The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Apple CPU Architectures

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M1 CPU

One of the most underated technical capabilities of Apple is its ability to transition its user base entirely new architectures seamlessly. Over the years, Apple has transitioned from - in order:

  • MOS 6502
  • Motorola 68000
  • Motorola PowerPC
  • Intel X86
  • Apple Silicon

This chameleon like capability has allowed Apple to stay on the leading edge of the computer industry for nearly half a century. Thats right, Apple has been on the bleeding edge of computing for an astonishing 48 years. In that time we have seen the rise and fall of Commodore, Atari, Sun, IBM just to name a few. Each advance in CPU architecture has been a death nail to countless industry giants.

Apple remains, and thrives through each of these transitions. Apple is now building its own CPU architecture - Apple Silicon - and will be taking its future in its own hands. So far, they are winning the new CPU wars.

Jacob Bartlett has written an excellent article on the Apple CPU architecture migration through the ages.

Profits in the American Health-care System

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middle men

The Economist identifying the true profiteers in the obscene American health care system:

Pharmaceutical firms and hospitals attract much of the public ire for the inflated costs. Much less attention is paid to a small number of middlemen who extract far bigger rents from the system’s complexity.

Over the past decade these firms have quietly increased their presence in America’s vast health-care industry (see chart ). They do not make drugs and have not, until recently, treated patients. They are the intermediaries—insurers, chemists, drug distributors and pharmacy-benefit managers (pbms)—sitting between patients and their treatments. In 2022 the combined revenue of the nine biggest middlemen—call them big health—equated to nearly 45% of America’s health-care bill, up from 25% in 2013. Big health accounts for eight of the top 25 companies by revenue in the s&p 500 index of America’s leading stocks, compared with four for big tech and none for big pharma.

[…]

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 limited the profits of health insurers to between 15% and 20% of collected premiums, depending on the size of the health plan. But it imposed no restrictions on what physicians or other intermediaries can earn. The law created an incentive for insurers to buy clinics, pharmacies and the like, and to steer customers to them rather than rival providers. The strategy channels revenue from the profit-capped insurance business to uncapped subsidiaries, which in theory could let insurers keep more of the premiums paid by patients.

The only cure is to remove the bloat and go to a single payer system.

Bill Maher - Don't Go to College

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It’s colleges. Elite colleges. The mouth of the River from which this and all manner of radical left illiberal, yes illiberal, nonsense flows.

[…]

Elite schools should no longer be called elite - just say expensive. Which maybe why they breed a particular brand of detestable graduate. A personality type that does not emerge from Chico State.

Couldn’t agree more with Maher. Expensive colleges today are a four year resort - where you learn to think like the crowd and con the masses.

If you aren’t majoring in the hard sciences, engineering, or medicine - do yourself a favor. Don’t go to these four year colleges - get a library card and join the “real world.” You’ll avoid the crippling debt and learn a lot more - and you’ll be a nicer person.

Health Insurance Permiums Jumped to $24,000 This Year

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Tami Luhby reporting for CNN:

The annual cost of family health insurance coverage at work soared to an average of nearly $24,000 this year, according to KFF’s Employer Health Benefits Survey, released Wednesday. That’s up 7% from last year.

Employees are shelling out an average of $6,575 for their share of the premium, up almost $500, or close to 8%, from last year, the annual survey found. Their companies are footing the rest of the bill.

The American health care system is obscene. Why on earth is health care tied to work? These increases that are paid by the employers are a tax credit for employers anyways, so lets just cut out the middle man here.

We need to get to single payer universal health care.

Ikea Scaffolding

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ikea scaffolding

Ben Terrett on the new Ikea store in London:

The old Top Shop on Oxford St will soon be an Ikea. While they are carrying out the refurbishments they’ve made the front of the building look like a massive Ikea blue bag. I love this.

It’s a simple idea, maybe the most obvious idea, and all the better for that. Nothing else needed.

This is brilliant.

The Great Eye

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The great eye

Illustrator Pablo Carlos Budassi, this is a circular map of the universe.

The solar system is located in the center. Towards the edges, the scale is progressively reduced to show in detail the most distant and biggest structures of the observable universe sphere.

I Am Willing to Go to Jail

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… but what they don’t understand is that I am willing to go to jail if that’s what it takes for our country to win and become a democracy again.

Okay. What are we waiting for?

LOCK HIM UP!
LOCK HIM UP!
LOCK HIM UP!

Black Success, White Backlash

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black success white backlash

Elijah Anderson writing on white backlash in The Atlantic:

For the past 16 years, I have been on the faculty of the sociology department at Yale, and in 2018 I was granted a Sterling Professorship, the highest academic rank the university bestows. I say this not to boast, but to illustrate that I have made my way from the bottom of American society to the top, from a sharecropper’s cabin to the pinnacle of the ivory tower. One might think that, as a decorated professor at an Ivy League university, I would have escaped the various indignities that being Black in traditionally white spaces exposes you to. And to be sure, I enjoy many of the privileges my white professional-class peers do.

[…]

But sometimes these signifiers of professional status and educated-class propriety are not enough. This can be true even in the most rarefied spaces. When I was hired at Yale, the chair of the sociology department invited me for dinner at the Yale Club of New York City. Clad in a blue blazer, I got to the club early and decided to go up to the fourth-floor library to read The New York Times. When the elevator arrived, a crush of people was waiting to get on it, so I entered and moved to the back to make room for others. Everyone except me was white.

As the car filled up, I politely asked a man of about 35, standing by the controls, to push the button for the library floor. He looked at me and—emboldened, I have to imagine, by drinks in the bar downstairs—said, “You can read?” The car fell silent. After a few tense moments, another man, seeking to defuse the tension, blurted, “I’ve never met a Yalie who couldn’t read.” All eyes turned to me. The car reached the fourth floor. I stepped off, held the door open, and turned back to the people in the elevator. “I’m not a Yalie,” I said. “I’m a new Yale professor.” And I went into the library to read the paper.

Fewer Black Americans and minorities are poorer than 50 years ago, and more than twice as many are rich. Substantial numbers now attend the best schools, pursue professions of their choosing, and occupy positions of power and prestige. Add the democratic shifts to the mix and its easy to see how white America feels threatened.

A Japanese Neighborhood Izakaya

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A 15-minute video about a tiny izakaya (13 seats!) in Tokyo owned and operated by a woman called “Mama” by her regulars.

When Mama is busy, regulars at this izakaya will serve themselves, get their own beers, get their “bottle-keep” and make their own drinks. They’ll also help out Mama-san by serving other customers as well. […] Bottle keep is when a customer buys a bottle and the shop holds on to it for them. Then the next time they visit they can drink from that bottle again.

This is what I miss most about Japan - the neighborhood culture.

Yes, He Did That

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Steve Urkle

Ernie Smith writing on Tedium about Jaleel White and the 1990s cultural goal post that he created as Steve Urkel:

Jaleel White, as Steve Urkel, successfully did this. But unlike the actors listed above, White successfully pulled this off, with the comic timing of a pro, when he was just 12 years old.

Now, to be clear, kids can have amazing comic timing in their own right—Nickelodeon has numerous comic franchises over its four-decade history that prove it, most notably You Can’t Do That On Television and All That—but White’s creation, a famously annoying kid with a high-pitched voice and a distinctive appearance that you can see from a mile away, felt much more fully-formed than similar comedy creations inhabited by kids.

And that is perhaps why White became an indelible part of 1990s culture.

American Big Tech Has Enslaved Us

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In his new book, ‘Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism’, Yanis Varoufakis explores how giant tech firms, both in the US and China are expanding their control over the planet. His analysis is that, whilst material resources certainly matter, the real battle ground is over digital real estate. Aaron Bastani sat down with Yanis to talk about how Europe’s power has faded, Elon Musk’s wet dreams and why the US is really afraid of China.

Here is a summary of the key points from the podcast transcription:

  • Janis Varoufakis argues that capitalism has been replaced by a new system he calls “techno-feudalism.” This is a result of the rise of “cloud capital” owned by big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.

  • He believes cloud capital has enabled a new form of economic rent extraction, allowing tech lords like Jeff Bezos to collect huge rents from digital platforms that increasingly replace market transactions. This parallels feudal lords extracting rents from their land.

  • The massive money printing by central banks after the 2008 crisis provided the funding for this rapid expansion of cloud capital, further entrenching the power of techno-feudal lords.

  • Varoufakis sees the rise of figures like Donald Trump as a backlash against this new techno-feudalism from “petit bourgeois” capitalists and workers left behind by deindustrialization.

  • However, Europe is now irrelevant compared to the techno-feudal spheres of influence in the US and China, as it has no cloud capital of its own.

  • The euro has locked countries like Italy and Greece into permanent austerity and decline. Leaving would be painful but may be necessary.

  • Covid provided an opportunity for more debt and money distribution to elites. Liberal individualism is dying as big tech shapes desires.

  • In summary, Varoufakis argues contemporary capitalism has been replaced by a neo-feudal system ruled by tech oligarchs extracting rents via cloud platforms.

No More Influencers

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dae

Clio Chang reporting in Curbed about Dae - about a new design shop and café that opened in Carroll Gardens this summer, an how they decided to ban influencers doing photo shoots:

How bad did it get? “People were coming in and literally doing photo shoots — they would just get one drink and stay for two hours shooting,” says Carol Song, the shop’s co-owner. While she’s grateful that people like the space, she’s seen influencers bring in Nikon cameras, set up tripods, and take photos of employees for their reels. Some people didn’t even order anything but snapped pictures of food and drinks on nearby tables. “It’s a free-for-all — no one’s regulating the TikTokers,” Song says, laughing.

While some businesses have leaned into the publicity that influencers bring them, Dae is taking a different approach. From conception, Song says she didn’t want an influencer-branded space: “I didn’t want to be a place where people just come and go for the trend.”

I am so proud of the owners. The whole point of a coffee shop is to break away from the everyday and meet new people and have intersting conversations. Lets hope more coffee shops adopt a similar stance.

The VCR Wars

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A fascinating look back at the history of the VCR and the great BetaMax/VHS war of the 80s. Loved the reference to Lord of the Rings 25:38:

Matsushita was kind of like Gandalf at the Battle of Helms Deep bring with him a formidable manufacturing and distribution force.

Forgotten History of 'Jaywalking'

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jwalking

A fascinating look by Joseph Stromberg for Vox at the history behind the term “jaywalking.”

“In the early days of the automobile, it was drivers' job to avoid you, not your job to avoid them,” says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. “But under the new model, streets became a place for cars — and as a pedestrian, it’s your fault if you get hit.”

One of the keys to this shift was the creation of the crime of jaywalking. Here’s a history of how that happened.

[..]

Auto campaigners lobbied police to publicly shame transgressors by whistling or shouting at them — and even carrying women back to the sidewalk — instead of quietly reprimanding or fining them. They staged safety campaigns in which actors dressed in 19th-century garb, or as clowns, were hired to cross the street illegally, signifying that the practice was outdated and foolish. In a 1924 New York safety campaign, a clown was marched in front of a slow-moving Model T and rammed repeatedly.

This strategy also explains the name that was given to crossing illegally on foot: jaywalking. During this era, the word “jay” meant something like “rube” or “hick” — a person from the sticks, who didn’t know how to behave in a city. So pro-auto groups promoted use of the word “jay walker” as someone who didn’t know how to walk in a city, threatening public safety.

At first, the term was seen as offensive, even shocking. Pedestrians fired back, calling dangerous driving “jay driving.”

But jaywalking caught on (and eventually became one word). Safety organizations and police began using it formally, in safety announcements.

Ultimately, both the word jaywalking and the concept that pedestrians shouldn’t walk freely on streets became so deeply entrenched that few people know this history. “The campaign was extremely successful,” Norton says. “It totally changed the message about what streets are for.”

Photographs of Newsstands From Around the World

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newstand

Photographer Trevor Trayner took photos of newstands from all over the world:

On 7/17/12 I shot my 1st newsstand near 6th Ave & 46th St. Drawn in by the vibrant colors & organized product placement, this series began its journey providing an instant time stamp via magazine covers and headlines.

Started out in New York, and expanded to include newsstands in LA, Lima, Tokyo, Jerusalem, Marrakesh, London, Rome, Paris, and several other places around the world.

Realtime 3D Map of Tokyo's Transit System

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3d tokyo train

A real-time 3D digital map of Tokyo’s public transport system by Akihiko Kusanagi that uses real-time data provided by Public Transportation Open Data Center API.

Visiting Tokyo recently from North America felt kind of like the fabled Gorbachev-sees-an-American-supermarket moment for me. Not only do the trains go everywhere, frequently, and reliably, but the condition of everything was astounding. The cleanliness was a big part of it, but also just how non-abused everything was. I was there for a week and didn’t once see a tag carved into the seats or walls of a train car or smell urine on a platform. I don’t think I even saw a single piece of litter on a train. The respect with which people treat public property was genuinely eye-opening.

The cleanliness of Tokyo is (at least) two factor: People are more clean in public (less graffiti, less littering, less spitting, less gum, less urine) and the maintenance spend for public infrastructure (roads, trains, etc.) is higher. That combination is the magic. Restaurants feel similar as well. Many are freakishly clean by any US/CAN/EU/AUS/NZ standards. Again, I would say the key is a combination of neat(er) customers and fastidious cleaning by the restaurant staff.

Thats the transferable lesson that we could apply here where dingy and defaced public infrastructure is just accepted as “the way things are in a big city,” when it’s demonstrably not inevitable.

Speaking of cleaning the Tokyo train system, here is a documentary on how Japanese trains are cleaned:


I can’t believe this level of cleaning is ever done in the NYC subway system.