Archive for July, 2014

Lowering the Bar to Help Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

July 31, 2014

Vogue Magazine, June 2014

BEAUTY, Editor: Sarah Brown

Little Miss Perfect

“Hyper organized and strikingly neat, Jancee Dunn wonders if she’s in control of her life or if a need for order is controlling her.”

“I call myself a perfectionist. My husband calls me crazy… Lately, however, I’ve found that control is no longer a means to an end. Because there is not end.  I am forever patrolling the premises, straightening and sorting…”

OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a personality disorder that affects an estimated 2% of the population according to Dr. Jeff Szymanski, Ph.D., executive director of the OCD Foundation and a clinical instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.  It is also an anxiety disorder in which a person’s “behavior conflicts with her ideal self-image, making her miserable.”

Miss Dunn, who states “maintaining nearly impossible standards is my way of creating an ordered little oasis in a chaotic world,” discusses OCD with Dr. Szymanski and they decide that she may just be an unhealthy perfectionist, which, however, may sabotage one’s health, relationships and work.  He does not suggest that she relinquish her obsessive tendencies, but “lower the bar” a little.  She decides to “mix up her schedule by taking breaks” and some other tasks to slow down.  Her goal is, “to teach myself , in the words of T.S.Eliot, ti care and not to care…to sit still.”

In track and field sports,  raising the bar for high jumpers, for horses, or for track runners makes it more difficult.  Lowering the bar makes it easier.  In this article, Ms. Dunn has decided that she doesn’t have to be perfect all the time; she can lower the bar by being more relaxed.




A Levelised Playing Field

July 30, 2014

The Economist July 26th 2014

Free Exchange: Sun, wind and drain

Wind and solar power are even more expensive than is commonly thought:

“Subsidies for renewable energy are one of the most contested areas of public policy…To take account of all of this (the costs of energy), economists use levelised costs–the net present value of all costs (capital and operating) of a generating unit over its life cycle, divided by the number of megawatt-hours of electricity it is expected to supply..This, however, does not take account of the costs of intermittency of many of energy supplies.  For instance, “wind power is not generated on a calm day, nor solar power at night, so conventional power plants must be kept on standby–but are not included in “the levelised cost of renewables.”

A levelised playing field

“If all the costs and benefits are totted up using Mr. Frank’s (Charles Frank of the Brookings Institution) calculation, solar power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions…Wind is the next most expensive. Hydropower provides a modest net benefit.  But the most cost-effective zero-emission technology is nuclear power…

Mr. Frank’s research is clear: governments should target emissions reductions from any source rather than focus on boosting certain kinds of renewable energy.

McIlroy Goes Wire to Wire For Third Major Championship

July 30, 2014

New York Times: Sports Monday

Monday, July 21, 2014

BRITISH OPEN: Royal Liverpool

McIlroy Goes Wire to Wire for Third Major Championship, by Christopher Clarey

Hoylake, England–“By the standards of final British Open chapters, this was no major thriller, but it was not the relaxed Sunday stroll around Royal Liverpool that it might have been for Rory McIlroy.  His lead, as imposing as seven strokes in the early stages of the fourth round, was down to two with five holes to play.”  It was still only two at the 18th hole.

“The Open is the one that we all want, the one we strive for,’ McIlroy said in his postvictory remarks…”

Wire to wire is a horse racing idiom to portray a horse going ahead of the pack from the beginning of the race (just out of the wire) to the end.   In fact, “Wire to Wire” is the name of a newsletter posted on the web for thoroughbred owners.  The idiom is used in the above article about Rory McIlroy, who won the British Open golf tournament a little over a week ago.  Mr. McIlroy was ahead in the first rounds of the tournament and, again, in the final round, and he won, wire to wire. 




Are Big Banks Gaming the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law?

July 28, 2014

The New York Times Editorials, Thursday, July 3, 2014

Another Failure to Regulate Derivatives

“By the time the Securities and Exchange Commission finalized a rule last month to regulate derivatives under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the big banks that dominate the multitrillion-dollar market had already figured out how to game it…

The aim of the Dodd-Frank law is to prevent gambling in derivatives, financial contracts that are supposed to manage risk, but that have long been misused for catastrophically excessive speculation…

Under the S.E.C. rule, derivatives regulations will apply to foreign affiliates of American banks only if the affiliates’ derivative contracts are explicitly guaranteed by the American banks, say, by writing a guarantee into a contract…By imposing new rules on guaranteed affiliates only, the S.E.C. has invited the banks to avoid the rules simply by doing away with explicit contracts.

The Dodd-Frank law instructs the S.E.C (Security Exchange Commission) to regulate derivatives; if the agency thinks it lacks the authority to do so it should ask Congress for the power it needs to do its job.  Both the S.E.C. and the C.F.T.C (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) need to greatly expand the reach of their derivatives rules and curb the rush to ‘de-guarantee.’  Until they do, American taxpayers and the financial system will remain exposed to the ravages of unregulated derivatives trading.”

Games: the banks, the S.E.C. and the taxpayers!

“Nobody Bats One Thousand”

July 28, 2014

The New Yorker, July 28, 2014

The Political Scene: The Biden Agenda, by Evan Osnos

Page 50-51

“The tenor of the dispute between Biden and Gates has surprised some who know them.  When I asked Richard Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, about Gate’s assessment of Biden, Haas said, ‘Bob Gates is a close friend.  We worked together in government several times, but it’s one of the areas where I disagree with him.  Nobody bats a thousand, but I don’t know anyone who bats zero, either.  Joe’s had hits , and he’s had misses, just like the rest of us..”

The batting average in baseball is calculated by number of times at bat divided by hits at bat.  The best hitters might be in the 300 percent range, 3 hits for ten times at bat.

Hole in Won

July 9, 2014

The Economist, May 31st

South Korea’s Household Debt

Hole in Won

“Seoul:  Korean households are struggling under mounting debt…Koreans personal finances are coming under strain.  The government is now explicitly seeking to reduce household debt.”

The title is a play on the golf term, hole in one, when the golfball goes into the cup in one stroke, a good thing.  The title here “Hole in Won” is rather deceiving as it conveys a difficult situation, a monetary debt problem with the won, the Korean currency.



Reno Rolling the Dice On High-Tech

July 9, 2014

Business Day: The New York Times, Monday, July 7, 2014

In Casino Town, Rolling the Dice on High-Tech, by Dionne Searcey

Reno, Nev–“A street newly nicknamed Startup Row intersects this city’s old strip of casinos touting Money Maker Jackpots and Crazy Cash slot Tournaments…

While old-fashioned slot machines are whirring nearby, this stretch of road has become a home for smartphone app makers, cloud computing developers and  companies like one that set up shop here to recently build tiny sensors that allow devices to connect to the internet…Instead of poker payouts, Reno now boasts of e-commerce ventures, an Apple data center and a testing ground for drones.  It also hopes to attract a large factory to build batteries for Tesla’s electric vehicles.”