Correlation, Causation, Coffee…

… and so much else besides!

Alexey Guzey’s newsletter is a treasure trove of interesting things he finds on Twitter, and in Guzey’s case, interesting is an understatement.

But even by his high standards, the article I am sharing with you today is something else altogether.

Said article begins the same way most articles I have shared here:

“The break point in America is exactly 1973,” says economist Tyler Cowen, “and we don’t know why this is the case.” One possible culprit is the 1973 oil embargo, because many of these trends have to do with energy. But Cowen doesn’t think this holds water. “Since that time, the price of oil in real terms has fallen a great deal,” he says, “and productivity has not bounded back.”
Another possible culprit is the US going off the gold standard in 1971, part of the set of measures known as the Nixon shock (also the name of our new Heavy Metal band). This makes some sense because many of these trends have to do with the economy. But it’s not clear if this is a good explanation either, as many of these trends seem to be global, and most of the world is not on the US dollar.

https://slimemoldtimemold.com/2021/04/19/higher-than-the-shoulders-of-giants-or-a-scientists-history-of-drugs/

But it then takes on a life of its own. And if this excerpt doesn’t make you curious to read more, nothing ever will.

Bier of course was a surgeon, and so when it was his turn to give Hildebrandt the injection, he performed it flawlessly. Soon Hildebrandt was very anaesthetized. To test it, reports Regional Anaesthesia, “Bier pinched Hildebrandt with his fingernails, hit his legs with a hammer, stubbed out a burning cigar on him, pulled out his pubic hair, and then firmly squeezed his testicles,” all to no effect. In a different account, this last step was described as “strong pressure and traction to the testicles”. They also pushed a large needle “in down to the thighbone without causing the slightest pain”, and tried “strong pinching of the nipples”, which could hardly be felt. They were thrilled. With apparently no bad blood over this series of trials, the two gentlemen celebrated that evening with wine and cigars, and woke up the next morning with the world’s biggest pair of headaches, which confined them to bed for 4 and 9 days, respectively.

https://slimemoldtimemold.com/2021/04/19/higher-than-the-shoulders-of-giants-or-a-scientists-history-of-drugs/

The whole article is impossibly fascinating, and is peppered with Today I Learnt moments. Along with the surgeon above, Tesla (as in the scientist, not the firm), Robert Louis Stevenson, Freud, and the Beatles also make guest appearances – as do two Popes.

Please, do read.

India: Links for 30th September, 2019

  1. Ferry Crossing: Short Stories from Goa
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  2. Goa: A Daughter’s Story.
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  3. “There was also a section of the local upper class, who mingled and partied with the higher echelons of the Portuguese and shared our culture and food with them whilst at the same time absorbed and learnt the finer nuances of their cuisine. The Goan upper classes, who had the advantage of closeness with the Portuguese, influenced Goan cuisine to a large extent, especially in the variety of ways of usage of the prime product – coconut. The locals, poor as they were, generally used the grated coconut in their preparations as ‘Soimirem’, but the upper classes taught them how to use the extract, thus upgrading the product quality.”
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    On the influence of the two dominant cultures of Goa on Goan cuisine. Nostalgia is well worth a visit, in Madgaon.
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  4. I have not read this one yet, but have ordered it. On Portugese forts in Goa (and other places besides)
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  5. The things they do in Goa.

Yes, I am very much in Goa (well, ought to be. These posts are being scheduled in advance) , as you might have guessed. Recommendations most welcome.

Etc: Links for 19th July, 2019

  1. “Almost half of all U.S. rice comes from Arkansas. When a rice farmer who was also a state legislator bought some and tasted it, he decided the label had to be banned. So, during March, Arkansas legislators prohibited the cauliflower rice name from all food labels in the state. Saying that the word rice has to refer to actual rice, the law included a $1000 fine for a “mislabeled” product.”
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    What’s in a name? A rice by any other name, it turns out (forgive the pun), ain’t quite the same thing, legally speaking.
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  2. ““By lowering the barrier to initiate communication, the hidden side effect is that Slack has the quiet capacity to exponentially increase communication overhead. Resulting in much more voluminous, lower quality communication.”In other words, talk is cheap and we’re spending like crazy.”
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    The problem with all these awesome tools that help us communicate better is that they help us communicate better. Folks with GIPE id’s… tried out Hangout Chat on your phone just yet?
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  3. “I kind of have a perfectionist type of mentality. Things kind of irritate me and get more and more irritating over time and it was just really confirmed to me that I couldn’t make it better. So I threw out this problem to the group: “Wouldn’t it be great if customers just gave us a chunk of change at the beginning of the year and we calculated zero for their shipping charges the rest of that year?””
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    The most popular form of the sunk cost fallacy in the world: it’s origins explained. If you’re confused about how this is about the sunk cost fallacy, ask yourself this: how often have you checked the Flipkart app after you became a Prime member?
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  4. “Influencers won’t receive a cut of the sales their posts generate. They will, however, have access to a shared analytics dashboard with robust metrics that the tagged brand can also see. Previously, influencers relied on screenshots and other imperfect methods to communicate engagement numbers with brands, so tying their influence directly to sales was nearly impossible. Having a more streamlined framework and detailed analytics will be incredibly valuable for influencers. “It gives you more leverage when you’re negotiating rates,” says Aimee Song, a fashion influencer.”
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    The evolving economics of Instagram influencers. What do you think will happen next?
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  5. “In his time around Italy, especially in Venice, Ghosh was struck by the fact that the language he heard the most after Italian, is Bengali. He explains, “The people who literally keep Venice going are Bengalis. They are the ones making the pizzas, the hotel beds. They play the accordion even. Bengalis have absolutely become the working class. It is such a striking thing that people don’t seem to notice. The tourists don’t notice. Even the Indians who go there, don’t seem to notice. Venice is like a gigantic stage set. So people only notice the setting. They don’t notice who keeps it going; it is literally the Bengalis.””
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    Just in case you have not read any of Amitav Ghosh’s works, this might get you interested in them. If you are looking for a good place to start, I’d suggest The Hungry Tide.