Friday assorted links


#2 - Ironic. I imagine step 1 in the productivity guide is "Don't go down blog link rabbit holes."

Andreessen's first and most notable suggestion is to not keep a schedule at all. My understanding of the academic literature is that planned and structured time is significantly more productive. Even planned free-time is more rewarding than unstructured free time. (Link below). Is there any evidence for Andreessen's claim besides personal anecdote? I'm genuinely curious, as I tend to naturally fall into the "schedule-free" approach unless I discipline myself otherwise.

That was my reaction as well. Having no schedule for me is a recipe for long hours of idleness and getting nothing done.

It depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you already have a worked through process and are simply trying to deliver against that process then scheduled time is absolutely required. If however you want to come up with a new ideas or directions in which to go then just goofing around and letting ideas come when they are ready works best for me.

#1: so genes contain instructions but perhaps more than a single instruction, the output (instruction) depends on the input (environment). great fuel to the nature Vs nurture debate.

#4 I wonder how socialist Cuba would compare with neighboring capitalist countries that had similar history, culture, and economies prior to the 1950s.

For a relatively small market compared to movies and TV, writers, readers, and publishers sure do a lot of hand-wringing over labels, awards, perceptions, etc.

#6 - Most people, including me, seem to prefer more heavily produced music, because that is what is being made and selling in high numbers. So in what sense is it a shame?

This claim, if true, means only that "most people" have tin ears. If you can't hear the elements of rhythm, for example, that are lost when all percussive beats are quantized and digitally prevented from varying along with the player's expressive intent, then your preference for heavily produced music is really more of an addiction than anything else.

Or how about: the ability to appreciate pleasant room acoustics, because your mind has been taught through habit to prefer varieties of ambience that do not exist in the real, physical world?

Or how about: the sensitivity of your ear to volume dynamics, because all you hear is music that has been so heavily compressed and volume-normalized that you can no longer hear a full, normal, and human range of volume dynamics? That's why listening to old CDs drives you nuts and you have to keep cranking the volume up...

etc., etc.

What is relevant here is that against a less sophisticated background arrangement, Adele's monotonous screaming is revealed as profoundly non-musical. A good producer, in contrast, can use it in a context where it becomes part of an interesting whole.

A good example of what I am talking about is Paloma Faith's "Picking Up The Pieces." Here is the unlistenable, utterly horrid, original version:

In the ingenious Moto Blanco dance remix, on the other hand, Ms Faith's constant hysterical wailing works perfectly:

Agreed, but I would use the phrase "composer/arranger" where you chose to use the word "producer." Sadly, in this day and age, those roles are all becoming the same thing. Part of what makes rural folk music interesting to me, personally, is how people who do not have access to production equipment choose to arrange songs such that they can be played live in an exciting way.

Good spot Baphomet. Never heard of this music (I'm like my Philippine pet monkey, I think it's rhesus, who I've read is amusical), but a more popular to me example is the Simon & Garfunkel song "Cecilia", which is markedly (to me) inferior to the derivative cover of the same song by The Vamps:


She only sings one note and they autotune it to make it sound like different notes.

"Adele’s monotonous screaming" - please provide a link to your obviously much better musical output.

Truth is that musical preferences are tastes, just like food. I can't say that liking yoghurt is good or bad, just that I don't or do like yoghurt.

Nothing wrong with addiction, or indeed any tastes, as long as you are enjoying yourself and not harming others, in my opinion.

#6 the Adele self-cover with classroom instruments is amazing. Her talent reaches through the speakers and grabs you by the shirt. Also, what a fun room to be in!

I hate this women because my twenty-something gf, half my age, plays it (since it's popular). I read somewhere years ago that she (or her fans) is a racist, is this true? I need dirt on this artist so I can use it to turn off her awful music. Hello?

Telling a Filipino that someone is racist against blacks might be the worst way way possible to get a Filipino to dislike that person. Why don't you just pay her pimp- I mean uncle to tell her to stop playing Adele?

5. "the bestseller lists, which are populated by the same handful of names year in and year out. Those names are almost entirely white English-speaking men and women."

The best seller lists are compiled for an English-speaking country. A book written in Swedish or Italian is unlikely to make the best seller lists even in translation.

5. also has this: "the facts are less important than truthiness in these debates."

Isn't "truthiness" a word Stephen Colbert made up?

No, it is a perfectly cromulent word.

I don't think Stieg Larsson died a poor man.

All of his books were published posthumously.

The exception that proves the rule.

Also, re: #5, the article itself tries to suggest it's going to look at sales numbers, then talks about bestseller lists and broad bookscan categories that don't correspond with their argument. (Really, you count classical fiction and general fiction as literary fiction? Apparently not very well-read if you think reprints from Edgar Rice Burroughs are the same as modern literary fiction.)

No actual factual content there.

If you're numbers suggest that SF (as much as I prefer it) outsells romance overall, they fail some pretty basic common-sense tests anyone actively selling books is aware of.

Sure, there may be more SF bestsellers than romance by a little bit, but romance as a whole outsells SF as a whole by so much as to have created an entire subgenre, paranormal romance, primarily populated by SF writers who want to cash in on the much more lucrative romance sales figures. The reality is that readers of SF is about 5%, romance about 50% and thriller/mystery about 40% of the book audience. Literary fiction is so small they don't usually categorize it because it folds into misc. under the results.

#4- It's still way more expensive to go to Cuba than say the DR because of the restrictions. As such, the sea of American terrorists have yet to arrive.


My B

When the sea of anti-Castro terrorists that fill the columns of American terror, as we learned on this site, go back home...

5. "In reality, the bestseller lists are completely dominated by thrillers/mysteries, romance novels, and YA." That reveals why most buyers of books buy books - to be entertained. Nothing wrong with that. I read not so much to be entertained as to think about the words on the page, how words are made into sentences and sentences into paragraphs to create a visual image (I am visual) like the old movie reels that consisted of a series of photos (similar to today's cinemagraphs). To me, the greatest compliment to a writer is that his sentences and paragraphs create a visual image like an old movie reel.

My life has been enriched by the phrase "productivity porn" :-)

1. If epigenetic effects have anything approaching the magnitude occasionally suggested, in this and other articles, then our entire theory of evolution is woefully inadequate, not to say flatly wrong. In which case, the vituperative energy expended in defending that theory--mostly against creationists, but also against Lamarckians and other more obscure opponents--has been wholly misplaced and unjustified.

As always, "the science is settled" ranks with "the check is in the mail" in credibility.

I think you should have said our entire system of science popularization is woefully inadequate, not to say flatly wrong?

If you want to know more you could begin with

(just Figure 1 will give a hint) and go on from there.

You do realize that science is never settled, just falsifiable, don't you? That's one reason I consider macroeconomics akin to creationism, it's not falsifiable ('expectations' ex post in macro = metaphysics).

As for epigenetics, it comes in various flavors. In one version a parent can choose how many male or female offspring it wants by altering the temperature of the fetus (reptiles do this); in another, as here and with certain birds, environmental factors are passed down, but my favorite example is the cichlids (fish from the family Cichlidae in the order Perciformes; members of a suborder known as Labroidei) which can pick what color offspring they want. Then you get, due to a sort of genetic drift, certain colors becoming more 'popular', which creates a sort of feed-forward behavior and induces this color to become dominant, until 'fashion' dictates a change in color (apparently there's no evolutionary advantage to the colors, unlike the tree trunk moths of Manchester UK). Fish picking what color they want their kids to be, just because 'it's cool'.

In my next lecture I will discuss the common brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii, found in 30% of people worldwide, and in Eskimos and Frenchmen in particular. It encourages loving behavior in women, loyalty in men, and riskiness in all people. Found in raw meat and feral cat feces. Stays in your brain forever as an inert (largely, and hopefully) dormant cyst, but can 'come alive' if you don't have a good immune system. Causes suicide in rats (proven; so to be eaten by the cat, which is the reproductive host) and people too (speculative but not unsound).

"then our entire theory of evolution is woefully inadequate, not to say flatly wrong"

No, it isn't.

The theory of evolution is that natural selection is the primary mechanism of speciation. That is obviously a theory, not a fact, and is called into question by item 1 above. The kind of vituperation and distortion that you quote, perpetrated by scientists writing for the popular press, is precisely what I object to, so repeating it more often and more loudly doesn't make it more persuasive.

Epigenetics doesn't call natural selection into question. Species haven't been differentiated by epigentic factors but only by DNA sequences. Epigenetics may become important medically but is a very long way from being a factor in speciation theory.

And the theory of evolution predates the discovery of DNA and doesn't require DNA sequence to be the conveyor of heritable traits. If DNA methylation is inherited based on food eaten, that is just a valid a way of creating variation as DNA sequence modification inherited based on radiation. Lamarckism is not necessarily incompatible with natural selection.

"The kind of vituperation and distortion that you quote, perpetrated by scientists writing for the popular press"

Yes, you've gotta watch out for those scientists that study evolution - pushing their 'barrows:


This was already proven by Trofim Lysenko, back in the 1920's.

He received the Stalin Prize for his work.

When I see a pig give birth to a giraffe I will start to believe that there are some holes in the gene theory of evolution. The study didn't even prove even the very modest claim that a fat man has fatter children than the same man on a diet.

@#1 - I can't believe you guys didn't talk about the most significant story of the list, and that's the neo-Lamarckism in #1.

A few years ago I had a big flame war on Usenet over this issue (it's about a decade old). It's very interesting, but it's bedtime for me and I'll let others comment on it.

So comment here on story number one.

5. " Literary fiction books mostly cost the same as SF or thriller novels."

Yeah, no. In hardcover that's true, but in paperback,newer literary fiction is only printed as trade, while thrillers and sci fi are mass markets, which are half the price.

Which is really annoying. I find mass market paperbacks to be more comfortable to read and more portable. Unfortunately, even genre fiction is starting to trend towards trade paperbacks.

#6 I'm not much of a fan myself, but for Adele with minimal production, this is pretty great:

#5. What is the true GDP per capita of Cuba? Google, and the world bank, says $6,000, but that seems a lot when you see the description given in the link.

I am not so sure, factor in government bondoggles, propaganda, military, secret police, inequality (yeah, even inside the socialist paradise) and that a normal consumer economy is make more difficult by government policy and the American embargo, add to the average wages healthcare and some subsidized services (also taxes on the average wage earner may be low as they were in the Soviet Union, the State finnces itself through the "surplus value" and taxing the private business it allows to exist) and products, and the country can look like it does for the tourist/common citizen and still be as rich (GDP per capita wise) as Angola, which (mineral riches aside) has its own problems. But evidently, a Socialist economy, a politically oppressive regime and the a non-conversible currency make the task of estimating Cuba's GDP a difficult (impossible, meaningless?) one.

Didn't Mel Brooks make a movie about this topic?
Is there anything more to know?

#4...Get in touch with Johnny Ola when you get there. He knows all the good places to go.

#1. Here is another known effect: A woman who is obese is more likely to have gestational diabetes when pregnant. But a fetus in a mother with untreated gestation diabetes is also more liekly to develop diabetes itself and to become obese, and more likely to get gestational diabetes when she becomes pregnant. This is independent of genetics. Gestational diabetes causes high blood glucose in the fetus which overloads the developing baby's pancreas and liver.

#6 The vocal track on this recording consists of a midi sequence of the melody controlling the pitch of the singer who sings any pitch. There is no way to tell if the singer can perform this melody live.

Yeah there are some really severe autotune fragments, especially towards the end.

What am I missing with Adele? There's hundreds if not thousands of jazz and opera singers better than her.

There are a million better and more deserving singers, but there is no question that she delivers a powerful emotional wallop. The woman totally committed to the song. Sort of like Janis Joplin, only with an actual vocal gift.

Janis Joplin had a four-octave vocal range and a marvelous ability to shape notes. She just chose to imitate Bessie Smith, who had about a one-octave range.

I disagree. Her voice is kind of one dimensional emotionally. Every song conveys the same emotional feel.


I've been a few times.

The advice about euros is good, but Canadian dollars will work fine also. You can convert US dollars, but there is a10% surcharge over and above the normal exchange rate.

If it's illegal, as he says, for tourists to ride in pedicabs, no one seems to know it, least of all the pedicab drivers. They are readily available in front of hotels and elsewhere.

Wi-fi is available in hotels. There are plenty of nice hotels.

Lots of good spots for music. Walk down the street in Old Havana and you'll hear it. The people at Cafe Europa are very nice. Indeed, Cubans are very nice, though there are, as he says a lot of hustlers. Still, they are very easy to fend off.

Don't buy anyone milk for their kids.

Agree on a price before getting in a cab.

Go see a baseball game if it's the season.

One more thing. Contrary to the article, Cuba is not small. It's long and narrow, but about 800 miles east to west. Its area is close to that of PA. That's big. There is no comparison to the standard Caribbean tourist islands. They will be struggling to stay in business once Cuba opens up completely.

I stand with Adele. There are plenty of live recordings of her. One good one:

She may not be your cup of tea. But to say that she is untalented is preposterous.

Not untalented. Just that her fame and the accolades she receives in not in proportion to her talent.

I wonder what the Tyler Cowen version of the productivity guide looks like?

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