Monday, March 5, 2018

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]


Anonymous said...

Shuttle trains: 110 cars on BNSF. These are true unit trains, and move on a single waybill from a single origin to a single destination. But unlike coal, grain doesn't move in large enough quantities, consistently, that you will run them over and over and over again. So they are sold in one-train, five-train, ten-train, or monthly or yearly increments. The time increment contracts guarantee the shipper a set number of train starts in that period, on a take-or-pay basis. Shuttle trains mostly move to export elevators, feeders, and a few really big ethanol plants. The growth market is feeders and ethanol.

Shuttle trains are restricted. To get a shuttle train rate, both origin and destination must be able to accept all 110 cars and the locomotives on their own track, off the main track, with just one "switch" allowed -- that is, the train must enter the track all as one. If you have to break the train apart and switch it into several tracks to get it delivered, you have more than one switch, and you cannot get the rate. The train must be loaded in eight hours or less, and unloaded in eight hours or less (those times were as of a year ago, and may have changed). There are about 250 shuttle train compliant elevators in North America. Loop tracks are becoming the standard on these now, just like a coal mine or powerplant.

CP said...

I had an economic historian on my dissertation committee, a wonderful historian named Bill Parker, who said you really can’t do just Chicago, you need to do six cities so you can compare them, because otherwise you can’t make causal claims. You’re only making narrative, descriptive claims. (And that was OK with me; I’m OK with narrative, descriptive claims.)