Quote of the day

"Mere absurdity has never prevented the triumph of bad ideas, if they accord with easily aroused fantasies"
Anthony Daniels

Biggest Sellout

Smooth your way into the Guinness Book Of Records by paying the publisher, Guinness World Records, which has a B2B consulting arm to help companies set up stunts. The company pays Guinness; Guinness certifies the record; the video goes viral. “Playing record-breaking huckster and record-keeping historian at the same time, and getting paid to do so on both ends, seems like a classic conflict of interest” (1,900 words)

Breaking The Banks

The universal banking model is broken; specialist banks produce much higher returns; JP Morgan and its peers should be broken up or whittled down. The supposed economies of scale and scope claimed for universal banks appear not appear to exist. The banks will doubtless argue for more time to tweak their business models. But that may prove to be just a way of postponing more fundamental change (1,895 words)

The FedEx Problem

A post to Hacker News argues that FedEx’s Memphis hub is 315 miles from the optimal point for serving all America’s major cities. Whereupon the executive who wrote the scheduling software for the FedEx fleet shows up in the comments and explains what else determined the choice of hub besides geometry; and discusses how FedEx plans delivery routes for planes serving multiple cities, a famously complex maths problem (6,100 words)

President Obama Interviews David Simon

Obama sits down with Simon, creator of The Wire, to talk about drugs, policing and prison. Video followed by transcript. Obama acknowledges that America has pursued drug prohibition at too high a cost: “From a libertarian perspective, the way we treat non-violent drug crimes is problematic, and from a fiscal perspective is breaking the bank”. He sees The Wire as an important early step in changing the narrative (2,100 words)

Reader, I Muted Him

Authors of literary fiction hate to let cellphones into their stories — and with good reason. Cellphones ruin coincidences, dispel uncertainties, resolve tensions, and allow everybody to talk at once without being overheard. A popular workaround is to set the story in the 1980s and 1990s — a “nostalgic present” when life is recognisably modern, when modern stories can be told, but cellphones are absent (2,720 words)

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