David Collum is the Betty R. Miller Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and department chair at Cornell.  He specializes in organometallic chemistry with a particular expertise in the organic chemistry of lithium.  David is an avid student of markets, economics, and geopolitics and writes a Year in Review posted at Peak Prosperity and Zerohedge.  Dave has been cited in the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian and has appeared on Russia Today.

Five Good Questions: David Collum

  1. What were the 3 biggest events in 2015 (or building over the last few years) that you think will have a big impact on 2016?  What’s your long range prognosis?
  2. This is your 7th year in review that you’ve produced.  What have you learned over that time from doing this incredible amount of informational synthesis every year?  Do you dread Decembers yet?    What have you gotten most wrong?
  3. How did you get started and what insight has being an organic chemistry professor at Cornell given you?
  4. I love that at the beginning of every review, you include how your personal portfolio is positioned.  There are so many voices out there sharing their opinions in the financial world, but we never know if they have any real real conviction behind what they’re saying.  It drives me nuts.  Why are you willing to be so transparent and show your personal skin in the game?
  5. You have roughly 20% of your net worth in precious metals.  I found the fervor both for and against gold to be almost religious in nature.  What are your thoughts about gold?

David Collum – Scenic Vistas From Mount Stupid

David Collum - Scenic Vistas From Mount Stupid

David Collum’s Book Recommendation – Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a quest for the secret of success in baseball. Following the low-budget Oakland Athletics, their larger-than-life general manger, Billy Beane, and the strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts, Michael Lewis has written not only “the single most influential baseball book ever” (Rob Neyer, Slate) but also what “may be the best book ever written on business” (Weekly Standard).

“I wrote this book because I fell in love with a story. The story concerned a small group of undervalued professional baseball players and executives, many of whom had been rejected as unfit for the big leagues, who had turned themselves into one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. But the idea for the book came well before I had good reason to write it—before I had a story to fall in love with. It began, really, with an innocent question: how did one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, win so many games?”

With these words Michael Lewis launches us into the funniest, smartest, and most contrarian book since, well, since Liar’s PokerMoneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a quest for something as elusive as the Holy Grail, something that money apparently can’t buy: the secret of success in baseball. The logical places to look would be the front offices of major league teams, and the dugouts, perhaps even in the minds of the players themselves. Lewis mines all these possibilities—his intimate and original portraits of big league ballplayers are alone worth the price of admission—but the real jackpot is a cache of numbers—numbers!—collected over the years by a strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts: software engineers, statisticians, Wall Street analysts, lawyers and physics professors.

What these geek numbers show—no, prove—is that the traditional yardsticks of success for players and teams are fatally flawed. Even the box score misleads us by ignoring the crucial importance of the humble base-on-balls. This information has been around for years, and nobody inside Major League Baseball paid it any mind. And then came Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland Athletics.

Billy paid attention to those numbers —with the second lowest payroll in baseball at his disposal he had to—and this book records his astonishing experiment in finding and fielding a team that nobody else wanted. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a roller coaster ride: before the 2002 season opens, Oakland must relinquish its three most prominent (and expensive) players, is written off by just about everyone, and then comes roaring back to challenge the American League record for consecutive wins.

In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis shows us how and why the new baseball knowledge works. He also sets up a sly and hilarious morality tale: Big Money, like Goliath, is always supposed to win…how can we not cheer for David?

“One of the best baseball—and management—books out….Deserves a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.”—Forbes

Five Good Questions: David Collum - Scenic Vistas From Mount Stupid

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis