I posted some notes on Red Sox and Cleveland high-A prospects yesterday (from a game on Wednesday), and my first mock draft of 2012 went up on Tuesday. I also chatted on Thursday.
I finally finished the audiobook of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail, an exhaustively researched look at the 2008 financial crisis from the perspective of executives inside the various investment banks that were teetering on the brink of collapse, as well as the perspectives of the various government executives trying to stave off a depression. It is an outstanding work of investigation, compiled from what I assume is an enormous number of sources, but the result did very little to explain the causes of the crisis (as in, how did these very bright bankers end up in such stupid positions?) and was a very dull, clinical listen.
By comparison, I listened to an audio version of Michael Lewis’ first book on the subject, The Big Short, which looked at the crisis from the perspectives of several investors who saw it coming and reaped huge rewards, and while it’s not as thorough and is significantly shorter, it was far more entertaining and yet also went more into the causes of the meltdown. Lewis is a fantastic prose writer, and even if that book shared some of the, um, sharpening tendencies he showed in Moneyball (the book, not the film), making his villains a little too villanous (even Lewis’ mother says of her son, “he never lies, but he tends to exaggerate a little”), it did more to at least start to explore some of the questions around how these large investment banks and AIG ended up in a state of virtual default. (Lewis’ heroes, and others like them, made the disaster more disastrous by betting on its inevitability, so their heroism is probably up for debate.)
Sorkin’s book concerns itself more with the egos of the players atop the major investment banks as they’re collapsing – Lehman, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, even commercial banks like Wachovia – and the quick, if not always perfect, thinking of Tim Geithner (then President of the New York branch of the Federal Reserve) and Henry “Hank” Paulsen (then Secretary of the Treasury, later succeeded by Geithner). I can’t fathom the amount of work that went into reconstructing all of these meetings and conversations … but the result is so clinical that it kept losing my attention. Sorkin’s retelling took some very dramatic events and made them feel drawn-out and dry. Maybe that’s a function of his prose; I’m more inclined to think we ended up with more detail than we needed.
Can you call a 9-year-old a psychopath? That piece, from the New York Times, might be one of the best articles I’ll read all year. Terrifying in its implications, yet thorough and quite neutral in its approach.
Preparing fugu, or blowfish, the deadly Japanese fish dish which most of you probably know from an early Simpsons episode. Japan is easing the requirements for chefs to earn licenses to prepare it.
This Tuesday’s special edition of the BBC Newshour podcast – the only podcast to which I subscribe – focused on the Bo Xilai affair, and it is a tremendous work of impartial analysis with enough context to get you up to speed. (Link is to the mp3 file itself.)
I had the debut of the Food Network series Restaurant Stakeout, featuring my favorite Vegas restaurant, Firefly, saved on the DVR, but after watching it for 20 minutes last weekend I turned it off in disgust. Turns out I had good reason to dislike the show, as there are serious allegations that the ‘reality’ show is largely staged.
I’m excited about Freshpaper, a small sheet of paper that naturally inhibits the growth of fungi on fresh produce, but its backstory is also quite interesting. Buying fresh berries, even in this dry climate, usually means eating half of it and throwing the other half in the compost bin. I just placed a small order and will report back on how it works.