July 10, 2013
There are striking parallels between the dramatic recent sell-off in U.S. Treasuries and the Great Bond Crash of 1994. But the summer of volatility now facing financial markets is no doomsday scenario. Instead, it puts the U.S. Federal Reserve in a bind. Higher interest rates will reduce housing affordability, which is especially troublesome since housing is the primary locomotive of U.S. economic growth. That means the Fed, despite Ben Bernanke’s recently announced timetable, may be forced to expand or extend quantitative easing if the housing market’s response to recent events becomes more acute and starts to negatively affect the job market recovery.
The animal spirits are stirring again in the markets as the asset management industry grows to a record level and shrugs off some of the debilitating effects of the financial crisis. ... The amount of money invested globally by asset managers has for the first time surpassed the highs before the 2007-08 crisis, according to Boston Consulting Group, the management consultants. ... Gary Shub, partner at BCG, agreed that animal spirits, a term used by economist John Maynard Keynes to describe positive actions because of instinctive optimism, had recovered in the markets, although he warned it was not a fully fledged revival.
You could call it bourbon, or you could call it a $5,000 bottle of liquified, barrel-aged unobtanium. Its fans refer to it as Pappy, when they’re lucky enough to get a sniff of it, and those times are few and far between. … The web has yet to catch on to this very lively feature piece in Louisville Magazine this month, taking a look at Pappy Van Winkle, the Kentucky bourbon that is by all accounts one of the most sought-after bottles of booze on earth. … Its distillers pump out from 7,000 to 8,000 cases each year, 12 bottles to the case, and hope that within a decade they can double that to 15,000. Jim Beam, by comparison, makes 7-8 million cases per year. So the Beam:Pappy ratio is about 1000:1.
With its flying buttresses and domed roof, the Terascale Simulation Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was built as a cathedral to the supercomputer. … The design may suggest some religious reverence for the all-powerful machines. More practically, though, it means they are unencumbered by supporting columns, saving space and creating a more direct route for the arteries of cables to feed and cool the world’s fastest supercomputers. But less than 10 years after being built, the building is already in danger of becoming outdated. … “When we designed this building, we thought it would be good for 50 years but already it’s only adequate and not robust,” says Mike McCoy, who leads the supercomputing effort at Lawrence Livermore as director of the Advanced Simulation and Computing programme. … Even its name risks becoming an anachronism. Terascale computing has been superseded by petascale computing – 1,000 times faster. By 2020, we will be in the exascale age – a thousand times faster again.
And predicts the rise and fall of nations. ... Sometimes art imitates life; some games do so as well. In the case of chess especially, the parallels with power politics are many and uncanny, persisting over the centuries. Originating on the Asian subcontinent, chess moved to Persia ("checkmate" comes from shah mat, "the king is dead") but really began to diffuse widely during the great age of Arab conquest, starting in the 7th century of the Common Era. The structure and rules of the game remained consistent for centuries within Muslim domains, but in Christian countries to which chess spread, innovations emerged.
Whatever you think of gambling, its regulations are mesmerizing. Gambling is outlawed in one way or another in all 50 states, but almost all — except Hawaii (surprisingly) and Utah (less so) — have exceptions. Most offer state-run lotteries. Thirty allow Indian casinos. Seventeen have full-scale non-Indian casinos (New York and Massachusetts are poised to join that group.) In each case, government officials limit the number of casinos and determine where they will be located. … Economically speaking, these anticasino regulations are the single greatest profit generator for casino operators. By limiting the number and location, and therefore artificially keeping the market underserved, governments essentially guarantee outsize profits for those in business. (The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, which limits cab licenses, ensures a similar regulatory oligopoly, as do many state liquor-distribution regulators.) If there were unlimited licenses, each casino operator would have to compete — like every restaurant or movie theater — with all the others.
Being in Turin also meant more opportunities to spend time with his grandfather Gianni. They met often for meals and long conversations about business. Slowly, says Elkann, the outlines of a future somewhere within the family firm began to take shape. Yet he was in no way prepared for the brief conversation that took place at Villa Frescot, the Agnelli family home in the pine-clad hills overlooking Turin, when he was 21. ... An older Agnelli cousin, who was being groomed for the capo position, had died suddenly, leaving a board seat open at Fiat. After lunch that day, Elkann recalls, his grandfather said, " 'I'm thinking about the appointment on the board, and I think it should be you.' I wasn't expecting that. I asked him, 'Do you think it makes sense?' " ... Fearing Morchio might quit if he didn't get what he wanted, Elkann flew to Geneva for a secret meeting with Marchionne. ... He had been appointed to Fiat's board a year and a half earlier, but the fact is, he was running a company that tests toasters and baby toys. "I had never made a car or a tractor," he says now. "I really didn't know s**t."
Cheap beer, affordable tickets, swanky surroundings -- what's not to like about minor and independent league baseball parks? … In the world of marketing minor league baseball, where coloring outside the lines is the norm, anything within the boundaries of good taste is fair game. … Everything is content, and content is everything. … Even a bunch of whimsical Heat fans who ditched their team and missed a historic comeback. … "When it comes to marketing and promotions, we always try to stay topical, have fun with topical stuff," Seymour said. "During the NBA Finals, nothing was more topical than Heat fans leaving their team before Game 6 was over." … And with that, "Big Three" night at the Miracle's Hammond Stadium was born on Thursday, June 20. … In honor of Miami's "Big Three" (Heat-speak for the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) and as a good-hearted poke at Heat "fans," all Miracle patrons wearing Heat gear would get into the game for the low, low price of $3 per ticket, under two conditions: First, they enter through the "Exit" gates and second, they stay for the entire game, which I would imagine was not very difficult for most of them to do, what with it being "Thirsty Thursday" (half priced domestic beers!) and all.
Inside a lab in Pisa, forensics pathologist Gino Fornaciari and his team investigate 500-year-old cold cases … Gino Fornaciari is no ordinary medical examiner; his bodies represent cold cases that are centuries, sometimes millennia, old. As head of a team of archaeologists, physical anthropologists, historians of medicine and additional specialists at the University of Pisa, he is a pioneer in the burgeoning field of paleopathology, the use of state-of-the-art medical technology and forensic techniques to investigate the lives and deaths of illustrious figures of the past. … Its practitioners worldwide are making startling discoveries.
A Harvard English major wrote The Inner Game of Tennis in 1972. A million copies later, its ideas are still some of the most influential in sports — and beyond, taken seriously by actors, politicians, and even sex researchers. What’s its secret? Maybe that there is no secret.