Links and Bits from the back half of 2018
This year got *busy*. I started off strong, writing at least 1–2 times a week for the first few months of the year. Then I got engaged, my fiancé finished grad school and got a full-time job, we started house hunting (which was mostly a tedious grind in which we were powerless), and eventually entered the endless loop of home+yard renovation and reconfiguration. We also picked a wedding venue/caterer/etc. while living a 7–8 hour drive from the actual location, and have been generally gearing up for that event later on in 2019.
Around June I started keeping a list in my notes app. A list comprised mostly of interesting links, a few thoughts, the roughest of data sketches, perhaps the ghost of a post title. Typically I didn’t have time to immediately read the entirety of whatever the link was to, I wasn’t ready to learn a cool new tool, or I planned on fleshing out a thought later. Most of the interesting things I saw in the last 6 months didn’t end up on this list (for example, some things that won’t appear are basically any articles I loved in the New Yorker, simply because I tend to consume those on the spot without making a note to read them later), but it still ended up at 99 odds and ends. In end-of-the-year fashion I’ve gone through and looked at each and every one, then categorized them all here.
- Tools and Useful/Interesting Data+Reports
- Urban Design, Transit, Housing, etc.
- Interesting Non-Categorized Reads
- Modern Economics Papers, Reports, and Writing
- Historical Economics Papers, Reports, and Writing
- Energy and Environmental
- Trump and Modern Politics
- Internet Miscellany
- Books (That I haven’t read)
Tools and Useful/Interesting Data+Reports
- ProPublica Campaign Finance API — Looks like an invaluable tool for tracking and visualizing this information. I haven't had a drive to do anything with it yet, but I’m very glad it exists. ProPublica consistently does excellent work.
- A list of resources for finding and using satellite imagery.
- YouTube: PyViz: Easy Visualization and Exploration for all your Data. A talk from SciPy 2018 on data visualizations via Python, focused on HoloViews.
- Python: Animation And Convex Hull In Bokeh.
- 2018 Distressed Communities Index
- Bellingcat’s Online Investigation Toolkit. And a Twitter thread on how to use it.
- Chartify: Python Graphing from Spotify.
- Five unusual alternatives to pie charts.
- 3D Printing Models derived from Lidar Data
Urban Design, Transit, Housing, etc.
- JAPAN PROPERTY PRICE INDEX FOR APRIL 2018. Tokyo is a hell of a letter better at affordable housing than the biggest American cities.
- The million-dollar brownstone that no one owned. An extremely interesting read. Get ready to learn about titles. Really appreciate these pieces diving more into things in and around the housing bubble and rotten systems that underpin our economy.
- America’s New Metropolitan Landscape: Pockets Of Dense Construction In A Dormant Suburban Interior.
- Multifamily Units by Building Size, September, 2018 release of 2017 data via the Census Bureau.
- The impact of ride-hailing on vehicles miles traveled. “ When accounting for mode replacement and issues such as driver deadheading, we estimate that ride-hailing leads to approximately 83.5% more VMT than would have been driven had ride-hailing not existed.”
- U.S. Finally Legalizes Modern, European-Style Train Cars. Now municipalities can hopefully starting buying less custom and more standardized (and please dear god cheaper, rail cars).
- How to redesign cities to fight loneliness.
- Twitter: Kate Wagner’s (of McMansion Hell) self-selected best writing of the year.
- The Economist: Why American cities are so weirdly shaped.
- Modern Autocrats have Modern Cities.
- A Crash Course in Understanding Cities.
Interesting Non-Categorized Reads
- ProPublica: Unprotected. “An acclaimed American charity said it was saving some of the world’s most vulnerable girls from sexual exploitation. But from the very beginning, girls were being raped.” Read the whole thing.
- The Stanford Prison Experiment was a sham.
- A preview excerpt of the next Charlie Jane Anders book, The City in The Middle of the Night, publishing in February, 2019.
- The Times: Britain’s role in the Rohingya tragedy.
- NY Times: The Invisible Recession of 2016.
- The Nation: Who Owns Kafka? On the complicated path of his papers and ideas and who owns or even has a right to any of it.
- Universal Basic Income is Silicon Valley’s Latest Scam.
- New Yorker: Secrets of the Magus. 25 years old. Still a great article.
- NY Times: On American consultancies and Autocrats (Saudi Arabia in this case, the China article came later in the year).
- Kenji López-Alt on Where to Eat in San Mateo. Always trust and love Kenji.
- A journey along Georgia’s strategic stream. The country, not the state. History, resources, and politics.
- New Yorker: How Mark Burnett made Trump.
- On a leap in competitive body-painting and innovation shifts driven by perpendicular thinking.
- A thoroughly useful grasp of home solar and its interactions with the grid.
- Wired: Everything Amazon owns and controls.
- 99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2018
Modern Economics Papers, Reports, and Writing
- NBER: The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain
- Course Syllabus for Scott Ashworth’s “Philosophical Foundations of Public Policy”, includes links to the readings.
- NBER: Difference-in-Differences with Variation in Treatment Timing
- Learning from Speculating and the No Trade Theorem. “ We develop an overlapping generations model in which rational wealth-maximizing speculators with a common prior trade a common value asset based only on private information. . . In a single period snapshot the no trade theorem would ensue, and observed trade is attributed to younger cohorts who appear as noise traders by entering unprofitable trades.”
- Brad DeLong: Resources on the math he’s trying to use in teaching Econ 101.
- NBER: Subways and Urban Air Pollution. “ We find that particulate concentrations drop by 4% in a 10km radius disk surrounding a city center following a subway system opening.”
- NBER: Diverging Trends in National and Local Concentration. “. . .we present evidence that the positive trend observed in national product-market concentration between 1990 and 2014 becomes a negative trend when we focus on measures of local concentration.”
- Beijing’s Bismarckian Ghosts: How Great Powers Compete Economically.
- Twitter: A thread on the debate/discussion of discounting between Bill Nordhaus and Nicholas Stern.
- Twitter: Yet Another Mariel Boatlift Study and thread.
- A Demystifying Decade for Economics (J.W. Mason). On the divergence and evolution of macro economics between high minded academic theory and actual economics-in-practice as utilized by central bankers and such).
- Financialization as calculative practice: the rise of structured finance and the cultural and calculative transformation of credit rating agencies. “ This specific culture of credit risk assessment enabled the emergence and exponential growth of structured finance markets, fueling a culture of high-risk investments. This article contributes to the literature on financialization by arguing that financialization occurs both at the level of organizational culture and calculative practices.”
- The Labor Market Effects of Demand Shocks: Firm-Level Evidence from the Recovery Act. “I find that companies which experienced these demand shocks responded by increasing both employment and wages relative to their counterparts. Furthermore, the magnitudes of these changes suggest that the labor supply to an individual firm is relatively inelastic, even in a deep recession, and provide evidence of monopsonistic wage-setting in U.S. labor markets.”
- Prospect: How economists predicted the wrong financial crisis. A review of Crashed, by Adam Tooze, one of my favorite books of the year. Worth a read if you’re thinking about checking out the book.
- Barron’s: How the U.S. Saved the World From Financial Ruin. more thoughts on Crashed.
- The “missing” chapter from Crashed, on Turkey.
Historical Economics Papers, Reports, and Writing
- Financial Instability and the Panic of 1857. I’m always interested in historical financial crashes and panics. Some feel so arbitrary now, while others seem to reveal universal human truths. Spinning out the lessons into modernity is the tricky bit.
- Ben Franklin’s ghost: world peace, American slavery, and the global politics of information before the Universal Postal Union. “ This article examines two movements of the 1850s that sought change through global communications: using mail steamers to resettle American free blacks in Africa and reducing international postage rates to such a low rate that increased communications would prevent war. These two nearly simultaneous histories suggest that the evolving concept of the nation-state deserves further investigation as an element at the conjuncture of global communications and social reform.”
- Technologies of money in the Middle Ages: The ‘Principles of Minting’.
- Viking Age tar production and outland exploitation. AN interesting look at the archaeological excavation of prehistoric tar pits and the development of trading networks as Scandinavians used and produced more tar in order to facilitate their sailing.
- Twitter: The story of a century of economist and engineer intermingling at Stanford.
Energy and Environmental
- Capacity Markets and Externalities. Relevant to my job and my interests, but probably not for most people. On the interaction between capacity markets and state policies.
- Twitter: On Carbon Pricing Models.
- Twitter: An overview of current carbon pricing relative to required prices.
- Solar Energy Largely Unscathed by Hurricane Florence’s Wind and Rain.
- The Guardian: Orca Apocalypse, pollution dooms half of orca population.
- Twitter: Climate Models via Mario
- Four Regions Use Capacity Markets to Help Ensure Adequate Resources, but FERC Has Not Fully Assessed Their Performance. A GAO report from a year ago that remains relevant and informative.
- The Carbon Majors Database. And, specifically, the companies whose business it is.
Trump and Modern Politics
- Bloomberg, on M&A: Is the Justice Department Ready for Prime Time This Time?
- Politico: Judge’s ruling invalidates FEC regulation allowing anonymous donations to ‘dark money’ groups. This seemed really important to me at the time, but as a great example of how crazy news is at the moment, I’ve completely forgotten to follow up.
- Twitter: The rambling narcissist.
- Dissent Mag: When the Farce is the Tragedy. “I am arguing that the danger did not start with Donald Trump, but was building while he was still a national joke. Nor will the danger of a democracy-threatening crisis end when he leaves office. The 2016 Republican primary campaign clearly demonstrated that the GOP base, informed and egged on by the media machine, has the power to deliver the nomination to whoever can best appeal to its worst instincts.”
- NYRB: It Can Happen Here. One of those great, winding New York Review of Books double review in which the author (Cass Sunstein) weaves together interesting threads from these books on the slow, then sudden Nazi-ification of ordinary German life with disintegration of democratic norms today.
- Twitter: Noah Smith on the failure of three conservative pillars in the early 2000s.
- Twitter: Senator Warren explains why John Kelly called her an, “impolite arrogant woman”.
- The Nation: Thinking Like a Conservative (Part Five): Epistemology and Empathy (Rick Perlstein). “Have you ever noticed how many conservatives cannot believe a sane, sincere, intelligent person could disagree with them? That’s a central component of the right-wing mind.”
- These Are the Bad Times. “ Try Turkey. Turkey still has elections. It also locks up hundreds of thousands of people in prison for their political positions or their social status. It went through an attempted coup and cracked down with martial law. Living under Turkish conditions — an authoritarian democracy, but certainly not the Nazi regime — would be an awful fate for Americans. We got a meaningful glimpse of the possibilities when the Turkish president’s security detail jumped off and beat up peaceful protesters on American soil last year. The Trump administration dropped the charges against most of them later on.”
- Twitter: Men in tennis arguing without loss.
- Twitter: An amazing shot/sequence from Showtime’s “Kidding”.
- THE SECRET KNOWLEDGE OF GROWN-UPS. Simply kept for posterior as the random blog post that reminded me of a book I loved from my childhood that had been entirely memory-holed until the internet reminded me.
- Twitter: On redefining the kilogram. I know some people that worked on this a few years ago. ALways seemed interesting, and it led to some fun conversations, ME: “Where are you headed this weekend?” FRIEND:“Oh, off to DC for a conference on redefining one of our basic underpinnings of the universe around us.”
- Twitter: On the speed of social media evolution and TikTok.
Books (That I haven’t read)
- Amazon: Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. I haven’t gotten around to this yet, but I know my partner liked it.
- Harper’s: A review of the Chapo book. I can’t stand listening to Chapo, but this review was more positive than I had anticipated, so I’m curious to see where it all goes.
- Amazon: The Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy & Society. Another book I haven’t read, but which appears interesting.
- Amazon: The Souls of Yellow Folk: Essays, by Wesley Yang. I haven’t read this, but I’ve seen general acclaim, specifically from those who would more personally connect with the author’s background.
- Amazon: Open versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution
- 23 Authors on their Solace Reading for Difficult Times.
- Yelp data voter index
- The shockingly narrow pipeline for Supreme Court Justices and the institution’s positions as a largely reactionary body.
- Does the brief increase in crime/murder correlate with internal urban displacement due to the high point of a reversed migration pattern?
- List of things that last longer than they used to: Steady improvement — Light bulbs (but not originals), Hard drives->SSDs, but all less than magnetic tapes Cars? Hvac? Divergence (High and low ends, Walmart and rei, no sears or kohl’s) — Clothes? Shoes? Shortened obsolesence — Phones? Although maybe we just use them more now. Appliances in general I guess? Houses are the shrugging emoji in this thought I guess, so disparate.
- 3D printing LiDAR, but no color 3D printers in the feasible cost range yet :(
- People are stupid, SUV sales, fuel economy, oil prices, etc.
- home sales, sqft squares, total prices, compare regions