Later On

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

Archive for February 15th, 2012

Posse scholars

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Interesting idea described in the NY Times by Tina Rosenberg:

In 1988, Deborah Bial was working in a New York City after-school program when she ran into a former student, Lamont. He was a smart kid, a successful student who had won a scholarship to an elite college. But it hadn’t worked out, and now he was back home in the Bronx. “I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me,” he told her.

The next year Bial started the Posse Foundation. From her work with students around the city, she chose five New York City high school students who were clearly leaders — dynamic, intelligent, creative, resilient — but who might not have had the SAT scores to get into good schools. Vanderbilt University was willing to admit them all, tuition-free.  The students met regularly in their senior year of high school, through the summer, and at college. Surrounded by their posse, they all thrived.

Today the Posse Foundation selects about 600 students a year, from eight different cities. They are grouped into posses of 10 students from the same city and go together to an elite college; about 40 colleges now participate in the program.

Most Posse Scholars would not have qualified for their colleges by the normal criteria. Posse Scholars’ median combined SAT score is only 1056, while the median combined score at the colleges Posse students attend varies from 1210 to 1475. Nevertheless, they succeed. Ninety percent of Posse Scholars graduate — half of them on the dean’s list and a quarter with academic honors. A survey (pdf) of 20 years of alumni found that nearly 80 percent of the respondents said they had founded or led groups or clubs. There are only 40 Posse Scholars among Bryn Mawr’s 1,300 students, but a Posse student has won the school’s best all-around student award three times in the past seven years. Posse is changing the way universities look at qualifications for college, and what makes for college success. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2012 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Sounds pretty ugly, and she’s a Democrat

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This story by Olga Pierce appears in ProPublica. Not only is she a Democrat, she’s apparently part of a cabal of Democratic legislators working unethically (and, perhaps, illegally) to distort the redistricting process. I hope they serve hard time if found guilty, for this is the worst kind of corruption: destroying the very system.

California Congresswoman Laura Richardson is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for directing her staff to use government resources for redistricting work, according to a Politico story yesterday.

Richardson and her staffers, according to the story, recruited and trained citizens to testify before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, even providing them with canned testimony, anonymous individuals told Politico.

Asked for comment, Richardson’s attorney sent ProPublica a statement calling the allegations in the Politico story “groundless,” adding that “to date, the House Ethics Committee has not issued any recommendations, conclusions or findings of any kind.”

The statement says Richardson is committed to following the law and House Ethics rules.

The rules allow limited redistricting work on taxpayers’ dime, but working outside the representative’s district, and organizing testimony are likely violations. (Here is the fulltext of the rules.)

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission was created by the state’s voters with the promise of removing political influence from the drawing of new district lines—a high-stakes

process that can guarantee a representative a safe seat, or virtually ensure defeat in the next election. To that effect, the commission pledged to use citizen testimony—and not the wishes of politicians—as its main basis for decision-making.

But Richardson’s alleged tampering with the commission by manipulating public testimony was not unique. As ProPublica detailed in December, California’s entire Democratic congressional delegation held meetings in Washington, D.C. to strategizeabout ways to manipulate the commission. We found other members of Congress using a front group, drummed-up testimony and other means to dupe the commission into drawing the districts they wanted.

In an email obtained by ProPublica, members were told to begin “strategizing about potential future district lines.” As we noted, one staffer on California’s delegation sent out more than 100 emails about redistricting. The House Ethics Committee did not return our request for comment about the investigation, and whether it may go beyond Richardson.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2012 at 11:08 am

Posted in Democrats, Government, Law

Baby talk starts early, with baby learning

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Bruce Bower reports in Science News:

By age 6 months, infants on the verge of babbling already know — at least in a budding sense — the meanings of several common nouns for foods and body parts, a new study finds.

Vocabulary learning and advances in sounding out syllables and consonants go hand in hand starting at about age 6 months, say graduate student Elika Bergelson and psychologist Daniel Swingley of the University of Pennsylvania. Babies don’t blurt out their first words until around 1 year of age.

Bergelson and Swingley’s evidence that 6-month-olds direct their gaze to images of bananas, noses and other objects named by their mothers challenges the influential view that word learning doesn’t start until age 9 months.

“Our guess is that a special human desire for social connection, on the part of parents and their infants, is an important component of early word learning,” Bergelson says. The work is published online the week of February 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the study, 33 infants ages 6 to 9 months and 50 kids ages 10 to 20 months . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2012 at 9:06 am

Not thinking things through

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I spot an egregious example of not thinking things through in the this story, but: we’re human, we generally cannot examine a solution from all aspects and thus inevitably will miss obvious flaws from time to time. That’s why we do usability testing, for the love of God! We already know that many people are incompetent. That’s why we design procedures and processes as we do: to protect against incompetence by, for example, ensuring that possible solutions are actually tested by representative users going through a test script to spot problems that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Obviously this agency somehow convinced itself that usability testing is unimportant. If they had run a scenario, some potential user would undoubtedly have pointed out that automatically opening the doors is not a great idea for a secure vehicle. (Though The Wife says the mental context is important: the same action could be viewed as a feature if the context is suburban school-kid delivery; but presumably the script for this “secure-vehicle” usability test would have defined a more appropriate context.)

Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.

Here is the (infuriating) story.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2012 at 9:00 am

Problems with St. John’s Wort

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I’ve never used the stuff—when I needed an anti-depressant, I went with an anti-depressant—and now I’m glad I didn’t use it. Azeen Ghorayshi reports in Mother Jones:

St. John’s wort is a small, yellow-flowered herb whose name derives from one of its first known uses—warding off evil on St. John’s Day, June 24.  Now, Americans shell out roughly $55 million a year for SJW at big-time distributors like Whole Foods, GNC, and The Vitamin Shoppe, making it one of the most popular herbal remedies on the market. Usually taken in the form of capsules or tea, the supplement has demonstrated benefits in treating mild to moderate depression. Rather surprising, then, that it’s also been shown to negatively interact with some of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceutical anti-depressants on the market.

Safe to say that’s fairly counterintuitive, and that it could even be dangerous. What’s more, SJW has also been shown to reduce the efficacy of some oral contraceptives. It’s even suspected to have caused unplanned pregnancies. (One woman reported having been prescribed birth control for over 9 years, and experiencing an unintended pregnancy just 6 months after starting her SJW treatment.)

But lots of drugs have potentially dangerous interactions. The real problem here lies in transparency to consumers—a problem that goes directly back to the supplement’s manufacturers. In a 2008 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicinethat tested 74 different SJW brands, less than a quarter of the product labels identified possible interactions with antidepressants. Even more disturbing was that only 8 percent identified possible interactions with birth control.

Many groups, like the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have tried to push the FDA to standardize SJW labels to properly reflect possible dangers. But since supplement makers are not required by law to warn consumer about health risks associated with their products, it hasn’t been easy. “These companies fight warning labels like the dickens, and whether they intend it or not, that affirms the belief that natural products are unequivocally good for you,” says Stephen Gardner, litigation director at CSPI.

So why don’t federal regulators force the supplement industry to include warning labels on their products? One big reason is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2012 at 8:13 am

Premium shave

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I wish now I had taken a photo of today’s shave, though I expect I’ll replicate it soon. MR GLO, followed by a wonderful lather from Creed’s Green Irish Tweed Shaving soap, worked up effortlessly with my fluffy Mühle butterscotch silvertip. Really, I just brush the puck a few times and the brush was filled with a wonderful creamy lather. Creed’s GIT shaving soap really delivers, in my experience. (Note: soft water here.)

Then three passes with the Feather stainless premium razor, holding a Feather blade. This is another totally comfortable razor. Finally a good splash of Mr. Taylor’s Aftershave—a really good splash, because I thought the bottle had one of those plastic drop dispensers, but it was an open top, and I got rather more aftershave than I intended. But it all went to a good cause.

And: my eye is uncomfortable, but it’s not hurting: no Vicodin required. This is a good sign of progress.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2012 at 7:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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