Links 3/16/09

Monkeys ‘teach infants to floss’ BBC

Women opt out of math/science careers because of family demands Science Codex. Please tell Larry Summers.

AIG Bonuses – It Gets Worse Bruce Krasting. This post is NOT about AIG bonuses, but about other less than stellar ways your taxpayer dollars are being put to work.

Railroad Bailout May Offer a Model for Detroit Louis Uchitelle, New York Times. Is it just me, or do you read Uchitelle as damning the Conrail success with faint praise?

Accounting: a Narrative Art? CFO. Does that mean accountants and regulators will need to study deconstruction?

Downturn takes toll on US earnings Financial Times

Air passenger numbers drop for first time in 17 years Times Online

Credit Default Swaps – Exercises in Surrealism Satyajit Das. Good detail. Also disputes the widely held view that the Lehman CDS settlement was a non-event.

A Fred Goodwin or Dick Fuld in all of us Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times

China details auto stimulus plan for rural residents Xinhua (hat tip reader Steve L)

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Paul for the photo).

This video may not be your sort of thing, but I find it gives me a boost. ESPN deemed it to be the second best individual sports performance of the 20th century after Wilt Chamberlin scoring 100 points in a single game.

And I saw this comment on Amazon on a book about the Secretariat:

I was wounded on 12/24/72 on the Bassac River,Vietnam.I came home and was at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital in April of 73
when I first heard of Secretariat.My Mom was a an avid horse racing fan,so I watched his Derby and Preakness on T.V..I felt that I had to see this horse in person so when I went to New York to see my parents I went to the Belmont on the day he ran.
I was feeling really bad about myself from the war,but when I saw him in the circle before he went out to the track,I felt cleansed.I don’t want to sound all flowery and all,but I’m sorry if no one understands.They weren’t there with me.He looked me right in the eye and I felt good for the first time in a long time.I didn’t feel that I would ever feel good again,but a horse changed all that in me with just one look.Imagine that.For making me feel better,I owe him that,and will alwys love him for it.I bet $100.00 dollars on him that day.I still have the ticket.

Also, in the last 48 hours, a reader sent me an email with a lot of darling pictures, some captioned, one showing a white tiger hugging someone. I can’t find it in my inbox or trash. Don’t ask me how it disappeared. Please resend. Thanks.

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  1. Gu Si Fang

    Could Larry Summers (and yourself?) be confusing comparative advantage and absolute advantage? This is just a hypothesis.

  2. russell1200

    You get a lot of “woman in construction” talk- as in we need more- in commercial construction.

    I generally take the fact that more men are involved in construction than woman as a sure sign that woman are smarter than men.

  3. Anonymous

    Can't we post the names and photos of the larger AIG bonus recipients, and give them a 48 hour window to submit a written account of their AIG-saving actions, along with management's justification for each individual bonus? Anyone can research the accounts to see how correct they are.

    The notice would be issued by a collection of the most prominent economics/finance/business bloggers & experts. The "data" would be posted on a unique webpage, and mirrored by the group members if they like. Coordinated and introduced skillfully, it could snowball in the media and have support verging on a mandate.

    With the lack of political will (and govt fear of appearing to be "anti-business"), I don't know how else the process can be dragged into the light of day, truth fleshed out, shame dispensed, and non-monetary incentive be generated to motivate these guys into breaking their own necks to salvage things.

    Bonuses are more insult on injury than anything else (seeing as we're bleeding out), but might it be a game changer that would make them reconsider their notion that they've got the govt between a rock and hard place?

    I don't mean to rant, its a real question/idea. Any thoughts?

  4. Anonymous

    I don’t know a thing about racing or horses, but you can see that this horse’s rhythm in this race is perfect… the word falls short because his mechanics are flawless, and even the pace at which he advances, his trajectory, has a near perfect rhythm unto itself… he transcends and its elating to watch. After a point, it is impossible to appreciate with him.. beyond us, you’re abandoned to marvel

  5. Anonymous

    Can’t we officially nationalize AIG long enough to look around and see which CDS were real hedges for assets, and which were just gambling exercises? Nix the gambling contracts and move from there?

  6. Anonymous

    Okay, this is something I know something about. To rank Secretariat’s performance behind W. Chamberlain scoring 100 points is ridiculous. Chamberlain did that against a terrible Knicks team. Three or four different guys guarded Chamberlain and I believe all of them were a half-foot shorter than he. The plain fact is Wilt Chamberlain, who scored all those points and led the NBA in scoring many times, couldn’t shoot to save his ass. Check his foul shooting record sometime. The man had no touch with a basketball in his hands.

    Secretariat OTOH was the greatest horse who ever lived. And this performance was his best ever. The only quibble I’d have is that I think this tape uses a different call of the race. As Secretariat was coming down the stretch the announcer, Chick Anderson, said the perfect thing, “Secretariat is like an incredible machine”.

  7. kristiina

    Haha, just ordered this book (yesterday, before seeing todays links): Riding Between the Worlds: Expanding Your Potential Through the Way of the Horse by Linda Kohanov. It’s about how horses can transform humans if humans are willing to learn from a horse (or horses). I thought the idea of learning from horses (or animals in general) is somewhat esoteric, but it seems there’s a lot of it coming up now. The first i saw working in this vein was Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling whose books first appeared in the 1990’s in German. Synchronicity…

  8. eh

    Please tell Larry Summers.

    Summers made what were meant to be casual remarks theorizing about the obvious dominance of men at Harvard in certain fields like engineering, math, and the physical sciences. It is no coincidence that these are subjects that even non-academics would rightly identify as difficult, and requiring high intelligence — especially as I said at the faculty/PhD level at elite institutions like Harvard, MIT, etc. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that individuals who excel in these fields would be drawn from the most intelligent people in the population. And when you look at IQ distributions, above about 145 or so men outnumber women approx 7 to 1. Isn’t this the population group that you’d expect Harvard professors of math, physics, chemistry, engineering, etc to come from? Is it really so unreasonable to suggest that this perhaps explains to a large degree male dominance in certain branches of science and engineering?

    Here you see a small graph that shows a similar phenomenon in SAT scores — among those who achieve above average scores, men outnumber women. And the better the score the more pronounced this difference is.

  9. Anonymous

    Lucky that hoss didn’t get shot on the track when he broke a leg like many overbred equine INVESTMENTS do. Overbreeding makes them go so much faster. A broken leg here and there, well…..

    Than there is the Poster Boy for the hoss bizness, Bush’s Brownie of Katrina fame:

    And Hossowners, look how you get the Taxpayers to fund your Sport:

    You will enjoy sitting in the stands at Saratoga and other posh Tracks, mingling with all those well heeled execs from AIG, CITI, GM, UBS, RBS, etc. Hoss racing is an Internationl Sport just like Bailouts and Derivatives.

    Hosses, of course, being the Sport and purview of America’s One Percent are above the fray of Tax Favoritism and other subsidies from the Gongress. No race fixing or drugging ever occurs. No Wall Street investors ever trying to get an edge in the Turf Wars.

    Then there is all the marvelous Tax Revenue that the Sport generates. Manufacturing may be on the down but Gambling is on the rise.

    What a healthy, natural, clean sport Hoss Racing is. I’m going to be heading out to the Track this afternoon. I like Alex Rodriguez to place in the Third Race. Don’t break a leg, Alex.

  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous @ 7:42

    If you jump to 2:25 you can hear “He is moving like a treMENdous machine”.

  11. wunsacon

    @ “eh” @ 7:48 AM

    I notice the bottom axis of your SAT score graph “goes to 11”. Is that you, Nigel? And, just out of curiosity, what did *you* score?? TIA. ;-)

  12. albatross

    Nitpick: I thought Larry Summers speculated that one of the causes of the male/female imbalance in the sciences might be the difficulty of combining a science career with a family. Though I imagine he’d rather have a root canal without novacaine than discuss this question in public ever again….

    Joseph: But bad for people looking for a job whose prospective bosses suspect they’re planning to have a baby or two in the near future.

    We need to rethink how a lot of jobs work to make them more family friendly. That applies to both men and women, but family-unfriendly jobs inevitably hit women harder, because there’s a bunch of the impact of having kids that simply can’t be shared. I’m an involved, hands-on father, but I never had any morning sickness, false labor, or constraints on my movement imposed by the needs of breastfeeding. I also could have waited another ten years to start my kids with a small impact on them; my wife couldn’t have done that.

    The reward for managing this is getting access to a lot of very smart and capable women who are bright enough to get tenure at Harvard or make partner at a top law firm, but who don’t want to give up on having kids or wait so long they need fertility treatments, to do so. There are also downsides (a woman who’s dropped out of her high-pressure career to have kids has demonstrated that there are things more important to her than her job, and will surely expect the flexibility to deal with sick kids and future pregnancies), but it sure looks like there’s this great pool of talent going unused because we don’t have the organizational structures in place to make use of it.

  13. jh

    The video of Secretariat was a nice
    surprise. Alydar and Easy Goer have
    always been my favorites, but no
    doubt Secretariat was the greatest.

    First Saturday in May – Derby Day

  14. Anonymous

    This whole AIG thing is one giant contrived distraction – it allows the politicians to be seen as stalwarts of justice as they express their outrage while the media draw the attention of the public away from the hundreds of billions that have been looted by the banks.

  15. mistah charley, ph.d.

    Speaking of gender ability and elite institutions, in the 1960s I was an undergraduate at MIT. One of my friends, a girl who was a math major, told me – and I believed the story then, and still do now – that she received a grade of B in a math course when she had earned an A. When asked, the professor said he didn’t give A’s to women because it would encourage them to go to grad school, and then they would marry, have kids, and drop out of their career. So, to avoid this waste of time for everyone, in the interest of the greatest good for the greatest number, he didn’t give A’s to women.

    My friend was the easily discouraged type – she changed majors rather than making a big stink about it (no doubt, in the interest of the greatest good, the math professor would have lied about what he said if it had come to an inquiry.)

    May all potentially sentient creatures be well, happy, and at peace.

  16. Anonymous

    re:mista charley phd – Of all the fields of study to back-down in…. she could have gone to the Dean and demanded the professor recompute her grade.

  17. elwoodsuggins

    Secretariat was like no other horse in modern racing history.Have a poster of him winning the Belmont(and the Triple Crown) in my TV room.
    Was in Baltimore on the day he won the Preakness but flew home after a long week on the road.
    I should have gone to the race.

  18. Anonymous

    “ESPN deemed it to be the second best individual sports performance of the 20th century after Wilt Chamberlin scoring 100 points in a single game.”

    I disagree wholeheartedly with ESPN on Chamberlin’s scoring 100 points being the best individual sports performance. Wilt’s copulation with 100,000 women was by far his best individual sports performance. To this writer the best individual sports performance is a toss up between Secretariat at Belmont and Ali’s rope a dope….

    These were the two greatest athletes of the 20th century hands down…. No ifs, ands or buts…!

    Thanks for the video…. ;-)

    Best regards,


  19. Anonymous

    Back when I was an MIT undergrad in the 1970’s, they decided to increase the percentage of women in the class from 20% to 25%, by admitting that many more women, an extra 5% of the class.

    At the end of the year, a whole lot of freshmen flunked out. It seemed like about 5% of the class.

    Coincidence? I doubt it. I can tell you, there were some women who were just not as good as the other students. The weakest students my freshman year were disproportionately women.

  20. Anonymous

    Second paragraph should read:

    At the end of the year, a whole lot of freshmen WOMEN flunked out. It seemed like about 5% of the class.

  21. AndrewBW

    I’ve never been much of a fan of horse racing, but I watched all of Secretariat’s Triple Crown performances, and to this day his Belmont performance still gives me goosebumps. What a race! I pull this video up every now and then myself and you’re right, it’s a real feel good moment. Thanks.

  22. Jon H

    ” The weakest students my freshman year were disproportionately women.”

    The female neuroscience PhD’s I work with could crush your puny mind, fuckwit.

    I would suggest that if there’s any truth to what you say, it’s because the best and brightest women had long since targeted schools other than MIT, so when MIT started enrolling women, they didn’t get the students who might have been better suited.

  23. donna

    Yes, women opt out because of families — I quit working as a computer scientist when I had my second kid. I didn’t need 70 hour work weeks on top of raising a family.

    Mostly Americans are just crazy to work so much anyway. And especially to expect it of young mothers.

    More importantly, girls are discouraged from math and science classes in high schools by peers and counselors. And thus don’t have the incentive to enter technical fields. I wrote a lot about this in 1996. For the record, girls performance in math and science is equal to boys up until advanced math and science classes, at which point the difference is simply that girls are not taking these classes.

    And, btw, I kicked ass in every class I took. ;^) And have a friend who was a chem eng major at MIT, now a doctor. She’s quite bright and has a large social network of friends at MIT, many married couples among them. Anonymous might be far happier had he been more accepting of the women around him. ;^)

  24. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Maybe it’s just me, but that pensive monkey, and I only say this because I think he’s white…well, as far as I know anywy…but doesn’t our last president, Mr. Bush, look kinda like our antidote du jour?

  25. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I don’t know if I am smart enough to offer China advice, but if they want to stimulate their economy there, why not built another Great Wall?

    I think they need it to keep the poor Japanese, Taiwanese, Russians, Europeans and Americans out.

    And it should be a ‘shovel ready’ project. In fact, there is no need for a new design. Just copy the old one.

  26. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I am pretty certain had we elected Hilary president, there’s no way she’d drop out of her career to become a full time grandmother.

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