Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mid October 2017 Links

  • Typically, the loser of a bar fight who later initiates a lawsuit has been beaten up pretty badly, or at least has the medical bills to suggest significant personal injuries. The loser sues the bar on one of several theories — the most common ones being inadequate security, not having banned a patron known to have a history of fighting, bar employees initiating the violence, or bar employees responding to a situation with unreasonable force. [link]
  • High school debate today is basically an intellectual game, not an exercise in truth-seeking. It has been turned into something that can easily be scored. This eliminates the complexity and intricacy of real discourse about real issues. If debate is a game, then the execution of a "spread" is like a well-timed blitz in football. Convincing a judge that your opponents' arguments would cause human extinction is equivalent to a successful Hail Mary pass. [link]
  • Today, America ranks nineteenth in the world for commercial shipbuilding, accounting for approximately 0.35 percent of global new construction. Put another way, only one-third of one-percent of new commercial shipbuilding occurs in the United States, despite the fact that we are the world's largest economy. [Greenspun]
  • Duke is an Adams devotee and often cites his books and theories in conversation. But he also believed, after examining Adams’s online presence, that he looked like a "total dork." One image in particular, which Adams described to me as his "douchebag photo," is often employed to accompany negative coverage. (It was taken, Adams says, about 20 years ago, for a Playboy shoot; hands raised before him, eyes to the sky, he looks like a kind of crazed Sunday preacher.) So in one pose, Duke shot Adams close-up, in black and white, with an old flannel blanket draped over his shoulders. The photo looks like a cross between an Eddie Bauer ad and a Richard Avedon portrait. "It’s a whole level of visual persuasion," Adams told me, "above anything I had in my own inventory." [NYT]
  • The body has no means of removing excess iron, instead storing it as ferritin. Why would the body not evolve a mechanism through which to remove excess iron, given how reactive and potentially damaging the molecule can be? Well, it never had to. There were always parasites gradually removing it through blood loss. Helminths are well documented to cause anaemia if the parasite burden gets too high (Crompton 1993) and as we have seen, helminths are consistently prevalent in humans without access to modern sanitation. A situation that was the norm from our evolutionary conception up until a few generations ago. [WoA]
  • "Beyond the Pyrenees begins Africa. Once that natural barrier is crossed, the Mediterranean racial type in all its purity confronts us. The human phenomena is entirely parallel with the sudden transition to the flora and fauna of the south. The Iberian population thus isolated from the rest of Europe, are allied in all important anthropological respects with the peoples inhabiting Africa north of the Sahara, from the Red Sea to the Atlantic." [Wiki]
  • At Dollar General, a package of eight Pop-Tarts is $2, or 25¢ a tart. At Walmart, shoppers can buy the same eight-pack, but more often they save by spending $9.98 for a bulk package of 48—only 20¢ a tart. Dollar General doesn’t offer much bulk. A Dollar General store also has lower startup costs; it spends as little as $250,000 for a new store, vs. the more than $15 million Walmart puts into a new Supercenter. [Bloomberg]
  • "Virtue is rewarded in this world, remember. Natural law makes no false judgements. Its decisions are just and true, even when dreadful. The victor gets the gold and the land every time. He also gets the fairest maidens, the glory tributes. And - why should it be otherwise? Why should the delights of life go to failures and cowards? Why should the spoils of battle go to the unwarlike? That would be insanity, utterly unnatural and immoral." [WoA]
  • Bananacoin is founded by a team of professionals with more than 5 years of background experience in banana production in Laos, associated with software development experts and professional lawyers [BTCtalk]
  • One law firm is using their enterprise version to put all their legal precedents into smart contracts so they will earn subscriptions. [CoBF]
  • High computational power requirements translate into high transaction fees. And that’s a problem for a lot of the applications that have been proposed for the blockchain. Using bitcoin as a currency is the biggest obvious problem. Most banks for example process millions of transactions daily, and most of these transactions are almost free because running a nice secure sever that handles a million transaction a day isn’t a lot more expensive than one that handles just a few transactions. [Alpha Vulture]
  • One of the year’s biggest initial coin offerings, a $232 million token sale by Tezos, is embroiled in a management fight that is threatening the deal and highlighting the risks in this red-hot corner of finance. [WSJ]
  • I’m betting Trump will delay the Obama Jan 1 2020 ADS-B out transponder mandate for all planes to fly in most of the US airspace. By delays and feature stripping the transponder cost is down to about $1000 after Federal subsidy, but installation by competent aircraft mechanic is extra. 18% of mechanics seem incompetent because that’s the share of non performing ADS-B installs. [MR]
  • The newest developments feature large homes with all the latest bells and whistles, but their physical design is exceptionally limited. The front yard is a little green toupee between driveways. There’s a useless strip between the homes so they are “fully detached” in spite of the collective legal nature of the HOA. The back yard is a patio up against a concrete wall. These are actually luxury apartments by other means. The inhabitants may be proud “homeowners” but the bank owns these buildings and collects rent every month in the form of mortgage payments with interest. [Granola Shotgun]
  • Trade-offs are endemic in biology. Anything which isn’t carrying its own weight will be eliminated - organs which are no longer used will be stunted by evolution and within a lifetime, unused muscles & bones will start weakening or being scavenged for resources, as astronauts may find out the hard way. Often, if you use a drug or surgery to optimize something, you will discover penalties elsewhere. If you delay aging & lengthen lifespan as is possible in many species, you might find that you have encouraged cancer or - still worse - decreased reproduction as evidenced by the dramatic deaths of salmon or brown antechinus; if your immune system goes all-out against disease, you either deplete your energetic and chemical reserves or risk autoimmune disorders; similarly, we heal much slower than seems possible despite the clear advantage; if you try to enhance attention with an amphetamine, you destroy creativity, or if the amphetamines reduce sleep, you damage memory consolidation or peripheral awareness; or improving memory (which requires active effort to maintain) also increases sensitivity to pain and interferes with other mental tasks (as increased WM does, slightly); if a mouse invests in anti-aging cellular repairs, it may freeze to death, and so on. (What are we to make of inducing savant-like abilities by brute-force suppression of brain regions, or tDCS improving learning?) From this perspective, it’s not too surprising that human medicine may be largely wasted effort or harmful (although most - especially doctors - would strenuously deny this). "Hardly any man is clever enough to know all the evil he does." [Gwern]
  • We derive experimentally based estimates of the energy used by neural mechanisms to code known quantities of information. Biophysical measurements from cells in the blowfly retina yield estimates of the ATP required to generate graded (analog) electrical signals that transmit known amounts of information. Energy consumption is several orders of magnitude greater than the thermodynamic minimum. It costs 104 ATP molecules to transmit a bit at a chemical synapse... [Nature]
  • Charles Murray remarks in Human Accomplishment on the graphs of "great" artists or scientists (as measured by how many different textbooks or encyclopedias thought they were important enough to mention) that they exhibit - no matter how you try to recalculate or adjust them - an extraordinary imbalance with many minor figures and just a few universal figures, as Lotka’s law predicts; this is odd, since the distribution looks nothing like a bell curve or "normal distribution" as one would predict if greatness were based only on IQ or only on hard-workingness or only on wealth. Some of this is network or Matthew effects, but the simplest explanation is that greatness requires multiple traits: one must be intelligent and hard-working and not desperately poor and... Many of which are normal distributions or similar, and when the requirements multiply out, what is left is a fast-shrinking distribution - like Lotka’s law. [Gwern]
  • One of the requirements for great work in any field is that one must be motivated - one must think one’s work or the field vitally important. It’s hard to become a chess grandmaster if one has contempt for devoting one’s life to studying the minutia of an arbitrary set of rules whose mastery has no utility to anything else whatsoever. I believe this may lead to a paradox of expertise, a winner's curse: those most likely to have achieved world-class mastery of a topic are systematically the most likely to be self-deluding or badly mistaken about its value. The "grandmasters" of many fields claim their field is uniquely important, which of course cannot be true in general, or uniquely satisfying to them, which seems improbable as any person can have sampled but few of life’s wares. Dinosaur Comics, on the topic of world-class violinists starting in very early youth, asks "What are the odds a 6-year-old would know what a 30-year-old wants to do?" [ibid]
  • The degree of supervision, indeed, is often a more eloquent class indicator than mere income, which suggests that the whole class system is more a recognition of the value of freedom than a proclamation of the value of sheer cash. The degree to which your work is overseen by a superior suggests your real class more accurately than the amount you take home from it. Thus the reason why a high-school teacher is "lower" than a tenured university professor. The teacher is obliged to file weekly "lesson plans" with a principal superintendent, or "curriculum coordinator," thus acknowledging subservience. The professor, on the other hand, reports to no one, and his class is thus higher, even though the teacher may be smarter, better-mannered and richer. (It is in public schools, the postal service, and police departments that we meet terms like supervisor and inspector: the prole hunter will need to know no more.) One is a mid- or low prole if one’s servitude is constantly emphasized. Occupational class depends very largely on doing work for which the consequences of error or failure are distant or remote, or better, invisible, rather than immediately apparent to a superior and thus instantly humiliating to the performer. [Class: A Guide Through the American Status System]
  • Microblogging and mobile devices appear to augment human social capabilities, which raises the question whether they remove cognitive or biological constraints on human communication. In this paper we analyze a dataset of Twitter conversations collected across six months involving 1.7 million individuals and test the theoretical cognitive limit on the number of stable social relationships known as Dunbar's number. We find that the data are in agreement with Dunbar's result; users can entertain a maximum of 100–200 stable relationships. Thus, the 'economy of attention' is limited in the online world by cognitive and biological constraints as predicted by Dunbar's theory. [PLOS]
  • I believe that someone who has been well-educated will think of something worth writing at least once a week; to a surprising extent, this has been true. (I have added ~130 documents to this repository over the first 3 years.) There are many benefits to keeping notes as they allow one to accumulate confirming and especially contradictory evidence4, and even drafts can be useful so you Don’t Repeat Yourself or simply decently respect the opinions of mankind [Gwern]
  • There is also an old German medical proverb which reads: "H√§sslichkeit stellt eine schlecte Prognose vor," while Dr. George Draper has this extremely significant passage: "If one notes the general appearance of hospital-ward inmates, the average standard of beauty in the ordinary accepted sense is surprisingly low. It is as though ugliness, being an expression of bad modelling in respect of features and body proportions, expressed in the morphological panel a sort of genetic bungling. In such folk, inadequacies in other phases of the total personality may not unreasonably be expected." [Ludovici]
  • If you have ever said something like, "You can’t win because the government has a land army and nuclear weapons," here is the moral of the story for you. You are an idiot. You haven’t thought through this well enough, and you need to see the second amendment for what it really is. It is the best guarantor of peace because tyranny is mutually assured destruction. Insurgent will be mixed with progressive statist, and there will be no SEAL teams or nuclear weapons to which you can turn because you won’t know one from another. There will be nowhere to target a nuclear weapon, and nowhere for a SEAL team to raid. All of their close quarters battle preparations will be for naught when their own families are in peril due to civil warfare. These aren’t Afghan tribesmen you’re dealing with. These are engineers, mechanics, fabricators and welders, chemists, and the world’s best machinists. If you think Afghanistan was rough, wait to see what civil war would look like in America. [link]
  • Could this lead to a three-way partition of the United States? Four western "blue" states (Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California) form one country, the liberal Northeast (DC, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and the New England states) forms a second country, and the remainder of the country becomes a solid conservative country with its capitol in Texas. [LoTB]
  • What "Shoe Dog" taught me, then, is that I’ve been naive to think there is anything esoteric one can learn from business books like this. It is my mistake for coming to a mass market piece of media and expecting to hear an honest telling, or even an interesting one. These books are written to entertain, glorify the egos of those who they are written about or nominally by, and perhaps even to some extent to distract, delude or otherwise throw off of the scent the would-be competitors who read them. [AHR]
  • When I founded Talk magazine in 1998 with Miramax, the movie company Harvey founded with his brother Bob, I also took over the running of their fledgling book company with Jonathan Burnham as editor in chief. Strange contracts pre-dating us would suddenly surface, book deals with no deadline attached authored by attractive or nearly famous women, one I recall was by the stewardess on a private plane. It was startling — and professionally mortifying — to discover how many hacks writing gossip columns or entertainment coverage were on the Miramax payroll with a "consultancy" or a "development deal" (one even at The New York Times). [NYT]
  • Self-reports of psychopathic traits reasonably aligned with the perceptions of informants (rs = .36 - .60) and both predicted various types of antisocial behaviors, although some associations were only significant for monomethod correlations. These findings suggest that participants are willing and able to disclose psychopathic personality traits in research settings under conditions of confidentiality. [Wiley$]
  • The family needed roughly $7 billion to fund the deal, and lenders demanded a steep interest rate, according to people with knowledge of the matter. After meeting at least nine different firms over the course of four months, the asking price came to about 13 percent, said the people, who requested not to be identified because the discussions were private. [Bloomberg]
  • We have found that age was the only factor that affected the ability to behave randomly. This ability peaked at age 25, on average, and declined from then on. We also demonstrate that a relatively short list of choices, say 10 hypothetical coin flips, can be used to reliably gauge randomness of human behavior. [PLOS]
  • Age-adjusted cancer incidence across the combined cohort (N = 2,304) was 840 cases per 100,000 person-years (1,020 per 100,000 person-years in the Lappe cohort and 722 per 100,000 person-years in the GrassrootsHealth cohort). Incidence was lower at higher concentrations of 25(OH)D. Women with 25(OH)D concentrations greater than 40 ng/ml had a 67% lower risk of cancer than women with concentrations less than 20 ng/ml (HR = 0.33, 95% CI = 0.12–0.90). [PLOS]
  • The prospective cohort study, named PURE, found that in >135,000 participants from 18 countries, nutritive carbohydrates increase human mortality, whereas dietary fat reduces it, requesting a fundamental change of current nutritional guidelines. Experimental evidence from animal models provides synergizing mechanistic concepts as well as pharmacological options to mimic low-carb or ketogenic diets.[Cell]
  • I remembered the words W.C. Fields had chosen for his epitaph: "On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia." [link]
  • In Southern California, $55 is what it will cost to get a special cup at Klatch Coffee, which plans to roll out a particularly prized version next month, dubbed Esmeralda Geisha 601. The “601” refers to the price per pound that the coffee sold for at auction. [WSJ]
  • Donald Trump never had a list of men and women who are independent of the existing power base that runs this country. He would be a real threat to the powers that be if he had such a list. Agents of the powers that be are now rushing into the vacuum. By January 20, the deal will be done. [Gary North]
  • Socialists in the nineteenth century were equally silent about how the state can allocate production so as to create the good society. In the twentieth century, there was no major detailed theoretical treatise on the economics of socialism that went into detail about the actual operations of central planning agencies in a world where the state owned the means of production. [Gary North]
  • Stretching used to be something people squeezed in before or after a workout. It is now a one-on-one treatment with specialized equipment and trained helpers. Stretching services and studios are popping up nationwide, pulling in hard-core exercisers like Mr. Minichiello, who says stretching sessions help him run faster and prevent injuries. The studios are also attracting creaky office workers wanting to unwind tight spots. [WSJ]
  • Acrobats, gymnasts, yogis, contortionists, and martial artists have clearly been pushing the limits for centuries, sometimes achieving uncanny mobility. But these are highly motivated athletes with specific and exotic performance goals and stretching regimens that would definitely intimidate the rest of us, and with good reason: they often injure themselves along the way. Indeed, it may even be necessary to injure joints — to traumatize their capsules and ligaments — in order to get them to move that far. [PS]
  • Casper was on its way to becoming a 750-million-dollar company. It was the hottest of the bed-in-a-box disruptors, with investments from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Nas. And it was picking on some skinny blogger from Arizona? [FC]
  • The 1961 Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) called for the delivery of 3,200 nuclear warheads to more than 1,000 urban, industrial and military targets in Communist countries. The planners estimated the resulting death toll at 285 million. [link]
  • One late afternoon as I drove into a village, the sun appeared to drop like a fireball into the fjord. Spectacular modern installations appeared on remote corners in the most far-fetched of places, that they sometimes seemed like a figment of my imagination. I have never seen a place so multifaceted in its geography and so unpopulated, except perhaps on the other side of the earth, in Patagonia. [NYT]
  • Over the course of millions of AlphaGo vs AlphaGo games, the system progressively learned the game of Go from scratch, accumulating thousands of years of human knowledge during a period of just a few days. AlphaGo Zero also discovered new knowledge, developing unconventional strategies and creative new moves that echoed and surpassed the novel techniques it played in the games against Lee Sedol and Ke Jie. [Deepmind]
  • The good investors, Lynch as an example, get around to the companies they own, stay in hotels, buy in stores etc. There are posters here who apparently don't do anything like that. If you had shopped Sears over the past decade or longer, you would know everything you needed to know to take your money far away. Keeping your eyes and ears open come before reading arcane financial documents. [CoBF]
  • While I focus on picking strong swimmers rather than predicting the tide, one potential mistake that can be made when deeply analyzing individual opportunities (in addition to over-reliance on ?exhaustive data collection rather than thoughtful decision making) is to get so wrapped up in company-specific details that you overlook the broader systemic context - the “and then what?” analytical step out of the reductionistically precise comfort of a spreadsheet into the messy, complex real world [...] A third and final example, coincidentally also retail-related, is the bull thesis on Seritage Growth Properties (SRG) - i.e. slicing up and redeveloping erstwhile Sears boxes at substantially higher rental rates. I’ve seen multiple detailed writeups, none of which addressed my basic system-level question: ? which tenants can generate sustainable profits in B/C space? Fellow big-box anchor J.C. Penney has issues, the venerable Macy’s is slashing jobs, and I don’t think new Barnes and Nobles are in the cards. The long list of smaller-format retailers that have gone from “hot” to “not” includes, but is not "Limited" to: Hot Topic, Quiksilver, Aeropostale, J. Crew, Express, and essentially all of Ascena’s brands. Even cleats and clubs aren’t safe: Sports Authority went so bankrupt that creditors chose to liquidate. And it’s not as if these stores are closing into a supply-constrained market - Jones Lang LaSalle notes the U.S. has as much retail space per capita as "France, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany combined." None of this is to say that Seritage couldn’t work. But imaginably, the counterparty (Simon?) to those other downsizing retailers' leases probably also wants to redevelop space... implying what for pricing and utilization in an oversupplied market with shrinking demand? This system-level view raises critical questions I consider "too hard" - i.e. unknowable and/or unpredictable. So I passed Seritage by in favor of a much more clearly under priced REIT I actually had an angle on. (A small position and not my favorite idea, but in an expensive market, I’ll take value where I can find it.) [Askeladden]
  • Retail is not the right industry for purists. The Starbucks of today is perhaps best known for frilly, ridiculously customized drinks (double-pump hazelnut cappuccino with soy milk and stiff foam, exactly 197 degrees) but there was a time when the company had a bitter internal debate about whether or not to offer non-fat milk because it violated the Italian coffee experience and the purity of their dark roast. [Askeladden]
  • There is excess capacity in too many areas (and not just commodities). Reinsurance, for example. Retail real estate spinoff dreams, for another (the Sears and Macy’s locations I’ve seen are fairly typical in their feeling quite dated and needing serious renovations while leaving me scratching my head about who would actually want to lease or own stores other than Amazon). [Steve Towns]
  • Your best bet if you do not have the tools to joint and plain is to purchase from a reputable lumber dealer. They will have lumber that is already acclimated to your climate. This will more than likley save you money in wasted material. [link]
  • Certain entrepreneur stories – Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog and Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity come to mind – could be reductionistically expressed as, “I spent a lot of my young adulthood screwing around doing what felt right, and ended up becoming a billionaire.” It’s a compelling narrative, but also a dangerous one – it’s easy for someone who is a billionaire to look back and say ah, don’t be a corporate square, follow your passion and go on a mystical journey and everything will work out... but I’m almost certain that if you had access to aggregate statistics, the life outcomes (in pure financial terms rather than more holistic life satisfaction) for 20somethings who, at least at first, pursue serious corporate jobs to build a resume, experience, and a nest egg before branching out, are probably way beyond those who meander along without much direction and hope things will just fall into place. [Askeladden]

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