Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Links

  • The human eye is very sensitive but can we see a single photon? The answer is that the sensors in the retina can respond to a single photon. However, neural filters only allow a signal to pass to the brain to trigger a conscious response when at least about five to nine arrive within less than 100 ms. If we could consciously see single photons we would experience too much visual "noise" in very low light, so this filter is a necessary adaptation, not a weakness. [link]
  • How to Destroy Bitcoin with 51% (pocket guide for governments) [Medium]
  • Virtually all of Mr. Trump's signature populist ideas have been watered down or ignored, or are in limbo. Instead, Republicans push tax plans that overwhelmingly benefit their donor and executive class. It's as though Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz won after all. [NYT]
  • Wainwright survived on a diet consisting almost exclusively of fish and chips, ideally eaten at a Little Chef. He absolutely had to know the latest Blackburn Rovers score (and latest Coronation Street plot) and had worked his way through every single book about westerns in Kendal library while ignoring every other genre. [The Guardian]
  • If you fit snugly in your 36-inch Dockers, you have a 39.5-inch waist. At best. [link]
  • Bank of the Ozarks wanted to cut costs, so it ditched the Fed. The Little Rock, Ark., bank was regulated by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., a state banking agency and others. It figured one way to reduce expenses would be to remove a layer of oversight. [WSJ]
  • Tim Draper, founder of venture firm Draper Associates, is forcefully bullish on the trend. "I think it's a bigger deal than the internet. I think it's a bigger deal than any of the industrial revolutions. It's an opportunity and a new technology that we can all use to transform society" [Wired]
  • I don't write about crypto-currency often because its proponents are fanatical. (You’d be fanatical too if you combined rabid self interest that might make you a multi-millionaire with a social engineering project you thought was utopian.) But more and more, I am inclined to agree with a judgement my friend made years ago: While Bitcoin does something important (creates a peer-to-peer payment network) it does it in a terrible way. [link]
  • Mean interpupillary distance (IPD) is an important and oft-quoted measure in stereoscopic work. However, there is startlingly little agreement on what it should be. Mean IPD has been quoted in the stereoscopic literature as being anything from 58 mm to 70 mm. It is known to vary with respect to age, gender and race. Furthermore, the stereoscopic industry requires information on not just mean IPD, but also its variance and its extrema, because our products need to be able to cope with all possible users, including those with the smallest and largest IPDs. This paper brings together those statistics on IPD which are available. The key results are that mean adult IPD is around 63 mm, the vast majority of adults have IPDs in the range 50–75 mm, the wider range of 45–80 mm is likely to include (almost) all adults, and the minimum IPD for children (down to five years old) is around 40 mm. [pdf]
  • All of this means Uber, and other ride-sharing services, must lean heavily on pricey incentive payments—cash for completing a certain number of rides a week, say—to bring driver earnings above what typically amounts to around minimum wage. Those payments are one of the chief reasons Uber has been a money-losing operation, recording over $4 billion in losses over the past six quarters through the first half of this year. [WSJ]
  • One of the side conversations included an exploration of how to activate the space without doing the kinds of things the building code required. There was already a kitchen in the back of the building from when the place had been a Chinese restaurant. But the current rules required a long list of upgrades including a $20,000 fire suppressing hood for the stove and new ADA compliant bathrooms. It could all be done, but at a price point that would grossly exceed both the purchase price of the building and any conceivable cash flow the business might generate. [Granola Shotgun]
  • By the late 1990s, around 40 percent of Steadman accounts were abandoned — accounts with no transactions for ages, and the account holders were deceased or close to it. State abandoned-property agencies held 15 percent of all shares. The firm didn't send statements to the owners of inactive accounts, increasing odds that relatives, caretakers, or survivors were unaware the accounts existed. [link]
  • The VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) is an ongoing randomized clinical trial in 25,871 U.S. men and women investigating whether taking daily dietary supplements of vitamin D3 (2000 IU) or omega-3 fatty acids (Omacor® fish oil, 1 gram) reduces the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and stroke in people who do not have a prior history of these illnesses. [link]
  • If you study prior bear market declines day-by-day, you'll find that the intermittent rallies and plunges have a psychological effect that encourages poorly-timed vacillation between trend-following strategies and competing swing-trading ones. The highly volatile spikes typically encourage investors to buy dips too early, panic when they spike even lower, then get sucked back in on fast, furious upward spikes that then fail spectacularly. [Hussman]
  • If GGP -- whose properties include Honolulu's Ala Moana Center and the Fashion Show in Las Vegas -- were to accept anything close to the offer Brookfield has on the table, that would effectively signal that values for even the best malls have fallen significantly in the past 18 months. That could trigger a repricing for the entire segment, including other high-end mall operators such as Simon Property Group Inc. and Macerich Co. [Bloomberg]
  • Boehner often felt more welcome among Democrats than he did within his own party. When he made his retirement announcement, he told me, Obama called him and said, "Boehner, you can’t do this, man. I'm gonna miss you." Biden feels the same way. "The only way we're going to get this back together again," he says, "is with some more John Boehners." [Politico]
  • Amazon, Netflix and HBO had been approached by the Tolkien estate, who had been shopping the project. It came with an upfront rights payment said to be in the $200 million-$250 million range, and I hear Amazon landed the rights by paying close to $250 million. That is just for the rights, before any costs for development, talent and production, in proposition whose finances industry observers called "insane." It is a payment that is made sight unseen as there is no concept, and there are no creative auspices attached to the possible series. On top of that, the budget for a fantasy series of that magnitude is likely to be $100 million-$150 million a season. [link]
  • Over the years in the ED and working with SWAT, I've honed what I call Applied Ballistics and Wound Estimation. It's a visual CT scanner. We all do it as emergency physicians. You look at a GSW and guess the trajectory and the potential internal injuries. Then you decide if they're dying now, in a few minutes, or in an hour. Instead of wasting valuable resuscitation time actually tagging the patients, they were sent to their respective tagged areas. I would look at these patients as they came in, and I would grade them red to green. [link]
  • In 2014, Mt. Gox -- "Magic: The Gathering Online eXchange," which grew from that improbable name into at one point the world's largest bitcoin exchange -- suffered the fate of all bitcoin exchanges, and had its bitcoins stolen. [Bloomberg]
  • There is no constitutional right to sell warrant-proof encryption. If our society chooses to let businesses sell technologies that shield evidence even from court orders, it should be a fully-informed decision. [DOJ]
  • The Ivy League is not what it used to be. Now, it seems it is mostly: Diverse AA admits who hate Whitey, like our pal from South Asia the other day who wants power; various NE Asian grinds with the personality of a dinner plate working for President Xi; various "legacy" admits meaning both the Bush and Obama families now. REAL competence will be found among grads of Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Cal Tech, Case Western, and a few others. [Sailer]
  • Don't buy the shiny profitable business. The sellers, usually, aren't going to give you any deals. Instead, buy broken business that can be fixed – easily and cheaply. The good news is that many can. Most small businesses are horribly mismanaged and neglected. Some, in spite of that, are sitting on very real gold mines. Sometimes all that's needed are some very simple improvements to go from cash burning dog to a money machine. [link]
  • Talulah Riley, his second wife. They met in 2008, and Musk proposed after 10 days together. They married in 2010, then divorced two years later, then remarried the following year, then filed for divorce again, then withdrew the filing, then re-filed for divorce and finally followed through with it. [RS]
  • Remington Outdoor disclosed a dramatic plunge in earnings for the third quarter of 2017. Adjusted EBITDA fell by 78% year-over-year to $7.4 million, on net sales of $154 million, down 30%. [Forbes]
  • We had a meeting with a group from California. And I was talking to them about the debates that we had for discount rates for Yale's pension liabilities. And my position has been that it should be Treasurys plus 50 basis points, which is a 3 percent discount rate. And the discount rate that they were using was 7.5 percent. And there is no way in the world that you can justify having a discount rate of 7.5 percent. It doesn't—it doesn't make any sense. But that's the norm in the world of state and local pensions, not the exception. And so there are enormous liabilities out there, even when you use a dishonest discount rate. If you stated using an honest discount rate, those enormous liabilities would be magnified many-fold. And you're obviously starting to see this when you look at the state budgets in Illinois and the state budgets in Connecticut. And that's the tip of the iceberg. That we're going to be seeing that problem repeated over and over and over again, because in essence our state and local politicians are lying to us about the magnitude of the problem. And the only way to address it is to tax people and have contributions made to obviate the underfunding. [link]
  • Lower intelligence predicted more advanced biological age at midlife as captured by perceived facial age, a 10-biomarker algorithm based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and Framingham heart age (r = 0.1–0.2). Correlations between intelligence and telomere length were less consistent. The associations between intelligence and biological age were not explained by differences in childhood health or parental socioeconomic status, and intelligence remained a significant predictor of biological age even when intelligence was assessed before Study members began their formal schooling. These results suggest that accelerated aging may serve as one of the factors linking low early-life intelligence to increased rates of morbidity and mortality. [pdf]
  • The Westside and Downtown are linking up to create a contiguous zone where only wealthy people can afford to live, expanding into areas that have historically been populated by lower-income communities of color, predominantly Black and/or Latin@. What's already happened to Silver Lake and Echo Park is proceeding full-steam ahead in places like Crenshaw, South Central, Boyle Heights, and Inglewood. [link]
  • In the future, poor black people stuck in the middle of nowhere will be amazed at the places where their grandparents lived: Manhattan, San Francisco, Los Angeles not far from the beach, Chicago’s lakefront, the nation’s capital, etc. [Sailer]
  • Arguably the biggest fraud of the early part of the twentieth century was the selling of the First World War to the American public on mostly false pretences. Progressives led this sales pitch, through spokesmen such as Herbert Croly, and of course the President Woodrow Wilson, telling the American people that war was a noble cause that would revitalize the nation and save the world. In Balleisen's narrative, however, the Progressives show up only as critics of fraud. He does mention the Liberty Bonds of the First World War, but as a financial device that softened up buyers for later private sector frauds, rather than seeing the Bonds and their especially low interest rates – and their misleading name – as a deception in their own right. [Cowen]
  • Previous investigators have found that naltrexone (NTX), a µ-opioid antagonist, may induce reversible anhedonia, attenuating both positive and negative emotions. The neurochemical basis of musical experience is not well-understood, and the NTX-induced anhedonia hypothesis has not been tested with music. Accordingly, we administered NTX or placebo on two different days in a double-blind crossover study, and assessed participants' responses to music using both psychophysiological (objective) and behavioral (subjective) measures. We found that both positive and negative emotions were attenuated. We conclude that endogenous opioids are critical to experiencing both positive and negative emotions in music, and that music uses the same reward pathways as food, drug and sexual pleasure. Our findings add to the growing body of evidence for the evolutionary biological substrates of music. [Nature]
  • If you choose to visit the Caymans while you attend to the paperwork, it's not a bad vacation stay. A day of deep-sea fishing is a common perk for opening an account. [link]
  • His clothes were notorious in Rome: believing that the religious habit no longer reflected the simple garb of the people as it once had, he gave up his cassock and bought his clothes at Sears: blue pants and a blue shirt, with brandless black sneakers. When it was cold he added a zip-up blue polyester jacket. The Vatican’s Swiss guards called him "il benzinaio," the gas-station attendant. [link]
  • "I shall show you a collection I gave Handel, called Messiah, which I value highly. He has made a fine entertainment of it, though not near so good as he might and ought to have done. I have with great difficulty made him correct some of the grossest faults in the composition; but he retained his overture obstinately, in which there are some passages far unworthy of Handel, but much more unworthy of the Messiah." [Wiki]
  • We calculate that 99.99% (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves. The percentage of a plant's weight that is toxin varies, but a few percent of dry weight is a reasonable estimate: e.g., 1.5% of alfalfa sprouts is canavanine and 4% of coffee beans is phenolics. [pdf]
  • There are multiple definitions of "species". The one they teach in school (ie, ability to successfully interbreed) is called the biological species concept, and is the one most people think of when they hear "species". However, it has some major problems. Most important among these for this discussion is that it was developed for sexually reproducing animals–it is useless for organisms that reproduce asexually, and plant reproduction is so alien to animal reproduction that the concept is inapplicable. The mere fact that we can discuss hybrids demonstrates that. (Other definitions of species include the morphospecies concept, used extensively by paleontologists and field biologists, and various genetic species concepts. The Wiki article on this is actually really good, and the links are even better, for anyone curious about this.) This makes defining plant species extremely difficult. It also makes defining animal species extremely difficult–populations of lions and tigers can reproduce, for example, it's just fairly complex and not common. The biological species concept is generally inapplicable to microbes of all sorts–bacteria that exchange plasmids are particularly problematic. [MR]
  • Amazon is "a multi-trillion-dollar monopoly hiding in plain sight." That assessment explains why Wall Street has bid up Amazon's stock value to a level that bears little relationship to its current profits. Investors are eyeing a future of spectacular, monopoly-style returns. [link]
  • "What we found is that biological translation is roughly 20 times less efficient than the absolute lower physical bound," says lead author Christopher Kempes, an SFI Omidyar Fellow. "And that's about 100,000 times more efficient than a computer." DNA replication, another basic computation common across life, is about 165 times worse than Landauer's Bound. "That's not as efficient as biological translation, but still stunningly good compared to computers." [link]
  • Former IRS executive Lois G. Lerner told a federal court last week that members of her family, including "young children," face death threats and a real risk of physical harm if her explanation of the tea party targeting scandal becomes public. [link]
  • There's a subtle reason that programmers always want to throw away the code and start over. The reason is that they think the old code is a mess. And here is the interesting observation: they are probably wrong. The reason that they think the old code is a mess is because of a cardinal, fundamental law of programming: It's harder to read code than to write it. [Joel]
  • High-modernist (think Bauhaus and Le Corbusier) aesthetics necessarily lead to simplification, since a reality that serves many purposes presents itself as illegible to a vision informed by a singular purpose. Any elements that are non-functional with respect to the singular purpose tend to confuse, and are therefore eliminated during the attempt to "rationalize." The deep failure in thinking lies is the mistaken assumption that thriving, successful and functional realities must necessarily be legible. Or at least more legible to the all-seeing statist eye in the sky (many of the pictures in the book are literally aerial views) than to the local, embedded, eye on the ground. [Ribbonfarm]
  • The Bolivian capital has the most extensive network of cable cars in the world, named Mi Teleférico, stretching nearly seven miles [11 kilometers] across the city, with another 18.6 miles [30 kilometers] under construction. Cars depart every 12 seconds, seating 10 passengers each, yielding a maximum capacity of 6,000 passengers per hour-a true "subway in the sky." "It's building the backbone of the city's transit network on cables, and that’s never been done before," says Dale. "When I said before that they're really ideally suited to first-mile problems, feeding into a higher-capacity system, La Paz is really challenging that idea, and saying-Hold on a second, why don't we use this as our trunk, as our main form of public transit—which is totally unique." [link]
  • In this case, one of Conyers' former employees was offered a settlement, in exchange for her silence, that would be paid out of Conyers' taxpayer-funded office budget. His office would "rehire" the woman as a "temporary employee" despite her being directed not to come into the office or do any actual work, according to the document. The complainant would receive a total payment of $27,111.75 over the three months, after which point she would be removed from the payroll, according to the document. [link]
  • This is a full-on media purge. It fits the theory perfectly that the true powers have dirt on anyone allowed to rise to national prominence. And the powers are pissed that instead of delivering Hillary into power, they allowed Trump to win. So they made a decision – if these media hacks can’t sway public opinion with the full force of monopoly distribution behind them then it's time to get new hacks. The old hacks will be "dishonorably discharged", tossed aside with suitable loss of respect, career, and opportunity so as to make an example for anyone else that decides to fail in their true role. [Sailer]
  • I work with China every day. It is very effective at controlling information and websites. The number of Chinese internet users who have the technical chops to access Facebook, Twitter, the many available but blocked Chinese versions of foreign news sites, etc. is miniscule. Especially now, since virtually all non-corporate VPN services have been effectively disabled. Even Skype, which is operated by a state-connected Chinese partner, has now been removed from all the app stores, and of course most other foreign VoIP services were never available in the first place. Even foreign video games being ported to a China version are subject to detailed content edits to expunge problematic political and "superstitious" elements. [MR]
  • Unfortunately at this juncture in the market value investing is dead, completely dead. The reason is there is almost nothing that people aren't optimistic about. My view on this was crystalized when I spoke to a client earlier today who specializes in small rural banks. They said that what they're seeing is unbridled optimism about economic expansion in places that haven't been optimistic since the post World War II boom. When optimism has crept down to the sleepiest of places it has become persuasive. [Oddball]
  • In one of Philip Roth's lesser novels, The Dying Animal, the narrator is a 62-year-old college professor who seduces one of his undergraduate students every semester and then discards her for a new one the following semester. How does the old dog do it? He moonlights on the local PBS channel as an arts expert for a few minutes per week. This might not seem like much fame, but for a 19-year-old coed, Roth’s narrator explains, "They are helplessly drawn to celebrity, however inconsiderable mine may be." [Sailer]
  • Put these together, and you have cause for concern. If you learn about something, and it seems trivial and boring, but lots of other people think it's interesting and important – well, it could be so far beneath you that you’d internalized all its lessons already. Or it could be so far beyond you that you're not even thinking on the same level as the people who talk about it. [SSC]
  • First I believe something is true, and say so. Then I realize it's considered low-status and cringeworthy. Then I make a principled decision to avoid saying it – or say it only in a very careful way – in order to protect my reputation and ability to participate in society. Then when other people say it, I start looking down on them for being bad at public relations. Then I start looking down on them just for being low-status or cringeworthy. Finally the idea of "low-status" and "bad and wrong" have merged so fully in my mind that the idea seems terrible and ridiculous to me, and I only remember it's true if I force myself to explicitly consider the question. And even then, it's in a condescending way, where I feel like the people who say it's true deserve low status for not being smart enough to remember not to say it. [SSC]
  • When real leadership meets real mission, people fall over themselves to join. They want to belong. They believe. They will work for virtually nothing. They will beg to be part of something bigger than them. Most Americans have NEVER experienced this. They cannot understand it at a gut level. It is alien to them. Assassination works only when organizations are unhealthy, and run by managers, not leaders, or during the early stages of a charismatic cult. [Welsh]


AfD said...

Merkel is a biological Leninist (, that is, she is an enemy of excellence and even of routine competence. She has what the French call "nostalgie de la boue" (attraction to what is crude, depraved, or degrading). She took so-o-o-o many admiring selfies with Muslim invaders.

She won't get away with having invited a million military-age Muslim men to invade Europe. Her political party will fail and Germany will join Russia, Iran, Turkey, and China.

France, Spain, Italy, and the lesser European powers will do the same. They have no choice.

Turkey already has left NATO as the result of a failed coup d'etat organized by the United States against Erdogan. Putin detected preparations for the coup beforehand, and warned Erdogan.

All of the Eurasian landmass will be knit together with train tracks, pipelines, and canals. Private central banks will fall.

Go long Russia.

Midwest Pete said...

"There's a subtle reason that programmers always want to throw away the code and start over."

There's a not so subtle reason programmers always want to throw away the code as well. They are notoriously arrogant. They think everyone that came before them were a bunch of mouth-breathing idiots. And to be fair, there's just enough truth to it for confirmation bias to justify in their minds they are doing the right thing throwing away working code.

Personally, I've always been hesitant to blithely throw-away the previous guy's work. Going in, it's almost never apparent whether the guy was an idiot, or a genius working around some latent bug. So you end up reverse-engineering the thing six ways from Saturday to make sure... and ain't nobody got time for that. And which speaks to the real problem: commenting the code, which should address these types of questions for the next guy, is for shyte.

AfD said...