Pasta and oysters and rich Gorgonzola,
Coffee and doughnuts and nutty granola,
Bluegill and pizza and hot chicken wings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
It has been a pretty good year in the culinary trenches. Some good new restaurants have opened, a few have closed, and I didn’t get food poisoning once. Here are a few of my fonder memories:
Two timely and useful essays:
- Paul Graham: Good and Bad Procrastination:
The most dangerous form of procrastination is unacknowledged type-B procrastination, because it doesn’t feel like procrastination. You’re “getting things done.” Just the wrong things.
Any advice about procrastination that concentrates on crossing things off your to-do list is not only incomplete, but positively misleading, if it doesn’t consider the possibility that the to-do list is itself a form of type-B procrastination. In fact, possibility is too weak a word. Nearly everyone’s is. Unless you’re working on the biggest things you could be working on, you’re type-B procrastinating, no matter how much you’re getting done.
- Richard Hamming: You and Your Research:
- What are the most important problems in your field?
- Are you working on one of them?
- Why not?
To establish some form of Kurdish state? The Turkish Government, among our stronger allies, will not thank us for this.
To establish Islamic State(s) in the Arab regions of Iraq? Probably difficult to sell this to the American people as “victory.” Certainly an odd aspect of our “War on Terror.”
To establish a Shiite State in southern Iraq? Good news for Iran, a charter member of the “Axis of Evil.” Bad news for Iraq’s southern neighbor, Saudi Arabia, most of whose oil fields lie in Shiite tribal areas.
Perhaps we can redeem ourselves by learning lessons of sufficient value.
“The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism” argues most of the forces that produced the scandals among Enron, Worldcom, et al remain in place.
This means investors should expect another wave of scandals even as the bad
actors of the first wave go to trial.
The people running investment funds and corporations increasingly put their
short term interests ahead of the long term interests of the investing
public. The status quo has corporate CEO’s reaping a disproportionate share
of returns by finding ways to align the interests of the intermediaries with
their own. The link between executive compensation and stock options
produces more activities that boost short term stock price even as they
jeopardize long term prospects. Bogle makes the point “the more the managers
take, the less investors make.” By his calculations, investing owners take
100% of the risk while CEO’s, intermediary investment bankers, and portfolio
managers get 70% of the compounded return. The currently passive nature of
stock ownership follows the decline of direct ownership of stocks from 92%
in 1950 to 32% today. Portfolio managers do not hold corporate CEO’s
accountable because the average stock stays in a portfolio for less than a
year versus 15 years when Bogle got into the business in the 1960’s.
Well worth reading.
During the past month, I received 14 pounds of catalogs in the mail. That’s roughly a half-pound per day.
I didn’t ask to receive any of them, either, a claim my postal carrier could hardly be blamed to question.
Yet companies well-known, and some of them not, sent me at least one, sometimes two, three or more catalogs between Nov. 21 and Dec. 22, 2005.
Jonathan Weil continues to dig into the ongoing KPMG tax shelter saga, this time, discussing several large investors who took advantage of the shelters to save millions in taxes.
Mr. Diebold (pronounced DEE-bold) made a career of recognizing relevant advances in technology and explaining them to the likes of A.T. & T., Boeing, Xerox and I.B.M. Through books, speeches and his international consulting firm, Mr. Diebold persuaded major corporations to automate their assembly lines, store their records electronically and install interoffice computer networks.
In 1961 he and his firm, the Diebold Group, designed an electronic network to link account records at the Bowery Savings Bank in New York. Rather than being updated after hours, the records immediately reflected both deposits and withdrawals and were available to any teller. Customers could then bank at any branch and at any window.
Another data network eliminated much of Baylor University Hospital’s paperwork in departments like accounting, inventory, payroll and purchasing. More important to Mr. Diebold, the system made medical records and statistics available to researchers in electronic form, permitting studies that were otherwise too daunting. The American Hospital Association embraced the project, and hundreds of other institutions created data systems modeled on it.
Fascinating: Rivers and Tides:
This amazing documentary from Thomas Riedelsheimer won the Golden Gate Award Grand Prize for Best Documentary at the 2003 San Francisco International Film Festival. The film follows renowned sculptor Andy Goldsworthy as he creates with ice, driftwood, bracken, leaves, stone, dirt and snow in open fields, beaches, rivers, creeks and forests. With each new creation, he carefully studies the energetic flow and transitory nature of his work.