Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March 14th, 2018 Links

  • Equinox has coolers filled with eucalyptus towels. SoulCycle has its grapefruit-scented candles. NetJets private aircraft have their exclusive Cajun snack mix. Every luxe empire has a signature amenity, something patrons enjoy for a few seconds and then forget about. At L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, one of the world's most expensive restaurant chains, that amenity is mashed potatoes. Guests at the new Manhattan outpost receive a small, rich pot of pommes puree during the final savory course. Fan-like indentations decorate the top layer, a deft act of latte art for potatoes. [Eater]
  • The average Bentley sells for $250,000, a Rolls-Royce $375,000. Rolls, which is owned by BMW, offers about 60 leather options and about 30 variations of wood. Ponder over 64 standard paints choices and several dozen custom hues. In total, a library of 44,000 colors are available. Still on the fence? Shades can be customized. [NY Times]
  • A lot of folks are in situations where they either don't pay for electricity or pay a flat rate. Why aren't they all mining Bitcoin? How about office workers? Nobody complains if they plug in a space heater, a Lava lamp, an aquarium, or a personal phone charger. Maybe the landlord is paying the electric bill in any case. Why wouldn't there be a Bitcoin miner that "flies under the radar" by consuming less than 500 watts? Supposedly it takes about 13,000 kW/h to mine one coin (source), so that's about three years at 500 watts per hour. Three years is a long time to wait (we could get lucky and earn a Bitcoin after 1 day, right?), but on the other hand a $10,000 bonus once every three years would be welcome! [Phil G]
  • The tenure system was established at a time when it was legal and conventional to have a mandatory retirement age. So it was a job guarantee from age 35-65, not from 35-90. Will the #MeToo movement be the catalyst for meaningful access to university jobs for young people? [Phil G]
  • Genetic correlations are an interesting topic. They're exactly what you want to know for the question of 'what are the unintended consequences of me selectively breeding for X?' but somehow most people who discuss the topic of eugenics have no idea that they exist or are their own comprehensive literature - even though the animal breeding people know about them perfectly well. It's a little embarrassing how ignorant/incompetent a lot of human genetics discussions are, really, compared to the agriculture people... So you get silly speculation like 'what if we select for intelligence and people wind up getting more heart disease or living shorter lives or more schizophrenia?' Which would be reasonable except it runs contrary to scores of genetic correlations which have been calculated for like 40 years now. [Gwern]
  • It is established that treatment with statins lower cholesterol by inhibiting the mevalonate metabolic pathway (MMP) which also means that the synthesis of Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10) is also inhibited. Ubiquinone plays a vital role in the body and if the level is reduced it is likely to cause myopathy, which is one of the established side effects of statin therapy. In the light of this, it would be expected that anyone prescribed statins would automatically also be prescribed with ubiquinone. But the reality is that this just happen regularly. [link]
  • How to write Tyler Cowen post: 1. Identify some borderline popular subject 2. Google for list of references and titles related to subject. More obscure the better. 3. Compile list so it looks like it contains meaningful information. 4. Revel in the glory that list contains no meaningful information. 5. Profit off continuous attempt to signal virtue and inflate ego. [MR]
  • Since West Elm doesn't have product reviews on their website, there is no real reason to know how widely disliked the Peggy sofa is until you buy one and then join the strange ad hoc community of Peggy truthers on the internet [link]
  • In fact, the hosts have time and time again muddied up houses (especially midcentury modern ones) with genuinely authentic, or even irreplaceable, interiors. [link]
  • It takes three pounds of regular yogurt to make every one pound of Greek yogurt, he says, leaving behind two pounds of what's called acid whey. Acid whey is a low-pH liquid that's not really good for any secondary use, so yogurt makers struggle to dispose of it properly. [link]
  • "Does Haiti have cholera?" asked Dr. House. "Not before 2012. The earthquake hit in 2010. UN troops from Nepal, where Vibrio is endemic, brought in cholera. One in ten individuals exposed to cholera are asymptomatic carriers shedding it in stool. Without adequate filtration systems in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, cholera spread all over." [Phil G]
  • Believe it or not, despite co-founding a litigation finance company, filing my small claims action against Equifax was the first time I had ever stepped foot in court. I came prepared: my completed SC-100, the small claims complaint form, and a check for $90. The filing fee is only $75, but unless I was prepared to drive to Sacramento and hire a process server to deliver to Equifax headquarters, I had to utilize the court-certified mail service process, which costs $15. The young man at the front desk took my papers without comment and layered a stamped cover sheet on top. I was delighted to get my court date right away, and to find that trial was relatively soon: November 9, 2017. Your average civil case takes 1–2 years to go to trial, and here I was, gearing up for court in a mere month and a half. [link]
  • Some of the biggest names in dieting, organic agriculture and preventive medicine died at surprisingly young ages. The wild-foods enthusiast Euell Gibbons was far ahead of his time in his advocacy of a diverse plant diet — but he died at age 64 of an aortic aneurysm. [NYT]
  • Every weekday morning, just before 7.00, we play a piece of music by Johann Sebastian Bach – usually something requested by our listeners, who tune in from all over the globe. It's inconceivable that another composer could take Bach's place in that slot. Even Mozart or Beethoven wouldn't cut it. And as for other giants of the musical canon, Monteverdi, Brahms, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Mahler, Shostakovich, Bartok: forget it. Over the course of my show, between 6.30am and 9.00am, I will of course play many of these and indeed dozens of other composers of all different periods and styles, from Adès to Zemlinsky. But it's Bach, and Bach alone, who could warrant his own daily slot. [BBC]
  • An annual volatility of 9% implies a daily volatilty of about 0.6%, which is like saying that a 2% market decline should occur in fewer than 1 in 2000 trading sessions, when in fact they’ve historically occurred more often than 1 in 50. The spectacle of investors eagerly shorting a volatility index (VIX) of 9, in expectation that it would go lower, wasn’t just a sideshow in some esoteric security. It was the sign of a market that had come to believe that stock prices could do nothing but advance in an upward parabolic trend, with virtually no risk of loss. [Hussman]
  • We can see how stimulative to stock prices it was to have had QE1, 2, and 3. And each time those were just stopped, the market ran into an illiquidity problem. The May 2010 Flash Crash followed the cessation of QE1. When QE2 was stopped in June 2011, we got a 19% decline in July 2011. The Fed ended QE3 more slowly, "tapering" the size of its bond and MBS purchases very gradually before ending them completely in late 2014, but we still got the China minicrash in August 2015, and an aftershock in January 2016. Those events all arose not from any actual unwinding of bond holdings, but just from stopping the buying. [link]
  • Sometimes they drop food, insects, or other small objects on the water's surface to attract fish, making them one of the few known tool-using species. This feeding method has led some to title the green and closely related striated heron as among the world's most intelligent birds. [Wiki]
  • "Call me old-fashioned, but I don't generally associate state ownership of the means of production with capitalism." [link]
  • We know that President Polk told his cabinet as early as May 30, 1846 (a mere 18 days into the war) that he preferred a boundary at the 26th parallel, although he would settle for less. [link]
  • On the days when Bitcoin crashes, a holiday atmosphere takes over in my corners of the internet. People tweet screengrabs of Reddit fights. It's always good fun to watch strangers grieve as their digital nonsense nickels melt into slag. [BB]
  • Statin use may be associated with a higher Parkinson's disease risk, whereas higher total cholesterol may be associated with lower risk. These data are inconsistent with the hypothesis that statins are protective against Parkinson's disease. [link]
  • Officials assigned the trees ID numbers and email addresses in 2013 as part of a program designed to make it easier for citizens to report problems like dangerous branches. The "unintended but positive consequence," as the chair of Melbourne's Environment Portfolio, Councillor Arron Wood, put it to me in an email, was that people did more than just report issues. They also wrote directly to the trees, which have received thousands of messages—everything from banal greetings and questions about current events to love letters and existential dilemmas. [Atlantic]
  • What do these American brands have in common? Peet's, Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme, Dr Pepper and Stumptown. They are all owned by JAB, a secretive European holding company that 50 years ago was making industrial chemicals for swimming pools. [WSJ]
  • Here, we show that lower serum cholesterol levels are linked with MDD and suicide attempt. Age and sex-adjusted analyses showed a clear association between serum cholesterol levels and the risk of depression and suicide attempt. [NLM]
  • Shkreli is young (31), brilliant, hungry and raring to go. this article sums up everything about him. He has the unique experience of being in hedge fund, and now in operations. He doesn't court sell side analysts. [CoBF]
  • Democracy is our most fundamental value, but it no longer means rule by and for the people. That would be Populism, which is pure evil and the great enemy of Democracy. Democracy means protecting "vulnerable" folk groups: i.e. rule by the Intersectional Victim Hierarchy. This is actually spelled out explicitly in countless newspaper opinion pieces. [Sailer]
  • A pretty good rule for evaluating an essay is the use of the word "debunked." With rare exception, any essay that contains that word is nonsense. I suspect the reason for this is the people fond of using this word don't accept that there can be immutable facts about the world. For them, there are only clever arguments, whose veracity is determined by popular support. [West Hunter]
  • Feed your fountain pen a steady diet of fountain pen ink. Period. This injunction may seem obvious, but it is not quite so obvious as it appears. Fountain pen ink is a solution. To the chemist, a solution consists of a fluid in which other substances are dissolved (the solvent), and the dissolved substances (the solutes). The solutes are actually reduced to the molecular level, the same as the solvent, and all the different molecules are mixed up evenly to create a uniform fluid, a pure liquid that contains no microscopic particles of solid material. The solvent in fountain pen ink is distilled water, and the solutes are dyes, wetting agents, and mold inhibitors. Because it's a solution, fountain pen ink contains no solid matter at all. This is an important point to remember. [link]
  • The sad detective may have once been a useful way for a superhuman character to come down to earth. Right now, a cheerfully competent detective might seem even more subversive than yet another broken cog in a broken system. What could be more of a middle finger to the world than a detective who tries to restore order to a late-stage capitalist hellscape full of corruption and cruelty, a detective who smiles while doing it, because someone still needs to find the truth? [link]
  • A crucial question for the future is whether society will work out hypocritical subterfuges to allow white men to go on making achievements, such as by declaring Guillermo del Toro to be a Person of Color, or whether in our demand for equality we just stop having so many annoying achievements. [Sailer]
  • Rest assured that we only collected metadata on these people, and no actual conversations were recorded or meetings transcribed. All I know is whether someone was a member of an organization or not. Surely this is but a small encroachment on the freedom of the Crown's subjects. I have been asked, on the basis of this poor information, to present some names for our field agents in the Colonies to work with. It seems an unlikely task. [link]
  • The successful entrepreneur rises socially, and with him his family, who acquire from the fruits of his success a position not immediately dependent upon personal conduct. This represents the most important factor of rise in the social scale in the capitalist world. Because it proceeds by competitively destroying old businesses and hence the existences dependent upon them, there always corresponds to it a process of decline, of loss of caste, of elimination. This fate also threatens the entrepreneur whose powers are declining, or his heirs who have inherited his wealth without his ability. This is not only because all individual profits dry up, the competitive mechanism tolerating no permanent surplus values, but rather annihilating them by means of just this stimulus of the striving for profit which is the mechanism's driving force... [Theory of Economic Development, Schumpeter]
  • As Sam points out, the reputation of medical school as especially difficult may be based on obsolete information. That's one of the reasons for publishing this diary. Look at the number of hours of sleep per night over the 1.5 years so far. So far, at least, it doesn't seem to be more life-consuming than engineering or science undergrad. Remember that doctors who earn $600,000 per year have an incentive to tell you how they earned it via years of slavery and suffering. So there is some reporting bias. [Phil G]
  • As the U.S. population trends higher (on track to more than double during my lifetime) and more urban, will germaphobes move to dry mountain towns and try to avoid physical contact with anyone who has recently come in from a big city? [Phil G]
  • The nephrologist explains: "You lose about ten milliliters glomerular filtration rate every ten years after the age of 30. As long as you do not have a comorbidity, you will never lose enough to confer disease. The problem is most Americans will develop a comorbidity." [Phil G]
  • All 15 individuals listed as potential candidates on the Form of Blue Proxy Card filed by Broadcom and Broadcom Corporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission on February 20, 2018 (together, the Candidates), are hereby disqualified from standing for election as directors of Qualcomm. Qualcomm is prohibited from accepting the nomination of or votes for any of the Candidates. [White House]
  • Others rejected outright the idea of making any niche investments, regardless of the possible benefits: "I wouldn't do any niche investing. In large part, I think niche investing is yet another malinvestment [sic] symptom of global lunacy . . . stop chasing yield! If one puts in the same work truly required for niche investments, one can find plenty of opportunities out there in the good old public markets that are quite profitable (higher than 5 percent plus inflation)." [II]
  • Every time shoppers return purchases to Best Buy Co., they are tracked by a company that has the power to override the store's touted policy and refuse to refund their money. [WSJ]
  • Turns out, Japan still has electronics stores – whole neighbourhoods of electronics stores – as if Amazon never happened. [link]
  • English, along with many other Indo-European languages like German and Russian, allows for complex syllable structures, making it cumbersome to write English words with a syllabary. A "pure" syllabary would require a separate glyph for every syllable in English. Thus one would need separate symbols for "bag", "beg", "big", "bog", "bug"; "bad", "bed", "bid", "bod", "bud", "bead", "bide", "bode", etc. Since English has well over 10,000 different possibilities for individual syllables, a syllabary would be poorly suited to represent the English language. [Wiki]
  • I know now how much I can write every day, before my brain turns to mush. Turns out, it’s about 3,000–4,000 words. It’s funny, just this little number, but it’s so useful: I can plan around it and anticipate things. If I think a chapter will be longer, I simply have to allocate two or more days for it. [Wichary]
  • The first day I saw my book as a hollow scaffolding of forty-something chapters made me incredibly happy — this was the day the book became real in the first of many different ways — but it also filled my eyes with tears. [Wichary]

Monday, March 5, 2018

High Plateau Drifter on the Eloi and the Morlocks

He writes,

On a recent drive from the semi-rural county in which I live, I drove through the campus of the University of Texas at Austin on the way to the doctors office. The weather was typical, moderate Texas weather, clear, 50-ish degrees.

It was between class bells and there were thousands of girls all wearing jacket tops coming down to the waist and then from waist to ankle black tights which put the shape of their equipment below the waist on clear display. I had never seen so many attractive figures in one place before. And all in "uniform."

In the evening news all I see are fatties and uglies screaming about this or that social injustice and "white privilege".

And yet here was proof that the vast majority of girls at UT were perfectly normal, going about the business of educating themselves and making themselves attractive at the same time. Yet the screamers and fatties of network news were nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps some were there, but given such a beautiful prospect to look upon, my vision had become selective, and lacking the stark and uniform black tights, the minority of fatties and uglies had become invisible. Those black tights and the bodies they enclosed demanded the same laser focused attention as Robinson Jeffers famous "halo of spears."

But of course this beautiful vista brought on thoughts of a larger demographic trend I have noticed over time. Due to assortive mating, looks and brains are beginning to correlate to a much greater degree than in the past. As you drive from the semi rural county in which I live westward through Austin and on to the West suburbs such as Lakeway, you see that the housing stock becomes larger and more luxurious, and the women taking their morning exercise walks and the young ladies at the beach are vastly better looking.

If the trend of assortive mating for looks and intelligence continues, at some point in the future we will have a rough approximation of IQ (within half a standard deviation) just by looking at the person in front of us. The dumb blond is dead.

I have concluded that, to an astonishing degree, rural America has become a comfortable place for the stupid and ugly to hide from competition. The smart and attractive kids leave for the big cities and never come back.

PT Jones is Bearish on Bonds Too

From an interview posted on ZH:

Allison Nathan: You’ve said that you would rather hold a burning coal than a 10-year Treasury. Why?

Paul Tudor Jones: The bear market in bonds is the natural upshot of the bull market in monetary and fiscal laxity. My view on bonds is based on three major factors. First, there is a huge flow of funds imbalance with supply overwhelming demand. We are in a unique historical situation with the Fed stepping away from the market while the US government is significantly increasing its auction sizes. I assume bonds will fall until the peak in full Treasury auction sizes, which I don’t think will be before 2Q2019. At the current pace, next February we might have a quarterly auction of $20bn 30-years vs. $15bn recently. That is so big it will only clear at substantially lower prices.

Second, economic momentum is now overwhelming the pace of the monetary policy response. We’re in the third-longest economic expansion in history. Yet we’ve somehow managed to pass a tax cut and a spending bill, which together will give us a budget deficit of 5% of GDP—unprecedented in peacetime outside of recessions. This reminds me of the late 1960s when we experimented with low rates and fiscal stimulus to keep the economy at full employment and fund the Vietnam War. Today we don’t have a recession, let alone a war. We are setting the stage for accelerating inflation, just as we did in the late ‘60s.

Finally, and most importantly, adverse valuations are becoming more glaring. Bonds are the most expensive they’ve ever been by virtually any metric. They’re overvalued and over-owned. Valuations haven’t been that relevant in recent years because of central bank manipulation outside of the US, but with the Fed in motion and the US economy in fifth gear, they start to matter a lot. I believe we’re at that critical threshold right now.
You can see our writings on bonds under the IEF tag and our most recent post from November with a summary.

Basically, we think that Trump will be remembered for inaugurating a bond bear market, and not much else. It is shocking how little discussion there is of the November 2016 "Trump bond crash," and bonds have continued to set new low after new low since then.

We are expressing this through January 2020 puts on the 10 year bond, where the current implied volatility is 4.8%.  Our breakeven on the options purchase is about a 2.5% decline in value which would require only about another 33 bps rise in rates.

March 5th Links

  • There has in fact been a 40-year move toward folkloric, less formal carpets. Wool is the new silk. [NYT]
  • Combining data on businesses from Yelp with data on gentrification from the Census, Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Streetscore (an algorithm using Google Streetview), we find that gentrifying neighborhoods tend to have growing numbers of local groceries, cafes, restaurants, and bars, with little evidence of crowd-out of other types of businesses. For example, the entry of a new coffee shop into a zip code in a given year is associated with a 0.5 percent increase in housing prices. [SSRN]
  • Andrew is on the autism spectrum and eloquently tells the story of his decades-long love for elevators on his website. [link]
  • His eyes were bloodshot, and his neck veins were bulging. The song onstage was now over, and a number of prominent Kappas had rushed over to our table. Before the situation could escalate dangerously, a bond investor and former Grand Swipe named Alexandra Lebenthal stepped in between us. Wilbur Ross quickly followed, and the two of them led me out into the lobby, past a throng of Wall Street tycoons, some of whom seemed to be hyperventilating. Once we made it to the lobby, Ross and Lebenthal reassured me that what I'd just seen wasn't really a group of wealthy and powerful financiers making homophobic jokes, making light of the financial crisis, and bragging about their business conquests at Main Street's expense. No, it was just a group of friends who came together to roast each other in a benign and self-deprecating manner. Nothing to see here. [NY Mag]
  • Hope Hicks was seen exiting her Washington DC apartment on Friday wearing $695 suede knee-high boots and a $328 Joie dress despite the wet conditions. [Daily Mail]
  • High cholesterol among older people is associated with longer life. In Japan, high cholesterol is associated with longer life at all ages. More recent evidence indicates that the relation of high cholesterol to longevity is as robust as ever, and that older people with high cholesterol live longer. [Mangan]
  • A review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found Vitamin D can't be metabolized without sufficient magnesium levels, meaning Vitamin D remains stored and inactive for as many as 50 percent of Americans. "People are taking Vitamin D supplements but don't realize how it gets metabolized. Without magnesium, Vitamin D is not really useful or safe." [link]
  • The Edward Snowden NSA leaks have demonstrated the remarkable breadth of ways in which the NSA goes about breaking computer security without needing access to theoretical breakthroughs or exotic quantum computers (and indeed, the NSA is more than a little contemptuous of the academic computer security/cryptography communities for their misguided focus on theory): computers can be intercepted in the mail and hardware bugs implanted; computers can be monitored remotely using various radio and phreaking devices; airgapped networks can be jumped by malware hitch-hiking on USB drives or buried ineradically inside BIOSes of devices like hard drives which have their own processors; data which is not at rest can be stolen from otherwise-secure data centers by tapping private fiber optic links (eg Google); more public fiber optic cables such as underseas cables are hacked using ISP assistance and submarine operations, in some cases entire days of raw traffic being retained for analysis; encrypted data can be retained forever for future decryption (such as by the NSA’s active quantum computing R&D effort); Internet-wide attacks can be mounted by factoring certain very commonly used numbers using NSA’s large computational resources and likely specialized ASICs (the amortized cost of factoring many keys simultaneously is different and much smaller than the usually calculated cost of cracking a single key); private keys can be stolen by using subpoenas or national security letters or hacking in or even physical breakins; data can be traded with the intelligence agencies of other countries or their own hacking operations hacked by the NSA (and vice versa); backdoors can be introduced into otherwise-secure software (Dual_EC); commonly used software can be extensively audited, with bugs discovered and exploited long before they are publicly known (Heartbleed); Internet connections can be hijacked and diverted to NSA servers to serve up malware. This gives an idea of the difficulties faced when trying to be secure: where does one trustably get one’s computer and the software on it? How many 0-day vulnerabilities are there in the operating system and all the cryptographic software? The encryption algorithms may be insecure, or implemented insecurely, or exist decrypted somewhere, or be run on subverted hardware, or the contents inferrable from metadata & other activity. [Gwern]
  • PROBABILITY DOES NOT EXIST: The abandonment of superstitious beliefs about the existence of the Phlogiston, the Cosmic Ether, Absolute Space and Time,... or Fairies and Witches was an essential step along the road to scientific thinking. Probability, too, if regarded as something endowed with some kind of objective existence, is no less a mis-leading misconception, an illusory attempt to exteriorize or materialize our true probabilistic beliefs. [Amazon]
  • Five claimants occupy nearly 70 disputed reefs and islets spread across the South China Sea. They have built more than 90 outposts on these contested features, many of which have seen expansion in recent years. AMTI has gathered satellite imagery of each outpost, along with other relevant information, to document their current status and any changes they have undergone in recent years. Explore the database below. [link]
  • I believe they are targeting smaller organizations now, because recent developments in patent law have made bogus patents like these much easier to fight, but only if you have enough resources and money to properly prepare the legal challenges. If they were to go after larger organizations, the patent could easily be challenged. But smaller organizations like ours often can't afford to go through that process as easily. [link]
  • The previous discussion of non-infringement should, in no way, be seen by you that the '838 patent is valid. It is not. In fact, the '838 patent is a perfect example of a patent that is subject matter ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The '838 patent recites an abstract idea: issuing tokens to use in purchases, applied to the Internet and the computers. See Alice Corp. Pty. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 134 S. Ct. 2347, 2360 (2014) (invalidating claims directed to claims that recite the abstract idea of intermediated settlement using some generic computers.). This abstract idea is no different than using tickets to purchase drinks at a party, or going to an arcade and using tokens to play games. Applying the idea with a "server" or reciting "memory" does not transform this concept into something that is patent eligible. After Alice, buying and using tokens for transactions (like a kid would do at Chuck E. Cheese's), cannot be patented by simply reciting computers and the Internet. [pdf]
  • The case is now at the Supreme Court. If affirmed, the Second Circuit decision would create de facto antitrust immunity for the most powerful companies in the economy. Since internet technologies have enabled the growth of platform companies that serve multiple groups of users, firms like Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Uber are set to be prime beneficiaries of the Second Circuit's warped analysis. Amazon, for example, could claim status as a two-sided platform because it connects buyers and sellers of goods; Google because it facilitates a market between advertisers and search users. (An industry trade group representing the tech platforms filed an amicus brief in support of American Express.) Indeed, the reason that the tech giants are lining up behind the Second Circuit's approach is that — if ratified — it would make it vastly more difficult to use antitrust laws against them. [NY Times]
  • What's interesting is that even though American palates are more receptive to ambitious and unorthodox flavors, restaurant diners in the 19th century were way more open in the meats they consumed. If there's a modern-day behavior that seems counterintuitive, it's that we've narrowed down our protein choices to a handful of fish and shellfish and particular cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and lamb. If it's not from a fleshy non-organ part of an animal, the 2017 restaurant diner won't likely touch. [link]
  • Each robot must be humanoid, with a minimum of 15 degrees of freedom including functional elbows and knees; Each robot must be at least 50cm tall (measured from foot to shoulder); Robots are required to use both skis and poles, and the poles must touch the ground when the robot is standing with its elbows bent; The competition ski slope is 80m long and 20m wide, and teams have 3 minutes to complete it by slaloming through red and blue gates; Each robot gets one point per passed gate. Point ties are broken by fastest time, and in the event of a tie there as well, the tallest robot wins. [link]
  • A 2017 investigation by the Columbia Journalism Review found widespread anomalies in lottery results, difficult to explain by luck alone. According to CJR’s analysis, nearly 1,700 Americans have claimed winning tickets of $600 or more at least 50 times in the last seven years, including the country’s most frequent winner, a 79-year-old man from Massachusetts named Clarance W. Jones, who has redeemed more than 10,000 tickets for prizes exceeding $18 million. [link]
  • The system through which Amazon sellers list products also makes it possible for counterfeiters to essentially hijack an established product’s listing, and sell their lower-quality, ripped-off versions to unsuspecting buyers. [link]
  • Amazon could also set the bar a little higher for Chinese sellers trying to sell existing products. Because 9/10 times I'd bet they are ripping off an established brand - the margin math wouldn't work and I've never heard of any brand selling to a Chinese seller to then sell on Amazon USA. [link]
  • Anyone who is paying attention knows that the Obama FBI/DOJ used massive government surveillance powers against the Trump team during and after the election. A FISA warrant on Carter Page (and Manafort and others?) was likely used to mine stored communications of other Trump team members. Hundreds of "mysterious" unmasking requests by Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, etc. were probably used to identify US individuals captured in this data. [Hsu]
  • For some reason we got a lot of questions about meeting successful friends after college. The easiest answer for everyone? Upgrade your gym membership. No unsuccessful person spends $200+ a month on a high-end gym membership. If you've made it financially, change your gym to a nicer one and you'll realize this is where well off men go to work out. It also typically has a large number of attractive women as well. [link]
  • The oldest testimonies of human life in the lands that today make up Aragon go back to the time of the glaciations, in the Pleistocene, some 600,000 years ago. [wiki]
  • I'd like to do an experiment in which Taleb stops weightlifting and starts bicycle-riding and Pinker stops bicycle-riding and starts weightlifting and then measure how much their political views change. [MR]
  • Until and unless new and better engines are developed, it seems that it is tough to find a slam-dunk winner in any corner of aviation. [Phil G]
  • If you look at the Nucor product catalog, you can see that the USA has ceded high end steel production to foreigners. Ceding high end steel production to foreigners is militarily unwise. Ceding the high end is also likely to have externalities. A network of skills unravels. If company A does something high tech, it cultivates employees, customers, and suppliers that make it substantially easier and cheaper for company B to do something high tech, and this benefit is not captured by company A, unless, as in South Korea during the dictatorship, the state gives company A substantial monopolistic privileges, something difficult to do in a democracy, particularly a democracy where covetousness is deemed the highest virtue and high status. And if company A stops doing something high tech causing other companies to stop doing high tech stuff – you have the rust belt, which is the network of high skilled white males unravelling. [Jim]
  • The sidewalks of Dallas are, just as readers warned me, littered with dockless shared bicycles. Ofo, a Chinese company, seems to be the market leader. There are at least four competitors, I think. Each system offers bikes in just one size. If you're 5' tall you’ll find that nearly all of the bikes fit well. Over 5' tall and I would suggest, the only company whose seats can go up high enough to accommodate a 6' tall rider. (If you’re a knee surgeon, Dallas will be an awesome market in a year or two; riding with the seat too low is a reliable way to burn up one's knees.) [Phil G]
  • By the end of the tour, the coastal elites had caught the heartland bug. Several used Zillow, the real estate app, to gawk at the availability of cheap homes in cities like Detroit and South Bend and fantasize about relocating there. They marveled at how even old-line manufacturing cities now offer a convincing simulacrum of coastal life, complete with artisanal soap stores and farm-to-table restaurants. [NYT]
  • Looking more like what a cobbler from the 1700s would produce after being shown a photo of the shoes of the future, these lace-ups from FEIT only barely qualify as sneakers. [link]
  • Thus did we find ourselves in possession of a 1999 Ferrari F355 TB with 4000 miles on it, paying about $2,200/month to Premier. The color is bright yellow, which is what the Great Unwashed always pick on immediately. "Why isn't it red?" they ask. We try to explain that this has been a Ferrari racing color, that it is the color behind their logo, etc., but it doesn't work. [Phil G]
  • A quick ride downhill to downtown St. Paul was enough to convince me that St. Paul is Minneapolis's plain sister. The few nice towers are separated by horribly ugly 1950s and '60s concrete monsters. Although St. Paul is the state capital, the taste mavens at the Federal Reserve Bank chose to locate their magnificent modern palace in downtown Minneapolis, upstream on the other side of the Mississippi, 15 minutes away by Interstate. About St. Paul, one might fairly say that there is no "there" there. [Phil G]
  • Coaches are not actually rewarded for winning. They are rewarded for being perceived as good coaches. Obviously, the two are closely related but not exactly the same thing. If a basketball coach gets his team to execute crisp offensive plays with few turnovers that lead to two point baskets on50% of possessions, he's deemed an excellent coach. If his team still loses 100 – 102, well, his players just weren't quite good enough. If the same coach encourages his team to "run and gun" threes, with lots of turnovers and misses, but scoring on 35% of possessions, he's clearly lost control of his team. If they win 105 – 102 it's perceived as just luck as everyone knows three point shots are risky. Essentially winning ugly is undervalued versus losing elegantly; and losing ugly can be career suicide. Once again, the way you measure risk matters in making the optimal decision. [SSRN]
  • Sound is more important than anything else in this kind of video. It doesn't matter how expensive your camera is and how good the on-camera microphone is. The microphone is in the wrong place. You need a lav ("lavalier" or "lapel") microphone clipped to your subject's shirt or jacket. [Phil G]
  • Internal NYPD files show that hundreds of officers who committed the most serious offenses — from lying to grand juries to physically attacking innocent people — got to keep their jobs, their pensions, and their tremendous power over New Yorkers' lives. [Buzzfeed]
  • Bond pension buying, for example, is very pro-cyclical. When stock prices rise, pensions reallocate their capital gains from stocks into bonds. As we've seen, this depresses the term premium and fuels more gains in the stock market. If and when the Fed raises rates enough to stop and reverse the stock market rise, that virtuous circle predicated on increasing capital gains will reverse, and bonds and stocks will decline together like they did in the 1970s. [ZH - PTJ]

Thursday, March 1, 2018

March 1, 2018 Links

  • This left Tancítaro without police or a government, whose officials had fled. Power accumulated to the militias that controlled the streets and to their backers, an organization of wealthy avocado growers known as the Junta de Sanidad Vegetal, or Plant Health Council. Citizens sometimes call it the Junta. [NYT]
  • Furthermore, it used to be always correct to drink one or more Manhattans after breakfast, back when the cocktail was young. "Midmorning was the first well-established masculine cocktail hour," Lucius Beebe wrote in The Stork Club Bar Book. "This practice... originally carried with it no least suggestion of relinquished moral control or decline in individual deportment." [Bloomberg]
  • Many clergy in the established church feared that new doctrines promulgated by the Methodists, such as the necessity of a new birth for salvation, of justification by faith and of the constant and sustained action of the Holy Spirit upon the believer's soul, would produce ill effects upon weak minds. [Wiki]
  • After 18-year-old Liza Hankins was thrown through the closed sunroof of her sport-utility vehicle during a crash and paralyzed, her family sued the truck's maker, claiming it had failed to live up to its safety responsibilities. The carmaker, Ford, won the case after it pointed out that no government regulations required a sunroof — even a closed one — to keep someone inside a vehicle in a crash. [NYT]
  • Spain is the right place to ponder the past and future of the Southern love for the pig. Spanish explorers introduced pigs to the Americas (as well as diseases that decimated the native population). When de Soto landed, he loosed Ibérico pigs from Extremadura to roam the Southern countryside. They prospered. And so did the settlers who employed Native American techniques to smoke them and adapted European traditions to salt and air-cure them. From those pigs came country ham, redeye gravy, and lard-rich cat-head biscuits. From that landing came Benton’s livelihood. Today, Spain produces the most dry-cured ham of any country in the world. By the measure of many palates, it also produces the best. [link]
  • The best way to experience this part of the Bernese Oberland is on foot, following the well-marked hiking trails that meander from one bucolic scene to the next — brushing against raging rivers, to the base of (and sometimes over) glaciers, up steep rock faces, along the tops of ridges, through dense forests, and in and out of lush Alpine meadows. [NYT]
  • "OUR descendants," a social worker re- marked to me, "will look back on the nineteenth century as our Golden Age, just as we look back on Greece." Thoughtful people whose work takes them into the slime at the bottom of our foreignized cities and industrial centers find decline actually upon us. A visiting nurse who has worked for seven years in the stock-yards district of Chicago reports that of late the drinking habit is taking hold of foreign women at an alarming rate. [Edward Alsworth Ross]
  • The genetic variants associated with high levels of the anxiety/tension and worry/vulnerability factors are associated with affluence, higher cognitive ability, better self-rated health, and longer life. [link]
  • Oh yeah, I wanted to mention a cool tracking thing YouTube provides. As you might assume, you can easily track when a click on the ad results in a sale. But the cool part is that you can also track when someone views your ad, and then a bit later types in your web address to make the purchase without ever clicking the link. In other words you can track both people who click through an ad directly, or who see your ad and then visit your site a bit later (this is known as a "view-through conversion "). It's magic. Magical enough that you'll have to take Google's word on it that these customers actually did view the ad, since you won't be able to detect it yourself. [link]
  • For most of recorded history, almost every human was a subsistence farmer, likely under-using their cognitive abilities, yet no middle-paying jobs materialized to use their full potential. Then, during the first century or so of the industrial revolution, most people in industrialized countries were assembly line workers, jobs even less cognitively demanding than subsistence farming, and still no middle-paying jobs appeared until most of that low-skilled factory work could be automated. There is nothing in standard economic theory that predicts that jobs that allow average people to use their full cognitive ability should exist and pay middle-class wages. In fact, there is nothing that predicts that a middle-class should exist. [SSC]
  • For months, the husband-and-wife team behind a cryptocurrency project known as Tezos has been locked in a fierce battle for control of the funds with the head of the board of a nonprofit foundation that sold the digital coins. More than 30,000 participants in that coin offering, one of the biggest of 2017, were in limbo while the two sides duked it out. Now, the head of the nonprofit foundation, Johann Gevers, has said he would step down. This clears the way for new leadership at the foundation, opening up the $232 million to be used by Arthur and Kathleen Breitman to develop the Tezos project. [WSJ]
  • Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder. The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. [Paul Graham]
  • Carlson pauses, tosses another piece of Nicorette gum into his mouth, and laughs. It's not a bitter laugh, but one of seeming disbelief. While he can be abrupt and sometimes even brutal with guests on his nightly program, one-on-one he's good humored and ebullient. He's that way, according to those who know him, even during breaks with on-air guests he is about to behead. He is exceedingly pleasant company for a leisurely lunch at swank Bistro Bis near the Fox headquarters, within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol. (The former smoker orders a plate of cheeses, which seem not to interfere with the gum, which he says both "sharpens the intellect and calms you down at the same time. It’s great." [TAC]
  • Army ants form colonies of millions yet have no permanent home. They march through the jungle each night in search of new foraging ground. Along the way they perform logistical feats that would make a four-star general proud, including building bridges with their own bodies. [link]
  • Based on petitions filed by Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., we instituted these inter-partes review proceedings on December 8, 2016. At the time of institution, the undisputed owner of the patents being challenged in these proceedings was Allergan, Inc. On March 31, 2017, we granted motions joining Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. and Akorn Inc. (collectively with Mylan, "Petitioners") as parties in each of these proceedings. In each proceeding, Allergan filed Patent Owner Responses and Petitioners filed Replies. A consolidated oral hearing for these proceedings was scheduled for September 15, 2017. On September 8, 2017, less than a week before the scheduled hearing, counsel for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe contacted the Board to inform us that the Tribe acquired the challenged patents and to seek permission to file a motion to dismiss these proceedings based on the Tribe's sovereign immunity. [pdf]
  • I have a half-baked, three-quarters-joking theory of cryptocurrency, which is that it is a magical incarnation of a sort of male internet grievance. People -- mostly men -- sit around on Reddit complaining that they are underappreciated geniuses and that it is unfair that they have not been rewarded with vast wealth. They feel dispossessed and betrayed: They expected the modern world to reward computer literacy, but then they grew up to realize that the modern world, much like the old world, rewards mostly people skills and creativity and emotional intelligence. And then Bitcoin came along, and paranoid computer-literate people who spent a lot of time on the internet were the early adopters, and it became the world's first economic system that allocates wealth basically for hanging around on Reddit. What Bonatsos describes is not an accident; cryptocurrency seems almost custom-designed as a way for the men to get all the wealth, again. I know you are going to email me to complain about this theory, but what I want to propose here is: What if you didn't? [Bloomberg]
  • "Wine experts! They cannot tell white from red, if you blindfold them. There's a famous experiment, where they tinted a white wine with food colouring, and they end up writing them up like a red wine." (I looked up this cruel exercise and found that it was done by Frédéric Brochet of the oenology department of the University of Bordeaux in 2001. He fooled 54 critics into thinking two glasses of the same white wine were different, simply by adding food colouring to one of them. The red was praised for being "jammy" and having a savour of "crushed red fruit".) [1843]
  • To express his enthusiasm for My Fair Lady, Roger Ebert aped its premise, writing, "It is unnecessary to summarize the plot or list the songs; if you are not familiar with both, you are culturally illiterate, although in six months I could pass you off as a critic at Cannes, or even a clerk in a good video store, which requires better taste." [link]
  • The standard way for an enthusiast to see airliners parked at Marana is to hire a private aircraft and pilot to fly them from Tucson to Marana, performing a number of low approaches, or a landing and slow taxi for takeoff, snapping photographs frantically in the hope of catching everything parked there, and preferably the registrations. Then a period of research would begin to work out exactly what was seen. [link]
  • The new tax reform legislation, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), created a significant new economic development tool alongside a meaningful tax deferral and abatement mechanism, "qualified opportunity zones." The new provision provides a flexible deferral mechanism for short and long term capital gains for current investments in nearly all asset classes. Unlike Section 1031 "like-kind" deferral, qualified opportunity zones will provide: (i) the ability to invest only the gain rather than the full corpus of a current investment, (ii) a broader range of investments eligible for the deferral, (iii) a potential basis step-up of 15 percent or substantially more of the initial deferred amount of investment, and (iv) an opportunity to abate all taxation on capital gains post-investment. This program will provide businesses, projects, and commercial property in eligible low-income census tracts attractive financing and what could amount to a substantial long-term subsidy for economic development. The provision will also provide opportunities for investors, individual and corporate, to defer current capital gains, significantly increase basis in their current investments, and abate all future capital gains on the investment. Sophisticated fund managers should be able to find complex structures and entity planning to optimize return for investors and maximize subsidy for low-income businesses and property investment. [link]
  • Now we've got a new data point in that the FBI was tipped off to Nikolas Cruz's likely behavior (Miami Herald) and yet failed to prevent the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The local police also got some tips. Compared to screening potential immigrants, this was an easy situation for law enforcement. The people offering the tips were native English speakers describing events that had occurred within the U.S. The potential criminal was a native English speaker. There was no need for an interpreter and no need to verify information about an event that had occurred on the other side of the planet. [Greenspun]
  • If someone is too drunk for the Waste Management Phoenix Open — and dear god, would that be a level of intoxication indiscernible from actual damnation — the drunk tank next to the jail nearby has snacks, a TV, and some chairs waiting. [link]
  • Ultimately, the crypto bubble will collapse because blockchain is a useless technology. The current VC enthusiasm is similar to the early 2000s, except this time around the VCs are backing useless technology and have no chance of finding the next Paypal. Will Coinbase be one of the first companies to break? We'll find out soon. [Glenn Chan]
  • If you ever go visit a plant nursery and want to know if it is a good nursery or not, ask if they sell Bradford pears. All reputable nurseries are well aware of the evils of this tree, and refuse to sell them. Don't let someone talk you into a Cleveland Select or other pear tree, all varieties of "ornamental" pear trees are equally bad. [link]
  • If a person didn't make tens of thousands of dollars while doing 1,000 transactions in 2017 in cryptocurrencies then, bluntly, there is something wrong with that person’s ability to make good decisions. [Patio11]
  • MBA programs are more of a sorting mechanism or a job placement service than anything else. Getting into the program in the first place — and demonstrating ambition afterwards — is what companies want to see. [link]
  • My primary concern now is that the Fed’s focus is on preventing overheating, the shift to an even more accelerated pace of rate hikes could occur very quickly. [link]
  • Salicylate appears to offer many of the anti-cancer and anti-aging properties of aspirin without as many side effects, mainly the tendency to bleed when that's not wanted. However, at least some of the protective effect of aspirin against heart disease is necessarily entwined with the bleeding tendency, since inhibition platelet function both increases the risk of bleeding and prevents clots from forming in arteries. Aspirin has another mode of protection against atherosclerosis though, and that's the ability of salicylate to chelate iron and lower body iron stores. The first, anti-platelet, mode works quickly, which is why aspirin taken by people having a heart attack; the second, iron-chelation mode is longer term, over a period of months to years if low-dose aspirin is used. [Mangan]
  • The clinical correlation between platelet dysfunction and cancer progression is supported by the finding that platelets have an essential role in numerous models of experimental metastasis. Depletion of platelets by a variety of mechanisms reduces the number of metastases to lung and bone in both xenograft and syngeneic tumor transplant models. Importantly, this phenomenon seems to be quite general, as cancerous cell lines from many tissue types give similar results. [link]
  • For the years ended December 31, 2015, 2016, and 2017, we generated €1,940 million, €2,952 million, and €4,090 million in revenue, respectively, representing a compound annual growth rate of 45%. For the years ended December 31, 2015, 2016, and 2017, we incurred net losses of €230 million, €539 million, and €1,235 million, respectively. For the years ended December 31, 2015, 2016, and 2017, our EBITDA was €(205) million, €(311) million, and €(324) million, respectively. [EDGAR]

Thursday, February 22, 2018

End of February 2018 Links

  • "[V]irtually every large city, notable landscape feature, creature and weather pattern of North America — as well as myriad other words, concepts and images — has been snapped up and trademarked as the name of either a brewery or a beer." [Harvard Law Review]
  • Blue Bottle Coffee director of training Michael Phillips, who was the 2010 World Barista Champion, says that when a customer asks a Blue Bottle barista for a flat white (and it's only Aussies and Kiwis who ask for them, he says), the protocol is to not make a fuss, but to serve a modern American cappuccino, which he says it "incredibly similar" to the flat whites you'll get in, say, New Zealand. "We'll simply say, 'Absolutely!' but we'll make them a drink that's pretty much our cappuccino," he says. "And if they get the drink and say, 'No, no, no, that's not a flat white,' we'll work with them on it. But in general, they get it and say, 'This is the best flat white I've had in the States.'" [Bon Appetit]
  • "Obama never used the Oval, but Trump is different," the president would say, referring to himself in the third person as he often does [NY Mag]
  • This former warehouse was transformed with an eye for quiet privacy and grand entertaining, hosting the likes of John Lennon and Norman Mailer. The ultimate New York City secret -- "you never know what is behind the façade." [link]
  • I played around with a ton of different filler materials for the cinder blocks, but pure cement just broke so easily. I finally settled on a secret formula using cement and a few other materials that look and feels identical to real cement. [link]
  • Over the next few weeks, we showed up each day and tapped away on MacBook Airs to the sounds of Portuguese house music and old-school hip hop piped in through speakers. ("Rap is urban, and so is WeWork") [link]
  • "I know there are minimum costs required to be a public company, but don't really think a hot breakfast at the Fairmont for the shareholder meeting meets that criteria." [CoBF]
  • I simply couldn't find much evidence that distributed ledgers are useful for any real-world applications (other than speculative asset bubbles). Once you understand that blockchains are bad at solving real-world problems, then you will understand why Bitcoin will fail. The blockchain imposes limitations that makes Bitcoin a bad version of something that has been tried in the past: e-gold (description here and Wired profile here). A company's stance on blockchain can also serve as a test of a company's management. In my view, companies pushing blockchain technology (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle) are disconnected from customers' actual needs and have mediocre management. Companies that don't talk about blockchain (e.g. Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple) are more likely to produce sensible technology that will work in the real world. [Glenn Chan]
  • "You've formed an opinion on the cap toe — a crude and inappropriate way to finish the toe of a boot. The ultimate crutch of for the impatient, unskilled bootmaker. The blended scotch of shoemaking — a real patch-up job." [link]
  • Apparently Wahlberg's regular morning rounds at Riviera are no less zany. He starts on the 10th tee after one of three caddies has greeted him in the parking lot and another looper handles the clubs and raking. A third is there to do sprints with Wahlberg in between shots. These extraordinary bagmen are well compensated for their brief time—two Benjamins at least—to keep Hollywood’s busiest man active. [link]
  • These were heady days for the victors. In 1947, a carton of American cigarettes, costing fifty cents in an American base, was worth 1,800 Reichsmarks on the black market, or $180 at the legal rate of exchange. For four cartons of cigarettes, at this rate, you could hire a German orchestra for the evening. Or for twenty-four cartons, you could acquire a 1939 Mercedes-Benz. Penicillin and 'Persilscheine' (whiter than white) certificates, which cleared the holder of any Nazi connections, commanded the highest prices. With this kind of economic whammy, working-class soldiers from Idaho could live like modern tsars. [link]
  • There's been so many things – so many things – but me tell you about the canary in the coal mine. Let me tell you how I know saving Barnes & Noble is not in the home office's plans. [link]
  • At the peak of the waterbed craze, in 1987, more than one out of five mattresses purchased in the U.S. were waterbeds. [link]
  • Starting with Carbonell's notebook, tickets from an old till and data from the gin and vermouth brands he worked with, de las Muelas calculated the total drinks already sold and created a counter which would tally whenever a dry martini was served. Dry Martini celebrated its millionth dry martini in May 2010: the recipient, a lawyer, is entitled to a dry martini every day for the rest of her life. [link]
  • "Ethiopia is at a pleasant altitude. The current capital, Addis Ababa, is at 7,700 feet elevation. It's average high temperature ranges from 69 degrees during the July rainy season to merely 77 in March." [Sailer]
  • And when she's feeling worn down from all the negativity in the world, she'll turn off her television and her phone, light some candles, and blast Duke Ellington so loud that it reaches every nook and cranny of her $12.6 million Massachusetts Avenue Heights home. [link]
  • During my formative years back in the Fifties, I was the kind of kid who was secure in the belief that God wore buttondown shirts and madras Bermuda shorts. The worst villain passed my inspection if he wore trousers with a vestigial little belt in the back or possessed the skill to tie a bow tie. Good and bad were simply a matter of tweedy and non-tweedy. [link]
  • Yoshimichi Nakajima was waiting for the train one day at his local station in Tokyo when he politely asked the station attendant to lower the volume on his microphone. He was told that would be "difficult," so Nakajima lent a hand by grabbing the mic and throwing it onto the track. He then recounted all of this to the station master, who was speechless. Nakajima, a rare breed of Japanese anti-noise crusader, has also taken a speaker from a liquor store and tossed it outside as well as seized a megaphone from a police officer. [link]
  • The back-up plane Spirit provided was only half-filled as most people who were scheduled to go to Fort Lauderdale were too freaked out to get in the sky and must have decided if there was ever a time when you should press your luck in Atlantic City, you probably couldn't top the day you emergency landed there. [Quora]
  • "We're getting requests for service that are just astounding," said Steve Wright, general manager of the Chelan County Public Utility District, which includes Wenatchee. "We do not intend to carry the risk of bitcoin prices on our system." [WSJ]
  • As it stands, public blockchain is very much a kludgy solution looking for non-existent problem, namely lack of trusted intermediaries in finance and accounting. Unfortunately for this central value proposition of blockchain, there is no lack of trusted enough intermediaries in the financial/accounting sector. [link]
  • In the three weeks leading up to Feb. 14, 30 cargo jets make the trip from Colombia to Miami each day, with each plane toting more than a million flowers. [WaPo]
  • Someone has to make sure that "Who is Harriet Tubman?" isn't the answer to more than one clue a game, or even more than one clue a week. [link]
  • When Orwell speaks about the cathedral of Barcelona, he is talking in fact about La Sagrada Família temple, designed by Antoni Gaudí: "I went to have a look at the cathedral—a modern cathedral, and one of the most hideous buildings in the world. It has four crenellated spires exactly the shape of hock bottles... I think the Anarchists showed bad taste in not blowing it up... though they did hang a red and black banner between its spires." [Wiki]
  • Former aides say Bush would have loved a big parade, but they recognized a problem: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan never ended. Such subtleties — the United States is now dropping bombs in seven countries — don't seem to have factored into Trump's calculations. [WaPo]
  • As I've mentioned many times, a large fraction of America's intellectual history has been entirely "disappeared" over the last sixty or seventy years, and there are absolutely fascinating lacunae that I'm hoping to reveal when I've finally finished my current software work. [Unz]
  • South America is the victim of a bad start. It was never settled by whites in the way that they settled the United States. All the European blood from the Caribbean to Cape Horn probably does not exceed that to be found within the area inclosed by lines connecting Washington, Buffalo, Duluth, and St. Louis. The masterful whites simply climbed upon the backs of the natives and exploited them. Thus, pride, contempt for labor, caste, social parasitism, and authoritativeness in Church and State fastened upon South American society and characterize it still. It will be yet long ere it is transformed by such modern forces as Industry, Democracy, and Science. It would be unpardonable for us ever to be puffed up because we enjoy better social and civic health than is usual in South America. If our forefathers had found here precious metals and several millions of agricultural Indians, our social development would have resembled that of the peoples that grew up in New Spain. Not race accounts for the contrast in destiny between the two Americas, nor yet the personal virtues of the original settlers, but circumstances. [Sailer]
  • An Alaskan might forgo a latte to pay $5 for a single perfect Sumo mandarin orange, flown in by New Sagaya, the city's largest gourmet market. [NYT]
  • Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. [link]
  • You realize you probably wouldn't be able to relate to most humans if you were the sort of person who bought Italian Kangaroo boots. [link]
  • Some of the outfits in the South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, location trade in worldly goods, like Conscious Step, a sock company that donates a share of its proceeds to charity; Carvana, an online used-car dealership; Motorino, a pizza micro-chain; and Visual Magnetics, which sells idea boards. Others are entirely ether-based, such as One Door, a company that offers cloud-centric "merchandising execution"; Mish Guru, a Snapchat-focused "management & analytics platform"; and DevTribe, a social-media consultancy seeking "influencers looking to increase revenue through personal branding." There's at least one self-employed "vlogger and design consultant," as well as Turnkey & Bespoke, which manages retail construction projects, be they pop-up shops, promotional booths, or, yes, offices inside WeWork buildings. There's also a company called NSFW, whose function might be described as "facilitating curated gratification." (It puts on swingers' parties.) [Esquire]
  • If we exclude the folks who bought Bitcoin in 2010, I used to think that the smartest Americans were those who maximized leisure and social time without the tedium of work, e.g., by bubbling to the top of the waiting list for public housing in San Francisco, Manhattan, Cambridge/Boston. There are, of course, some crazy rich people who have even better material lifestyles than folks on welfare in these parts of the U.S., but they may have (a) inherited money from a parent, (b) worked like a slave, or (c) taken a lot of risk such that they might easily have ended up middle class and exiled to the suburbs. [Greenspun]
  • By the late nineteen-sixties, ownership of the Miss Universe Organization had passed to a lingerie company called Kayser-Roth. Cindy Adams, who was an assistant at the company, and her husband, the comedian Joey Adams, were friends of Roy Cohn, the New York lawyer and fixer who had been a close aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy. "Roy used to invite us everywhere, and once we went to a party on Long Island, where I happened to be seated at a small table with this tall young guy with blond hair," Adams told me recently. "Roy told me at that dinner that one day Donald would own New York. I said, 'Yeah, pass the gravy.'" [New Yorker]
  • Then we had the response to the Section 220. To force two people to travel to Kentucky, to put them in a room with a card table and some chairs, give them binders of documents, and then say "copy them yourselves on the copier," is discourteous, disrespectful, and unnecessary. It is inconsistent with how anyone actually handles 220 demands and the production of records pursuant to 220. It's essentially a gratuitous power trip by the incumbents to attempt to show a party they believe to be their adversary who is really in control. [EDGAR]
  • The candidates were then knighted with a petrified grapevine root brought from Burgundy, France. They were kissed on both cheeks and signed their names into a large book, sang a song in French, and joined their ''elders'' in a procession past admiring guests. [NYT]

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February 2018 Links

  • Most books are a BIG IDEA exploited during hundreds of pages so that in that way you have to pay 20 dollars for the idea. Sometimes this bloating is better, sometimes worse (i.e., inspirational anecdotes), but most books can have their "usefulness" reduced to 10-20 pages. To get these 10-20 pages, I read in EPUB files and highlight interesting passages and write notes through PocketBook. Then I export the highlights and notes in xhtml format and convert them to a Google Doc through an R script. Then, most important of all, I try to "rewrite" the book from this Google Doc during trips. This is the moment when I really learn from the book. Not only is much easier to retain concepts from 10 concentrated pages than from 300 bloated pages. Rewriting it forces me to link the concepts and really understand them. It works in a similar way to the advice of learning something by trying to teach it to someone. [MR]
  • Here is how I pack. One hand held bag with a shoulder strap. In it I pack five good quality black cotton t-shirts, five changes of socks and underwear, a pair of cotton chinos, a woolen jumper, a woolen beanie, a waterproof goretex jacket, a pair of sandals, one nice button up shirt, a baseball cap, a pair of jeans, and my toiletries bag. Any room left over I pack with books. These books will be swapped with other travelers as I meet them on my journey. If I need anything else I purchase it on the way. [Pushing Rubber]
  • Multiculturalism is a lie and a betrayal of Western culture. Not all cultures are equal. If you believe they are then go and live in Africa or Afghanistan and see how you like it. [Pushing Rubber]
  • You may believe that it does not matter how you dress, but it does. You may think that people should not judge by appearances, but they do. You might well consider yourself to be special and above the hierarchies of social status, but you are not. [Pushing Rubber]
  • You don't have to work hard to have a great relationship. A great relationship is easy, that's what makes it a great relationship. Any relationship which requires work isn't worth being in in the first place. [Pushing Rubber]
  • Quasi-religions such as environmentalism and new age nonsense don't seem to offer much spiritual comfort when the doc informs you that you have the big C. But the Boomers infected the Church much like they infected everything else; or rather they failed to protect the treasures that had been passed down to them by previous generations. [Pushing Rubber]
  • The modern man has spent time alone. Use this time well. Take up some hobbies, learn a language, become more interesting. Prove to yourself that you don't need anyone else in order to be happy. If you can do that then you'll be in the position of never being vulnerable. And when you do find someone then there is a greater possibility that she will enhance your life. Not only that but women are very attracted to a man that doesn't need them. That's why alone time is so important. It ends up making you even more attractive. So not only will you not die alone, you'll end up with someone far superior than you were able to attract before. [Pushing Rubber]
  • Common to all the great marriages and relationships that I personally know, (and there aren't many of them), both partners are genuinely happy people. They wouldn't think about taking their frustrations out on their partner or making them demean themselves for their own short-term contentment. They are marriages of equals. The husbands do not have to ask 'permission' to do something. The idea of asking my wife for permission is completely alien to our relationship. I simply let her know what I'm doing. She in turn is happy that I'm having a good time. [Pushing Rubber]
  • There's strong market demand for smaller homes with a patch of garden in tolerably walkable neighborhoods near a Main Street. The architects have already arrived with their Dwell Magazine aesthetic. I first began to understand this dynamic in Portland, Oregon some years ago. Halfway between the urban core and the fringe sprawl is a particular sweet spot for a lot of people. [Granola Shotgun]
  • We never see the world as our retina sees it. In fact, it would be a pretty horrible sight: a highly distorted set of light and dark pixels, blown up toward the center of the retina, masked by blood vessels, with a massive hole at the location of the "blind spot" where cables leave for the brain; the image would constantly blur and change as our gaze moved around. What we see, instead, is a three-dimensional scene, corrected for retinal defects, mended at the blind spot, stabilized for our eye and head movements, and massively reinterpreted based on our previous experience of similar visual scenes. All these operations unfold unconsciously—although many of them are so complicated that they resist computer modeling. For instance, our visual system detects the presence of shadows in the image and removes them. At a glance, our brain unconsciously infers the sources of lights and deduces the shape, opacity, reflectance, and luminance of the objects. [SSC]
  • No other farmer, not even Gallo, had cornered a market the way Resnick had cornered the growing, buying, processing, and selling of pistachios. He had his hands on 65 percent of the nation’s crop. [link]
  • Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes. [NYT]
  • Older adult residents' socio-demographic factors were found to be associated with gait speed. Those with slow gait speed were not physically active and had less frequent contact with people through religious activities and this might place them at risk of being socially isolated, which can have consequences. Gait speed can be included as a routine assessment tool to identify at-risk groups for interventions which aim to keep the older adults socially engaged and healthy. [NLM]
  • By 1998, Yahoo was the beneficiary of a de facto Ponzi scheme. Investors were excited about the Internet. One reason they were excited was Yahoo's revenue growth. So they invested in new Internet startups. The startups then used the money to buy ads on Yahoo to get traffic. Which caused yet more revenue growth for Yahoo, and further convinced investors the Internet was worth investing in. When I realized this one day, sitting in my cubicle, I jumped up like Archimedes in his bathtub, except instead of "Eureka!" I was shouting "Sell!" [Paul Graham]
  • There could be a period when stocks and bonds go down together. For example, instead of stock declines -> people wanting the security of bonds, people might decide that stock declines lead to bailouts which are really stealth currency devaluations, and decide they want no part of the long end of the yield curve. [CBS]
  • While sales of other "light lagers" like Molson Coors Brewing Co.'s Coors Light and Miller Lite also declined, the fall at Bud Light is the steepest. The brand suffered its biggest volume drop ever last year—down an estimated two million barrels, or 5.7%. [WSJ]
  • It's been more than a decade since South Florida Rep. Mark Foley was forced out of Congress for sending sexual text messages to teenage boys. But Foley tapped his congressional campaign fund to dine on the Palm Beach social circuit four times in early 2017, ending with a $450 luncheon at the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches. [link]
  • We knew the alt-right was a rapidly-growing far-right threat to society. So we did what we do best – got inside. For the past year, we sent Patrik Hermansson undercover in the alt-right. He infiltrated the heart of the movement, and he caught it all on hidden camera. [Kickstarter]
  • This pessimistic view of the universe, in which civilisations must exist in isolation for the sake of their own safety, illustrates a point that Cixin makes throughout the series: that virtuous behaviour is a luxury, conditional on the absence of threat. [LRB]
  • Sound cards happen to carry sound most of the time, but they are perfectly happy measuring any AC voltage from -2 to +2 volts at 48,000 times per second with 16 bits of accuracy. Put another way, your microphone jack measures the voltage on a wire (two wires for stereo) every 0.02 milliseconds, and records it as a value between 0 and 65,535. [link]
  • Aspirin and atenolol (beta blocker) enhance metformin activity against breast cancer - use of cheap, safe drugs against cancer is fascinating but I doubt it will catch on, no money to be made. [Mangan]
  • When people are subjected to artificial blue-rich white light at night, from screens and electronic devices as well as artificial illumination, the photosensitive ganglion cells in the retina signal the brain to stop producing melatonin. Such disturbances can have wide effects: on sleep and waking cycles, eating patterns, metabolism, reproduction, mental alertness, blood pressure and heart rate, hormone production, temperature, mood patterns and the immune system. [link]
  • Probably placebo effects rode on the coattails of a more important issue, regression to the mean. That is, most sick people get better eventually. This is true both for diseases like colds that naturally go away, and for diseases like depression that come in episodes which remit for a few months or years until the next relapse. People go to the doctor during times of extreme crisis, when they’re most sick. So no matter what happens, most of them will probably get better pretty quickly. [SSC]
  • I view the infamous "Dean Scream" as one of the last triumphs of the controlled Establishment Media. Dean was mildly outside of the mainstream consensus, but still he was effectively kneecapped by the media over some mild overexuberance. At the time, I found the whole episode ridiculous and I still feel that way. Say what you want about Dean, but at least he was against The Iraq War, unlike the eventual Democratic nominee, John Kerry. Contrast the media's ability to sideline Dean with the Donald Trump campaign. Internet comments and social media allowed the Trump campaign to leapfrog the Establishment Media framing that traditionally blocked non-conformist politicians. If Dean had access to Twitter and Facebook, his supporters could have transmogrified the "Dean Scream" into a humorous meme and simply moved on. [Sailer]
  • SENS Research Foundation, a leading Silicon Valley nonprofit focused on diseases of aging, announced today the receipt of a $2.4 million Ethereum donation from Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum and the co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine. [link]
  • Trump's Treasury forecasts borrowing over $1 trillion in 2019 and over $1.1 trillion in 2020. Before taking office, Trump described himself as the "king of debt," although he campaigned on reducing the national debt. [WaPo]
  • Brendan is thirty and the founder of a tech company. He is bright, cheerfully handsome, well-related, well-connected, an alumnus of Brown University and Goldman Sachs, where he did operational risk management, which he concedes was "not exactly a crushing-it kind of job." One day a couple years ago, Brendan looked at his bosses and saw his future self: "charting numbers under fluorescent light, two kids at home, counting vacation days, and at what cost?" He quit and tried writing comedy sketches but found it too solitary, plus he didn't want to move to L.A. Last year, Brendan scraped together his life savings and started a dating app called Hater. [Esquire]
  • The question, as always, is the following: what source of fixed investment will disappear as the result of the backup in interest rates? There is obviously a fair amount of malinvestment going on (cough, Bitcoin mining, cough), but it is unclear to me that this enough to derail the global business cycle. [link]
  • Former firefighter Thomas Futterer, an avid runner who lives in Long Beach, hurt a knee "misstepping off the fire truck," three weeks after entering DROP, according to city records. The injury kept him off the job for almost a full year. Less than two months after the knee injury, a Tom Futterer from Long Beach crossed the finish line of a half-marathon in Portland, Ore., in a brisk 2:05:23, according to race results posted online. Only one Tom Futterer lives in Long Beach, according to public records. [LA Times]
  • For years, when it arrived in a port, the Blue Ridge would be welcomed by a familiar sight on the pier: a beaming Leonard Francis, flanked by a black sport-utility vehicle or limousine and an entourage of comely young women. His company, Glenn Defense, held Navy contracts to provide everything the crew might need while in port, including fuel, food, fresh water, tugboats, security guards and ground transportation. But Francis, also known within Navy circles as "Leonard the Legend," was renowned for the perks that he provided off the books. Besides paying for meals at Asia's fanciest restaurants, he was famed within the Navy for the prostitutes and strippers he had on call from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. [WaPo]
  • I wonder how many of the people making predictions about the future of truck drivers have ever ridden with one to see what they do? One of the big failings of high-level analyses of future trends is that in general they either ignore or seriously underestimate the complexity of the job at a detailed level. Lots of jobs look simple or rote from a think tank or government office, but turn out to be quite complex when you dive into the details. [MR]
  • Owls are intensely territorial, and when a male hears a rival male of the same species invade his territory, he attacks. By posing as an intruder, an observer equipped with speakers can quickly bring an aggrieved male into view. [NY Books]
  • At a total lifetime intake of 7,100 liters of 100 proof whiskey, you're guaranteed to get cirrhosis. However, 50% of the alcoholics had cirrhosis at an intake of about 2,000 liters. [Mangan]
  • Calls for rent-control legislation are growing across the U.S. as apartment tenants endure sharply rising rents and memories fade of the downsides of price caps. [WSJ]
  • U.S. officials have long maintained the federal government would make a profit on its $1.4 trillion student loan portfolio or at least break even, but two recent reports suggest just the opposite will be the case. [WSJ]
  • The relationship between patent law and antitrust law has challenged legal minds since the emergence of antitrust law in the late 19th century. In reductionist form, the two concepts pose a natural contradiction: One encourages monopoly while the other restricts it. The inherent tension can be framed in the following manner: Can a body of case law that grants monopoly opportunities be reconciled with a body of case law that curtails monopolization. To avoid uncomfortable dissonance, the trend across time has been to try to harmonize patent and antitrust law. Since the 1930s, for example, the Supreme Court has ruled that antitrust law operates only when patent holders reach beyond the boundaries inherent in the patent grant. It is an inspired attempt at reconciling the two bodies of case law. Unfortunately, no one has been able to determine what boundaries are inherent in the patent grant, a confusion that has spawned almost a century of consternation and conflict over what exercise of power lies within the patent grant and what lies outside. [pdf]
  • I'm looking at great industrial companies I own — like MMM, Honeywell and Boeing. Their P/Es are high. Should we see a 15% decline, I'll think about trimming. Or maybe adding more. For now, I'm thinking this is not 2001-2002 or 2008. The world's economies are firing on all cylinders. The big growth is in tech. And that’s where I will continue to be heavily invested, for now. [Technology Investor]
  • If Beverly Hills built a lot of high-income housing, it would have a salutary ripple effect moderating housing prices in surrounding areas all down the Great Chain of Housing. In contrast, Beverly Hills building a handful of low-income units is just a way to funnel pay-offs to the relatives of politically well-connected folks. [Sailer]
  • Our Bolshevik overlords are quite devoted students of Dystopia Engineering. We received a sinister blend of both Orwell and Huxley's worst nightmares. Amused to death in private, and ruthlessly silenced in public. Porn & Scorn. [Heartiste]
  • What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. [link]
  • In the largest sense, jamming is a problem in a field called tribology—the study of friction, lubrication, and wear between interacting surfaces. In the nineteen-sixties, the British government asked an engineer named H. Peter Jost to investigate this subject; the 1966 "Jost Report" found that poorly lubricated surfaces—sticky ball bearings, rusty train rails, and the like—cost Britain 1.4 per cent of its G.D.P. (The term "tribology," coined by Jost, comes from the Greek verb "to rub.") [New Yorker]
  • All automakers "cheat" off each other. They buy their competitors' cars, disassemble them, and learn precisely how they work and how they're made. This reverse engineering is called "competitive benchmarking," and while sometimes it's done in-house, there are also entire companies devoted to the practice. One of them is Munro and Associates, a firm of manufacturing experts contracted by OEMs and suppliers to tear down cars and car parts to the very last nut and bolt. [link]