Later On

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

Archive for July 17th, 2010

Why Johnny Can’t Name His Colors

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Melody Dye reports in the Scientific American:

Subject 046M, for male, was seated nervously across from me at the table, his hands clasped tightly together in his lap. He appeared to have caught an incurable case of the squirms. I resisted the urge to laugh, and leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially. “Today, we’re going to play a game with Mr. Moo” —I produced an inviting plush cow from behind my back. “Can you say hi to Mr. Moo?”

In the Stanford lab I work in with Professor Michael Ramscar, we study how children go about what is arguably the most vital project in their career as aspiring adults—learning language. Over the last several years, we’ve been particularly taken with the question of how kids learn a small, but telling piece of that vast complex: color words. We want to know how much they know, when they know it, and whether we can help them get there faster.

046M was off to a good start. I arranged three different color swatches in front of him. “Can you show me the red one?” He paused slightly, then pointed to the middle rectangle: red. “Very good!” I said, beaming. “Now, what about the one that’s blue?”

The test was not designed to trip kids up. Far from it—we only tested basic color words, and we never made kids pick between confusable shades, like red and pink. To an adult, the test would be laughably easy. Yet, after several months of testing two-year olds, I could count my high scorers on one hand. Most would fail the test outright. 046M, despite his promising start, proved no exception.

Before the test would begin, the child’s parents were told that today we would be testing color words. Responses were typically enthusiastic. “Oh, that’s great! Margie’s got her colors down pat.” At which point, we leveled with them: if they wanted to sit through the study, they would have to be blindfolded. Such measures may seem extreme—but then again, so were the reactions we got from parents during the pilot study, as they watched their little ones fail to pick out the right color, over and over again. The reactions ran the short line from shocked to terrified, and back again. Some parents were so dismayed they started impatiently correcting their children mid-test. One mother, in particular, couldn’t seem to stop herself, and took to nervously grabbing her little boy’s hand whenever it veered away from the correct choice. 

Then, inevitably, would come the post-test breakdown: “Is my child colorblind?”

Divorced from context, most two and three-year olds might as well be colorblind; certainly they look that way when asked to correctly identify colors in a line-up, or accurately use color words in novel contexts. What’s more, psychologists have found that even after hours and hours of repeated training on color words, children’s performance typically fails to noticeably improve, and children as old as six continue to make major color naming errors. This is seriously bizarre when you consider all the other things that children at that age can do: ride a bike, tie their shoes, read the comics, and – mistake a blue cupcake for a pink one? Really? Does that actually happen? …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2010 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

A pen that’s also a scanner connects to your computer with Bluetooth

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Technology can do some amazing things. Take a look at this.

You can save a substantial amount of money by buying through Amazon.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2010 at 10:26 am

Netanyahu In 2001: ‘America Is A Thing You Can Move Very Easily’

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From the Huffington Post:

A newly released video of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could add some additional strain to the sometimes tense relationship between him and President Obama.

In the video, which is from 2001, Netanyahu — who reportedly did not know his speech was being recorded — speaks frankly in Hebrew about relations with the Clinton White House and the peace process.

As noted in Haaretz, Netanyahu seems to boast of his knowledge of the US by saying, "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way."

He also boasts of manipulating the U.S. in the ongoing peace process, as the Washington Post points out:

"They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords]," he said. "I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue."

The video was broadcast on a TV program called "This Week With Miki Rosenthal" titled "The Real (And Deceitful) Face of Benjamin Netanyahu." In Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, columnist Gideon Levy said of the video:

These remarks are profoundly depressing. They bear out all of our fears and suspicions: that the government of Israel is led by a man who doesn’t believe the Palestinians and doesn’t believe in the chance of an agreement with them, who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes. There’s no point in talking about Netanyahu’s impossible rightist coalition as an obstacle to progress. From now on, just say that Netanyahu doesn’t want it.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2010 at 10:22 am

Ben Nelson: Is it possible that his problem is that he’s as stupid as he looks?

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Steve Benen:

Several months ago, as the Senate was getting ready to bring a health care reform bill to the floor, Republicans had vowed to filibuster the motion to proceed. In other words, every member of the Senate GOP caucus was not only prepared to block a vote on the legislation, they also wanted to block a vote on having a debate about the legislation.

At the time, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was far from sure about the bill, but balked at the Republican tack. The conservative Democrat said the motion was merely “to start debate on a bill and to try to improve it.” He added, “If you don’t like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it? Why would you stop senators from doing the job they’re elected to do — debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?”

I don’t know, Ben, why would a member stop senators from doing the job they’re elected to do?

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said Thursday he would not support a procedural vote later this month to begin debate on a climate bill that includes a cap on electric utility emissions, a declaration that underscores the tough climb that Majority Leader Harry Reid will have in trying to cobble together a 60-vote supermajority on the controversial issue.

“A carbon tax or trade piece would significantly increase the utility rates in Nebraska for businesses, agriculture and individuals,” the Nebraska Democrat told POLITICO. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to go. And while I’d usually vote for a motion to proceed, this is so extraordinary, that I just can’t bring myself to do that.”

Keep in mind, Nelson hasn’t even seen the bill. But if the legislation tries to limit carbon emissions at all, he’ll side with Republicans and try to prevent the Senate from even talking about the energy/climate bill.

It’s too soon to say how big a problem the vote on the motion to proceed might be. In 2008, a bipartisan climate bill was brought to the floor with overwhelming support, with Republicans approving the motion to proceed on the bill they opposed because they were anxious to attack it. That may yet happen again.

But in the meantime, I’d love to hear Ben Nelson answer his own questions: “If you don’t like the bill, then why would you block your own opportunity to amend it? Why would you stop senators from doing the job they’re elected to do — debate, consider amendments, and take action on an issue affecting every American?”

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2010 at 10:11 am

Arizona shows selective sensitivity to privacy rights

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Steve Benen:

Thank goodness Arizona is once again taking due process and privacy rights seriously.

At the first tick of the clock Friday, an array of automated cameras on Arizona freeways aimed at catching speeders were to stop clicking.

There is no glitch. The state, the first to adopt such cameras on its highways in October 2008, has become the first to pull the plug, bowing to the wishes of a vocal band of conservative activists who complained that photo enforcement intruded on privacy and was mainly designed to raise money.

Arizona has been using 76 cameras, which in turned improved public safety, produced a significant drop in fatal collisions, and brought $78 million into the paltry state coffers.

But according to her spokesperson, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was, among other things, "uncomfortable with the intrusive nature of the system." It’s a sentiment that widely endorsed by conservatives in the state legislature.

Of course, if there’s one thing conservative Arizonans know all about, it’s intrusive state laws.

I’m reminded of this recent exchange between state Rep. Carl Seel (R), a leading critic of the remote speed cameras and a co-sponsor of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, and The Daily Show‘s Olivia Munn:

MUNN: So, is it a conflicting message to support immigration law 1070 and also be against the camera system?

SEEL: No, the photo radar [is] unconstitutional, definitely an invasion of privacy. As to 1070, the enforcement law, the police officers must have probable cause.

MUNN: Such as.

SEEL: If a vehicle is going down the road at an excessive rate of speed, that’s probable cause.

MUNN: What the [bleep]? So, speeding is probable cause to check immigration status, but speeding is not probable cause to give you a ticket for speeding.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2010 at 10:08 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

Fitness update

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Two more pounds lost this morning, but my weight loss goes in fits and starts. I may gain the two pounds back tomorrow, and then lose them again. That’s been the pattern.

However, I continue to tweak the diet. I have been making a big salad: protein (fish or chicken breast), starch (cooked whole-grain rye or wheat, or cooked quinoa), cooked veg (typically broccoli and kale/collards, sometimes green beans instead of broccoli), and a lot of salad greens. I toss this with some excellent miso dressing, and that’s a meal.

I’ve cut it back. Protein and starch are the same, but then I use either salad vegetables or cooked veggies, but not both. The caloric impact is not large, but apparently I’m living right on the boundary of “enough food”, and I want to move into the “not quite enough food” territory. Where I am now, it doesn’t take much to push it that way.

I of course already threw overboard the evening snack (fruit with perhaps a piece of string cheese), and the morning snack is rare now. My starch servings went from 4 a day to 3 a day (and also from 1/2 cup to 1/3 cup). Those changes placed me on the boundary referred to above. Now I want to move the meals only a little bit.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2010 at 10:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food

J.M. Fraser forever!

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It’s hard to beat J.M. Fraser, a shaving cream for everyman. The Omega boar bristle brush did a fine job—this brush is getting broken in—and I got the usual wonderful J.M. Fraser lather. Three passes with the Gillette Executive holding a previously used Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade, and my visage is once again smooth—and, thanks to Booster Aquarius, fragrant as well.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2010 at 9:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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