22 Comments

I too hate FSA's. They way to get rid of them is simple. Medical expenses/insurance are paid for after taxes and not before. This makes insurance more expensive, but it's also the logical thing to do.

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Unused FSA money does not go to the government. It reverts to your employer. I think that changes the incentives enough that it makes a meaningful difference in how FSAs work in theory (if not in practice). For example, employers could return some or all of the amount forfeited in FSAs as an employer match to contributions the following year.

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"The world’s biggest airlines would be happy to get involved in the domestic air travel market. They are not American, so we ban them."

I'm not sure which airlines this is referring to. Most data I see has the big US companies as the largest in the world,, with some Chinese airlines comparable but I can't imagine the Chinese airlines would want to operate in the US.

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> ... and others that are fully Out To Get You. I don’t know what we could do about it.

Idk about others, but for me this just applies more pressure to retreat from certain aspects of life and indulge in my own tendencies towards privacy. I don’t think that’s healthy, necessarily, but I don’t mind and I also don’t have a better solution.

It’s not scalable though. My best guess for the scam problems, in particular, would be privacy focused platform companies like Apple continuing to add on-device, learned counter-measures. Like a spam email folder but pervasive and more user-friendly.

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Hi Zvi, thanks for linking to my post on sports betting markets! My guess is that Nate's baseball predictions came close to the market predictions because baseball is more inherently random and unpredictable compared to the other sports, so the Brier scores for both were pretty close to the no-skill control of 0.25 (which is what you'd get by predicting 0.5 for every event, if the underlying base rate is 0.5).

The relatively bad Brier scores make sense for baseball intuitively. In baseball (and other low-scoring sports like hockey, which also had a bad Brier score), a worse team can sometimes beat a better team due to a lucky hit or goal that completely changes the game. In higher scoring sports like basketball and football, there's less of a role for luck and the better team usually beats the worse team, so these sports are more predictable.

Here's the source of the baseball betting data I was using:

https://www.sportsbookreviewsonline.com/scoresoddsarchives/mlb/mlboddsarchives.htm

It's possible that there could be some errors in the data somewhere, like you suggest, but I think the more obvious explanation is just that predicting baseball games is like predicting a fair coin toss, so you don't see much of a difference between an efficient market and a forecasting expert like you do with the easier to predict sports.

Anyway thanks for reading my post!

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Neat. If you're curious enough I would pull all games in which there is a much-higher-than-normal disagreement between Nate and the market, and then go back and look at a second data source. I agree that MLB game true odds are much closer to 50/50 as the game is more random, and it's easier to model in many ways, so by Briar everything is going to look less good, but there's still a lot going on. Hell, the whole idea behind Aikido is that you can be remarkably accurate while knowing essentially bubkas.

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The 13th best game from RPS favorite games of 2022 is Powerwash Simulator. What?! I looked up the reviews and they are all good? What?! "Wash away your worries with the soothing sounds of high-pressure water. Fire up your power washer and blast away every speck of dirt and grime you can find, all with the simple satisfaction of power-washing to a sparkling finish." What?! I definitely have to try this game.

Of course I actually own a powerwasher and my sidewalks and the siding on my house need cleaning so maybe I do that instead? Probably not.

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I get the philosophical disdain for FSAs - but if you can forecast your spending to ensure you aren't setting too much money aside (I always hit maximum, so no biggie there) they aren't that difficult to use.

Or maybe it's just my program? I get a debit card that I use to pay the doctor and pharmacies, occasionally I have to provide receipts.

Could it be better? Sure! But it's also a (small) amount of free money, so... <shrug>

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It's only 'free money' because our system pays for healthcare before taxes are taken out. That's crazy. We don't get to pay for food before taxes. Why healthcare?

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Accepting free money doesn't require rationalizing the 'whys'

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Sure, take everything you can get. That doesn't mean you have to like it. I mostly hate it when my state or federal government sends me checks. I still cash 'em. But I can still hate 'em.

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I do think it's absurd to incentivize accurate prediction of your medical expenses.

Tip for those that use FSAs and don't want to deal with rejected receipts: use your insurance company's EOB as the receipt. In my experience these have a 100% acceptance rate, excepting duplicates. Back when I had an FSA I'd do a quarterly batch of them, and I'd be loose with the bounds because sometimes things wouldn't show up quickly enough. I let the FSA administrator worry about de-duplication.

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Re: ACX (NFL) sports betting and 538. Yeah the site is better than nothing, but mostly worthless compared to the sports betting lines. There is no adjustments for player injury and/ or coaching changes. I won't get into sports betting because I don't want the spend the time doing the homework. So I'm mostly just flipping a coin... and probably worse, cause there are there are teams I dislike and don't bet on as much. My sports brain is turned off today, until I can get news of Damar Hamlin. (I'm a Bills fan.) Local sports radio said no new updates from the hospital today (Tuesday).

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For awhile I was involved in a volunteer program to help women ex-cons get jobs. This was back around 2012, so the job market was really bad. Nevertheless, a lot of the women with drug convictions were successful because they could say the equivalent of "I fell in with a bad crowd" or "My husband dragged me down into the sewers, I'm all better now." But one woman had had a successful credit card fraud going, and her only excuse/explanation was "It was just so easy." Employers weren't crazy about that.

Pro tip: If you are a qualified dental hygienist, the market is (still!) so tight that you can have multiple drug convictions and still get three excellent job offers in one week, including in nice places like Steamboat Springs. It's a 2-year degree. Sign your kids up now!

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> Caroline Ellison’s father’s most cited academic work is called ‘Cooperation in the prisoner’s dilemma with anonymous random matching.’

According to the first reply on Twitter, that's incorrect, it's only the second-most cited. The author of the Tweet then confirmed this, saying "I didn't let the facts get in the way of a good tweet". I haven't fact-checked this any further, but I think at least checking a few replies before taking a tweet as fact would be your epistemic due diligence.

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Lex Fridman’s book list should not be taken at face value. I’m willing to bet a good amount of money on him intentionally presenting an absurd list of books in order to generate outrage and clicks. And it clearly worked.

The real simpleton in the story is Nassem Taleb for taking the bait and retweeting Lex, not Lex himself.

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Lex published a video talking about the list: https://youtu.be/HxZY-NI9knw

It does not seem (to me anyways) that he intended to generate outrage and clicks.

I find Lex to be extremely sincere, honest, and open about his thoughts and feelings. As he explains in the video, he usually reads for an hour or two every/most day/days and listens to audiobooks for an hour or several while running or doing chores. He also claims that the list/schedule is both aspirational and not particularly strict, e.g. if he finishes a short book early one week he can/might start a subsequent longer book for the next week early. He also claims to have read many/most of the books before, and sometimes several times.

I disagree with Lex about many things, but I don't _distrust_ him really at all.

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(probably I should break up long comments? I don't know, constantly wish Substack had better formatting options for legibility and organization...)

The Bad:

*Declining value of old masters is maybe partially due to increasing risks of eco-terrorism, either directly or by lowering the relative status of such goods?

*TikTok - I continue to notice deep confusion that there's seemingly Nothing To Be Done about this Obvious Nonsense. Can't help but think that Trump jumped the gun by trying to go after this during his tenure; TikTok criticism has become right-coded, and also inconveniently deflected by pivoting back to comfortable racial territory. (Echoes of "worrying about covid is Racist, actually".) Hopefully it won't take some really dramatic Khashoggi-level consequences before Something Is Done. Sometimes wish Elon had bought ByteDance instead of Twitter...

The Good:

*This was the first year of my current career where we got through the holiday season with Zero Christmas Music whatsoever. (I'm pretty sure because management didn't know how to order the holiday CD. Yes, it's a literal physical CD that must be inserted in a disk drive to "install" the terrible-timely-tunes "station". Digital radio? Never heard of it...) I notice that employee morale was at record highs, customers largely didn't complain about the dearth - this is always the excuse given for Why It Must Be Done - and it's one of the very few winter seasons I've had that didn't leave me feeling bitter and resentful about majoritarian aesthetic preference tyranny. Talk about Holiday Magic.

*Magic inflation - one of the recent commanders was a cheap 2-drop that copies your artifact spells for {3}. I think one consequence of putting out so many new cards so quickly is...even worse power creep compared to the baseline necessary to maintain franchise interest. Like I only got interested about half a year ago, and just in that short time the new releases have been like..."wow, really, how is that okay?" I still think it's good to attract new players - like with the recent revival of TTRPG - but over the long term it's not sustainable. Only so many ways to design cards like Ruxa that make old shitty cards halfway viable.

The Condoned:

*I wonder if the grades thing works in reverse? That is, tell students all classes are letter graded, but secretly record (and actually value) only pass-fail. Would this get people to work unnecessarily harder? Also seems like one more confirmation of Goodharting - deadweight loss from optimizing for proxy of The Thing instead of The Thing. (And this is exacerbated by college admissions caring so heavily about GPAs. It's Goodharting all the way down. At least standardized tests had somewhat better correlation to the intended Thing.)

*Car loans - score one for public transit. It's been a shitty few years in many regards, but I'm quite happy to still regularly get entire train cars to myself. All for the minor cost of pre-tax-dollars-subsidized $2.50 fare, which is also not-uncommonly actually $0 due to fare readers being broken. Gas prices went up, you say? Huh, hadn't noticed...More relevantly, I wonder when the other shoe is going to drop on all the long-delayed pandemic evictions. Or maybe it already did and there wasn't actually much fuss, so it didn't show up in the news? Longer time horizon still, of course, is the looming troubles from Grand Theft Education. Which, as you made clear, depend actually very little on whether the direct debt jubilee happens or not. Lots of market shocks still to come, maybe, news at 11.

*Inflation - dunno about other labour markets, but in SF it really does seem like businesses aren't willing to raise wages much above sector "norms"...everyone everywhere is hiring, and yet no one's showing up to apply. Totally definitely coincidentally, the current crop of university students is said to be historically large, including lots of "non-traditional" students that aren't fresh off HS. Just like during the GR, lotsa folks that would normally participate in the labour force are deciding to put things on hold and pursue degrees...I sorta understand the reluctance to incentivize hiring though. Where I work, the total range of compensation for bottom-tier employees is less than $10 difference between new hire and salary-capped. Which takes around 4-6 years to achieve, assuming one gets every single possible raise. Bennies also largely don't improve with seniority. So raising the floor without raising the ceiling would ruffle __a lot__ of feathers. (We already had lots of acrimony over sudden pay rises from local minimum wage jumps, back in the #FightFor15 days. It just feels bad and wrong when someone who's got years more experience ends up earning __less__ than a newercomer, purely due to fortuitous timing...for both people involved.)

*Gifting - am reminded of Robin Hanson's claims on healthcare, that the primary function is to signal caring rather than actually cure ill health. The pervasiveness of gifting gift cards remains a head-scratcher to me...especially in comparison to just gifting actual cash. Money is fungible, and all that. But even though less gifting is probably an economic win...I think it also bodes ill for the social fabric, in that one of the few remaining easy ways to bond with people has become a confusing black box of misinterpreted signals. What does it say about how well we know our friends, family, partners, that we can't even model an acceptable gift anymore, nevermind a True Winner? There really does seem to be some magic lost by buying something off someone's Amazon Wish List. Some tension between world models, where "the point of gift giving is the gift" and "the point of gift giving is the giving". There's value and truth in both, I'd assert.

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On breaking up comments: My advice is that if it's one central point to go long. If it's responding to several things, break it up and post several times, it's fine.

Eco-terrorism is only happening in museums, hasn't to my knowledge actually damaged anything and raises profiles. I doubt it is a factor.

TikTok - I do think something can be done, good chance it is indeed banned or forced to stop, but its popularity is making things tricky.

SF hiring - yep, that's exactly my general model. You need to maintain the value of wage relationships so it equals social status and preserves hierarchy and incentive, and raising everyone's wages would be too expensive so instead you fail to hire.

Gifts - wish lists aren't the same from some perspective. I still doubt the juice was worth the squeeze, and a lot of gifts damage social relationships. Really was a lot of wasted time and money.

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Got it, makes sense. There's still some of that feeling of "the comment volume isn't a deluge here, I don't wanna be flooding it" which is getting the sign wrong probably.

On hiring, would it be correct to further assume that this has the unfortunate effect of selecting for the most...desperate? Those willing to put up not just with mediocre pay, but also explicitly being on the bottom of the totem pole, beneath a series of (sometimes earned, but also often just petty) tenured tyrants. So implicit job duties include "massage the egos of those above, don't rise above your station". And this typically correlates negatively with being a good worker.

I've been trying to figure out why the quality of pandemic hires has largely been poor compared to historical baseline, and it feels like it must be some sort of selection effect...but not sure. Even covid hawks have been returning to the workforce, at this point. It feels right that lowered standards and expectations for hiring lead to lowered standards and expectations on the job itself, for those who got in "easy". (I'm one of the star linchpin employees, and got my applications rejected 5x back when hiring was much stricter and less pervasive...definitely some bitterness noticed there.)

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I moved from retail to wastewater about six years ago. To make the obvious joke, I deal with less shit now. Regardless, the best part of the transition was never having to listen to Christmas music again. The constant assault of terrible music during the holiday season ate at my soul.

Upon further consideration, I also began the process of converting to Judaism around the same time, so count me in on the War on Christmas (music).

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> Only 2% of Americans are Jewish, but 7% celebrate Hanukkah.

Now do Christians/Christmas?

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