Monday 26 September, 2022

The Valley

The head of the Langdale Valley, Friday.

Quote of the Day

“A writer’s ambition should be to trade a hundred contemporary readers for ten readers in ten years’ time and for one reader in a hundred years.”

  • Arthur Koestler, 1951, in a New York Times book review.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Eric Clapton | Autumn Leaves


Seems appropriate at the end of a lovely seasonal break.

Long Read of the Day

 Princeton University is the world’s first Perpetual Motion Machine

I’ve long been sceptical of the esteem enjoyed by Ivy League universities, and for years have regularly referred to Harvard as “a hedge fund with a nice university attached”. But it turns out that Harvard is no longer the leading player in this league. A shocked Malcolm Gladwell (he of the $50k lecture fee) has discovered that Princeton is now the leading practitioner in the education racket with Harvard coming in a poor second.

Princeton University has an endowment of $37.7 billion. Over the past 20 years, the average annual return for the endowment has been 11.2 percent. Let us give Princeton the benefit of the doubt and assume that at least some of that was luck and maybe unsustainable, and that a more reasonable prediction going forward would be that Princeton can average a return on its investments of an even 10 percent a year. That puts Princeton’s endowment return next year at roughly $3.77 billion.

Now—what is Princeton’s annual operating budget? $1.86 billion. The arithmetic here is not hard. $3.77 billion in investment income minus $1.86 billion in operating expenses leaves you with $1.91 billion.

Princeton could let in every student for free. The university administrators could tell the U.S. government and all of its funding agencies, “It’s cool. We got this.”

They could take out the cash registers in the cafeteria, hand out free parking to all visitors, give away Princeton sweatshirts on Nassau Street, and fire their entire accounts receivable staff and their entire fundraising staff tomorrow. They could say to every one of the hardworking professors on their staff: “You never have to spend even a second writing a grant proposal again.” Free at last! Free at last!

So the question becomes: will Princeton do this? Is the Pope a Muslim?

Read it and wonder. What is the point of these Ivy League outfits? Or, at the very least, why do they still charge exorbitant tuition fees? Harvard’s tuition fee this year is $52,659.

Adobe can’t Photoshop out the fact its $20bn Figma deal is a naked land grab

Yesterday’s Observer column:

So why would Adobe want to lay out such a mountain of cash to acquire this minnow? The answer is that its leaders are thinking ahead and they see a strategic threat in the making. In the networked world, more and more work is being done by geographically dispersed teams who have to collaborate online. And in that context, project management and the creation of workflows that are efficient, user-friendly and agile is moving centre stage. As James Carville, Bill Clinton’s strategist, might have said: “It’s the workflow, stupid!”

And Figma, to all intents and purposes, already owns that workflow space, whereas Adobe only makes tools that people use…

Read on

My commonplace booklet

Outside a village shop in the Lake District.

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