9: ETF of Shopify Suppliers, 80,000 Amps of Current, and Hacked Artillery

"ignorance exists in the map, not in the territory"

But ignorance exists in the map, not in the territory.  If I am ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about my own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself.

A phenomenon can seem mysterious to some particular person. There are no phenomena which are mysterious of themselves.

To worship a phenomenon because it seems so wonderfully mysterious, is to worship your own ignorance.

—Eliezer Yudkowsky, ‘Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions

I want to say thanks to R.J., who wrote me that they donated to the SENS Research Foundation because of something I wrote in Edition #2. That made my day, thanks!

Investing & Business

-Jamie Dimon Interview

Coffee with the Greats has a good interview with Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase. He’s his usual candid, no-BS self, and shares some good insights about leadership and management, but also his life arc.

It’s not Earth-shattering, but it’s a good interview, especially if you have an interest in him to begin with. And contrast it with most CEO interviews, and you’ll see why Dimon stands out.

-TikTok, the Whole Enchilada

I don’t want to spend all my time on TikTok, but it’s an interesting situation, so out-of-the-ordinary and volatile. Nobody seems to know what is going on and it’s changing from day to day… The latest from the Financial Times:

Microsoft is chasing a deal to buy all of TikTok’s global business, including the viral video app’s operations in India and Europe, according to five people with knowledge of the talks. [...] such a deal would not extend to its China-facing sister app Douyin. [...]

One person close to ByteDance’s Asia-Pacific operations suggested that Microsoft had been attracted to the idea of buying all of TikTok’s global business by the difficulty of separating back-office functions such as HR and to ensure that TikTok users in one country could still use the app if they travelled to another. [...]

One person close to ByteDance in India said there was a “deal in the works” with Microsoft for TikTok India but that if it fell through, ByteDance could sell TikTok India either to foreign investors or Indian buyers. ByteDance would then license its technology to the company and share revenue. (Source)

And now TikTok is threatening legal action. Any way this goes, it’ll be messy.

-Finding The Sweet Spot

A lot of you reading this would probably be called successful over-achievers by others, but you probably see yourself as not having nearly enough and needing X or Y or Z before you’ll be happy and content.

When a non-runner starts running, they will see immediate benefits. In the process of going from being unable to jog across a parking lot, to being able to easily jog a brisk mile, your entire body will transform for the better. Muscles and bones get stronger, heart and lungs expand and reach out to give your body a healthy embrace, brain functioning and mood and hormones smooth out and normalize.

Training your way up to become a two mile runner still brings great benefits – just slightly smaller. The fifth through twentieth mile turn you into a hyper efficient machine, but some people start seeing joint injuries as they rise through the ranks.

And by the time you reach the fringe world of 100-mile runners, serious injuries and surgeries are completely normal – as well as unexpected organ failures in otherwise young, healthy people. The sweet spot for daily running for maximum health is somewhere the middle. [...]

The Curse Of the Overachievers – Revisited

So now you see the problem – overachievers like us tend to get really good at a few things like a career or an athletic pursuit often specializing so much that we neglect other things like overall health or personal relationships.

And our society notices and rewards us for the success, which just reinforces the behavior, so we take things to even higher extremes, often without stopping to think about the reason behind it.

More here.

-Microsoft’s “Play Along for Now” Strategy…

Ben Thompson wrote, on the topic of Microsoft’s negotiations with Bytedance to acquire the operations of TikTok in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia:

Microsoft is likely banking on the fact that any payment to the U.S. Treasury will be appealable, but that is small solace to anyone concerned about freedom generally and the unintended consequences of this decision specifically. (Source)

-ETF of Shopify Technology Suppliers?

Peter Offringa writing in his newsletter:

While I do not cover Shopify, I think it is instructive to consider the software stack companies that provide services to them. These include Fastly for CDN, Cloudflare for DNS/Domain Hosting, Twilio for Contact Center and Elastic for Site Search (there may be other examples). Shopify is one of the most advanced, engineering-driven e-commerce platforms. Therefore, it is telling when they reach outside of the organization for a solution. As Cloudflare put it, "Shopify’s engineering-driven culture has no shortage of performance and security whizzes who optimize every network packet they can, but sometimes it doesn’t make sense to do everything in-house." Investors could probably generate significant alpha simply by investing in Shopify's vendors (maybe an idea for an ETF).

Pretty sure he’s joking about the ETF, but I like the concept generally. Once you’ve identified a supremely talented group of people, you can learn a lot by looking at what they like and what they choose to do themselves and what they defer to others.

f.ex. What is Stripe’s software stack?

There’s a startup that tries to keep track of the software stack used by various companies. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s interesting to have a look. Here’s the page for Shopify, and here’s Stripe.

Science & Technology

-Assessing Code Similarity via Machine Learning

Researchers from Intel, MIT, and Georgia Institute of Technology created an automated engine designed to learn what a piece of software intends to do by studying the structure of the code and analyzing syntactic differences of other code with similar behavior. [...]

MISIM can accurately determine when two pieces of code perform a similar computation, even when those pieces use different data structures and algorithms. “This is an important step toward the grander vision of machine programming,” Gottschlich said. [...]

Once the code’s structure is integrated into CASS, a neural network gives similarity scores to pieces of code based on the jobs they are designed to carry out, even if they are different in structure. The researchers found that MISIM was able to identify similar pieces of code up to 40x more accurately than prior state-of-the-art systems. (Source)

-Russian Electric Arc Furnace: 80,000 Amps of Current!!!

Electric Arc Furnace in Remz, at Shakhty, Rostov Region (RU).@ 80 MW / 80000 A

This thing is bonkers. You have to see it in action to believe it, but make sure the sound isn’t turned up too high when you watch this video, because it literally brings the thunder (starting at 1:39 in the video). Via ToughSF

-Ukrainian Artillery-Control Apps Hacked by Russia in 2016

Speaking of Russia, I’m a bit late on this one, but I hadn’t heard of this story back when it first came out.

The possible link between the GRU and Fancy Bear was made by tracking a piece of malware implanted in a Ukrainian military Android app. The app allows Soviet-era artillery units to process targeting data more quickly, while the implanted malware was found to siphon off communication and location data. CrowdStrike suggests the malware “may have facilitated reconnaissance against Ukrainian troops” over the last two years, and notes that more D-30 Howitzers have been lost in conflicts in the east of the country than any other artillery pieces. (Source)

Some details on the artillery app:

a software package for artillery fire control ArtOS. It took only 4 months to implement this project guided by Yaroslav Sherstuk, Staff Development Officer of the Missile Forces and Artillery of the Ground Forces Command of Military Forces of Ukraine.  [...]

The new software package will considerably reduce the time necessary to prepare for artillery fire missions and to optimize the work in a chain gun-platoon-battery. ArtOS is able to automatically receive data for the top echelon on targets from similar systems developed by the GIS group “Arta”, to make adjustments to the firing conditions of ballistic and meteorological systems.  (Source)

I guess cybersecurity wasn’t this group’s expertise…


First-hand account in podcast format of what it was like to be in Beirut that day, by journalist Vivian Yee.


The Arts

-Photo I Took Last Weekend

Spent a day with my parents, who are retired and live year-long in this beautiful scenery, in Northern Québec, Canada.

-Now That is a Character Arc