The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Helicopter Blades During Flight

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Here is what a helicopter blade looks like, from the perspective of a GoPro strapped to the blade show you forward flight and how the blade angles as we move forward.

Imitate, Then Innovate

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David Perell on innovation:

It’s counterintuitive, but the more we imitate others, the faster we can discover our unique style. In the entertainment world, there’s a long lineage of comedians who tried to copy each other, failed, and became great themselves: Johnny Carson tried to copy Jack Benny, but failed and won six Emmy awards. Then, David Letterman tried to copy Johnny Carson, but failed and became one of America’s great television hosts.

Reflecting on his own influences, Conan O’Brien said: “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.”

Modern creators do the opposite though. They refuse to imitate others and stubbornly insist on originality, which they hold as their highest virtue — even when it comes at the expense of quality. They might deny their ambition toward originality when you talk to them, but they reveal it in their actions. In general, creators spend much less time imitating their heroes than they do trying to make something new. I call it the Originality Disease — a pervasive plague that makes creators feel scared to imitate other people’s styles.

What Are Those Strips Hanging of the Wheels?

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If you’re bored and stuck in traffic, chances are you’ve probably looked around at the vehicles around you, looking for something, anything to ease the pain. As you play Miley Cyrus’ Party In The USA while you inch forward, you’ve probably spotted something off to the side on a slow-moving truck. The wheels on its trailer have little strips slowly rotating, drawing your attention in. What are those for?

[…]

Sometimes, truckers may find that the spring brakes on a wheel may be frozen and not releasing, leading to the wheel dragging. You can get stuck wheels from worn out braking components, rust, bad valves or a number of different possibilities.

One way to check wheel rotation is to paint a mark on a wheel, then drive the truck, turning enough so that you can see the mark in your mirrors. Another way would be to have a spotter check to see if all wheels are moving. Or you could attach wheel rotation indicators to your wheels’ lug nuts and easily be able to check which wheels are in motion.

Image for article titled Here Is What Those Strips Hanging Off Of Truck Wheels Are For Photo: Tyre Protector of North America They work better than a strip of paint because they stick out just far enough that a trucker should be able to see them in their mirrors.

A brilliant product - just surprised it took so long to come up with such a simple solution. Won’t make my compute any better but this files under useless information cabinet - for when I end up on Jeopardy.

Bill Maher - That's Not Karma

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people have to learn to disagree and not hate for it

Even though I disagree with him on a lot of topics as of late - he truly believes in, and understands the value of, freedom of expression to a stable and healthy society. Notice how he was able to maintain respect and deference to Whoopi even though it would have bßno matter what, I think we will be OK. We can all learn a lot about civics from this short clip.

Moon Crashing Into Earth?

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Kurzgesagt has made a video that shows what would happen to civilization should the Moon somehow get knocked from its orbit and head straight for the Earth. Spoiler: the Moon doesn’t even need to reach us to kill almost all life on the planet.

Understanding the Global Chip Shortages

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An excellent write-up Jan-Peter Kleinhans & Julia Hess for Stiftung Neue Varanwortung:

What customers and markets are currently experiencing as “the semiconductor shortage” is, in fact, multiple shortages happening concurrently in different process steps and supplier markets based on a multitude of dynamics and dependencies. The interplay between the underlying dynamics, such as high market entry barriers, high geographic concentration, high fab utilization and long manufacturing cycles, is the reason why skyrocketing demand and external shocks, from natural disasters and human error to COVID-19-related lock-downs, disrupted the value chain since 2020. Consequently, none of the shortages in semiconductor manufacturing can be explained by one reason alone. Most importantly, some of the underlying dynamics are unlikely to change in the future because they are rooted in fundamental characteristics of semiconductor manufacturing.

You can get the full PDF here. Well worth the 30 page read.

Nikon Discontinues D500

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Nikon discontinues the mighty D500. Arguably the Nikon D500 was them greatest APSC camera of all time. The show stopper feature (besides image quality) was its ability to shoot at 10 frames per second with a massive buffer. Combined with the incredible write speeds of XQD cards, it was exceedingly rare to ever have to wait for the camera to clear the buffer.

Nikon released the D500 in January of 2016 and supported it with firmware updates until 2020 with its upgrade to support CFExpress cards. 5 years is a long time for a product to reign uncontested in the market. Canon basically threw in the towel after the 7D Mk II and never bother to release a true competitor.

And what does this mean for the future? My bet is that Nikon is readying a mirrorless replacement for the D500. An APSC mirrorless camera with 24 mega-pixels and the Z9 AF system, priced at $2500.

I were Canon or Sony - I would be very worried.

The Bank of Starbucks

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As part of their rewards program, millions of Starbucks customers have preloaded money onto Starbucks cards, essentially loaning the company more than $1 billion at 0% interest.

Starbucks has around $1.6 billion in stored value card liabilities outstanding. This represents the sum of all physical gift cards held in customer’s wallets as well as the digital value of electronic balances held in the Starbucks Mobile App.* It amounts to ~6% of all of the company’s liabilities.

This is a pretty incredible number. Stored value card liabilities are the money that you, oh loyal Starbucks customer, use to buy coffee. What you might not realize is that these balances simultaneously function as a loan to Starbucks. Starbucks doesn’t pay any interest on balances held in the Starbucks app or gift cards. You, the loyal customer, are providing the company with free debt.

I wonder what Starbucks makes on their coffee - I am willing to bet that its a loss leader. Even at $5.00 dollars a cup.

How We Broke the Supply Chain

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Davind Dayeb and Rakeen Mabud sums it up in The American Prospect:

You could read hundreds of stories about this phenomenon, about the stress of longshoremen and supply chain managers and government officials, the consequences for consumers and small businesses and retailers, and superficial attempts at explaining why we got here. Many will tell you that the pandemic changed consumption patterns, favoring physical goods over services as barhopping and travel shut down. Some will blame fiscal-relief programs, large deficits, and loose monetary policies for making inflation worse. Nearly all will frame the matter as a momentary kink in the global logistics leviathan, which is bound to work itself out. Anyway, everyone got their Christmas gifts this year, so maybe it was overblown to begin with.

Almost none of these stories will explain how these shortages and price hikes were also brought to life through bad public policy coupled with decades of corporate greed. We spent a half-century allowing business executives and financiers to take control of our supply chains, enabled by leaders in both parties. They all hailed the transformation, cheering the advances of globalization, the efficient network that would free us from want. Motivated by greed and dismissive of the public interest, they didn’t mention that their invention was supremely ill-equipped to handle inevitable supply bottlenecks. And the pandemic exposed this hidden risk, like a domino bringing down a system primed to topple.

CGI Is Ruining Movies

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Erik Hoel in take on modern cinema’s over reliance on CGI:

The problem is easiest to catch in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. There it is tempting to make use of the full horrors of graphics and post-production processing. It’s undeniable that remakes, from An American Werewolf in London to The Thing to the A Nightmare on Elm Street, have vastly inferior CGI effects compared to the original practical ones. Indeed, this over-reliance on CGI has ruined some of the best genre series. Consider Peter Jackson’s decline from The Lord of the Rings to The Hobbit trilogy. Or The Matrix’s sequels, which eschewed the original’s acrobatic stunt wire-work and practical fight scenes for the digital realm (a cosmic irony if there ever were one). The old original Star Wars trilogy comes to us as dispatches from a gritty world—it is a tighter world, yes, the shots are necessarily smaller, more closely-framed, but it all feels more viscerally real. Ever since the release of the Star Wars prequels in the 1990s, the actors stand apart from digital ghosts they can’t see.

[..]

Trends in cinematography are like fashion or architecture: almost impossible to see while you’re in them. We are always blind to our own age. Yet our era is dated very easily by the incredible unreality of its films, the fantasy of the whole thing, its emphasis on post-production and unreal colors and textures. It’s all just one long high-budget computer game cutscene. Your brain knows the difference, unconsciously, implicitly. And while we may have become accustomed to the digital slop we’re fed, the eyes of the future will pick it out, photon by photon, and judge.

Its going to be really sad when we re-visit these movies a decade or two from now and they will all look so terrible. Star Wars: A New Hope still holds up - Stars Wars: The Force Awakens already looks silly in comparison (I am just referring to the visuals - not the lack of plot).

Neil Young vs Spotify vs Joe Rogan

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Neil Young on why he left Spotify:

When I left Spotify, I felt better.

I support free speech. I have never been in favor of censorship. Private companies have the right to choose what they profit from, just as I can choose not to have my music support a platform that disseminates harmful information. I am happy and proud to stand in solidarity with the front line health care workers who risk their lives every day to help others.

As an unexpected bonus, I sound better everywhere else.

Neil Young’s main point here is exactly right: free speech works both ways. Joe Rogan has every right to say what he wants and Spotify has every right to associate with who ever they want. But Young has a right not to want to be with a services that associates with Rogan and the state that publicly.

I am glad that Neil Young is taking a principled stand on what he believes is right. And for any of you who think this is some kind of publicity stunt, he has done this all through his life. Genuine virtue, not mere virtue signaling.

They’re Getting the Crash They Deserve

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Jessica Wildefire writes:

There’s not enough.

There’s not enough truck drivers. There’s not enough nurses. There’s not enough doctors. There’s not enough teachers.

There’s not enough baristas.

There’s not enough servers, or cashiers, or cooks. There’s nobody to froth your latte to perfection, or make your bed at the fancy hotel, or bring you peanuts and soda on your first-class flight to wherever, or watch your kid while you’re sacrificing the best years of your life.

Here’s the worst part:

There never will be, ever again.

Essential workers ran the economy. We did everything. In return, we got nothing. No raises. No bonuses. No minimum wage laws. No childcare support. No sick leave. When the pandemic dragged on, we were forced back into dangerous workplaces for one reason:

We had to protect the bubble.

We endured sickness and death to keep the fake economy going, to keep stock prices high. We took risks our billionaire overlords never would. Essential workers got sick with Covid, and they were fired.

Fired.

They were fired because they ran out of personal leave. In other words, they stayed sick for too long. Their medical bills got too expensive. So they were terminated. When they died, they left their families with staggering medical debt. If they survived, they had to find new jobs while managing the severe, lingering symptoms of a deadly disease.

There’s going to be a lot of theories when the economy collapses. (It’s already happening.) Here’s the simplest one:

We treated workers like crap.

So they quit.

I am sick and tired of business owners, CEOs and politicians (and I mean specifically Republicans) who are claiming workers are lazy. They just don’t want to work.

No workers want to be treated like human beings and respected for what they do for society. And in a long time, they are finally demanding it.

Rick Rubin - the Guru

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I am not a listener of Hip Hop - but Rick Rubin is the GOAT of music producers. He has produced the likes of Slayer, Danzig, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Green Day, Adele just to name a few.

The Book of Boba Fett From an Indidenous Person

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Interesting thoughts on the Book of Boba Fett and its portrayal of the Tuskans by an indigenous person.

We Need Generalists

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Eric Colson in Harvard Business review writes:

But the goal of data science is not to execute. Rather, the goal is to learn and develop profound new business capabilities. Algorithmic products and services like recommendations systems, client engagement bandits, style preference classification, size matching, fashion design systems, logistics optimizers, seasonal trend detection, and more can’t be designed up-front. They need to be learned. There are no blueprints to follow; these are novel capabilities with inherent uncertainty. Coefficients, models, model types, hyper parameters, all the elements you’ll need must be learned through experimentation, trial and error, and iteration. With pins, the learning and design are done up-front, before you make it. With data science, you learn as you go, not before you go.

[…]

In order to encourage learning and iteration, data science roles need to be made more general, with broad responsibilities agnostic to technical function. That is, organize the data scientists such that they are optimized to learn. This means hiring “full stack data scientists”—generalists—that can perform diverse functions: from conception to modeling to implementation to measurement. It’s important to note that I am not suggesting that hiring full-stack data scientists results in fewer people overall. Rather, I am merely suggesting that when organized differently, their incentives are better aligned with learning vs. efficiency gains. For example, say you have a team of three creating three business capabilities. In the pin factory, each specialist will be one-third devoted to each capability, since no one else can do their job. In the full-stack, each generalist is completely devoted to a business capability, increasing scale and learning.

I completely agree. In fact, I think the term “data scientist” is vastly over used and badly specified. I have worked with a lot of data scientists. They have all been incredibly intelligent group of people who can deep dive into data. But they are not necessarily capable of retrieving, manipulating, and organizing data into optimal streams for processing.

I think a “data science generalist” is going to be hard to find, but pairing data scientist(s) with a generalist developer would lead to an optimal pairing.

The History for Retro Game Consoles

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Gustavo Pezzi goes down memory lane of past great consoles from the perspective of a programmer:

It is always useful to look at the past to understand the current state of affairs. This article is a brief overview of the history of game consoles from a programmer’s perspective. Let’s understand the limitations and the driving forces that helped shape the technologies we use today in modern game development.

Good stuff - I still believe that the pinnacle of game development happened towards the later part of the 8-bit generation and the 16-bit generation. The technology was sophisticated enough to provide an engaging experience yet limited enough to force the developers to be creative.

Big Data Knows Everything

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Justin Sherman for Wired on our current state of digital privacy:

Companies like Acxiom, LexisNexis, and others argue that there’s nothing to worry about collecting and sharing Americans’ sensitive data, as long as their names and a few other identifiers aren’t attached. After all, their reasoning goes, this “anonymized” data can’t be linked to individuals, and is therefore harmless.

[…]

The irony that data brokers claim that their “anonymized” data is risk-free is absurd: Their entire business model and marketing pitch rests on the premise that they can intimately and highly selectively track, understand, and microtarget individual people. the data brokerage circus.

This argument isn’t just flawed; it’s also a distraction. Not only do these companies usually know your name anyway, but data simply does not need to have a name or social security number attached to cause harm. Predatory loan companies and health insurance providers can buy access to advertising networks and exploit vulnerable populations without first needing those people’s names. Foreign governments can run disinformation and propaganda campaigns on social media platforms, leveraging those companies’ intimate data on their users, without needing to see who those individuals are. Programmers don’t need names in a data set to create artificial intelligence tools that can’t accurately identify female individuals’ and Black individuals’ faces or tell police to patrol already heavily policed neighborhoods of color.

The issue is that the genie is out of the bottle and too much of the tech economy is based on the selling of sensitive data.

Since we can’t stop it, I propose that there should be a collective charge on all companies that traffic on sensitive data. The profits should be distribute back to the general public. After all, if they are going to use our data to make profit - effectively making us the product - we should be compensated.

Its not like there isn’t a precedent for this - the state of Alaska does something similar to this with the oil industry:

The Alaska Permanent Fund (APF) is a constitutionally established permanent fund managed by a state-owned corporation, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC).[1] It was established in Alaska in 1976[2] by Article 9, Section 15 of the Alaska State Constitution[3] under Governor Jay Hammond and Attorney General Avrum Gross. From February 1976 until April 1980, the Department of Revenue Treasury Division managed the state’s Permanent Fund assets, until, in 1980, the Alaska State Legislature created the APFC.[4]

As of 2019, the fund was worth approximately $64 billion that has been funded by oil revenues and has paid out an average of approximately $1,600 annually per resident (adjusted to 2019 dollars).[5] The main use for the fund’s revenue has been to payout the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), which many authors portray as the only example of a Basic Income in practice.[6][7]

It’s time we demand companies that traffic and profit off our private data to compensate us - the creators of their product.

Average Person Explains Cryptocurrency

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Its real to people who want it to be real.

The US dollar has value because it is backed by the largest, most stable economy in the world that is defended by the largest military the world has ever known. Cryptocurrency has value because people want it to have value.

If you still believe in cryptocurrency - sorry but you are an idiot.