logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: half-baked-reviews
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-03-15 16:53
Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design
Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design - Alvin E. Roth

[Preface/Warning: This is a long-ago unfinished review, but, in light of Lloyd Shapley's recent death, I figure it's time for me to just let it fly free as is.]

 

And let the review begin:

Well guys, I think I've discovered a real up and comer in the field of behavioral economics. Wait— what's that? He already won the Nobel Prize in Economics?!? Ok, so maybe I'm not the first to catch on to the brilliance of Alvin E. Roth (damn those Swedes for always being one step ahead of me).

 

However, the greatness of Who Gets What — and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design, Roth's first foray into “popular science” writing, isn't all about sheer intellectual horsepower. Roth (below, L) takes something complex, the economics of matching markets (markets in which price isn't the only determinant of who gets what”), and manages to make the ideas accessible without losing nuance or oversimplifying.*

Roth and Shapley by Jac Depczyk

Roth's fellow laureate, Lloyd Shapley (above, R), co-wrote a seminal paper on similar tricky transactions (those involving “indivisible” goods, without the use of money) in a 1974 issue of the Journal of Mathematical Economics with Herbert Scarf. The Scarf Shapley paper established a set of cyclical trades called “top trading cycles” in which all parties are ideally matched. I'm sure the paper is totally brilliant, but before you jump up to find a copy, just remember that, for most of us, it's…well, I'll let GOB tell you. 

 

GOB Half in English half in squiggly

So what's all the fuss about market design?

Markets are everywhere, and the role of market design is to “helps solve problems that existing marketplaces haven’t been able to solve naturally.” 

 

Kidney Swapping Fun

Roth, being the clever guy he is, starts out with a “market” in which proper matches are a matter of life and death— kidney transplants. When tasked with creating a sort of “clearinghouse” for kidney exchanges (now known as the New England Program for Kidney Exchange or NEPKE), there were several salient factors that Roth and co. had to take into account:

1. Kidneys are “indivisible goods” (you can't just give four people quarter-kidneys and tell them to go on their merry ways)

2. At least in the U.S., money can't be involved (buying kidneys falls into the category known as “repugnant transactions”)

3. There are “paired” patients and donors (people willing to donate a kidney for a relative, or friend, but whose kidneys weren't biological matches for said person)

4. Whenever humans (donors, recipients, doctors, hospital administrators) are involved, there's the possibility of “gaming the system”

kidney exchange chain

Avoiding a level of detail that I will, undoubtedly, misconstrue, I'll just tell you that Roth adeptly describes the intricacy of creating kidney swap

“‘top trading cycles,’ with the property that no group of patients and donors could go off on their own and find a cycle of trades that they liked better.”

Even if kidneys are the last thing on your mind, the challenges overcome in order to make the market: thick (by attracting lots of buyers and sellers), quick (time is of the essence, and congestion is to be avoided), and safe/secure are fairly universal.  

 

Sounds easy enough…

Ok, let's try this new knowledge on for size. Perhaps in a case that's not so far to one side of the commodities—matching market spectrum. 

Archer How Hard Could It Be

You've got your product (say, a metric tonne of it, meaning 1,000 kilos), which means you're looking for someone who wants what you have (supply, demand, nothing fancy here). 

 

What problems could a marketplace possibly have? Well, kind of a lot. In order for things to run smoothly, you have to have the right amounts of: thickness (players at the table), speed, security, and simplicity.

 

Humans, the unpredictable sneaky lot of us, pose a wide array of challenges to marketplaces and market designers. For one, there's the trust factor (security). Even with kidney swapping, they had to deal with scheduling “simultaneous” surgeries, for fear that, once a donor's patient partner had received a kidney, the donor might later renege on the offer. Though this fear turned out to be pretty unwarranted, the point is that you can't just take people at their word (or palabra, if you will). 

 

Archer palabra oc

 

Speaking of trust, how does one know that what one is buying is legit? Parties on either side of a transaction need to have “enough information in order to make an optimal decision.

With “commodities” this often takes place by way of quality control.  In fact, without quality control (think grading of flour, or maple syrup) commodities markets would have to be "matching markets," which would be highly inefficient.

 

Pseudo-conclusion:

So, yeah. This review isn't done. There are so many more Archer gifs, and so many more ideas to communicate. But, seriously, just read the book…

_________________________________

* I'm sure my review with be chock full of oversimplifications, but, then again, I'm no Nobel Laureate

† For his purposes, Roth defines these as “transactions that some people want to engage in and that are objected to by people who may not themselves experience any direct harm.”

back to top

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2016-03-07 18:00
The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry
The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry - John Feinstein

I'm a bit rusty in the art of reviewing books right now, and, though this may not mark a triumphant return for me, this read moved me enough to put that aside.

 

John Feinstein is a prolific, and talented sports writer, particularly in the college basketball world. This time last year, with the Madness of March fast-approaching, I read his Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four and found it underwhelming, to say the least. However, I can't help but think that some of that had to do with bits and pieces of this book, The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry, that Feinstein struggled to keep at bay.

 

Why? Because this is the book that Feinstein has been destined to write ever since he first met UNC coach Dean Smith circa 1976, back when Feinstein was an undergrad covering the basketball beat for his cross-town alma mater, Duke. This was a few years before the other members of the eponymous trio, Mike Krzyzewski (aka Coach K), and Jim Valvano, would make their way to North Carolina's Research Triangle, but it's apparent throughout the book, that the seeds of this story run deep for Feinstein. 

 

Actually, there are many stories within this grand narrative, which is part of what makes it so difficult to summarize in a meaningful way. With Jim Valvano's untimely death in 1993, Dean Smith's recent passing in 2015, and Coach K's continued presence as head coach of the Blue Devils, it's easy to forget that they were, in fact, contemporaries. Don't worry, I've got pics to prove it:

Dean Smith and Jim Valvano

Jim Valvano and Mike Krzyzewski

Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski

 

These pictures, of course, fail to capture the nature of their relationships for most of the time: sheer enmity. But, that's what makes this book so special— it captures an arc that we miss when we make "rivalries" out to be all about animosity. And, though there were plenty of moments that were exactly that, a goodlegendary rivalry is also built on mutual respect. 

 

You don't have to be a die-hard Duke, UNC, or NC State fan to enjoy this one. I've always been more drawn to the March MATHness side of Bracketology, and, frankly, wasn't really a sentient sporting fan for the heyday of the clashes among the Blue Devils, Tar Heels, and Wolfpack. Honestly, as I got a bit misty-eyed toward the end of the story, my thoughts went more to likes of Beowulf than to the Sweet Sixteen (which is not to say that Feinstein neglects the basketball at all— he doesn't).

 

Unless you've been living in an Air-Raid shelter for the past 30 years, I'm not spoiling anything by giving you the parting shots of the victors "cutting down the net" (each a their own time). But, there's no other way for me to close this half-baked review.

Jimmy V with the net

Coach K kissing the net

Dean Smith cutting the net

And I guess one last shot of two GOATs couldn't hurt…

Dean Smith coaches Michael Jordan

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2015-08-09 13:21
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood - William Mann

Self-righteous parents blaming the media for society's moral decay; young starlets vying for the attention of the same man; a once-beloved comedic icon falling from grace following revelations about his sordid past; celebrities suspected of committing murders most foul; stints in rehab being kept on the DL; overbearing stage mothers; and a news-hungry public with“sanity and sympathy” in short supply watching as it all unfolds. Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood has all the makings of an issue of US Weekly (though William J. Mann's writing is, I would argue, of a superior quality).

 

Unbeknownst to me, the 1922 case around which the book is centered has been famous for quite some time, with a dedicated following of armchair sleuths obsessed with each and every aspect of Taylorology (yes, that's a thing).

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor

As the headlines suggest, the victim in this case was none other than Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor young and as in 1922

Of course, none of this would be half so intriguing without a lineup of suspected celebrity murderesses, namely: Mabel Normand, Margaret “Gibby” Gibson, and Mary Miles Minter.

Mabel Gibby and Mary

Each character has a story all their own– secrets, sordid pasts, weaknesses for an illicit substance or two. Like poor little Gibby, who was driven by a promise made to her mother that someday that would “have nice things.” But, it would seem, that (at least as far as “the Church Ladies” were concerned) all of this was pretty par for the course for young starlets in the den of sin known as Tinseltown. After all, they couldn't risk being cast aside for a newer, younger model by gentlemen of loose morals. 

 

This is Why I Cant Have Nice Things OC

 

All of this indignation ties into the larger story of the fight for the very survival of Hollywood, and the men (yes, they were pretty much all men) involved. For me, these pioneering movie moguls (primarily Adolph Zukor and Marcus Loew) weren't all that compelling. However, my heart did go out to poor Will Hays, who was charged with the near-impossible task of “cleansing” the movies of their corrupting content to the satisfaction of producers and censorship advocates alike. 

Will Hays disinfecting movie business 1922

As a Serial fan, I found myself impressed by just how much information has been compiled and assembled about the case over the years (see the map of the who, what and where in Alvarado Court the night of the murder, below), all done without the luxury of a single pinging cell phone tower.

Alvarado Court Taylor Murder Map

A lack of time precludes my giving a more comprehensive tour of all the intrigue involved, but suffice it to say, that if “the Dawn of Hollywood” piques your interest, you won't be disappointed.

 

Bonus Archer gif:

Archer Burt Reynolds Back to Tinseltown OC

 

 

[Sidenote: This belongs in a series of what I will refer to as “half-baked reviews.” There are more than I care to admit (some from so long ago that I barely remember where I was going with them), but, at this rate, by the time I actually finish them, books probably won't even be “a thing” anymore.]

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?