Pseudo Random News and Comment

Dendritic cells and innate immunity in kidney transplantation. Research is ignoring them no more. Once the latest data is in I’ll have a post on telmisartan, monocytes, and mTOR inhibitors, grounded in the grand tradition of medical self-experimentation.

Engineered Commensal Bacteria Reprogram Intestinal Cells Into Glucose-Responsive Insulin-Secreting Cells for the Treatment of Diabetes. Only partially effective but still an interesting approach.

Two for the young adults in the crowd, plagued by hormone deranged risk assessment circuitry and the illusion of immortality:

Drinking alcohol several times a week increases risk of stroke mortality.

Heavy drinking in middle-age may increase stroke risk more than traditional factors

Two for us old farts:

Older adults: Double your protein to build more muscle. Not sure how this can be balanced with low protein renal diets.

Pacemakers with Internet connection, a not-so-distant goal. Um, they can say they’ve solved the security problems all they want but it’s simply not possible to be totally secure. If you get a connected medical device you better make sure you’re not on any government list because this opens up a whole new enforcement mechanism.



Confabulation and Identity

When I first learned what confabulation meant it commonly referred to memory disturbances in alcoholics. Reading the definition again recently, it struck me how similar it is to the modern understanding of how memory actually works in all of us. Research in the intervening years has shown that, far from being a cinematic record, events are inaccurately perceived and sketchily retained, revised every time they’re recalled, rely on only a basic framework to represent an event then filling in details based on more recent experience, and all colored by the current emotional state. In other words, confabulated.

A number of consciousness researchers have pointed out that what you think of as “you” is almost entirely the result of autobiographical memory. That reliance on memory leads to something interesting: Since those memories are all confabulated to some degree, what does that say about your self conception? Though the way we remember things makes it seem otherwise, your traits and character change over time, with the quirks of memory allowing the illusion of an unchanging self which binds it all together.

The past is said to define you, but the past as you remember it is also largely a bunch of confabulated BS. Don’t let that BS limit you. We are all living lies of our own creation, modified with each recollection, and our autobiographical memory like a film we’ve stitched together from details both real and invented. If you don’t like how things are going, it’s time to change the script.

The Truth About Investing

According to Buffett’s Alpha, one of the main reasons for Buffett’s success is, “he managed to stick to his principles and continue operating at high risk even after experiencing some ups and downs that have caused many other investors to rethink and retreat from their original strategies.”

Investors have an uncanny knack for underperforming whatever strategy they claim to be using. The reason is, regardless what method is used, the most critical variable in its success or failure is you. All investment strategies have discretionary and active elements which depend on the actions of a frail and faulty human being, and that human element contains the potential destruction for every investing strategy.

The truth about investing is this: If I gave 100 people the mythical Holy Grail of trading systems, one which could never have a losing year, very few of them would still be using it 10 years later. You’re far too smart for that to happen to you, but what if:

  • The first 11 months of use resulted in significant losses.
  • A friend of a friend made three times as much last year.
  • Any idiot would have known the last 5 losing trades weren’t going to work.
  • The average annual return for the previous five years was a mere 1.3%.
  • You know the system is wrong about a trade, and the last 3 times you felt that way the system was indeed wrong.

Suddenly it’s not so easy. A nearly infinite number of things can result in the loss of confidence, second-guessing, and eventually abandoning a plan. Perhaps to avoid taking responsibility, investors often spend the bulk of their time on the external: The unending search for some better, smarter strategy, asset allocation, or risk management tool. Beyond pandering to the fruitless desire for certainty amid chaos, that outward focus pushes you to become a kid in the strategy candy store, lured by every new analytical temptation you see. Spend enough time in that situation and even the most resolute will suffer from willpower fatigue.

Instead, the focus should be on the internal: Understanding the feelings and emotions that drive your investment decisions. Remaining consistent over many years despite doubts and conflicting feelings, rather than any particular investing style, is what determine success or failure in the markets. The best returns with any investing style typically occur after prolonged bad patches, decade-long bad patches in some cases, and those higher returns go to those who have stuck it out rather than wandered off trying something new. Good investing should be a pretty boring affair. If that bothers you, find an exciting hobby to stay occupied.

This doesn’t mean you should never change your investing style. You may very well be more successful trying something else. It won’t be because the historical returns are marginally better (and definitely not because the backtested returns are a work of heavenly beauty), but because it’s one you’ll still be using long after it has fallen out of favor.

Finding Value

When you’re trying to find the best values in any market, you’re looking for a diamond hidden in a huge pile of manure. To find those rare diamonds you have to expect to spend virtually 100% of your time looking through shit. That’s what keeps other people from finding it first. If you want to spend all of your time looking at diamonds, go to the jewelry store and pay their 1000% markup.

That was my explanation of the need for patience when three real estate deals in a row fell apart a few years ago. Finding value isn’t for the impatient. Most of your time and research come to nothing and that can become very frustrating. The longer it takes, the easier it is to convince yourself that you have to pay up to get something worth buying. But you don’t. An individual – not handcuffed by a prospectus or investor pressures – can always keep their criteria unchanged and wait for something better. That’s a big advantage.

Regarding Copyright

The reason I started this blog was to propagate ideas, and what better way to do that than by allowing other people to do the work for me. Therefore, I, for myself, my personal representatives, assigns, heirs, and next of kin, claim no copyright on anything I have written for this site. Do with it what you will. I’d like attribution purely for ego reasons, but failure to do so risks nothing more than a small chance of public ridicule if someone other than me were to point it out.

Seems simple enough, but nothing makes much sense in copyright and patent law: Why We Still Can’t Really Put Anything In The Public Domain.




Pseudo Random News and Comment

A big step forward which will eventually change immunomodulation from a shotgun to a laser. The language of T lymphocytes deciphered.

Scientists now know how to make robots less creepy looking. Just tilt their heads. It made Dr. Evil more appealing, so why not?

The Single Greatest Mistake Investors Make. A point I try to make a lot. Also of interest is a chart of Buffett’s favorite valuation metric (it’s not pretty).

Hostile boss? Study finds advantages to giving it right back. So if your employees are “ignoring their boss, acting like they didn’t know what their bosses were talking about, and giving just half-hearted effort” it may say a lot about your management style.

Reducing Myc gene activity extends healthy lifespan in mice. 15% increase in healthy lifespan for the low, low price of a 15% reduction in body size (but probably other effects not yet identified too). Makes me wonder how long the linear relationship holds. This won’t dissuade the Silicon Valley 1%’ers who like to fund longevity research, since they can stand on their wallets and make up the height difference, but for the rest it will negatively impact reproductive success.

It’s Official: If You Question Authority, You Are Mentally Ill. More ridiculous fun from the new DSM, turning normalcy into illness (see my view of the trend here). But, on the other hand, what else would you call confronting authority when you can be indefinitely detained, tortured to death, or killed by a drone without even the benefit of a show trial? It may not be an illness but it’s certainly not acting in your best interest.

Floyd Landis, speaking to Cyclingnews: “In light of all of this, the comments from Greg, Armstrong, Leinders and Zorzoli, it’s not surprising that virtually all legitimate sponsors have fled the sport. It is now financed primarily by bored wealthy men who need a reason to give their wives about why they spend so much time with young leg-shaving men in tight pants.”

Pseudo Random News and Comment

Life Extension May Add Just Bad Time. Another blow to immortality.

But we may get by with a little help from our friends enemies: Ancient Viruses Gain New Functions in the Brain. All viruses are slackers, using the host’s machinery to replicate and assist transmission, but these have succeeded in getting the host to do absolutely everything for them (like some teenagers). But there’s no free lunch in nature, so without providing some benefit to the host, they risk being edited out. That may open the door to virus induced longevity.

Is There a Moral Way to Fix America’s Kidney Shortage? Either your body is your own to do with as you wish, or it isn’t and you’re someone else’s slave. I think the former is more moral than the latter. Any transaction opens the door to exploitation – look at all the poor people with iPhones – so if that justifies overruling individual choices there’s no reason to confine that slave owner paternalism to organ selling. Besides, if people are worried about the pernicious effects of money on decision-making they might want to look at how hospitals getting paid for harvesting organs alters their view of brain death.

Early human ancestors used their hands like modern humans. I was sure this would be about masturbation.