Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Last Psychiatrist: Hipsters On Food Stamps, Part 2

The Last Psychiatrist: Hipsters On Food Stamps, Part 2: So start with an interesting hypothetical: does everybody need to work anymore? I understand work from an ethical/character perspective, this is not here my point. Since we no longer need e.g. manufacturing jobs-- cheaper elsewhere or with robots-- since those labor costs have evaporated, could that surplus go towards paying people simply to stay out of trouble? Is there a natural economic equilibrium price where, say, a U Chicago grad can do no economically productive work at all but still be paid to use Instagram? Let me be explicit: my question is not should we do this, my question is that since this is precisely what's happening already, is it sustainable? What is the cost? I don't have to run the numbers, someone already has: it's $150/mo for a college grads, i.e. the price of food stamps. Other correct responses would be $700/mo for "some high school" (SSI) or $1500/mo for "previous work experience" (unemployment). I would have accepted $2000/mo for "minorities" (jail) for partial credit.
Another blogger thinking along the same lines as J Gordon (pseudonym) at Gordon's Notes:
Would Stephen Hawking have been disabled in 1860? Yeah, for the short duration of his 19th century life.
Disability is relative to the technological environment. Once a missing leg meant disability, now it rules out only a small number of jobs. Once a strong back meant a job, now it means little.
Technology changes the work environment; it makes some disabled, and others able. It's an old trend, automated looms put textile artisans out of work 200 years ago.
This idea of 'mass disability' is a really good one, but maybe a better label could be invented for discussing the fluidity of the worth of labor and knowledge. The internet made the near cost-less replication of ideas very profitable for the few owners of the nation's communication systems. (Every idea that leaves your brain is profitable to Google.)

This is a minor divergence - the article at the first link is really worth reading in all its parts.

The Last Psychiatrist: How To Be Mean To Your Kids

The Last Psychiatrist: How To Be Mean To Your Kids: All of this comes down to a very important point: the country's economy understands these issues on an unconscious level, and it has created a system to absorb 10% of the unemployment, i.e. pay them off so they don't riot, exactly like Saudi Arabia buys off its people. Yes, America is a Petrostate, but instead of oil money it's T-bills. However, as is evident throughout history, rich white people riot too, hell, they'll overthrow a King because the rum prices fell too much or shoot a President because he wanted a third term; and they'll for damn sure John Galt the Senate if they think poor people are getting free handouts, so the system pretends to offer benefits based on medical disability, just as it pretends on your behalf to be appalled by Mexican illegal immigration even as every restaurant in Arizona employs illegals, and everyone knows it, including the politicians and the Minutemen who eat at every restaurant in Arizona, not to mention California, not to mention America. Dummy, the sign says "Authentic Mexican Food"--oh, never mind.

Fantastic read. More gold from my 2011 Reader shares.

Proposal For A New Constitutional Amendment: A Separation of Corporation and State | Nova Spivack - Minding the Planet

Proposal For A New Constitutional Amendment: A Separation of Corporation and State | Nova Spivack - Minding the Planet: Today our American democracy faces a new threat to its integrity, a threat even greater than terrorism in the long-term. This threat is the corporation. In this essay I propose that it may be time to introduce a new principle into our democracy and a new amendment to our Constitution – a formal “Separation of Corporation and State.”

Very much worth a repost.

My Most Favorite Venn Diagram Evar!

No more need be said.

The Marketing Tactics of Firearm Manufacturers � Sociological Images

The Marketing Tactics of Firearm Manufacturers � Sociological Images: In other words, guns are not evenly distributed across the U.S. population, they are concentrated in the hands of a minority. Most people that don’t own a gun are never going to buy one, so the best strategy for gun manufacturers is to convince people that they need lots of guns. Differentiating the technical attributes of one from another is their way of telling the buyer that any given gun will do something different for them than the guns they already have, enticing the gun owner to own a range of guns instead of just one.
As a former target of said advertising, I think this is true.

Bullshit on the Internet

It's 2013 and you'd think I'd need to use this less these days...

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world - physics-math - 19 October 2011 - New Scientist: When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a "super-entity" of 147 even more tightly knit companies - all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity - that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. "In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network," says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.
JP Morgan makes a ton of money issuing debit cards to people receiving gov't assistance:
Why, you may be wondering, would one of the nation’s biggest banks benefit from a bill meant to feed poor children? A closer look at the legislation reveals the answer. The bill mandates that “all state agencies implement Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) systems by October 1, 2020” for those receiving money through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. And which company administers nearly half of all states’ EBT programs? You guessed it: JP Morgan Chase.
 Maybe Matt Taibbi's "vampire squid" analogy wasn't that far off.

50 of the World’s Best Breakfasts

50 of the World’s Best Breakfasts � Design You Trust – Design Blog and Community: 12. A Brazilian breakfast – mmmm a delicious selection of meats, cheeses and bread is the normal breakfast fare here. Jazzy rosething crafted out of I don’t know what, optional.

Don't read this on an empty stomach.

CSM: How Religion and Politics Can Blend

How Religion and Politics Can Blend / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com: For religions and civil democracy to live together, what must be graciously accepted is that the political expression of one's religious faith does not have secular validity simply because individuals who hold these beliefs think they are divinely endorsed.
One of my all-time favorite quotes.

Daily Kos: First they came for your pensions...

Daily Kos: First they came for your pensions...: What put the pension funds in trouble wasn't an "overly generous" model or competitive pressure. Companies weren't going broke because of promises made to unions. They weren't weighed down by obligations to retirees who were living longer. It was the corporations who poisoned the pension system, and they did it on purpose.
Finding gold in my 2011 Reader shares.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Women in Tech and Empathy Work | Lauren Bacon

Women in Tech and Empathy Work | Lauren Bacon: This wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself – and I’ll be the first to admit that it is damned hard to hire women into technical roles, as I learned first-hand when hiring coders myself – except that there are a couple of complicating factors:

Coders are lionized in the tech sector, and are compensated for their technical skills with higher wages and positional power – so women without coding chops are automatically less likely to advance to senior positions or command the highest salaries.
There is a culture in tech companies that simultaneously reveres the “user” (at least as a source of revenue and data) and places low expectations on coders to empathize with users (or colleagues, for that matter) – creating a disconnect that can only be bridged by assigning user (and team) empathy responsibilities to another department. An extreme example of this is the frequent labeling of brilliant coders as having Asperger’s Syndrome – and the simultaneous absolution of unskillful communication as par for the course.
...
I’ve long engaged in a hobby where, whenever I visit a tech company’s website, I head straight to their “Team” page, and scan for the women. More often than not, I have to scroll past four or more men before I see a woman – and very frequently, her title places her in one of the “people” roles: human resources, communications, project or client management, user experience, customer service, or office administration.

Fantastic post. via Sarah Pavis.

Google on SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Webmaster Tools Help: No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a "priority submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.
Worth a read (and then a read-over.) Direct from Mt. Olympus, at it were.  I tell my clients now: search is basically 'over'. All that matters is your address.

"SEO" is why you can't find a sane website if you search for "9/11 attacks" or "are vaccinations safe?"  I'm supposed to rely on this algorithm to make myself  'seen' in search results?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Science-Based Medicine � Vaccines and infant mortality rates

Science-Based Medicine � Vaccines and infant mortality rates: A false relationship promoted by the anti-vaccine movement: Whenever I see a paper like this, I ask myself: What would I say about it if it had been sent to me as a peer reviewer?
The fringe anti-vax crowd is at it again.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Infographic: Spending to Defend the Indefensible

Infographic: Money Pit Politics: Spending to Defend the Indefensible | Center for American Progress

Thursday, January 24, 2013

WMFU: Thurl Ravenscroft: The Story Continues!

Thurl Ravenscroft: The Story Continues! - WFMU's Beware of the Blog: On the A-side Thurl and the gals sing about the thrilling story of "Pocahontas", with a downright goofy chorus built out of the repetition of part of the name of that "Indian maid". The b-side is a more typical 1950's love ballad, "My Love For You", but Thurl's delivery is great, and there is also a very nice, unusual instrumental section halfway through the record, where individual horns play one note of the melody in succession, sort of like a big band version of The Chordettes.

Fun post via WMFU.  For those of you into Disney ephemera, Ravenscroft is one of Disney's trademark voices, from Haunted Mansion to films and TV. (fun fact: his son plays the immortal sax solo on Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street.")

Why You Never Truly Leave High School -- New York Magazine

Why You Never Truly Leave High School -- New York Magazine: “I cannot emphasize enough the amount of skewing there is,” says Pat Levitt, the scientific director for the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, “in terms of the number of studies that focus on the early years as opposed to adolescence. For years, we had almost a religious belief that all systems developed in the same way, which meant that what happened from zero to 3 really mattered, but whatever happened thereafter was merely tweaking.”
 ...
It turns out that just before adolescence, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that governs our ability to reason, grasp abstractions, control impulses, and self-­reflect—undergoes a huge flurry of activity, giving young adults the intellectual capacity to form an identity, to develop the notion of a self. Any cultural stimuli we are exposed to during puberty can, therefore, make more of an impression, because we’re now perceiving them discerningly and metacognitively as things to sweep into our self-concepts or reject (I am the kind of person who likes the Allman Brothers). “During times when your identity is in transition,” says Steinberg, “it’s possible you store memories better than you do in times of stability.”
...
In adolescence, the brain is also buzzing with more dopamine activity than at any other time in the human life cycle, so everything an adolescent does—everything an adolescent feels—is just a little bit more intense. “And you never get back to that intensity,” says Casey. (The British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips has a slightly different way of saying this: “Puberty,” he writes, “is everyone’s first experience of a sentient madness.”)

Gem after gem in this NYMag article. via A&L Daily.

Harvard Magazine: Placebos

Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School studies placebos | Harvard Magazine Jan-Feb 2013: All the patients had joined the study hoping to alleviate severe arm pain: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, chronic pain in the elbow, shoulder, wrist. In one part of the study, half the subjects received pain-reducing pills; the others were offered acupuncture treatments. And in both cases, people began to call in, saying they couldn’t get out of bed. The pills were making them sluggish, the needles caused swelling and redness; some patients’ pain ballooned to nightmarish levels.
...
The pills his team had given patients were actually made of cornstarch; the “acupuncture” needles were retractable shams that never pierced the skin. The study wasn’t aimed at comparing two treatments. It was designed to compare two fakes.

Excellent article at Harvard Mag about how to research placebos. The brain is complicated.

Moon Landing and Conspiracy Thinking



Excellent video.

SciAm: Liberals! War! Science!

The Liberals' War on Science: Scientific American: The left's war on science begins with the stats cited above: 41 percent of Democrats are young Earth creationists, and 19 percent doubt that Earth is getting warmer. These numbers do not exactly bolster the common belief that liberals are the people of the science book. In addition, consider “cognitive creationists”—whom I define as those who accept the theory of evolution for the human body but not the brain.
 This terrible article - again with the false-equivalence and false-dichotomy: Left and Right engaged in an otherwise equal ideological tug of war. Of course, "Democrats=Liberals", as these are simply a monolithic entity devoid of any nuance. At least he admitted to inventing "cognitive creationists" to describe a thing that didn't exist until it needed to for the purposes of fake equivalence in his article.

SciAm should be ashamed for posting this tripe under their banner.

Their web design says their not ashamed at all.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why Times Square Needs a McWorld | The Awl

Why Times Square Needs a McWorld | The Awl: "It is a cornmeal quenelle, extruded at a high speed, and so the extrusion heats the cornmeal 'polenta' and flash-cooks it, trapping air and giving it a crispy texture with a striking lightness. It is then dusted with an 'umami powder' glutamate and evaporated-dairy-solids blend."

It's a Cheetoh.

NYT: Bittman - Food News

Food News From All Over - NYTimes.com: News on obesity: New WIC food packaging designed to promote healthier eating choices for children is making a dent in reducing childhood obesity. Obesity and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) are the next wave of cancer threats. Big Food is enabling the country’s obesity epidemic, as food companies spent 19.5 percent less on television ads between 2006 and 2009 — but 60 percent more in online marketing. (Scary: 2.1 billion of these ad impressions were placed on “child-oriented” Web sites). Also, in an analysis of nearly 100 studies, obesity was associated with a significantly higher all-cause risk of death, while being overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality. So, while obesity is quite devastating, those extra five pounds may not be not as bad as we thought. (In fact it’s more complicated, but later for that.)
Great collection of links from NYT's Mark Bittman.

A close look at how Oracle installs deceptive software with Java updates | ZDNet

A close look at how Oracle installs deceptive software with Java updates | ZDNet: Summary: Oracle's Java plugin for browsers is a notoriously insecure product. Over the past 18 months, the company has released 11 updates, six of them containing critical security fixes. With each update, Java actively tries to install unwanted software. Here's what it does, and why it has to stop.
Between this and recent revelations about zero-day exploits, this may be the time to say goodbye.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Longform Reprints: Wild Things by David Samuels

Longform Reprints: Wild Things by David Samuels by David Samuels: The beguiling sleight of hand that allows visitors to the Bronx to believe that they are somewhere else is performed by human beings who are masters of their chosen arts; the animals are simply props. Ray Oladapo-Johnson, the only native African working at any higher level of the zoo when I visited, is the curator of horticulture. Born in Nigeria, he was educated in England before returning to Lagos to create artful landscapes for the wealthy children of the dictator Sani Abacha’s regime. He is a kind and loving guide to the ways in which plant life can be used to fool the eye. “The key thing here is to create a feel that transcends the exact specifics of what you would find growing in the Congo, simply because we can’t,” he explains. Honey locust trees look like acacia trees, and give you the feeling of the Serengeti. The density, height, and types of available foliage are equated, flipped, and transformed according to grammatical laws that only a lifelong wanderer could hope to master.
Great post via MeFi.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bloomberg - Crab Lice Endangered

Brazilian Bikini Waxes Make Crab Lice Endangered Species - Bloomberg: Waning infestations of the bloodsuckers have been linked by doctors to pubic depilation, especially a technique popularized in the 1990s by a Manhattan salon run by seven Brazilian sisters. More than 80 percent of college students in the U.S. remove all or some of their pubic hair -- part of a trend that’s increasing in western countries. In Australia, Sydney’s main sexual health clinic hasn’t seen a woman with pubic lice since 2008 and male cases have fallen 80 percent from about 100 a decade ago.

Filed under "Not The Onion."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

SFGate: EPA lays down for Big Energy

EPA changed course after gas company protested - SFGate: Now a confidential report obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with company representatives show that the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study into a common form of drilling called hydraulic fracturing.
Corporate muscle flexed and someone's family is paying the price. The phrase "regulatory capture" comes to mind...

US Incarceration Rates Are Out of Control | Discourse.net

US Incarceration Rates Are Out of Control | Discourse.net: I knew it was bad, but not this bad:

Jesus, that graph....

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SFGate: Morford: Why won't you ever change?

Why won’t you ever change? | Notes & Errata by Mark Morford | an SFGate.com blog: Is it not amazing? Gun fanatics are furious that gun fanatics are being blamed for America’s gun fanatics problem. So cute.

Morford nails it.

spark's notes � Aspartame and Bayesian Analysis

spark's notes � Aspartame and Bayesian Analysis: The larger question then remains: if thorough safety testing and twenty years of safe addition in foods have shown us no reason to ban or otherwise be wary of a particular product, why do some people still continue to have reservations about its use?

The answer to this questions varies – but the general feeling that seems prevalent among people reluctant to use a product like aspartame is that it’s a chemical (chemicals are scary!) and synthetic, unnatural, and anything produced by a huge company is obviously tainted with Corporate Hate Energy. If it doesn’t occur in nature, it can’t be good for you, right? The stuff that the earth produces was good enough for the human race for tens of thousands of years, why should we go messing around with that kind of perfection?

Collectively, this set of ideas and attitudes can be known as an Appeal to Nature, and there are several problems with this kind of thinking. The first is that “natural” is a loaded term, and tends to be unconsciously equated with “normal” – a simple and incorrect bias. How do we define natural? Take the example of the modern banana.

Very lucid thinking re: foods and fringe thinking. Good read, IMHO. Random find via Google Search.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Passed

You've probably noticed I'm not writing much about music anymore. Well, hopefully, you've noticed.

Music is over. Video is King.

Musicians? We work for YouTube producers, now. Vimeo is our new employment agency.

That's if you want longevity.

Oh, you're still more than welcome to pack your dreams into a Ford Econoline and hustle across America. It'll cost you more than ever before, but you're blind to that. Maybe you've got a big enough network to muster some money to help (Kickstarter). Otherwise, you're gambling with a lifetime of poverty.

The risks are so different now, and the payoff so incredibly unlikely. Only the least sane are attempting these celebrity arcs.

What other options do we have, though? This country doesn't really build anything, so there's no labor base. We only value blue collar labor as long as it someone else who's blue collar. We, on the other hand, are temporarily embarrassed millionaires, right?

I can't even turn on the television anymore without being completely ashamed for my country. "Reality TV" shows making 'stars' out of the most milquetoast people, scoring their sad lives with jump cuts and music formerly reserved for the soundtracks of action films. What are these people good at, again? Why are they on TV?

American Idol, The Voice, and its ilk are adept only at finding an audience to serve advertisers, only once in a while finding someone who's also really good at being on TV. The real skill, IMHO.

So many things in play - a culture that has been adapted to the idea of controlling their own environment and a new sense of community. Bands and musicians, conversely, are taught to impose ourselves on the environment, and that doing so repeatedly will lead to acceptance and success.

It ain't gonna happen - not in the cards. Someone telling you different is lying, selling, or both.

Those days have passed, if they ever existed at all.

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience: Amygdala and Race

MIT Press Journals - Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience - Abstract: Neuroimaging research in adults has consistently found that differential perception of race is associated with increased amygdala activity...Results suggest that differential amygdala response to African American faces does not emerge until adolescence, reflecting the increasing salience of race across development. In addition, greater peer diversity was associated with attenuated amygdala response to African American faces...

(emphasis mine)

Again with the amygdala.

PsycNET - Option to Buy

PsycNET - Option to Buy: Five studies show that being the target of a positive stereotype is a negative interpersonal experience for those from individualistic cultures because positive stereotypes interfere with their desire to be seen as individuals separate from their groups.

Non-intuitive at first, but totally makes sense. Perhaps this is a contributing factor to depression/anxiety among very attractive women who are in an exhibitory profession (modeling, acting, etc) ?

My takeaway: be considerate about the circumstances and motivations for opening your mouth, even if you think you're about to say a good thing.

Monday, January 14, 2013

White House: Mortgages we can "Trust"

Assuring Consumers Have Access to Mortgages They Can Trust | The White House: In the run-up to the financial crisis, we had a housing market that was reckless about lending money. Lenders thought they could make money on a loan even if the consumer could not pay back that loan, either by banking on rising housing prices or by off-loading the mortgage into the secondary market. This encouraged broad indifference to the ability of many consumers to repay loans, which dramatically increased mortgage delinquencies and rates of foreclosures.
The White House is lying.

There was nothing reckless about lending money in the housing market - every loan was underwritten and sold. By definition, every loan in the system was solid. The system said so.

The fraud was on the other side - the ratings, bonds, and packaged loan products (CDS, CDO's), not the consumer side. This is what The WH is lying about.

Lenders knew they could make money because they were being paid to underwrite/generate loans, not to service them. And they knew they'd be bailed out.

WE DON'T NEED NEW BANKING LAWS/REGS - THE OLD ONES WERE NEVER ENFORCED.

Notice the WH's statement makes no mention of criminal proceedings against any banking entity? This is complete patina - another capitulation to the nation's banking sector.

I hate it when they do this - it only makes my Teabagger/goldbug friends look right.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

NYTimes: American Healthcare Sucks

Americans Under 50 Fare Poorly on Health Measures, New Report Says - NYTimes.com: The 378-page study by a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council is the first to systematically compare death rates and health measures for people of all ages, including American youths. It went further than other studies in documenting the full range of causes of death, from diseases to accidents to violence. It was based on a broad review of mortality and health studies and statistics.

The panel called the pattern of higher rates of disease and shorter lives “the U.S. health disadvantage,” and said it was responsible for dragging the country to the bottom in terms of life expectancy over the past 30 years. American men ranked last in life expectancy among the 17 countries in the study, and American women ranked second to last.

“Something fundamental is going wrong,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, who led the panel. “This is not the product of a particular administration or political party. Something at the core is causing the U.S. to slip behind these other high-income countries. And it’s getting worse.”

How many people immigrated here thinking it was a first-world nation?

This is the Republican/Teabagger policy fully realized. Their healthcare plan all along was: Don't get sick.

Mark Lynas : Nothing wrong with GM food

Mark Lynas � Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference, 3 January 2013: So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.

I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.

I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.

But what about mixing genes between unrelated species? The fish and the tomato? Turns out viruses do that all the time, as do plants and insects and even us – it’s called gene flow.
One of the founders of the anti-GM movement issues a massive mea-culpa. Fifteen years late, but hey, it's a start.

Many of his themes are familiar to my readers - I've been saying it for years. Nice to have some serious backup for a change.

(Note to Facebook friends, current and former: I was right about this and the majority of you are still wrong. I'd appreciate some recognition here.)

Agra-net: Source of pet-food contamination identified

Glycerin labeling change backfires on supplier and jerky treat manufacturer: An effort by a Malaysian glycerin manufacturer to disguise USP-grade glycerin as industry-grade glycerin to pay lower tariff charges backfired on both the Malaysian company as well as the Chinese chicken jerky treat company that was buying the ingredient, reveals a recent FDA inspection report.

All that contaminated pet food was the result of "a Malaysian glycerin manufacturer" lying about a product to cut costs. Incentives, eh?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Don't Talk About Guns

"..found having passed away.."

"..lost a close friend.."

"..main thoughts and concerns are with the family.."

"..respect to the situation for the family's sake.."

Translation: Don't talk about guns - it's disrespectful.

The quotes above are public statements by friends of Keith Ratliff, an argent promoter of guns and gun culture, who was found murdered1 this week.

By a single gunshot wound.

But neither of his associates have acknowledged this : their (initial) published statements so far do not include the word "murder" or "gun." Instead, grating constructs like "found having passed away." Think about that phrase for a second and where it places the action... on Ratliff. Ratliff wasn't shot - he passed. His friend lost him2.

----
My deepest condolences to Keith's friends and family. This is a comment on public language in a time of grief/crisis3. I find no glee or feel any victory at the circumstances (who's irony cannot be understated) of Mr. Ratliff's passing.
Notes:
 1 - news accounts say police are "treating the death as a homicide"  which is not the same as a final autopsy.
 2 - It's plausible they use this phrasing because they don't know what to call it yet - "murder" or "suicide". Thank you JM for the suggestion.
 3 - I am not a psychologist, nor do I play one on TV. I'm just a guy with a blog.
 4 - Why is it OK to discuss gun policy after a school shooting, but this tragedy demands "respect for the family?"

PhysOrg: Facebook: $100 to get your message out.

Facebook tests steep fees to message strangers (Update): Facebook confirmed Friday it was dabbling with charging members as much as $100 to get messages to the inboxes of strangers such as social network co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg.

"We are testing some extreme price points to see what works to filter spam," Facebook said in response to an AFP inquiry regarding the costly delivery fees.
This can only solidify the equation of wealth=speech. Nothing democratic about this. What's next, a Kickstarter to buy Facebook advertising?

Unreleased MJ tracks stolen from Sony

Hackers sentenced for Michael Jackson music theft (Update): Officials said that music aficionados James Marks, 27, and James McCormick, 26, used their home computers to access Sony's servers and scour them for Jackson-related material. The pair downloaded nearly 8,000 files, including completed or partial tracks, artwork, and videos relating to Jackson and other unspecified Sony artists.

In other news, thousands of unreleased/partial tracks sit on Sony's servers....

Telegraph UK: McDonald's to distribute children's books

McDonald's to become UK's largest book distributor with Happy Meal deal - Telegraph: McDonald's is to become the UK’s biggest children’s books distributor as it commits to handing out 15m books with its Happy Meals by 2015.
 I wonder if The Jungle will be one of them...

Buzzfeed: Vintage School Supplies On eBay

The 13 Most Ridiculously Expensive Vintage School Supplies On eBay: 11. '80s Original Trapper Keeper Notebook, $74.99
'80s Original Trapper Keeper Notebook, $74.99

What, no Pee-Chee's?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Never Mind E-Books: Why Print Books Are Here to Stay - WSJ.com

Never Mind E-Books: Why Print Books Are Here to Stay - WSJ.com: The initial e-book explosion is starting to look like an aberration. The technology's early adopters, a small but enthusiastic bunch, made the move to e-books quickly and in a concentrated period. Further converts will be harder to come by. A 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research revealed that just 16% of Americans have actually purchased an e-book and that a whopping 59% say they have "no interest" in buying one.
 Emphasis mine. That last stat blew me away.

via Bookshelf.

Kansas City Star: Beef's Raw Edges

Beef's Raw Edges: Three years ago, at age 87, Lamkin was forced to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of her life after a virulent meat-borne pathogen destroyed her colon and nearly killed her.

What made her so sick? A medium-rare steak she ate nine days earlier at an Applebee’s restaurant.

Lamkin, like most consumers today, didn’t know she had ordered a steak that had been run through a mechanical tenderizer.
 87 year olds shouldn't be eating medium-rare meats.

That said, this seems to be a really good series. Worth a read.

via Metafilter.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Does Experience Matter?

There's an old joke:
A recently laid-off engineer is called by his former boss to fix one of the factory's machines. The factory had been offline for days due to this machine having malfunctioned, and the laid-off engineer was the only person that knew how to fix it.

He arrived at the factory and examined the machine. Within moments he located the problem, and drew a giant "X" on the broken part. He sent the company a bill for ten thousand dollars.

His old boss was a bit angered: "It only took you one minute to fix the machine, but you want ten grand. I'm going to need to see an itemized breakout to show why I should pay you this much!"
So the engineer sent another invoice. This one read:

1ea: "X"  - $1.00
1ea Knowing where to put it - $9,999.00
Peter Gabriel released "Music Tiles" today. Its an app for Apple iThings.
"MusicTiles allows everybody to create Peter Gabriel music, transforming music fans from passive listeners to active performers."
I mean, really, what's the point anymore? Why bother to excel when now an app can turn "everybody" into a Peter Gabriel producer?

And don't bother me with invocations of magic: "There will always be people who are more creative, more skilled..." THAT DOESN'T MATTER!!  Someone who's investing time in fiddling around with fantasies of creating "Peter Gabriel music" on their iToy is not someone investing time in a band/artist (other than Peter Gabriel, good on him there.) They're trying to speak - not listen.

Everybody's got something to say, and everybody feels they deserve to be heard. As the saying goes, when your mouth's open, your ears and mind... aren't.
"I have always loved the idea that music and art should be fully open media from which no-one is excluded. They are languages that anyone can learn to speak and definitely not the exclusive province of the high priests armed with 'Talent '." Peter Gabriel, High Priest
I wonder if Peter could be prompted to name three or four of these priests armed with "Talent" (scarequotes.)

This isn't so much about Gabriel and what he chooses to do as much as its about the language and assumptions about art and creativity. The arts may indeed be democratic at an entry level, however, our culture demands we compare one another. These elements are in constant tension - the idea of democratic access (anyone can do it!) versus the need to recognize excellence.

(I want to write more about this but am to short of time today. Wanted to get these thoughts out.)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bookshelf: Louis Vuitton’s bookcase trunk

Bookshelf: Louis Vuitton’s bookcase trunk

Style.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Al Jazeera Seeks a U.S. Voice Where Gore Failed - NYTimes.com

Al Jazeera Seeks a U.S. Voice Where Gore Failed - NYTimes.com:
Current, similarly, has suffered from paltry ratings. “Nobody’s watching,” one of the channel’s prime-time hosts, Eliot Spitzer, quipped to a reporter last month.
It's buried in the God-only-knows hinterlands of the cable directory, AND requires a special subscription package. No wonder. It was one of people's best outlets for neat content for a while. Current's website broke dozens of talented news producers.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wiley Online: Using subtle reminders of love to foster healthy snack choices

Using subtle reminders of love to foster healthy snack choices - Raska - 2012 - Journal of Consumer Behaviour - Wiley Online Library:
Results from the studies suggest that exposure to subtle reminders of companionate love lead to a greater likelihood of making healthy eating choices than subtle reminders of sexual love.
That's a really interesting revelation. Instead of "Carrots make you sexy!", think "Eating carrots makes people want to hang out with you!"

Tangentially related:

Association of Nutrient-Dense Snack Combinations With Calories and Vegetable Intake

 Children consumed 72% fewer calories when eating a combined snack compared with when they were served potato chips, P < .001. Children who ate the combination snack needed significantly fewer calories to achieve satiety than those who ate potato chips, P < .001. The effects of the snack conditions on caloric intake were more pronounced among overweight or obese children (P = .02) and those from low-involvement families (P = .049)
 Eat some veggies and a bit of cheese. With friends.

Autism and Organic Foods

A math geek on Reddit published this amazing graph:

It shows a perfect correlation between organic food sales and autism diagnosis.

Just let this sink in for a moment.

....

Nobody is claiming organic food causes autism, but that they track so perfectly means there's some relationship...

Consider how autism diagnoses tend to cluster. In wealthy zip codes.

There's a dense set of elements here: economic wealth (equals leisure time and 'lifestyle' resources), in addition to creating incentives for 'good parenting', allows parents to dedicate more attention to their children. "Good parents" will buy organic foods believing these are the best choices for their families (marketing works!) and take their children to the doctor at the first sign of any problems.

All of these elements conspire to create the following reality: rich people are unable to think of themselves as substandard. This makes a kind of sense given the daily reinforcements the rich receive (constant social deference, more free services, etc), but it has terrible consequences when it comes to the critical life skill of self-assessement. I think these parents place unreasonable expectations on their children, who inevitably fail to live up to them, who are then 'diagnosed' with 'autism.' This gives great comfort to a Good Parent: they've done the Right Thing by bringing their concerns to a doctor, and now they have a perfectly reasonable, natural, authoritative answer to why their child isn't perfect: Autism.

See? They're not bad parents after all, in fact, quite the opposite. They've done everything right: Nature gave them an imperfect child.

I'm sure there are plenty of autism diagnosis that are genuine, however, I am also certain these socio-economic clusters exist for more superficial reasons.

Why is this important? Because this segment of society is politically powerful enough to command limited public resources for themselves at the detriment of the commons. This nation has an established tradition of building political realities upon the firmament of denial.