Links – 009 (Sunday)

1. The number of 15-year-old male students in Sweden who don’t speak the mother tongue jumped from 5.7% in 2016 to 11.1% in 2019. (Article in Swedish, but Google translate does a good enough job)

2. BART’s sharp turn in Oakland was built to avoid a hardware store.

3. Duck feet!

4. Decoupling, US-China edition.

5. Outsiders, on the top 8 CEOs of the 20th century by value returned to shareholders.

…a very select group of men and women who understood, among other things, that:

  • Capital allocation is a CEO’s most important job.
  • What counts in the long run is the increase in per share value, not overall growth or size.
  • Cash flow, not reported earnings, is what determines longterm value
  • Decentralized organizations release entrepreneurial energy and keep both costs and “rancor” down.
  • Independent thinking is essential to long-term success, and interactions with outside advisers (Wall Street, the press, etc.) can be distracting and time-consuming.
  • Sometimes, the best investment opportunity is your own stock.
  • With acquisitions, patience is a virtue… as is occasional boldness.

If you’re skeptical:

…on average they outperformed the S&P by over twenty times and their peers by over seven times

Links – 006 (Monday)

Czech-Chinese relations.

Mark Fisher on ancient texts in modern politics.

The strangeness of Berlin. “So what’s attractive about Berlin is precisely what’s missing in the cities that are beautiful. It’s not perfect and it cares not to be. Walking through its streets and thinking about the place is unsettling; you don’t know if something strange and unfortunate is going to happen next. That gives it an incredible vibrancy, a freedom that comes from knowing that it doesn’t have to be gorgeous or be beholden to the aesthetic past.”

Stock markets in the rise of the Nazi party. “After the summer of 1932, the rising tide of Germany’s recovering economy lifted all boats. Following the “seizure of power,” investors may have cheered the appearance of a more broadly based government. In addition, those firms that supported the Nazis financially or had business leaders with strong links to the NSDAP on their boards experienced share-price increases many times larger than the general rise in the market… The modal return on Nazi-affiliated firms was about 8 log points higher than for unconnected firms.”

Links – 003 (Sunday)

It’s been a while since I did one of these!

An oral history of Gordon Teal. The Engineering and Technology History Wiki has some neat rabbit holes in general.

Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. One of the most niche and interesting books I’ve read recently. I don’t think most people fully appreciate and comprehend the massive empire he was able to build in just seven (!!!) years through nonstop conquests.

Man’s Rights and The Nature of Government by Ayn Rand.

Starlink is a very big deal. “Even taking into account its ludicrously low usage fraction, a Starlink satellite can deliver 30 PB of data over its lifetime at an amortized cost of $0.003/GB, with practically no marginal cost increase for transmission over a longer distance.”

Divided Highways by Tom Lewis. A bit repetitive at times, but an overall good book on the history of American highways.

Oral history of Tom Perkins, by the man himself. (video)

The Soviet Union’s consecutive week (and why it’s a very bad idea).

The loss of dexterity in surgical students.

Dabbawalas are underrated.

Virginia Trimble has seen the stars.

A company in Japan makes life-like human-wearble masks of pets.

Links – 001

Organizational complexity is the best predictor of bugs – Microsoft Research studied MS Vista code, and found that more people, more departments, and high turnover are major contributors to bugs. This paper extends the original study and backs up the findings on organizational complexity.

Dazzle camouflage was used by British warships to obfuscate a ship’s speed, range, and heading when targeted.

Raising children with voice assistants.

Giovanni De Maria.

Merck completely bypassed animal testing for their first HIV protease inhibitor and tested directly on a human. From David France’s How to Survive a Plague:

“With no animal data, how do you know this one’s good?” he asked.

After a period of evasiveness, Huff made an admission. “There was a ‘big chimp’ experiment.”

Reider understood immediately what this meant: one of Merck’s scientists––a “big chimp”––had taken the pill himself or herself. What went on behind Merck’s closed doors would remain a secret. The results were good, that was the important thing. The “chimp” showed no toxic aftereffect, and large quantities of Crixivan made it from the stomach into the bloodstream. “It’s very bioavailable,” Huff reported.

Between 1908 and 1940, Sears sold more than 70,000 ‘kit houses’ by mail. Most can be found in Illinois, though there are a few hundred still left in DC 🙂

Samo Burja argues that prestige matters more than money (ie, awards matter more than prize money), and behavior science agrees with him.

“I think that in studying economic growth, we (and especially we in the Silicon Valley) focus way too much on gadgets, and too little on the simple fact of human knowledge of how to do things.” What Free Solo can teach us about economic growth.

Cryptonetworks syllabus by Dani Grant at USV.

Telomeres and aging, cancer, and death. “Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide; it becomes inactive or “senescent” or it dies. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death.”

I hate wasting food. This guy does, too.

Transport Systems and City Organization. Cesare Marchetti, the Italian physicist who wrote this report, has been one of my favorite finds recently. Here he is on green mobility.

Why are the prices so damn high? Alex Tabarrok and Eric Helland examine and explain the Baumol effect.

Send interesting links my way!