Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

Archive for the ‘Recommended’ Category

May 12, 2015

Bill Gross Donates $700 Million to Charity

And Gross plans to donate another $2 Billion, an amount of money, he said, that is “staggering, even to me.” Projects include a Stamps Museum (?), Stem Cell Research and a building at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in LA.  What caught my eye was Gross’ interest in GiveDirectly, an experimental project I have written about previously, that sends cash donations directly to the poorest people in Africa via their cell phones.

March 17, 2015

Hans Rosling Is An Optmist

And he has the data to prove why. See this great interview with the Swedish medical statistician on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS program.

Rosling is best known for his Ignorance Project whose goal is to educate all of us on our misconceptions regarding the state of things.

For example – a quick, multiple choice question:

In the last 20 years, the proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has:

  1. Almost doubled
  2. Remained more or less the same
  3. Almost halved

If you answered “doubled,” you have lots of company as 66% of American respondents chose this answer.  Another 29% chose “remained the same.”  The correct answer, chosen by just 5% of US responders, is “almost halved.”

Rosling’s point is that we are gloomy about the state of the world in some large measure due to our utter ignorance of the facts on the ground. While a born pessimist myself, I think he is right.  I would point to our proclivity to obsess over what behaviorists call “headline events” – war, terrorism, natural disasters and the like – those news events that dramatically affect a minuscule share of the world’s population to the exclusion of the actual data.

February 20, 2015

Waiting In Line

I have never been much of a fan of waiting in (or “on” as the Brits put it) line. But here comes Tyler Cowen with a paean to the value, personal and social, of doing just that. “Interesting throughout,” to use Tyler’s own pet phrase about others. A few extracts:

younger buyers are usually the ones who make places trendy, thus many sellers use lower prices, with lines if need be, to lure in those individuals and cultivate their loyalties…

Waiting a bit can also make people more patient, by removing their attention from the immediate here and now and stretching out their time horizons. ..

The waiting also heightens the value of anticipation and makes the product seem more exciting. A world where there is nothing to wait in line for is arguably a less interesting place.


January 19, 2015

The Children

I don’t know how I missed this David Halberstam book when it came out. The Children is the story of the young early leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, all those not named Martin Luther King. Halberstam is one of our great historians. And the largely unsung heroes in this tale deserve better recognition. It is a book you would want your children to read in order to better understand our nation’s history, and how messy real social change often is.

December 13, 2014

Quote of the Week

Investors want to believe in someone. Forecasters want to earn a living. One of those groups is going to be disappointed. I think you know which.

Morgan Housel (Motley Fool)

November 30, 2014

A To-Do List App for the 21st Century

Wired magazine call Trello “the Pinterest of to-do lists.” suitable for individuals or groups, Trello is a whole new take on managing tasks.

November 19, 2014


Everyone (the colloquial “everyone” that is) is talking about Serial, the new podcast spinoff from Ira Glass’ This American Life.  About to issue Episode 9, Serial is a continuous story to be listened to in order.  I am just starting episode 1 and so will have to play catch up.

October 31, 2014

Lessons Learned – Admiral William H. McRaven, US Sp. Ops.

Start each day with a task completed.

Find someone to help you through life.

Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up–if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.

Or more succinctly:

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

From a 2014 commencement speech at the University of Texas

October 4, 2014

The World’s Loudest Sound

A guy thing I guess, but this is very cool.

Pointer Marginal Revolution

October 1, 2014

“Stealthy Starbucks” – How Business Adapts to a Different Culture

The new supervisor thought his idea was innocent enough. He wanted the baristas to write the names of customers on their cups to speed up lines and ease confusion, just like other Starbucks do around the world.

But these aren’t just any customers. They are regulars at the CIA Starbucks.

This WaPo article takes a peek at daily life at the “world’s busiest” Starbucks inside the CIA’s Langley, VA HQ.

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