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The 12th SSC Atlanta meetup

Last Week, Oct 12th, we met for the 12th time at Hodge Podge Coffee House in Atlanta.

The meeting was notable by the addition of lots and lots of new people (thank you SSC mention) – and a very long conversation – which ended with us getting kicked out after four hours (there was another event about to happen in our area).

Topics included

  • China – a long discussion of the current state of china and what is likely to happen to minorities and minority opinion (all bad things)
  • Obligations of corporations – where does silence equal consent/sanction, and what not
  • The Universal Basic Income – without Nathan to defend the notion we reached a negative opinion rather quickly
  • Wage subsidies in general (mixed opinions on this)
  • Health care
  • Voting – obligations to, group participation rites, etc. It sparked some interesting thoughts in me after the meeting on what people get out of voting – more or less and affirmation of self – I need to flesh that out more
  • Addition – specifically the Never Enough book by Judith Grisel – I need to reread the chapter on MDMA – there were several questions on how the recent psychiatric treatments work, or don’t work as the case may be

It was quite a good meeting – with lots of new people, including many who were not directly in the software field, which is sort of rare for us.

Well phrased – from the left on Social Media

From this article in a leftist journal against Andrew Yang and the UBI

Online has become an opiate of the lumpen. Similar to weed or alcohol, it is a harmless social pastime for the thriving and robust. For the miserable and economically insecure, however, the internet becomes a pathological social blight, a symptom of initial misery than swells to compound and exacerbate the cycle of antisocial disaffection. (If you don’t believe me, watch them doing literally everything they possibly can to self-sabotage getting laid over Tinder.)

It’s similar to Tyler Cowen’s thoughts on alcohol and guns – i.e. the high functioning can handle them very well – it’s the bottom 2% (probably higher with alcohol) that cause all of the problem.

  It’s worth reading throughout – particularly that the UBI is way the poor being “paid off and discarded”. That has more of an emotional resonance with me than I think is merited by the logic of the plan.

Random thoughts on scientism and economics

I enjoy the Econtalk podcast, and one of the concepts I’ve taken away from it is the notion of scientism – defined as the notion that whatever science is available about a topic explains the topic.

Some things are inherently difficult to study, like economics or medicine (complex systems) compared to traditional scientific topics like chemistry or metallurgy. It is harder to design studies to measure the impact of a minimum wage increase than it is to measure the impact of 55% humidity increase on exposed copper.

Seemingly our understanding increases in it’s certainty with the more complex the system.

At what point are you safer using a priori logic to make decisions than evidence? How many studies do you need to model complex behavior?

Rest in Peace Zadoch

Yesterday about 1:30 PM (on March 31st, 2019) I had Zadoch put to sleep at Briarcliff Animal Hospital. I took the above picture the day before (March 30th, 2019)

His back hips had slowly been deteriorating for about a month. I took him into the vet two weeks ago and discovered that he definitely did have arthritis, which German Shepards are very likely to get, and maybe some other more severe hip problems that are difficult to diagnose and not treatable that German Shepards are likely to get as well. The vet put him on a prescription and dietary supplement and we were going to regroup in a month to see how well it worked.

Fast forward one week. The medicine does seem to be helping with the pain somewhat, but it does not seem to be making his hips any better. In fact, his hips continue to deteriorate. What was before just a problem with one leg now seems to be a problem with two legs and he continued to have greater difficulty standing and sitting. There were a few falls too, which never happened before. Also he would drag his back legs sometimes.

Then last Wednesday we start having the power issues, which necessitates us leaving for an AirBNB and then later the apartment. We left Zadoch at the house with a battery powered light – he seemed happy to not have to move and just slept a lot – we added some painkillers to his medical routine and kept up the other medicine.

He then got progressively worse and could only stand with my assistance, or so it seemed anyway – he could drag himself around on just his front legs, but as for walking with his back legs for very far… that was out of the question. He could not lift his back legs up far enough to propel him forward and the top of his feet was pointed toward the ground for some reason (more on that later).

Then came Saturday night – I went over to get him – and take him back to the apartment and he was suffering terribly. His back legs weren’t working at all, but he dragged himself to get in the car with me. I made a judgement call to take him to the apartment so we could spend one more night together and all say goodbye.

At the apartment he felt even worse (though the pain meds did help a bit) He whimpered in obvious pain but once he settled down and realized we were all together I think that made him feel somewhat better. He had good and bad moments throughout the night (I would wake up during his bad ones) and I made the call to take him in that day (Sunday, his normal vet is only open Monday through Saturday). Then I took him into Briarcliff.

I could not have asked for a better vet at Briarcliff Animal Hospital. The vet techs had to help me get him into the clinic (they “wheelbarrow walked” him to the clinic by putting a towel around his midsection and letting him use his front legs – I thought that sounded weird but it worked very well). And then I met with the doctor who was very kind and reassuring. Basically the situation: If there was a fix for the problem then the medication the first vet gave me would have worked, and the only other possibilities were non-fixable. Also, for big dogs, mobility problems are more or less fatal – there is no way they will stay off their feet and they just make a bad situation worse. I think the phrase she used was death sentence. The tops of his feet pointing towards the ground was also indicative of a blood circulation problem.

The procedure went fast and he went peacefully knowing I was there.

We got him on March 15th, 2010, slightly before Staci and I got married and well before Marleigh was born. His name from the original owner (it was a reseller/rescue operation of some kind) was Bam-Bam, but we renamed him Zadoch after an obscure relative of mine. Everything started off well – he was our third dog at that point (Drex was still living and Dagney was just coming off of puppydom). He happily settled in as the Alpha dog, and since he could jump the fence we went on many, many long walks together (averaging about five miles a day the first spring/summer/fall).

He calmed down a little over time and at some point developed the skin allergies that would bother him off and on for his whole life (though less in his later years). When Marleigh was born they became fast friends at even a very young age – he was always hanging around her crib and bed, and she was always drawn towards him. She renamed him Z-Dog when she was two or three – and the name stuck for the rest of his life.

He had some problems with the neighbors dog, jumping the fence at one point to get into a territorial dispute. He would also jump our fence periodically and for some reason jump into cars and wait to be driven somewhere.

We had many happy years of family and dog life – he and Marleigh grew ever closer and he was a constant 100 pound fixture of the house – always with a great happy personality, always great with children – always ready to protect if need be. Life with him was a happy normal.

Zadoch was a great dog and he will be missed. Marleigh has taken it quite hard, and I guess Staci and I have too. I thought we would have several more years with him, but that was not to be. Rest in peace.


Small groups produce abstract thoughts – the sixth SSC Atlanta meetup notes

It was a small group this time – just three of us, but good conversation. Out main accomplishment was to conclusively determine that the use of the word socialism as too vague – old school socialism of the 1920s Soviet sort will be referred to as “planned economy” or “central planning”, whereas the new “socialism” as espoused by millennial and their dreadful habits of using the same word to mean different but related things will be replaced with “Bismarkian social insurance” or some better term we come up with later.

Notable topics in their absence

  1. Guns
  2. Psychedelic medicines
  3. The Soviet Union
  4. The deeper meaning of infrastructure costs

And here is a better explanation of Tyler Cowen’s thought on infrastrcture costs – from his book “The Great Stagnation

ow let’s think about government in this framework. Let’s say government spends $1 million fixing a road: How much does that contribute to measured GDP? $1 million. No consumer “buys” the road, but the expenditure counts nonetheless toward the output of goods and services. In other words, in measured GDP, we are valuing the expenditure at cost. Sometimes governments sell their outputs in the form of goods and services (think of user fees for national parks, or toll roads), but mostly that’s not the case, and fees account for only a small part of what our government does. We typically resort to valuing government outputs at cost, and indeed it’s not clear how else we could do it.   Sometimes government outputs are worth a lot more than what we spend on them, and sometimes they are worth a lot less. The proper role of government in society is beyond the scope of this discussion. But still it is a general principle that the most fundamental functions of government are worth more than the extra, addon, or optional things that governments do. A dollar spent on very basic police and courts and army protection is worth more than a dollar spent on refurnishing a warehouse in Minneapolis under the guise of urban renewal. A dollar spent on welfare for the poorest is more valuable than a dollar spent extending the program to better-off but still poor cases. And so on. Yet when it comes to national income accounting, and measuring GDP, we are valuing every one of these different expenditures at $1.

and

Have you ever wondered why so many developing economies—the successful ones, I mean—rise to prosperity through exports and tradable goods? There are a few reasons for this, but one is that the external world market provides a real measure of value. If you are exporting successfully, it’s not based on privilege, connections, corruption, or fakery. Someone who has no stake in your country and no concern for your welfare is spending his or her own money to buy your product. Trying to export is putting your economy to the test every day with measurable results. If you can pass this test, it is a sign of better things to come. The successful East Asian economies, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, understand this point well. Again, the market is a pretty clear measure of economic value. The more we move away from market tests, the harder it is to tell how we are doing in productivity.