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  • Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on February 9th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Content abundance and curation in the media industry

    18th-century Scotland had an interesting system for paying for college

    Has getting things done in business…hiring new employees, finalizing business-to-business sales deals…become slower?

    Rejecting one’s country for aesthetic reasons

    Overconfident students major in political science

    This should be obvious, but to many people it’s unfortunately not: why the best hire might not have the perfect resume

    Interesting thoughts:  how debt/equity mix affects the trajectory of oil prices

    This writer is pessimistic about pessimism

     

    11 Responses to “Worthwhile Reading”

    1. dearieme Says:

      The old Scottish university system also allowed students to shop around for teaching between universities. You could spend your fresher year in Aberdeen, move to St Andrews for your next, then Edinburgh, say. This worked because they all had the same structure of degree and recognised success in each other’s courses.

      Mind you, that article would have been better if the author had understood the distinction between British and English.

      At Edinburgh, just a smidgen survived into the 60s and 70s of the old attitude that the student had paid for his education and therefore the lecturers had the duty to teach comprehensibly. I know of two occasions when an incompetent lecturer was driven out of a lecture hall by freshers throwing objects and jeering. On each occasion the students had their way and the lecturer was replaced on the course. An admirably direct custom, it seems to me.

    2. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Back in the 1960s when there were some deep discussions of how universities ought to be run, Milton Friedman was fond of citing Smith on that subject.

    3. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “how debt/equity mix affects the trajectory of oil prices”

      I don’t buy the thesis that debt financed production is driving the price decline. The problem with it is that most of the world’s production is owned by state owned oil companies, which may use debt finance, but which are not subject to bankruptcy.

      I think the whole thing has more to do with the Chinese collapse.

      There has also been an anomaly in the market for several years that natural gas has been a lot cheaper than its energy equivalent in petroleum. NG is traded in units of million BTUs. A barrel of petroleum has about 6 million BTUs. For the past few years NG has traded way under tha spread. Even now NG is very cheap.

    4. David Foster Says:

      RS…is it really an anomaly? There are important applications for which you can use oil easily, but NG is either unusable or its use results in additional capital costs and performance issues. Aviation fuel is an example in the first category, vehicle fuel in the second.

      Also, oil is much more a global market than is NG, owing to transportation issues.

    5. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      I’m good with keeping NG onshore. It makes a great home heating fuel and is a valuable chemical feedstock. And we’ve got enough now to last centuries.

    6. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      On the 18th century approach to university tuition, there’s a lot to like about that model. I especially like that a person could simply study whatever subjects interested them and then off into the world. And paying the professor directly is certainly a better approach to getting quality instruction than having the university assign you to whoever they want. It’s the difference between having access to a library or being given a book at random and told, Read this.

    7. David Foster Says:

      The key to making the Scottish approach work would be meaningful exams, conducted by someone other than the professor giving the course, otherwise, there would be too much selecting of easy and entertaining professors who didn’t actually teach anything much.

      The way flight training works in the US is something like the Scottish university model…a student can select from any among the Certified Flight Instructors; after completing the training program he will receive a practical test from a Designated Examiner. Students can and sometimes do change instructors if the chemistry is not right.

      In a university setting in America today, the problem is that outside the hard sciences it will be very difficult to get agreement on what the core knowledge that the student should have mastered actually *is*.

    8. Grurray Says:

      Uber for professors

    9. Robert Schwartz Says:

      David Foster: NG is not a perfect substitute for petroleum, but it is a substitute at the margin. NG can be used to produce the vehicle fuels you mention. Also, it can run diesels. The local bus company fuels much of their fleet with CNG now. The markets should not remain uncorrelated for very long. Until about 2008, they were highly correlated.

    10. Grurray Says:

      Here’s something interesting about oil companies hedging their exposure. A lot of them didn’t use the strategy completely for insurance but also for speculating. Selling a put works if either the price goes up or goes sideways, so it probably sounded like a good bet at the time. Unfortunately, the worst case occurred when the price of oil kept dropping, and these companies ended up out the frying pan and into the fryer.

    11. dearieme Says:

      “meaningful exams, conducted by someone other than the professor giving the course”: that’s how it’s done at Oxbridge.