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Inhuman Resources / Huffington Post
Mike Picarella wanted to protect a co-worker from humiliating sexual harassment. He didn't expect his own life to be destroyed in the process. [...] The banking industry is hardly known for its moral rectitude. But if you look beyond the executive suites and venture into compliance departments and operations back offices, you’ll find a handful of sticklers and self-appointed heroes who have made it their mission to save Wall Street from its excesses. Mike is one of them.
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Sex, Beer, and Coding: Inside Facebooks Wild Early Days
You'll be shocked to hear that the headline oversells this oral history; it's still pretty interesting:
At the time Mark Zuckerberg was obsessed with file sharing, and the grand plan for his Silicon Valley summer was to resurrect Napster. It would rise again, but this time as a feature inside of Facebook. The name of Zuckerberg’s pet project? Wirehog. Aaron Sittig: Wirehog was the secret feature that Mark had promised was going to change everything. Mark had gotten convinced that what would make Facebook really popular and just sort of cement its position at schools was a way to send files around to other people—mostly just to trade music. Mark Pincus: They built in this little thing that looked like Napster—you could see what music files someone had on their computer. Ezra Callahan: This is at a time when we have just watched Napster get completely terminated by the courts and the entertainment industry is starting to sue random individuals for sharing files. The days of the Wild West were clearly ending. Aaron Sittig: It’s important to remember that Wirehog was happening at a time where you couldn’t even share photos on your Facebook page. Wirehog was going to be the solution for sharing photos with other people. You could have a box on your profile and people could go there to get access to all your photos that you were sharing—or whatever files you were sharing. It might be audio files, it might be video files, it might be photos of their vacation. Ezra Callahan: But at the end of the day it’s just a file-sharing service. When I joined Facebook, most people had already kind of come around to the idea that unless some new use comes up for Wirehog that we haven’t thought of, it’s just a liability. “We’re going to get sued someday, so what’s the point?” That was the mentality. Mark Pincus: I was kind of wondering why Sean wanted to go anywhere near music again.
Melatonin: Much More Than You Wanted To Know
Scott Alexander manages to make melatonin interesting:
When these processes disagree for some reason – night shifts, jet lag, drugs, genetics, playing Civilization until 5 AM – the system fails. One process tells you to go to sleep, the other to wake up. You’re never quite awake enough to feel energized, or quite tired enough to get restful sleep. You find yourself lying in bed tossing and turning, or waking up while it’s still dark and not being able to get back to sleep. Melatonin works on both systems. It has a weak “hypnotic” effect on Process S, making you immediately sleepier when you take it. It also has a stronger “chronobiotic” effect on the circadian rhythm, shifting what time of day your body considers sleep to be a good idea. Effective use of melatonin comes from understanding both these effects and using each where appropriate. [...] 2. What is the right dose of melatonin? 0.3 mg. “But my local drugstore sells 10 mg pills! When I asked if they had anything lower, they looked through their stockroom and were eventually able to find 3 mg pills! And you’re saying the correct dose is a third of a milligram?!” Yes. Most existing melatonin tablets are around ten to thirty times the correct dose.
The Angels Want Ohtani On The Field This Year. Will That Cost Them Later? / FiveThirtyEight
In a similar vein, a somewhat obscure baseball decision becomes interesting in FiveThirtyEight's hands. (Or am I just trying in vain to hide the fact that there aren't a ton of great links this week?)
The hitting half of Ohtani is still pretty valuable by itself, and there’s some chance he could return to the mound without needing surgery. But Los Angeles may also just be delaying the inevitable, as injections like the ones Ohtani is getting don’t always successfully stave off Tommy John in the end. (Indeed, Ohtani already underwent the same treatment for a less severe UCL sprain last fall, only to have the injury re-emerge.) With the Angels’ playoff chances all but dried up this year, is it worth it to run him out at half strength for the rest of his rookie campaign? Or should they just call it a season and schedule the operation to fully repair his damaged elbow? Ohtani’s unprecedented ability has given Los Angeles an unprecedented front-office dilemma. [...] But even if we reduce Ohtani’s hitting WAR over the rest of 2018 by that factor and assign a mere 40 percent chance he won’t need surgery, the expected three-year value of LA’s wait-and-see approach comes out to 4.5 WAR, essentially the same as the expected value of his having surgery right now (4.3 WAR). And again, that’s assuming the least-favorable rate of success for the non-surgical approach, which might be underselling its effectiveness. In other words, the Angels are probably making the right call with Ohtani at the moment. It feels strange to only use half of Ohtani’s incredible skill set, particularly with LA’s playoff chances on life support, and it certainly isn’t exactly what the Angels were envisioning when they paid a $20 million posting fee for Ohtani last December.
Was the newlywed mechanic who stole a plane shot down? / BBC
In 1969, at the height of the Cold War, a homesick, hungover mechanic in the US Air Force stole a plane from his base in East Anglia and set off for Virginia. Nearly two hours later, he disappeared suddenly over the English Channel. Did he simply crash or was he shot down? Emma Jane Kirby has been scouring the archives to find out. I've known for some time that 23-year-old Sgt Paul Meyer called his wife from the cockpit of his stolen Hercules aircraft - Jane Goodson, as she's now called, told me this herself when she spoke to me from her home in Virginia. "Honey!" he had told her triumphantly, waking her from a deep sleep. "I got a bird in the sky and I'm coming home!" What I didn't realise then, however, was that the last 20 minutes or so of their conversation was recorded. And when the transcript of that recording was sent to me, I will admit that I sat down and wept. By the time the tape recorder was rolling, Meyer's jubilation and bravado had left him. The cold reality of what he'd just done - and what lay ahead - had hit him squarely.
Think everyone died young in ancient societies? Think again / Aeon
Won't be news to many of you, but still a good debunking of a common belief:
You might have seen the cartoon: two cavemen sitting outside their cave knapping stone tools. One says to the other: ‘Something’s just not right – our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, and yet nobody lives past 30.’ This cartoon reflects a very common view of ancient lifespans, but it is based on a myth. People in the past were not all dead by 30. Ancient documents confirm this. In the 24th century BCE, the Egyptian Vizier Ptahhotep wrote verses about the disintegrations of old age. The ancient Greeks classed old age among the divine curses, and their tombstones attest to survival well past 80 years. Ancient artworks and figurines also depict elderly people: stooped, flabby, wrinkled. This is not the only type of evidence, however. Studies on extant traditional people who live far away from modern medicines and markets, such as Tanzania’s Hadza or Brazil’s Xilixana Yanomami, have demonstrated that the most likely age at death is far higher than most people assume: it’s about 70 years old.
Racial resentment is the biggest predictor of immigration attitudes, study finds / Washington Post
NB: Based on unpublished research:
All told, the analyses were “unequivocal that racial resentment is reliably the largest and most precise predictor of attitudes toward immigration,” Miller found. As the chart above shows, “racial resentment has the largest magnitude effect” on the odds that a white respondent will express a preference for less legal immigration. The effect of racial resentment has “nearly six times” the impact as a belief that the economy has gotten worse on respondents' propensity to favor less immigration.
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When algorithms surprise us / AI Weirdness
When machine learning algorithms solve problems in unexpected ways, programmers find them, okay yes, annoying sometimes, but often purely delightful. So delightful, in fact, that in 2018 a group of researchers wrote a fascinating paper that collected dozens of anecdotes that “elicited surprise and wonder from the researchers studying them”. The paper is well worth reading, as are the original references, but here are several of my favorite examples.
Nine Things I Learned When I Became a Honeymoon Planner for Billionaires / Bloomberg
Lining up a dream postnuptial vacation can be just as high-stakes as planning the big day itself. (Remember Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s widely publicized indecision: Was it Africa or Canada?) It can be especially complicated, it turns out, if you are a billionaire. Nobody knows that better than the planning team at Ovation Vacations, a leisure travel consultancy for ultrahigh-net-worth individuals. (Think media moguls, real estate tycoons, financiers, movie stars, talk show hosts, and pro athletes.) The company’s team of 30 agents plans more than 200 honeymoons a year, at an average of $50,000 per trip. That’s almost $1 million in honeymoon bookings each month. Ovation’s president, Jack Ezon, is like the Olivia Pope of travel, handling myriad client requests from the practical to the absurd. And as I learned during a consulting crash course with Ezon and his team, there are many odd asks from the world’s richest honeymooners. By the end of my second day, I had arranged a couple’s hard-to-get dinner reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro (of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame), booked a private meet-and-greet with the pope (for a Jewish man, no less), and helped organize a transatlantic charter flight for a sheik’s bird. But wait, there’s more …
Memories of Interesting Airline Moments / Flying
During a recent recurrent training period in our human factors class, the check airman instructor asked for a show of hands for those who had experienced an engine failure during their careers at the airline. The classroom consisted of about 30 well-seasoned pilots. Barely a quarter of the class raised their hands. The same question was asked for anyone who had experienced more than one engine failure. I scanned the room. My hand was the only one raised. Really? The instructor’s question was a prelude to video re-creations of some real-life emergency events experienced by fellow crewmembers that we were about to watch and evaluate. I had never really dwelt on my engine failure experiences, the memory of the adrenalin rush long since forgotten.