Shanghai Building to be Demolished

Philosophy

July 28th, 2014

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OKCupid experiments on its users again

Manipulations done by OKCupid. Remember, if a service is free, then you are the product.

But by comparing Love Is Blind Day to a normal Tuesday, we learned some very interesting things. In those 7 hours without photos… And it wasn’t that “looks weren’t important” to the users who’d chosen to stick around. When the photos were restored at 4PM, 2,200 people were in the middle of conversations that had started “blind”. Those conversations melted away. The goodness was gone, ...

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July 28th, 2014

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Why is the solar system stable?

I am fascinated with the question of smart people thinking dumb things. Or rather, things that now strike me as stupid, partly because I grew up knowing the answer.

One of the smartest people who ever lived was Isaac Newton. And for a long time, he was convinced that the sun had a repulsive force that was pushing the planets away. Robert Hooke had to expend considerable effort to convince Newton that the sun had an attractive force. And then, ...

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July 28th, 2014

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Why a woman becomes a social worker

A powerful story about why one woman wanted to become a social worker:

She’s a pacifist, she doesn’t believe in killing or maiming. Hitting either, I suppose.

“Not even to save a life?” I ask.

“Only if it was very clear-cut.”

“What if you knew of a person who had tortured and killed several women, and you had the ability to stop them?”

“I would call the police,” she says.

Fuck, if only I could be that innocent, to think I could just call the cops ...

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July 26th, 2014

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The Perseus Cluster is huge and strange

Interesting:

Together with a team of more than a half-dozen colleagues, Bulbul has been using Chandra to explore the Perseus Cluster, a swarm of galaxies approximately 250 million light years from Earth. Imagine a cloud of gas in which each atom is a whole galaxy—that’s a bit what the Perseus cluster is like. It is one of the most massive known objects in the Universe. The cluster itself is immersed in an enormous ‘atmosphere’ of superheated plasma—and it is ...

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July 21st, 2014

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Learning a new language boosts your memory

Interesting:

In the last few years, unable to hold a list of just four grocery items in my head, I’d begun to fret a bit over my literal state of mind. So to reassure myself that nothing was amiss, just before tackling French I took a cognitive assessment called CNS Vital Signs, recommended by a psychologist friend. The results were anything but reassuring: I scored below average for my age group in nearly all of the categories, notably landing in the ...

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July 20th, 2014

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Shame and politics

During the 4 years that I was sick, 1995-1999, my personal politics swung sharply to the right. I’ve always had trouble describing why. However, this essay does a good job describing many of the emotions involved. Very interesting:

Even though we didn’t take the food stamps, we lived in the warm embrace of the federal government with subsidized housing and utilities, courtesy of Uncle Sam [Lyngar, at the time, was in the Army]. Yet I blamed all of my considerable problems ...

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June 26th, 2014

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What allows a marriage to last?

Interesting:

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang ...

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June 24th, 2014

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The emergence of the jaw, in the late Cambrian, was one of the big breakthroughs for life on earth

Interesting:

Fossilized fish specimens from the Canadian Rockies, known as Metaspriggina, dates from the Cambrian period (around 505 million years ago), shows pairs of exceptionally well-preserved arches near the front of its body. The first of these pairs, closest to the head, eventually led to the evolution of jaws in vertebrates, the first time this feature has been seen so early in the fossil record.

Fish fossils from the Cambrian period are very rare and usually poorly preserved. This new discovery ...

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June 24th, 2014

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Ellen Chisa on gender and technology

This is interesting:

I was vehemently against the Society of Women in Engineering (SWE). I thought anything that called attention to being female hurt me. That it would make people think I’d gotten my role for being “female” instead of for being excellent. I felt degraded. I felt like “those women” were making me less likely to succeed. They couldn’t compete on excellence, so they made shit up about how the playing field wasn’t level. They just weren’t good enough. Other ...

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June 16th, 2014

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Breaking into your boyfriend’s email to find if he is cheating on you

This is from Slashdot, from perhaps 2002 or 2003. I tried to find this using Google, but Google failed me:

Posted by CmdrTaco From the it-happened-again dept. SyD writes: “Apparently there is a major security hole on Hotmail that could allow crackers to read your e-mail. A hacking group known as root core discovered the hole and reported it to Microsoft.“

This isn’t the first time that the folks who are gonna give us a internet wide universal login system had a hole. ...

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June 10th, 2014

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Tumour necrosis factors have not changed in 550 million years

Interesting:

There are many ways of triggering apoptosis, and one route involves two large groups of proteins: the tumour necrosis factors (TNFs), and the receptors that they stick to. When they meet, they set off a chain reaction inside the cell. A large network of proteins is recruited, united, and activated, until the cell eventually dies. Think of TNF as a key twisting in the lock of a door, triggering a Rube-Goldberg machine that ends with the entire room catching fire.

Now, ...

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June 9th, 2014

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Fasting helps bring back your stem cells

Fascinating article:

In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, long periods of not eating significantly lowered white blood cell counts. In mice, fasting cycles then “flipped a regenerative switch,” changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are responsible for the generation of blood and immune systems, the research showed.

The study has major implications for healthier aging, in which immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as people age. By outlining how prolonged fasting cycles ...

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June 3rd, 2014

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800 dead babies in Ireland

Years ago, the Irish government apologized for the horrific sexual torture and human rights abuses that were inflicted on Irish girls who were considered wayward, and some monetary damages have been paid to surviving victims, but so far the Catholic Church has not fully apologized for the atrocities that were committed in institutions which it was running. In case anyone might forget how extensive the neglect and abuse was, here is a reminder:

Police are investigating the discovery of 800 ...

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May 31st, 2014

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Math education in the USA

Very interesting post about math education:

When did we brainwash kids into thinking that math was about getting an answer? My students truly believe for some reason that math is about combining whatever numbers you can in whatever method that seems about right to get one “answer” and then call it a day. They rarely think about what they are doing as long as at the end of the day their answer is “correct”. Today they were ...

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May 20th, 2014

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Who is responsible for dinner?

I like cooking large dinners for friends. I used to do a breakfast, once a month, at my apartment where I would simply invite everyone I knew in New York City, and I would feed whoever showed up. People are busy so I never got more than 15 people at my place, but I was always glad for whoever showed up. I have fond memories of the conversations. If someone else cooks dinner, I would have to be asked to ...

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May 20th, 2014

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How should we handle unlimited leisure?

Interesting:

To Keynes, the coming age of abundance, while welcome, would pose a new and in some ways even bigger challenge. With so little need for labor, people would have to figure out what to do with themselves: “For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won.” The example offered by the ...

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May 20th, 2014

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What a dictionary is for

This is good:

Noah Webster is not the best-known of the Founding Fathers but he has been called “the father of American scholarship and education.” There’s actually this great history of how he almost singlehandedly invented the very idea of American English, defining the native tongue of the new republic, “rescuing” it from “the clamour of pedantry” imposed by the Brits.

He developed a book, the Blue Backed Speller, which was meant to be something of a complete linguistic education for young ...

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May 12th, 2014

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The USA medical system needs to be more aggressive in treating pain

Interesting:

In those not-so-old days when Jeffrey was born, as a preemie, many doctors mistakenly believed that babies’ nervous systems were too immature to process pain and that, therefore, babies didn’t feel pain at all. Or, doctors rationalized, if babies did somehow feel pain, it was no big deal because they probably wouldn’t remember it. Besides, since nobody knew for sure how dangerous anesthesia drugs might be in tiny babies, doctors figured that if surgery was necessary to save ...

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May 12th, 2014

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Bro culture on a rampage

This essay argues that the rise of bro culture is a panic response to the rise of gay culture:

The repressive, hypermasculine bro that stalks your local watering hole and pisses in the street is a modern, anxious manifestation of homosexual panic, an allergic reaction to the mainstreaming of gay culture (and, by extension, a loss of cultural power and sexual stability). The modern definition of manhood came about in strict domination over the feminine, both sexually and behaviorally. “Male-male relations ...

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May 4th, 2014

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Are there any new ideas?

It’s possible that there have been no new ideas during the Great Stagnation, but it is worth noting that some ideas, such as agent based simulations, have made some progress.

The big ideas: The deluge of changes that shook Europe around 1800 — the making of the modern world — brought with them an explosion of big new ideas, new ways of framing the social, historical, and natural world which we inhabit. Darwin, Freud, Marx, Walras, Carnot, Poincaré, Einstein — each ...

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May 4th, 2014

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Young blood reverses aging in old mice

This is an interesting study:

Two teams of scientists published studies on Sunday showing that blood from young mice reverses aging in old mice, rejuvenating their muscles and brains. As ghoulish as the research may sound, experts said that it could lead to treatments for disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.

“I am extremely excited,” said Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the research. “These findings could be a game changer.”

The ...

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May 3rd, 2014

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The culture that is Japanese

Of course when girls take off their underwear, the underwear then transforms into a weapon that the girls can use to kill demons. Can you think of anything more Japanese than that?

Source

May 2nd, 2014

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What do you do, Mr. Gable?

Interesting:

He was so naive about the industry that he entertained hopes he would be writing for the famous movie star Mickey Mouse. But the folks at Metro informed him, No, Mickey lives at another studio out in the Valley—we want you for a Wallace Beery picture. “Who’s he?” Faulkner asked. The more he learned, the more frightened he became. “The truth is that I was scared,” Faulkner disclosed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I was scared ...

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May 2nd, 2014

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Piketty

Interesting:

With his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty has lobbed a truth bomb that has blown up several decades’ worth of received opinion about the way the economy works in capitalist societies. He makes a powerful, meticulously-argued, data-driven case that inequality is a feature of capitalist economies, not a bug. Let to its own devices, wealth tends to become highly concentrated. The only events likely to prevent our society from plunging into a dystopian spiral of inequity are, ...

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May 2nd, 2014

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Uptalk among men

Interesting:

This process is known as “uptalk” or “valleygirl speak” and has in the past been associated with young females, typically from California or Australia.

But now a team says that this way of speaking is becoming more frequent among men.

The findings were presented at the Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in California.

“We found use of uptalk in all of our speakers, despite their diverse backgrounds in socioeconomic status, ethnicity, bilingualism and gender,” said Amanda Ritchart, a linguist at ...

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April 28th, 2014

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39% survival rate for this guy’s kids

This is a lot of dead children:

In 1832, he married Varvara Alexeyevna Moiseyeva. They had a large number of children (eighteen according to his son’s memoirs, while only seven apparently survived into adulthood).

Source

April 26th, 2014

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Drowning: the game of life

I like how this game is so simple.

Source

April 25th, 2014

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Urban male hipsters love old men and Ruby programming

I was thinking about Ruby On Rails and male hipsters and wondering if there was a cultural affinity that brought male hipsters to Ruby in particular (out of all the possible computer programming languages). I decided there was. I notice a lot of male hipsters are into the idea of the old master, the old man who is great at some skill: A great tailor, a great leather worker, a great wood carver, a great painter, a great sculptor, etc. ...

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April 24th, 2014

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Women’s reactions to behavior in the tech industry

This is very long, but its an interesting group of responses from the women:

When I was a grad student at Princeton in CS, before CS nerds ran most of the women out, I was leading a study session for some younger grad students when I saw some amazing international sexism on display. A woman, who would later have a pretty good position at Google, was explaining a homework problem about which there was some controversy. Every guy in the room, ...

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April 21st, 2014

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The decline of teen births

I am very curious what drove the surge in teen births in the late 80s.

Source

April 18th, 2014

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The Healthy Hazda do not have the “healthy” bacteria in their gut

Interesting:

Researchers have known for decades that the biota in our gut vary depending on what we eat. But the Hadza microbiome still turned out to be surprisingly different.

To study the difference between the ancient and modern gut, researchers analyzed stool samples from 16 Italian urbanites and 27 Hadza foragers, of both genders.

The Italians’ gut flora was generally what they expected in Western diets, with some Mediterranean influences. The Hadza’s poop, however, was like stepping into a lost continent of microbe ...

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April 10th, 2014

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Hacker School bans competitive feigned surprise regarding your ignorance

This is great:

If you have ability and a strong work ethic, people will notice. You will learn a lot from their reaction. If they react by treating with you with respect, they have strong character. If they react by taking every opportunity to belittle and undermine you, they perceive you as a threat to them. If you aren’t prone to petty jealousy and spiteful thinking, it will be difficult to empathize with people who are. Sadly, you must handle these ...

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April 6th, 2014

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You don’t have to run faster than the bear

You just need to run faster than the guy next to you.

Source

April 4th, 2014

In Philosophy

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Zero is a function

Is zero a number or a function? Probably a function:

I also wish to re-state zero is a function. It separates positive and negative numbers, real and imaginary numbers. So if smart people wish to argue 0^0 = 1 or NOT then same said people should arguably disagree that 1^(1/2) =1 … Or NOT Because -1 x -1 = 1

Source

April 4th, 2014

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Germany versus America

Written by a German who has been living in America for a long time:

The German system gives more power to the parties, since they decide which candidates to place on the list from which the parliamentarians will later be drawn. Parties finance the election campaigns; the candidates themselves do not need to raise substantial amounts of money. In return, there is a very high party loyalty in the German parliament. Parliamentarians vote their conscience only on rare, very important ...

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April 4th, 2014

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Low expectations for sitcoms

I agree with “low expectations”. Sitcoms are slowly dying out: in 2000 there were 36 in prime time major networks, by 2013 there were only 16. They are being replaced by reality shows. Sitcoms were invented to fill time while being low-cost, but reality shows are even cheaper and can draw just as much audience. The rise of unscripted reality shows (when they are unscripted, which is rare) suggests that Keith Johnstone might have been correct when he suggested that ...

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April 4th, 2014

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The war on science

Interesting and sad:

Doesn’t the Entire Earth Have the Same Climate?

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) demonstrated his inability to grasp the idea that the world’s climate varies across different regions (which, in fairness, is a sensible line of questioning—if we were living on the forest moon of Endor):

Rohrabacher: Do you believe that tornadoes and hurricanes today are more ferocious and more frequent than they were in the past?

Holdren: There is no evidence relating to tornadoes. None of all. And I don’t know any ...

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April 4th, 2014

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Work should be fun

Interesting:

It’s also quite scary when you consider that we’re entering an era of technological unemployment. More and more jobs are being automated: they aren’t going to provide money, social validation, or occupation for anyone any longer. We saw this first with agriculture and the internal combustion engine and artificial fertilizers, which reduced the rural workforce from around 90% of the population in the 17th-18th century to around 1% today in the developed world. We’ve seen it in steel, coal, and ...

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April 4th, 2014

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Woman takes a grant, is then called a hypocrite for criticizing university

If true, then this is a worrisome attitude for someone who offers scholarships to college students. Shouldn’t college kids be encouraged to make thoughtful dissents against the institutions they find themselves in?

Even more damningly, the administration seems to conflate “promoting civility” with “quashing dissent.” Over email, the current Coastal student told me, “I’ve been reluctant to write in the school newspaper and [be] critical thereof because students have warned me they’ve been called in by administration after publishing op-ed ...

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April 1st, 2014

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The impact on gender relations of unpaid labor in open source?

Interesting:

A note on meritocracy

It’s difficult to go much further without mentioning the undercurrent belief in meritocracy that is particularly pervasive in open source communities, especially around participation in GitHub.

Meritocracy is the belief that those with merit float to the top – that they should be given more opportunities and be paid higher.

We prize the idea of meritocracy and weigh merit on contribution to OSS. Those who contribute the most, goes the general belief, have the most merit and are ...

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March 31st, 2014

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A genuinely new thought about the history of human expansion

I thought I knew every theory of possible human expansion, but this was entirely new for me:

Dr. Guidon remains defiant about her findings. At her home on the grounds of a museum she founded to focus on the discoveries in Serra da Capivara, she said she believed that humans had reached these plateaus even earlier, around 100,000 years ago, and might have come not overland from Asia but by boat from Africa.

Humans traveled by boat from Africa to South America ...

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March 30th, 2014

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Debtors prisons raise the risk of corruption in the USA

The problem with putting people in jail for debts is that the courts themselves get corrupted by the confluence of money and power. This is a step down a dark road:

In the spring of 2009, Burdette was doing well. For a year she had worked at the Piggly Wiggly in Childersburg, where nearly a quarter of the 5,200 citizens live in poverty. Burdette’s cashier job didn’t pay much, but it helped her get by.

One May afternoon, she was ringing up ...

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March 28th, 2014

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Sensitivity training: I have a knife and you have a gun

I am curious what Frances Hocutt believes sensitivity training can achieve? Is it an appropriate tool for changing a culture?

I wanted to lead a research team and solve pressing problems in medicine, energy, or the environment while treating my employees fairly. I thought about being able to hire people like my incredibly competent but PhD-less co-worker into management roles. I thought about instituting management and diversity training for PhD-level chemists. I thought about inviting some of the women ...

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March 20th, 2014

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To what extent can artists be political?

An interesting bit, suggesting an unresolveable divide between art and politics:

What gets in the way of artists’ making substantive political contributions? The collection’s title essay proposes that artists’ class position opposes their interests to those of typical protesters, even when both are concerned with economic survival. Because artists, unlike wage laborers, have a direct stake in what they produce and face no workplace discipline other than what they impose on themselves, their political attitudes are structurally different from those ...

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March 1st, 2014

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Russia mobilizes troops to occupy parts of the Ukraine

Russia mobilizes troops to occupy parts of the Ukraine.

I am speculating. What could Putin really hope to accomplish? And at what expense?

I am looking at Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukraine

Ethnic groups (2001)

77.8% Ukrainians

17.3% Russians

4.9% others / unspecified

The Russians are concentrated in the eastern-most provinces, and also in the Crimea.

Russia has 145 million people, the Ukraine has 46 million people, so in terms of the ratio of people, Russia invading the Ukraine would be a bit like the USA invading Mexico. Russia also has a ...

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February 9th, 2014

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The culture of girls and computers

Interesting:

It Really Is about Girls (and Boys)

Twelve-year-old girls today don’t generally get to have the experiences that I did. Parents are warned to keep kids off the computer lest they get lured away by child molesters or worse—become fat! That goes doubly for girls, who then grow up to be liberal arts majors. Then, in their late teens or early twenties, someone who feels the gender skew in technology communities is a problem drags them to a LUG meeting ...

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February 1st, 2014

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Why government spying matters

Interesting:

I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points: 1) the purpose of this surveillance ...

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January 29th, 2014

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Nothing but a false accusation based upon ignorance of Evidence Based Management

Interesting: This argument would be stronger if it had something to say about those cases where there is no known best practice. We all know there are some demographic segments are poorly served by the current medical industry. If a middle aged woman with mild but painful neurological symptoms goes to see her doctor, there is little the doctor can do for her and she will be lucky if the doctor takes her seriously. The reality is there are many ...

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January 25th, 2014

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Black business owner framed by the police

What a shocking story. The police used an informant who went in and planted crack cocaine in the store to frame a business owner. Thankfully the business owner had video that showed the whole thing was a frame-up. The prosecutor was aware that the video exonerated the accused, and yet the prosecutor never stopped pursuing the accused.

Andrews opened up Dabb City Smoke Shop in Scotia, New York last January. By April he was arrested for selling crack cocaine. ...

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January 23rd, 2014

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Marriage does not cure poverty

Interesting:

The case for marriage promotion begins with some perfectly real correlations. Across a variety of measures — household income, self-reported life satisfaction, childrearing outcomes — married couples seem to do better than pairs of singles (and much better than single parents), particularly in populations towards the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. So it is natural to imagine that, if somehow poor people could be persuaded to marry more, they too would enjoy those improvements in household income, life satisfaction, ...

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January 17th, 2014

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50 years of social change for women

Interesting:

Megan Mullally: I had a lot of boyfriends and a lot of flings. I think flings are great. That’s something women should investigate a little more thoroughly. The trick is, you have to not care. I was in my late 30s when I first started having successful flings and didn’t get emotionally attached to the guy. But you have to be at a point in your life when you’re not needy, when you’re not looking for a husband or a long-term ...

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January 17th, 2014

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The rising power of the far-right in Greece

Interesting:

Yanis Varoufakis: We are talking about the greatest diminution of human life prospects since the 1930′s during the Peacetime. It’s inescapable. Wherever you turn your eyes and ears towards, you see and hear signs of a country that has fallen into a hole. I can give you several rather sad examples.

You walk around Athens at night and you can’t fail to notice that there are several apartments that are not lit, but where people live ...

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January 16th, 2014

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What makes a great tutor?

Interesting:

Naturally, Lepper went to work building a team of researchers, and they ran studies and wrote papers on tutoring for the next decade.

All the research had the same basic plan. First, they would pick a topic in basic math. Say, fractions. They’d find kids in need of remedial tutoring in that topic and tutors with experience teaching it. They’d pre-test the kids for both math skills and motivation. The tutoring sessions would be videotaped. And they’d test the kids ...

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January 14th, 2014

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Girls get math

I was in Barnes and Noble and I saw this book. I wondered what would make a math book specific to girls so I opened it up and found that it was full of pep talks. I am curious if a similar approach would work for boys? Most boys are scared away from math because they assume it is too hard for them.

Source

January 12th, 2014

In Philosophy

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Impostor Syndrome in science

Interesting:

A person can have experiences that directly lead her to feel like an impostor, such as repeated remarks about her age, probing questions into her expertise despite a strong technical background, or jokes about a woman’s science capabilities. She can be reminded that she is no more than an object to some, by reading about studies showing women’s bodies are interpreted as objects but men’s as people. And a person can internalize these experiences and feel less competent, such ...

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January 12th, 2014

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Old Viking game

This was an interesting write up about an old Viking game.

Viking warriors storm into the torch-lit camp of a rival clan. Outnumbered, the ambushed Norsemen are far from their boats. Their one goal: flee to a nearby castle while keeping their king alive.

At first glance, Hnefatafl (prounounced “nef-ah-tah-fel”) might just look like a knock-off version of chess with Norse helms and impressive beards, but the game is at least 600 years older—already well-known by 400 A.D.—and is perhaps a ...

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January 11th, 2014

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What is wrong with Virginia Republicans?

Politicians doing stupid things is a fairly universal story, but this one is so extreme I had to link to it: Virginia Republican Wants to Outlaw Oral Sex Between Teenagers. How can anyone be this stupid?

You’d think that, after Ken Cuccinelli and his batshit insane “outlaw oral and anal sex” platform lost the governor’s race, conservatives would have realized that any enemy of BJs, etc. is an enemy of freedom. But, sigh, no — Virginia state legislator Thomas ...

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January 10th, 2014

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Head of government is not head of state

In France the head of government is not the head of state so he can argue that he has a right to privacy:

“It’s a real passion that has … turned their lives upside down and makes them take insane risks,” the magazine wrote.

The report in Closer, which angered many in Britain for publishing topless pictures the Duchess of Cambridge in 2012, sparked a furious rebuke from the president, who, however, failed to deny the liaison.

A source close to the president ...

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January 9th, 2014

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Sexual harassment on the Internet

Interesting:

“Ignore the barrage of violent threats and harassing messages that confront you online every day.” That’s what women are told. But these relentless messages are an assault on women’s careers, their psychological bandwidth, and their freedom to live online. We have been thinking about Internet harassment all wrong.

I was 12 hours into a summer vacation in Palm Springs when my phone hummed to life, buzzing twice next to me in the dark of my hotel room. I squinted at the ...

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January 9th, 2014

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When do we learn to remember?

Interesting:

Bauer and Larkina uncovered a paradox – at ages 5 to 7, the children remembered over 60 per cent of the events they’d chatted about at age 3. However, their recall for these events was immature in the sense of containing few evaluative comments and few mentions of time and place. In contrast, children aged 8 and 9 recalled fewer than 40 per cent of the events they’d discussed at age 3, but those memories they did recall were more ...

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January 9th, 2014

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Megan McArdle knows who she is

The most ironic book ever written has just been published. Megan McArdle has long embodied the sad fact that some people fail upwards: they screw up every job they get and then they are promoted. And now she has just written a book called The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success. At least she is, for once, writing about a subject she knows well.

Source

January 8th, 2014

In Philosophy

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Scandinavian culture respects women

Interesting:

“This year my colleague did something really bitchy to us: she got pregnant” says the guy sitting across the dinner table in my French New Year’s Eve 2014. I almost choked on my slice of camembert. I’ve been living in Norway for 4 years and never have I ever heard such negative comments associated with pregnancy. “She left for 3 months on maternity leave. I mean seriously! And then you wonder why employers don’t want to hire women in their ...

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January 8th, 2014

In Philosophy

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The oldest known vertebrate animal with a jaw

Interesting:

Scientists say they have discovered a fossil of the oldest known vertebrate animal with a jaw — a strange chimera of a fish that could unseat the shark as a representative of extremely “primitive” jawed fishes and turn our evolutionary understanding of humans’ ocean-dwelling ancestors on its head.

The new fossil described in the journal Nature, called Entelognathus primordialis, is a 419-million-year-old armored fish from the end of the Silurian period, right before the start of the Devonian, known as the ...

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January 8th, 2014

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Slow evolution in sharks

Interesting:

For the first time, researchers have fully sequenced the genome of a cartilaginous fish and the study could potentially give brand new information on the evolution of bony vertebrates.

To be published Thursday, the study examined an elephant shark genome, which was relatively small. The genome contained just shy of a billion DNA base pairs, whereas a human genome contains about three billion.

The study also marks the first time a cartilaginous fish, which include sharks, rays and skates, had its entire ...

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January 7th, 2014

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What drives wage differentials among the genders?

Interesting:

As women have increased their productivity enhancing characteristics and as they “look” more like men, the human capital part of the wage difference has been squeezed out. What remains is largely how firms reward individuals who differ in their desire for various amenities. These amenities are various aspects of workplace flexibility. Workplace flexibility is a complicated, multidimensional concept. The term includes the number of hours to be worked and also the need to work particular hours, to be “on call,” ...

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January 6th, 2014

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Why do women go to college and choose poor paying careers?

The convergence of college majors, between men and women, is most notable during the 1970s and ended in the mid 1980s. Changes in divorce law were among the driving forces for the changes in women’s behavior. Interesting:

Why do women today invest in a college education at much higher rates than men, whereas fifty years ago men graduated more frequently? And given their high college attendance rates today, why do women continue to select disproportionately into lower-paying majors? The main objective ...

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January 2nd, 2014

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A girl can wait and if she is attractive good things may happen to her

It is interesting to note how many brilliant men can write with great insight on the technical subjects which they have mastered, yet when it comes to the subject of women, the depth of their analysis is reduced to naive assumptions. So, for instance, via Hacker News I discovered this essay by John McCarthy.

I don’t see a date on this essay, but I am assuming it was written in the 1960s? It has many assumptions that sound 60sish.

This is true:

“A ...

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December 25th, 2013

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The axiom of choice

Interesting that this was controversial:

Informally put, the axiom of choice says that given any collection of bins, each containing at least one object, it is possible to make a selection of exactly one object from each bin. In many cases such a selection can be made without invoking the axiom of choice; this is in particular the case if the number of bins is finite, or if a selection rule is available: a distinguishing property that happens to hold ...

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December 3rd, 2013

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Edsger Dijkstra on the fear of radical novelties

This is truly outstanding. Edsger Dijkstra speech from 1988, “On the cruelty of really teaching computing science” needs to be more widely read.

The usual way in which we plan today for tomorrow is in yesterday’s vocabulary. We do so, because we try to get away with the concepts we are familiar with and that have acquired their meanings in our past experience. Of course, the words and the concepts don’t quite fit because our future differs from our past, ...

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November 29th, 2013

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Sex and hazing

I got a laugh out of this comment:

I have no hard numbers/data to back this up, but in my estimation the incidence of homosexuality in fraternities is much higher than in the male population at large.

Probably true.

Source

November 25th, 2013

In Philosophy

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More about texting changing English

Texting is changing the English language.

And the other day there was news of the new predicate “because”.

Say you find yourself limping to the finish of a wearing workday. You text your girlfriend: “I know we made a reservation for your bday tonight but wouldn’t it be more romantic if we ate in instead?” If she replies,

we could do that

Then you can ring up Papa John’s and order something special. But if she replies,

we could do that.

Then you ...

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November 20th, 2013

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The unchanging tone of race relations in the USA

Interesting:

An “outright Marxist!” That’s what Rafael Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz’s father, declared of President Obama on the campaign trail in April 2013. His accusation is common on the right. Google “Obama Marxist” and you will get about 4.95 million results. “Obama communist” yields 40 million. It’s a strange charge against a man who vigorously supported the bail-out of Wall Street banks as a Senator, and expanded it to other major firms as President. Yet ...

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November 20th, 2013

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Small innovations in English miss the big ones

Interesting, but more is needed. The thing I hate most about Indo-European languages are the need to emphasize whether something are singular or plural. Why not make everything plural? Why are these something so important that they need to be mandatory in every single sentence? If we defaulted to all plural, all the time, these would fade away, just like gender faded out of the language during the 1300s.

Let’s start with the dull stuff, because pragmatism.

The word “because,” in ...

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November 19th, 2013

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How does a frontier society have slavery?

I am confused by this:

“The land was thinly peopled by recent immigrants who could move again.”

If this is true, then how can this region have serfs, or slavery, or a nobility that easily dominates society? Why can’t people just run away, if they find their conditions difficult. Elsewhere I read that 50 years later the nobles began to emigrate further east, to Kuban, which was the new frontier. But why couldn’t the serfs run away in the same manner? It ...

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November 15th, 2013

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Humans can outrun anything

There is no animal on the planet that can match a humans ability to run long distances.

Four villagers in north-east Kenya have chased down and captured two cheetahs which were killing their goats.

The owner of the goats told the BBC that the cheetahs had been picking off his animals one by one, day by day.

The men waited until the hottest part of the day before launching the chase over a distance of four miles (6.4km).

The cheetahs got so ...

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November 14th, 2013

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Remembering World War I

I am impressed by this speech by the former Prime Minister, The Hon. P.J. Keating MP:

We do not know this Australian’s name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or ...

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November 14th, 2013

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You can not understand another person’s sorrow

My father died in 2007. I miss him very much and I think about him every day. This is very true:

A colleague who lost his teenage son due to a traffic accident 3 years ago, told us about the ‘black halo’ which remains above his head, and which only others who have lost a child are able to see. I do not doubt for a second that this is the case – that people who have not lost a ...

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November 14th, 2013

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Richard Cohen talks about a white man married to a black woman

Very strange. Richard Cohen says “Today’s GOP is not racist” but then he says “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children”. This is the year 2013. What does the word “racist” mean?

Iowa not only is a serious obstacle for Christie and other Republican moderates, it also suggests something more ominous: the Dixiecrats of old. Officially the ...

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November 7th, 2013

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Political factors for alcoholism

This is interesting, but potentially reverses cause and effect:

A further obstacle to AA’s growth in Russia is something more philosophical: At a basic level, its premise of sobriety through mutual support just doesn’t make sense to a lot of Russians. In the past, this has taken the form of anti-Western suspicion—“What are the Americans trying to get out of this?” is a question Moseeva used to hear regularly. But more fundamentally, the group-therapy dynamic collides with a skepticism about ...

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November 7th, 2013

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Russian nationalist nostalgia

Interesting:

Sergey had the old tsarist imperial flag hanging on his wall, the white-gold-black tricolour that nationalists have taken as their banner. ‘I believe Russia is a great empire that other powers want to tear away parts from. We need to restore our power, retake our lost lands,’ he would say. Then in the same breath: ‘I want a Russia for Russians, all these churki from the Caucasus and Central Asia need to go home.’ This has always been the paradox ...

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October 31st, 2013

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What a story is really about

Interesting:

There’s a short story by Tom Godwin, famous in science fiction circles, called “The Cold Equations.” It’s about the pilot of a spaceship carrying medicine to a remote planet. The ship has just enough fuel to arrive at that particular destination, where its cargo will save six lives. En route, the pilot discovers a stowaway, an adolescent girl, and knowing that her additional weight will make completing the trip impossible, the agonized man informs her that she will have to ...

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October 23rd, 2013

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Did Pericles influence Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address?

This I did not know:

“If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences…if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbour for doing what he likes…”[13] These lines ...

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October 20th, 2013

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Conformity in America

Interesting:

On coming to America I had the same hopes as have most European immigrants and the same disillusionment, though the latter affected me more keenly and more deeply. The immigrant without money and without connections is not permitted to cherish the comforting illusion that America is a benevolent uncle who assumes a tender and impartial guardianship of nephews and nieces. I soon learned that in a republic there are myriad ways by which the strong, the cunning, the rich can ...

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October 19th, 2013

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The fall of party bosses gave rise to the era of money politics

Interesting:

Through the next decade, reformers tried to get control over money. Though they had gotten rid of the bosses, getting money out of politics proved daunting. This put power in the hands of business, which by hook or crook, Citizens United or not, was going to pursue its interests through the political system. But in general its interests were fairly narrow and were not particularly ideological. Where before business gave to party bosses, it now donated to candidates and political ...

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October 17th, 2013

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Happy rats avoid drug addiction

Interesting:

We all learned this in DARE class. About the rats in a cage who can self-administer morphine who get addicted to the stuff, and then just hit that lever until they die. A seemingly keystone argument in the war against drugs. Professor Avram Goldstein, the creator of that study, has said: “A rat addicted to heroin is not rebelling against society, is not a victim of socioeconomic circumstances, is not a product of a dysfunctional family, and is not a ...

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October 16th, 2013

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We would be smarter if we forgot more

This is very clever:

Then tell me what’s so wonderful about having fifty sets of marriage and divorce laws?

In 1752, Great Britain and her colonies (some two centuries later than Catholic Europe) abandoned the Julian calendar and adopted the astronomically more cor rect Gregorian calendar (see Chapter 1). Nearly half a century later, Pike was still giving rules for solving com plex calendar-based problems for the Julian calendar as well as for the Gregorian. Isn’t it nice to have forgotten ...

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October 16th, 2013

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The Catholic injustice in Ireland

This is sad to read about:

These women where trapped in a Church run, state approved system of slave labor and sexual that continued until 1996. Woman were not paid, and their children, alleged to have been conceived during their time in the laundries, were taken from them and given up for adoption. While most of the more than 10,000 woman detailed in the 1,000 page report are now dead, buried in unmarked and forgotten graves, the children of these woman ...

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October 16th, 2013

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The limits of human knowing

On Hacker News, someone linked to the article about Two Cultures. In reply I wrote:

Much has been written about this article. For instance: —————-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/5273453/Fifty-years-on…

Such was the intensity of debate that it might be supposed that these were age-old themes: but in fact, the idea of separating academic disciplines into groups known as science and humanities was no older than the 19th century. The term “scientist” was only coined in 1833, and it was not until 1882 that another Rede Lecturer, ...

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October 16th, 2013

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Can humans ever be rational?

Interesting:

McRaney spends several thousand words explaining the “backfire effect,” which he nicely summarized in one sentence: “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

As I detailed in a recent column, the backfire effect makes it difficult for the press to effectively debunk misinformation. We present facts and evidence, and it often does nothing to change people’s minds. In fact, it can make people dig in even more. Humans also engage in motivated reasoning, a tendency ...

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October 16th, 2013

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“Equality of opportunity” echoes another famous phrase in American politics, “separate but equal”

Interesting:

But if you are a utilitarian, the case for social mobility is incoherent even on theoretical grounds. Under ordinary assumptions of diminishing marginal utility and a social welfare function that aggregates individual utilities, for any distribution of wealth, overall welfare is maximized when each individual knows her place with perfect certainty from the start. A person who expects to land on the bottom of the distribution might prefer that some uncertainty be added into the mix, but that benefit will ...

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October 15th, 2013

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Humans are not robots

Interesting:

Part of John Stuart Mill’s argument for freedom urges us to strive to elevate ourselves far above the level of these lesser robots. He never uses the word “robot,” since that word only entered the English language in 1923, in the English translation of a 1920 Czech play by Karel Capek. But John did use the word “automaton,” in exactly the sense I just defined. Here is what he has to say in On Liberty, chapter III, “Of Individuality, as ...

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October 15th, 2013

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Assume a can opener

Economics is a false science, full of glib assumptions, whereas physics is a real science, based on hard facts. Or maybe that is false. Maybe people explaining interesting engineering or physics puzzles engage in simplifying assumptions just as much as economists do?

I decided to idealize the problem like this: the slinky is an ideal spring with mass distributed uniformly throughout. It is also a spring that can pass through itself. These assumptions make analyzing the problem easier.

Assume a can ...

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October 9th, 2013

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No man is clever enough to know all the evil he does

So true.

Source

October 7th, 2013

In Philosophy

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When can intuition succeed?

Interesting:

How big is this upper bound? Mathematicians have often made errors in proofs. But it’s rarer for ideas to be accepted for a long time and then rejected. But we can divide errors into 2 basic cases corresponding to type I and type II errors: Mistakes where the theorem is still true, but the proof was incorrect (type I) Mistakes where the theorem was false, and the proof was also necessarily incorrect (type II) Before someone comes up with a final answer, ...

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October 4th, 2013

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Acid in the oceans is a great danger

Interesting:

In the starkest warning yet of the threat to ocean health, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said: “This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun.” It published its findings in the State of the Oceans report, collated every two years from global monitoring and other research studies.

Alex Rogers, professor ...

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September 30th, 2013

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Old male writers write bad sex scenes

This is a funny parody:

Even I am not immune to the trend. You see, I’ve written a Fond Memories of Vagina of my own. I don’t have a lot of experience having sex with women, but I do know tech support. That’s all sex is, right? Fluid mechanics, carnal physics, the movement of hot bodies through sexy space. In closing, I give you a sex scene from my erectnological thriller, The Webmaster:

He inserted his male attachment into the female adapter, ...

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September 26th, 2013

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Genius or LSD?

I seem to recall some friend of mine tripping on acid one time and saying stuff that sort of sounded like this:

As a by-product of this same view, I received a telephone call one day at the graduate college at Princeton from Professor Wheeler, in which he said, “Feynman, I know why all electrons have the same charge and the same mass” “Why?” “Because, they are all the same electron!” And, then he explained on the telephone, “suppose that the ...

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September 22nd, 2013

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Education in the USA is strangely focused on sports

Interesting:

“I’ve been in hundreds of classrooms,” says Singleton, who has spent 15 years as a principal and helped turn around other struggling schools. “This was the worst I’ve seen in my career. The kids were in control. The language was filthy. The teachers were not prepared.” By suspending sports, Singleton realized, he could save $150,000 in one year. A third of this amount was being paid to teachers as coaching stipends, on top of the smaller costs: $27,000 for ...

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September 19th, 2013

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Gaofen dineng: high scores but low ability

Gaofen dineng is a good description of Obama administration, full of high IQ people who are well education and who make catastrophically bad decisions.

In the USA there has been a move to inflict more school work on children. There is a feeling that when children play, time is being wasted. If the lack of play leads to less creative thinking, then surely we are creating a future catastrophe, raising a generation whose thinking is limited and rigid?

This is ...

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September 15th, 2013

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The usual visual grammar was in place

Russel Brand sounds surprisingly intelligent:

It must have been a while since I’ve attended a fancy, glitzy event, because as soon as I got to the GQ awards I felt like something was up. The usual visual grammar was in place – a carpet in the street, people in paddocks awaiting a brush with something glamorous, blokes with earpieces, birds in frocks of colliding colours that if sighted in nature would indicate the presence of poison. I’m not trying to pass ...

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September 15th, 2013

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Police shoot up neighborhood

In the good old days, there was the rule that the safety of bystanders mattered more than anything. Nowadays neighborhoods exist for target practice.

NEW YORK (AP) – Two police officers fired on a man who was acting erratically and dodging cars on a busy Manhattan street Saturday night, wounding two bystanders and sending people running for cover, authorities said. Police said the man made movements suggesting he had a weapon, though he turned out to be unarmed. The officers’ ...

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September 13th, 2013

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Does social media re-invent the old forces of conformity?

Very well said. I am beginning to think the era of outrage is a permanent one.

And that’s just in the last few months. Going back further one can find the same story playing out over and over where an unpopular comment draws popular outrage, leading the offender’s employer to (quite rationally) seek to disassociate itself as quickly as possible.

What’s odd about these sorts of incidents is that, while a single offhand comment can ruin a person’s career, professional pundits ...

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September 11th, 2013

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Sex crimes in Asia

These numbers are horrifying if true:

The survey questioned 10,000 men from six different Asian countries. In order to foster honest responses, participants were able to register their answers on hand held computers after researchers left them alone in a room. And of course, the survey didn’t just come out and ask men “Hey, do any cool rapes lately?”; it asked questions about whether the men had ever had sex with a woman even though they knew she didn’t want to ...

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September 10th, 2013

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Girl treated badly in high school programming class

This sounds awful:

My daughter traveled with me to DrupalCon in Denver for “spring break”, attended the expo at OSCON 2012, and even attended and watched me moderate a panel at the first Women in Advanced Computing (WiAC ’12) conference at USENIX Federated Conferences Week. Thanks to my career, my daughter’s Facebook friends list includes Linux conference organizers, an ARM developer and Linux kernel contributor, open source advocates, and other tech journalists. My daughter is bright, confident, independent, tech saavy, and ...

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August 26th, 2013

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The government controls the Internet

The utopian era on the Internet is over. I like this essay because it attacks the innocence that created that earlier utopianism. The government always had the power to control the Internet, and as the Internet has become more important to society, the government caught up and brought the Wild West under control.

The technocracy, hoisted by its own petard – out-technocracied! We’ve been lionizing the Internet full-time for two decades (with good reason, of course) while clucking at the ...

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August 24th, 2013

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Loneliness Is Deadly

Interesting:

Feeling uncertain, I began to research loneliness and came across several alarming recent studies. Loneliness is not just making us sick, it is killing us. Loneliness is a serious health risk. Studies of elderly people and social isolation concluded that those without adequate social interaction were twice as likely to die prematurely. The increased mortality risk is comparable to that from smoking. And loneliness is about twice as dangerous as obesity.

Social isolation impairs immune function and boosts inflammation, which can lead ...

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August 24th, 2013

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Why are the Democrats vispy?

Interesting:

For the purposes of argument, I will accept Rao’s assessment of the structures of the two parties. The question then arises: Why? After all, basic stereotypes would suggest that Republicans, not Democrats, would be the stodgy ones. One story is that the Democrats are working on “maintaining the ’90s status-quo” (in Rao’s words). But I think it goes back earlier than that. After all, Reagan was an extremist for his time, whereas Clinton was always a moderate.

My theory (which maybe ...

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August 22nd, 2013

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The TSA pointlessly harasses people

This story describes agents of the government acting with a discretion that can not be reconciled with the rule of law:

I got in line for security at the airport and handed the agent my ID. Another agent came over and handed me a paper slip, which he said was being used to track the length of the security lines. He said, “just hand this to someone when your stuff goes through the x-ray machines, and we’ll know how long you ...

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August 22nd, 2013

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The problems with Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology starts with the premise that human behavior is determined by human evolution — supposedly everything we do should increase our chances of reproducing our genes. This is a reasonable hypothesis to start with, but EvPysch then fails to explain the edge cases:

1.) Why are some people gay? How does that increase reproduction of their genes?

2.) Why do some people adopt other people’s children? How does that increase reproduction of the adoptive parent’s genes?

3.) Why do some people choose ...

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August 20th, 2013

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Groklaw closes down over concerns of NSA spying

This is extremely sad:

Privacy is vital to being human, which is why one of the worst punishments there is is total surveillance:

One way of beginning to understand privacy is by looking at what happens to people in extreme situations where it is absent. Recalling his time in Auschwitz, Primo Levi observed that “solitude in a Camp is more precious and rare than bread.” Solitude is one state of privacy, and even amidst the overwhelming death, starvation, and horror of the ...

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August 15th, 2013

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Life as a wage slave grinds you up

Interesting:

In 1969, publisher John Martin offered to pay Charles Bukowski $100 each and every month for the rest of his life, on one condition: that he quit his job at the post office and become a writer. 49-year-old Bukowski did just that, and in 1971 his first novel, Post Office, was published by Martin’s Black Sparrow Press.

15 years later, Bukowski wrote the following letter to Martin and spoke of his joy at having escaped full time employment.

(Source: Reach for the ...

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August 9th, 2013

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Does the USA have a constitutional obligation to protect journalism?

I am worried that Congress can simply define “journalism” however it likes, such that all constitutional protections of a free press are disposed of.

But onto the “who’s really a journalist” argument. Some elected officials feel the language in the bill isn’t specific enough. One in particular, Dianne Feinstein, repeated the stupid but inevitable phrase that always accompanies discussions related to shield laws: Feinstein suggested that the definition comprise only journalists who make salaries, saying it should be applied just to ...

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August 9th, 2013

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Muriel’s Wedding is the anti-romcom

I don’t usually like movies in the “Rom-Com” genre, but friends told me that Muriel’s Wedding was good, so I got it from Netflix. This movie is not really a rom-com, it’s more a sober examination of longing and desperation. Muriel hates herself and lies to everyone, even her best friend. She lies to create the illusion that she is the person she wants to be. Her father is a politician and her father also lies a great deal. Her ...

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August 9th, 2013

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Boredom at work

Interesting:

The work was interesting at first. We coded until the sun came up, and pushed the limits of our abilities. We solved hard problems and learned tons. We had passionate discussions on the direction of the company and how to get there. There were ups and downs, fulfilling work and crap work, but it was always interesting.

Eventually, those discussions stopped. Shots were called in private meetings and passed down. Ideas from the rest of the org chart didn’t surface ...

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August 9th, 2013

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Women regret quitting their careers

Interesting:

One woman featured in the Times story in 2003 — who was also interviewed for 60 Minutes — is now divorced from her primary-earning husband and is working part time to support herself while she lives in an apartment that looks out onto a parking lot. Others felt bored and unfulfilled with their full-time momhood and gradually threw themselves into volunteering (which is exactly like working except you don’t earn money). One grew to resent her husband’s expectation that she ...

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August 5th, 2013

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The earth is warming back to where it was 50 million years ago

My sense is that, to the extent that global warming is harmful, it is harmful because of the speed at which it is happening. In the past, the Earth was much warmer. Given time, the flora and fauna of Earth can adapt. But if the warming happens in 1,000 years, then the flora and fauna have no chance to adapt.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, paleobiologist Richard Norris and colleagues show that the ancient greenhouse world had few ...

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August 4th, 2013

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Hugo Schwyzer tried to murder one of his girlfriends

Many years ago, when the blogosphere was a much smaller place, Hugo Schwyzer responded to something I wrote about relationships, and he accused me of not understanding the bliss of community and monogamous, loving relationships. I’ve always regarded the guy as extremely strange, like most of what he wrote was an attempt to convince himself, rather than the rest of the world. I’m reminded of how Hemingway often wrote about how great monogamy was, even as he worked his way ...

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August 3rd, 2013

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Brad Delong is shockingly stupid where Larry Summers is concerned

For me, this ends my willingness to read Brad Delong. I became aware of him back in 1996 when we both participated in the discussions on The Left Business Observer run by Doug Henwood. Some people on that list accused him of being a right-winger, but when Delong got all huffy and quit because someone said something mean, I think Henwood summed it up pretty well by saying “Delong is an elite social democrat.” When Delong first got a weblog ...

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August 2nd, 2013

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The Strange Kathy Sierra Saga

Online threats seem very common. We should all work against online threats, but we should all remember they are very common. I have never understood why the Kathy Sierra incident was seen as unique and unusual. I suppose she did a good job of advertising it, as she had an extremely popular blog:

I have been trying to determine how to continue talking about the Kathy Sierra incident without whipping a dead horse and without adding to an already ...

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August 2nd, 2013

In Philosophy

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Online dating in 1880

Interesting:

In the Victorian era, telegraph operators were the first people to live with virtual reality.

Here’s how the 1880 novel Wired Love: A Romance of Dots and Dashes — the story of Nattie Rogers, a young telegraph operator — begins:

Miss Nattie Rogers, telegraph operator, lived, as it were, in two worlds. The one her office, dingy and curtailed as to proportions, but from whence she could wander away through the medium of that slender telegraph wire, on a sort of electric ...

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July 27th, 2013

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Who offers mercy

I think its safe to say that the Nazi’s never offered such compassionate mercy:

Somehow Schmeling rose on the count of nine, and Baer went in for the finish. Weary and defenseless, the German dropped his gloves and swayed slowly on his heels. Baer could have thrown another right and knocked Schmeling out. Instead he turned pleadingly toward referee Arthur Donovan to stop the fight. Baer didn’t want to kill Schmeling, just embarrass the Nazis. Donovan stepped between the two ...

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July 10th, 2013

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It is a rare group that does not establish some informal networks of communication through the friends that are made in it

I’m reading Jo Freeman again and again being impressed with how exactly correct she got everything back in 1971.

During the years in which the women’s liberation movement has been taking shape, a great emphasis has been placed on what are called leaderless, structureless groups as the main — if not sole — organizational form of the movement. The source of this idea was a natural reaction against the over-structured society in which most of us found ourselves, and the ...

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July 5th, 2013

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Dr. Curran said there was no apparent danger to nonhomosexuals from contagion

Kind of epic how wrong Dr. Curran was, yes?

The cause of the outbreak is unknown, and there is as yet no evidence of contagion. But the doctors who have made the diagnoses, mostly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area, are alerting other physicians who treat large numbers of homosexual men to the problem in an effort to help identify more cases and to reduce the delay in offering chemotherapy treatment.

The sudden appearance of the cancer, called ...

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July 4th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Katy Perry is Abercrombie & Fitch turned into music

Have you ever watched a Katy Perry video? I think if Abercrombie & Fitch was a music group, instead of a clothing retailer, then Katy Perry is what Abercrombie & Fitch would sound like. I don’t think she believes in anything she sings, I have the sense she’s some kind genius marketer who writes songs that are suppose to trigger the various fantasies that a 15 year old white girl, who is growing up in a very wealthy, all white ...

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July 3rd, 2013

In Philosophy

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Profile pictures with spouse and children?

I see a whole lot of profile pictures that show a person with their spouse or child.

Source

June 17th, 2013

In Philosophy

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82 year old Catholic nun protests nuclear power so she must be a terrorist

Interesting:

On Thursday August 2, Rice, Boertje-Obed, and Walli appeared in court for a pretrial bail hearing. The government asked that all three be detained. One prosecutor called them a potential “danger to the community” and asked that all three be kept in jail until their trial. The US Magistrate allowed them to be released.

Sr. Megan Rice walked out of the jail and promptly admitted to gathered media that the three had indeed gone onto the property and ...

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June 17th, 2013

In Philosophy

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The wealth of the world now concentrates into fewer cities

Interesting:

Two mournful friends dropped by our flat in Paris last Sunday. They are a well-paid couple from the caste known in Paris as “bobos”: people with bourgeois incomes and bohemian tastes. In the popular narrative, bobos have invaded Paris, driving out pure bohemians and the working class. But my bobo friends had a new story: they themselves were being driven out of Paris. To get enough space for their kids, they were leaving for the suburbs. When they’d told the ...

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June 13th, 2013

In Philosophy

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You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide

by danah boyd:

People often feel immune from state surveillance because they’ve done nothing wrong. This rhetoric is perpetuated on American TV. And yet the same media who tells them they have nothing to fear will turn on them if they happen to be in close contact with someone who is of interest to – or if they themselves are the subject of – state interest. And it’s not just about now, but it’s about always.

And here’s where the implications ...

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May 10th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Depression is more than sadness

This is great.

And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something — it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

It would be like having a bunch ...

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May 8th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Category bias in Wikipedia

Is Wikipedia objective?

I recall taking a class on journalism and we argued about whether or not true objectivity could ever exist. Some people pointed out that it was possible to write an article that consisted only of factual statements, and therefore such an article proved that objectivity was possible.

There were several counter-arguments: what about the factual statements that were not included? You could factually say “The nation of x invaded the nation of y and slaughtered 10,000 innocents.” That makes ...

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May 1st, 2013

In Philosophy

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Why President Obama limits decisions

I think this is the only way to stay sane when you are in a fast-changing environment. Develop sane defaults and stick to them. You can not re-think every decision every day. No one has that kind of omni-directional brain power.

After reading this article in Vanity Fair on Obama, there was one piece that stuck out to me. As the author interviewed the president, he said “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down ...

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April 26th, 2013

In Philosophy

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George W Bush was a genius — who cares?

What is the point of intelligence? Why should anyone want to be intelligent? Is there anything useful in intelligence? I am confused by an essay that argues that George W Bush was very intelligent. If he was, then we can conclude that intelligence is not important in a leader, and there must be some other quality that we associate with great leaders.

For more than six years it was my job to help educate President Bush about complex economic policy ...

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April 25th, 2013

In Business, Philosophy

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Do intellectuals have any influence?

Paul Krugman writes:

But will any of this make a difference? The story of the past three years, after all, is not that Alesina and Ardagna used a bad measure of fiscal policy, or that Reinhart and Rogoff mishandled their data. It is that important people’s will to believe trumped the already ample evidence that austerity would be a terrible mistake; A-A and R-R were just riders on the wave.

The cynic in me therefore says that after a brief period of ...

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April 23rd, 2013

In Philosophy

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Why does danah boyd face more criticism than Paul Krugman when writing about personal topics?

Nothing in this post should be read as a criticism of either Paul Krugman or danah boyd. They are both writers that I admire. They both maintain blogs that I have been following for 7 or 8 years. They are both politically of the left, progressive and committed to humane values. And they both sometimes write informally academic things on their blogs, and other times personal things on their blogs. And I have the impression that danah boyd faces much ...

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April 21st, 2013

In Philosophy

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Sex and technology

Yet another reminder of how much sex and technology now overlap:

Source

April 17th, 2013

In Philosophy

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No one can pay attention to everyone

Therefore we must screen who we listen to. I would like a service that let me white list what other blogs could post pingbacks to my blog. I used to think that comments were very important on a blog, but now I feel that ownership must be taken for any words spoken, and therefore it would be better if everyone had their own blog and could simply ping each other.

This is good:

When was the last time you stopped scrolling ...

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April 9th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile

I have a new motto

Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile

Life is short, [the] craft long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult.

Source

April 8th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Gender ignorance at a tech conference

Interesting

I’m not a lady easily upset by the silly things that happen in male-dominated cultures. When I went on stage to speak at DEFCON 19 a series of events escalated to a portion of the audience shouting for me to take my shirt off. While I was a little sad that conference security had no idea how to de-escalate that (I sure hope they teach them now) and I had to do it myself, it isn’t fair to hold a ...

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April 5th, 2013

In Philosophy

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The street kids of San Francisco

Interesting:

Whenever Haight Street tourists or bar hoppers crowd the neighborhood, street kids panhandle (hold a palm out for money – resembling a pan handle) and spange (“Spare change?”). An average day of spanging brings in about $40. But with some luck and creative tactics (jumping out of trash cans to scare a group of teenagers, or telling tourists how to take the perfect picture of the Haight and Ashbury street signs), a day’s haul can break into triple digits.

This struck ...

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March 18th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Heart disease was common in the ancient past

Interesting:

There are many fallacies that undergird alternative medicine, which evolved into “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and for which the preferred term among its advocates is now “integrative medicine,” meant to imply the “best of both worlds.” If I had to pick one fallacy that rules above all among proponents of CAM/IM, it would have to be either the naturalistic fallacy (i.e., that if it’s natural—whatever that means—it must be better) or the fallacy of antiquity (i.e., that if it’s ...

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February 19th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Where does this man live?

Look at the screen shot. See the bit about cancer? Isn’t it sad that you can guess with great confidence what nation this man’s brother lives in? Even aside from the FMLA comment, there are not many nations where the lack of health insurance is so much of an issue.

Source

February 18th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Pre-published peer review is bad for science

Peer review imposes costs on everyone in the scientific process, but it offers no benefits

So pre-publication peer-review is not getting the job done as a filter. What about its role in improving papers that do get published? This does happen, for sure; but speaking as a veteran of 30 submissions, my experience has been that no more than half of my reviews have had anything constructive to suggest at all, and most of those that have improved my manuscripts have ...

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February 10th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Female heads of state and the perception of golden ages

Shakespeare had Elizabeth. Georgia had Tamar. I find it curious that most societies despise the idea of a female head of government, but a female head of state is different: the memories of such an era are often nostalgic and remembered as a golden age.

Source

February 8th, 2013

In Philosophy

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The concept of neighborhood barely exists in the USA

Interesting:

After my last blog post about German children having more everyday freedom than their English peers, Andrea – a German-born woman who now lives in the USA – got in touch to leave a comment. She had some revealing things to say about the differences between her home and adopted countries, and has agreed to let me share them more prominently. She paints a depressing picture of car-dependence and isolation: a stark comparison with her experiences in Germany. Here is ...

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February 6th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Women gamers streaming

I really, really wish it was possible to know the country of origin of the commenters who comment about women’s activities online. I am very curious if there are some nations that produce a disproportionate number of aggressive trolls. I assume some nations (Sweden?) produce proportionally less trolls than other nations (Ukraine? India?), but I am left guessing.

Here is a bit of the culture trolling that surrounds women gamers who stream their activities:

Vivyan Andrew, a 29 year old ...

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January 21st, 2013

In Philosophy

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Past IQ 120, creativity is more important than IQ

This is interesting:

t’s like basketball: once someone is tall enough, then we start to care about other things, like speed, agility, ballhandling skills and aim.

Bringing together people with the highest IQs and thinking that they will be the most successful group is the same as gather the highest basketball players and say they are the best team. The relationship between success and IQ works only up to a point. Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional ...

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January 21st, 2013

In Philosophy

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Burn the witches

This is a good point. Arthur C Clarke wrote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Therefore those who create advanced technology are witches. And sometimes our society still feels the need to burn the witch.

The quote from ACK is of course that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Back in the day magic was (to my uneducated understanding) largely chemistry, slight of hand and showmanship.

Magic led to both fear and respect. Witches and wizards feature ...

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January 20th, 2013

In Philosophy

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The emotional impact of grades on students

Interesting:

First, we must expand the criteria by which we evaluate the quality of our assessments at all levels and in all contexts. Traditionally, we have judged quality in terms of the attributes of the resulting scores; these scores must lead to valid and reliable inferences about student achievement. As a result, schools have lavished attention on characteristics of the instruments that produce such scores. In the future, however, we must recognize that assessment is about far more than the test ...

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January 19th, 2013

In Philosophy

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If you can not pay your bills, then you have no independence

The numbers here surprise me. South Carolina gets the majority of its money from the Federal government, and then it complains that the Federal government is too big. South Carolina could refuse to take the money, and then the Federal government would need $8 billion less. A teenager who gets an allowance from the their parents, but then complains about parental tyranny, is an immature brat, but that is exactly what South Carolina is doing: it is dependent on Federal ...

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January 14th, 2013

In Philosophy

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The news is bad for you

When Aaron Swartz was 20 years old, he wrote about why he hated the news:

You’ll often hear TV critics say that CNN’s up-to-the-minute reporting is absurd. Instead of saying, “We have unconfirmed reports that—This just in! We now have confirmed reports that those unconfirmed reports have been denied. No, wait! There’s a new report denying the confirmation of the denial of the unconfirmed report.” and giving viewers whiplash, they suggest that the reporters simply wait until a story is confirmed ...

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January 12th, 2013

In Philosophy

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More dirt on Dave Winer

I love any story that bashes Dave Winer. I’ve posted dozens of these on my blog (and other blogs). Here is another one that I just stumbled across:

As a 14-year-old, Swartz worked with Dave Winer and other Weblog technology pioneers to co-author the RSS 1.0 specification. The experience so scarred Winer that he wrote a blog posting (I can’t find it now) saying that he was not going to talk to Aaron anymore. This led me to remark to a ...

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January 9th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Selfish

Is it necessary to say “I am selfish” when what you actually mean is “I enjoy my job”?

“I once thought that by now I’d have lots of children, but actually I’m really enjoying being able to go from point A to point B and the only worry I have is have my dogs been walked,” the American Idol runner-up says. “I’m selfish right now, but that’s how and where I should be. The thing is, work is the thing ...

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January 4th, 2013

In Philosophy

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Why do teens bully?

Interesting. This guy wrote a hateful screed, way back in 1987, in which he asked some of his classmates to commit suicide, and he used the word “nigger” to describe several of his African-American classmates. He goes back and tries to figure out why he was so hateful. He also calls up the people he insulted and he asks them what they remember of the incident.

Holly Winslow (not her real name) wasn’t pleased at all. She was in Steve ...

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January 4th, 2013

In Philosophy

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How to support 9.5 billion people in the world 2050?

An interesting argument in favor of genetically modified food:

The second example comes from China, where Greenpeace managed to trigger a national media panic by claiming that two dozen children had been used as human guinea pigs in a trial of GM golden rice. They gave no consideration to the fact that this rice is healthier, and could save thousands of children from vitamin A deficiency-related blindness and death each year.

What happened was that the three Chinese scientists named in the ...

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December 23rd, 2012

In Philosophy

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Why privacy? Because knowledge is power

Some good comments about why privacy is important:

The ability to gleam private details about people is having some power over them. The entire modern theory of government rests on limiting and dividing up the power of those in power. With mass surveillance, that balance is broken. Not only do we have private details on individuals, that knowledge is held by a small and unaccountable elite, protected by state secrets.

Even if you live completely lawfully and morally and truly have nothing ...

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December 21st, 2012

In Philosophy

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The perfect woman

Ideals about feminine beauty have changed a lot of the last 100 years..

the old newspaper clippings themselves are delightful; headlines include “BEEFSTEAK HER MAINSTAY” (caps necessary!) and “Is Very Strong, Weighs 171 Pounds, and is 5 Feet 7 Inches Tall — Means to Grow Vegetables.”

Some fun facts about Elsie, who did not have a “single physical defect”:

She was an “ardent suffragette.” “She says she has never been ill and doesn’t know what fear is.” !!!!! “The girls at Safe College, she ...

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December 21st, 2012

In Philosophy

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Getting things done is not productive

Interesting:

Creating real value requires deep work, which is a fundamentally different activity than knocking off organizational tasks.

Deep work cannot be reduced to clear next actions. It is, instead, a philosophy that must be cultivated. If you read Robert Greene’s Mastery, for example, you’ll encounter story after story of remarkable people who didn’t carefully organize tasks, but instead marshaled their energy toward the obsessive (and often messy) pursuit of something new.

As a graduate student, I didn’t need better lists of next ...

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December 8th, 2012

In Philosophy

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The transformation of the conflict in the MidEast

This is a fantastic post that brings together some old images, video clips and background research to offer a theory about how the conflict in the MidEast has changed over the last 60 years.

Although Nasser’s dream had failed – and he died in 1970 – the PLO and their fighters had inherited his progressive world view. Many of the groups in the PLO were left wing revolutionaries and they believed that they were not only fighting to get rid ...

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December 8th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Math notation is out of date

gnaritas writes some very insightful stuff about math notation:

Which is often the problem, it looks specific, but it really isn’t; it’s full of implicit assumptions about what the reader should know. It’s not executable, because it’s a language designed for being written by hand rather than executed by a computer.

However, the teaching of math would greatly benefit from an explicit executable form that makes no assumptions, i.e. a programming language. Gerry Sussman makes this case, he’s pretty convincing.

…I heard ...

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December 8th, 2012

In Philosophy

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The smart feel it most: the temptation to overreach

Interesting:

When I decided on a scientific career, one of the things that appealed to me about science was the modesty of its practitioners. The typical scientist seemed to be a person who knew one small corner of the natural world and knew it very well, better than most other human beings living and better even than most who had ever lived. But outside of their circumscribed areas of expertise, scientists would hesitate to express an authoritative opinion. This attitude ...

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December 3rd, 2012

In Philosophy

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How should we organize science?

I am reading about the invention of the barometer on Wikipedia. One thing that strikes me is the accidental way that information traveled in those ways:

Galileo’s ideas reached Rome in December 1638 in his Discorsi. Raffaele Magiotti and Gasparo Berti were excited by these ideas, and decided to seek a better way to attempt to produce a vacuum than with a siphon…

…In 1646, Blaise Pascal along with Pierre Petit, had repeated and perfected Torricelli’s experiment after hearing about it ...

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December 1st, 2012

In Business, Philosophy

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A sad time at Kachingle

Very sad. I was working part-time at Kachingle for a month. They have decided to not pay me for the work I did in October. I notice they have not updated their App.net account since I left. The last post is the one that I posted (see screenshots below). I find that surprising, since while I was there, the only interest they got from app developers (about using the Kachingle app store) was the handful of responses that I got ...

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November 10th, 2012

In Business, Philosophy

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Popping pills, drinking wine

Things have changed. Here is an old video of how things used to work: a journalist drinking wine and popping pills before going on air. What a different corporate culture that must have been!

Source

November 9th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Things I did not know about childbirth

I find this surprising:

On Sept. 12, Lima gave birth to her second child and exactly eight weeks later to the day, the stunning mom walked the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show wearing nothing more than a bra and underwear.

Lima’s post-baby body transformation awed some, but her trainer insists she is just like any other mom. Well, sort of.

“Adriana’s goal is the same as every healthy woman’s, return to pre-baby shape. She sets the bar high,” Lima’s trainer, Michael Olajide Jr., told ...

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November 8th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Subtle discrimination

There math problems were used in the Soviet Union in at attempt to keep Jews out of the math department at prestigious universities.

Source

November 5th, 2012

In Philosophy

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How to ruin someone’s confidence in tech

An interesting post by Tess Rinearson. Arrogance and contempt for others: 2 great ways to keep people out of tech.

It’s easy to dismiss technical entitlement. People often cite social ineptitude as a reason for unpleasant behavior in tech. But, frankly, I’m tired of that excuse. The fact is, the behavior that comes from technical entitlement is poisonous. It can really ruin someone’s introduction to computer science.

Let me frame it this way: I know logically that I’m pretty good. But I ...

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November 1st, 2012

In Philosophy

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How to build a reputation

Taryn East has a great post up about building an IT reputation. She states the problem like this:

Just rocking up with a bright new CS degree is generally not going to cut it for you. You’ll just have shown up at the door along with the other thousands of new CS graduates in your city this year. So what can you do to stand out from the crowd? To prove that you are, in fact, worth being in demand?

And ...

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October 28th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Troubled teen?

These parents were worried that their 16 year old son was suicidal and a danger to himself. They called the police. They were hoping 1 car would show up and help them talk to their kid. Instead, a whole army of police showed up and a sniper shot the kid — the worst possible outcome was achieved by calling the police.

In the minutes prior to his death, Andrew asked the negotiator he was speaking with to put his father ...

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October 17th, 2012

In Philosophy

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A virus inside of a virus

Very terrible things get into our eyes:

In July of last year, researchers in France described a rather disturbing example of what could happen if you’re not careful about cleaning your contact lenses. A 17-year-old patient had been wearing monthly lenses well past their expiration date, and rinsing them with a cleaning solution she’d diluted with tap water. The end result was an eye infection. Luckily, a bit of care managed to clear it up.

In the meantime, the people who treated ...

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October 15th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Nothing sexist

Kathy Sierra never saw a single incident of sexism during her career, until:

But… But… But… then THIS happened:

I was given a diagnosis of being “on the spectrum*. And in one shocking moment, I reviewed my entire history through a new (more accurate) lens and realized that I was living in a slightly out-of -phase world. A world where I wouldn’t – couldn’t – recognize what was all around me. Asperger’s – in my one, personal, case (the only one I ...

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September 30th, 2012

In Philosophy

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I can not say anything on Facebook

I have deleted everyone on Facebook was is not a current relationship of mine. Friends from high school, who I have not seen in 20 years, are all gone now, all de-friended. Ex-boyfriends of female friends, and ex-girlfriends of my male friends, are all gone now. I’ve managed to get my list of “friends” down to 110 people. This is family, current friends, people I work with, plus a few semi-current friends, who I’ve only seen once in the last ...

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September 24th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Gender bias in science

Identical resumes were given to researchers, the only difference being that sometimes the person represented by the resume was sometimes given a male name, sometimes a female name. The researchers then rated the resumes, giving worse results to the same resume, if it had a female name attached, rather than a male name.

1) Both male and female scientists were equally guilty of committing the gender bias. Yes – women can behave in ways that are sexist, too. Women need ...

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September 23rd, 2012

In Philosophy

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Who am I without sleep?

It is terrifying how much I change without sleep. Some sleep deprivation is good for me: when I get a lot of sleep, I become hyper creative, to the point where I daydream too much and don’t work enough. Mild sleep deprivation cuts back on the daydreaming. And if I go one night with 3 hours of sleep or less I tend to get one day where I am strangely sharp and lucid. But if I go 2 nights like ...

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September 12th, 2012

In Philosophy

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When will you die?

Interesting:

But what do these numbers actually mean? You might guess from the first that someone born in the United States in 2009 could be expected to live about 78.5 years. This is not the case! It actually measures how long someone would be expected to live if every year of their life was spent in 2009. In other words, there is no accounting for progress that decreases mortality rates. And that’s on purpose. It is what is known as a ...

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September 11th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Editors are parasites

On community sites, the folks who like to edit other people’s work tend to be the kinds of people who prefer to manage other people rather than do work. When there is no filter on who becomes an editor, the problem can sink a community.

I was a frequent contributor to StackOverflow [2] but have largely stopped for a number of reasons, the most important of which is I got a new job that took up much more of my time. But ...

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September 10th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Mental traps that afflict the ambitious

Back in 2008 I thought Paul Krugman was insane. The USA was facing a crisis caused by too much debt, and Krugman said the answer to this was to issue more debt. The argument was counter-intuitive, to an extreme degree. However, it wasn’t the first time Krugman had said something crazy. In 1994 he had said the growth of the “4 Tigers” in Asia would have to end soon, and in 1997 he was proven right. Given the blazing speed ...

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September 9th, 2012

In Philosophy

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How to prove slander correct

If your daughter says you are selfish, and you sue her in court for having said that, then you have proved her case. This is truly a case that can not be won.

The Madisons say they’re totally the best parents ever, — loving, supportive, you know, all the good adjectives that parents are supposed to have hardwired into their behavior — which is part of the reason they’re taking their daughter to court, to prove how supportive they are. ...

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September 6th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Luck Enemy Rejection Hate But

Inc magazine is critical of my 5 favorite words. I used to subscribe to Inc, the paper version, 15 years ago, but the magazine no longer impresses me. The article I’m linking to is especially bad. Anyone who espouses pop-psych New Age mumbo jumbo is an enemy of mine, and I really hate the way no evidence is given for this assertion:

Hate is a sick word, and it creates sickness in your body. Every time you use that word, you ...

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September 2nd, 2012

In Philosophy

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Finite field math in the Romney speech

Some people have been puzzled about this part of Romney’s speech:

His trillion dollar cuts to our military will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, and also put our security at greater risk;

His $716 billion cut to Medicare to finance Obamacare will both hurt today’s seniors, and depress innovation – and jobs – in medicine.

And his trillion-dollar deficits will slow our economy, restrain employment, and cause wages to stall.

Some people wonder how government spending cuts can destroy jobs in the ...

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September 1st, 2012

In Philosophy

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Spoiled children are geniuses

I like this:

Most people here are saying that the students were clearly in the wrong. “Lack intellectual curiosity and character”. “spoiled children”. I don’t agree at all. Aside from the formal rules, smart people pick up on which rules can be broken safely. In fact, knowing which rules in life you should break and which rules you should follow is probably a critical factor for success in life. Jaywalking is illegal in most (all?) US cities, but in many it’s ...

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September 1st, 2012

In Philosophy

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A culture that respects argument

I often argue against things that I’m in favor of. In my mind, this is a way of thinking things through. Sometimes a friend will suggest something that I agree with, but I argue against it to think about the edge cases. My friend then assumes I am against their idea.

I find it amusing that, on the PHP internals mailing list, RFCs will be heavily “debated” (i.e., argued) about, and you’d think from reading it everyone hates something. Then it ...

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September 1st, 2012

In Philosophy

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End of the 2nd Wave feminist generation

Shulamith Firestone is dead. Her whole generation is passing away, into the history books.

Subtitled “The Case for Feminist Revolution,” “The Dialectic of Sex” was published by William Morrow & Company in 1970. In it, Ms. Firestone extended Marxist theories of class oppression to offer a radical analysis of the oppression of women, arguing that sexual inequity springs from the onus of childbearing, which devolves on women by pure biological happenstance.

“Just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not ...

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August 31st, 2012

In Philosophy

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Flynn says the Flynn effect is because we get abstraction now

Are we getting smarter? Flynn says not at birth, but instead, we are getting more abstract.

In the 20th century, greater ­educational possibilities combined with technological advances introduced abstract thought into daily life. It takes, for example, a high degree of abstract thinking to operate a mobile phone or computer. People became better at IQ tests and, steadily, the scores rose. So IQ scores are meaningless unless their date and social norms are taken into account. This leads to Flynn’s ...

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August 24th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Everything is evolution

Just a reminder: every emotion that a person feels is an emotion that was facilitated by millions of years of evolution. Every thought or action that anyone can ever undertake is normative under the natural selection theory of evolutionary change. Reality dictates to the theory, the theory is not allowed to dictate to reality.

I am always surprised when people note a failure of their theory and they blame reality, rather than blaming the theory:

From an evolutionary point of ...

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August 19th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Learning forces forgetting

I think the technical term, that psychologists use, is “interference”?

Lately I’ve been worried about how much I’ve been forgetting. The names of movie stars and singers in particular. The other day I couldn’t remember the name of the guy that Katie Holmes was married to (or had been). I could remember all of his movies, but I couldn’t get his name. Then I recalled his first name as “Tom”, but it took me the whole day to remember his ...

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August 19th, 2012

In Philosophy

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The dangers of posting anywhere other than your own site

I feel this way, strongly. I don’t write on Twitter, and I limit my use of Facebook. I try to keep all of my writing on sites I control. Mostly, I don’t want to lose everything, and I want to be able to find it later.

It needs to be said again, perhaps this time more strongly. Your Blog is The Engine of Community. Dammit.

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You are not blogging enough. You are pouring your words into increasingly closed and often ...

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August 17th, 2012

In Philosophy

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You can win the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Amazing:

The new approach is called the zero determinant strategy (because it involves the process of setting a mathematical object called a determinant to zero).

It turns out that the tit-for-tat approach is a special case of the zero determinant strategy: the player using this strategy determines that the other player’s time in jail is equal to theirs. But there are a whole set of other strategies that make the other player spend far more time in jail (or far less ...

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August 16th, 2012

In Philosophy

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The Wind

This is a surprisingly good silent film, from 1928. Lillian Gish does a fantastic job of communicating her growing madness. The movie has an almost sci-fi feel, because the wind never, ever stops. I don’t think there is any place on Earth where the wind is really like that, but damn, it was dramatic.

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August 14th, 2012

In Philosophy

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How you eat your corn determines your math interests

Interesting:

Back when I was in grad school there was a department lunch with corn on the cob. Partway through the meal one of the analysts looked around the room and remarked, “That’s odd, all of the analysts are eating corn one way and the algebraists are eating corn another!” Everyone looked around. In fact everyone was eating the corn in one of two ways. One way was to munch over the length of the corn in a straight line, ...

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August 6th, 2012

In Philosophy

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This is a great article about why politicians in Washington accept mass unemployment.:

In the years since the collapse of 2008, the existence of mass unemployment has stopped being something the economic powers that be even pretend to regard as a crisis. To those directly impacted, the economic crisis is an emergency, a life-altering disaster the damage from which will endure for years. But most of those in a position to address it simply have not seen it in such ...

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July 8th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Lana Del Ray is happy in the song “Video Games”

Alanis Morissette, Liz Phair, Pink and others, would never write a song of pure devotion, a song that focused only on the good, a song devoid of the emotional heartache of romance. I have to wonder if folks listen to Lana Del Ray while under the influence of those other singers, and they hear things in Lana Del Ray’s songs that Alanis Morissette, Liz Phair, Pink, and others, would have put there. But the thing is, Lana Del Ray’s songs ...

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July 5th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Is this feminist?

A scene I saw in New York City yesterday (this was on 72nd street and 11th Ave, not long after the Macy’s fireworks show had stopped):

A young girl, about 8 or 9 years old, is riding a push scooter, like this one:

Nearby, there is a boy, either 11 or 12 years old, probably her brother.

The girl takes a turn too tight and loses control of the scooter. She falls hard, on one arm and, I think, her head hitting ...

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June 26th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Old classic nude paintings with Photoshop retouching

Here is the description:

In her Venus project, Italian artist Anna Utopia Giordano remixes some of the most celebrated nudes of art history, giving them an extreme Photoshop makeover. Essentially, she turns the icons of beauty of bygone centuries into the breasty waifs currently mass-marketed as ideal in today’s society. She asks, “What would have happened if the aesthetic standard of our society had belonged to the collective unconscious of the great artists of the past?” The results are stark and ...

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June 22nd, 2012

In Philosophy

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The intimidated Fed

Interesting:

The intimidated Fed: The minimal action — extending Operation Twist — wasn’t just inadequate, it was shameful. The Fed has a dual mandate, employment and price stability. Its own projections show high unemployment persisting for years and years, inflation running below its target — and realistically its inflation projections are too high while its unemployment projections are too low. There is no rational argument I can see for not going all out with monetary stimulus.

But what we actually got was ...

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June 22nd, 2012

In Philosophy

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Learning versus fear of the new

Good point here:

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June 19th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Gamers and women

Rather surprising reaction from a PR person to female journalist:

It happened during one of my first appointments of the show, a half hour I’d booked to check out the sequel to a well-known military shooter franchise. I’d checked into the publisher’s booth as media and had been told to wait at a computer for the next available PR person to assist me.

So I sat down, fingers falling perfectly across the keyboard. Before me, yellow grass swayed in the wind, and ...

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May 3rd, 2012

In Philosophy

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Facing death alone

What a sad story:

I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town. When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, ...

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April 29th, 2012

In Philosophy

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Loops of learning as the core of complex development in games

I like this model of games:

The ‘game’ aspect of this beast we call a computer game always involves ‘loops’.

The player starts with a mental model that prompts them to…

Apply an action to…

The game system and in return…

Receives feedback that…

Updates their mental model and starts the loop all over again. Or kicks off a new loop. These loops are fractal and occur at multiple levels and frequencies throughout a game. They are almost always exercised multiple times, either within a game ...

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April 26th, 2012

In Philosophy

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The continued retreat of women from programming

At a time when women have made big progress in most other professions, the retreat since the 1980s is difficult to explain:

As it is, women remain acutely underrepresented in the coding and engineering professions. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study, in 2011 just 20 percent of all programmers were women. A smaller percentage of women are earning undergraduate computer science degrees today than they did in 1985, according to the National Center for Women in Technology, and between ...

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April 23rd, 2012

In Philosophy

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Still working at age 103

I am curious, if you took NGF to keep your nerves young and HGH to keep your muscles and bones young, then what would get old? Would it be possible to stay young forever by taking every form of growth factor hormones?

Has Dr. Rita Levi Montalcini unlocked the secret of eternal life? The oldest living and the longest-lived Nobel laureate in history, Montalcini celebrates today her 103th birthday.

“I can say my mental capacity is greater today than when I was ...

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