Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11th Links

  • Another way to look at this is that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of litigation. Instead of a bright-line rule that would enable everyone to know in advance how a cake situation should be resolved, they suggest a more elaborate process for litigating cake-related disputes. The process has to include judges who, if they are hostile to religious believers, keep this hostility secret. [Phil G]
  • "We will see a GTO sell for $100 million in the next two to three years," he said. "I have little doubt." [link]
  • And then there was the mallard, wearing velcro red shoes, that became an internet celebrity when the duck was photographed in 2016 flying with its caretaker in North Carolina. [LA Times]
  • In an unusual technical glitch, a farmstead about 4 miles northeast of Potwin, Kansas became the default site of 600 million IP addresses (due to their lack of fine granularity) when the digital mapping company changed the putative geographic center of the contiguous United States from 39.8333333,-98.585522 to 38.0000,-97.0000 leading to law enforcement agents and others visiting the farmstead at all hours of the day and night. A lawsuit by the owners or the property at those coordinates filed a lawsuit against MaxMind, which was settled via alternative dispute resolution in September 2017. [wiki]
  • Many institutions prefer high quality fixed income to diversify equity exposure (rather than volatility) because it has a positive yield (for now). Fixed income has performed admirably as a hedge to equity during a three-decade collapse in rates; however, there are major flaws in overreliance. The truth about the longer historical relationship between stocks and bonds is scary. Between 1883 and 2015 stocks and bonds spent more time moving in tandem (30% of the time) than they spent moving opposite one another (11% of the time). It is only during the last two decades of falling rates, accommodative monetary policy, and globalization that we have seen an extraordinary period of anti-correlation emerge between stocks and bonds unmatched by any other regime in history (see below). Not only are stocks and bonds positively correlated most of the time but there is a precedent for multi-year periods whereby both have declined. [link]
  • Asian groups are pissed off about De Blasio's plan to wreck Stuyvesant and Bronx Science by diversifying them. Stuyvesant is currently 73% Asian and only 19% white. So even though Stuyvesant is only 19% white, it's still not considered diverse because "diversity" comes from blacks and Hispanics, not from Asians. No one ever says the NBA needs more diversity because it’s 74% black. If Republicans were smart (which they are not) they would take advantage and try to encourage this fissure in the Democratic coalition of minorities where Asians get the short end of the stick. [LotB]
  • Readers: What do you think? Does an exam school become pointless if people who fail the exam are also admitted? [Phil G]
  • Robert Eldridge of Toronto wrote as follows: "I am outraged to learn that David Brooks's son is a foreign mercenary in the Israel Defense Force. Surely given Brooks's facile defense of Israeli actions in the Gaza Conflict and his derogation of Muslim jihadists, this information should have been prominently disclosed." [NY Times]
  • New York Times columnist David Brooks is getting the full Washington book party treatment Thursday night, with a fancy party to be hosted at the Kalorama mansion of his old friends Atlantic owner David Bradley and his wife. The new Brooks book, The Road to Character, extols the virtue of a noble life via the study of a handful of leaders and thinkers. However, it's the effusive 110-word display of admiration and gratitude Brooks gives to Anne C. Snyder, his 30-year-old former New York Times research assistant, which is catching people's attention. Brooks, easily one of the most admired conservative columnists in America, with a distinguished list of bestselling books, and a vocal critic of morality and cultural habits, devotes the opening paragraph of the "Acknowledgements" section to Snyder, gushing about the "lyricism of her prose" and the "sensitivity of her observations." Brooks says it was Snyder's influence that led him to write a book about "morality and inner life" and that she was a close partner in the "three years of its writing." [Politico]
  • However, we discovered a new round of difficulties. Rekognition incorrectly identified some members of Congress as similar-looking celebrities-like one particularly funny instance where it confused Bill Nelson with Bill Paxton. Additionally, our hit rate on photographs was very low because the halls of the Capitol are poorly lit and the photographs we took for testing were consistently marred by shadow and blur. Bad connectivity in the basement of the Capitol made sending and receiving an MMS slow and error-prone during our testing. And, of course, there were few places in the Capitol where we could really get the photographs we needed without committing a foul. Gautam and Sherman got around the "wrong celebrity" problem with a novel approach: A hardcoded list of Congresspeople and their celebrity doppelgangers. [NY Times]
  • Well, one instrument that has come up again and again as being one that actually works is called Piccolo Xpress, from a company called Abaxis. It has been commercialized for a while, and can do about 30 or 31 general chemistry assays off a small sample. It's a semi-portable machine and looks like a miniature ATM. Holmes met with a firm called MedVenture Associates in the early days of Theranos that had a lot of experience in medical technology and had invested in Abaxis. They were familiar with microfluidics and they asked her questions about how her envisioned technology was going to differ from Abaxis. She didn't even know that Abaxis had a device and she certainly didn't understand how it worked. She got defensive at the probing questions and eventually left in a huff. [link]
  • "One afternoon we were driving north on the San Diego Freeway and happened upon the town of Leucadia, California. Why not? The name was available and we liked the sound of it. One of our mothers thought it resembled a blood disease. But it looked great on that interstate exit sign and has served us well." [NY Times]
  • After an unsuccessful August 1997 Teamster rally, which had had a poor turn out, and a UPS spokesperson said "They're trying to stage a Broadway production of Les Miserables, and what we're seeing is a high school production of Annie Get Your Gun". Teamsters rejected UPS's final offer on August 2, 1997. [Wiki]
  • The name Tesla has also been giving to boy babies for the first time ever. In total, the Baby Name Institute estimates that approximately 450 babies (boy and girl combined) have been given the name Tesla [link]
  • With expensive wines, I genuinely think the Judgment of Paris got it right, and that California Cabernet Sauvignon will usually outshine a Bordeaux of equivalent price. I never, ever buy cheap pinot noir. Pinot noir is really delicate and very hard to grow. Because it requires very careful handling, cheapo pinot noir is just bad. Also, in the United States, a wine label that specifies a single variety only means that at least 75% of the wine is that variety — it might be blended. Pinot noir should never be blended, unless it's being used to make sparkling wine. As opposed to cabernet sauvignon, which is usually better blended. For cheap American pinot noir, it's a darn good bet there there is something else thrown into the bottle, because that something else will almost certainly be cheaper and easier to grow than pinot noir. A red Burgundy, by contrast, can legally only be pinot noir. My personal snobbish opinion is that, while Oregon and even California produce some good pinot noir, nothing beats a good Burgundy. Lots of people agree with me, which is why Burgundy wine is so expensive. [Sailer]
  • A well-documented example of a wine-related specific anosmia is that for rotundone, which is responsible for some of the peppery nature of peppercorns. If you have ever noticed that Syrah has a peppery note, that will be due to its presence also in the wine. On the other hand, if you haven't noticed that peppery note, it is not hugely surprising, because researchers at the Australian Wine Research Institute found that approximately 20 percent of us have a specific anosmia for rotundone. In other words, one fifth of the population will have no idea what people are talking about when they say Syrah is peppery. [link]
  • As a postdoc in the late 1970s, Charles Wysockivisited a lab in New York City, where he helped put together olfactory test kits to be used in determining the genetics of smelling certain odors. One of the compounds in the battery was androstenone, a pig pheromone that for about half the human population evokes either woody muskiness or stale urine. The other half—Wysocki included—can't smell it at all. "Little did I know I'd be getting it all over my clothing," he says, which probably made for a few wrinkled noses on the subway ride home. [link]
  • If conservatives were playing politics to win, they'd push through the deregulation of anabolic steroids. If trenbolone was sold over-the-counter, you’d see a massive rightward shift in opinion among men 30 and older. The left is certainly gearing up to do so with psychedelics, which are well-documented as producing permanent increases in personality openness. MDMA and psilocybin will probably get FDA approval within the year. Instead the stupid party of Paul Ryan and NRO seems to care more about the sanctity of Major League Baseball than winning elections. [Sailer]
  • So who is the Tesla designed for? Apparently it's designed for wealthy sociology professors who like to hit the indie theaters on the weekend and binge-watch seasons of Doctor Who with their vegetarian wives. The evidence: A built-in sketchpad for bored passengers is a standard feature. The car makes nerdy jokes. Solar roof tiles. The Autopilot feature, which was used yesterday to total a police car in Laguna Beach, can take over the throttle, brakes, and steering, plus make lane changes on its own when you hit the turn signal. (Of course nobody ever accidentally hits the turn indicator, so that's totally safe.) The driver, or non-driver, in Laguna Beach was probably watching the Autopilot directions, which include a skit from Saturday Night Live and an icon making your vehicle look like a Mars rover on the GPS screen. [Taki's]
  • According to some sources, the American robin ranks behind only the red-winged blackbird(and just ahead of the introduced European starling and the not-always-naturally-occurring house finch) as the most abundant extant land bird in North America. [Wiki]
  • "We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in refrigerator at every opportunity to 'conceptualize.' Hardly a decision was made without drugs. Cannabis, methaqualone, cocaine, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms soaked in honey and used to sweeten tea, secobarbital, tuinal, amphetamine, codeine and, increasingly, heroin, which we'd send a Spanish-speaking busboy over to Alphabet City to get." [link]
  • "Once you've been to Cambodia, you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he's not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to MiloŇ°evic." [Slate]
  • Perhaps in the future, immigration limitation will be seen as a centrist to left of center issue with the pro-business parties of the right being pro-mass immigration? For example, America's 1920s immigration law reforms were part of a broad center-left good government movement led by progressives with the support of labor against business interests and ethnic lobbies. Francis Fukuyama called democratization "getting to Denmark" because all around the world people see Denmark as the prototypical "normal country" that they'd like to emulate. Interestingly, in 2000s, Denmark has taken the lead on immigration limitation (e.g., with Europe's first measures cracking down on arranged cousin marriages for the purpose of immigration fraud). [Sailer]
  • If you have already made the dubious decision to drop 50 large on a lifted compact hatchback... [WSJ]
  • The amount of computational power devoted to anonymous, decentralized blockchains such as Bitcoin's must simultaneously satisfy two conditions in equilibrium: (1) a zero-profit condition among miners, who engage in a rent-seeking competition for the prize associated with adding the next block to the chain; and (2) an incentive compatibility condition on the system's vulnerability to a "majority attack", namely that the computational costs of such an attack must exceed the benefits. Together, these two equations imply that (3) the recurring, "flow", payments to miners for running the blockchain must be large relative to the one-off, "stock", benefits of attacking it. This is very expensive! [link]
  • While using point-estimates in the Drake equation frequently generates estimates of N that would produce a Fermi paradox, this is just an artifact of the overconfidence implicit in treating them as having no uncertainty. When our uncertainty is properly accounted for in the model, we find a substantial prior probability that there is no other intelligent life in our observable universe. [arxiv]
  • Using a fax machine to Eastern Europe struck me as kind of the antithesis of what you're trying to do here. So this is simply a security speculation game masquerading as a technological breakthrough in monetary policy. Someone at Grant's interest rate conference recently said that it was as if we had intentionally created a "monetary Somalia." [link]

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