A brief gallivant about the marketplace of ideas.

Month: August, 2018

Read — 2018-08-31

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Here’s the conversation we really need to have about bias at Google“, by Farhad Manjoo (NY Times, 2018-08-30). The author raises two warnings: (1) Algorithms trained on real-world data are liable to incorporate biases in those data, subsequently reflecting and perpetuating these biases. (2) Secrecy makes it hard to monitor abuse.
  2. Feeling suicidal, students turned to their college. They were told to go home.“, by Anemona Hartocollis (NY Times, 2018-08-28).
  3. Asian-American students suing Harvard over affirmative action win Justice Department support“, by Katie Benner (NY Times, 2018-08-30). Instead of fighting to award coveted and limited spots at some university to one group or another — a “special interests” war — would we as a society be better served to fight for a world in which where you go to school matters less than what you know and what you can do?

Read — 2018-08-30

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Leading rights groups call on Google not to censor its search engine in China“, by the Associated Press (Time, 2018-08-29).
  2. With ships and missiles, China is ready to challenge U.S. Navy in Pacific“, by Steven Lee Myers (NY Times, 2018-08-29). Expert analysis of the buildup and tensions is disturbing:

    China does not need a military that can defeat the United States outright but merely one that can make intervention in the region too costly for Washington to contemplate. Many analysts say Beijing has already achieved that goal…China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war…

  3. Is China’s nuclear attack submarine too easy to detect?“, by Liu Zhen (South China Morning Post, 2018-01-29).

    “Once a submarine has been exposed and its unique acoustics have been recorded, it puts them at a great disadvantage.”
    –Li Jie

  4. Waymo’s big ambitions slowed by tech trouble“, by Amir Efrati (The Information, 2018-08-28).
  5. Dozens at Facebook unite to challenge its ‘intolerant’ liberal culture“, by Kate Conger & Sheera Frenkel (NY Times, 2018-08-28).
  6. College vs. paycheck“, by Rainesford Stauffer (NY Times, 2018-08-28).
  7. New rules would boost rights of those accused of campus sexual assaults“, by Michelle Hackman (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-29).
  8. Apple vs. Amazon: the right choice is simple“, by Robert Riesen (Seeking Alpha, 2018-08-29).
  9. Apple buys startup focused on lenses for AR glasses“, by Stephen Nellis (Reuters, 2018-08-29).

Read — 2018-08-28

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. ‘National shame’: 147 indigenous people die in custody in Australia in a decade“, by Lorena Allam (The Guardian, 2018-08-28).
  2. Toyota investing $500 million in Uber in driverless-car pact“, by Greg Bensinger & Chester Dawson (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-27).
  3. 84% of companies are dabbling in blockchain, new survey says“, by Kate Rooney (CNBC, 2018-08-27).
  4. Why are male celebrities dressing like such slobs?“, by Jacob Gallagher (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-27).

Read — 2018-08-27

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. UN report calls for genocide charges against Myanmar officials” (Al Jazeera, 2018-08-27).
  2. Bahrain sees beyond oil and gas, eyes a path to tech greatness“, by Danielle Issa (OZY, 2018-08-27).
  3. Public bravado, private doubts: inside the unraveling of Elon Musk’s Tesla buyout“, by Liz Hoffman & Tim Higgins (Wall Street Journal).
  4. Maybe your sleep problem isn’t a problem“, by Alex Williams (NY Times, 2018-08-25).
  5. Those who can do, can’t teach“, by Adam Grant (NY Times, 2018-08-25).

A few articles on psychology, specifically, on the dark triad of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy:

  1. Shedding light on psychology’s dark triad“, by Susan Krauss Whitbourne (Psychology Today, 2013-01-26).
  2. What are the dark triad traits and how to spot them in someone you know” (Learning Mind, ????).

Read — 2018-08-26

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. One of Google’s newest sister companies is almost ready to go after the $96 billion cybersecurity industry on a ‘planet scale’“, by Kate Fazzini (CNBC, 2018-08-23). The article gives a shout-out to the web-based malware detection and database app VirusTotal, now owned by Alphabet. Chronicle CEO Stephen Gillett suggests that the job market for cybersecurity professionals is pretty good: “I think the unemployment rate is at zero percent right now”.
  2. Apple hired scores of ex-Tesla employees this year, and not just for its car project“, by Lora Kolodny (CNBC, 2018-08-23). I’ve never worked in Silicon Valley, but I understand that worker turnover is relatively high there. I wouldn’t necessarily view this news as incriminating against Tesla. I’d pay more attention to what current and recent Tesla employees have to say.
  3. Recap: Warsaw meetup“, by Maki Mukai (Cardano, 2018-08-20). Notes from the Cardano team’s visit to Warsaw, Poland. (The team subsequently traveled to Krakow.)
  4. What is an API? In English, please.“, by Petr Gazarov (freeCodeCamp, 2016-08-13).

Read — 2018-08-25

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Why you will marry the wrong person“, by Alain de Botton (NY Times, 2016-05-28). Although Romanticism receives an overly harsh chastisement, insightful remarks abound: “We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well.” “One of the privileges of being on our own is…the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.”
  2. Paris bees at work from Notre-Dame to the Luxembourg Gardens“, by Alissa J. Rubin (NY Times, 2018-08-24).
  3. What Houston didn’t learn from Harvey“, by Mimi Swartz (NY Times, 2018-08-24).
  4. Tesla will not go private, Elon Musk says, capping month of turmoil“, by Neal E. Boudette (NY Times, 2018-08-24). The announcement concludes the public-private debate, but the fallout will not be resolved until the legality of Musk’s tweet on 7 August is adjudicated.
  5. Alphabet’s plans for a China comeback go beyond Google search“, by Raymond Zhong (NY Times, 2018-08-24). If this is news to anyone, you haven’t though much about it.
  6. The market cycle wears no clothes“, by Cole Garner (Medium, 2018-08-21). Non-advice advice on how to trade a bubble.

Read — 2018-08-23

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Europe’s new data law upends global online advertising“, by Kate Holton (Reuters, 2018-08-23). The article asserts that, perhaps ironically (and cynically, perhaps not), Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will likely make tech giants like Facebook and Google even more dominant in online advertising. Smaller players have already begun pulling out of Europe. Though, if the defectors are middlemen in the advertising supply chain, perhaps these changes are not all bad.
  2. $300 million for an aging tennis star? Roger Federer is worth it, Uniqlo says“, by Khadeeja Safdar (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-22). Yeah he is. Athletes always retire. Class rarely does.
  3. Bull market hits a milestone: 3,453 days. Most Americans aren’t at the party.“, by Matthew Phillips (NY Times, 2018-08-22). Yet the party is open: While financial barriers to investing exist (e.g., minimal deposit amounts when opening a bank account; however, see also barriers to investing in private companies), many Americans could invest in stocks. If they choose to sit on the sidelines and bemoan the wealth that befalls those who accept the risk, well, their complaints are protected by the First Amendment, and inevitably a market crash will come along to give them an opportunity to deride the heedless investors (who, despite the crash, may very well still have a healthy return on investment — see the S&P graphic in the article). Here’s a grossly oversimplified take on stocks, which you should absolutely NOT take as the foundation of your investment views: The stock market generates wealth, at a better return for the risk than many other investment vehicles. Investing in stocks carries risk, some of which can be diversified away, some of which cannot. Why social justice warriors and well-intentioned retired financial magnates don’t sow the seed of prudent investing practices to all Americans, great and small, baffles me. Perhaps because of oppressive attendant legal responsibility? Perhaps because defining “prudent investing practices” is so hard as to be impossible? In any case…none of the above is intended as financial advice. Please always do your own research and due diligence.
  4. Anthony Várilly-Alvarado interview“, by Alexander Diaz-Lopez (Notices of the AMS, 2018-09).

Read — 2018-08-22

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. The exercise that helps mental health most“, by Sumathi Reddy (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-20). Team sports, perhaps unsurprisingly.
  2. Venezuela devalues currency and raises minimum wage by 3,000%“, by Tom Phillips (The Guardian, 2018-08-20). Yikes. “[N]o experts were involved.” Yikes.
  3. The country where happiness and inequality go hand in hand“, by Jules Franco (OZY, 2018-08-21).
  4. 50 years after Prague Spring, lessons on freedom (and a broken spirit)“, by Marc Santora (NY Times, 2018-08-20). Brutally honest photos and writing. See also the (admittedly biased) CIA’s article “A look back…the Prague Spring and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovokia“.
  5. The untold story of NotPetya, the most devastating cyberattack in history“, by Andy Greenberg (Wired, 2018-08-22).
  6. After the bitcoin boom: hard lessons for cryptocurrency investors“, by Nathaniel Popper & Su-Hyun Lee (NY Times, 2018-08-20). With power comes responsibility. Many of those in power in the crypto spheres seem to have little responsibility. The article also brings to mind a quote from Murakami Haruki’s book “Norwegian wood”:

    Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.

  7. Bill Cunningham, style maven, leaves behind a memoir and it’s ‘a real dilly’“, by Dwight Garner (NY Times, 2018-08-20).
  8. Let’s retire the phrase ‘privacy policy’“, by Joseph Turow (NY Times, 2018-08-20). An eye-opening article on how much — or how little — Americans understand about online privacy, and how little Americans understand about the world in which they now live.

Film : “Crazy rich Asians”

Initial reactions

I screened the film “Crazy rich Asians” this weekend. The film explores some meaningful issues (cultural conflicts, immigrant identity, individual wants versus family loyalty, old money versus new money versus no money,…oh yeah, and how to handle the inevitable vicissitudes of romance) and will justifiably be touted for some powerful performances (see Michelle Yeoh, Constance Wu) and refreshing racial casting (though the scene in which Rachel and Peik Lin confront the armed guards at the gates of the Young mansion made me cringe). Most of the film’s script belies its origins, a genre I sentimentally call “trashy girl novels”. (Not to imply that such books are bad, or that I didn’t use to enjoy them, or that I don’t still enjoy them. I only mean to imply that gems like “Catch this, you gold-digging bitch” gleam with a different lustre than “She a beauty!–I should as soon call her mother a wit.”)

All things considered, on a scale of -1 to 5, I rate the film “Crazy rich Asians” a 2 (i.e. decent). Subject to change without notice.

Mahjong scene

However, I must extol the mahjong scene, and perforce its ancillary scenes and development along the way, as a nearly perfect 5, equally for its scripting (and improvisation — see references below) and staging and execution. There’s a reason this scene moves you to tears in the midst of an otherwise trite storyline: This scene was constructed with dynamic input and surgical precision, and sincerely delivered with raw emotion. In my life ahead, I will not reflect much on the film as a whole, but this scene will haunt me.

It bears noting that the mahjong scene is an original contribution to the story by the film; it does not appear in the book. According to one reviewer [1], the scene materialized in part thanks to the actress Ms Yeoh’s insistence that her character be afforded the complexity she deserved, rather than the stock status the book assigned. (Directors, heed your actresses and actors!)

One reviewer [2] notes that “[t]he scene is written so viewers don’t need to understand the game to understand the story”, a goal the crew and cast achieve brilliantly. Their success at conveying the essential gist using little more than camera focus and length of take is a coup of cinema theory and a credit to Jon M. Chu’s directing. But to understand the game, or at least the silent story that the tiles tell in this scene, enriches the scene and the film with layers of symbolism and depth. After watching the film, I encourage you to peruse the articles below. I have listed the references in order of insight (my opinion), from most to least. My thanks to each of the authors for sharing their insight.


  1. The symbolism of ‘Crazy rich Asians”s pivotal mahjong scene, explained“, by Jeff Yang (Vox, 2018-08-17).
  2. The story behind ‘Crazy rich Asians”s mahjong showdown“, by Emma Dibdin (Vulture, 2018-08-17).
  3. What exactly happens in the ‘Crazy rich Asians’ mahjong scene?“, by Matt Singer (Screen Crush, 2018-08-17).
  4. ‘Crazy rich Asians’ stars dueled over epic mahjong showndown: ‘No one was giving in’“, by Beatrice Verhoeven (2018-08-16).
  5. Crazy rich Asians”s mid-credits scene is brief, but very revealing“, by Aja Romano (Vox, 2018-08-18). This article does not discuss the mahjong scene, but instead speculates on the film’s likely sequel.

Read — 2018-08-17

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Musk tells newspaper he’s cracking under stress of Tesla job“, by Tom Krisher (Associated Press, 2018-08-17).
  2. Elon Musk, amid Tesla furor, tells of ‘most difficult’ year“, by David Gelles, James B. Stewart, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, & Kate Kelly (NY Times, 2018-08-16).
  3. SEC probes Tesla over Model 3 production disclosures“, by Dave Michaels, Emily Glazer, & Tim Higgins (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-16).
  4. Low-carb diets could shorten life, study suggests“, by Alex Therrien (BBC, 2018-08-17).
  5. Laser beam attacks bedevil U.S. military pilots in Middle East“, by Gordon Lubold (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-17).