Friday Links

For a few decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, authors from across ideologies and genres published stories that today would be called “cli-fi,” or climate fiction. French author Jules Verne, best known for popular adventure stories like Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, penned a novel in 1889 called Sans Dessus Dessous about capitalists intentionally heating the Arctic to extract coal reserves. Mark Twain included a subplot of selling warm climates in his 1892 novel The American Claimant. Recently, literary scholar Steve Asselin reexamined these and dozens of other early cli-fi stories, finding several disquieting themes relevant to how we think about modern-day climate change.

Judged by the standard of Arrow’s ideal of complete state-contingent markets, we’ve seen astoundingly little useful financial innovation during my long lifetime.

Quakers – the Religious Society of Friends – are famously nonviolent. One wartime tactic bears their name, not because they created it but because it bears the same hallmarks of nonviolence: the quaker guns.

This is how it typically worked: find a log that was roughly the shape and size of an artillery gun barrel, paint it black, and maybe carve the end a bit so it looks like a muzzle. Prop it up, point it at your enemy, and trust them to come to the wrong conclusion.

Despite the theory’s intuitive appeal, standards-based reform does not work very well in reality. One key reason is that coordinating key aspects of education at the top of the system hamstrings discretion at the bottom. The illusion of a coherent, well-coordinated system is gained at the expense of teachers’ flexibility in tailoring instruction to serve their students. Classrooms are teeming with variation.

The media narratives Americans consume may shape their opinions about whether the events of January 6 constitute terrorism, to a startling degree.

It is estimated that only 10% of academic titles are available for university libraries to purchase as digital copies for their students, and the books which are available, are frequently placed under restrictive licensing, made available only in bundles, and sold to libraries at incredibly high costs for single user or one-year access. As a result, academic librarians have been left with no choice but to tell staff and students that it is not possible to acquire key texts, and lecturers have had to re-design their reading lists around what is available.

I think what he's saying is digital art is the Platonic ideal of a Veblen good.

But “ownership” of crypto art confers no actual rights, other than being able to say that you own the work. You don’t own the copyright, you don’t get a physical print, and anyone can look at the image on the web. There is merely a record in a public database saying that you own the work – really, it says you own the work at a specific URL.

“We the people” have gotten a bad reputation in the annals of democratic theory. Thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Alexis de Tocqueville have identified an excess of democracy as the greatest threat to U.S. democracy. As recently as 2019, the Harvard scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt fretted about “an overreliance on the ‘will of the people’”—a Hamilton phrase—in their bestseller, How Democracies Die.

“It’s quite simple, really: Daylight Saving Time is a hoax perpetrated by the liberal elite as a form of mind control and time manipulation in order to make us all complacent and ready to be sold into the sex trade,” Perkins explained. “It didn’t exist until 1992, when it was instituted by perverted infidel Bill Clinton so that he and his satanic cabal could have a masked satanic ceremony on the White House lawn — they use TV commercials with subliminal messaging to lull the populace into a deep sleep for 60 minutes while they douse each other in pig’s blood and engage in extramarital sex. Like I said, pretty obvious.”

(End note: the only honest way I’ve heard to increase your winnings in the lottery is this: pick numbers higher than 31. This won’t increase your chances of winning, but it may just increase the amount you win if you do. Many people use their birthdays when choosing numbers, so when the numbers 1 to 31 come up there may be more winners. More winners means a smaller share of the prize to each one. If you win with numbers above 31, you may just be sharing the prize with fewer people – and so winning more money. I have no idea if this technique actually works in practice because I don’t buy lottery tickets, but it’s a neat idea, and you probably won’t go to jail for trying it.)

This afternoon, I was updating the streaming apps on my 2020 LG CX OLED TV, something I do from time to time, but today was different. Out of nowhere, I saw (and heard) an ad for Ace Hardware start playing in the lower-left corner. It autoplayed with sound without any action on my part.

“It is difficult to envision an investment in K-12 education with a higher ceiling on its potential return than improving school leadership,” the report’s authors say.

Friday Links

Transmission of viruses was lower with physical distancing of 1 m or more, compared with a distance of less than 1 m (n=10 736, pooled adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0·18, 95% CI 0·09 to 0·38; risk difference [RD] −10·2%, 95% CI −11·5 to −7·5; moderate certainty); protection was increased as distance was lengthened (change in relative risk [RR] 2·02 per m; pinteraction=0·041; moderate certainty). Face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection (n=2647; aOR 0·15, 95% CI 0·07 to 0·34, RD −14·3%, −15·9 to −10·7; low certainty), with stronger associations with N95 or similar respirators compared with disposable surgical masks or similar (eg, reusable 12–16-layer cotton masks; pinteraction=0·090; posterior probability >95%, low certainty).

There’s a joke: What do you call 1000 good cops and ten bad cops? 1010 bad cops....

It seems paradoxical at first. While people do escape to cheery landscapes, like the farm of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, they also spend their money on games engineered to inspire terror, fear, and anxiety. Doom Eternal, Nioh, and Resident Evil all saw high download numbers in the last few months.

What’s the appeal? In the journal Preternature, authors Robert M. Geraci, Nat Recine, and Samantha Fox make a compelling case that video games like these have a meaningful psychological role, especially today. “Faced with physical and psychological dangers, human beings imagine them as monsters and seek to master them,” they explain.

“The horrific experience of videogames, and hence their cathartic appeal, emerges when a game produces a constant level of anxiety in players while allowing the players to act on it,” the authors explain.

Gloves, masks, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are key to keeping us safe, especially as we began to ease the lockdown rules. Yet, the environmental watchdogs worry that all that PPE will flow into the ocean. ” If they’re thrown on the streets, when it rains the gloves and masks will eventually end up in the sea,” biologist Anastasia Miliou at the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation in Greece told Deutsche Welle.

Heroism by the many or the repeated heroism by occupant after occupant of a given role indicates the failure of the surrounding system. Adequate supplies, for example, or prompt pre-emptive action would have changed the effort required of many health care providers from heroic to merely demanding. In that sense, the accolades, deeply deserved as they are, can serve to divert our attention from the less glamorous, indeed the mundane work of repairing the systems so that heroes need not show up en masse to hold together a wheezing and crippled health care system.

Vavilov hypothesized that farmers never intentionally tried to domesticate the rye plant. Ancient weeding methods were based on visual cues—if something looked like a weed, it was plucked. Farmers spent generations unintentionally selecting for rye plants that looked like useful wheat, not weeds. Eventually, rye mimicked wheat so successfully, the two became almost indistinguishable.

The pants allegedly disappeared in 2005. Whenever the business offered to settle, Pearson moved the goalposts, saying he remained unsatisfied. His demands continued to escalate, and he also offered a ridiculous theory of the damages he sought under the D.C. consumer-protection statute. By April 2007, he was demanding over $65 million to settle a claim for a pair of missing pants. The case went to trial, and he lost. He appealed and lost. He sought en banc review and lost. That was, at least, the end of the litigation against the dry cleaners. But Pearson wasn’t done. After losing his ALJ job—some believed the litigation showed poor judgment, you see—he sued for wrongful termination, still insisting he had been in the right. He lost. He appealed, and lost.

Turns out that if you persist in making the same frivolous arguments for a sufficient number of years, the bar association may take notice. In 2015, the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed ethics charges against Pearson, which, of course, he furiously contested on the grounds that he had been right all along. He lost. And, of course, he appealed....

Friday Links

US cities vary widely in the number of cops they have relative to their population, as the graph below (drawn from data assembled by Governing magazine). Among big cities, DC, Chicago, New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia top the list, with over 40 officers per 10,000 people. These are well above the national average of just under 28 per 10,000. Cities toward the bottom of the list have 20 or fewer.

But one question has been sitting in the back of my mind since the talk of curve-flattening started.  Does everyone get the coronavirus eventually? It’s an important question. This is a novel virus for which none of us are likely to have any existing immunity. We are ripe for infection and the rate of spread (without social distancing) is rapid. The presence of asymptomatic spread makes the situation even worse.

For COVID-19, we probably have to have 65-70% of the population immune before the thing dies out. I’ll just point out we are nowhere close to that. Even in New York city, American epicenter of the disease, seroprevalence studies only suggest about 25% of the population is immune

“Our whole reason for lobbying for looser gun laws and amassing huge personal arsenals of weapons these past years was so that we could ensure the security of a free state and protect the people from an oppressive government. And then it actually happened, and the whole rising up against a tyrannical government thing just totally slipped our minds, which is a little embarrassing,” a sheepish NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said.

When property damage and theft happens as a side-effect of real mass protest, authorities in a democracy cannot baton, tear gas, or shoot their way to legitimacy. People want social order, but this isn’t like quelling a riot after a sports game. The key issue—as the Governor of Minnesota put it the other day—is that “there are more of them than us”. All the tactical gear in the world isn’t worth a damn, ultimately, if enough of the population ends up in open revolt against civil authority. There are just too many people.

But if the bulk of a city’s population really is directly engaged in mass protest or indirectly supportive of it, and these protests are met with force by the authorities, then violent disorder will start to look less like pockets of disruption disapproved of by all and more like the loss of legitimacy.

In the absence of mass mobilization for protest, imposing “Law and Order” by force is usually a politically successful tactic, at least in the short-run. The demand for order is the most basic demand of political life. But attempting to impose order by force when people are protesting in the streets en masse is much riskier, both for the leader wanting to “dominate” and for political institutions generally.

About Me

Developer at Brown University Library specializing in instructional design and technology, Python-based data science, and XML-driven web development.

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