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May 31, 2012

Darkside of Facebook $FB ?

Ross Douthat takes dyspeptic pleasure from Facebook's hard landing, which had Bloomberg Businessweek declaring the I.P.O. "the biggest flop of the decade" after five days of trading. Of all the major hubs of Internet-era excitement, Mark Zuckerberg's social networking site has always struck me as one of the most noxious, dependent for its success on the darker aspects of online life: the zeal for constant self-fashioning and self-promotion, the pursuit of virtual forms of "community" and "friendship" that bear only a passing resemblance to the genuine article, and the relentless diminution of the private sphere in the quest for advertising dollars.

May 30, 2012

Targeted advertising: wasteland or panacea ?

"Consumers are continually making choices among products, the consequences of which they are but dimly aware. Not only do consumers lack full information about the prices of goods, but their information is probably even poorer about the quality variation of products simply because the latter information is more difficult to obtain."

-- "Information and Consumer Behavior", Philip Nelson, 1970.

See also, Kihlstorm & Riordan, "Advertising as a Signal" from the Journal of Political Economy (1984).

In today's world of data driven custom targeted advertising,
the better online advertising is, the less valuable it is.

-- Doc Searls, Don Marti et al

May 29, 2012

The primacy of Interaction Design

The primacy of Interaction Design

The new digital landscape in which entrepreneurs operate is no longer dominated by sales-driven cultures, or by the need to deploy and maintain infrastructure. Instead, amazing products, products that are often bought rather than sold, dominate this new landscape.

Designers of these products are increasingly in direct touch with their users. We have spoken of this product-driven versus sales-driven change, and it impacts every sector we invest in. Design moves to the center. We believe designers are choosing urban life in the city over suburban life elsewhere.

-- Benchmark

One of the things we love to do is come to a neighborhood before the rest of the world does. We did that with Union Square. We did that with Gramercy Tavern in the Flatiron district. We come down here to Battery Park City, there's a real dearth of restaurants down here."

May 28, 2012

Facebook IPO, why it's different from the dotcom ere $FB -- Blodget

Spitzer forced an industry-wide settlement in which the involvement of research analysts in IPOs was pared back and the "Chinese Wall" between research and banking was strengthened.

This industry reform had several consequences, some of which were positive and some of which were negative.

On the positive side, the reforms removed some stress for analysts. Once analysts were no longer evaluated in part on banking business, they focused more on serving institutional investor clients and researching already public companies. And that's unequivocally a good thing.

On the negative side, it became harder for companies to go public...because it turned out that having analysts involved in the screening, positioning, and marketing of deals and then providing follow-on research coverage of small companies made the whole IPO process work better. So that, arguably, was a bad thing.

Read more: Henry Blodget / businessinsider

Before Facebook, the assumption was that every communication from an underwriter's research analyst about an IPO candidate would be positive. Whatever the analyst had to say, in other words, could be construed as "hyping" the stock and making it easier to sell.

n their desire to protect unsophisticated investors from this "hyping" of IPOs, regulators decreed that underwriter research analysts would not be allowed to publish any research on an IPO--or publish anything in print--until a certain amount of time after the deal.

Back in the 1990s, this "quiet period" was 25 days. After the Spitzer reforms, it was lengthened to 40 days.

But, more importantly, the underwriter research analysts were still allowed to do three things to help the firm's big institutional investors:

Talk to company management about the business

Generate estimates for IPO companies with management's help

Discuss these estimates and their opinions verbally with big institutional investors

The idea was that institutional investors would be sophisticated enough to evaluate the analysts' estimates and opinions, instead of just regarding them as "hype" and mindlessly placing orders.

In the view of the regulators, in other words, the institutions did not need to be "protected" from the enthusiasm of research analysts. So they could talk to the analysts and learn all they could from them (which in most cases was a lot). Individual investors, meanwhile, were assumed to be clueless and gullible and therefore in need of protection from analyst enthusiasm.

May 27, 2012

Facebook IPO aftermath $FB

Zuckerberg's torture-by-attorney didn't start in the past twenty-four hours, when law firms in New York and California initiated the first of what is sure to be a slew of lawsuits related to last week's controversial I.P.O. Ever since February, when Facebook filed its initial investment prospectus, the youthful C.E.O. has had to check with his own lawyers before saying virtually anything publicly--a requirement imposed as part of the S.E.C.'s pre-I.P.O. "quiet period," which applies to any company preparing to issue stock.

Now, Zuckerberg finds himself in another spell of S.E.C. imposed omertà--a forty-day post-I.P.O. quiet period. Because of this requirement, Facebook's lawyers and outside counsel will be telling him he can't respond publicly to allegations from other lawyers that he and his cohorts on Wall Street have just diddled the public to the tune of many billions of dollars.

Read more newyorker

May 26, 2012

Six degrees of meeting the definition of "employee"

The definition of "employee" under the Fair Labor Standards Act is quite broad, and it covers many unpaid interns. Only unpaid internships that build skill and meet the Department of Labor's six-part test are exempt from minimum-wage laws.

The following six criteria must be applied when making this determination:

The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

May 25, 2012

Inside scoop

At that time, Wall Street research was under a microscope. Eliot Spitzer, then the New York attorney general, had exposed how analysts routinely slanted research to win lucrative investment banking business. In 2003, Lehman was among 10 firms that reached a $1.4 billion settlement. They all promised to wall off research operations from other parts of their business.

But Ted Parmigiani, says he was asked to break those new rules. Lehman bosses, he contends, told him to write research that would support investment banking business -- a violation of the Spitzer settlement. He says he was warned not to make negative comments about companies, even when he thought they were merited, lest he antagonize corporate executives. In 2003, he says, he was chastised for downgrading a company that was a corporate finance client of Lehman's.

Most alarming, Mr. Parmigiani says, was that Lehman had created a system that gave its stock trading desks access to its analysts' research recommendations before those recommendations were made public. The Product Management Group, as this business unit was known, scheduled analysts' calls on the firm-wide squawk box system and was part of the research department.

Mr. Parmigiani says the Product Management Group often delayed the announcements of recommendation changes for no apparent reason. He says he began to suspect that the delays were meant to allow Lehman's traders to put on positions ahead of the news and to give the firm's top sales representatives time to alert favored clients.

On March 30, 2005, Mr. Parmigiani had been scheduled to meet with a series of hedge fund clients, including Moore Capital, to discuss his research. At the last minute, Jared Demark, a vice president in Lehman's institutional equity sales who covered the hedge funds and had planned to accompany him, bowed out. In an e-mail to Mr. Parmigiani, Mr. Demark wrote: "Go to the Moore meeting without me, we have big ratings change looming ... "

While Mr. Parmigiani did not learn precisely what Mr. Demark meant by that e-mail, it fueled Mr. Parmigiani's concern that Lehman was alerting hedge funds to analysts' pending changes.

May 24, 2012

Thinking about science

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" 50 years ago, Thomas Kuhn spent virtually the rest of his career defending -- often in vain -- its key ideas. At least, this is the story David Weinberger tells in an article on Kuhn at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Perhaps the most vexing problem Kuhn faced, according to Weinberger, is how to account for scientific progress, when concepts like paradigm shift and incommensurability seem to suggest that "progress" is at best problematic, or worse, impossible. Weinberger attributes much of the trouble to Kuhn's distaste for a straightforward correspondance theory of truth, and thinks abandoning one concept of truth means "we need another idea of what truth is and how we can ascertain if we're progressing closer to it."

May 23, 2012

Speed of change

Think for a second about the atomic bomb. There's a big, just gigantic, technological change. But when did it happen? We can argue that the "speed of change" was really slow until July 16, 1945, when the first atomic bomb exploded in New Mexico--the speed of change was super-fast on that particular day. This would be silly. So we have to average out the "speed of change" somehow. But over what timescale? So many industrial inputs (precision machining, computing and the like) and basic scientific insights (being able to calculate the likelihood that a neutron hitting an atomic nucleus will cause it to split in two) went into building the bomb that it's unclear where to start.

The claim that some forms of knowledge are fundamentally resistant to quantification (memorably described as a "bitch-goddess" by Carl Bridenbaugh in this essay) is anathema to policymakers today, who've emerged from business schools and management consultancies convinced that Excel macros will let them give reality to the shadows on the walls of Plato's cave.

How MBA-speak is hurting the scientific academy.
From: Konstantin Kakaes |Posted Tuesday, April 3, 2012

May 22, 2012

Eating speed > living speed

What new information did your equation render?

That the conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong. The body changes as you lose. Interestingly, we also found that the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one.

Also, there's a time constant that's an important factor in weight loss. That's because if you reduce your caloric intake, after a while, your body reaches equilibrium. It actually takes about three years for a dieter to reach their new "steady state." Our model predicts that if you eat 100 calories fewer a day, in three years you will, on average, lose 10 pounds -- if you don't cheat.

Another finding: Huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. This is because a person's body will respond slowly to the food intake.

Any practical advice from your number crunching?

One of the things the numbers have shown us is that weight change, up or down, takes a very, very long time. All diets work. But the reaction time is really slow: on the order of a year.

People don't wait long enough to see what they are going to stabilize at. So if you drop weight and return to your old eating habits, the time it takes to crawl back to your old weight is something like three years. To help people understand this better, we've posted an interactive version of our model at bwsimulator.niddk.nih.gov. People can plug in their information and learn how much they'll need to reduce their intake and increase their activity to lose. It will also give them a rough sense of how much time it will take to reach the goal.

-- Carson Chow

See also Science House.

May 21, 2012

School of Life

School, which sells 'programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well', is a step towards 'an ideal new sort of institution', a 'university of life' that would encourage its students 'to master their lives through the study of culture rather than using culture for the sake of passing an exam'.

-- School of Life, on Marchmont Street in Bloomsbury

May 19, 2012

Daringfireball.net on attribution_and_credit

Linking is indeed key. You get a story from somewhere else, you link to the original when you post about it. That's the first rule of web attribution.

There are reasons why AllThingsD is far more respected than CNET.

"Enthusiast site" is pejorative. Enthusiast implies that MacStories is produced by zealous hobbyists. Not naming the site at all implied that the site was not worthy of being named. To later attribute it to "macstories.net" rather than "MacStories" implies that it is something less than a fellow peer publication, and not even worth the effort of hitting the shift key to camelcase the M and S. MacStories is the name of the website; macstories.net is MacStories's domain name. This is subtle, yes, but it is a disparagement nonetheless -- the most begrudging form of attribution that could have been added.

I don't see the angle on it. Why not err on the side of magnanimity?

All work is better when it is signed by its creators. Edward Tufte says:

Agencies, departments, and organizations don't do things -- people do things. People's names should be on things to foster both accountability and pride.

May 18, 2012

Four Hour Learning

Look for anomalies. For any given skill, there's going to be an archetype of someone should be successful at that skill. If it's swimming, for example, it would be someone with the build of Michael Phelps. They would have a long wingspan, relatively tall, big hands, big feet and large lung capacity. So, if I can find someone who defies those anatomical proportions -- say, someone who's 5′ 5″, extremely heavily muscled, like 250, who is still an effective swimmer -- I want to study what the anomalies practice because attributes can compensate for poor training. I want to find someone who lacks the attributes that can allow them to compensate for poor training.

Typically, you find much more refined approaches when you look at the anomalies. That's true for any skill I have looked at, whether that's programming or otherwise. So, let's just take computer programming. If the common belief is that someone should start with language A, then progress to framework B and then progress to language C, if I can find someone who skipped those first two steps and is regarded as one of the best programmers in language C, I'm going to look closely at how they developed that skill set. In some cases, it correlates to their use of analogies and background from music or natural languages (for example, Derek Sivers or Chad Fowler)

May 17, 2012

Price negotiation with real estate developers


The New York real estate market has tightened this spring, but buyers can still get good deals on new condos. Following are some tactics you might consider:

BE FIRST Developers want to kick-start sales to generate momentum, and they also need to sell a certain percentage of units to qualify the condominium as a functioning business entity.

BE LAST Especially if a project has been on the market for many months, the developer and brokers may offer discounts or incentives to unload the final few units.

ON THE MARGINS Smaller developments in emerging or out-of-the-way neighborhoods can be harder to sell. But if they meet your needs, there are bargains to be had.

BRING CASH Buyers who don't need financing contingencies in their contracts are a developer's dream.

RESPECT THE ASKING PRICE Developers are loath to offer price discounts because they lower the value of all other units. Instead, ask if some closing costs or legal fees could be covered.

May 16, 2012

Facebook: trove for police ?

Analysis: WikiLeaks Julian Assange and Facebook banter over an accusation that the site offers back-door access to U.S. spy agencies.
By Dan Tynan, ITworld May 8, 2011 11:13 am

Facebook's an appalling spy machine? That's what WikiLeakers founder (and Martina Navratilova impersonator) Julian Assange is saying. In an interview with Russia Times, the floppy-haired leaker extraordinaire declares:

Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented. Here we have the world's most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations and the communications with each other, their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US intelligence. Facebook, Google, Yahoo -- all these major US organizations have built-in interfaces for US intelligence. It's not a matter of serving a subpoena. They have an interface that they have developed for US intelligence to use.

Now, is it the case that Facebook is actually run by U.S. intelligence? No, it's not like that. It's simply that U.S. intelligence is able to bring to bear legal and political pressure on them. And it's costly for them to hand out records one by one, so they have automated the process. Everyone should understand that when they add their friends to Facebook, they are doing free work for United States intelligence agencies in building this database for them.

Julian Assange (Credit: Wikicommon)How does Mr. Assange come to be in possession of this knowledge? I suspect he made a few rather large logical leaps, based on the confidential document WikiLeaks just made available on PublicIntelligence.net: Facebook's 2010 Law Enforcement Guidelines.

[ public intelligence; PC World: Facebook simply a spying machine.

May 15, 2012

Just bing it

If a person searched for the movie "The Avengers," for example, Bing would annotate the results to indicate whether the searcher's Facebook friends had "liked" any of the Web pages found in that search previously on the social network.

Microsoft executives said that approach, on its own, did not have much success, partly because it cluttered the display of search results. "It was a good experiment, but it wasn't working in the way we expected," said Derrick Connell, a corporate vice president of Bing program management.

The new Bing has a much cleaner design that tucks all of the social search results away into a sidebar on the Bing search results pages, where they are now clearly distinct from the traditional Bing search results on the left side of the screen.

But the revamping also goes much further in the kind of information it picks up from Facebook.

For the search for "best hotels in Maui," for example, the results will also allow searchers to post questions about favorite hotels to the friends with Maui expertise that Bing has identified, without leaving the Bing search results page.

A Revamping of Bing in the Battle for Search Engine Supremacy
A Microsoft-Facebook alliance plans an overhaul of Bing in an effort to loosen Google's grip on the search engine market.

May 14, 2012


Footsteps, sweat, caffeine, memories, stress, even sex and dating habits - it can all be calculated and scored like a baseball batting average. And if there isn't already an app or a device for tracking it, one will probably appear in the next few years.

Over the last weekend of May, in the upstairs of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, 400 "Quantified-Selfers" from around the globe have gathered to show off their Excel sheets, databases and gadgets.

-- April Dembosky, FT's San Francisco correspondent

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many of the attendees of the Quantified Self conference liken themselves to the Homebrew Computer Club of the 1970s and '80s, the Silicon Valley gathering of technical hobbyists - including Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak - who swore personal computers would one day grace every home. Quantified-selfers who are inventing personal tracking gadgets in their basements "will have the same scope of impact"

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Back at the Quantified Self Conference in Silicon Valley, attendees break into smaller groups to explore the finer points of hacking sleep, cognition and ageing. A concentration of hipsters heads to the session on attention-span tracking. About 50 participants sit in a circle, one-third with laptops propped open on their thighs. Moderating is Matthew Trentacoste, a 29-year-old PhD student in computer science at the University of British Columbia and an organiser of the Vancouver Quantified Self group, one of two dozen groups around the globe that meet informally throughout the year. His long, curly hair is piled at the back of his head and tied with a knitted scarf.

"I've been diagnosed with ADHD," he says, referring to the increasingly common designation of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. "As someone who's easily distracted, I'm interested in figuring out strategies to reduce these distractions."

Trentacoste describes a tool he's developing to help him track how he spends his time online, down to the millisecond. It measures how long he spends on e-mail versus web browsing, how much time he spends in each web window and how often he switches his focus. The goal, among those who use or are building similar tools, is to reduce distractions, increase productivity and achieve "flow", the optimum state of creativity and focus.

A discussion ensues on techniques for achieving flow, and a generational divide appears.

The younger people in the room talk about experimenting with Adderall, a common drug prescribed to people with ADHD that helps focus the mind. Older participants enquire whether meditating before bed has an effect on concentration the next day. The contrasts in method between the age groups are stark, as are the motivations for body hacking in general, says Dave Asprey.

"The people interested in this are under 30 and over 45," he says, gesturing around the cafeteria at the conference. The people under 30 are the next Tim Ferrisses, the over-achieving entrepreneurs who are out to conquer Silicon Valley.

"The people over 45 are just tired of being fat and tired, and they see the kids under 30 and they know they're going to lose their jobs to them," he says. "They know they like to work 'em hard and burn 'em out young in Silicon Valley."

May 13, 2012

Service economy

Workers who once built houses, offices or big-box retail complexes are now venturing into the absurd. Ken, who declined to give his last name because he said he was embarrassed by his situation, said he had been paid $250 to clean out a Palm Beach apartment where a tenant had committed suicide.

But he has rebuffed other responses to his ads, variations on "RENT A HUSBAND ! ! ! HANDYMAN SERVICES - 25% OFF." Last month, he said, "I had a guy call me 10 o'clock at night and ask me if I had a vise. And I said yeah, and he said 'Can you meet me somewhere and I want to put my hand in the vise and you crush it ?' " Ken said he demurred.

Then there was the woman from Fort Lauderdale who called wanting to hire him to rig up a sex swing while her husband was away. "She wanted me to come hang it in her 'room of doom,' " he said. "She offered me a lot of money, but I said 'No, no it just doesn't seem like something I want to get involved in.' "

Some construction workers have left the industry. But "it's been very hard for people to give up and move to other sectors because it's not like there's been a lot of expansion in other parts of the economy," said Nik Theodore, an associate professor in the department of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Most of what I'm hearing is people eking it out on the edge of the construction industry."

May 12, 2012

Position: open to enter, exit to close

Four things to understand before adding risk via options:

1. Understand the Cause of Volatility in your instrument

2. What is ATM Implied Volatility

3. What is the Curvature of the Skew (how pricy are calls and puts)

4. What is the current Term Structure

-- OptionPit

May 11, 2012

ETFs over mutual funds

exchange-traded-funds (ETF) history lesson.

Exchange-Traded Funds
Ozgur Emre Ergungor
Cleveland Fed

May 7-9 was a great streak at Barry's BP.

May 10, 2012

On sociology

It's not like the power people are studying one area while the economic people are studying another. They're all looking at society as a whole, but from different premises. That's why it's incoherent: all 4 will look at the same phenomenon and confidently describe it in mutually incompatible ways.

1 Hard core interactionism/social constructionism: Social reality is defined mainly by how it's enacted in specific situations and these vary quite a bit. Moreover, interactions aren't necessarily reducible to the broader social order. The more radical elements of this tradition run into post-modernism - there is no coherent social reality because it's created differently in different contexts (i.e., no coherent self). You see it also pop up in the strong sociology of knowledge (construction of ideas may have little to do with "reality").

2 Critical social theory: The basis of social reality is power. This can be defined in economic terms (Marx), race (DuBois), or gender (feminists). Or it can be generically defined (Bourdieu). Most of social life boils down to struggle over the stuff that gives your power, or resisting the power.

3 Values, institutions, and relations: This is the broad trend stemming from Weber and Durkheim. The basic elements of VI&R are that human communities have values, which are translated into order via rules, organizations, and institutions. This basic set up motivates everyone from Parsons, to Selznick, to Sumner, to Luhmann, to the world polity crowd. The flavors may be different, but they're all about the push and pull between values and structure.

4 Resources and Action: This strand represents what might be called the "economic view" on things. Psychology and values are strongly de-emphasized and you just work on strategic action. The old version was called "social exchange." Now we call it rational choice. But the R&A tent is big enough to catch some other types of sociology. Organizational ecology - psychology thin and focusing on competition - fits here as well. So might lightly theoretical stratification research.

May 9, 2012

Rogue HOA in Las Vegas

When a new development was nearing completion, the group would buy a couple of units in the community and then transfer partial ownership of the condos to individuals secretly on its payroll, according to court documents. While pretending to be residents of the communities, these "straw buyers" would run for leadership positions on boards of the new homeowner associations.

By paying off community managers, hiring private investigators to find dirt on legitimate candidates and rigging elections, the documents allege, the straw buyers were able to infiltrate boards at several new developments in Las Vegas from 2003 to 2008. Once in control of the boards, the straw buyers would then use their governing positions to steer millions of dollars in construction and legal fees back to their co-conspirators. Targets included the Chateau Nouveau, Chateau Versailles, Park Avenue, Palmilla Townhomes, Jasmine, Pebble Creek, Mission Ridge, Mission Pointe, Horizons at Seven Hills, Sunset Cliffs and the Vistana.

-- Felix Gillette, Businessweek

In court documents filed as part of the plea agreement, Wark admits to helping rig elections at the Vistana. Like most condominium complexes built in Las Vegas during the boom, the Vistana had a high percentage of owners who were investors living out of state. According to the court documents, Wark and his crew won the elections, in part, by targeting out-of-state owners unlikely to participate in board elections. They would fill out a ballot on the owner's behalf without the individual's knowledge, transport the documents to the owner's home state, then mail the ballot back to Nevada. The ballots would arrive bearing the correct postmarks, lending the votes credibility.

May 8, 2012

Wipe down the telephone, night stand, remote control and bathroom with disinfectant. Disinfect the handle on the minibar fridge, and relax.

AT THE HOTEL Dr. Philip M. Tierno, a microbiologist at the New York University School of Medicine, recommends laying the bedspread aside, because it is washed rarely, and making sure the sheets are crisp and clean; if they are not, request another room. Check the mattress for bed bugs. Wipe down the telephone, night stand, remote control and bathroom with disinfectant. Disinfect the handle on the minibar fridge, and relax.

OUT AND ABOUT Americans traveling to less developed nations should pay special attention to the water, according to Dr. David Schlossberg, a professor of medicine at Temple University who contributed to and edited the book "Infections of Leisure." He recommends drinking only bottled water with a sealed cap, to make sure you're not swallowing dressed-up tap water. Carbonated water is best. Do not use ice (frozen tap water), do not eat salad (washed in tap water) or fruit you can't peel yourself. Use bottled water to brush your teeth. At restaurants, he cautions against eating anything that is room temperature or seems undercooked. "For all the advances in medicine, infectious disease remains the No. 1 killer on the planet," he said.

May 7, 2012

VXX loses

Roll Yields'

That issue isn't disclosed until page 15 of the note's prospectus: "The existence of contango in the futures markets could result in negative 'roll yields', which could adversely affect the value of the index underlying your ETNs and, accordingly, decrease the payment you receive at maturity or upon redemption."

Kristin Friel, a spokeswoman for London-based Barclays, declined to comment.

The average ETN annual investor fee is 0.84 percent, according to Morningstar data. That doesn't include a lot of the tacked-on charges, Lee said. The UBS short VIX ETNs, for example, add about a 4 percent annual fee for "event-risk" hedging, leading to a total cost of 5.35 percent, he said.

Christiaan Brakman, a UBS spokesman, declined to comment.

ETFs betting on volatility also have declined because of contango. The ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF, which tracks a similar index as the Barclays note, has fallen 57 percent since inception in January 2011.

Inexperienced traders looking to make a "quick buck" are behind some of the demand for volatility notes, said Bill Luby, founder of the VIX and More blog who has traded the securities. These investors "are probably not sophisticated enough to buy options," Luby said in a telephone interview, so they buy notes tied to volatility.

Barclays VIX Note Vexes Investors Not Savvy on Volatility
By Matt Robinson and Margaret Collins - May 2, 2012

May 6, 2012

Use technology to stay private, online

If you do not want the content of your e-mail messages examined or analyzed at all, you may want to consider lesser-known free services like HushMail, RiseUp and Zoho, which promote no-snooping policies. Or register your own domain with an associated e-mail address through services like Hover or BlueHost, which cost $55 to $85 a year.

Another shrouding tactic is to use the search engine DuckDuckGo, which distinguishes itself with a "We do not track or bubble you!" policy. Bubbling is the filtering of search results based on your search history. (Bubbling also means you are less likely to see opposing points of view or be exposed to something fresh and new.)

Regardless of which search engine you use, security experts recommend that you turn on your browser's "private mode," usually found under Preferences, Tools or Settings. When this mode is activated, tracking cookies are deleted once you close your browser, which "essentially wipes clean your history," said Jeremiah Grossman, chief technology officer with WhiteHat Security, an online security consulting firm in Santa Clara, Calif.

Shielding your I.P. address is possible by connecting to what is called a virtual private network, or V.P.N., such as those offered by WiTopia, PrivateVPN and StrongVPN. These services, whose prices price from $40 to $90 a year, route your data stream to what is called a proxy server, where it is stripped of your I.P. address before it is sent on to its destination. This obscures your identity not only from Web sites but also from your Internet service provider.

-- Muddy Waters

May 5, 2012

Housing in better school district costs a $11,000 a year

A new study from the Brookings Institution quantifies that price gap, and the differences between the cost of living near a high-scoring public school and a low-performing one are striking.

The study, by Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research analyst in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, found that housing costs in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas were an average of 2.4 times as high - a difference of $11,000 a year - for homes near schools whose average test scores put them in the top fifth of schools in the area, compared with schools in the bottom fifth.

That means that a family would have to pay more per year to move into a good public school zone than for their children to attend some private schools. Translated into an average home price, the gap works out to an average of $205,000 more for a home near a high-performing school.

"We think of public education as being free, and we think of the main divide in education between public and private schools," Mr. Rothwell said in an interview. "But it turns out that it's actually very expensive to enroll your children in a high- scoring public school." Mr. Rothwell said that in the New York metropolitan area, for example, annual housing costs are $16,000 higher on average in neighborhoods near high-performing schools than in neighborhoods near low-performing schools,

[ economix ]

May 4, 2012

Avent, Glaeser and Yggls go urban

Cities are really important, as engines of the broad economy via industrial clustering, as enablers of efficiency-enhancing specialization and trade, as sources of customers to whom each of us might sell services. Contrary to many predictions, technological change seems to be making human density more rather than less important to prosperity in the developed world. Commerce intermediated at a distance via material goods has become the province of cheap workers in distant lands, and will very soon be delegated to robots. The value of human work is increasingly in collaborative information production and direct personal services, all of which benefit from the proximity of diverse multitudes.

-- and Avent, Glaeser and Yglesias

Given the political obeisance still compelled in the United States by "market outcomes", it is a common trick to claim that outcomes one would prefer are the outcomes that would occur if only institutions and property rights were redefined "appropriately".

I am paying for proximity to my prosperous city's opportunities and amenities, but that is not all. I am also paying for the fact that not only my home, but my neighbor's home, is being put to a use that pleases me and to which I would consent. I am paying for the fact that my neighbors themselves are the kind of people I would be pleased to live next door to. I'm paying for the fact that, as parents, the people whom I am moving in with send well-raised children to the local public school and devote some fraction of their attention to the management of that school. I'm paying for the fact that the streets, the architecture, the trees and public parks, are arranged in a way that pleases me. These are all reasons why, if I had the kind of money I do not have, I might pay up to live in a "nice neighborhood" located near the heart of a thriving city.

-- Waldman ( Interfluidity )

The quality of your schools, the relationship you have with the police, your ability to move freely and transport yourself, how you'll be represented democratically, the primary means through which you'll transfer wealth across generations (if you are a homeowner) and more are all in play even before you get to the economic efficiency, public sphere and social/health arguments about what housing brings.

-- rortybomb

The lack of subsidization for the monumental positive externalities, yet creation of
Positional/Context/Prestige externalities lacks serious analytical and investigative journalism.

-- Richard H Serlin 1, 2.

May 3, 2012

Smooth or pejazzled is the choice for men in NYC

"What we're finding is, it's everybody," said Mike Indursky, the president of the Bliss chain of spas, which offers a men's Brazilian called the Ultimate He-Wax for $125. "It's the gay community, it's the straight community, it's very conservative guys, it's very liberal guys. All different age groups are coming in. It's much, much bigger than we ever thought."

Men's bikini waxing accounts for around 70 percent of the weekly business at Face to Face, a discreet salon in the Flatiron district of Manhattan with a predominantly male clientele founded eight years ago by Enrique Ramirez. "When I started, I was like, 'Nobody's going to come in and get this done,' and it's just kept growing and growing," Mr. Ramirez said. "In the past two years, it's been crazy."

The salon offers a full Brazilian called South of the Border for $70, along with partial treatments. Also on its menu is something called "pejazzling," in which crystals in patterns like stars and dolphins are affixed on newly defuzzed skin.

Fashion & Style
A He-Wax for Him
Published: April 10, 2012
Lately, men's grooming has gone one step farther than a manicure or a facial, into territory previously reserved solely for women: bikini waxing.

Evan Scott, 32, a music producer who lives in Murray Hill, has been getting a more-basic bikini wax for about two years. "I like to represent myself in a certain way, from no clothes to fully buttoned up, and I think that this is an extension of my overall presentation," he said. Noting the prevalence of bikini waxes among women, Mr. Scott also suggested that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. "If I have that expectation of someone else, I probably would want to return the favor," he said.

¶ His comfort might also be explained by the number of visibly depilated men, like David Beckham and the Situation, increasingly evident in mass media. "It's not emulating something you've seen in some X-rated film," said Jason Chen, an associate style editor at Details. "It's about maintaining yourself and keeping things clean."

"It accentuates," said Ramon Padilla, the director of Strip: Ministry of Waxing, a salon in SoHo, which charges $85 for a so-called Boyzilian.

To appeal to those men, certain at-home trimmers are specially designed for hair in the nether regions. The Braun cruZer body ($69.99), for example, was introduced in November and promises to "trim and shave everywhere." The Philips Norelco Bodygroom Pro ($69.99) and the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Styler ($19.99) target similar needs, as does the Mangroomer Essential Private Body Shaver ($39.99), an extension of a line of electronic hair-removers that was conceived by an inventor eager to eliminate his own back hair.

"It's not a niche," said Kristi Crump, Philips Norelco's North American marketing director for personal care products. "Lots of men out there are doing it. We were surprised, but now we know it's a big trend." Last year, sales of the company's at-home body groomers were up 22 percent, Ms. Crump said, with the highest usage in the bikini area, according to a customer survey.

Pirooz Sarshar, a men's grooming expert and founder of the men's advice Web site PRZman, has been giving himself Brazilians with trimmers and shavers for 12 years. "It's routine for me now," he said. "I do the whole thing myself. I feel better, it looks better. I feel like I'm cleaner, and its more sanitary."

May 2, 2012

Exercise then eat: extra hungry, hungry for what

The researchers had the volunteers either vigorously ride computerized stationary bicycles or sit quietly for an hour before settling onto the M.R.I. tables. Each volunteer then swapped activities for their second session.

Immediately afterward, they watched a series of photos flash onto computer screens. Some depicted low-fat fruits and vegetables or nourishing grains, while others showcased glistening cheeseburgers, ice cream sundaes and cookies. A few photos that weren't of food were interspersed into the array.

In the volunteers who'd been sitting for an hour, the food-reward system lit up, especially when they sighted high-fat, sugary items.

But if they had worked out for an hour first, those same people displayed much less interest in food, according to their brain scans. Their insula and other portions of the food-reward system remained relatively quiet, even in the face of sundaes.

"Responsiveness to food cues was significantly reduced after exercise," says Todd A. Hagobian, a professor of kinesiology at California Polytechnic who oversaw the study, published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology. "That reduction was spread across many different regions of the brain," he continues, "including those that affect liking and wanting food, and the motivation to seek out food." Though he didn't follow the volunteers after they'd left the lab to see whether they might have headed to an all-you-can-eat buffet on days they exercised, on questionnaires they indicated feeling much less interested in seeking out food after exercise than after rest.

Those results may not be typical, though. The Cal-Poly subjects uniformly were in their 20s, normal weight and fit enough to ride a bike strenuously for an hour. Many of us are not.

May 1, 2012

California squeezes middle class

California Democrats want to raise taxes even more. Mind you, the November ballot initiative that Mr. Brown is spearheading would primarily hit those whom Democrats call "millionaires" (i.e., people who make more than $250,000 a year). Some Republicans have warned that it will cause a millionaire march out of the state, but Mr. Kotkin says that "people who are at the very high end of the food chain, they're still going to be in Napa. They're still going to be in Silicon Valley. They're still going to be in West L.A."

That said, "It's really going to hit the small business owners and the young family that's trying to accumulate enough to raise a family, maybe send their kids to private school. It'll kick them in the teeth."

A worker in Wichita might not consider those earning $250,000 a year middle class, but "if you're a guy working for a Silicon Valley company and you're married and you're thinking about having your first kid, and your family makes 250-k a year, you can't buy a closet in the Bay Area," Mr. Kotkin says. "But for 250-k a year, you can live pretty damn well in Salt Lake City. And you might be able to send your kids to public schools and own a three-bedroom, four-bath house."

According to Mr. Kotkin, these upwardly mobile families are fleeing in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half-class society. On top are the "entrenched incumbents" who inherited their wealth or came to California early and made their money. Then there's a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don't pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid.

It's "a very scary political dynamic," he says. "One day somebody's going to put on the ballot, let's take every penny over $100,000 a year, and you'll get it through because there's no real restraint. What you've done by exempting people from paying taxes is that they feel no responsibility. That's certainly a big part of it.

And the welfare recipients, he emphasizes, "aren't leaving. Why would they? They get much better benefits in California or New York than if they go to Texas. In Texas the expectation is that people work."

April 20, 2012, 7:19 p.m. ET

Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus
A leading U.S. demographer and 'Truman Democrat' talks about what is driving the middle class out of the Golden State.