Monday, December 10, 2018

December 10th Links

  • "We experience a modest, short-term illusion of wealth in exchange for enormous, long-term liabilities." That should be the U.S. motto, not E Pluribus Unum. The enormous, long-term liabilities from the boomers' lifetimes are coming due now: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and state/local pension obligations. [CBS]
  • You are effective as you are organized - Improving your personal organization is the most overlooked and easiest place improve your effectiveness. If you have 100 things to do, how do you keep track of them? If those 100 things constantly change stakeholders, change requirements, and change deadlines…how do you keep it all straight in your head? Define to-do list item next steps - If you're on a project, and it seems too massive to handle, it's because your next step is still ambiguous. Define the next steps and break them down into little chunks of tangible to do list items. Cross them off one at a time. That's progress. [Greg Kamradt]
  • If you have a problem to solve, make that the starting point for proposals. Unless you have a monopoly or an exotic niche, you have competitors who are solving the same problems. One of them may have come up with a great solution and his vendor may be willing to sell that idea to you. Even better, the competitor of that vendor may have an even better solution. Smart people spend money to solve problems. [Z Man]
  • Today, Northern Hemisphere summer is 4.66 days longer than winter and spring is 2.9 days longer than autumn. As axial precession changes the place in the Earth's orbit where the solstices and equinoxes occur, Northern Hemisphere winters will get longer and summers will get shorter, eventually creating conditions believed to be favorable for triggering the next glacial period. [Wiki]
  • Azolla has been deemed a "super-plant" as it can draw down as much as a tonne of nitrogen per acre per year (0.25 kg/m²/yr); this is matched by 6 tonnes per acre of carbon drawdown (1.5 kg/m²/yr). Its ability to use atmospheric nitrogen for growth means that the main limit to its growth is usually the availability of phosphorus: carbon, nitrogen and sulphur being three of the key elements of proteins, and phosphorus being required for DNA, RNA and in energy metabolism. The plant can grow at great speed in favourable conditions – modest warmth and 20 hours of sunlight, both of which were in evidence at the poles during the early Eocene – and can double its biomass over two to three days in such a climate. [Wiki]
  • Bar/Restaurant owners are not likely to run self-service ad campaigns. My first job out of college was selling a yelp-like suite of software/services to local business like restaurants, bars, cleaners, etc. And it was a slog. They get pitched 5x a day on similar services, tend to not be technically inclined, and have way too many things going on to worry about "bid optimizations" and whatnot. Call 100 bars/restaurants in a day... see how many owners you can get on the phone, let alone how many meetings you can get, let alone how many times they show up for the meeting at the agreed to time. I would say 1 in 100. And then try getting them to run a self service ad campaign. So your only option is the "boots on the ground" salesforce, but it's not going to scale because you don't have single large advertisers. Yelp's entire customer base is long-tail, small business owners. It's not like McDonalds or Cheesecake Factory is going to advertise there. [COBF]
  • Douglas's assertion that "specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance," was less an articulation of a nontextual right to privacy, a word the Constitution fails to cite, than an invitation to scholarly complaint and derision. Press reports assert that a warning sign mocking Douglas's Griswold language–"Please don't emanate in the penumbras"–hangs today in the Supreme Court chambers of Justice Clarence Thomas. [Nation]
  • A mistake paleos and others often make is to assume that having a goal requires a well reasoned set of principles, by which they mean morals. Some goals contain within them all the justification they need. For example, Jews want their promised land to be an explicitly Jewish country. Similarly, White Nationalists want a land of their own that is the exclusive domain of whites. In both cases, the goal is the principle and the principle requires no further explanation. To do otherwise suggests the goal is negotiable. Paleos were prone to negotiating with themselves. The endless debating over principles is really just an excuse for not moving forward. It may not be intentional, but that is the result. When the conqueror sets out to sack a city, the one thing he never does is wait until he has a detailed administrative plan for managing the city after the siege. The winners of life never lose sight of this truth. Principles are the things you create after the victory to lock in your gains and give the people a reason to celebrate your dominance. [Z Man]
  • This is why the Right always loses. The Left would respond to this with litigation. They would go into Federal court and demand Twitter dox the accounts promoting this. They would sue the protesters in order to get depositions, forcing them to name their backers. It would be an endless legal assault. Tucker will go on his show and plead for civility. [CH]
  • Parfit spent about five weeks each year in Venice and St Petersburg. (That's the kind of thing you can do when you're a fellow of All Souls.) Like me, he dislikes the harshness of the midday sun, so he'd wait for morning or evening light. He would wait for hours, reading a book, for the right sort of light and the right sort of weather. When he came home, Parfit developed his photographs and sorted them. "Of a thousand pictures," Macfarquhar writes, "he might keep three. When he decided that a picture was worth saving, he took it to a professional processor in London and had the processor hand-paint out all aspects of the image that he found distasteful, which meant all evidence of the 20th century – cars, telegraph wires, signposts – and usually all people. [Guardian]
  • There is an astonishing industry in used Leicas, with clubs and forums debating such vital areas of contention as the strap lugs introduced in 1933. There are collectors who buy a Leica and never take it out of the box; others who discreetly amass the special models forged for the Luftwaffe. Ralph Gibson once went to a meeting of the Leica Historical Society of America and, he claims, listened to a retired Marine Corps general give a scholarly paper on certain discrepancies in the serial numbers of Leica lens caps. "Leicaweenies," Gibson calls such addicts, and they are part of the charming, unbreakable spell that the name continues to cast, as well as a tribute to the working longevity of the cameras. By an unfortunate irony, the abiding virtues of the secondhand slow down the sales of the new: why buy an M8 when you can buy an M3 for a quarter of the price and wind up with comparable results? The economic equation is perverse: "I believe that for every euro we make in sales, the market does four euros of business," Lee said. [New Yorker]
  • In earlier eras, animal life could have adjusted to climate change. But humans have now "fenced off" so much of the planet that animals are basically stuck on "islands", and find it increasingly hard to adjust to environmental stress. The same is true for humans. People in Bangladesh are no longer free to migrate to a warmer Siberia, as they could have 10,000 years ago. If you favor doing nothing about global warming, then you should also favor open borders. [Econlib]
  • I don't really like Taleb's term "antilibrary." A library is a collection of books, many of which remain unread for long periods of time. I don't see how that differs from an antilibrary. A better term for what he's talking about might be tsundoku, a Japanese word for a stack of books that you have purchased but not yet read. My personal library is about one-tenth books I have read and nine-tenths tsundoku. I probably own about 3,000 books. But many of those books are anthologies or compilations that contain multiple books within them. I own a lot of Library of America volumes, a series that publishes the complete novels of authors like Dashiell Hammett and Nathanael West as a single book. Thus, my 3,000-book library probably holds more than 6,000 works. Once I have read a book, I often give it away or trade it in at a used-book store. As a result, my tsundoku is ever expanding while the number of books in my house that I have read remains fairly constant at a few hundred. [NY Times]
  • The genius of flowering plants was figuring out how to move pollen much more precisely and reliably by recruiting animals as their couriers. These animals are our Desire players, and in the context of flowering plants, they're called pollinators. The most iconic pollinator, of course, is the honeybee. But the role can be filled by many other insects (like butterflies), as well as birds (hummingbirds) and even mammals (bats). This relationship is simple, but also profound. The plant lures the pollinator with the promise of food (e.g., nectar). And when a plant consistently delivers on its promise, the pollinator keeps coming back. Not just to the very same plant, but to any plant of the same species, thus ensuring an extremely high fertilization efficiency. And the flower mediates this relationship by acting as a brand image. Its distinctive shape and arresting colors are a mnemonic to remind pollinators of the plant's good faith and credit. "Get your sweet nectar here!" the flower calls out, "And wherever else you see our trademarked signs!" Thus the flower's beauty isn't capricious. It's a solution to a very concrete problem. And what a solution it turned out to be! Since bursting on the scene some 130 million years ago, flowering plants have completely taken over from their predecessors, such that they now dominate the landscape. It's estimated that flowering plants make up 90 percent of all plant species and more than half of all biomass on Earth. That's the power of beauty. [link]
  • To oversimplify: fast strategies (think "live fast, die young") are well-adapted for unpredictable dangerous environments. Each organism has a pretty good chance of randomly dying in some unavoidable way before adulthood; the species survives by sheer numbers. Fast organisms should grow up as quickly as possible in order to maximize the chance of reaching reproductive age before they unpredictably die. They should mate with anybody around, to maximize the chance of mating before they unpredictably die. They should ignore their offspring, since they expect most offspring to unpredictably die, and since they have too many to take care of anyway. They should be willing to take risks, since the downside (death without reproducing) is already their default expectation, and the upside (becoming one of the few individuals to give birth to the 10,000 offspring of the next generation) is high. [SSC]

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