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HLG Notebook | January 2015

1. Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

“The first principle for would-be networkers is to abandon all shame,” writes The Economist, in what is one of the best analyses of the fakery and flattery that lies at the heart of all networking:

Shamelessness needs to be balanced with subtlety. Pretend to disagree with your interlocutor before coming around to his point of view; that gives him a sense of mastery. Discover similar interests or experiences. People are so drawn to those like themselves that they are more likely to marry partners whose first or last names resemble their own.

 2. Goodbye, Mr. Crips

A vivid description of how gangs are disappearing from southern California. Invaluable insights into policing at work. The numbers give you an idea of the magnitude of the success:

In 2014, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that gang crime had dropped by nearly half since 2008. In 2012, L.A. had fewer total homicides (299) citywide than it had gang homicides alone in 2002 (350) and in 1992 (430)…Between 2003 and 2013, gang-related robberies in the city fell from 3,274 to 1,021; gang assaults from 3,063 to 1,611; and carjackings, a classic L.A. gang crime born during the heyday of crack, from 211 to 33.

 3. The Plague of “Technologism” 

If you can navigate through Leon Wieseltier’s signature, long-winded sentences, his essay is one of the best rebuttals to Silicon Valley’s “idolatry of data”:

There are “metrics” for phenomena that cannot be metrically measured. Numerical values are assigned to things that cannot be captured by numbers. Economic concepts go rampaging through noneconomic realms: Economists are our experts on happiness! Where wisdom once was, quantification will now be. Quantification is the most overwhelming influence upon the contemporary American understanding of, well, everything.

4. SkyMall: Obituary for a Guilty Pleasure

 

Frequent fliers might miss the airplane catalogue for motorized unicycles and inflatable dog houses. Megan McArdle explains how technology conspired with regulation to kill off the magazine that everyone secretly read:

What’s interesting is that you have a company that was done in by a combination of technological and regulatory change. The technology came first, of course: the invention of the smartphone meant that SkyMall had new competition for its audience’s eyeballs. But it seems that the FAA was keeping it on life support with the ban on electronic device use during takeoff and landing; almost as soon as the regulators changed their minds, the company entered a death spiral.

5. The Cult of “Wellness”

 

The Guardian publishes an angry (and predictably anti-corporate) screed against “the hegemonic idea of wellness.“:

We live in the age of the official promotion of “mindfulness,” the aim of which is to calm the mind to a state of bovine acceptance, where nary a thought will trouble it. The modern idea of wellness is opposed to deep thinking. Instead it encourages us all to become happily stupid athletes of capitalist productivity.

6. We Don’t Want Fries With That

 

“The rise of Chipotle and its peers isn’t just a business story,” write James Surowiecki. “It’s a story about income distribution, changes in taste, and advances in technology.” Timely analysis as McDonald’s retires a CEO the same week that Shake Shack pursues an IPO:

It might seem that the success of fast-casual was simply a matter of producing the right product at the right time. But restaurants like Chipotle and Five Guys didn’t just respond to customer demand; they also shaped it.

 

Good data throughout. One example: “The average McDonald’s customer spends around five dollars a visit; the average Chipotle check is more than twice that.”

 

The post appeared first on High Lantern Group.