Linky Friday No. 62


Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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63 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Though I never quite thought about the issue raised in S6 in those terms, it makes perfect sense.

    I’m also curious how much the concerns around NBA tanking have to do with race. All major American team sports incentivize losing. In fact, the NBA incentivizes it the least because they have a lottery. The Astros in MLB and Jaguars in the NFL are both recent examples of pretty inglorious and obvious tanking, at least on the part of ownership. And while the problem might be more pervasive in NBA, I wonder if there is something about primarily black guys dogging it that rubs people worse than a more heterogenous mix of players.

    Of course, this ignores that the players themselves are rarely involved in the tanking. Not only do they have no guarantee to still be around if/when the team turns it around, but most of them take enough pride in their work to compete. Tanking is an ownership issue, one largely perpetrated by rich white guys. But it is often the athletes who are most maligned.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I wonder if there is something about primarily black guys dogging it that rubs people worse than a more heterogenous mix of players.

      There is experimental evidence that whites are more likely to judge blacks guilty in a given situation and recommend harsher punishments than they would whites in the same situation, but I don’t know whether that extends to tanking games rather than, say, assault.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I’d venture to guess it permeates most things, probably to varying degrees. The paying-college-athletes thing might be an extension of it: they’re not judged to be “guilty” but they are judged to be undeserving of something.Report

  2. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Should you reverse any advice that you hear?

    Yes. This is part of what it means to think dialectically, and to consider any issue from multiple vantage points.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Also, if you get advice, and then Monte Hall eliminates one of the two remaining pieces of advice and asks if you want to stick with the advice you’ve already got or switch to the remaining piece of advice, you should always switch.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      This reminds me of my post on always being right (which was really about acting purposefully). Should I eat more or less? Well, that depends on your goal. Which depends on your situation. If you weigh 350 pounds and want to weigh 200 pounds, you should probably eat less. If you weigh 100 pounds and want to weigh 150 pounds, you should probably eat more.

      The idea that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to just about anything is imbecilic.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        If you are to implement this, I think you need to use the checklist provided by Scott, two elements of which are

        1. Are there plausibly near-equal groups of people who need this advice versus the opposite advice?

        2. Have you self-selected into the group of people receiving this advice by, for example, being a fan of the blog / magazine / TV channel / political party / self-help-movement offering it?

        Otherwise, it’s easy for someone like Will to say “hey, I spend a lot of time thinking about quitting and reducing smoking. Maybe I should just give myself a break.”

        Scott’s point is that people seem to self-select advice in a way that exaggerates their biases. For example, the anorexics might be the ones who are most likely to research about weight loss whereas the people who perhaps should try exercising more might be most likely to frequent a fat acceptance blog. It’s not that weight loss information and fat acceptance are bad; it’s that the people who are least likely to need it are most likely to seek it out (according to Scott’s suspicions).

        So, maybe we should all spend the next week just reading articles from TheBlaze or something.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I missed that. But what you say/he says makes perfect sense. I think to an extent we are incentivized to that sort of bias. If I’m overweight but think that losing weight is the ideal course of action, well, now I’ve got to rectify the disparity between my actions and my knowledge. But if I find Dr. Nick Riviera who is willing to say that weight gain is an objective good, holy hell, I’m a success story!

        Reflection is hard for people.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Can you think of any area of your life where you might be self-selecting for the wrong advice? I think it’s valuable to recognize the phenomenon and appreciate that reflection is hard for people in general, but I struggle to identify for myself what bits of advice I might be getting too much of and what I might be ignoring.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I do hang out on a blog that’s full of libertarians.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The solution is to only hang out with people with whom you will inevitably disagree, so that when you do the opposite of what they advise, you’ll be doing exactly what you wanted to do in the first place!Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        I certainly can. I would actually say I’m at a bit of a crossroads — both professionally and personally — wherein I am trying to better understand myself, my practices, my preferences, and my choices. In doing so, I’m realizing the degree to which selection bias played a part in selecting to focus on things which affirmed all those. “See, Zazzy, this article says I’m right about the dishwasher! To hell with all the others!”

        It is a difficult, depressing, enlightening, draining, and hairy process. I’m not doing it perfectly. I couldn’t imagine doing it on a constant basis… at least not as thoroughly as I’m trying to do it right now. But I think it’s possible.Report

  3. Avatar NewDealer says:

    S6: You are right that this is the most unsurprising survey result ever done or at least one of them. I think Americans like their myths too much and one of our most cherished myths is that of the “amatuer” scholar athlete in college sports. College sports don’t seem to be anything to me but a free training ground for the professional leagues. My suspicion is that many if most white college athletes come from middle class to upper-middle class families. Last summer, I remember a series of articles about how poor families are getting priced out of sports because now the leagues are largely private and cost and arm and a leg for all the equipment and other issues.

    John Chait at New York has been running a good series of articles on how announcers talk about white players during March Madness and basically make them to be the Great White Hopes:

    G3: This might be the most European ad I have ever seen.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      “I think Americans like their myths too much and one of our most cherished myths is that of the “amatuer” scholar athlete in college sports.”

      Doesn’t this study show that it is not AMERICANS who like their myths too much, but perhaps WHITE Americans who do?

      Thanks for the Chait link. The coded racial language around sports/athletes is a very real thing.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        They were much happier before the “athlete’s rights” activists got them all stirred up.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        FWIW, I went to a Division III school without a football team and am willing to entertain the even more radical notion of ending college sports as entertainment entirely.

        But you have a point. Though the article still showed it was really close between black survey participants about whether college athletes should be paid or not.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I think the myth of the amateur scholar athlete is itself a myth. There are plenty of students in real degree programs who happen to play an NCAA sport. They’ve been in my classes at the business school where they get no special treatment and do better than average academically in my experience. They are in sports like tennis or soccer or cross country skiing, which I think means that they probably didn’t get much of a scholarship for it. They have no illusions of going pro.

        Yes, you also have the folks who are playing on TV right now. But for every one of them, there are ten who are in some random sport like water acrobatics just because they wanted a competitive activity to do while going to college.

        The video clip on that Chait link is hilarious. Right after the announcer says he’s the best player he’s seen in 35 years, he gets beat for a layup and then misses a layup at the other end.

        Kazzy, you might also be interested in

      • Avatar NewDealer says:


        Amatuer was meant to modify the athlete part and not the scholar part. Amatuer just meant non-pro.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        I don’t mean to make this sound like it is a representative case, but I do want to share an anecdote as well. I went to a big state university with an enormous sports program for my undergraduate degree. One of the starters on our basketball team was a very large black man who nevertheless was in the exact same engineering program I was in. Yes, he was surrounded by kinesiology folks on the team, but at least that one guy was very clear on the fact that he was using basketball as a way to get an education.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Almost all NCAA athletes are as amateur as can be. I played D3 hockey; none of us were going pro. It is the small minority of sports where college athletics might lead to playing pro; mostly basketball, football, in some places baseball and hockey, alpine, nordic skiing and soccer. However that is only for the top players in those sports. There are far more sports then those i listed and D1 is where the most serious athletes are at. Athletics are fine, they offer a lot to a person and the college experience. They were certainly good for me.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Ask a Warriors fan to name a player without great physical talent who worked his butt off to become a star, and you’ll hear “Steph Curry”‘Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        The comedy show “The League” beat that guy to it in Season 2. I can’t find a clip, so here is a transcript:

        “Andre: I met this doctor, Dr. Maxwell. Real class act.
        Pete: Is he…black?
        Andre: How’d you know?
        Pete: Nine times out of ten, when a sportscaster is referring to someone as a “class act”, they’re talking about a head coach who’s black. “Tony Dungy, what a class act.”
        Kevin: “Total. Lovie Smith—class act.”
        Andre: I never noticed that. I mean, it happens all the time?
        Kevin: It’s not just football. Sportscasters use these code words in all sports. If they’re talking about a Latino player in baseball, like, “Ozzie Guillen is a…”
        Ruxin: Firecracker. Latin guys are always firecrackers.
        Kevin: “…firecracker.”
        Pete: Spark plug.
        Kevin: Spark plug in the clubhouse.
        Ruxin: Wes Welker is like a gym rat, a real scrappy player.
        Kevin: Which is code word for “white.”
        Ruxin: Always a white guy.
        Kevin: Ichiro Suzuki is…
        Taco: Inscrutable.”Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I know I’ve said this at various points over the years here, but NBA fans do this as well.

        If you have a bench guy who averages 3 points and 2 boards who is black, that guy is viewed as a lazy underachiever who wasted away the natural talent god gave him — definitely a gang-banger. Attach those same stats to a white player, and suddenly the guy is a scrappy, gritty, blue-collar worker who plays a cerebral game.

        I’m not even sure I can think of any exceptions to this rule off the top of my head. It’s pretty universal.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I read an interesting article a few years back when Michael Beasley and Tyler Hansbrough were vying for the national player of the year. Beasley averaged 26-12 playing in the Big 12. Hansbrough had a 22-10 playing in the ACC. The author was exploring the way in which the players described, with Beasley being described as a naturally gifted athlete and Hansbrough as a workhorse, with much of the narrative anointing Hansbrough over Beasley. And while there was certainly arguments to be made in favor of both players, the author took objection to the idea that Hansbrough should be rewarded for supposedly working harder. His argument was more or less, “If Beasley can put up 26-12 without working hard, doesn’t that make him vastly superior to just about everyone else?”

        This silliness is harmful and insulting to all the guys subjected to it.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Neither Koufax nor Tittle was able to earn a market wage by selling his services to the highest bidder. Also, this was before the NFL became the juggernaut it is today. Salaries were so low that Tittle was at first going to retire from football rather than accept a trade from the 49ers to the Giants, because he couldn’t afford to abandon his insurance business. It was only after his partners insisted they’d cover for him that he went back east.

    And nitpick: Koufax was the MVP of the National League, not MLB, though Elston Howard probably made about the same. (The pre-Steinbrenner Yankees were known for being cheapskates.)Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      IIRC football players still had jobs during the off-season until the late 1960s or 70s.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      The article does cite some [ahem] non-monetary aspects of bowling to support its thesis that the sport has lost status.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I think this was my favorite part:

        “He was caught in a catch-22: if he won, his financial backer would kill him; if he missed the spare, the “unsavory characters” would. Instead, he avoided the entire predicament by faking a heart attack.”Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      this was before the NFL became the juggernaut it is today.

      Criticisms are supposed to rebut the article, not affirm its central thesis.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    You know, if Denmark modified its medical insurance regime to make contraception more difficult to obtain, then when couples “do it for Denmark,” their chances of contributing to the desired rising birth rate would likely increase.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      This presents an interesting way out of the Hobby Lobby dilemma. Keep the requirement that employers have to provide birth control, but remove the requirement that it be effective. Win-win!Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      If the average Danish woman looks like that and Denmark is still having fertility problems than their troubles might be a tad more serious than they thought.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Unless most men in Denmark were really like the ones we saw for about one second towards the end of the commercial, and they were the only two who were honest about it.Report

  6. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    [B2] I see only four panels of the comic strip but I sort of get the idea. I think. I’m not sure how a bankless economic system founded on the purchase and resale of government debt isn’t basically an accelerated all-cash economy, and I’m really not sure how long-term loans like home mortgages fit (or if there’s not room for them, what substitutes exist for big-ticket items that require financing).

    They need to overcome the presumption that banks loan money to individual people, not the other way around, but some exposition could accomplish that.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      There are some little circles above the strip that let you move between the pages.

      It’s not the best implementation of a graphic novel that I’ve ever seen…

      I’m really not sure how long-term loans like home mortgages fit

      Strangely enough, we don’t actually use banks for home mortgages. Most of them are actually owned by the government. Ours was sold a few times in the first two months until it eventually ended up with the Feds. If the government didn’t exist as a buyer, it’s unlikely that the particular product we were buying would exist.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        So you’re talking Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loans? Natasha and I haven’t ever had a government-held loan; we’ve always found the best deals available in FHA loans. Perhaps my understanding is incomplete, but to my knowledge the lenders have always been private (and plural, since the loans are bundled and securitized almost immediately after origination).Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Yes, Fannie Mae in our case. According to these guys,

        By 2010, Fannie and Freddie owned or guaranteed approximately half of all outstanding mortgages in the United States, including a significant share of sub-prime mortgages, and they financed 63 percent of new mortgages originated that year.[11] Other federal agencies, including the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, insured another 23 percent of home loans. This means that federal taxpayers guaranteed approximately 86 percent of all new mortgage originations in 2010.

        The longer term loans like the 30-year fixed mortgage loan are almost entirely reliant on government demand. That’s why you don’t seem them in other countries.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Your response was far more productive to mine to B2. When I read the blurb I was like “What we’re going back to storing and borrowing our money from Jews?”Report

  7. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    S4-The article mainly seems to be talking about free-style dancing, where people don’t touch. As a partner dancer, I’m wondering if this is the same for partner dances.

    G3-Do they really think this is going to work?Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      S4 – Yes, that’s an important limitation to point out, especially considering how touch-relevant some types of dancing are.

      G3 – Dunno. I think people who make public policy tend to not have that great of an idea of how people make decisions on the ground. The year’s worth of supplies actually does sound like something that might tilt some people who might otherwise be on the fence toward having a child. In general though, I don’t think the people who don’t want to have kids are anywhere near the fence so as to be tempted by such nudges.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        S4-To be fair to the study, free-style dancing is much more common than partner dancing. Millions more people dance free-style. It probably never occured to the people doing the study to include partner dancing. The key for doing free-style is moving in time with the music and looking good while your doing it. Partner dancing is about moving in time with the music and having moves to impress the follower and making sure the follower is having a good time. Its probably a lot harder to qualify.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Part of what I liked about the methodology was their way of obscuring any markers other than the movements. Women just saw a featureless humanoid dancing, not a black guy dancing or a guy with a cardigan dancing. That allowed them to isolate the effect of the movements themselves rather than anything else.

        With partner dancing, you lose some of that ability to obscure those details.Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    [C2] Very compassionate and heart-wrenching. Her concerns aren’t any different than that of any cancer patient suffering metastasis, someone whose death is within the horizon but who is not yet near enough to the end for hospice. Her cancer isn’t going to be cured; her medication is palliative and not therapeutic. Her disappointment with the Komen Foundation pink ribbon crowd ought not to be so bitter, in my mind, because she’s looking in the wrong place for help and support.

    Rather, she’s pointing out that there’s a need for pre-hospice regimen of care and counseling that is not being met. This need not be, and ought not be, confined only to those whose specific illness is breast cancer. Post-metastasis testicular cancer patients are, as far as I can tell, in exactly the same boat she is without the resentment towards the Komen foundation. Or even non-cancerous, terminal but-not-yet-imminently-so illnesses, although not being a doctor I’m not fluent to describe what those might be.

    It’s not that hard to imagine a list of services that need to be efficiently and compassionately delivered to pre-hospice patients, and not all of them are medical. Such a person needs to get their estate planning in order. Insurance needs to be squared away to the extent that is possible. Grief counseling and coordination with sectarian figures should be arranged, both for the patient and her family. And of course, doctors must advise about last-ditch therapies, palliatives, and the reasonable expectations for how much and what kind of time yet remains. The author touches on many of these things, and I’m sure the list goes on.

    Point is, this really isn’t about breast cancer. It’s about a gap in the spectrum of services offered to people with serious medical problems of all sorts.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Good points, but I feel she is entitled to at least some of her bitterness. The Komen Foundation represents itself as supporting everyone with breast cancer, and she makes a compelling case that they actually don’t. And though she hasn’t made the argument so directly, I think she could argue that Komen’s success squeezes out other organizations who might do more to help people like her. After all, breast cancer => pink ribbons => Komen, who will sue any other organizations who try to use pink ribbons to raise money for cancer research.Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    S2 was interesting from a historical perspective. I’ve always associated bowling as something I did at birthday parties as a kid or as a recreational activity and hobby. It never occured to me that bowling was a professional sport, let alone one that used to be a big money professional sport. The article didn’t really explain why it experienced a sharp decline in popularity during the 1980s though. Based on the photographs in the article, the fact that lots of professional bowlers weren’t exactly what you would call good looking.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    B1: Perhaps an acknowledgement that MS is first and foremost an Office company, rather than an operating system company. The biggest lever Windows has in the business world is that it’s the only platform that runs the full version of Excel. My own guess at the cost for corporate America to move from Excel with VBA and Solver to some other computation platform would run to billions of hours. My limited experience with academia is that full Excel is the assumed computation platform an embarrassing amount of the time.

    S1: I love watching jugglers work. The small thing that most impresses me is their ability to hold multiple things in one hand and throw them, in a single move, to two or three very different heights.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      This makes me wonder:

      1 Are Excel updates bug-for-bug compatible, or
      2 Do some companies stay with older versions to keep their spreadsheets running correctly, or
      3. Do any bugs resulting from upgrades just mostly go unnoticed.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Given the literature on just how common spreadsheet errors are — logic and formula errors, not bugs in the spreadsheet application — it might not matter :^) I once got kicked out of a meeting after I asked to see the test cases to verify the correctness of the large, complex spreadsheet that was being used to make a decision to spend $25M. What really got me in trouble was when I muttered, “If we wrote the real-time software to the same standard you guys wrote the spreadsheet, we’d get fired.”Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And then the team that designs suspension bridges did some muttering of their own 🙂Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        People don’t say “thank you” to civil engineers nearly enough.Report

  11. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    [G3] 10% of Danish babies are conceived on holiday? Since Danes get about 34 paid vacation days a year, I’m not sure why that’s surprising.Report

  12. Avatar Patrick says:

    Any chance they can get a refund on Nokia?

    They didn’t buy Nokia to make an investment, is my guess.Report

  13. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    has now allowed the release of a version of Office for the iPad that, far from being castrated, is actually getting good reviews.

    Well, that’s really all that’s needed to make laptops obsolete, isn’t it? I’ve already seen people using iPads with detachable keyboards, so now they can have all the same qualities as a laptop, but are more portable.Report

  14. Avatar zic says:

    Just wanted to add a link that might be of interest:

    The Libertarian Party has had an 11% increase in voter registrations.

    The press release:

    According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, Libertarian Party voter registration in the U.S. has grown 11.4% since late 2012. Registration in all other nationally-organized parties has decreased.

    According to Winger, the most recent figures available from state governments show that there were 368,561 registered Libertarians in March 2014, compared to 330,811 in November 2012.

    Thirty states and the District of Columbia allow voters to include a party affiliation with their voter registration.

    Libertarian Party Chair Geoffrey Neale commented, “I think it’s great that Libertarian registration is increasing throughout America, while the Democrats and Republicans have been shrinking. Maybe it’s our across-the-board message of ‘more freedom, less government.'”

    The states with the largest percent increases were Idaho (161% increase), Wyoming (68% increase), Nebraska (55% increase), and Louisiana (33% increase).