Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Reading Feed (February 2016)


Editorial: The Crimson | A Transformative Change? -- "...despite having botched the announcement and butchered the rationale..." See also Satire V | Slytherin House Title Change, which is also right on the money.

Short: WaPo | Study: Bernie Sanders’s health plan is actually kind of a train wreck for the poor -- The article is whatever, but check out the footnote: "Gunnels, Sanders's policy director, wrote in an email to Wonkblog after this post was published that Sanders's health-care proposal is inseparable from the senator's call to raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. If Sanders were president, he would not allow his health-care proposal to become the law of the land if Congress did not also increase the minimum wage, according to Gunnels. 'We would never allow that to happen,' he wrote."

Blog: Schneier on Security | Simultaneous Discovery of Vulnerabilities -- If multiple people tend to independently discover the same vulnerabilities, then that's evidence that it's comparatively more dangerous for the NSA to sit on known exploits instead of disclosing. Do they?

Blog: Money Stuff | 'Flash Boys' Exchange Isn't About the Little Guy -- Basically, market structure is super complicated.


Blog: Popehat | From the Trenches at the Nevada Caucuses -- by Marc Randazza, so watch out for serious profanity. Part 3, on the Republican caucus, was especially fascinating.

Paper: The Economic Effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership:
New Estimates
-- check page 20 for the bottom-line numbers; Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, and Mexico see significant real gains, among other more-developed nations.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Why don’t better movies cost more? -- No answers here, but good question.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Are chosers losers? -- (study: yes) Tyler's hypothesis for why people do it anyway is certainly interesting, but I have one I prefer more (which this margin is too small to contain).


Blog: JeffTK | Name gender over time -- very surprising, surprisingly.


Essay: Lockhart's Lament -- I had reason to dig this up again when answering a question on Quora, and I remain convinced that it is -- to quote Harvard's greatest president -- "a clarion call such a Luther blew" for our field. See also I no longer understand my PhD dissertation (and what this means for Mathematics Education), though I am pretty sure that I understand the excerpt he posts.

Long: The Canadian Who Reinvented Mathematics -- Robert Langlands, of coure.

Story: The Story of Mel -- almost 33 years old, from the Jargon File.

Blog: S.Wolfram | The Personal Analytics of My Life -- The sheer quantity of data Stephen Wolfram collects about his own life is simply staggering.


Video: TEDxBerkeley: Aran Khanna | Why it's not your fault that you're sharing too much online -- Reflections on sharing-by-default by my friend and former classmate, Aran, whose white-hat chrome extensions have caused both Facebook and Venmo to change their default privacy settings. "Sometimes, you have to take justice into your own hands."

Blog: Malcolm.O | Use unique, non-obvious terms for nuanced concepts -- This is an incredibly good idea.

Comic: SMBC | Santayana -- "Pro Tip: Any quote which sounds pithy was either (A) never said by person who supposedly said it, or (B)at least somewhat contradicted by the surrounding sentences in the original source."

Comic: xkcd | Toasts -- Or, as a Facebook friend put it, "Chiasmus!"

Paper: Informing Students of Grade Outcomes -- "We provide software that ... explains precisely how the assignment will impact their final grade given the student's current standing in the class. Our randomized trial suggests that the nudge improves student performance." -- h/t Marginal Revolution

Blog: Popehat | Williams College: Our Students Are Children, And We Must Protect Them -- "They could have challenged the Uncomfortable Learning people to articulate what exactly separates Derbyshire from your idiot cousin you sends you the Obama-is-a-Kenyan emails or from cranks on Reddit, other than an English accent and a thin veneer of literary tradition. Instead, they chose to proclaim that Williams College students are weak children who require protection."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Simple points about central banking and monetary policy -- "[I]f in a[n] ... analysis you read the phrase 'out of options', you would do well to substitute in 'governments do not wish to pursue their remaining options'."


Blog: Gathering Magic | Are Pro Teams Ruining Magic? -- If I've decided that it's okay to post links about MtG, I have to admit that this (short) piece was an interesting update to the tech/skill debate that rages in Magic, just as it rages in just about every sport. In other news, I'll be the first to admit that my primary Hearthstone deck is a (simplification of a) shameless netdeck from Sottle.


Blog: Vox: BR | Why one woman stole 47 million academic papers — and made them all free to read -- It would be impossible to make this link without remembering Aaron, who, as I learned today, left his entire life savings to GiveWell. Good night, sweet prince; long may we remember what you inspired us to do.

Comic: PHD Comics | Hello (academic version) -- This is a pretty accurate depiction of my life for the next month or so.

Blog: A.Critch | “Entitlement to believe” is lacking in Effective Altruism

Blog: Bleeding Heart Libertarians | Answering the Left-Libertarian Critique of Sweatshops -- I started reading this with skepticism, and by the end, I had updated significantly in favor of buying goods made in third-world sweatshops being a morally positive thing to do. Recall Jaibot | The Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics, and also that even stanchly welfare-nativist Bernie Sanders admits that "work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them." (h/t Thing of Things, in an article that I'm not linking on account of mind-killing political content.)

Blog: Niskanen Center | Thinking Through Your Libertarian Vote -- "It may be that every candidate who has a real shot at becoming president would be a net negative for liberty... My hope for a President Sanders was that, at best, he'd leave America barely better off in terms of freedom." The rest is utterly fascinating, in a 'how the other side lives' sort of way.

Blog: Unequally Yoked | Finding Ways to Let Lent Interrupt


Blog: Schneier on Security | Fear and Anxiety -- The closer we are to a terror attack (in either space or time), the more we express the emotions {crazy | fearful | scared}, and the farther away we are, the more we express {loss | grieve | mourn}. No wait it's exactly the opposite of that. What gives? Overcoming Bias | Scared, Sad, Angry, Bitter adds another dimension.

Blog: Thing of Things | We Have Always Existed -- On ahistorical but true reframings of history.

Blog: Slate Star Codex | Links 2/16: n-acetyl selink -- [20,000 libertarians pledge to move to New Hampshire within the next five years. "So far, almost 2,000 have already relocated to the state."]; Click this button for a randomly-selected tweet; WaPo | There’s been a big decline in the black incarceration rate, and almost nobody’s paying attention; Study: the more vengeful your god, the more cooperative your society.; Study: Anti-bullying program focused on bystanders helps the students who need it the most; Study: grit accounts for less than 1% of academic success. (abstract)

Blog: Vox: DM | Ted Cruz has the biggest, most radical, most rich-person-friendly tax plan yet -- "Cruz's plan would cost [$1.02] trillion [per year]. Bush's costs [$0.81] trillion, Rubio's [$0.82] trillion, and Trump's [$1.12] trillion."

Short: WSJ | China Capital Flight 2.0: Lose A Lawsuit On Purpose -- h/t Marginal Revolution


Blog: Ghost Blog | Moving to Singapore -- Ghost, a decentralized, not-for-profit un-company (whose software, incidentally, Faults runs on) is moving to Singapore...because the UK tax service is inept, and also something about the EU's new VAT.

Blog: A.Critch | Breaking news: Scientists Have Discovered the Soul

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The Sharks Get Stung -- "Reducing the demand for honey, reduces the demand for honey bees. A cheap, high-quality substitute for honey doesn’t mean a world of bees gently pollinating flowers in an idyllic landscape it means a beepocolypse. Bee free honee will save bees the same way the internal combustion engine saved horses."


Blog: Vox: DL | Read Justice Ginsburg’s moving tribute to her “best buddy” Justice Scalia

Blog: Minding Our Way | Defiance -- "Let the wrongness of the world trigger something deep inside of you, such that the question stops being whether you will capitulate or lose hope, and becomes how you will wrest the course of the future onto a different path."

Blog: A.Critch | Credence: An Introduction

Paper: Compromising Welfare -- "I find that the confirmation in the Senate is more likely and faster when the President compromises on the strength of the candidate by nominating an older individual." (h/t Marginal Revolution) Related: Vox: DM | Who will Obama choose to replace Antonin Scalia? Here are 7 of the strongest candidates.


Blog: Slate Star Codex | Before You Get Too Excited About the GitHub Study... -- was linked by Lynn Conway on Facebook (Have I mentioned that I'm friends with Lynn Conway on Facebook? And that she friended me?), so I feel super-good that I'm not just linking it in a fit of gloaty contra-lefty pique. See also Status 451 | Viral Science, "The peer review process is behaving like it is supposed to."; everyone involved seems to be citing the conscientiousness of Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson, which is encouraging.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Antonin Scalia on economic rights -- "But still, that seemed to me a peculiar way to put it — contrasting economic affairs with human affairs as though economics is a science developed for the benefit of dogs or trees; something that has nothing to do with human beings, with their welfare aspirations, or freedoms..."

Blog: A.Critch | A story about Bayes, Part 1: Binary search; Part 2: Disagreeing with the establishment -- a story that begins with "binary-search through the space of vitamin supplements to find the ones that make me feel better", and gets-- wait, are you still reading this?


Blog: Shtetl-Optimized | The universe has a high (but not infinite) Sleep Number -- "By now, we all know some of the basic parameters here: a merger of two black holes, ~1.3 billion light-years away, weighing ~36 and ~29 solar masses respectively, which (when they merged) gave off 3 solar masses’ worth of energy in the form of gravitational waves—in those brief 0.2 seconds, radiating more watts of power than all the stars in the observable universe combined..."

Blog: Schneier on Security | Determining Physical Location on the Internet -- clever, creepy.

Blog: Agenty Duck | Favorite Emotions


Long: Gravitational Waves Exist: The Inside Story of How Scientists Finally Found Them -- h/t Unequally Yoked; content warning: brief BICEP2-bashing.

Blog: Schneier on Security | Worldwide Encryption Products Survey -- "The findings of this survey identified 619 entities that sell encryption products. Of those 412, or two-thirds, are outside the U.S.-calling into question the efficacy of any US mandates forcing backdoors for law-enforcement access. It also showed that anyone who wants to avoid US surveillance has over 567 competing products to choose from."

Blog: Thing of Things | Against Selflessness -- Really important for "the sort of person who would benefit from reading Atlas Shrugged."

Blog: Magic Daily | Christopher Rush (obituary) -- artist for what is probably the most famous card in Magic's history.

Blog: Magic Daily | Wayne England (obituary) -- artist for two cards I remember fondly, Worldgorger Dragon and Wings of Hope; also Cryptic Command and Oblivion Ring (the very first one).


Blog: Marginal Revolution | Birrieria Zaragoza -- "It is the best barbecued goat I have had..."

Blog: Thing of Things | On Prioritizing Humans

Long: MIT Technology Review | How Visas Shape the Geopolitical Architecture of the Planet -- h/t Marginal Revolution; also US tells Google self-driving cars can qualify as drivers

Blog: Schneier on Security | AT&T Does Not Care about Your Privacy -- CEO Randall Stephenson: "I don't think it is Silicon Valley's decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do..." cf. The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work.


Blog: Unequally Yoked | What Free Time Can Buy

Blog: Open Philanthropy | Our Grantmaking So Far: Approach and Process -- OPP's blog is the newest to be added to my reader since...Unsong, I guess.

[dissent] Op-Ed: Only a Barbaric Nation Drafts Its Mothers and Daughters into Combat -- or more accurately, I contend that only a barbaric nation drafts its parents and children into combat.


Blog: LessWrong Discussion | Require contributions in advance

Blog: Satvik.B | Machine Learning on Small Data

Blog: Interfaces of the Word | If you’re not careful who’s in and who’s out becomes the only question


Short: Speed Dating for Rabbits

Blog: Slate Star Codex | List of Passages I Highlighted in My Copy of Superforcasting

Blog: Malcolm.O | Debating the Implications (not the facts)

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Immigration and top income inequality -- Does letting in "only the most productive" immigrants contribute to income inequality? (uh...yes?)


Blog: Money Stuff | Bridgewater's Bosses Are Fighting Over Something -- "The funniest thing I read today is this Wall Street Journal story about Bridgewater, the biggest hedge fund in the world." But actually. Me too. I actually can't stop chuckling.

Blog: Thing of Things | Utilitarianism with Game Metaphors -- "...A hedonic MMO utilitarian would decide that the best way to improve the game experience is to get everyone to the highest level, with all the best equipment and maxed out skills and attributes...."

Op-Ed: Peter Singer | The Cow Who... -- more pronoun trouble.

Blog: Schneier on Security | NSA Reorganizing -- "...combining its attack and defense sides into a single organization..."

Blog: Marginal Revolution | The forward march of progress, AI to trick your telemarketer -- "...Roger Anderson decided that telemarketers deserved a crueler fate, so he programmed an artificially intelligent bot that keeps them on the line for as long as possible."

Comic: xkcd | To Taste -- "Look, recipe, if I knew how much was gonna taste good, I wouldn't need you."

Blog: Money Stuff | Drug Pricing and Un-American Trading -- "Of course I am kidding; they convened a hearing so they could ask Martin Shkreli about his Wu-Tang album and watch him smirk. He gave good smirk! Everything is fixed now."

Op-Ed: Why Fury Road deserves the best picture Oscar -- I agree; Fury Road is a masterpiece of film, and at least one Arts Chair of the Harvard Crimson agrees with me.


Blog: Thing of Things | Accommodations vs. Coddling

Blog: Overcoming Bias | Why I Lean Libertarian

Self: My Faults My Own | "Weedout" Courses Considered Harmful


Blog: Interfaces of the Word | Everybody gets to use the same tools, again


Blog: NSA's TAO Head on Internet Offense and Defense -- Come for the summary of the talk, stay for Bruce's speculation on why the NSA delivered the talk at all.

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Economics on Buying vs Renting a House -- Alex Tabarrok thinks that buying a house is overrated, and that maybe the tax code shouldn't push them on people quite so much.

Self: My Faults My Own | Godspeed Columbia