Partnership; tax, education, infrastructure and other proposals. We discuss the entertainment revolution and the fall of middle class security, and what to do if someone has a bigger yacht than you.

If you enjoy the show & would like to hear more episodes, please download, rate and subscribe through iTunes, as your enthusiasm for the show means a lot. Please comment below if you have suggestions for future episodes.

Note: I have to apologize for referring to Lois McMaster Bujold a "very competent writer" in the podcast. I tend toward understatement when in interview mode. She's a tremendous writer, and I read everything she publishes greedily, as soon as it comes out. I facepalm myself regularly.


Show Notes

[0.00.36] Brad DeLong is a hyperintelligent swarm of bees in human form, John Scalzi, Lois McMaster Bujold, gender politics in SF, Science fiction and economics as worldbuilding exercise.

[0.05.48] How economists are made. Jay Forrester's world dynamics model, education with Roger Wood, Gregg Erickson, Andrei Schleifer, Larry Summers, being an assistant professor applicant in economics vs. history.

[0.09.25] Trends in the economic profession, economics considered as the Nile delta. Ulrika Malmendier , Stefano DellaVigna, and Raj Chetty as leading researchers at the behavioral, individual scale. Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez at the macro, sociological scale.

[0.13.58] Keeping in mind the lessons of the Great Depression. George Osborne and the perpetual budget surplus idea.

[0.16.00] Why is Ricardian Equivalence not a thing? Why should the government invest? What's the benefit to putting off our bills?

[0.21.19] What about tax cuts as stimulus?

[0.23.23] Why transfer payments, tax credits, infrastructure spending, are better than cutting taxes on the rich from either an efficiency and equity standpoint. The effectiveness and politics of the 2009 Recovery Act. Christina Romer, Barack Obama. $600B in stimulus, where we needed $4T. A fire engine intervenes.

[0.29.54] Prospects for improving the situation now. Impact of the social safety net on JK Rowling & entrepreneurs. "You get very few tightrope walkers without a powerful safety net."

[0.32.40] Hillary Clinton's agenda. Zero debt grads, infrastructure broadly defined.

[0.38.20] Costs and benefits, 20th c. vs. 21st c. Losing the secure middle class existence, gaining better entertainment and communication. Who's rich, and what does that mean psychologically? George Romney vs. Mitt Romney. Jann Wenner vs. Paul Allen. Spalding Gray on the Hamptons. The Buddha: "Desire is infinite."

[0.43.00] The end of the fundamental problems (fire, flood, famine, marauding Huns & water buffalo) as we climb the Maslow hierarchy. Noah Smith. The entertainment revolution.

[0.47.30] The trade deals. How the TPP could be improved, and what its flaws are. How to negotiate a trade agreement that's better in its distributional effects.

[0.55.45] One policy recommendation & one personal recommendation for the listeners. Obama's most costly mistake. The R statistical package. Controlling your infinite desires.
Read more from and about Brad DeLong at the Equitablog at the Center for Equitable Growth, or at his blog, DeLong's Grasping Reality, and is readily Google-able.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Why does Obama want the trade deals?

And why these trade deals on these specific terms? His reasoning and negotiating stance are opaque. This is never a good place to be on anything, especially if you are President.

Here's William Finnegan in the New Yorker:
Nearly every constituency in the Democratic Party opposes it; and the more they learn about it, the more they oppose it. And yet their leader, Obama, wants it badly.
But why? Maybe it’s a better agreement—better for the American middle class, for American workers—than it seems in the leaked drafts, where it appears bent to the will of multinational corporations. John Kerry, the Secretary of State, and Ashton Carter, the Secretary of Defense, co-authored a column on Monday in USA Today arguing, in evangelical tones, that the T.P.P. will usher in a glorious new era of American-led prosperity, a “global race to the top” for all parties. Meanwhile, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. sees only a race to the bottom. Organized labor, by all accounts, plans to punish any elected Democrat who supports the T.P.P., or even supports fast-track for Obama, in the next campaign. It’s difficult, again, to evaluate the agreement when we can’t see it. And it will be difficult for Congress to do its job if its members can’t study each part of the many-tentacled T.P.P. on its merits, but must simply vote yes or no on the whole shebang. What’s the rush? Is it simply Obama’s wish to make his mark on history and to complete his pivot toward Asia before his time is up? Politicians are often accused of supporting pro-corporate policies to please wealthy backers, looking toward the next campaign. That can’t be Obama’s motive now.
And John Cassidy:

On one of the specific issues Warren raised, about whether the trade deal could be used to undermine the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform act, Obama might be right, although we’ll have to take it on trust; the text of the provisional agreement is classified. (When Senator Barbara Boxer went to inspect it in a secure room at the Capitol, a guard told her she couldn’t take notes.) A number of legal experts, however, including Yale’s Judith Resnik and Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, have raised similar concerns to the ones Warren expressed, warning that the T.P.P. could allow corporations and investors to challenge the laws and policies of member countries, including the United States, outside the scope of their existing legal system. In a recent letter to congressional leaders, the experts referred to a known provision of the T.P.P., which would see disputes resolved not by the courts but by a new conflict-resolution panel, the prospective makeup of which is far from clear. This panel “risks undermining democratic norms because laws and regulations enacted by democratically elected officials are put at risk in a process insulated from democratic input,” they warned.
President Obama hasn’t addressed all of these concerns, and he has also failed to provide much backing for his assertion that the T.P.P. would be beneficial to the middle class. The most widely quoted study of the deal’s likely effect, which was carried out by three economists associated with the pro-free-trade Peterson Institute for International Economics, found that its impact would be modest. By 2025, the study said, the deal would boost over-all U.S. income by about 0.4 per cent of G.D.P. If this is accurate, the new trade deal won’t have much effect either way on American incomes.
But that isn’t the full story. In an important recent paper, Josh Bivens, of the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, pointed out that estimates like the one produced by the Peterson Institute don’t take into account the distributional aspects of trade agreements. The traditional argument for free trade is that it reallocates resources, workers included, to their most productive uses, and that this causes over-all income and output to rise. But this churning process doesn’t only create winners, such as consumers who can buy lower-cost imported goods. It also creates losers, such as the Maytag-plant workers in Illinois and many others who make things that poorer countries can produce more cheaply because they have lower wages.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Brad DeLong on the TPP

In this short preview of my interview with economist Brad DeLong, we discuss the economic and social impact of the trade deals currently being negotiated by the US Trade Representative, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trade Promotion Authority and related bills under consideration in Congress this month.

The full interview will be available next week. Please check back regularly, and please subscribe on iTunes to get all of our episodes.

Links for Later 6-11-15

  1. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve may help migraine, tinnitus, epilepsy, stroke...
  2. The role of the default mode network in creativity. Effect of training on the DMN.
  3. Did Nancy Pelosi "misread" the Democratic Caucus on trade and the TPP?
  4. Brad DeLong misjudged Niall Ferguson, Paul Krugman didn't.
  5. On the trail of the Last Universal Cellular Ancestor, before the kingdoms of life were separate.
  6. Proportional map of the world's languages.
  7. The stoners who became the US government's source for guns & ammo.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Future Is Now, Vol. LXXXVIII: Researchers Grow Rat Limb In A Jar

A team from Massachusetts General Hospital under Harald Ott regrew rat and primate forelimbs ex vivo, and then transplanted it back into a host animal. They did it by removing all of the cells from an amputated arm, reseeding it with appropriate cell types for the various tissues in a bioreactor atop the existing extracellular scaffolding, and then reattaching it.

This is not quite as impressive as growing it up from nothing, but it represents a substantial step forward from existing technology which is capable of doing single or dual cell type tissue growth. This is multiple tissue, structured repopulation and regrowth of tissue. That's huge.

Library Porn: Karl Lagerfeld's Shelving Method

I had seen the photos of Karl Lagerfeld's enviable library before, so of course I could tell that most of the books are shelved horizontally. What I did not realize until Rain Noe pointed it out over on Core77 is that this is not just an eccentricity. It's an ergonomic hack, so Lagerfeld doesn't have to turn his head to read the titles. Note that in the closeup of the shelves below, all (or at least most) of the titles are turned for easiest reading.

Bonus Karl Lagerfeld item, from his daily schedule:

I never have lunch, but when I do, I ask them to bring it to me in the house. I actually have two houses. This house here, it's only for sleeping and sketching, and I have another house two-and-a-half meters away for lunch and dinner and to see people, and where the cook is and all that. I don't want that here. Even if the place is huge, I want to be alone. If I want something, I call them, and they're next door, they come. The studio is next door, the office is next door. If I have guests and butlers, I don't want them in my house. Everything is next door.