The worm in the bud

by John Q on October 5, 2009

I finally read Gillian Tett’s Fools Gold, an account of the development of the derivatives industry centered on credit default swaps (CDS) and collateralised deposit obligation (CDOs) that collapsed so spectacularly last year. The discussion is excellent, but still, I think, too charitable to these instruments and their creators. Tett’s main source is the group at JP Morgan who pioneered many of these derivatives and, largely, got out before the crash. Their line, unsurprisingly, is that the problem was not with the concept as they developed, but its abuse by latecomers.

But a close reading of Tett’s account yields a different story. These innovations were defective from day one.

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Twilight of the Reds pinks

by Daniel on October 5, 2009

Well, the European Left still has Portugal, Norway and Greece, but having lost France, Germany and Italy and with Spain and the UK looking decidedly vulnerable, one has to conclude that on balance, European social democracy is not going through one of its purpler periods. The days of Blair/Schroeder/Jospin are over. Why, and what does the future look like?
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Mindhacks for the fingertips

by John Holbo on October 5, 2009

I’m an undisciplined note-taker. I like to read a lot, putting post-its or other suitable markers in the pages as I go, and planning with the best of wills to take notes later. (I type very quickly, after all. I should be able to take notes even though I use so many post-its.) But then I just never get around to the sloggy, typing-it-all-in part. Recently I’ve tried to change things up. I sit down with a stack of books full of post-its and scan in just the post-it’ed bits, plucking the fluttering yellow feathers from these literary birds as I go, until I could stuff a whole pillow with used post-its by the time the night is over. I turn all the scans from any given book or article into one PDF, and I use Acrobat’s OCR capacity to make it semi-searchable. I can do something else while I work, like listen to an audiobook or podcast. I find this semi-mindless tidying of the aftermath of my reading mind’s life to be relatively pleasant activity. Now I want to take it to the next level, making the most of all my PDF’s (and docs in other formats, too, of course): does anyone here use, for example, DEVONthink, which some people have told me is good and useful. (But I am suspicious that these people are more obsessive than I about this sort of thing. I’m not a database-devotee by nature. I’m not going to go scripting stuff for DEVONthink. I know I won’t.) DEVONthink seems like a good deal because it has OCR based on ABBYYFineReader. And DEVONthink doesn’t even cost more than FineReader. Acrobat’s OCR, although adequate for basic purposes, is not great, and FineReader is supposed to be pretty good. So even if that was all I used it for …

Tell me of your time-saving note-taking methods, but don’t tell me to type it all in. What are good scanning products and OCR software suites and notetaking software. I’ve been using Zotero and I like it just fine. But maybe DEVONthink is better enough to be worth paying for, especially with the OCR?

Bookblogging and bookwiki

by John Q on October 5, 2009

I’ve been moving slowly on the book for the last few weeks, but I have taken one positive step to encourage further discussion. In response to suggestions from readers, I’ve started a wiki site imaginatively named Zombiecon where my plan is to post draft chapters. The Efficient Markets Hypothesis is already up. In part, the idea is to provide a reference to avoid some of the problems that arise from blogging a section at a time. But, if someone wants to create one or more talk pages on the site itself, that would be great. I’m not really sure joint editing in the mode of Wikipedia, but if you have suggested minor changes, go ahead and make them – I may revert or partially adopt them.