This is great:
My brother gave me a Fitbit One for my birthday back in August. I was initially skeptical about where or not I’d find it useful, and actually didn’t even start using it until 3 weeks ago. It’s an activity tracker, which essentially logs daily steps walked and stairs climbed using an accelerometer. It’s less accurate than GPS based apps such as RunKeeper, but the benefit is that you just keep in on a belt or in my case in a pocket, and it just passively logs what you do. And the USB-based rechargeable battery lasts about a week.
I was skeptical because while this type of information might initially be interesting, it doesn’t really serve much of a long-term purpose unless it changes behavior. And I didn’t think it could. But I was wrong.
Very quickly I realized that while I have a reasonably active routine — I run a few times a week and walk a few miles to and from work each day — there are some outlier days in which I don’t get much exercise at all such as a lazy Saturday or a rainy weekday when I take the train to work. I’ve stuck to the default daily goal of 10k steps (~4-5 miles), so on these days I’ve done something active to make sure I hit the goal. I also seem to be finding more excuses to go for walks to keep my daily averages high. I doubt I’ll use it indefinitely, but so far, I like it.
Here’s what the weekly summaries look like:
I crushed Dan (although he was on vacation this past week). The daily reporting is well done too, but I only found it interesting for the first week or so.
As previously mentioned, I’ve begun the One Month Rails course to learn a little bit about coding. Unfortunately, given some time constraints, it’s looking more like it will be a Three Month Rails course. I’m about a third of the way in, and so far, I like it a lot. The quality isn’t impressive, the narrator isn’t too polished, and there are lots of small mistakes or oversights (especially for PC users), but the method is great. It’s much more practice than theory, providing only the necessary context, while putting focus on resources, tools, frameworks, etc that are necessary to build applications (e.g., using GitHub). The benefit of this approach is that within less than an hour, you already have an application with a solid foundation even though it doesn’t do anything yet. I’ll provide a more comprehensive update at some point, and will hopefully share the app I’m developing when I complete the course.
I found this post from the ‘Philosophical Economics’ blog to be very thoughtful. It offers some interesting ways of thinking about equity price levels, and what drives them. The author makes a convincing argument that despite the fact that many believe price changes are largely a function of valuation multiples (e.g., P/E ratios), they are actually caused by relative changes in the aggregate investor allocation to equities.
Essentially, the post makes the case that aggregate demand for equities as a proportion of all financial securities — or average asset allocation to equity across all investor portfolios — does a much better job of explaining subsequent returns than traditional mean-reversion metrics. When demand for equities in aggregate increases (decreases), expected future returns decrease (increase). This is because equity allocations cannot fall below zero or rise above 100%, and in practice they generally fall between 25-50%.
For example, if the current equity allocation level is high, this implies that there’s much more room for the level to decrease rather than rise over a medium term time horizon. When it does decrease, the excess supply will drive down prices and thus returns. This chart shows the strength of the relationship:
The post is long, but the arguments are carefully constructed and compelling.
Happy near year! Thanks to all my followers for continuing to support this site. While my written posts definitely declined in 2013 — in part due to a more intense schedule — I began providing Adobe Lightroom Preset downloads which drove quite a bit of traffic growth last year.
I spent a little time today analyzing the data, looking at which presets were downloaded when, and came up with a few visuals to share. In total, there were over 44k free downloads of my presets in just over a year (this doesn’t count the subset of paid downloads). Here’s a high level interactive view across all the presets:
Speakeasy, Behind the Scenes, and Bright Eyes were clearly the most popular. Looking at daily downloads over time shows a trend of increased downloads as I added more presets early in the year. There’s a lull in the summer when I didn’t add many, and then they pick up again later in the year when I added some new ones:
Finally, I thought it would be interesting to view cumulative downloads by preset over time. The slope of the curve shows the rate at which total downloads for each preset grew. Speakeasy and Behind the Scenes were added months after my first bunch, but grew to be the first and third most popular downloads by the spring:
Fun with data. If you’re interested, you can check out and download my Lightroom presets here. Again, happy new year and thanks to everyone who supports this site!
The NYT has a brief survey that seems to be effective at predicting the origin of the way you speak. Not surprisingly, mine shows up as just generic Boston/NY/NJ. Interestingly, a friend who’s from Tennessee, but spent a good portion of his childhood in Europe around a fairly diverse community of English speakers, was told his dialect’s origin is a mix of Northern Tennessee (the exact region he’s from), the Midwest, and San Francisco. The latter two likely being s lot of what he picked up in Europe. He was very impressed that it was able to tease out the specific Tennessee portion. It seemed to work very well for his family as well. If you have a few minutes, give it a try.
Here’s my result:
Magazine writers in the 1960’s probably didn’t think their content would be easily accessible, searchable in fact, more than 40 years later. The internet is an amazing thing. My good friend Ed recently sent along a fairly negative 1969 review of Led Zeppelin I that was written by John Mendelsohn and published in Rolling Stone magazine:
“The latest of the British blues groups so conceived offers little that its twin, the Jeff Beck Group, didn’t say as well or better three months ago, and the excesses of the Beck group’s Truth album (most notably its self-indulgence and restrictedness), are fully in evidence on Led Zeppelin’s debut album.
Jimmy Page, around whom the Zeppelin revolves, is, admittedly, an extraordinarily proficient blues guitarist and explorer of his instrument’s electronic capabilities. Unfortunately, he is also a very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs, and the Zeppelin album suffers from his having both produced it and written most of it (alone or in combination with his accomplices in the group).”
With hindsight, it’s mildly amusing given Zeppelin’s subsequent recognition and fame, but not all that surprising — innovative music takes some time to catch. And there are plenty of stories of early critics predicting Zeppelin’s downfall (tangentially related — this Radiolab episode has a good historical anecdote about an audience rioting after hearing some innovative classical music).
But out of curiosity, I immediately searched to see if John had reviewed Led Zeppelin II, which in fact he had. Eight months later here’s what he had to say about the album and Jimmy Page:
“Hey, man, I take it all back! This is one fucking heavyweight of the album! OK — I’ll concede that until you’ve listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it’s just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides. But, hey! you’ve got to admit that the Zeppelin has their distinctive and enchanting formula down stone-cold, man. Like you get the impression they could do it in their sleep.
And who can deny that Jimmy Page is the absolute number-one heaviest white blues guitarist between 5’4″ and 5’8″ in the world?? Shit, man, on this album he further demonstrates that he could absolutely fucking shut down any whitebluesman alive, and with one fucking hand tied behind his back too.”
The review goes on, and if anything, becomes even more over the top. Looks like he came around.
A friend recently sent me a link to ShootTokyo, a nicely done photography blog from a Boston ex-pat now living in Japan. He captures people very well, something I strive to focus on more often when I shoot, and I find his use of colors, or lack of use, very thoughtful. I’d imagine that in addition to his composition approach, his results are also a combination his post production work and his use of a Leica. I’ve always wanted to try out a Leica.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Check out more here.