Archive for December, 2011


Roundup – Island of Doctor Logan

Line O’ the Day:

Wolfman Rob: You’re putting me on, right? Your name’s not Jason. It’s Jamie Crandall.


Wolfman Rob: Huh. Wonder why I’ve always thought of you as Jamie Crandall. Must have been a name I saw in a Marmaduke strip or somethin’.

– Big Daddy Drew, Princeton Boy Has A Hard Time Mastering Timeoutgate [KSK]

Best of the Best:

Tweet Science [Joe Hagan on New York Magazine]

The problem starts, he says, with an empty box. The box is on a user’s Twitter home page, where the company’s signature timeline is supposed to crawl down, overflowing with 140-character bon mots, witty and interesting and profound. But when you sign up, there’s nothing in it. It’s like turning on the TV and being confronted with a test signal.

As it stands, Twitter’s interface has yet to mature beyond a chronology of tweets, from most recent to oldest, that necessarily drops people into the water without much context, forcing users to experience Twitter as a snapshot of comments and a somewhat random and not particularly useful list of “trending topics,” or to enter a search term in hopes that something pertinent or entertaining will emerge from the millions of tweets. “In general, a lot of what Twitter is is unstructured information,” an executive at Facebook tells me. This, in a sense, is a programming challenge.

Sons of the Revolution [Jon Lee Anderson on The New Yorker]

By the end of February, rebels had assumed control of a series of coastal cities throughout the east. Soon after, military units operating out of Qaddafi’s tribal stronghold of Surt, halfway along the coast toward Tripoli, began advancing on the “liberated” territory. They struck first in Brega, on March 2nd, and were repulsed after a day of combat in which about a dozen civilian volunteers from Benghazi were killed. Osama decided that he needed to do more: “I could see that this is war now, and it is necessary to help.” Since then, Osama had undergone a transformation. “Before I left Libya, there was nothing left for me here,” he said. “Now, when I see the sea, I smell a different air. I can see the sky, blue; I have never seen it so beautiful.” He said that his friends in Martinsville had appealed to him not to go to Libya. “I reminded them that Henry County was named after Patrick Henry—and remember what he said, ‘Give me liberty or give me death’? Well, that’s what we’re facing here. I’d like to see my country have some of the freedom that America has.” Osama’s eyes shone. “You know, my son Muhannad has showed me what it is to be a man. He woke me up.” On February 25th, a ship had evacuated American citizens to Malta. “I told him to go and join his mother in the States, but he said, ‘No, Dad, I must stay.’ He’s a great guy, a basketball player, you know. And a Boy Scout.”

The “Last Place Aversion” Paradox: The surprising psychology of the Occupy Wall Street protests [Ilyana Kuziemko and Michael I. Norton on Scientific American]

Support for redistribution, surprisingly enough, has plummeted during the recession. For years, the General Social Survey has asked individuals whether “government should reduce income differences between the rich and the poor.” Agreement with this statement dropped dramatically between 2008 and 2010, the two most recent years of data available.  Other surveys have shown similar results. What might explain this trend? First, the change is not driven by wealthy white Republicans reacting against President Obama’s agenda: the drop is if anything slightly larger among minorities, and Americans who self-identify as having below average income show the same decrease in support for redistribution as wealthier Americans. Our recent research suggests that, far from being surprised that many working-class individuals would oppose redistribution, we might actually expect their opposition to rise during times of turmoil – despite the fact that redistribution appears to be in their economic interest. Our work suggests that people exhibit a fundamental loathing for being near or in last place – what we call “last place aversion.” This fear can lead people near the bottom of the income distribution to oppose redistribution because it might allow people at the very bottom to catch up with them or even leapfrog past them.

Bias, Blindness and How We Truly Think [Daniel Kahneman professor of psychology emeritus at Princeton University and professor of psychology and public affairs emeritus at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work with Amos Tverksy on decision making via Bloomberg]

I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.

In India, Whistle Blowers Pay with Their Lives [Mehul Srivastava and Andrew MacAskill on Bloomberg Businessweek]

According to 2008 field experiments by Leonid Peisakhin and Paul Pinto, then doctoral candidates at Yale University, filing an RTI request is almost as effective for slum dwellers as paying a bribe to get a new ration card sooner for food and cooking supplies. “This is the most important piece of legislation passed in post-independence India,” said Subhash Agrawal, an RTI activist who successfully campaigned to make Supreme Court judges’ and ministers’ assets public. “It is a tragedy that these people have died, but it is also a sign of how powerful a tool the law is.”

College Football Would Love It If You’d Waste Your Time Complaining About Bowl Matchups [Barry Petchesky on Deadspin]

The NCAA loves this. They want you to spend your energy hating the BCS or Jim Tressel or The U and forget that these things can be fixed cosmetically without altering the ideology that puts money earned by player into the pockets of their pimps. It’s almost as if college football knowingly designed a flawed system to distract us from the broken core. Every piece you see today railing against the bowl selections? That’s us, ignoring the forest to hack at a few trees.

Russian communists win support as Putin party fades [Alissa del Carbonnel on Reuters]

Not that the Communist Party’s doubling of its vote to about 20 percent presages any imminent assault on power. The memories of repression in the old communist Soviet Union, the labor camps and the “Red Terror” are still too fresh for many. But vote they did, if perhaps with gritted teeth. “With sadness I remember how I passionately vowed to my grandfather I would never vote for the Communists,” Yulia Serpikova, 27, a freelance location manager in the film industry, told Reuters. “It’s sad that with the ballot in hand I had to tick the box for them to vote against it all.”

Is Suburbia Doomed? Not So Fast. [Joel Kotkin via Forbes]

Generally speaking, aging boomers tended to move out of dense urban cores, and to a lesser extent, even the suburbs. If they moved anywhere, they were headed further out in metropolis towards the more rural area. Among cities the biggest beneficiaries have been low-density cities in the Southwest and southern locales such as Charlotte, Raleigh and Austin. What about the other big demographic, the millennials? Like previous generations of urbanists, the current crop mistake a totally understandable interest in cities among post-adolescents. Yet when the research firm Frank Magid asked millennials what made up their “ideal” locale, a strong plurality opted for suburbs — far more than was the case in earlier generations. Generational analysts Morley Winograd and Mike Hais note that older millennials — those now entering their 30s — are as interested in homeownership as previous generations. This works strongly in favor of suburbs since they tend to be more affordable and, for the most part, offer safer streets, better parks and schools.

‘Harry Potter and yoga are evil’, says Catholic Church exorcist [Nick Squires on The Telegraph]

Father Gabriele Amorth, who for years was the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have cleansed hundreds of people of evil spirits, said yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and “all eastern religions are based on a false belief in reincarnation”. Reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books is no less dangerous, said the 86-year-old priest, who is the honorary president for life of the International Association of Exorcists, which he founded in 1990, and whose favourite film is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist…His views may seem extreme, but in fact reflect previous warnings by Pope Benedict XVI, when as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy. In 1999, six years before he succeeded John Paul II as Pope, he issued a document which warned Roman Catholics of the dangers of yoga, Zen, transcendental meditation and other ‘eastern’ practises. They could “degenerate into a cult of the body” that debases Christian prayer, the document said.

Mall Rats Can’t Bring About the Wealth of Nations [Caroline Baum on Bloomberg]

Besides, there is something fundamentally wrong with a culture that promotes spending as the key to health and wealth. A multidecade borrowing-and-spending binge whittled the U.S. savings rate from an average of 9.6 percent in the 1970s, to 8.6 percent in the 1980s, to 5.5 percent in the 1990s, to 3.3 percent in the 2000s. At one point during the housing bubble, the savings rate approached zero…The Federal Reserve is complicit, too, in discouraging saving by holding its benchmark rate close to zero and pledging to keep it there at least through mid-2013. Consumers aren’t getting paid to save. The rate they can earn on bank deposits is negative when adjusted for current or expected inflation. Therefore, they spend. High real rates induce consumers to forgo current spending and save…Even the stock market applauds more “consumption,” a synonym for spending I try to avoid. A former editor said the word made him think of people wasting away from tuberculosis, which happens to be Merriam-Webster’s first definition. It was enough to convince me. In the context of this column, however, the alternate definition seems appropriate: “the utilization of economic goods in the satisfaction of wants … resulting chiefly in their destruction, deterioration, or transformation.” “Destruction” should be a tip-off that whatever it is, it isn’t wealth.

Rampant porn if Saudi women allowed to drive: Report [QMI Agency via CNews]

If the only country in the world that still bans women from driving were to change its rules, there would be “a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce.” Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, the report claimed, there would be “no more virgins” in the country, according to the paper. Currently, women caught driving in the kingdom may be lashed as punishment.

What is the most scientific way to optimize your driving time? [Keith Veronese on io9]

Across car types, the ideal speed for one’s car is between 55 and 60 miles per hour. There will be slight variants based on the type of car (SUV vs. aerodynamic Sedan), but this speed is a good starting point across car types. For every 5 miles per hour over 60 mph, fuel efficiency decreases by approximately 8 percent, with this decrease in efficiency compounding with a further increase in velocity…Let’s say the speed limit is 70 mph (113 kph) and you have a 280 mile interstate journey ahead of you…For the sake of argument, let’s say your average speed over the trip is 78 mph (126 kph) – eight miles above the limit in most states. You just risked a ticket, probably spent the last 3.6 hours of your life stressed out and paranoid, and killed your car’s fuel efficiency to spend 24 extra minutes with your relatives – time that will likely be spent sitting in front of a television watching Storage Wars. You’re a winner (in the game of life)!

The Child Psychology of Sesame Street [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

A bigger controversy was to come later. Snuffleupagus, a big hairy mammoth, started appearing to Big Bird, the show’s most iconic character. When Big Bird mentioned him to others, or called them over to meet him, the mammoth disappeared. This went on for quite some time, while a debate raged behind the scenes. Some psychologists insisted that it was natural for kids to have, and talk about, their imaginary friends and private lives. If people never saw ‘Snuffy,’ but they still accepted Big Bird, that would relax those kids. Others psychologists objected. Kids would not see the giant hairy elephant on the screen as imaginary. They would see it as real, and see other characters not believing Big Bird when he was telling them the truth. Children who had painful secrets, such as abuse or neglect, needed validation that what they saw was real and would be believed. Eventually, Snuffy was seen by others, and became part of the regular cast.

Paris exhibit reveals the unspeakable horrors of the Human Zoo [The Guardian via io9]

In 1906 a Congolese Mbuti pygmy named Ota Benga was caged and put on display at the monkey house in New York’s Bronx zoo to demonstrate “human evolution.” In the 1840s, a boy with a small skull was sold to P.T. Barnum. There, he would be called Zip and made to wear a fur suit and scream at the audience in a show called “What Is It?”

The Myth of Multiple Personality Disorder [Esther Inglis-Arkell on io9]

Sybil‘s influence on society cannot be overstated. Aside from the massive amount of money the disorder made for Hollywood, hospitals opened up entire wings to treat a sudden influx of multiple personality patients. Some patients came to doctors believing the disorder put a name to what they already felt, some wanted to make a buck on the book deal, some wanted attention and care. Not all the interest came from the patient’s end. Unscrupulous doctors went on the hunt for patients. Everyone wanted a multiple personality case to call their own. Then came the debunking of the book and the bane of any cultural phenomenon: lawsuits. In the early 1990s patients started suing doctors for using drugs and threats of abandonment to coerce more personalities into showing up for their sessions. Then patients, some of whom had spent years in hospitals, started suing for misdiagnoses. Money and fame went out the door and bankruptcy and infamy strolled in. No one wanted to diagnose anyone with multiple personalities anymore. It was in the mid-nineties that the name was changed to dissociative identity disorder.

NASA Confirms Discovery of the most Earth-like Planet Yet [NASA via io9]

Kepler-22b is a different story. Sure, the planet orbits about 15% closer to its star than Earth does to the Sun, but its star is also significantly cooler, dimmer, and smaller than ours. And while scientists have yet to determine K-22b’s composition — be it rocky, gaseous or liquid — they estimate that surface temperatures on K-22b average a very Earth-like 72-degrees Fahrenheit…NASA’s Kepler mission (which is charged with identifying Earth-like planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy) has certainly turned up habitable zone planet candidates in the past, but Kepler 22-b is the first of these candidates to be officially confirmed.

Jobs Report Shows Structural Unemployment Is the Real Problem [Zachary Karabell on The Daily Beast]

This is an employment crisis not of college-educated women (just read into the data compiled by the BLS every month) who have an unemployment rate of barely more than 4 percent and decent wages. This is a crisis of men who did not go to college, who do not have the tools and never acquired the skills—knowing how to learn—that are so needed today. They have the skills to build homes that aren’t being built and to man the factories of yesterday rather than the high-tech lines of today. No set of Washington policies enacted in the near term will fix that. What growth there is in economic life comes from highly efficient business, not robust demand for goods and services.

Bedbugs’ Rampant Incest Colonizes Entire Apartment Buildings, Study Finds [Bloomberg]

Bedbugs inbreed without ill effects, the researchers said, so even a single female bedbug can lead to a colony of the blood-sucking insects as a result of rampant incest. Three colonized buildings in North Carolina and New Jersey suggested the invasion started with only one or two insects. Another study traced 21 infestations from Maine to Floridaand found most began in a single room…Bedbugs were almost eliminated in the U.S. 60 years ago by the pesticide DDT. International travel probably aided a resurgence in the past 30 years, said Schal, also a study author. The research was presented today at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia. While their bites cause itchy allergic reactions, they don’t spread disease. The number of infestations from the insects, which feed only on blood, has grown as much as 100-fold since 1990, said Rajeev Vaidyanathan, associate director of diseases from animals at SRI International, which is based in Menlo Park, California, in a statement.

How military spent $1TRILLION on weapons since 9/11… and bought far more M4 guns and Stryker tanks than intended [Mail Online]

But the report claimed 10 of the 14 most expensive weapons programmes have already received least 88 per cent of their projected financing. ‘I was surprised at how much they had already done,’ report author R. Russell Rumbaugh told the New York Times.  The Air Force and Navy received more money for weapons spending than the Army and Marines, he added. ‘There will always be debate over what forces and equipment our military should pursue, but we should not ignore significant advances,’ he wrote.

Curiously Strong Remains:



The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.


Roundup – The Chiefs React to the Twilight: Breaking Dawn trailer

Line O’ the Day:

Ryan: Oh, men. Oh, men. Men, took a shit this morning that had me blocked up like the goddamned Holland Tunnel. Soon as that turd got halfway out, it sat there in the pocket like a fucking rookie. And I had to figure out whether or not to dig that fucker out, or have faith in it to get me out of a jam. And sure as shit, forty minutes later that turd dropped. That’s you, Nacho. You are that green turd that needs a little more patience than I usually have.

Sex Cannon: I had that happen to me once when I was taking a dump on a freshman.

Ryan: Is that right?

Sanchez: Don’t listen to him, Coach. He’s not even supposed to be here.

Sex Cannon: I guess I just like violating things. Do you like violating things, Coach?

Ryan: You know I do.

Sex Cannon: I bet you and I could do some violating together, you know. You know I throw like I fuck, right?

Ryan: Let’s see it, buster.

Sex Cannon: All right.

(throws the ball seventy yards, gets intercepted by an overturned traffic cone)


Ryan: Goddamn, that was impressive! You see that, Nacho?

Sanchez: Whatever.

Sex Cannon: AGAIN!

(throws the ball into the mouth of a homeless child)


– Big Daddy Drew, The Last Temptation Of Rex [KSK]

Best of the Best:

Running For Three Yards Is Like Going Backwards [Brian Burke on Advanced NFL Stats via Deadspin]

Running has its purpose and is an essential part of every effective offense. It’s needed to constrain defenses, to keep them guessing, and to set up play-action passes. It’s necessary in short yardage, and it’s actually underused in the red zone, where pass defenses have less real estate to cover and throwing is thus more difficult. Running is also needed to run out the clock and minimize the chance of turnovers when the offense is trying to hold a lead. Even so, today’s affinity for smashmouth, slobberknocking football is irrational. It’s not 1977 anymore, and running the ball for nostalgia’s sake is counterproductive. Underdogs need high variance plays to win, and downfield passing is all about high variance—big risks with bigger rewards. In contrast, running is low variance. Teams that are strong in all phases of the game have the luxury of running the ball. Fans and commentators see strong teams run the ball often and think it’s the running that causes the winning, when it’s really the other way around. Even when teams are better at running than they are at passing, they’re trapped in a paradox. Unless your team has an all-world defense, you’ll eventually end up trailing. Incomplete passes or short runs on either first or second down typically lead to third-and-long situations, requiring a pass. The worse an offense is at passing, then, the more often they’ll need to do it, and the more they’re forced to play to their weakness.

Dan Lozano: Albert Pujols’s Superagent, “King Of Sleaze Mountain” [Barry Petchesky on Deadspin]

Lozano told USA Today that the allegations against him are the product of jealous agents whom he’s beaten out for the biggest names in the game. That doesn’t mean the claims are lies, or that they can’t be verified by people familiar with his past. Among the people who were willing to discuss their experiences with Lozano, there was anger that he’d been able to get away with his tactics for so long without repercussions. But there was also pity and a sense that everything got away from Dan Lozano long ago, and the life he’s living is no longer the one he wanted, but one that requires more lies to keep it going. For an agent, it’s possible to keep up a life like that indefinitely—at least until somebody decides it’s time to take you down.

Bulging Jails Are Other American Exception [Albert Hunt on Bloomberg]

There are 2.3 million people behind bars, almost one in every 100 Americans. The federal prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years, and one in nine black children has a parent in jail. Proportionally, the U.S. has four times as many prisoners as Israel, six times more than Canada or China, eight times more than Germany and 13 times more than Japan. With just a little more than 4 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for a quarter of the planet’s prisoners, and has more inmates than the leading 35 European countries combined. Almost all the other nations with high per capita prison rates are in the developing world. There’s also a national election in America soon. This issue isn’t on the agenda. It’s almost never come up with Republican presidential candidates; one of the few exceptions was a debate in September when the audience cheered the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, because his state has carried out a record number of executions. Barack Obama, the first black president, rarely mentions this question or how it disproportionately affects minorities. More than 60 percent of America’s prisoners are black or Hispanic, though these groups comprise less than 30 percent of the population.

Bloomberg’s Long War Against Protests [Ben Adler on The Atlantic Cities]

In the wake of September 11, the NYPD put together an impressive, sophisticated operation to prevent terrorist attacks. But critics worry that the city is incapable of distinguishing democratic dissent from legitimate threats. Police habitually interrogated protesters they arrested about past protest activities until it was exposed that they were doing so, and they still monitor protests with a heavy hand.”The NYPD is engaged in massive surveillance, they videotape every demonstration,” says Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “They did it at the RNC and they do it at Occupy Wall Street.” Despite Bloomberg’s socially liberal views on issues from immigration to abortion and gay marriage, he is no civil libertarian. “When Bloomberg started as mayor, the first thing he did was disband the Decency Commission, a Giuliani legacy that censored art,” recalls Lieberman. “We thought, ‘Wow, this would be a different era.'” But after Bloomberg’s response to anti-war demonstrations, they knew better. “He’s not Giuliani, but he’s not the great champion of protest rights that he would claim,” says Lieberman.

How Paulson Gave Hedge Funds Advance Word of Fannie Mae Rescue [Richard Teitelbaum on Bloomberg]

After a perfunctory discussion of the market turmoil, the fund manager says, the discussion turned to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Paulson said he had erred by not punishing Bear Stearns shareholders more severely. The secretary, then 62, went on to describe a possible scenario for placing Fannie and Freddie into “conservatorship” — a government seizure designed to allow the firms to continue operations despite heavy losses in the mortgage markets. Paulson explained that under this scenario, the common stock of the two government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, would be effectively wiped out. So too would the various classes of preferred stock, he said. The fund manager says he was shocked that Paulson would furnish such specific information — to his mind, leaving little doubt that the Treasury Department would carry out the plan. The managers attending the meeting were thus given a choice opportunity to trade on that information.

Book Notes: Steve Jobs Blasted Teachers’ Unions, Planned Digital Textbook Feature for iPad [Walter Issacson via Anthony Rebora on Teaching Now via Education Week]

Jobs also attacked America’s education system, saying that it was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules. Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform. Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly-line workers. Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were. Schools should be staying open until at least 6 p.m. and be in session eleven months of the year. It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.

Curiously Strong Remains:


The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.