Friday, November 10, 2017

Early November Links

  • In the seven decades he was at M.I.T., Professor Forrester retained an engineer's curiosity about how things work, and occasionally voiced dismay that his students were not always so inclined. He recalled in 2011 that he once asked students in an engineering class if they understood how the feedback mechanism in a toilet's water tank maintained the water level. "I asked them, 'How many of you have ever taken the lid off a toilet tank to see how it works?'" he recalled. "None of them had. How do you get to M.I.T. without having ever looked inside a toilet tank?" [NYT]
  • The man who designed the Pringles potato crisp packaging system was so proud of his accomplishment that a portion of his ashes has been buried in one of the tall, circular cans. Fredric J Baur, of Cincinnati, died May 4 at Vitas Hospice in Cincinnati, his family said. He was 89. [link]
  • The Pringles company once stated that potato content of their chips was so low that they are technically not even potato chips. The statement was made in order to avoid taxes typically placed upon traditional potato chip makers [link]
  • It is Glass's first and longest opera score, taking approximately five hours in full performance without intermission; given the length, the audience is permitted to enter and leave as desired. [wiki]
  • The Pittsburgh investor kept a low profile, he explained, because "the whale gets harpooned only when it spouts." He wasn't fond of the Forbes wealth rankings and dubbed them "The Kidnapper's Handbook" [WSJ]
  • [Trump] was such a notorious liar that a friend of his once said of him, "he'd lie to you about what time of day it is, just for the practice." [GQ]
  • My goal is simple: manipulate my biochemistry to get more of the things I want, and less of the things I do not want. [link]
  • The idea that there is a court in the United States of America that has not even a mailing address is absolutely astounding. But upon further research, "the FISC" appears not to actually exist, at least as a physical court room. The idea that in order to reach the judicial branch, I must ask the executive branch to process my request is antithetical to the separation of powers required by our constitution. But, this whole deal -- the spying, the secret courts, the lying to us to "protect us" -- it's all antithetical to our values, isn't it? [link]
  • For $5 million in testing, they might be able to save $50 million (or even $500 million) in advertising. (G&Z currently spends about $7 billion per year on advertising in total.) This logic seemed unassailable to me. But my contacts at G&Z explained that no brand manager had ever gotten promoted by cutting his ad budget. G&Z believed in advertising. To consider reducing commercials was heresy. In short, Americans like to advertise. [Taki]
  • How was the immigration of Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov supposed to benefit native-born Americans? [Greenspun]
  • After raising $153 million in a matter of hours in June, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based startup -- whose market maker-like application aims to facilitate trading in other digital coins -- has seen the price of its token decline 56 percent, one of the worst performances among the 10 largest crowd-funding sales. [Bloomberg]
  • Appcoins are a terrible idea. And furthermore, this shouldn't require such a deep analysis to realize. They are clearly just a needless complexity. Why would I want to use different money for my gas, food, and rent? This defeats the whole purpose of having a money economy. How can these appcoin proponents think they're accomplishing something with that? It's like they're trying to invent a barter system again except improve it by adding trade barriers and a bunch of imaginary extra goods that aren't useful for anything but that people are required to trade with for some reason. In fact, it's not like that. It's exactly what they're actually doing. Appcoins are pump-and-dump scams disguised as Rube Goldberg machines, so don't get fooled. [link]
  • Mr. Lampert keeps his own counsel. He doesn’t go to Sears headquarters more than a couple of times a year, people who have worked with him say. Instead, executives make quarterly treks to Florida, where Mr. Lampert lives on the exclusive Indian Creek Island in a $42 million home. [WSJ]
  • Whether or not you think there’s anything wrong with having a type and rejecting people who aren’t your type, as Thomas Ptacek has observed, if your type is the same type everyone else is competing for, "you are competing for talent with the wealthiest (or most overfunded) tech companies in the market". [link]
  • By running an outreach program that attracts people who are interested in crypto, and building an interview process that doesn't care what your resume says or how slick you are in an interview. [YC]
  • Ingredients: Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {Vitamin B2}, Folic Acid), Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Sea Salt, Salt, Malted Barley Flour, Baking Soda, Yeast. [link]
  • As it happens, iodine is a silver bullet. Since then, it has become a victim of its own success: iodization is long-since forgotten and boring so now marketing and trendiness has moved towards ‘Himalayan rock sea salt’ (with minimal iodine content and certainly not supplemented, that would be unnatural) so ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’; people have been trying to minimize salt intake and have been moving to upscale food which is fresh or makes a point of using ‘sea salt’, so they’re not getting much iodine there; and the importance has largely been forgotten (when was the last time you saw someone with a goiter? in France or Switzerland or China, there used to be whole villages of cretins), so while iodine hasn’t experienced the perverse backlash & defections of the anti-vaxxers it is generally ignored – women might know they should look into iron supplements, but even pregnant women (where iodine sufficiency is by far the most important, post-natal supplementation of iodine is much less useful) don’t make it a top priority to get a lot of iodine. Hence, population surveys indicate lots of people are iodine-insufficient even in the US or UK where the problem should’ve been permanently solved a century ago. [WH]
  • Lithium drinks were in huge demand for their reputed health-giving properties, so much so that the element was added to commercial drinks. 7-Up was originally called Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda and contained lithium citrate right up until 1950. In fact, it’s been suggested that the 7 in 7-Up refers to the atomic mass of the lithium. (Maybe the “Up” referred to mood?) Even beer made with lithia water was available. [NYT]
  • This past week, the next chapter in this crypto-tragedy may have been written. Filed with the Superior Court of the State of California, Plaintiff Andrew Baker, represented by Taylor-Copeland Law in San Diego, California, filed for a class action lawsuit against the Breitmans, Gevers, Strange Brew Strategies (a PR Firm), Dynamic Ledger Solutions, Inc, and the Tezos Foundation. [link]
  • Elite overproduction leads to the creation of counterelites, who are the failed aspirants to elite positions. These dissident elites desire nothing more than to bring down the system that has no place for them. This ties in with Colinvaux's (and others) observation that revolutions come from the ranks of the disaffected upwardly mobile classes whose aspirations are thwarted, rather than from the bottom strata who are accustomed to lower living standards. [link]
  • We observed inverse genetic correlations of grip strength with cardiometabolic traits, and positive correlation with parents' age of death and education; and showed that grip strength was causally related to fitness, physical activity and other indicators of frailty, including cognitive performance scores. [link]
  • Whatever happiness is, one will find it's fairly consistent, easily reliably measured by simple survey questions, longitudinally stable, genetically heritable, and there are now polygenic scores to allow prediction of happiness from SNPs and hence is doable right now as embryo selection. Various measures of happiness/life satisfaction/positive affect/depression/Neuroticism are also genetically correlated (particularly Neuroticism) so the genetics are consistent and you can do GWAS + embryo selection on all those traits (which will work much better than doing them individually). [Gwern]
  • I hope B&N manages to stay open. I've bought something like 120 books over the past two weeks (part of a project to fulltext &, and I've been surprised how bad Amazon's prices for used books are, and how good B&N's marketplace is. Same functionality, you would think, same sellers often, but the B&N prices are often 50% or better. I've bought probably a plurality on B&N (with the remainder coming from a mix of Amazon, Abe Books, Discover Books, and eBay). This sort of illustrates for me the future where Amazon finishes eating all the industries, and, its competition eliminated, turns on the revenue tap to squeeze us as much as possible. (Why else do you think its stock is so high?) [Gwern]
  • As I went through life I watched as another boom and bust cycle played out with the crash of October 1997 and then again in the crash of September 2008. The interesting thing to me is the way different generations interpreted these events. The older folks never adjusted their penny pinching when times were good. They reflexively saved against lean times regardless of the current abundance. Boomers never learned to restrain their enthusiasm no matter how often they screwed up. They held firm to their buy-now-pay-later ethos decade after decade. A dog doesn’t change its spots. [Granola Shotgun]
  • The plan as a whole is a reckless expansion of the deficit, but if that is going to happen anyway this is one of the better ways to do it. In fact, we should tax companies less and homes/land more. Why? First, for behavioral reasons homeowners are insufficiently diversified; the tax code should not encourage that. Second, this bill will (modestly) lower land, home, and rental values in the fancy cities on the coasts, a net gain at least for non-itemizers perhaps (caveat: I don’t know everything that is in the bill). Third, big, fancy homes on big plots of land are not that "green," and furthermore residence size seems to bring a lot of hedonic adaptation. Fourth, there are more likely increasing returns across companies than across expensive homes. Fifth, American equities seem to bring a long-run return of 5-7% and real estate zero percent. More of the former please! Companies > homes. I believe that with further examination I could find many ugly and stupid aspects of this bill, and many politically craven decisions. And again, I don’t favor increasing the debt. But holding the size of the debt constant, let’s face it — this is a step in the right direction. [MR]
  • I experimented with a box of shelf stable UHT cream for the sauce and it worked pretty well. Obviously I prefer fresh cream, but I like having back up options. I like this product well enough to stock up on more since it’s significantly better than the canned milk I’ve always kept in the pantry and a million times better than the powdered milk I keep in the way way back supply. [Granola Shotgun]
  • The libertarian therefore considers one of his prime educational tasks is to spread the demystification and desanctification of the State among its hapless subjects. His task is to demonstrate repeatedly and in depth that not only the emperor but even the “democratic” State has no clothes; that all governments subsist by exploitive rule over the public; and that such rule is the reverse of objective necessity. He strives to show that the very existence of taxation and the State necessarily sets up a class division between the exploiting rulers and the exploited ruled. He seeks to show that the task of the court intellectuals who have always supported the State has ever been to weave mystification in order to induce the public to accept State rule, and that these intellectuals obtain, in return, a share in the power and pelf extracted by the rulers from their deluded subjects. [Rothbard, For a New Liberty]
  • A written constitution certainly has many and considerable advantages; but it is a great mistake to suppose, that the mere insertion of provisions to restrict and limit the powers of the government, without investing those for whose protection they are inserted with the means of enforcing their observance, will be sufficient to prevent the major and dominant party from abusing its powers. Being the party in possession of the government, they will, from the same constitution of man which makes government necessary to protect society, be in favor of the powers granted by the constitution, and opposed to the restrictions intended to limit them. As the major and dominant party, they will have no need of these restrictions for their protection. The ballot box, of itself, would be ample protection to them. Needing no other, they would come, in time, to regard these limitations as unnecessary and improper restraints—and endeavor to elude them, with the view of increasing their power and influence. The minor, or weaker party, on the contrary, would take the opposite direction—and regard them as essential to their protection against the dominant party. And, hence, they would endeavor to defend and enlarge the restrictions, and to limit and contract the powers. But where there are no means by which they could compel the major party to observe the restrictions, the only resort left them would be, a strict construction of the constitution, that is, a construction which would confine these powers to the narrowest limits which the meaning of the words used in the grant would admit. [John C Calhoun]
  • The most important reason for the surge in panda emissaries is President Xi’s emphasis on enhancing Chinese soft power abroad. Xi personally signs off on every panda loan to a foreign country, according to several people with knowledge of the process. But before he decides whether to grant a country pandas or not, China requires the foreign head of state — the queen of Denmark, Angela Merkel herself — to ask for the bears in person. People involved say the convoluted negotiations and personal involvement of a foreign leader remind them of ancient rituals in which Chinese emperors would receive barbarian supplicants. [FT]
  • The clearest example is the Judge Gonzalo Curiel drama. By the rules of the d├ętente, saying a judge cannot fulfill his duties because of his race or nationality counted as a firing offense. Indeed leaders on both the Left and Right assumed Trump could not overcome it. But not only did many white voters break the rule of disqualifying a person based on a racist statement, they broke the second rule too. They began to ask why Trump couldn’t say a Mexican judge might be unfair, when we hear all the time about the danger of all white juries and white police officers. [Federalist]
  • When volatility is low, risk is actually rising because people are more emboldened to take on higher leverage and to move to riskier assets. If volatility is half of what it used to be, why not lever twice as much? Thus the immediate question is what happens if there is a sudden surge in volatility from our current, low level. What is the dynamic through which a volatility shock might propagate across the financial system? [link]
  • Industrial espionage was implicated in the capacitor plague, in connection with the theft of an electrolyte formula. A materials scientist working for Rubycon in Japan left the company, taking the secret water-based electrolyte formula for Rubycon's ZA and ZL series capacitors, and began working for a Chinese company. The scientist then developed a copy of this electrolyte. Then, some staff members who defected from the Chinese company copied an incomplete version of the formula and began to market it to many of the aluminium electrolytic manufacturers in Taiwan, undercutting the prices of the Japanese manufacturers. This incomplete electrolyte lacked important proprietary ingredients which were essential to the long-term stability of the capacitors and was unstable when packaged in a finished aluminum capacitor. This faulty electrolyte allowed the unimpeded formation of hydroxide and produced hydrogen gas. [Wiki]
  • Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm — by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drugs, and dementia drugs (as the small effects are probably the result of unblinding bias) and using only a fraction of the antipsychotics and benzodiazepines we currently use. [link]
  • The main reason we take so many drugs is that drug companies don't sell drugs, they sell lies about drugs. This is what makes drugs so different from anything else in life. Virtually everything we know about drugs is what the companies have chosen to tell us and our doctors. The reason patients trust their medicine is that they extrapolate the trust they have in their doctors into the medicines they prescribe. The patients don't realise that, although their doctors may know a lot about diseases and human physiology and psychology, they know very, very little about drugs that hasn't been carefully concocted and dressed up by the drug industry. [Amazon]
  • Canny liberals understand this implicitly; dumb liberals destroy themselves in not understanding. For example, smart liberals know to parrot pro-black canards and racial blank slatism while simultaneously seeking safe, homogenous neighborhoods in which to actually live. This wink-wink has been noted in these pages many times previously as Good Schools. Dumb liberals, in contrast, think the we’re-all-the-same-but-whites-are-worse spiel is serious, and so enroll their children in public ghetto daycares to affirm their alignment with current passcodes. To their shock, only immiseration is the reward. [K]
  • Documents and interviews show Gioia used his government-provided identity to create havoc. He or his companies negotiated deals to build Toby Keith restaurants with mall owners and developers throughout the United States, then took tens of millions of dollars meant to pay for construction and walked away. Gioia’s business associates know him as Frank Capri. No background checks, no amount of vetting, no financial examination and no legal review would have revealed Capri’s record as a confessed murderer, drug dealer, gun runner, arsonist, extortionist, loan shark and leg breaker. That’s because the Witness Protection Program isn’t set up to protect the public. [link]
  • It’s important to recognize just how dependent elevated profit margins are on maintaining permanently depressed wages and salaries, as a share of GDP. The global financial crisis produced high unemployment, massive job losses, and a reluctance of workers to negotiate for higher wages, which combined to produce a steep retreat in the labor share of the economy. The tight relationship between corporate profit margins and the labor share is not nearly as well-recognized (or alternatively, is dismissed by imagining that the FAANG companies – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google – represent 100% of the economy, when in fact their combined revenues represent less than 3% of GDP). [Hussman]
  • In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world’s largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives "highly experienced and trained in Israel’s elite military and governmental intelligence units," according to its literature. [New Yorker]
  • In loving memory of my father, Lionel Brazile Sr.; my beloved sister, Sheila Brazile; my fearless uncles Nat, Floyd, and Douglas; Harlem's finest, my aunt Lucille; my friend and mentor, David Kaufmann; my DNC colleague and patriot, Seth Rich; and my beloved Pomeranian, Chip Joshua Marvin Brazile (Booty Wipes). I miss y'all. [link]
  • We have seen a lot of enthusiasm from a lot of people about blockchain-based smart contracts, and the general assumption from users is that they would be secure. But just like any other piece of software a smart-contract can be vulnerable. All the recent security issues around smart contracts are challenging more and more the sustainability of storing money on a blockchain-based software layer. [link]
  • Most of San Francisco was built out just before the arrival of the automobile and the shift to suburbia. Shops downstairs. Residential accommodations upstairs. This is how all successful towns were built everywhere until about the 1920s. The streets are a comfortable mix of pedestrians, motor scooters, cyclists, cars, and buses. There’s no need for complex transportation systems because daily needs are all close at hand. This wasn’t an aesthetic choice. It wasn’t something reserved for the rich or forced on the poor. It’s just the thing that made pragmatic sense back in 1885. There’s a huge amount of private taxable value sitting on a very small amount of publicly maintained infrastructure. Inducing an Indian casino, auto dealership, or premium outlet mall to goose the tax base wasn’t necessary. The neighborhood is naturally fuel and energy efficient by passive design. [Granola Shotgun]
  • "What I'd call technical clothing is purpose-built contemporary wearable architecture. I'd definitely rate Outlier as that." [GQ]
  • No civilization should ever announce its presence to the cosmos, he says. Any other civilization that learns of its existence will perceive it as a threat to expand—as all civilizations do, eliminating their competitors until they encounter one with superior technology and are themselves eliminated. This grim cosmic outlook is called "dark-forest theory," because it conceives of every civilization in the universe as a hunter hiding in a moonless woodland, listening for the first rustlings of a rival. [Atlantic]
  • Unlike smaller but better-known neighbors like Fort Myers and Naples, Cape Coral has no colleges, no arenas, no significant corporate offices, no real tourist destinations, only one luxury hotel, a "downtown" with no focal point, and hardly any commercial tax base. Most of the city feels like a gated community without gates. It’s often mocked as Cape Coma. [Politico]
  • "We don’t really have a single America with a moderately high rate of gun deaths. Instead, we have two Americas, one of which has very high rates of gun ownership but very low murder rates, very comparable to the rest of the First World democracies such as those in western & northern Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, South Korea. The other America has lower rates of gun ownership but much, much higher murder rates, akin to violent third world countries."


eah said...

Interesting but would be more comfortable to read at half the size -- perhaps segment these posts.

Anonymous said...