Wednesday assorted links

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1. I teach in New Jersey. In September it's too hot, by November it's too cold, many days have rain or wind. Grass under a big top is going to turn to mud after a few rainfalls, many student footsteps and chairs, and no sunlight. It'll start to smell, too, as it composts. The students need a flat surface to work on (they don't just sit there listening, not if you're teaching well). There'd be a lot of extraneous noise and other distractions.

Teaching under a big tent with no sides sounds more like teaching theater than teaching reality. Maybe it'll work in St. Petersburg, but I don't think this idea will travel well.

It's been done before in New York and New England winter:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/17/nyregion/coronavirus-nyc-schools-reopening-outdoors.html

What are the odds of a youthful student dying from pneumonia from sitting outdoors all day in winter? What are their odds of dying from Covid? Very low, and very low, respectively. But are they comparable? If so, what's the point?

Also... in below-freezing weather your nose runs. Everyone will be removing their masks to blow their nose, or wipe it off on the back of their hand. Traces of wet snot will be everywhere. All over the exam papers that the elderly professor will be collecting. And all over the desks and chairs, if they use them. Don't forget the virus has a much longer lifetime on surfaces at cold temperatures, that was one factor in the meat processing plant outbreaks. At room temperature it dies within a day or two on most surfaces, but in freezing cold it lasts indefinitely.

PS, do ballpoint pens even work in freezing weather? Do laptops?

This is a fucking stupid idea.

Snow doesn't roll off the roof of a tent like raindrops do. It just accumulates, and soon enough the tent will collapse under the weight. It's a deadly risk. There is no solution, short of building a solid frame. They tried for years to make a retractable fabric roof work at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, but even with Kevlar and other expensive materials, they could never make it withstand winter conditions.

Although the cumulative weight of snow can be enormous, individual snowflakes are much lighter than raindrops. If your snowflakes are the light and dry kind, they can fall nearly horizontally in even a light breeze. Even after the snowfall stops, recently fallen snow can still be stirred up by light winds, that's how snowdrifts form.

So one way or another you're going to get a lot of snow gusting in sideways, penetrating deep into your open-sided tents. And if they're not open-sided, you get stagnant indoor air and lose the whole benefit of being outdoors.

This whole idea could only have been dreamed up by someone from Florida or Southern California who's never experienced snow or freezing weather.

Who cares?

Teachers would just go on strike if anyone tried to suggest this in a serious way. Remember, they’re salaried. When they go on strike they still get paid.

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>"What are the odds of a youthful student dying from pneumonia from sitting outdoors all day in winter? What are their odds of dying from Covid? Very low, and very low, respectively. But are they comparable? If so, what's the point?"

Major nitpick: you don't catch a cold from the cold. The cold virus is a virus that's transmitted primarily indoors, just like the Coronavirus (heck, there are at least 3 strains of the coronavirus family that cause a common cold).

HEck, make that 4 given COVID-19.

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Why not just carry the desks outside and put them under the tent?

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#1 It worked for Plato (academy was in an olive grove) and has for many similar institutions throughout history. You can teach pretty much anywhere. No overhead!

#6 I seem to recall that any number of scientific and medical breakthroughs have occurred entirely by A) accident and B) trial and error. More power to them.

1. Excellent example. The quality of teaching might actually go up.

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"You can teach pretty much anywhere. No overhead!"

Can you effectively teach outside in Chicago in January?

Can you effectively teach Iraqi military policemen how to do their jobs in the Green Zone in June? Yes. Yes you can. And they used to do required base correspondence courses in the Air Force at Thule Air Base in poorly heated shacks in the 60s.

"...pretty much anywhere." Not everywhere. I will exclude Antarctica and the mouth of Mauna Loa.

Ok, I'm not going to argue that point. Your position is kind of on the fringe but certainly possible.

Let's change it to:

Do you think College students/professors/staff would likely agree to / attend a full month of classes scheduled for outside in Chicago in January?

I think we can both agree just because it's possible doesn't make it likely to succeed.

They'll never know until they try. Who knows, it could be seen as an adventure, and there would certainly be bragging rights:

"I remember attending classes outside in a tent in the Winter O' 21! You kids these days have it easy!"

I mean, we do know.

There are no incentives to even gradually push in this direction.

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+1, that would definitely yield some street cred with me.

I did an outdoors semester with quite good ecology courses in 10 degree weather outdoors. You did have to keep moving quite a bit. Was fun as a student.

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Why not just move most of the 16 or so weeks that school isn't in session to the winter?

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No, no they can’t, I don’t know what you think Iraq has to do with this. In case you don’t know, in the north temperatures regularly get low enough in the winter that it’s hazardous to one’s health to spend an hour sitting outside, in addition to being horribly uncomfortable. Just imagine trying to learn calculus in -8 degrees, or 20 degrees with snow blowing into your face from the 35mph sideways wind.

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Easier in some climates than others. Here in Socal, I think the dry and temperate climate is ideal for convening large-group, outdoor meetings as an alternative to meetings within structures.

Or, put differently, a solution that may make sense in some locations and not others. So...keep the Capitol out of it.

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#5: Pretty good, he could've also added that options are costly in the simple direct sense as well as the indirect ones that he emphasized.

I would've like a more concrete example or two of the costs of buying too many options in life. His example of spending your career at high-falutin' consulting firms is valid but a bit of a tired cliche and also applies to just a narrow audience.

Maybe he could've used an example such as: don't put off getting married too long just to keep your options open.

Or this one, which I use when I plan my travels: I usually like to keep my options open because I don't know what I'll like or dislike or what unexpected finds I will come upon. Typically I'll spend the evening deciding where I want to go and what I want to do the next day (all within a general framework of places and times, but without an exact schedule of what city I'll be in on a given date).

But there are some major attractions that are very popular and you have to get your reservation months in advance. Trying to maintain options is exactly the wrong thing to do, instead use the futures market and buy that Broadway ticket or get that reservation for the tour of the Grand Canyon or whatever. And then plan your schedule around those fixed dates and places, ideally with options built in.

"don't put off getting married too long just to keep your options open."

Or, Don't put off having children too long to work on your careers.

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I think bringing Talebs stuff into this analogy is interesting. Some life avenues that dont include optionality are scarily non-ergodic, but perhaps even the avenues that seem to have optionality, like consulting, are also non-ergodic in Talebs. What you actually want is Talebs antifragility, the kind of definite, focused, narrow paths that seem to lack optionality but in fact have failure modes that leave you stronger and with more options than you had before the failure.

Remember, Taleb was quite literally an options trader.

As for the choice of terms, Alpha seems slippery even in a finance context. My secondary school liked to throw around the term Arete (excellence/virtue/effectiveness) but I always preferred Pirsig's "Quality."

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Calling Taleb a non-ergodic thinker made me a bit angry.

Ole Peters should take the credit in explaining ergodicity.

Taleb just picked up pieces of it and even failed to assemble those pieces correctly initially...you can still see some his initial videos on it.

Taleb’s principles aren’t EXACTLY what the commencement speech was addressing: the continuous search for downside protection with the option for future upside is a very unfulfilling way to live a life, yet a decent way to manage a portfolio.

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#1: The Pacific Northwest might be a good location for this and I know some colleges have purchased or rented tents in order to have some (but not all) of their classes outside.

Fall in the Pacific NW is chilly and rainy, but that's what the tents are for. It doesn't get hot and humid the way Florida does (good luck trying to air condition a tent, although the article seems to say that Florida's climate is reasonable in the fall). And it's very rare to have freezing weather in November. People will get uncomfortably chilled sitting outside in November but it should be bearable.

Did my time there. It will be totally unworkable with the slightest wind added to the fall rain.

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Does agricultural work stop in the summer in Florida? Do people stop playing golf during the day? How can 95 degrees in a shady tent with a fan be unbearable when people are roofing and doing roadwork in that weather?

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3. The future of virtual yoga: https://youtu.be/CCfW6HFP5cI

(Link goes to video).

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6. These two scientists are confirming what many are denying: coronavirus is a really bad disease. Some people have manageable symptoms and some people have really awful symptoms, the likelihood of being the former or the latter highly uncertain, and even the long-term effects of those in the former also uncertain but increasingly concerning, yet many if not most people are treating coronavirus as just an inconvenience that, through wishful thinking, will go away. We are a religious culture ("Faith Over Fear"), but stupid is something altogether different. How DID we get to the moon: hope and a prayer?

"6. These two scientists are confirming what many are denying"... that we can have a vaccine out far quicker than August of 2021.

Not if Trump et al continuing protecting the blood sucking rent seekers.

The logical action for a leader to take 6 months ago was to promise all vaccine data is free and clear of all patents to all other nations who likewise declare all data on vaccines free to all.

Instead, Trump tried to gain control of vaccines to enable the US to extract rents from all other nations.

How many vaccines have been produced in the English-speaking world with strong patent protection? Would that be roughly all of them?

How many have been produced in countries with weak patent protection? That would be .... just Russia and perhaps China, which may just be vaporware?

Whatever the English speaking world is doing, it is doing well. Because outside the West, no one has ever cured a single disease.

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George Church is 65 and is getting into the age danger zone for Covid-19. He is balancing the Covid-19 risk vs this vaccine safety and potential for enhancing disease if it produces non neutralizing antibodies that might enhance Covid-19 disease (ADE).
it’s more like an artisanal effort by a small group of experts in the field but Church is willing to take the chance

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The safety track record for vaccines in development is not very good. I struggle to believe that it's worth the risk to inject yourself with an untested homebrew vaccine, even if you are in the at-risk age range.

I would say true for the average person, but George Church has all the expertise needed to appraise the risks himself in this case. He knows all the science to date and how the vaccine is made.
It's not zero risk of course.

Phase 1 trial vaccines are created with a lab full of biochemistry PhDs, and many of them have safety problems. Put it this way, Church is offering this to his friends and family, and if I were in that category I would decline.

That may be the right decision. It's a choice

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I think that some of these comments are missing the forrest for the trees. As I see it, the real issue here is the willingness of a group of intrepid personal risk-takers to follow a course that could, if successful, provide a rapid solution to a global problem. The point is that individuals (not government regulators), those who must bear the consequences of their own actions, good or bad, reside at the appropriate decision-making level to balance risks and benefits. By positioning the point of decision at that level, two things happen: people live in freedom and tremendous benefits can accuse to the entire society. We are basically talking about a system of science that is analogous to a free market. The key question is not whether this particular venture will succeed, but whether entrenched players and institutions in the government will use coercive powers to shut down an entire category of exploration, and then prevent others from taking advantage, within a time line of their own choosing, any benefits that might accrue.

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"The safety track record for vaccines in development is not very good"

Do you have a source on this? I've made some research on this and the #1 problems for vaccines is that they don't work, rather than the fact that they harm the user. What % of vaccine candidates cause serious side effects more frequently than for 1 in 10,000 users?

I did find this (albeit a little dated):

The average vaccine, taken from the preclinical phase, requires a development timeline of 10.71 years and has a market entry probability of 6%.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603987/

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Couldn't quickly find any vaccine numbers, but for all pharma the Phase 1 (i.e. safety) the failure rate was 37% (and success rate moving to Phase 2 was 63%)

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The Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV caused arthritis in Phase 1 testing, which required the trial to be halted. Autoimmune reactions are not uncommon while they try to figure out the right dose to give.

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Tyler -- thanks so much for posting about the DIY coronavirus vaccine (no. 6).

Do you have any connections, or news vehicles, that would let you track how this extraordinary venture -- and human adventure -- is progressing?

I am assuming it is not being well covered in the mainstream media. It would be wonderful if you can make this one of your areas of special interest and keep the MR readership informed.

Not that I have anything against Fungus (they are quite tasty and your posts have been interesting) but I do think that -- unless one is a lichen -- this subject is *at least* as important and warrants ongoing attention and a comparable number of stand-alone posts!

This situation makes me think of what happened with the human genome project: entrepreneur Craig Venter's speeding past the NIH's lumbering, bureaucratic, tax-funded child of Leviathan. Except that this could be infinitely more of a cost-saver.

Yeah, Freedom!

I wonder how long it will be before the regulatory bastards, who can't see an inch beyond their institutional noses, pharmaceutical money, and long time-lines try to crack down on this inspired masterpiece of human ingenuity and verve.

P.s., Perhaps you even have a way to help this intrepid group -- or, if such is ever needed, to help protect them and their project?

They've only distributed to friends and colleagues so far ( not many). They haven't published any results ofaAntibody or T cell response. They will not do any RCT trials.
It's use at your own risk ( if you can actually get it) , but they're experts in the field not cranks.

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#1 As a U of Minn alum I'm not sure I'd have the same fond memories if my classes had been conducted outdoors.

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#2. "State media on Sunday said police in Danang had arrested a 42-year-old Chinese man it said was the head of a criminal group which helps people illegally enter Vietnam from China."

Fascinating. China's per capita GDP is 3-4 times Vietnam's, yet...

-1, Brian ;)

"Fascinating. China's per capita GDP is 3-4 times Vietnam's, yet..."

You failed to read the web site's name. It's not the per capita GDP that matters but the marginal income of the people immigrating.

That, and in some cases, this may be just attempts to get out of an authoritarian country where they're being oppressed. China doesn't freely give out exit Visa's to its citizens.

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But the article says that “Most of those caught were Vietnamese citizens, the government said, and had since been quarantined.“ There are way more Vietnamese immigrants in China than vice versa, just as you’d expect from the GDP disparity. It sounds like Vietnam is prohibiting its own citizens from returning from abroad (which would be necessary for a travel ban to be effective). I’m not sure “illegal immigration” is really the right term for this though.

Whoops. Helpful, thx.

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#5 - the article is three years old...

Bonus trivia: Michael Jensen, economist, is indirectly responsible for the "Greed is Good" 1980s mandra. (Wikipedia) "Jensen's best-known work is the 1976 paper he co-authored with William H. Meckling, Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure.[5] One of the most widely cited economics papers of the last 40 years, it implied the theory of the public corporation as an ownerless entity, made up of only contractual relationships, a field pioneered by Ronald Coase." - low hanging fruit there...

The article is also embarrassingly awful. Optionality and alpha are being used as B-school slang for what we used to call "keeping your options open" and "succeeding" respectively. But they have a technical meaning in finance that is important and worth understanding in full. Using the terms in a college bull session does not invalidate their proper scientific use.

I'm glad I went to B-school at the University of Chicago, where they teach you what words mean and to use them as precisely as you can.

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5. Lots of people don’t have strong dreams and life is meaningless anyway. Pursuing optionality if it gives you peace of mind is a totally valid choice. To run with the finance analogy, if you already have a portfolio that’s large enough to meet your needs, it makes sense to become more risk-averse and seek capital preservation rather than alpha or even highest expected return.

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Quick review
1 -- Of course. As much as possible.
2 -- Perhaps someday we'll know.
3 -- Sooner or later most people will be winners.
4 -- Transformation is not about information. It's about knowledge and decisions.
5 -- Against "against optionality". Very much in favor of easy entry, easier exit.
6 -- Good for George and all others. Best wishes.

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We're using some tents as long as it's comfortable. Since we're in Upstate NY, that won't be very late in the semester.

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Right, the world wanted no nukes and then I said more nukes and won so the gravitational lensing how do you see the everything guy, Dorothy and todo, etc everything field, etc so the govt made a malfunction on purpose then the

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How do you see the massive thing, anyway, gravitational lensing etc, right tell dc it owes me 50 billion same for UK and Dane for Brussels and or just free me

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5/ "The Yale undergraduate goes to work at McKinsey for two years, then comes to Harvard Business School, then graduates and goes to work Goldman Sachs and leaves after several years to work at Blackstone. Optionality abounds!"

That was pretty much my trajectory. Now all I do these days is leave comments on this blog. So much for optionality.

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Brazil is ready to launch a 200 reais (plural of real, Brazil's currency, one of the most valuable currencies in the world) bill.

In what sense is the real more valuable than any other currency? Since you can exchange it for other currencies at published rates, they would all seem to have the same intrinsic value.

If you mean "nominal value in dollars," the real, which is worth roughly 20 cents, is much cheaper than the euro, pound, Canadian dollar, etc.

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5. Lost artists and restaurateurs? I think the professor has confused the appeal of "optionality" with that of "money".

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5. Assumes people have (or ever develop) "dreams." Most people just want to be liked/respected. The Mckinsey-Goldman route works for them.

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#5
implied thoughts are probably something like this
https://medium.com/s/story/a-culture-of-prestige-98c8671ceade#:~:text=In%202017%2C%20nearly%2040%20percent,Sachs%2C%20Morgan%20Stanley%2C%20JPMorgan.

This kinda stuff drives me nuts
"Surely there must be a better place in society for a computer science Ph.D. than a hedge fund’s tech department"
yeah? great! surely that employer should be on campus and offering better salaries and other perks than a fund.
well nowadays obvsly big tech is pretty competitive, though once you look under the hood "ads optimization" vs "trading optimization" might not be as different as tech vs finance might first sound.

this complaint often seems to boil down to: why are these naughty kids take the best (salary/prestige/opportunities) jobs instead of the worse jobs I believe are good for society?
well if society really feels that way it's gotta f*cking pay.
and where it cares it does: tech, medicine are pretty competitive.
academia still gets many more great kids into phd than it can find any reasonable opportunities for, without even paying, through sneaky misleading marketing by profs alone.
so what are those "starved for talent" places?

or is the complaint they aren't doing something more groundbreaking? rly, green 22yos? that said, this is easy to encourage: do large scale emergent ventures style thing offer 100K/year for a few years to every ivy grad with any reasonable plan to do something impactful unconventional.

too often these kinda articles feel like the author wants these kids to somehow solve the perceived problems our society has, like finance and consulting being among the few really challenging and remunerated things to do.

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1. Colleges in California could do that well. Where I'm at in the Pacific Northwest, no.

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Mumbai serosurvey estimates 40% prevalence.

https://twitter.com/mybmc/status/1288156896029896704

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# 2 OMG! They've got the London virus.

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Andy Matuschak underrates the book. https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/d7bvcp/how_to_read_a_book_for_understanding/

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