…and not to yield: Ulysses of the bond markets

February 19th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

…and not to yield: Ulysses of the bond markets

Dsquared posts on Crooked Timber, asks only Greeks to comment. Comments thread predictably explodes into erudite snark, notably Joshua W. Burton’s take on Tennyson’s Ulysses:

. . . Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer deal. Push off, and sitting well in order smite The hounding Euros; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the market, and the wrath Of all the western banks, until I…

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“Why I Am Not a Maker”

February 19th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

“Why I Am Not a Maker”

An absolutely on-point critique of the ideology of making things:

The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Making is not a rebel…

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Kickstarting more episodes of the podcast Aaron Swartz helped start

February 18th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink



Ben Winkler and Aaron Swartz created “The Good Fight,” a podcast about
David and Goliath stories; now Winkler is raising money to keep the
series going.

Read the rest…

getting hooked on mrjob

February 17th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

A lot of my ‘programming’ time is actually spent sniffing around various libraries and open-source projects, trying to figure out which will be helpful and which will leave me cursing the mistake of building anything on top of them. ‘Soft’ areas like documentation and community management tend to matter almost as much as the quality of the code itself.

So well done mrjobfor not just having decent…

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Real estate and shell companies in the New York Times

February 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Real estate and shell companies

The New York Times has just turned out a long, worthy article on New York real estate owned through shell companies:

On the 74th floor of the Time Warner Center, Condominium 74B was purchased in 2010 for $15.65 million by a secretive entity called 25CC ST74B L.L.C. It traces to the family of Vitaly Malkin, a former Russian senator and banker who was barred from entering Canada because of…

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Psychological pricing beyond $9.99

February 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

The psychology of pricing goes way further than just setting prices a few cents below a whole number.

Products that are recreational or luxurious benefit from rounded prices: Consumers were more inclined to buy a bottle of champagne when it was priced at $40.00 rather than at $39.72 or $40.28. However, for purchases that are utilitarian—a calculator, in this experiment—participants were more…

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Petitions that made me laugh

February 15th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

A couple of petitions that are simultaneously hilarious and serious. First, to make tampons VAT-free by classifying them as essential items:

The Government taxes sanitary products but not crocodile steaks. If you value the functioning of those who menstruate at least as much as you enjoy your crocodile Friday then sign our petition and join our campaign

Then, there are a various petitions…

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Surrealism lectures as podcast

February 14th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Surrealism lectures as podcast

I’ve been enjoying this series of lectures on Surrealism, given by Dawn Ades at Oxford a few years back.

Among other things, it’s nice to have my fondness for surrealism validated by an Important Person. Because whenever I bring it up around Serious Art People, they tend to react with patronising disdain, much as though I’d just said ABBA were my favourite band.

Better, though, is the attention…

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Hunter S Thompson

February 14th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s ten years to the day since Hunter S Thompson obliterated himself in the most American way, with a shotgun to the head.

Whenever I reread his books, I’m struck by how he was so much more than the crazed self-destructive hedonist of myth. He was constantly trying to understand his world, and above all to make sense of America. Even Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is subtitled A savage journey…

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Military forensics with Bellingcat

February 13th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Military forensics with Bellingcat

I’m an immense fan of Eliot Higgins’ work, reporting on conflicts by correlating publicly-available satellite images against youtube videos and social media. It’s stunning just how much you can find out, and how few people are doing so.

This report, also summarized in the Guardian, is a case in point.

They are trying to verify claims of Russian artillery firing over the border into Ukraine, last…

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Increasing hedge fund bosses’ tax bills

February 12th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Increasing hedge fund bosses’ tax bills

I’m always pleased when campaigners about tax avoidance manage to find concrete examples of what they want changed. It takes a lot more knowledge and work, but is much more likely to have some impact in legislation.

So it’s great that 38 degrees have zoomed in hedge fund managers claiming their income as capital gains rather than wages. This not only gives them a lower tax rater, but makes it…

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Saved by crab blood

February 12th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Saved by crab blood

Here’s one of the more surreal corners of industrial medicine: crab blood donors. Apparently the best way of detecting some bacterial contamination is to add some crab blood extract to it, and see if it clots. So 250,00 crabs a year are scooped up and part-drained of blood, before being released with just enough blood left that most of them will survive the process.

To make it even odder: crab…

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Markov Playlists

February 11th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Why is nobody using markov chains to generate music playlists?

Playing music on shuffle is shit, full of jarring transitions, incongruous switches of tempo and topic. I masssively prefer listening to a carefully-mixed playlist, either via spotify or youtube, or an old-fasioned radio station like Radio Paradise.

So why not build a semi-shuffle? Start with one song. Look for all the tracks that get…

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How not to diagram company ownership

February 10th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

How not to diagram company ownership

I’ve seen some truly awful infographics of corporate ownership structures. I’ve even occasionally perpetrated them. But this image is truly a classic of the genre:

Pretty convoluted, huh?

It’s from Muddy Waters, a much-feted research and short-selling firm. They are arguingthat French conglomerate Bolloré owns a lot of itself through intermediate companies. We’re looking here at Financière…

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Save the economy! Stay on the dole!

February 9th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Save the economy! Stay on the dole!

Alex Harowell has an interesting post about the economics of unemployment at AFOE.

In a strong economy, career paths tend to stay within a specialism, developing increasing experience and skill, and hence steadily increasing productivity. Or if somebody switches careers, it’s more a case of reculer pour mieux sauter, taking a temporary setback to end up somewhere more productive.

That doesn’t…

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More on Black Mirror

February 9th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

More on Black Mirror

Shortly after discovering Black Mirror, I discovered this discussion of it, on a comedy forum. Here are some of their proposed storylines for the next series:

It turns out that internet trolls are just aliens trying to make first contact.

As a direct consequence of this unfortunate cultural misunderstanding, Earth’s connection to the galactic internet is severely throttled during peak times.


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Do modernist kids dream of bureaucratic fairies?

February 8th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Do modernist kids dream of bureaucratic fairies?

Once upon a time, fairy tales were unspeakably brutal. The Brothers Grimm often take the flak for this, but undeservedly. They didn’t create the aura of homicide and senseless injustice, merely absorbed it from the existing oral traditions. Other European folklore collectors got much the same vibe, as did those from further afield. For much of human history, the stories we told to kids were…

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Kompromat as business card

February 7th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Kompromat as business card

Profile of Russian hacker group “Humpty Dumpty”. It starts out looking like an idealistic hacktivist network, the “Anonymous International”.

Shaltai’s stated mission is “to change the world for the better, helping to bring greater freedom and social awareness.”

One of the group’s members even quoted the 2009 film Watchmen, saying, “We don’t do this thing because it’s permitted. We do it because…

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Reclaiming Pretty

February 7th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

My friend Sasha spent the last month guest-blogging at the F-word. It’s all worth reading (although inconveniently not all linked in one place). I particularly like her defence of using the word pretty:

When I describe someone or something as pretty – particularly when it’s not someone young and female, which is mostly the case – it feels in some way like a fuck you, a reclamation and repurposing…

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February 6th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink


it is tremendously freeing to realize that saying “I’m not informed enough about this issue to have a real opinion” is an option