Browser Newsletter 1122


Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

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Best of the Moment

Profit From The Post Office

Allison Schrager & Ritchie King | Quartz | 26th September 2013

US Postal Service says the price of a stamp will rise by three cents in January. A perfect arbitrage opportunity. Borrow $4.6m; buy ten million "forever" stamps before the hike at 46c each; re-sell them afterwards at 49c. "If we manage to shift the stamps in a month, the interest on our debt will be $29,000. That brings our profits to $116,801. Then we’ll return the equity to our shareholders, along with 50% of the profits"

Nate Silver On Teaching Yourself Statistics

Walter Frick | Harvard Business Review | 24th September 2013

Interview. "The thing that’s toughest to teach is the intuition for what are big questions to ask. That intellectual curiosity. That bullshit detector for lack of a better term, where you see a data set and you have at least a first approach on how much signal there is there. You can learn the technical skills later on, and you’ll be more motivated to learn more of the technical skills when you have some problem you’re trying to solve"

The Misery Of A Ryan Air Flight

David McWilliams | Financial Times | 27th September 2013

World's most in-your-face airline wants to improve customer service. But isn't the rudeness part of the charm? "Everyone has a story. My own favourites involve stand-offs at departure desks between sweating travellers and surly flight attendants as customers try to cram their beloved possessions into the narrow cages used by Ryanair to decide whether a piece of luggage is too big to be carried into the cabin" (Metered paywall)

Libya: In Search Of A Strongman

Nicholas Pelham | New York Review Of Books

"Two years after ousting one dictator, many Libyans are craving another. Rapacious brigades of armed volunteers who are based in the east, and the creaking military inherited from the old regime based in the capital city of Tripoli and the west, are hurtling toward a new civil war". The economy and infrastructure are destroyed, or controlled by militias. Democracy "is too delicate to overcome the country’s deep fissures"

Ruth Wisse On Jewish Humour

Anthony Gottlieb | Five Books | 26th September 2013

Interview. "Freud shows you that humour is also a way of telling the truth which would otherwise be impossible. What he's really saying is that the more civilized we become, and the more highly educated we become, the more we have to repress those things which would give children pleasure, that would give us delight ordinarily. And joking becomes a legitimate way of letting the truth out"

The “Breaking Bad” School

Adrian Wooldridge | The Economist | 28th September 2013

You can learn as much about building a business from Breaking Bad as you can from Harvard Business School. Walter White understands scale: he wants to build an empire. He's obsessed with product quality and branding: he only sells the best meth. He outsources the low-value-added end — the distribution — to gang partners. His cardinal fault: hubris. "The more successful he becomes, the more invulnerable he feels" (Metered paywall)

Video of the day: Box

Thought for the day:

"A craftsman knows in advance what the finished result will be, while the artist knows only what it will be when he has finished it" — W.H. Auden

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