Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Some Notes on 60 Minutes, the NSA and Snowden

  1. The NSA's credibility is so bad at this point that you can't help them by defending them. You can only ruin your own credibility by trying.
  2. Sending a former DNI staffer to interview NSA staffers on national TV is an ironic choice.
  3. If Edward Snowden passed the hacker test by hacking the test, overriding the administrator's permissions, and setting his own score, it's pretty clear that he deserves to pass the hacker test.
  4. If he can do all of that as a high school drop out, he gets bonus points.
  5. If he's coding at home with a towel over his head, maybe you should think about asking your other coders to do the same thing. Evidently, Ed Snowden has better opsec than the rest of your guys.
  6. He's also got a clearer concept of the legality & constitutionality of this business than most of the senior management over there. 
  7. Maybe you should put him in charge instead of trying to prosecute him.

Elsewhere: Boingboing has a nice little critique over here.

The Year in Reading 2013

In the next two weeks, I should be finishing 2013 with around 80 books read, excluding rereads, book-length online reading and books discarded midway through. This is roughly flat in comparison to last year.

As with previous years, I spent a lot of time binge reading specific authors. This year, I read most of Iain [M] Banks' writing, following his cancer diagnosis and before his death. Most recommended of the Culture novels: Look to Windward, Excession, Surface Detail. Best of the non-SF novels: The Steep Approach to Garbadale, about the family dynamics of an extended Scottish clan descended from the inventor of a Risklike game.

Seth Godin's books also popped up a lot. TryThis might Work, or Whatcha Gonna Do with that Duck? which samples his blog posts over the years. Good insights arrive through accumulation of small ideas.

Anne Carson wrote Red Doc> her second volume in the magnificently sad & funny poetic cycle about red, winged Geryon and Hercules (now called Sad But Great) & their friends and families. I kept going back and dipping into the book for a little reread at bedtime. It produced strange dreams.

In the process of putting together De Umbris Idearum, I spent a lot of time in the 16th and 17th centuries. Stephen Clucas' collection of articles Magic, Memory and Natural Philosophy in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, James Connor's Kepler's Witch and Lawrence Principe's latest book on the actual chemistry behind alchemy helped situate Bruno's mix of science, philosophy and magic in the context of the period, as did Michael Flynn's online serialized article "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown", about Galileo and his contemporaries' roles in the heliocentrism debate, which, though not in book form, deserves mention here as one of the best long-form web works of the year.

Rounding out the list are three uncanny slipstream books. First: Kathleen Davis' Duplex, which was recommended to me so much that I hestated to read it. Boy, am I glad I did. Second, Voice of the Whale by Sjon: totally unique voice from a great Icelandic author. Third, Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities, a tour of del Toro's home and notebooks that provides a window into creativity.

I should also send out a cheer for two of my friends who published books for the first time this year: Matthew Alan, with One Degree and The Hero, and David Day, with The Tearstone. All three works are available for Kindle or paperback. You should buy copies for all the people on your Christmas list, and give some away to stranger on the street. They will thank you for it, and Matt and David will write more for you.

I'm writing more for you, too. In 2014, you should expect to see Startup Geometry, which has all my best tricks for starting and growing businesses, and Seeing the Forest, about strategy, wisdom and neuroscience. I'm a powerfully slow writer, which means that Geometry should be done already, but is not, and Forest still exists mostly as a really big PowerPoint deck, and waits conversion once Geometry is done.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Links for Later 12-7-13

  1. "Why Life Does Not Exist". tl;dr: Life is a porously bordered concept of arbitrarily defined complexity.
  2. "Is Growth Getting Harder?" Brad Delong quibbles with the Great Stagnationists
  3. Econometrics and Big Data
  4. Third Way tries to knock Elizabeth Warren down a peg, becuase they don't like the fact that she's appearing on magazine covers. It doesn't go well for them.
  5. Most of the deficit in economic opportunity in the US results from faulty government policies. That's good news.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Glenn Greenwald on HardTalk BBC

It does no good for your reputation to be a reporter who is reflexively prostrate to government statements. It does you no good to get in a slanging match with Glenn Greenwald. He's better at debating than you are.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Links for Later 11-19-13

  1. Topological modification of network data for AI applications.
  2. Archaic humans interbred with Neanderthals, Denisovians, and some other close neighbor hominids we havn't identified yet.
  3. Krugman on Cochrane on Keynesian economics. More here.
  4. Krugman on Summers on the "permanent slump".
  5. The current state of risk management and financial forecasting. 30 potential risk measures surveyed.
  6. Analysis of the recently leaked sections of the TPP.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Night of the Doctor

Well, well, well, Paul McGann back as the Eighth Doctor for a brief prelude to Day of the Doctor.

Dr. Keynes Revisited

In which University of Chicago professor and asset pricing guru Dr. John Cochrane criticizes the traditional Keynsian view that government spending has a positive multiplier at the zero lower bound, only to be refuted by Drs. DeLong and Krugman, and the question "Does anyone believe this stuff anymore?"is answered.

On Memory Palaces

New content up on DeUmbrisIdearum.com: a short post containing the basics of the memory palace system, according to Giordano Bruno.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Links for Later 11-1-13

  1. What is Ender's Game really about? Terrible choices in war, or child abuse?
  2. The Donna Minkowitz/Orson Scott Card interview referenced in (1). Jawdropping.
  3. Michael Flynn's marvelous series of articles on Galileo's role in the Copernican controversy of the 1600's begins here. Read the whole thing. One of the most fun and informative articles on the history of science in the late Renaissance/Early Modern period I've ever read.
  4. Brad DeLong's scenario analysis of the US economy going forward.
  5. Edward Snowden may be invited to testify on NSA spying in Germany.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Links for Later 10-16-13

  1. The Roman Empire as seen by a 2nd c. Chinese historian.
  2. Daniel Radcliffe is a normal person with a weird sense of humor.
  3. Neil Gaiman on the worth of libraries.
  4. The "Northampton Clown" is unmasked as student Alex Powell. He'd been getting death threats from people who took his act a bit too seriously.
  5. I do not have a working theory of mind on Eugene Fama for his views on the macroeconomy.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fruit Flies of Finance

Excellent interview with Richard Thaler on behavioral finance issues, including the imperfections in the EMH, how nudging should be done, and why he and Gene Fama have offices on opposite sides of the building.

The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economics in Memoriam of Alfred Nobel

Commonly called the Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded today to three economists working in the area of finance: Eugene Fama, Lars Hansen and Robert Shiller. The advancements are in the area of the "empirical analysis of asset prices: Fama for his work on the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and related areas, Hansen for the widely used Generalized Method of Moments statistical technique, and Shiller for work on failures of rationality including financial bubbles. Tabarrok and Cowen provide good summaries over of Marginal Revolution (Fama, Fama, Hansen, Hansen, Shiller, Shiller).

Dresden Dolls - "Missed Me"

At the Becca Rosenthal Tribute Concert

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Waterspout slalom

Two guys and a dog take a boat ride through a cell of waterspouts. This could have gone very badly very quickly, like most really fun things.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


(via Jay Lake)

Links for Later 9-26-13

  1. Giordano Bruno's prediction of the infinite worlds and an infinite God made the Catholic Church freak out.
  2. Using vector space mathematics to resolve linguistic problems.
  3. Entrepreneurial sales: five models, four steps to success.
  4. Urban exploration with Bradley Garrett.
  5. Steve Albini's letter to Nirvana about producing.
  6. Brad DeLong about the economics of global warming. Can we afford to do something? Can we afford not to?
  7. OODA loops and markets.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Monday, September 09, 2013

Links for Later 9-9-13

  1. The ormolu gilders of Paris rarely lived past 40, due to mercury fumes. They were given bread or a silver coin in a pouch in their mouth as a detection device. If they'd inhaled mercury nitrate fumes, the coin would turn "to gold". They also tried a snorkel-like mask, but all measures weree ineffective until mercury was eliminated from the process.
  2. In the 18th Century, there was a newspaper called the New York Occasional Reverberator (via @ManhattanPast)
  3. Demons enter our world through tinted SUV windows, angels nibble skyscraper light to stay afloat, and the Blue Lady will protect you from bullets if you know her secret name. The myths of the street children of Miami.
  4. The funeral of the Empress Jose I Sarria, the Widow Norton, founder of the Imperial Court of San Francisco, WWII vet, first openly gay political candidate in America, held at Grace Cathedral this past weekend.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Shipping Kills You

Chris Norstrom designed a nice, big paper calendar with a to-do list format. Then, he wrote about all of the perils and pitfalls of shipping a real-world product. If you're thinking about selling [your product here] online, you should read his post. Key takeaways: sell the product before you spend on stuff, spend a lot of effort thinking about shipping costs & pricing, Etsy & your own e-commerce site are the best places to sell things.

(via The Browser)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Links for Later 8-24-13

  1. Edward Snowden appears to have been an unusually competent NSA techie. No one is quite sure what he took.
  2. Andrew Bacevich understands the network vs. hierarchy tension underlying how people see the Manning & Snowden leaks.
  3. The innocent have nothing to fear.
  4. Obama  vs. Snowden
  5. Bradley Manning is now Chelsea Manning, following delivery of a 35 year sentence. News outlets having trouble changing pronouns.
  6. Government, the Internet, and Manning.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What the Amygdala Really Does

Maggie Koerth-Baker and Paul Whalen dispel some of the neurobabble and neo-phrenology around the amygdala, everyone's favorite almond shaped nucleus. Even though it reacts to fear, it's not just a "fear center"; it's important in attention, learning and memory, as are the rest of the basal ganglia.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Links for Later 7-26-13

  1. SF writer David Brin's response to NSA surveillance
  2. James Altucher's advice on how publishing 3.0 worked for him, and how you can publish a best selling eBook.
  3. How Welcome To Night Vale became a phenomenon thanks to Tumblr, and other uncanny stories.
  4. The Rape Joke.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

John Zorn's Book of Angels, Live, Marciac 2012

Posted due to this New York Times article on John Zorn turning 60 and writin 300 pieces of music for his Book of Angels project at a rate of 100 per month, with a goal of releasing a new CD of the music every month.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

ASMR Update

More articles on ASMR, also known as "the head tingles": The Village Voice, The Verge, & This American Life all recently covered the topic.

Previously: ASMR

Blog All the Foxeared Pages: Buckminster Fuller's Synergetics

Part 2 of online notebook for the readthrough of Synergetics, an online version of which may be found at:
I am reading the 1982 version of the 1975 text from MacMillan.

400.06 Thought is systemic. Cerebration and intellection are initiated by differential discernment of relevance from nonrelevance in respect to an intuitively focused-upon complex of events which also intuitively suggests inherent and potentially significant system interrelatedness.

400.07 Human thoughts are always conceptually and definitively confined to system considerability and comprehension. The whole Universe may not be conceptually considered by thought because thinkability is limited to contiguous and contemporary integrity of conformation of consideration, and Universe consists of a vast inventory of nonsynchronous, noncontiguous, noncontemporary, noncoexisting, irreversibly transforming, dissimilar events.

400.24   General systems theory is another example of evolution by inadvertence. It developed fortuitously to accommodate the unprecedented and vastly complex undertakings of the late twentieth century, such as the 10 million separate and only partially overlapping "critical path" tasks that had to be accomplished and tested to foolproof reliability en route to countdown to eventual blastoff, Moon landing, and safe return to Earth, which found all conventional mathematical theory wanting. It required the development of the computer and star-focused instruments and computer programming arts together with operational research, which guess-improvises the inventory of parameter of variables that must be progressively programmed into the system in order further to reduce the magnitude of tolerated errors consequent to trial "bird" (rocket vehicle) "flight" (trajectory) control as the vehicles are progressively zeroed-in to progressive target rendezvous with celestial entities. Neither differential and integral calculus, nor "probability" statistics, nor any branch of specialized hard science has accredited synergy as an a priori assumption. General systems theory, which recognizes synergy as inherent, was discovered and named by the biologically inspired Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

422.10 Force Distribution: In the three-way grid octet truss system, concentrated energy loads applied to any one point are distributed radially outward in nine directions and are immediately diffused into the finite hexagonally arranged six vectors entirely enclosing the six-way-distributed force. Each of the hexagon's six vertexes distribute the loads 18 ways to the next outwardly encircling vectors, which progressively diffusing system ultimately distributes the original concentrated energy force equally to all parts of the system as with a pneumatic tire. Thus the system joins together synergetically to distribute and inhibit the forces.

422.20 Geometry of Structure: Considered solely as geometry of structure, the final identification of the octet truss by the chemists and physicists as closest packing also identifies the octet truss and vector equilibria structuring as amongst the prime cosmic principles permeating and facilitating all physical experience.

502.31 The difference between synergetics and conventional mathematics is that it is derived from experience and is always considerate of experience, whereas conventional mathematics is based upon "axioms" that were imaginatively conceived and that were inconsiderate of information progressively harvested through microscopes, telescopes, and electronic probings into the nonsensorially tunable ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. Whereas solids, straight lines, continuous surfaces, and infinity seemed imaginatively obvious, i.e., axiomatic; physics has discovered none of the foregoing to be experimentally demonstrable. The imaginary "abstraction" was so logical, valid, and obviously nonsolid, nonsubstantial in the preinstrumentally-informed history of the musings of man that the mathematician assumed abstraction to be systemic conceptuality, i.e., metaphysical absolutely devoid of experience: He began with oversight.

502.50 Experiment

502.51 A voluntary experience is an experiment. To be experimental, we must have an observer and the observed, the articulator and the articulated. Experiences include experiments: there are experimentally demonstrable cyclic regularities, such as frequencies of the occurrence of radiation emissions of various atomic isotopes, which become the fundamental time increment references of relative size measurement of elemental phenomena.

502.60 Happening

502.61 An involuntary experience is a happening. To be experiential, to have a happening, we must have an observer and the observed.

503.00 Happenings

503.01 A happening is an involuntary experience. You cannot program "happen."

503.02 Happenings contradict probability. That's why they are happenings. Probability is not a reliable anticipatory tool; it is stronger than "possibility" but crude in comparison to "navigation" and "astronomy." If probability were reliable, there would not be a stock market or a horse race.

529.03 Newton said that time was a very specific phenomenon, assuming that there was a specific and finite time that permeated Universe and that everything observable in Universe was occurring at the same time. It was Einstein who discerned that time might be relative to the individual observer. A majority of academic people and the vast majority of nonscientists are still thinking in terms of the classical Newtonian scientific conceptioning of "instant Universe." While light's speed of approximately 700 million miles per hour is very fast in relation to automobiles, it is very slow in relation to the "no time at all" of society's obsolete instant-Universe thinking. It was part of the classical scientist's concept of instant Universe that Universe is a system in which all parts affect one another simultaneously in varying degrees. Contemporary science as yet assumes that all local systems in physical Universe are instantly and simultaneously affecting one another in widely ranging degrees of influence. (And the degrees of influence are governed by relative proximity.) Whereas radiation, i.e., entropy, casts shadows and gravity, syntropy, does not; and whereas the tensional integrity of Universe and all its substructurings is continuous and omniembracing__while compression is islanded and discontinuous__it may also be that while light and radiation has a velocity, gravity is timeless and eternally instant.

529.32 Intuition derives from the approximate instantaneity of intellect, which is much faster than any physical phenomenon like the brain lags. Intuition is the absolute- velocity insistence of the intellect upon the laggingly reflexed brain to call its attention to significance of various special-case, brain-registered, experience relationships. Intuition is intellect coming instantly in at highest speed into dominance over lower-speed, lagging brain reflexing.

529.33 Eternity is simply highest speeds: not "at rest," because it gets there in no- time-at-all: Complete intellection + Otherness + No-time-at-all.


 The phenomenon lag is simply due to the limited mechanism of the brain.We have to wait for the afterimage in order to realize. The norm of Einstein is absolute speed instead of at rest. "At rest" was what we called instantaneous in our innocence of yesterday. We evolute toward ever lesser brain comprehension lags__ergo, toward ever diminishing error; ergo, ever diminishing misunderstandings; ergo, ever diminishing fear, and its brain-lagging painful errors of objectivity; wherefore we approach eternal instantaneity of absolute and total comprehension. The eternal instantaneity of no lag at all. However, we have now learned from our generalizations of the great complexity of the interactions of principles as we are disembarrassed of our local, exclusively physical chemistry of information-sensing devices__that what is approached is eternal and instant awareness of absolute reality of all that ever existed. All the great metaphysical integrity of all the individuals, which is potential and inherent in the complex interactions of generalized principles, will always and only coexist eternally.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Links for Later 7-1-13

  1. Sourcing Grigua's Prayer, as mentioned by John Maynard Keynes and Jan Smuts, "for the Lord to come himself, and not to send his Son, for this is no time for children."
  2. Jason Everman, one-time Nirvana and Soundgarden bassist who joined the Army Special Forces.
  3. Shrewdest business maneuvers, including Herbert Dow's method for dealing with price dumpers in the bromine market and Raphael Tudela's many-sided international trades to enter the oil & gas markets.
  4. Intel's new chips: 3-D transistors, embedded lasers, up to 1.4 terabyte/sec cables, more.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Annals of Notable Baby Names

Artist and polymath Natalie Jeremijenko likes to name her children in unique ways:
Jeremijenko’s experimental streak extended to the naming of her kids. Her oldest daughter is Mister Jamba-Djang Vladimir Ulysses Hope (Jamba for short); her daughter with Conley is E (what “E” stands for is up to E, but so far she has decided to stick with the initial); and their son is Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles. “I had wanted to give our boy an ethnically ambiguous name to challenge assumptions about race and assimilation,” Conley wrote in a 2010 essay. “For all the Asian-American Howards out there, shouldn’t there be a light-haired, blue-eyed white kid named Yo Xing?”
PreviouslyDash Snow's child's name

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

All things contain within themselves internal dialectical contradictions, which are the primary cause of motion, change, and development in the world.

Wikipedia article on dialectical materialism
See also Heraclitus, Hegel & Marx

Blog All the Foxeared Pages: Buckminster Fuller's Synergetics

Online notebook for the readthrough of Synergetics, an online version of which may be found at:
I am reading the 1982 version of the 1975 text from MacMillan.

141.00 There is a corollary of synergy known as the Principle of the Whole System, which states that the known behaviors of the whole plus the known behaviors of some of the parts may make possible discovery of the presence of other parts and their behaviors, kinetics, structures, and relative dimensionalities.

152.00 Synergetics is the exploratory strategy of starting with the whole and the known behavior of some of its parts and the progressive discovery of the integral unknowns and their progressive comprehension of the hierarchy of generalized principles.

153.00 Universe apparently is omnisynergetic. No single part of experience will ever be able to explain the behavior of the whole. The more experience one has, the more opportunity there is to discover the synergetic effects, such as to be able to discern a generalized principle, for instance. Then discovery of a plurality of generalized principles permits the discovery of the synergetic effects of their complex interactions. The synergetic metaphysical effect produced by the interaction of the known family of generalized principles is probably what is spoken of as wisdom.

162.00 There are eternal generalizations that embrace a plurality of generalizations. The most comprehensive generalization would be that which has U = MP, standing for an eternally regenerative Universe of M times P, where M stands for the metaphysical and P stands for the physical. We could then have a subgeneralization where the physical P = Er· Em, where Er stands for energy as radiation and Em stands for energy as matter. There are thus orders of generalization in which the lower orders are progressively embraced by the higher orders. There are several hundred first-order generalizations already discovered and equatingly formalized by scientist-artists. There are very few of the higher order generalizations. Because generalizations must hold true without exception, these generalizations must be inherently eternal. Though special-case experiences exemplify employment of eternal principles, those special cases are all inherently terminal; that is, in temporary employment of the principles.

229.02 The notion that commencing the exploration of the unknown with unity as one (such as Darwin's single cell) will provide simple and reliable arithmetical compounding (such as Darwin's theory of evolution: going from simplecomplex; amoebamonkeyman) is an illusion that as yet pervades and debilitates elementary education.

229.06 Universe is the aggregate of eternal generalized principles whose nonunitarily conceptual scenario is unfoldingly manifest in a variety of special cases in local time-space transformative evolutionary events. Humans are each a special-case unfoldment integrity of the complex aggregate of abstract weightless omni- interaccommodative maximally synergetic non-sensorial Universe of eternal timeless principles. Humanity being a macromicro Universe, unfolding eventuation is physically irreversible yet eternally integrated with Universe. Humanity cannot shrink and return into the womb and revert to as yet unfertilized ova.

308.00 Universe is finite because it is the sum total of finitely furnished experiences. The comprehensive set of all experiences synergetically constituting Universe discloses an astronomically numbered variety of subset event-frequency rates and their respective rates of conceptual tunability comprehension. It takes entirely different lengths of time to remember to "look up" different names or facts of past events. Universe, like the dictionary, though integral, is ipso facto nonsimultaneously recollectable; therefore, as with the set of all the words in the dictionary, it is nonsimultaneously reviewable, ergo, is synergetically incomprehensible, as of any one moment, yet is progressively revealing.
In reading Synergetics, it becomes abundantly clear where the Wachowski brothers got the speech mannerisms for the Architect.

Sometimes you read this and think that Buckminster Fuller was a genius and cometimes you just think that he really liked tetrahedrons more than is entirely appropriate.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Links for Later 6-5-13

First, three from The Browser:
1. Notes on war and return from a soldier's wife.
2. Patrick Leigh Fermor makes fun of W. Somerset Maugham's stammer, and other stories. Third in a series.
3. What it's like to be gay in Moscow at the moment.

Next, one from Jonathan Coulthart:
4. Shoryu Hatoba, modern kamon (crest) artist.

5. Nikola Tesla's productivity hacks.
6. "Erick Erickson is derpy."
7. Dutch postal art.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nihil est quod perstet in orbe.
There is nothing in the world that does not change.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Erased Advice for College Grads

This month, hundreds of thousands of new college graduates will be swamped with advice, from "plastics" to "follow your dreams", as well as some very nice engraved pens. Much of the advice is, as Garrison Keillor called it, "self-erasing", particularly that delivered by well-meaning relatives and commencement speakers. I've given and received my share of this advice, but there's one thing I forgot to say: right now, you're in the process of dumping not only the self-erasing platitudes, but also a lot of the knowledge and skills you've built up to this point. Instead, you should be thinking about how to store them more effectively. Somewhere in the confusion of starting in a real job, moving to a new city, getting a first real apartment, we regularly discard or ignore some big skills we've built up to this point. We lose the musical instruments we've played, the foreign language, the sport we lettered in.

I know a lot of thirty and forty year olds who used to play the piano, used to speak French fluently, used to be nationally ranked swimmers. Then, one day, the last recital, final exam, or swim meet happened, and they never used the skill again, only to miss it ten years later. It takes a lot of effort to recover at that point; the better course is to continue to do somewhat less practice of the skill, rather than none at all. Somewhat less doesn't seem like a particularly attractive option at first, but it's the option that keeps the skill alive and on backup without taking up huge amounts of time. It's also a good deal more fun to spend twenty minutes in the water than it is to have a full-on two hour practice with a coach, or twenty minutes playing pop songs rather than hours practicing scales. So, do somewhat less of the things you've been doing, because it's somewhat more than what you'll do if you try to keep going full bore on everything despite the pressures of life.

The second thing is, look over all the notes for all of your classes, and condense the greatest hits from them. If you've just finished college, the temptation is to pitch everything from your memory and from your dorm room so you don't have to ship it home. The smarter thing to do is to sort out the most useful things, dump them in some kind of word processor file or single notebook, and keep them organized for when they might be useful. Remember, you probably won't need all of this, but something is going to come in handy some time in the future. Write it up with one of those fancy pens they gave you, if it makes you happy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Space Oddity - Chris Hadfield

Music video rom the International Space Station.

The New Unbanked

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado and California cannot access banks (or American Express), and have to either pay taxes in cash, launder their money (legally) through a shell corporatioin, or use the owner's personal accounts.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Links for Later 5-9-13

  1. The NSA's guide to searching the web.
  2. Visualizing 0.5 seconds of high frequency trading.
  3. US Dialect Map.
  4. Brain boosting drugs.
  5. Font guys Hoefler & Frere-Jones.
  6. The astonishing life of Sadakichi Hartmann.
  7. Free diving and attention deconcentration.
  8. Shane Black, director of Iron Man 3, writes funny scripts. You should read them.
  9. How to brand a "useless" degree.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Nimoy vs Quinto

An Audi commercial featuring smack talking, Spock playing, car driving actors.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Links for Later 4-11-13

  1. Is grad school a cult? “In academia, perseverance is redefined as the ability to suffer silently or to survive on family wealth.”
  2. CISPA is an idiotic intrusion on your privacy by people who have no idea about technology or civil rights.
  3. Scott Turow also seems to have no idea about technology in publishing or the true scope of property rights.
  4. Ten websites that will get you started on coding.
  5. The real pivot.
  6. Time series in big data.
  7. Why funding science is always a good idea.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sleeping Forest - Rise of Nature

Listening to this after hearing on Echoes.

Protips for Psychonauts

Lessons for those of you trying out those wacky new psychedelic molecules ginned up in offshore Chinese drug fabs or Idaho missile silos or wherever, according to the cover story in this week's New York Magazine:

1. Do not sell bulk quantities of esoteric drugs, much less LSD, to people who are described as "big fans of yours". This is a euphemism for "DEA agents". You will go to prison for a very long time.

2. Do not inject high doses of something called bromo-dragonFLY into your arm. It is evidently the strongest serotonin agonist known to humanity and will shut off your circulation, possibly causing you to lose that arm. That would be bad.

Transparent Brains

Kwanghun Chun and members of Karl Deisseroth's lab at Stanford have developed a technique for making preserved brains transparent, so an in-situ 3-D model can be seen. The process, called Clarity, allows for multiple rounds of staining and microscopic examination to occur. More at The New York Times.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Links for Later 4-5-13

1. Someone tries Modafanil as a cognitive/performance enhancer, gets mixed results.
2. BJ Fogg's Behavior Grid: 15 ways behavior can change.
3. Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain plays Wheetus' "Teenage Dirtbag".
4. Obama Administration makes another attempt to gut Social Security.
5. Another PhD begs you not to get one.
6. Tim Ferriss/Bittorrent explain why you should treat your book like a startup.
7. Tim Ferriss's Quantified Self notes, and his undergrad LSD cognitive enhancement study.
8. Massha Gessen explains how The Americans gets Russians right.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Alec Baldwin Interviews Lewis Lapham

This Lewis Lapham interview from last December is fascinating throughout, as Lapham's Quarterly is:
Lewis Lapham: Right. On the other hand by the time grandfather got to be Mayor of San Francisco in 1942 he ran as an Independent. He was very open. I mean he would pick hitchhikers up. He never had a bodyguard, he never had tinted windows –

Alec Baldwin: He was more genuine. 
Lewis Lapham: – he used to like to go into the saloons in San Francisco late at night and the – he wanted to get a bond issue passed to replace the street cars on Market Street with busses, and there was some resistance about that, so he put it to a bet. He said, ‘Okay, there will be a race. I will race from the Ferry building to City Hall. I will ride an elephant against a trolley car, and if the elephant beats the trolley car we have the bond issue. If not, not.’

But he was a gambling man so he insisted on a handicap, and the handicap was that the elephant would be allowed to go through red lights. The elephant won. The bond issue passed.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Links for Later 4-1-13

1. The anti-rentier agenda.
2. Network theory reveals altitude sickness is actually two (or more) separate diseases.
3. How Kickstarter worked on Craig Mod's republishing effort.
4. Microsoft fails to listen to its user base, continues Modern push.
5. Adam Grant on the importance of helping and giving.
6. Mapping with dollars.
7. Anne Carson profiled in the NYT
8. Effects of vasoactive intestinal peptide on the response properties of cells in area 17 of the cat visual cortex. My go-to reference for attention at the cellular/molecular level.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Aleksandar Hemon Interviewed in Guernica

Sasha Hemon knows writing is nonlinear:
In writing class, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying, “Oh, this draft is a little better than that one. Anything can be incrementally improved.” But there’s a very simple rule of writing: it’s all shit, until it isn’t. Steady, incremental improvement does not work in art. Some people wake up one morning and they write a fucking great book. Or they write shit for twenty years and somehow, miraculously, one day, because they have made all the mistakes they could have made writing shit, they write something that contains no mistakes. It’s fucking perfect. I’d written shit for many years. Then I came here and looking through what I’d written in Bosnia, I found a paragraph, randomly, that was not shit, and I thought, “That’s how I want to write.” 
I used to live down the block from Hemon, and a couple of blocks away from Studs Terkel. You never knew who was going to be out for a walk on a Saturday.

Hemon's new book, The Book of my Lives, looks like a heck of a read.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Links for Later 3-19-13

  1. Kirtsaeng v. Wiley decided: first sale is first sale, even if publisher wishes it were otherwise. Heinlein's pre-comment.
  2. More good decisions: Why the EFF won on the National Security Letter issue.
  3. Urban Explorer Bradley Garrett profiled.
  4. Anne Carson talks about Red Doc>.
  5. Elon Musk at TED.

Thomas Nagel Mind and Cosmos Roundup

I'm going to end up reading that Thomas Nagel book that has everyone atwitter, even though the reviews of it so far make me think that his alternative theory of non-reductionist, non-materialist reality is like watching Kirk Cameron explain Christianity, in that it's so poorly done that it encourages you to believe the exact opposite, due to the sloppy thinking exhibited in the argument. Though I'm a christian, Cameron makes a stronger argument for atheism that Hitchens ever did. Though I'm sympathetic to critiques of the materialist worldview, I think Nagel makes a stronger case for why the physical world is all there is than most materialists.

Reviews of Mind and Cosmos:

Jennifer Slusser, New York Times
H Allen Orr, NYRB
Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard
Brad DeLong's comments from his blog
Leiter Reports, also here, here
Leiter & Weissberg, The Nation

On the Limits of Empiricism

Those in the world who speak of the regularities underlying the phenomena, it seems, manage to apprehend their crude traces. But these regularities have their very subtle aspect, which those who rely on mathematical astronomy cannot know of. Still even these are nothing more than traces. As for the spiritual processes described in the [Book of Changes] that "when they are stimulated, penetrate every situation in the realm," mere traces have nothing to do with them. This spiritual state by which foreknowledge is attained can hardly be sought through changes, of which in any case only the cruder sort are attainable. What I have called the subtlest aspect of these traces, those who discuss the celestial bodies attempt to know by depending on mathematical astronomy; but astronomy is nothing more than the outcome of conjecture.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

RIP Shannon Larratt

This morning, Shannon Larratt, founder of BME.com, body modifier and longtime internet personality, posted posthumously to his website. It appears that he's passed away following a long and extremely painful illness. He was a unique character and will be sorely missed by many.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Links for Later 3-13-13

  1. How to get set up with an API in Pharma (hint: get an experienced consultant on board first).
  2. The Feltron Annual Report 2012 is out.
  3. Management advice for Pope Francis I, who was elected today.
  4. Drawers, well organized.
  5. How many books do you have to sell to get on the Amazon bestseller list?
  6. Michael Crichton on Jasper Johns.

Shape-shifting Jesus Found in Coptic Text

From the Manuscript of Pseudo Cyril, as quoted by LiveScience:
"Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man ..."
Possibly the most satisfying headline to write since "Headless Woman in Topless Bar".

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bradley Manning's Statement in Audio

The Freedom of the Press Foundation released a leaked copy of Bradley Manning's statement from the recent plea hearing. A transcript of the statement can be found at Freedom of the Press Foundation's website. A commentary on Manning's statement by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg can be found at ellsberg.net. Commentary from Glenn Greenwald is available from The Guardian.

Fred Wilson Interviews Jack Dorsey

Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures, AVC) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square) had a really interesting conversation at the NYU Entrepreneur Festival.(Video on Fred's blog)

A few notes from the talk:
  • A good company favors a VC with good questions & intelligent perspective over a VC with just a check. Checks are easy to come by, good insight is rare.
  • Fast prototyping: Twitter v. 1.0 took two guys two weeks to code. Square took four weeks to MVP.
  • "It's good to have friends with problems." Problems tell you where the business needs to go.
  • Making something look pretty (or changing marketing) is easy. It's the deep stuff (the "soul") that's hard to get right.
  • Obstacles are impermanent: example, Visa's objections to Square. (see also Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, re: brick walls)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Links for Later 2-5-13

  1. Best long reads about Adam Swartz; Larry Lessig's talk on Adam's Law
  2. Mark Suster interviews Clayton Christensen about the future of education
  3. Kieron Gillen's playlist for Young Avengers
  4. Roko's Basilisk as creepypasta
  5. Peonies
  6. Nine Inch Nails vs. Carly Rae Jepson, "Call Me a Hole"

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bruno, De Umbris, 12th Concept (M)

Deformed animals take beautiful forms in the heavens. Metals which lack luster shine when in their own planets. For neither man, nor animals, nor metals, exist here as they there exist. For whatever happens here, occurs there with greater vigor. The virtues, which separate and multiply in matter, there combine and unify. Clearly, as the Platonists say: ideas are not the only part of living life and developing reason; illumination, lifebringing and unification, conforming to superior agencies; these are the reasons by which one develops intelligence and memory of the forms.

-Giordano Bruno
De Umbris Idearum
Twelfth Concept M

Bruno, De Umbris, 23rd Intention (Z)

For shadows, there is no time save this time, no space save this space, no motion save this motion. It is abstracted from all truth, yet is not without it. But, it’s also not impossible to think (if this is an ideal shadow) that the opposite, or something else is also true, since it is all one. With shadows, there is no opposite, neither darkness nor light. So man took refuge in the Tree of Knowledge, and knew shadow and light, truth and falsehood, good and evil, when God called out to him: “Adam, where are you?”

-Giordano Bruno
De Umbris Idearum
Twenty-Third Intention: Z

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteorite Strikes Russia

Lots of amazing footage is coming out today following a meteorite impact in the Urals region of Russia. Big validation for the Russian car cam trend.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Links for Later 2-9-13

  1. Justin Peters has a long profile of Aaron Swartz in Slate
  2. Dan Blank and Seth Godin talk about Seth's Kickstarter, multi-book publishing
  3. Early color film footage from 1922

Memento Mori

Take a look at this photograph of a group of naval cadets on the front porch of the superintendant's residence. It's a fine day, sometime around 1900, probably in the spring. Meaningful glances are passing among several of the young people on the porch, suggesting a lot of stories in their future.

But from our standpoint, all of the stories are done. All of the people in this photo went about their lives, fell in love, fought, grew old, died. A lot of art is like that, but very little of it states this fact so clearly.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Paul Laffoley on Alchemy

(via boingboing)

The Future University

There's a heated debate going on over the future of higher education. Will the Next Big Thing be MOOCs/online classes? Over on The Awl, Clay Shirky responded today to Maria Bustillos's earlier article, which was critical of the MOOC model, and which followed Aaron Bady's earlier Inside Higher Ed post on the disruption of higher education's ecosystem by the online hordes.

Judah Pollack Defends the Liberal Arts

Or, the importance of narrative in our thoughts.

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Return of Nic Jones

Folk legend Nic Jones made rare concert appearances in 2011 and 2012, playing in the videos above with his son Joseph. Good to see him up on stage after a long absence.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Future Is Now, Vol. LXXXVII, Good News Edition

In Mali, it appears that many or most of the rare manuscripts had been spirited away from the Ahmed Baba Institute by local Malians before retreating Islamists burned the library down.

In America, quadruple amputee and veteran Brendan Marocco received a double arm transplant that may enable him to have fine motor control over his new limbs. Awesome.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Art of the Pitch

From Michael Weinreb's wonderful profile of Donald E. Westlake, prolific writer of mysteries and other books at Grantland:

[Westlake] used to attend a weekly poker game with Block, Penzler, and a group of writers and editors, and once he made an offhand mention that someone ought to write a satire of Arthur Hailey's disaster novels, Airport and Hotel, set in the men's room at Bryant Park, and call it Comfort Station. The next day, his agent called to say he'd sold the book.

"What book?" Westlake said.
He published Comfort Station in 1973, under the name J. Morgan Cunningham, seven years before the release of the first Airplane! movie. (Cover blurb: "'I wish I had written this book!' — Donald E. Westlake.")
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

People are Awesome 2013

The latest annual installment of people doing things that make you want to go out and do those things. (via kottke)

Majorized REM

REM's "Losing My Religion" mode-shifted into a major key, which produces a really interesting self-cover of the original. The band subsequently reposted this on their own website. (via boingboing)

Friday, January 18, 2013

All Verbs

 from Wikipedia's copula article:
In Siouan languages like Lakota, in principle almost all words — according to their structure — are verbs. So not only (transitive, intransitive and so-called 'stative') verbs but even nouns often behave like verbs and do not need to have copulas.
For example, the word wičháša refers to a man, and the verb "to-be-a-man" is expressed as wimáčhaša/winíčhaša/wičháša (I am/you are/he is a man). Yet there also is a copula héčha (to be a ...) that in most cases is used: wičháša hemáčha/heníčha/héčha (I am/you are/he is a man).
In order to express the statement "I am a doctor of profession," one has to say pezuta wičháša hemáčha. But, in order to express that that person is THE doctor (say, that had been phoned to help), one must use another copula iyé (to be the one): pežúta wičháša (kiŋ) miyé yeló (medicine-man DEF ART I-am-the-one MALE ASSERT).
In order to refer to space (e.g., Robert is in the house), various verbs are used, e.g., yaŋkÁ (lit.: to sit) for humans, or háŋ/hé (to stand upright) for inanimate objects of a certain shape. "Robert is in the house" could be translated as Robert thimáhel yaŋké (yeló), whereas "there's one restaurant next to the gas station" translates as "owótethipi wígli-oínažiŋ kiŋ hél isákhib waŋ hé".
Lakota also has men's and women's spoken language versions. What a delightful language.

Links for Later 1-18-13

  1. John Crowley on death, infinity and Giordano Bruno in Lapham's Quarterly
  2. N+1's Gary Sernovitz profiles Steven Cohen, hedge fund manager and art collector
  3. WG Sebald's writing tips
  4. The Platonist of the Midwest (via @t3dy)
  5. Writing on a windy day

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why the Platinum Coin Must Never Be Minted

Tim Duy's post on why the Very Serious People inside the Beltway couldn't countenance the Big Coin option is deeply insightful:
As the debate continued, it became increasingly evident that the platinum coin threatened the conventional wisdom in very deep and profound ways.   It was a threat that could not be endured by Washington.

This realization hit me this morning, working on my last piece.  Begin with the effectiveness of monetary policy at the zero bound.  Or, more accurately, the lack of effectiveness as the Federal Reserve is swapping one zero-interest asset for another.  Rarely do we take this to its logical conclusion for fiscal policy:  If there is no difference between cash and Treasury bonds, why should we issue bonds at all?  Why not simply issue cash?  In other words, at the zero bound, what is the argument against monetizing deficit spending?
Indeed, the lack of any difference explains how Japan can sustain massive fiscal deficits year after year.  At the zero bound, cash and government debt are the same thing.  We would assume that as long as inflation was not a concern (which it wouldn't be at the zero bound), the fiscal authority could issue as much cash as it wants, so why couldn't it issue as many bonds as it wants?  After all, at the zero bound the two are equivalent.  Hence Japan continues to defy predictions of doom despite ongoing debt issuance. 
Carrying the argument further, the illusion of a difference between cash and debt at the zero bound is counterproductive because it prevents the full application of fiscal policy.  Fears about the magnitude of the government debt prevent sufficient fiscal policy, but such fears are not rational if debt and cash are perfect substitutes. If cash and debt are the same, the fiscal authority should prefer to issue cash if debt concerns create a false barrier to fiscal policy.
Bottom Line: The platinum coin idea was ultimately doomed to failure because neither the Federal Reserve nor the Treasury could allow for even the remote possibility it might be successful. Its success would not just alter the political dynamic by removing the the debt ceiling as a threat. The success of a platinum coin would fundamentally alter the conventional wisdom about the proper separation of fiscal and monetary policy and the need to control the debt immediately.
(via Mark Thoma)

RIP Aaron Swartz

Internet Activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide this morning in his New York apartment. Appreciations of his life by Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


A nicely done dissection of the laminar bone layers of mandible and maxilla to reveal the adult tooth buds and cancellous bone prior to eruption of the buds through the gumline. Note how the canines are situated deeply within the jawbones, and how the buds are situated among the roots of the baby teeth.

Anatomy is cool.

(photo via @jebcorliss)

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Fiscal Cliff Deal: the Stupid-Evil Axis Returns

We are once again at a point where we must allocate the Obama Administration's handling of a fiscal deal along the Stupid-Evil Axis.

Paul Krugman votes for Stupid, and thinks that future deals will be worse because the President is a perpetual caver. Tim Duy thinks we need to move somewhat toward the Evil end of the Axis, and that the President wants to structure future deals so that they are unpalatable to all parties, because he truly believes in centrism. As Robert Reich put it, centrists believe that the correct answer lies halfway between right and wrong. Duy:
I frequently see commentators saying that Obama is terrible at the bargaining table, but I can't help thinking that he is getting pretty much what he wanted.  Despite all the hate heaped upon him by the right, Obama just isn't a progressive, and we shouldn't expect him to seek a deal as if he was one.  After all, what progressive ensures a tax hike on the lower and middle classes (the expiration of the payroll tax cut with no offsetting cut elsewhere)?  Obama seems to believe the best deal is the one no one likes.
Bonus Evil vote from Andrew Samwick, who believes that the Obama-Bush tax cuts make our current fiscal position untenable.

For my part, I simply think that you're in a bad place to begin with if you've made a choice that lies anywhere on the Stupid-Evil Axis. We cannot afford another administration that ends up on the Axis as regularly as the last two (Obama and Bush) have.

(links via Mark Thoma)