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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Dale Worley's LiveJournal:

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Monday, August 22nd, 2016
11:01 am
Summary of "Albion's Seed"
I'm impressed by the thesis of David Hackett Fischer's book, Albion's Seed, which describes the origins of four of the US's regional cultures in separate waves of immigration from separate areas of the British Isles. Finally, I found a book review that adequately summarizes Fischer's arguments. The review is long but amusingly written, and still a lot shorter than the book (972 pages). Bonus: Slyly disguised links that compare US regional cultures with groups in the game Civilization.
In school, we tend to think of the original American colonists as “Englishmen”, a maximally non-diverse group who form the background for all of the diversity and ethnic conflict to come later. Fischer’s thesis is the opposite. Different parts of the country were settled by very different groups of Englishmen with different regional backgrounds, religions, social classes, and philosophies. The colonization process essentially extracted a single stratum of English society, isolated it from all the others, and then plunked it down on its own somewhere in the Eastern US.
Wednesday, July 6th, 2016
9:52 pm
Nerd Amusement of the Day: Slithering horror: electric eels jump out of the water to shock you!
Last night I stayed up late reading Lovecraftian horror stories. Today, the Universe got its revenge on me (what would you expect?) by providing me with a very real, nightmare-inducing scientific paper: "Leaping eels electrify threats, supporting Humboldt’s account of a battle with horses" If you wade into a pool with electric eels, instead of fleeing, they jump up on you to shock you. Since electric eels can get up to six feet long, and deliver 1 amp of current at 800 volts, this is no idle threat!
9:46 pm
Nerd Amusement of the Day: Borat Sagdiyev is listed as an academic journal editor
picture of Borat The listing of the Editorial Board of the Academicians' Research Center Journals of Immunology and Vaccines includes a listing of "Borat Sagdiyev", along with his portrait (left)!
Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
9:58 pm
Hillary Clinton at 73%
Ladbrokes currently gives odds of 4-to-11 for Hillary Clinton to become the next President.
Sunday, April 17th, 2016
9:50 pm
Handy reference card
A list of all recessions in the US since 1857. (Guaranteed to break the ice at parties.) In the last few decades, recessions have gotten shorter and more widely-spaced.
Sunday, March 13th, 2016
6:08 pm
Adventures in programming
From "The Daily WTF":
Let's talk about Ebay.

Ebay thought they were secure, you see. They thought they'd done everything right. Sure, their regex only matched alphanumeric characters inside script tags, but really, who writes javascript without using letters or numbers? How much harm could possibly be done?
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
2:43 pm
Productivity growth continues, but unevenly
The OECD did a study on the slowing productivity growth in advanced economies. It turns out the situation is a mixed bag; some businesses are growing their productivity quite handily, but many are not:
But digging into the data, the OECD’s economists conclude that businesses are still innovating in ways that increase their productivity. In manufacturing, the 100 most productive firms in each sector saw output per worker increase at an annual rate of 3.5% between 2001 and 2009, compared to just 0.5% for other firms. In services, the gaps are even wider. “Frontier” producers boosted worker productivity by 5% each year, compared with 0.3% among other firms. In both manufacturing and services, the gap between the most productive firms and the rest widened towards the end of the period, in the year immediately after the financial crisis hit.

“The main source of the productivity slowdown is not so much a slowing of innovation by the most globally advanced firms, but rather a slowing of the pace at which innovations spread out throughout the economy—a breakdown of the diffusion machine,” the OECD said.
Friday, February 19th, 2016
9:44 am
A bizarre investing tale
A complaint that the Vanguard mutual funds don't charge high enough fees, and thus cheat state and federal tax authorities.
9:37 am
Interesting Scalia anecdote
Lawrence Lessig notes that Scalia really did mean it when he said he didn't want judges inventing things:
Justice Antonin Scalia was an “originalist” committed to interpreting the Constitution in the way it would have been understood at the time it was adopted. He was also a conservative who was, as any of us are regardless of our politics, committed to particular outcomes that he hoped the law would support. [...]

In one case, for example, the question was how long someone arrested without a warrant could be held before presented to a judge. The presumptive conservative answer was quite long. But the question Scalia asked me was, "How long would he have been held at the framing?" And after reading scores of case reports from the time around the founding, my answer to him was not what he wanted to hear: The suspect should be presented to a judge as soon as possible, even if that meant waking the judge up. "OK, that's our position," Scalia told me, maybe reluctantly. "I don't believe in an originalism of convenience."
Thursday, February 18th, 2016
10:49 am
How not to do it
Matt Levine discusses proper etiquette:
One important lesson from the last few years of bank scandals is: Don't put it in writing. A lot of people got that wrong. Fine. But the really surprising thing is the number of people who came so close to getting it right, but for one small mistake. They knew not to put it in writing, and they told their colleagues not to put it in writing. Their mistake -- it is a subtle one -- is that they told their colleagues not to put it in writing in writing.
Monday, February 15th, 2016
10:47 pm
Haters gotta hate
Stephen Carter reports on a liberal version of a ubiquitous scourge:
When the news broke Saturday that Justice Antonin Scalia had died at age 79, my Twitter feed began to fill with hate. Not disagreement or disrespect -- actual hate. He was an ignorant waste of flesh, wrote one young fool. His death was the best news in decades, cheered another.
Sunday, February 14th, 2016
6:12 pm
Nerd Amusement of the Day: Birds that spread fire to flush out prey
In Australia, birds may be using arson to hunt
The brown falcon and black kite are believed to pick up smoldering pieces of brush and branches and transport them to new locations. These birds regularly hunt at the edges of fires, but such blazes are not always positioned over food sources. By moving the fires to areas with a heavy concentration of prey, the birds create an easy opportunity to hunt frogs, lizards, and snakes.
2:23 pm
Nerd Amusement of the Day: Standing near merging black holes
Thursday's announcement of the detection of gravitational waves[citation needed] led me to look up the paper[1]. The abstract notes that 3 solar masses of energy were radiated during the black hole merger, in about 0.5 second. This turns out to be 5e54 ergs[2], or 5,000 foe, where a foe is 1e51 ergs, a measure of energy output of supernovas[3]. The gravitational wave output of the merger was about 50 times the total energy of the most energetic supernovas[4]. This leads to the inevitable What If? question:

What would you notice if you were standing on an Earth-like planet 1 AU from the merging black holes?

TL;DRCollapse )
Friday, February 12th, 2016
2:35 pm
Nerd Amusement of the Day: What do your Neanderthal genes do?
What's impressive is not the details that were found, but that the details could be found at all. Or for that matter, that the question was even asked.

The phenotypic legacy of admixture between modern humans and Neandertals
Many modern human genomes retain DNA inherited from interbreeding with archaic hominins, such as Neandertals, yet the influence of this admixture on human traits is largely unknown. We analyzed the contribution of common Neandertal variants to over 1000 electronic health record (EHR) – derived phenotypes in ~28,000 adults of European ancestry. We discovered and replicated associations of Neandertal alleles with neurological, psychiatric, immunological, and dermatological phenotypes. Neandertal alleles together explained a significant fraction of the variation in risk for depression and skin lesions resulting from sun exposure (actinic keratosis), and individual Neandertal alleles were significantly associated with specific human phenotypes, including hypercoagulation and tobacco use. Our results establish that archaic admixture influences disease risk in modern humans, provide hypotheses about the effects of hundreds of Neandertal haplotypes, and demonstrate the utility of EHR data in evolutionary analyses.
Thursday, February 11th, 2016
10:18 am
Seriously mass-production, easy-to-use looting of paywalled journal articles
"Meet the Robin Hood of Science":
The tale of how one researcher has made nearly every scientific paper ever published available for free to anyone, anywhere in the world. ... On September 5th, 2011, Alexandra Elbakyan, a researcher from Kazakhstan, created Sci-Hub, a website that bypasses journal paywalls, illegally providing access to nearly every scientific paper ever published immediately to anyone who wants it. ... As the number of papers in the LibGen database expands, the frequency with which Sci-Hub has to dip into publishers’ repositories falls and consequently the risk of Sci-Hub triggering its alarm bells becomes ever smaller. Elbakyan explains, “We have already downloaded most paywalled articles to the library ... we have almost everything!” ... The efficiency of the system is really quite astounding, working far better than the comparatively primitive modes of access given to researchers at top universities, tools that universities must fork out millions of pounds for every year. ... In one fell swoop, a network has been created that likely has a greater level of access to science than any individual university, or even government for that matter, anywhere in the world. Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities' institutional access — literally a world of knowledge.

Sell Elsevier short...
10:05 am
Weird cat story
There’s a new paper out that extend the[s] record of host manipulation by toxoplasma. We already new that toxoplasma infections cause mice to lose fear of cat urine – turns out that toxoplasma infections also cause chimpanzees to develop a morbid attraction to leopard urine, a marker of their main predator. Uninfected chimps avoid it. Interestingly, infected chips don’t seem attracted to lion or tiger urine, which suggests a specific strains of toxo.

Note that the author of this post has some rather strange opinions.
Monday, February 8th, 2016
5:06 pm
Good news in the January jobs report
Cribbed from 4 Reasons to Cheer the January Jobs Report:
  • Previous years of strong job creation seem to be having an impact on hourly earnings. The 0.5 percent wage growth is encouraging.

  • The impact of higher wages on take-home cash is enhanced by a concurrent increase in hours worked.

  • The participation rate increased to 62.7 percent, suggesting that workers who had been discouraged are returning to the labor force.

  • The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent, the lowest in nine years.

The most interesting part is that the participation rate is creeping up, suggesting that there's some fraction of the non-participants who are part of a "U7" unemployment rate and will be tempted back to work as times improve.

Also, I ran into the most detailed assessment of the decline in the participation rate that I've seen.
Sunday, January 31st, 2016
7:05 pm
Flint water crisis not quite as bad as reported
David Mastio writes: "In 2005, Michigan completed the years-long process of collecting 500,000 lead blood tests from children in the state under 6. Back then, 26% of kids tested — that's more than one in four — had blood lead levels (5 micrograms per deciliter or greater) that would cause concern today. In the hardest hit parts of Flint now, only 10.6% of kids have such concerning levels of lead in their blood. [...] In the late 1970s, 88% of Americans ages 1 to 5 had at least 10 micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood, or twice as much as today's level of concern."

Interestingly, Bloomberg View had the sharpest analysis of why the standard monitoring for lead didn't notice the problem, i.e., what needs to be fixed to make sure it doesn't happen again:
Moar...Collapse )
6:52 pm
Odd sociological finding
It's commonly said that women have "cryptic ovulation", unlike most mammals, they don't have any overt sign of ovulation (immediate fertility) and are generally said to be unaware of their own ovulation. But there are multiple reports that ovulation changes women's behavior, which suggests that women are "aware" of their own ovulation in some sense. And in a strange result, apparently other women can detect that they're ovulating:
For women, forming close, cooperative relationships with other women at once poses important opportunities and possible threats-including to mate retention. To maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of same-sex social relationships, we propose that women's mate guarding is functionally flexible and that women are sensitive to both interpersonal and contextual cues indicating whether other women might be likely and effective mate poachers. Here, we assess one such cue: other women's fertility. Because ovulating (i.e., high-fertility) women are both more attractive to men and also more attracted to (desirable) men, ovulating women may be perceived to pose heightened threats to other women's romantic relationships. Across 4 experiments, partnered women were exposed to photographs of other women taken during either their ovulatory or nonovulatory menstrual-cycle phases, and consistently reported intentions to socially avoid ovulating (but not nonovulating) women-but only when their own partners were highly desirable. Exposure to ovulating women also increased women's sexual desires for their (highly desirable) partners. These findings suggest that women can be sensitive to subtle cues of other women's fertility and respond (e.g., via social exclusion, enhanced sexual attention to own mate) in ways that may facilitate their mate retention goals while not thwarting their affiliative goals.
Friday, January 29th, 2016
6:20 pm
Men making less money causes problems for children
I ran into a paper that analyzes the effect of the reduction of men's earning capacity on family structure in the U.S., "The Labor Market and the Marriage Market: How Adverse Employment Shocks Affect Marriage, Fertility, and Children’s Living Circumstances". Extracting the meat out the abstract:
The structure of marriage and child-rearing in U.S. households has undergone two marked shifts in the last three decades: a steep decline in the prevalence of marriage among young adults, and a sharp rise in the fraction of children born to unmarried mothers or living in single-headed households, the latter of which is concentrated among non-college and minority households and thus particularly affects lower-SES children. A potential contributor to both phenomena is the declining labor market opportunities faced by non-college and minority males, which make these males less valuable as marital partners. [...] Import shocks concentrated on male employment reduce marriage rates and fertility, raise the fraction of births due to teen mothers, and, most significantly, increase the fraction of children living either in poverty or in single-headed households. [...] But our analysis strongly supports the hypothesis that changes in labor demand that reduce male employment opportunities—and in particular, the sharp decline in labor market conditions facing non-college U.S. males over the last three decades—may be a quantitatively important contributor to the rise in the share of U.S. children living in poor and in single-headed households.
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