September 2014 Archives
Ebola virus in Dallas. At what point will you decide to lock yourself in the house to avoid infection? What news could trigger your decision to keep your kids home from school?
Nigeria had one Ebola-infected man fly into an airport and ended up with almost 1,000 infections before containing the virus.
Since the first patient -- a dying Liberian-American -- flew into Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, on July 20, the disease spread to 20 other people in two cities, who had contact with nearly 900 others.
Every known patient has now died or recovered, and the cure rate -- 60 percent -- was unusually high for an African outbreak.
No reason to think there would be far fewer infections in the United States.
These experiments were first conducted by the German gestalt psychologist Wolfgang Kohler and were repeated with the names "Kiki" and "Bouba" given to these shapes by VS Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard (the paper you linked to). In their experiments, they found a very strong inclination in their subjects to name the jagged shape Kiki and the rounded one Bouba. This happened with about 95-98 percent of the subjects. The experiments were repeated in Tamil speakers and then in babies of about 3 years of age. (who could not write) The results were similar.
Humans are more synesthetic than we imagine.
California has passed a new "affirmative consent" law that apparently only affects colleges and college students. I don't believe that there's a rape epidemic on college campuses, but I do believe that our cultural morals have completely collapsed. I think most people understand that college students shouldn't be getting drunk and screwing each other randomly, but our culture is so degraded that we can't say so anymore.
At California colleges, students must now ensure they have the affirmative consent of their partners at the beginning of a sexual encounter and maintain that consent throughout the activity. The law states that consent "can be revoked at any time." The absence of "no," the law says, is insufficient to indicate consent.
The law is written to be gender neutral (as Constitutionally required) but I'm sure the assumption is that the complainants will women and the accused will be men. However, the new law isn't just about what most people think of as "rape", it covers any situation in which the participants aren't vocalizing their "yes"es. And in that ambiguous grey area, according to the CDC, men are frequently victims of women, too.
Unsurprisingly, when the definition of rape -- or, as it's often now called in order to provide less clarity, "sexual assault" -- expands to include a lot more than behavior distinguished by superior physical strength, the incidence of rape goes up, and behavior engaged in by women is more likely to be included in the definition. (At juvenile detention centers nine out of 10 reporters of sexual assault are males victimized by female staffers.)
Thus, as Young points out, the CDC finds that men make up over a third of the victims of "sexual coercion," which can include such things as "lies or false promises, threats to end a relationship or spread negative gossip, or 'making repeated requests' for sex and expressing unhappiness at being turned down."
So it will be interesting to see what happens when men start filing complaints.
Camille Paglia identifies one part of the absurdity by exhorting young women to overcome the naivety of modern feminism.
Misled by the naive optimism and "You go, girl!" boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.
I'll go farther. The civilization we enjoy-- the civilization that enables this naivety -- was founded on a simple sexual morality: don't have sex outside of marriage. Throughout history lots of people paid lip-service to this morality while ignoring it privately. We're now getting into the second generation that actively denigrates traditional sexual morality in both deed and word, and we're starting to reap the consequences.
I use Excel all the time -- how did I never know about array formulas, a.k.a. CSE formulas or "super formulas"???
I need to check that both data in Columns B and C match the criteria of specific Code and Score, and for those that match both criteria, I need to SUM the lenths in Column A.
To do this you need to use an Array Formula, also known as a CSE Formula or even a Super Formula. This is a formula that requires you to press Ctrl+Shift+Enter after typing it, instead of just Enter.
If you wanted to sum together all Lengths where the Code is 4a and the Score is 2, here is the formula you can to use:
This will find that rows 4 and 11 contain both criteria at the same time, and will thus return the sum of lengths in those columns, i.e. A4 and A11, which is 141.09m + 731.38m = 872.47m.
The formula looks a little strange and probably not what you'd expect; however, it works very well, as long as you remember to use Ctrl+Shift+Enter instead of Enter when inputting the formula.
Under "what useful trick/hack will save my life one day?" is this excellent tip for getting emergency help from strangers:
Learn how to ask for help against the Bystander effect:
Identify one person to directly intervene and help you: you are unlikely to know people's names in some situations involving bystander effect; next best thing is to describe such that there is no mistaking who you are pointing to ("You sir with the blond hair wearing that red sweatshirt! Please help me off the ground!")
If you can, Identify another person to call the authorities. Don't assume someone is already dialing 911. Point out the person and describe person as you see him or her such that person knows you are pointing at him/her.
The idea is to reduce the effect of diffusion of responsibility in the bystander effect, by you placing direct responsibility on specific individuals.
The way you practice this skill such that it becomes second nature and automatically engage when you are in trouble, is by practicing delegation the same way. Instead of asking a group of people to "set up a room" for example, be specific: "John, can you please set up the tables? Barbara, can you take out the decorations and start hanging up those up on the wall over there?" etc.
According to Tyson, in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush uttered the phrase, "Our God is the God who named the stars." According to Tyson, the president made that claim as a way of segregating radical Islam from religions like Christianity or Judaism.
Neil deGrasse Tyson's story has three central claims: 1) Bush uttered that precise phrase, 2) in the days immediately after 9/11, 3) in order to distance American religion from that practiced by radical Muslims.
As you have probably already guessed, every single claim is false. Every one! Then there's Tyson's aside that Bush's quote was a "loose quote" of the book of Genesis. Yep, that's false, too. Add embarrassing biblical illiteracy to Tyson's list of accomplishments on his CV.
Walter Russell Mead writes (the day before I did) that President Obama doesn't understand the emotional side of leadership. Read the whole thing if you can bear it.
ISIS is a master of the pornography of politics and the pornography of perverted religion: slave girls, heads on spikes, executions uploaded to the internet, naked defiance in the face of its enemies. ISIS isn't trying to win a conventional geopolitical chess match, it wants to electrify millions of potential supporters and change the nature of the game. The execution of American hostages succeeded brilliantly, from an ISIS point of view. It has made President Obama look weak, forced him to change his entire Middle East policy and brought the jihadi movement back into the world spotlight. The politics of spectacle has eclipsed Al-Qaeda, weakened Assad's position, drawn the awe and admiration of jihadi wanna-bes and funders, and elevated 30,000 thugs and nutjobs to a major force in global events. Yes, that elevation carries with it the risk of serious pushback and even conventional military defeat, but jihadi ideology has benefited enormously from what ISIS has accomplished so far. ISIS still isn't going to conquer the world, but radical Islam is closer than ever to launching the clash of civilizations of which bin Laden dreamed.
ISIS has much less money than President Obama does, many fewer fighters, much less equipment and in every other conventional measure of power it is a pipsqueak compared to the Leader of the Free World. But who is acting, and who is reacting? Who is dancing to whose tune?
ISIS doesn't need President Obama's advice; it clearly knows its job better than he does. The same thing is true of Putin; the Russian president has a much weaker hand, objectively speaking, than President Obama, but in part because President Putin understands the importance of spectacle and momentum in politics, he has been able to run rings around the Vulcan-in-Chief.
Drama and spectacle are among the assets that successful world leaders employ; that doesn't mean that those leaders are hotheaded or stupid. The impression, hopefully inaccurate, that the Baker piece gives us is of a president who knows things aren't working but doesn't think he has anything to learn. If that is really where this president is, he and we have some hard times ahead.
My biggest problem with the so-called "War on Poverty" is that it seems more intended to keep bureaucrats employed and grievance-mongers busy than to actually alleviate poverty. For proof, just consider the quantity of money wasted every year (emphasis mine).
Since its beginning, U.S. taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson's War on Poverty (in constant 2012 dollars). Adjusting for inflation, that's three times more than was spent on all military wars since the American Revolution.
The federal government currently runs more than 80 means-tested welfare programs. These programs provide cash, food, housing and medical care to low-income Americans. Federal and state spending on these programs last year was $943 billion. (These figures do not include Social Security, Medicare, or Unemployment Insurance.)
Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.
We could "solve" poverty for one-fifth the current price if we eliminated all our means-tested programs (and all the bureaucrats who run them) and simply wrote checks to the families below the poverty line. It seems like this kind of money-saving, welfare-enhancing program is just the kind of thing that could win support from a majority of Americans.
As for structure, my preference would be one or more negative income tax brackets that reward people for working.
This glossary of gestures will come in very handy at your next TED talk. Example:
The Shelf Sweep.
Begin with both hands at right hand shoulder. Sweep across the top shelf of imaginary bookcase. When level with left shoulder, make sharp rotation of wrists and sweep across lower shelf.
Use when explaining hierarchies.
This post is only partially tongue-in-cheek. Body language is an important element of communication, and using the right gestures is certainly as significant as idiom choice when signaling your membership in a particular social group.
Is it ever better to make a quick decision than to take your time and be more deliberative? This anonymously-sourced account of President Obama's deliberations about ISIS portrays the President as very thoughtful and concerned with making "the right decision", and he seems keenly aware that his opponents (myself included) view him as indecisive. In my opinion, the President is wrong to ignore the emotional dimension of leadership -- sometimes you can make the best decision at the wrong time and come out worse than if you had made a worse decision at the right time.
"Oh, it's a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president with no foreign policy other than 'don't do stupid things,' " guests recalled [Obama] saying, sarcastically imitating his adversaries. "I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn't make for good theater." ...
It was clear to the guests how aware Mr. Obama was of the critics who have charged him with demonstrating a lack of leadership. He brought up the criticism more than once with an edge of resentment in his voice.
"He's definitely feeling it," said one guest. At one point, Mr. Obama noted acidly that President Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon only to have hundreds of them killed in a terrorist attack because of terrible planning, and then withdrew the remaining ones, leaving behind a civil war that lasted years. But Reagan, he noted, is hailed as a titan striding the earth.
"He's not a softy," Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter and attended the dinner Monday, said of Mr. Obama. "I think part of the problem with some of his critics is they think he's a softy. He's not a softy. But he's a person who tries to think through these events so you can draw some long-term conclusions."
President Reagan was a master of the emotional side of leadership, a talent that President Obama appears to completely lack -- or intentionally avoid. I can relate to the President: acting on emotion is not something that comes naturally to me -- my tendency is to sideline my emotions and attempt to make decisions based on reason alone. However, I've come to realize that when it comes to leading others it's critical to engage emotionally with your team, and decisiveness is an important component of that engagement.
The new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal/Annenberg Poll finds 62% of Americans support Obama taking action against ISIS.
But fully 68% of his countrymen say they have "very little" or "just some" confidence that Obama will achieve his newly-discovered strategic goals of degrading and defeating ISIS through bombing and an international coalition.
Perhaps worse, only slightly more than one-in-four (28%) have "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence their president will achieve the murderous group's demise.
Part of the faith deficit stems from Obama's chronic tardiness, in person and in policy. You may recall for years now, even after the deadly Benghazi attack proved him delusional, Obama's been touting how badly al Qaeda's leadership had been "decimated" and how dead Osama bin Laden was.
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
This New York Times editorial from 1987 advocates eliminating the minimum wage, which was $3.35/hour at the time. No doubt the current editors would disagree with their predecessors. However, the suggestion to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit was a good idea then and is a good idea now. The EITC is basically a way to distribute the cost of the minimum wage, and expanding the EITC in exchange for repealing the minimum wage would be a huge win.
Perhaps the mistake here is to accept the limited terms of the debate. The working poor obviously deserve a better shake. But it should not surpass our ingenuity or generosity to help some of them without hurting others. Here are two means toward that end: Wage supplements. Government might subsidize low wages with cash or payments for medical insurance, pensions or Social Security taxes. Alternatively, Washington could enlarge the existing earned income tax credit, a ''negative'' income tax paying up to $800 a year to working poor families. This would permit better targeting, since minimum-wage workers in affluent families would not be eligible. Training and education. The alternative to supplementing income for the least skilled workers is to raise their earning power in a free labor market. In the last two decades, dozens of programs to do that have produced mixed results at a very high cost. But the concept isn't necessarily at fault; nurturing the potential of individuals raised in poverty is very difficult. A humane society would learn from its mistakes and keep trying.
The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable - and fundamentally flawed. It's time to put this hoary debate behind us, and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little.
(HT: James Taranto.)
At least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, a report has found.
Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated, it said. ...
Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the latest report, said there had been "blatant" collective failures by the council's leadership, senior managers had "underplayed" the scale of the problem and South Yorkshire Police had failed to prioritise the issue.
Prof Jay said: "No-one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013."
Revealing details of the inquiry's findings, Prof Jay said: "It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered."
The inquiry team found examples of "children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".
It's worth pointing out that this kind of systemic abuse simply could not happen in America thanks to the Second Amendment. Some parents in Rotherham attempted to protect their daughters, but thanks to the UK's lack of basic civil rights the parents were unarmed while the rapists were not. The people of the UK should certainly investigate how their public officials failed them so thoroughly, but they should also consider this: if their government hadn't disarmed law-abiding citizens their daughters wouldn't be at the mercy of rapists and bureaucrats.