Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday Night Links

  • Someone on Twitter was asking: why does every trade need a catalyst? Well, if the S&P 500 paid a 7 percent dividend yield, would anyone care about catalysts? What if companies with great moats like Google or railroads paid 7 percent dividends? Obviously no one would care about catalysts, they would just clip coupons. I wonder whether the focus on catalysts is because the market is overpriced, in the sense that no one can live off of the coupons on a portfolio, and so staying ahead requires painstaking and original investment research looking for catalysts? How does this relate to the short term investing anomalies? Well, by definition, a catalyst is a value-unlocking event that you hope happens soon. Focus on imminent catalytic events may be what causes short-term investing. [CBS]
  • I am still waiting for the new conventional wisdom about what is happening to emerge, and I believe it will be as follows. A particular ancestral betacoronavirus emerged in bats several decades ago with a special superpower, different from but conceptually not too distinct from HIV’s ability to rapidly mutate. This virus had the ability to easily spread out among many animal species and evolve among them through a standard slow process of mutation subject to selection pressures, but then to occasionally co-infect a single host and recombine to create a radically different variant (a “chimera,” although I think it’s better thought of as an “offspring.”). These offspring would occasionally be very deadly because they combined well-developed abilities that had evolved in separate lineages from the original ancestor evolving in separate species. Eventually I think we will categorize all the recent betacoronavirus outbreaks (Sars-1, Sars-2, MERS) as part of this broader process, and require a vaccination strategy that can be quickly deployed against new recombinations from this original ancestral betacoronavirus as they randomly emerge from the primordial stew across many animal species, including ours. The evidence thus far points to recombinations resulting in the emergence of a distinct dangerous variant with some regularity. This story also explains the existence of some preexisting immunity in much of the population to Sars-Cov-2, but substantial variation in what feature of Sars-Cov-2’s genetic code the immune system reacts to depending on whether the individual is known to have had SARS, MERS, or neither. In all likelihood, possibly many relatively nonlethal or even asymptomatic variants of the same betacoronavirus ancestor have been circulating undetected among human populations during this same 10-20 years, resulting in people people who have been exposed to different random bits of genetic material present in Sars-Cov-2. [Marginal Revolution]
  • There are many words for pass in the English-speaking world. In the United States, pass is very common in the West, the word gap is common in the southern Appalachians, notchin parts of New England, and saddle in northern Idaho. In the West, the word summit is also used to describe a pass, but this term is universally used to describe a mountain top, leading to confusion as to whether a labeled "summit" is a pass or a peak. [Wiki]
  • We need to scale both the number of parameters and the compute power required logarithmically (10x) in order to get linear returns to performance. Given the mind-bogglingly large values we’re talking about here, continuing to scale at these rates is going to get very challenging. [gpt3]
  • This Model Y came with the one feature we've come to expect in all Teslas: shoddy fit and finish. We noted inconsistent gaps between the body panels—not all of which sit flush, by the way. There's a definite orange-peel effect to the paint, which also had some chips fresh from the factory, according to the owner. A few wires hang in the open from the dashboard into the passenger's footwell. Tesla placed the tire-pressure sticker on the door jamb in such a way that the white label peeks through the gap between the front fender and the door panel. And a series of persistent creaks and rattles from the back seat and cargo area made the owner send this car back to Tesla for a fix. The company says the rattle is a known problem without a solution, so the owner found a workaround. [Car and Driver]
  • Most modern folks think in terms of profit maximization; we take for granted that we will still be alive tomorrow and instead ask how we can maximize how much money we have then (this is, admittedly, a lot less true for the least fortunate among us). We thus tend to favor efficient systems, even if they are vulnerable. From this perspective, ancient farmers – as we’ll see – look very silly, but this is a trap, albeit one that even some very august ancient scholars have fallen into. These are not irrational, unthinking people; they are poor, not stupid – those are not the same things. But because these households wobble on the edge of disaster continually, that changes the calculus. These small subsistence farmers generally seek to minimize risk, rather than maximize profits. After all, improving yields by 5% doesn’t mean much if everyone starves to death in the third year because of a tail-risk that wasn’t mitigated. Moreover, for most of these farmers, working harder and farming more generally doesn’t offer a route out of the small farming class – these societies typically lack that kind of mobility (and also generally lack the massive wealth-creation potential of industrial power which powers that kind of mobility). Consequently, there is little gain to taking risks and much to lose. So as we’ll see, these farmers generally sacrifice efficiency for greater margins of safety, every time. Avoiding risk for these farmers comes in two main forms: there are strategies to reduce the risk of failure within the annual cycle and then strategies to prepare for failure by ‘banking’ the gains of a good cycle against the losses of a bad cycle. [acoup]
  • I think it's hard to have an opinion on what Trump should do in Portland or Seattle without more information. Perhaps federal buildings should be abandoned and relocate to friendlier suburbs? Allow cities to be destroyed. Or perhaps buildings should be defended to last man. I really don’t know what the enemy is trying to do. Possibly they seek to bait Trump into a Waco. Perhaps they seek to blame him for destruction of cities. Clearly the mayors are assets of the same entities steering riots. Perhaps they plan to win either way. Probably defending the buildings and cautiously arresting most violent each night is the way to go. Carefully, competently face opponent. The mixed strategy. [bollocksworth]
  • The American academy is bonkers and has reared monsters - so that we now have a "black liberation movement" staffed almost entirely by college-educated white women (including a remarkable number of angry trans-women) from the over-undergraduated permanent-varsity Class of Whenever. We are assured that out in "the real world" there is a soi-disant "silent majority" whose voices will resound around the world on November 3rd. For what it's worth, I don't believe in the existence of this "silent majority", and a political party that has won the popular vote only once in the last thirty years (2004) ought to be chary about over-investing in it. [Steyn]
  • I tried being a historian next, and came to Madison intent on obtaining a Ph.D. in the History of Science department at the University of Wisconsin. That didn’t go so well. I learned that just because you like to read about/hear talks on something doesn’t mean you’ll like actually doing research in it. So I decided to try cartography next. This was no surprise to anyone who knew me. I have always loved maps, and would sometimes go to the library and browse atlases for fun. But I somehow had never realized that maybe, if I was so interested in maps, I should actually try and make a career out of it. And so now I make maps, and occasionally teach about cartography, in Madison, WI. I love what I do, and I cannot fathom how I didn’t realize that this was what I should be doing with my life. [sam]
  • The Boulangism cloud had burst and that meant that there was no one answering Salima’s toaster when it asked if the bread she was about to toast had come from an authorized Boulangism baker, which it had. In the absence of a reply, the paranoid little gadget would assume that Salima was in that class of nefarious fraudsters who bought a discounted Boulangism toaster and then tried to renege on her end of the bargain by inserting unauthorized bread, which had consequences ranging from kitchen fires to suboptimal toast (Boulangism was able to adjust its toasting routine in realtime to adjust for relative kitchen humidity and the age of the bread, and of course it would refuse to toast bread that had become unsalvageably stale), to say nothing of the loss of profits for the company and its shareholders. Without those profits, there’d be no surplus capital to divert to R&D, creating the continuous improvement that meant that hardly a day went by without Salima and millions of other Boulangism stakeholders (never just “customers”) waking up with exciting new firmware for their beloved toasters. [link]
  • Housing is the single largest expense for families. Young women with IQs above 115 won't reproduce except as part of a married couple that owns a house. Any country being run for the benefit of posterity would therefore look to have housing be as cheap as possible. We see that the policy of this country is the opposite. Not only the immivasion and wage crushing tactics that AllanF describes, but also tax and mortgage policy. Mortgage interest deduction and subsidized mortgage market drive up the price of land. (It's expensive land, not expensive structures, that are making houses unaffordable.) Also, let's not forget that there is an artificial scarcity of land in ALL major metros, caused by anti-white violence perpetrated by blacks and hispanics. How much cheaper would it be to live in Chicago or Philadelphia if there weren't "no-go zones" where whites are attacked? (By the way, "gentrification" just means whites attempting to move into areas controlled by black and hispanic milita forces.) [CBS]
  • To all my fellow veterans who have been tethered to the stake in small numbers as sacrificial lambs to serve as targets so as to justify larger wars - from those sailors left behind at Pearl Harbor, to the small units stationed in Saudi Arabia on the border of Iraq over a decade ago - and the small units of NATO allies moving up to the borders of Russia as a provocation now: Greetings from a veteran of the Berlin Brigade 1970 - two years after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia - 10,000 of us surrounded by 250,000 Russians and East Germans. Understand what your sons and daughters are volunteering for!!! The elites and oligarchs know perfectly well that Russian nukes target them and only them, since the object of modern nuclear war is surgical decapitatation of the leadership, and definitely not the the de-population of the flyover areas of the U.S. They fervently hope for early warning by tethering your sons and daughters as goats to the stake and pray fervently that Russia will take their lives, the irrelevant bait, and not bypass them and surge forward to real targets. [High Plateau Drifter]
  • Robotics embodies the Moravec paradox. There’s a sort of corollary to this that people who work in the tiny field of “actual AI” (as opposed to ML ding dongs who got above their station) used to know about. This was before the marketing departments of google and other frauds made objective thought about this impossible. The idea is that intelligence and consciousness arose spontaneously out of biological motion control systems. I think the idea comes from Roger Sperry, but whatever, it used to be widely known and at least somewhat accepted. Those biological motion control systems exist even on a microscopic level; even unicellular creatures like the paramecium, or primitive animals without real nervous systems like the hydra are capable of solving problems that we can’t do even in the general case with the latest NVIDIA supercomputer. While robotics is a noble calling and the roboticists solve devilishly hard problems, animal behavior ought to give a big old hint that they’re not doing it right. [Locklin]


Anonymous said...

Must finish by 6:30 P.M. to catch the Rothorn train down from the ridge on the far east side, or walk a punishingly steep 5,400-plus-foot descent back to civilization, a hike that you will probably have to do by yourself, because Dan and Janine are nice but not necessarily psyched on sacrificing their knees on a downhill hike of several hours because you’re slow.

Anonymous said...

Three weeks later, we found a quarter-acre of raw land near Pat’s tiny off-grid in the Cascades. It was a sloping meadow of ferns a short walk from the Skykomish River, festooned with mature Douglas fir, big leaf maple, and cedar. We put down an impossibly low offer of $3,000, certain the sellers wouldn’t take it seriously. If they accepted, we’d consider it a sign from the universe.

Anonymous said...

Outside mag is very leftist now:

Shah offers an important reminder that the history of American conservation movements can’t be separated from that of anti-immigrant politics. Madison Grant, who played a key role in developing the national park system, was also a white supremacist who shaped U.S. immigration policy. John Tanton, a conservationist who started a chapter of the Audubon Society, was a racist thinker who launched a network of anti-immigration groups that continue to influence the Trump administration today. Even David Brower, the famous Sierra Club leader, tried to push his organization to adopt an anti-immigration platform as recently as the late 1990s. (Tanton also participated in that effort.) Brower was one of a group of environmentalists at the time who were obsessed with the false idea that migration would lead to overpopulation and destroy the planet.

CP said...

I love the Grand Canyon. Even before I ever went on a river trip, I’d seen enough to enamor me on a couple backpacking trips and Rim-to-Rim jaunts. River trips, though, were at least a week, at minimum—and at least two weeks if you wanted to see the whole thing. I was sure it was great, but with two weeks, you could go a lot of places on Earth. Why keep going back to the same place over and over?

Kevin Fedarko, former Grand Canyon river guide and author of The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon, has talked about the two rivers you experience on a river trip in the canyon: The Colorado River that is a constant as you boat down it during every day and camp next to it every evening, and the “river of stars” between the canyon walls that you look up at from your sleeping bag at night.

Add to this the luxury of camping on river trips: you have the solitude of a backpacking trip, but the ability to pack almost anything you want to bring, because the raft is carrying your stuff.

Allan Folz said...

Young women with IQs above 115 won't reproduce except as part of a married couple that owns a house. Any country being run for the benefit of posterity would therefore look to have housing be as cheap as possible. We see that the policy of this country is the opposite.

It was a little funny to read that first line and immediately start feeling wistful about what our country could be, and then two sentences later see that it was from a post that fired me up to commented at length some 4 years ago.

It is so simple. The Framers knew it. They thought it was so important they put it into the Preamble to the Constitution... "for us and for our posterity[!]"

The outrage is that Boomers have never given a d*mn about posterity. They are the most selfish, self-centered generation in the history of this country. You have to go to thin veneers of failing aristocrats to see anything comparable. For the better 1/2 to 2/3rds of an entire generation to think and act the way Boomers have is unprecedented.

More funny is that in the comments of that thread I mention Steve Sailer. Well, Steve Sailer oft commented on Trump being the pro-natalist candidate. Indeed, Trump is the pro-natalist Boomer. And yet, what has the Boomer's ostensible champion for posterity done? Nothing! Because at the end of the day, he is a Boomer. Boomers cannot conceive anything that is not for their own direct benefit. Asset price inflation is the ultimate Boomer sinecure and it's their hammer for every problem.

It is trivially easy to come up with pro-natalist policies. Sh*t-posting accounts on twitter do it all the time. As well, there are real-world policies in place across the planet. Certainly one has to be careful with the unintended consequences, but the point is that Boomers Never Even Tried. It does not compute to them.

Another Sailerism is how female journalists' solution to every problem somehow includes them being more sought after in the marriage market. This is Boomers' national policy writ large. Boomers' solution to every social problem somehow includes a wealth transfer from a prior or subsequent generation to them. How convenient for them.

F*ck the Boomers. 2024 will not get here soon enough.

Finally, I can't rail on Boomers without also giving mention to the Unter-Boomers, aka Millennials. I've followed enough Millennial accounts on twitter to see that their anger towards Boomers is not that Boomers are doing anything wrong, it's that Boomers aren't sharing. More often that not, scratch a Millennial and you'll see a Boomer underneath. They don't want free and fair, they want their thumb on the scale instead of the Boomers. They are both Bolsheviks at heart!

MrGotham said...

What evidence is there that GenX, for instance, is behaving that much differently than Boomers? Please present specific data.

CP said...

Cinchonism is relatively rare in the United States both because of the low incidence of malaria and because of the use of the newer antimalarial drugs when indicated. I think it worth while to present to your readers the following unusual reaction because of the increase in popularity, at least in the east, of the drink "gin and tonic." I saw a 43-year-old man in consultation who had a seven week history of tinnitus and hearing loss. He had consulted an otologist, who found bilateral diminution in hearing, and a neurologist, who suggested the diagnosis of bilateral angle meningioma. Because of the history of daily ingestion of seven to eight drinks per day he was sent for a medical evaluation prior to further workup for neurosurgery.

Allan Folz said...

evidence is there that GenX, for instance, is behaving that much differently than Boomers?

Fair criticism. It's the dog that hasn't barked... absence of evidence, in this case, is evidence of absence.

The tell is Gen X culture, particularly their coming-of-age culture. They are the 'leave me the f*ck alone gen, and I'll leave you the f*ck alone generation.'

And since it's been the subject of a couple threads here on this blog, look at their ex-pats. Boomers left the first time to dodge the draft, and returned as soon as they were given amnesty to do so. 40 years later, Boomers left again to arb their social security checks. Gen X leaves because they are disgusted with the trajectory the Boomers have set the country upon and refuse to change. Gen X leaves because they want to be left the f*ck alone.

The contrast with Millennials proves the rule.