economics

Just throw your hands up in the air

…the artists all signed some sort of “declaration” one by one. I don’t know what the document said—it was probably just a blank piece of paper…

{ Gawker | Continue reading }

The letter R is also just a loop with two legs. Hence, the letters A and R are homeomorphic.

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Snapchat, the photo-messaging app raising cash at a $15 billion valuation, probably isn’t actually worth more than Clorox or Campbell Soup. So where did investors come up with that enormous headline number?

Here’s the secret to how Silicon Valley calculates the value of its hottest companies: The numbers are sort of made-up. For the most mature startups, investors agree to grant higher valuations, which help the companies with recruitment and building credibility, in exchange for guarantees that they’ll get their money back first if the company goes public or sells. They can also negotiate to receive additional free shares if a subsequent round’s valuation is less favorable. Interviews with more than a dozen founders, venture capitalists, and the attorneys who draw up investment contracts reveal the most common financial provisions used in private-market technology deals today. […]

Billion-dollar companies join a club of “unicorns,” a term used to explain how rare they are. But there are more than 50 of them now. There’s a new buzzword, “decacorn,” for those over $10 billion, which includes Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Uber. It’s a made-up word based on a creature that doesn’t exist.

{ Bloomberg | Continue reading }

Until then, BTFATH

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I remember how artists in the ’80s made the emphatic point that under no circumstances would they be represented in art fairs.

(Laughter around the table)

They thought that it was in poor taste. That is how it was in the beginning. And has been quite astonishing to see how things have turned around—in 30 years.

{ Stefan Stux/Artnet | Continue reading }

People always ask me who had the funniest name in ancient Rome. It was Pliny the Elder.

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{ Chart of short-term and long-term interest rates all the way back to 3000 B.C., presented by Andrew Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist. Shakespeare may have missed a historic opportunity in the bond market. | WSJ | full story }

Lovely is the feeling now I won’t be complanin’ (ooh ooh)

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The majority of music people listen to in their daily lives includes lyrics. This research documents how more repetitive songs lyrically are processed more fluently and thus adopted more broadly and quickly in the marketplace.

{ Journal of Consumer Psychology | Continue reading }

IMPORTANT BREAKING NEWS FROM PLANET BULLSHIT

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We explore how product images and color in business plans influence venture investment screening decisions. Because images are accessible, memorable, and influential, we argue that product images in a business plan will increase the likelihood of favorable judgments during screening decisions. Moreover, because red and blue automatically affect an individual’s cognition in different manners such that red elicits negative associations and blue elicits positive ones from the evaluators, we predict that the use of red in a business plan will decrease the favorability of judgments during screening decisions, while the use of blue will increase their favorability.

{ Journal of Business Venturing | Continue reading }

I eat cannibals

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Campion was an ophthalmologist […] He became a testosterone doctor. […] The initial session costs $5,000, and the monthly charges are over $1,000. Clients get their blood work done every three months, so that Campion can keep tabs on how their “hormonal balancing” is going. Most patients lock into a permanent testosterone regimen, as Campion has. “I will take testosterone for the rest of my life,” he says. […]

Testosterone can be manufactured cheaply in large quantities, and the risks seem manageable for most people. Users report increased energy, more muscle mass, decreased body fat, greater sex drive, and a general sense of well-being. In short, it’s one of the most transformative substances a human can take. […]

According to a study by University of Texas epidemiologist Jacques Baillargeon, nearly four percent of men in their 60s are taking testosterone. The number of men between 40 and 64 went up 77 percent from 2010 to 2013 to 1.5 million men.

{ Fusion | Continue reading }

art { Andy Warhol, Eight Elvises, 1963 | The current owner and location of the painting, which has not been seen publicly since the 1960s, are unknown }

You can be a millionaire… and never pay taxes!

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The flat white coffee drink was $4. A suggested tip was $3.

The cashier at Café Grumpy, a New York City coffeehouse, swiped the credit card, then whirled the screen of her iPad sales device around to face the customer. “Add a tip,” the screen commanded, listing three options: $1, $2 or $3.

In other words: 25 percent, 50 percent or 75 percent of the bill.

There was a “no tip” and a “customize tip” button, too, but neither seemed particularly inviting as the cashier looked on. Under that pressure, the middle choice — $2 — seemed easiest.

American consumers are feeling a bit of tip creep.

Leaving 15 percent for full service (the former standard tip at a sit-down restaurant), and less for quick transactions, is considered chintzy by some people. “We recommend 20 percent absolutely,” said Peter Post, managing director of the Emily Post Institute, which offers guidelines in etiquette.

The very concept of tipping is expanding beyond the service industry, with new platforms that enable Internet content creators to receive Bitcoin tips that reward their creativity rather than a simple thumbs up (or “Like”).

And in many situations, merchants as varied as cab companies and beauty salons rely on the ubiquitous touch screen or mobile app to push higher and higher gratuities.

New York City taxi riders paying with plastic are confronted with buttons for 20 percent, 25 percent or 30 percent tips. Anything less has to be manually entered (and calculated by the passenger). […]

In December, an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, Alimento, took a different approach. It added a second gratuity line to diners’ checks — “tip” (for the server) and “kitchen” (for the traditionally untipped workers in the back). […]

In March, a Silicon Valley company opened ChangeTip, a platform that allows people to send small Bitcoin payments through social media, email, Skype or text to show their appreciation for content creators (or anyone) on the Internet.

The service has been growing about 30 percent a month and now has about 60,000 users who have collectively tipped over $250,000, said Nick Sullivan, founder and chief executive. The average payment, he said, was a little over $1.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

photo { Nobuyoshi Araki, Untitled, 1994 }

‘Tell me what you eat, and I shall tell you what you are.’ –Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1825

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Galleries owned by Larry Gagosian, the powerful and well-connected dealer who has spent his career goosing the prices of contemporary art higher and higher: 14.

Restaurants owned by the chef Masayoshi Takayama, who has spent his career charging more for Japanese food than anyone else in the United States: five.

Restaurants the two men own together: one, Kappo Masa, in the basement below Mr. Gagosian’s Madison Avenue gallery. […]

Now three months old, Kappo Masa is not the most expensive restaurant in New York. That distinction belongs to Mr. Takayama’s home base, Masa, in the Time Warner Center. (Price of dinner for one before tax, tip and drinks: $450.) Still, it is expensive in a way that’s hard to forget either during or after the meal. The cost of eating at Kappo Masa is so brutally, illogically, relentlessly high, and so out of proportion to any pleasure you may get, that large numbers start to seem like uninvited and poorly behaved guests at the table. […]

Stars I am giving it: zero.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

Superboy-Prime: [battling Superman] I’m the only one who can rescue this messed-up universe.

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This report describes the details and type of operations carried out by an organized criminal group that focuses on financial industry, such as banks and payment providers, retail industry and news, media and PR companies. […] The organized criminal group backbone are citizens of both Russian and Ukrainian origin. […]

The average sum of theft in the Russian territory and in the post-Soviet space is $2 million per incident. […] To date the total amount of theft is over 1 billion rubles (about 25 million dollars), most of it has been stolen in the second half of 2014. […]

The key is that fraud occurs within the corporate network using internal payment gateways and internal banking systems. Thus money is stolen from the banks and payment systems, and not from their customers. While this is their main and most lucra- tive activity, the gang has also ventured into other areas including the compromise of media groups and other organizations for industrial espionage and likely a trading advantage on the stock market. […]

The average time from the moment of penetration into the financial institutions internal network till successful theft is 42 days.

As a result of access to internal bank networks the attackers also managed to gain access to ATM management infrastructure and infect those systems with their own malicious software that further allows theft from the banks ATM systems on the attackers command. […]

The main steps of the attack progression are the following ones:

1. Primary infection of an ordinary employee computer.
2. Getting a password of a user with administra- tive rights on some computers. For example, a password of a technical support engineer.
3. Gaining legitimate access to one server.
4. Compromising the domain administrator password from the server.
5. Gaining access to the domain controller and compromising of all active domain accounts.
6. Gaining access to e-mail and workflow servers.
7. Gaining access to server and banking system administrator workstations. 

8. Installing the software to monitor activity of interesting system operators. Usually photo and video recording was used.
9. Configuring remote access to servers of inter- est including firewall configuration changes.

{ Group-IB and Fox-IT | PDF }

‘War is a matter not so much of arms as of money.’ —Thucydides

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On January 2, 1977, the Shah of Iran made a painful admission about his country’s economy. “We’re broke,” he confided bluntly to his closest aide, court minister Asadollah Alam, in a private meeting. Alam predicted still more dangers to come: “We have squandered every cent we had only to find ourselves checkmated by a single move from Saudi Arabia,” he later wrote in a letter to the shah. “[W]e are now in dire financial peril and must tighten our belts if we are to survive.”

The two men were reacting to recent turmoil in the oil markets. A few weeks prior, at an OPEC meeting in Doha, the Saudis had announced they would resist an Iran-led majority vote to increase petroleum prices by 15 percent. (The shah needed the boost to pay for billions in new spending commitments.) King Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud argued that a price hike wasn’t justified when Western economies were still mired in a recession — but he was also eager to place economic constraints on Iran at a time when the shah was ordering nuclear power plants and projecting influence throughout the Middle East. So the Saudis “flooded the markets,” ramping up oil production from 8 million to 11.8 million barrels per day and slashing crude prices. Unable to compete, Iran was quickly driven from the market: The country’s oil production plunged 38 percent in a month. Billions of dollars in anticipated oil revenues vanished, and Iran was forced to abandon its five-year budget estimates.

A damaging ripple effect persisted: Over the summer of 1977, industrial manufacturing in Iran fell by 50 percent. Inflation ran between 30 and 40 percent. The government made deep cuts to domestic spending to balance the books, but austerity only made matters worse when thousands of young, unskilled men lost their jobs. Before long, economic distress had eroded middle-class support for the shah’s monarchy — which collapsed two years later in the Iranian Revolution.

[…]

In November 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security consultant connected to Prince Turki al-Faisal, then Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post noting that if “[i]f Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half … it would be devastating to Iran … [and] limit Tehran’s ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shiite militias in Iraq and elsewhere.” Two years later, at the height of the global financial crisis, the Saudis acted: They flooded the market, and within six months, oil prices had fallen from their record high of $147 per barrel to just $33. Thus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began 2009, an election year, struggling with the sudden collapse in government oil revenues and forced to slash popular subsidies and social programs. The election’s contested outcome was accompanied by economic contraction and the worst political violence in Iran since the fall of the shah.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

image { Evander Batson }

previously { The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong }

‘My tears are salt water.’ –Tom Waits

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The process is called reverse osmosis (RO), and it’s the mainstay of large-scale desalination facilities around the world. As water is forced through the membrane, the polymer allows the water molecules to pass while blocking the salts and other inorganic impurities. Global desalination output has tripled since 2000: 16,000 plants are up and running around the world, and the pace of construction is expected to increase while the technology continues to improve. […]

Seawater desalination, in fact, is one of the most expensive sources of fresh water. The water sells—depending on site conditions—for between $1,000 and $2,500 per acre-foot (the amount used by two five-person U.S. households per year). Carlsbad’s product will sell for around $2,000, which is 80 percent more than the county pays for treated water from outside the area. […]

Already, some 700 million people worldwide suffer from water scarcity, but that number is expected to swell to 1.8 billion in just 10 years. Some countries, like Israel, already rely heavily on desalination; more will follow suit. In many places, “we are already at the limit of renewable water resources, and yet we continue to grow,” says John Lienhard, a mechanical engineer and director of the Center for Clean Water and Clean Energy at MIT. “On top of that we have global warming, with hotter and drier conditions in many areas, which will potentially further reduce the amount of renewable water available.”

{ Technology Review | Continue reading }

art { Evander Batson }