Pinterest visits level off

pinterest

Great article in the WSJ about Pinterest, visitors, and sales.

  • Customers referred by Pinterest spent 2X per order ($140-$180) than those coming from Facebook, and 3X per order than those coming from Twitter. Source: RichRelevance
  • Unique visitors to Pinterest via desktop machines has leveled-off in the past year. This does not take into account mobile visits. Source: comScore

Very interesting implications: Pinterest could be a very lucrative site to advertise for retailers, as their monetization strategy ramps-up. However, the scale may be much smaller than Facebook and Twitter, and growth may be leveling-off.

NY Giants QBs

2 QBs have started for the New York Giants since 2004. Name them. Answer in the comments.

We at Pacific Northwest-Coast Bias approve of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s baby’s name: North West

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/kim-kanye-baby-north-west-inspires-jokes-stars-article-1.1378966

Peer-to-Peer Lending and Community Banks

Check out my recent post over at Peer Lending Advisors on Peer-to-Peer Lending and what Lending Club’s partnership with community banks means for P2P Lending and banking in general.

http://www.peerlendingadvisors.com/what-community-banks-signing-on-with-lending-club-means-the-future-of-p2p-lending-and-banking-in-general/

Dwight Howard has missed more free throws this season than Steve Nash has his entire career

I was stunned by USA Today’s stat: Dwight Howard has missed more free throws this season than Steve Nash has in his career. Surely, this can’t be true – the mainstream media must be mistaken. I dug into the data.

Dwight Howard is an abysmal free throw shooter

Dwight Howard is shooting 48.6% this season. Absolutely terrible. He has the distinction of missing 14 in a game this season, and 2 games each missing 12, 11, and 10 free throws.

In fact, he’s a full 9 percentage points worse than the worst free throw shooting teams in the NCAA.

Dwight Howard 1

Nash really has missed fewer in his career than Howard this season

Nash is fantastic. He has hit a full 90.4% of his free throws, and has indeed only missed 322 shots EVER.

Here’s the plot of Nash’s career (blue) vs. Howard this season (orange).

howard nash

 

How critical is Aaron Craft’s play to The Buckeyes’ success?

Aaron Craft is a thrill to watch, unless you’re opposing him; then he’s an absolute terror. He’s also been inconsistent on offense. I wondered, if Aaron Craft has an off-day shooting, how does that impact the Buckeye’s chances?

Craft is consistent on defense

In the Buckeyes’ 34 games (27-7), Craft has averaged 2.1 steals per game (a stat that greatly discounts the turnovers he creates each game). How does this break down in games the Buckeyes won and lost?

Aaron Craft Defense

Craft is remarkably consistent. He always brings his A-game on defense.

Offense is a different story

While Craft is stoic on defense, his offense is much more variable. Craft shoots almost 50% better in wins than in Buckeye losses.

Aaron Craft Offense

 

Of Aaron Craft’s 7 worst shooting games this year, 4 were losses (and 2 were blowouts).

Aaron Craft Offense by Game

 

Clearly, the Buckeyes need Craft to shoot well, in addition to leading the defense.

How does Craft compare to Deshaun Thomas?

Deshaun Thomas is the Buckeyes’ leading scorer. I wondered, how does variations in his performance affect the Buckeyes’ chances of winning?

Thomas is as consistent on offense as Craft is on Defense. There’s no difference in his shooting percentage in wins and losses.

Aaron Craft Deshaun Thomas

So, as you’re watching the Buckeyes in the NCAA tournament over the next few weeks, the key will be to watch Aaron Craft’s offense. If he has a strong offensive game, it bodes well for their chances. And if he’s cold from the floor, look out.

 

Why are bond yields so low?

I was reading an article about the plunge in interest rates on junk bonds and wondered, are bond rates low, and if so, why?

I looked at AAA-rated Corporate Bonds (the highest-quality) and BAA-rated Corporate Bonds (medium-grade) as rated by Moody’s Investors Service, as that data was most readily available, to see if bond rates are down. Definitions:

  • AAA: Bonds rated Aaa are judged to be of the best quality. They carry the smallest degree of investment risk and are generally referred to as “gilt edged.” Interest payments are protected by a large or by an exceptionally stable margin and principal is secure. While the various protective elements are likely to change, such changes as can be visualized are most unlikely to impair the fundamentally strong position of such issues.
  • BAA: Bonds rated Baa are considered as medium-grade obligations (i.e., they are neither highly protected nor poorly secured). Interest payments and principal security appear adequate for the present, but certain protective elements may be lacking or may be characteristically unreliable over any great length of time. Such bonds lack outstanding investment characteristics and in fact have speculative characteristics as well.

Bond rates are low

Indeed, they are at historic lows – it’s cheaper for a corporation to borrow money now than at any point since 1956.

Bond Yields Historic

Interestingly, it’s cheaper for a BAA rated company to borrow money today than it was for a AAA rated company to borrow money back in 2011. Think about that. Companies that are up against the wall today (e.g. Best Buy and Dell who are both BAA rated companies and examining buy-outs) can borrow money cheaper than the top companies in the world could in 2011 (think Exxon and Johnson & Johnson – two of the largest and most stable companies out there).

Bond Yields Historic recent

If you think of countries instead of companies, the distinction is much clearer. AAA countries include Switzerland and Germany. BAA countries include many of the “PIIGS” – Spain, Italy, and Ireland. To think that the equivalent of Italy today can borrow at the same rate as Germany could in 2011 is absurd, but true.

Why are yields so low?

This is not an easy question to answer, and there’s a lot going on.

First, 4 rounds of quantitative easing by the federal reserve is having a big impact on bond prices. The bond market is just like any market – it’s driven by supply and demand. And when the Federal Reserve prints $85 billion each month to buy bonds, suddenly there’s more demand than supply. Bond yields decrease to the market-clearing rate.

There’s more going on though. Because bond rates are down, investors have to take on more risk to get the same return. In the competitive market of asset management, there’s belief that similar to before the housing bust, managers are taking bigger risks by buying lower-rated bonds, juicing their portfolio for the short term, but adding risk.

Additionally, there is still a “flight to security” going on. While a BAA bond is only medium grade, it is a lot better than the prospects of some sovereign debt and equity like in Greece. Suddenly, in a tough market, lower-rated bonds become more appealing.

How low will interest rates go?

I don’t know (hypothetically I calculated 30-year morgage rates could reach 2.75%), but there’s not much room below. I wouldn’t buy any bonds at the moment.

At what race distance could the women’s world record be faster than the men’s?

Women and men were created differently. Men hold faster world records than women for every running distance (as tracked by wikipedia).

I wondered, as the distance gets longer, does the margin decline between men and women?

Methodology: I looked at world records from wikipedia to find the difference between men and women at different distances. I used a logarithmic chart below, which is a little more intuitive given the exponentially increasing distance. Note the regression will not look like a straight line due to the logarithmic horizontal axis (linear scale chart is included at the end of the post).

Men vs women world records by race distance 2

Findings:

  • From the 100 meter dash to a marathon, men appear to progressively get faster than women. This is not what I was expecting. I thought men would be much faster than women at shorter distances due to sheer muscle mass, but as the length got longer, women would be closer.
  • This didn’t start to occur until after the marathon. For the double marathon (second dot from the right), men are only 10% faster. And for the 100K Ultramarathon, women are much more competitive, coming in within 5% of the men’s time.

At what distance could a women’s world record be faster than the men’s?

Methodology: I used the linear regression equation in the chart above to extrapolate what would happen at longer distances. The model was a pretty good fit, having an R-squared of 0.67.

Findings: Women could beat the men’s world record @ 200k. The model suggests the tipping point is 199k. Anything above that, and women should be on an equal playing field.

A 200k is about 124 miles, which, if running 7 minute miles, would be 14 hours of continuous running. I couldn’t find an example of a continuous 200k race on the Internet, but who knows, it could exist. If there is one, I wouldn’t be surprised if a women took home top prize.

Men vs women world records by race distance - linear scale

The Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree is in need of pruning

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is a tremendous coach. His resume of wins and titles speaks for itself (his 11,000+ word biography on Duke.com is a different matter).

I wondered, what does his coaching tree look like? Has his success propagated to his former assistants?

Coach K’s coaching tree has a couple solid branches, but it’s in need of pruning.

I would argue 4 coaches have achieved pretty successful coaching careers after being Duke Assistants (or in Jeff Capel’s case, players).

  • Mike Brey – Brey went on to coach at Delaware, and then onto Notre Dame. Under Brey, Notre Dame has been a constant contender for the NCAA Tournament
  • Johnny Dawkins – Stanford has a proud basketball tradition, and while Dawkins hasn’t wow-ed anyone yet, just sticking around in Men’s College Basketball is an accomplishment
  • Tommy Amaker – While Michigan showed him the boot, Amaker found success at Seton Hall and again at Harvard, where he has built the team into a perennial Ivy League powerhouse and an upset-favorite come tournament time
  • Jeff Capel – On the downside, former Duke player Capel has come full circle, and is back under Krzyzewski, now as assistant coach. On the upside, he had several successful seasons at VCU, and moved on to Oklahoma. He’s a recruiting powerhouse, bringing in players like Blake Griffin and Eric Maynor.

However, all the other branches are dead. Other coaches that studied under Krzyzewski (and downstream) did not have long tenures, including at Missouri, Delaware, Toledo, Rutgers, and UNC-Greensboro.

How does this compare to the top coach in College Football?

While football is a bit of a different animal, I wondered how Krzyzewski’s tree stacked up to the likes of Nick Saban.

Surprisingly, it looks pretty similar. There are many branches coming off the Nick Saban coaching tree, and many have been successful. Will Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher, Jason Garret, and Mike McCarthy are huge names. But similar to Coach K, there are many dead branches. Pat Shumer, Mike Mularky, and Derek Dooley were all fired this year.

Why are there so many dead branches coming off of successful coaches?

Athletic Directors are more willing to take a chance on an assistant studying under a successful coach. For example, when you’re VCU and looking for a marquis coach, you pick the Jeff Capel or Anthony Grant (Billy Donovan’s assistant), hoping you picked the right guy. But for every Mike Brey there’s a Quin Snyder.

For bigger-name schools, I believe a superior strategy is to pick a successful head coach in a lower division/league. Ohio State has found great success with that approach for both football and basketball, recently with Jim Tressel (Youngstown State) and Thad Matta (Xavier).

Don’t blame Coach K for his wilted coaching tree. Blame the hiring athletic directors.

Michael Jackson’s albums: Thriller was the outlier

Don’t judge me: I caught bits and pieces of Dancing With The Stars while my wife was watching, and they dedicated the show to Michael Jackson’s album, Bad. Honestly, I was surprised – I didn’t think that was a very good album (except for Smooth Criminal). I wondered, was Bad really a good album, and I just remembered it incorrectly?

No, Bad wasn’t THAT good

To sell 8 M copies of an album is great. But it’s not that great if you’re Michael Jackson. Which albums sold more copies than Bad? The list is numerous – over 100, and includes such winners as Nelly’s Country Grammar, Will Smith’s Big Willie Style, MC Hammer, Jewel, N’Sync, and the list goes on and on. Bad actually sold 70% fewer copies than Thriller. And the trajectory after Thriller was steeply downward.

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