Review: Destination Cosmos

A number of "immersive" experiences offer people a taste of spaceflight without leaving the ground. Jeff Foust reviews one such experience that takes people through the solar system and beyond from an old bank building in New York.

Review: When the Heavens Went on Sale

The early success of SpaceX helped enable a new wave of space startups, with varying degrees of success. Jeff Foust reviews a book that profiles four such companies and the diverse range of people working there who were geniuses, misfits, or both.

Review: Photographing America's First Astronauts

While it's been 62 years since Alan Shepard became the first American to go to space, the history books have yet to be closed on the Mercury program. Jeff Foust reviews a book that publishes previously unseen photos of the program taken by NASA's first photographer.

Review: The Possibility of Life

As the field of astrobiology matures, scientists are only now beginning to come to grips with the challenge of finding evidence of life beyond Earth. Jeff Foust reviews a book that explores the state of our understanding, or lack thereof, of prospects of life elsewhere.

Review: The Space Law Stalemate

International space law has struggled to keep pace with expanding space activity, posing challenges for companies and countries. Jeff Foust reviews a book that examines those challenges and proposes ways to move space law forward.

Review: The Space Economy

The space industry has run into some headwinds with recent financial problems many companies have faced, including Virgin Orbit's bankruptcy. Jeff Foust reviews a book by an investor who remains bullish about the long-term prospects of the overall space economy, though.

Review: Off-Earth

The vision of humans living and working in space has been around for decades, but has more than just technical challenges to overcome. Jeff Foust reviews a book that explores some of the ethical quandaries posed by space settlement.

ULA’s first mission with its Vulcan rocket may slide to January launch window

ULA’s Vulcan rocket sits at the pad at Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) ahead of the start of a wet dress rehearsal tanking test on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. Image: ULA

The debut of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket may slip from late December into early January, according to the company’s president and CEO, Tory Bruno. In a social media post on Sunday, Bruno said the planned Dec. 24 launch date is “likely out.”

The statement comes a couple days after the rocket conducted a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR), where the vehicle was fully fueled and went the countdown was to proceed to the final seconds before cutting off. But Bruno said a “couple of routine ground issues came up near the end” of the test.

Ground teams were targeting a T-0 of 4:30 p.m. EST on Friday. Based on observations of venting during the operation it appeared the countdown reached its final four minutes before an abort occurred. The Vulcan vehicle left the launch pad and returned to the Vertical Integration Facility building at launch complex 41 Saturday afternoon.

“I’d like a full WDR before our first flight, so [Christmas] Eve is likely out,” Bruno said in his post on X. He added that they are working on schedules but Spaceflight Now understands another test has been scheduled for as soon as Tuesday.

The primary payload onboard is Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander, which will journey to the Moon. If the launch is able to happen during the December launch window (Dec. 24-26), the lander would touch down on the Moon’s surface at approximately 3:30 a.m. EST (0830 UTC) on Jan. 25, 2024.

Bruno said that the next launch window based on Peregrine’s needs opens on Jan. 8, 2024 and would likely last for four days. Dan Hendrickson, Astrobotic’s Vice President of Business Development, told Spaceflight Now back in October that the nominal time from launch to landing is between 30 and 39 days. It was not immediately clear if there is a different transit time for the early January launch window.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander in the clean room at Astrotech in Titusville, Florida. The spacecraft will be the main payload onboard the first launch of ULA’s Vulcan rocket. Image: ULA

Shifting Moon race

With the launch potentially shifting to January, that changes the landscape for Moon-bound missions. Liftoff on Jan. 8 would mean Peregrine would launch just four days before the opening of the launch window for Intuitive Machine’s Nova-C lander onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) is also making its way to the Moon and is set to land around 1520 UTC on Jan. 19. Reports Active Inventory UP 3.1% YoY; New Listings up 5.6% YoY has monthly and weekly data on the existing home market. Here is their weekly report: Weekly Housing Trends View — Data Week Ending December 2, 2023
Active inventory increased slightly, with for-sale homes 3.1% above year ago levels. Active listings exceeded last year’s levels again this week, with the rate of increase picking up steam from the previous week (+3.1% year-over-year vs +1.8%). However, on an absolute basis, active inventory continued to fall below its peak earlier in the month, as is seasonally typical.

New listings–a measure of sellers putting homes up for sale–were up this week, by 5.6% from one year ago. New listings registered lower than prior year levels from mid-2022 through roughly 6 weeks ago, as the mortgage rate lock-in effect froze homeowners with low-rate existing mortgages in place. More recently the trend has reversed as new listings during the week outpaced the same week in the previous year by 5.6%.
Realtor YoY Active ListingsHere is a graph of the year-over-year change in inventory according to

Inventory was up year-over-year for the 4th consecutive week following 20 consecutive weeks with a YoY decrease in inventory.  

Inventory is still historically very low.

New listings really collapsed a year ago, so the YoY comparison for new listings is easier now - and although new listings also remain well below "typical pre-pandemic levels", new listings are now up YoY.

Freedom of speech for university staff?

Put aside the more virtuous public universities, where such matters are governed by law.  What policies should private universities have toward freedom of speech for university staff?  This is not such a simple question, even if you are in non-legal realms a big believer in de facto freedom of speech practices.

Just look at companies or for that matter (non-university) non-profits.  How many of them allow staff to say whatever they want, without fear of firing?  What if a middle manager at General Foods went around making offensive (or perceived to be offensive) remarks about other staff members?  Repeatedly, and after having been told to stop.  There is a good chance that person will end up fired, even if senior management is not seeking to restrict speech or opinion per se.  Other people on the staff will object, and of course some of the offensive remarks might be about them.  The speech offender just won’t be able to work with a lot of the company any more.  Maybe that person won’t end up fired, but would any companies restrict their policies, ex ante, to promise that person won’t be fired?  Or in any way penalized, set aside, restricted from working with others or from receiving supervisory promotions, and so on?

You already know the answers to those questions.

Freedom of speech for university staff is a harder question than for students or faculty.  Students will move on, and a lot of faculty hate each other anyway, and don’t have to work together very much.  Plus the protection of tenure was (supposedly?) designed to support freedom of speech and opinion, even “perceived to be offensive” opinions.  As for students, we want them to be experimenting with different opinions in their youth, even if some of those opinions are bad or stupid.  Staff in these regards are different.

Staff are growing in numbers and import at universities.  They often are the leaders of Woke movements.  Counselors, Director of Student Affairs, associate Deans, and much more.  Then there are the events teams and the athletic departments, and more yet.  Perhaps some schools spend more on staff than on faculty?

While it is hard to give staff absolute free speech rights, it is also hard to give them differential free speech rights.  A cultural tone is set within the organization.  If everyone else has free speech rights, how exactly do you enforce restrictions on staff?  Should a university set up a “thought police” but for staff only?  Can you really circumscribe the powers of such a thought police over time?  Besides, what if a staff member signs up for a single night course?  Do they all of a sudden have the free speech rights of students?  How might you know when they are “speaking as a student” or “speaking as a staff member”?  Or what if staff are overseeing the free speech rights of faculty and students, as is pretty much always the case?  The enforcers of student free speech rights don’t have those same free speech rights themselves?  What kind of culture are they then being led to respect and maintain?  And what if staff are merely expressing their opinions off-campus, say on their Facebook pages?  Does all that get monitored?  Or do you simply encourage one set of people to selectively complain about another set, as a kind of weaponization of some views but not others?

You might have your own theoretical answers to these conundrums, but the cultural norms of large institutions usually aren’t finely grained enough to support them all.

If you think that free speech rights for university staff are an easy question, I submit you haven’t thought about this one long and hard enough.

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What is HiFi

I grew up in a home where music was always playing. My father repaired electronics, so an endless stream of speakers, amplifiers, turntables, and TVs passed through the household. And all of it had to be tested, of course. At max volume. Sometimes at odd hours.

While that was frequently a bit of a nuisance, it did seed a deep appreciation for musical experiences in me. Founded on the fact that music can sound very differently depending on the equipment that conveys it.

But most of my life, I’ve listened to music in one of two more dull settings: Using noise canceling headphones while traveling and in the background while working at a desk. Neither of those two settings are usually conducive to “musical experiences”. Most of the home offices I’ve used haven’t had good acoustics, and there’s only so much you can do with a pair of Bluetooth headphones that also have to compete with the roar of flight.

Every now and then, though, I’d be reminded of what was possible when listening to music in a media room or at friend’s house with a real HiFi setup. And I’d be reminded of those childhood years, when a piece of music flowed through some great speakers and produced a transcendent experience.

I don’t even have a great pair of ears. The left side has a permanent 5% loss of hearing, and the right side is average at best. But that’s the thing about a great HiFi setup, you don’t have to be a connoisseur or be blessed with reference-grade aural hardware in your head to enjoy it. It’s as easy to tell the difference as that between watching a movie on a VHS tape and seeing it from blue-ray on a 4K projector.

And that’s what it feels like right now, as I sit at my desk in front of a pair of KEF LSX-II speakers, lost in listening to my favorite tunes, discovering new notes and instruments in the fresh detail. Like I’m sitting in front of 4K projector, soaked in vivid colors and perfect blacks. It’s mesmerizing, and I’m kicking myself for not upgrading sooner.

But I really didn’t think it was possible to get this kind of sound in my Malibu office. It’s got a beautiful view, but it’s full of hard surfaces, which ruin acoustics. So I had resigned myself to that VHS quality flowing from mediocre speakers in the ceiling to fill the background.

Then I changed two things: I installed an acoustic panel behind the desk to improve the sound quality for podcasting, and I posted a picture of some new TUK desk speakers I’d gotten to deal with the hassle of unreliable AirPlay streaming. They looked really nice, and the hardwired connection to the computer meant they just worked, without any lag. But they weren’t exactly HiFi.

That’s when the magic of X lead me to the KEFs. A couple of people chimed in on the thread about my new desk look, and recommended I have a look at the LSX-IIs. So I did. Not even so much because I thought about the sound quality, but because I liked how they looked, and that they were more proportional to the rest of the desk in size compared to the TUKs.

So I came for the aesthetics, but I was blow away by the sound. I’ve been glued in front of these speakers for hours now, just listening to all the tracks I thought I knew so well. Constantly uncovering new facets and depth in the music.

That to me is HiFi. Music rendered so purely, so broadly, so detailed that it can’t help but step out of the background and take center stage. Sure, you can get nuts with it, like everything, and start chasing gold-platted cables and purer forms of electricity to avoid interference.  I mean, if that’s you, great, it’s fun to have a hobby!

But for me, and probably many others, a fully integrated set of KEF LSX-IIs connected with USB C to a computer streaming Apple Music Lossless is probably the peak of what we can appreciate anyway in an office setting. But what a damn peak it is!

So thank you, kind strangers on the internet, for pointing me towards these remarkable desk speakers. They're sublime.


w/e 2023-12-10

It’s now been raining for… three years? I don’t know, it might only be weeks or days, it’s all a blur. We’re now choosing our driving routes via which country roads will be least flooded. On the plus side, all our places that are supposed to remain dry, remain dry, and a man from Worcester Bosch came and put some new parts in our occasionally overheating boiler.

§ There was a time when I found working four days a week about right. Five days seemed just silly, if it could possibly be avoided.

Recently I’ve been doing client work for four afternoons a week and now that seems about right. How soft we become. Somehow it seems hard for me to get much else done (apart from exercise, learning German, some internet reading, admin, watching TV). I don’t know what’s happened to me, or time, but all of my hats are off to those with actual jobs, commutes, and, amazingly, other humans that require looking after. 🧢👒🎩🎓🪖⛑️

§ I finished reading Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road this week which was a good read. I saw the film 15-ish years ago but what very little I mis-remembered about it didn’t spoil my reading, other than being unable to imagine anyone but Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank. It’s good but definitely not jolly.

One moment that jumped out at me was when two characters, aged about 30, were in a bar, in 1955, with a band playing:

      “This is the kind of music that’s supposed to make everybody our age very nostalgic,” she said. “Does it you?”
      “I don’t know. Not really, I guess.”
      “It doesn’t me, either. I’d like it to, but it doesn’t. … That whole big-band swing period was a thing I missed out on. Jitterbugging. Trucking on down. Or no, that was earlier, wasn’t it? I think people talked about trucking on down when I was in about the sixth grade, at Rye Country Day.”

I don’t know, something about people being nostalgic, or not, about the different music of their youth, even when only 30, for the past half-century.

§ We went to see Saltburn (Emerald Fennell, 2023) and I’m not sure what I think. It took a while to get to the actual story and then it was a pretty silly, fun, fairly shallow romp for a while. But by the end I felt a bit … cheated? I’m not sure why. I think the film was, at the end, trying to suddenly say it was a different kind of film than it was. Some of its characters – like Richard E. Grant and Rosamund Pike’s entertainingly posh parents – seemed like they were from a different, more comedic, film than other parts of it wanted to be. It felt like it wanted to be more serious and deeper than it was, and yet it had little to say and no point of view. Just awful people being entertainingly awful.

Talking of awful people, there were only about twenty people in our local arts centre cinema to see it, many of whom arrived after the film started, finding their way by torchlight across the creaking and vibrating movable seating, one of whom spilled her gin and tonic over the floor the moment she sat down, several of whom – including two women right behind us – whispered and muttered to each other throughout the film, and, finally, a woman one seat away from me who placed her phone face-up on the floor between us, which illuminated every time it received a notification, some of which she bent down to read more closely. Until I dropped my coat on top of it.

On the plus side, the previous two times we’ve been to see a film there they’ve had to cancel it due to unknown-to-us-problems at the last minute, so maybe this was an improvement?

§ We finished Andor season one this week and it lived up to the impression I’d made about it: “Good, even though it’s Star Wars.”

The first three episodes were a bit dull while the series slowly approached the actual story. There were a couple of exciting episodes and the rest were fine. It was good to see some of the scattered, deeply undercover resistance to the Empire, and more of a sense as to why it had to be resisted than you usually get, other than, “ooh, aren’t they evil!”

Generally, it’s entertaining, and much more interesting than The Mandalorian, and not just because characters speak more like real people.

But there’s something slightly hobbling about the Star Wars universe and/or the aesthetic and restrictions of the whole thing. Even when trying to show more of a “real” experience of life and struggle there’s a limit to how deep it can get, how political. As if the bloodless nature of its violence extends across everything: show the exciting surface adventure, but don’t get too deep, too real, too tricky.

§ I also finished watching season one of Dark this week which, knowing nothing about it beforehand, was much better than I was expecting. Given I started watching it as some daily German listening, it was almost too good, because I was so absorbed that I kept having to remind myself to pay attention to the language.

It’s slightly creepy (made more so by the wide variety of extremely ominous musical effects), great looking, and rather complicated – it’s tricky to keep track of the large number of interrelated characters in one timeline, never mind at different ages played by different characters. Although that should be easier now I’ve been shown this handy website. I’m looking forward to watching more.

§ May you and everything you care about remain reassuringly dry.

Read comments or post one

Sunday assorted links

1. Polysee: Irish YouTube videos about YIMBY, aesthetics, and economics.

2. Germany political map of the day.

3. Thwarted Wisconsin DEI markets in everything.

4. The EU AI regulatory statement (on first glance not as bad as many had expected?).

5. The NBA Play-In was in fact a big success.  Is the implication that other sports do not experiment enough with producing more fame/suspense at various margins?  Basketball games are simply a much better product when the players are trying their best.

6. Your grandfather’s ACLU is back…for one tweet at least.

7. New GiveDirectly results on lump sum transfers, from Kenya.

8. Ideas matter.

9. The Chinese are using water cannons at sea, against the Philippines.

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Vladimir Putin is running Russia’s economy dangerously hot

Extravagant war spending is fuelling inflation

The robustness of Twitter

It has been essential for following the controversy over the university presidents.  The conflicts in the Middle East.  The unfolding of the Open AI saga.  The attempt to demonstrate superconductivity.  And much more.  It is much less about “some academic or pundit giving you a steady stream of their thoughts.”  And much more “where the action is.”  Some of that springs from Elon’s rules changes, but a lot of it comes from having a world full of action, both good and bad.  And the fullness of action in the world is, in my view, not about to let up.

So you all should be long Twitter.  And those who have left are missed far less than they might have wished.

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FOMC Preview: No Change to Policy Expected

Most analysts expect there will be no change to FOMC policy at this meeting, keeping the target range for the federal funds rate at 5‑1/4 to 5-1/2 percent.

Currently the market expects the next Fed move to be a 25 bp cut announced at either the March or May FOMC meeting.  The market is pricing in the 2nd cut in either June or July - and a total of 4 or even 5 cuts in 2024.  Fed Chair Powell will probably push back on those expectations at the press conference this week.

Projections will be released at this meeting. For review, here are the September projections.  Since the last projections were released, the economy has performed better than the FOMC expected, and inflation was below expectations.  The projections this week will include the first look at 2026.

The BEA reported real GDP increased at a 5.2% annual rate in Q3. GDP tracking estimates show Q4 at around 1.2% SAAR.  This would put Q4 over Q4 GDP at 2.6%. So, the FOMC projection for year-over-year growth in Q4 2023 was too low.

GDP projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Change in Real GDP1
Projection Date202320242025
Sept 20231.9 to 2.21.2 to 1.81.6 to 2.0
June 20230.7 to 1.20.9 to 1.51.6 to 2.0
1 Projections of change in real GDP and inflation are from the fourth quarter of the previous year to the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

The unemployment rate was at 3.7% in November. The FOMC's unemployment rate projection for Q4 was probably close.

Unemployment projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Unemployment Rate2
Projection Date202320242025
Sept 20233.7 to 3.93.9 to 4.43.9 to 4.3
June 20234.0 to 4.34.3 to 4.64.3 to 4.6
2 Projections for the unemployment rate are for the average civilian unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

As of October 2023, PCE inflation increased 3.0 percent year-over-year (YoY), down from 3.4 percent YoY in September, and down from the recent peak of 7.1 percent in June 2022.  So, the FOMC projection for Q4 2023 was too high.

Inflation projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, PCE Inflation1
Projection Date202320242025
Sept 20233.2 to 3.42.3 to 2.72.0 to 2.3
June 20233.0 to 3.52.3 to 2.82.0 to 2.4

PCE core inflation increased 3.5 percent YoY, down from 3.7 percent in September, and down from the recent peak of 5.6 percent in February 2022. This remains a concern for the FOMC, however this includes shelter that was up 6.9% YoY in October (even though asking rents are slightly negative YoY).  Also, core PCE inflation was fairly high in November and December 2022 - increasing at a 4.1% annual rate - and it seems likely YoY core PCE inflation will be below the low end of the FOMC Q4 projection.

Core Inflation projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents, Core Inflation1
Projection Date202320242025
Sept 20233.6 to 3.92.5 to 2.82.0 to 2.4
June 20233.7 to 4.22.5 to 3.12.0 to 2.4

Signaling for residency programs in dermatology, general surgery, and internal medicine

We're starting to see some data from signaling for residency applications.  This paper observes that programs are more likely to interview candidates who send them a signal. (Economists will worry that this reflects which programs are signaled and not just the effect of a signal...)  These three specialties have relatively few signals, more like economics than like Orthopedic Surgery (which has 30 signals).  And the table indicates that more interviews are offered than signals received, so that's another difference from Ortho...)

Rosenblatt, Adena E., Jennifer LaFemina, Lonika Sood, Jennifer Choi, Jennifer Serfin, Bobby Naemi, and Dana Dunleavy. "Impact of Preference Signals on Interview Selection Across Multiple Residency Specialties and Programs." Journal of Graduate Medical Education 15, no. 6 (2023): 702.


"Background Program signaling is an innovation that allows applicants to express interest in specific programs while providing programs the opportunity to review genuinely interested applicants during the interview selection process.

"Objective To examine the influence of program signaling on “selected to interview” status across specialties in the 2022 Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) application cycle.

"Methods Dermatology, general surgery-categorical (GS), and internal medicine-categorical (IM-C) programs that participated in the signaling section of the 2022 supplemental ERAS application (SuppApp) were included. Applicant signal data was collected from SuppApp, applicant self-reported characteristics collected from the MyERAS Application for Residency Applicants, and 2020 program characteristics collected from the 2020 GME Track Survey. Applicant probability of being selected for interview was analyzed using logistic regression, determined by the selected to interview status in the ERAS Program Director’s WorkStation.

"Results Dermatology had a 62% participation rate (73 of 117 programs), GS a 75% participation rate (174 of 232 programs), and IM-C an 86% participation rate (309 of 361 programs). In all 3 specialties examined, on average, signaling increased the likelihood of being selected to interview compared to applicants who did not signal. This finding held across gender and underrepresented in medicine (UIM) groups in all 3 specialties, across applicant types (MDs, DOs, international medical graduates) for GS and IM-C, and after controlling for United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 scores.

"Conclusions Although there was variability by program, signaling increased likelihood of being selected for interview without negatively affecting any specific gender or UIM group."

Data from future years will be needed to determine how signaling is influencing the distribution of residents to programs.

Space Tourism Revisited, Again

One of the advantages of writing a blog for 20 years is that you get a feel for what is new and for what seems new but is actually old. Space tourism falls into the latter category. I wrote my first piece on space tourism in 2004 when Burt Rutan was predicting 100,000 space tourists annually in 10 years. In contrast, I argued that rockets were far too unsafe a technology on which to build a tourism industry:

The problem is safety. Simply put, rockets remain among the least safe means of transportation ever invented. Since 1980 the United States has launched some 440 orbital launch rockets (not including the Space Shuttle). Nearly five percent of those rockets have experienced total failure, either blowing up or wandering so far from course as to be useless. The space shuttle has a slightly better record of safety — it was destroyed in two of 113 flights. There are lots of millionaires willing to spend one or two million dollars for a flight into space but how many will risk a two to five percent chance of death?

Ten years later there weren’t 100,000 space tourists but Richard Branson was predicting a more modest (!) 10,000 space tourists by 2022. Well, 2022 came and went and space tourism has yet to get off the ground. Overall, rockets still look very unsafe. Is anyone surprised? Blue Origin, for example has had 1 total failure in 22 flights, 4.5%. SpaceX has by far the best record with–generously not including test flights–1 total failure in 289 Falcon flights, .34%. That’s great and especially impressive given that Falcon flies much higher than other rockets! But wingsuit flying, no one’s ideas of a safe sport, is still safer than a SpaceX flight! (.2%) and commercial airlines are running at many orders of magnitude safer at .00034%.

Thus, after 20 years, I don’t see much reason to update. Like climbing Mount Everest or wingsuit flying, we might see a few flights a year catering to the rich and foolhardy but we have a long way to get before we get fat guys with cameras in space.

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Car wars

A trade war is brewing between Europe and China. There are lots of reasons that relations between the two are deteriorating — Chinese support for Russian war production, European companies “de-risking” by moving investment out of China, Italy’s withdrawal from the Belt and Road project, and so on. But one sore point that has gotten a lot of attention is the auto industry.

Basically, China is flooding Europe with electric cars. Over the past two years, China has gone from an also-ran in the auto industry to the world’s biggest car exporter. EVs are a huge chunk of those exports, and most of China’s EV sales go to Europe:

Source: Bloomberg

Some forecasts say that by 2025, about 15% of EVs bought in Europe will be made in China — some by Western automakers like Tesla and Volkswagen, some by Chinese companies like BYD.

It’s very easy to understand why this is happening. China massively subsidizes the production of electric vehicles, and Europe massively subsidizes the consumption of electric vehicles. When that happens, any Econ 101 model can easily predict the outcome — China will produce a lot of EVs that are sold in Europe.

In fact, this basic dynamic was present even before the recent export surge. Usually, most cars are made close to where they’re sold. But even in 2021, Europe was buying more EVs than it was making:

Source: International Council on Clean Transportation

But China’s EV export surge is more recent, so let’s go over some of the reasons it’s happening.

First, here’s a good Bloomberg article about the EV subsidy regime in China. China pays manufacturers a subsidy worth more than $1400 per EV they produce, provides EV companies with cheap land and financing, and heavily subsidizes R&D in the sector. Both China and Europe pay people to buy EVs, and their governments buy EVs directly. But China subsidizes local production a lot more than Europe.

That’s one reason for China’s export dominance, but not the only one. Another is that China controls nearly the entire supply chain for EV batteries, except for the initial mining:

Source: Bloomberg

An electric vehicle is a much simpler machine than an internal combustion car — it’s basically just a battery with wheels. The battery in an EV represents about 40% of the car’s purchase price. Making EVs in large numbers is a lot easier when the supplier is right nextdoor; batteries are 33% more expensive in Europe than in China.

Batteries are also about a quarter of an EV’s weight. The fact that they’re all made in China cuts down on the amount of shipping cost you can save by locating car factories close to consumers.

Yet another reason is macroeconomic. As everyone knows, China is in the middle of a big economic slowdown, which has cut local demand for new EVs despite all the consumption subsidies. Europe’s economy is in the dumps as well, but China basically planned to produce enough EVs for a much faster-growing Chinese economy than the one they ended up with. So Chinese EV producers are stuck with massive inventory that they can’t sell domestically. So they’re slashing prices and dumping the inventory on Europe.

And finally, let’s not discount the ingenuity and innovation of Chinese auto and battery engineers and entrepreneurs. The industry shift toward EVs gave upstart carmakers a once-in-a-century opportunity to do an end run around the entrenched dominance of the old-line companies that knew internal combustion engineering backwards and forwards. European startups could have challenged Volkswagen and Renault and Mercedes-Benz. They did not. Instead it was Chinese companies like BYD and SAIC, along with one American company, Tesla, who seized the day.

So thanks to subsidies, supply chain advantages, a technological shift, and macroeconomics, Europe is getting a ton of cheap Chinese-made EVs dumped on their markets. And Europe’s leaders are mad about this, calling for investigations into Chinese EV subsidies. That could end in tariffs against Chinese-made cars. At a press conference after the recent China-EU summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said:

If you just look at the last two years, the trade deficit has doubled. This is a matter of great concern for a lot of Europeans…The root causes are well known, and we discussed them…Politically, European leaders will not be able to tolerate that our industrial base is undermined by unfair competition…[C]ompetition needs to be fair.

(I should mention that Europe isn’t the only one thinking along these lines. Turkey is also moving to block Chinese-made EVs from flooding the country, using non-tariff barriers.)

This reaction is hardly surprising, given the importance of the auto industry to the European economy. In a world where electronics manufacturing has clustered in Asia and software has clustered in the U.S., auto manufacturing was one major sector where Europe still stood relatively strong. It’s a mature industry, so Europe’s fetish for regulating new technologies was less likely to damage it. It’s a heavy industry, so the forces of agglomeration are less powerful than for electronics, where parts can be shipped cheaply; auto production tends to be distributed throughout the world, with most cars produced close to where they’re sold, which allowed Europe to make most of its own cars even as its economy lost competitiveness and dynamism overall. And Germany, in particular, has a thriving cluster of auto engineering talent that allows them to make really good cars (or at least, really good internal combustion cars).

Losing the car industry could thus push Europe further along the path to deindustrialization. Cheap Chinese EVs are a boon to European consumers, and they help speed the green transition and reduce carbon emissions. But the competition also threatens to put a bunch of European workers out of a job — 7% of the region’s workforce work in the automotive sector. Traditionally, Europe has been much more concerned than the U.S. about protecting its industries from foreign competition; the EV spat with China will be a test of whether this is still the case, or whether Europe has embraced more of a “neoliberal” approach to trade.

But there could also be a national security angle here too. The Ukraine war is stalemated, and promises to be a long slog, even as U.S. domestic politics puts American support for Ukraine in jeopardy. That means that the job of supporting Ukraine’s continued independence will fall to Europe; and if Ukraine does fall, Europe will still be on the hook, since Putin will then turn his eyes to Poland and the Baltics. So Europe will need to match Russian war production, in areas like shells, missiles, artillery, air defense, drones, and armored vehicles. A domestic auto industry gives Europe much more ability to repurpose production lines and ramp up defense production when needed. If the auto industry flees to China, Europe will be that much more vulnerable to Russia. In fact, this is one reason the auto industry is so globally distributed today; during and after World War 2, lots of countries decided they needed car industries in order to maintain strong militaries.

So if Europe does decide to protect its car industry, what might it do? Tariffs on Chinese-made cars are one option, of course, but they come with several obvious limitation. First of all, their impact will be limited by exchange rate adjustment; the yuan will simply depreciate against the euro to at least partially offset the tariffs. Also, tariffs don’t do much to help European carmakers become more competitive in the export markets they used to dominate. The fact is that Chinese-made EVs are mostly just better than European-made ones right now, and tariffs aren’t going to change that.

In order to address these issues, Europe would need more than tariffs. It would need an equivalent of the U.S.’ Inflation Reduction Act — a major program of production subsidies, not just for EVs themselves but for the batteries and the mineral processing facilities necessary to make them. Europe would also need to simplify and slash some of the overgrowth of regulation that it has piled up around the auto industry over the last few years. And it would need to subsidize R&D in the EV sector more heavily.

And another important step would be something Europe has shied away from doing in recent times: encouraging startups. It’s no coincidence that Tesla, a startup automaker, was able to run rings around the stodgy old giants of GM and Ford, with their deep reliance on legacy markets and legacy technology. Europe has no Tesla; if it really wants to compete with China, it needs at least one.

In other words, if Europe is going to save its car industry, it’s going to have to finally leave the comfortable stasis it has slipped into over the last few decades. That stasis, driven by regulation and complacency, was never really sustainable; as soon as old tentpole industries like auto manufacturing were hit by external shocks, the whole system was inevitably going to creak and crumble.

Europe lucked out for a long time — the internal combustion engine maintained its dominance, and Chinese demand hungrily hoovered up German-made cars. But the shock came, in the form of the shift to EVs, and now the long, easy daydream is over. Europe’s leaders can choose to meet the challenge, or they can hold more meetings and issue more empty rhetoric. Incidentally, that’s the same choice that’s facing them on a great many fronts right now.

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Ohtani Announces He's Signing With The Dodgers: 10 Years, $700 Million

10 years. $700 million.

Those are the eye-popping numbers on the unprecedented contract Shohei Ohtani will be signing with the Dodgers. The 2023 unanimous AL MVP made the announcement himself on Saturday afternoon. The $700,000,000 is obviously the largest player contract in sports history – and will likely hold the  top spot for a while.

Ohtani, who turns 30 next July, had elbow surgery in mid-September and will not pitch in 2024.

In other news, the Red Sox made a rare deal of substance with the Yankees, sending Alex Verdugo, who completely wore out his welcome with manager Alex Cora, to the Bronx for a trio of right-handed pitchers (Richard Fitts, Greg Weissert, and Nicholas Judice). Fitts was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year for 2023.

The MFY also traded for Juan Soto, who is set to become a free agent after next season. With any luck, this will simply be a one-year rental. But it sucks, no matter how you slice it. Maybe Verdugo can do us a favour and sabotage some shit over there.

Hey, Yoshinobu Yamamoto . . . umm, you wanna come to Boston and finish in last place?

Will Rinehart on YIMBY and Sure (from my email)

I won’t double indent, everything that follows is from Will and not from me:

“…you put up the post “MR commentator ‘Sure’ on YIMBY” and I wanted to send an email because I’m not sure I agree with the comment, given Rosen-Roback and some recent research in urban economics.

Sure writes that “what people want from their housing is overwhelmingly a short commute and low density,” which is only half right. People want amenities, including a short commute and space, but more importantly, they want good schools and a mix of local consumption goods.

One of the most important amenities for a school is its school district. Basically, any survey of home buyers ranks school districts at the very top of demands, and they show a willingness to give up space in order to be in better schools.

Then, there’s the broad notion of local consumption. Sparked by Miyauchi, Nakajima, and Redding (2021), urban economics is shifting to include smartphone data in order to understand the consumption side of agglomeration better. It is an area we know little about because data was so hard to collect.

Combining smartphone data with economic census data, the authors show that non-commuting trips are frequent, more localized than commuting trips, and are strongly related to the availability of nontraded services. From here, the authors augmented a standard model to incorporate travel to work and this hyper local travel. Their findings are powerful. Consumption access makes a sizable contribution relative to workplace access in explaining the observed variation in residents and land prices across locations.

So when Sure asks,

Suppose they do [liberalize housing], who is going to move in [to Arlington and Alexandria]? The guys who are buying in Chantilly because they want space? Or the guys crowded into a apartment building in NE DC who work in Foggy Bottom? I submit it will be the latter.

I think that’s probably wrong. The people moving into those homes in the suburbs will not want space but good schools first and foremost. So it very well could be people from Chantilly move to Arlington, but I would suspect that Arlington will get more people because they generally have better schools than Alexandria and others. Thus, the amenity of interest would be education not space.

Sure is right that “If we liberalize zoning everywhere (i.e. the YIMBY dream) then we should expect a net movement from the areas where people say they don’t want to live to the areas where they say they want to live.” But they misstep in thinking that “on net that means out of the urban core and into something less dense.” In the open-city Rosen-Roback model, generally speaking, liberalization of housing would mean people head into the urban core and into the suburbs.

In total, Sure seriously overweights commuting time and housing space, and underweights education as an amenity and local consumption.”

The post Will Rinehart on YIMBY and Sure (from my email) appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Cold Front Bringing Multiple Hazards to the Eastern U.S.; Rain and High-elevation Snow Continue in the Northwest

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill Resigns After Embarrassing Testimony in Congressional Antisemitism Hearing

Like I wrote the other day, a reckoning was due. In addition to Magill, the chair of Penn’s board of trustees also submitted his resignation. After only 18 months as president, Magill’s was the shortest tenure in Penn’s 260-year history.

If Penn wants to see how you do it, they need look no further than right across Walnut Street.


When did you first learn to identify this group of stars? When did you first learn to identify this group of stars?

Verizon Gave a Woman’s Phone Data to an Armed Stalker Who Posed as Cop Over Email

Joseph Cox, reporting for 404 Media:

The FBI investigated a man who allegedly posed as a police officer in emails and phone calls to trick Verizon to hand over phone data belonging to a specific person that the suspect met on the dating section of porn site xHamster, according to a newly unsealed court record. Despite the relatively unconvincing cover story concocted by the suspect, including the use of a clearly non-government ProtonMail email address, Verizon handed over the victim’s data to the alleged stalker, including their address and phone logs. The stalker then went on to threaten the victim and ended up driving to where he believed the victim lived while armed with a knife, according to the record.

The news is a massive failure by Verizon who did not verify that the data request was fraudulent, and the company potentially put someone’s safety at risk. [...] As the complaint against Glauner notes, this “search warrant” was not correctly formatted and did not include an additional form that is required for search warrants in North Carolina. That, and the Cary Police Department confirmed that no such Steven Cooper is employed with the agency, the document says. The judge who allegedly signed the document, Gale Adams, was shown the document and told investigators the signature was not hers either. Most obviously of all, the document was sent with a ProtonMail email address, which is “not an official government email address,” the complaint says.



Use unittest's subtest helper

This is part of a series of posts I’m doing as a sort of Python/Django Advent calendar, offering a small tip or piece of information each day from the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Eve. See the first post for an introduction.

Python testing frameworks

The Python standard library ships with the unittest module for writing tests. The first thing I want to mention about it is that it gets a lot of …

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Sunday 9 December 1660

(Lord’s day). Being called up early by Sir W. Batten I rose and went to his house and he told me the ill news that he had this morning from Woolwich, that the Assurance (formerly Captain Holland’s ship, and now Captain Stoakes’s, designed for Guiny and manned and victualled), was by a gust of wind sunk down to the bottom. Twenty men drowned. Sir Williams both went by barge thither to see how things are, and I am sent to the Duke of York to tell him, and by boat with some other company going to Whitehall from the Old Swan. I went to the Duke. And first calling upon Mr. Coventry at his chamber, I went to the Duke’s bed-side, who had sat up late last night, and lay long this morning, who was much surprised, therewith.

This being done I went to chappell, and sat in Mr. Blagrave’s pew, and there did sing my part along with another before the King, and with much ease.

From thence going to my Lady I met with a letter from my Lord (which Andrew had been at my house to bring me and missed me), commanding me to go to Mr. Denham, to get a man to go to him to-morrow to Hinchinbroke, to contrive with him about some alterations in his house, which I did and got Mr. Kennard.

Dined with my Lady and staid all the afternoon with her, and had infinite of talk of all kind of things, especially of beauty of men and women, with which she seems to be much pleased to talk of.

From thence at night to Mr. Kennard and took him to Mr. Denham, the Surveyor’s. Where, while we could not speak with him, his chief man (Mr. Cooper) did give us a cup of good sack. From thence with Mr. Kennard to my Lady who is much pleased with him, and after a glass of sack there; we parted, having taken order for a horse or two for him and his servant to be gone to-morrow.

So to my father’s, where I sat while they were at supper, and I found my mother below stairs and pretty well.

Thence home, where I hear that the Comptroller had some business with me, and (with Giffin’s lanthorn) I went to him and there staid in discourse an hour ‘till late, and among other things he showed me a design of his, by the King’s making an Order of Knights of the Seal to give an encouragement for persons of honour to undertake the service of the sea, and he had done it with great pains and very ingeniously.

So home and to prayers and to bed.

Read the annotations

My Ultimate Texas Songwriter Playlist

I moved to Austin with a little bit of knowledge of Texas music—but it was lopsided.

I knew lots about Texas blues and the songsters of the old days, and a bit about Tex-Mex border music and some other traditional styles. But I was actually more familiar with old cowboy songs than the more recent hits from the local country music scene. And there were other Texas-sized gaps in my regional music lore.

I decided to rectify that. So I started to compile a Texas songwriters playlist.

I focused mostly on songs and songwriters with a marked local flavor. Some of these tunes declare their home state in their title (just look at the first three songs on the list). But even as I expanded and modernized the range of my listening, I still favored roots and traditions, and mostly ignored songs that sounded like they might have come from anywhere.

Texas songwriters (photos)

You won’t find many recent commercial hits on my list. I make no apologies for this. Even if the songwriters hail from Texas, they have a hard time trying climbing the charts nowadays without purging those roots from their music.

Of course, I threw in a few more esoteric and surprising options. Yes, both composers of “Try to Remember” hail from the Lone Star State. (And the song does remind me of “The Streets of Laredo.”) And I also wanted to give full credit to some songwriters who achieved fame after leaving Texas behind, for example Janis Joplin and Mike Nesmith.

But I also had to ignore some obvious candidates:

  • “Deep in the Heart of Texas” was written by a guy from Iowa who spent most of his music career in Las Vegas.

  • “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was composed by a minstrel from Tennessee.

  • “The Streets of Laredo” (mentioned above) was claimed by a songwriter from Colorado (and some elements of the song originated in England).

  • “Galveston” is an outstanding song, and I’d love to include it—but composer Jimmy Webb was born in Oklahoma, which is considered a hostile foreign country by many of my new neighbors.

Sorry—but they had to go.

The Honest Broker is a reader-supported guide to music, books, media & culture. Both free and paid subscriptions are available. If you want to support my work, the best way is by taking out a paid subscription.

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But there was no shortage of other options. I could have easily found another fifty or hundred songs, but I wanted this to be manageable, not exhaustive.

The end result is a fun playlist, and a little bit of an education (at least for me).

And it paid off when I went to a holiday party last week hosted by a neighbor down the street from me in Austin. The hosts had hired an old Texas guitarist to provide live entertainment, and I knew many of the songs he sang, and could even sing along myself—but only because I had done this deep dive into the regional music traditions.

You make friends faster here if you know the tunes.

But I’m sure I’ve missed many fine songs by Texas songwriters. If I’ve left out one of your Long Star State favorites, let me know in the comments.

Map of Texas (1876)
Map of Texas (1876)

Ted’s Texas Songwriters Playlist (56 Tracks)

In alphabetical order

Amarillo Highway
Terry Allen

Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio
Santiago ‘Flaco’ Jiménez Sr. (performed by Flaco Jiménez)

Beautiful Texas Sunshine
Doug Sahm

Black Snake Moan
Blind Lemon Jefferson

Bloody Mary Morning
Willie Nelson

Brand New Day
Ruthie Foster

Bright Lights
Gary Clark Jr.

Butcher Shop Blues
Bernice Edwards

Bye Bye Baby Blues
Little Hat Jones

The Cape
Guy Clark

Cocaine Done Killed My Baby
Mance Lipscomb

Willie Nelson

Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground
Blind Willie Johnson

Desperados Waiting for a Train
Guy Clark

Dublin Blues
Guy Clark

Feelin’ Good Again
Robert Earl Keen

Gangster of Love
Johnny “Guitar” Watson

Harder Than the Fall
Ruthie Foster

Hello Walls
Willie Nelson

Hey Shah
Moon Mullican

Honey Won’t You Allow Me One More Chance
Henry “Ragtime” Thomas

I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train
Billie Joe Shaver

I Gotta Go
Robert Earl Keen

If I Needed You
Townes Van Zandt

I’ll Be Here in the Morning
Townes Van Zandt

It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine
Blind Willie Johnson

It’s Such a Small World
Rodney Crowell

Michael Nesmith

L.A. Freeway
Guy Clark

Live Forever
Billie Joe Shaver

Mal Hombre
Lydia Mendoza

Mercedes Benz
Janis Joplin

Mr. Bojangles
Jerry Jeff Walker

Mojo Hand
Lightnin’ Hopkins

Mother Blues
Ray Wylie Hubbard

My Favorite Picture of You
Guy Clark

No Kinda Dancer
Robert Earl Keen

Northeast Texas Woman
Jerry Jeff Walker

Palid Luna
Lydia Mendoza

Poncho and Lefty
Townes Van Zandt

Pride and Joy
Stevie Ray Vaughan

The Road Goes on Forever
Robert Earl Keen

Screw You, We’re from Texas
Jerry Jeff Walker

See That My Grave’s Kept Clean
Blind Lemon Jefferson

She’s About a Mover
Doug Sahm (performed by Sir Douglas Quintet)

Snake Farm
Ray Wylie Hubbard

So Long
Moon Mullican

The Soul of a Man
Blind Willie Johnson

Street Life
Joe Sample

Texas 1947
Guy Clark

Tower Song
Townes Van Zandt

Try to Remember
Tom Jones & Harry Schmidt (The Fantasticks)

Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother
Ray Wylie Hubbard (performed by Jerry Jeff Walker)

Waiting Around to Die
Townes Van Zandt

Women Is Losers
Janis Joplin (Big Brother & The Holding Company)

Young Girl
Jerry Fuller

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Links 12/9/23

Links for you. Science:

A paradise island vacation with no mosquito bites – and no chemicals
From a Detour to Global Dominance: The rise of the JN.1 variant
View Global Distribution of Microbial AMR Genes with the New MicroBIGG-E Map
It Could Be a Vast Source of Clean Energy, Buried Deep Underground
Alignment Free Phylogeny Construction Using Maximum Likelihood Using k-mer Counts
Waste not, want not: revisiting the analysis that called into question the practice of rarefaction


Thousands of Americans Died Due to Internal FDA Strife Surrounding COVID Booster Rollout (paper here)
When the (Supposed) Enemy of Your Enemy Is Not Your Friend: Why I can’t stomach the new right-wing enthusiasm for fighting antisemitism
How to Be Anti-Semitic and Get Away With It: Too many communities have developed ways to excuse or otherwise ignore prejudice.
America has a Ramaswamy problem
At a Hearing on Israel, University Presidents Walked Into a Trap
As Costs and Demand Skyrocket, Abortion Funds Struggle to Keep Up
China restarts COVID-19 testing in hospitals, airports
Government efforts to erase student loan debt have now reached 3.6 million borrowers (not inflationary, either…)
Cyber Command, NSA nominee now double-blocked
Why voters aren’t more worried about Trump’s return: It sure doesn’t look like he’s running
Should Taxpayers Be Subsidizing the Artistic Tastes of the Rich? Questions the Washington Post Won’t Ask
Stop Demanding Dumb Answers To Hard Questions: Demanding Short, Dumb Answers About Hate Speech Makes You A Useful Idiot For Bigots.
Targeting costly meds, Biden admin asserts authority to seize certain drug patents
Ratifying Sedition: The Proud Boys 404(b) Evidence
Surely There Will Be Exceptions For The LifeAndHealthOfTheMother
‘Good Jew’ vs. ‘Bad Jew’: Why pro-Palestine Protests Have a Problem. I have always protested Israel’s occupation and systemic anti-Arab discrimination, but I won’t join New York’s pro-Palestinian protests. I will never take a toxic test requiring me to denounce other Jews nor march with anyone legitimizing killing Israelis as ‘resistance’ (gift link)
New Civiqs poll: Americans say inflation won’t be solved until prices drop
Is Corporate America Betting on Trump?
Miss Pixie’s Furniture Store, A 14th Street Fixture, Will Move To A New Location In March
I’m On Your Side, MAAAAN
One in five young Americans think the Holocaust is a myth
NYT Columnist Misleadingly Trashes the Economy, To Explain Why People View Economy Negatively
One Year In, ChatGPT’s Legacy Is Clear
Joe Biden for President
Federal Telework Policies Could Hurt D.C. Region’s Transit System, But Attract Younger And Diverse Employees
Elon Musk says Grimes’ friends warned her to take their custody battle to California over Texas — where child support is capped (supposedly richest guy in the world is a cheapskate on alimony…)

Real Estate Newsletter Articles this Week: The "Home ATM" Mostly Closed in Q3

At the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter this week:

The "Home ATM" Mostly Closed in Q3

Q3 Update: Delinquencies, Foreclosures and REO

1st Look at Local Housing Markets in November with Comparison to 2019

Asking Rents Down 1.1% Year-over-year

ICE (Black Knight) Mortgage Monitor: "Home prices continued sending mixed signals in October"

This is usually published 4 to 6 times a week and provides more in-depth analysis of the housing market.

You can subscribe at

For Stephen Goldstine


The young Stephen photographs himself with Edward Weston.

The San Francisco Chronicle remembers an extraordinary man, one who lived for art and artists.

Flight Delay

A few days ago, I wrote about ‘Protecting the Bird Sanctuary’.  I hope you read it. 

Because I told you that story just to be able to tell this one. 

I put this story in the ‘mostly true’ category – I was the Ascent Flight Director and can attest to my end of it.  But the real story belongs to NASA Astronaut Richard N. “Dick” Richards. 

It all started after Dick was kicked upstairs to a management job, his space flight flying days were over.  In its inestimable wisdom, the NASA senior management decided that a flown astronaut needed to make an appearance in American Samoa to encourage the children there to study science, mathematics, and eventually engineering.  Every astronaut (and many a Flight Director) has been the recipient of just such a public appearance assignment. 

Having completed the requisite talks with schoolchildren and teachers, Dick proceeded to Pago Pago International airport to take the flight to Honolulu and home.  But . . .  the flight was delayed.

By the Space Shuttle.   


This time the shuttle had a very heavy payload which limited its trajectory.  It did not have a rendezvous mission so the launch window was long (2.5 hours or so), and the planned orbital inclination was low – which meant that the ET disposal area was in the central Pacific.

NASA had issued the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) showing where the ET debris would fall and bracketed the times for the full launch window. 

An immutable principle for a shuttle launch required a safe place to land if one of the three main engines shut down early.  For a good portion of the powered ascent, this meant an abort landing at a designated site on the west coast of Africa or in Spain.  At a Trans-Atlantic Abort (TAL) landing site. 

For this particular flight we only had one TAL site.  Or rather, we only had one TAL site where all the navigation aids, convoy team, lights, etc., were in place.  The other potential TAL sites existed, but were not augmented with the proper resources.  Several of these other runways were out of reach given the trajectory and performance limitations on this flight.  At one the runway was being repaved:  you really would not want to try to land there!  On this day there was only one choice. 

Read the rules – I have attached a few pertinent extracts of the Shuttle Flight Rules.  Reading them, one might ask, ‘how did you ever get to launch a shuttle?’ 

As Mother Nature would have it, that one TAL site had unacceptable weather.  Not horrific, but clearly in violation of the Flight Rules.  In the rule excepts attached, I did not include the Landing Site Weather rule, A2-6 if you want to look it up.  It is the single longest rule in the book (21 pages) and without a doubt the most convoluted. 

The brilliant weather forecasters from the National Weather Service who staffed the Spaceflight Meteorology Group were the best in the business.  They could to make a forecast for a specific spot at a specific time with better than 95% accuracy.  On this day, the Weather officer held out hope that waiting until later in the launch window conditions might improve. 

We were all suited up and ready to play as it were, and had nowhere else to go, so we waited.  The Shuttle systems were all running perfectly, no concerns; the tank was loaded and topped off, no concerns; the weather in Florida was about as perfect as it could get there. 

Meanwhile, back in the Pago Pago airport, the passengers were restless.  The airline Captain for the flight came into the waiting room and explained about the Shuttle External Tank expected to fall directly in their flight path.  He had observed – from a great distance – the breakup of an earlier flight.  That convinced him not to take any chances!

So, the passengers fretted, and waited, and talked.  One of the passengers, in conversation with Dick Richards, asked if Dick could find out how long they might have to wait.  Dick, having been a Capcom on several flights, had the phone number for Mission Control so he called.  His fellow astronaut serving as the Capcom summarized the news about the weather.

Dick got the passengers together and explained it to them at some length.  When he was done, one of them summarized it this way: 

“Here we are in the South Pacific waiting to take off because our flight is delayed waiting for the Space Shuttle to launch from Florida, and the Space Shuttle in Florida is waiting to launch due to bad weather in Africa.”

Yep, that is about it.

I really don’t remember if we waited to the end of the window to launch or scrub.  I guess I need to check that.  I do know that I – the Ascent Flight Director is responsible for the Go/No-Go for Abort landing weather – I was totally unaware of the crowd in Pago Pago waiting on my decision.  Not that it would have made any difference. 


With apologies to the Disney people:

It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world

There is just one moon
And one golden sun
And a smile means
Friendship to ev’ryone
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It’s a small world after all

It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all

It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world





















Saturday assorted links

1. A piece on Magill and free speech, written before the recent brouhaha.

2. “Today, Future House is announcing WikiCrow, our first automated system for synthesizing scientific knowledge.

3. Erik Hoel on the marginal value of intelligence, and AI.  And with a clever restatement: “call it the supply paradox of AI: the easier it is to train an AI to do something, the less economically valuable that thing is”

4. And was some version of democratized AGI technology released yesterday?

5. Modeling “Assorted links.”

6. Apply for an ACX grant from Scott Alexander.

7. The extremely large telescope.

8. Google’s NotebookLM aims to be the ultimate writing assistant.

The post Saturday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist posts:

The Rent Is Too Damn High: The D.C. Rent Stabilization Edition

The State of COVID in D.C.*: Pretty Bad

On Vibes and Economics

A Quick Note on Possible mRNA Based Influenza Vaccines

Landspace launches third methane Zhuque-2, targets 2025 launch of new stainless steel rocket

Chinese launch startup Landspace successfully sent satellites into orbit for the first time Friday and revealed details of a new stainless steel rocket.

The post Landspace launches third methane Zhuque-2, targets 2025 launch of new stainless steel rocket appeared first on SpaceNews.

What is the political orientation of GROK?

The story is complicated, in any case it is not what you might think.  It is often not so different from ChatGPT, albeit with many caveats and qualifications, including about the tests themselves.  From David Rozado:

I think it is clear that Grok’s answers to questions with political connotations tend to often be left of center.

Model this…

The post What is the political orientation of GROK? appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



Related Stories


JOE Job Openings for Economists: 2023 versus the past 4 years

 Here's the latest note on the job market from the AEA's  Committee on the Job Market.  It reflects a tight job market (but may also reflect that fewer than 100% of available jobs are published in the JOE, and this may be in flux). The full memo is at the link below, and I'm summarizing here some of the highlights (trigger warning:(

JOE Job Openings by Sector, 2023 versus the past 4 years 

"To: Members of the American Economic Association

From: AEA Committee on the Job Market: John Cawley (chair), Matt Gentzkow, Brooke Helppie-McFall, Al Roth, Peter Rousseau, and Wendy Stock  Date: December 8, 2023

This memo reports the cumulative number of unique job openings on Job Openings for Economists (JOE), by sector and week, compared to the same week in recent years.

Some clarifications on the data and graphs in this memo:

• ...

• The data described in this memo cover ISO weeks 1 through 48, which in 2023 ended December 3.

• The counts that are graphed and discussed are the number of job openings. To clarify, it is not the number of job listings; a listing may include multiple openings.

• ...

• On each graph, the year-to-date cumulative number of job openings is listed for the past five years separately: 2019-2023. The graphs are shown below, overall and by sector. 

Figure 1 (on p. 3) shows the total number of job openings in 2023, compared to recent years. As of the end of week 48, there have been 2,924 jobs listed on JOE since the beginning of 2023, which is 14.7% lower than at the same week in 2022, 8.7% lower than the same week in 2021, 21.9% higher than the same week in 2020 (the worst COVID year), and 15.9% lower than the same week in 2019, the last pre- COVID year.

Subsequent graphs compare the number of job openings separately by sector. Figure 2 shows that 741 full-time academic positions in the U.S. have been listed on JOE so far in 2023; this is 16.5% lower than at the same week in 2022, 0.4% lower than at the same week in 2021, 109.3% higher than at the same week in 2020, and 8.2% lower than the same week in 2019 - see p. 4.

Figure 4 shows that 949 full-time academic job openings in institutions outside the U.S. have been listed on JOE so far in 2023; that is 7.2% lower than at the same week in 2022, 9.5% lower than the same week in 2021, 11.1% higher than at the same week in 2020, and 16.7% lower than the same week in 2019 - see p. 6.

Figure 6 shows that 508 full-time non-academic positions (in the U.S. or abroad) have been listed on JOE so far in 2023; that is 26.8% lower than at the same week in 2022, 30.0% lower than at the same week in 2021, 18.2% lower than the same time in 2020 and 35.4% lower than the same week in 2019 - see p. 8.

Over the past four years, roughly 92% of the calendar year’s job listings have been posted by the end of November. In January 2024, we will post a year-end report that includes the final numbers for 2023.

The AEA Executive Committee and the Committee on the Job Market provide the following guidance for the job market, to ensure common expectations, fairness, and a thick job market. This guidance concerns the timing of interview invitations, the interviews themselves, and exploding job offers.


Schedule for Week of December 10, 2023

The key economic reports this week are November CPI and Retail Sales.

For manufacturing, November Industrial Production, and the December New York Fed survey will be released this week.

The FOMC meets this week and no change to policy is expected.

----- Monday, December 11th -----

No major economic releases scheduled.

----- Tuesday, December 12th -----

6:00 AM: NFIB Small Business Optimism Index for November.

8:30 AM: The Consumer Price Index for November from the BLS. The consensus is for no change in CPI, and a 0.3% increase in core CPI.  The consensus is for CPI to be up 3.0% year-over-year and core CPI to be up 4.0% YoY.

----- Wednesday, December 13th -----

7:00 AM ET: The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) will release the results for the mortgage purchase applications index.

8:30 AM: The Producer Price Index for November from the BLS. The consensus is for a 0.1% increase in PPI, and a 0.2% increase in core PPI.

2:00 PM: FOMC Meeting Announcement. No change to policy is expected at this meeting.

2:00 PM: FOMC Forecasts This will include the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) participants' projections of the appropriate target federal funds rate along with the quarterly economic projections.

2:30 PM: Fed Chair Jerome Powell holds a press briefing following the FOMC announcement.

----- Thursday, December 14th -----

Retail Sales8:30 AM ET: Retail sales for November will be released.  The consensus is for a 0.1% decrease in retail sales.

This graph shows retail sales since 1992. This is monthly retail sales and food service, seasonally adjusted (total and ex-gasoline).

8:30 AM: The initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released. The consensus is for 220 thousand, unchanged from 220 thousand last week.

----- Friday, December 15th -----

8:30 AM: The New York Fed Empire State manufacturing survey for December. The consensus is for a reading of 3.5, down from 9.1.

Industrial Production9:15 AM: The Fed will release Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization for November.

This graph shows industrial production since 1967.

The consensus is for a 0.2% increase in Industrial Production, and for Capacity Utilization to increase to 79.1%.

Wisconsin DEI markets in everything

In a deal months in the making, the University of Wisconsin System has agreed to “reimagine” its diversity efforts, restructuring dozens of staff into positions serving all students and freezing the total number of diversity positions for the next three years.

In exchange, universities would receive $800 million for employee pay raises and some building projects, including a new engineering building for UW-Madison.

“This is an evolution, and this is a change moving forward,” UW System President Jay Rothman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But it does not in any way deviate from our core values of diversity (and) inclusion.”

Here is the full story, via HB, it is rare that the real world is actually so Coasean.

The post Wisconsin DEI markets in everything appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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The resurgence of crypto

Crypto and bitcoin, among their other uses, are Rorschach tests for commentators. As these institutions evolve, are you capable of changing your mind and updating in response to new data? Sadly, many people are failing that test and instead staking out inflexible ideological ground.

Bitcoin prices are now in the range of $44,000, and the asset has more than doubled in value this year. Perhaps more surprisingly yet, NFT markets are making a comeback. Many of the older NFT purchases remain nearly worthless, but interest in the asset class as a whole has perked up.

These developments should induce us to reevaluate crypto in a positive direction. If in the past you have argued that crypto is a bubble, can it be the bubble is back yet again? Typically bubbles, once they burst, do not return in a few years’ time. You still will find Beanie Babies on eBay, but they are not surrounded by any degree of excitement. Similarly, the prices of Dutch tulip bulbs appear normal and well-behaved, as that bubble faded out long ago. Bitcoin, in contrast, has attracted investor interest anew time and again.

It is time to realize that crypto is more like a lottery ticket than a bubble or a fraud, and it is a lottery ticket with a good chance of paying off. It is a bet on whether it will prove possible to build out crypto infrastructure as a long-term project, integrated with mainstream finance. If that project can succeed, crypto will be worth a lot, probably considerably more than its current price. If not, crypto assets will remain as a means for escaping capital controls and moving money across borders, or perhaps to skirt the law with illegal purchases.

What might such an infrastructure look like? To make just a few guesses, your crypto wallet might be integrated with your Visa and other credit cards (perhaps using AI?). Fidelity, Vanguard, large banks and other mainstream financial institutions will allow you to hold and trade crypto, just as you might now have a money market fund. Crypto-based lending could help you invest in high-return, high-risk overseas opportunities with some subset of your portfolio. Stablecoins will circulate as a form of “programmable money,” and they will circulate on a regular and normal basis; such a plan was just initiated by the French bank SocGen. On a more exotic plane, AI-based agents, denied standard checking accounts, might use crypto to trade with each other.

I’m not arguing such scenarios are either good or bad, simply that the market sees some chance of them happening. And they are far more than “crypto is a fraud or a bubble.”

Whether that infrastructure will meet market and regulatory tests is difficult to forecast. It has never happened before, and thus no one can claim to be a true expert on the matter. Thus your opinion of crypto should be changing each and every day, as you observe fluctuations in market prices and other changes in the objective conditions.

In this perspective, there are some pretty clear reasons why the price of bitcoin is higher again. First, real interest rates have been falling, and fairly rapidly. Ten-year rates are now closer to four per cent than to five per cent. Since crypto financial infrastructure is a long-term project that won’t be completed in a year or two, lower real interest rates raise the value of that project considerably. The value of bitcoin rises as well, just as many other long-term assets rise in value with lower real interest rates. And if interest rates continue to fall, crypto prices could easily continue to rise.

The resurgence of crypto likely has other causes. The story of SBF is receding from the headlines with the end of his trial. That makes crypto look less scammy. On the regulatory side the United States did not try to shut down Binance, in spite of alleged scandals at the exchange. That is the regulators signaling they are not going to try to destroy crypto. Soon the SEC may approve spot bitcoin ETFs, which would make it easier and safer to invest in that asset. Nor have state laws popped up that might be trying to shut down crypto markets. Finally, the election of Donald Trump as President has not faded as a possibility, and in the past Trump has been supportive of crypto. Overall, the tea leaves are signaling that the U.S. government is making its peace with crypto, or at least with some parts of the market.

So with crypto the most important thing is to keep an open mind. As of late, events have been doing much to signal open and growing possibilities, rather than a world where crypto is shut down.

The post The resurgence of crypto appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Don't mock Python's HTTPX

This is part of a series of posts I’m doing as a sort of Python/Django Advent calendar, offering a small tip or piece of information each day from the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Eve. See the first post for an introduction.

Moving on from requests

For quite a long time, the standard recommendation for making HTTP requests in Python was the aptly-named requests package. And you can still use requests if you …

Read full entry

Hubble back in service after gyro scare—NASA still studying reboost options

The Hubble Space Telescope viewed from Space Shuttle Atlantis during a servicing mission in 2009.

Enlarge / The Hubble Space Telescope viewed from Space Shuttle Atlantis during a servicing mission in 2009. (credit: NASA)

The Hubble Space Telescope resumed science observations on Friday after ground teams spent most of the last three weeks assessing the performance of a finicky gyroscope, NASA said.

The troublesome gyroscope is a critical part of the observatory's pointing system. Hubble's gyros measure how fast the spacecraft is turning, helping the telescope aim its aperture toward distant cosmic wonders.

Hubble still provides valuable scientific data for astronomers nearly 34 years since its launch aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990. Five more shuttle servicing missions repaired Hubble, upgraded its science instruments, and replaced hardware degraded from long-term use in space. Among other tasks, astronauts on the last of the shuttle repair flights in 2009 installed six new gyroscopes on Hubble.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ex-Apple Lawyer in Charge of Enforcing Compliance With the Company’s Insider Trading Policies Sentenced to Probation for Insider Trading

David Thomas, reporting for Reuters:

Apple’s former top corporate lawyer will receive no prison time after pleading guilty last year to U.S. insider trading charges, a judge said on Thursday. U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, New Jersey, sentenced Gene Levoff to four years of probation and 2,000 hours of community service. Levoff was also ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and forfeit $604,000. [...]

Levoff ignored quarterly “blackout periods” that barred trading before Apple’s results were released and violated the company’s broader insider trading policy that he himself was responsible for enforcing, prosecutors said.

Who watches the watchmen?


After frustrating false starts, strong indications of a major Pacific jet extension & active pattern by late Dec

A warm and dry November for the Western U.S., but recent record warm soakings in the PacNW If you were in California this autumn, you probably already noticed: this fall was unusually warm and dry nearly everywhere in the state (and, indeed, across most of the Western U.S.!). Despite that, given unusual summer rainfall thanks …

After frustrating false starts, strong indications of a major Pacific jet extension & active pattern by late Dec Read More »

The post After frustrating false starts, strong indications of a major Pacific jet extension & active pattern by late Dec appeared first on Weather West.

Dec 8th COVID Update: Hospitalizations Increased

Mortgage RatesNote: Mortgage rates are from and are for top tier scenarios.

Due to changes at the CDC, weekly cases are no longer updated.

For deaths, I'm currently using 3 weeks ago for "now", since the most recent two weeks will be revised significantly.

Hospitalizations have more almost tripled from a low of 5,150 in June 2023.

Hospitalizations are far below the peak of 150,000 in January 2022.

COVID Metrics
Deaths per Week21,1971,291≤3501
1my goals to stop weekly posts,
2Weekly for Currently Hospitalized, and Deaths
🚩 Increasing number weekly for Hospitalized and Deaths
✅ Goal met.

COVID-19 Deaths per WeekClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the weekly (columns) number of deaths reported.

Weekly deaths have more than doubled from a low of 485 in early July.  Weekly deaths are far below the weekly peak of 26,000 in January 2021.

And here is a new graph I'm following on COVID in wastewater:

COVID-19 WastewaterNote the recent surge in COVID.

This appears to be a leading indicator for COVID hospitalizations and deaths, and both will likely increase over the next several weeks.

Three satellites presumed lost in Transporter deployment malfunction

Transporter-9 launch
Transporter-9 launch

Three satellites on a SpaceX Transporter rideshare launch in November failed to deploy, including one from a company that previously stated its satellite was in orbit and operating.

The post Three satellites presumed lost in Transporter deployment malfunction appeared first on SpaceNews.

Pic du Pleiades

Near dawn on November 19 Near dawn on November 19

U.S. Space Force activates new unit to support operations in Europe and Africa

The U.S. Space Force on Dec. 8 officially activated its first component dedicated to both Europe and Africa.

The post U.S. Space Force activates new unit to support operations in Europe and Africa appeared first on SpaceNews.

Saturday 8 December 1660

To Whitehall to the Privy Seal, and thence to Mr. Pierces the Surgeon to tell them that I would call by and by to go to dinner. But I going into Westminster Hall met with Sir G. Carteret and Sir W. Pen (who were in a great fear that we had committed a great error of 100,000l. in our late account gone into the Parliament in making it too little), and so I was fain to send order to Mr. Pierces to come to my house; and also to leave the key of the chest with Mr. Spicer; wherein my Lord’s money is, and went along with Sir W. Pen by water to the office, and there with Mr. Huchinson we did find that we were in no mistake. And so I went to dinner with my wife and Mr. and Mrs. Pierce the Surgeon to Mr. Pierce, the Purser (the first time that ever I was at his house) who does live very plentifully and finely. We had a lovely chine of beef and other good things very complete and drank a great deal of wine, and her daughter played after dinner upon the virginals, and at night by lanthorn home again, and Mr. Pierce and his wife being gone home I went to bed, having drunk so much wine that my head was troubled and was not very well all night, and the wind I observed was rose exceedingly before I went to bed.

Read the annotations

Ghana warns against illegal Starlink services

Ghana is the latest country in Africa to warn against using Starlink before it issues licenses for SpaceX’s satellite broadband service.

The post Ghana warns against illegal Starlink services appeared first on SpaceNews.

Experts raise concerns about U.S. commitment to GPS modernization

Lockheed Martin GPS 3F satellite rendering.
Lockheed Martin GPS 3F satellite rendering.

Members of a key advisory board questioned the U.S. military's commitment to deliver enhancements to the Global Positioning System, arguing that the network is at risk of falling behind other satellite navigation systems built by Europe and China.

The post Experts raise concerns about U.S. commitment to GPS modernization appeared first on SpaceNews.

Friday Squid Blogging: Influencer Accidentally Posts Restaurant Table QR Ordering Code

Another rare security + squid story:

The woman—who has only been identified by her surname, Wang—was having a meal with friends at a hotpot restaurant in Kunming, a city in southwest China. When everyone’s selections arrived at the table, she posted a photo of the spread on the Chinese social media platform WeChat. What she didn’t notice was that she’d included the QR code on her table, which the restaurant’s customers use to place their orders.

Even though the photo was only shared with her WeChat friends list and not the entire social network, someone—or a lot of someones—used that QR code to add a ridiculous amount of food to her order. Wang was absolutely shocked to learn that “her” meal soon included 1,850 orders of duck blood, 2,580 orders of squid, and an absolutely bonkers 9,990 orders of shrimp paste.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

Links 12/8/23

Links for you. Science:

As rockfish population shrinks, Maryland shortens the fishing season
The Evolution of Modern Dogs: How our canine companions were carefully crafted by quirky, bored aristocrats, the self-proclaimed “doggy people” from Victorian Britain—and why their story can help us understand social change.
Ancient redwoods recover from fire by sprouting 1000-year-old buds
Are COVID Nasal Vaccines on the Way?
Mpox surge in Congo raises concerns world will ignore warnings again
Infectivity of exhaled SARS-CoV-2 aerosols is sufficient to transmit covid-19 within minutes


Trump is hiding his fascist plans in plain sight: Trump’s nightmarish scheme was leaked to the New York Times — and yes, it was on purpose (“…the media did this to themselves, by spending decades in the cozy-but-misleading framework of “bothsidesism.” By refusing repeatedly to adjudicate the factual claims of politicians, the media trained Americans to view all political rhetoric as equally suspicious… The result was a public that has come to believe everyone in politics is full of shit, and nothing anyone says about anything in politics is trustworthy.”)
This is a pandemic of attrition
Why Is It a Surprise That America Is Gloomy After a Devastating Pandemic? (IZ BEEG MYSTERY!; gift link)
D.C.’s Childhood Vaccination Rates Are Still Too Low
Elon’s Gordian Knot
How the surge in post-pandemic shootings has unfolded in the U.S.
Hostages released as part of Israel’s agreement with Hamas shared harsh testimonies about its treatment of captives. However, their main critique was aimed at the government: ‘It feels as though you have no idea what’s happening there at all. You claim there’s intelligence, but the fact is we were being bombed’ (gift link)
D.C. schools bar students from classrooms for missing vaccines. The mandates had not been enforced. Now parents are scrambling for medical appointments.
Acknowledging Economic Strength Doesn’t Undermine Progressive Goals
Is Shoplifting Really Surging? Claims that the U.S. is in the middle of a retail theft wave are exaggerated.
Florida says the purpose of school libraries is to “convey the government’s message”
The Rise, and Now Decline, of the Protective Mask: Two mask companies are shutting down as a once sought-after item becomes an afterthought.
Silicon Valley Icon Keith Rabois Doubles Down on Claim That Elon Musk’s X Has Prevented Second Holocaust
After long banning polio campaigns, Taliban declares war on the disease
The Dual Threat of Donald Trump: Bad things happen when political candidates fear personal consequences of an electoral loss.
Biden ban on menthol cigarettes to be delayed amid political concerns, officials say
RIP Norman Lear
How Harvard, Penn, MIT leaders answered — or skirted — questions on antisemitism
Conservative media figures are using homophobia and misogyny to attack surrogacy and IVF
With ‘conversion switch’ devices, machine guns return to U.S. streets
Make a home for affordable housing in Chevy Chase DC (it’s worth noting everyone in this housing would have a job, and some of the locals still don’t want them around…)
Zony Mash Beer Project abruptly cancels Hanukkah celebration, citing ‘external tensions’
The Age of Doom: Social media has convinced us that everything is awful all the time (related to this, there are a lot of fucked up people who vent online, but also are taken seriously)
Urbanism and Peace
The first results from the world’s biggest basic income experiment
How Democrats of faith see devout Speaker Mike Johnson
Tips Tricks Dampen Delivery Worker Celebration of New $18-an-Hour Wage

AAR: November Carloads Down Slightly YoY; Intermodal Up

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Graphs and excerpts reprinted with permission.
In the first 11 months of 2023, total carloads were 10.82 million, up 0.2% (21,700 carloads) over last year and up 0.5% (53,682 carloads) over 2021. ... In 2023 through November, intermodal originations totaled 11.68 million, down 6.0% (748,046 units) from 2022 and down 10.6% (1.39 million units) from 2021.
emphasis added
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows the six-week average of U.S. Carloads in 2021, 2022 and 2023:
Total originated carloads on U.S. railroads fell 0.01%, or 102 carloads, in November 2023 from the equivalent period in 2022. It was the fifth year-over-year decline for total carloads in the past six months, but most of those declines have been very small in percentage terms. Total carloads averaged 225,715 per week in November 2023, the fourth lowest of the 11 months so far this year. The Thanksgiving holiday typically holds down rail volumes in November.
Rail TrafficThe second graph shows the six-week average (not monthly) of U.S. intermodal in 2021, 2022 and 2023: (using intermodal or shipping containers):
U.S. intermodal volume was up 5.0% in November 2023, its third straight year-over-year gain after 18 straight declines and the biggest year-over-year percentage gain for intermodal in 29 months. U.S. railroads averaged 255,981 originated containers and trailers per week in November 2023. That’s the fourth highest average intermodal volume for November on record (2017, 2018, and 2020 were higher).

Ask Me Anything: Edith Z.

Thanks for all the Qs in response to my post yesterday! Here are my answers. Also, here’s Jason’s great AMA if anyone missed it.

How long have you been knitting? How did you learn? Also do you have a favorite project/technique? I’ve fallen in love with cables.

I taught myself in 2015 using YouTube, which is great because you can replay the videos endlessly.

Aside from the Pengweeno cardigan and Sawtooth mittens I’ve already mentioned, I make a ton of these Classic Ribbed Hats from Purl Soho (above), which is probably a boring answer, but they’re great to give as gifts.

What is the most active conversation in your group texts right now?

In my friends’ Discord, we’re praising Lucy’s Christmas playlist.

How do you not run out of things to write? How does any one-person creative unit not run out?

I definitely run out of things to write. I did here on Day Two, and I freaked out. Then I just kind of pulled things out of my butt.

Back when I ran a blog of my own, I was super tuned in to the internet, and it was relatively easy to find a ton of cool/funny stuff to share and riff on all day — scrolling through Google Reader was like second nature. These days I’m less looped in.


Probably not, but I’m hoping to start my newsletter back up again. It’s just comics, though, unless something changes. I flirted with the idea of trying to bring back The Hairpin (the blog I used to run), but it would probably be a mistake, even if it was possible. I’ve really enjoyed posting here for Jason, though. Almost no one does it like this anymore!

I once worked for a publication that was technically a blog, but one of its (unofficial) policies was to summarize the articles we linked to, rather than encourage people to visit the sources, so as to not lose traffic. That was my understanding anyway, after an early conversation with an editor. I thought that was a bummer; the linking-out part of blogging has always seemed like the spirit of the internet. Which is of course part of why I love so much.

My question is more about you pausing your Substack comics. I’m curious about what happens to our work and creative process when we build an audience. I don’t know what the question really is — I guess: How do we share art without creating so much pressure on ourselves?

I wish I knew! At first sending my newsletter was so easy, but then I built up expectations around what I thought readers wanted. And then I became really worried about what people would think of any given installment, which started to disfigure the whole process for me. (“Will they like it? Is it stupid??? Will they hate me?? Do I hate me????”) I ended up creating work I thought sucked, and eventually I stopped posting altogether.

As for solutions to the problem, I got a lot out of something the writer Jessa Crispin mentioned in her newsletter, which I posted about a few days ago. The idea is basically that one should cultivate some healthy “contempt” for one’s audience. It sounded counterintuitive at first, even rude, but then it made a lot of sense. It helped me get out from under the weight of worrying about what people think, since that’s a losing game.

I used to really fear people disliking my work, and I still do, but maybe I have one degree more acceptance of it.

If I bring back my newsletter, I’m thinking I might turn off the “like and comment” feature. While I loved getting that feedback, I think specifically the “likes” were bending my work to their will. I’ve actually loved sharing stuff on Kottke in part because there’s not a ton of immediate feedback here. It’s like, Okay, the stuff is just out there. Hopefully it will help me connect with others eventually, but it’s not the end of the world if that doesn’t happen right away, or ever. It feels healthier.

How does the experience of blogging like this change how you feel about blogging, and if you want to get back to it?

I’m in a weepy mindset where my first response is: “Blogging this way is PRECIOUS!!! I didn’t appreciate it a tenth as much as I should have when it was my full-time job!”

I also forgot how intense and all-encompassing it can be. Like every day I keep wondering if I’ve gotten so zoned-in that I’ve forgotten to pick my daughter up at daycare. (I haven’t yet.)

What are your three favorite movies of all time, and one that you hate that everyone else loves?

I don’t watch a lot of movies, so nothing really comes to mind, but I do have an emotional attachment to the 1922 movie Nosferatu.

If you asked about books, though — let’s say favorites of the past five years — I would say War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride & Prejudice. I was on a classic-novel kick in 2022, and it was one of the most fun reading-times of my life.

The story behind all the British novels is that many years ago my dad bought a leather-bound set of “100 of the Greatest Books Ever Written” that arrived once a month until the whole set was complete. When he died, I boxed them up and kept them in storage. I finally brought them out last year, when I had a real house with real bookshelves — after 14 years in those storage boxes! — and began reading a few. (For War and Peace I read the amazing Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation.)


Other great recent-ish reads: Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson, and Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke.

Thanks for the Qs, this was super fun to write!

Tags: blogging

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Since I’m here I might as well beat the drum about an...

Since I’m here I might as well beat the drum about an opinion I had five years ago and maintain to this day: “Why Would Any Man Not Want to Be Bald?

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“Using tweezers, carefully remove the lines and now your cake is revealed.”...

“Using tweezers, carefully remove the lines and now your cake is revealed.” Here are instructions for making a snowy tennis-court cake circled with rosemary-sprig pine trees.

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“…court data revealed that the percentage of divorces leading to equal joint...

“…court data revealed that the percentage of divorces leading to equal joint custody — in which time with each parent is split 50–50 — rose from just 2 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 2010.” Wow, as a child from a joint custody situation in the late ’80s, I didn’t realize it was so rare. That’s from a new Atlantic story: “America Isn’t Ready for the Two-Household Child.”

(But also: “To be fair, constructing surveys that capture the complexities of joint custody is difficult. Anecdotally, we know that such arrangements tend to be highly fluid, shifting throughout the year during summer breaks and holidays, and over time as kids age.”)

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Q4 GDP Tracking: Close to 1%

From BofA:
Our 4Q GDP tracking estimate remains at 1.0% q/q saar as higher than expected October construction spending was offset by lower than expected vehicle sales in November and a small downward revision in core capital goods orders in the final October print. [Dec 6th estimate]
emphasis added
From Goldman:
We lowered our Q4 GDP tracking estimate by 0.1pp to +1.4% (qoq ar). Our Q4 domestic final sales estimate remains at +2.1% (qoq ar). [Dec 7th estimate]
And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow
The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the fourth quarter of 2023 is 1.2 percent on December 7, down from 1.3 percent on December 6 after rounding. [Dec th estimate]

EconEats — AI restaurant recommendations

From Josh Knox:

The search tool I’ve always wanted – I trained a custom GPT to recommend restaurants based on the rules from [Tyler Cowen’s] An Economist Gets Lunch.

It’s sort of a retroactive EconGoat project:)

I wrote about the experience on my blog.

The post EconEats — AI restaurant recommendations appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Fireside Friday, December 8, 2023

Apologies for running a fireside so quickly after the gap week, but with the end of the semester coming as the job market gets busier, I haven’t had time to finish the next post on shield walls just yet. That will come out next week for sure though, as it is close to done.

I realize Ollie’s enormous eyes make it seem like he is frightened or concerned here, but he is in fact eyeing a toy and using his scratching post as ambush cover. That feather-toy will never seem him coming.

For today’s musing, I wanted to actually give something of a longer-form answer to a question a student asked me recently. To paraphrase, the former student noted the terrible civilian toll of modern warfare on civilian populations and asked, in essence if it is always this way, why such results are so common in American military history and then does any of that mean it must it always be this way? Is there no other way where civilians do not suffer terribly? And I think that is a grim but necessary question as people are trying to make sense of conflicts occurring not in open fields as the battles of old but in dense urban environments where there are lots of civilians.

And because this is bound to be a heated topic I want to remind y’all in the comments that you will be civil. There are many places to have screaming matches about today’s active conflicts, but what I would like to see instead of a sober discussion of what is and is not possible.

I think we have to begin by specifying that the norm that civilians are not supposed to be the subject of violence in war, that war is a matter between combatants only, is a relatively new one. For most of human history it was broadly assumed that ‘enemy civilians’ were fair targets for mass violence or enslavement. Indeed, for the oldest ‘first system‘ warfare, civilians were often the primary target as the goal was to force enemy groups to migrate away. We see the earliest sort of tentative steps to the idea that some ‘enemy civilians’ ought to be exempt from violence coming out of medieval Christianity and Islam, but these efforts had limited effects. Instead, as we’ve discussed standard military practice, particularly foraging, in this period turned armies into what were effectively roving catastrophes that unavoidably burned and pillaged when they moved through enemy territory.

In the early modern period in Europe, a sort of standard code emerged on how to treat ‘enemy’ urban areas. During a siege, at key points the city would be given a chance to surrender; if they did so, treatment was expected to be lenient and the commander of the besieging army was expected to keep his army in check. If they did not surrender and the besieging army was forced to take the city by storm, however, the norm was pillage, rape, and massacre, with the normal expectation being that the attacking general would only even attempt to get control of his troops after about three days. This ‘code’ obviously falls well short of the modern Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and it was mostly a question of expediency: you wanted a fortified city to surrender quickly rather than force you to launch a bloody assault in which the initial waves of attackers could be sure to take extremely heavy losses (the Dutch term for that first wave was a verloren hoop, ‘lost heap’ (which becomes ‘forlorn hope’ in English) which gives a sense of the losses you are trying to avoid).

We really only start to see stronger norms protecting civilian populations emerge in the 1800s, but that too is a slow process of half-measures. In both World Wars, all sides engaged in the bombing of urban areas from the air. In the First, the Germans used Zeppelins and the Allies were developing bombers for the purpose and using them at war’s end. In the Second World War, German terror-bombing in Poland and Japanese terror-bombing in China came first, but were of course followed by far more extensive allied bombing as the weight of industrial might made itself known. There was some sense that this was wrong, but no one was going to desist over that. Curtis LeMay, the commander of US strategic bombing operations over Japan, remarked that if the United States had lost, he’d have been tried as a war criminal, though it is worth noting that of all of the German and Japanese leaders prosecuted for war crimes, none were charged with bombing civilian areas, despite there being many who could have been.

The modern infrastructure of the Laws of Armed Conflict to protect non-combatants is a product of the horrors of the Second World War, codified in the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949. And even then, the protections are limited: belligerents are not to either intentionally target civilians nor to attack in ways that are indiscriminate. But civilian casualties are permitted due to ‘military necessity’ with the principle being that the damage done ought to be in proportion to the military objective.1 If that seems mealy-mouthed and half-hearted that’s because it is. But the challenge with laws to limit was is that if you make them too limiting, no one will follow them because it would lead surely to defeat and in that case norms would revert back to the slaughter and brutality of the olden days.

Still, as weak as these norms are, it should mean in theory that at least some armies are striving to limit civilian suffering and death as a result of war as much as reasonably practicable (which is not the same as ‘as much as possible.’)

That in turn collides with the reality of battle in urban spaces, which has changed meaningfully since the 1800s. Before the industrial revolution, only a small part of the population lived in dense cities, typically around 10-20% or so. Today more than half of all people globally live in cities and of course the world population is several times larger. Even as late as 1800, there were no cities on Earth very much larger than a million people; today there are more than eighty cities with five million people in them. That means the locus of population, production and infrastructure is in these cities, making them key military targets, while at the same time they become massive concrete warrens – extremely difficult terrain to have an army in.

Looking at battles in urban spaces over the past century or so – that is, in the age of Industrial Firepower – it seems to me we have to hold two difficult ideas in our heads at once. On the one hand, it seems quite clear that there is no way to do urban operations ‘clean.’ Even very scrupulous efforts in urban spaces to follow the LOAC end up with massive infrastructure damage to cities and significant civilian casualties in our age of industrial firepower. On the other hand there is a world of difference between the armies that try very hard to avoid civilian losses and those which do not, and a terrible spectrum between them. This is a case where the difference between ‘bad,’ ‘worse,’ and ‘worst’ is actually a very big and meaningful difference, even though ‘bad’ is still quite bad.

One way to think about this – simplistic, to be sure, but it will do for now – is a very simple metric I’m borrowing from Wesley Morgan: we can consider a ratio between civilian and military deaths in an urban operation. In taking Mosul (2016-2017), the anti-ISIS coalition killed an estimated 10,000 or so ISIS militants at the cost of around 8,000 civilians (numbers very approximate, of course), a ratio of about 1.35:1. In the Second Battle of Fallujah, the United States (and partners) figures it killed around 2,100 enemy militants and the Red Cross estimated 800 civilian deaths, a ratio of 2.6:1. On the other end, in the Battle of Berlin (1945), the Soviet Red Army killed an estimated 92,000 German soldiers and 125,000 civilians, a ratio of 0.736:1. In Mariupol (2022) the Russian Armed Forces claim to have killed 4,200 Ukrainian soldiers2 and while Russia claims there were only 3,000 civilian casualties, that number fairly clearly a lie as the AP identified more than ten thousand mass graves and estimates the true civilian toll around 25,000, a ratio of 0.168:1. At the absolute rock-bottom of this well of misery, the Imperial Japanese Army took Nanjing (1937), killing around 10,000 Chinese soldiers before butchering more than 200,000 Chinese civilians in a horrific massacre that even today some Japanese politicians like to pretend did not happen, a ratio of 0.05:1. We don’t know the military deaths from the Siege of Aleppo (2012-2016), but given that there were never estimated to be more than around 15,000 fighters in the city (many of whom will have survived) and an estimated 31,000 civilians died, it seems safe to assume the ratio there was also horrible, probably on the scale of the Mariupol ratio above.

The IDF claims that they are killing one Hamas soldier for every two civilians they kill in Gaza, a ratio of 0.5, which their spokespeople have claimed is ‘unprecedented in the modern history of warfare,’ but which looking at the figures above is not actually a particularly scrupulous or discriminating ratio – though of course one may well argue the vast differences in circumstances. It is still both far from the best and far from the worst performance for armies operating in civilian spaces.

At the same time, ‘least bad’ is not ‘good.’ The Battle of Fallujah, which in those examples has the highest rate of target-discrimination still destroyed much of the city, as you can see in images like this one. But most of the people in that city (population c. 250,000) survived and that makes a world of difference compared to some of the abject horror on that list above.

Where does the United States fit into all of this? While there is ample ground to criticize the US military’s policies towards civilians since 1900, on the whole the United States tends, compared to other major states involved in the same or similar wars, to be on the low end of causing civilian death and suffering, though with some pretty important ‘black marks’ on that record.3 Americans focus – rightly so – on the morality of strategic bombing in Europe and Japan, but the fact is the vast majority of civilians killed in Europe and Asia in WWII were not killed by bombs from the sky but by soldiers on the ground with guns intentionally murdering civilians. Strategic bombing over Germany killed an estimated 400,000 civilians, a terrible figure – but the German government today estimates that Soviet expulsions alone may have killed as many as two million civilians. Both the Nazis and the Red Army engaged in mass-atrocities on the Eastern Front at staggering scale (an estimated twenty million Soviet civilians were killed during the war). American strategic bombing over Japan killed approximately 400,000 civilians as well, but in contrast to an estimate that Japan caused between six and twenty million civilian deaths due to atrocities in the territory it controlled. I am no fan of strategic bombing, but while it did kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, it was not the primary driver of civilian casualties in WWII; intentional mass-murder on the ground was.

That is not to say American soldiers have never engaged in massacres. They have. But as militaries go, the United States military does not seem to be unusually massacre-prone, indeed if anything it appears to be somewhat unusually massacre-avoidant in the post-1900 period. I’ve written at length elsewhere on this topic, but there are certain institutional-culture patterns which produce what I’ve termed ‘atrocity-prone’ armies and the United States military has generally tried to avoid these patterns, whereas some other militaries – I discussed Russia in the link above – seem to embrace them. The United States has traditionally relied very heavily on firepower and that has driven a lot of the ‘collateral’ civilian casualties in modern American wars: soldiers can (if they choose) discriminate between civilians and combatants, but bombs and missiles cannot. But American soldiers, it seems, generally do try to make that distinction, again, not always and this should not be taken to minimize the horror of the times this was not true, resulting in American armies post-1900 generally coming in on the lower-end of the destructiveness scale – as hard as that can be to believe when looking at photos of flattened cities.

Must it be this way? I think there are three seemingly contradictory but true answers to this. On the one hand, yes – so long as we humans fight wars on this increasingly urbanized planet, we’re going to get military operations in dense urban areas in which terrible, gut-wrenching civilian suffering cannot be fully avoided. There is no way to fight ‘clean’ in an urban area. On the other hand, no – while civilian deaths cannot be entirely avoided, I think it’s clear from the statistics above that they can be reduced, that while one cannot fight clean in cities, it is possible to fight cleaner, to be merely bad instead of terrible. Carefully discriminate targeting, a preference for infantry operations over airpower (though of course, infantry need air and artillery support in modern warfare – this is a spectrum, not a binary), and an insistence both in regulations-as-implemented (read: discipline) and training that civilian casualties are to be avoided and failure to do so results in accountability can all keep the terrible toll lower, if not low.

But there is a deeper and more profound no here: we could choose not to war. As we’ve discussed at several points here, I think it is correct to say that both human society and human biology have been evolved for war. For hundreds of thousands of years, the humans that fought the most and the best thrived and passed those traits on to the next generation. But our genius and skill have now created a world in which peace is so profitable (because of industrial production) and war so destructive (because of industrial firepower) that to war is now a maladaptive trait. The advent of nuclear weapons has only intensified this fact by giving us the power to destroy ourselves; such that, as Bernard Brodie put it, “Thus far the chief purpose of our military establish has been to win wars.  From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.”4

War may never fully and entirely go away, but if we wish to survive as a species, we must tame our instinct for it. And here is where, when I close out the last lecture of my global military history survey, I point out to my students that, because we live in a democracy, it is we who must take to that task of taming our instinct for war.

No one will do it for us. And if we fail, no one will be left to do it after us.

On to recommendations:

For the Tolkien-minded, a fun treat, demographer Lyman Stone has attempted to work out a reasonable population estimate for Tolkien’s Middle Earth during the Third Age. It’s a fun exercise and the fact that figures broadly work out in terms of correlating army size to settlement size to settlement patterns to population once again brings home how effectively Tolkien seems to have grasped all of this even though I do not think that at any point did Tolkien sit down and ‘math out’ the population of these places. He just knew about how many soldiers a kingdom of about a given size might have in the Middle Ages and about how large its cities might be and so everything tends to fall within a fairly plausible range – a skill that some other creators in the fantasy space clearly lack.

I though this Twitter thread by Wesley Morgan (author of the excellent The Hardest Place) discussing the normal range of civilian casualties in urban combat was sobering but valuable reading. As I noted above, there are two kinds of errors here, the first assumes that nothing can be done to avoid civilian casualties in urban environments and the latter assumes that anything higher than zero indicates the intentional targeting of civilians. Morgan’s example – the Second Battle of Fallujah – does not represent ‘perfection’ because perfection in these kinds of messy operations is impossible, but it probably does represent an unusually careful effort at avoiding civilian losses. And on the one hand, civilian deaths were much lower there than in other urban battles…and on the other hand, depressingly, tragically a lot higher than zero.

I have a chapter in the now out Brill’s Companion to Diet and Logistics in Greek and Roman Warfare, ed. J. Donahue and L. Brice (2023). Alas, the book is not priced for mortals, so it won’t get a blog recommendation (I think it is very good, but I try to stick here to books that normal people can afford!), but, due to a generous funding grant Jeremy Armstrong’s excellent chapter on “Diet and Nutrition in the Roman Republican Army” is free to download at the link above, so check that out if you are interested. I may do a public-facing essay at some point covering some of the same ground as my chapter there, but in the meantime I’d note that a lot of my insight – such as it is – already made it into the series on foraging and logistics.

Finally on to the book recommendation, where I am going to recommend Christopher J. Fuhrmann’s Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration and Public Order (2012). Fuhrmann’s book presents a series of illustrative studies detailing how Roman power actually worked on the ground in the provinces, particularly for common folk and how Roman governors and lesser authorities did – and failed to – keep their provinces ‘pacified and quiet.’5 While Fuhrmann does discuss the role of higher officials and indeed the emperors themselves in managing the provinces, his focus – in contrast to much of the historiography in provincial administration, which tends to focus on emperors and the senatorial elite who write our sources – is often on lower-level officials and the points of contact between imperial power and regular people.

The book is organized as a series of case studies rather than a single schematic description and I think it gains from this approach. The fact is, our evidence for Roman ‘order’ on the ground is patchy, thin and difficult. By approaching the question as a series of case studies, Fuhrmann can focus on where he does have evidence, but these studies also knit together really well to provide a good sense of the overall principles of the system and how it functioned. Fuhrmann can thus weave out of these case studies an overall thesis, namely that the Roman state was rather more involved in the maintenence of public order in the provinces than is sometimes assumed by scholars, but at the same time that role was mostly about sustaining and coopting existing systems of power and authority: the Romans kept order for Rome first and for the local elite second and for the common populace at best a long distant third, if at all.

This could easily make for a bewildering, confusing topic with a mess of different local officials, self-help regulations and soldiers, behaving both well and badly, but Fuhrmann is very good at keeping the volume readable and accessible. I think the non-specialist reader may have to run for Wikipedia at a couple of points, but only a couple: for the most part Fuhrmann defines his terms (he always translates his Greek and Latin) and gives enough context to figures readers might not know to allow even the non-specialist to understand the argument being made and the strength of the evidence supporting it.

2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Here’s the 2023 iteration of my annual gift guide. The idea of which is, if you have a map-obsessed person in your life and would like to give them something map-related—or you are a map-obsessed person and would like your broad hints to have something to link to—this guide may give you some ideas.

This is not a list of recommendations: what’s here is mainly what I’ve spotted online, and there’s probably a lot more out there. In most cases I haven’t even seen what’s listed here, much less reviewed it: these are simply things that look like they might be fit for gift giving. (Anyone who tries to parlay this into “recommended by The Map Room” is going to get a very sad look from me.)


Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 16th edition2023 saw the release of a new edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, widely seen as the granddaddy of all world atlases. At The 16th edition came in October in the U.K. and is scheduled to launch in North America next Tuesday, so there should be time to get it in your hands by Christmas. At £175 /$260 it’s not exactly a stocking stuffer;1 if you’re looking for something more modest in size, weight and cost, consider another entry from the Times Atlas line, or the Oxford Atlas of the World, which gets a fresh update each year. Also new this year: the National Geographic Atlas of Wild America.

Other Kinds of Map Books

Either it’s been a really thin year for new map books, or for various reasons news of them is not reaching my ears. Books of interest to a general audience (as opposed to academic monographs or GIS manuals) that came out in 2023 include the following:

More books are listed on the Map Books of 2023 page.


A shoutout to the GeoHipster Calendar, back again in 2023.

Alternative Guides

Once again, Evan Applegate has assembled his own gift guide featuring everything from prints to globes to mugs. “Today you can support great mapmakers making hand-painted globes, cartographic dishware, watercolor street maps, letterpress landscapes and more. No affiliate links, just a gallery of great map material culture.”

Also be sure to check out gift guides from previous years: items listed on the 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 gift guides may still be available (in 2020 I focused on map stationery, which ditto).

Finally, note that while Evan’s guide doesn’t contain affiliate links, mine certainly does (as have previous versions); I receive a cut of the purchase price if you make a purchase via these links.

About That University President’s Viral Video

You’ve almost certainly now seen or heard about the congressional hearing with elite university presidents (Harvard, Penn, MIT) coldly arguing the need for context and invoking technical criteria when asked whether it would violate the university’s code of conduct to call for the extermination of Jews. The viral clip is genuinely jarring.

When I watched it I found myself asking not why are these administrators such terrible anti-Semites but how did you three possibly find yourself in this situation giving these answers?

Let’s start with some important stage-setting. First, the clip was posted by Rep. Elise Stefanik, a consistently odious and mendacious weasel who represents a district in Upstate New York. Stefanik is very much that person you’ll see melodramatically huffing and puffing in a congressional hearing demanding yes or no answers to gotcha questions that don’t have yes or no answers. And yet here … well, even for a weasel with gotcha questions, she seemed to have gotten them.

If you watch the answer from the three university presidents, each was more or less awkwardly groping toward the same response: to know whether a call for “the genocide of Jews” would violate university policy would depend on the context and more specifically whether the speech had become “conduct” and whether it was targeted at specific individuals. These are certainly valid criteria for policies on harassment and bullying. But presumably calling for the extermination of any discrete group would be inherently threatening to every member of that group and intentionally so.

So how did this happen, how did these three come up with the same catastrophically bad set of answers as Penn President Liz Magill acknowledged in an apology video released a day later? (As I wrote this, news broke that Claudine Gay, President of Harvard, also issued an apology.) I told my wife a couple days ago the exchange would make some sense if it was immediately preceded by a discussion of the role of targeting and the speech/conduct distinction in university harassment policies and then Stefanik used this as an opening for her gotcha questions. Admittedly, I hadn’t found time to go back and watch the whole hearing to see if something like this was the case. But this morning I found out that Times columnist Michele Goldberg did do this. And there was something at least somewhat like this. Here’s the relevant excerpt from Goldberg’s piece in today’s Times.

But while it might seem hard to believe that there’s any context that could make the responses of the college presidents OK, watching the whole hearing at least makes them more understandable. In the questioning before the now infamous exchange, you can see the trap Stefanik laid.

“You understand that the use of the term ‘intifada’ in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict is indeed a call for violent armed resistance against the state of Israel, including violence against civilians and the genocide of Jews. Are you aware of that?” she asked Gay.

Gay responded that such language was “abhorrent.” Stefanik then badgered her to admit that students chanting about intifada were calling for genocide, and asked angrily whether that was against Harvard’s code of conduct. “Will admissions offers be rescinded or any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say, ‘From the river to the sea’ or ‘intifada,’ advocating for the murder of Jews?” Gay repeated that such “hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me,” but said action would be taken only “when speech crosses into conduct.”

So later in the hearing, when Stefanik again started questioning Gay, Kornbluth and Magill about whether it was permissible for students to call for the genocide of the Jews, she was referring, it seemed clear, to common pro-Palestinian rhetoric and trying to get the university presidents to commit to disciplining those who use it. Doing so would be an egregious violation of free speech. After all, even if you’re disgusted by slogans like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” their meaning is contested in a way that, say, “Gas the Jews” is not. Finding themselves in a no-win situation, the university presidents resorted to bloodless bureaucratic contortions, and walked into a public relations disaster.

I don’t think this closes the book on broader question of double standards in a university context. The bobbled responses are related to a framework of social justice politics that isn’t inimical to Jews but simply doesn’t have an obvious place for them. But it does provide some helpful context in explaining how this messaging trainwreck came to pass.

I do think that double standard exists. But it’s a complicated one, one in which Jews and their allies simultaneously have made Anti-Semitism, labeled as such, wholly verboten and have a robust institutional network of groups aimed at identifying it and shunning it, and yet also find demonizing rhetoric about Jews evaluating on the basis of whether and what Jews might have done to deserve being demonized. Both things manage to be kind of true at the same time.

In recent years many academic institutions have adopted a ways of navigating speech questions that put the subjective experience of individuals and particular groups at the center of the question. But that framework is inherently problematic and unlimited, though coming up with “objective” standards is inherently difficult and at some level not entirely possible. There’s no question that many Jewish college students raised in a communal Jewish environment find calls for “intifada revolution” deeply and genuinely threatening. But the best situational definition of intifada refers to a violent uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, the First Intifada, which is generally dated from 1987 to 1993 mostly consisted of rock throwing and what we might call rioting. While certainly not “non-violent” it had much less violence that what came after it during Hamas’s armed campaign to derail the Oslo Accords and even more so during the much more violent terror campaigns of the Second Intifada. Most Palestinian factions decided that it would be crazy and folly to get into a contest of violence with the IDF and at first even Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad agreed to abide by these limits.

While groups like Hamas certainly use the word with a strong eliminationist meaning it is simply not the case that the term consistently or usually or mostly refers to genocide. It’s just not. Stefanik’s basic equation was and is simply false and the university presidents were maladroit enough to fall into her trap.

The standard of subjective experience is not a workable one. If we’re going to use it we should apply it consistently across the board. And there is a good deal of evidence it’s not consistently applied with respect to Jews on college campuses. But a better approach would be to reconsider the standard itself.

Q3 Update: Delinquencies, Foreclosures and REO

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: Q3 Update: Delinquencies, Foreclosures and REO

A brief excerpt:
In 2021, I pointed out that with the end of the foreclosure moratoriums, combined with the expiration of a large number of forbearance plans, we would see an increase in REOs in late 2022 and into 2023. And there was a slight increase.

However, I argued this would NOT lead to a surge in foreclosures and significantly impact house prices (as happened following the housing bubble) since lending has been solid and most homeowners have substantial equity in their homes.
FHFA Percent Mortgage Rate First Lien Here is some data from the FHFA’s National Mortgage Database showing the distribution of interest rates on closed-end, fixed-rate 1-4 family mortgages outstanding at the end of each quarter since Q1 2013 through Q2 2023 (Q3 2023 data will be released in a few weeks).

This shows the surge in the percent of loans under 3%, and also under 4%, starting in early 2020 as mortgage rates declined sharply during the pandemic. Currently 22.9% of loans are under 3%, 60.3% are under 4%, and 79.9% are under 5%.

With substantial equity, and low mortgage rates (mostly at a fixed rates), few homeowners will have financial difficulties.
There is much more in the article. You can subscribe at

Cool Old Songs: Graham Smith, a.k.a. Kleenex Girl Wonder

One of the weirder holiday songs I like is “Maybe This Christmas,” by musician Graham Smith, a.k.a. Kleenex Girl Wonder. It has some profanities at the beginning, but by the end it does really get me into the spirit.

(Please let me know if the Bandcamp embed is giving anyone grief.)

At first I didn’t like Smith’s music, which my husband plays in the car constantly, but then something clicked. I also like the video he and his band made for their 2016 song “Plight.” (It’s a shot-by-shot remake of Rihanna’s “Stay” and is probably NSFW but not intensely.)

Kleenex Girl Wonder has tons more music on Bandcamp. It’s kind of confusing, honestly. But my husband recommends their 2015 “Getting Started” album as a good entry point, if you’re feeling the holiday song.

Tags: graham smith · kleenex girl wonder · music · music videos

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Recommending Kent Beck: 2011

First published September, 2011. I write these every few years—a recommendation letter for myself, but written 3 years in the future. The format forces me to be concrete about what I want to accomplish, leading to better priorities.

September 2014

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing this letter of recommendation on behalf of Kent Beck. He has been here for three years in a complicated role and we have been satisfied with his performance, so I will take a moment to describe what he has done and what he has done for us.

The basic constraint we faced three years ago was that exploding business opportunities demanded more engineering capacity than we could easily provide through hiring. We brought Kent on board with the premise that he would help our existing and new engineers be more effective as a team. He has enhanced our ability to grow and prosper while hiring at a sane pace.

Kent began by working on product features. This established credibility with the engineers and gave him a solid understanding of our codebase. He wasn’t able to work independently on our most complicated code, but he found small features that contributed and worked with teams on bigger features. He has continued working on features off and on the whole time he has been here.

Over time he shifted much of his programming to tool building. The tools he started have become an integral part of how we work. We also grew comfortable moving him to “hot spot” teams that had performance, reliability, or teamwork problems. He was generally successful at helping these teams get back on track.

At first we weren’t sure about his work-from-home policy. In the end it clearly kept him from getting as much done as he would have had he been on site every day, but it wasn’t an insurmountable problem. He visited HQ frequently enough to maintain key relationships and meet new engineers.

When he asked that research & publication on software design be part of his official duties, we were frankly skeptical. His research has turned into one of the most valuable of his activities. Our engineers have had early access to revolutionary design ideas and design-savvy recruits have been attracted by our public sponsorship of Kent’s blog, video series, and recently-published book. His research also drove much of the tool building I mentioned earlier.

Kent is not always the easiest employee to manage. His short attention span means that sometimes you will need to remind him to finish tasks. If he suddenly stops communicating, he has almost certainly gone down a rat hole and would benefit from a firm reminder to stay connected with the goals of the company. His compensation didn’t really fit into our existing structure, but he was flexible about making that part of the relationship work.

The biggest impact of Kent’s presence has been his personal relationships with individual engineers. Kent has spent thousands of hours pair programming remotely. Engineers he pairs with regularly show a marked improvement in programming skill, engineering intuition, and sometimes interpersonal skills. I am a good example. I came here full of ideas and energy but frustrated that no one would listen to me. From working with Kent I learned leadership skills, patience, and empathy, culminating in my recent promotion to director of development.

I understand Kent’s desire to move on, and I wish him well. If you are building an engineering culture focused on skill, responsibility and accountability, I recommend that you consider him for a position.

[Ed: what follows is the original epilog. This is not my current career state or goal, although there are similarities.]

I used the above as an exercise to help try to understand the connection between what I would like to do and what others might see as valuable. My needs are:

  • Predictability. After 15 years as a consultant, I am willing to trade some freedom for a more predictable employer and income. I don’t mind (actually I prefer) that the work itself be varied, but the stress of variability has been amplified by having two kids in college at the same time (& for several more years).

  • Belonging. I have really appreciated feeling part of a team for the last eight months & didn’t know how much I missed it as a consultant.

  • Purpose. I’ve been working since I was 18 to improve the work of programmers, but I also crave a larger sense of purpose. I’d like to be able to answer the question, “Improved programming toward what social goal?”

Tidy First? brings paying subscribers wider thoughts on software development, draft chapters of books in progress, and a weekly Thinkie, a habit of creative thought.

Jogging Stroller (Comic)

From 2022.

Tags: comics

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Friday assorted links

1. The culture that is British crunchy hedgehog food markets in everything.

2. Alex & Books summarizes some of my takes on reading (though he gets the number of books wrong).

3. “Karin Kneissl (Austrian ex-minister) danced with the Russian leader at her wedding. Now she’s building a new life in Russia.

4. On the Gimbal incident.

5. Which construction tasks have become cheaper?

6. Poor German PISA results.

7. “Before she was Harvard’s president, Claudine Gay was involved in the pushing out a dean after students protested his legal representation of Harvey Weinstein.”  Link here.

The post Friday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.




December Founders' Call

We will have the December call on Monday. Here’s the Google Meet link:

Topics include book progress, workshop planning, TDD defense, & the inevitable AMA.

See you there!


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ASMR Recommendations: Ecuador Live & Moonlight Cottage

I’m hesitant to write much about ASMR videos, because the experience feels so personal, but I usually watch (or, listen) for a half hour each night, usually to fall asleep. I go through phases of enjoying different ASMRtists, but lately it’s been Ecuador Live (above left) and Moonlight Cottage (above right). Doña Esperanza from Ecuador Live has maybe the most peaceful voice in the world, and Diane from Moonlight Cottage is on another level with her sets and art direction. But mostly it’s just her voice, too. (I thought this one might be too weird, but it was not.) If there’s an ASMR Review newsletter out there, I’d love to know about it.

For what it’s worth, I’m not sure I get the signature ASMR “tingles,” but these videos do put me to sleep.

Tags: asmr · youtube

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Northrop Grumman tests new solid rocket motor technologies

SMART Demo firing
SMART Demo firing

Northrop Grumman test-fired a new solid rocket motor that marks the beginning of an annual test campaign to demonstrate advanced technologies that could be incorporated into space and defense programs.

The post Northrop Grumman tests new solid rocket motor technologies appeared first on SpaceNews.

In the summer, I saw a ton of people linking to this...

In the summer, I saw a ton of people linking to this Outside essay about attending a grueling destination wedding deep in the Guatemalan jungle, but at the time I skipped it. I’m glad I finally read it, this morning, compelled by its appearance on Longreads’ “Best Personal Essays of 2023” list. Lives up to the hype!

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Listen To This: Democrats In Fragile Array

Kate chats with TPM’s Josh Marshall and Hunter Walker, along with journalist and lawyer Luppe Luppen, to discuss Walker and Luppen’s upcoming book about the future of the Democratic party.

Belaboring The Point is now on YouTube! Check out the latest video episode of the podcast here.

Comments on November Employment Report

The headline jobs number in the November employment report was at expectations, however employment for the previous two months was revised down by 35,000, combined.  The participation rate and the employment population ratio both increased, and the unemployment rate decreased to 3.7%.

Leisure and hospitality gained 40 thousand jobs in November.  At the beginning of the pandemic, in March and April of 2020, leisure and hospitality lost 8.2 million jobs, and are now down 158 thousand jobs since February 2020.  So, leisure and hospitality has now added back about 98% all of the jobs lost in March and April 2020. 

Construction employment increased 2 thousand and is now 425 thousand above the pre-pandemic level. 

Manufacturing employment increased 28 thousand jobs and is now 200 thousand above the pre-pandemic level.

In October, the year-over-year employment change was 2.79 million jobs.

Seasonal Retail Hiring

Typically, retail companies start hiring for the holiday season in October, and really increase hiring in November. Here is a graph that shows the historical net retail jobs added for October, November and December by year.

Seasonal Retail HiringThis graph really shows the collapse in retail hiring in 2008. Since then, seasonal hiring had increased back close to more normal levels. Note: I expect the long-term trend will be down with more and more internet holiday shopping.

Retailers hired 264 thousand workers Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA) net in November.  This was about the same as last year and suggests similar real retail sales this holiday season as last year.

This was seasonally adjusted (SA) to a loss of 38 thousand jobs in November.

Prime (25 to 54 Years Old) Participation

Employment Population Ratio, 25 to 54Since the overall participation rate is impacted by both cyclical (recession) and demographic (aging population, younger people staying in school) reasons, here is the employment-population ratio for the key working age group: 25 to 54 years old.

The 25 to 54 participation rate was unchanged in November at 83.3% from 83.3% in October, and the 25 to 54 employment population ratio declined to 80.7% from 80.6% the previous month.

Both are close to the pre-pandemic levels.

Average Hourly Wages

WagesThe graph shows the nominal year-over-year change in "Average Hourly Earnings" for all private employees from the Current Employment Statistics (CES).  

There was a huge increase at the beginning of the pandemic as lower paid employees were let go, and then the pandemic related spike reversed a year later.

Wage growth has trended down after peaking at 5.9% YoY in March 2022 and was at 4.0% YoY in November.   

Since wages increased sharply last December, it is likely YoY wage growth will slow further next month.

Part Time for Economic Reasons

Part Time WorkersFrom the BLS report:
"The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons decreased by 295,000 to 4.0 million in November. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs."
The number of persons working part time for economic reasons decreased in November to 3.99 million from 4.28 million in October. This is below pre-recession levels.

These workers are included in the alternate measure of labor underutilization (U-6) that decreased to 7.0% from 7.2% in the previous month. This is down from the record high in April 2020 of 22.9% and up from the lowest level on record (seasonally adjusted) in December 2022 (6.5%). (This series started in 1994). This measure is at the 7.0% level in February 2020 (pre-pandemic).

Unemployed over 26 Weeks

Unemployed Over 26 WeeksThis graph shows the number of workers unemployed for 27 weeks or more.

According to the BLS, there are 1.150 million workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and still want a job, down from 1.282 million the previous month.

This is at pre-pandemic levels.

Job Streak

Through November 2023, the employment report indicated positive job growth for 35 consecutive months, putting the current streak in 5th place of the longest job streaks in US history (since 1939).

Headline Jobs, Top 10 Streaks
Year EndedStreak, Months
6 tie194333
6 tie198633
6 tie200033
1Currrent Streak


The headline monthly jobs number was at consensus expectations; however, employment for the previous two months was revised down by 35,000, combined.  The participation rate and the employment population ratio both increased, and the unemployment rate decreased to 3.7%.

Another solid employment report.

3D-Printed Lithophane Globe Ornament

3D lithophane globe ornamentEvery year, for the past few years, John Nelson has released a DIY globe ornament; this year he eschews papercraft and teamed up with Ruben Bruijning to produce a 3D-printed lithophane globe: “A lithophane is a backlit 3D object that glows brighter or dimmer depending on how thick the material is. Areas where the ornament is thin, the light more readily shines through, so it appears light. Thicker areas let less light through, so they appear darker. It’s a 3D negative.” Obviously needs a light put in it (to say nothing of a 3D printer).

Previously: Orthographic Papercraft Ornament; This Year’s Papercraft Globe Ornament; John Nelson’s Cassini Globe Ornament; John Nelson’s Dymaxion Globe Ornaments; DIY Map Ornaments.

Here is a very pleasing drawing of a piece of bread. And...

Here is a very pleasing drawing of a piece of bread. And the story behind it, but mostly the bread. [via wordloaf] Prints here.

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Computers in Econ (and in market design)

 The current issue of the journal Œconomia. is devoted to The Computerization of Economics. Computers, Programming, and the Internet in the History of Economics

It includes this surprisingly grumpy-sounding take on market design, particularly on its intersection with game theory:

 Nik-Khah, Edward. "The Closed Market: Platform Design and the Computerization of Economics." Œconomia. History, Methodology, Philosophy 13-3 (2023): 877-905.

Here's a paragraph that caught my eye:

"In his book Who Gets What—And Why, the market designer Alvin Roth pronounced firms such as Google, Amazon, and Uber to be “markets,” proclaiming, “Successful designs depend greatly on the details of the market, including the culture and psychology of the participants” (Roth, 2015). One need not actually find an example of an economist counseling advisees to skip that additional course in game theory and take up cultural anthropology to arrive at the sense that matters had taken a surprising turn: only a decade before one regularly encountered brash claims that all social science worth its salt must be reducible to game theory, with market design cited as evidence for why this must be so (e.g., Binmore, 2004)."


Here's the table of contents of the issue:

November Employment Report: 199 thousand Jobs, 3.7% Unemployment Rate

From the BLS:
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 199,000 in November, and the unemployment rate edged down to 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains occurred in health care and government. Employment also increased in manufacturing, reflecting the return of workers from a strike. Employment in retail trade declined.
he change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised down by 35,000, from +297,000 to +262,000, and the change for October remained at +150,000. With these revisions, employment in September and October combined is 35,000 lower than previously reported.
emphasis added
Employment per monthClick on graph for larger image.

The first graph shows the jobs added per month since January 2021.

Total payrolls increased by 199 thousand in November.  Private payrolls increased by 150 thousand, and public payrolls increased 49 thousand.

Payrolls for September and October were revised down 35 thousand, combined.

Year-over-year change employment The second graph shows the year-over-year change in total non-farm employment since 1968.

In November, the year-over-year change was 2.79 million jobs.  Employment was up solidly year-over-year but has slowed to more normal levels of job growth recently.

The third graph shows the employment population ratio and the participation rate.

Employment Pop Ratio and participation rate The Labor Force Participation Rate increased to 62.8% in November, from 62.7% in October. This is the percentage of the working age population in the labor force.

The Employment-Population ratio increased to 60.5% from 60.2% (blue line).

I'll post the 25 to 54 age group employment-population ratio graph later.

unemployment rateThe fourth graph shows the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate decreased to 3.7% in November from 3.9% in October.

This was at consensus expectations, however, September and October payrolls were revised down by 35,000 combined.  

I'll have more later ...

Daily Telescope: Seeing stars with an iPhone in the bottom of the Grand Canyon

Stars over the Grand Canyon.

Enlarge / Stars over the Grand Canyon. (credit: Mitchell Yee)

Welcome to the Daily Telescope. There is a little too much darkness in this world and not enough light, a little too much pseudoscience and not enough science. We'll let other publications offer you a daily horoscope. At Ars Technica, we're going to take a different route, finding inspiration from very real images of a universe that is filled with stars and wonder.

Good morning. It's December 8, and today's photo comes from the floor of the Grand Canyon. The photographer, Mitchell Yee, admits that this is not the best shot one might capture from this remote location, but there's a reason—he shot it on his iPhone in August.

"While it's a fairly ordinary photo, what was amazing to me was the level of quality of cell phone photography," he told me. "Normally, I'd haul out my big Nikon but since we were hiking down to the bottom of the canyon to meet our dories, weight was constrained. So I skipped the extra 15–20 pounds of camera, lens(es), and tripod and instead enjoyed the 9-mile hike with my 18-pound pack. Of course, this shot could have been much improved with a 'real' camera on a tripod. But there I was, flat on my back on a sand berm, with the best camera I had at that moment, my iPhone 13 mini, and I still made the shot I wanted."

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Folks, They Found the Tape

We have a new development in the case of the Zieglers, the power couple from the Superfreak faction of the Florida GOP. Initial reports noted that Christian Ziegler claimed he had videotaped the sexual encounter which his unnamed accuser later alleged was rape. He said he taped it; deleted it; then finally uploaded it to Google Drive. A kind of odd chain of events. But that was his story. The first reports said police hadn’t been able to find it.

Now they’ve found it.

The gist is that the tape may make it impossible to convict Ziegler of a crime. If that’s true, it probably means they will never bring charges, which would take the whole story and the Florida GOP effort to send Ziegler packing much more protracted. I want to be very precise about what the latest report from The Trident says and what it doesn’t say. And bear in mind we’re talking about how “two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation” describe the tape. We have to leave open the possibility that there are subjective or subtle aspects of what’s captured on the tape that isn’t coming through in these indirect accounts.

With that said, here’s the description …

He arrived at her apartment five minutes after receiving that message, according to the affidavit. Inside the apartment, Ziegler made a cell phone video of the sex act while she was bent over a piece of furniture in the bedroom, according to sources. 

The video of the sex act is brief in duration and the victim can be heard telling Ziegler to climax in her mouth rather than on her new shirt, the sources said. 

Ziegler and the woman can then be seen on surveillance video exiting the apartment together. While Ziegler leaves the apartment complex out a side door to his truck, the woman can be seen walking across the street to get food before returning to her apartment. 

Assuming this a generally accurate account of the video, it certainly doesn’t prove that the encounter was consensual. But it appears to be at least consistent with the consensual encounter Ziegler claims he had. In a reasonable doubt context that’s probably all Ziegler needs. The Trident spoke to Adriana Alcalde, a former sex crimes prosecutor who now represents victims. Alcade told The Trident that if this description is broadly accurate it could make a conviction impossible.

We don’t have enough information here to speculate about whether Ziegler is guilty or wrongly accused. But it now seems less likely that Ziegler will be charged with a crime. He had already been adamantly refusing the almost universal demands for his resignation from top Florida Republicans. Now he’ll be able to say that the whole thing was a false accusation and a frame up. The rape accusation was the only thing that made it anybody’s business but his own and his wife’s. So shut up and move on, basically. Unsurprisingly Ziegler seems very much in the Trump mode of never apologize and never surrender.

That’s the good news for the Zieglers. On the other hand, his anti-gay, anti-trans crusading wife has been revealed as someone who has sex with other women and Christian Ziegler’s on his high horse because he says he was falsely accused of rape and his evidence is … well, it’s one of his sex tapes, of which presumably there are many. So you can’t really say things are rosy or that there’s really any way to unring this bell. It’s kind of the worst case scenario for the state GOP. The state party is run by one half of Florida’s new top freaky power couple. But they’ve likely lost their strongest argument for canning him.

Other details in the police reports suggest this tryst wasn’t just a one time walk on the wild side by an open minded couple but more like a regular activity. The day of the videotaped sexual encounter started at 7:29 AM when Christian Ziegler texted the unidentified woman that he and Bridget were in their car together and wanted to know if they could come over for a threesome. He asked for her address.

There are also details scattered across the various accounts which suggest the accuser was in a vulnerable state at the time this happened. The accuser later told police she was in no state to consent to sex because she’d home all day drinking Tequilla. When a coworker called police two days after the alleged rape to do a wellness check on the accuser, the caller told the dispatcher “that the woman had been falling deeper into drug addiction in recent weeks.”

It’s hard to draw too firm of conclusions based on limited information. But whether or not Christian Ziegler committed a crime, it certainly seems like he and Bridget Ziegler were dealing with a woman who was in a pretty vulnerable state … and in a cold-text her when you’re both in the car and up for a good time kind of way.

As I said, a perfect storm for the state party: big drama, at best terrible judgment, top candidates to be admitted to the new Miami swingers’ club and yet much less grounds for the state GOP to fire them.

GAO report recommends FAA evaluate launch mishap investigation procedures

RS1 liftoff
RS1 liftoff

The GAO recommends that the FAA improve its process for investigating launch mishaps, one that currently relies heavily on launch providers.

The post GAO report recommends FAA evaluate launch mishap investigation procedures appeared first on SpaceNews.

New Bluetooth Attack

New attack breaks forward secrecy in Bluetooth.

Three news articles:

BLUFFS is a series of exploits targeting Bluetooth, aiming to break Bluetooth sessions’ forward and future secrecy, compromising the confidentiality of past and future communications between devices.

This is achieved by exploiting four flaws in the session key derivation process, two of which are new, to force the derivation of a short, thus weak and predictable session key (SKC).

Next, the attacker brute-forces the key, enabling them to decrypt past communication and decrypt or manipulate future communications.

The vulnerability has been around for at least a decade.

Rocket Report: The final space shuttle stack; SpaceX may extend booster lifetimes

Solid rocket motors are stacked at the California Science Center for an eventual vertical display of space shuttle <em>Endeavour</em>.

Enlarge / Solid rocket motors are stacked at the California Science Center for an eventual vertical display of space shuttle Endeavour.

Welcome to Edition 6.22 of the Rocket Report! We're nearing the end of 2023, and it's been an incredible year for rocket debuts. Early in the year we saw small lift vehicles from Relativity Space and ABL, and in the spring Japan's H3 and SpaceX's Starship rocket. There's one big one left: United Launch Alliance's Vulcan booster. That will be a nice stocking stuffer to end the year on Christmas Eve.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Vega has a missing parts problem. In unhappy news for Italian rocket-maker Avio, two of the four propellant tanks on the fourth stage of the Vega rocket—the upper stage, which is powered by dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide fuel—went missing earlier this year. Now, it seems that the propellant tanks have been found. However, Ars reports, the tanks were recovered in a dismal state, crushed alongside metal scraps in a landfill. This is a rather big problem for Avio, as this was to be the final Vega rocket launched, and the production lines are now closed for this hardware.

Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The two Chomskys

The US military’s greatest enemy worked in an institution saturated with military funding. How did it shape his thought?

- by Chris Knight

Read at Aeon

A framework for exploring AI as a tech savvy org

Today, a post from my day job.

Back in May I was invited to speak about large language models at the board strategy day of the BMJ.

The BMJ publishes the British Medical Journal and 60+ other scientific journals, together with a number of technology products in the health sector. As an organisation, they’re a few hundred people.

So this is a fascinating and actually pretty common organisation profile. Mid sized, technical but not a pure technology company. And they’re asking themselves, will AI impact us? If so, how should we respond?

As it turns out, it was obvious even in May that generative AI would matter to the BMJ, and the session I was part of - run by CTO Ian Mulvany - was about the second part of the question: what’s the strategy.

My part of the session ended with an approach I call strategic pathfinding. A high-level framework really.

I caught up with Ian (his homepage) last week. The approach, it turns out, holds up. So with his permission, I’m sharing it here.

Strategic pathfinding in a capability overhang

See the framework: the slide is on the project page at Acts Not Facts.

Should you wait and see? Or jump in? I’d privately polled a number of other companies about their strategies and heard the entire spread, from a blanket ban on using generative AI, to commissioning a 3rd party consultancy to attempt to replicate team workflows using large language models.

My point of view is that

  • we’re in a capability overhang - the AI tech that already exists has huge potential impact, whether you engage or not, so get ahead by exploring
  • the appropriate approach is pathfinding which uses experiments to learn and, critically, artefacts to tell the organisation what to do next.

The framework breaks down the different activities of the pathfinding.

Search for value systematically

There will be opportunities across the whole business, from ops to the product suite.

Don’t just build the first, most obvious gen-AI prototype, but engage with every team and department to surface ways to save time, reach new audiences, or provide new services.

Run this as an ongoing and highly collaborative process.

Document and disseminate what you build and what you learn: the pathfinding approach is not about learning for an isolated and small AI team, but making the entire organisation more capable.

Be guided by the overall strategy not by AI itself. The potential of the technology is too unbounded, but you may find within it new ways of reaching your goals.

Build internal knowledge and spark the imagination

One of the challenges is recognising opportunities: most organisations have two decades of digital knowledge telling them what’s easy and what’s hard. A lot of that no longer applies. And AI is seen as magical, or mysterious, or a threat.

Maintain a practice of sharing external examples and quick prototypes built with AI tools. This will lift general knowledge and demystify. Share null results too: it’s important to know what what AI can’t do.

Red teaming

Red teaming is the process of actively understanding threats, as in the famous GPT-4 System Card (as previously discussed) which showed how OpenAI’s latest large language model could be used for dangerous outcomes.

In this context we want to document AI-related threats very broadly,

  • from: increased imposter calls to contact centres, targeting PII
  • to: how will the website get traffic when a user’s point of first intent has switched from Google to ChatGPT

(Thinking about how to deal with threats may also reveal opportunities.)

On the second point: even if you’re not ready to use AI today, your customers are.

Build capabilities to make invention cheap

Experimenting needs a quick cycle time. Along the way, identify new capabilities to:

  • make future experiments easier
  • allow for pilots with future AI-related suppliers.

(For example, LLMs and computer vision mean that there is a lot of data that didn’t previously look like data. That index needs a new internal API.)

Understand needs by sharing both internally and with partners

Prototypes and experiments do not need to be taken to production. In a build vs buy discussion, for an organisation whose core competence is elsewhere, you shouldn’t be building foundational tech.

But how will you identify value when it arrives? There will be hundreds of well-funded startups and dozens of consultancies with deep-pockets and impressive AI demos, all knocking at the door.

Running experiments means you’re understanding your own requirements - which means you’ll spot the valuable suppliers and can ask smart questions.

I’d go further: be open and noisy about your experiments, and suppliers will pre-emptively change their roadmaps, come to you, and let you in before their work is public. And there’s a competitive advantage to being first.

Governance – a bonus point not on the slide

AI tools are getting available fast. Whether or not you have a centralised AI approach, individual team members will be using AI to create job descriptions, summarise documents and emails, make illustrations, write code, and so on.

When I talked recently with Ian, he told me about the BMJ’s AI governance approach, which includes a simple way for everyone in the organisation to understand

  • when it’s ok to use AI tools
  • when to absolutely not
  • when to be cautious (and who to escalate the question to)

These guidelines will differ for every org. I found it really smart for the BMJ to be engaging in the benefits and risks of AI tools like this, and engaging with the reality that yes, people are already picking them up to help do their jobs.

Of course it’s easier to talk about strategy than to do it.

The reality of strategic pathfinding for AI is that it comes down to

  • real people and objectives
  • meetings, workshops, slide decks, and Trello boards, alongside often more urgent work
  • figuring out new, ongoing processes
  • ultimately, rolling your sleeves up and doing the work.

…all of which will become very tactical and very specific to your org as soon as you start, and will evolve fast.

But it’s worth it. So just get started because you’ll figure it out faster doing than thinking.

My hope is that this framework provides a useful starting point.

More posts tagged: gpt-3 (24).

Strategic CEO Activism in Polarized Markets

CEOs are increasingly making public statements on contentious social issues. In this paper, we examine what motivates CEOs to engage in social activism. We show that CEO social activism is a strategic choice and not necessarily an expression of the CEO’s own political views. Republican-donor CEOs are three-times more likely to make social statements with a liberal-slant. They are also more likely to make social statements when their firm’s operating environment is politically polarized, and when their employees are Democrat-leaning. Such statements are associated with a 3% increase in consumer visits to a firm’s stores in Democrat counties without significantly reducing them in Republican counties. CEO activism is also associated with a 0.12% gain in firm value, increased quarterly sales turnover, and a reduced likelihood of shareholder activism on social issues. Our results suggest that corporate actions that appear to be stakeholder-driven can be motivated by economic concerns.

That is on SSRN by Shubhashis Gangopadhyay and Swarnodeep HomRoy, here is the final published version for JFQA.  Via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

The post Strategic CEO Activism in Polarized Markets appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Why are your groceries still so expensive?

Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash

The big economic debate right now is over why consumer sentiment is still very low. Although negative narratives — “vibes” — may play a part, economic numbers like inflation surely matter a lot. In my roundup this week, I flagged some evidence showing that it takes people a while to get over the negative psychic impact of high inflation, even after a temporary burst of inflation is over. It seems likely that if prices go back down to where they used to be, it would help people feel better faster.

For some products, this actually happens. Gasoline prices have fallen by over a third since mid-2022, and are lower than they were a decade ago in dollar terms:

This is good news for consumer sentiment, since gas prices tend to affect the national mood even more than other prices.

But one very important item that hasn’t gotten any cheaper over the last year — and which is much more expensive than in 2019 — is groceries. “Food at home”, as the government calls it, started getting more expensive in late 2021. Since then, grocery prices have outpaced both wages and inflation as a whole:

Which means a whole lot of wage-earners in America are going to find it more difficult to put food on their tables than in 2019. In any reasonable world, seeing your holiday dinner get pricier is going to make you feel a bit poorer, and give you one more reason to feel pessimistic about the economy.

In fact, there’s research to support the idea that grocery prices are especially important in terms of influencing people’s beliefs about the economy. D’Acunto et al. (2019) find that frequent large increases in grocery prices cause inflation expectations to go way up. Grocery shopping, after all, is the main way that regular people interact with the macroeconomy on a day-to-day basis (other than filling up their gas tanks).

Why did food prices go up so much, so fast? Why haven’t they come down yet? And how could we make them go down? These are all important but difficult questions. The first thing we can do, however, is to rule out a couple of tempting but wrong explanations.

It wasn’t Vladimir Putin (or commodity prices at all)

When Putin invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the prices of wheat and other grains soared. That wasn’t surprising, because both Ukraine and Russia are key wheat producers. I was alarmed, because I worried this would cause chaos and hunger in poor countries, and I called for strong measures to increase the supply of staple grains. It turned out I needn’t have worried; high prices prompted farmers to produce more grains, and prices went most of the way back down:

But this didn’t seem to affect U.S. grocery prices much! Take a look at a graph of prices for wheat, flour, and bread:

Wheat is cheaper than it was before Biden took office. Flour is going down in price, but only slowly. And bread still keeps getting more expensive, though at a slower rate than before.

In fact, this is very normal. In the modern U.S., food prices tend to almost completely ignore the prices of agricultural commodities:

Read more

Falcon 9 flies from California with 22 Starlink satellites, SpaceX’s 100th launch in 365 days

A Falcon 9 carrying 22 Starlink satellites lifts off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Dec. 8, 2023. Image: SpaceX.

A Falcon 9 rocket lifted from the West Coast with another batch of satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink network at 12:03 a.m. PST Friday (3:03 a.m. EST / 0803 UTC). Including Starship test flights this was SpaceX’s 100th launch in 365 days.

The Starlink 7-8 mission began from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and departed on a south-easterly direction, targeting a 183×178 mile (295×286 km) orbit, inclined at 53 degrees to the equator. SpaceX’s webcast encountered technical difficulties and did not show the liftoff. It was the fastest turnaround for SpaceX’s West Coast launch pad with six days, 13 hours, 43 minutes and 57 seconds passing since the last launch from SLC-4E, beating the previous record set on Oct. 29, 2023, by almost 36 hours.

This was the:

  • 281st Falcon 9 launch to date
  • 87th Falcon 9 launch of 2023
  • 91st SpaceX orbital launch of 2023
  • 100th SpaceX launch in the last 365 days
  • 98th SpaceX orbital launch in the last 365 days
  • 59th SpaceX orbital launch from pad SLC-4E
  • 109th overall orbital launch from pad SLC-4E
  • 27th orbital launch of 2023 from Vandenberg Space Force Base
  • 200th overall orbital launch attempt of 2023

The first stage booster, making its 13th flight, previously launched the NROL-87, NROL-85, SARah-1, SWOT, Transporter-8, Transporter-9 missions. Plus six previous Starlink delivery missions. After completing its burn, the first stage landed on the drone ship ‘Of Course I still Love You’ stationed about 400 miles downrange (644km) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Falcon 9 booster 1071 approaches touchdown on the drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ as it neared the end of its 13th fight. Image: SpaceX.

SpaceX confirmed deployment of the 22 Starlink satellites will occur just over an hour after launch in a social media post. This was the 40th launch of a batch of the V2 Mini Starlink model since it was introduced earlier this year. This new version is much larger than the previous V1.5 satellites and is equipped with upgraded antennae and larger solar panels, and are capable of delivering four times more bandwidth.

SpaceX recently announced earlier this year it had signed up over two million subscribers in more than 60 countries for its Starlink internet service. Prior to Friday’s Starlink 7-8 mission it had launched 5,559 satellites according to statistics compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who maintains a space flight database. Of those satellites 5,186 remain in orbit and 5,147 appear to be working normally.

Weird anecdotes about philosophers connected to Oxford

Here is one:

McTaggart wore his eccentricities with pride.  He rode a tricycle.  He walked “with a curious shuffle, back to the wall, as if expecting a sudden kick from behind,” a fact that may or may not be explained by his having been bullied at boarding school.  He saluted every cat he met.  His dissertation for a fellowship at Trinity, later published as Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic; had elicited from that older Apostle, Henry Sidgwick, the remark; “I can see that this is nonsense, but what I want to know is whether it is the right kind of nonsense.”  Apparently, it was.

That is from Nikhil Krishnan, A Terribly Serious Adventure: Philosophy and War at Oxford 1900-1960.  Another recent book dealing with both philosophy and war at Oxford is M.W. Rowe’s very thorough J.L. Austin: Philosopher & D-Day Intelligence Officer.  Here is that book’s best weird philosopher anecdote:

Robert Paul Wolff noted Quine’s frequent lack of small talk, and his tactics for brushing off unwanted questioners, but his deeper doubts were crystallized by an incident some years later:

“Quine obviously had a sensual side to his nature to complement his intellect, as his attractive second wife and his love of food and jazz attested.  But I always thought there was some element of humanity missing from his makeup that gave him a rather cold aura.  Quine had just returned from a trip to Germany — this was not fifteen years after the war remember — and he was describing a tour he had taken of SS torture chambers.  He exhibited an eerie fascination with the technical efficiency of the facility that struck me as devoid of any real human appreciation of its demonic purpose.”

But at Oxford, Quine was perfectly charming, and his erudition and accomplishments — besides logic and jazz, he was an expert on maps, widely travelled, and said to speak eight languages — ensured considerable social success…

As for the broader book, I had not known the extent to which Austin was a significant and highly successful intelligence officer.  It is a very good book if you are interested in hundreds of pages on this topic.

The post Weird anecdotes about philosophers connected to Oxford appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.



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Use "pip install" safely

This is part of a series of posts I’m doing as a sort of Python/Django Advent calendar, offering a small tip or piece of information each day from the first Sunday of Advent through Christmas Eve. See the first post for an introduction.

Managing dependencies should be boring

Last year I wrote a post about “boring” dependency management in Python, where I advocated a setup based entirely around standard Python packaging tools, in that …

Read full entry

Limiting Our Ears to Others

Politicians and Media Contribute to the General Outlook of Global and Internal Conflict

Why is reaction on public issues so limited to one way or the other? Why isn’t our intake of news and information producing more reactions that prompt us to say “and” rather than “or,” even if they draw from another point of view?

The week’s news has brought us new video, testimony and documentation of organized rapes as a weapon for the Hamas militants who invaded Israel on Oct. 7 to torture, kidnap and kill 1,400 Israelis. Surely, Israel has promoted dissemination of those reports that spell out certain terror to retain support for its own heavy-handed military retaliation in Gaza — but who would not be appalled? What possibly can be gained by choosing to remain silent about such atrocities?

At the same time, why is it not possible to see that the heavy bombing and artillery attacks on the ever-moving civilian areas where Hamas fighters also still hiding are creating enormous humanitarian concerns in areas where civilians have no place to escape, causing widespread hunger and homelessness, and birthing exactly the kind of generational hatred that will resound into future violence?

Why can’t both things be true at once? Indeed, what “solutions” are ever possible by denying only what one side or the other has wrought.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict is a knot of such mostly-truths that are simultaneously helping and hurting understanding about long-term issues of statehood, abandonment, land rights, personal and national security, the effects of occupation, the immediacy of terrorist attacks and the effects felt through only lightly restrained retaliation. Neither Israelis and Palestinians themselves can produce majority-supported governments; expecting that global reactions will be universal and unquestioning seems ludicrous.

Accepting just some truths means using information as propaganda.

Saying One Thing, Meaning Another

Our public politics — domestic and international — are requiring all-or-nothing backing that seems increasingly unsupportable as we see the effects of war or other types of conflict. Or, as we learn more about the details of election denial schemes that would undercut our own democracy.

If I don’t accept everything that our own government says or does, why would I possibly be expected to align totally with everything coming out of the mouths of Israeli or Palestinian leaders?

It is exactly that type of required total buy-in that leads the craziest among us to strike out in profane or violent ways against individuals or institutions with anti-Jew or anti-Muslim hate. To substitute blanket frustration with terrorists who would kidnap babies and grandmothers as trade bait or human shields with civilians who happen to live in a place.

The absurdity of witnessing Republican Congress members — and later the White House — this week criticizing college presidents for veering from yes/no answers to explain “allowing” people to express their feelings about the Middle East was a display in frustration over why these same lawmakers aren’t helping to invite safer alternatives for debate with plenty of fact at hand. Campuses are supposed to be places for debate, but verbal debate that stops well short of making Jews, Muslims or other groups feel under personal attack. While I would never support calls for intifada and “genocide,” as noted from some, I would support structured discussions about possibilities for a separate state, for example, while I would support retribution for atrocities, I would not support targeting individuals.

But it’s not just about Israel and Hamas.

This week Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson explained that the delay in his promised release of thousands of hours of Capitol video files on Jan. 6, 2021 was because House censors need to blur the faces of those who were breaking into the Capitol, to stop any Justice Department arrests for illegal activity or private retribution.


Unless he was trying to blur the storyline of who and why there was an insurrection attempt by supporters of Donald Trump, an organized set of attacks aimed at illegally interrupting the certification of election results, the whole point of the public release of these videos was supposed transparency. We must conclude that Johnson, like Kevin McCarthy before him, simply wants to encourage some other kind of conspiracy to explain away Jan. 6. We’re left trying to understand that the Speaker, third in line to the presidency, doesn’t believe in enforcing federal law.

Again, we’re stuck with weird censorship in the hypocritical name of transparency all in the propagandistic end of winning an information war, not in justice. Why does he believe that we cannot handle the idea that the Capitol protests got out of control, killing a handful and injuring dozens, and putting the lawmakers in his House at risk?

Sowing Confusion by Insistence

The same dilemma is true for the conflicting reports from migrants and law enforcement at the border about why there is a surge in crossing attempts and what to do about it. Basic beliefs about America and the immigrant experience colors all discussion about a highly complicated and nuanced set of problems with simplistic answers.

It should be true that there are a lot of migrants at the border and that the combination of law, enforcement and practical arrangements are inadequate to the task of making it all more orderly. But Republican demands to use the immigration question as an excuse not to deal directly with our international commitments to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan seems nuts.

Substitute COVID and public health, education and what books are acceptable in the local lIbrary, availability of housing, tax policy or economics, and you’ll witness much of the same. All is being seen through a political lens that, in turn, is the reflection of what media outlets are feeding an American public that is reporting what it wants to hear.

In place of finding the one true way, perhaps we would find ourselves in better shape to acknowledge that several things can be true at the same time.

Then we can debate what to do about it.


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Tip of the Day: You Can Select Multiple Tabs, Then Drag Them, in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox

Jack Wellborn:

I just recently discovered that you can select and drag multiple Safari tabs by holding Shift or Command, just as you would to select and drag multiple items in Finder.

I had no idea you could do this with tabs. Just like making multiple selections in a list view, Shift-click will select an entire range at once, and Command-clicking lets you select (and deselect) noncontiguous tabs. If I’d known you could do this, I probably never would have written the AppleScript I posted the other day — but if I hadn’t written and posted that script, I don’t think I would have learned this trick. Once you have multiple tabs selected, you can drag them together to create a new window, or do things like close them all at once.

This same trick works in Firefox and Chrome (and Chrome-derived browsers like Brave), too. This trick does not work in Safari on iPadOS, because iPads are baby computers where you can’t select more than one thing at a time.

Update: In a reply on Threads, Jay Robinson points out (and includes a nice screencast) that you can select multiple Safari tabs on iPad with multitouch. Drag one tab out of the tab bar, then, while keeping the drag active with one finger, use another finger to tap additional tabs to add them to the collection of tabs being dragged. But: all you can seemingly do with such a collection of dragged tabs is move them to another area in the current Safari window, or drop them as URLs into another app, like a message in Mail or Apple Notes. You can drag a single tab in iPad Safari to the edge of the screen to move it to a new split screen window, but if you have more than one tab in the drag collection, you can’t do that. Nor can you take group actions on the collection of tabs, like closing them all at once, or closing all tabs in the window other than the selected ones, like you can with the multiple-tab-selection feature in the big-boy Safari on MacOS. You can drag a collection of tabs on iPadOS into a tab group, if you have the sidebar open. That’s useful in combination with tab search, to filter the list of visible tabs — search, select the tabs that match the search term, and drag them together to a new or existing tab group. (You can create a drag collection of multiple tabs in iPhone Safari the same way.)


Apple Quietly Releases MLX, an Open Source Array Framework for Machine Learning on Apple Silicon

“Quietly” is a much-abused adverb in headlines, but I think apt for this. Apple’s machine learning research team has simply released this new framework on GitHub, with no fanfare:

The MLX examples repo has a variety of examples, including:

Seems quite useful already today, and expands the groundwork for on-device AI features in the future.


Idiot Cops Are Spreading Misinformation FUD About NameDrop

Jason Snell:

This is so bizarre. NameDrop is a feature that lets you AirDrop your contact information to someone else. For the feature to work, both phones need to be unlocked and one has to be placed directly over the other. The entire new tap-to-connect system is built to use physical proximity to confirm consent to sending or receiving data, replacing the old system in which you could leave your device open to AirDrop from all users — and receive all sorts of nasty unwanted stuff from nearby randos.

Once the physical act of tapping is done — it takes a few seconds, there’s a prominent animation, it’s nothing that is going to happen accidentally — you are given the option to share your contact information with the other person, and get to choose which information is shared! If you only want to share a phone number and not your home address, you can do that! It’s entirely in the user’s control. (If someone nefarious approached you and wanted to steal your information, they’d be better off just grabbing your unlocked phone and running away with it.)


Gemini: Google’s New AI Model


Gemini is also our most flexible model yet — able to efficiently run on everything from data centers to mobile devices. Its state-of-the-art capabilities will significantly enhance the way developers and enterprise customers build and scale with AI.

We’ve optimized Gemini 1.0, our first version, for three different sizes:

  • Gemini Ultra — our largest and most capable model for highly complex tasks.
  • Gemini Pro — our best model for scaling across a wide range of tasks.
  • Gemini Nano — our most efficient model for on-device tasks.

Loosely speaking, Gemini Ultra is competing with GPT 4, and Gemini Pro with GPT 3.5. Nano, the on-device model, will first appear on Pixel 8 Pro phones. It’s unclear to me whether that’s because Gemini Nano is tuned to specifically take advantage of the Pixel 8 Pro’s Tensor G3 chip, or if it will expand to additional Android phones with other silicon.

Google has a 6-minute demo of Gemini in action, and it’s rather incredible. But it also comes with this disclaimer: “For the purposes of this demo, latency has been reduced and Gemini outputs have been shortened for brevity.” Why not show it in real time, even if it’s slow? It seems like the whole demo ought be considered fraudulent — a fake. What’s wrong with Google as a company that they repeatedly try to pass off concept videos as legitimate demos of actual products?


Top 10 Opportunities For Women In Affiliate Marketing

Women continue to make significant strides in professional industries, including affiliate marketing. This form of online marketing is growing rapidly and provides a range of opportunities for ambitious and tech-savvy female entrepreneurs. With many powerful strategies, women can succeed in this vibrant sector. To ensure that all interested females know their potential, we highlight 10 great opportunities found through affiliate marketing. From monetizing personal blogs to leveraging CPA networks, plenty of lucrative options are just waiting for you to seize them!

Increased demand

Over the years, the demand for affiliate marketing has risen, providing a significant opening for women who want to enter the industry. The growth of social media and the increasing popularity of online shopping have contributed to this demand.

As more businesses move their operations online, effective strategies become crucial. This presents an excellent opportunity for women looking to build a career in an interesting subfield of marketing.

With the right skills and knowledge, they can capitalize on this increased demand and make a name for themselves in the industry. As online shopping grows, affiliate marketing provides long-term career opportunities, especially for women.

Flexible working hours and the ability to work from home

For women looking for an opportunity in affiliate marketing, the flexible working hours and ability to work from home can be a game-changer. With flexible working hours, women can easily balance their work with family commitments or other responsibilities.

The ability to work from home means they don’t have to worry about long commutes or being at a particular place at a particular time. This not only saves time but also the hassle of traveling. Moreover, working from home can help reduce costs associated with commuting and office outfits.

Access to an extensive network of merchants

Women searching for affiliate marketing opportunities can benefit from access to an extensive network of merchants. Access to a wide range of merchant offerings can allow female marketers to expand their reach and diversify their product offerings.

This, in turn, can present numerous business opportunities for women, enabling them to tap into new markets and audiences. By leveraging the resources a vast network of merchants provides, women can one day become leaders in the affiliate marketing industry.

The possibilities are immense, and the potential rewards are great for those who take advantage of this unique opportunity. With access to countless merchants at their disposal, women have the tools and resources needed to achieve great success in the affiliate marketing space.

Opportunities for advanced learning and skill development

Women find affiliate marketing appealing due to its advanced learning and skill development opportunities. Marketers need to be agile and adaptable in the dynamic world of this expertise. Luckily, women have access to numerous resources that can help them stay current with industry trends and improve their skills.

Women can continue their education through online courses, webinars, and conferences. By taking advantage of these opportunities, women in affiliate marketing can learn the latest techniques and strategies, enhance their expertise, and achieve better client results. This, in turn, creates more professional growth opportunities for them.

High earning potential based on performance

Affiliate marketing gives women a unique opportunity to earn a high income based on their performance. Unlike traditional employment, where earning potential is often limited, this specialty allows women to take control of their earnings by leveraging their skills and abilities. Successful affiliate marketers can earn big commissions through social media, email marketing, and content creation.

This performance-based model empowers women to determine their financial future, with the potential for unlimited earnings based solely on their efforts. Women can achieve financial freedom through affiliate marketing, breaking free from traditional employment constraints.

Opportunities to develop niche areas of expertise

A promising avenue in affiliate marketing for women is the opportunity to develop niche areas of expertise. As an affiliate marketer, possessing extensive knowledge of a specific niche can distinguish you from competitors and elevate your status in the industry.

Focusing on a particular area of expertise allows women to position themselves as authorities, instilling trust and credibility in their audience. Moreover, targeting a niche also allows the creation of unique and highly targeted content that resonates with the intended audience, ultimately leading to greater conversions and success. In a rapidly changing industry, identifying and capitalizing on new and emerging niches can be a game-changer for women in affiliate marketing.

Scope for creativity in developing successful marketing campaigns

One of the opportunities for women in affiliate marketing lies in the broad scope for creativity when developing successful marketing campaigns. The ability to think outside the box, take risks, and come up with innovative ideas sets affiliate marketing apart from other industries.

Women skilled in marketing can tap into their creative side to create unique, memorable, and successful campaigns. They can use a variety of tools, from social media to influencer marketing, to create campaigns that resonate with their target audience and are highly effective. This ability to be creative and experiment is a key reason women are often so successful in affiliate marketing.

Exposure to a diverse range of products

One benefit of women getting involved in affiliate marketing is the exposure to a diverse range of products. Affiliate marketers often promote products in various industries, such as fashion, beauty, technology, and home goods.

This can allow women to expand their knowledge and understanding of different products, markets, and trends. Exposure to diverse products can also help women identify their passions and interests within the affiliate marketing industry.

Ability to build long-term relationships with merchants

Building valuable relationships with merchants is essential for long-term success in affiliate marketing. This couldn’t be more valuable in the field of THC products, where quality products and reliable merchants are a must for those who use it.

As a female affiliate marketer, having the opportunity to create lasting relationships with THC merchants, including the promotion of products such as the ‘Weed pen,’ through your marketing efforts can lead to great rewards for both parties. This offers a great opportunity to build these valuable relationships while promoting a well-respected product in the industry. As a female marketer, those long-term relationships can lead to more chances for growth in the affiliate marketing world.

Affiliate marketing goals

Potential to grow and expand into other areas of e-commerce

An exciting opportunity for women in this field of marketing is the potential to grow and expand into other areas of e-commerce. By building a solid foundation in affiliate marketing, women can gain valuable knowledge and experience that can be applied to other areas of digital commerce, such as e-commerce platform management, social media marketing, or even starting their own online business.

With the fast-paced nature of the digital world, there are constant opportunities for growth and expansion, and the skills and expertise gained in affiliate marketing can position women for success in various other pursuits.


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Friday: Employment Report

Mortgage Rates Note: Mortgage rates are from and are for top tier scenarios.

• At 8:30 AM ET, Employment Report for November.   The consensus is for 200,000 jobs added, and for the unemployment rate to be unchanged at 3.9%.

• At 10:00 AM, University of Michigan's Consumer sentiment index (Preliminary for December).

Mapping Declining Snowfall

CNN: “Snowfall is declining globally as temperatures warm because of human-caused climate change, a new analysis and maps from a NOAA climate scientist show.” Meanwhile, the change in snowfall in the U.S. is more complicated: it’s down sharply in the Midwest and South but up in the Northeast.

The Wrong Stuff

The phantom found Edward Everett Hale a century too early; by the time we invented satellites, the specifics of his 'brick moon' proposal were dismissed as science fiction.

Vega and Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks

On December 4, periodic On December 4, periodic

Space Development Agency aims high for 2024 after strong 2023 start

The Space Development Agency has set its sights on an ambitious launch schedule for 2024 following two successful launches this year.

The post Space Development Agency aims high for 2024 after strong 2023 start appeared first on SpaceNews.

Blog Archive by Popularity

What's new in CPUs since the 80s and how it affects programmers

Normalization of deviance: how completely broken practices become normal

Saving data to files is harder than it looks

Startup vs. big company work and pay: everything VCs tell you is wrong

CPU bugs of 2015, and what they mean for the future

CPU backdoors

Lessons Learned From Reading Postmortems

How Misaligning Data Can Increase Performance 12x by Reducing Cache Misses

Why Don't Schools Teach Debugging?

The Empirical Evidence That Types Affect Productivity and Correctness

Why Intel Added Cache Allocation Technology in Broadwell

Dunning-Kruger and Type Systems

The Performance Impact of Integer Overflow Checks

Why Intel Has So Many CPU Bugs And We Should Expect More In The Future

Why Julia Has So Many Bugs

A Quick Tutorial on Implementing and Debugging Malloc, Free, Calloc, and Realloc

What's Worked In Computer Science: 1999 v. 2015

Slashdot Media's Relationship with Sourceforge

Advantages of Monolithic Version Control

How Disaggregated Disk Is Going To Give You Infinite Disk

Why Hardware Development Is Hard: The Physical World Is Unforgiving

Jeff Atwood's Case Against Using ECC RAM Is Completely Wrong

Datacenter Costs: Power vs. Capital vs. Maintenance

How to Discourage Open Source Contributions

Reviewing Steve Yegge's Prediction Record

Why HN and Reddit Should Use Randomized Algorithms

When Limping Hardware Is Worse Than Dead Hardware

Modifying Binaries With a Hex Editor: Easier Than It Sounds

Why Hardware Development Is Hard, Part 1: Verilog Is Weird

Why Intel Is Adding Instructions to Speed Up Non-volatile Memory

Markets Don't Eliminate Discrimination

How to Write Safe Verilog: Become a PL Troll

Given That We Aren’t Going to Put Any Effort Into Testing, What’s the Best Way to Test?

Hand Coded Assembly Beats Intrinsics in Speed and Simplicity

Cache Eviction: When Are Randomized Algorithms Better Than LRU?

PCA Is Not a Panacea

Should I Run Ads? Also, Why Is Alexa So Badly Wrong?

How Much Math Do You Really Need for Software Development?

Please Don't Block Everything but Googlebot in robots.txt

There Is a Gender Gap in Tech Salaries

What Are the Odds the Build Actually Works?

What Software Testing Looks Like to a Hardware Engineer

What IQ, Cholesterol, and 99%-ile Latency Have In Common

What are C, C++, and Java Used for?

Automated Bug Detection With Analytics

Speeding Up Octopress by 30x

Read Along: The Chubby Lock Service for Loosely-coupled Distributed Systems

Can Computers Provide Better Customer Service Than Humans?

What Do Linux Developers Say in Commit Messages?

What Happens When You Navigate to a URL?

Anonymous Benchmark Markets

Testing v. Informal Reasoning