A sociocultural comparison of Japanese and American high schools

Any anime appreciator has surely asked themselves: “Are Japanese high schools really like this?” After reading Thomas P. Rohlen’s Japan’s High Schools, I would be inclined to respond, “yes.”

In 1983, Rohlen published an anthropological study of the Japanese high school system based on a year’s worth of fieldwork across five different Japanese high schools in the city of Kobe. Upon reading this account of Japanese high school life, I could not help but draw comparisons to the American high school system ー comparisons which are deeply unflattering to America! Despite wide criticism of its inflexible, exam-focused educational system, the portrait of Japanese students in Rohlen’s study was striking in its description of their independence and extracurricular engagement.

High school is typically considered to be a formative gateway into the adult life of a university student. This is all the more true in Japan, where the admissions process sorts students into tiers of vastly differing abilities, in stark contrast to the robust mixing of socioeconomic classes in elementary and middle schools. I summarize some particular areas of interest below, which I hope to be of as much interest to my reader as they were to me.

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Lessons from Citadel’s “Market Lens” reports

Citadel Securities, one of the world’s preeminent market-making firms, occasionally publishes short reports as part of an ongoing “Market Lens” series. Although relatively short, they are easy to read and contain interesting and unique analyses which are probably difficult for non-HFT entities to reproduce. For example, they discuss topics such as the effect of tick size on bid/ask spreads, HFT overall on market liquidity, continuous trading vs. frequent batch auctions, and so on. Below, I will briefly highlight several interesting points from each of their publications.

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A response to Tyler Cowen’s “Classical liberalism vs. The New Right”

I am a loyal reader of the economist Tyler Cowen’s blog Marginal Revolution, and so I was pleased to see Tyler lay out his thoughts on classical liberalism vs. the New Right in a recent post. However, I feel that he underrates the descriptive accuracy of the New Right’s criticisms, even though I largely agree with him from a prescriptive perspective.

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My recipe for homemade bagels

This is a recipe for homemade bagels that I have used many times with great success. The key is to age the poolish for a couple days, let the formed bagels proof in the fridge for an extended duration, and boil them in water with barley malt syrup added.

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Limited evidence for neurotoxic effects of popper usage

“Poppers,” or inhaled alkyl nitrites, constitute a class of quasi-legal recreational drugs used to enhance sexual experience primarily through their vasodilatory effects. Thus far, the risks of alkyl nitrite inhalation remain poorly understood among the population of recreational users. Two concerns about potential neurotoxicity are often raised: first, comparison to other classes of inhaled organic solvents, and second, reference to a murine study by Cha et al. in 2016. These concerns do not appear to be well-founded. However, isopropyl nitrites specifically, rather than isobutyl or amyl nitrites, are known to cause adverse ophthalmic reactions and may pose a general neurotoxic risk. If isopropyl nitrites are avoided and recreational use is sufficiently limited, overall neurotoxic risk appears low.

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A practical, low-cost supplementation regime of vitamins C, B2, and E before recreational use of alkyl nitrates as partial prophylaxis against adverse effects

“Poppers,” or inhaled alkyl nitrites, are commonly used recreationally to enhance sexual experience. Usage of inhaled nitrites is associated with both acute and chronic toxicity, but understanding of practical risk management strategies remains poor.1 Here, we examine one of the primary adverse effects of inhaled nitrites, methemoglobinemia. Drawing from an extensive assortment of published data, we propose that recreational users of poppers take oral antioxidant supplements (3 g vitamin C, 400 mg vitamin B2, and 800 mg vitamin E) two hours before anticipated usage. This supplementation regime has the potential to modestly ameliorate short-term methemoglobinemia associated with inhalation of alkyl nitrites.

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On the supposed “nihilism” of the Mango Markets arbitrageur

For those unfamiliar with the context, Mango Markets recently lost ~$110m as a result of a series of trades performed by Avraham Eisenberg. A portion of the money was subsequently returned, so that depositors will be made whole, and the exchange itself will take on the remaining shortfall. These “open market operations” have been variously characterized as “market manipulation,” etc.

I would like to respond to various claims made by people such as Matt Levine or Evgeny Gaevoy that these “open market operations” represent a sort of “nihilistic” or perhaps “classless” behavior. In general, these comments seem misguided. I explain why below.

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Legal justification of the backdoor & mega backdoor Roth

This document summarizes statutory provisions of the Internal Revenue Code in conjunction with IRS guidance pertaining to the popular “backdoor Roth” and “mega backdoor Roth” strategies. These strategies allow for fuller utilization of the tax-privileged retirement savings account known as the Roth IRA.

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A translation of Iwamura Tooru’s “A Great Scream” (大叫喚)

From the Minato City website:

1870-1917. Art historian and art critic. The firstborn son of a government official, Takatoshi Iwamura. From 1888, for five years he studied art in the United States and Europe. In Europe he learned painting techniques and read the history of Western art at the Academie Julien in Paris. When he returned to Japan, he formed the Hakubakai with Kiyoteru Kuroda, whom he met in Paris. He later became a professor at the Tokyo Art School (now the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). He also served as judge for a Ministry of Education art exhibition and devoted himself to founding the National Association of Art.

This short story was published in 1909. Source text.

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A translation of Hu Shih’s 1926 essay, “Our Attitude toward Modern Civilization”

Hu Shih (胡適) was an influential Chinese essayist who was known for, among other achievements, his harsh criticisms of traditional Chinese culture and proposals to adopt valorous aspects of modern Western culture.
Hu Shih 1960 color.jpg

He was a promoter of the use of the vernacular language an ardent critic of filial piety; all-in-all, he was a highly controversial but influential figure whose writings served as the basis of China’s New Culture Movement (新文化運動) in the 1920s.

What follows below is a translation of Hu Shih’s 1926 essay, Our Attitude toward Modern Western Civilization (我們對於西洋近代文明的態度), as it appears in The Hu Shi Reader published by Yale University’s Far Eastern Publications. This essay’s foreign perspective on Western and American culture in the early 20th century, as well as its contrasting illumination of classical Chinese thought, should prove interesting to any person curious about the course of radical transformation that Chinese society underwent throughout the 1900s.

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