A brief gallivant about the marketplace of ideas.

Month: January, 2020

Read : 2020-01-31

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. What we know — and don’t know — about the coronavirus outbreak” by Alvin Powell (The Harvard Gazette, 2020-01-30). An interview with Marc Lipsitch, “an infectious disease specialist who worked on the SARS epidemic”.
  2. Coronavirus fears drive demand for face masks, but some experts doubt them” by Julie Wernau & Stella Yifan Xie (Wall Street Journal, 2020-01-30). The byline says it all: “Many do little to protect from coronavirus, and even the best have to be fitted and worn properly to have any benefit”.
  3. The skewed and the screwed: When mating meets politics” by Jacob Falkovich (Put a Num on It, 2020-01-26).
  4. Why black women are aging alone” by Carly Stern (OZY, 2020-01-31).

BONUS! Characters from the Japanese animation “Lucky Star” break down the difference between a flu and a cold (about 1 minute).

Read : 2020-01-29

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Oh sure, big tech wants regulation — on its own terms” by Justin Sherman (Wired, 2020-01-28). Why the surprised tone? And do I sense hypocrisy?
  2. Translating black holes to the public — in 25 languages” by Alvin Powell (The Harvard Gazette, 2020-01-28).
  3. Charles Lieber arrested” by Jonathan Shaw (Harvard Magazine, 2020-01-28).
  4. Reflections of a mathematics teacher educator: Considerations for mathematicians who teach teachers” by Christina Eubanks-Turner (Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 2020-02).

Read : 2020-01-27

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. A survivor’s diary emerges from Auschwitz” by Bojan Pancevski (Wall Street Journal, 2020-01-24).
  2. Auschwitz survivors warn of rising anti-Semitism 75 years on” by Vanessa Gera (Associated Press News, 2020-01-27).
  3. What if competition isn’t as ‘natural’ as we think?” by John Favini (Slate, 2020-01-23).
  4. Kobe Bryant’s brilliant and complicated legacy” by Marc Stein (NY Times, 2020-01-26).
  5. Switch from your internet provider’s email to something better” by Whitson Gordon (NY Times, 2020-01-24). A how-to guide with recommendations.
  6. These people really care about fonts” by Fabrice Robinet (NY Times, 2020-01-24). And so can you!
  7. What if it were Obama on trial?” by Nicholas Kristof (NY Times, 2020-01-25).
  8. Your inability to do pullups is all in your head” by Christie Aschwanden (Medium, 2020-01-22). OK, actually, it isn’t, until it is. This article includes links to Marine Lt. Col. Misty Posey’s pull-up manifesto and pull-up training guide.

    Technique is important, Posey says. Grip the bar tightly with your pinkie knuckle over the top of the bar. Tuck in your pelvis, and keep your abs tight. Pull your arms down into your shoulder sockets, and keep your shoulders down (the opposite of shrugging). Hang your legs straight, and keep your head neutral. As you begin the exercise, keep your abs and glutes tight, and concentrate on pulling your elbows to your ribs and your chin over the bar (don’t lift your chin up).

Two references related to investing (always do your own research!):

  1. Blue Origin: Time for liftoff?” by Michael Wenner (EquityZen, 2020-01-24). Light on content.
  2. Renewables to lead world energy usage by 2050: 3 stocks to buy” by Aparajita Dutta (Yahoo!Finance, 2020-01-14). Bloom Energy Corp (BE), JinkoSolar Holding (JKS), and Sunrun (RUN).

Read : 2020-01-25

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Many in China wear them, but do masks block Coronavirus?” by Roni Caryn Rabin (NY Times, 2020-01-23). Experts seem to offer mixed opinions. Dr. Mark Loeb cites a study from the SARS Coronavirus concluded that “any type of [respiratory] protection…reduced the risk of infections in health care workers by about 85 percent”. However, these were workers who were constantly around infected people. Better than masks, some doctors say, is to avoid sick people and wash your hands. When used properly, masks are effective at blocking “large respiratory droplets from other people’s sneezes and coughs from entering your mouth and nose”. Reaching under your mask, or removing it to talk on the phone, compromises this protection.
  2. Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it” by Peter Harrison (Aeon, 2017-09-07). Dr. Harrison attempts to identify the source of and dispel the myth of “warfare” between science and religion. He asserts that science is under greater threat of “disbelief” than religion.

Read : 2020-01-24

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Operation Encore and the Saudi connection: A secret history of the 9/11 investigation” by Tim Golden & Sebastian Rotella (ProPublica, 2020-01-23).
  2. Feel like kids, spouse, work giving you gray hair? They may be” by Jessica Lau (The Harvard Gazette, 2020-01-22).
  3. Brain gain: A person can instantly blossom into a savant — and no one knows why” by Darold A. Treffert (Scientific American, 2018-07-25). Dr. Treffert has “studied savant syndrome for over 50 years” and maintains a page of resources on savant syndrome at SSM Health.
  4. The myth of self-reliance” by Jenny Odell (The Paris Review, 2020-01-15). The author’s eyes are opened to the interdependency of even self-reliant human beings. The end of the article comes across as “look how woke I am, now”, to me.
  5. At what age does our ability to learn a new language like a native speaker disappear?” by Dana G. Smith (Scientific American, 2018-05-04). Although the study had more than 600,000 online respondents, some researchers question its conclusions. Responses were self-reported, and the study created its own test of language proficiency rather than using an existing one.
  6. Introduction to human behavioral biology” by Robert Sapolsky (YouTube, 2011-02-01). 57m14s video.
  7. Niiya sets Japanese record in dominant Houston Half performance” by David Monti (FloTrack, 2020-01-19).
  8. Answering your questions: The World Marathon Majors” by Terrell Johnson (The Half Marathoner, 2019-07-17).
  9. Why you should stop fully charging your smartphone now” by Janine E. Mooney (EE World Online, 2015-11-09). Rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are ubiquitous in consumer electronics, but the technology has an inherent limit on the number of times a Li-ion battery can be recharged. To maximize the life of your Li-ion battery, this article (and others) recommend keeping your battery’s charge between 40% and 80%.

Read : 2020-01-16

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Anger is temporary madness: The Stoics knew how to curb it” by Massimo Pigliucci (Aeon, 2017-10-13). The article ends with a bullet-list “modern Stoic guide to anger management”. Epictetus’s remark about insulting a rock is tickling.
  2. Can this notorious troll turn people away from extremism?” by Trevor Quirk (Wired, 2020-01-15). An article on Steven Bonnell, perhaps better known by his online streaming alias Destiny. I found this article long on words, light on ideas. Two passages that stand out:

    [Bonnell is] someone who has spent years cultivating a community that is more likely to forgive your past indiscretions than to shame you for them.

    Is this notion of community, and a place where you won’t be shamed for your past beliefs and actions (though you may be accountable for them), disappearing from reality? but not from our wants?

    His weary cynicism about the ordinary intellect is what you might expect from someone who has spent years trying to get people to change not what they think but how they think. That has always been slow, hard work.

    Perhaps this kind of work is best done early in life, in more intimate settings, over long periods of time? One could imagine it taking place within (more or less stable) communities, perhaps guided by elders of that community, deemed worthy to rear and shape future generations. Wait,–this is the idea of school! Except that modern public schools assiduously teach facts for tests and just as assiduously avoid serious discussion of values for life. Also, the way public-school teachers are viewed, treated, and remunerated is an abomination.

Read : 2020-01-15

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. N.S.A. takes step toward protecting world’s computers, not just hacking them” by Julian E. Barnes & David E. Sanger (NY Times, 2020-01-14).
  2. She’s Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, and she thinks #MeToo is ‘dangerous’” by Jan Ransom (NY Times, 2020-01-14).
  3. 10 essential Kenji Mizoguchi films you need to watch” by Nuwantha Fonseka (Taste of Cinema, 2014-07-15).
  4. Better than Ozu and Kurosawa: Mizoguchi” by Richard Brody (The New Yorker, 2014-05-02).
  5. Going after a marathon PR? Molly Huddle has a plan for that” by Mallory Creveling (Women’s Running, 2019-10-15). Huddle echoes Kastor (see her recent autobiography, “Let your mind run”) in stressing the importance of psychology in endurance performance. View others as competitors, not opponents; stay disciplined, especially in the first half of the race; and when the pain and doubt inevitably set in, rather than trying to repress them, instead let them rise and pass, remember your training and (external) motivation.

Reference : Bicycle repair

I recently tried my hand(s) at some maintenance work on my bicycle, an old Diamondback mountain bike. The rear brake pads were routinely wearing down quickly, in large part because the rear wheel knocked (wobbled side-to-side on its axle) significantly (several millimeters), which turned out to be related to a chipped cone and missing (!) bearings in the back wheel… And while we’re there, might the internals of the freewheel be scrambled, too? And the cassette cries for a cleaning…


With Park Tool’s “Big blue book of bicycle repair” [1,2] and YouTube (videos linked below) as my shop masters, I did the following:

  • Replaced the bearings and realigned cones, lock nuts, etc. on rear axle [3,4]. A few remarks.

    Cone adjustment. My rear wheel is a quick-release (QR), and getting the cones and lock nuts set just right took many, many adjustments. In particular, if the cones and lock nuts are set too tight on the axle prior to tightening the QR, the compression from the QR mechanism will tighten the cones into the wheel even more, causing the wheel to not spin freely [5]. The rule of thumb for QR wheels from the Park Tool book is helpful: You want just a trace of knocking when the wheel is off the frame, and no knocking when the wheel is on the frame with the QR mechanism closed. At the end of the day, what I looked for was, when the wheel is on the frame with the QR closed, (i) there is no knocking and (ii) the wheel spins freely.

    Dust caps. Be gentle when removing and replacing the dust caps! On my bike, these turned out to be fragile, and I bent one badly out of shape. Fortunately, the dust caps don’t seem to touch any parts of the wheel inners — they sit off the bearings, and are just to keep debris out of the wheel inners — so so far the bent-up dust cap hasn’t caused me any issues. Though if it’s so bent up it falls out, then the wheel inners get clogged up, that would be an issue… The dust caps on my wheel seem to have a rigid outer ring, but the rest of the cap is bendable metal. When putting the dust cap back in place, gently tap around the edges, ideally with something soft (e.g., plastic), until the dust cap sits snug.

    Personal reference. On my bike, the rear axle shows 6 threads on either side, beyond the lock nuts.

  • Deconstructed, cleaned, and rebuilt freewheel and cassette [6]. Getting the freewheel off the wheel was the hardest thing I did. You need a special freewheel removal tool, you need a large wrench (go go Gadget torque!), and even then, you need upper body strength — the freewheel can be on there tight!

    Personal reference. The Shimano MF-Z012 cassette on my bike has 30 bearings on the outside and 40 on the inside [7]. All bearings appear to be the same size. One of the pawls seemed to be oriented backward.

  • Replaced all brake pads and brake cables [8]. Installing and adjusting the brakes went fast and smoothly for me.

    Personal reference. The cantilever smooth post brake calipers on my bike were installed with a Shimano link unit, which comes in different sizes. The A link unit — with a 7.0 mm rigid arm — is the correct size for my bike.

  • Retaped handlebars [9]. Pay attention to the direction of taping. You want the tape to rotate the same way as the rider’s hands on the handlebars, so that the rider’s natural motion will tighten, not loosen, the tape. On the outside of the handlebars, wrists tend to rotate outward (away from the rider). On the uppers (inside) of the handlebars, wrists tend to rotate down (toward the rider). Tape correspondingly.


  1. Park Tool’s “Big blue book of bicycle repair” at Park Tool.
  2. Park Tool’s “Big blue book of bicycle repair” at Amazon.
  3. Repairing a loose bike wheel — hub overhaul” by RJ The Bike Guy (YouTube, 2013-10-04).
  4. Knock knock, loose hub : Tech Tuesday #117” by Park Tool (YouTube, 2018-10-16).
  5. Very stiff rear wheel” (Bike Radar, 2011-07).
  6. Bicycle freewheel disassembly/assembly” by RJ The Bike Guy (YouTube, 2014-04-03).
  7. How many balls in a MF-Z012 cassette : Post #11 (Bike Forums, 2011-07-02).
  8. Brake caliper mounting & adjustment — cantilever smooth post” by Park Tool (YouTube, 2016-04-05).
  9. How to wrap handlebars for road bikes” by Park Tool (YouTube, 2016-01-07).

Read : 2020-01-13

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Say goodbye to the information age: It’s all about reputation now” by Gloria Origgi (Aeon, 2019-06-05).
  2. Is altruism an analgesic?” by Christopher Bergland (Psychology Today, 2020-01-05).
  3. ‘Little prince’ author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on losing a friend” by Maria Popova (Brain Pickings, 2019-05-28). This article prompted me to read about the friendship between Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Léon Werth.

Read : 2020-01-11

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Will we ever figure out how to talk to boys about sex?” by Peggy Orenstein (NY Times, 2020-01-10).
  2. Musk is dancing for a reason” by Louis Stevens (Seeking Alpha, 2020-01-10).
  3. The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself” by Eshe Nelson (Quartz, 2017-10-09).
  4. The equality conundrum” by Joshua Rothman (The New Yorker, 2020-01-06).
  5. Japan, the ambiguous, and myself” by Kenzaburō Ōe (Nobel Lecture, 1994-12-07).