Archive for the 'linky love' Category

27
Jul
14

Green power: Still what you don’t want to hear

Tyler Cowen reminds us that the most cost-effective low-carbon power source is nuclear.

If all the costs and benefits are totted up using Mr Frank’s calculation, solar power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions. It costs $189,000 to replace 1MW per year of power from coal. Wind is the next most expensive. Hydropower provides a modest net benefit. But the most cost-effective zero-emission technology is nuclear power. The pattern is similar if 1MW of gas-fired capacity is displaced instead of coal. And all this assumes a carbon price of $50 a tonne. Using actual carbon prices (below $10 in Europe) makes solar and wind look even worse. The carbon price would have to rise to $185 a tonne before solar power shows a net benefit.

(He’s actually quoting Petr Beckmann at The Economist.)

This is a good time to remind ourselves that the majority of Green Power advocates — or at least the loudest ones — aren’t optimizing for power sources that reduce pollution; they are instead optimizing for power sources that minimize their own fears.  Climate change is scary, so coal and oil are out.  Energy corporations are scary, so natural gas (Fracking!  OMG ONOZ!) and oil (Oilsands!  Pipelines!  Greasy otters!) are out.  Nuclear power is about as scary as it gets, so that’s a non-starter even if it means reverting to all the other scary power sources (see for example what Europe’s doing right now post-Fukushima).

I’m not unsympathetic.  I don’t like scary things, either.  I’d rather avoid choking on smog during my morning commute or turning into a skin crayon as I’m dragged along the highway by a Prius driver dicking around with s/h/its cellphone.  (“Oh sorry, I’ve never seen someone use that crosswalk!”)  But, like GI Joe said back when I was a kid, “Knowing is half the battle!”  And knowing that, say, thorium thermoreactors are about as benign as anything designed to be exothermic is likely to get is rather empowering when it comes to tackling all those other fears.  (I would love to be educated on better alternatives, should any exist, in the comments.)

19
Nov
13

Car porn, baby!

When was the last time you fapped to a Nordschleife video?

In seven minutes and nine seconds you’ll be able to say “tonight”:

Fullscreen, high quality, you know the drill.

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Here’s a balls-achingly tiny gif of Valtteri Bottas slinging what’s probably the best pass of the season on Esteban Gutierrez at COTA this past weekend.

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And finally, some build threads magic.  We’ll start with a 1986 MkII Supra

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…and finish with a 1/4-scale fuel-injected V8.

13
Nov
13

All linky, no thinky 2: The Linkening

So I’m joining the rising tide of anti-intellectualism that’s destroying Classical Liberal Arts Institutions, or whatever, and taking a course on reactive programming on Coursera (one of those MOOCs that’s destroying &c.).  Feels good to stretch my brain again; I’ve wanted an excuse properly to learn Scala for a while, and maybe this time around I’ll actually grok monads.  (If you’re wondering what “reactive programming” is, it’s writing Erlang in languages that aren’t Erlang.  So far as I can tell, at any rate.)

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Is fairness a process thing or an outcome thing?  I suspect most of us’ll pick one until we come across an instance of the other we don’t like, at which point things go all Black Monolith and we club each other with femurs.

Money shot:

As I see it, many upper middle class parents desire their child to be slightly more successful than they are, and in related but not identical fields and ways.

Duh, you say, which tells me you haven’t read it.  “But why wouldn’t you prefer to hire a better worker?”  Why didn’t you buy a Bentley Mulsanne instead of a used Camry?  “So practical!”  Shut up, you’ve made my point.  Why hire a superstar developer for a gajillion dollars when all you need is someone to poke node.js with a stick?  “But assholes drive Bentleys!”  You think Mark Zuckerberg’s an asshole, don’t you?  “Huh?”  Just scroll down already.

The real insight here is into the minds of so-called “consumer advocates”.

Teetering dangerously close to reaggravating my outrage fatigue.

Oh look, a nice comforting hobby-horse.  Meta-analysis shows that “saturated fat is not the problem”.  No shit, buttercup.  Fat loss is widely correlated with improved cardiovascular health, and a fat loss diet is, de facto, high in saturated fat coming from your own god damn adipocytes.  Here’s the paper’s author giving me an enormous confirmation-bias boner:

Saturated fat has been demonised ever since Ancel Keys’s landmark “seven countries” study in 1970. This concluded that a correlation existed between the incidence of coronary heart disease and total cholesterol concentrations, which then correlated with the proportion of energy provided by saturated fat. But correlation is not causation. Nevertheless, we were advised to cut fat intake to 30% of total energy and saturated fat to 10%.” The aspect of dietary saturated fat that is believed to have the greatest influence on cardiovascular risk is elevated concentrations of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Yet the reduction in LDL cholesterol from reducing saturated fat intake seems to be specific to large, buoyant (type A) LDL particles, when in fact it is the small, dense (type B) particles (responsive to carbohydrate intake) that are implicated in cardiovascular disease.

We make kids go to school because it’s “good for them”, and everyone agrees that it’s “good for” kids to go to college.  So why not round them up at gunpoint, herd them into cattle cars, and send ‘em off to West Bumfuck State?

As odd as it may sound, the majority of time and resources of the FTC is not spent on punishing bad business practices as authorized in the FTC Act. The agency overwhelmingly concentrates on enforcing another act also passed in 1914, the Clayton Act, and specifically section 7, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.”

This is why I don’t blog about politics any more:

Pierce, Rogers and Snyder find that political partisans are more upset about an election loss than a random sample of parents were upset by the Newtown shootings.

An interesting discussion on how humans can add value to computer programs when those programs are really, really good.  The context there is chess, which is a pretty well-understood game of finite complexity.  I claim that humans have been doing this for decades in software development, whose practical complexity is limited only by what you can convince your publisher is actually possible.  Worried about computers taking over your job?  Computers have taken over mine on the regular over the past two decades, and as a result I keep getting better and more interesting jobs.

“Creative destruction” is something that most people who aren’t raging anarchocapitalists like to write off as abstract, idealistic propaganda.  Fortunately, Bryan Caplan is a raging an-cap, and he’s set it all out in time-series graphs so you can actually see it.

I have to admit, I threw this in just for the shock value.  But see previous no-think-link about college being good for kids.

Why do altruists help people?  Because they want to be seen helping people.  This should surprise precisely no-one.

Rob Ford lol.

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Tune in next time for part 3, when we’ll discover whether this series is better-on-evens (Star Trek) or better-on-odds (Back to the Future)… or just shit (The Fast and the Furious).

06
Nov
13

All linky, no thinky

Old News edition.

(Take “capitalism” to mean “competition in relatively unfettered markets”.)

I’m sick of people shitting on Twitter, especially now that it’s established its utility as a low transaction cost (that part’s important, reread it until you understand why) ad-hoc communications medium.  For example, this would have been mired in delusional architecture and Kafkaesque specifications-by-committee if Twitter hadn’t made it possible for Translink’s customer-service folks to simply tell everyone who was interested why the bus is late today.  And if you don’t think web development is all that hard, I invite you to try to buy American health insurance.  Software will fuck you up.

Turns out the market’s response to the horrible, eschatological, cataclysmic government shutdown was… “Huh, did you say something?  Government what now?  Sorry, I was focusing on things that might affect my bottom line.”  You’d think a Mad Max scenario would qualify, which should make you wonder whether it was likely to happen in the first place.

“Treasury bonds default” has gone from “don’t be absurd” to “well, of course it’s an absurd idea, but…“.  This does not make me any happier.  There’s also this:

Addendum: By the way, we used to read that an attack of the bond market vigilantes would be good for the economy, but it seems this is no longer the case when the vigilantes are led by Republicans.  Hint: an attack of the bond market vigilantes is not good for the economy.

Curiously, it turns out that most of the things teachers’ unions champion are of great benefit to teachers but not so much to students.  Don’t read the comments, they’ll give you cancer.

An immediate consequence is that developing countries are turning into service economies at substantially lower levels of income.

“Deindustrialization”, if you haven’t bothered to click through, is the act of turning manufacturing jobs that make anti-sweatshop activists righteously indignant into call-centre jobs that make anti-sweatshop activists with bricked iPhones righteously indignant.  Which is progress, I suppose, because if their iPhones are bricked they can’t tweet you handwringing nonsense when you’re busy trying to set your fantasy football lineup.

Quick: Who among you would be so generous as to take in a family of complete strangers with a sick child, give them a room for the night, and serve them breakfast?  Oh, uh, spoiler warning.

“And then Bryan Caplan stood up and just started Bryan Caplanning at everyone.”

More later.

05
Nov
13

Rob Ford’s new breakout single…

DRUN-ken STU-por.

Stay tuned for the return of “All Linky, No Thinky”.  Probably.

20
Jul
13

Fact: Spiders are adorable

Told you so.  (I’m more of a fan of jumping spiders — they’re like tiny kittens with twice as many legs.)

The orb-weavers are setting up shop on my balcony railing again, murdering gnats and the occasional small housefly with verve and enthusiasm.  If they had ears I’d scrunch ‘em like a Border Collie.

13
Jul
13

Two new lifting ebooks you should read

The first is Matt Perryman’s Squat Every Day.  I titled this post “lifting ebooks”, but SED is of vastly broader interest — it’s a look at the human stress response, acute and chronic, psych- and physiological, through the lens of high volume resistance training (“Bulgarian style”, if you like).  It’s really, really good, and it’s seven bucks.  If you have any interest whatsoever in my training and nutrition posts, you really ought to pick this up.

The second is Jim Wendler’s Beyond 5/3/1.  It’s more or less exactly what it says on the tin — an occasionally-disorganized cornucopia of ideas for taking your training beyond the standard 5/3/1 format.  If you’re not familiar with 5/3/1, get one of his other ebooks first.  At twenty-five bucks, it’s not the no-brainer Squat Every Day is, but it’s stuffed full of good content, worth reading and re-reading like Wendler’s other books.




anarchocapitalist agitprop

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