Later On

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

Archive for December 21st, 2008

Hope you’re having a good day

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

Psychology and the economy

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Interesting Scientific American article:

Peter Ubel is professor of medicine and psychology at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine. He’s the author of the forthcoming book, Free Market Madness (Harvard Business, 2008), which investigates the irrational tics that lead people to overbid on eBay, eat too much ice cream and take out mortgages they can’t afford. Mind Matters editor Jonah Lehrer chats with Ubel about his research.

LEHRER: Your new book, Free Market Madness, argues that conventional economics, which assumes that humans are rational agents acting in  their own self-interest, is deeply naive and scientifically  unrealistic. Instead, you describe a brain brimming with biases and flaws. Do you think these flaws are responsible for the latest economic turmoil? If so, how?

UBEL: Irrationality is responsible for the economic mess we find ourselves in right now.  Irrationality plus greed, of course, and a substantial dose of ignorance.

Let’s start with ignorance. I’m sad to say that many Americans have a difficult time with even simple math—around a third of American adults cannot calculate 10 percent of 1,000. People who struggle with concepts such as percents have an extremely difficult time with more complicated ideas, such as compounding of savings and, very relevant to our current crisis, adjustable rate mortgages.

To make matters worse, most of us are hard-wired for optimism. Ask us how we rate as drivers, and the vast majority of us are convinced we are above average, even those of us who have gotten into multiple car accidents. As a result of our unrealistic optimism, we are convinced that our incomes will rise fast enough to keep up with our outsized mortgage, or that our adjustable rate won’t rise, or that our house’s value will indefinitely outpace inflation.

We are social beings, too, and frequently judge our own decisions by seeing what other people are doing. If my neighbor added on a new kitchen through a home equity loan, I might assume that is a good idea for me, even if a more rational weighing of my finances would suggest otherwise.

Even savvy financiers can get caught up in irrational impulses. If a competitor’s firm makes huge profits on risky loans, it is easy for me to push aside my fears about such risks: if he took those risks and was rewarded, maybe I overestimated the risks!

LEHRER: What can eBay teach us about human irrationality? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

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Patton assassinated?

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The newly unearthed diaries of a colourful assassin for the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, reveal that American spy chiefs wanted Patton dead because he was threatening to expose allied collusion with the Russians that cost American lives.

The death of General Patton in December 1945, is one of the enduring mysteries of the war era. Although he had suffered serious injuries in a car crash in Manheim, he was thought to be recovering and was on the verge of flying home.

But after a decade-long investigation, military historian Robert Wilcox claims that OSS head General “Wild Bill” Donovan ordered a highly decorated marksman called Douglas Bazata to silence Patton, who gloried in the nickname “Old Blood and Guts”.

His book, “Target Patton”, contains interviews with Mr Bazata, who died in 1999, and extracts from his diaries, detailing how he staged the car crash by getting a troop truck to plough into Patton’s Cadillac and then shot the general with a low-velocity projectile, which broke his neck while his fellow passengers escaped without a scratch.

Mr Bazata also suggested that when Patton began to recover from his injuries, US officials turned a blind eye as agents of the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, poisoned the general.

Mr Wilcox told The Sunday Telegraph that when he spoke to Mr Bazata: “He was …

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 2:27 pm

Most popular free downloads

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Computer problem

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I think I’ve discovered why my computer is pausing for about 2 seconds every little while: bad memory. I did some google searching, and the pause is a recognized problem that apparently stems from memory problems: either a bad memory card or a bad connector. I found a memory tester I could download and it did indeed show some memory problems.

So tomorrow I’ll call the local computer dealer and see if I can schedule a memory test/replacement at a specific time so I don’t have to be without the computer for days.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 11:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Why Conservative ideas can’t work

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Paul Rosenberg has thought about why the ideas of the Right fail so often in practice (as we’re now seeing writ large):

It’s not just that they failed catastrophically the last two times they were tried in the last 100 years.  There are fundamental reasons why conservative ideas CANNOT work.  This diary briefly explains why.

In my earlier diary, “The Party of Ideas As Weapons vs. The Party Of Ideas As, Well, IDEAS!” I argued that GOP had never been the “party of ideas”:

Put simply, the GOP has basically had TWO ideas since 1932:  (1) Kill the New Deal and anything related to it. (2) Promote Republicans as heroic saviors and attack Democrats as depraved traitors who hate America and are trying to destroy it…. All the other ideas Republicans have had since then have simply been tactical or strategic weaponry to advance those two basic ideas, split the Democratic base, shift blame, or otherwise gain political advantage, regardless of any real-world policy consequences.  In short, Republican ideas revolve around the long-term struggle for political power, based on controlling political and quasi-political institutions, and thus controlling the political discourse.

I now want to go deeper into why conservative ideas cannot work.  Without claiming to be  exhaustive, I advance four main arguments:

(1) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are faith-based, rather than reason and evidence/experience-based.

(2) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are accepted—and liberal/progressive ideas are rejected—based on authoritarian obedience.

(3) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are based on an objectively false model of the world, reflected in a false moral model for human action.

(4) Conservative ideas cannot work, because they are based on a limited level of causal connectedness, which is functionally inadequate to understand the world.

I will spell these out at somewhat  greater length …

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 9:40 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Complaint about Obama’s appointments

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Not all of them, but specifically the EPA, Dept of Interior, and Dept of Agriculture. Mike Murphy at Firedoglake:

Yay! The US may finally have a leader who wants to avert global warming. Boo! Looks like we’ll be eating toxic swill while we do it. Um…President-Elect Obama, can we have a second helping of Change, please? Of course, PEO, we’ve every reason for gratitude on the energy and science picks. Change away from global mass death is change we really can believe in: survival rocks!

What a wonderful gift to find the Federal Climate Tree all decked out with Change. But the second half of the sustainablity recipie requires safe food, air, and water. Sadly, PEO, the Federal Yule banquet Chez Obama served up looks pretty rancid. You found brilliant talent for the science crowd: you know you could get some geniuses to stay down on the farms. So how you’re appointing Nobel Prize level talent in science, but you chose the Three Stooges to run land, farms, and the environment?

What’s on the menu at Interior? Better come with a big appetite: Interior controls one in five acres in America, including the vast Bureau of Land Management holdings. Interior supposedly regulates mining, energy leases, and royalties on oil and gas taken from Federal lands (including Native American lands). Some DOI lands are leased for farming; across the arid West ranchers and farmers lease BLM lands and/or irrigate cops with water from Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation dams. DOI’s land holdings are so vast that the chemicals used on them affect water supplies and private lands “downstream” from Interior lands. Thoug he’s not as bad as the Bushies, Obama’s Interior pick Senator Ken Salazar doesn’t appear at risk of waking up to a call from Stockholm. He also doesn’t seem likely to get the Right Livelihood Award.

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more. I’m willing to cut Obama slack in his appointments, and wait to base my judgments on what the new administration actually does.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 9:36 am

Slow Sunday

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Late start, slow blogging. I have to admit that I sliced off a piece of my thumb yesterday. I feel so dumb.

I recently got one of these and I’m extremely impressed with how well it works. The “Plus” means that it comes with its own storage box, a definite plus: storage in the box saves space and protects the blades. Here’s a demo of a model that has legs, which mine lacks. (No problem: I generally place it atop a bowl to receive the chopped veggies.)

I have a cut-resistant glove to use on the hand holding the vegetable when I don’t use the food safety holder. I was chopping carrots—very easy, very quick—without the food safety holder and watching how fast they were cut down, thinking, “I probably should go get that glove,” and then I took off a slice of thumb: a clean, deep slice that bled a lot. Ugh. There’s no helping an aged idiot.

So now the cut-resistant glove is tucked into the box holding the V-Slicer, and I have yet again learned a valuable lesson in the remedial class on cutting.

Still: it’s a great device and I’ll use it again today on the carrots, celery, onions, and perhaps anise that I’ll put into chicken soup for The Wife, who has entered her vacation with a bad cold.

So just a little blogging today. Mostly, I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2008 at 9:23 am

Posted in Daily life

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