Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 19th, 2007

Which is better, self-discipline or high IQ?

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Interesting article, and click the link to read the comments, equally interesting. I was particularly interested because I worked for a company (The American College Testing Program, aka ACT) that created, administered, and analyzed college entrance exams and spent much ingenuity and effort toward predicting college GPAs.

IQ has been the subject of hundreds, if not thousands of research studies. Scholars have studied the link between IQ and race, gender, socioeconomic status, even music. Discussions about the relationship between IQ and race and the heritability of IQ (perhaps most notably Steven Jay Gould’s Mismeasure of Man) often rise to a fever pitch. Yet for all the interest in the study of IQ, there has been comparatively little research on other influences on performance in school.

Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman estimate that for every ten articles on intelligence and academic achievement, there has been fewer than one about self-discipline. Even so, the small body of research on self-discipline suggests that it has a significant impact on achievement. Walter Mischel and colleagues found in the 1980s that 4-year-olds’ ability to delay gratification (for example, to wait a few minutes for two cookies instead of taking one cookie right away) was predictive of academic achievement a decade later. Others have found links between personality and college grades, and self-discipline and Phi Beta Kappa awards. Still, most research on self-discipline has achieved inconsistent results, possibly due to the difficulty of measuring self-discipline. Could a more robust measure of self-discipline demonstrate that it’s more relevant to academic performance than IQ?

To address this question, Duckworth and Seligman conducted a two-year study of eighth graders, combining several measures of self-discipline for a more reliable measure, and also assessing IQ, achievement test scores, grades, and several other measures of academic performance. Using this better measure of self-discipline, they found

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Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 10:26 am

Don’t play poker with psychologists

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Go for physicists:

Jerry Yang, a 29 year-old psychologist and social worker who works for a fostering agency, has won a cool $8.25 million at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

Yang put some of his success down to his training in psychology, but do psychologists make better poker players?

There’s no direct evidence that they do, despite what they might try to tell you at the table, but some research suggests they might have an advantage in a few of the key skills.

A study by Paul Ekman and colleagues [pdf] found that clinical psychologists are among the best professions at detecting deception in others, with academic psychologists coming just slightly behind.

In terms of dealing with the interaction between social influence and risky financial decisions, a study by Dr. Andreas Roider found that psychologists made, on average, three times as much money as economists and physicists in an online trading game because they were less swayed by the ‘herd instinct’

The scientific paper [pdf] contains an interesting snippet:

Maybe it does not come as a surprise that when we look at selected fields of study, physicists perform the best in terms of “rationality” (i.e., performance according to theory) and psychologists the worst. However, since “rational” behavior is profitable only when other subjects behave rationally as well, good performance in terms of “rationality” does not imply good performance in terms of profits. Indeed, the ranking in terms of profits is just the opposite: psychologists are the best and physicists the worst.

In other words, psychologists were better at understanding how people actually behave, as opposed to how they should behave if they were choosing the most mathematically correct strategy.

How much this applies to a game influenced heavily by chance, is, of course, another matter.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 10:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

When investments turn sour

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From the NY Times:

 Bear Stearns told clients in its two battered hedge funds late yesterday that their investments, worth an estimated $1.5 billion at the end of 2006, are almost entirely gone. In phone calls to anxious investors, Bear Stearns brokers reported yesterday that May and June had been devastating months for the portfolios.

The more conservative fund, the High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund, was down 91 percent by the end of June, investors were told. The High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund, which used extensive borrowings and assumed more risk, has no investor capital left, the firm said.

“In light of these returns, we will seek an orderly wind-down of the funds over time,” a letter to Bear Stearns clients said.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Business

When liars get caught…

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They sometimes back down. Here’s a good example:

In April of 2005, Hans von Spakovsky, then a senior lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, almost singlehandedly disenfranchised thousands of voters. Without consulting career voting rights attorneys, Spakovsky wrote a letter that incorrectly advised Arizona’s secretary of state that the state should prevent voters from receiving a provisional ballot if they did not have proper ID.

When von Spakovsky — whose nomination as commissioner on the Federal Elections Commission is still pending — testified before the Senate Rules Committee last month, he claimed that he’d consulted with lawyers in the voting rights section before drafting the letter. “This was not me acting by myself, “he testified. “You know, I would have been consulting with the other attorneys there [in the voting section] to do it.”

But that wasn’t true, as Joe Rich, the chief of the voting section at the time, told TPMmuckraker. Rich is one among six veterans of the section who wrote the committee to object to von Spakvosky’s nomination, calling him “the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division’s mandate to protect voting rights” when he worked at the Justice Department. Calling von Spakovsky’s testimony “a flat out misrepresentation,” Rich said that none of the career attorneys in the section had been aware of the letter — even then-Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta, who oversaw the Civil Rights Division, had not known about it. The letter went out under the signature of Sheldon Bradshaw, a senior political appointee in the division, on his last day.

In written answers (pdf) submitted to the committee weeks later, von Spakovsky changed his tune: “As I recall, I may not have consulted with the Section prior to drafting [the letter].” Von Spakovsky did not note that this was at variance with his spoken testimony. He continued, however, to say that he thought that he did consult with the section on a follow-up letter, sent in September. That letter, of course, reversed his earlier advice.

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Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 10:01 am

The damages of secrecy

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The Bush Administration loves secrecy—the deliberate suppression of information that is counter to its agenda. That’s bad:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has suppressed warnings from its own Gulf coast field workers since the middle of 2006 about suspected health problems that may be linked to elevated levels of formaldehyde gas released in FEMA-provided trailers, lawmakers said today.

At a hearing this morning of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, investigators released internal e-mails indicating that FEMA lawyers rejected environmental testing out of fear that the agency would then become legally liable if health problems emerged among as many as 120,000 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina who lived in trailers.

FEMA’s Office of General Counsel “has advised that we do not do testing,” because this “would imply FEMA’s ownership of this issue,” wrote a FEMA logistics specialist on June 16, 2006, three months after news reports surfaced about the possible effects of the invisible cancer-causing compound and one month after the agency was sued.

Another FEMA attorney on June 15 advised, “[d]o not initiate any testing until we give the OK. . . . Once you get results and should they indicate some problem, the clock is running on our duty to respond to them.”

Committee Chairman Henry L. Waxman (D-Calif.) called FEMA’s bureaucratic neglect of storm victims “sickening.”

Nearly 5,000 pages of documents turned over to the committee “expose an official policy of premeditated ignorance,” Waxman charged. “Senior officials in Washington didn’t want to know what they already knew, because they didn’t want the legal and moral responsibility to do what they knew had to be done.”

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said FEMA obstructed the 10-month committee investigation and “mischaracterized the scope and purpose” of the agency’s actions.

“FEMA’s reaction to the problem was deliberately stunted to bolster the agency’s litigation position,” Davis said. The documents “make it appear FEMA’s primary concerns were legal liability and public relations, not human health and safety.”

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Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 9:01 am

Medical marijuana in California, Part 2

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I did get a return call from the director of our county health department, and I asked about the medical marijuana ID card. Not available, and no availability projected. In conversation, it became clear that the county attorney and the county sheriff are both quite conservative and opposed to medical marijuana, so until there’s pressure brought, nothing will happen. (Of course, Orange County—one of the most conservative counties in California—has now made medical marijuana ID cards available.)

Len, the director, said that in fact he’s received only a total of about half a dozen calls, and he’s not inclined to push this until he gets more expression of support for the issue. I said that I hadn’t known until yesterday whom to call, and asked whether he had done anything to publicize that he is the appropriate contact. He said that publicizing it was the last thing he would want to do. So it’s a catch 22: no one knows whom to call, and he takes the lack of calls as a sign of lack of support. But he doesn’t want people to know whom to call.

He did talk about Marinol, but that is expensive and not (for various reasons discussed in the article at the link and also here) a solution.

So: if you live in California, call your county official to express support for medical marijuana if you’re inclined—otherwise, the lack of calls indicate (in their minds) opposition to the issue.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 8:37 am

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Medical

New computer

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My computer now feels like a new computer: it has all the snap and speed that your computer has before you start adding software—especially software with little (or not so little) memory-resident modules.

I’ve noticed that my new computers, so nice and quick, gradually become slower and slower and get cranky and programs crash. I had assumed it was conflict among the programs, and in a sense it is: they’re fighting for memory, and the OS is having to swap out to hard drive sections of memory, which slows everything down. Had I just added a bunch more memory, everything would have been new again.

So the slow programs and memory conflicts are gone. Programs load faster. Even the slowness I blamed on my Internet hookup seems gone, and sites I jump to now click into place instantly.

If your computer is acting sluggish, double the RAM, and I think you’ll be surprised.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 7:15 am

Posted in Technology

Black beauty

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Today I used a Treet carbon steel blade: totally black with the edges silver. It looks like the blade that Batman uses. And man! the smoothest, closest, most comfortable shave I think I’ve ever had. YM, as you well know, MV. But straight-razor aficionados tell us that carbon steel straight razors can be made much sharper than stainless, so…

I started by washing my beard with the Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil soap, and I believe that this particular pre-shave soap contributes noticeably to the quality of the shave. Then, with the Simpsons Key Hole 2 Best Badger brush I readily brought forth a creamy, thick lather from the D.R. Harris Arlington soap. The Harris soaps are simply wonderful, in bowl or as a shaving stick.

Then, with the black beauty in a Gillette NEW, I whisked away the whiskers, easily and comfortably. A rinse, a glide of the alum bar, another rinse, and D.R. Harris Marlborough aftershave. What a fantastic shave.

UPDATE: RazorandBrush call this blade the “Treet Blue Special.” Here’s their description: “A classic Blued steel blade, made with today’s machines by one of the world’s leading blade manufacturers. The look of yesteryear’s blades in a smooth shaving blade. It can be honed! 10-Pack. Special buy: get 100 blades for only $11.50!”

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2007 at 6:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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