Explaining Southern California's economy

The Great Tablet Distraction Debate grinds on

Amazon Introduces New Tablet At News Conference In New York

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: The new Amazon tablet called the Kindle Fire is displayed on September 28, 2011 in New York City. The Fire, which will be priced at $199, is an expanded version of the company’s Kindle e-reader that has 8GB of storage and WiFi. The Fire gives users access to streaming video, as well as e-books, apps and music, and has a Web browser. In addition to the Fire, Bezos introduced four new Kindles including a Kindle touch model. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal weighs in, cleverly, on a micro-debate spurred by this New York Times article about how people are too distracted while reading on a tablet — an Apple iPad, an Amazon Kindle Fire — to actually, you know, read.

Madrigal attacks the NYT story at three levels:

•You can just as easily be distracted while reading a book on paper as you can while reading a book in a digital format

•Reality is far more distracting than what's going in that magical little gadget in your hot little hands: "If the e-reader engages you more with the thing in your hand, even though the gadget itself is more distracting, that could be a net distraction win."

•We will evolve into an undistracted, tablet-using species: "Humans respond to the novel technologies they encounter to reshape their experiences of them. If distraction is really bothering all these people, and they really want to read books, then they will find a way to do so."

Read More...

The hot Apple time machine

Apple Announces Digital Textbooks Service At Guggenheim

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Apple's new iBooks 2 app is demonstrated for the media on an iPad at an event in the Guggenheim Museum, January 19, 2012 in New York City.

We've all done it. Lamented the fact that we didn't load up on Apple stock back in the day, when it was trading at $10 or $15 a share and and the company, with Steve Jobs in exile, was fumbling toward bankruptcy. 

What a difference a decade makes. Apple is now either the most valuable company in the world or among the most valuable, depending on what the stock market is doing on a given day. Fifteen bucks a share to $533. Zowie!

Oh, how easy it is to set the investment time machine to 1999 and say that you would have bought AAPL instead of sinking your dough blindly into a 401(k) or chasing a dot.com "superstar," post-IPO.

At USA Today, Matt Krantz throws some cold water on that nostalgia trip. Should you consider Apple, which has risen nearly 5,000 percent since 1999, the big beating heart of a current retirement plan? Nope:

Read More...

Meet Mark Spitznagel, Ron Paul's L.A. hedge-fund guy

Ron Paul Continues Iowa Campaign Tour

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

LE MARS, IA - DECEMBER 30: Republican presidential hopeful U.S. Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks during a town hall meeting at the Le Mars Convention Center on December 30, 2011 in Le Mars, Iowa.

Ron Paul — Republican presidential candidate, GOP congressman from Texas, father of Sen. Rand Paul, libertarian, and dogged foe of the Federal Reserve — is touching down in Los Angeles on March 20 for a fundraiser. If you think Paul, with his desire to return the U.S. to the gold standard (bimetalism, actually, using gold and silver) and his tendency to subject Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to lengthy disquisitions on inflation, is a litle bit different, just wait until you get a dose of the guy who's hosting this Bel Air shindig, at the former residence of Jennifer Lopez.

He's Mark Spitznagel, a very successful hedge-fund manager whose Universa Investments is based in Santa Monica. There are hedge-fund managers and there are hedge fund managers. Spitznagel is definitely in the latter category. He plies his trade in an exotic corner of the industry, making huge bets on statistically improbable events, now colloquially known as "black swans," after the 2007 book of the that title by Nassim Taleb.

Read More...

Gadget nut? AyeGear has your jacket

Gaze upon the many-pocketed splendor of the ultimate gadget jacket. Unfortuantely, while AyeGear, the company that makes it, ships "worldwide" (according to its website), that wide world doesn't include the U.S. The jacket does look like its was designed by gadget geeks for gadget geeks. I can see how it would be useful for travel. It's a wearable backpack, capable of accomodating Apple iPhonesand iPads, passports, chargers, headphones, you name it. I feel that maybe it could get a tad heavy, but the way it's organized, with 22 pockets, means that you could dash through airport security.

Wonder if it will make it across the pond any time soon...

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

Read More...

Economists are a special breed of nerd

In this three photo combo, Professor of

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Paul Krugman supports Occupy Wall Street, but he has some ideas about its agenda.

Lately, I've been reading this very entertaining economics blog, Noahopinion, written by Noah Smith, a recent econ PhD who just got a job at the Stoney Brook University College of Business (Congrats!). Smith engages with a lot of the usual wonky econoblogger topics (and also some heavily wonky topics), but he also takes a look at the culture of economics. In this post, he really nails the strange relationship between economist and the more overtly nerdy members of other professions, like physics, computer science, and math. 

He argues that economists should release their inner nerd. BUT they have to be careful about how truly nerdy that nerd they release actually is. For example:

But for Milton Friedman's sake, don't be a science nerd! If someone references Star Trek or Mass Effect, give them the hairy eyeball. Remember, "technology" has nothing to do with semiconductors or machine learning or General Relativity; "technology" is the Solow Residual! Economists evaluate technology from on high; we do not descend into the muck of knowing how it actually works. And remember: you do math well, but you don't likemath, not for it's own sake. Do not gush about all the cool difficult math you just did, whine about it.

Read More...