Wednesday, January 31, 2018

End of January 2018 Links

  • In a 2014 paper in the journal Ecosystems a team of researchers reported that the hydrography of residential neighborhoods in Miami and Phoenix is more similar to each other than to the hydrography of the Sonoran Desert and Everglades natural ecosystems that they replaced. "You sit there in Phoenix," says Peter Groffman, an ecologist at the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center, "and a lot of people have moved there from the northeast because they're allergic to tree pollen. And then they planted all these trees. Pollen counts in Phoenix can be really high. Why have people moved across the world spreading a similar ecosystem type?" [link]
  • "Cornelius Vanderbilt was once the richest man in America. Yet none of his descendents just three generations below him could count themselves as millionaires! How did this happen? Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt tells the tale." [link]
  • The main textbook resource for this year is Robbins and Cotran's Pathological Basis of Disease. Upperclassmen recommended that we purchase a $95 subscription to Pathoma, an online organ-based video atlas covering high-yield pathologies. Many of us are watching the lectures at 1.5x speed, pausing to replay sections that are confusing or to check Wikipedia. Lanky Luke surmised, "This is the future of medical education. There are so many educational resources now. Most of our class would give up lectures if it saved $10,000 of tuition." [Greenspun]
  • Living in Zurich forced completely unanticipated personal growth. Weekends once filled with work and JIRA tickets were now occupied with impulsive SCUBA trips off the Italian coast, ibex-spotting excursions in southeast Switzerland, and under-the-bridge “nature raves” a quick train-ride away from Zurich proper. Being able to remove myself from the constant specter of work made me more creative and driven; in fact, this replenished focus led to developing the research that landed me and my co-publishers a spot at the European Conference of Computer Vision in 2016. [link]
  • Barrett-Jackson's 2018 Scottsdale auction just wrapped up and everyone's rich dad went home happy with a NUMBERSMATCHINGIKNOWWHATIHAVE 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS that'll sit untouched in a garage for the rest of eternity. Occasionally my dad and I will watch the auction live because I will always have a soft spot for '60s-'70s muscle cars and trucks, but can we all admit how silly prices are getting? [link]
  • Once in office, Trump appointed the most disproportionately enplaned administration in history: According to Forbes, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has a Dassault Falcon; Linda McMahon, the Small Business Administration administrator, has a Bombardier Global; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her family maintain a fleet of 12 private jets, including a Boeing and six Gulfstreams, as well as four helicopters; Gary Cohn, the chairman of the National Economic Council, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross each retain private-jet shares in a fractional-ownership arrangement. [NYT]
  • We study the relation between mutual fund managers' family back grounds and their professional performance. Using hand-collected data from individual Census records on the wealth and income of managers' parents, we find that managers from poor families deliver higher alphas than managers from rich families. This result is robust to alternative measures of fund performance, such as benchmark-adjusted return and value extracted from capital markets. We argue that managers born poor face higher entry barriers into asset management, and only the most skilled succeed. Consistent with this view, managers born poor are promoted only if they outperform, while those born rich are more likely to be promoted for reasons unrelated to performance. Overall, we establish the first link between family descent of investment professionals and their ability to create value. [pdf]
  • We recall that the reading of the Daily Sentiment Index of S&P futures traders stood at just 3% bulls on the day of the March 2009 low. Looking at sentiment data today, there are probably 3% bears left. [link]
  • Nobody smokes marijuana anymore. Everyone's vaping it. Or eating, drinking, sipping, dabbing, sucking on lozenges, chewing on gum, applying unguents or administering a drop or two of a cannabis-infused tincture under one's tongue, where it is absorbed into the sublingual artery, within minutes producing an invisible, odorless, private high. [NYT]
  • We are in the "Internet Two" phase as Steven Johnson called in it his piece that I blogged about yesterday. Internet One was an open network, open protocols, open systems. Internet Two is closed platforms that increasingly dominate the market and own and control our content and us. We need to get to Internet Three where we take back control of ourselves. [AVC]
  • I mean, Faye Dunaway is driving a fuckin' Prius today. Now, there's nothing wrong with a Prius, but my point is, she had no financial power. [link]
  • A VC firm is a two sided marketplace that doesn't scale. On one side you have entrepreneurs looking for capital, support, introductions, know-how, and all sorts of "value add" that can help them win a market. On the other end you have return hungry (yet risk adverse) investors looking for unique investment opportunities with asymetrical upside. The VC firm is the platform where such value is exchanged. [link]
  • He gave a personal story about Canada's attempt to provide gold-plated service for all: "I used to teach in Canada. My daughter went to an ophthalmologist where she was told she may have brain cancer and needed an MRI to rule this out. She was given an urgent 3:00 am appointment... in 6 months. Instead of waiting, we went across the border to get a $500 MRI that was emailed to her Canadian doctor. It was quite the spectacle. There are these lots near the border where MRI and CT machines are set up in trailers. The whole parking lot was filled with cars with Canadian license plates." [Greenspun]
  • In order to attract global talent, Japan's government has followed the example of countries such as Canada, and introduced a points-based immigration system. Advanced degrees, language skills, work experience and other qualifications are tallied up and a high score can help foreign workers earn permanent residency -- the equivalent of a U.S. green card -- in as little as one year. The administration has thus taken to boasting that it has the quickest permanent residency system in the world. After that, it takes five years of residency and another year or so of paperwork to become a citizen of Japan. So for skilled workers, Japan is now among the easier rich countries to move to. There's just one problem -- skilled workers aren't coming. [Bloomberg]
  • The key to a good interrogation is that the suspect doesn't know what the interrogator knows so the suspect can be caught in a lie which unravels their story. Thus, the Florida Police Bill of Rights is stunning in what it allows police officers... [MR]
  • Wennmachers, 53, has worked with, advised, or broken bread with nearly everyone who has endeavored to build—or write about—a startup. "She's like the router at the center of the industry," Andreessen says. [Wired]
  • Real earnings growth per share for the S&P Composite Stock Price Index over the previous ten years was negatively correlated (-17% since 1881) with real earnings growth over the subsequent ten years. That's the opposite of momentum. It means that good news about earnings growth in the past decade is (slightly) bad news about earnings growth in the future. [link]
  • Luckily, running your own mail server is not as daunting as many would have you believe. After all, that is how email is designed to work. Email is perhaps the most successful federated, decentralized protocol to ever exist. It's a shame we've allowed a centralized, monolithic advertising company to obtain a near monopoly on such a great technology. Luckily, I've spent the last few years tweaking my mail server setup, and I'm willing to enable your laziness in the spirit of a more free and open internet. [link]
  • Warren Miller, a passionate skier and filmmaker whose movies introduced skiing and snowboarding to a wide audience, died on Wednesday at his home on Orcas Island in Puget Sound, near Seattle. He was 93. [NYT]
  • I'm firmly in the blog camp, but I'm hitting a wall. I want to find independent content written by passionate, slightly zany individuals on independent websites, but I don't know where to find it. I know it's out there, but I've been trained by Facebook, Twitter, and even aggregators like Techmeme and Hacker News, to expect content to just appear in my lap. Like, somehow the creme of the crop will find its way to me — I just need to show up. [link]
  • working long hours sketching designs and being cutting toward people who want his precious time or are making too much distracting noise buttering their toast [Sailer]
  • In the event of a major war with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, even one that Russia starts, its plans call for "de-escalatory" nuclear strikes. That is, Vladimir Putin would order limited nuclear attacks early, so as to frighten the U.S. into ending the conflict on terms favorable to Moscow. [WSJ]
  • Keeping track of a one-name first-date phone number isn't easy. Mr. Krick said his phone contacts contained, at one point, more than 60 women with the last name "OkCupid" or "Tinder." He hardly ever enters real last names. "The one time I did it recently, it was because there was another Emily Tinder already, so I needed to find out her real last name," he said. "I couldn't have Emily Tinder Two." [WSJ]
  • It isn't the zoning restrictions, or the building code, or the fire marshal's stipulations, or minimum parking requirements, or storm water management, or handicap accessibility, or financing practices, or tax regimes, or home owners associations, or public school district jerrymandering, or NIMBYs, or the DOT... It's all of it. The entire constellation of parameters taken together means only very large, fairly expensive, and incredibly complex things can be built. Whenever anyone tries to reform the system instead of simplifying things, additional new layers are added on top of the existing ones. [Granola Shotgun]
  • The cardiologist commented that one of his classmates paid for medical school by working as a cab driver while another worked as a part-time cop. "Getting shot at was his stress relief from studying. He is now a trauma surgeon." Classmates noted that tuition has gone up so much faster than wages that even paying for undergraduate tuition would be impossible today. [Greenspun]
  • Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit. They have their self-regarding entitlement feminism, and ceaselessly vaunt their independence, but the reality is, come the epidemic plague or foreign invasion, they'd become precisely the sort of useless baggage you’d trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerry can of diesel. [Greenspun]
  • One afternoon, I had to interrupt a phone interview that I was conducting to chase two fighting men from my front yard. They were flinging decorative stones from the flower bed at each other while they argued over a soured sale of pain pills. After I shooed them away, one of the combatants slunk back and rang my doorbell to beg for a ride home. His buddy had peeled away after an old woman who lived at the house where the fracas began shot out the truck's windshield. [WSJ]
  • Despite the promises of the name, it can be a challenge to find actual olives at Olive Garden. The omission is intentional, though the irony is not. It's a simple matter of marketing: People don't like olives. [Eater]
  • His goal has been modest: to have as decent a life as medical knowledge and the limits of his body will allow. So he saved and did not retire early, and therefore is not in financial straits. He kept his social contacts, and avoided isolation. He monitored his bones and teeth and weight. And he has made sure to find a doctor who had the geriatric skills to help him hold on to an independent life. [New Yorker]
  • Startups represent "the field offices of a large distributed workforce assembled by venture capitalists and their associate institutions," doing low-overhead, low-risk R&D for five corporate giants. In such a system, the real disillusionment isn't the discovery that you're unlikely to become a billionaire; it's the realization that your feeling of autonomy is a fantasy, and that the vast majority of you have been set up to fail by design. [Wired]
  • Had a cool opportunity to walk up the cable to the top of the the first tower of the Bay Bridge today with folks from the Bay Lights project. You walk right up the cable/pipe to the top, it actually wasn't that hard. Once on top the vistas were amazing. I tried to grab some photos of the hardware behind the lights at the top of the cables. The top of the tower is 526 feet high, and 280,000 cars drive on the bridge every day, making it the second busiest bridge in the world. [Matt]
  • An Argentine ant society is separated socially and reproductively from all other Argentine ants by an intolerance of outsiders. Their patriotism is so absolute that males are almost always killed if they enter the territory of the next supercolony. [Amazon]
  • Dean is the one who pointed me to that John Smedley cardigan is going to last three times longer than anything from say a J.Crew. That conversation put me on track towards developing an excel spreadsheet where I compare the daily usage value of a garment — think clothing return on investment. [OM]
  • For decades, food engineers at the big coffee brands of the day—Folger's, Maxwell House, Hills Brothers—systematically reduced the cost of their product by adding ever-cheaper beans into their blends. They used a less expensive coffee varietal known as robusta that was easy to produce in bulk in Brazil—and even took the lowest grades of it that they could find. Over time, they replaced the actual smell and flavor of coffee with marketing and some engineering tricks. "Just before sealing the powdered coffee in the cans, manufacturers inject a simulated coffee aroma," wrote Taylor Clark in his book Starbucked, "so when consumers open the container, they get a whiff of fresh coffee, which, because it’s entirely fake, instantly vanishes." [Atlantic]
  • [T]he "errors" between actual market returns and those that one would have expected (on the basis of reliable valuation measures 12-years earlier) are tightly correlated with by cyclical fluctuations in consumer confidence (h/t Mark Louis for that insight). Put simply, extreme overvaluation emerges because investors feel exuberant over some portion of the market cycle, not because prices actually belong at those extremes. Likewise, extreme undervaluation emerges because investors feel risk-averse. [Hussman]
  • Taleb took that single insight and turned it into a lucrative publishing and public speaking career. The liberal media refuses to give the full story of who actually originated the black swan concept and continues to give Taleb free publicity. The media only promotes people who are useful idiots, not those who have actually insightful observations. [Grey Enlightenment]
  • I discovered a Twitter feed that puts faces to this hypothesis. It's called "Mugshot Baes", and before you all ask what the hell baes means, apparently it's one of those new fandangled words that the kids are using these days which translates roughly to babe but the kids nowadays are too exhausted to be bothered using entire words. [Pushing Rubbber]
  • Money, which had always flowed freely to Manafort and which he'd spent more freely still, soon became a problem. After the revolution, Manafort cadged some business from former minions of the ousted president, the ones who hadn’t needed to run for their lives. But he complained about unpaid bills and, at age 66, scoured the world (Hungary, Uganda, Kenya) for fresh clients, hustling without any apparent luck. Andrea noted her father's "tight cash flow state," texting Jessica, "He is suddenly extremely cheap." His change in spending habits was dampening her wedding plans. For her "wedding weekend kick off" party, he suggested scaling back the menu to hot dogs and eliminated a line item for ice. [Atlantic]
  • Bank of Utica is right back where it started. It is now the best bargain of any bank stock I own at 57% of book value and about 12x normalized earnings. If the Sinnotts were to sell (which they won’t) the stock would fetch North of $2,000 per share. If they would simply start buying shares back (which they should with 19% capital, but likely won’t) you could easily see it trade over $1,000. The problem is, the family controls the voting stock so outside shareholders have no voice and are held hostage by the stingy ways of the family. [Seeking Alpha]
  • Gwern's argument for why Bitcoin might be worth $10,000 doesn't match what actually happened. He thought it would only reach that level if it became the world currency; instead it's there for...unclear reasons. [Less Wrong]
  • A test patient who does not need treatment is sent to 180 dentists to receive treatment recommendations. In the experiment, we vary two factors: First, the information that the patient signals to the dentist. Second, we vary the perceived socioeconomic status (SES) of the test patient. Furthermore, we collected data to construct several measures of short- and long-term demand and competition as well as dentist and practice characteristics. We find that the patient receives an overtreatment recommendation in more than every fourth visit. [SSRN]
  • Drinking on top of a mountain in a refuge with hearty food to sustain your continued alcohol consumption is the epitome of the civilized world. There simply is nothing quite like it. The highlight of our trip, and the highlight of our alcohol intake, was lunch at the small private restaurant at the splendid Chalet Fiat in Madonna di Campiglio. [Pushing Rubber]
  • "Every time we'd go to lunch, he'd be 30, 60, 90 minutes late," says Stuart Feigin, Oracle's fifth employee, who calls his former boss "the late Larry Ellison." Ellison was 90 minutes late for this interview. He did not apologize, he only explained: He was in a meeting. He has a hard time getting out of meetings. He is "somewhat reassured" that two of the people he most admires, Winston Churchill and Bill Clinton, were and are habitually late. [WaPo]

1 comment:

James said...

The Atul Gawande article was painful to read. A long-winded admission that medical experts have no clue what causes age-related disease or what to do about it.