10/22/20 Power Five

1. Just Give Poor People Money – “A 2018 US Agency of International Development study of cash giving in nutrition programs in Rwanda…found that households that got cash instead of standard aid packages saved 60 percent more, consumed 32 percent more, and expanded productive assets like livestock by 76 percent more. Cash recipients’ diets improved, and so did their children’s height, weight, and chances of survival.

2. Utah Heart Attack Victim Competes For Medical Care – When ICU beds and wings of hospitals are reserved for Covid patients, non-Covid emergencies are tabled.

3. Kill Your Gas Stove – “Homes with gas stoves can contain approximately 50 to 400 percent higher concentrations of NO2 than homes with electric stoves, often resulting in levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors

4. Inside Dracula’s Castle – “In the 1960s, when Romania was ruled by a communist government, its tourism czars decided it could be advantageous to market a place associated with Vlad Tepes,” says local historian Nicolae Pepene. “They looked around at all of the available castles and decided that this castle at Bran, which guarded the one mountain pass running between Transylvania and Walachia, looked sufficiently Gothic.” (Bonus point: Poiana Brașov, a popular ski resort, is only eight miles away.)

5. Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler – What words were added to the dictionary in the year you were born? Quagga mussel, mixtape, force quit.

Graph of the Day:

8/25/20 Power Five

  1. How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering – Highly recommend…an amazing look at the legacy of redlining and the very real and unhealthy consequences felt today.
  1. America’s Terrible Internet is Making Quarantine Worse – “At 8:03, only eight of the 24 students had logged on, despite the fact that Anderson’s “classroom expectations” sheet requested that everyone “log in to class on time and prepared every day.” It might not have been the kids’ fault. Many students are poor in this rural chunk of the Sacramento Valley. The school ordered Wi-Fi hotspots for the students, but they won’t be available until August 22. In a class Anderson taught that afternoon, one boy’s video kept freezing from a slow connection. At the high point during the class I observed, 20 of 24 students had joined the Zoom session, which, Anderson told me later, is “better than expected.”
  1. 100 Things I Learned in 10 Years and 100 Reads of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations – One of the foundational texts of Stoicism, Meditations is one of the books I give and recommend the most.
  1. Black Homeowners Face Discrimination In Appraisals

The Hortons live just minutes from the Ortega River, in a predominantly white neighborhood of 1950s homes that tend to sell for $350,000 to $550,000. They had expected their home to appraise for around $450,000, but the appraiser felt differently, assigning a value of $330,000. Ms. Horton, who is Black, immediately suspected discrimination.

The couple’s bank agreed that the value was off and ordered a second appraisal. But before the new appraiser could arrive, Ms. Horton, a lawyer, began an experiment: She took all family photos off the mantle. Instead, she hung up a series of oil paintings of Mr. Horton, who is white, and his grandparents that had been in storage. Books by Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison were taken off the shelves, and holiday photo cards sent by friends were edited so that only those showing white families were left on display. On the day of the appraisal, Ms. Horton took the couple’s 6-year-old son on a shopping trip to Target, and left Mr. Horton alone at home to answer the door.

The new appraiser gave their home a value of $465,000 — a more than 40 percent increase from the first appraisal.

  1. Let’s Take Our Brains More Seriously When Learning – “As our smartphones enable us to access more information, we become convinced that we understand more and more about the world. Yet not only do we understand less and less, we also become increasingly shaped and enfeebled by our technology. (We no longer have to be able to distinguish between edible and poisonous plants. We don’t even need to know exactly how to drive across the city without our phones).”

6/10/20 Power Five

  1. Joe Stiglitz & Ray Dalio on Building a Better Economy – Highly recommend this interview with a Nobel prize winner and a billionaire founder of the world’s largest hedge fund. “Inequality in America has become a national emergency.”
  1. When 511 Epidemiologists Expect to Fly, Hug, and Do 18 Other Everyday Activities Again – “As much as I hate working at home, I think that working in a shared indoor space is the most dangerous thing we could do.”
  1. The Looming Bank Collapse – “Just as easy mortgages fueled economic growth in the 2000s, cheap corporate debt has done so in the past decade, and many companies have binged on it.
  1. Why Ta-Nehisi Coates is Hopeful – “George Floyd is not new. The ability to broadcast it the way it was broadcasted is new. But black folks have known things like that were going on in their communities, in their families, for a very long time.”
  1. My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need it Anymore? – It’s clear we still don’t know the long-term impact this economic retraction will have on small businesses, unemployment, etc. But one thing that is certain is there are going to be a lot of restaurants that disappear. From the wonderful Gabrielle Hamilton: “The conversation about how restaurants will continue to operate, given the rising costs of running them has been ramping up for years now; the coronavirus did not suddenly shine light on an unknown fragility. We’ve all known, and for a rather long time. The past five or six years have been alarming. For restaurants, coronavirus-mandated closures are like the oral surgery or appendectomy you suddenly face while you are uninsured. These closures will take out the weakest and the most vulnerable. But exactly who among us are the weakest and most vulnerable is not obvious.”

5/19/20 Power Five

  1. The Three Sides of Risk – Morgan Housel on losing friends in an avalanche and how to think about risk in investing and life. Recommend.
  1. The Man Feeding a Remote Alaska Town with a Costco Card and a Ship – I’ve wondered how people living in rural communities feel about being isolated from resources, in times like this. Very unlikely the current generation relocates, but maybe the next will see the impact a pandemic or emergency can have on rural hospitals, supply chains, and food shortages and consider a different lifestyle. Obviously nothing wrong with living in a rural community or indian reservation, but access to resources is vitally important.
  1. van Gogh by Car – “Art lovers will drive into the 4,000 square foot downtown industrial space and will stay inside their vehicles.” Years of work is at risk of being thrown out the window. To survive and thrive, you have to make a pivot.
  1. Heckman vs. Chetty – Chetty’s analysis certainly has flaws, but the amount of data and breadth and quality of publications is hard to ignore. Heckman is no slouch himself, but it’s always easier to criticize than create. Chetty’s body of work deserves criticism and hopefully will see continual progress in the years to come.
  1. 183 Benefits of the Coronavirus – 90,000 dead is a huge number and completely unnecessary if an appropriate response had been in place. But as with any tragedy, there is a silver lining.