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Topics - ergophobe

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2
Economics & Investing / Schwab starts talking about recession
« on: October 18, 2018, 05:36:19 PM »
I get the Schwab newsletter, which I almost always ignore for the simple reason that it seems like no matter how dire things, get, they always say "Despite the chatter, everything is rosy, stay the course, keep pouring money into your brokerage account, buy buy buy."

But something caught my eye in the current on and suddenly, there's a lot of talk of recession that isn't flat out dismissive. It's cautious.

https://www.schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/end-has-start-keeping-eye-on-recession-indicators
https://www.schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/on-watch-is-there-more-trouble-ahead-stocks
https://www.schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/will-fed-go-too-far-this-cycle-3-indicators-to-watch

It's not so much that their analysis is amazing. It's that there has been a sudden shift in tone in the newsletter, which is what I see as the real indicator that worry is growing.

The odd one is the idea that recessions are typically timed to when unemployment rate is equal to the inflation rate. I'd never heard that before. My first reaction was that there were so few data points, that could be a spurious correlation (and it might be), but it seems to hold pretty well since 1990 across a half-dozen countries.

I don't think my economics brain is sophisticated enough to see why that in particular would provoke/indicate recession

3
Web Development / Strange Apache crashes
« on: October 17, 2018, 05:48:19 PM »
On my dev laptop (Windows), Apache kept crashing instantly upon trying to load Wordpress. This is immediate and sudden, so nothing getting written to access logs or error logs in Apache or PHP.

I quickly figured out that it was crashing when it hit the first require() statement... so down the rabbit hole to that file and the whole string of Russian dolls.

So I added an
echo "Quitting at " . __FILE__ . ":" . __LINE__; die();

And kept moving that down to the bottom of the file and the file was fine. Remove the debug statements and the script executes to the next require() and fails.  Same thing.

At the next block or require statements, I go to all the files and add a space, save, delete the space, save. Everything works until the *next* require statement.

So I think, there's something weird on file permissions or last modified time stamp or something, so I run something to update the last modified to now()... and I'm back where I started.

I do a git checkout live to switch to a known working branch... and I'm still back to crashing instantly.

Haven't solved it yet, but I know it's a problem with that set of WP files, because the Drupal sites on that same server run fine and anything on that site that does not invoke require() runs fine. Since the permission models between Windows and Linux don't really match, I'm wondering if it's something related to pulling the code of Linux, though it has never happened to me before.

Anyway... mostly just venting... so frustrating. I'll re-download all the source files and start from a clean virtual host and see what happens there.

4
Oct 7 marked the 17th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, where the US currently has 15,000 troops.

When the war started, none of the following existed:
 - YouTube
 - Facebook
 - Twitter
 - the iPhone

It struck me the other day, on the anniversary, that we all need to be reminded from time to time.

5
Web Development / Integromat vs IFTTT vs Zapier
« on: October 10, 2018, 06:19:17 PM »
I'm a big fan of Zapier and IFTTT, but

- I find IFTTT a little clunky, though it has improved a lot lately. I'm also just always skeptical of a free service. It appears to be an affiliate model, but it just always makes me nervous trusting something that is important to IFTTT. Maybe that's ill-founded

- Zapier, on the other hand, is great to work with, but I find the premium pricing a bit steep. I'm at the lower threshold of needing it, and find it a big jump for a little extra

- Integromat - I just discovered these guys. They have a ton of integrations, generous free plan and a reasonable $9/mo first step up. Haven't built anything on them yet, but am looking to try.

More generally, services like this seem to be breeding like rodents lately. Every time I turn around, I find another. However, the ones that I find are typically either much more expensive than Zapier or much more limited or both.

Are people using any other similar services that you like/hate?

6
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/10/03/employers-are-courting-less-educated-workers-finally-they-arent-offering-pay-increases

Quote
In the July release of labor market data from the bank’s Survey of Consumer Expectations, Kosar and analyst Kyle Smith noticed something surprising: Workers without a bachelor’s degree are switching jobs at the highest rate since the thrice-yearly survey began in 2014, but their salaries have fallen slightly in the past year.

Quote
“Less-educated workers might be finally moving to firms with higher productivity and with better opportunities for themselves,” Kosar said. In the absence of an immediate salary bump, they are likely counting on raises or more lucrative offers in the future.

7
I thought this was harder since 2008. But I guess harder is not the same as impossible

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/03/mortgage-fraud-is-getting-worse-as-more-people-lie-about-their-income.html

When I got my home loan in 2006, only a fool would have lent to me. I was confident that I could repay it, but we had been at best semi-employed for a while. Lucky for me, back then if you had a pulse and you paid off your credit cards, they'd give you a million dollars.

8
So, 2040 is 21.25 years away, roughly

Quote
The report attempts to put a price tag on the effects of climate change. The estimated $54 trillion in damage from 2.7 degrees [F] of warming would grow to $69 trillion if the world continues to warm by 3.6 degrees [F] and beyond, the report found, although it does not specify the length of time represented by those costs.

Quote
But while they conclude that it is technically possible to achieve the rapid changes required to avoid 2.7 degrees of warming, they concede that it may be politically unlikely.

Quote
The report emphasizes the potential role of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. “A price on carbon is central to prompt mitigation,” the report concludes. It estimates that to be effective, such a price would have to range from $135 to $5,500 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030, and from $690 to $27,000 per ton by 2100.

Quote
The United States, it said, could lose roughly 1.2 percent of gross domestic product for every 1.8 degrees of warming.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html

I'm not an economist... so why is a 2.4% drop in GDP (likely considering the likely 3.6F rise because there is no way we're going to stay withing the 1.5C/3.6F limit) a crisis? Is anything short of growth a crisis?

9
Monetization / Opinions on Viglink vs Skimlinks?
« on: October 07, 2018, 03:44:32 AM »
Anyone using these?

I haven't really even tried to get affiliate commissions in a while. I was surprised to find out that my Linkshare/Rackuten, Commission Junction and Clickbank accounts are still active (and ShareASale just says I have to send an email to get activated).

But I see myself just dipping in a toe and want to do so with as little hassle as possible and I'm fine with the 25% that Skimlinks and Viglink take. Currently, I think I'll be lucky to meet the minimum payout threshold more than 1-2X per year... but just want to see.

A quick look and I see more merchants that I'm likely to want are in the Viglink system, but both have adequate coverage.

Have any of you used either or both? Any opinions?

10
Quote
Parents fear the new site will be too far away and the teacher housing could affect property values, by bringing renters into their Almaden Valley neighborhood.

Braley says, "It's just frankly not in fitting with the rest of the community."

Meanwhile

Quote
The district says when it comes to housing, they have no choice but to take action. Silicon Valley prices have made it nearly impossible to retain quality teachers.

McMahon says, "We're losing dozens when they find out about the cost of living. We're losing even more when they want to start a family."

http://www.ktvu.com/news/proposal-for-affordable-teacher-housing-causes-uproar-among-san-jose-parents

What is the end point for all this?

11
Traffic / GooglePlus has an official Twitter account
« on: October 03, 2018, 07:44:27 PM »
Oh the indignity... the only way Google Plus can get its announcements out, is to Tweet them

https://twitter.com/GooglePlus

It's like some terrible co-dependent relationship among the wounded. I wonder if Twitter has a Google Plus account.

I guess FB has a Twitter account too
https://twitter.com/Facebook

FB: 13,500,000 followers
G+: 74,900

Sounds about right

12
Traffic / "Home Away From Home" rejected by AdWords because of trademark
« on: October 02, 2018, 08:33:51 PM »
Seriously? You can't use the phrase Home Away From Home in a Google Ad because it's covered by trademark?

A USPTO search turns up 43 registered marks with the phrase "Home Away From Home"

I was one time blocked at CafePress from creating clothing with the phrase "Caution! I'm Thinking" because someone had trademarked the use of the word Caution on all clothing (Buckworks was the entire target audience for that shirt and I got around it by changing the wording to "Warning! I'm Thinking").

Anyway, our patent, trademark and copyright law is so broken (in this case, it's a problem of application by Google, not the law itself - the marks themselves that I looked at appear perfectly valid).

13
Water Cooler / Yosemite Great Grey Owl
« on: October 02, 2018, 03:59:48 PM »
I saw one! Up close even.

The huge Yosemite Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa Yosemitensis) is a California Endangered Species and the ones in Yosemite are generally recognized as a distinct subspecies. Yosemite is home to almost the entire population, but they are elusive.

Last night while out for a run, I flushed one from the grass from about five feet away. It went up to a branch about 10 feet away and looked injured because it was having trouble staying on the branch and its wings were in a funny position. I assumed that's why this normally elusive bird let me get so close.

I stopped to observe a bit to see if I should report it to the park ornithologist and then it flew across the trail to a tree about 20 feet from me and almost at me feet, about 5 feet away (and the bird was only about 8 feet up, so literally flew by me 10-12 feet away), something plopped to the ground and scurried away. A little mole it had captured. That's why it let me get so close. It was trying to wrestle its dinner into submission.

It stopped at a tree 20 feet away and just stared at me as I walked by, following me every step.

I would say this one was not full size. They grow to be two feet tall when perched and have a 5-foot wingspan. I think this guy was slightly smaller than that - maybe 20" with a 4-foot wing span. Still, from as close as I was, it was huge. Aside from in a cage at a raptor center, I've never seen a big bird that close up and I've been trying to see one of these guys since 2010 when they got a lot of publicity when, based on genetic analysis, they decided it was a unique subspecies.

https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/nature/great-gray-owl.htm

14
Traffic / Google Blog on the future of search
« on: September 26, 2018, 08:21:44 PM »
The Google blog issued a few posts on Sept 24 and a few since with major and minor observations on the future of search, several of which have come up here already (esp in the context of the "Done with Chrome" thread and "queryless" searching).

Overarching conceptual post
https://www.blog.google/products/search/improving-search-next-20-years/

Quote
This next chapter is driven by three fundamental shifts in how we think about Search:

The shift from answers to journeys: To help you resume tasks where you left off and learn new interests and hobbies, we’re bringing new features to Search that help you with ongoing information needs.

The shift from queries to providing a queryless way to get to information: We can surface relevant information related to your interests, even when you don’t have a specific query in mind.

And the shift from text to a more visual way of finding information: We’re bringing more visual content to Search and completely redesigning Google Images to help you find information more easily.

Then all the posts about what that actually means. And in the main post, the key observation

Quote
But we’ve now reached the point where neural networks can help us take a major leap forward from understanding words to understanding concepts. Neural embeddings, an approach developed in the field of neural networks, allow us to transform words to fuzzier representations of the underlying concepts, and then match the concepts in the query with the concepts in the document.

Then there are the parts of this vision, almost all of which involve Google knowing much, much more about your than they do already.

Queryless Google... AKA Discover

Quote
For example, when you’re planning your next trip, Discover might show an article with the best places to eat or sights to see. Suddenly, a travel article published three months ago is timely for you. This can also be useful as you’re taking up a new hobby or going deeper on a long-time interest. Using the Topic Layer in the Knowledge Graph, Discover can predict your level of expertise on a topic and help you further develop those interests.
https://www.blog.google/products/search/introducing-google-discover/

I'll skip the Gorg comments, since we all know that part. I would say on the positive side, that one of the problems with search is the concept of "best result" is dependent on the expertise level of the searcher. So in the long term, we've always known (and frequently discussed) that knowing the level of expertise is a precondition to returning useful results. In the long run, this will make search more useful to people and make anonymity much, much harder.

This is, I think, the underlying motivation behind the forced sign-in issue that has everyone pissed off lately (or at least all those cranky people who care about privacy and the power of mega corporations).

Journeys rather than searches

Quote
today we’re sharing new features that help you resume tasks where you left off, keep track of ideas and content that you found useful, and get relevant suggestions of things to explore next
https://www.blog.google/products/search/helping-you-along-your-search-journeys/

'nuff said.

More visual results

Bad news for all the people chiming in on the "short videos instead of writing things out" thread:

Quote
Using computer vision, we’re now able to deeply understand the content of a video and help you quickly find the most useful information in a new experience called featured videos.
https://www.blog.google/products/search/making-visual-content-more-useful-search/

If not for worries about a world in which Google knows more about me than my wife, I would be thrilled by this. It's starting to feel like real science fiction Star Trek sh##. And very scary.

It also has implications for image SEO and, by implication, image SEO is more important for SEO at large
Quote
Over the last year, we’ve overhauled the Google Images algorithm to rank results that have both great images and great content on the page. For starters, the authority of a web page is now a more important signal in the ranking....
Also, it wasn’t long ago that if you visited an image’s web page, it might be hard to find the specific image you were looking for when you got there. We now prioritize sites where the image is central to the page, and higher up on the page...
Starting this week, we’ll also show more context around images, including captions that show you the title of the webpage where each image is published.
- ibid.

Image SEO is getting serious now.

Image-based search

We've long had "find similar" image-based search, but Google Lens is pushing way beyond this with "identify what this is".
Quote
In the coming weeks, we’ll bring Lens to Google Images to help you explore and learn more about visual content you find during your searches.... Lens’ AI technology analyzes images and detects objects of interest within them. If you select one of these objects, Lens will show you relevant images, many of which link to product pages so you can continue your search or buy the item you’re interested in

Minor things like

 - getting you to use Google Maps for planning - imagine the data cache that provides as I collaborate with friends on choosing a restaurant.
https://www.blog.google/products/maps/all-together-now-group-planning-google-maps/

15
Water Cooler / PSA - ISO 8601
« on: September 26, 2018, 06:49:36 PM »
PSA: there is one correct way to write a date, as per ISO 8601*:

https://xkcd.com/1179/

2009-07-05 - great
5 Jul 2009 - great

5/7/09 or 7/5/09 - not okay people! People who write dates like 05/07/09 are killing me. That is the only format (not counting "punctuation") that leads to confusion. What month did this happen?


*actually ISO 8601 is more flexible than that. You can, for example, express 2009-07-05 as 2009-186 as well, but most people have trouble reading that ;-)

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