Category Archives: ideas

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The case for unions


German Lopez from Vox makes it, here: America needs more unions – Vox.

As for me, many unions fall under the idea of countervailing power, which I am a strong proponent for. The countervailing power aspect is important.  The worst unions are not that.

 

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Did Rembrandt’s use mirrors for his paintings?


It’s debatable for sure, but there are a number of people who think he did. This piece (from a few years ago) titled The Mirrors Behind Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits in The New York Times  looks into one paper that argues so

In a paper published Wednesday in the Journal of Optics, Mr. O’Neill lays out a theory that Rembrandt set up flat and concave mirrors to project his subjects — including himself — onto surfaces before painting or etching them.

By tracing these projections, the 17th-century painter would have been able to achieve a higher degree of precision, Mr. O’Neill said. His research suggests that some of Rembrandt’s most prominent work may not have been done purely freehand, as many art historians believe.

He is not the first to suggest that old master painters used optics for their famous portraits.

In 2001, David Hockney, a renowned British painter, and Charles Falco, an optical sciences professor at the University of Arizona, published a book in which they argued that master painters secretly used mirrors and lenses to create hyperrealistic paintings, starting in the Renaissance.

Their theory, known as the Hockney-Falco thesis, generated controversy among scientists and art historians, some of whom took the findings as an implication that old master painters had “cheated” to produce their works.

I’ve read Hockney on this and he makes a strong case too. Not everyone agrees though. It’s worth reading the article and get a better picture, pardon the pun.

My thought is it’s likely all artists of the time would have used them to some extent. But Rembrandt is such a remarkable painter that it can only account for some of his greatness, if any.

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One of the the better reviews of WeWork and their IPO is naturally this one, by Stratechery


Stratechery is always great and this piece is no different: The WeWork IPO – Stratechery by Ben Thompson.

What makes it good is that rather than just slamming WeWork superficially, as many takes have, it delves into what could possibly justify why WeWork is a good investment.

My take is that if WeWork had a different executive, it could be a successful company. I think the comparison to AWS is somewhat valid, and in the gig economy with lots of short term work, it could become very successful. (It worked really well for a recent project I was on).

That said, I believe the executive team of WeWork will not be able to handle any drying up of capital or a recession of any length. Or investors will wake up and ask themselves why WeWork should be valued way more than IWG/Regus. Time will tell, of course.

One last thing: my understanding is that WeWork had to start from scratch in terms of buying up / leasing real estate, but AWS did not start from scratch and took advantage of existing capacity Amazon currently had.

(Image link to the original piece in the article reference)

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The U.S. Supreme Court is not what you think


There was much concern from progressives when Gorsuch and then Kavanaugh joined the U.S. Supreme Court. It was believed by myself and others that the court was going to vote 5-4 in lock step on every option, with the 5 conservative judges routinely beating the four liberal ones.

If you are progressive, it is still a concern. But as these two pieces show, the Supremes vote more independently than you or I might think:

  1. The Supreme Court’s Biggest Decisions in 2019 – The New York Times
  2. The Supreme Court Might Have Three Swing Justices Now | FiveThirtyEight

This is not to say it is entire unpredictable how they will vote on matters before them. The liberal and conservative labels are convenient and often useful, but there’s much more to consider than just that when trying to determine how they will vote. Read the two pieces and see if they change your mind.

(Photo by Claire Anderson via unsplash.com)

On superurbanization

Urbanization is an increase in cities  through their growth, either in more cities being created or growth within cities. Superurbanization is a new idea. It’s how some cities get the lion share of growth at the expense of other cities.

To see what I mean, look at this chart: A chart showing the growth of tech in US cities

Source: Tech is divergent | TechCrunch

Cities are growing everywhere, as people move from rural areas. But some cities are growing much more than others.

Smaller cities are trying to do something about it, as this article shows. But in the end, we may end up with more and more supercities, and smaller cities may suffer in the same way rural areas are suffering now.

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Two women on being 60

Emma Thompson in the New York Times and Lesley Manville in the Guardian.

Interesting perspectives from them. Worth reading.

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On dreams and goals


How you read this piece depends on who you are: Is It Ever Too Late to Pursue a Dream? You may recall it: it’s a long article about Dan Stoddard, a 39 year old, 6 foot 8 inch, 300+ pound guy playing basketball for a small college in Ontario who want to play pro.

When I read it, I first thought: no way. The guy’s too old, too big, too…you name it, he isn’t going to be a professional basketball player. That’s one  way to read it. A very grounded way to read it.

Another way  to read it  is to consider how dreams and goals shape us and change us and change others around us. I have a friend who sets very high goals and sometimes lands short of them. But even landing short, she accomplishes something beyond most people and beyond herself. The accomplishments matter, because they matter to her. The accomplishments matter, because they get others to seek out goals too. Others, like her, setting aim and leaving the ground.  Leaving the ground, the way Dan Stoddard does.

How you consider these quotes depends on who you are.