Style by subscription: Why clothing-to-your door is so popular – Silicon Valley

I’m going to list some oddball potential case study opportunities for my students here. (I’m teaching 3 courses in April, all requiring papers!).

Having a computer and a person you’ve never met pick clothes out for you, based on a style questionnaire and your social media photos, seems an odd concept. But San Francisco’s Stitch Fix and Le To…

Source: Style by subscription: Why clothing-to-your door is so popular – Silicon Valley

Going back to school again – a shopping list | The Thesis Whisperer

Hardware and software list for new PhD students. It’s a good starting place. (I guess February is the start of the new academic year “Down Under.”)  Source: Going back to school again – a shopping list | The Thesis Whisperer

My additional suggestions:
1. Reference manager software is essential. EndNote is radically overpriced and behind in terms of features, but unfortunately is standard in certain fields. There are open source alternatives (Zotero). I use Bibdesk, which is only about $50.

2. A document manager is also essential. And I disagree with her comment about using a different manager for each source (PDF, web pages, etc.) To start with, Evernote is an OK but very lightweight document manager – it is not easy to find things once your library gets large (I have > 10,000 documents, but that is after years in academia). Better alternatives are:

  • EagleFiler
  • Devonthink (much more complex and correspondingly harder to learn, but also more powerful. For example, you can link to specific locations inside documents).
  • Both of these allow you to store ALL kinds of documents and to easily display, search, reorganize, and annotate them while still in the main application. For web pages, you have the option of storing as HTML, or converting to PDF.
  • A third option, which went through years of bugs but is apparently now OK, is Papers ( But it only has native support for PDF – everything else has to be stored as PDF. Still, if I were starting over I would give it a serious look.
  • Finally, Bibdesk or other reference managers may be OK for managing documents, although I’ve never tried it.

Scrivener and its ilk for writing you have discussed elsewhere.

Ridiculous: “Why Oxfam is getting it wrong about poverty” – CapX

Bilge from a right-wing pseudo-intellectual. I’ve never heard of this guy before, but he seems to be an expert in deception rather than analysis.

As it’s Davos time, Oxfam has issued its traditional demand for a handout.  Their wealth report this year informs us that a mere eight people have more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population. This is entirely true of course. But Oxfam’s solution is that we should take it from the rich and […]Source: Why Oxfam is getting it wrong about poverty – CapX

This is an example of deceptive reasoning. Here’s my quick analysis:

Worstall writes:

>The result is that entrepreneurs get to keep some 3 per cent of the value of their creations. The other 97 per cent of the value flows to us consumers out here.
>Poverty exists and obviously we’d prefer that it didn’t. That’s why we need more rich people not fewer: because we need someone to create value for the rest of us to consume.

So he is equating “rich people” to “entrepreneurs” to “creators of value.” If only that were true. Although a small number of tech entrepreneurs get most of the publicity (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc), most of the giant corporate profits are coming from increasing market power/decreasing competition in many markets. For example, few outside the industry think that the “financial services” industry (e.g. investment banking) creates value comparable to the huge profits it makes.

He is also using misdirection to imply that Sam Walton’s heirs were the entrepreneurs who created Walmart’s economic value!

Finally, he keeps using a “3 percent” number to imply that “the masses” get 97 percent of increasing economic value, and the ultra-rich get only 3 percent. In fact median income has not grown for several decades. While the overall GDP has doubled in the last 30 years, the extra income has gone entirely to the upper ten percent. (Median household income rose by 8% in the last 30 years.)

A slightly different way of measuring. Compare black and red lines.


So the blog post is a dishonest piece of fallacious reasoning. Is this typical of the Adam Smith Institute, where he is apparently based? Is this the average reasoning level of right-wing intellectuals today?

By the way, I’m sure there are problems with Oxfam’s report – just not the ones he claims.

Standards wars in home automation: don’t spend big $ yet

TL;DR It will take 5+ years for standards to get sorted out in home automation. Until they are, devices from different companies will not be compatible. Anything that you buy and install now will be inconvenient (you will need multiple interfaces) and become obsolete in a few years.

Now that there are many genuinely useful and modestly priced home automation devices (and I don’t mean smart refrigerators), we are ready to enter the rising portion of “the S curve” where penetration increases. Most of the devices can be retrofit, which will make uptake much easier.

But right now, most vendors have their own protocols. Common protocols are needed at 3 layers:  the user interface, such as a mobile phone/computer app (or web site), physical communication such as Bluetooth, Zigbee, or Wi-Fi, and data protocols (API’s, essentially). Most vendors appear to be moving toward a hub and spokes arrangement, where the hub handles communication to the user and outside the home, so there will also be competition for whose hub customers buy. Finally, I would add security as its own “layer,” since it is so important and currently completely neglected.

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Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom 

The research on this seems pretty overwhelming: laptops and cell phones in class hurt learning. Related issue: learning to listen.

Unfortunately in my more quant courses, they can be necessary at times. But if I had a way to turn off the Internet, I certainly would. (FCC makes wireless jamming illegal – for good reason.)