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The Trumps asked to borrow a Van Gogh but the Guggenheim offered a solid gold toilet instead.

jwz
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"America," by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelanis, is a fully functional gold toilet.

The emailed response from the Guggenheim's chief curator to the White House was polite but firm: The museum could not accommodate a request to borrow a painting by Vincent Van Gogh for President and Melania Trump's private living quarters. The curator's alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet -- an interactive work titled "America" that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.

For a year, the Guggenheim had exhibited "America" -- the creation of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan -- in a public restroom on the museum's fifth floor for visitors to use. But the exhibit was over and the toilet was available "should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House," Spector wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.

The artist "would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan," wrote Spector, who has been critical of Trump. "It is, of course, extremely valuable and somewhat fragile, but we would provide all the instructions for its installation and care." [...]

The White House did not respond to inquiries about the matter. [...]

On the face of it, President Trump might appreciate an artist's rendering of a gilded toilet, given his well-documented history of installing gold-plated fixtures in his residences, his properties and even his airplane. But the president is also a self-described germaphobe, and it's an open question whether he would accept a previously used toilet, 18-karat or otherwise.

Cattelan's "America" caused something of a sensation after the Guggenheim unveiled it in 2016, drawing more than a few headlines. [...] "More than one hundred thousand people" who "waited patiently in line for the opportunity to commune with art and with nature," Spector wrote in a Guggenheim blog post last year. The museum posted a uniformed security guard outside the bathroom. Every 15 minutes or so, a crew would arrive with specially chosen wipes to clean the gold.

They should have offered a golden shower instead.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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luizirber
29 days ago
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Davis, CA
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Like love, taxes make people do the strangest things

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Tariff engineering is the study of how to make small changes to a product in order to achieve a more favorable tariff classification. Here are some great moments in tariff engineering:

Converse sneakers have small pieces of felt on the sole in order to be classified as slippers rather than sneakers and enjoy a 3% tariff rather than 37.5% upon import into the United States.

Marvel successfully argued in the United States that X-Men action figures are non-human, which means that they are subject to a lower tariff than for dolls. Of course, this argument completely flies in the face of the entire story line of the X-Men, who struggle to be recognized as human!

In the U.K., Pringles unsuccessfully argued that their products are not potato chips. This is another case of a company taking a tariff position that contradicts their own product's principles.

Canadian pizza restaurant chain Pizza Pizza circumvented the high tariff on imported cheese by repackaging mozzarella as pizza topping kits, thereby allowing them to be classified as "food preparations" and enter the country duty-free. This loophole pit the Canadian Dairy Commission against the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, and the Canadian Dairy Commission won: The rule was changed so that fresh cheese is always taxed as cheese, even if packaged as part of something else.

If your Santa costume has a zipper, it is classified as clothing, taxed at around 30%. But if you replace the zipper with a Velcro-type fastener, then it's considered a festive article and is duty-free.

The automobile industry has come up with a variety of workarounds for the so-called chicken tax, which imposes a 25% tariff on commercial trucks and vans arriving in the United States. Dodge works around it by taking the finished product, disassembling it, shipping the parts to the United States, then reassembling it. Ford's solution is to produce a passenger car, and then on arrival in the United States, remove the seats and windows. (This may explain why you see paneled vans with window cutouts in the cargo area.) I remember when they came up with this solution because their press release was very proud of the fact that they were now sending the never-used seats and windows to a recycling center instead of just throwing them away like they had been before.

One of the longer sagas of tariff engineering (and in fact the case that introduced me to the concept) is the case of Heartland vs. The United States Beet Sugar Association, which I'll save for next time.

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luizirber
29 days ago
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Davis, CA
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Origins of the Sicilian Mafia: The Market for Lemons

jwz
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Origins of the Sicilian Mafia: The Market for Lemons

In this article, we argue that the mafia arose as a response to an exogenous shock in the demand for oranges and lemons, following Lind's discovery in the late eighteenth century that citrus fruits cured scurvy. More specifically, we claim that mafia appeared in locations where producers made high profits from citrus production for overseas export. Operating in an environment with a weak rule of law, the mafia protected citrus production from predation and acted as intermediaries between producers and exporters. Using original data from a parliamentary inquiry in 1881 -- 1886 on Sicilian towns, the Damiani Inquiry, we show that mafia presence is strongly related to the production of oranges and lemons. The results hold when different data sources and several controls are employed. [...]

Our results are also strongly associated with research on the p "curse of natural resources". We claim that the economic boom in international citrus demand, and the subsequent rise of Sicilian exports during the nineteenth century, are key factors behind the rise of mafia. This is also consistent with the more recent finding that windfall gains from natural resources are often associated with intense rent seeking and patronage politics. For instance, Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Arvind Subramanian (2003) argue that political corruption related to oil revenues hampered Nigeria's growth for decades. Daron Acemoglu, Thierry Verdier, and James A. Robinson (2004) show how mineral wealth in Zaire allowed President Mobutu to buy off political challengers. A recurrent theme in this tradition is that resource windfalls might actually destabilize and deteriorate institutions, if key groups in the society believe that predation is more profitable than production.

Hmmm, 'Key groups believe that predation is more profitable than production', what does that remind me of... Oh right! The entirety of the tech industry!

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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sarcozona
35 days ago
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acdha
42 days ago
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Washington, DC
denubis
42 days ago
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Sydney, Australia
luizirber
42 days ago
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Davis, CA
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1 public comment
kbrint
41 days ago
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Interesting article, not sure about the tech snipe.

Unapocalyptic Software

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The Atlantic published The Coming Software Apocalypse by James Somers, which is full of dire warnings and strong claims. Here’s one: Since the 1980s, the way programmers work and the tools they use have changed remarkably little. My first programming job was in 1979, I still construct software, and I can testify that that assertion is deeply wrong, as is much else in the piece.

I would very much like to place an alternative view of my profession before the people who have consumed Mr Somers’, but I wouldn’t know how, so I’ll just post it here; maybe an Atlantic reader or two will stumble across it.

Oops

When I read this piece I tweeted “Reading non-coders’ words about coding is… weird.” That was wrong because there’s plentiful evidence that he’s a well-accomplished developer. So, apologies. But he’s still wrong.

Wrong, you say?

First of all, the people Somers describes, who write the matter-of-life-and-death logic at the center of the systems that dispatch 911 calls and drive cars and fly planes, are a tiny minority — it’s like a dog-care piece focused on wilderness search-and-rescue dogs. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of dog, nor with the people who program safety-critical systems, but I’ve never met one, and I’ve been doing this for almost four decades.

There’s another problem with Somers’ piece: its claim that writing code is passé, that we’ll be moving away from that into a world of models and diagrams and better specifications and direct visual feedback. This is not exactly a novel idea; the first time I encountered it was in a computing magazine sometime around 1980.

Yes, the notion that you build complex interactions between computing devices and the real world by editing lines of code feels unnatural and twisted, and in fact is slow and expensive in practice. We’ve been looking for a better way since I got into this game; but mostly, we still edit lines of code.

And as for the sensible-sounding proposal that we just write down our requirements, not in code, but in something much higher level, in such a way that a computer can understand them as written and execute them? That’s another old and mostly-failed idea.

So, Somers is wrong twice. First, in asserting that software is moving away from being built on lines of code (it isn’t), and second, that the craft of constructing software isn’t changing and getting better (it is).

So, what do you actually do, then?

Glad you asked. All sorts of things! We developers are now some millions strong worldwide — almost certainly more than ten million and I suspect less than fifty; but it’s hard to measure.

As in most professions, most of the work is strikingly pedestrian; discovering what our co-workers need their computers to do, and also what their managers want, and trying to arrange to keep these tribes happy and at peace with their computers and each other.

To a huge extent, that involves acquiring, deploying, and configuring software that was created by others. Thus, a lot of time in meetings, and then even more figuring out how to make the travel or scheduling or amortization app do what people need done.

On the other hand, some of us write software for rockets, for music synthesizers, for Pixar movies; all these things have an obvious cool factor. And others (surprisingly, among the most-admired) write “low-level” software, useful only to programmers, which underlies all the software that is useful to actual humans. There are many kinds of this stuff: for example “Operating Systems”, “Database kernels”, “Filesystems”, “Web frameworks”, and “Message brokers”.

Software is getting better

Let me be more specific: Compared to back when I was getting started, we build it faster and when we’re done, it’s more reliable.

The reasons are unsubtle: We build it faster because we have better tools, and it’s more reliable because we’re more careful, and because we test it better.

Reviewing

The big software builders (for example Amazon Web Services, where I work) have learned to follow simple practices with big payoffs. First, those lines of code: They never get put to work until they’ve been reviewed by a colleague; in the vast majority of cases, the colleague finds problems and requests changes, arguments break out, and the new code goes through several revisions before being given the green light. For major pieces of infrastructure code, required approval from two more reviewers, and ten or more revision cycles, aren’t terribly uncommon.

Unit Testing!

Software is constructed of huge numbers of (mostly) very small components; we use names like “functions”, “routines”, and “methods”. They are the units that Unit Testing tests. The unit tests are other pieces of software that feed in many different pieces of data in and check that what comes out is as expected. There are commonly more lines of code in the unit tests than the software under test.

We have loads and loads of tools specifically set up to support Unit Testing; among other things, when you look at those lines of code, there’ll be a vertical bar in the margin that’s green beside lines of code that have been exercised by the unit tests, red beside the others.

These days, we don’t always demand 100% coverage (some code is just too routine and mundane) but we expect anything nontrivial to be covered well by the tests. I think the rise of unit testing, starting sometime not too long after 2000, has yielded the single biggest boost to software quality in my lifetime.

There are other kinds of testing (“Integration”, “Smoke”, “Fuzz”) and we use them all, along with tools that read your code and find potential problems, just like Microsoft highlights your spelling mistakes.

Night and day

It doesn’t sound like much. But seriously, it’s like night and day. Does it sound a little tedious? In truth, it is. But also, our tools have been getting better year over year; programming in 2017 is really a lot more pleasant than it was 2007, 1997, or 1987.

It’s like this: You sit down to improve a piece of software, make a couple of changes, and suddenly a lot of unit tests are failing, leaving ugly red trails on your screen. (In fact, if you made changes and didn’t break unit tests, you worry that something’s wrong.) But then you dig into them one by one, and after not too long, it’s all back to green; which is really a good feeling.

I’m not going to argue that the advanced methods Somers enumerates (being model-driven, state machines, things like TLA+) are useless, or that they’re not being used; I personally have made regular use of state-machine technology. But by and large they’re side-shows. We build software better than we ever have, and it’s just a matter of reviewing and testing, and testing and testing, and then testing some more.

We’re not perfect. But we’re really a lot more grown-up than we used to be. And, relax: There’s no apocalypse on the horizon.

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luizirber
58 days ago
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Davis, CA
acdha
84 days ago
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Washington, DC
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As mulheres que dizem não

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Ele estava lá, o homem perplexo. Ele tinha dito qualquer coisa como “gostosa” para uma jovem mulher. E ela tinha mostrado o dedo, bem na sua cara. Tipo “te liga”. Ele explicava que aquilo não era abuso, era cantada. E a cada vez que explicava parecia encolher de tamanho. Acostumado ao topo da cadeia alimentar por quase toda uma vida, porque ele já era um velho, ele não conseguia compreender porque os lugares haviam mudado. Ele não podia mais fingir que era desejado, ele não podia mais dizer o que queria, e por fim ele desabafou que não era capaz de viver num mundo em que uma mulher não gostasse de ser chamada na rua de gostosa por um homem como ele. De repente, ele tinha ficado muito mais velho. E perguntava: mas por quê? E tenho certeza de que ele não estava blefando. Ele não sabia. Porque por tempo demais não precisou saber. E agora precisa. Naquele exato momento, aquele homem perdeu o último pinto que ainda ficava duro. E não tinha a menor ideia sobre como alcançar potência sendo o que não sabia como ser.

Seguir leyendo.





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luizirber
60 days ago
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Davis, CA
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Infrequent Site Stories is the blog reader we need

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Launching today on all three platforms—web, iOS, and Android—is the new Infrequent Site Stories view. This configurable river of news offers a view of stories only from the blogs that publish less often than 1 story per day.

Most of what you see in your day-to-day feed is news that’s up to the minute and is probably stale within a day. Even 8 hour old news can be a problem. But sometimes what you want is an overview of the news that isn’t exactly news. It’s stories from the blogs who have individual authors, or blogs that publish only a few times a month. And missing out on those stories is a tragedy because it is those blogs that pushed you to invest in an RSS reader in the first place.

Today I’m happy to introduce a new feature that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s called Infrequent Site Stories and you can find it at the top of your feed list on the web, on iOS, and on Android.

Infrequent Site Stories is the river that captures stories from those authors who aren’t pulling from the firehose. These are the stories that are more thoughtful and more relevant days, weeks, months, or even years down the line. These stories are not to be missed. And the best thing about these stories is that there are far fewer of them than there are of your normal full river from All Site Stories.

You can also configure the Infrequent river to be more or less inclusive of content that is more or less frequently published by changing the filter anywhere from 5 to 90 stories per month.

These options are also available on all three official NewsBlur platforms and will let you perform a filter similar to how Focus mode reduces your number of unreads. It’s great to dip into Infrequent Site Stories and get stories you would ordinarily miss out on.

Try out the new Infrequent Site Stories feed, available only to premium subscribers. If your experience is anything like mine, it’ll be one of the new must read feeds in your reader.

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kazriko
74 days ago
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I actually did the opposite. I moved the really noisy feeds into their own folder so I can ignore them more easily and focus on the others.
Colorado Plateau
samuel
74 days ago
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I’m thinking about making the list of rivers customizable so you can hide any of the three (global shared, all site, infrequent site).
The Haight in San Francisco
JayM
74 days ago
Just being able to click/touch and drag would be great for the order of the items.
tingham
74 days ago
@Samuel Is there an open item on get satisfaction for this discussion?
samuel
74 days ago
No I'm just spit balling. Had the idea a while ago and figured it was time now since some people read every story and have no need for this special filtered feed.
dlanods
74 days ago
Please. I use All, but don't use Global and I can't see myself using Infrequent, so having to remember to aim for the central button of three very similar buttons doesn't feel like great usability given how often I'm misclicking at the moment. Bring able to move All to the bottom would be much nicer.
tingham
74 days ago
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Maybe do: https://twitter.com/tingham/status/940279104082980865 instead?
Cary, NC
deezil
74 days ago
That was what I wanted in a much cleaner way than what I was going to explain with just words.
luizirber
73 days ago
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Davis, CA
popular
74 days ago
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5 public comments
satadru
68 days ago
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I... Didn't know I needed this.
New York, NY
brennen
71 days ago
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This is good stuff.
Boulder, CO
tante
74 days ago
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"Infrequent Side Stories" are a great idea to quickly determine the stuff beyond news. Love @newsblur for that kind of stuff.
Oldenburg/Germany
rosskarchner
74 days ago
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I've been imagining the opposite feature-- there are feeds, where if an item goes unread for more than a day (or even a few hours, say for an evening Axios newsletter), I'm never gonna be interested, and would prefer them just to silently disappear or be marked as read.
DC-ish
zackfern
74 days ago
I've also wanted a feature like this. But I'm still very excited about this Infrequent Stories feature! Thanks Samuel!
expatpaul
74 days ago
I would also really like this feature. I would prefer a cut-off of a couple of days, but if this was configurable (feed and "stale" date) then we would all be happy :-)
wreichard
74 days ago
Infrequent stories will be great, but what you’re describing is really the feature I dream of. Right now I use Apple News (shudder)for that.
sfrazer
74 days ago
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Perils of UI changes: I keep clicking "Infrequent Site Stories" instead of "All Site Stories" because I target the area above my top feed name, not the words in the label.
Chicago
docheart
74 days ago
Agreed. I read all my news feeds and I would like the option to turn this off. I do love the new app and how it looks on my phone otherwise. Thanks!
deezil
74 days ago
Since I got this, I have clicked on that new header probably a dozen times.
chaosdiscord
74 days ago
I'm intrigued by the idea, and will dabble with it. But like sfrazer, it's throwing off my default use case of reading "All Site Stories." Now ASS (snicker) is in the middle, making a less obvious target. Maybe swap ASS and ISS?
philipstorry
74 days ago
Yep, swapping would be most welcome. Otherwise, a great feature!
JimB
74 days ago
Agreed. Damned irritating. I posted a suggestion to disable it within a couple of days of the feature first arriving.
lhagan
74 days ago
It's no help if you're using one of the native apps, but in the web app you can easily remove the Infrequent button by adding this under Account > Custom CSS: .NB-feeds-header-river-infrequent { display: none; }
hooges
74 days ago
tweeted about this exact same problem. I'm a big fan of all site stories, wish this was moved up one spot
alexlomas
73 days ago
Exactly the same here!
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