“To me, the definition of hell is simple: it is a place where there is no understanding and no compassion. We have all been there. We are acquainted with hell’s heat, and we know that hell is in need of compassion. If there is compassion, then hell ceases to be hell. You can generate this compassion yourself. If you can bring a little compassion to this place, a little bit of understanding, it ceases to be hell. Hell is here, all around us. Your practice consists in generating compassion and understanding and transforming the suffering around us.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh

(H/t Patrick Rhone)

Financial hand waving

In 2008 the prices of some structured credit products built out of subprime U.S. mortgages went down, and as a result there was a global recession and millions of people lost their jobs. If you had asked a normal person in 2007: “How would it affect your life if it turns out that investors have mispriced the super-senior risk in synthetic collateralized debt obligations built out of subprime mortgage tranches,” that person would have said “I have no idea what you are talking about, but I can’t imagine how that collection of words would affect me.” But it did. 

(Via Matt Levine in Money Stuff)

That was messy but somewhat comprehensible. I guess. And then this:

If you asked a normal person, you know, two weeks ago: “How would it affect your life if the prices of some monkey JPEGs and algorithmic stablecoins crash,” I think most people would reasonably have said “I do not own a monkey JPEG and do not aspire to own one, so this will not affect me at all.” My guess is that they would have been right. My guess is that the real world is not too affected by the crypto world, and that if crypto prices crash there will not be a ton of contagion in the rest of the financial system. But I think it is, at this point, debatable. Crypto has at least started to work its way into the real financial system. Some traditional investors also own crypto; if their crypto goes down they might have to sell regular stuff. Some public companies are exposed to crypto (because they are crypto exchanges, because they have levered crypto holdings, etc.), so your boring old index fund might go down when crypto goes down.

There is nothing about cryptocurrency and NFTs that doesn’t scream !SCAM!. The amount of magical thinking in this thing shocks me. That it will become part of the real economy, the one that helps people pay bills and buy groceries, terrifies me.

I used to say something along the lines of, “A lot of smarter people than me figured this was ok, so it must be.” I don’t say such ridiculous things any more.

Not that I don’t respect science and economics and those who do them and associated disciplines. I doubt our current definition of “smart people”. If they’re only the like of Musk and Bezos and Gates and Thiel, then I’ll spend time looking into what actual “smart people” in the arenas think.

I stopped believing in a benevolent billionaire entrepreneur doing anything beyond self-aggrandizement and adding a few extra billion to their Forbes profile.

The metric US that could have been

Why hasn’t the United States adopted the metric system for widespread use? I’ve generally thought there were two reasons. One is that with the enormous US internal market, there was less incentive to follow international measurement standards. The other was that the US has long had a brash and rebellious streak, a “you’re not the boss of me” vibe, which means that there will inevitably be pushback against some external measurement system invented by a French guy and run an international committee based in a Paris suburb. 

However, Stephen Mihm makes a persuasive case that my internal monologue about the metric system is wrong, or at least seriously incomplete, in “Inching toward Modernity: Industrial Standards and the Fate of the Metric System in the United States” (Business History Review, Spring 2022, pp. 47-76, needs a library subscription to access). Mihm focuses on the early battles over US adoption of the metric system, waged in the 19th and early 20th century. He makes the case that the metric system was in fact blocked by university-trained engineers and management, with the support of big manufacturing firms.

This is not a battle for today. At some point the US and the other outliers will embrace the metric system. I drive friend, family, and SO crazy with my adherence to matrix measurements (and 24-hour clocks) where I can.

YMMV

The sky, black with lawyers

jwz on How to fix social media:

What we need is this one simple trick:

A site that scrapes, collates, and de-dups your friends’ posts on every social media site, and then shows you the union of all of those posts as one feed.

This is the only way to break Facebook’s back: to allow your friends’ transition from one social network’s data silo to another to be so gradual and effortless that you don’t even notice it happening.

The thing that makes this difficult, of course, is not the coding, but the fact that if you succeed at it in any meaningful way, the sky will blacken with lawyers, and the data silos’ spending on technical countermeasures will absolutely smother you.

Sadly, people have little agency in all of this. Social Media’s End User License Agreements (EULA) and Terms of Service (TOS) make that clear.

Remeninces of iPod

When I first went to Japan I had a Huawei-built Google Nexus 6P and a red iPod Touch 6th generation 256G. Other than the sometimes arbitrary requirement of iOS apps that one’s device have a cellular radio (active or not), they were a good pair of devices to cover my mobile needs.

Eventually the Nexus battery swelled and I moved fully into the Apple ecosystem. I keep looking for a good Android-based media player WITH A HEADPHONE JACK but they were either scarce on space or wildly expensive. I traded the iPod in.

Nowadays the iPad Mini 6th generation 256g fills the role the iPod did for me, and the red iPhone SE 2020 has that pocket friendly form factor the Touch had.

Hurtful language hurts politicians

United States Senator Bill Hagerty on Tuesday joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and nine other colleagues to introduce the Public Servant Protection Act, which protects public officials and employees and their families from having their home addresses displayed publicly online. Text of the bill may be found here. …

United States Senator Bill Hagerty on Tuesday joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and nine other colleagues to introduce the Public Servant Protection Act, which protects public officials and employees and their families from having their home addresses displayed publicly online. Text of the bill may be found here.

(Via Chattanoogan.com)

That’s not how free speech works.

Should public servants and their families be protected by law enforcement? Yes. We all should, and those serving in office should get protection specific to their role as the vitriol is particularly incendiary and the service they provide is important.

Should government officials be sheltered from voters who disagree with them, those who say things they don’t like, in a peaceful manner? No. If the voices are dangerous? Yes.

Should journalists and news outlets couch political grandstanding as “protection” from “threats”? No.

Should public employee addresses be public record? That’s not clear cut. I think elected officials should have their addresses on record since their residence is part of the requirement to hold office. If public service employees, like fire and police, are required to live in their community, then that should be public record as well.

Of course, this is largely moot. Most everyone volunteers their location on social media. It would not take much work to figure out where a public servant lives based on posts by themselves, their significant others, or their offspring.

Lawn care specialists, house cleaning professionals, au pairs, and the like could also post location information.

Maybe neighbors post their own information and it becomes easy to triangulate a voted-on public servant’s house?