8 Fascinating Reads

Good reads, short quotes.

Aug 30, 2014 at 9:45AM

Here are eight fascinating things I read this week. 

Subsidies

Ivy League schools could stop charging tuition for most students:

Harvard ... is sitting on an endowment worth $1,240,548 per student. A 5 percent return on that money — and Harvard historically has earned about 12 percent — would generate $62,027 a year, more than enough to cover the $59,950 sticker price for a year at Harvard. It makes you wonder why the school charges lower-income students any tuition at all.... Princeton and Yale both have even bigger endowment per student ratios than Harvard, but charge low- and middle-income students double, triple, or quadruple as much. 

Experience

Ivring Kahn is 108 years old and still invests professionally: 

Mr Kahn said: "In the Thirties Ben Graham and others developed security analysis and the concept of value investing, which has been the focus of my life ever since. Value investing was the blueprint for analytical investing, as opposed to speculation."

Graham was a lecturer at Columbia University in New York, where his pupils included Warren Buffett, and Mr Kahn was his teaching assistant. "They'd take the subway to Columbia together," said Tom Kahn, Irving Kahn's son, who also works for the family investment firm.

Strategy

Ben Carlson writes a good posts on loss avoidance: 

Many investors have learned the hard way that trying to beat the market over shorter time frames can be more trouble than it's worth. A singular mission to outperform can actually lead to underperformance. The same logic applies when trying to minimize losses. A sole focus on downside protection usually leads to the opportunity cost of no upside participation.

Wisdom

This is a great post on how this Charlie Munger quote may have saved one man's life:

"...tendencies are probably much more good than bad. Otherwise, they wouldn't be there, working pretty well for man, given his condition and his limited brain capacity. So the tendencies can't be simply washed out automatically, and shouldn't be. Nevertheless, the psychological thought system described, when properly understood and used, enables the spread of wisdom and good conduct and facilitates the avoidance of disaster. Tendency is not always destiny, and knowing the tendencies and their antidotes can often help prevent trouble that would otherwise occur."

Markets

This is what happens when a used textbook costs $150:

Nearly two-thirds of college students have skipped buying a course textbook at least once because it cost too much, the Student PIRGs, a nonprofit advocacy group, reported earlier this year.

Some opt instead to download textbooks illegally. A report last month by the Book Industry Study Group, an industry trade group, found that 25% of students photocopied or scanned textbooks from other students, up from 17% in 2012. The number of students who acquired textbooks from a pirate website climbed to 19% from 11%.

Patience

Warren Buffett and Ajit Jain talk about contrarianism:

Ajit: The discipline to say no, if you have that and you're not willing to let people steamroll you into saying yes. If you have that discipline, that's more than 50 percent of the battle.

Warren: Don't do anything in life where, if somebody asks you the reason why you are doing it, the answer is "Everybody else is doing it." I mean, if you cancel that as a rationale for doing an activity in life, you'll live a better life whether it's in the stock market or any place else.

Technology

Most images in IKEA's catalogs are computer generated

Today, around 75% of all IKEA's product images are CG, and they have a 'bank' of about 25,000 models. "These are all created at a ridiculously high resolution," explains Martin, "We render them in 4Kx4K, and they need to hold up to that resolution. We need to be able to do whatever we like with the renderings-print them on large walls in the stores if we need to. Even if most of them are only ever used on the website, they all have the capability to be printed very high-res."

 The first entire room image to be created in CG for one of IKEA's catalogues was in 2010. "There were a LOT of people involved in that image," says Martin. "As you can imagine, the first time you do something, everyone wants to have a look! But then the catalogue after that had four or five images and it really took off."

Inspiration

Seth Godin writes why drafting works:

The other day, a speedster on a bike passed me as I rode along the bike path. For the next ten minutes, I rode right behind him, drafting his progress.

Sure, there's an aerodynamic reason that this works--there's less wind resistance when you ride closely.

But the real reason is mental, not based on physics. Drafting works because, right in front of you is proof that you can go faster.

Without knowing it, you do this at work every day. We set our pace based on what competitors or co-workers are doing. One secret to making more of an impact, then, is figuring out who you intend to follow. Don't 'pace yourself,' instead, find someone to unknowningly pace you.

Enjoy your weekend. 

Contact Morgan Housel at mhousel@fool.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

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