is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes." [more inside]
The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States
); press coverage
) - "The signature effects of human-induced climate change
—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts
of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity. [The report] uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences
for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path..." [more inside]
The furious to-do about Obamacare has obscured a basic fact about modern Americans: most of us, certainly the middle class, are sheltered by a complex web of insurance. Some insurance coverage is privately provided, such as life, accident, fire, flood, travel, liability, burial, and consumer product insurance. And some is government-provided or -required: Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, bank deposit, car, health, mortgage, food, crop, disaster insurance, and so on. All of these, without which American middle-class life as we know it would not be recognizable, are relatively recent developments. [more inside]
How to think of the risks of Autism. "As a statistically minded neuroscientist, I suggest a different approach that relies on a concept we are familiar with: relative odds. As a single common measuring stick to compare odds, I have chosen the “risk ratio,” a measure that allows the bigger picture to come into focus."
A succint NYT op-ed that is also a good primer on assessing health risks in general as well as the impact of media coverage on skewing risk perception.
, released in 2011, adds an interesting twist to the classic boardgame: it introduces permanent, game-changing modifications to the board and game pieces every time it is played. Last year, the designer of the game, Rob Daviau, gave a fascinating talk on the design challenges inherent in such a game. The video of that talk is now freely available to watch
. [more inside]
Take Back Your Pregnancy
When she got pregnant, Emily Oster, associate professor of economics at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, she found herself faced with the laundry list of rules that pregnant women have been handed for years regarding coffee, alcohol, soft cheese, deli meats, and so on. But when she looked at the studies behind the guidelines, she was surprised to see that most of them failed to make the distinction between causation and correlation. [more inside]
Predicting Google Shutdowns.
"In the following essay, I collect data on 350 Google products and look for predictive variables. I find some while modeling shutdown patterns, and make some predictions about future shutdowns. Hopefully the results are interesting, useful, or both." Gwern
exhaustively analyzes Google products past and present with an eye to establishing what's not long for the bitverse. tl;dr? Results
The problem is that cinema, as I define it and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios and, from what I can tell, with the full support of the audience. The reasons for this, in my opinion, are more economic than philosophical, but when you add an ample amount of fear and lack of vision and a lack of leadership you’ve got a trajectory that is pretty difficult to reverse.
- "Retired" director Steven Soderbergh
speaks to the San Francisco International Film Festival about the state of cinema
, full audio at bottom of page 2
Wall Street begins playing again with the same matches that burned the economy in 2008
From the New York Times: "The banks that created risky amalgams of mortgages and loans during the boom — the kind that went so wrong during the bust — are busily reviving the same types of investments that many thought were gone for good. Once more, arcane-sounding financial products like collateralized debt obligations are being minted on Wall Street. "
(View article on a single page) [more inside]
argues that we should be more concerned about low risk events that we encounter with greater frequency. Meanwhile, Lonely Island
argues that we should be more concerned about low risk events that we encounter with greater frequency.
Credit Rating Agencies and their role after the Crisis
It was the rating agencies that assigned super safe ("triple A") ratings to complex financial instruments. When these blew up, the agencies accepted no responsibility, claiming they had merely been expressing "opinions".
William J Harrington, who was a senior analyst says he has asked people at Moody's why those responsible weren't fired.
"That would be an admission of liability
, I was told.
The Wall Street Journal talks about
downgrading the agencies
At Cambridge University, the Project for Existential Risk
is considering threats to humankind caused by developing technologies. It will be developing a prospectus for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, to be launched by the Astronomer Royal
, a co-founder of Skype
and the Bertrand Russell professor of philosophy
. More detail
from the university, while the news excites some journalists
. [more inside]
The Control Revolution And Its Discontents
- "the long process of algorithmisation
over the last 150 years has also, wherever possible, replaced implicit rules/contracts and principal-agent relationships with explicit processes and rules."
, the game of World Conquest, has been a feature in mainstream boardgaming for decades, but is not usually well thought of by more serious boardgamers
. Several recent editions have been better received
, but the latest iteration (out sometime later this year) may be the most divisive yet. In Risk Legacy
, each game played will permanently change the board and rules
based on who won and how. Are boardgamers ready and willing to alter their boards with permanent markers and stickers and tear up unchosen cards? Some early reviews
have been positive, but opinion is still divided
. The designer answered some questions
on BGG as well.
is what you do when you want to invest several billion dollars all at once. The top 25 reinsurers in the US
together wrote about $27 billion in premium in 2010. Reinsurers are constantly looking for ways to manage their exposure to risk
, particularly after Sept. 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina
. [more inside]
What distinguishes great entrepreneurs?
"Discussions of entrepreneurial psychology typically focus on creativity, tolerance for risk, and the desire for achievement—enviable traits that, unfortunately, are not very teachable." So Professor Saras D. Sarasvathy (Caution, autoplaying video)
of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business created a case study to try to determine how they think, "with the goal of transferring that knowledge to aspiring founders." [more inside]
Looking for a winter vacation get-away? How about going to Chernobyl
? "Tours to Chernobyl are extreme tourism, plenty of curious people are looking for extreme adventures," he said. previously
An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine
online edition today announced study results that the use daily of antiretroviral medicine reduced rate the acquisition of HIV infection. The New York Times coverage
highlighted the result that the preexposure prophylaxis protected more than 90% of study participants who took the medicine every day, as prescribed. An editorial in the NEJM noted
, however, that compliance was problematic, with only 44%of study participants protected overall. [more inside]
Betting Against the American Dream
. In 2005, just as Wall Street started to get cold feet about the housing market, the Magnetar
hedge fund helped create a new wave of billion-dollar mortgage-backed securities, pushed bankers to include riskier sub-prime mortgages, and then shorted the securities, making millions when the bubble finally burst. Traders on both sides of the deals pocketed enormous fees even if their banks went under when the securities failed. Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica
, This American Life
, and NPR's Planet Money
track down some of the big winners in the housing/financial crisis. No time to read or listen? It seemed so much like a scheme from The Producers
, they even recorded a show tune to explain it all
Last Tuesday, The Augstine Commission
- an independent council created earlier this year to study NASA's human spaceflight objectives - released their findings
. While many are responding to the report's grim findings on NASA's budget woes, former aerospace engineer Rand Simberg
has a criticism of his own: "If our attitude toward the space frontier is that we must strive to never, ever lose anyone, it will remain closed. If our ancestors who opened the west, or who came from Europe, had such an attitude, we would still be over there, and there would have been no California space industry to get us to the moon forty years ago. It has never been 'safe' to open a frontier, and this frontier is the harshest one that we've ever faced.
"Death Risk Rankings
calculates your risk of dying in the next year and allows you to compare that risk to others in the world." Fun with mortality data and statistics from Carnegie Mellon University.
“We’ve spent billions on air bags, antilock brakes, better steering, safer cars and roads, but the number of fatalities has remained constant,”
said David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah and a leading researcher in the field of distracted driving. “Our return on investment for those billions is zero,” he added. “And that’s because we’re using [cellphone and messaging] devices in our cars.” [more inside]
Is Silicon Valley a systemic risk? Treasury decides to treat venture capitalists like hedge funds
The Obama administration wants to regulate venture capital firms to prevent systemic risks. Silicon Valley residents are scratching their heads and asking: What risks? The rest of us should ask why Washington is targeting a jewel of the American economy that had nothing to do with the housing bubble.
? Then you may like Strategy Game Network
[requires registration.] Strategy Game Network has similar gameplay and in addition to the classic map, there are many alternative maps. With 24 hour turn limits it isn't a huge time sink, just play a few minutes a day.
According to the latest biweekly numbers released last Thursday by the Federal Reserve
, for the two weeks that ended January 16th American banks had negative $1.3 billion in non-borrowed reserves
. This is, historically
, extremely unusual; just two months ago they had $30 billion (positive, of course) in non-borrowed reserves. The only reason some banks haven't been shut due to insufficient -- negative! -- reserve requirements
is that the Federal Reserve is currently loaning them enough money through the brand new TAF (Term Auction Facility) program
in Canada and Europe) to make up their shortfalls. Today's TAF press release
says that 52 American banks or institutions are currently receiving loans totaling ~$40 billion -- but the Fed refuses to name who they are. [more inside]
"You're a goddamn cheat Chris!"*
were a string of words shouted at most of my childhood family reunions. For decades the males of my extend family have vented their most masculine, primordial, and often intoxicated angst around this small board
. Today we find ourselves dispersed - DC, Florida, Rwanda, Los Angeles, etc - unable to throw temper tantrums over the loss Irkutsk. That is, until we discovered: THE CONQUER CLUB
* I have no relation to these people
Remember Dice Wars
? Remember how everyone
wanted it to be multiplayer? Well, Ryan Dewsbury
, creator of gpokr
, has loosed kdice
on the world. Your gpokr login works for kdice, too. (via jayisgames)
Your Disease Risk
is an interesting new website that quantifies your risk of contracting various diseases. From a Wall Street Journal story on the site: "The site goes beyond the standard questions about age, cholesterol and family history and explores the variety of lifestyle choices, environmental issues and other factors that can influence health risk. The questions are based on risk factors that have been established through credible scientific studies."
is a flash game, similar to Risk. The goal is to conquer the entire board. Start easy, with just the two player version (play goes up to 7 players max). In order to "win" a square, the randomized total of your die roll must be higher than your opponent's total. Tie/Lose, and all your dice (but one) are removed from your square. After each turn, the number of dice you earned is randomly distributed among your conquered squares. Strategically, it's good to build a solid base of contiguous squares, and staff your front lines with more dice than your edge squares.
Mainstream Media to American Democracy: Drop Dead!
Brad Friedman ask alarming questions about the complete lack of attention which has been paid to the GAO report on electronic voting technology
(PDF link) released more than a month ago, which confirms what security experts have been saying for years: these systems are vulnerable to multiple independent attacks targeting system and network vulnerabilities, access controls, hardware controls, and overall management practices. If you're short of time, at least read Rep. Waxman's fact sheet
Ultimately, there is no real security on these machines; the report shows that overturning election results would not be at all difficult for even a single moderately skilled attacker. And now Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are wondering if American Democracy has died an electronic death
in the wake of massive discrepancies between final pre-election opinion polls and the results of several citizen initiatives designed to reform Ohio's electoral processes.
Play RISK using Google Maps
. From the FAQ: For some reason I decided a bit after the API for Google Maps came out that it would be awesome to be able to play Risk on it... I've always been a gamer and thought this was the perfect step.
Here is an excellent article on Rationality versus Values
. Personally though, I'd rather be free of more mundane risks such as traffic accidents than say, extraordinary risks such as being held hostage in a theatre... but that's just my opinion.
Gambling Online a risky business...
It is also big business. There are thousands of casinos
out there, and the Vegas heavyweights
are now starting to come on-line
(though not for American players). The business has got its fair share of sharks
and evil operators
, but there's an awful lot of internet gamblers
A recent bill got through the House of Representatives outlawing on-line gaming in the US
(though it probably won't get through the Senate to become law).
Are any mefi's out there regular on-line gamblers? What do you think of current developments? The government says nuh-uh, but the players and the casinos say more tables! more slots! more spins!
has spent his life looking for beauty in warzones. This flash site pulls together some of his most vivid images, including the iconic image of a young girl from Afganistan. But his work hasn't been without a few dangers: "I've had a couple of close calls in my career, but part of my brain that's concerned with self-preservation is very large. I was almost drowned in India and I was in an airplane crash in Yugoslavia, where I found myself about 10 feet underwater. Miraculously, I was able to swim out from underneath the seatbelt. But I came within a fraction of an inch of not making it. I'd rather take the risk and have the adventure, than to be timid and not take those risks ... It's the best life."
In praise of bad habits.
Interesting lecture that postulates our bad habits make us human, and help fulfill an evolutionary need for risk. The lecturer also poses some interesting moral questions about the "health police":
"Engaging in risk - smoking, drinking, creating the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases, eating fat, sugar, salt and avoiding too much exercise - is characteristic of a different strata of society - the poor and marginalised, the working classes, ethnic minorities and 'deviant' groups. When the proponents of healthism are urging changes in lifestyle in order to achieve, in their terms, 'well-being', they are advocating changes for others much more often than they are for themselves. In this sense they are essentially moralists seeking to stigmatise specific members of society."
The problem isn't too much greed, but too much cowardly greed.
"Spineless lenders, weak-kneed investors and meddling regulators intent on reducing risk pose a greater threat to the global economy than the volatile financial markets... 'The critic's image of the global financial markets as a giant casino is wrong," [writes British financial writer Daniel Ben-Ami], 'On the contrary, the modern financial markets are more often characterized by a fear of risk-taking than a reckless disregard for danger.'"
Justify your paranoia?
A little dated, but it's the first time I've seen it.