MILITARY MEMBERS CAN GET ANNUAL FEES WAIVED AT CAPITAL ONE: Thanks to the Military Frequent Flyer for pointing out a nice feature of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. (And let’s not forget about getting Amex and Chase annual fees waived, either.) That Venture 50,000 point offer has apparently expired, but a fee waiver would be nice for that card.
SOME HUMOR FOR THE PFD INSIDERS: Every now and then you get a reminder of how foreign and strange the point-collecting hobby is to many people. The most enjoyable moment of a recent electronics store promotion came as the cashier was tallying up Mrs. PFD’s purchases. “Wow, what are you buying all these for?” the clerk cheerfully asked. “For the points!” replied my wife. The cashier’s eyes grew big. “You mean you’re going into debt just to get points?” she asked with astonishment.
SUGGESTION: Click on financial ads you see in banner advertising, search results, etc. You never know what you’re going to find! And I do mean that in a good way. Even better, once the advertising algorithms figure out that you like clicking on financial service ads, they’ll start giving you more of them.
SUCK IT, CANCER: Obamacare, understandably, has been in the headlines quite a bit recently. But much more interesting are the biological and medical discoveries that are rapidly accumulating. Case in point: this Esquire article about a new way of attacking cancer. Here’s an excerpt about a cancer patient named Stephanie, who was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and was not expected to live long:
The first thing that needs to be understood about Stephanie’s data is that there would be a lot of it. From the samples of Stephanie’s blood, the gene sequencers would generate the data about the genes in her “germline”—the genes (and the gene mutations) that she inherited from her parents and that existed in every cell of her body. From the samples sliced from her colon, the sequencers would generate data about her cancer and the mutations that produced it. But the data would be raw. It would contain millions of bits of genetic information, each one a sentence in the horror story that Stephanie’s cancer was telling—and all those sentences, at least initially, adding up to a bewildering Babel. The data would exist right on the edge of incoherence; then Schadt and his scientists would strive both to make sense of it and complicate it. That’s their trademark, and why they need a supercomputer. The genes that Stephanie was born with would be compared with the genes that were driving Stephanie’s cancer. The genes that were driving Stephanie’s cancer would be compared with the vast libraries of reference data-bases that already exist on all kinds of cancers. Then they would be plotted against the “network models” that the Icahn Institute is constructing, the millions of individual data points mined for their billions and even trillions of connections.
Stephanie’s cancer hasn’t been cured, but thanks to some cutting-edge medical and bioinformatics work she’s got more time to live.
You’re no doubt familiar with Moore’s Law, the idea that computer processing speeds double roughly every two years. Well, something similar is happening with the cost of sequencing an entire human genome:
As you can see, the cost of reading a genome has gone from $100 million to about the cost of a used car in only a decade. The thousand-dollar genome should be here quite soon, maybe this year. Fascinating stuff, yes? If you’re curious, there’s some good reading about this stuff for the non-scientific crowd over at Mauldin Economics. As John Mauldin puts it:
What does this mean? It means that more and more genomes will be sequenced and matched to individuals’ medical histories. As this database grows, advanced mathematical tools running on increasingly powerful computers will reveal genetic causes for diseases as well as individualized solutions. Truly effective personalized medicine will finally displace primitive cookie-cutter therapies.
CUTTING-EDGE FINANCIAL SERVICES: The Onion managed to score an op-ed piece by Citi’s CEO! It’s entitled, “Wait, What If We Try Giving People Home Loans They Can’t Actually Afford To Pay Off?”:
The cool thing is that it sounds kind of risky on the surface, but it actually isn’t at all! I’m telling you, I had some of my guys run the numbers on this and it’s essentially a can’t-miss. Now, I know what you’re thinking: C’mon, Mike, there’s an entire regulatory system in place to prevent us from doing this exact thing. That’s what the entire Dodd-Frank law is there for. Well, you’re right. But you know what? I have a feeling—just a hunch—that we can get around all that. In fact, that gives me another idea: Why don’t we just go through with this whole thing without any regard to the legal or ethical ramifications of our actions—especially the ethical ramifications—and then if things go south, we’ll just use the incredibly expensive, high-powered legal team we have on retainer to negotiate with SEC prosecutors so we can just pay a paltry nine-figure fine and be on our way.
It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.