reading

Paul Krugman’s Blog

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Mark Tuminello Paul KrugmanIf you’re not a reader of Paul Krugman’s blog on the New York Times, I highly recommend you take a look at it. Krugman is a celebrated and awarded economist whose specialties include international economics and currencies. Outside of his areas of expertise, he’s just a very sharp guy with lots of valuable insight on a variety of topics. His blog is a terrific mix of economic theory, political analysis, and fun – yes, he even posts music videos occasionally. His recent posts on the recovering economies of the western world and income inequality contain perhaps the most rational discussion points on each topic. However you subscribe to blogs, check out Krugman’s for a few weeks. I think you’ll find a lot there!

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Child Reading Tips…for Adults

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An answer from the social question/answer site Quora was syndicated recently on the Huffington Post (welcome to the 21st Century!) about helping children develop strong reading habits. It turns out, there was a lot of great advice for adults, too!

Turnable pages when reading at night. Light from social devices, sometimes referred to as ‘blue light,’ activates our brains to the detriment of sleep. Paper books still have a use for us humans, for the time being anyway.

Read only so long as interest is maintained. This is great advice. So many people I know will finish reading a book even if they don’t enjoy it. It can feel strange to stop reading a book, even more strange to get rid of it, but why continue if you don’t like it. It’s actually a bad habit that will decrease your enjoyment of reading.

Ask questions. We’ve all been on a reading kick and found ourselves burning through books quickly. Did we really take things in? Did we retain information for longer than a week? Often, the answer is no. If we stop and ask ourselves what exactly is happening, engaging our brain with the material more, we’ll be able to get more enjoyment from reading.

Don’t switch to digital just because it’s cool and new. Don’t stick with paper books because technology annoys you. Give each medium a try and make a rational decision about how you better enjoy reading. Factor in the weight of the device, transport, price, storage, the ability to share, etc.

If you haven’t heard of Quora, it’s a social network where users can ask questions which will be answered by other users. There are a lot of similar sites and networks – what sets Quora apart are three main things. First, the site and app are both very well designed, which attracts more serious users who might not be interested if the design was poor. Second, the content is curated to some degree by a very active staff of administrators. They rephrase questions, adjust tagging, and who knows what else to make sure the site works as a cohesive voice. The experience is much better as a result. The third thing that sets Quora apart is the community, which is devoted, large, and intelligent. This is partly a result of the design and admin work, but there’s also an ethereal stickiness about the site that has generated that minimum amount of activity to keep things interesting. I highly recommend it!

 

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Reagan at Reykjavic – Obama in Syria

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Thomas Friedman blogged recently about the book ‘Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold War.’ The book is by Ken Adelman, the man behind that administration’s arms control agency, an advisor at the 1986 Iceland summit with Gorbachev.

There’s a lot of new information about Reagan in the book. It contains newly declassified documents that shed light on the early stages of an agreement that would eventually lead to a major reduction in nuclear warheads. What Friedman found particularly interesting (and makes this book sound so great) is the way Reagan recognized how different Gorbachev was from other Soviet leaders. Reagan saw potential there when his intelligence team didn’t.

Friedman also takes the opportunity to contrast the world of Reagan with the world of President Obama. While Reagan was facing a ‘Communist superpower that had thousands of nuclear missiles aimed at us!’ Even still, he says, Obama’s world is a much more difficult one. The reason being that Reagan’s enemy was another source of world order. The cold war was fought on creating as much order as possible (communism vs capitalism) and reinforce weaker states around the world to win support.

Today, things are much more complex, less binary. There are many divisions, some of which are regions of disorder. There’s no leader with whom to bargain. In a world where groups of people consider people our enemies, complete with power vacuums, advanced weaponry, and technologically advanced communication, ‘just one needle in a haystack can hurt us.’

Gorbachev was the enemy in the 80s, but he later won a Nobel Peace Prize for peaceably allowing eastern European states become independent. The Islamic State will never win a Nobel. Even the Soviet Union with all its communist differences, it was still a western power. When Reagan faced something similar to what Obama faces now across the middle east, in Lebanon, he saw that there was no fight to win there – only nation building. So we left.

The book sounds great, and Friedman’s comments, while not up everyone’s political alley, are very convincing.

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Blinkist

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mark tuminello blinkistThomas Piketty’s book on income inequality was a huge seller, and thanks in part to limited supply, very difficult to get ahold of. Non-fiction books like this are becoming increasingly popular not just with economics professionals like me, but also with millenials. But how do you keep up with the books of Krugman, Friedman, the Freakonomics guys, and all the rest of them – especially when they all blog regularly too? Keeping up with my favorite writers involves so much reading, I often find myself struggling to find time to read new authors.

Blinkist has answers to all of these issues facing non-fiction readers.

Blinkist is a subscription service of non-fiction books…except the books aren’t there in their entirety. Blinkist only provides summaries. They’re detailed, but brief, meant to be read in just 15 minutes (though slow readers will find it takes more like 25 minutes to get through an entire edition.

Summaries are broken down by the actual chapters of the book, and typically include around 500 words per chapter, for the average book.

I tried a free trial, and browsed a few books I knew I’d probably never read in their entirety. It really did feel like I was getting some good information from the author, albeit with no sense of flair or real-life stories to back up the concepts. I also tried reading the summary of a book I’d read. It was a fantastic way to revisit the writing, browsing through major ideas. The app also allows you to highlight certain passages of summary, which is a nice touch.

After the free trial, the app costs $5/month – and I’m not sure it’s something I’d want to stick with. Even with all the time constraints of reading, part of the pleasure of reading is…well…reading. On the other hand, when I want to simply revisit some old favorites quickly, or simply learn at a surface level without having to invest too much time – Blinkist seems like a total gem.

I absolutely recommend downloading the app, which is now available for both iOS and Android, and using the free trial. At the very least, you’ll find a book you’re interested in and get a chance to breeze through it.

 

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Personal Finance Books – Top Five

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Personal finance is something that concerns most of us. With growing technological ways to track your finances, it is getting easier and easier to see exactly where you are spending your hard-earned dollars. New applications, such as Mint Finance, offer us a look at where we are going wrong with our finances – but they are only scratching the surface. These apps are showing how you are spending your money, but they are not providing avenues to increase your income or to find alternatives to help save you money.

Here is a list of the top five personal finance books. They will help you think about finance in a whole new light, and will make your wallet a little more heavy.

The Total Money Makeover

Written by Dave Ramsey, this book gives you a very simple rule to follow: stay out of debt. Ramsey says that the best way to avoid overspending is by avoiding credit cards and loans to stay out of financial trouble. Interest payments stack up quickly. The only debt that Ramsey will allow: taking out a mortgage. However, pay with cash and you’ll do just fine.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

This book, written by Robert Kiyosaki, gives the breakdown of two fathers – one that is educated and one that dropped out of middle school. Astonishingly, they lived completely different financial paths – the drop-out eventually became a millionaire while the college-educated father never reached his financial potential.

The story has an underlying theme – it’s not just what you know, but how you apply that knowledge. I’d highly recommend picking up this book – it will surely change your perspective on how to apply yourself.

Get Rich Carefully

Don't let Cramer's big personality fool you - the guy knows finance.

Don’t let Cramer’s big personality fool you – the guy knows finance.

Jim Cramer, one of the most well-known in the financial industry, released this gem just recently. This book is fantastic because it offers financial knowledge that is very simple and has very little risk associated with it. Cramer explains that you can become financially savvy in a methodical manner without having to bet your house on it. This high-yield, low-risk investing is something that everyone can learn from.

The Compound Effect

Darren Hardy states that all of your decisions have a compound effect on each other. He shows that making sure you are checking your finances in the proper way will prevent you from going down the tubes in the long run. Hardy offers you a way to look at every dollar you spend; it’s amazing how quickly you’ll be saving money after reading this book.

The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs

Ric Edelman breaks down how to start planning for retirement in the simplest way possible. With all the different options out there, it’s hard to decide which one is right for you. Edelman offers great advice that will leave you with money long after you decide to retire.

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Speed-Reading Apps Aren’t All They Claim

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It seems that some people out there are obsessed with reading as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. For people who read regularly, we know that reading is about so much more than the sheer quantity of information taken in. So much is published every day, there is simply no chance of reading even a significant portion of it.

A new slew of apps have been getting a lot of attention – apps that focus on speed-reading. Besides being a foolhardy attempt to take in more information in each reading session than necessary, apps like Fastr or Spritz are simply too good to be true.

These apps rearrange the reading interface, showing one word at a time instead of the entire piece. The creators claim this method eliminates the need for the eyes to move while reading, which can boost reading speeds to 400 – 1000 words per minute. They also claim that when reading like this, comprehension doesn’t suffer.

The journal Psychological Science has thankfully published a study taking this claim to task.

mark tuminello speed reading

Looking at the speedy succession of words above, you’ll probably find that 500 words per minute is do-able. The short sentence given is somewhat easy to follow. But what happens when you’re in the middle of Anna Karenina? Is this speed sustainable with real comprehension? What about appreciation?

In terms of comprehension, what is helpful for readers who truly want to take in information and process it, we need the ability to go back every once in a while and re-look at a word again. The study shows that most readers look back at words about 10% to 15% of the time. This is specifically for comprehension.

For the study, researchers selected 40 students who didn’t know what the test was all about. Their heads were restrained so that eye movement could be tracked, and they were told to read a series of sentences for comprehension. Some of the sentences were repeats, with one version being clearly written, the other being ambiguous. Additionally, some students had words they’d already read covered up by eye-tracking software – this made it impossible to go back and reread words.

Students who were not able to go back to look at words again understood less. This doesn’t directly address the efficacy of speed reading apps, but it does seem to suggest that 500 words per minute with no backtracking would harm comprehension. This is even more true when sentences are ambiguous.

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Mark Tuminello Goodreads Profile

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Mark Tuminello GoodreadsMark Tuminello keeps an active Goodreads account, where he tracks some of the books he reads.  With Goodreads, users can rate, review, and recommend books.  It’s a must for active readers who want an interactive database of their favorite books and authors.

 

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The GOP May Begin Reconsidering Entire Economic Platform

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mark tuminello pethokoukisThomas B Edsall yesterday published an op-ed piece in the New York Times about the Republican’s party new in-fight – their entire economic platform.  This is a bigger fight than gay rights and immigration reform – is it true?  Edsall gets his information from an article from The Week by the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis.

Pethokoukis has written a scathing article of an economic manifesto by Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Ed Meese, all big names in the GOP.  Pethokoukis calls the manifesto tired, stumbling, and ignoring the facts that taxes will need to be raised someday because of a rising elderly population and that there is no evidence of a debt crisis in the United States.

In this debate, Pethokoukis represents conservative thinkers who have evolved, looking for alternatives to broad, far-right policies and goals.  Along with Michael Gerson, and Peter J Wehner, he wrote a piece for the journal National Affairs called A Conservative Vision of Government, which goes against typical tea party thought that all government intervention is inherently a bad idea.

This new right sees the dominant economic thinking of the Republican party as overly negative about the government, coming from a kind of apocalyptic view of life in modern America.  They point out that this kind of economic philosophy that would abandon those who can’t help themselves, to allow injustice to occur to the weakest members of society, is a failure of American principles.  Recent stalling of upward mobility can even be attributed to this, they admit.

This could represent the beginnings of real reform in the party, but many are doubtful any Republicans really want to take on the tea party head on.  These reformers are being described as too timid in their efforts to shake up the parties strongly-held beliefs about economics.  They say it goes beyond ending a blanket opposition to taxes in any form.  It’s really about changing a culture in which there is no attachment or empathy for the poor and the weak of society.

That said, the dissenting voices are significant.  The GOP are worried about working class voters in the north and the midwest, particularly in the coming presidential election.  More and more these voters are not seeing the deficit as an equal problem to the suffering economy.  How long will they support cuts to entitlements and no tax raises on the rich?  These dissenters could be just the thing the party needs to win back these voters before they defect.

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Climate Change Is Cheap, According to Krugman

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mark tuminello paul krugmanEconomist Paul Krugman blogs regularly on the New York Times, and I highly recommend subscribing. He updates every couple days with short posts on a diverse number of topics, but always with an economic perspective. He’s a reliably good writer, and he’s even more reliable as an economist. In his latest post on the blog, Paul Krugman discusses how a recent study organized by the US Chamber of Commerce to encourage opposition coming regulations.

You can read Krugman’s post, Cheap Climate Protection, in full here.

In anticipation of regulations from the Obama administration, the Chamber of Commerce organized a study to illustrate what the impact would be on the industry and the country. The expected regulations will be an attempt to reduce the output of greenhouse gases. Krugman was skeptical that the numbers would be correct, but was surprised to see that they had ordered the analysis from an outside company in an interest of preserving credibility.

The official report from the Chamber includes some spinning, according to Krugman, but the bare numbers told a different story. What the research showed was that economic burden of reducing greenhouse gas emission would be quite small. Krugman even goes so far as to call the costs ‘cheap,’ in consideration of how significant the greenhouse gas emissions would be.

To make that significant impact on greenhouse gases, reducing emissions by 40% by 2030, the price would be 50.2 billion per year. As a headline, that can seem alarming. Krugman compares that number with the expected GDP of the United States during that time. Altogether, we can expect it to be $21.5 trillion. That makes the cost of very real action to curb our greenhouse gas emissions just 0.2 % of GDP. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Where there is less of a silver lining is the expected loss of jobs. There would be over 200,000 jobs lost during the next fifteen years because of the regulations. That doesn’t represent a good economic plan. Even still, Krugman points out that in a nation with 140 million workers, 200k isn’t so bad considering the benefits of making the cuts.

Ultimately, Krugman comes to the conclusion that the economics of climate protection look quite easy. Now the question is how the report will be received, and then whether the regulations pass.

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