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More adventurous than the average bear

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Thursday, September 06, 2018

Links - 6th September 2018 (2)

German-made ‘miracle’ machine turns water into gasoline - "the F-T fuel technology “will always be more expensive” than getting conventional liquid hydrocarbon fuels from oil or coal, Aldag warned. “What is important is that the value creation happens at the place where you use the fuel,” he said. So there will be no crude oil transportation costs and expensive infrastructure. “You are producing the fuel right where you are actually going to use it,” Aldag stressed"

Ten years in, nobody has come up with a use for blockchain - "Everyone says the blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, is going to change EVERYTHING. And yet, after years of tireless effort and billions of dollars invested, nobody has actually come up with a use for the blockchain—besides currency speculation and illegal transactions. Each purported use case — from payments to legal documents, from escrow to voting systems—amounts to a set of contortions to add a distributed, encrypted, anonymous ledger where none was needed. What if there isn’t actually any use for a distributed ledger at all? What if, ten years after it was invented, the reason nobody has adopted a distributed ledger at scale is because nobody wants it?"

Blockchain is not only crappy technology but a bad vision for the future - "Blockchain systems are supposed to be more trustworthy, but in fact they are the least trustworthy systems in the world. Today, in less than a decade, three successive top bitcoin exchanges have been hacked, another is accused of insider trading, the demonstration-project DAO smart contract got drained, crypto price swings are ten times those of the world’s most mismanaged currencies, and bitcoin, the “killer app” of crypto transparency, is almost certainly artificially propped up by fake transactions involving billions of literally imaginary dollars. Blockchain systems do not magically make the data in them accurate or the people entering the data trustworthy, they merely enable you to audit whether it has been tampered with. A person who sprayed pesticides on a mango can still enter onto a blockchain system that the mangoes were organic. A corrupt government can create a blockchain system to count the votes and just allocate an extra million addresses to their cronies. An investment fund whose charter is written in software can still misallocate funds."

Once upon a time in Peking - "John Shakespeare lived in Peking in 1936. Now in his 80s, he has just gone back there for the first time"

Open Offices Make You Less Open - Study Hacks - Cal Newport - "Contrary to what’s predicted by the sociological literature, the 52 participants studied spent 72% less time interacting face-to-face after the shift to an open office layout... the shift to an open office significantly increased digital communication... Not surprisingly, this shift from face-to-face to electronic interaction made employees less effective... 'productivity, as defined by the metrics used by their internal performance management system, had declined after the redesign to eliminate spatial boundaries'... more interruptions = less deep work = poor return on investment in the organization’s attention capital"
Cost "savings" are more measurable than productivity losses

How a Frog Became the First Mainstream Pregnancy Test

Why Dutch women don't get depressed - The New York Times - ""Personal choice is key: in the Netherlands people are free to choose their life partners, their religion, their sexuality, we are free to use soft drugs here, we can pretty much say anything we like. The Netherlands is a very free country."... 68 percent of Dutch women work part time, roughly 25 hours a week, and most probably do not want a full-time job... A large component of the Dutch woman's happiness today derives from the importance attributed to the nuclear family - an institution invented by the low countries and whose hold there today is so strong that even gay couples want it... visitors in the Golden Age often wrote of their amazement at the Dutch woman's sexual independence. Once married, however, sex often took a back seat; for some early Calvinists even sex within marriage was sinful, de Bruin says, and Dutch women sublimated their sexual energy into domestic bullying. "They ordered the men around - there are many stories of bossy women and subordinate men," she said. "We know this from the literature of the 16th century, and it hasn't changed.""
Given that feminists prize economic independence through working and are contemptuous of the nuclear family, this suggests some mechanisms explaining why feminism has made women miserable

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything - The New York Times - "Conservative Party leaders initially sold budget cuts as a virtue, ushering in what they called the Big Society. Diminish the role of a bloated government bureaucracy, they contended, and grass-roots organizations, charities and private companies would step to the fore, reviving communities and delivering public services more efficiently. To a degree, a spirit of voluntarism materialized. At public libraries, volunteers now outnumber paid staff. In struggling communities, residents have formed food banks while distributing hand-me-down school uniforms. But to many in Britain, this is akin to setting your house on fire and then reveling in the community spirit as neighbors come running to help extinguish the blaze... people losing cash benefits are falling behind on their electric bills and losing service, resorting to candles for light — a major fire risk. The city has cut mental health services, so fewer staff members are visiting people prone to hoarding newspapers, for instance, leaving veritable bonfires piling up behind doors, unseen... The political architecture of Britain insulates those imposing austerity from the wrath of those on the receiving end. London makes the aggregate cuts, while leaving to local politicians the messy work of allocating the pain."

World Champion Masturbation in Japan - vpro Metropolis - YouTube - "Masanobu sees it as a professional sport. As a true athlete he starts his workout at the break of dawn. His girlfriend keeps an eye on the time intervals. Because you don't become world champion in masturbating overnight"
The source of: "A real female of course, smells, is dirty... of course because its a human being, it has lots of things. So we have this anime, isn't it clean and pretty?"

Malays and Orang Asli: Contesting indigeneity - "In Malaya, the Malays without doubt formed the first effective governments⋯ The Orang Melayu or Malays have always been the definitive people of the Malay Peninsula. The aborigines were never accorded any such recognition nor did they claim such recognition. There was no known aborigine government or aborigine state. Above all, at no time did they outnumber the Malays⋯ I contend that the Malays are the original or indigenous peoples of Malaya and the only people who can claim Malaya as their one and only country"
Strange, this sounds like how white colonialists justified displacing natives in Australia and North America

How Carson Block Can Take On Singapore - "Professor Christopher Balding at Peking University, writer of Sovereign Wealth Funds: The New Intersection of Money and Politics, took a deep dive into Temasek and The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, it's other investment vehicle. According to his findings, all is not as it seems in the Singaporean investment universe. The individual companies that make up Temasek, for one, simply have never returned enough individually to make up the 17% collective return... Balding conjectures, however, that CPF funds are being used to finance investments in GIC and Temasek"

Why an American POW chose Mao’s China over home - "Having rejected America because of racism by white people, Clarence Adams now saw his children being traumatised by racism practised by black people and was suffering a level of poverty he’d not known in Beijing"

Colleges As Country Clubs: Today's Pampered College Students - College Ranker - "Research shows that the more amenities a college adds, the more applications they receive. This has resulted in the trend of less selective schools spending millions of dollars to create campuses that look and feel more like country clubs or resorts:..
According to the American College Counseling Association, millennial students are:
The first generation to have access to Internet/cell phones during formative years
More ethnically diverse than any other generation
Over scheduled
Overconfident
Require excess affirmation
Impatient and demanding
Have short attention span and low tolerance for boredom
Want immediate information and solutions...
Psychologists and college officials see this as the main cause of millennial student behaviors. An overprotected, overindulgent upbringing has created a generation that lacks independent thinking, problem-solving skills, and an over exaggerated sense of entitlement. It has also resulted in an increase in emotional/psychological issues for millennials leaving the protected nest.
2013 study of 297 college students by the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that children of helicopter parents have significantly higher levels of depression, less life satisfaction, and suffer from higher anxiety."
A lot of these characteristics also describe SJWs

Is college tuition paying for essentials, or lavish amenities? - "“A lot of people may say, ‘This is a country club, I don’t want my kid to go there,’ and that is exactly what I thought when I first heard about High Point University,” he says. “I thought that I didn’t want to go to a school that provides everything. I want to be independent, live on my own, live the normal college life. But I realized that by going to a school like that, [the school] can equip you with the necessities that you need to succeed.” Baker says that the university’s landscape architecture — where piped-in classical music plays over flowerbeds and fountains — represents the overall culture of the university. “[Qubein] said at the open house that a kid cannot walk from one class to another without seeing water next to him [or her], and water is a necessity in life. … [Therefore,] the fountains represent life,” he says. “Most people say it just represents the money that the people put back into the school, but really it is about … helping you understand why you are there to succeed.”

College, Country Club or Prison?

Thinx Ex-Employee Accuses Miki Agrawal of Sexual Harassment - "Miki Agrawal, the co-founder of Thinx — a company that makes “period underwear” — doesn’t think much of boundaries. “I just love the taboo space,” she told New York last year, of her mission to (profitably) destigmatize menstruation. And in a promotional video for the product, she said, “My favorite thing to talk about are the things you’re not supposed to talk about.” According to a complaint filed late last week by a former employee (and echoed in interviews with multiple current and former employees), those things have included: the size and shape of her employees’ breasts, an employee’s nipple piercings, her own sexual exploits, her desire to experiment with polyamory, her interest in entering a sexual relationship with one of her employees, and the exact means by which she was brought to female ejaculation. Her alleged boundary-breaking in the workplace isn’t just verbal. Per the detailed complaint, filed with the City of New York Commission on Human Rights, Agrawal also touched an employee’s breasts and asked her to expose them, routinely changed clothes in front of employees, and conducted meetings via videoconference while in bed, apparently unclothed. (She also is said in the filing to have shared nude photos of herself and others — “including but not limited to her fiancé” — with staff.) At least once, she supposedly FaceTimed into a meeting from the toilet... despite the company’s feminist branding and mission, the women who worked there felt exploited by low pay and substandard benefits. The complaint notes that the only two employees who had evidently successfully negotiated higher salaries were men. Per Racked, 10 of the company’s 35 employees have left since January (a Thinx spokesperson says the number is lower but declined to specify); several others departed either voluntarily or were fired last year by Agrawal, whom staffers described as erratic, retaliatory, and extraordinarily difficult to work for... Agrawal — whose brand was lauded for its body positivity, and for including visible stretch marks in its advertising — also regularly engaged in what another employee termed “fat-shaming”"

The fragile generation - "‘I’m very concerned about a phenomenon called “concept creep” – which has been happening to a lot of psychological terms since the 1990s’, he says. ‘When a word like “violence” is allowed to creep so that it includes a lot of things that are not violence, then this causes a cascade of bad effects. It’s bad for the students themselves because they now perceive an idea that they dislike, or a speaker that they dislike, as having committed a much graver offence against themselves – which means that they will perceive more victimisation of themselves. And it’s also really bad for society because, as we are seeing in a spectacular way in the United States this year, when each side can point to rampant occurrences of what they see as violence by the other side, this then justifies acts of actual physical violence on their side. And there’s no obvious end to this mutual escalation process.’ He adds: ‘Everybody involved in education needs to be dampening down violence and the acceptance of violence. Telling students that words are violence is counterproductive to that effort.’ While incidents of protests getting out of hand and the censorious policies of student bodies get a lot of press, Haidt points out that these problems do not involve the vast majority of students. ‘The political problems are mostly confined to elite schools where people live together for four years. The problems don’t seem to be arising very much at community colleges or places where people leave the college community to go to work or to go home to their families... rates of depression and anxiety [have been] sky-rocketing since around 2011.’ Haidt says these issues are not related to the millennial generation, but to those born after 1995, who grew up with social media as the norm. He calls them the i-gen (the internet generation). This tendency towards vulnerability has a number of causes, he says, but there are three main ones: social media, rising national polarisation, and the decline in unsupervised (adult-free) time during childhood... there was more of an emphasis on anti-bullying, as well as a decline in unsupervised play. ‘Studies of how kids spend their time show that up until the early 1980s kids spent a lot of time outside playing without adult supervision, but by the early 2000s that has almost disappeared, especially for younger kids’... Ironically, this over-protection of children may have done more harm than good. ‘The key psychological idea in understanding the rise in fragility is the idea of anti-fragility... there are some things that if you protect them, they won’t get better; the immune system is the classic example’... The heightened vulnerability of college students has had a chilling effect on discussion in the academic world, and Haidt sees this in his day-to-day experience on campus. ‘There is a rapidly spreading feeling that we are all walking on eggshells, both students and faculty. That we are now accountable, not for what we say, but for how anyone who hears it might take it. And if you have to speak, thinking about the worst reading that anyone could put on your words, that means you cannot be provocative, you cannot take risks, that means you will play it safe when you speak… This is what I’m seeing in my classes when topics related to race or gender come up – which we used to be able to talk about 10 years ago, but now it’s painful and there’s a lot of silence.’ This is disastrous for academic life... certain ideas are impairing students’ chances of success. Those ideas being: your feelings are always right; what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; and the world is divided into good people and bad people"
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