Etc: Links for 18th October, 2019

  1. “If I win, I’ll be 18,000 chips to 2,000 chips ahead. If Levitt wins, game over.”
    ..
    ..
    Tim Harford plays poker with Steve Levitt. This was a very enjoyable read!
    ..
    ..
  2. “And yet there is something about TikTok’s presence in mainstream culture — as a testing ground for “real” stars, as an Emmys joke about what the kids are into — that underestimates the power of the thing itself. It feels as if there are endless TikTok universes unfolding all at once. And so last week, over 48 hours, five critics of The New York Times with different specialties and varying familiarity with the app took a look at what it has to offer.”
    ..
    ..
    The NYT profiles tiktok – we are clearly in peak tiktok territory now.
    ..
    ..
  3. “During one such inspection in 1731, a British merchant captain named Robert Jenkins protested the intrusion, and in the ensuing scuffle the Spanish captain’s blade somehow separated Captain Jenkins from his left ear. This civilian injury was far from newsworthy back in Britain—after all, smuggling was a rough business. Eight years later, however, when Great Britain sought a pretext for war, it became politically expedient for British politicians to suffer outrage over this unauthorized amputation. Legend has it that Captain Robert Jenkins himself held aloft the very ear in question at a Parliamentary hearing, as evidence for the grave insult to the crown—though there is no historical proof that this exhibition actually occurred. Ear regardless, the outrage was successfully fabricated, and the resulting years of hostilities would come to be known as “The War of Jenkins’ Ear.””
    ..
    ..
    11,000 words, but all of them fascinating. This is about a ill fated expedition through the Drake passage. Via The Browser.
    ..
    ..
  4. “But the purpose of chronic pain, which scientists define as pain that lasts for more than three months after its initial cause, is more mysterious. The pain’s origin might be muscular-skeletal – the result of a fall, perhaps – or neuropathic, caused by damage to the nervous system. Or it might be a result of a long-term condition, such as fibromyalgia. Whichever way, it is a pain that has gone on beyond its expected life span and does not respond to medication. Often it is a discomfort that has become invisible and shifted shape, growing harder to understand the greater the distance from its original cause. A physiotherapist suggested to me that chronic pain was like a musician being given a piece of sheet music to play. The musician learns the music and when the music is taken away, she continues to play it. The body has learned the pain by heart.”
    ..
    ..
    On the tragedy of, and a potential solution to, chronic pain.
    ..
    ..
  5. The Madras Courier on a short history of the telephone.
Advertisements

Etc: Links for 11th October, 2019

  1. Celebtrating Rafa Nadal. That this piece is written 14(!) years after Nadal won his first Grand Slam is beyond remarkable. I am, for the record (and will forever be) a Federer acolyte, but I gave up on the who-is-better battle long, long ago. I am just grateful to be a tennis fan alive in this era.
    ..
    ..
    “”Under different circumstances, his performance would have been more than good enough to win the tournament. He had the bad luck of facing Nadal, one of the sport’s greatest champions, on a night when Nadal simply refused to lose.”
    ..
    ..
  2. A useful list for lazy weekends: the signature film of every city. The excerpt below is about Washington D.C. Pair this recommendation with an app called JustWatch, which is worth it’s proverbial weight in gold.
    ..
    ..
    “If you want to get a sense of a city in a movie, following around a couple of reporters for a major paper is a damn good way to evoke the mood of the metropolis. Watching Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein relentlessly prowl the streets and restaurants and parking garages of the nation’s capital in pursuit of a truth that will ultimately bring down the President of the United States is as D.C., and American, as it gets. Honorable mention: Ashby’s “Being There,” Friedkin’s “The Exorcist”, Brooks’ “Broadcast News,” the Coens’ “Burn After Reading,” Schumacher’s “D.C. Cab” and countless others.”
    ..
    ..
  3. Humanity is a kind of ‘biological boot loader’ for AI, says Elon Musk.
    ..
    ..
    “People don’t realize we are already a cyborg. Because we are so well integrated with our phones and our computers. The phone is almost like an extension of yourself. If you forget your phone, it’s like a missing limb. But the bandwidth, the communication bandwidth to the phone is very low, especially input. So in fact, input bandwidth to computers has actually gone down, because typing with two thumbs, as opposed to 10 fingers, is a big reduction in bandwidth.”
    ..
    ..
  4. The 100 Best Albums of the 21st Century. I am not qualified to pass opinion, but my commute is, as they say, sorted.
    ..
    ..
  5. A book recommendation via MR. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, by Daniyal Mueenuddin. I have purchased it, but haven’t read it yet. Probably (and hopefully) on the Thailand trip.

Etc: Links for 4th October, 2019

  1. Spiders can fly, and farther than you think.
    ..
    ..
    “Spiders have no wings, but they can take to the air nonetheless. They’ll climb to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away. This behavior is called ballooning. It might carry spiders away from predators and competitors, or toward new lands with abundant resources. But whatever the reason for it, it’s clearly an effective means of travel. Spiders have been found two-and-a-half miles up in the air, and 1,000 miles out to sea.”
    ..
    ..
  2. Ted Chiang (and if you don’t know who he is, look him up!) on parrots:
    ..
    ..
    “Many scientists were skeptical that a bird could grasp abstract concepts. Humans like to think they’re unique. But eventually Pepperberg convinced them that Alex wasn’t just repeating words, that he understood what he was saying.Out of all my cousins, Alex was the one who came closest to being taken seriously as a communication partner by humans. Alex died suddenly, when he was still relatively young. The evening before he died, Alex said to Pepperberg, “You be good. I love you.”

    If humans are looking for a connection with a nonhuman intelligence, what more can they ask for than that?”
    ..
    ..

  3. On rats in Alaska. A great story, lots of information that I didn’t know about rats, and lovely pictures to boot.
    ..
    ..
    “Consider the rat—the inquisitive whiskered muzzle, those deft little paws, those assessing eyes. It looks smart, and it is. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so indestructible. Rats are highly suspicious of new things, or neophobic, which makes them hard to catch because they steer clear of traps. In 2004, New Zealand biologist James Russell and a team of collaborators released a radio-collared male rat named Razza on a small island to test just how hard. They spent the next four months chasing him, writes William Stolzenburg in his 2011 eradication-for-conservation opus, Rat Island. Razza snubbed every treat. The radio signal failed when Razza swam to another island. In the end, Razza succumbed to a trap baited with fresh penguin, in an area where scientists tracked him with rat-sniffing dogs.”
    ..
    ..
  4. On the ongoing, escalating, sometimes bewildering war between humans and mosquitoes.
    ..
    ..
  5. And to round off our romp through the animal kingdom, bees.
    ..
    ..
    “Argentine startup Beeflow says it has more than doubled its tiny workers’ pollen-carrying capacity by feeding them custom compounds. The nutrients enhance the bees’ immune systems to handle colder conditions and also increase their attraction to the particular flower the farmer wants them to pollinate—blueberries, raspberries, or the all-important almonds.”

Etc: Links for 27th September, 2019

  1. Inside the lives of food delivery riders.
    ..
    ..
  2. “Michael Shermer, who advances the case for moral behaviour determined by science and reason in The Moral Arc, argues that the arc of our moral universe is expanding and over history, “we have been steadily—albeit at times haltingly—expanding the moral sphere to include more members of our species (and now even other species) as legitimate participants in the moral community.” ”
    ..
    ..
    I look forward to this day. I have a six year old daughter.
    ..
    ..
  3. Do you like bananas?
    ..
    ..
  4. Speaking of which, I enjoyed listening to this podcast a couple of years ago. Vikram Doctor on bananas.
    ..
    ..
  5. “Musk’s believers argue that the details of his ventures don’t matter: It’s the grand vision that counts. “The guy has a will to make stuff happen that is extraordinary,” says someone who worked closely with Musk. “He willed Tesla to happen. And in willing a reality into existence, he might not stick to the facts.” But in the case of SolarCity, Musk’s penchant for making promises he can’t deliver on turned out to matter a great deal—and could even pose a threat to his entire empire.”
    ..
    ..
    An update on Mr. Musk and his endeavors.

Etc: Links for 20th September, 2019

  1. Nepali chai.
    ..
    ..
  2. Who owns the smiley face?
    ..
    ..
  3. “The feeling that overwork can induce is much more than tiredness; it induces an anxiety that places the sufferer in a rather hellish place between shutting down and waking up. Full wakefulness isn’t possible because the nervous system and body are so overburdened. But neither is a state of rest because there is a feeling that the sufferer’s always behind herself. Always chasing the next task. Always feeling that they haven’t done enough, which in turn induces the tendency to cynicism and indifference often associated with the condition.”
    ..
    ..
    On burnout.
    ..
    ..
  4. Inside Samsung’s secretive lab.
    ..
    ..
  5. Japanese folks aren’t too excited (yet) about the Olympics.

Etc: Links for 13th September, 2019

  1. The filmy divide in India.
    ..
    ..
  2. Man or woman?
    ..
    ..
  3. “Bau once told Rahul Bhattacharya, in an encounter for the ages from the book Pundits from Pakistan, that the action was “all artificial”, part of a carefully created persona built to defeat batsmen. It wasn’t the bowler or the ball that beat batsmen, it was this persona. They say that about Shane Warne too, about how batsmen were dead just from the theatre of Warne at the top of his mark, but man, did it ring true with Bau.”
    ..
    ..
    Osman Samiuddin on Abdul Qadir.
    ..
    ..
  4. “When we seek Western fads at Indian levels of income, the economic cost of our perceived moral rectitude will be borne by the poor.”
    ..
    ..
    On opportunity costs.
    ..
    ..
  5. On food, history, India and Asia.

Etc: Links for 6th September, 2019

  1. Livemint with a rather fascinating list of companies that were operating in India before 1947.
    ..
    ..
  2. “I obeyed. I opened one door and then another, and a pure white light emerged from the tiny bathroom. I entered, and looked up. The ceiling was an improbable 25 feet above me with a glass ceiling. Sunlight flooded the room. The sink was black marble. And in the middle of the otherwise whitewashed space was a simple, beige toilet. It was the most ridiculously and gloriously presented toilet I had ever seen. Imperial. It was an imperial toilet.”
    ..
    ..
    If reading that doesn’t make you want to click on this, I admire your self-control.
    ..
    ..
  3. A useful list.
    ..
    ..
  4. Savor this one, at leisure. And keep YouTube handy.
    ..
    ..
  5. “As you grow older, observing your surroundings, you realise that real people argue, debate and discuss. There are certain homes where the dining table conversations may be intellectual or mundane or even mockery of an emotional crisis another family member is going through but the point is that everyone does have a sound and cultivated thinking, a mind with opinions which are freely expressed. Their education, the books they’ve read and the places they’ve been to defines them, forms their ideologies, firms their faith and gives them a standpoint on a particular topic. I grew up in one such household. There was a room for disagreement amongst its members, yet each person was valued, irrespective. Relations didn’t break in a jiffy. There was no melodrama.”
    ..
    ..
    Juhi Chaturvedi pays tribute to Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Lovely read!