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July 30, 2008

ETF Express

etfexpress.com surveys the plethora of ETF investment options.

News of who's who and where, for industry insiders; produced by Hedgemedia.

July 29, 2008

Explaining vs Stigmitizing

Conservatives believe that once you name something as evil, there's no further explanation. (Either it can't be explained, because evil is an irreducible mystery, or there's just no point in explaining it.)

Liberals believe that once you explain something, it can't be named as evil. (Because true understanding banishes the mysteriousness that makes something hateful.)

[ Via unfogged ]

July 28, 2008

Cuil search


Former Google employees are unveiling a search engine that they promise will be more comprehensive than Google's and hope will give its users more relevant results.

Technology: Former Employees of Google Prepare Rival Search Engine
Published: July 28, 2008
See also Ask.com, Vivisimo, Snap, Mahalo and Powerset.

Update 2010 Nov 1:

Blekko has raised $24 million in venture capital from prominent investors like Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway and U.S. Venture Partners. It plans to sell Google-like search ads associated with keywords and slashtags.

Some start-ups that have taken on search have been folded into the big companies, like Powerset, which Microsoft bought in 2008. Others, like Cuil, a search engine started by former Google engineers in 2008, were flops. Blekko's slashtags could be subject to spam since anyone can edit them, but Blekko says it will avoid that with an editor and Wikipedia-style policing by users.

A New Search Engine, Where Less Is More
Published: October 31, 2010
Blekko aims to show search results from only trustworthy sites, weeding out sites filled with little relevant information

July 27, 2008

Urban Digs:economics of NYC real estate

urbandigs tracks real estate in NY -- more aimed at investors than at consumers.

Update 2010 Nov.:

blog compares Midtown East with Midtown West.

See also time series charts: Noah Rosenblatt of UrbanDigs has created a unique realtime tool for tracking Manhattan RE.


[ via BigPicture. ]

July 25, 2008

SEC vs short sellers

Short sellers are great sources of information and ideas, according to Gary Weiss.

What is the SEC's cost benefit calculation in crusading against short sellers ?

July 24, 2008

Frugalness as an American value ?

Megan vs Brooks on frugalness as an American value; an economic history of debt in America.

Popup video: Megan McArdle on debt in America

[Economist video]

July 22, 2008

McMansions no more (Leigh County, PA)

Bethlehem Township developer Abraham Atiyeh announced two weeks ago that he's building a downtown Bethlehem development of town homes starting at $129,000, and national builder Pulte Homes has halted its large-home building in the area and last winter began marketing a new home, called "The Lehigh", with 1,050 square feet and starting price of $139,000.

McMansions No More ** Fewer behemoth homes may be built in the Lehigh Valley as turmoil in the housing market opens the door for smaller, more affordable living
Morning Call - Allentown, Pa.
Author: Matt Assad
Date: May 25, 2008
Start Page: A.1
Section: National
Text Word Count: 2299

[Via McAll]

July 21, 2008

Opting out of medicare ?

The best option is probably to tie the size of Medicare benefits
to a person's lifetime income, which is relatively easily measured
and hard to game, rather than to one's income or assets in any
current year. In essence, higher earners would receive lower
benefits instead of facing the prospect of higher taxes, as current
trends predict.

-- Tyler Cowen

Economic View
Means Testing, for Medicare
Published: July 20, 2008
No matter who sits in the Oval Office next year, there won't be many degrees of freedom in the federal budget. The main problem: Medicare.

July 19, 2008

Starbucks jumped the shark

Dear Starbucks,

Hey, is there anywhere to get a decent cup of coffee around here?

Oh, come on. Don't look so sad. When we're in the mood for a twenty-four-ounce cup of pumpkin-pie-flavored Cool Whip, a Feist CD covered in mocha fingerprints, a possibly exaggerated memoir by a former child soldier, and some customer "service" that denies our essential humanity, we still head straight to our corner Starbucks. Or the one across from that one. Or the one that will have opened farther down the block by the time we finish typing this sentence.

Here's the thing, though: We're never, ever in that mood.

What we do like is coffee. If coffee were smack, we'd be Pete Doherty and we'd refuse to give it up, even if it cost us our career and our supermodel girlfriend. And we'll tank up anywhere: the neighborhood joint with the womyn-friendly breast-feeding policy and the couches composed entirely of rusty springs; the swill dispenser down the hall; an AA meeting. Anywhere, that is, but Starbucks.

In this we're not alone. America is a caffeine nation, perpetually jacked up on gallons of magma-hot ****-yeah juice, and logically you guys should still be making more money than Halliburton and Hannah Montana combined. Instead your market share is crumbling, and so is your cultural primacy. Snooty people have moved on to snootier coffee--shade-grown, fair-trade, artisanal, brought down the mountain by mules that have good dental coverage. Everybody else went back to Dunkin' Donuts. You're still part of the fabric of American life--think of Mary-Kate Olsen's ever present Venti cup, proof despite massive evidence to the contrary that she's Just Like Us--but so is soul-crushing corporate suckitude. Your new ads spotlight a straight-down-the-middle brew called Pike Place Roast. We're glad you're getting back into the coffee business--seriously, is there anything you haven't put in a latte yet? Courvoisier? DayQuil? unicorn tears?--but we've tried this stuff, and it should come with an Egg McMuffin on the side. It's a rich, complex blend of desperation and mediocrity.

The real problem is that there used to be something about you, Starbucks, and now there isn't. You were a quintessentially '90s company. You were from Seattle, the same rainy cradle of anticorporate corporateness that gave us Microsoft and major-label grunge. Young dreamers camped out in your stores all day like the cast of Friends, filling napkins with business plans for e-commerce Web sites. ("It's like Pets.com for Wiccans!") We were all going to get crazy rich and wear ironic sexy grandpa T-shirts to offices where we'd play Frisbee golf instead of working. A $4 latte wasn't an extravagance; it was a little rehearsal for the cushy life that was about to be ours. Even your stupid fake-Italian language made us feel sophisticated. The 7-Eleven crowd could have their week-old bubblin' crude; we'd be over here, talking like Marcello Mastroianni, because we knew better. Even back then, you seemed a little evil-empire-ish. But man, your chairs were comfy. So we drank your overpriced espresso-shakes. We drank them up!

In other words, you've brought this on yourself. If we learned one thing from The Wire, it's that you can only control all the corner real estate in town and pay disenfranchised young people to sling an addictive product for so long before you lose your grip on the game. But we're not mad at you, Starbucks. Give us a call sometime. We'll grab a coffee. It's on us--we just shorted your stock.

Yours with shaky hands,

GQ Magazine, July 2008

[Via Men/ Style and F-chat]

See also Sant Ambreus Coffee in NY.

July 9, 2008

SUV culture

Have you ever tried to talk someone out of a bad idea?

Some people are going to be open-minded and listen to your objections,
and if you're actually right, they'll consider the evidence and take
your advice. Some people will get defensive, however, and refuse to listen.

Some people will get so defensive that they'll actually double down to
prove the nay-sayers wrong--they'll marry that bad boyfriend or put more
money into the bad investment. They will, rather than risk the chance that
they might get proven wrong and open themselves to a chorus of
"I told you sos", will live in denial about their bad decisions until the last
possible moment when it's becoming clear that they cannot sustain this
bad decision any longer.

Having framed the question, the fact that America's reaction to
increasing evidence of both peak oil and global warming would be to
reduce our average gas mileage was entirely predictable.


it was inevitable that a high percentage of people would like SUVs not in spite of their low mileage, but because of the low mileage. Instead of wishing human nature to change, then, I'm going to suggest that the people who exploited this rationalization tendency hold the lion's share of the blame. For people who wanted to engage in wishful thinking about the relationship between oil and environmental problems, right wing pundits, car companies, and oil companies did all the hard psychological rationalizing work for people. They painted critics as effeminate hippies that are just trying to tell you what to do because they're sanctimonious and nosy. (That some really are sanctimonious only made the situation worse.) They gave people pseudo-scientific explanations they could latch onto.


July 8, 2008

Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter tallies failed lenders

The Implode-O-Meter is the brainchild of Aaron Krowne, a former researcher
at Emory University in Atlanta. A computer scientist and mathematician,
Mr. Krowne, 28, started the site in 2007, believing that the troubles in the
housing market, and by extension the mortgage industry, would worsen.

He was right -- and the Implode-O-Meter took off. Traffic on the site soared,
reaching as many as 100,000 regular visitors, and advertising dollars rolled in.
Mr. Krowne quit his day job and hired 10 people for his company, Implode-Explode Heavy Industries.

"The crisis has come in waves," Mr. Krowne said. "It just keeps coming."

Business: Loan Pains Turned Site Into a Hit
Published: July 8, 2008
The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter, a Web site, is gleefully tallying the
number of lenders that run into trouble.

July 6, 2008

FDIC bank data of loans secured by real estate

The RC-C section in a FDIC CALL report shows loans secured by
real estate. Manually add up the various detail lines in RC-C,
subheading 1, to get the totals.

Total Assets - $2.118B
(RC-C.1) Loans secured by real estate $1.360B ( 64.2% )

Where does one get the RC-C.1 data?

Each bank submits CALL data to the FDIC on a quarterly basis.
The data usually becomes available 15-30 days after the quarter

Search for banks and download/view as PDF data at the FDIC
Institution Directory

[Via CR/Comments]

July 5, 2008

Aspen idea merchants

Aspen Idea Festival gathers the idea merchants: journalists, entrepreneurs,
and academics who talk about ideas more than about people, and about
people more than about things.