Monday, December 9, 2019

December 9th Links

  • At any instant in time there is a certain level of tolerance for borrowing from the future (private and public debt), and merely by changing this level of tolerance one can in effect create money out of thin air ... This level of tolerance is a completely emergent phenomenon and no one fully controls it. [Steve Hsu]
  • We paid no cash taxes in the third quarters of 2019 and 2018 and continue to expect that the utilization of our NOLs will reduce our federal and state income tax liability to 0 until the NOLs are fully utilized or expired. We expect this will continue to drive significant free cash flow conversion over the next several years. [HCC]
  • When we talk about repurchases, we obviously do find current pricing very attractive. And so we're definitely paying attention to what's going on related to our various securities, including our second lien notes. And we still have the same philosophy and strategy in place to reduce long-term debt as we go forward, so nothing's changed there. [PYX]
  • As the hermit crab grows in size, it must find a larger shell and abandon the previous one. Several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, have been observed forming a vacancy chain to exchange shells. When an individual crab finds a new empty shell it will leave its own shell and inspect the vacant shell for size. If the shell is found to be too large, the crab goes back to its own shell and then waits by the vacant shell for up to 8 hours. As new crabs arrive they also inspect the shell and, if it is too big, wait with the others, forming a group of up to 20 individuals, holding onto each other in a line from the largest to the smallest crab. As soon as a crab arrives that is the right size for the vacant shell and claims it, leaving its old shell vacant, then all the crabs in the queue swiftly exchange shells in sequence, each one moving up to the next size. [wiki]
  • The other striking thing about U.S. universities is that they easily have the facilities to handle several times more students than they are currently enrolling. I was at Princeton earlier this year, which apart from being very posh, has a campus that is probably three times the size of McGill's, with certainly quite a few more buildings. As a Canadian, if you asked me to look at their physical infrastructure and guess how many students they have, I would have said 35,000. The fact that they have fewer than 5,500 is ridiculous. And Princeton is not even that big. Duke is enormous, like a vast, sprawling country club. It seems to me they should be able to handle 50,000 to 60,000 students without batting an eyelash. Part of the problem stems from the fact that these schools are private non-profit enterprises. One of the problems with non-profits is that they tend to become overcapitalized. They have to earn sufficient revenue to cover their expenditures, but because they have no owners or investors they do not have to cover the "cost of capital." As a result, the capital tends to just pile up over time, since no one cares whether it is being put to good use. Whenever I walk around a fancy U.S. university, the one word that always springs to mind is: overcapitalized. [link]
  • In general, the PBGC's unfunded benefit liability claim will be treated as a nonpriority general unsecured claim except to the extent that the PBGC can establish that a portion of the claim is attributed to services rendered post-petition or within the 180 days prior to bankruptcy up to the section 507(a)(5) cap (in which case, such portion may be entitled to administrative expense priority or priority unsecured claim status). [link]
  • If you discover something new, there's a significant chance you'll be accused of some form of heresy. To discover new things, you have to work on ideas that are good but non-obvious; if an idea is obviously good, other people are probably already working on it. One common way for a good idea to be non-obvious is for it to be hidden in the shadow of some mistaken assumption that people are very attached to. But anything you discover from working on such an idea will tend to contradict the mistaken assumption that was concealing it. And you will thus get a lot of heat from people attached to the mistaken assumption. [Paul G]
  • The dashcam video from the Uber crash has been released. It's really bad. The pedestrian is slowly walking their bike left to right across a two lane street with streetlights, and manages to get to the right side of the right lane before being hit. The car doesn't slow down at all. A human driver would have vision with more dynamic range than this camera, and it looks to me like they would have seen the pedestrian about 2s out, time to slow down dramatically even if not stop entirely. But that doesn't matter here, because this car has LIDAR, which generates its own light. I'm expecting that when the full sensor data is released it will be very clear that the system had all the information it needed to stop in time. [link]
  • "If we see a problem, wait and hope it goes away". The car was programmed to, when it determined things were very wrong, wait one second. Literally. Not even gently apply the brakes. This is absolutely nuts. If your system has so many false alarms that you need to include this kind of hack to keep it from acting erratically, you are not ready to test on public roads. "If I can't stop in time, why bother?" When the car concluded emergency braking was needed, and after waiting one second to make sure it was still needed, it decided not to engage emergency braking because that wouldn't be sufficient to prevent impact. Since lower-speed crashes are far more survivable, you definitely still want to brake hard even if it won't be enough. [link]
  • Alon also spends a fair bit of time on one particular issue with this set-up: mutant cells which mismeasure the glucose concentration could proliferate and take over the tissue. One defense against this problem is for the beta cells to die when they measure very high glucose levels (instead of proliferating very quickly). This handles must mutations, but it also means that sufficiently high glucose levels can trigger an unstable feedback loop: beta cells die, which reduces insulin, which means higher glucose "price" and less glucose usage throughout the body, which pushes glucose levels even higher. That's type-2 diabetes. [link]
  • My (very wild) guess is that in the end psychiatric disorders will mostly turn out to be computational conditions. That is, something like "the learning rate of this system is set too high" or "the threshold for errors in this error-detector is too low". There will be lots of different things that will cause that, from biological (because these computations are implemented on biological systems including the usual range of things like serotonin and dopamine and synapses) to psychological (because the brain is plastic enough that its computational parameters can change with experience) to environmental (because if you pour a bucket of battery acid onto a computer, probably its computational parameters will change in some way). This is just my personal bias towards computational explanations speaking, and it could be that these disorders will be better explained by regional stories (ie "the amygdala is broken" or "the hippocampus is broken"), by biochemical stories ("there's too much serotonin"), by structural stories ("there are too few synapses"), by some combination of these, by something totally different, or by something that's on a totally different level than any of this. [SSC]


eahilf said...

At any instant in time there is a certain level of tolerance for borrowing from the future (private and public debt), and merely by changing this level of tolerance one can in effect create money out of thin air ... This level of tolerance is a completely emergent phenomenon and no one fully controls it.

OK, that's one way to look at it: "tolerance for borrowing from the future" -- but it's more like stealing, since "the future" is obligated to repay the debt, with interest, even though most of the spending does them no good at all -- not to mention that multi-generational government indebtedness is just plain immoral -- I also find the creation and apparent acceptance of student debt, which burdens so many young people just starting out in life, very disturbing.

And the Fed must be abolished because it makes a virtually unlimited supply of money available to the government, which it uses to cement its power and influence -- not to mention make debt slaves out of the entire population.

League of Women Voters said...

As a practical matter, it’s not necessary for Americans to know all the different types and shades of Latinos. You can divide them into two categories and that’s close enough. There is a small minority of mostly or 100% European descended Latinos (counting Lebanese and Jews as European) who you might go to as your doctor or have business dealings with or if you are in Hollywood hire as actors or directors. The average person might never even meet such a white Latino unless they live in Florida – due to some “bad luck” in Cuba, Venezuela, etc. much of the white Latino elite now lives in Miami. Then there is a great mass of brownish and blackish Latinos (most of them) who cut your lawn, clean your hotel room, etc. Does it really make any difference if your cleaning lady is Mexican or Guatemalan?

If you are in some industry where Latinos are common you might begin to notice some patterns (e.g. in construction where (in your city) the framers are Brazilian and the masons are Mexican and the ornamental iron guys are Dominican, etc.) but the average person might not have any need to know such fine gradations.

eahilf said...

Self-driving cars has to be the weirdest idea since sliced bread.

The dashcam video from the Uber crash has been released. It's really bad.

The video of the "safety driver" Rafaela Vasquez was also apparently very interesting, especially when compared to her statements to investigators after the crash: it showed what a lying piece of shit she is.

Allan Folz said...

At any instant in time there is a certain level of tolerance for borrowing from the future (private and public debt), and merely by changing this level of tolerance one can in effect create money out of thin air ... This level of tolerance is a completely emergent phenomenon and no one fully controls it.

Yeah, that's a pretty incredible statement. It's one thing to borrow from your personal future. Boomers seemed to think it was OK to borrow from the next 2 or 3 generations. How such a self-servingly asinine statement is treated as serious is incredible. The overwhelming majority of the public seems to have lost any and all critical thinking.

CP said...

General obligation bonds, where the issuer makes a full recourse promise to repay, used to be the only type of municipal bond. The problem for issuers and the underwriters is that these have to be approved by voters.

So, different types of municipal bonds - e.g. revenue bonds that pledge revenue, or special financing districts - were developed partly as a way to dodge the voter approval requirement. A way of forcing additional debt on unwilling voters. Also a way of issuing shaky debt that is not full recourse.

League of Women Voters said...

Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light,
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright.