Monday ReadsPosted: February 14, 2011
It’s another one of those holidays where we’re heels if we don’t go out and spend some cash on cards, bad food, and overpriced flowers. If all else fails, you can celebrate birthdays of dead presidents and buy a mattress! So, I did one thing dealing with a ‘heart’ last night and I didn’t even have to pay. I watched Masterpiece Theatre. This is something I’ve done for decades. My mother and I conspired to tape all the Upstairs Downstairs when I had a Beta player. What a valuable collection that’s turned out to be!! Anyway, this new one is by William Boyd who chronicles the life of writer Logan Gonzago Mountstuart. It’s called ‘Any Human Heart’. I enjoyed the first part so I’ll undoubtedly watch more. It included Hemingway reading poetry and Edward and Mrs. Simpson playing through during a game of golf. It was introduced by the usual announcement of the attempt by the Republicans to kill this type of programming and Big Bird. I already know the Louisiana contingent of Republicans will all say yes to offing Big Bird and the two remaining Democrats will say no. No point in my writing any of them. I’d like to have my own version of the Hyde amendment where I get to defund the department of defense and the pentagon and fund anything PBS and planned parenthood want to do. Wanna join my movement to pass the Big Bird Amendment?
So, my fear of future food prices has been matched by that of Nouriel Roubini. I just read today that food inflation in India was reaching somewhere between 18-19% annually. I guess it’s getting worse for food importing Japan.
Yes, rising costs for commodities such as wheat, corn and coffee might do what trillions of dollars of central-bank liquidity couldn’t.
Yet the economic consequences of food prices pale in comparison with the social ones. Nowhere could the fallout be greater than Asia, where a critical mass of those living on less than $2 dollars a day reside. It might have major implications for Asia’s debt outlook. It may have even bigger ones for leaders hoping to keep the peace and avoid mass protests.
What a difference a few months can make. Back in, say, October, the chatter was about Asia’s invulnerability to Wall Street’s woes. Now, governments in Jakarta, Manila and New Delhi are grappling with their own subprime crisis of sorts. This one reflects a toxic mix of suboptimal food stocks, exploding demand, wacky weather and zero interest rates around the globe.
It’s not hyperbole when Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist who predicted the U.S. financial crisis, says surging food and energy costs are stoking emerging-market inflation that’s serious enough to topple governments. Hosni Mubarak over in Egypt can attest to that.
Revolution any one? Since it’s hitting 70 this week, it’s time to start up the garden and the green house again. The frost really did the banana trees in so I’ll likely be out in the back with a machete and odd straw hat while you’re reading this. Hopefully, this time I won’t be buzzed by spy planes and stealth choppers. I still haven’t forgotten the black Apache helicopters overhead two years ago–way too close to my martial law Katrina experience–testing out a more of the same thing drill. That will stay with me for some time. I guarantee. That was the same time congress introduced a law to set up FEMA camps too. (See all the links.) I wonder how long before they try a few more of those ideas out again.
The NYT shared ‘The Dirty Little Secrets of Search’ yesterday. I thought I’d share them today.
The New York Times asked an expert in online search, Doug Pierce of Blue Fountain Media in New York, to study this question, as well as Penney’s astoundingly strong search-term performance in recent months. What he found suggests that the digital age’s most mundane act, the Google search, often represents layer upon layer of intrigue. And the intrigue starts in the sprawling, subterranean world of “black hat” optimization, the dark art of raising the profile of a Web site with methods that Google considers tantamount to cheating.
Despite the cowboy outlaw connotations, black-hat services are not illegal, but trafficking in them risks the wrath of Google. The company draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and “white hat” approaches, which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site’s visibility. Penney’s results were derived from methods on the wrong side of that line, says Mr. Pierce. He described the optimization as the most ambitious attempt to game Google’s search results that he has ever seen.
“Actually, it’s the most ambitious attempt I’ve ever heard of,” he said. “This whole thing just blew me away. Especially for such a major brand. You’d think they would have people around them that would know better.”
Media Matters reports that Shirely Sherrod will sue Andrew Brietbart for his role in her firing at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You may recall that his organization significantly edited a speech she gave to make her sound racist. Sherrod’s attorneys are arguing that he damaged her reputation. She needs to sue him down here in New Orleans where we don’t cap damages and she’s likely to find a sympathetic jury. Breitbart one bit of pond scum I’d like to see drained from the pool.
Breitbart, who first posted the clip on July 19, 2010, at his BigGovernment.com site, had been under scrutiny after it was revealed the clip misrepresented Sherrod’s message during a speech in March 2010 before a group of NAACP members.
Fox then posted an online article reporting on the clip, linking to Breitbart’s video. Breitbart did not seek comment from Sherrod prior to his report; Fox News also gave no indication that they had done so. She was forced to resign later that day.
Breitbart has recently claimed that Sherrod was not fired because of his video but because of her part in the 11-year-old Pigford case, in which black farmers sued for discrimination against the Agriculture Department.
He stated such a claim again on Thursday in an interview with Media Matters, in which he admitted he had no proof of the assertion, revealing it was a theory.
Sigh. He’s also committed my most pet pet peeve. Yet another idiot that doesn’t know the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. Don’t they teach the Scientific method any more? Couldn’t they put out an idiots guide out so folks like this can buy a clue? Hey, Andrew!! Here’s something for Your Idiot’s 3X5 card.
- S: (n) hypothesis, possibility, theory (a tentative insight into the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena) “a scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory”; “he proposed a fresh theory of alkalis that later was accepted in chemical practices”
Yes. A Scientific hypothesis that survives experimental testing becomes a scientific theory. Could we please stop using these words as interchangeable please?
So, speaking of a hypothesis and scientific testing, every wonder what kinds of things extra testosterone can do for some one? Science Daily reports that a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. shows it reduces empathy.
Professor Jack van Honk at the University of Utrecht and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge designed the study that was conducted in Utrecht. They used the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ task as the test of mind reading, which tests how well someone can infer what a person is thinking or feeling from photographs of facial expressions from around the eyes.
Mind reading is one aspect of empathy, a skill that shows significant sex differences in favour of females. They tested 16 young women from the general population, since women on average have lower levels of testosterone than men. The decision to test just females was to maximize the possibility of seeing a reduction in their levels of empathy.
The researchers not only found that administration of testosterone leads to a significant reduction in mind reading, but that this effect is powerfully predicted by the 2D:4D digit ratio, a marker of prenatal testosterone. Those people with the most masculinized 2D:4D ratios showed the most pronounced reduction in the ability to mind read.
Jack van Honk said: “We are excited by this finding because it suggests testosterone levels prenatally prime later testosterone effects on the mind.”
Simon Baron-Cohen commented: “This study contributes to our knowledge of how small hormonal differences can have far-reaching effects on empathy.”
I wonder what impact that will have on those new drugs pushing for testosterone therapy? How many women and gay men may want the men in their lives to just say no?
Okay, so I saved the worst for last. I was watching Candy Crowley yesterday sorta, kinda. When I got back from making another cup of coffee there was this face on the screen on the screen blathering one of my other pet peeves. (See picture on the right.) Within about 2 minutes, I was mumbling to myself wondering where these dumba$$ republicans get their complete and total lack of information on the economy. He was on about the usual STUPIDa$$ meme that the federal government has to get its budget in order like a household. So, completely stupid! Households can go bankrupt. Their debts come due. Governments of stable, developed nations are assumed to operate in perpetuity plus they have the ability to goose the economy through job initiatives which can take care of budgets really quickly. Then, there’s the fact we have general price deflation right now and they could still print up money. Governments are NOT households, idiot!! So, much to my chagrin and naivete, the dude I was ready to toss nerf balls at was actually Obama’s new Budget Director, Jacob Lew. I swear, he sounded like some Republican Congressman. He was defending these cuts in terms I wouldn’t believe could come from a Democratic pol. Later on Sunday, I found out they were Obama’s cuts and then later than that, I found it Obama’s budget Direct that was defending them on State of the Union. I guess every other Democratic pol was embarrassed to defend these kinds of stupid cuts.
“What [the budget] says is that we really do what every American family does: we have to start living within our means,” Lew said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Lew outlined a series of targeted cuts including $125 million from a fund to restore the Great Lakes. He also said graduate student loans would accrue interest while students are in school. As it stands now, interest doesn’t start accruing until after a graduate student completes his or her program.
Lew stressed that while interest will accrue while a student attends graduate school, the student will not have to pay that interest until he or she graduates. “Interest will build up, but students won’t have to pay until they graduate,” Lew said. “It will not reduce access to education.”
“It’s not possible to do this painlessly,” Lew said. “We made some tough choices.”
I’ll repeat what I said last night. How about we get rid of abstinence ‘education’? How about all those subsidies to religious organizations who try to ungay gays and try to covert alcoholics from substance abuse to religious abuse? Can we please close down all of the military bases in Europe and Japan now? I think both WW2 and the Cold War are over. How about we just leave Iraq and Afghanistan? Can we defund anything that creates a check for GE, Halliburton, or KBR? Hell, I have a $Billions of them … just ask me.
Oh, and here’s something from NPR on ‘The Dark Origins of Valentine’s Day’. It was a pretty bizarre Roman mating and fertility ritual in its earliest days. They don’t have any cards that reflect this, however. As per usual, the Roman Catholic church later co-opted it as an excuse to promote one of its numerous celebrity martyrs.
From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.
The Roman romantics “were drunk. They were naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.
The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival – or longer, if the match was right.
So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?