Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Metric of Difficulty

I came across this statistic yesterday and was intrigued/unsettled.

Infant mortality rate: rank/@ birth (UN/CIA)/under five

Iraq: 169/(81.5/43.8)/105.4
Afganistan: 194/(157.0/151)/235.4

Afganistan is second to last of all countries in the UN list of infant mortalities per 1000 live births. The CIA puts Afganistan third to last at 222nd of 224. A kid has a 1/10 chance of dying in Iraq before the age of five, but more than double that in Afganistan! That should give some sense of the level of civic development in the country and (through some unspecified logic) the likelihood of political stability there.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Universal Reaction

I met a fellow at a wedding last week who was transferring from the UofC to Penn. Mark D had told of this student the week prior and I was really upset (given that I didn't even know the guy). How will frum discourse ever improve if Jews keep going to Penn? When I ran into the student at the wedding (totally by coincidence) he told me that the universal reaction he received when he told people of his decision--students, faculty, administrators--was dismay that he had chosen "to give up on his education."

I was thinking the same thing.

God, UofCers are so pompous.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Glenn Beck's Socratic Discourse

Finally a serious thinker addresses Glenn Beck: http://beckstudies.blogspot.com/. I highly recommend these well-considered remarks on the important contemporary thinker, Glenn Beck. This blog presents a welcome addition to the nascent field of Beck Studies.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cutting and Pasting from Google Books

Just thought of a nifty way to copy text from Google Books (say, in one needs to quote an extended passage in a paper).

1. Place the desired page in the viewable portion of the screen.
2. (On a Mac) Crtl+Shift+3 for screen capture.
3. Cut and Paste the portion of text using Preview into a new file, Save As 'pdf.'
4. Open PDF with Adobe Acrobat Pro and use the OCR.
5. Voila!


The good is that I am less likely to mistranscribe text. The bad is that the OCR is not perfect, particularly with transliterated Arabic (though it got Mu'tazalite every time!) so I did have to fix the I~;I which was actually an H.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why is FB so Evil?

I feel like much of the internet has desisted with the evilness arms race. Google and Wikipedia have both been upfront about the alterations they undergo and take precautions not to trample over people's privacy (pace Google Buzz). Why can't FB do the same? Or rather, why does FB believe that the only way to grow its corporation is by exploiting its users when other companies choose to take a different tact?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Quick thoughts on Stupak's resignation

So I have been reading NYT's discussion of Stupak's resignation. I think that the conversation is largely off base. Stupak represents MI-1, which includes northern Michigan and the UP (upper peninsula), a region with some of the highest unemployment in the country. I don't care to find out exact figures, but it saw unemployment as high as 25% there.

As I see it, Stupak is not running for another term in part because he is being targeted by republicans, yes. But also in large part because he knows that this election would have been a tough fight with or without HCR. When your district suffers economically, your constituents will hold their elected officials (in part) accountable. Not only will 2010 be a slog, but 2012, 2014 and 2016 will also be tough. Such a economically depressed region of the country will not see a rapid decline in unemployment quickly, and the district will remain vulnerable the whole time. After 18 years in congress I think that Stupak decided it is not worth slogging through n more dogged campaign cycles. Instead retire now when the Dems owe you big.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What do I know from global warming?!

So I had an idea that I am not going to fully flesh out because I have a lot of reading to do. I was reading a paper by Bob Axelrod "The Dissemination of Culture" Journal of Conflict Resolution, 1997. The article uses Agent Based Modeling to demonstrate that if you have a lot of little cultural blocs, each distinguished by five characteristics, if two of those blocs have common elements and one bloc is allowed to mutate to be like its neighbor you quickly get a few (1-3) dominant cultural regions.

I think this model helps explain why the frum world takes issue with global warming. It is strange, right? What do frum people care about global warming? My hypothesis is that the frum world has become very similar to the liberal elite over the past half century. Not just the MO, but also the Monsey crowd go to fancy law schools, buy Beamers and fancy clothes and drink good scotch and wines. Because of these similarities it risks being imbibed by the liberal American cultural region. In a move to reduce the number of sites that it shares with this cultural region it has strategically altered its character--regarding issues with which it has no intrinsic fight--in order to better ensure that it cannot be swallowed. Instead it makes itself more similar to the less well educated and Evangelical communities with which there is very little likelihood that any real assimilation will occur.

(Social) Science!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Happy Shushan Purim

I'm sure most of you have already seen this photo, but just in case you haven't....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why Germany?

Germany currently has 21 medals to the U.S.'s 25. Pretty good for a country that is roughly 1/4 the size of the U.S. This isn't a fluke either. Germany had a combined 33 medals in the winter games in '88 and has not gotten fewer than 22 in any winter olympic since. I wonder if it has something to do with the historical communist influence. The olympics offered bragging rights for the Free and Communist World. Communist countries were renowned for the resources they would devote to the games. To that end, East Germany always received more medals than did West Germany. When the wall fell Germany was reunited, but the institutions that trained top athletes were able to persist because of the relative affluence of the country. Impoverished Russia, on the other hand was not able to maintain their olympic training organizations and as a result their medal count has diminished. That is why (according this speculative theory, anyway) Germany has been so dominant in the winter olympics.

As for Norway, I got nothing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Stuffs

The Oatmeal and Toothpaste 4 Dinner on sidebar. They are funny, if odd.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Principled Disinterest

I am confused. I got an email Friday from a member of the minyan asking us to "do a mitzvah" before shabbes and support his son's charity that is in the running to receive a grant through the Chase Community Giving project. My sense is, however, that there are lots of really worthy charities out there, and it is rather difficult for me to assess that one is more deserving than another. Furthermore, the money has already been allocated, so my vote won't increase the funds given to charity, only affect the recipient. What then is my ethical incentive for participating?

This seems to be a perfect instance where a specialist might well be a better arbiter than the demos.
UPDATE: If you were to, ex ante, choose between giving microloans to the developing world or find innovative ways to remind women to perform self-exams on their breasts, which would it be? I suspected as much; 14,000 for breasts and 8,000 for microloans. So this is not a question worthy-ness, breast cancer kills more than 40,000 of women every year. But it is unclear that self-exams go very far to prevent those deaths, whereas microfinance won a Nobel Prize for saving the world. I just don't think people are very good at prioritizing when there are no constraints on their decisions.