Consolidated list of Readings 07/07

by Gilbert Keith

From the LA Times:

Green gyms focus on high-power workouts, low-power usage

With the cycles, the flat-screen TVs and, of course, the air conditioning, most people who exercise at gyms are working out the electrical grid along with their muscles. But the members of AC4 Fitness in Goleta will be generating power and feeding it back to the grid every time they step on a treadmill or elliptical. When they need a drink, they’ll have to bring their own refillable bottle and get water from a hydration station that provides free water filtered with reverse osmosis. And when they stash their belongings, they’ll do so in lockers made from recycled plastic.

Of course, there’s something to nitpick in articles like this:

Kinetic means if you take action, you can achieve anything,” said John Scarangello, 47, owner of Kinetic Cycling in Brentwood. The popular Westside spinning club has been using five electricity-generating cycles since the club opened three years ago. Together, the bikes generate 600 watts of electricity per hour when in use.

Emphasis mine. watts is an instantaneous rate of energy. The amount of energy generated will be the product of the rate at which it is generated times the time. So 600 w * 1 hour = 600 W hours of energy.

From The Economist:

Segregation in Cities: Living in Black and White

Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities. By Carl Nightingale. University of Chicago Press; 517 pages; $35 and £22.50. Buy from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

CARL NIGHTINGALE’S history of segregation claims to be a detailed account of how cities were, for millennia, divided along racial lines. But it is really a history of how colonialism affected the construction, governance and policing of great urban areas.

Looks like an interesting read.

From Naked Capitalism, which points us to Michael Pettis’ blog:

What is financial reform in China?

Premier Wen’s recent attack on the Chinese banking system last month has highlighted what was already a very interesting debate on Chinese banks and the Chinese financial system.  There is a growing sense that the Chinese banking system is deeply flawed and needs to be reformed.

But why should China reform its banking – hasn’t the financial system been a key component of China’s economic success in the past three decades?  Just as importantly, what does financial reform mean – what kind of changes would need to be implemented for a real reform to have occurred?

Before addressing these questions we should be clear that there is no meaningful difference between China’s banking system and its financial system.  Commercial banks dominate the country’s financial system and they largely determine pricing even in the informal banking system and in non-bank financial institutions.  It also seems pretty clear that much of the funding within that ambiguous thing called the informal banking sector originates in the commercial banks.  For example SOE’s seem to be increasingly involved in financing activity, but they are probably doing so largely as a function of the “arbitrage” between the rates at which they can obtain funding from the banks and the rates at which they can lend.

From the National Geographic:

9 Places to See Before They Slip Away

Their list includes Maldives and Bhutan, which aren’t too far from India; the Everglades and Glacier National Park, which aren’t too far from here; and Brazil’s forests, to which I’ve wanted to go for the last few years.

From the New Yorker:

In Defense of Cursive

I grew up in the nineteen-fifties, when the art of penmanship was taught to every schoolchild in America, and prized as a sign of cultivation. I loved ruling the blank pages of my copybook, then filling the spaces between the lines with shapely letters—“M” and “W” were my favorite capitals; “j” and “y” my favorite minuscules. If I had not learned to write cursive, I probably never would have learned to read it, and my archival work as a biographer—deciphering the handwritten letters of men and women born in the nineteenth century, or the early decades of the twentieth—would have been extremely arduous, if not impossible. A knowledge of cursive may not be “relevant” to the modern world, but it is essential to a visceral sense of the past, and an ability to examine the literature, correspondence, and history contained in original documents.

This particular article goes more into discussing the cursive from the Declaration of Independence and other typographical stories of the document. It’s a fun read.

On a side note, one of things on my to do lists it to practice my cursive handwriting, which has steadily been on the decline ever since I’ve started using computers to type up my assignments on a daily basis.

From Boston.com, which points us to Olympus BioScapes microscope photography competition:

2011 Winners Gallery

I am a big fan of #9 and #10, which I have seen under a microscope myself, albeit not in such vivid detail as evidenced here.

From the Guardian:

Walking Home: Travels With a Troubadour on the Pennine Way by Simon Armitage – review

Simon Armitage‘s equally entertaining Walking Home, an account of the poet’s attempt on Britain’s most gruelling trail, the 256-mile Pennine Way, as he tramps it the “wrong” way, north to south, towards his home village of Marsden. The book was conceived as being “about the North” as well as a memoir, the latter fulfilling another of walking literature’s essential elements: self-disclosure. A “knackered” Armitage grumbling about a slope (“putting our shoulders to gravity’s wheel”) or negotiating mud (“half a mile of sticky toffee pudding and black treacle”) is still the romantic “I” moving through landscape and being physically as well as emotionally touched by it; it’s just that here, the “I”, apart from being a formidably good poet, is an entertainer with a line in self-deprecating humour.

Again, sounds like an awesome read!

Speaking of sciency images, here’s another one from NASA:

‘Greeley Panorama’ from Opportunity’s Fifth Martian Winter (False Color)

That the opportunity rover has been scouting the harsh Martian landscape for this long in itself is a terrific achievement! Far outlasts the ~1.5 year average life we see with fancy electronic toys these days!

More from The Economist – this time, the Schumpeter blog:

In Praise of Procrastination

Life is getting trickier for timewasters. Businesses that depend on just-in-time delivery cannot tolerate lateness. […]

[Is] it wise to be so obsessed with speed? High-speed trading can lead to market meltdowns, as almost happened on May 6th 2010, unless automatic breaks are installed. And is taking one’s time so bad? Regulators are always warning people not to buy things in the heat of the moment. […] Steven Johnson, a writer on innovation, argues that some of the best new products are “slow hunches”. Nestlé’s idea of selling coffee in small pods went nowhere for three decades; now it is worth billions.

These thoughts have been inspired by two (slowly savoured) works of management theory: an obscure article in the Academy of Management Journal by Brian Gunia of Johns Hopkins University; and a popular new book, “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay”, by Frank Partnoy of University of San Diego. Mr Gunia and his three co-authors demonstrated, in a series of experiments, that slowing down makes us more ethical. When confronted with a clear choice between right and wrong, people are five times more likely to do the right thing if they have time to think about it than if they are forced to make a snap decision.

[…]

Mr Partnoy argues that too many people fail to recognise what good public speakers and comedians all understand: that success depends on knowing when to delay, and for how long. The important thing is not to do things first but to do them right. And doing them right often involves taking a bit more time.

It’s Just Lunch, a dating agency for professionals, prevents customers from judging each other on first impressions by not allowing them to post their photos on its website. Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor, holds stocks for the long term rather than churning them. He writes that: “lethargy bordering on sloth remains the cornerstone of our investment style.” Fabius Maximus, a Roman general nicknamed “The Delayer”, wore Hannibal’s invading army down by avoiding pitched battles.

I enjoy articles that reference books I am reading, and of course, Fabius Maximus aka the Cunctator. I am a greater fan of measured and methodical approaches to doing things rather than the high-speed lives that people lead these days. I suppose the writer and I can get along very well.

From the NY Times:

Single in Chicago

IT’S hard to decide, while sipping a citrine cocktail called Sex on the Roof, what to gawk at first: the go-go dancers in crimson panties or the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Willis Tower, soaring like a giant glass beanstalk just beyond the windows. Either way, at Roof, the glossy club atop theWit hotel in Chicago, if you’re single you can’t lose: should a stranger fail to take your breath away, the skyline will.

The rest of this article goes on to describe a first order approximation of the kind of weekends I’ve had in Chicago – good fun traveling alone. Don’t care about no company, the views and activities more than adequately make up for it. Stephanie Rosenbloom seems like another person I could get along with very well.

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