Pseudo Random News and Comment

Amazon’s knock-off book “problem”. Thanks for the publishing strategy! Much easier to write one of those books than a unique one.

China’s Bo backed, then blocked murder probe against his wife: sources Given what happened to Bo I have serious doubts these sources are anything but the official party line, leaked out to make it seem legitimate.

Rotting from within. Investigating the massive corruption in the Chinese military. Unfortunately for the Chinese people this is a systemic problem, not just military. Too bad US journalists don’t focus on the bigger stories like this in the US, rather than focusing on small time prostitution scandals.

Rise of the killer drones. I just got done watching Terminator 1-3 again and it was far more disturbing this time around.

Buffett has prostate cancer. He must have discovered it when he had his head up his ass talking about how he should pay more taxes but found his checkbook somehow absent.

BitTorrent Troll describes his business model. Political competition at its finest. Not too many Louis CKs in the world.

Long-term exposure to air pollution increases risk of hospitalization for lung, heart disease

Brain scans can predict weight gain and sexual activity: study

Brain cancer vaccine proves effective This has been a long time coming.

Parkinson’s protein causes disease spread in animal model Misfolded proteins are getting the finger pointed at them in more and more disease processes. I doubt doing origami helps prevent it.

Knee injuries in women linked to motion, nervous system differences

Babies flick ‘anti-risk switch’ in women but not men There goes my Take Baby to Work plan to prevent the next financial crisis.

Group finds facial expressions not as universal as thought Not as dramatic as the headline implies, merely cultural influence on expression.

Identifying the bad guy Eyewitness testimony is given a lot of weight but has never held up to scientific scrutiny. Memory is a useful but very flawed tool.

Researchers find further evidence of disturbed immune system in autism

Hong Kong’s next leader to ban mainland babies I guess the well-off will have to go elsewhere to have more kids now.

High SPF sunscreens assure protection from solar rays

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Several on the political turmoil in China:

Chinese media fight scandal fallout The official statements about defending the rule of law are pretty ridiculous since Bo’s ouster was all backroom deals, facilitated by the unfavorable publicity generated by Heywood’s demise.

Surname of Bo Xilai’s wife adds to Chinese mystery The Mrs may have had an escape route. Rumor has it many of the elite have dual papers.

Briton’s Wanderings Led Him to Heart of a Chinese Scandal. “Wanderings” makes it sound random. He obviously tried to gain favor and use it for personal gain, fairly successfully judging by where he lived.

Did China use the internet kill switch? If so there will be some more serious kill switch envy in the US, all in the name of our security of course.

The constant reinvention of memories put to use to cure drug cravings.

Is Facebook making us lonely? No strings attached friendship without the obligation or intimacy it traditionally entailed isn’t worth much.

It apparently takes only 4 minutes to achieve your 15 minutes of fame. A lot of sheep and lemmings are laughing their asses off watching this.

Anxiety boosts odor perception. Maybe that’s why people eat junk funk when stressed – It smells better.

Thieves replacing money mules with prepaid cards. One less risk to be taken cleaning out your bank account.

Does Obama pay less taxes than his secretary? I think the tougher hurdle is whether he pays less taxes than Geithner (Wikipedia lists him as a civil servant. Painfully funny)

Charting the housing market. Zero Hedge so you know it’s not positive.

The thrill of the new in regulations

The evolution of Chinese surnames

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Bo Xilai officially booted from top party posts and wife arrested on suspicion of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. As the US continues trampling the rule of law one can only hope an expedited political process like this will be implemented so that we can at least be spared the interminable yet meaningless election campaigns.

More research linking homophobia and unwanted feelings. I still like the penile blood flow studies on this topic the best. This methodology is just too dry and impersonal.

How to do your architecture to get bought for a billion. It’s either amazing or nothing at all, depending on how I read it. This piece claims Facebook was in a panic to buy out a future competitor.

Is it possible to have an asocial network? That is something I might join.

Revisiting whether men and women can be “just friends.” It’s certainly possible, but for many men, whether intentionally or not, female friends are inventory on hand in case they get back-ordered.

Fascinating article: What haven’t we cured cancer yet? (Revisited): Personalized medicine vs evolution. The aging process is probably more homogenous so it may be easier to create a virus that causes immortality than cure “cancer” as a monolithic entity.

Howard Lindzon on what a market top looks like …part 2  I especially like “Tops are generally processes as the paper transfers from the few to the many.”

Best Buy CEO resigns. As much as CEO’s love the demise and troubles of competitors, in reality it’s never a good sign for the future.

FBI: Smart meter hacks likely to spread. It’s been happening for as long as they’ve been around. Since many are for things far more necessary than cable they’re a very tempting target.

The mystery of the flying laptop. NYT tries to make sense of TSA regulations. Good luck with that. Too bad it’s not like real theater where the play will soon be over.

Finding where the smarts is. I think this is overly simplified. Even simple tasks cause large areas of the brain to become active. While brain damage can easily reveal the large-scale features, the subtler details are more difficult to untangle. There is also the issue of how valid tests of general intelligence really are. These results may indicate more about test taking skills than general intelligence – in which case the claims are more believable.

Finding where the smarts isn’t. Don’t forget it could be you.

Oops. Frequent dental X-rays linked to most common brain tumor But damn, you have nice teeth. The TSA scanners are potentially even more dangerous since they aren’t tested and regulated the way medical devices are, so the dose you receive could be quite high.

Pseudo Random News and Comment

The revenge of Wen Jiabao. Interesting background on the battle between Wen and Bo. It’s hard to believe significant reform can come from within the aristocracy of the leadership, princelings, state-run enterprises and connected dealings, but that anyone is even talking about saving the people rather than the party is a big step. Hard to get too optimistic though since at best it sounds a lot like “change you can believe in.”

The latest P/E report from Ed Easterling at Crestmont Research. No matter how you slice it, valuations have a lot lower to go before the end of the secular bear market. It may sound mean but mean reversion doesn’t mean it stops at the mean.

Anonymous hacks UK government sites over surveillance. They were a little slow to get to that one. Tactics are somewhat puzzling too. DDoS are quick and easy to do but unless part of a multi-layered approach they’re just a temporary nuisance. Turning the tables and publishing personal information on the proponents would have more impact. Maybe that’s in the works and DDoS was a diversion. Time will tell.

In related news, hactivists have the best records/hack conversion rate. Saw the story a couple of weeks ago and forgot to post it. Interesting how rapidly the hactivist movement is growing. The whole Lulzsec episode got me thinking about potential cooperation between hactivists and governments, with law enforcement entirely off the agenda. There are very likely government operatives in every hacking group, allowing assistance and direction to be given while maintaining official deniability. When the Cablegate story broke the US was the only government complaining because he rest were too busy reading, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if there were ongoing attempts to redirect priorities to areas of most interest to various governments.

Josh Brown really nails the real meaning of “Committed to protecting your privacy.” I’m proud to say I have no such commitment.

Pseudo Random News and Comment

62% of men and 37% of women over the age of 65 are sexually active. Wait a second. Are there differences in definition or honesty? Are younger women taking up the slack? Or are some older women just able to keep a lot of balls in the air?

Problems with clearing houses. Any insurer or guarantor is only as good as its customers. When they are most needed they will be broke. A lone moron or two is survivable; a stampede is not and modern monetary policy produces a lot of stampedes.

A good glimpse inside the dirty undies of the shadow banking system. For the Full Monty on the house of cards see here.

Via Naked Capitalism a good piece on the Keystone Cop qualities of CEOs, CEOs and the candle problem. It’s not too surprising they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed as a group. Off the top of my head, studies have shown the following are correlated with being a CEO: Male, tall, more attractive than average, projects confidence (regardless of results), narcissism, being an asshole. Does that sound like Richard Feynman to you? Add in the compensation structures and all the problems of corporate governance -  inbred board rooms, agency issues, etc. and it’s an award-winning recipe for disaster.

Any piece on the business of porn is interesting. This is truly amazing. “in other words, a single porn site accounts for almost 2% of the internet’s total traffic.” Read the rest here  And you make fun of that dog humping your leg.

Great. I get corralled into helping a friend with a book and now prices will soon go from 0.99 to zero. Ebook price-fixing settlement in the works.

Mathbabe on why It sucks to be rich. Hedonic adaptation is always a bitch.

I knew this would happen. New SOPA being cooked up behind the scenes. I’d put it inside a military appropriations bill titled “Bill to assist disabled children living in foreclosed homes with no health insurance” if I were them.

Microsoft subsidizing app development for Windows phone. Maybe I should write something other than a blog.

The more species of hominids are discovered to have existed at the same time the more the uncanny valley makes sense. But genetic studies on Neanderthals and Denisovans that have been possible seem to indicate we’d have sex with them anyway.

I don’t consider this cause for celebration. Global manhunt contest pushes limits of social mobilization.

Apologies don’t prevent anger but may keep you from being attacked.

The Bo Xilai purge continues in China, now on the internet. I guess this means those in charge favor the western corporatist/fascist model. Very curious if there was any overlap with the 16 sites here and those targeted by Anonymous.

 

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Pinterest is changing their terms of service after getting caught by blogger. Of course they can slip it back in on some other TOS update too.

Tighter security on SAT, ACT after cheating arrests. As much as $3500? These enterprising kids need to work on their marketing if that’s all they could get in NYC.

Never check luggage. If you need more reason read this story. Even for a cynic like me it’s appalling, and that’s after reading a number of organized airport theft ring stories.

More on the Bo Xilai saga, this time focusing on the death of Neil Heywood. The connection would make more sense of Wang’s temporary refuge in the US embassy.

US home prices fell at a slower rate in January. The bottom is in! The bottom is in!

Mish on Obamacare oral arguments yesterday. I don’t think there is any doubt the government can make you buy absolutely anything – from the government. That battle was lost long ago. The issue I think has never been adequately addressed is whether they can make you buy drugs, cars, cell phones, or wars from a private party.

The business is death, and business is booming. Drone Studies students are killing it. God help us all.

The notoriously difficult straddle play. Great piece featuring this gem: “Rather, it wins if the stock moves up or down more than is expected.  Sadly, the options market isn’t run by dimwitted ignoramuses.”

If ad copy were honest, this is what it would say

RIP, using your house as an ATM. I think that ATM has been seriously ill for some time even without rising rates.

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Supporting redistributionist policies, including corporate welfare, is the same as a pickpocket going to a pickpocket convention and expecting to come out ahead.

But if you’re part of the can’t beat em join em camp, step up to the trough with 7 little-known health care reform gems.

Excellent post on justifying science. It works.

A ridiculous tale of bad people using bad science.

A new data analysis tool for finding relationships in large, complex data sets. While it could certainly be a useful tool for directing research, no doubt it will also be killing a hedge fund near you in the near future.

Young infants’ imitation not guided by rational thought after all. Judging by herding behavior in the stock market adults aren’t either.

Bo Xilai scandal in China. There is no way to know what the real story is in Chinese politics. They’re all crooked and they all do similar things. His main offense seems to be getting political power through public appeals rather than back room deals. The trouble is when there is no rule of law all prosecutions become political [persecutions]. Something the US should be giving more heed since it’s getting a little difficult to tell the difference between the two countries in enforcing the law.

Very interesting analysis of Chinese internet censorship practices in social media. The geographic distribution is quite interesting. The lower rate of deletions in Beijing and Shanghai may also be a case of putting on a better public face for the foreigners in those areas. I had some interesting VPN connection issues in Beijing which made me wonder if that was a concern.

I think indicators should always be adjusted by issues, market cap, volume, etc to make them comparable over time but this chart of margin debt at TBP is still interesting.

Bipartisan support for 401k skimming. Spot on about fiduciary duty and the unsurprising bipartisan support, but deciding policy based on surveys of consumers will always lend support to “free money for everyone.” Returns lag not just because of hidden expenses, but also poor investor decision-making and bad advise – especially inflated return expectations causing people to save far less than they should to have any margin of safety. One of the largest secular bull markets in human history is hardly a valid sample from which to draw conclusions, yet the 8% annual return number so commonly used is based on exactly that. If you’re born at the wrong time it’s going to be rough sledding. (see Improving the Horny Parents Market Timing Model).

I have made it a point not to post about global warming but this really stuck in my throat: Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible. Though there are measurement issues with temperature numbers I don’t dispute humans have caused warming. However, on a geologic time scale the only thing notable about it is the rapidity. The magnitude and duration are in no way special and all those previous increases and decreases reversed. This kind of scare tactic isn’t science, and reflects the quasi-religious anthropocentric assumption that the current climate and species are somehow the “right” ones simply because they existed when we became aware of the issue. The universe doesn’t give a rat’s ass about humanity or our preferences. It’s going to do what it does and until we know where we are on the long cycle of warming and cooling due to orbital and solar variations there is no way to know whether we should be fighting or promoting warming, and risk doing exactly the wrong thing. As Long Term Capital Management and others found out, modeling short-term noise eventually leads to trouble no matter how accurate the model.

Great advice on how to present money choices to yourself. If an alternative has no emotional impact it’s going to lose out. Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio has some fascinating stuff on the unavoidable interconnections between reason and emotion. Well worth reading.

Interesting reinterpretation of the California bungalow, but Japan continues to be where it’s at in modern architecture. It really seems to be a case of constraints forcing creativity, and the small, oddly shaped lots in Japan seem more inspirational than most. The latest example from Apollo Architects is actually rather conservative.

3D solar towers improve efficiency 2-20x vs flat panels.

The perils of Java. It’s a never-ending battle. Using 2 browsers and 2 user accounts is a pain. NoScript is another option.

Has modern science become dysfunctional? It seems like it in many cases. Humans respond very well to incentives, but rarely to the ones you want.