An Investing Lesson

A fascinating observation from this post about new chess champion Magnus Carlsen:

Instead, it appears the key to his success is taking games that he used to consistently lose — especially games as Black — and instead forcing them into a draw.

There may be an investing lesson in there somewhere. Success is too often seen as the culmination of a series a grand, dramatic moves, when the humdrum routine of avoiding harm is at least as important.

Cloud Offices

I think highfalutin offices are often like a skyscraper indicator for individual companies, almost always coming near the peak of corporate success. So I’m finding the number of tech company offices showing up on architectural sites rather disturbing. As an investor I want any profit or new capital used to generate more profit, or at least revenue. Yet too many startups are ensconced in costly digs without having an actual product, let alone profits, and offices produce neither one. When did using investor money to fluff your ego start counting as changing the world?

More disturbing, many of these companies are in cloud computing – in some way selling the ability to do what you need to do, and know what you need to know, wherever you are, whenever you want. A true game changer. But if these services allow you to do anything anywhere, why do they need any office? Why has the game not changed when the industry itself is the greatest argument against the need for a physical office – even a cheap one?

Managerial insecurity or incompetence is an obvious reason 30 years of lip flapping about the virtual office has led to almost nothing. Managers fear that without having employees directly under their thumb productivity will fall. But that attitude really only applies to physical labor, if at all. The process of knowledge work is largely invisible. No matter how much a supervisor breathes down necks there’s really no way to tell if anything productive is being done until something useful is delivered.

Expensive offices are also a status symbol. Power and status are diminished if they aren’t obviously displayed, so a corner office in a massive complex is always preferred to a corner office in a strip mall, regardless of the economic merits. When success is being judged by how many of your neighbors’ houses you can overpay to acquire, a de minimis brick and mortar (or steel, concrete, and glass) presence is just not done.

A more worrying possibility for users is that these companies don’t leave the building and embrace the technology they sell because they don’t trust it. They know their security practices, and what they do with data stored on their systems, and conclude their shit is too hot to risk to the cloud and virtual offices. Though they’re all hoping you will.

Whatever the cause, it’s a blatant disregard of fiduciary duty and a hypocritical refusal to eat their own cooking. It should be embarrassing but it rarely is, and discipline is often slow to come, so the mercenaries quickly overwhelm the missionaries. But in every generation of computer mania – whether it’s mainframes, PCs, internet, or cloud – people eventually wise up. Unlike mom, the markets won’t always love you.

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There’s also no reason for Congress to be in Washington D.C in the 21st Century, so send them home too.

Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review **New Version

Bare Grip 200 v2.0

Latest, but not greatest

Inov-8 made a number of changes to the Bare-Grip 200 shoes I reviewed before, including the laces, upper material, lining, and side reinforcement. Now that I’ve had 6 hours in the new version here’s the verdict.

Nice try

There are some positive changes. The side reinforcements should improve durability right at the point that my other shoes wore through, and the denser mesh of the upper (more like Cordura) should take more abuse than the prior version too. The new upper doesn’t conform as easily to your foot, but the smooth laces self adjust a bit to make up for it, so after half an hour I really didn’t notice the difference. They also feel and fit just like the previous version so if the originals fit well these should too. On the surface, a few improvements to the same basic shoe.

But…

One of my favorite things about the green version was how quickly they dried on the trail. Water got in very easily but exited just as easily, so the shoe didn’t hold water and dried rapidly. But the new version has a full lining – presumably for the sockless crowd – and combined with the denser mesh upper it lets water in about 1 second slower, but lets it out far more slowly, so they literally take hours to dry. I’m not a fan of trench foot, and never go sockless on trails, so this is a big negative for me.

Another negative is the new yellow sole. I guess the marketing/design department won this argument because colored rubber simply doesn’t grip as well as carbon black, which makes it a poor choice for a high performance shoe. It makes no difference at all in mud or in many other trail conditions, but on smooth, slick rocks it’s a noticeable decrease which caught me by surprise a number of times in stream beds since I’m so used to the black version. It’s not a dramatic change, and they still grip better than most shoes, but they definitely don’t hold as well as the original version. I suppose the upside to the yellow soles is if you slip and crack your head open the brighter soles will make it marginally easier to find your lifeless body in a gully.

Something that didn’t change is the shape of the shoe, which remains very pointy toed. I’ve tolerated it since they performed so well in other areas but the longer I use minimalist shoes the more I’d prefer a natural/anatomic last.

Overall, it’s still a good shoe – neither negative is a deal killer in itself, and may not matter to many users – but taking one step forward and two steps back doesn’t equal progress to me, so I’m hoping Inov8 will make some course corrections in the next update.

Rapamycin-related Side Effects in Kidney Transplant

Here’s yet another study of the side effects of Rapamycin (Sirolimus) in kidney transplant patients. 46% of the patients discontinued Rapamycin, with proteinuria, edema, and oral ulcers listed as the most difficult to manage, and more likely to cause discontinuation.

For more than a decade I’ve been reading similar studies with similar conclusions and it’s getting old, so here’s my suggestion for oral ulcers caused by Rapamycin: 30-60 seconds of antiseptic mouthwash twice a day. When I started taking Rapa I had ulcers by the dozens – ulcers on top of ulcers – but within three weeks of starting the mouthwash the ulcers disappeared, and haven’t returned in 13 years.

Scientifically anecdotal evidence isn’t worth a hill of beans but in this case it could be a dirt cheap solution for a painful and potentially costly problem. Immunosuppressive options are extremely limited so give mouthwash a try before you scratch Rapa off the list.

 

Pauoa Woods Loop Trail

The quest to clean out my draft folder continues…

I’ve only done this trail once in its entirety so you can guess it’s not my favorite by any means. Yet there are some things of note that make it worth doing – at least once.

The good points:

  1. When you go after some hard rains there is a decent size waterfall, which my picture taken from the top completely fails to convey.
  2. Lots of old Board of Water Supply pipes and structures for the engineering fans. I try to avoid stepping on the oldest pipes since I know at least one person broke through a pipe and got a nasty gash in his leg.
  3. Judging by the tracks and other signs there are more pigs in the back of Pauoa Valley than any other area near Honolulu. If you are quiet and go in cloudier, rainy weather there’s a good chance you’ll see one.
  4. Some nice views of Nuuanu Valley as you go down the ridge toward Pacific Heights.
  5. A number of changes in vegetation and terrain.
  6. Once you get on the loop trail itself you are very unlikely to see anyone else on the trail. Depending on your view of fellow travelers, this may be a plus or a minus.

The bad points:

  1. Burrs, burrs, and more burrs. The Woman’s entire lower body was covered with them at one point on the trail. I didn’t have as much trouble due to a lucky clothing choice but it was still a nuisance, especially since they are generally nonexistent in the Koolaus.
  2. The trail comes and goes at a number of points in Pauoa Valley, often indistinguishable from a pig trail, so it’s a bit of a guessing game to find the right one. If you have no sense of direction or little hiking experience on unimproved trails this is not the one for you.
  3. Unlike many hikes in Hawaii where there are great views every 10 feet, once you leave the ridge above Pacific Heights the drama is limited to the waterfall and wondering if you took a wrong turn.

The counter-clockwise route – which I would recommend – goes from the Kalawahine Trail at the top of Tantalus Drive after crossing the bridge (next to the little telephone road), then to Pauoa Flats Trail, before handing a left on Nuuanu Trail. Rather than taking the popular route from the top of the ridge down to Nuuanu Valley, continue along the ridge toward Pacific Heights. The trail down into Pauoa Valley is pretty obvious, and the waterfall isn’t too far after the trail turns back into the valley. Not long after the waterfall the guessing games begin, before eventually climbing back out of the valley to Kalawahine trail, not far from the Tantalus Drive trailhead.

Here’s a tip for poorly marked trails: Pig trails can be so heavily used they look like the trail you should be on, but pigs are short. If you find a lot of branches hitting you in the face and torso it’s generally a good bet you are on a pig trail and it’s time to turn around and try again. Humans won’t put up with that for long.

Lastly, a note about ribbons: Ribbons in the woods near Honolulu are most often left by evil ribbon fairies, and are therefore as likely to mislead you as help you.  Humans no longer have to worry much about being tracked by predators and it shows in the trails they leave. Keep your eyes open and try not to rely on ribbons to tell you where to go.

Kalawahine intersection

Fungi

Overly attractive

Not a fish eye lens

Follow the pipe

A waterfall with no frame of reference isn’t much of a waterfall

Town view – Kona weather version

 

 

Swissstop BXP Brake Pad Review

BXP pads are the latest from Swisstop designed for aluminum rims. It’s surprising there’s any room left for improvement in something as simple as brake pads, but these pads achieve another small step up from the already excellent GHP II pads. They’ve been out for over a year now so I’ve had time to put a few thousand miles on them in a variety of conditions.

Pros:

  • Less grabby in wet conditions
  • More linear feel in hard braking
  • Slightly shorter stopping distance.

Cons:

  • Cost (as always)
  • Squeal a little louder than GHP when hot, though generally less

I’ve gone through pads at a similar rate to the GHP II, so that worry didn’t materialize, and BXP pads do seem gentler on softer aluminum rims (like the Stan’s Alpha 340 rims I’ve been using).

After I wore out the first set I started using the BXP pads only on the front brake, with cheaper black Swissstop or Koolstop pads on the rear. The combination works quite well, maybe even preferable if you’re a little ham-fisted on the rear brake, so it’s a good way to decrease the cost of your addiction.

Koolstop dual compound are still a great choice for the budget conscious, but if you’re willing to fork over the cash the BXP pads are the best I’ve found for aluminum rims. Of course there’s always next year…

Rethinking Immortality

I’m not rethinking the desirability of immortality. That’s best left to those far from death and lacking perspective. I still think the pursuit of human immortality is a worthy cause (see here). But the more I think about it, the more I think it simply isn’t possible to radically extend lifespans for humans as we know them.

The insurmountable hurdle in the quest for immortality is going to boil down to an evolutionary box canyon where, because of all the good-enough-for-reproductive-work “choices” made before, you just can’t get there from here. Evolution rewards expediency and economy, making do with what’s at hand and finding multiple, often opposing, uses for everything biological. Because of this, attempted improvements in the workings of the body at some point lead to a problem elsewhere. Pharmaceutical development is always an attempt to improve the benefits and reduce the costs, but the tradeoffs can never completely be eliminated. When man finds a new use for a wheel it could be a table top. When evolution finds a new use for a wheel it’s likely to be the table legs, chairs, half the fireplace, the front door, and part of the driveway too.

A counter argument can be made that there are some creatures on earth that live extraordinarily long lives, and by discovering their secrets we’ll be able to emulate them. While that research no doubt will lead to some improvements in longevity, those other species aren’t us. Different evolutionary histories lead to different box canyons (e.g. trees aren’t that smart and tortoises have to bear the indignity of petting zoos). We’ve been social animals for far longer than the last decade, and as a result our immune systems may be the most complex in the world. This has allowed us to survive domesticating animals and sending kids to daycare to trade secretions, but targeting all manner of pathogens over a lifetime inevitably results in false positives. Systemic inflammation and an early demise is one of the likely results. Being warm-blooded, with a far higher metabolic rate than a bristlecone pine or tortoise, is another example of a beneficial trait that imposes a significant set of hurdles to immortality. Biology is a package deal composed of millions of interrelated pieces. Because of this evolutionary baggage, picking and choosing the traits we’d like and putting them together doesn’t mean they will work the way we intend.

Reduce/reuse/recycle engineering isn’t the only issue. Once reproduction stops, anything that sends you to an early grave after that can accumulate in the genes virtually unmolested. To a large extent, aging is the result of that genetic neglect. In theory, that category of defect should be fixable with little downside. The bad news is that there are likely millions of such defects that would need to be identified and changed. The even worse news is, once altered, many of them will turn out not to have been deleterious junk after all – which leads back to the Rube Goldberg engineering problem.

This doesn’t mean that immortal biological beings couldn’t be created someday. Unfortunately it would require a complete re-engineering from the ground up, and the final result would be something quite different from the original. It’s the same problem as with the Transhumanists’ idea of uploading our minds: Human mind and body are an inseparable, integrated whole. In fact, if you look at human behavior objectively, the body is clearly in charge of the mind. Much of what we do revolves around simply maintaining homeostasis, with emotions created to motivate us to action, and most of the rest is a direct or indirect attempt to enhance reproductive success (e.g. buying a Ferrari). What would be left if that were removed or radically altered? I’m not sure, but it definitely wouldn’t be recognizably human. Even if the technical problems of uploading a brain could be solved, once separated from the bodily milieu it would cease to be you, and that’s hardly immortality.

Though immortality may be beyond our reach, it doesn’t mean increased longevity is a lost cause. While our evolutionary heritage may have screwed us on a grand scale, increasing healthy lifespans by a significant percentage is a near certainty. If markets are allowed to operate, it could happen well within those filthy daycare tots’ lifetimes. But I’m afraid that will have to do, you lucky little bastards. Wetware life will always be too short.