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Guest Post - The uselessness of blockchain

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.23.20

Minivet writes: As I suspect was predicted, non-currency blockchain is not panning out as any sort of disruptor.

The only thing is that there's a huge gap between promise and reality. It seems that blockchain sounds best in a PowerPoint slide. Most blockchain projects don't make it past a press release, an inventory by Bloomberg showed. The Honduran land registry was going to use blockchain. That plan has been shelved. The Nasdaq was also going to do something with blockchain. Not happening. The Dutch Central Bank then? Nope. Out of over 86,000 blockchain projects that had been launched, 92% had been abandoned by the end of 2017, according to consultancy firm Deloitte.

Why are they deciding to stop? Enlightened - and thus former - blockchain developer Mark van Cuijk explained: "You could also use a forklift to put a six-pack of beer on your kitchen counter. But it's just not very efficient."

The article has a specific example where an app was developed and did some decent things, but it turns out to be a app with standard design plus a gratuitously inefficient backend, that never needed blockchain to begin with. Oddly, the article doesn't connect this to the Dutch subsidies for blockchain projects it mentions earlier.

When will the bottom fall out of all this?

Heebie's take: It's an interesting and sometimes funny article:

I called Maarten Velthuijs.
Hey, I noticed that your app doesn't actually need blockchain at all.
Velthuijs: "That's right."
But isn't it strange that you won all those awards, even though you aren't actually using the blockchain?
Him: "Yes, it's weird."
So how is it possible?
Him: "I don't know. We keep trying to tell people, but it doesn't seem to stick. You're calling me about it again now ... "

I mean, lots of people do pure math because it's interesting, or unapplied research in other areas, and they don't try to artificially jam ideas into square holes in the real world until there's an application that actually calls for it. But they also aren't particularly tempted by the siren call of disruption, sweet societal disruption, like these dummies are.


 

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Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 10/23

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.23.20

(This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.)

Clearly I cannot keep this simple thing together. Maybe I'll just aim to keep one on the front page at all times.

Episode 52.


 

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Guest Post - The Trumpian Mystique (and Debate Thread)

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.22.20

Teofilo writes: One of the most remarkable things about Trumpism, well beyond the man himself, is that it's just kayfabe and cargo cult all the way down. They seem to be sincerely incapable of understanding the concept of policy substance even on the level of "put words in your fake documents." As seen here.

Heebie's take: That photo is astonishing. They literally think that everyone is faking everything and it's the normal thing to do.

Anyway, I figured this was fitting for the debate thread. Let us know if anything interesting happens. I'm glad that their mikes are going to be partially blocked, at least.


 

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Triumph

Posted by Ogged
on 10.22.20

Other than your individual and collective moms, I don't think I've nailed anything quite like 10-year-old Henry Thomas nailed his ET audition.

Probably you've all already seen that, but it was new to me. Tell me, what have you nailed most satisfactorily?


 

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Guest Post - Teddy Bear Picnic

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.22.20

Nworbie Wendrew writes: A glorious parable , from the New Republic:

Grappling with what to do about the bears, the Graftonites also wrestled with the arguments of certain libertarians who questioned whether they should do anything at all--especially since several of the town residents had taken to feeding the bears, more or less just because they could. One woman, who prudently chose to remain anonymous save for the sobriquet "Doughnut Lady," ... had taken to welcoming bears on her property for regular feasts of grain topped with sugared doughnuts. If those same bears showed up on someone else's lawn expecting similar treatment, that wasn't her problem.

Astonishingly, this attempt to bring about a libertarian paradise the backwoods of New Hampshire did not end well for anyone involved -- except, perhaps, the bears.
A real estate development venture known as Grafton Gulch, in homage to the dissident enclave in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, went belly-up. After losing a last-ditch effort to secure tax exemption, a financially ruined Connell found himself unable to keep the heat on at the Meetinghouse; in the midst of a brutal winter, he waxed apocalyptic and then died in a fire. Franz quit his survivalist commune, which soon walled itself off into a prisonlike compound, the better to enjoy freedom.

I were writing a history of post-Reagan America, this is where it would start.

Heebie's take: This book review is so much fun, omg. What a joy to read about the follies of libertarians being their most utter dumb-asses.

Teddy%20Bear%20Picnic%20Painting.jpg

(Wallstreet Jubilee by Holbrook Beard, "an 'almost great' painter")

If you go out in the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. If you go out in the woods today, you'd better go in disguise. For every bear that ever there was is gathered there for certain because today's the day the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

(That is one that I like to sing to the Giblets. I strong-armed Nworbie into changing the post title from "Bear with me".)


 

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Apple pie in the sky hopes

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.21.20

Guys. guys. I'm trying not to get excited but it's hard. In my county in 2016, there were 73K total votes cast, out of 113K registered voters. Currently we've cast 56K votes already (out of 156K registered voters now.) In fact, much of Texas is going a little nuts with voting.

I do not actually think Texas will flip. But it's hard not to see this as portending good things. Talk me back down so that I go into election day with low expectations, please. I really do not want to feel blindsided by anything.


 

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Guest Post - Sohla

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.21.20

Nick S. writes: This profile of Sohla El-Waylly* is very good and exhausting. It is said that when something like Me Too happens, it's easy to see the suffering of the men who are being called on their bad behavior, but it's harder to see the various women and people of color who could have been doing interesting, creative work but never got the opportunity because of systemic inequalities. The article does a good job of offering one example of how that happened.

It's worth saying, as well, that talent, charisma, and hard work are not guarantees of success. Many, many people end up doing work they're overqualified for, or trying things that don't work out. But it's depressing and enraging to read about all of the ways in which the industry pushed her towards limited and stereotyped roles.

Casual chauvinism was the rule of kitchens everywhere. In 2008, she began a program at the Culinary Institute of America -- something she doesn't recommend. She says that when she was at CIA, a dean sexually harassed her, and when she spoke up, a female dean told her, "That's what happens in the real world. You better get used to it." After graduation, her classmate and now husband Ham El-Waylly continued to work as a line cook, but she was pushed toward the front of house and, eventually, pastry, where many talented female chefs end up. "It's lonely when you're the only woman in the kitchen and you don't act the way they want you to act," she says. "I'm not going to sit by and watch you kick someone down the stairs or burn them or sexually harass somebody. And it makes you very unpopular."

* I realize that I didn't know her last name despite reading a couple of earlier articles about the mess at Bon Appetit**.

** There was a previous thread about it, but I can't find it right now. Are google searches of the archive not working again?

Heebie's take: "Exhausting" is exactly the right word. (Not "exhaustive", note.)

Cooking as a brown person in America is complicated because audiences and diners do expect a particular kind of performance, whereas white men have the latitude to do whatever they want. "The fact is Brad's show did do very well," she says, referring to Brad Leone, one of the first stars of the Test Kitchen, who hosts It's Alive With Brad. "For some reason, people like watching a big dumb white guy. But why? What does that say about the audience? Why do you want to watch this incompetent white man when we have one in the fucking Oval Office?"
El-Waylly's job at Bon Appétit wasn't meant for someone with so much experience, but she took it anyway. In May, her $50,000-a-year salary was bumped to $60,000 when it became clear she was doing work above her pay grade. About five months into the job, she says, management wanted to create a more junior position underneath her to do the cross-testing she had originally been hired for. "They really wanted to hire someone Black, which I know you're not allowed to say legally, out loud," she says. "And Chris Morocco [the director of the Test Kitchen] directly told me he didn't like how quickly I moved up, so he wanted to make sure this person would never be allowed to develop recipes." As she puts it, management didn't want another "Sohla problem." (Through a Condé Nast spokesperson, Morocco stated that this conversation did not happen.)
"They couldn't find a single Black person who they thought was good enough to work in the Test Kitchen," she continues, "but they were bringing in really experienced people, who have been in the industry longer than me, to work below us.["]

What's exhausting to me is that I automatically have a small chunk of my brain that reads this article knowing how it appears to a generic contrarian white male Republican, and I know how that GCWMR reads this skeptically and lights onto the denials by Morocco and Condé Nast to find this anecdote inconclusive. How anecdotes are disqualified from accumulating into patterns by people who stand to lose power, but also statistics are disqualified from contributing to one's opinion because they're cold and numeric and don't capture the specifics of lived experience, and thus how the whole tiring game is rigged to perpetuate itself.


 

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Guest Post - Influencering

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.20.20

Chris Y writes: "Influencer" = untrained, self-employed advertising copywriter (Y/N)?

So this works why, exactly?

Heebie's take: oh man, I feel judged.

I think it must fall into the same category as watching other people house shop or renovate their houses, or watching other people play video games. There's just something about watching regular people do a thing. So in my case it tends to be bloggers who mostly share what they're wearing or what products they're using lately, or what shows, books, podcasts they're enjoying, and sometimes just a life update. The good ones really do seem authentic about it, as in "yes, this is a way for me to make money. but also I like this thing and maybe you will too, and also I was annoyed because I had high hopes for this other thing, but it ended up scratchy and too short" or whatever.

The most recent thing I was influenced to get was these moth traps, and they've turned out really great.

I do have a topical question, though: how are Instragram ads so targeted and amazing? There seems to be thousands of companies with zero name recognition from me, but they're putting together these slick, captivating ads for products that seem to carve out some new niche that I never knew I wanted. Like a folding desk with shelves, and the whole thing folds up like a folding chair. Or a fascinating toy for kids that invites them to make some complicated functional machine out of thread and cardboard. Or some darling cat product. The commercials seem to be such high quality for so many unheard of little companies - I don't understand how they all sprung up like spores overnight. I don't hate it, although I simultaneously know I maybe should. Capitalism is hard.


 

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Long Covid

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.20.20

They followed up on 200 ordinary Covid cases in the UK, 3 months later:

Findings: Between April and September 2020, 201 individuals (mean age 44 (SD 11.0) years, 70% female, 87% white, 31% healthcare workers) completed assessments following SARS-CoV-2 infection (median 140, IQR 105-160 days after initial symptoms). The prevalence of pre-existing conditions (obesity: 20%, hypertension: 6%; diabetes: 2%; heart disease: 4%) was low, and only 18% of individuals had been hospitalised with COVID-19. Fatigue (98%), muscle aches (88%), breathlessness (87%), and headaches (83%) were the most frequently reported symptoms. Ongoing cardiorespiratory (92%) and gastrointestinal (73%) symptoms were common, and 42% of individuals had ten or more symptoms. There was evidence of mild organ impairment in heart (32%), lungs (33%), kidneys (12%), liver (10%), pancreas (17%), and spleen (6%). Single (66%) and multi-organ (25%) impairment was observed, and was significantly associated with risk of prior COVID-19 hospitalisation (p<0.05).
Interpretation: In a young, low-risk population with ongoing symptoms, almost 70% of individuals have impairment in one or more organs four months after initial symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection. There are implications not only for burden of long COVID but also public health approaches which have assumed low risk in young people with no comorbidities.

It's hard to overstate how seductive it is to become complacent. Now that the kids and Jammies are going back into public school, I've moderated my thinking to "wouldn't it be convenient to get it over with?" which is so far from how I felt over the summer, "wouldn't it be nice not to have longterm organ damage or other unforeseen consequences?" It's just impossible, cognitively, for me not to spin my current circumstances into a rosy lens for me to see the world.

So I've been magically trusting that serious illness and organ damage have been declining, along with the more measurable death rate. But there's really no reason that may be true. This study is a little freaky.

Yesterday Ace woke up with a sore throat. So I kept all the kids home (per school policy), and took her to get a rapid Covid test.* The goddamn actual doctor did not wear a mask when he gave us our results. I don't mean that it slipped onto his chin or was hanging from an ear - he literally did not have a mask with him whatsoever, when he entered the room to chat and look at her throat, and give us the test results.

I was too irritated with him to press it, because I felt like he was doing it to provoke conversation. Sure enough, he worked it into his monologue anyway: We're all going to get it, we're nowhere close to 70% herd immunity, I shouldn't worry too much about it, everyone at this clinic had it already over the summer. (I assume he wasn't wearing a mask so that he could tell me about immunity and how unlikely it is to get it twice, and I was not going to play along.)

*Rapid tests aren't ideal, I know. The only place in town to get it was this My ER clinic. This is a walk in clinic that bills insurance companies as being an out-of-network ER. I knew to avoid it because of that, but we've met our deductible with Ace because she had surgery over the summer, so I went there. You fill out a ton of paperwork which makes it clear that they will NOT charge you co-pays or any unpaid portion of your bill not covered by insurance. So their business model is 100% bilking insurance companies out of the highest reimbursement possible, and hinges on not driving away customers out of fear of monster bills. It's sort of a depressing commentary on the fucked-up-ness of the health care system.


 

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Guest Post: Don't turn around, oh oh oh

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 10.19.20

Moby writes: Political commissars reporting to the COVID front to ensure moral and party discipline.

Heebie's take: That was Moby's choice to give the post title three ohs. I would have gone with two. Don't want to get painted with the same brush here.


 

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