Archives for Boston



“Under the Medical Tent at the Boston Marathon”

That is the title of an essay by Sushrut Jangi, in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Suddenly, there was a loud, sickening blast. My ears were ringing, and then — a long pause. Everyone in the tent stopped and looked up. A dehydrated woman grabbed my wrist. “What was that?” she cried. “Don’t leave.” I didn’t move. John Andersen, a medical coordinator, took the microphone. “Everybody stay with your patients,” he said, “and stay calm.” Then we smelled smoke — a dense stench of sulfur — and heard a second explosion, farther off but no less frightening. Despite the patient’s plea, I walked out the back of the tent and saw a crowd running from a cloud of smoke billowing around the finish line. “There are bombs,” a woman whispered. My hands began to shake. …

At the tent, I stood in a crowd of doctors, awaiting victims, feeling choked by the smoke drifting along Boylston. Through the haze, the stretchers arrived; when I saw the first of the wounded, I was overwhelmed with nausea. An injured woman — I couldn’t tell whether she was conscious — lay on the stretcher, her legs entirely blown off. Blood poured out of the arteries of her torso; I saw shredded arteries, veins, ragged tissue and muscle. Nothing had prepared me for the raw physicality of such unnatural violence. During residency I had seen misery, but until that moment I hadn’t understood how deeply a human being could suffer; I’d always been shielded from the severe anguish that is all too common in many parts of the world.

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Saving Boston’s Long Wharf Park From Extinction

Have you visited the beautiful and historic Long Wharf Park on Boston Harbor? And what do you do when the government goes rogue?

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), in defiance of the Massachusetts Constitution, is trying to turn Long Wharf Park into a late-night restaurant and bar. The Massachusetts Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before public parkland can be converted to other uses. The vote has not happened, and the BRA is telling the world that it is unneeded. As featured in today’s Boston Globe, ten local residents, including me, have been trying to force the government to obey the constitution. Read More »



Wanted: Boston and Philadelphia Travel Tips

The boy is entering fifth-grade, which concentrates on American history (finally!). And so we are road-tripping to Boston and then Philadelphia to see what we can see. As you all have given me fantastic advice re Vegas, D.C., and Beijing, I turn to you once again for tips about things to see, do, eat, avoid, and celebrate in these two wonderful American cities. All advice appreciated; no ideas too absurd (or commonplace). I’ll send some swag to whoever supplies the most valuable tip in each city. Thanks!



Want to Jump-Start the Housing Market? Get Rid of the Realtors!

Okay, okay, that’s not quite the message of a new working paper by Panle Jia Barwick and Parag A. Pathak called “The Costs of Free Entry: An Empirical Study of Real Estate Agents in Greater Boston.” But for those of us who have thought about the Realtor’s role in the housing market, it’s tempting to jump to that conclusion. Here’s the full version of the study, and here’s the abstract:

This paper studies the real estate brokerage industry in Greater Boston, an industry with low entry barriers and substantial turnover. Using a comprehensive dataset of agents and transactions from 1998-2007, we find that entry does not increase sales probabilities or reduce the time it takes for properties to sell, decreases the market share of experienced agents, and leads to a reduction in average service quality. These empirical patterns motivate an econometric model of the dynamic optimizing behavior of agents that serves as the foundation for simulating counterfactual market structures. A one-half reduction in the commission rate leads to a 73% increase in the number of houses each agent sells and benefits consumers by about $2 billion. House price appreciation in the first half of the 2000s accounts for 24% of overall entry and a 31% decline in the number of houses sold by each agent. Low cost programs that provide information about past agent performance have the potential to increase overall productivity and generate significant social savings.

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The FREAK-est Links

Submit your entries for the new NASA slogan. Will humans evolve based on high carb diets? (Earlier) The latest in prediction markets: how good will a new product be? Vote for the future of Boston’s energy, design and healthcare. Read More »