Monday, December 4, 2017

Early December Links

  • "One supreme test of whether it's a good location—take a real rainy, blistery Tuesday or Wednesday night at two o'clock in the morning, park your automobile there and see how many cars pass. If you don't have many cars, you don’t have a good spot." [link]
  • Silicon Valley also has an insidious infection that is spreading -- a peculiar form of McCarthyism masquerading as liberal open-mindedness. I'm as socially liberal as you get, and I find it nauseating how many topics or dissenting opinions are simply out-of-bounds in Silicon Valley. These days, people with real jobs (unlike me) are risking their careers to even challenge collective delusions in SF. Isn't this supposed to be where people change the world by challenging the consensus reality? By seeing the hidden realities behind the facades? That's the whole reason I traveled west and started over in the Bay Area. Now, more and more, I feel like it's a Russian nesting doll of facades -- Washington DC with fewer neck ties, where people openly lie to one another out of fear of losing their jobs or being publicly crucified. It's weird, unsettling, and, frankly, really dangerous. There's way too much power here for politeness to be sustainable. [Reddit]
  • Scott's 2009 book The Art of Not Being Governed examined Southeast Asia from the standpoint of the highland regions that have evaded imperial authority up to the present day. Whereas most stories about empire tell how the dominant power expands and asserts itself, Scott emphasizes the places where people have retained their freedom by moving up mountain valleys, staying mobile, and practicing livelihoods that are hard to track or tax. From the highlanders' perspective, the empires lapping at their edges are peripheral, fallen places. [New Republic]
  • The first definitely interstellar object 1I/'Oumuamua (previously A/2017 U1) observed in our solar system provides the opportunity to directly study material from other star systems. Can such objects be intercepted? The challenge of reaching the object within a reasonable timeframe is formidable due to its high heliocentric hyperbolic excess velocity of about 26 km/s; much faster than any vehicle yet launched. This paper presents a high-level analysis of potential near-term options for such a mission. Launching a spacecraft in a reasonable timeframe of 5-10 years requires a hyperbolic solar system excess velocity between 33 to 76 km/s for mission durations between 30 to 5 years. [Arxiv]
  • Male pattern baldness (MPB) or androgenetic alopecia is one of the most common conditions affecting men, reaching a prevalence of ~50% by the age of 50; however, the known genes explain little of the heritability. Here, we present the results of a genome-wide association study including more than 70,000 men, identifying 71 independently replicated loci, of which 30 are novel. These loci explain 38% of the risk, suggesting that MPB is less genetically complex than other complex traits. We show that many of these loci contain genes that are relevant to the pathology and highlight pathways and functions underlying baldness. [Nature]
  • "To be honest with you, we haven't spent much money on advertising," Wang says. "In fact, that is not part of the business plan. We really spend money on product development and customer support." [link]
  • I'm no doctor, nor do I play one on the Internet, but one answer that comes to mind is: very low-dose (5mg or less) lithium orotate. It's had a tremendous effect on my sense of well-being and anxiety/depression levels. [Reddit]
  • Tracking satellites and the ISS is pretty easy. All you really need is an SDR dongle or a handheld transceiver, a simple homebrew antenna, and a clear view of the sky. Point the antenna at the passing satellite and you're ready to listen, or if you're a licensed amateur, talk. But the tedious bit is the pointing. Standing in a field or on top of a tall building waving an antenna around gets tiring, and unless you're looking for a good arm workout, limits the size of your antenna. Which is where this two-axis antenna positioner could come in handy. [link]
  • I spend a lot more time thinking about the best way to introduce people to the world of value investing than I actually get requests for such information, though I do receive occasional requests for advice. The reason is not just because I am a pedantic thinker but because I spent a very long time acquiring my own knowledge on this subject, with many wrong turns and wasted efforts and I have always wondered, "Is there a better way?" [AHR]
  • Daylight Savings Time Forever. No normal person likes it when the sun sets at 5pm. Leaving work with the sun already down makes it feel like you live your life at work. In contrast, waking up and going to work while it's still dark out makes it feel like you are super productive, like a farmer. [Forbes]
  • A couple of months ago, when the price of 1 Bitcoin hovered around a relatively benign $5,000, I sat down for coffee with an investor who runs a fairly substantial chunk of money. Over the course of that chat, he told me that nobody in his business could foresee how the price of cryptocurrencies would ever fall, given the rapid increases in demand and the way that technology adoption is thought to work. [Preston Byrne]
  • Ethereum is slower than molasses. Since we are not going to master quantum teleportation before the next update release, the capacity for millions (or, as some projects claim, "billions") of TPS is simply not going to exist on Ethereum anytime soon.[Preston Byrne]
  • Every single entity on, with the exception of Bitcoin, and, arguably, the Bitcoin-metacoins, is inherently flawed. By this, I mean, each has a negative economic value and should be abandoned. [link]
  • The proportion of a triglyceride molecule’s mass exhaled in CO2 is the proportion of its molecular weight (daltons) contributed by its 55 carbon atoms plus four of its oxygen atoms: 84%. The proportion of mass that becomes water is: 16%. These results show that the lungs are the primary excretory organ for weight loss. [BMJ]
  • Let's have a look at the Apple Power Macintosh G5, a weighty space heater that can also perform computing tasks. Apple launched the G5 in 2003 with great fanfare, but nowadays it has a decidedly mixed legacy. In 2003 it was a desktop supercomputer that was supposed to form the basis of Apple's product range for years to come, but within three years it had been discontinued, along with the entire PowerPC range, in favour of a completely new computing architecture. [link]
  • If intelligence is a problem-solving algorithm, then it can only be understood with respect to a specific problem. In a more concrete way, we can observe this empirically in that all intelligent systems we know are highly specialized. The intelligence of the AIs we build today is hyper specialized in extremely narrow tasks - like playing Go, or classifying images into 10,000 known categories. The intelligence of an octopus is specialized in the problem of being an octopus. The intelligence of a human is specialized in the problem of being human. [...] In practice, system bottlenecks, diminishing returns, and adversarial reactions end up squashing recursive self-improvement in all of the recursive processes that surround us. Self-improvement does indeed lead to progress, but that progress tends to be linear, or at best, sigmoidal. Your first "seed dollar" invested will not typically lead to a "wealth explosion"; instead, a balance between investment returns and growing spending will usually lead to a roughly linear growth of your savings over time. [link]
  • To prove that lower body iron via blood donation actually causes better insulin sensitivity, 10 healthy blood donors had their iron lowered via phlebotomy. Serum ferritin was cut almost in half, from 75 to 38. Insulin sensitivity increased by about 40%. [...] It turns out, according to a recent study, that metformin induces an iron deficiency-like state. In effect, metformin causes an organism to "believe" it’s in a state of low iron, which upregulates certain cellular processes that are known to prolong lifespan. The connection between metformin and iron provides further evidence of the close linkage between iron and aging. [Mangan]
  • Matthew Kluger, a scientist in the Department of Physiology at the University of Michigan, performed a groundbreaking experiment. He infected lizards with a bacterium called Aeromonas hydrophila. Then he put the lizards in chambers at 38 C (normal lizard temperature), 40 C (low fever), and 42 C (high fever). At normal temperature, 75 percent of the lizards died, at low fever, 33 percent, and at high fever, 0 percent. These findings were later extended to goldfish infected with Aeromonas, mice infected with coxsackie B virus or Klebsiella, rabbits infected with Pasteurella, and dogs infected with herpes virus. In every case, animals prohibited from having fever were more likely to suffer or to die. All of these studies proved, as Kluger had postulated, that fever was an adaptive, physiologic, and necessary part of the immune response. [link]
  • Ronnie Campbell has used three-word alliterative phrases (e.g. "she sells seashells") 160 times in debates — average amongst MPs. [link]
  • "Imagine developing a company specifically to take advantage of people's ignorance of how expensive it really is to drive their own car. What would this company look like?" [Money Mustache]
  • "As economic pressure intensifies, Chinese synth shops become a black-market alternative to the official system of predatory drug IP laws." [Twitter]
  • So, why didn't the pilots realize that the control lock was still engaged when they ran all of the checklists associated with getting a G-IV off the ground? Simple: they never ran the checklists, according to what the NTSB found. Nothing on the flight data recorder (FDR) or cockpit voice recorder (CVR) revealed the pilots running challenge-and-response checklists or cycling the controls as you’d expect. [link]
  • If I could replace Donald Trump as supreme dictator, my first act would be to set a minimum price for (legacy network) phone calls of, e.g., 50 cents. There could be exceptions for friends-and-family circles. And maybe each phone line could get a monthly allowance as well. So the average resident of the U.S. would seldom incur this fee, but it would become uneconomic to use humans in India or robots in the U.S. to torture Americans with their own phones. [PhilG]
  • So Bitcoin took away my financial excuse and I've been trying out regular exercise at the nearest gym combined with time-restricted-feeding (1-6PM) & small doses of ephedrine for a month or so. Mostly the machines at the moment since I'm not sure how to do the standard free weightlifting routines. I'm very impressed by how much small doses of ephedrine can suppress appetite. [Gwern]
  • As I've stated many times before (and I think Steve Sailer said it first), the worst part about being poor (in modern-day America) is that you are forced to live in the same neighborhood as other poor people, and send your kids to schools full of other poor kids. Living in a good neighborhood is a positional good. [LoTB]
  • In the high prole world, a college education is essentially perceived as vocational school for white collar employment. When a college bound child of a high prole announces his choice of major, obviously vocational majors such as nursing, education, and business receive strong positive feedback while major choices with no obvious tie to a specific occupation such as philosophy almost always illicit a facial expression of puzzled scorn followed by the inevitable "what are you going to do with a degree in that?" question. Lower tier colleges have picked up on this and now offer all kinds of whacky vocational sounding majors such as sports management, entrepreneurial leadership, music management, etc. [LoTB]
  • Here is how to tell if you own a value trap: No. 1: The company is at the peak of an operating cycle and is still troubled. After more than seven years of economic recovery, most public companies should be showing strong earnings. If they are not, something else is wrong. [link]
  • My guess is someone has slipped in a routine that LOOKS harmless but is actually diverting bitcoin to their awaiting bot ready to gobble them up. [link]
  • Cryptocurrency markets have been insane. 2017 saw the market cap of all cryptocurrencies go from less than $10 billion to more than $300 billion. People I've barely spoken to in years are sending me emails asking about cryptocurrencies and ICOs I've never even heard of. Even my dad asked me how to buy bitcoin. Is it bubbly? Yes. Will 2018 be crazier than 2017? Yes. Will it be more lucrative? I think so. [link]
  • There has never been a time in history where there has been more and better evidence for the heritability of traits, with papers pouring out on a literally daily basis, to the point where I can no longer keep up with reading them. I looked at the dates of the genetics papers, and it describes an exponential: 1 paper a year for most of the 20th century, 5 papers/year in the 2000s, around 11/year; 2016? 70 papers, with 2017, >60 thus far and probably ~80 by the end of the year. This is because the price of sequencing keeps dropping but the old genomes don't go anywhere, so the total data is growing drastically and enabling all sorts of analyses. [Gwern]
  • One of Monopoly’s big mistakes is positive feedback, designer-speak for a mechanism by which a small advantage early on snowballs into a big, insurmountable one later in the game, which makes things boring for the other players. Modern designers tend to prefer negative feedback, in which life gets harder for those doing well. Sometimes that is enforced by explicit penalties. Sometimes it emerges by itself, or through political dealing by other players. Conquering too many planets in a game of Twilight Imperium may make it hard to defend existing territory, for instance, especially if other players decide to gang up on the leader. That helps to keep things interesting for everyone. [link]
  • With electricity prices costing approximately .05 per kwh in China, it's difficult for Americans to compete when it comes to Bitcoin mining. But, students are finding a unique arbitrage: free campus electricity. [link]
  • We intend our first acquisition of a Royalty Interest to be an interest in a catalog of work from 1999 through 2013 by Eminem, an iconic hip-hop artist who was the top-selling recording artist of the 2000’s in the U.S. and one of the best-selling music artists of all time. [EDGAR]
  • I live in a large mansion (just north of Palo Alto) which I and 6 other people rent and share as a co-op (although 11 people live with us now). I have lived like this since I moved to the Bay Area 7 years ago and while it was because of economic necessity at first I actually have come to like it. Our rent is 9k a month; the place is an on an acre of land it has 9 different fruit trees and a swimming pool. I share the master suite with my wife and I live with wonderful interesting people who have become my second family. We have a house cleaner come twice a month, food delivery, and use an online service called Splitwise to organize our shared house expenses. Inclusive of everything from food, and rent, to toilet paper I’m out of pocket about $1400 a month (more in winter less in summer). I think that were my wife and I to live on our own in an apartment we would need to spend around 5-6k a month for similar amenities, and we would be lonely. This is not to speak of the time savings of having 11 people to share household tasks with (managing landlord, ordering detergent on Amazon, taking time off of work to meet the handy man etc) which otherwise my wife an I would bear the full burden of. While we are in technical violation of our lease be having so many people in residence, we are clean professionals in our 30’s who pay our rent on time do not throw crazy parties and our land lord is uninterested in looking too hard at us. Mansions are actually pretty hard to rent out. [MR]
  • Thorne reported to Pomerantz his opinion that the only way to restore credibility to the project was to actually "begin" construction, and Pomerantz went for the plan. Thorne called Herrscher and asked if there was some small building they could demolish with a bulldozer, to begin to "break ground" for the Becket building. Herrscher said there was a tin shack that was expendable and he'd make it available, as well as the bulldozer. [Wiki]
  • T levels did not fall significantly with age in exceptionally healthy men raised the question of the relative roles of chronic age-related illness vs. aging per se in producing the observed decreases. [Mangan]
  • The company staged a $128 million IPO in 2014—when it had only a single late-phase clinical trial to its name—and sold to Gilead Science in August for $11.9 billion. [Wired]
  • Commercials for Buffalo Wild Wings assault your ears. BEER. SPORTS. WINGS. Most have never seen wings attached to a whole roasted chicken, fewer have seen a living chicken. [link]
  • The mirror consists of flat, square guanine crystals, each a millionth of a meter wide. They tessellate together into a chessboard-like grid. Between 20 and 30 of these grids then stack on top of each other, with a liquid-filled gap between them. And the layers are arranged so that the squares in each one lie directly beneath the squares in the one above. The crystals and the gaps between them are respectively 74 and 86 billionths of a meter thick, and these exacting distances mean that the mirror as a whole is great at reflecting blue-green light—the color that dominates the scallop’s underwater habitat. [Atlantic]
  • The first thing we need to do is to make poor people behave better so it's not as bad to live next to them. As red-pilled HBD believers, we understand that the majority of poor people are genetically inferior to their betters on important attributes like intelligence, future-time-orientation, and natural inclination towards peaceful cooperative behavior. But that doesn’t mean that that there is nothing to be done. There has been a massive increase in crime since the 1950s, and that’s because society became more permissive. [LoTB]
  • In an incident that's never been satisfactorily explained, Bush met privately with Bandar on September 13, 2001, and the two smoked cigars on the Truman Balcony. Hours after their meeting, while flights were still limited and planes carrying organ transplants were being grounded around the United States, chartered planes picked up 160 Saudi nationals (including Saudi royals and members of the bin Laden family) and flew them out of the country, escorted by FBI agents. [Jacobin]
  • The last of the clueless libertarians (hi, Bryan Caplan!) who do not get it will be beaten to death by a copy of Human Action a vibrant New American, unencumbered by the NAP, just stole from him. [Epigone]
  • Samples of subcutaneous adipose tissue were taken from 100 melanoma patients and 100 matched controls in Sydney in 1984–1985 and were analyzed for constituent fatty acids. The mean percentage of linoleic acid in the triglycerides of the subcutaneous adipose tissue (PLASA T) of these subjects was substantially higher than that in a similar group examined in 1975–1976. In addition, the percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids was found to be higher in the melanoma patients than in the controls (p < 0.01), and there were significantly more controls than patients who had a low PLASA T (p < 0.01). Relevant literature is quoted and the suggestion is made that increased consumption of dietary polyunsaturates may have a contributory effect in the etiology of melanoma. [link]
  • Elton John blares so loudly on Donald Trump's campaign plane that staffers can’t hear themselves think. Press secretary Hope Hicks uses a steamer to press Trump's pants — while he is still wearing them. Trump screams at his top aides, who are subjected to expletive-filled tirades in which they get their "face ripped off." And Trump's appetite seems to know no bounds when it comes to McDonald's, with a dinner order consisting of "two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted." [Post]
  • For all the talk from sanctimonious media types about how democracy dies in darkness, we sure have a lot of people outraged at the thought of actual democracy being the means by which we litigate whether certain individuals are fit to serve in elected office. [Federalist]
  • When I talk to my friends who do a lot of angel investing, I hear that they are being more selective, licking some wounds, and waiting for liquidity on their better investments. [...] The Facebook IPO in May 2012 was a real boon to the angel and seed markets. A lot of instant millionaires re-invested their gains back into startups (just as BTC and ETH instant millionaires are re-investing their gains into ICOs right now). Many startup people reinvented themselves as angel investors, AngelListers, seed VCs, and early stage VCs. As I quoted Techcrunch in my tweet "2012-2016 was a bubble in early-stage funding." I think the bubble actually started letting out air in mid 2015. [AVC]
  • Daily supplementation with 248 mg of elemental magnesium as four 500 mg tablets of magnesium chloride per day leads to a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms regardless of age, gender, baseline severity of depression, or use of antidepressant medications. While the cross over design of this trial is robust in controlling for internal biases, it would be reassuring to see the results replicated in larger clinical trials that test long term efficacy and provide additional data on subgroups. However, this efficacy trial showed magnesium supplements may be a fast, safe, and easily accessible alternative, or adjunct, to starting or increasing the dose of antidepressant medications. [NLM]
  • I'm going to guess that my latest Windows update took roughly as much computation as the first 11 years of modern computing (start with EDSAC in 1949 and through 1960). [PhilG]
  • If Trump is ousted or loses in 2020, then the conclusion will be that Trumpism was always a backward, doomed philosophy and maybe Jeb was right all along. [LoTB]
  • Technically, you need to hijack 3–4 entities to control it. Let's pretend AntPool,, ViaBTC, F2pool, BTCtop are non-colluding businesses and not just one entity pretending to be 5 — which I really doubt. [...] Bitcoin is 1000 times slower version of UnionPay — they both work at mercy of China. And I'm somewhat sure UnionPay has better appeal in their eyes. It’s only security-through-obscurity that keeps it allegedly "decentralized" in eyes of the public. [Medium]
  • Ari Paul, for one, left his job as a portfolio manager at the University of Chicago's endowment to co-found a cryptocurrency hedge fund called BlockTower Capital this year. "Traditional asset classes feel very, very ossified," Paul says. "Alpha is extremely hard to come by. It’'s almost about not making mistakes. You have hedge funds fighting to earn a 5% return over whatever their benchmark is, and that's [considered] a phenomenal performance. We're seeing opportunities like that almost every other week. It feels a bit like what I imagine trading commodities was like 30 years ago or equities 70 years ago." [Barron's]
  • Despite the Nikkei being at something like a 21 year high, I think there are still some decent values in Japanese small caps. I recently flipped through the entire Autumn 2017 edition of the Japan Company Handbook (which took me about two months for the 1800+ pages) and I made 13 investments. [CoBF]

1 comment:

The Lion said...

Re: board game revival, I learned this world existed a funny way about 7 years ago. I was doing an overnight medical study and the technician who was working with me turned out to be a huge nerd. Somehow we got on the topic of what board games he liked and he mentioned Carcassone, Dominion and Settlers amongst a few others. But he said Settlers was the game to start with if you were "new" to the old world of board gaming. I picked it up later that week and have since introduced at least 40 different people to it. I seem to have been right on the edge of the trend popularizing because I now have learned there are many college student gamer groups and even "cool" kids think it's okay to have a board game night so it's growing in social acceptance.

The article mentioned several games I had never heard of so that was helpful for further research. I agree with the articles argument that board games provide a good excuse to socialize with people in a way that seems to be largely missing in the modern world. I have used board games as a set piece to connect with both family and friends-- once people learn the game few have been able to resist the fun combined with the opportunity to just spend time with others.

One game that has a long legacy and isn't mentioned is Magic: The Gathering. It's really a card game and is really for 2 players, which is maybe why it doesn't "fit" in the board gaming social culture. But it is similar to what makes these other games great in that it is "simple to learn, difficult to master" with almost infinite complexity and expandability. It can also get really expensive to play over time if you want to keep growing your card collection!

An interesting case study in disruptive innovation is the way Wizards of the Coast (publishers of MTG) missed the opportunity to create an outstanding online digital version of their game. There were several products and attempts over the last two decades, including the CD-based MTG Encyclopedia product (no real game-play capability, just card collection management) and more recently MTG Online, but both were pretty weak offerings in multiple ways. It took an outsider competitor, Blizzard Entertainment, with their World of Warcraft-themed online card game, Hearthstone, to create what MTG Online should've been.

Hearthstone is also not a board game, but it definitely fits into the "board game cafe" culture, so much so that the theme of the game is a couple players sitting in a "tavern" playing the card game together. It has the easy to pick up and learn, difficult to master gameplay greatness of its inspiration, MTG, similar to all other "outstanding games", and the art, sound and technology are top notch. It is easily the best game out there right now in the board game geek-type genre aside from some of these actual board game classics mentioned in the article.

The West needs a new "pub" culture and I am happy to see board game cafes take up the task.