guest - flak

new world economy

The New Yorker money issue, October 10. There’s some good articles about evolving, er, disrupting, business practices.

There’s several short articles under the Work For Hire heading. Plus some more from an earlier issue.

The Anti-Uber Juno promises to treat its drivers with respect. More importantly, they even get stock in the company, so when they get replaced by self driving cars, at least they still have something. They’re in a tough spot though, because nobody wants to fund them, expecting Uber to succeed. Especially those firms that have already poured billions of dollars into Uber, the first company to weaponize money. I’m not sure if Uber is literally the first to try outburning rivals, but they are doing it an extraordinary level. By the time Uber’s investors demand profits, its competitors will be out of business. Interesting point that unlike a Walmart competitor that tries to move into town and capitalize on unhappy employees, Juno can share employees with Uber. You can’t work in two superstores at once, but you can drive around with two smartphones.

Continue reading new world economy...

Posted 2016-10-23 22:31:46 by tedu Updated: 2016-10-23 22:39:32
Tagged: business magreview

New Yorker May 16

Another “Innovators Issue”. Fell a little behind in my reading, but this is a good issue with some great pieces.

A Whole New Ball Game. There’s a little robot ball called Sphero which can be used to teach kids programming and such. Although this proves challenging when the kids are young and would prefer to play with something that also makes a great toy. Learning can (should) be fun, but I’d say they’re aiming a little young when all the code that gets written is “Roll 3 seconds”. And of course the resemblance to the (wholly unnecessary) BB-8 Star Wars droid drives more demand. How much do kids really learn, or is this just tossing money at the latest fad? There’s a rather unsubstantiated claim at the end that recreating a solar system with Spheros means students are “doing really advanced math”. But what does that mean? Are they driving them in plain circles, or is it a real nine body gravity simulation? Tricking students into solving the latter, without even knowing it, would be amazing indeed.

Continue reading New Yorker May 16...

Posted 2016-08-22 04:04:10 by tedu Updated: 2016-08-22 14:33:12
Tagged: magreview

convention quote quiz

Some quotes pulled from recent New Yorker article on the history of presidential nominations. Who said it and when?

“The Republican National Convention at Cleveland next week promises to be a very dull show.”

“Have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes.”

“Free the delegates.”

“Americans must rule America.”

“This is strictly a white man’s party.”

“I wish I could slay a Mexican.”

“We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race.”

“In this bright new century, let me ask you to win to your side the women of the United States.”

“Women will decide the outcome of this election.”

“Are the American people fit to govern themselves?”

“The will of the people is crap.”

Source.

Posted 2016-07-02 18:43:56 by tedu Updated: 2016-07-02 18:43:56
Tagged: magreview politics quote

pedobear uses a macbook

Based on the fact that Ars Technica likes to use a MacBook keyboard to illustrate many of their child porn related stories, I conclude that’s pedobear’s preferred computing device.

Don’t be a creeper: use a ThinkPad.

Posted 2016-06-04 17:52:12 by tedu Updated: 2016-06-04 17:52:12
Tagged: magreview quote

trump

Time and Esquire both went full Trump this week, with cover titles of “How Trump Won” and “Hater in Chief”, respectively. Not to mention very similar red, white, and gray color themes.

Time’s feature article mostly focuses on how the Donald defied the GOP powerbrokers to run his own show. Disintermediation (aka the Netflix effect) comes to politics. (Again? Aren’t we regaled with tales of the brave outsider every election?) Curiously the same magazine that criticizes the “lamestream” media for its failed predictions of Trump’s fall also points out that none of the frontrunners at the start of 2012 won their primary. So, in short, something could happen, and it could be like before or it could be different.

Continue reading trump...

Posted 2016-01-20 22:51:32 by tedu Updated: 2016-01-20 22:51:32
Tagged: magreview politics

natural grass preservatives

From Time’s surprisingly healthy snack foods list.

Is the implication that corn fed beef jerky requires artifical preservatives? What makes grass beef so naturally resistant to spoiling?

Posted 2015-06-22 19:07:07 by tedu Updated: 2015-06-22 19:07:07
Tagged: food magreview quote

on the power of proprietary information

Lots of great articles in the October 13, 2014 New Yorker, all connected by the common theme of knowledge is power. Who knows what and when gives one a considerable edge. Nothing surprising, but reading about it from several perspectives reveals just how true the old saying is.

The first major article, Embrace the Irony, is about Lawrence Lessig’s quest to reform campaign finance. Not information, per se, but access is power, and asymmetrical access has about the same result as asymmetrical information. I didn’t really like this article, though; it seems to bounce around quite a bit.

Who cooks your Chinese food? Possibly (probably?) an underground worker from The Kitchen Network. There’s a lot more anecdote here than data, but the way the network operates is crazy. Pay a “work agency” some money and get a bus number and a phone number. Get on the bus, get off in the middle of nowhere, call the number, boss picks you up. You know nothing about the job before then, not even the name of the restaurant. The workers generally don’t know English, and so they are dependent on their handlers to help make arrangements and navigate the world. It’s not in the bosses’ interest to educate their workers, and even the workers don’t seem interested in helping each other, preferring to keep whatever knowledge they have to themselves.

Continue reading on the power of proprietary information...

Posted 2014-10-09 20:35:29 by tedu Updated: 2014-10-09 20:35:29
Tagged: magreview

kentuckycare

Time had an article I liked about Kentucky’s healthcare exchange, Kynect. A similar piece with some of the highlights is in LA Times.

Mostly, I’m fascinated by McConnell’s attempts at threading the political needle now that people seem to like the law that he promised them they’d hate. “Hey, this law made us do something we never would have done, but now that we have and we like the result, that still doesn’t change anything. I’m always right.” Of course, voters seem equally confused about the name and nature of the law that was passed, so he still has some wiggle room.

Nothing new, people have always filtered reality through ideology, but in this case some of the facts are going to be hard for voters to ignore. Wonder how this will play out. In five years, will people be celebrating the (actually unchanged) healthcare law that “we should have had all along” after a few more rebranding exercises?

Tangential post on Bounded Rationality.

Posted 2014-08-11 02:29:52 by tedu Updated: 2014-08-11 02:29:52
Tagged: magreview politics

the language of money

From the New Yorker, Money Talks - Learning the language of finance. For a little while I thought this article was going somewhere, but as I read more I decided I don’t like it much at all. It positions itself as piercing the veil of obscurity surrounding financial and economic jargon, but then ultimately contributes even more confusion to the field.

Yes, the field of finance and economics (let’s lump them together) have a lot of specialized jargon. If you don’t understand what a “bear market” is, you’ll be left out of the conversation, and since finance undoubtedly has an impact on your life, this is bad. But it’s no different than many other fields. Practically every day the local meteorologist mutters something about a “cold front” (except when they’re muttering about an “occluded front”, whatever the hell that is). A doctor once told me to avoid “excessive ambulation” (no joke). Jargon is jargon. It’s a part of every field of study.

Continue reading the language of money...

Posted 2014-08-01 19:15:51 by tedu Updated: 2014-08-01 19:15:51
Tagged: business language magreview

disrupting innovation theory

Some thoughts on The Disruption Machine. I only just read it, but apparently I’m late to the party. I can’t help but think it’s funny that writing up a review of an article three days before it’s publication counts as too late. (I think it arrived on Wednesday, I read it yesterday at lunch, and today I’m writing. I apologize for my tardiness.)

The article is apparently a rebuttal to The Innovator’s Dilemma, but I think it’s more a counterpoint to the current cult of disruption. Or as the subtitle puts it, “What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.” I think the point is not to prove Christensen wrong, but to demonstrate that the cult of disruption’s holy text is infallible. I myself haven’t read the book, just forum comments telling me what it’s about. Whether those commenters read the book or merely parrot the comments of others, I don’t know, but The Disruption Machine does appear to accurately capture the popular perception of disruption theory.

Continue reading disrupting innovation theory...

Posted 2014-06-20 19:34:57 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-20 19:36:07
Tagged: business magreview quote thoughts

xenoanthropology

The last two issues of The New Yorker had a great series of articles on aspects of human culture. Stepping back and looking at ourselves as aliens, it can be hard to comprehend all the “others”.

Bus Ride takes the B46 through Brooklyn. The list of store names passed by is not to be missed.

The Barbarian Group throws a Superdesk Party, centered around the giant desk that weaves its way through their entire office. “You could have an epic game of Flip Cup, with, like, fifty people.”

This Is My Jail chronicles the conditions in Baltimore’s City Detention Center, its male inmates and their female guards, and the effective role reversals that brings about. It’s a long article, but after every paragraph I had the same thought. This must be happening on some other planet.

Continue reading xenoanthropology...

Posted 2014-04-20 19:05:50 by tedu Updated: 2014-04-20 19:05:50
Tagged: magreview

the finitely probable machine

The February 17th 2014 issue of Time magazine, with the Infinity Machine on the cover.

“Philip Seymour Hoffman did not die from an overdose of heroin -- he died from heroin.” Aaron Sorkin’s obituary.

The cover story, Quantum Quest by Lev Grossman (author of two of my favorite fiction novels), reports on everyone’s favorite quantum computer, D-Wave. Much like a superpositioned qubit, we haven’t yet been able to observe whether D-Wave’s computers are the real deal. The story notes that the CIA is investing, but the goverment has invested in lots of wacky ideas.

Continue reading the finitely probable machine...

Posted 2014-02-11 02:16:42 by tedu Updated: 2014-10-10 00:32:56
Tagged: computers magreview

better older days

Do you miss the good old days? So does the Feb 1 The Atlantic.

People used to talk to each other, now they sit alone together tweeting. Norway has fallen in love with Slow TV. Nice and slow, just the way we used to like it. Two of the best reality shows are apparently Pawn Stars and Storage Wars. They don’t make stuff like this anymore! Narratives used to be told differently, betterly. Elmore Leonard’s best TV adaptation is Justified (great show), which is pretty much a throwback dude bringing his old school Wild West justice into the modern era. Even flying used to be fun.

Continue reading better older days...

Posted 2014-01-23 00:48:41 by tedu Updated: 2014-06-03 03:42:10
Tagged: language magreview

forgers and scammers

Finished reading the rest of the Dec 16 New Yorker, beyond the State of Deception article.

The Lost World profiles Darwin’s lesser known predecessor, Georges Cuvier, the inventor of extinction and mastodons.

The best article is A Very Rare Book. The rare book world trades on reputation and a perhaps mistaken belief that nobody forges old books. Until somebody does. A very good story, one might believe it’s the start of a Dan Brown novel, except better. At the heart of the story is a forged proof of Galileo’s book Sidereus Nuncius in which he documented Jupiter’s moons. What relics will people collect 500 years from now? An original Kindle that once held a first edition?

Continue reading forgers and scammers...

Posted 2013-12-26 22:10:43 by tedu Updated: 2014-01-23 20:56:21
Tagged: magreview moviereview philly

state of deception

From The New Yorker, State of Deception covers the development of the NSA domestic spy program, with more of a focus on the history and politics than the technical details.

The article itself starts with James Clapper’s assertion that the NSA doesn’t spy on Americans. One can fault him for lying, but we should consider this came only after Dianne Feinstein instructed her peers not to ask any questions she didn’t want to know the answer to. It’s Clapper’s job to tell the truth when asked, but Feinstein is responsible for extracting and discerning the truth from a potentially uncooperative witness. That is why the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was created, no? To look into, over, and after the intelligence agencies despite their own reluctance? Checks and balances don’t work when the check abrogates their duty.

A true gem of a quote from Feinstein: “It’s not a surveillance program—it is a data-collection program.” And people wonder how Clapper got away with such shifty answers. (People also probably wonder how Feinstein keeps getting elected. That’s easy. She opposes gun ownership by anyone except herself. No, she’s not my favorite Senator, why do you ask?)

The hero of the article is Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon. A more amusing quote comes from a book by his father about the disastrous Bay of Pigs mission. “Waterloo staged by the Marx Brothers.”

Posted 2013-12-18 05:40:15 by tedu Updated: 2013-12-18 05:40:15
Tagged: magreview politics quote

gluten free math puzzle

Quoting from Celiac Power, “They tested the blood for gluten antibodies, expecting to see the current 1 percent rate of disease. Instead, only 0.002 percent of the airmen tested positive. Further tests showed today’s young men were 41/2 times more likely to have the illness.”

Puzzle: Arrange the numbers 0.01, 0.00002, and 20.5 in a sensible equation.

Posted 2013-06-23 19:29:51 by tedu Updated: 2013-06-23 19:29:51
Tagged: food magreview math rants

how to change the world. sorta.

There’s an article Change the World in the May 27th New Yorker. (Two kids with weird looking lollipops or something on the cover.) Covers the intersection and interaction between Silicon Valley and the world of politics. It’s an awesome article because it confirms all my opinions of the Web 2.0 tech scene. Worth reading the whole thing online, but here’s some highlights and scattered thoughts of my own.

then and now

35 years ago Palo Alto was just another sleepy small town. Today the influx of easy money has changed it. The schools in the right neighborhoods have their budgets supplemented by (what I would call insane) charity auctions. In San Francisco, employees ride wifi enabled shuttles to work so they don’t have to suffer the indignity of taking public transportation alongside lesser people. Google more or less started this trend, but now everybody is in on it. Building not just office buildings, or even office parks, but self contained enclaves to prevent contact with the outside world.

Continue reading how to change the world. sorta....

Posted 2013-06-10 14:20:01 by tedu Updated: 2013-06-10 14:20:30
Tagged: magreview thoughts

New Yorker, May 20 2013

This was a great issue with more than a few worthy articles. A strong technology focus (apparently the “Innovators Issue”). Gears and conveyor belts and falling apples on the cover.

Preventative Measures

If the precrime unit in Minority Report can prevent crime with a mere three pre-cogs, why can’t the DHS prevent crime with all its resources? Maybe because calculating all the possible crimes that all the people on all the watchlists could commit is, as we say, computationally expensive. Narrowing it down to a subset of people, like people carrying backpacks in Boston (something that can only be done after the fact), does make it feasible. Is it fair to hold the security apparatus to the standard of preventing all attacks, or is solving them quickly a successful result? Since the apparatus has been pitched as “keeping us safe” (implying prevention), I think it’s fair to judge it on that basis, but I wonder how the criticism would change if the sales pitch changed as well. Interesting point at the end: Americans’ opinions have changed and in the latest Fox News survey, people are no longer willing to trade personal freedom to reduce the threat of terrorism.

Continue reading New Yorker, May 20 2013...

Posted 2013-05-20 00:53:02 by tedu Updated: 2015-10-29 14:20:54
Tagged: magreview

two captions one graphic

Today’s entrant for worst infographic comes to us courtesy of Esquire, April issue (Robert Redford cover), from a fluff piece about the TV show Mad Men.

We have two captions, each containing one fact, surrounding a single graphic. First, we have “nearly half” which might reasonably be presented as a pie chart. Then we have a pie chart of sorts, but with 34% in the middle. Then we have “34 percent more likely” which is the kind of fact that is not reasonably presented as a pie chart. I guess the artist decided to pick the format according to the first fact and the info from the second fact? What would have happened if the second statistic exceeded 100%? (Or worse, was negative? Would the colored region have started at the top and gone counter clockwise?)

Posted 2013-05-02 14:18:45 by tedu Updated: 2014-02-18 07:18:24
Tagged: magreview rants

this space reserved for idiots

At some point Time’s humor columnist, Joel Stein, transitioned to writing about more serious topics. Still funny (if you thought he was funny), but less fluffy. The March 18 issue (Sheryl Sandberg on the cover) is a good example. It’s not yet online that I can find, but there’s a not funny similar article, albeit with a different conclusion at the Guardian. Do online comments hurt – or aid – our understanding of science? Stein also refers to these numbers about the Guardian’s comment stats.

He makes a great point towards the end of the column about how adding comments affects Time’s reputation. Generally negative. I’ve noticed the same with several newspapers I read. Why do they have comment sections? As Joel says, about the only thing the comments discuss is “whether the President is a horrible communist or a terrific communist.” How does the newspaper gain from reserving a part of every page for idiots? Is the all important engagement metric aligned with what they want to optimize? I try not to read the comments, but sometimes scroll down into that region by accident, and then I’m stuck reading them. And then I generally close the tab because I realize I must be reading a newspaper written for morons, and somewhere out there is a better website, a website I should be reading. Are the people who comment really of higher value than the people the comments chase away?

Posted 2013-03-23 23:33:20 by tedu Updated: 2013-03-23 23:33:20
Tagged: magreview