Showing posts from November, 2009

Obese people on-board: discrimination?

  The Canadian Supreme Court wisely ruled that people like this should not have to pay for more than one plane ticket, because that would be discrimination: I am pro-discrimination. By that token, maybe the Canadian Supreme Court should extend its anti-discrimination activism to roller coaster rides? Surely, the minimum height standards discriminate against midgets.

Belle de Jour: Freakonomics interview

"Belle de Jour" is the pseudonym of a woman scientist, blogger and author, known for writing about her experiences as a call girl. Now that her identity has been revealed, an interview with her appears on Freakonomics: In 2003, a young American woman in London studying for her PhD. ran into money trouble. To support herself while writing her thesis, she joined an escort service. Under the assumed name Belle de Jour, she started to blog her experiences. That blog led to a series of successful, jaunty memoirs beginning with 2005’s The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. The books were adapted for television in the U.K. (where she is portrayed by Billie Piper) and later in the U.S. All the while, as Belle de Jour garnered more attention — and criticism, for portraying prostitution as a glamorous career choice — the woman behind Belle de Jour struggled to keep her anonymity. This month, as an ex-boyfriend threatened to blow her cover, Belle approached one of her critics,

Evil in Russia prospers

CEO and co-founder of former leading foreign investor in Russia says that Russia is now a criminal state : "When Putin first showed up and said he was going to tame the oligarchs I was the biggest fan of that particular concept. Then I realised that what he meant by taming the oligarchs was by sticking law enforcement people in their place," he says. "Now you have a bunch of law enforcement people who are essentially organised criminals with unlimited power to ruin lives take property and do whatever they like and that's far worse than I have ever seen in Russia before. Russia is essentially a criminal state now."

Values across the world

Fascinating - a map based on research of how people's values differ across the globe :

Israel should move to West Australia

I've said it before: Israel is a historic mistake , and their religious zealotry is no better than the zealotry of the Muslims. Israel should get a taste of their own medicine, and be moved to West Australia. They've built a country out of the desert once before; they can do it once again. Except this time, the land should be properly purchased; the borders should be well defined; and there will be no "holy" land to fight about, and no angry, disenfranchised neighbors. Then everyone, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, can get on with their lives, let this mess be over with, and continue to live in peace. But that would be no "fun" then, would it?

Venn's diagram of 4 famous characters


The subconscious: The tail that wags the dog

I had an interesting dream today. Not long before my alarm went off, I dreamt being in a house that I know, and for some reason, Vladimir Putin was there. We exchanged a few sentences, I'm not sure about what exactly. Then he went into another room to meet some other people, and then he was about to leave. I felt that an important concern of mine wasn't addressed, so I caught up with him at the front door. "Hey Mr. Putin," I said, and he looked at me expectantly. I said, "Don't start a world war." The look on his face was one of confusion and bewilderment. I repeated, "Please don't start a world war. I mean... don't start another world war." He understood now. For a few moments there, he was at a loss for words, with an open mouth, more than apparently dismayed - as if to say, that's what you think about me? That I would do something like that? Quickly though, he found his wits, and his expression changed completely. "Ha!"

Catholic water fonts

I was raised as a Catholic - or at least, my mom attempted to do so. I attended church at the time, and I had suspicions about some of the traditions there that seemed a wee bit gross. Two habits, in particular, seem to give excellent opportunity for the spreading of microbes. The communion is one. It is conducted during every Catholic mass, and it involves the priest handing out small, very thin, blandly tasting slices of bread to everyone in the audience who queues to receive one. While some people take the communion into their hands, many open their mouths and accept it on their tongue. The priest might try to avoid touching people's mouths and tongues, but this is hard to achieve, so he most likely spreads microbes onto bread which ends up with other people. The other questionable practice I recall is the font with the holy water. Whenever a believer enters or exits a Catholic church, they are expected to dip their fingers into an open bowl of water that might be changed now

Rejection massively reduces IQ

Wow ( link ): Baumeister's team used two separate procedures to investigate the effects of rejection. In the first, a group of strangers met, got to know each other, and then separated. Each individual was asked to list which two other people they would like to work with on a task. They were then told they had been chosen by none or all of the others. In the second, people taking a personality test were given false feedback, telling them they would end up alone in life or surrounded by friends and family. Aggression scores increased in the rejected groups. But the IQ scores also immediately dropped by about 25 per cent, and their analytical reasoning scores dropped by 30 per cent. "These are very big effects - the biggest I've got in 25 years of research," says Baumeister. "This tells us a lot about human nature. People really seem designed to get along with others, and when you're excluded, this has significant effects." Baumeister thinks rejection

The consequences of early life stress

Wow ( link ): "We separated the pups from their mothers for three hours each day for ten days," Dr Murgatroyd explained. "It was a very mild stress and the animals were not affected at a nutritional level, but they would [have felt] abandoned." The team found that mice that had been "abandoned" during their early lives were then less able to cope with stressful situations throughout their lives. The stressed mice also had poorer memories. Dr Murgatroyd explained that these effects were caused by "epigenetic changes", where the early stressful experience actually changed the DNA of some of the animals' genes. "This is a two-step mechanism," Dr Murgatroyd explained. When the baby mice were stressed, they produced high levels of stress hormones. These hormones "tweak" the DNA of a gene that codes for a specific stress hormone - vasopressin. "This leaves a permanent mark at the vasopressin gene," said

Give organ donors free health care!

Robin Hanson quotes research which finds that blood donors aren't really put off by the prospect of being paid for their donation, they just don't want cash . Vouchers would work just fine, though. Commenter Michael Keennan then comes up with this ingenious idea : instead of refusing to compensate organ donors at all due to ethical concerns, why not pay them back in kind? How about, for example, giving kidney donors free health insurance for the remainder of their lives? That would surely cause more people to consider donating their kidneys, which may save plenty lives; and I don't see how it raises any ethical dilemmas. Doesn't it seem fair and just for people who have donated an organ to receive free health care in return? Doesn't it seem more unjust if they do not?

Education as demonstration of willingness to suffer

This exchange summarizes my opinion of much - though not all - university-level education: Doug S: Remember: the job of a university professor is to do research and bring in grant money for said research, not to teach! Teaching is incidental. redired urologist: So why do the parents pay $40,000+ annually for this type of service? Doug S: In most cases, it’s not the education that’s worth $40,000+. It’s the diploma. Earning a diploma demonstrates that you are willing to suffer in exchange for vague promises of future reward, which is a trait that employers value. So Dilbertesque... but - like Dilbert - generally true.