Iskaral Pust

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  1. Finished The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge, a non-fiction history from 1090 to 1291. A very well written history and a good read. Now, after that, I’m definitely ready for a novel with some characterization, uncertainty and an unknown world to explore, so I picked up Fell Sword by Miles Cameron, #2 in the Red Knight/Traitor Son cycle.
  2. Here’s a more measured list of likes and dislikes from the movie, some of which appear in both sections: LIKES: - visually amazing. They even bent the plot to create more opportunities to be visually amazing (e.g. the red salt plumes are tactically stupid but visually fantastic) - confounds expectations. Parentage, Snoke’s backstory and importance, Ren’s turning (as a kid and and not turning now), Luke’s error with Ben, cowboy tactics aren’t always rewarded or praised, deflates the self-importance of the Jedi order. - humor, unexpectedly included here and there to break tension and humanize characters and their situation. Not clownish or forced, thankfully. - not a remake of ESB, despite a lot of homage sequences, evading the trap of TFA. Even uses the homages to help confound expectations. - not over-stuffed with freakish-for-sake-of -freakish side characters that leave the movie feeling full of puppets and CGI. - great performances by Ren, Rey, Luke and Leia. Driver and Ridley especially grew as nuanced actors (or their roles did). - elemental Manichean struggle. Even if it feels simple and heavy handed, the use of light vs dark in how scenes were shot was more prominent than in any prior film. - the story felt intimate. A galactic struggle is too sprawling but I can watch it play out on a select subset as my window into the story. - motivation: it tried to introduce individual agency (REN especially) and motivation beyond simply being good or evil at root. And was tantalizing close to showing that smug, self-righteous “good” creates rebellious, non-conformist evil, while malicious and destructive evil creates just and righteous good. Also came tantalizing close to the idea that both sides are just puppets in a perma-war, benefiting the military industrial complex and weighing on the economy. - Rose was a great character addition, humanizing the story and the struggle compared to the crusading zeal of the other characters. - This story represents a feminist revolution and largely does it without seeming to have tried too hard or that the whole plot is in service to that goal (Holdo excepted) - combat choreography — only time other than Darth Maul (or a ridiculously manic Yoda) where we see some discernible combat skill from lifetime users of melee weapons. - new surprises/reveals in force use. DISLIKES: - So. Many. Plotholes. And blatant inconsistency. And plot-required stupidity. - Patronizingly lecturing the audience with the casino detour and Holdo. The plot was contorted horribly so we could get our heavy-handed lecture. Good, now we’re all woke. - Yoda. One one hand he had some great lines, on the other hand his high pitched voice, giggling, and contorted speech pattern and another gaping plot hole all jarred me out of my otherwise generous suspension of disbelief. It felt like gratuitous fan service and a crutch to resolve Luke’s arc when he had no-one left for expository dialogue. - Finn. Charismatic and fun, offering a lighthearted C plot, but what a pointless and convoluted arc, both plot and character. Could have been much better used. - Inconsistency of newly revealed force use and newly discovered tactics. - Incompetence of Hux and Phasma. How did those morons end up terrorizing a knitting club, never mind a galaxy? - Despite the corresponding positive, it felt too small and too humanoid. As much as I hate the re-released Cantina and Jabba’s palace scenes, where was the sense of a vast and varied galaxy?
  3. We have ~320m citizens and a median income of approx $40k. Who said UBI would be applied at the household level? That’s not universal, and would rapidly lead to a disintegration of formal households (big incentive to appear independent). You could perhaps apply a lower amount to minors, as dmc515 did. It doesn’t change the magnitude of the math. I not aiming for precision. I’m trying to show that providing any sort of livable income to everyone — when the majority don’t actually need it — requires a tax base beyond anything that has been conceived. Taxing the rich won’t do enough. We’d need them to first get a lot richer and then continue getting richer despite incredibly high marginal taxation. The best chance of doing it might be moneterization (Rippounet echoed this too), especially if we’re seeing deflation otherwise.
  4. I’m not trying to pick a fight here but I think the posters who are disappointed by the movie because of plot holes are setting themselves up for disappointment. This is just cheesy space opera with an exaggerated myth & hero basis. It requires vast suspension of disbelief but it’s executed with verve, excitement and flair. The world building has always been for shit. In fact, there’s never been any credible attempt at world building in any of the movies. It still hasn’t been established, that I can recall, that the Empire or First Order does anything evil other than overkill the religious terrorist groups. American audiences don’t see an uncomfortable irony about our drone strikes in Afghanistan; I’m always surprised that Americans root for the ragtag rebels when we’ve been the global superpower for decades. The audience doesn’t see the Empire or FO passing unjust laws or censoring speech or indulging in corruption or taxing the populace heavily or oppressing anyone not associated with violent insurrection. But they dress like Nazis and lately (Hux) make speeches like Nazis, so of course they’re evil. We see localized slavery, though unrelated to the FO, which occurred under the Jedi too. And lets not get started on breaking the laws of physics. Guardians of the Galaxy seems to have opened the doors to characters surviving the vacuum of space and absolute zero without a pressurized suit. But Star Wars also drops bombs in zero gravity, and opens bomb doors in the vacuum of space. And every tiny space craft has artificial gravity. And lots of explosions and flames in space extend far beyond just escaping oxygen. And no-one ever thought of kamikaze light speed before even though we know (from TFA) that it pierces all shields. And the characters were always paper thin. Amidala was a democratically elected queen for an entire planet as a teenager. The Jedi council had undemocratic power and influence over an entire galaxy based on their religion and potential for violence, but we just accept that as the right & just model. There were so many cringeworthy moments in this movie but I happily ignored them all and enjoyed the fun. If I actually analyzed this like an episode of MadMen, it would ruin the movie. They were never built to withstand any sceptical scrutiny.
  5. That was AWESOME! i don’t want to get analytical yet with all the flaws or heavy-handed messages. I’m just enjoying it for what it was — pure fun. I want to be a Jedi.
  6. Do the math: $40k times 320 million people is $12.8trn, compared to a GDP of $18.7trn. So the UBI bill would cost 70% our current GDP, that's before paying for anything else like national defense, infrastructure, operating the govt, etc. You can modify that down to per-household or per-adult UBI instead, but you still end up with a situation where the govt has to collect almost the entire GDP of the country. If you aren't taxing the UBI itself -- which is redundant -- then you basically need the govt to tax everything else at 100%, and even that won't be enough. I don't think enough people have done the math on what it takes to offer a livable UBI to the whole population. Current tax receipts are less than 20% of GDP annually. You cannot increase that by 3-4x without turning the economy into communism. So UBI has to be tiny, or else you can offer a livable social security benefit to only those who need it, but you have to include all kinds of negative incentives to minimize the % of population who seek it. Edit: I'm a firm liberal too, although I look like a centrist liberal around here. I want to see significant reform to avoid becoming a banana republic, but I feel compelled to test the math of these dreams. It's why I couldn't support Sanders: I'm not a fan of politicians who promise infinite free stuff with no idea of how to pay. Even if we cut the military spending by half (my preferred approach) and ratchet up inheritance tax and introduce a wealth tax and remove all tax evasion by the wealthy, we'll still only have a fraction of what is being promised.
  7. I don’t equate UBI with communism it’s just that the math works out like that. For example, if the US decided that $40k (median income) was the right level for a livable income and then tried to deliver UBI to everyone (not just the unemployed or poor) at that level, then the tax needed to pay for that would be a very high tax rate on all income above $40k. (You need zero tax on the UBI itself) The combination of very high marginal taxes and an assured basic income would drive a lot of low earners out of the workforce and out of the tax base, increasing the marginal tax rates on the remaining workers to compensate. This would continue in a few waves until an equilibrium was reached with robots/AI replacing most labor because it’s no longer viable to pay enough wages net of the tax rate to keep many workers interested. Most of the population would be living on UBI alone and all additional income is almost fully taxed. We’d never allow that in reality, so the alternative is that either UBI remains extremely low (just enough for survival, and still results in huge economic inequality between the employed and the left behind) or else we need a very large tax base unrelated to employment income.
  8. UBI has lots of benefits but still prohibitively expensive to provide a livable income to everyone (most of whom don’t even need it) unless we develop an entirely new taxation/revenue system. If we use an income tax system then the UBI is either extremely low or else requires taxation at an extremely high % on income above the UBI — basically communism. To achieve a UBI that delivers a livable income, it will probably be necessary to replace the broad income tax system with some sort of alternative, e.g. direct tax on production by robots/AI or monetarization (since we’ll have deflation anyway). There are huge coordination and political problems ahead but I expect we’ll solve it gradually in lots of small incremental steps to deliver govt spending to left behind cohorts.
  9. The problem is that methane has a stronger greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide. There’s no net carbon addition but the change in form is more damaging than just burning the grass. The best way to avoid this problem is to move away from the inefficient system of cows digesting grass to form proteins and fats, and introduce an artificial replicating system where the digestion occurs in a lab system and the methane can either be changed by tweaking the digestion chemistry or else captured for use as fuel. Growing a cow is a pretty inefficient way to convert grass calories, nutrients, energy, etc into human food in the form of beef.
  10. You guys are more optimistic than me. I think the thawing of the permafrost is now inevitable and will release vast amounts of greenhouse gases and act as a huge accelerant that dwarfs any reduction in fossil fuels burned. 2C is the minimum rise we'll see over the next century. We need to move rapidly toward mitigation strategies that are basically geoengineering*: - a massive global planting program for carbon traps, which in turn requires GMO (hardier, faster growing species), soil regeneration and desalination, and a huge program of hydrology (we'll have rising sea levels but insufficient fresh water -- we need to move toward a warmer wet environment rather than a warmer dry** environment) - possibly atmospheric distribution of reflective particles (simulating a volcanic eruption) - definitely coastline infrastructure via levies, dams, etc - possibly intervention in oceanic surface temperatures and convection cycle that helps fuel mega storms *of the deliberate kind, rather than the centuries of unintended geoengineering through deforestation, salination via irrigation and greenhouse gases. **one of our biggest challenges is that the current continental configuration (location, size and shape) ensures vast areas of land receive very little precipitation. I can't yet imagine how, but we need to stimulate or else artificially replace the evaporation-precipitation distribution of fresh water in small persistent amounts that can be absorbed into aquifers.
  11. We had lunch today with some friends and the husband wanted my opinion (as an investment guy) on the wife’s suggestion that they take all their savings out of the stock market — where a crash must be imminent — and invest in bitcoin instead. These are two very well educated and business-savvy people. I hope there aren’t many others like them. It’s all fun and games if people are throwing some (relative) loose change at it, but if people allocate a large chunk of their savings to any crypto currency there will be unfortunate consequences. And it’s a bad sign that people are starting to talk about Bitcoin now like flipping houses in 2006 and tech stocks in 1999.
  12. The excitement is building. We re-watched Rogue One a few weeks ago (I still like it but my wife finds it too gloomy), and rewatched TFA yesterday. My wife, our son and I will all be at a 4pm showing on Friday. I need to dig out the email with the tickets. I fully expect at least two more theater viewings over the holidays. My wife is the biggest Star Wars nut.
  13. Snow games are fun. I’ve played soccer games in conditions like that too, which is even crazier because the ball can’t roll at all. Bears decide that draft picks aren’t worth it and crush the Bengals after losing five in a row. So even if they suddenly discover some mojo for their remaining games, they’ll still end bottom of a weak (this year) division but have less to show for it on draft day than the truly committed losers like the Browns, Giants, Colts and 49ers. Seattle are struggling against the Jaguars with an identical 8-4 record, and missed a tying FG, but close enough at half-time that they can still pull it out. Especially with the Eagles leading the Rams. The Rams visit to Seattle next week still looks like the division decider.
  14. I agree, Bitcoin should be a depreciating asset because the average cost of carry increases over time (typical of a contango commodity market), but an inflating asset because the marginal cost of production is increasing steeply provided there is demand/value sufficient to cover that cost. These are an in tension, with the latter dominating so far. There’s limited value yet, except to criminals, but lots of demand based on speculative expectations. If anything negatively impacts those expectations, e.g. sovereigns reasserting their monopoly on currency, then there will be a sharp reversion to the former. If demand does increase, and it probably will since we’re still in the early stage of euphoria and awareness (think 1997 for internet stocks), then prices can move higher. But once we have short trading available, e.g. from the proposed futures contracts, then that peak & collapse could happen at any time. Bubbles have predictable patterns but not predictable timeframes.
  15. The biggest surprise for me today was Arsenal getting bossed by a very poor Southampton team, who dominated the chances. Arsenal has quietly been on a very good run, and outplayed Utd last week despite losing, but somehow lost all rhythm today. Charlie Austin has returned in hot form. On the opposite side, absolutely unsurprising to see: - Lovren with a rash action, at a point of little danger, that cost us a goal and some points (even a soft penalty can’t be given if he doesn’t raise his hand) - Mourinho an absolutely gutless manager with no idea of how to win except through attrition. Utd’s sheer spending might keep them close to the top four while he remains, but their culture of winning is long gone. - Herrera dived in pursuit of penalty, tried to get an opponent booked, bitched and complained to the ref, but his own tackle in the box earlier should have been given as an actual penalty. And he made zero positive contribution to any passage of play. How far has his form fallen in the past year? - Lukaku is a player of hot and cold streaks, just like every other season. Perhaps he’ll age into some consistency, as Coutinho partially has (less inconsistent than before but some room still to go) but not yet. - Every headline about the Liverpool game features Rooney, who did nothing all game except take an unearned penalty. The media wants that narrative so desperately to get more clicks but if the outcome is to keep him in the team longer then Liverpool are the long term winners.