Wednesday, October 20, 2010

POW: Ha-Joon Chang

LSE sponsored an interesting lecture by Ha-Joon Chang.  An asia centric economist, worth listening to for his dismissal of western veneration of entrepreneurialism (stability matters).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I’m reading now

The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court by Sloan and McKean.  A popular history of Marbury vs Madison and it’s historical context.  I’m a sucker for accounts of the Adams-Jefferson years.  So many coincidences and contingent outcomes, it gives you hope that no matter how screwed up things seem now it won’t seem so bad in retrospect…

Cool Quote

The history of finance is partly the history of a struggle for a stable, secure way to measure value.

I like that.  It captures how measure is both integral to the economy and uncertain.  It makes for interesting conversation when you have to explain things like IBNR reserves to a SOX auditor.  The whole article is interesting, even a little prescient of the current political layout.  What else has this guy written?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Russ Roberts better get moving

If he wants to preserve his narrative that the real estate bubble was because of Fannie and Freddie.  Conservatives jump all over government when it fails to live up to it’s ideals, but they give a pass to private businesses even when they engage in blatant fraud and embezzlement.  Private enterprise has no inherently virtue, and when scaled up to the size of investment banks their missteps are every bit as consequential as anything the government does.  So why the free pass?

Wow, I like something by Jeff Jacoby

I’ve read his columns on and off since I was a teenager, this is the first time I’ve seen one I’d recommend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

School Performance Data: an untapped resource

Patrick Emerson writes about school reform.  These lines stood out to me:

What is needed is a little humility and a desire to learn what works on the part of policy makers.  PPS, for example, is sitting on a mountain of incredibly valuable data, but as far as I am aware no real study of this data is being done.

Data indeed!  Every homework assignment, quiz, or test creates comparative data by student and class.  The volume of that data compared with standardized tests is overwhelming.  What happens to it?  Aside from being added to some semester average that ultimately results in a letter grade, what use is made of it?

Success stories like Bridger or Pauling show good things can happen when you actually use that data by making coursework contingent on performance, constantly evaluating and adjusting as you go.  Those schools make coursework dynamic, teaching students what they need to learn versus what the teacher thought the class needed to learn when they set lesson plans at the beginning of the year.  That is what information technology does best- making something specific and relevant instead of general and irrelevant.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bad Documentation = World of Pain

Just when you thought the real estate market couldn’t get more screwed up along comes this.  And it’s corollary, this.  Managing documentation is not rocket science.  It’s kind-of sort-of legally required when it comes to numbers through Sarbanes Oxley.  So why is it that big companies still get caught with their pants down like this?  Sound business processes- don’t leave home without them.