April 7, 2014
1. Don’t Bet On It
Are there investors out there who can consistently beat the market without adding a ton of risk to their portfolios? Yes. They are known as Alphas. Are you an Alpha? Probably not. There are very few of these folks out there, and even the best of them — including Warren Buffett — can slip for a few years. Here’s Jeff Sommer in the NYT: “True investing skill is so rare that the rest of us shouldn’t even try to emulate those who have it. In addition … we probably shouldn’t bother trying to hire the few outperformers to invest our money. Why? Because we aren’t likely to be able to identify them.”
2. It Could Happen Again
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the genocide in Rwanda. But since then, everything has changed. We now have social media, victims could live-tweet the crimes against humanity, the world would be watching. While that’s true, the world was watching two decades ago. Has that much changed? Have governments learned the lessons of Rwanda? From New Republic: Don’t Assume That the Rwandan Genocide Couldn’t Happen Today. “Can we act preventively instead of waiting for a crisis to boil over? The answer, unfortunately, remains uneven.”
+ The Daily Beast: Still a Problem From Hell, Two Decades After Rwanda.
+ Rwanda marks the anniversary with a reenactment of key moments.
+ A look back at the Polaroids: The Children of The Rwandan Genocide: 20 Years On.
3. Expanding the Map?
Pro-Russian activists have occupied a government building, called on Russian troops to enter the city, and announced deadlines for a separation from Ukraine. And this isn’t in Crimea. Will Donetsk be the next city to break away?
+ “This book has great propaganda value, not only for its intrinsic message and thought-provoking nature, but also for the circumstances of its publication: we have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.” From another era of strained U.S.-Russian relations: How the CIA used Doctor Zhivago as a tool to undermine the Soviets.
4. Are We Getting Warmer?
An Australian ship has picked up signals consistent with those that would come from a black box. Despite incredibly long odds, those searching for signs of Flight 370 have their most promising lead yet.
5. Revenge On the Nerds
The tech protests took a new, and weird, turn in the Bay Area over the weekend as protestors gathered outside the home of Digg founder and Google Ventures partner Kevin Rose.
+ What did the protestors want? Among other things, they demanded $3 billion. (If they want billions of dollars, why can’t they just build a messaging app like everyone else?)
+ Meanwhile, someone in SF is flipping over Smart Cars.
+ On Sunday, HBO debuted the new Mike Judge comedy that pokes fun at Silicon Valley. You can watch the first episode in its entirety on YouTube. I’m not sure why HBO needed to produce this show. They had already created a completely realistic Silicon Valley character.
6. Smoke Signals
Few issues have seen the winds of public opinion turn as rapidly as marijuana legalization. About three-quarters of Americans see pot legalization as inevitable (and the other 25% were too baked to respond). In The Wire, Allie Jones argues that weed is the sleeper issue of 2016.
+ Vox: Remember when legal marijuana was going to send crime skyrocketing? Well, in Colorado, it hasn’t.
+ And apparently, no one is getting the munchies either. Boulder continues to have the lowest obesity rate in the nation.
7. We Have Been Broken
Here’s a couple of interesting trends. First, air travel keeps getting worse. Second, we are filing fewer complaints. Either they’ve broken us, or we’re just doing all of our complaining on Twitter.
+ As airlines get bigger, do they get better?
+ LA Times: Ten things to know about your lost luggage.
8. Country Stong
“Five years ago, the key listener for country radio was a 40-year-old white woman from the suburbs.” What a difference five years (and Taylor Swift) can make. Country music has become America’s most popular radio format.
9. You Are My World (of Warcraft)
It will not come as a surprise that many couples are meeting online these days. It might come as a surprise that a lot of them are meeting on sites and services that have nothing to do with dating.
+ An Israeli company says they’ve invented a device that can charge your phone in 30 seconds. (Now we just need to come up with an entertaining way to pass that downtime…)
10. The Bottom of the News
Amazon has introduced a wand called Dash; “a thin, wand-like device … that includes both a microphone and a barcode scanner. Speak into it or scan a box of cereal or pack of toilet paper to automatically add that product to your AmazonFresh shopping list.” If this thing vibrates, I’m history.
+ Need to tone things down a bit after last night’s much anticipated return of Game of Thrones. Relax into a pair of headphones and enjoy the smooth jazz version of the show’s theme song.
+ Is Starbucks really recycling all those paper coffee cups?
+ And for my five year-old daughter (and every other kid I know, and most adults, and OK, me), here’s Kristen Bell singing Do You Want to Build a Snowman.