Thursday, December 13, 2018

December 13th Links

  • Fisher also learned how to divine the location of the most interesting canyons - which according to the prevailing canyoneering aesthetic are those with the narrowest slots, the most photogenic waterfalls, the deepest, clearest pools - from telltale contours on a USGS quadrangle. "To find a good canyon on a map," he says, "first you look for a peak high enough - which means about eight thousand feet in this region - to catch the rain. Then you analyze the size of the catchment basin above the canyon you're interested in: It generally has to cover at least ten miles by twenty miles to result in a stream with enough flow to cut a decent canyon. Next, you examine the closeness of the contour lines: They have to indicate a formation that's both very deep and very narrow; you can have a really really deep canyon but if it's too wide there won't be anything interesting in it." "Finally," Fisher continues, "you check out the geology. If the geologic makeup isn't exactly right, most of the stream's water will sink into the ground, even in a large drainage system, and you won't wind up with any pools or waterfalls, which are what I go into canyons to find." [Eiger Dreams]
  • A good idea will draw overly-optimistic entrepreneurs to it like moths to a flame: all get immolated but the one with the dumb luck to kiss the flame at the perfect instant. (How many payment startup were there before Paypal? How many social networks before Facebook? How many search engines before Google?) How can you catch a falling knife? [Gwern]
  • I chose to go on foot to LGA rather than the larger and more remote John F. Kennedy International Airport for a number of reasons. For one thing, I'd heard of people walking to or from JFK. In fact, the New York Times featured one of those walks; novelist Will Self was profiled in 2006 hiking the 20 miles from JFK to Manhattan. Self had given up drugs and alcohol and replaced his vices with exceptionally long walks. His route, which began on Conduit Avenue, long a favorite of savvy car service drivers (and drag racers), sounded logical to me. I was fairly sure that walking to or from JFK was, if not pleasant, than possible. On the other hand, I'd never heard of anyone walking to or from LGA which is, in a way, even more isolated than JFK, thanks to the fantastic tangle of highways plotted and built in the mid-20th century by the legendary Robert Moses. [Curbed]


Anonymous said...


I love how this guy is both an EMHer and a cryptocurrency evangelist/tout.

Anonymous said...

That's funny - I know he's a crypto guy but didn't think of him as an EMHer.

Wonder if he took crypto profits off the table?

This sounds like it was written pre-2017:

I have long been interested in cryptographic topics, and in June 2011, I began researching the new darknet markets (DNMs), as epitomized by Silk Road 1 (SR). Between my sustained coverage of DNM topics, occasional interventions like my Sheep-MarketPlace/BlackMarket-Reloaded bet, and my minor role in the doxing of Sheep MarketPlace’s owner, and my essays Bitcoin is Worse is Better & Time-lock cryptography, I have been sometimes accused of being more involved than I appear - possibly Dread Pirate Roberts (really Ross Ulbricht), Satoshi Nakamoto1, a high-level seller, a law enforcement agent, or other things.

While sometimes flattering (I wish I was Satoshi Nakamoto!), these are all quite wrong: I am but an impoverished writer who barely makes ends meet, and certainly not a Bitcoin billionaire or elite C++ P2P crypto programmer, though I write about Bitcoin/cryptography/DNMs.

Anonymous said...

I just put up a post on how much each state invested in infrastructure from 1982 to 2016, based on government finances data from the Census Bureau. The answer — not as much as under Jimmy Carter.

In fact this country hasn’t invested at all, it has consumed. Except in information and communications technology, and to a lesser extent logistics and healthcare. Perhaps the information and communications technology will mean people don’t move as much, and we use less stuff. Otherwise, we’re in trouble.

California’s investment has been particularly low, but it picked up somewhat recently. New England has invested the least of all, aside from the Big Dig and sewage plants to clean up Boston Harbor. “This Old Region.”

Anonymous said...

@anon 6:18
That's funny - I know he's a crypto guy but didn't think of him as an EMHer.

He wrote a favorable review of Random Walk Down Wall Street and endorsed EMH in a few other reviews as well:

"It's hard to believe at this point that Malkiel's views on the desirability of indexing and not trading and the basic truth of the efficient market hypothesis were ever controversial or not conventional wisdom..."

Anonymous said...

That's sad!

This was interesting though:

I was perplexed at the time by the large Walgreens deal: Walgreens is a large, competent, sophisticated provider of pharmacy services, well capable of thorough testing; if Theranos was not what it was hyped up to be, how could Walgreens fail to notice? My assumption was that Theranos had done something clever to produce fake results (if not perhaps as clever as the FSB at Sochi). BB provides the answer, which is dismayingly mundane: Theranos bluntly refused to provide any kind of real validation or access to its machines, and some Walgreens execs were furious about it and correctly convinced Theranos was a fraud, but others were seduced by the vision, and the doubters signed on because they were terrified of forcing Theranos into the arms of CVS, which is a rivalry I had no idea about. ("Van den Hooff listened with a pained look on his face. 'We can't not pursue this,'' he said. 'We can't risk a scenario where CVS has a deal with them in six months and it ends up being real.' Walgreens's rivalry with CVS, which was based in Rhode Island and one-third bigger in terms of revenues, colored virtually everything the drugstore chain did. It was a myopic view of the world that was hard to understand for an outsider like Hunter who wasn't a Walgreens company man. Theranos had cleverly played on this insecurity. As a result, Walgreens suffered from a severe case of FOMO - the fear of missing out." Who knew?) A similar desperation appears to have animated Safeway's ill-fated Theranos commitment. And the general coverup appears to have owed much to the realities of lawfare in the USA: Theranos had enough cash to wield legal threats against the justly-terrified whistleblowers, costing Tyler Shultz a staggering $400,000+ and gaslighting suspects with constant PI surveillance, and possibly tactics that went beyond the legal (Theranos/Holmes appear suspiciously well-informed at times). It's no surprise it took a major newspaper like the WSJ to investigate it.