- BETTER FRIDAYS, BETTER EVERYTHING -

Long Time, No E-Mail

2016-04-02

A back from the dead FTB - 

A slow news cycle and a busy day job has kept Taro and I quiet on the Friday e-mail, but better late than never on the first FTB in four weeks. Some important programming notes before we get started.

FTB is Now Once a Month

A couple of you have had solid feedback regarding the subject matter of this e-mail being repetitive. As one of my friends put it (I'm paraphrasing): "FTB e-mails sound like someone who used to work in banking and now works in tech. Some stock news, Elon Musk and cybersecurity, blah blah blah." This criticism is nearly 100% true, so I'm scaling back our e-mail frequency to once a month in hopes of making these e-mails a little more diverse. In fact, this week's email is almost entirely composed of reader recommendations. As always, if you have good reads, send them forward. Or else you'll be subject to more links about the Model 3 unveiling.

And if You Need a T-Shirt, I Have 50 of Them

Taro and I sunk a decent chunk of change into (what I feel) are some pretty amateur-hour t-shirts, so come and get them for free. First come, first serve.

A Long Read on All Things Foreign Policy

Easily the best magazine piece I've read this year is Jeffrey Goldberg's Atlantic piece on Obama's foreign policy views (a 20 minute read, but worth the time). Goldberg isn't hesistant in pushing Obama for answers, and the results are some really candid quotes from the president and writing that looks beyond soundbites / click baiting.  Most interesting here is Goldberg's analysis of why Obama did not stand pat on his line in the sand after Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria. There's fantastic inside baseball here on the differing views of Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Leo Panetta, and how all of them tried to influence Obama in different directions on Syria. This article is a testament to how difficult being president is. 

On a related note, a tip of the hat to FTB loyalist Zach for this NYT op-ed on how ISIS has become a major security threat to Europe. We often take for granted how large the continental United States is and that we don't have to share much security protocol with other countries. This excerpt made me appreciate that privilege:

European security services are overwhelmed. Terrorists are free to cross Europe’s open borders, but security relationships are often far more confined. European security services often do not share lists of suspects and they do not have a common system for transliterating Arabic names.

Finally, for the podcast inclined, a FTB clap for John on recommending the Foreign Policy Editor's Roundtable. It is on my short list of things to listen to.

The SAT Asterisk

Robb tipped me off on this insane story of College Board turning its head the other way after SAT tests were leaked. Just like the 20-30 HR hitters of the 90s, we can all stand a little bit taller knowing that many of our peers were likely cheating on the SAT, and because it's a curved test, the impact is only compounded. There's at least 8 known instances since late 2013 of legitimate SAT material floating around online before the test date, and 14 instances when SAT content was publicly exposed before an international (read: post US) taking of the test. A little taste of this one:

Known in Chinese as a jijing, the booklet was essentially an answer key. It revealed words from the correct responses to multiple-choice questions that had appeared on past SATs - many of which would be used again on the exam Ding took.

Thanks to the booklet, Ding said he already knew the answers to about half of the critical reading section of the SAT when he took the test in Hong Kong in December 2013.

“I felt really lucky,” Ding said.

His score on that section? A perfect 800, he said.

So how do these documents leak, and why is cheating so rampant? One theory the article dances around is that US colleges are increasingly reliant on non-US students for revenue, and the bulk of the cheating incidents are happening in China (which, to be fair, makes sense as it's the SAT's largest market). 

Analyzing the Anti Start-up Bias

A nod to Andrew for sending me this Fortune article that's a rebuttal from an employee who used to work with Hubspot in response to some pointed criticism of the company and start-up "culture" in general. I like the general idea here as no matter how far culture veers from traditional norms (and we're getting there with unlimited PTO, dogs in the office, free beer, etc.), a start-up's survivial is dependent on the quality of their work. In that respect, culture really only matters to the extent that it creates a superior product.

We'll be back next month hopefully with some baseball reads and other stuff people find interesting. I can't guarantee Elon Musk or the stock market won't make an appearance.

To a solid April,

Ben