Iceland’s economic recovery

When the financial crisis hit I was fascinated with what Iceland would do. I mean, how does an ENTIRE country go bankrupt? And when they do go bankrupt, what’s next for them? How do the people there live their lives? I read as much as I could during the crisis about it, and there just wasn’t much news. Would the citizens riot? Would there be food shortages? Would it become “The Walking Dead” there quickly? It was just really hard to find any news at all.
I just started reading this article today and it’s amazing because it looks like Iceland figured it out. They are recovering and they did it the complete opposite of the way the United States attempted to recover:

As everybody knows now, we did not pump public money into the failed banks. We treated them like private companies that went bankrupt, and we let them fail. Some people say we did it because we didn’t have any other option, there is clearly something in that argument, but it does not change the fact that it turned out to be a wise move or whatever reason. Whereas in many other countries, the prevailing orthodoxy is you pump public money into banks and you make taxpayers responsible for the banks in the long run, and somehow treat the banks as if they are holier institutions in the economy than manufacturing companies, commercial companies, IT companies, or whatever. And I have never really understood the argument: why a private bank or financial fund is somehow holier for the well being and future of the economy than the industrial sector, the IT sector, the creative sector, or the manufacturing sector.

So if you add all of this together and throw in the devaluation of the currency as well, it’s clear that what some people have called the Icelandic model includes a number of measures and approaches that have not been adopted in other countries. On the contrary, it includes some methods in the process that go directly against what has been adopted in other countries. But the outcome is the Icelandic economy is recovering faster and more effectively than any other economy, including the British and the American that suffered from a big financial crisis in 2008.
– Iceland’s President, who is up for re-election

Read more:
via reddit


via NYT via youmightfindyourself

David Foster Wallace:

It seems significant that we don’t want things to be quiet, ever, anymore.” Stores and restaurants have their ubiquitous Muzak or satellite radio; bars have anywhere between 1 and 17 TVs blaring Fox and soccer; ads and 30-second news cycles play on screens in cabs, elevators and restrooms. Even some libraries, whose professional shushers were once celebrated in cartoon and sitcom, now have music and special segregated areas designated for “quiet study,” which is what a library used to be.

From the NYT article:

People are louder, too. They complain at length and in detail about their divorces or gallbladders a foot away from you in restaurants. A dreaded Amtrak type is the passenger who commences prattling on her cellphone the instant she sits down and doesn’t hang up until she gets to her stop, unable to bear an undistracted instant in her own company. People practice rap lyrics on the bus or the subway, barking doggerel along with their iPods as though they were alone in the shower. Respecting shared public space is becoming as quaintly archaic as tipping your hat to a lady, now that the concept of public space is as nearly extinct as hats, and ladies.


Sure enough, when I Retweeted Mott’s PandoDaily post, I was immediately inundated with @replies accusing me of being “anti-free market” and insisting that the only thing the government should do for technology companies is “get out of the way.” What was curious about those most loudly defending Kalanick — apart from the fact that they all were idiots — was that almost all of them directly or obliquely referenced the same author in their Twitter bio…

Ayn fucking Rand.

via pandodaily

Sometimes you read an article with a lot of stuff you don’t know anything about or are fuzzy on (i.e. the eCommerce Taxi company UBER and Ayn Rand) and it’s still gripping like a murder mystery because it’s so well written. I never realized how influential Ayn Rand was with Silicon Valley start up types. I never heard some of these quotes attributed to Rand, like what would happen if all the rich people went on strike. For some reason I skipped Ayn Rand in highschool. Fascinating and really well done article. Spoiler: Ayn Rand did it!

How Collecting Opium Antiques Turned Me Into an Opium Addict

via boingboing via collectorsweekly

Again, opium smoking is very involved, very time-consuming. At first, that’s what I was attracted to, the whole ritual aspect of it. But then I started bringing the stuff to my apartment. That’s when things went crazy. I went from smoking opium a couple of times a week to round-the-clock. I tried getting off the stuff, but couldn’t. It was just impossible, so painful. I ended up checking into a Buddhist monastery a couple of hours north of Bangkok that specializes in treating people with addictions. They have this potion they claim came to a Buddhist nun in a dream. You drink it, hold it down for a few minutes, and then start vomiting it up. You do that for five days straight. Somehow, it made the withdrawal symptoms maybe a quarter of what they were when I had tried to quit on my own. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about that monastery.

This fascinating article just underscores how careful you need to be with certain drugs and the real possibility of addiction. Just when he wasn’t looking, this poor fellow had opium’s hooks stuck into him. Seems like a lot of people are going through this today with heroin in pill form nowadays – and that’s even scarier because of it’s convenience. It’s tough to sneak around with all the tools you need to smoke opium. I guess that was the allure of the Opium Den – where all the stuff was there waiting for you. Convenience. Opium Dens remind me of the Lotus Eaters. Creepy and scary. Sounds like you shouldn’t play with the Devil in drug form. Interesting how the old texts keep referring to Opium as “evil”.

Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code

This is an older article that appeared in Wired Magazine, but it just came up at work in conversation and I wanted to post it because I found it so fascinating. It’s about a brilliant guy named Mohan Srivastava that figured out how to crack scratch-off lottery tickets. Sounds like science fiction, but it actually happened. What’s crazy is, he tried to let Ontario know there was a problem with their lottery tickets, and they blew him off at first until he sent them this letter:

In the enclosed envelopes, I have sent you two groups of 10 TicTacToe tickets that I purchased from various outlets around Toronto in the past week… You go ahead and scratch off the cards. Maybe you can give one batch to your lottery ticket specialist. After you’ve scratched them off, you should have a pretty solid sense for whether or not there’s something fishy here.

Chinese citizens using body doubles to avoid jail

…the most stunning allegation was that the man appearing in court and serving the three-year sentence wasn’t Hu at all, but a hired body double.
The charge isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound. The practice of hiring “body doubles” or “stand-ins” is well-documented by official Chinese media. In 2009, a hospital president who caused a deadly traffic accident hired an employee’s father to “confess” and serve as his stand-in.

via Slate Article about the practice of wealthy Chinese citizens using body doubles to avoid jail


I have been doing my own reading on Provigil and Adderall. This is a great article (How I hacked my brain with Adderall: a cautionary tale), in my opinion, because I think we all know deep down that there is really always a trade-off with any drug (found it via waxy). There’s pretty much always some downside, whether it is something you can live with or not, is the real issue. Also, some of them will speed up your ultimate demise – either by increments of minutes – or instantaneously (i.e. overdose). So it’s really a matter of making sure you are comfortable with the reality of potentially harming yourself to the point of death, along with educating yourself so you know. I don’t mean this to be a rant about drugs, but I just wouldn’t want anyone harming themselves because of a stupid blog post. Great article, though, by Trent Wolbe. Some of the side affects are really scary – and also the issue that he brings up of the fact that little children are being prescribed something that causes all of these reactions is definitely disturbing. Are these children ever going to be able to get off of it?

BoingBoing Article: Did Sherman Hemsley have an LSD lab in his basement?

My second favorite thing about this quote, is the sign that Sherman Hemsley had by his front door. This account is from the member of a band named Gong that Sherman apparently fancied:

“It was 1978 or 1979, and Sherman Hemsley kept ringing me up. I didn’t know him from a bar of soap because we didn’t have television in Spain (where I was living). He called me from Hollywood saying, ‘I’m one of your biggest fans and I’m going to fly you here and put flying teapots all up and down the Sunset Strip.’ I thought, ‘This guy is a lunatic.’ He kept it up so I said, ‘Listen, can you get us tickets to L.A. via Jamaica? I want to go there to make a reggae track and have a honeymoon with my new girlfriend.’ He said, ‘Sure! I’ll get you two tickets.’

I thought, ‘Well, even if he’s a nut case at least he’s coming up with the goodies.’ The tickets arrived and we had this great honeymoon in Jamaica. Then we caught the plane across to L.A. We had heard Sherman was a big star, but we didn’t know the details. Coming down the corridor from the plane, I see this black guy with a whole bunch of people running after him trying to get autographs. Anyway, we get into this stretch limousine with Sherman and immediately there’s a big joint being passed around. I say, ‘Sorry man, I don’t smoke.’ Sherman says, ‘You don’t smoke and you’re from Gong?’

Inside the front door of Sherman’s house was a sign saying, ‘Don’t answer the door because it might be the man.’ There were two Puerto Ricans that had a LSD laboratory in his basement, so they were really paranoid. They also had little crack/freebase depots on every floor. Then Sherman says, ‘Come on upstairs and I’ll show you the Flying Teapot room.’ Sherman was very sweet but was surrounded by these really crazy people.

via boingboing

Val Patterson knows how to write an obituary for himself

From an article on boingboing. This gentleman wrote his own obituary and confessed to minor crimes and white lies he told while he was alive. Awesome way to get things off your chest! He sounds like a warm and amazing person, and I only wish that I can die without regrets, like he he did:

Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should now say. As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June, 1971. I could have left that unsaid, but I wanted to get it off my chest. Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn’t even graduate, I only had about 3 years of college credit. In fact, I never did even learn what the letters “PhD” even stood for. For all of the Electronic Engineers I have worked with, I’m sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked very well, and were well engineered, and I always made you laugh at work. Now to that really mean Park Ranger; after all, it was me that rolled those rocks into your geyser and ruined it. I did notice a few years later that you did get Old Faithful working again. To Disneyland – you can now throw away that “Banned for Life” file you have on me, I’m not a problem anymore – and SeaWorld San Diego, too, if you read this.

– Val Patterson

Wish I had a chance to know Val while he was alive. Seems like an awesome person. Later on he says something funny and I think also speaks to the type of person he was:

My family is following my wishes that I not have a funeral or burial. If you knew me, remember me in your own way. If you want to live forever, then don’t stop breathing, like I did.

Love that!

Stuff makes us sad

In the Boston Globe, Beth Teitell discusses Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century: 32 Families Open their Doors, an accessible, illustrated text that summarizes the research of four archaeologists and anthropologists who did a long, deep study of 32 middle-class LA families, and who report that nearly everything that these families had striven for — material possessions, good jobs, extracurricular enrichment for their kids — made them wholly miserable.

via boingboing

One of the many reasons why Prometheus doesn’t seem well thought-out

Q: Here we are in space. Our protagonists are on a mission of extended length, but none of them have met each other before. Don’t you think they should have met each other first?

A: They do that all the time. They hire people for these expeditions based on their technical expertise… and send them off without paying any attention to the kind of people they’re sending. They don’t pay any attention to personality. NASA will pay some attention to mental illness, because they don’t want to send crazy people on these missions. But there’s a whole lot more to personality than mental illness. It doesn’t mean you can work as part of a team.

The National Science Foundation and the Navy send people every winter to Antarctica to these research stations that when they get in, they can’t get out; it’s is the same thing as sending them to space. Jesus, there are unbelievable stories of people going crazy and having to build cages, because they’re out of control. Of course, if you’re a woman in that environment, you’re in real trouble.

via an awesome article on Forbes about the science in Prometheus I read via boingboing

Death by Utopia

The ‘Universe’ was surrounded by 16 tunnels leading to food, water and burrows. No predators, no scarcity, the mice would have to be blind to not see the utopia around them. At least it began as Utopia. Four breeding pairs of mice were introduced into Universe 1. After 104 days they adjusted to the new world and the population began to grow, doubling every 55 days. By day 315 the population reached 620. Then is stopped. The population grew much more slowly as the mice came against the limit of space, their only limiting frontier.

Society broke. Young were expelled before they had been properly weaned and were arbitrarily attacked by excessive aggressive male mice. Females became more aggressive, non-dominant males became passive, not retaliating to attacks. The last healthy birth came on the 600th day. Then there were no new mice. Then there were none.

I thought this was an unbelievable cool, frightening, depressing, and wild article about when a scientist, John B. Calhoun, tried to simulate over-population. The full article is here at which I believe I found via Surrogate Self. There’s also an online PDF about the experiment called Death Squared here. I love that he called the barn the rats lived in “Universe”. Creepy.

The World has one less awesome person now…

Can’t add much to what we all already know: That there’s something missing now. A creative genius and a force of nature passed away and I think most of us feel a little empty about it. I posted his amazing speech to a college graduating class previously in this blog. One that could inspire anyone no matter how jaded. Here’s something new I just read in this recent, very well done, eulogy on WIRED:

Jobs usually had little interest in public self-analysis, but every so often he’d drop a clue to what made him tick. Once he recalled for me some of the long summers of his youth. I’m a big believer in boredom,” he told me. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, he explained, and “out of curiosity comes everything.” The man who popularized personal computers and smartphones — machines that would draw our attention like a flame attracts gnats — worried about the future of boredom. “All the [technology] stuff is wonderful, but having nothing to do can be wonderful, too.”

When the Sleeper Wakes

Cool article where the idea of compound interest makes you appreciate that a few dollars can become something unbelievable in time:

With bank rates currently bottomed out, it’s hard to imagine compound interest raising anyone much of a fortune these days. A hundred-dollar account at 5 percent in simple interest doggedly adds five bucks each year: you have $105 after one year, $110 after two, and so on. With compound interest, that interest itself get rolled into the principal and earns interest atop interest: with annual compounding, after one year you have $105, after two you have $110.25. Granted, the extra quarter isn’t much; mathematically, compound interest is a pretty modest-looking exponential function.

Modest, that is, at first. Because thanks to an eccentric New York lawyer in the 1930s, this college in a corner of the Catskills inherited a thousand-year trust that would not mature until the year 2936: a gift whose accumulated compound interest, the New York Times reported in 1961, “could ultimately shatter the nation’s financial structure.” The mossy stone walls and ivy-covered brickwork of Hartwick College were a ticking time-bomb of compounding interest—a very, very slowly ticking time bomb.