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Reblogged:Friday Hodgepodge

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Four Things

Editor's Note: Each year, I take time off from blogging and news. I start today and plan to take off three weeks, although I'll check email periodically and may tweet now and then.

Blogging here and regular tweets will resume on January 13, 2021. I wish my readers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


1. Who discovered the trilobite? The answer is less straightforward than you might think. Here is a small part of the story:
Image by Vassil, via Wikimedia Commons, license.
In the New World, American fossil hunters found plentiful deposits of trilobites in western Utah in the 1860s, but the local Ute Indians had known about them for untold years. In 1931, Frank Beckwith uncovered evidence of the Ute use of trilobites. Travelling through the badlands, he photographed two petroglyphs that most likely represent trilobites. On the same trip he examined a burial, of unknown age, with a drilled trilobite fossil laying in the chest cavity of the interred. He asked Joe Pichyavit, a Ute friend, friend what the elders said about such fossils. Pickyavit replied that trilobite necklaces were worn as protection against disease and bullets. The local Ute name for trilobite fossils translated roughly as "little water bug in stone," indicating that they recognised the organic nature of fossils. Pickyavit then made a necklace for Beckwith in the old style. Since then, trilobite amulets have been found all over the Great Basin, as well as in British Columbia and Australia.
The rest -- which starts before the Utes -- is quite an absorbing read, too, and gives the first man to bring the fossils to scientific attention his due.

2. If there has been a silver lining to the ongoing pandemic, it has been the parade (or should I say stampede?) of innovations behind the efforts to produce a vaccine. We all know about the two mRNA vaccines that have just been rolled out, but human trials are about to start for a candidate that would have some important logistical advantages if it works:
Using tobacco plants to create a vaccine against COVID-19 has moved one step closer to becoming a reality.


If the trials go well, it'll join the ranks of other vaccines currently already in production. However, [this] one can be produced in just six weeks, compared to months with conventional methods. It can also be kept at room temperature, versus freezing conditions for some other vaccines.
A low-cost vaccine that does not require refrigeration would obviously be a boon, especially in the developing world.

3. Call Google "So good they can't imagine you screwing up." Venture capitalist Paul Graham made the following observation after GMail went down while he was composing an email:
When GMail went down, I was trying to send an email asking about a particular tar file. My God are they paranoid about security ... if they won't even let me send an email containing the name of a tar file.

There's a lesson here: the better you are, the more preposterous the theories people will invent to explain your (real or apparent) lapses. If GMail were run by a less competent organization, my initial guess would have been the correct one: that it was down. [minor edits]
File under Sometimes the answer is simpler than you think.

4. Who is your competition? The answer may surprise you:
"Who is our biggest competitor?" she asked.

We listed off the other mobile operators, the third party ringtone providers, the nascent app stores.

"No." She said. "We are in direct competition with Mars, Nestle, and Coca-Cola! Every time a kid has 25p to spare, they have a choice. They can choose to buy a chocolate bar, or they can choose to buy a ringtone. Our job is to encourage them to buy digital goods, rather than sugary treats."
The additional lesson in framing from the next paragraph in the original is duly noted.

Bonus. About twice a week and before long drives, I look around for podcasts and the like. To that end, I stumbled on a fantastic resource only a few days ago, called "Objectivist Media."

From an informational page:
This site is a community supported archive of Objectivist presentations. The presentations are collected by event, with links to the material when it is available online. By bringing all this information together in one place, we hope to put the presentations into historical context, and to make it easier to find presentations once they become available online.

Our content depends on the resources of our contributors. Their memories and personal reference material are essential in piecing together a complete history. If you have any info that can expand our records, your contributions are welcome.
The site so far has indexed over 2100 presentations by over 400 speakers. I highly recommend stopping by there, taking a look, and, if you can help, contacting them.

-- CAV

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