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Wall Street & the Middle Class

John Cassidy’s “What Good is Wall Street? from The New Yorker is full of great parts. Here’s one:

During the credit boom of 2005 to 2007, profits and pay reached unprecedented highs. It is now evident that the bankers were being rewarded largely for taking on unacknowledged risks: after the subprime market collapsed, bank shareholders and taxpayers were left to pick up the losses. From an economy-wide perspective, this experience suggests that at least some of the profits that Wall Street bankers claim to generate, and that they use to justify their big pay packages, are illusory.



Malcolm Gladwell debunks college ranking systems in the New Yorker:

… at a time when American higher education is facing a crisis of accessibility and affordability, we have adopted a de-facto standard of college quality that is uninterested in both of those factors. And why? Because a group of magazine analysts in an office building in Washington, D.C., decided twenty years ago to value selctivity over efficacy, to use proxies that scarcely relate to what they’re meant to be proxies for, and to pretend that they can compare a large, diverse, low-cost land-grant university in rural Pennsylvania with a small, expensive, private Jewish university on two campuses in Manhattan.


Choking versus Panicking

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great piece for the New Yorker called “The Art of Failure — Why some people choke and others panic.” The thesis here is that choking is a reversion to basic instruction — the mechanical, poorly-coordinated, unadaptable precepts from one’s basic instruction in a skill. Sports is a great example: as one choke’s, one shows less and less of the practiced grace that come with experience and more and more of the mechanical, simplistic movement characteristic of the novice. The second part of the thesis is this: panicking is a reversion not to basic instruction but to basic instinct. A panic surpasses all training and heads right into lizard-brain survival territory. Here’s a great quote:


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Gladwell on Alcohol

Recently, I was waiting in our dental school reception area to meet with Patient Financing and I opened up the February New Yorker. In it was a brilliant essay about the intersection of society and alcohol by Malcolm Gladwell, entitled Drinking Games. Gladwell’s anecdotal and anthropological evidence reveals that the effects of alcohol are not uniform — our reaction to being drunk is heavily influenced by… what we are expected to do when drunk. Here’s an awesome quote:


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Dark Coffee and Taste

Made in USA, by Paul Graham. His point: we make things fast, other countries make things well. These two positions both have advantages, depending entirely upon the industry.

Cars aren’t the worst thing we make in America. Where the just-do-it model fails most dramatically is in our cities— or rather, exurbs. If real estate developers operated on a large enough scale, if they built whole towns, market forces would compel them to build towns that didn’t suck. But they only build a couple office buildings or suburban streets at a time, and the result is so depressing that the inhabitants consider it a great treat to fly to Europe and spend a couple weeks living what is, for people there, just everyday life.


The Coolhunt

The Coolhunt - Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating article from 1997 about the “coolhunts” by employees of the clothing industry. Recounts the resurrection of the Converse One Star shoes.