244: TZ Discussion – The Walking Debt

Justin and Jason discuss the debt ceiling and the government shutdown, the upcoming Limitless television showa theory on what made Einstein so clever and the difficulty in finding a genetic map for IQhow the Arsenic DNA paper exposed flaws in the peer review process and The Reproducibility Project, the television shows Breaking BadFalling SkiesRevolutionDefianceThe Agents of Shield and The Walking Deadhow to make Star Wars great again, the first two sessions of Catalyst’s second year, how kids differ in the way their brains work, training Colby to play quarterback and his Uber birthday party, using evolutionary strategies to solve Uber’s worker allocation problem, how Jason got to take pitches in a major league baseball stadium, installation problems with Kerbal Space Program, how Justin is looking to hire someone to do devops at Digedu and how Hired.com’s business model compares to what Mecruit was going to try.

  1. Justin kept asking how one party could cause the government shutdown. The one part of it that you guys didn’t mention is that Boehner has the power as speaker of the house to decide what goes on the floor for a vote. He has used this power to prevent anything relevant to this issue from even being put up for a vote. Depending on what you read, though, Boehner may be under extreme pressure from other members of his party. I like this Onion article that tries to capture the potential dynamic:


  2. Jason says:

    @Jeff Whelpley – You’re absolutely right! I never did answer that, did I. I seem to have a very hard time keeping multiple trains of thought in my head at any one time and in this case I got so distracted by discussing “the why” that I never got around to addressing “the how”. What I need is a way to take a snapshot of my thoughts at any given moment (like copying to a buffer) so that I can hop back later without losing my place. Or, maybe I’ll just list my thoughts out loud like a table of contents or “to-discuss” list, so that Justin can help me out after I go down the rabbit hole on one of them. 😉

  3. Dylan Roy says:

    I forgot how much I missed listening to you guys, till I finally had time to go through all of the weeks I had missed lately. Thanks, for continuing to do this!

  4. Jason says:

    @Dylan Roy – Thanks, man! I know it may sound trite, but we really do appreciate the positive feedback. Putting on the show takes up a lot of our time and comments like yours make all the difference.

  5. Rich says:

    Justin will appreciate this. We nearly had a government shutdown in Australia. Instead the Governor-General (the Queen’s representative) just fired everyone – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Australian_constitutional_crisis.

  6. dave says:

    For the record, DeveloperAuction was renamed as Hired recently.

  7. Rob Walch says:

    The new season of Falling Skies is awful. My bar is pretty low, but I couldn’t take it anymore. If you’re intrigued with how messed up congress is, watch House of Cards. I’ve been putting it off until just last week. It made me feel better about all these stories from the dark side about the debt and parties playing chicken. And it’s based on a UK series if you want to know what Justin is talking about with the Labor party 😉

    And yeah Agents of Shields kind of sucks, but most of us will watch it anyway. Sleepy Hallow is actually fun and has a sort of X-Files/Fringe dynamic with a more supernatural base. Check it out.

  8. Jason says:

    @Rob Walch – I tried to like Falling Skies as well and I agree, it wasn’t very good, just like Revolution, Defiance and Agents of Shield. I want to like these shows because I like the genres – sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and super heros, but as with most things in life, quality is rare.

    Yeah, House of Cards is amazing and is up there with the rest of the top tier shows.

    Sleepy Hallow, … huh? Hmm…maybe I’ll give it shot. Supernatural isn’t my top choice, but what the hell. 😉

    In other news, The Walking Dead, premiered this past weekend with 16.1 millions viewers, “… demolishing its own record as the most-watched cable show ever,” and even bested Sunday Night Football. It gets even better because these numbers “… don’t take into account delayed viewings.” Like, me! I didn’t even watch it until last night because I watched football on Sunday and Monday night. 😉


  9. Jason says:

    @Dave – Yep, I saw that when I was making the show notes. A friend of mine was actually working at a recruiting company that got absorbed by DeveloperAuction. Unfortunately for him he opted not to join the party and went out on his own. That was probably a mistake.

  10. Hey Jason, what’s that $1 a month thing you are using for catalyst along with NeoCities ?

    Feel free to put up an affiliate link and make a few $$s for Catalyst

  11. Jason says:

    @Duncan from Vetter – It’s ChicagoVPS:


    I purchased the $1/mo plan for Colby over the weekend and he’s already up and jamming with the command line and Vim. He just SSH’s into his server and starts banging away. No Git yet, but we’ll get there eventually. 😉

    Anyway, it’s worked so well for him that I’m going to start moving a few of the other kids over as well.

  12. Alex Gemmell says:

    @Jason – you spoke about wishing there was an open-sourced / wiki-like site where scientific papers could be reviewed more openly. You briefly said there were “a few” that did this already although you haven’t followed up with some examples in the show links sadly. There’s a pretty good attempt at something close to what you want for supplements and I wonder if you’ve seen it? Check out http://examine.com/

    Examine tries to cite all the science while also boiling a lot of the complexity down to simple take aways!

    Now specifically, you challenged Justin about his claim that “they” (!) say fish oil is good for your brain. Well, check out what Examine says about that: http://examine.com/supplements/Fish+Oil/

    In a nutshell: A slight increases brain activity (but less potent than and different from classical stimulants like Caffeine) and a notable improvement in cases of depression. Some minor improvements in memory and minor reductions in anxiety have been found.

    I thoroughly recommend anyone interested in nutrition and with a great suspicion of supplements (as I do!) should buy the PDF version and help keep them funded and doing what they do (they send updated PDFs as necessary). However, the site does appear to be free so you can use it without paying!!

  13. 3:50min explanation about the debt limit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIbkoop4AYE

  14. I’m right-handed but I switched to holding the mouse in my left hand about 10 years ago. Don’t think I got any smarter 🙂 It definitely helped with carpal syndrome though, and I think it’s more efficient because I can use the mouse and arrow/enter keys at the same time without moving the right hand back and forth.

    Thank you for another good show, keep it up! Hope you’ll have some interviews soon, I really miss them.

  15. Jason says:

    @Michael Rakita – Yeah, the theory that ambidextrous training makes you smarter appears to have been debunked:

    “Although teaching people to become ambidextrous has been popular for centuries, this practice does not appear to improve brain function, and it may even harm our neural development.”



    I think I would actually like to do some more interviews. I’m kind of getting into the mood again. 😉

  16. Jason says:

    @Duncan from Vetter – I also stumbled upon this $1/month VPS plan, which seems to be a pretty good deal as well:


  17. Andrea says:

    @Jason – more interviews! FTW!

  18. Richard says:

    Looks like the Soylent testing episode will have to wait until December, but they have raised funding!


    Glad to hear the web development in Catalyst went well. I had my doubts when it was mentioned before because with html, css, javascript and a backend there are lots of components and a few things that ‘just have to be done like that’.

    When you were talking about Reproducibility Project I thought it was the Reproducibility Initiative which is a great project in biomedical research. They just raised $1.3m to reproduce 50 major cancer studies.

  19. Justin says:

    @All Sorry for being so slack about responding. Super busy here.

    @Jeff Man I love the Onion, better than real news.

    @Rich That gives me hope… 😉 Thanks for posting.

    @Rob Ok ok I have the worlds worst taste in TV shows I love Falling Skies and Vampire Diaries… does that reflect badly..? 😉

    @Alex Nice site, but what makes it credible.

    @Udi Nice.

    @Michael Oh crap you saw through my pseudo science….

    @Richard I actually can’t wait to try Soylent I really wish they would get it out to the public. Reproducibility Project sounds believable. I thought Jason had mentioned that?


  20. Jason says:

    @Richard – I can’t wait to do the Soylent taste-test episode! That should be a lot of fun. 😉


    Yeah, web development with all it’s constituent components and technologies is a lot to absorb and that’s why I attempted to sandbox the kids last year with a console-like development environment. But I’m cautiously optimistic that the kids are going to be able to learn it and I’m kind of developing my own little theories on how to make it work. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment and the worst case is that the kids will have fun and learn some things.


    I guess less science than we thought was actually being reproduced and verified, which is a little disconcerting to say the least. 😉

  21. Did you see Continuum? One of the few decent sci-fi TV shows that’s currently on TV. It’s not on the level of Fringe but I think it’s better than Defiance or Revolution. Of course I might be biased because it’s Canadian and involves time travel 🙂

  22. Jason says:

    @Michael Rakita You’re right, Continuum is pretty good. I watched the first episode, but I need to pick back up on it.

  23. Alex Gemmell says:

    @Jason – all the scientific papers they reference and summarise in a single place. That’s what they say makes them credible. Does that make them credible to you? If not, I would be interested to see what would help make a site like this more credible. I just typed credible a lot. Now the word looks weird to me.

  24. Jason says:

    @Alex Gemmell – I dont know. I guess you’d want most of the papers to come from first-tier academic institutions, but even then, as we’ve covered on the show, not all scientific studies are high quality or have been correctly vetted, and even fewer have been reproduced. It sort of presents an epistemological conundrum. How do we know what we know? Or, rather, how much trust can we put into what we’ve up until now considered to be fundamentally trustworthy, scientific research. Basically, I think you want to take a semi-skeptical view on most of what you read and hear about, and that’s even if it’s coming straight out of Harvard or MIT. If it’s coming out the Institute of Natural Healing (just made that up), then you should being very skeptical. 😉

  25. Alex Gemmell says:

    @Jason – isn’t that precisely what examine.com is doing? It’s clearly listing all the studies they are referencing and – even better – their quality. They boil them down into some simple metrics which you can see explained on the site. You can easily read where those apparent “benefits” come from that you always hear people repeat.

    Like for instance when people say “X is good for your skin because of Y” and then you look at this list and they say: “well, it was small study so it’s gets a grade C and the benefit was ‘slight’ so not everyone in the study felt much of it”. With THAT information you can call bullshit a lot more easily. Examine.com allows that and encourages calling bullshit!

    However, if you are talking about “how much can we trust these studies” then at least you can see the ones that claim certain benefits and decide to trust it or not. If you don’t trust anyone about anything then you’re a lost cause and nothing but you doing your own studies will ever convince you. In which case – keep walking, nothing to see here!

  26. Jason says:

    @Alex Gemmell – I haven’t had a chance to really dig into the site, but it sounds pretty cool the way you describe it.

  27. Really enjoyed the variety of “off-topic” shows!
    Re: TV shows, am surprised you did not talk about “Person Of Interest” 🙂

  28. Jason says:

    @Philippe Monnet – I’ve heard good things about Person of Interest and Homeland, but without knowing too much about them they strike me as “Security State” apologist shows, which I think would probably just piss me off. “The terrorists are out to get us!” Then again, I did enjoy 24, which pretty much kicked off the whole genre.

  29. Alfie says:

    I highly recommend watching an Israeli show called “Prisoners of War” (Hatufim) which is what Homeland is based on. It’s been one of the most emotionally charged show I’ve ever seen with most episodes either having me at the edge of my seat or my heart twisted in knots.

  30. “Person of Interest” is not bad at all but I wouldn’t call it a sci-fi show. It’s more like an action/thriller with a bit of sci-fi thrown in. I didn’t start season 3 yet, but I hope AI will turn on everyone “Terminator” style 🙂

  31. Jason says:

    I love it that we’re recommending TV shows back and forth! 😉 I wish we all lived close enough that we could get together for a big dinner or BBQ or something. The TechZing dinners are always my favorite part of going to MicroConf.