Takeaway Tuesday – On Old Age


Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer who tried to uphold republican principles in the final civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic. His writings include books on rhetoric, orations, philosophical and political treatises, and letters. He is remembered in modern times as the greatest Roman orator.

1. Old age is not unique in being burdensome…

I think, my friends, that you marvel at a thing really far from difficult. For to those who have not the means within themselves of a virtuous and happy life every age is burdensome; and, on the other hand, to those who seek all good from themselves nothing can seem evil that the laws of nature inevitably impose. To this class old age especially belongs, which all men wish to attain and yet reproach when attained; such is the inconsistency and perversity of Folly!

They say that it stole upon them faster than they had expected. In the first place, who has forced them to form a mistaken judgement? For how much more rapidly does old age steal upon youth than youth upon childhood? And again, how much less burdensome would old age be to them if they were in their eight hundredth rather than in their eightieth year? In fact, no lapse of time, however long, once it had slipped away, could solace or soothe a foolish old age.

How we bend the knee to our HR overlords

Aris Roussinos:

The extraordinary spread in recent months of what has become known, in the writer Wesley Yang’s phrase, as “the successor ideology” has encouraged all manner of analysis attempting to delineate its essential features. Is it a religion, with its own litany of sin and redemption, its own repertoire of fervent rituals and iconography? Is this Marxism, ask American conservatives, still fighting yesterday’s ideological war?

What does this all do to speed along policing reform, ask bewildered African-Americans, as they observe global corporations and white celebrities compete to beat their chests in ever-more elaborate and meaningless gestures of atonement? What kind of meaningful anti-systemic revolution can provoke such immediate and fulsome support from the Hollywood entertainment complex, from the richest oligarchs and plutocrats on earth, and from the media organs of the liberal state?

If we are to understand the successor ideology as an ideology, it may be useful here, counterintuitively, to return to the great but increasingly overlooked 1970 essay on the “Ideological State Apparatuses,” or ISAs, by the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. Once influential on the Western left, Althusser’s reputation has suffered somewhat since he killed his wife in a fit of madness 40 years ago. Of Alsatian Catholic origin, and a lifelong sufferer from mental illness, Althusser wrote his seminal essay in a manic period following the évènements of 1968, for whose duration he was committed to hospital.

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The soft coup of networked power


Worth reading: “Weapons of Math Destruction“.

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Writing a book: is it worth it?

Martin Kleppmann:

My Book, Designing Data-Intensive Applications, recently passed the milestone of 100,000 copies sold. Last year, it was the second-best-selling book in O’Reilly’s entire catalogue, second only to Aurélien Géron’s machine learning book. Machine learning is obviously a hot topic, so I am quite content with coming second to it! ?

To me, the success of this book was totally unexpected: while I was writing it, I thought that it was going to be a bit niche, and I set myself the goal of selling 10,000 copies over the lifetime of the book. Having passed that goal tenfold, this seems like a good opportunity to look back and reflect on the process. I don’t want to make this post too self-congratulatory, but rather I will try to share some insights into the business of book-writing.

Is it financially worth it?

Most books make very little money for both authors and publishers, but then occasionally something like Harry Potter comes along. If you are considering writing a book, I strongly recommend that you estimate the value of your future royalties to be close to zero. Like starting a band with friends and hoping to become rock stars, it’s difficult to predict in advance what will be a hit and what will flop. Maybe this applies less to technical books than to fiction and music, but I suspect that even with technical books, there are a small number of hits, and most books sell quite modest numbers.

That said, in my case, I am happy to report that writing this book has in retrospect turned out to be a financially sound decision. These graphs show the royalties I have been paid since the book first went on sale:

The Forecasting Fallacy

Alex Murrell:

Marketers are prone to a prediction.

You’ll find them in the annual tirade of trend decks. In the PowerPoint projections of self-proclaimed prophets. In the feeds of forecasters and futurists. They crop up on every conference stage. They make their mark on every marketing magazine. And they work their way into every white paper.

To understand the extent of our forecasting fascination, I analysed the websites of three management consultancies looking for predictions with time frames ranging from 2025 to 2050. Whilst one prediction may be published multiple times, the size of the numbers still shocked me. Deloitte’s site makes 6904 predictions. McKinsey & Company make 4296. And Boston Consulting Group, 3679.

In total, these three companies’ websites include just shy of 15,000 predictions stretching out over the next 30 years.

But it doesn’t stop there.

My analysis finished in the year 2050 not because the predictions came to an end but because my enthusiasm did.

Search the sites and you’ll find forecasts stretching all the way to the year 2100. We’re still finding our feet in this century but some, it seems, already understand the next.

I believe the vast majority of these to be not forecasts but fantasies. Snake oil dressed up as science. Fiction masquerading as fact.

Wisconsin Supreme Court’s injunction on Dane County schools mandate is already helping kids

Cori Petersen:

“Within two hours of the court’s injunction, Abundant Life Christian School announced that all kids will have the opportunity to be back in the school building on Monday,” said Chris Truitt, a parent from DeForest. “We are absolutely thrilled.” 

On Aug. 21, Public Health Madison & Dane County issued Order #9, a mandate that all Dane County schools close to students in grades 3-12. The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued on Aug. 26, challenging PHMDC’s authority to close schools and asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to invalidate Dane County’s order on behalf of the Truitts and others. 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed on Sept. 10 to hear the case, consolidated it with two other similar challenges, and issued a temporary injunction allowing schools to open immediately.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Truitt said. “We are at the end of our rope.”  

When Order #9 was issued on Aug. 21, families throughout Dane County had their plans thrown into chaos. While the Madison Metropolitan School District planned to begin the year virtually, many Dane County private schools planned to open in person. Order #9 effectively cancelled the choices of many parents who intentionally sought out in-person education despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve never had problems with school with her, but virtual learning was a disaster for us,” said Erin Haroldson of Mount Horeb, a parent of an eight-year-old student and party to the WILL lawsuit. “She was beyond excited to go back to school. When the mandate came along, there were tears at our house.” ?  

Related: Catholic schools will sue Dane County Madison Public Health to open as scheduled

Notes and links on Dane County Madison Public Health. (> 140 employees).

Molly Beck and Madeline Heim:

which pushed Dane County this week not to calculate its percentage of positive tests — a data point the public uses to determine how intense infection is in an area.   

While positive test results are being processed and their number reported quickly, negative test results are taking days in some cases to be analyzed before they are reported to the state. 


The department said it was between eight and 10 days behind in updating that metric on the dashboard, and as a result it appeared to show a higher positive percentage of tests and a lower number of total tests per day.

The department said this delay is due to the fact data analysts must input each of the hundreds of tests per day manually, and in order to continue accurate and timely contact tracing efforts, they prioritized inputting positive tests.

“Positive tests are always immediately verified and processed, and delays in processing negative tests in our data system does not affect notification of test results,” the department said in a news release. “The only effect this backlog has had is on our percent positivity rate and daily test counts.”

Staff have not verified the approximately 17,000 tests, which includes steps such as matching test results to patients to avoid duplicating numbers and verifying the person who was tested resides in Dane County.

All 77 false-positive COVID-19 tests come back negative upon reruns.

Madison private school raises $70,000 for lawsuit against public health order. – WKOW-TV. Commentary.

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Assembly against private school forced closure.

Wisconsin Catholic schools will challenge local COVID-19 closing order. More.

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration

The Obsolescence ofAdvertising in the Information Age

Ramsi Woodcock:

In an age in which two of the five largest tech firms in the United States both earn about ninety percent of their revenues by selling advertising space, it is hard to believe that as late as the 1970s the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

viewed non-false, non-misleading advertising as anticompetitive conduct capa- ble of violating the antitrust laws.’ But the FTC did, believing that advertising has the power, through repetition and brand image creation, to induce con- sumers to buy things that they do not really want, to the disadvantage of com- petitors selling the things that consumers would otherwise buy.2 From the 1950s to the 1970s, the FTC brought a series of antitrust cases against some of the nation’s largest advertisers, including Procter & Gamble and Kellogg, in which the power of advertising to create an illegitimate competitive advantage through the manipulation of consumer preferences played an important role. Buoyed perhaps by the consumer movement, which peaked during this period, the FTC won the agreement of the federal courts that heavy advertising of S.O.S. scrub pads, the ReaLemon brand of concentrated lemon juice, and Clorox bleach were anticompetitive because, as Justice William 0. Douglas put it in the Clorox case, advertising “imprint[s]” a brand “in the mind of the con- sumer.”‘

Tech Marketing (and patent) rhetoric: 360 Panorama edition

Marketing rhetoric is evergreen. Yet, our collective memory is often short. Redfin’s curious claim to have invented real estate web mapping in 2005 is but one example.

Memento Park – Budapest seems appropriate.

360 Rumors published this on Friday, 4 September from Matterport:

“They were the first to offer 3D virtual tours where users could not only look around in 360 but could move within the space through a flying 3D transition that has become known as the “Matterport effect.” Matterport virtually tours are also equally famous for their 3D dollhouse view.”

. Transitions between scenes have been around since the late 1990’s.

A bit of personal history:

I began creating 360 panoramic scenes with the introduction of Quicktime VR in 1995. I flew to California to take an Apple class. (The Santa Cruz based instructor sported the requisite pony tail.)

The required skills included:

  1. Camera/Lens/tripod ability – “keep it flat!”
  2. A Mac laptop
  3. The ability to use something called MPW (Macintosh Programmers Workshop)
  4. Comfort with Quicktime
  5. Hotspots, used to jump from scene to scene
  6. The ability to deploy completed scenes locally and on the rather new internet
  7. Hypercard for scripting and scene effects

I, and many others around the world created millions of Quicktime VR single and multi-node scenes. John and Janet Stathas along with Nancy and I launched Virtual Properties that same year.

A software, hardware and services “ecosystem” began to emerge with first and third party products, including Quicktime 3 (1998), notably

One thing this means is that you can use filters and transitions anywhere you might use a decompressor, not only in connection with QuickTime movies. You can just as easily apply a transition between two arbitrary images (perhaps contained in two offscreen graphics worlds). I’ve seen this capability used to add QuickTime video effects as transitions between QuickTime VR nodes. The default behavior of QuickTime VR is simply to jump from one node to the target node. It’s much nicer to render some video effect, say a nice smooth dissolve, when moving from node to node.

Kaidan, a now defunct hardware firm (great people) and an association initially called iqtvra – now IVRPA also quickly come to mind.

The first large scale IP (intellectual property) battle that I know of occurred between iPIX and Helmut Dersch over Panorama Tools. Wikipedia on Oak Ridge, TN based iPix.

Matterport (founded in 2011 and has raised $114M) appears to have a number of patents.

Gary Reback’s 2002 article Patently Absurd is a must read for entrepreneurs, investors and citizens:

There are those who view the patent system as the seedbed of capitalism–the place where ideas and new technologies are nurtured. This is a romantic myth. In reality, patents are enormously powerful competitive weapons that are proliferating dangerously, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has all the trappings of a revenue-driven, institutionalized arms merchant.

I would be remiss to not mention Bamboo, another VC backed 360 panorama provider that emerged during the late 1990s’. Bamboo famously hosted a realtor conference booth where agents could jump in and grab cash for a few seconds. Bamboo later “merged” with iPIX. Both are long gone.

A bit of recent panoramic work:

Green Giant in the Palouse

Lincoln Park Zoo View (Chicago)

Longji rice terraces

Many panoramic, photo, drone and video scenes are available in amuz on iPhone and Android.

I’ve shared this post with many others. Please forward links and information to zellmer at gmail dot com so that I may add to this rather crude and simplistic historical log.

P.S. Another rather famous and somewhat related IP battle included Peter Hoddie’s “Do you want us to knife the baby?”.

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