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Topics - TheDrake

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1
General Comments / endian ideas
« on: October 17, 2018, 12:07:56 PM »
Should you break an egg from the smaller end, or the larger? Swift wrote that such a division could lead to endless conflict.

I was thinking this morning about whether I has any endian beliefs, and how strongly do I feel about them.

Toilet roll, overhand or underhand? This one I don't pay a lot of attention to, but I've met people with strong feelings.

Back in to parking or back out? This one surprised me. I am a strong supporter of back out. I get aggravated waiting for someone to back in, but not at all for someone to back out.

Can anybody else think of an endian idea where you've seen someone argue about a choice that has no real right answer, it is largely arbitrary?

2
General Comments / Invest in automation
« on: October 05, 2018, 11:35:03 AM »
We just saw Amazon raise their minimum wage (while slyly dumping RSU compensation...).

Bezos will probably fully transform the employees into cybermen soon anyway, they've already installed the vibrating wrist band. So I'd guess this is an empty PR gesture, and there are prototypes in labs somewhere that solve the final warehouse automation issue.

Amazon is also launching supermarkets with most employees eliminated.

Sanders is now targeting McDonald's with his wage shaming. Fast food restaurants are already exploring kiosk ordering, AI drive through ordering. It will yet be a while before the cooking is automated, but not forever.

Farming is becoming increasingly automated.

Increasing the minimum wage is going to be a pyrrhic victory, as it will only accelerate the rush to automation.

Similarly, the crackdown on illegal immigration will do the same with farms.

It's a good time to be a robot.

3
General Comments / Who the heck is Mari Stull?
« on: September 18, 2018, 09:12:03 AM »
So, as I browsed through Breitbart today their latest outrage blared that deep state action was being taken to eliminate Mari Stull. I thought to myself, who the hell is Mari Stull? I consider myself a pretty avid follower of politics and I'd never even heard the name before. So I took a look around, and there was apparently a relatively obscure article in Foreign Policy that was centered around staffer dislike of Stull and ideological division. Foreign Policy has a circulation of about 100,000 (wikipedia). I can't imagine their online presence is much greater.

Her name does not appear on a CNN search, NBC, NY Times, BBC, Huffington Post*

Washington Post did have an article right after the Foreign Policy article as part of a big roundup kind of summary blog/analysis piece. Breitbart immediately shot back at the time of the post decrying weaponization of leaks.

The recent Breitbart piece is very long by their usual standards. 

This really does bring up a point, however. When somebody comes in with no diplomatic experience, is executing plans to dismantle everything you've been working toward your whole career, and acts with paranoia toward your motives (with some justification), is it any wonder they are going to fight back? In the private sector, when a new leader comes in, it wouldn't be unusual for someone to clean house and get rid of anyone incompatible with a new vision. This isn't possible in civil service where jobs are protected. So I do understand complaints of people about a "deep state" when it comes to a desire for a radical departure from the globalist view to a nationalist one. I'm not sure exactly what could be done about this pathology. I don't think we're wanting all political appointees where nobody has any experience (because anybody with much experience probably won't get behind any radical shifts).

This rambled a little bit, but it is a big theme lately. I don't really know what the Breitbart editors and readers are expecting. That everybody in the state department shoudn't have an opinion, that they should just mindlessly execute whatever they're told to do?

* methodology "mari stull site:X"

4
General Comments / Facebook in your brain
« on: September 07, 2018, 08:59:56 AM »
An older article I came across while doing some research.

Quote
Today at F8, Facebook  revealed it has a team of 60 engineers working on building a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind without invasive implants. The team plans to use optical imaging to scan your brain a hundred times per second to detect you speaking silently in your head, and translate it into text.

Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s R&D division Building 8, explained to conference attendees that the goal is to eventually allow people to type at 100 words per minute, 5X faster than typing on a phone, with just your mind.

Quote
The plan is to eventually build non-implanted devices that can ship at scale. And to tamp down on the inevitable fear this research will inspire, Facebook tells me “This isn’t about decoding random thoughts. This is about decoding the words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain.” Facebook likened it to how you take lots of photos but only share some of them. Even with its device, Facebook says you’ll be able to think freely but only turn some thoughts into text.

I don't think Facebook is terribly trustworthy about what things they are going to capture. And now imagine that Facebook gets not only the data that goes into Facebook, but also everything you type...

5
General Comments / Woodward book
« on: September 05, 2018, 03:30:16 PM »
Got my copy preordered on Audible. I'm going to walk into it with the mind of a true skeptic, but here are some things I think.

1. I think I can trust Woodward not to make things up out of whole cloth.
2. I wonder how much of his source material consisted of quotes from a single person.
3. I wonder how selective he was about using material, will there be a counterpoint to the theme?
4. I wonder if Trump will continue to refute things that he said on tape.
5. I wonder how Fox News will encourage Trump to tweet about it as quotes come out.
6. I wonder if anyone will lose their job.
7. I expect and fear that this will just help cement the Trumpies in their hatred and suspicion of the press.

6
General Comments / Conservative Property Destruction makes me laugh
« on: September 04, 2018, 08:21:00 PM »
Oh, I'm relishing all the videos of people burning their shoes. This will teach you a lesson, Nike! I wonder why they didn't give the shoes away to people who don't have any - especially since some of those people are veterans. My favorite was one where a dude looks like he's starting a wildfire in his yard as well.

har de har har

Seriously though. I would love to have seen the spreadsheet projections for Nike. More people are saying "Nike" right now than any other campaign could have accomplished. Nike has taken a quick dip, I should see if I can buy some for the bounce.

I just wish a car company would come out strongly in favor of BLM. That would be awesome.

7
General Comments / gun free zones, cause and effect
« on: August 30, 2018, 07:18:01 PM »
I find it really interesting that we have constant arguments from the NRA about places with gun control measures having the worst gun crime.

But none is more confusing than gun free zones. To hear pro-gun people tell it, declaring a gun free zone will immediately attract mass shooters. Get rid of the gun free zones, they posit, and this will somehow either be a deterrent to mass killers or allow them to be stopped by someone else armed.

David Katz was going to go in there no matter what. He planned on killing himself, so there's no deterrent. He killed two and wounded 10. How quickly do we think that a "good guy" was going to draw their pistol and return fire?

It seems to me the real problem with gun free zones is a lack of enforcement. When was the last time you heard about somebody shooting up a pro football stadium or arena? Those are gun free zones, and they work pretty well.

Gun free zones get established because there is already a threat to the area. It is already a tempting target. They might not stop a mass killer, but I wonder how many shootings they prevent. How many stand your ground folks would overreact if they were allowed to carry in those areas? Like in a bar, when a drunk could come up and act belligerent, which causes the sober armed person to feel threatened. Now he's good to go, and gets a centerfold in Guns & Ammo as an example of someone successfully defending themselves. Except that nobody had to die over that, and the gun in the equation makes that possible.

And I know we've had those debates before here, and I'm not bringing much new on that front. I am specifically interested in this idea that these areas are actually encouraging gun violence, as opposed to simply being ineffective.

8
General Comments / The Manafort Question
« on: August 14, 2018, 09:10:45 AM »
Manafort gets a loan from Calk, despite not qualifying. Manafort recommends Calk for high level position. Kushner responds. Calk was not actually nominated for anything, but it certainly seems like this first trial is far from a Witch Hunt in Manafort's case.

News on the case is notably silent on Breitbart, which is interesting, where I usually go for theories on liberal witch hunts. Their only recent coverage talks mostly about how Gates is a bad guy (although there is a significant amount of documented evidence, as well as witness testimony from bankers.

This doesn't seem like a case he's going to win. Dershowitz has said he'll likely be convicted, he's been a consistent voice against treatment of Manafort. Is there another pardon waiting in the wings? Or did he have no one to give up to mitigate his sentence?

The latest news is that his defense is going to attempt to get charges dismissed, arguing that the government failed to show that Manafort willfully broke the law.

Perhaps the harder charges left are a separate case of money laundering coming up next.

Can anyone reasonably have a doubt that this guy held his Ukraine money offshore and didn't declare it at this point? I haven't read the full transcripts, and if one wants to assume the liberal media can't be trusted, I probably should. But I'm not seeing any alternate theories or outrage in conservative outlets to help me out.

I make no claims that this is a referendum on Trump. There is no evidence that he was aware of Manafort's dealings, the request for appointments, or in any way connected.

9
General Comments / Fuel standards - what happened according to whom?
« on: August 06, 2018, 11:55:07 AM »
I found this interesting. The following outlets used the following words in their headline.

Revokes - NBC, US News

Lower - CNN, Breitbart

Freezes - USA Today, LA Times, CNBC, Washington post, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC

Roll Back - Time, CS Monitor

Eliminate Increases - WSJ

Relax - NY Times

Pumps the brakes - Reason


The proposal is actually to freeze levels - in 2020. Revoke is misleading in my opinion, along with roll back, lower, and relax. Eliminate increases is best, I think. Freezes is okay. Eliminates some planned increases would be my best way to play it.

Now, if you read the actual articles I'm pretty sure you find the accurate information - levels stop increasing in 2020. But with more and more people just reading headlines and calling it a day, this does open the door to plenty of manipulation. Imagine how much easier propaganda is when you only have to assemble a single sentence.

A particularly interesting point here is that both CNN and Breitbart called it lowering fuel standards for the opposite reaction - anger and happiness.

Of course maybe the most dramatic piece of the plan gets lost - that California would not be allowed to have standards more strict than the federal levels.

10
General Comments / career politicians
« on: August 06, 2018, 10:44:48 AM »
The idea of being a career politician is losing whatever respect it ever managed to gain, it seems. It feels strange to me to want to get rid of people who have built a career in politics, from education through interning, then holding local or state office, and then the national stage.

It seems a bit like saying you don't trust "career doctors" or "career engineers". Why would we think that people who had only studied the law, lawmaking, and ethics for a couple of years would be better at it than people who have been immersed in it for decades? People who have gained the experience that only comes from repetition and learning from mistakes?

Increasingly, I've been shifting away from term limits - partly for this reason. I also really don't see anything superior about the politicians who come raw from other pursuits. I mean, Reagan wasn't quite a career politician, but he was President of SAG for several terms, campaigned for various politicians, and then became governor of California for eight years before going for president.

11
I'm trying to imagine this. Because this might be the future of all Presidents....


Bringing up my birth certificate AGAIN! - SAD

Insignificant Breitbart website says I want to take your guns - wrong! Fake news!


12
General Comments / Trump is binary
« on: July 19, 2018, 12:21:12 PM »
Over time, I get the impression that Trump's opinions are one-bit binary.

Jeff Sessions was a great guy, then he recused himself, and he's a disappointing, beleaguered guy who he regrets hiring.
NATO is terrible, obsolete, a waste of time. 24 hours later it goes to being wonderful.

I don't think Trump flip-flops as much as he rounds up to 100% and down to 0%. It's a toddler mindset, where there is no gray area. Everything is either the best thing that ever happened, or the worst tragedy imaginable. Where other people might ramp their rhetoric over time, like setting a pot to boiling, Trump is like hitting the pot with a blowtorch. Or dropping it in liquid nitrogen.

I think its why he can't bring himself to criticize Putin on anything, he's still rounding up to 100%. Should Putin do something to provoke his ire, Trump will immediately round down to 0%. Kim Jong Un was at 0%, a maniac, a madman, a sick puppy who deserved assassination. Then he crosses the threshold to round up, and he's talented, smart, and honorable.

13
General Comments / Smart Home Hacking
« on: July 09, 2018, 01:02:36 PM »
I'm starting to look around at smart home stuff. Among the items I'm looking at are a smart camera (doorbell), and a smart lock (deadbolt).

I've read a fair amount about hacking these devices, and I wind up asking myself two questions. Do I care, and does it happen?

In the case of the camera, it's going to face the exterior. If someone hacked this camera, do I care? It can see pictures of me (and anyone else) arriving and leaving the home. But who cares? I don't expect to be actively stalked or hunted. I don't expect to be ripe for blackmail. From the wifi end I somewhat care, because it could mean entry into more interesting parts of my network, but not for its own sake. Any attack requiring physical access seems silly to worry about.

As for the lock, similar cases exist. Are criminals going to run around actually doing this, or is it just a puzzle that security nerds like to solve? I tend to think forced entry would be the burglary to worry about, and it wouldn't be that hard to bust out my window. Meanwhile, my garage door is far easier to hack with its simple security. And yet I have never read an actual news report about people doing this in significant numbers, although I have heard nerds talk about how they did it to prove they could.

How worried should people be about such things?

14
General Comments / My conflicted NATO
« on: July 03, 2018, 12:50:57 PM »
I am pretty conflicted on the latest Trump moves concerning NATO. On the one hand, I am pretty strongly in favor of a "take all our marbles and go home" foreign policy. I think we've vastly overreached, and the more alliances and foreign footprint we have the more expensive it is for us.

Absent NATO, there isn't a lot of risk these days of an invasion from the East. France and the UK are nuclear capable states, and they aren't likely to stand by if Russia were to continue West into Poland or Romania from Ukraine. Not to mention, it is quite possible to continue to have mutual defense without all the forward deployment.

On the other hand, it diminishes our leverage in global affairs as well as the leadership position that our spending currently affords. A NATO without US might well pursue different policy that might not be so aligned with our interests. In the case of engagement in other theaters of operation, it leaves us without shared responsibility as we had in Afghanistan.

I only wish that to balance cost we were decreasing our military costs rather than insisting other countries try to match our insane spending levels.


15
General Comments / dunkin donuts furor
« on: June 25, 2018, 02:17:56 PM »
So a local dunkin had a sign that read as follows:

Quote
If you hear any of our staff SHOUTING in a language other than ENGLISH Please call #### immediately with the name of the employee to receive a coupon for FREE Coffee and a pastry.

I'm going to skip right over the racist portions that got everyone so worked up on the internets, there are elements there but I think it is more stupid than racist. After all, the manager had no problem hiring those people.

Some pointed out that it probably shouldn't be okay to shout in English either.

But I'm kind of fixated on every other element of this. How low is the bar for GM of a donut shop? First, the all caps words are pretty random. Do you really want to announce to every customer that you have personnel issues? You're offering free stuff, do you think maybe you're going to get some calls about things that never happened? Are you and your shift managers incapable of exercising any control over your employees?

Of course, the GM is going to have to get a new phone number, reputable news organizations blurred out the number, but there are no such scruples for the Internet at large.

16
General Comments / Summit
« on: June 11, 2018, 01:37:23 PM »
What to expect:

  • Both leaders attempt to crush each other's hands until someone says uncle
  • Trump gets excellent tips on how to purge hostile people from the government
  • Trump gets the Korean War confused with the Vietnam War with tragic results
  • Trump tweets during the meeting as his attention wanders while waiting for translation
  • Trump becomes disoriented and tries to fire Kim Jong Un
  • Dennis Rodman attempts to assassinate Kim with one of his piercings

17
General Comments / NFL fines for disrespect
« on: May 23, 2018, 01:35:18 PM »
Quote
The NFL also vowed to "impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem."​

Hmm, does that include chewing gum, rocking from side to side, pilates, and unnumbered other disrepects that have been a staple of athletes during the anthem - or does it only apply to political protest?

They certainly have every right to do that.... ish. I smell a court battle when Chik-fil-A tries to make their employees stand and salute the flag.

18
General Comments / Brave vs Stupid
« on: May 23, 2018, 01:04:08 PM »
Quote
Armed with just a fire extinguisher and a garden hose, Clinton defended the homes of friends.
He sprayed down burning lava bombs that hit houses to prevent them from catching fire. Heaps of flaming rock shattered windows and destroyed a septic tank -- setting it ablaze with a blue flame of burning methane gas.
A day later, Clinton fell victim himself. He was talking on his cell phone for mere moments when a bowling ball-sized lava bomb hit him in the leg while he was on the porch.
"'That didn't just happen' was my first thought," he said Tuesday. "I knew it was real because of the pain."
The fiery bomb snapped bones in his leg.
"Then I got caught on fire, fell on the floor, grabbed my foot and leg and held 'em together," he said.

There are elements of bravery - knowingly facing danger to achieve a positive outcome. But really?

19
General Comments / Risk hypersensitivity
« on: April 30, 2018, 08:56:19 AM »
I've been thinking lately about the reactions that members of the public have to various risks that we've been discussing over the past few months. It seems to me that it is like an allergic reaction. People get exposed to the allergen. That might be a story about a crime committed by an illegal immigrant, a self-driving car crash, police using excessive force, or a professor expressing political intolerance.

All of these are not unreasonable to be concerned about, but the political immune system of the individual becomes hypersensitive. Each time that person is exposed the reaction is pronounced and probably worse than the thing being feared. Over time, that individual will begin to see that particular threat everywhere and have a disproportionate reaction to any hint of it.

The sufferers of a particular political allergy band together to commiserate and share remedies. Others see their suffering but may not really understand it. And as of today, there's no anti-histamine or epi-pen for the condition.

20
General Comments / Hoping for a Muslim
« on: April 24, 2018, 02:11:09 PM »
I notice that coverage of the Toronto van murders has fully evaporated from Breitbart's main page.

Everybody in the comments had a grand time railing about Muslims. We told you so, this is why we can't have nice things.

What about Fox news? Nope, can't find it over there either. They are spending time on Parkland sherrifs, Trump's stupid question response, California secession (?). If you do click their link on it, they are still bearing the headline "Toronto van crash suspect ID'd as police won't rule out terror possibility".

Even now they wait in the shadows, hoping that initial reports are wrong and that the killer is a Muslim. Or believing that media and governments are covering up his secret Muslimness. Of course it is sufficient for many that despite being a Canadian citizen that he is perceived ethnically. When I typed his name into my browser - the top results are:

Ethnicity, last name, muslim, and name origin.

Which leads me to think that there are millions of people out there desperately trying to prove that he was a muslim.


21
General Comments / Another one bites the Dust
« on: March 13, 2018, 11:29:12 AM »
Tillerson traded for Pompeo.

I have mixed feelings about this move. On the one hand, I think Pompeo is far more qualified. He's been a member of the house, he's probably pretty knowledgeable about the international scene - at least more so than an oil executive. He's not as deeply connected to Russia and has been critical of them.

On the other hand, he seems more likely to view other nations as adversaries rather than partners or potential partners. He's on record wanting to get rid of Kim Jong Un, not just denuclearize. He loves black sites and torture.

He's a Trump man, through and through. America first by any means necessary. Not exactly the makeup for the top American diplomat, in my opinion.

22
General Comments / insider trading scandal coming
« on: March 01, 2018, 03:39:24 PM »
Trump's highly targeted tariffs (washing machines, steel, aluminium) are ripe for conflict with widespread business interests of him, his family, and associates. All it will take is for someone to have bought or sold a related stock somewhere near the announcement. It could be innocent and completely random, and it will still look horrible. This is why divesting business interests is such a good idea and a demonstration of the complications of running the federal government while retaining a business empire. No matter how good your intentions.



23
General Comments / Government 5G
« on: January 29, 2018, 10:00:14 AM »
Wildcard!

Is it more fake news? A "false flag" from a deep state operative to scare people about government intrusion? A job creation initiative? Currently I would classify this report about 5G as "low confidence" but it is intriguing.

It comes out of AXIOS, whatever that is, and unconfirmed by major news outlets, but happily rebroadcast by CNN, CNBC - Reuters picked it up later. They do have the purported raw slide deck on the website.

5G is likely to become the primary channel of personal communication, including in-home wifi. I wouldn't be at all comfortable with the government owning the infrastructure for that. Anyone advocating it would clearly be interested in using this for surveillance domestically. The reported window dressing is to prevent Chinese hacking because they manufacture the equipment?

24
General Comments / Going nuts for nutella
« on: January 26, 2018, 09:31:56 AM »
Quote
Intermarché supermarkets offered a 70% discount on Nutella, bringing the price down from €4.50 (£3.90) to €1.40.

But police were called when people began fighting and pushing one another.

"They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand," one customer told French media.

First, incidents like this really make me wonder about the model of the rational consumer. For about $12-$24 bucks if you grab an armload, you are willing to race to the store, push and shove fellow human beings, and possibly get injured.

Second, the marketing guys at Intermarche are either geniuses or idiots, I'm not sure which.

Quote
"Some customers came the night before the promotions to stash the Nutella pots in other places, and thus prevent others from taking them," Jean-Marie Daragon from the Intermarché in Montbrison, central France.

Seriously? I mean, I like Nutella also, but damn.

Reading some of the French reaction, I came across someone making the argument that it was because the French worker is in such a precarious position that they are fighting to afford Nutella.  ::)


25
General Comments / Tall order
« on: January 25, 2018, 11:13:42 AM »
From the Producer's Guild guidelines on sexual harassment:

Quote
Unwelcome verbal, physical or visual conduct that is severe or pervasive, and which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment or interferes with work performance. You may experience such sexual harassment even if the offensive conduct was not directed towards you.

Examples: Making sexually explicit or derogatory comments or jokes, either out loud or via email; inappropriate touching or groping; visual conduct includes making sexually suggestive gestures or publicly displaying sexually suggestive or explicit images.

So.... does that include the script? :D

26
General Comments / self blaming cars
« on: January 24, 2018, 12:17:47 PM »
Quote
Culver City's fire service said the Tesla had "ploughed into the rear" of one of its fire engines parked at the scene of an accident on Monday.

The car's owner subsequently claimed it had been in Autopilot mode at the time.

Sure it was....

It will be interesting to see how many people will claim "it wasn't me" and are later proven liars by the telemetry.

27
General Comments / Trump won't make Clinton's mistake
« on: January 23, 2018, 05:00:52 PM »
Clinton was a lawyer. Clinton tried to walk a careful fine line with his "meaning of the word is" sophistry.

Trump regularly coughs up statements contrary to established fact - whether you believe it is intentional or not, or how serious it is, or whether it matters at all. You can argue that he is often mistaken or engaging in hyperbole.

I very much doubt there is any scenario where he has a discussion under oath or otherwise. The odds that he can come up with a statement that could be disproven - whether as a partisan twisting of his intent or as a bold denial (like Clinton's), simply suggests there would be nothing in it for him. I don't believe he can be compelled.

Of course, we can't really know what he will do, since he seems to wax and wane on whether he is "100%" willing to talk under oath, or "we'll see what happens", or "it seems unlikely".

28
General Comments / Release the memo
« on: January 23, 2018, 09:11:46 AM »
If it should be released, I have two predictions.

Republicans will feel that massive corruption has been exposed and that we should finally lock her up.

Democrats will feel totally vindicated and that a massive witch hunt has been exposed.

It really doesn't matter what is in it, does it? If Democrats can't take the above position, then it will surely be that items in the memo are unproven accusations.

My take? Republicans are only now realizing that the FISA system they helped to create is a sloppy rubber stamp, and that National Security Letters are even more ripe for dozens of kinds of abuse? Not to mention renewing the FISA program, which still allows the FBI to query the database of collected information to look for Americans swept up in foreign surveillance. Only a handful of libertarian leaning Republican senators joined about half of the Democrat senators in opposition.

29
General Comments / Will wages rise with the economy?
« on: December 26, 2017, 02:10:54 PM »
The inertia behind wages is complex and varied, these are some of the reasons why I think median wages will rise slowly, if at all, as a result of increased cash flow or after-tax profit.

1. Larger companies have carefully calibrated wage schedules.

Every job description has an acceptable wage range associated with it. Hiring mangers have two choices to raise wages - push people up the range or re-classify them at a higher level. In highly skilled jobs, managers are given wide discretion. In less skilled jobs, there is little room for movement.

2. Small business owners are notoriously frugal.

When you look at the <50 employees small businesses (think restaurant, bar, mom&pop retail), these sole proprietors (or LLC) are pretty grim when it comes to sharing the wealth or thinking about top line expansion. Likely, they won't make more money by reinvesting into their one storefront, and they don't really have the mentality or enough extra cash to think about expansion. Even if they do expand, they will probably employ more people - not pay each individual more. If they run short of help, they are likely to absorb high turnover or run shorthanded than to share back another dime. Many small business owners are happy if they are maintaining a threshold that keeps them in their current lifestyle, and they are risk-averse as a general rule. We're talking about the people who don't want to pay a $2 credit card fee and won't let people have free soda refills.

3. Union contracts

Union contracts tend not to reflect general market trends with any great accuracy. Contracts up for negotiation are anchored at historic levels, and so companies know they might be saddling themselves with future headaches if they gave up ground, and I'm not sure the unions have had the power recently (if ever) to cite "higher profit" as a reason to get better pay for the workers they represent.

4. Margins are margins

The street pays very close attention to margin. Gross margin is often dominated by workers wages. Net margin is often dominated by SG&A or R&D expenses - which may or may not be dominated by compensation. On the face of it, it would make sense that lowered costs in the bottom line would make room for higher unit cost. But companies usually use Gross margin as a metric, and would be seen as losing margin even while increasing profit. They are more likely to re-invest in R&D or SG&A (more ads, new product development, more sales people, more executives) than they are in worker expansion (even assuming the workforce is domestic).

5. Productivity gain may be better realized through something other than wage growth.

You find yourself with a shortage of available labor. You can pay people more to fill the positions, or you can find a way for 3 people to do the work of 4. You might be much better off investing your new found capital in efficiency improvements. Maybe you put in a new pos or inventory system to reduce manual labor. Maybe you farm out cleaning to an outside contract company. Some companies certainly will pay a premium to get the best and most reliable workers, but there are a lot more Walmarts than Costcos.

Conclusion:

None of this stops higher-end wages from rising. Those making $60k and up might well see jumps in their compensation (wage, profit share, bonus, equity), and they might be high enough to see a rise in average wages. But those in the mid and lower quintiles are unlikely to move, in my opinion. So we'll see a lot of "rich get richer" type reactions as the gaps between growth at these different income levels accelerates.

30
General Comments / They are coming for our drones
« on: December 18, 2017, 07:08:34 PM »
Well, mandatory drone registration is back on again. Clearly this is the first step on the road to drone confiscation.

Quote
You probably remember how the FAA finalized its mandatory drone registration rules just in time for the holiday season in 2015. Any drone that weighed more than 0.55 pounds was required to be registered before being flown outdoors, a process that involved providing your complete name, physical address, mailing address, email address, and a credit card that was charged a one-time fee of US $5. In exchange, you got a unique registration number that had to be visible on all of your drones.

Lots of people were not fans of this, in particular model aircraft enthusiasts, who have been flying drones (that look much more like airplanes) for decades without having to tell the government about them. They took the FAA to court, and last May, mandatory drone registration was ruled unlawful and the FAA started giving everyone their $5 back. It’s not like this changed the FAA’s mind about whether drone registration was a good thing or not, so they did what the government does, and sneaked that mandate into the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act, signed yesterday.


31
General Comments / Utah isn't federal
« on: December 04, 2017, 09:49:17 AM »
I'm with Trump on the rollback of Bears Ears. These are over a million acres of rocks and scrub. They didn't need protecting. Remember that this was only done by Obama 2-3 years ago. Proponents talk about "looting" of archaeological sites. We already have mechanisms other than national monuments to deal with protection of true archaeological sites.

Not every piece of graffiti needs to be preserved in perpetuity.

Naturists decry the destruction of the "wilderness" by mining. And yet, as of three years prior, nobody was mining in the area and it is pretty unlikely. If there had been viable mineral rights, I'd expect they'd have been exploited long ago. Oil and gas leases have been sought, but I tend to think those are long term especially with the price of petroleum depressed.

I just don't see this as an appropriate federal oversight. If Utah wants to restrict it, Utah can do that. I think it inappropriately disadvantages western states - nobody is trying to take a million acres out of New York or Michigan to preserve anything.

32
General Comments / Must be nice
« on: November 06, 2017, 07:37:41 PM »
Quote
At a hearing in Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she won't make a decision on both defendants' bail until she receives more information on their financial situation. Once that information is filed, she proposed that pair remain under GPS monitoring, but be allowed to travel in their local area -- the Washington area for Manafort and Richmond, Virginia, for Gates.
Additionally, she proposed they will be prohibited from being near airports and train stations, and will have evening curfews.

I don't quite understand this. At all. These people could easily still have the means to flee. They clearly have international connections of whatever flavor. They get house arrest, but can have the run of the city? Show me the poor black guy allowed to wander all over town for his house arrest. Usually, you get to go to work, school, and very limited other locations as I understand it.

Not to mention that Manafort is trying to buy a get out of house arrest card with $12M.

What am I missing here? I'm not saying that they have to be held without bail in a county jail, but this seems wholly inadequate.


33
General Comments / Anti-boycott bill
« on: October 20, 2017, 03:17:39 PM »
How is this a thing?

Quote
A Texas city has required residents who are seeking government disaster relief funds in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to pledge not to boycott Israel.
The city of Dickinson, about 30 miles (48km) south of Houston, posted grant applications for anyone seeking money for repairs after the category 4 storm.
Local officials say the pro-Israel clause is required under a Texas state law enacted earlier this year.
The application has drawn a strong rebuke from free-speech activists.
In the four-page, recovery aid application posted on the city's website, a section reads: "By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement."
The provision stems from a law barring the state from entering a contract with any business unless it "does not boycott Israel".
Boycotting Israel includes any action intended to "to penalise, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel", according to the law.

34
General Comments / Independence Catalan Style
« on: September 29, 2017, 03:09:25 PM »
How did I not hear about this? Catalonia is trying to have a referendum, and their parliament is empowered to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of the vote.

Spain is feverishly hunting down the ballot boxes, which they declared illegal. They are seizing website domains. They have thousands of police on ships in Barcelona to disrupt voting. Quite the contrast to the vote in Scotland.

A non-binding vote went down 80/20 with under 50% turnout.

35
General Comments / Jones Act
« on: September 28, 2017, 09:31:26 AM »
Quote
Critics say the Jones Act costs American jobs by encouraging residents in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii to buy foreign-made goods that are shipped on foreign flagged vessels, rather than goods made in America.
That's what happens when it comes to gasoline and other fuels, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Service.
"Puerto Rico typically gets most of its gas from foreign sources -- Canada and Europe," he said. "Jones Act ships are so expensive that it doesn't make sense to buy gasoline from U.S. refineries." So, Kloza said, a waiver of the Jones act won't bring much more fuel to the island since Puerto Rico gets what it needs from other countries.
But plenty of other things are much more expensive in Puerto Rico because of the Jones Act. Cars, for example, cost about 40% more in Puerto Rico than on U.S. mainland, partly because of the law. It also affects other necessities.

link

Trump has waived it in the face of recent disasters on a limited basis.

I didn't know it existed, but now that I do, I want it repealed entirely. We're making goods more expensive between US ports, and as a result, Puerto Rico is buying all its fuel from overseas instead of from US producers. This is a blatant case of robbing consumers and producers to line the wallets of one industry - American companies that own ships.

I have to wonder also if this means that shipping between mainland ports might be giving way to overland shipping.

Quote
The report shows that industries across the nation could save millions of dollars if the Jones Act problem were fixed, including the water sector ($1.5 billion), chemicals ($103 million), air transportation ($91 million), steel ($50 million) and lumber ($32 million).

The Jones Act may soon drive the price of gasoline higher because of proposed changes by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Previously, many oil firms had an exemption from the Jones Act for certain operations, but now U.S. Customs and Border Protection has proposed removing the exemptions. This imposition of the Jones Act could cost the oil industry $4.3 billion, and cause a loss of 30,000 jobs in 2017, according to a study by the American Petroleum Institute (API).

article

McCain has been trying to repeal the Jones Act since at least 2010. He gets no love from the supposedly "free-market" republicans, and even less support from democrats.


36
General Comments / How to defend yourself against a pointed stick
« on: September 20, 2017, 09:22:00 AM »
Quote
Oklahoma City police say a man holding a stick was shot and killed by an officer on the city’s southeast side.

Police Capt. Bo Mathews says officers were responding to a report of a hit-and-run around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday when they found a vehicle that matched the description of the one in the crash.

Mathews says two officers confronted a man holding a stick near the vehicle. One officer fired a Taser and the other shot the suspect with a firearm.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Names of the suspect and the two officers have not been released. He didn’t say why the officer opened fire.

37
General Comments / Poll on race
« on: September 16, 2017, 01:28:40 PM »
Some eye popping numbers in here, at least for me.

There are only 80% of people strongly agree that all races should be treated equally. Fewer, 70% strongly agree that all races are equal.
So that 10% think the races aren't equal, but we should go through the motions?

4% strongly disagree that races are equal.

Maybe the more interesting spot is the people who neither agree nor disagree. It's harder for me to imagine not having a side than being an avowed racist.

race poll

38
General Comments / clickbait
« on: September 16, 2017, 01:16:05 PM »
I'm fascinated by the titles of clickbait articles, and how they are crafted.

3 "Death Foods" that you should avoid
After Losing 220lbs Precious is Gorgeous Now
Chilling Last Known Photos of Legendary Celebrities
<your location>: This Brilliant company is disrupting a $200 Billion...
Why Clint Eastwood Never Mentions his Army Service
Bride Left Speechless by Husband's unexpected....
Feel Years Younger by Boosting Your Stem Cells at Home

Like most advertising, some comes straight out of Maslow, but there's a different flavor to the bait.

The use of numbers is interesting. Why is "3 death foods" more likely to be clicked on than just "death foods"?
This person was fat and unattractive, but now she's beautiful. I'm fat and unattractive, I want to be beautiful. <click>
The random use of <your location> is ridiculous. There are no brilliant companies in the suburb that I live in.
I admire the speechless bride. You literally have to click if you want the rest of the headline.
And the nonsensical boosting of your own stem cell fountain of youth? The mind boggles.

39
General Comments / Trump's Florida properties could be in Irma's path
« on: September 06, 2017, 12:11:04 PM »
Really, CNN? It has come to this?

Quote
Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach: Palm Beach County officials do not have specific updates on the “Winter White House." The Palm Beach Daily News reports that the property has walls that are three feet thick and has withstood many devastating hurricanes since its 1937 completion.

Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter: Members of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter have not yet received any official communications from the club about the impending storm.

Other Trump properties: Trump Hollywood in Hollywood Beach, Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach and Trump National Doral in Doral all sit along Florida's east coast.

I'm picturing a "hurricane room" with live feeds from each of Trump's properties. In-depth discussions of whether relief funds are motivated by his business interests. Criticism if an employee gets injured.

On the other hand, would you be surprised if his disaster visit was to one of his own properties? He's just politically foolish enough to do it.

40
General Comments / Counterfeiting
« on: August 28, 2017, 03:54:40 PM »
Been reading a little bit lately about the ongoing exchange of one pound coins in the UK.

As many as 1 in 30 coins in the old design were counterfeit, according to the Royal bank.

It seems there were large scale counterfeiters behind this.

It makes me wonder if the US had a higher value coin, would this be more prevalent?

Also, does this suggest a move to fully electronic currency in the future? It would certainly curb criminal enterprise and tax evasion, but also raises questions of privacy. It could even have an impact on the hiring of illegal labor, either people not authorized to work in the US or people operating outside of labor rules, like overtime. What would happen to people who rely on tips for their income, suddenly they would get hit with a much higher tax bill.

This would happen gradually over time, and we're seeing it in places like India. In the US, proposals have been made to eliminate the $100 bill.

41
General Comments / pardon me
« on: August 26, 2017, 11:18:37 AM »
Well, he actually went and did it. This is a clear message pardon, as he could have waited to let things die down. Arapio wasn't scheduled to be sentenced until October. There's a good chance he might not have been given jail time, and he was only facing six months in jail.

It's a huge middle finger to the federal courts, to the citizens in Arizona that had their rights violated, and to anyone concerned about the rights of non-whites.

It's a huge thumbs up to law enforcement that wants to profile, defy other federal protections, and racists.

He wants to stoke the fires, but for what purpose?

42
General Comments / consumer protection
« on: August 14, 2017, 12:35:59 PM »
Came across a random description of a lawsuit involving a company selling "my pillow".

The company allegedly Posted a buy one get one offer, where the net price for two pillows was pretty much the same as the price before the offer.

Original: $49 per pillow
New: $99 dollars for a pillow, get one free

Regardless of the specificsof this particular case, I'm actually torn about the need for this consumer protection and similar fake sale tags, markdowns, and other price shenanigans.

On the one hand, I loathe the practices on a moral level. On the other, I blame and ridicule the people who just see the word "sale" and automatically assume they are saving money.

I remember that Sears department store many years ago attempted a campaign of "everyday low prices" - removing cyclical sale pricing. It was an utter disaster. People want to see that "here's your bargain" tag, regardless of the actual value of the item.

I wonder if there's a real net benefit to anyone but the class action lawyers in these cases.

43
General Comments / LOLcat
« on: August 12, 2017, 01:22:44 PM »
Almost half of all original YouTube videos are of people's pets, and around 26 billion views are just for cats, making them the single most popular category.[/quote]

Quote
Assistant Professor Jessica Gall Myrick from Indiana University, America, asked 7,000 people how they felt before and after watching videos of cats.
The results found that people felt happier after watching videos of cats, and that they felt less anxious or sad.

Can't we harness this power to make the world a better place? How angry would people be if there weren't any cats on the internet?

44
General Comments / Diversity programs discussion
« on: August 10, 2017, 03:26:33 PM »
Argument against existing diversity programs

This HBR article makes a lot of the points homebody communicated poorly and is worth its own independent discussion. It is behind a timed paywall, so I'm quoting more than usual.

Quote
U.S. companies spend millions annually on diversity programs and policies. Mission statements and recruitment materials touting companies’ commitment to diversity are ubiquitous. And many managers are tasked with the complex goal of “managing diversity” – which can mean anything from ensuring equal employment opportunity compliance, to instituting cultural sensitivity training programs, to focusing on the recruitment and retention of minorities and women.

Are all of these efforts working? In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really. The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women. A longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies found that implementing diversity training programs has little positive effect and may even decrease representation of black women.

Quote
We put young white men through a hiring simulation for an entry-level job at a fictional technology firm. For half of the “applicants,” the firm’s recruitment materials briefly mentioned its pro-diversity values. For the other half, the materials did not mention diversity. In all other ways, the firm was described identically. All of the applicants then underwent a standardized job interview while we videotaped their performance and measured their cardiovascular stress responses.

Compared to white men interviewing at the company that did not mention diversity, white men interviewing for the pro-diversity company expected more unfair treatment and discrimination against whites. They also performed more poorly in the job interview, as judged by independent raters. And their cardiovascular responses during the interview revealed that they were more stressed.


45
General Comments / Trump & NoKo
« on: August 09, 2017, 08:42:26 AM »
I've been pretty critical of Trump on a number of fronts. With respect to North Korea, I agree with matching Pyongyangs bombastic threats with some of our own. Kim needs to be reminded that no matter what he's cooked up, the US arsenal is a deterrent to their own action. I think it undermines the President to have US lawmakers making public comments that reduces the impact of those threats, especially suggesting that Trump is not prepared to back them up.

I 100% believe that Trump would launch an overwhelming response to military action by North Korea. I don't think he'd have any qualms about authorizing any force whatsoever if the US or US allies were attacked, or if mobilization prior to an attack occured.

It reminds me somewhat of Khrushchev's bluster on a number of occasions, and who knows? That just might have kept us out of a nuclear war by creating a credible threat and reducing the likelihood that Kennedy would choose a military option in Cuba.

46
General Comments / Presidents can't kid around
« on: August 01, 2017, 05:39:12 PM »
I'm steering clear of anything specifically Trump, while obviously this is inspired by his "I was kidding" response to several incidents.

Quote
It came as Mr Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio broadcast on Saturday. During a test to adjust the microphones for voice level, Mr Reagan intoned: ‘My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I have signed legislation to outlaw Russia for ever. We begin bombing in five minutes.’

This was, quite obviously, not a policy directive. It was not an order. It was said during a sound check. It still had some repercussions. Apparently the Soviets went on alert for 30 minutes, according to some reports. When you're President, I think probably you should leave improv comedy behind. A President's words can tank financial markets, increase diplomatic tension, create violence, or many other possible outcomes.

Reagan bombing Russia - just kidding!

I'm reminded of a personal situation where our CEO came around the breakroom while we were blowing off some steam. He made an offhanded remark that our projects must be on schedule. We disappeared from that room instantly. Heard later that he was completely just trying to joke around with us, and intended to be funny. I think that's probably good advice for anyone in a powerful position.

47
General Comments / The new chief of staff
« on: July 31, 2017, 02:10:09 PM »
Amazing amount of turnover in a six month old administration.

Priebus out, which isn't surprising as Trump roots out who he perceives as foes, may have been foes, and anyone who generally identifies with "the establishment". Or "the Republicans" that Trump is increasingly treating as a group independent and separate from him.

The new guy, John Kelly, is once again an untraditional choice for Chief of Staff - who is normally a relatively politically connected individual who coordinates the various moving parts in building coalitions and setting an agenda.

Is this a move based on finding "loyalists" and in particular finding a chief of staff that has the skills and tenacity to find and punish "the leakers"?

Still, the little I've read suggests Kelly is respected in the role he played in the military and beyond. I haven't learned enough to say whether he will be a good pick or a bad one as yet.

I read into the preference of Trump to hire military and relatives for key positions is that he wants people who will carry out his orders rather than people who will offer other points of view or challenge his opinions. This belief (not fact) is partly based on an understanding of how Trump is described to have run his businesses, and his various public comments both prior to and following his election.

This, in and of itself, is not necessarily a terrible quality overall. Steve Jobs had many of the same characteristics in leadership. But there's a big difference between corporate life and public political life.

48
General Comments / Dubai, the robotic future of policing
« on: July 26, 2017, 12:33:34 PM »
Quote
The next batch of robots will be used to tackle crime and misdemeanours. There are plans over the next two years for the world’s largest robot, which can run at 80kph.

The 3-metre tall robot will carry heavy equipment and will be manoeuvred by a police officer seated in a cabin inside.

An egg-shaped robot will be used in parking areas to issue warning about traffic violations, and self-driving motorcycles could also be sent out.

Sporting a name tag reading "Dubai Police Robot", the lieutenant with one star on its shoulder strap was the star attraction on day one of conference. People crowded around, asking questions and taking selfies.


Press release

This technology is super scary in a cross with the Middle East. Saudi robotic virtue & vice patrols? It can smell alcohol at a distance of 30m, use infrared cameras to locate homosexual activity, and spot dress code violations in the briefest span of time.

49
General Comments / Eclipse!
« on: July 12, 2017, 03:48:02 PM »
Anybody in the path, or traveling to it? I might meet up with my friends in SLC and drive up to Idaho for the event. No chance to stay within a 90 minute drive, $60 motels are running $500 and up at best.

50
General Comments / Unsung inventions
« on: July 10, 2017, 09:19:54 AM »
I was just mopping up a spill with a paper towel, and wondered how long it had been around. Scott introduced these glorious towels in 1931. Not only are they more sanitary than reusable towels, but they can be used for things like patting meat dry before cooking. Can you imagine trying to clean a window or a mirror thoroughly without paper towels? I can't.

Got any simple unsung inventions of your own?

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