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.”
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    Tim Harford plays poker with Steve Levitt. This was a very enjoyable read!
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  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.”
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    The NYT profiles tiktok – we are clearly in peak tiktok territory now.
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  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.””
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    11,000 words, but all of them fascinating. This is about a ill fated expedition through the Drake passage. Via The Browser.
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  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.”
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    On the tragedy of, and a potential solution to, chronic pain.
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  5. The Madras Courier on a short history of the telephone.

Etc: Links for 9th August, 2019

  1. “The laborious and inefficient production process adds to the costs. As it turns out, the jumbo baristas take a long time and a lot of raw material to produce one kilogram of elephant poop coffee; it ‘takes 33 kilograms (72 pounds) of raw coffee cherries to produce 1 kilogram (2 pounds) of Black Ivory coffee.’ A big portion of the beans gets chewed up, broken, or get lost in tall grass after being excreted.”
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    I couldn’t resist, in spite of the obviousness, and I beg forgiveness, but: that’s some expensive shit!
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  2. “Big companies dominate consumption. This is not a bad thing in itself. Companies get big by winning customers, and they win customers by providing a good product and/or service, which is the whole point of consumer markets. Different divisions of large companies may compete against each other; consumers are often unaware that they are choosing between two products owned by the same company. The problem comes if success leads to incumbency, with large, powerful companies able to use their power to shape regulations to suit them, rather than assist their competitors. Being market-friendly is not the same thing as being business-friendly, a confusion common to politicians. Big is neither beautiful nor bad, so long as regulators remain faithful to consumers, rather than the companies serving them.”
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    An interesting read from the Guardian about consumer choice over the day – or rather the lack if it.
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  3. “Thefirm invests $60 million of a $112 million fundraising round for home-sharing site Airbnb, which is already in some 186 countries and more than 16,000 cities.Airbnb embodies the idea of “software eating a traditional business,” a trend Andreessen expounds on a month later in his now-famous manifesto. In his “Why Software is Eating the World” article, he writes that software firms will become “highly valuable cornerstone companies in the global economy, eating markets far larger than the technology industry has historically been able to pursue.””
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    A useful timeline of A16Z, and how it evolved over time. If you have not read the article mentioned in this excerpt, please do so! Ritholz’s newsletter is worth subscribing to.
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  4. “Looking out across the City of Light—the new Place du Carrousel, the theaters around Châtelet, the boulevards stretching their long arms across the city from the Arc de Triomphe—filled one Parisian with disgust. “We weep with our eyes full of tears for the old Paris,” wrote nineteenth-century journalist-turned-politician Jules Ferry. “We see the grand and intolerable new buildings, the costly confusion, the triumphant vulgarity, the awful materialism that we are going to pass on to our descendants.””
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    The Paris that I loved so much last year was nothing more than ‘awful materialism’ about a century or so ago.
    …in the eye of the beholder…
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  5. “The Speedmaster—a “mechanical” watch, meaning it is powered by a mechanism—remains one of the most popular Swiss watches around. Besides telling time, it has a chronograph, which basically means it can also work as a stopwatch, and a tachymeter, which measures speed. It also looks remarkably, to use a technical term, cool.”
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    I don’t collect watches, but I did enjoy reading about this story about the Speedmaster.