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June 28, 2013

Selling point: good vs evil

Following the standard scare-mongering playbook of the fundraising Right, Weyrich launched his appeal with some horrifying eventuality that sounded both entirely specific and hair-raisingly imminent ("all-out assault on our traditional family structure"--or, in the case of a 1976 pitch signed by Senator Jesse Helms, taxpayer-supported "grade school courses that teach our children that cannibalism, wife swapping, and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior"; or, to take one from not too long ago, the white-slavery style claim that "babies are being harvested and sold on the black market by Planned Parenthood"). Closer inspection reveals the looming horror to be built on a non-falsifiable foundation ("could become"; "is likely to become"). This conditional prospect, which might prove discouraging to a skeptically minded mark, is all the more useful to reach those inclined to divide the moral universe in two--between the realm of the wicked, populated by secretive, conspiratorial elites, and the realm of the normal, orderly, safe, and sane.

Weyrich's letter concludes by proposing an entirely specific, real-world remedy: slaying the wicked can easily be hastened for the low, low price of a $5, $10, or $25 contribution from you, the humble citizen-warrior.

These are bedtime stories, meant for childlike minds. Or, more to the point, they are in the business of producing childlike minds. Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.

Dishonesty is demanded by the alarmist fundraising appeal because the real world doesn't work anything like this. The distance from observable reality is rhetorically required; indeed, that you haven't quite seen anything resembling any of this in your everyday life is a kind of evidence all by itself. It just goes to show how diabolical the enemy has become. He is unseen; but the redeemer, the hero who tells you the tale, can see the innermost details of the most baleful conspiracies. Trust him. Send him your money. Surrender your will--and the monster shall be banished for good.

June 27, 2013

Your brain on coffee

Coffee as a health food:

Perhaps most consequential, animal experiments show that caffeine may reshape the biochemical environment inside our brains in ways that could stave off dementia. In a 2012 experiment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, mice were briefly starved of oxygen, causing them to lose the ability to form memories. Half of the mice received a dose of caffeine that was the equivalent of several cups of coffee. After they were reoxygenated, the caffeinated mice regained their ability to form new memories 33 percent faster than the uncaffeinated.

Close examination of the animals' brain tissue showed that the caffeine disrupted the action of adenosine, a substance inside cells that usually provides energy, but can become destructive if it leaks out when the cells are injured or under stress. The escaped adenosine can jump-start a biochemical cascade leading to inflammation, which can disrupt the function of neurons, and potentially contribute to neurodegeneration or, in other words, dementia.


June 26, 2013

Tabata Original

The rise of interest in very brief, high-intensity interval training.

This approach to exercise started to take off in 2006, when Martin Gibala, a physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario, and his colleagues published a study showing that a three-minute sequence on an electronic stationary bicycle -- 30 seconds of punishing, all-out pedaling followed by a brief rest, repeated five or six times -- led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as 90 to 120 minutes of prolonged bike riding.

The study, which was published in The Journal of Physiology, soared to the top of the journal's "most e-mailed" list and stayed there for years.

Since then, Dr. Gibala and his colleagues, as well as other groups of scientists, have been closely parsing the effects of brief bouts of intense exercise, trying to determine just what happens in the body when you work it very hard for a short period of time, and what dosage of such intense effort is likely to be most effective and tolerable for a majority of people.

The most recent research suggests that a few minutes per week of strenuous exercise can improve aerobic fitness, generally more quickly than moderate activity does.

Norwegian scientists found that three four-minute runs a week -- at a pace equivalent to 90 percent of a person's maximal heart rate, an intensity that will feel, frankly, unpleasant -- improved volunteers' endurance capacity by about 10 percent after 10 weeks.

Other recent studies have shown that 16 to 30 minutes per week (depending on the study) of highly intense exercise also improves certain markers of health, with volunteers developing improved blood pressure and blood sugar levels after several weeks of these truncated workouts.

June 25, 2013

Employers who use automatic enrollment offer a lower match to employee contributions

Households in the top fifth of the income distribution reap 70 percent of the tax subsidies. Money in retirement accounts (unlike pension benefits) can be bequeathed to heirs, perpetuating wealth inequality.

Employers have little incentive to expand benefits. Some 401(k) fans contend that automatic enrollment (requiring employees to opt out of a regular contribution, rather than opting in) could increase participation. But evidence suggests that employers who use automatic enrollment offer a lower match to employee contributions in order to control their costs.

Many families who manage to accumulate retirement savings are forced to dip into them when they experience unemployment or other unexpected economic stress. The 10 percent withdrawal penalty makes this a particularly costly way of paying bills.

An increasing percentage of workers are being forced to stay on the job longer than they had planned. The percentage of workers expecting to retire after age 65 increased to 33 percent in 2010 from 11 percent in 1991 and 19 percent in 2000. That's a hardship not just for the older generation but for the younger generation waiting for jobs to open up.

-- Nancy Folbre

June 24, 2013

Sunscreen, SPF UVA UVB and Parsol 1789 in the summer of 2013

Especially come humid summer days, many women (and complexion-concerned men) rely on just their color cosmetics for their daily dose of SPF. The labels of trendy beauty balm and color control products (a k a BB and CC creams); their close cousins, tinted moisturizers; liquid foundations; and face powders often boast coverage of up to SPF 50. The new F.D.A. rules require that any SPF claiming "broad spectrum protection" must cover both UVA and UVB rays.

¶ So if your makeup offers broad spectrum SPF 15 (the recommended minimum level of protection) or above, you're covered, right?

¶ The short answer: "No,

The good news is that technology for color products containing SPF is improving. The F.D.A. rules have led many beauty companies to boost their protection levels and invest in reformulation. (Many BB and CC creams have provided only UVB protection in the past, Dr. Downie said.)

¶ For example, in March, AmorePacific, a Korean company, introduced the CC Cushion Compact with one of the highest SPFs around: a broad spectrum 50+. "Sure, you'll use Banana Boat or Coppertone for the beach, but you don't want that on your face daily," said Esther Dong, the senior vice president for sales and marketing of the company's United States division.

¶ She said the company had spent much time and money coming up with a stable formulation that would pass American standards and deliver smooth, weightless color.

(In Asia, the company often uses Tinosorb-S, which is not approved for use in the United States.) This is often difficult with titanium dioxide, a common sunscreen that is naturally chalky, Ms. Dong said. Rather than water, AmorePacific used bamboo sap, which also offers hydration benefits, to dilute the product, she said. It is now the company's best-seller in the United States, with consumers touting its silky coverage and high SPF on e-commerce sites. Though lightweight in feel, the compact comes at a hefty price: $60.

¶ Many foundations contain chemical sunscreens like avobenzone (sometimes called Parsol 1789, one of its trade names), oxybenzone or octinoxate, because they avoid the inherent "matteness or chalkiness" of mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, said Vic Casale, the chief of innovation for Cover FX and a founding partner of MAC Cosmetics. But when Mr. Casale got wind of the F.D.A. rules (an early draft circulated in 2011), he wasn't taking any chances. Starting in January 2012, Cover FX reformulated all of its products, he said, removing all SPF claims from their liquid and powder foundations. "We had to with the powder, it was a choice with liquid," Mr. Casale said, referring to his interpretation of the F.D.A.'s new guidelines.

¶ The brand has incorporated chemical sunscreens into its Total Cover Cream Foundation compact with SPF 30 ($42), because the coverage is "very consistent" (the formula is thick) and it stays on for most of the day, he said. It also introduced an SPF 30 primer, intended to go under makeup. Both feature broad spectrum protection.

¶ When deciding on the exact chemical composition, Mr. Casale said, he turned to the Web site of the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, to choose safer options. "We have today what I call the 'Google customer,' " he said. "The Google customer is reading online, they are going to the EWG Web site and other skin Web sites. They e-mail us. So that's why we improved our safety profile."

¶ But mineral sunscreens also have their devoted fans because they're "inert, and completely nontoxic," said Dr. David Colbert, a dermatologist in Manhattan who says that he slathers himself with zinc oxide before he goes surfing. And if white-nosed surfer dude is not your daily look, there are lighter options out there, like Chantecaille Just Skin tinted moisturizer with mineral SPF 15 broad spectrum protection ($64)

¶ "Mineral sunscreens don't penetrate the bloodstream," said Sylvie Chantecaille, president and chief executive of the beauty company.

June 22, 2013

Good golly

Molly still feels like a more respectable substance than others.

"I think people are much more aware of where coke comes from and what it does in those countries," said Sarah Nicole Prickett, 27, a writer for Vice and The New Inquiry, a culture and commentary site, who called cocaine a "blood drug." "Molly, if it's pure, it feels good and fun." (Much of it comes from Canada and the Netherlands, Mr. Payne said.)

Ms. Prickett, who moved to New York from Toronto last year, added that she could see why the drug might be taking hold in her new habitat.

"My impression of New York was that everyone just did drugs for work, that everyone was on speed," she said. "Molly makes you feel unplanned, and that's not a common feeling in New York, where everyone knows where they're going all the time and they're going very, very fast."

Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which has helped finance MDMA studies since the drug first entered the club scene, put Molly in the context of past drug trends: in the 1960s, he suggested, people searched for deeper spirituality and found LSD; in the '70s, as hippie culture became mainstream, marijuana entered the suburban household; in the '80s, cocaine complemented the extravagance and selfishness of the greed decade; and by the early '90s, youths dropped out of reality, dancing all night on Ecstasy or slumping in the corner on heroin. MDMA, which in addition to acting as a stimulant also promotes feelings of bonding and human connection, just might be what people are looking for right now.

"As we move more and more electronic, people are extremely hungry for the opposite: human interaction on a deeper level where you're not rushing around," Mr. Doblin said. "The rise of Molly is in tune with how people are feeling emotionally."

June 21, 2013

Rich Barton's Expedia, Zillow, Glassdoor: Where consumers make rational decisions

I like to play in the discretionary stuff where consumers make rational decisions because they are paying for it. But in the non-discretionary stuff I haven't done anything because it doesn't make any sense to me yet, but there will be something there.

-- Rich Barton, founder of travel site Expedia, real estate data company Zillow and job search startup Glassdoor

WIRED: You are chairman of several of your companies, but you don't act as CEO, which allows you to move between your portfolio companies. How does that work, and what does it teach you?

Barton: I am able to go where I am needed, and where I am interested. I do lots of reviews and coaching. I end up putting people from my companies together a lot and strengthening these crosswise relations so they can share. I find inside of a big company like Microsoft people's willingness to work across groups with their peers is so low. But outside, when you have separate companies doing interesting things getting the digital marketing person together from four different companies is easy. They are hungry to talk to other people. And it is because there is no internal political competitive threat. There is no boss thinking, I don't want my people talking to them because they might steal them - or whatever. Big company cooperation works way better at small companies. So I do a lot of that.

June 17, 2013

Bring VA mortgages to NYC to support our troops

VA Mortgage is a mortgage loan guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. That kind of loan is available under a 69-year-old program, with over half a million loans nationwide last year, but in New York City it is as though the program barely exists. There were only 266 Veterans Affairs loans made or refinanced in the five boroughs last year, in a city that is home to over 200,000 veterans.

And while there are many thousands of apartment buildings in the city, only 30 condominiums are approved for participation in the program. In Manhattan there are two.

Veterans Affairs does not lend money but guarantees a portion of a veteran's loan, even with no down payment. But the department will offer guarantees on loans only up to a certain amount, about $725,000 in New York City. That figure, based on a Federal Housing Administration estimate of home values in the entire metropolitan area, including counties like Putnam and Rockland, is too low for much of the city marketplace.

Perhaps the greater obstacles to using the program in New York are the rules. For a loan to buy a condominium, the entire building must apply to Veterans Affairs for approval, since the fate of one unit is tied to that of its neighbors. Buyers or owners of units cannot apply one by one. And cooperatives are barred from the program altogether.

"It's like we are a different country," said Stuart M. Saft, a partner at Holland & Knight and the chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums. Like other federal programs, he continued, V.A. loans "are designed for other places."

In those other places, the program generally works well. According to Jason Hansman, a senior program manager at the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, it is one of the more straightforward Veterans Affairs programs to navigate.

In New York City, however, Mr. Vollono and Ms. Ortiz said they had encountered a chorus of real estate agents on their apartment search who were unfamiliar with V.A. loans. When they went into contract at One Brooklyn Bridge Park, at 360 Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights, they found that the sales team there representing the building's sponsor appeared to have no experience with the loans either. It took almost six months for them and the sponsor's lawyer to submit a completed application to Veterans Affairs. The final piece was sent in just two weeks ago, Mr. Vollono said, and they are awaiting approval or denial.

The couple declined to give the contract price on their apartment, but according to the real estate Web site Streeteasy, one-bedrooms in the building have tended to sell over the past six months for $700,000 to $1 million.

Mike Frueh, the director of the loan guarantee program, suggested in a phone interview that the primary reason the loans were rare in New York City was the cost of housing. He also pointed to a 2006 expansion of the program that allowed Veterans Affairs to guarantee loans in co-ops, which would make them more usable in New York City.

But he neglected to mention that the co-op inclusion expired at the end of 2011. During the period that the program had the authority to lend on co-ops, a spokeswoman said, it did not receive a single co-op application from anywhere in the country.

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat from the Upper East Side, introduced legislation last year that would permanently permit the participation of co-ops in the program. It would also require Veterans Affairs to promote that expansion, so that perhaps this time it might receive an application or two. Ms. Maloney said she planned to introduce the measure again during the current Congressional session.

This is not the only federal housing program that slams into roadblocks in the city. F.H.A. loans, which allow for very low down payments, for example, have a similarly ill-fitting design. Among other restrictions, the F.H.A., like Veterans Affairs, requires condo buildings to apply as a whole and excludes co-ops.

As many buildings discovered after Hurricane Sandy, co-op associations are also ineligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency grants for repairs to their common areas, like hallways left moldy or elevators damaged and corroded by flooding. Lifting that restriction would require an act of Congress.

But Mr. Vollono and Ms. Ortiz say getting a V.A. loan should require considerably less effort than that.

"I had to remind the attorney and several other people on the attorney's staff," Ms. Ortiz recalled. "I said, 'Don't forget where Sept. 11 happened.'

"I'm so sick of people saying 'We support our troops' -- show me you support our troops!"

June 15, 2013

Making it real

Revelations, captivating as they are, have been partial --they primarily focus on one government agency and on the surveillance end of intelligence work, purportedly done in the interest of national security. What has received less attention is the fact that most intelligence work today is not carried out by government agencies but by private intelligence firms and that much of that work involves another common aspect of intelligence work: deception. That is, it is involved not just with the concealment of reality, but with the manufacture of it.

In a more contemporary sense, we should also think of the efforts to operate in total secrecy and engage in the creation of false impressions and realities as a problem area in epistemology -- the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of knowledge. And philosophers interested in optimizing our knowledge should consider such surveillance and deception not just fodder for the next "Matrix" movie, but as real sort of epistemic warfare.

The hack also revealed evidence that Team Themis was developing a "persona management" system -- a program, developed at the specific request of the United States Air Force, that allowed one user to control multiple online identities ("sock puppets") for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grass roots support. The contract was eventually awarded to another private intelligence firm.

This may sound like nothing so much as a "Matrix"-like fantasy, but it is distinctly real, and resembles in some ways the employment of "Psyops" (psychological operations), which as most students of recent American history know, have been part of the nation's military strategy for decades. The military's "Unconventional Warfare Training Manual" defines Psyops as "planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals." In other words, it is sometimes more effective to deceive a population into a false reality than it is to impose its will with force or conventional weapons. Of course this could also apply to one's own population if you chose to view it as an "enemy" whose "motives, reasoning, and behavior" needed to be controlled.

The realm of secrecy and deception among shadowy yet powerful forces may sound like the province of investigative reporters, thriller novelists and Hollywood moviemakers -- and it is -- but it is also a matter for philosophers. More accurately, understanding deception and and how it can be exposed has been a principle project of philosophy for the last 2500 years. And it is a place where the work of journalists, philosophers and other truth-seekers can meet.

In one of the most referenced allegories in the Western intellectual tradition, Plato describes a group of individuals shackled inside a cave with a fire behind them. They are able to see only shadows cast upon a wall by the people walking behind them. They mistake shadows for reality. To see things as they truly are, they need to be unshackled and make their way outside the cave. Reporting on the world as it truly is outside the cave is one of the foundational duties of philosophers.

NY Times is currently, not formerly, a newspaper

Correction: June 13, 2013

Due to an editing error, a summary with an earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Michael Diamond's status with the Beastie Boys. He is a current member, not a former.

June 13, 2013

Lower East Side's south side is quiet

The Lower East Side, whose tenements teemed with immigrants for generations beginning in the 19th century, has in recent years become known north of Delancey Street for crowds of a different sort: the whooping revelers who stream down its streets and cascade from its scores of bars, restaurants and falafel shops on weekends. Indeed, the density of raucous nightspots has earned the nickname Hell Square for the area between East Houston and Delancey from Allen Street east to the Delancey, a club near Clinton Street.


Below Delancey, however, a quieter, more residential atmosphere prevails.

"When you cross south over Delancey you feel your blood pressure go down," said Para Rajparia, a psychologist, who moved into a three-bedroom Grand Street co-op in 2010 with her young family, joining the many other young professionals who have recently put down roots in the area. "I have a sense of safety and comfort."

Although new night-life attractions have begun pushing south down Ludlow Street from Delancey, they do not for the most part extend below Grand, leaving intact, at least for now, a certain low-key authenticity that many residents say they prize.

The neighborhood possesses an ethnic and socioeconomic mix that many residents say feels increasingly rare in Manhattan. A 2007-2011 census survey found some 60,332 people living in the 350-acre area bounded roughly by Delancey Street, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, the Bowery and Catherine Street. Fifty-three percent were Asian, the vast majority Chinese; 22 percent were white; 19 percent Hispanic, mostly Puerto Rican; and 4 percent were African-American. The median annual income was $30,550.

"It's ideal right now because you have the perfect balance," said Philippe Avila, a Paris-born art conservator who has lived since 2000 in a rent-stabilized studio in a Henry Street tenement, for which he pays $1,039 a month. "You still have a certain flavor coming from each community and enriching each other."

June 12, 2013

Climateer Invest

Climateerinvest is newly blogrolled.

June 11, 2013

Foodies are about access, not skill 2

Vera Chang, 26, who lives in Vermont, is one of those consumers who pays attention to the ingredients on the menu and the origins of the food they favor. She says she rarely eats at chain restaurants, finding places instead through Edible Communities, which gives advice on restaurants, chefs and food, or the local newspaper, which tells her about the chef and the provenance of the foods served.

"I like to know the story about the places I eat," Ms. Chang said. "I think it's key to feed one's heart in addition to one's stomach when going out."

She said it was harder for chain restaurants to tell stories about the people behind the food they served and about themselves.

David Palmer, who follows the restaurant industry for UBS, underscored Ms. Chang's points, noting how particular the younger clientele could be, especially during tough economic times. "The austere crowd has cut back, and pretty significantly," Mr. Palmer said. "It's partly that they're economically challenged by the job market and student loans, but they also want authenticity in ingredients and the ability to customize meals in restaurants."

June 10, 2013

Essex chav car culture waning

The financial crisis and disappearance of easy credit contributed to the contraction, but there's also been an aesthetic backlash. The popularity of Max'd cars peaked after the 2001 release of the first installment of the "Fast and the Furious" movie franchise, which centers on the illegal street racing culture, said Mark Guest, a former editor of the now-defunct magazine Max Power.

After the movie, modified cars "became very cool. Everyone wanted cool black civics and undercar neon. But now, modifieds have become associated with 'chav' culture," said Mr. Guest, using the derisive term often attached to white, working-class British youths some associate with criminality. "The image of the 'boy racer' became so unfortunate that the scene was driven underground," he said.

At its peak in the mid 2000s, Max Power sold 250,000 copies a month, Mr. Guest said. By 2010 it was out of business.

Weekly get-togethers, or "cruises," became targets of police intervention and public scorn, said Mr. Guest. In February, the local government in Southend-on-Sea, the Essex town known for its robust modified scene, issued an injunction against a planned cruise, citing prohibitions against, "cars driving in convoy, excessive speeding, racing, performing stunts, making excessive noise by, for example, sounding horns or playing radios."

According to Max Power's internal vision statement, the modified scene is made up of numerous "tribes." There are the ICE cars, which are characterized by their in-car entertainment systems; the Cruise Kings, which incorporate "big kits, big ICE and plenty of bravado;" Sleepers, or highly tuned but otherwise ordinary-looking cars; and the "Rat Look" cars, which are "deliberately made rusty, with stencil-painted graphics and plenty of weathered accessories."

June 9, 2013

Citi Bike NYC is alive

CitiBike NYC is alive.

Looking forward to system data and realtime updated maps.

Already two weeks in service, it looks popular and very useful.

Posted to Green transit urbanism NY.

June 8, 2013

Pussy Riot not able to extend its oeuvr

Though they came here with "a specific mission," as Shaiba put it, to meet with their supporters and recruit new ones, Pussy Riot were surprised by the volume and warmth of the reception.

"We came specially to meet with these people, but we didn't expect that there would be so many," Fara said.

"That they are so nice and generous!" Shaiba added.

"That we're all on the same wavelength," Fara concluded.

They met with organizers at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, a music-mentoring program based in Brooklyn, but they were quick to note that, though they have released a single and are often described as a punk act, Pussy Riot is not, strictly speaking, a band.

"It's an art group, not a musical group -- this is very important," Fara said. They are multimedia, site-specific, activist performers. "We work from the space or the problem," she explained.

At the moment, though, Pussy Riot is not able to extend its oeuvre: After the arrests, the Russian government drafted laws banning the wearing of masks and imposing hefty fines for unauthorized demonstrations. Pussy Riot's videos were labeled extremist and ordered removed from Russian-hosted Internet sites (though they are still available on YouTube).

"For anybody that wants to follow in our footsteps, this is a direct disruption of freedom of speech, this is like a muzzle," Fara said, adding that they will keep fighting the ruling.

Performance is not much on their minds, anyway.

"From the moment the girls were arrested," Fara said, "our entire focus has shifted toward securing their freedom and helping them." Last August, "the girls" -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich -- were sentenced to two years in prison for an act of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." Ms. Samutsevich was released in October but forbidden to leave Russia, while the other two remain in separate and remote penal colonies. In the spring, as expected, they were denied parole.

Visiting them is impossible for the other current members of Pussy Riot: they don't want to risk revealing their identities to the authorities, and besides, navigating the prison rules is difficult even for lawyers and family members. Scheduled phone calls can be suddenly canceled. Letters and e-mail are censored. "The only thing that gets through is 'Hi' and 'Bye,' " Fara said.

Ms. Alyokhina, who turned 25 on Thursday, staged an 11-day hunger strike last month to protest conditions in prison; it ended when authorities acceded to her demands, her lawyer said.

Maxim Pozdorovkin, a Moscow-born, Brooklyn-based filmmaker who directed the HBO documentary with Mike Lerner, said he was impressed by the solidarity and eloquence of the women. "They've used what happened in the best way possible, to continue propagating their ideas and for sticking to the ideas as a group," he said.

The film has been making the festival rounds and is to be shown in Moscow this winter, though Mr. Pozdorovkin said it was unclear how that would work with the video ban.

"One of the things that I always hope to show is that these women are patriots and they really want to transform their society for the better," he said. "They're not just vulgar hooligans, which is pretty much how they've been portrayed in the general channels in Russia."

June 6, 2013

Ask a banker whats it like ? NPR Money

Junior investment bankers spend 100 hours a week making spreadsheets and formatting client presentations; the main skills required are attention to detail, cheerful obedience, and the ability to add two-digit numbers in your head. After a while, though, you graduate into a more senior role where you spend 70 hours a week flying to the Midwest to shake hands with a corporate treasurer and ask him how his kids are doing in school. The main skills required there are a firm handshake, a facility with small talk, and a good but not too good golf game.

(Here is , but that's the gist of it. In non-investment-banking roles -- sales and trading, for instance -- this is not as true, but there is some truth to it even there.)

The fact that successfully completing four to six years as a spreadsheet jockey is the prerequisite for becoming a traveling salesman has always struck me as a particularly acute case of the . Somehow it mostly works out. Often, though, it doesn't, and excellent junior bankers fail to transition to the more client-facing sales role. This can lead to disgruntlement, and since sales is generally rather a grubby profession the disgruntlement might be expressed in ways that .

Still, there are a few things that might indicate you're cut out for a finance career. For one thing, it helps to like finance. Read the best book about mergers and acquisitions, , or the best book about sales and trading, , and ask yourself: does that sound fun? I mean, it's mostly not as fun as those books make it out to be, but: it's never more fun.

-- Dealbreaker's Matt Levine and Epicurean dealmaker's curriculum-vitae.

June 4, 2013

Penn Station Vision

Penn Station is in the news again: the Municipal Art Society ran a public competition for a rebuilt station house, involving proposals by four different architectural firms. This does not include any track-level improvements at all: only the concourses and above-ground infrastructure are to be rebuilt, at a cost of $9.5 billion according to one of the four firms. The quotes from the architects and other backers of rebuilding use language like "great train station" and "gateway to the city," and this is where the subtle hate of the city's actual residents lies: why the focus on Penn Station? Why not a subway station?


Via Pedestrian observations's quick note why the focus on Penn Station.

The headline figure for the ridership at Penn Station is 600,000-650,000 a day, but this is a wild exaggeration. First, this includes both entries and exits, so the real number is half that. Second, about half of the number comes from subway riders, who these discussions always ignore. And third, there is a large number of passengers transferring between commuter rail and the subway who are doubled-counted; at subway stations, passengers transferring between lines are not even single-counted, since the subway counts entries at the turnstiles. Taking an average of boardings and alightings when both numbers are given or just boardings otherwise, Penn Station has 100,000 weekday LIRR riders, 80,000 weekday New Jersey Transit riders, and 170,000 weekday subway riders between the two stations. However, people transferring between the subway and commuter rail are double-counted.

In contrast, not counting any connecting passengers, there are 195,000 weekday Times Square subway riders. Without detailed data about transfer volumes at each station we can't compare the two, but since the proposals for a better Penn Station focus only on the mainline station, the number of passengers served is certainly less than that of Times Square passengers.

June 3, 2013

Coffee Shops Everywhere

Coffee Shops Everywhere

Years ago you'd always hear foreigners complaining about coffee in Korea, back when coffee consisted of instant mixes like Maxim. But somewhere along the way, Korea discovered the cafe, and suddenly they're everywhere, to the point where I'm starting to get alarmed at how many cafes are out there. Starbucks is here and it's everywhere, but it has a lot of competition from domestic franchises.

You're never far from a Caffé Bene, or an Angel-in-Us Coffee, or a Hollys Coffee, or a Tom N Toms Coffee, or A Twosome Place. Not to mention all the smaller coffee places out there as well. And they're all far better than instant coffee mix. Many cafes are open 24 hours a day, and due to the vertical lifestyle here it's not rare to see a three-storey cafe offering great views as you sip your coffee.

There's even a term now for women who spend more money on coffee than they do on actual lunch: 됀장녀, though I hear it's kind of dismissive.

Chances are the culprit for this cafe trend is the Korean drama The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince, which introduced the Korean public to the cafe lifestyle, but also inspired many people to open their own cafes.

June 2, 2013

Locals vs tourists map by untapped cities and Eric Fischer

Tourists are red, New Yorkers are blue. Locals vs tourists map by untapped cities and Eric Fischer.


Eric Fischer, self described as a "geek of maps, data visualization, failed transportation plans of the past, history of technology, computers, pedestrianism, and misspelled street signs," takes photos of cities and makes maps and other visualizations with many sorts of urban data.

This map is part of his project 'A Geotaggers' World Atlas' in which he uses data from the public Flickr and Picasa search APIs to map where photos have been taken in different cities. "Some people interpreted [these maps] as... maps of tourism." So, Fischer made the series "Locals and Tourists" to test this hypothesis.

"Some cities (for example Las Vegas and Venice) do seem to be photographed almost entirely by tourists. Others seem to have many pictures taken in piaces that tourists don't visit." He reports.

June 1, 2013

Conservatives hate Citi bike: NY Mag venn diagram

Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal called the Bloomberg administration "totalitarian" for ... encouraging the riding of bikes.
In perhaps the best unhinged rant of any kind ever, Daniel Greenfield at the always enjoyable FrontPage Magazine refers to Janette Sadik-Khan, the city's pro-bike transportation chief, as a "Muslim Nazi collaborator's granddaughter" who in "partial revenge ... made many New York streets nearly as impassable as those of her grandfather's wartime Dresden."

NY Mag's intelligencer CitiBike NYC venn-diagram: why-conservatives-hate-citi-bike.


Sharing: So central to the concept of bike shares, they put it right in the name. But conservatives hate sharing -- tax dollars, calamari, doesn't matter. True story: Louie Gohmert never shared a toy for the duration of his childhood.
It is a very slippery slope from sharing bikes to sharing everything. You blink and all of a sudden we're a socialist dystopia, and everyone's eating Bloomberg Vitamin Mush for every meal.

Environmental: Bike are also good for the environment. This will please you if you think the environment actually needs help. But if you think carbon emissions and climate change are conspiracies (like 58 percent of Republicans) perpetrated by Al Gore and a handful of scientists at the University of East Anglia, then bikes are just lies on wheels.
Vaguely French: French people ride bikes, right? Like, more than other people? There's something vaguely French about this whole thing. Doesn't sit well.

Mayor Bloomberg: Conservatives hate Mayor Bloomberg, a cosmopolitan billionaire who thinks he knows better than them and has the right to control their lives. Bloomberg wants to take their guns, and, even worse, he wants to take their enormous sodas. Which brings us to ...

Healthy: Bike riding is healthy, especially when the alternative is sitting in a cab, train, or bus. But conservatives hate being told to be healthy. Look at how much scorn they have for Michelle Obama simply for encouraging kids to exercise more and eat more vegetables. As Americans, it is our God-given right to eat as much crap as we want, pass our medical bills onto the government, and then yell at the government for spending too much money on health care. Which brings us to ...