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May 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

RIP Yahoo Answers

‘How Do You Get Spaghetti Stains Out of Underwear?’: An Ode to Yahoo Answers

We enter and leave this world alone, but spend the time in between seeking connection. It’s the human experience. But when we’ve strayed too far from the pack, when we’re at our most ashamed, our most lost, our most … too high, Yahoo Answers was there to lead us back home.

The McElroy brother’s podcast, My Brother, My Brother, and Me is fantastic — pick any episode. I’m not sure how they do it but the brothers somehow have new listeners clued in to all the inside and running jokes within an episode or two.

Tell Tale

The Honor System

Until Bakardy came along, Teller had never needed his copyright filings to stake a claim. “It’s not like good manners and generosity are inappropriate ways to behave in the world,” he says. When he has contacted light-fingered magicians in the past, they have always apologized and stopped performing the trick. For instance, he does a trick in which he spills handfuls of coins into a tank filled with water, and they somehow turn into living, breathing goldfish. It’s a throat-catching effect, and a magician in Sweden, who had seen Teller performing the trick on TV, studied the tape and finally lifted it. After Teller called him, the magician said sorry, boxed up his props in a crate, minus the fish, and shipped them to Las Vegas.

This time around, Teller offered to pay Gerard Bakardy several thousand dollars for the time he spent working on the Rose & Her Shadow. He had to promise only that he would stop performing and selling the trick. Bakardy, after asking whether Teller might help him bring Los Dos de Amberes to America, countered with a higher price. No one will confirm exactly what that amount was, but it was allegedly more than $100,000. “It really wasn’t possible for me to come to any terms,” Teller says. “It ended up having certain elements that reminded me of a kidnapping.”

Teller, who had already persuaded YouTube to take down the offending video, asked Bakardy whether his demands were firm. Bakardy said they were.

Teller had a decision to make.

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Thanks for reading. Have a great month,

Clay

April 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Getting Paper

The Article About Paper Sizes You Didn’t Know You Needed

ISO 216 specifies the dimensions of the A-series of paper. It begins at A0 and gets progressively smaller up to A8. Part of the specification is that the ratio between the length and width of each paper size is always √2-to-1. This gives the series a unique characteristic: When you fold a piece of paper width-ways, the halves have the same aspect ratio as the original. That means if you need to shrink a printout to half its size, you can perfectly fit two pages onto the original-sized paper — which as far as paper technology goes, is basically witchcraft.

Process People

Effort

People like to say that lives on social media look unattainable and perfect, but whenever I see something that’s beautifully curated all I can see is the sweat: the money expended, the surgery and fillers, the workouts, the interior designers, the carefully selected objects, the hours spent setting up and filming and taking photos. I think the effort is what’s most interesting. I like people who try very hard, and I like people who attempt to conceal their effort, but I especially like people who let all their effort show. We are all Frankenstein monsters—patchwork quilts of past experiences—trying to pass ourselves off as whole and cohesive things.

[…]

But this post isn’t about how to get good at things. It’s about how people always assume I’m interested in the end result—the wonderful thing they’ve made—when what I’m really interested in is the process. How did you get this way and why? I’m curious about the ugliness of trying, the years and years of wanting and hoping and working. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by craft. I think it’s because it requires such a sustained tenacity. Like Michelangelo saying that he just chips away at everything that didn’t look like David: a hundred thousand little motions to reveal the underlying beauty.

Formula to Thrive

The Formula Won

Formula 1 did not develop this show with Netflix out of the goodness of its heart: The sport needed a kick-start. Ratings were falling in key countries as distribution and audience attitudes were changing. Drive to Survive is based on the personalities of the drivers and the team principals, the people in charge of the drivers’ teams who function as a sort of general manager/coach. The show revolves around type-A alphas staring directly into the camera like Jim Halpert from The Office and bluntly saying whatever they mean about their boss or coworker. The team principals are walking, talking Tom Wolfe novels; the drivers are all rich, look like models, and still have a lot to complain about. These are the pillars of the show: The principals try to outflex each other as masters of the universe while the drivers navigate HR dramas and try to race as fast as they can. It is the most chaotic possible mashup of Hard Knocks, Gossip Girl, James Bond, and Game of Thrones. It is perfect television.

Topsy Turvy What’s a Fermi

The Fermi Paradox

You are probably familiar with The Fermi Paradox, or have at least heard of it. It might ruin the night’s sky for you but it is “fun” to think about. Tim Urban summarizes our place in the universe and beyond by saying…”We’re rare, we’re first, or we’re fucked.”

In the search for additional intelligent life the portion of speculation that eats at me is, ‘There are scary predator civilizations out there, and most intelligent life knows better than to broadcast any outgoing signals and advertise their location.’

It does seem rather…Earthly (specifically, American) to be the ones to show up on the galactic stage blarring noise from our giant megaphone.

Links

Sign Off

Do not hesitate to reply to this months email to share links, wisdom, or thoughts.

Thanks for reading. Have a great month,

Clay

March 2021

This newsletter is a collection of things I have found in the last month that I enjoyed, found interesting, or simply wanted to share.

You can follow me more closely at my personal website or if you or someone you know is looking to buy or sell a home, you can point them to my real estate website.

Like, Super Random

Randomness 101: LavaRand in Production

LavaRand is a system that uses lava lamps as a secondary source of randomness for our production servers. A wall of lava lamps in the lobby of our San Francisco office provides an unpredictable input to a camera aimed at the wall. A video feed from the camera is fed into a CSPRNG, and that CSPRNG provides a stream of random values that can be used as an extra source of randomness by our production servers. Since the flow of the “lava” in a lava lamp is very unpredictable,1 “measuring” the lamps by taking footage of them is a good way to obtain unpredictable randomness. Computers store images as very large numbers, so we can use them as the input to a CSPRNG just like any other number.

“I shot myself, but I killed my ego.”

San Francisco Giants outfielder Drew Robinson’s remarkable second act

Being a professional baseball player isn’t only about playing baseball better than everyone else. It’s accelerated adulthood. It’s an 18-year-old paying bills, managing disappointment, navigating politics, forging relationships — figuring out how to live in a universe designed to weed out the weak.

Goldberggggg

Hockey Has a Gigantic-Goalie Problem

Particularly intriguing is to watch them position their body when the action is to one side of their net, near the goal line. On their knees, one leg extended to the bottom far corner, the top of that leg pad filling the five-hole, their upper body crammed up against the post, their shoulders shrugged upward to take away the top corners, all of their body parts coming together so seamlessly. It is like watching an origami master in action, constructing not a paper crane, but a perfect wall.

Understanding Efficacy

What does 95% COVID-19 vaccine efficacy really mean?

It is imperative to dispel any ambiguity about how vaccine efficacy shown in trials translates into protecting individuals and populations. The mRNA-based Pfizer, and Moderna vaccines were shown to have 94–95% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19…It means that in a population such as the one enrolled in the trials, with a cumulated COVID-19 attack rate over a period of 3 months of about 1% without a vaccine, we would expect roughly 0·05% of vaccinated people would get diseased. It does not mean that 95% of people are protected from disease with the vaccine—a general misconception of vaccine protection…

A 95% vaccine efficacy means that instead of 1,000 COVID-19 cases in a population of 100,000 without vaccine we would expect 50 cases.

I couldn’t really wrap my mind around how this math worked out. Or rather, I hadn’t found anyone who could explain it well enough for me to explain to someone else. This NY Times exercise really helped.

Should you take a less efficacious vaccine or wait for a more efficacious vaccine?

Don’t fail to wear your seatbelt today because your next car may have airbags.

Please keep in mind,

All three vaccines were 100% effective at preventing severe disease six weeks after the first dose (for Moderna) or seven weeks after the first dose (for Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, the latter of which requires only one dose). Zero vaccinated people in any of the trials were hospitalized or died of COVID-19 after the vaccines had fully taken effect.

Covid-19 Vaccine Efficacy Page

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