Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Savoonga

Great article by Gene Weingarten on Eskimos living in Savoonga, Snowbound.

Sort of a depressing story, but uplifting in some parts, too. The question remains, what is the point of subsistence?

"Out there in the enveloping whiteness, it had been possible to lose yourself, fishing with Eskimos in the Bering Sea the way it has been done since the age of the igloo. There was no village, there were no dead kids, no fog of denial, no generation in agony, literally bored out of its mind. There were no soul-wrenching choices between survival of self and survival of a culture... It was possible to comprehend the joy of surviving by your skills and savvy on the bounty of the Earth alone, in defiance of whatever hell nature and fate throw at you. And it was possible to understand why, lost in that moment, you could want to live that way forever."

Google Earth

Preview of cool new Google Earth at New Recruit.

Wow... the ability to view 3D renderings of city skylines, view subway lines and bus routes along with all their stops (and get directions!)

Pretty awesome..

Monday, May 30, 2005

Two Americas: One Rich, One Poor?

Here's an interesting, but dated (sort of -- prior to the November election) assessment of "Two Americas: One Rich, One Poor? Understanding Income Inequality in the United States."

The study takes Census data on income distribution and "normalizes" it to account for differences in cash and non-cash income, number of persons, hours worked and effects of taxation.

The results?
"The top fifth of the population has $4.21 of income for every $1.00 at the bottom" vs. the results from the raw Census data which showed that the top fifth have $14.30 for every $1.00 at the bottom.

I think this is an interesting analysis, however, I think the inclusion of Medicare and government benefits should be excluded from the analysis... (That would be the effects of taxation component to "normalizing" the data.)

I agree those benefits have value, however, I think we should try to look at a situation where people (unaided by an outside hand such as government) attempt to earn income, live and survive. Obviously, the government sets the rules, but a direct redistribution and giving the bottom segments income credit for that seems a bit flawed in my opinion. The people at the bottom are not really "earning" that income -- they are just given it.

We should look at the data normalizing for the number of people, the hours worked and non-cash benefits.

Weekend Reading List


  • Moviegoers are Staying at Home [NYT]
    Article comments on the shift from consuming movies in the theatre to consuming entertainment on our couches. Not surprising. Consumers are increasingly demanding more control over what they watch and when they watch it.

  • Fun with Amazon Images
    Amazon has " a system that generates each requested image. The details of size and format are built into the image's URL. What that means that, if you want, you can create URLs that generate odd and unlikely Amazon images." Aaah, fun fun fun.

  • 11 Steps to a Better Brain [New Scientist]
    My favorite? Use a method to improve mental capacity (work on the ability to remember 600 names)

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Don't Aim At Success

"Don't aim at success -- the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue... as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a course greater than oneself."

-- Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist

The Economics of Superstars

Interesting article on the economics of superstars by Sherwin Rosen, a professor economics at the University of Chicago.

In the article, Rosen discusses the excessive salaries paid to titans in industries such as entertainment, sports and business.

He examines:

"The phenomenon of superstars, wherein relatively small numbers of people earn enormous amounts of money and seem to dominate the fields in which they are engaged. "


Yet the thing about these superstars is that they are not 10x as talented as the tier below them, however, they are paid more than 10x as much. Why is this the case?

Statistics and What Women Want

An analysis from a stat blog on the most-emailed article in the NYT, "What Women Want"

The NYT article discusses a working paper by Muriel Niederle and Lise Vesterlund, economists who propose another theory for why women are not in top-paying jobs -- women are less competitive than men.

The statistics blog author questions the validity of the methodology of the experiment:

For the results of the experiment to be meaningful, you'd want to start with men and women who, aside from the gender difference, are pretty similar; otherwise, something besides gender might explain the women's lower participation in the tournament.


Pretty interesting stuff!

Click on the links to find out more.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Update on Blockbuster

Turns out that Blockbuster sends out extra DVD's from time to time to compensate for delays in shipping DVD's!

Per Hacking Netflix, one Blockbuster customer received an email from customer support saying:

You may have noticed a delay in the shipment of your DVDs early last week. And, by now, we hope you're enjoying the extra discs we sent you as a token of appreciation for your patience.

Once we identified and fixed the problem that caused your delay, we immediately sent you TWICE the number of titles you were to have received. That's right -- if you had two available slots in your list of Shipped Movies, you should have received four titles to make up for your delay.


Guess my extra DVD wasn't a mistake after all!

Cool T-Shirts from Killer Tofu

Check out these cool T-shirts from the website killertofu.com (disclosure: the operator of this site is related to me) -- however, I still think the shirts are pretty neat.



The website logo t-shirt is $18. They also have a neat CGI Walkman shirt for $26.



I'm going to place an order today.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell

Well I'm sure you all know that he's a famous author, but, honestly (like always), I did not connect the dots between all the interesting articles he's written for the New Yorker with the same person (him)!

I went to his website recently, and I found article after article that I LOVED, but since I don't pay attention, I didn't realize they were all written by the same one person! (This is also similar to what happened to me with Dubner and Lowenstein...)

In any case, today I want to highlight several interesting articles Gladwell's written:

Ask Yourself Whether You

"Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so."

-- J.S. Mill

Thursday Reading List


  • A keyboard without key labels [NYT]
    Supposedly for geeks, the keyboard features nothing printed on the keys. Apparently the keyboard also causes increases in typing speed, since all users have to memorize the keys. Each key is also "weighted by location to be more or less resistant to touch." If you have $80 to spare, buy it here.

    I'm still more interested in the dvorak.


  • Loud, Proud, Unabridged: It Is Too Reading! [NYT]
    This article from the NYT examines the increasing popularity of audio books. Is listening to a book equivalent to "reading" one? Hmm, another use for the ipod!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Introspection and Becoming Who You Want to Be

So I've been reading this book about the adaptive unconscious (Strangers to Ourselves, by Tim Wilson) and it says that introspection is not necessarily the best way to get a hold of your unconscious thoughts and feelings. The analogy Wilson alludes to was to compare your mind to a a giant cave; you only have a flashlight and archaelogical tools to explore the mind with. But apparently there are some deep, dark places in your mind that no amount of archaelogical work can dig up.

[Note: this is a long entry...]

Monday, May 23, 2005

Chethood

Chet aka investment banker aka well-dressed/polished buffoon?

Long discussion about the question of the value that investment bankers bring and the kind of skills (if any) required to be successful found here, here and here.

The original question was:

"There is one thing Chet is not, ever, in my experience, and that is particularly bright...

Is the role of these guys just to schmooze clients for their banks?

Is this a market failure caused by suceeding generations of Chets selecting other Chets?"


The response?

"There are four relevant human capabilities here: the ability to master details, the ability to quickly grasp what the salient issues are and follow them through to their conclusion, the ability to work like a dog, and the ability to size up people."


Further from Marginal Revolution...

"I suggest that detail mastery, analytical thinking and working like a dog are more open to meritocracy than sizing people up because to size people up it helps to get them to like you and that is more culturally bound than the other skills."


Financial Rounds chimes in:

"I heard once that arrogance comes from comparing your strengths to someone else's weaknesses. We have a natural tendency to look down on those with "different strengths"."


Are we just green with envy?

Well, what do you think?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

NY Times to Charge for Articles Online

New York Times to Charge for Content [Heading East]

Whoa... This came out almost a week ago! I guess I am NOT on the ball. The subscription will be $79/year for online only and $39/year if you already subscribe to the print edition.

The question remains, are people willing to pay for content?

Will the link generator still work? And will the buzz on articles be as great? All to be determined I guess.

The obvious comparison is with the Wall Street Journal -- there's plenty of discussion online about Journal articles, but, then again... readers of the Journal can afford to pay for the Journal and other things.

I guess the future will tell what will happen.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Hard Sell

Plaxo comments on the used-car salesperson sales tactics used at 24 Hour Fitness

He’s well trained and he tried to use a high-pressure sales tactic on me. He threw out gems like “clearly, you need to get back into a gym routine” and “you didn’t come in tonight looking for a deal, you came in looking to join a gym. Let’s get you started right now.” Um… ok, not exactly the angle I would’ve chosen, but I guess he’s the sales guy, and I’m the unwitting customer right?


Unfortunately, a lot of gyms other than 24 Hour Fitness continue to use the hard-sell technique to try to win customers. I guess this made sense 20 years ago, when exercise wasn't as much in the consciousness of Americans.

But hello! Its 2005!

Even the Food Pyramid recommends physical activity!

Seems to me there should be enough consumer demand to just let a customer walk in, view a clear pricing system and sign up! That's simple enough, right?

The industry will change, but it takes time.

Friday Reading List

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Class, Status and Prada?

Some great nuggets can be taken from Brad Delong's recent post and associated commentary on Class, Status and Prada.

Delong states:

"Happiness is attained when you achieve your dreams and solve your problems. Material abundance helps you do so, but it also teaches you to dream bigger dreams and pose yourself more complicated problems...

"On the other hand, it may not be a very big mistake to think that human happiness consists in expanding our powers and capabilities to accomplish things (not the least of which are maintaining our comfort and satisfying our curiosity), and that wealth is a powerful tool to those ends."


What's the impetus for all this discussion? The recent New York Times series on class and class mobility or lack thereof.

Carol argues that:

"Most "class" structure is about power relations, and the feeling that you have more power than someone else. Power symbols (cars, clothes, etc) are used to signal that the owner thereof has power (in our society lots and lots of money)."


Is that really true though? Is class simply based on money and power? I sort of thought that the desire for money was more related to the desire for a feeling of social security and well-being. Having the ability and yes, maybe the power, to feed loved ones and take care of material concerns. But is this class?

Schweitzer commented:

"Happiness (in the material sense) does not depend on the size of real disposable income; it depends on the real disposable income you receive, compared to the one you expected. But expectations get revised on the basis of past experience. Therefore permanent Happiness is not possible."


And this sort of leads us to the concept of choosing the right pond. How have your experiences defined for you what it means to better or worse off? Is it all just relative? Are we simply happier being large fish in small ponds?

Another interesting comment made by Jim S. was:

"In spite of the fact that every member of this society would be equally qualified for any position in it, there would still be only so many spots in middle management, fewer spots in upper management and so many CEO, CIO and CFO spots. The structure of virtually all businesses necessarily limits how many people can move up the ladder. There is no way to eliminate this fact given the structure of our businesses."


This is very true. There is simply a structural limitation on the number of people who can be at the "top" and make a large number of decisions -- decisions with impacts that will affect the masses. Does decision-making by consensus work?

Hearing out multiple points of views is important, but this sort of organizational structure also results in indecision and dissent. When there are so many opinions, its hard to shift direction or even know which direction to go in.

To finish off, one last quote from John C. Halasz and ultimately from another far older source:

"The poor will always be with us, because we ourselves are the poor"

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Life at the Top

  • Life at the Top in America Isn't Just Better, Its Longer [NYT]

    The New York Times chronicles the differing paths of three heart attack victims... the takeaway? If you're rich, you have access to better healthcare.

    While I agree that is probably true, I think language plays a huge barrier to obtaining quality care also. Doctors are intimidating enough when they speak in English, what must it be like to try to get directions/answers in a foreign language?

    Having a strong support network seems pretty important as well. Maybe money helps improve support, since if you have a lot of it, you have access to conveniences that can save time and hassle -- being able to take a cab instead of taking 3 buses and then the train.

    But is life designed in such a way that equality for all is reality?

OCD Affects All of Us, Even Our Pets

Cats and dogs in Australia are sometimes fed anti-depressant drugs to fight obssessive compulsive disorder... (Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Photos)

Hmmm, would this help my cat? I think she feels a particular attraction to my bathtub!!

Fresh Fruit and Veggies!

If you have time to cook and don't work a killer job, Community Supported Agriculture is a neat way to get fresh fruits and vegetables in New York.

The way it works is that a CSA farmer sells shares in his or her upcoming harvest during the winter and spring. Then, from June through November, the farmer delivers the week's share to a central neighborhood location. Each share usually includes 7 to 10 types of veggies... and over the course of a season, members get at least 40 different types, changing with the seasons.

In the East Village, there's one at the 6th St Community Center, 638 E 6th St (seems kind of far huh?) 212-677-1863.

I couldn't find any information on pricing on the website... does anyone out there have any idea how much this costs?

The fear with signing up for something like this is what if you run out of time and aren't able to cook? Leaving a box of rotting vegetables in my kitchen doesn't sound that appealing... And what if you're pickier than you think?

Long Tail

Great post from PVRBlog on the long tail of content. Jumping off from a Wired article from last Fall, USA Today takes on the issue..

Here's a quote from Ramsay, CEO of TiVo:

What we've found is that the viewing patterns of people who watch live television — and are therefore restricted to prime time whenever they're home — are dramatically different than the viewing patterns of people who have the choice of just picking whatever they want.

Given the choice, people will migrate towards a much greater variety, and the deal is you've got to make everything available to everybody so that they're not restricted. And if you do, the market for that more esoteric, more specialized stuff is just as big as the market of the mainstream stuff.


The life of content is being extended as people are discovering all kinds of entertainment they previously didn't know existed. (Consider the longevity of the Star Wars series... although, I'm sure most people know of the existence of Star Wars!)

People all around the world have diverse interests. In the past, it was tough to line up an efficient delivery mechanism for that content while connecting consumers with content they're interested in.

For example, I love to watch anime, but probably only a small percentage of people in America like Japanese animation.

As Wired says:

Everyone's taste departs from the mainstream somewhere, and the more we explore alternatives, the more we're drawn to them.


In the past, broadcast television was the only way to get a show on-air and in order to appeal to a large audience, only the most mainstream and popular shows would survive and be aired. Primetime audiences were really limited in what they could view. A primetime anime show just wouldn't survive in the United States (of course, in Japan, that's another story).

I think what the cable industry has shown us is that there is an audience for very niche-based channels, channels focused on topics such as weather, science fiction, cooking, etc. These differing topics will not appeal to everyone, but if the right audience is made aware of the existence of the material and if they can cheaply obtain the content, I believe consumers will consume far more more content than they do today.

If you can believe it, "more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles."

I agree with what the Wired article proposes. Make everything available and help consumers find it. Finally, make it affordable/efficient to obtain the content.

If we can't figure out that the content exists, how can we purchase it and enjoy it?

People love to stimulate their minds -- as Robert Reich said:

The greater value and more eager expenditure comes in the psychological domain: speed and convenience, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, feelings of well-being and financial security… it is the rare human who can obtain enough of these; greater wealth only whets the appetite for more.


Humans have an unsatiable appetite...

Google War

Wow, this blog has declared war on Google!!

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit..

"It is absolutely unacceptable to try building the world's largest Internet traffic data collection under the misleading excuse of speeding up web surfing. This calls for active resistance to Google, which deserves to be put completely out of business for this move."


The upshot? You will be unable to do a search on Google to find his site! Craziness!

Update: the author stopped the redirect. You can now search for Lenz Blog on Google.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Fun Blogs

Fun blogs to check out:

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Gmail Trash Troubles

Does anyone else have this problem with Gmail?!

When friends email me, a lot of times, their messages end up in the TRASH folder. Not the spam folder, not the inbox, but the trash!!

I have no idea why this is happening!

I have emailed Gmail twice about this and they responded the first time and ignored the second email.

The friend's email will be from a Yahoo or Hotmail account sometimes, so at first, I thought that was why the problem was occurring.

But, emails that I send to friends with GMAIL accounts will end up in the trash -- as in when they respond, I get nothing. If I check the trash can, there message will be there!

Can someone help me??

I do have some filters, but they filter words like "Spam"...

????

Why so many VC Blogs?

Infectious Greed muses about why there are so many VC blogs.

Ideas include:


  • There are just as many legal/financial/other blogs, but those people aren't as good at getting media attention


  • Professional service firms are highly branded by individual, so it makes sense to get out there and present yourself as a way of attracting deal flow


Hmm, agree with the second point -- getting some free publicity doesn't hurt, especially when you're out trolling for new deals.

Best Places to Eat Alone

Best Places to Eat Alone in Manhattan [eGullet]

No one to eat with? Still hankering for a nice meal, but too lazy to cook? Check out the link above from eGullet.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Unfortunate Castings

Here's my contribution today to a celebrity-obssessed world -- why do they cast the wrong characters for eagerly awaited, movie-adaptations of best-selling books???!



Case in point, check out this list:
  • Tom Hanks cast as Robert Langdon, the main crime-buster in the Da Vinci CodeHarrison Ford

    What the heck?! I thought that Dan Brown even wrote in the book that Langdon looked like Harrison Ford?! Is Tom Hank's voice "chocolate for ears"?

    Who cast this movie?!

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I LOVE Tom Hanks. But, I don't think he's right for the role! Maybe even Pierce Brosnan would be good (in my expert opinion :))...
  • Zhang Ziyi cast as Sayuri from Memoirs of a Geisha

    Zhang ZiyiZhang Ziyi isn't even Japanese! Nor does she speak Japanese! She doesn't even have a Japanese-ish face!

    Again, don't get me wrong, Zhang Ziyi is beautiful and she is always starring in sweeping historical dramas like Hero or The House of Flying Daggers.

    But, the role isn't going to be very authentic with a Chinese woman playing grey-eyed Sayuri.
  • Meryl Streep cast as the Anna Wintour-ish editor of The Devil Wears Prada

    Famke JanssenAgain, no offense to Meryl Streep -- who is an amazing actress -- but she does not make me think of a cold, difficult head of a fashion publishing empire.

    Why couldn't they have cast Famke Janssen or some other scary beauty? (I'm sure Famke is a nice person and all, but her beauty is sort of intimidating.)

    Well, but anyway, for some reason, I still think Streep can knock this one out of the park. She's like Dustin Hoffman!

Okay, thanks for listening, I'm going to go back to my regular role as a nonentity in Manhattan..

Monday, May 9, 2005

Catnip of Overachievers

The delicious futility of impossible tasks is the catnip of overachievers.

-- The Rule of Four

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Lucas Rant

One person goes off about George Lucas.

Sheesh, is he really that terrible?

Watch out... there might be some spoilers in there.

Fun Time Wasters

Annotated New York Times

Very neat website called The Annotated New York Times -- it integrates all the blogs that comment or cite an article in the New York Times.

So if you're interested in seeing what other people think about an article or what the BUZZ is, check it out!

And here's a direct link to the search feature.

Related posts on Super Jellyfish: NY Times Link Generator

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Be Brilliant

Pretty inspirational stuff from David Pollard:

Have the courage to assess what you're really good at (or if you're still young, work at something until you're really good at it. I mean brilliant. If there's more than two things you're not focused enough. Then work harder and practice longer until you're even better at those one or two things, world class, in a class by yourself. That will mean not doing a lot of things that are fun, or interesting, or which you're merely competent at. That will mean not juggling, just going all out knowing that if you fail at these one or two things you're going to have to start over. Very scary, but absolutely necessary. If the greatest inventors in history had decided instead to become second-rate concert pianists, we might today be living in the dark, and telling our tales orally.


Focus on one or two things and become an expert.

If you want to make a difference in this world, you need to know yourself, to perfect what you do well until you're brilliant at it, to focus your energies, and to show others courageously that nobody does it better.


Gosh, this is much easier said than done. But, I think he's absolutely right. Its tough to enjoy an activity unless you are really good at it, when you are at the top of the game.

How can we get into Csikszentmihalyi's flow?

Flow, whether in creative arts, athletic competition, engaging work, or spiritual practice, is a deep and uniquely human motivation to excel, exceed, and triumph over limitation.


When you're in the flow, time both stops and flies.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Battle for the Couch Potatoes

Check out this long and very interesting discussion on Netflix vs. Blockbuster [Thomas Hawk].

Its the battle for the couch potatoes!

In one corner, we have Blockbuster, the giant dying incumbent.. taken a few shots, but still has significant resources left.

(Come on, even if the employees are all negative on Blockbuster, I'm sure they would prefer the company to succeed and survive. 84,000+ employees are not going to roll over and just let their company die... unless Blockbuster axes them all first!)

In the other corner, we have plucky upstart Netflix. Recipient of adulation from consumers all around, but still a small company competing in a tough business with few barriers to entry...

Who will win??

Other contenders include the RBOC's with their plans for digital video over optical lines and the cable operators with their plans to shower consumers with any content, any time.

If you ask me, the definite winners are going to be the content providers. All of guys above battling it out are just "pipes" into consumers' homes. They are all just delivering the same thing -- CONTENT.

What do consumers care how it gets inside their home? They just want it to be convenient, affordable and reasonable quality. Reduce hassle and you got a winner!

If the content distributors can't figure out a way to differentiate their delivery methods, they've got a problem..

UPDATE:
Apparently Carl Icahn got on the quarterly earnings call for Blockbuster yesterday and duked it out with the CEO himself, John Antioco. Read the coverage from the LA Times here.

After Icahn interrupted him, Antioco said: "Don't step on me and I won't step on you."

Traffic Data, Best of Flickr and Sick Pets

See Your Older Self

Ever imagine what you will look like when you are old and wisened?

Well, you don't have to wonder any longer!

This website (http://www.ifonlylifewasaspredictable.co.uk/) shows you an "aged" version of yourself. (BTW, its a pretty clever marketing ploy by T-Mobile.)

You submit a head-shot of yourself, select your sex and ethnicity and voila, the new old you is displayed.

Crazy!

I'd post my result, but, I'm too frightened by it, so I think I"m just going to go eat some veggies (I need more anti-oxidants!)

Pink Plumeria Closeup

http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/12293827/
pink plumeria closeup by chotda

Jellies at Monterey

jellies at monterey
jellies at monterey by lotecduc


"took a few hrs to go to monterey bay aquarium. had a wonderful time. a short time with the jellyfish and you cant help but be giggley."


Thursday, May 5, 2005

Random Unrelated Links

  • How to get what you want whenever you want [CNN Money]
    Seven rules for negotiating... not sure if I agree with point #2 which says "If the job title isn't important to you, act like it is -- and then pretend to grudgingly accept a lesser title."

    If you've read Getting To Yes, putting stakes in the ground and pretending you care about issues that aren't important is not recommended as the way to go. You're not looking for a middle ground, you're looking for common ground.
  • Funeral homes face lawsuit from angry consumers [WSJ]
    Consumers are pissed off that they are getting overcharged for caskets... the death-care industry has transformed in recent years as large funeral-service conglomerates have bought up the mom-and-pop shops. They are focused on running "a profitable business". Interesting... I thought death care was a calling?

    What if they come up with for-profit churches next?

Linkin Park Protests Warner Music IPO

Linkin Park protests Warner Music's upcoming IPO [Media Stock Blog]

The new owners of the Warner Music Group will be reaping a windfall of $1.4 billion from their $2.6 billion purchase a mere 18 months ago if their planned IPO moves forward. Linkin Park, their biggest act, will get nothing.


Well, if you think about it, the owners of the Warner Music Group are various private equity firms. These private equity firms get their money from pension funds and university endowments.

So who is really going to get the windfall?

Yes, the private equity firms will get the windfall.

But, so will people everywhere who (1) work for large corporations with mighty pensions, (2) work for state/local governments that have pension funds or (3) attend universities and colleges.

I am not a promoter of corporate greed, but the statement:

"WMG executives and corporate raiders have ridden the coattails of the creative community to extract massive rewards"

is a bit misleading.

Sometimes when we take from other people, we really take from ourselves. If we as everyday workers want nice universities and a great retirement, sometimes the result of those desires ends up being a situation such as this one.

Everything is inter-related.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

May NBER Studies on Healthcare

Two interesting studies from NBER on healthcare:
  • The first study looks at the impact of cutting pharmaceutical prices in the U.S. Will this lead to less R&D investment and longer-term harm to social welfare?

    Previous economic studies have shown that price controls (by reducing the return pharma companies receive on the sale of drugs) would reduce the number of drugs being brought to market.

    Will a short-term beneft (lower prices) result in a long-run negative? Its hard to know, since the drug development cycle is so long.

    "Their basic finding is that cutting prices by 40 to 50 percent in the United States will lead to between 30 and 60 percent fewer R and D projects being undertaken in the early stage of developing a new drug. Relatively modest price changes, such as 5 or 10 percent, are estimated to have relatively little impact on the incentives for product development - perhaps a negative 5 percent.


    Developing viable drugs is a pretty tough thing to do. Supposedly, only 3 out of every 10 products generate after-tax returns after R&D costs. Most projects fail due to "safety, efficacy, or commercial viability." For products that do make it, the whole cycle can take 15 years.

    "This uncertainty factor may explain what critics say is a tendency of the pharmaceutical industry to focus on only minor innovations (me-too products) because of their greater probability of success, at the expense of conducting more revolutionary research that carries a higher risk of failure but also may yield greater health improvements."


    Fortunately or not, pharmaceutical companies are in business to make money... In order to survive as organizations, they need to be self-sustaining and cash-flow positive. Otherwise, we as a nation would just have to subsidize the research through other means.

    However, it does seem that the U.S. is subsidizing the pharmaceutical development costs of the rest of the world. Since most other nations (including Canada) have implemented price controls, the cost of drugs in other places is far lower than the cost in the U.S.

    Read the rest of the study summary.

  • The second study looks at whether or not the care of accident victims in hospitals is affected by whether or not the victim is insured.

    "The finding that uninsured accident victims are 1.5 percentage points more likely to die than privately insured ones implies a 0.45 percentage point increase in the lifetime risk that an uninsured person will die in a severe automobile accident."


    In addition, the study also found that lengths of stay and facility charges for Medicaid recipients was 4.7% higher than that of the uninsured. The study states that one explanation is that Medicaid recipients as "a group are in poorer health than the uninsured."

    For some reason, I doubt that, since the primary recipients of Medicaid are children and women. The research that I've read seems to indicate that medical loss ratios are lower for Medicaid plans sponsored by big HMO's.

    So that would indicate that Medicaid reimbursement rules might result in most costly treatment. Hospitals may be incented to provide more costly treatment that provides more certainty of a positive outcome than with Medicaid patients and more willing to try less certain, less costly treatment on uninsured patients.

    Or they might just be trying to make more money! :)

    Read the rest of the study summary here.

If these article were interesting to you, you might want to consider subscribing to the NBER Digest.

The digest sends monthly updates with findings from the latest research at NBER. Gosh, I wonder if they have an RSS feed?

Another Info Manager: Onfolio

Northwest VC has a lengthy post on his blog about the tool Onfolio and how he finds it indispensable.

Verrry interesting. Maybe I should try out this product!

What is Onfolio? [Go to the offical website.]

"Onfolio is a PC application for reading RSS news feeds, collecting and organizing online content, and publishing to email, weblogs and web sites."


The product costs $30 for the personal edition and $100 for the "professional" edition. Hmmm.

Is the product easy to transfer from one computer to another though? Is it mobile?

Again, I switch from computer to computer from morning to evening to weekend. I don't want all my precious stuff landlocked on one machine.

But, is Onfolio funded by Vulcan Capital (employer of Northwest VC)? Gotta watch out for those conflicts of interest...

Another interesting factoid, Paul Allen founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, worked there for 8 years before being forced into retirement due to Hodgkin's Disease. According to Forbes, Allen is worth $21bn today ($5bn of which is in Microsoft stock). Pretty fruitful 8 years, huh? (Allen owns Vulcan Capital.)

No Battles Lost

You should rarely declare a battle lost.

-- Harry Harlow

Blockbuster Has Some Work To Do

So I've been a subscriber to Blocksbuster's DVD subscription service for the past several months, and lately I haven't been paying attention to my queue (or even watching movies) much at all.

(I suppose I am the perfect customer, since I just pay my bills and I don't even watch the DVD's!)

Anyway, I think they have some systems issues to work through still. Maybe its a result of growing too fast?

I've had Sophie's Choice on my queue for the past few months. (Meryl Streep is a great actress.) Well, in the past two weeks, Blockbuster has supposedly sent me the movie twice and both times, the movie was sent right back to Blockbuster.

So I received an email notifying me that the DVD had been sent and then an email from them saying they had received the DVD back. WTF?

So, each time I got the two messages, I put Sophie's Choice back in my queue, at the top.

So Blockbuster sent it again.

Then, I received someone else's movie -- Meet the Fockers -- in the mail. Huh? So I assumed that was a mistake and just sent it back.

Well, then for some reason, Blockbuster sent out another movie, this time Nowhere in Africa.

So now I have four movies out (Sideways, Blue Velvet, Sophie's Choice and Nowhere in Africa).

I am on the three movie plan.

Are they going to charge me extra?! They better not! (Although you have to question the scrupulousness of the people at Blockbuster -- they generated six percent of rental revenue from LATE FEES alone!)

Maybe what happened was they sent Sophie's Choice to the wrong address (the Fockers mix-up) and so when Sophie's Choice got "returned" by me, I got another movie. And then when I sent Meet the Fockers back, I also got another movie.

Isn't that strange?

Anyway, it hasn't affected me since I haven't been watching my DVD's. However, if you were a hard-core movie fan, this service would be seriously irritating!

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

DVORAK Keyboard

Wow, have you ever heard of the DVORAK keyboard?

Most keyboards that we used these days are based on the "QWERTY" pattern, so-named for the first six letters in the upper left corner.

Supposedly, DVORAK is easier to use, more comfortable to type with and quicker!

Should I switch over???

Maybe I should try it for a bit.. According to the website, you need to take time off to train yourself for it, and I'm not sure when I'll have the luxury of doing that.

But, I am ALL FOR ergonomic typing!!

The More People

The more people clustered together, the more pest-ridden and poorly fed they became.

-- Burkhard Bilger, New Yorker

Eat Squid

Check out this interesting webzine called Eat Squid devoted to:

"East Coast Asian-American representation on the web"


Includes reviews on various restaurants, places to karoake and other fun things including a top ramen showdown!

Cool Plugins - Clean Archives and Top Posts

I've done a little tinkering with Wordpress plugins and installed a couple which will hopefully make navigation a lot of easier.

The first plugin I installed was Clean Archives.

What the plugin does is display links to posts by date.

Sounds simple enough, right? But for some reason, Wordpress doesn't default with a function that will do that -- the archive functions will show the month, day, or year, or just list off all the post titles, but not show the post titles (and links) by date.

The second plugin I installed is Top 10 Posts/Views.

When you come to a site like this one, or even a news site, its hard to know what's interesting or what's good to read. That's why its nice to know what everyone else thought was interesting or spent time looking at.

(For example, news pages I always frequent are NY Times Most Emailed Articles and Yahoo! News Most Popular. I can always find a gem or two by looking at those sites... I suppose I am just a lemming at heart.)

So this plugin enables that by setting up a counter, which counts the number of times a specific post has been viewed. It also lets you display the Top 10 most popular posts, so for now, I've put that in the sidebar.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Screenshot(If you try to install it on your blog, note that you need to create a table in your MySQL database to track the counts. Its actually simple to do, if you go to phpMyAdmin, select your blog database, click on "SQL", then just insert the table creation code from the file into the "Run SQL Query" box. Click on the thumbnail for a screenshot.)

So if you're a new visitor to Super Jellyfish, check out the most popular posts!

Changes in Brooklyn


  • City approves plan to redevelop waterfront in Williamsburg [NYT]
    Fancy high-rise buildings to come...
  • I hate Brooklyn [New York Mag]
    Even though they're putting up shiny, new high-rises, this writer still hates Brooklyn.
    What do you think about Brooklyn? I've only been to Brooklyn three times, but it seemed pretty cool to me! (Of course, I've lived in NYC for almost 3 years now...)

Monday, May 2, 2005

Black Pearl

I ordered from this new place in the East Village a couple nights ago called Black Pearl (no, not Alex Rosten's pearl milk tea shop). According to menu pages, "the whole kitchen staff is from Maine."

Well, whether or not that is true, the Lobster Roll was terrific!

After going to Maine last fall, and being able to find delicious lobster rolls for less than $10, I've been searching for a place in Manhattan that can provide something similar.

At $20 a pop, the lobster roll at Black Pearl isn't cheap, nor is it really that big.

However, the bread roll was crispy, yet soft at the same time. And lobster overflowed out of the little roll...

The dish comes with french fries (although they were cold, they were nice and crunchy) and pickles, etc.

I also ordered the Portsmouth seafood chowder ($7.95). When I told the guy on the phone my order, he heartily approved of it. And it was chock full of lots of different types of seafood... but, for some reason, it wasn't amazing. I thought it was just okay, but the seafood was definitely fresh. Not enough flavor?

In any case, I am so glad to have found a place that delivers lobster roll in the East Village!

In Midtown, there's a place called Wild Edibles (212-213-8552) that carries lobster roll, but at the outrageous price of $28.99. And that's all that it comes with -- just a LOT of lobster on a bread roll. They also use an extraordinary amount of this mayo-ey sauce, so when I ordered it, the sandwich was dripping all over the place.

Black Pearl [Menu Pages]
14 Avenue A b/w 1st and 2ndt St
212-358-7583
Take Out / Delivery
MC/Visa/Amex (Amex not set up when I called)
Mon-Wed: 4pm-12am
Thu-Sat: 5pm-2am

Link to Chowhound discussion>.

Striking Out

Don't let the fear of striking out get in your way.

-- Babe Ruth

Whole Foods Knocks One Out

Fictional Bloggers

Check out this blog called Clublife that supposedly is "an online narrative of the life of a bouncer at two of New York's most popular nightclubs."

I wonder though, is this really an anonymous bouncer? Or is this a product of an aspiring writer with an overactive imagination?

For example, there was Anonymous Lawyer, which were "stories from the trenches, by a fictional hiring partner at a large law firm in a major city".

At its peak, the blog would receive 40+ comments on individual entries talking about their lives as laywers. Many readers felt the blogger was a real lawyer, blogging in secret:
""What A.L. posts on a daily basis are the precise reasons I have left practice and am now in a `law-related field,' " one reader wrote.
...
"Very good possibility A.L. is one of the corporate partners at L.W. in Costa Mesa," one reader wrote."

I wonder how they felt when it turned out the author was:

Jeremy Blachman, a self-effacing 25-year-old third-year Harvard law student whose firsthand experience of Big Law comes down to a round of recruiting interviews last fall.


as outed in a NY Times article last fall.

I suppose a fictional account does not make the message any less meaningful, right?

It looks like Blachman closed his blog to comments after his identity was revealed, surely he will get some sort of book deal?

Check that, he did.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Scenery, Hand and Water

josef stuefer

Photo by Josef Stuefer.

Flickr and Creative Commons

There's a lot of cool photos available under Creative Commons license at Flickr...

Like this one:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Brooklyn Bridge by chacabuco
Brooklyn Bridge by chacabuco

If you like pretty pictures, check out all the ones available here.

Have fun!

Happy Face!

Jen gave me this Happy Face lotion from Hydra (as part of a larger face-care set) for my birthday last year.

I am finally getting using it after having it all year, and I love it!

happyhappy

Here's the production description:

"Rich jojoba, grapeseed and avocado oils make hydra’s facial moisturizer the natural solution for any skin type."


I know everyone swears by Kiehl's Ultra Facial Moisturizer, but value for the buck-wise, I think Happy Face is totally superior! (Compare 2.5 oz for $15.50 or 4.2 oz for $9.95?)

Thanks, Jen for the great present!