A brief gallivant about the marketplace of ideas.

Month: January, 2019

Read : 2019-01-31

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Want to be happy? Make the people around you happy.“, by Nils Salzgeber (Noteworthy, 2019-01-18). What goes around, comes around. The author points out there are two ways to make those around you happy: Spread happiness, and be intentional about whom you’re around.
  2. U.S. changes visa process for high-skilled workers“, by Louise Radnofsky (Wall Street Journal, 2019-01-30). Or, the order of two lotteries.
  3. Blame a sudden heat spike for the Arctic temperatures in the Midwest“, by Brianna Abbott (Wall Street Journal, 2019-01-30). Sudden stratospheric warming sends temperatures plummeting.
  4. Tesla looks to keep profits rolling“, by Tim Higgins (Wall Street Journal, 2019-01-30). Tesla records its first-ever consecutive quarterly profits, but loses its CFO (again).
  5. PayPal revenues miss but growth is strong from new acquisitions“, by Jonathan Shieber (Techcrunch, 2019-01-30).
  6. How Tom Brady conquered his greatest opponent: age“, by Andrew Beaton (Wall Street Journal, 2019-01-29). An oft-told tale, when well told: As you age, adjust your game to play to your changing strengths.
  7. Tony Romo calls plays before they happen. How often is he actually right?“, by Ben Cohen & Andrew Beaton (Wall Street Journal, 2019-01-30).

Investing : 2019-01-28

A few articles on investing:

  1. Facebook: Year of the comeback“, by Gary Alexander (Seeking Alpha, 2019-01-28). Note that the author is long FB.
  2. 3 myths about Tesla that need to be squashed“, by Michael Henage (Seeking Alpha, 2019-01-28).
  3. Investors in Disney are being given a second chance“, by Michael Henage (Seeking Alpha, 2019-01-28).

Read : 2019-01-28

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. The hidden automation agenda of the Davos elite“, by Kevin Roose (NY Times, 2019-01-25). See also “The rise of the meritocracy” and “Player piano“. Speaking of hidden agendas, does Mr. Roose have one, with the way he frames this transformation?
  2. Why you and I need to fail“, by Jack Heimbigner (Medium, 2018-07-28).
  3. Here’s what happens when the coach of the marathon record holders does his first 26.2“, by Amby Burfoot (Runner’s World, 2019-01-24). Props to Andrew Jones for putting his feet where his brain is. Many may focus on the result, but perhaps we should think: This first-rate trainer now has first-hand experience to draw on. How will this affect his coaching?
    When asked what sets elite athletes apart, after citing the obligatory genetic factors, Dr. Jones highlights the knowledge of when to train and when to recover, “unshakeable” self-assurance, and patience. Food for thought.

And then there’s Nathan Chen and the 2019 US Figure Skating Championship: short program (YouTube, 2019-01-26) and free skate (YouTube, 2019-01-27).

Peak Performance : Blog Highlights

Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness wrote a book titled “Peak performance“, published in 2017. The authors regularly write short articles, which are e-mailed as a newsletter and archived here.

The articles are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Following are some of my favourite articles I’ve read so far. (There are also a few articles related to “Science of running”, by Steve Magness.)

  1. Tony Romo and deep vs. superficial understanding; and, Three kinds of friendship” (Peak Performance, 2019-01-23). First article: Approach our core activities deliberately. Second article: Expected and perceived level of difficulty. Be realistic, not idealistic, with our expectations. Don’t expect anything to be “easy”, regardless of how good our training has been.
  2. Practice as a way of living; and, Expecting easy makes things hard” (Peak Performance, 2018-05-30).
  3. The power of the people around you” (Peak Performance, 2017-05-24). Motivation — good and bad — is contagious. Build and nurture community.

    What sets the best apart from the rest isn’t cutting-edge technology, or ritzy facilities, or even great individual athletes or coaches. It’s the supportive community and culture; when the athletes and coaches are all dedicated to getting better and supporting each other in doing so.

  4. The truth about burnout: It’s not just about how we work, but also why we work” (Peak Performance, 2017-02-16). At any given moment, 40 – 50% of people are experiencing burnout. The link between burnout and passion. Harmonious versus obsessive passion.
  5. The insecurity of hard work” (Science of Running, 2017-10-11). Focus on the overcoming, not the success. Don’t lose sight of the big picture amidst arbitrary details. Have confidence in this big picture, and in yourself.

Read : 2019-01-25

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Maybe better if you don’t read this story on public WiFi“, by Maurits Martijn (Matter, 2014-10-14). Scary. As noted in the article, many of our devices automatically connect to “known” networks. Note the article’s publication date. And the current state of public WiFi security?
  2. Where you live in the US can tell you how likely your job is to be automated“, by Erin Winick (MIT Technology Review, 2019-01-23). A recent study from the Brookings Institution suggests that the impact of automation varies widely by city and will disproportionately affect younger workers and underrepresented groups (because they are more likely to be working jobs with a larger automatable component).
  3. Can MOOCs predict the future of online education?“, by Jonathan Shaw (Harvard Magazine, 2019-01-10). EdX collaborators debate the recent claim in Science that online education will be restricted primarily to professional degrees, not extending learning opportunities to all.
  4. Science at the speed of ‘light-sheet’“, by Kevin Jiang (Harvard Gazette, 2019-01-22).
  5. In Poland, the limits of solidarity“, by The Editorial Board (NY Times, 2019-01-22). The NY Times Editorial Board writes an op-ed in a self-sanctimonious bubble. Can they not see that demonizing the “other” party or “rival” politician has become a mainstay of U.S. politics, across the political spectrum? That eliminating the demon is a natural reaction? That these causes and responses the modern media stoke and spread, exciting the public to such a frenzy that such events can happen, then condemning them when the do? This article reads like the hijacking of a death — the extinguishing of a living, breathing individual — to pass self-righteous judgment. It is one thing to rail against “hatred and malice”. It is another to rail against opposing viewpoints. The authors lament that the Polish far right portrayed Pawel Adamowicz as “immoral and a threat to the nation”. The authors conveniently remain silent that such portrayals are ubiquitous among politicians in their home country.
  6. I stopped using a computer mouse for a week and it was amazing“, by Daniel Oberhaus (Motherboard, 2019-01-24). Promoting the mouse/trackpad-free lifestyle. To help the conversion of the heathen, the author might have reproduced his full list of useful keyboard shortcuts.

Bonus! Photos of illuminated manuscripts, from the Boston Public Library.

  1. Recent digitization highlights: the San Sisto choirbooks, 1475-1495“, by Jay Moschella (Boston Public Library, 2019-01-15).

Read : 2019-01-24

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Why kids are the masters of existence“, by Rob Marchant (Antidotes for chimps, 2019-01-12). At once obvious and thought-provoking. Read it.
  2. The uncertain future of particle physics“, by Sabine Hossenfelder (NY Times, 2019-01-23). The author argues portrays the LHC as a Let-down of High Cost, particle physics as a smorgasbord of mathematically sophisticated cooked books, and a promotional video for the Future Circular Collider as misleading to manufacture demand among less-informed. The author concludes by offering concrete alternative projects.
  3. Square: Avoid this red-hot stock“, by Michael Wiggins De Oliveira (The Street, 2019-01-24). The author cites negative revised earnings, very high price-to-cash flow from operations, and competition as reasons to avoid investing in Square at present.

Locally recoverable codes

References on locally recoverable codes:

  1. Locally recoverable code constructions and some extensions“, by Itzhak Tamo (Simons Institute, 2015-02-12).
  2. Locally recoverable codes from algebraic curves and surfaces“, by Alexander Barg et al. (arXiv, 2017-01-18).
  3. Reed–Solomon codes” (Stanford University).
  4. Reed–Solomon codes“, by Martyn Riley & Iain Richardson (Carnegie Mellon University, 1998?). More focus on hardware.

Read : 2019-01-23

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Covington and the pundit apocalypse“, by Frank Bruni (NY Times, 2019-01-22). A frank introspection and scrutiny of the reactions and motives of the media.

    [W]e’re rewarded for fierce conviction, for utter certainty, for emphatically taking sides and staying unconditionally faithful to what we’ve pushed for and against in the past.

  2. The wall marks a deep cultural divide“, by Gerald F. Seib (Wall Street Journal, 2019-01-21).
  3. Will people ditch cash for cryptocurrency? Japan is about to find out“, by Mike Orcutt (MIT Technology Review, 2019-01-22). High-tech Japan still heavily favors low-tech cash, with all the infrastructure expenses it entails. Will the 2020 Olympics catalyze a change?
    The article estimates that Japan’s cash system costs 18b USD per year. Question: What would security and maintenance of a commensurate cashless system cost?
  4. I mentored Mark Zuckerberg. I loved Facebook. But I can’t stay silent about what’s happening.“, by Roger McNamee (Time, 2019-01-17).
  5. Sheryl Sandberg on Facebook’s challenges in 2018 and priorities in 2019“, by Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook, 2018-12-29). Telling that, in nearly a month, this post has garnered a mere 1.9k likes, 268 comments, and 193 shares.

Letter to an athlete


I drafted the following letter to a friend, a fellow athlete, after this friend had a breakthrough performance. After sitting on it for a bit — and hearkening back to something I once read: that a friend’s role is not to tell a friend what’s realistic, but to be a sounding board to help that friend decide what she wants, and then support her in her pursuit of it — I shelved this letter and sent something short and (almost) purely congratulatory. However, after sitting on the original letter a bit more, I decided I do want to share it. It gives voice to viewpoints that might be helpful for some people to hear, if not adopt.

To a friend

If you’ll permit me to poke you a bit (perhaps you chose email over Facebook precisely to avoid such behavior?): What do you mean by “progress”? From an outsider’s perspective, you’ve been becoming a stronger, more experienced runner for years. It has not been linear, but progress (however it’s defined) rarely is; it has not been flawless, but imperfections can endow things with personal charm.

I said it before yesterday’s race, and I’ll say it after, because I truly believe it: Race performance does not define you. It’s what a lot of people — media, fans, athletes — focus on. Perhaps because it makes things so simple: Athletes show up on game day, and the outcome of the performance measures how “good” they are. Observers sometimes pay lip service to work and training, but for the most part, this is a static measure of a slice of time, freeing observers to ignore what came before and shift their attention to other things immediately after.

But you know. You know the work you put in. You know the obstacles you fought through and overcame. You know you’re not alone.

In another worldview,1 training at a pursuit changes the individual over time, and game day provides an imperfect measurement of how that change is coming along. There’s a fair bit of noise in the measurement: equipment could malfunction [1], you could be on your period [2], the weather could be god-awful [3]. All of this noise can affect an individual’s performance, but it doesn’t change who the individual has become.

The more one trains, the more one changes, and the more likely certain outcomes become relative to others. But they’re never certain. So, paradoxically, (1) get used to it, and (2) enjoy it while it’s here. Because running like you did yesterday is who you’ve become (indeed, who you’ve been for some time), and there’s no guarantee what the future holds.

Lastly, I encourage you to seriously consider the social responsibility attending experience and achievement. You may not have asked for it, you may not agree with it, but the fact of the matter is you are and have been in a position to influence others. Use your influence for good.

I wish I had seen you cross the finish line. Mr S— says you looked like the happiest bad-@$$ out there.



  1. I don’t mean to imply this is the “right” worldview. Certain aspects of it seem to agree with the real world.





Guitar : “Scarborough fair”

Relevant references:

  1. Tablatures for ‘Scarborough fair” (
  2. Scarborough fair by Simon and Garfunkel“, by kirbyscovers (YouTube, 2016-04-19).
  3. Lyrics : Scarborough fair/canticle” (