Later On

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

Archive for January 17th, 2013

420-sq-ft apartment—with everything

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Daily life

Another look at the sunk-cost fallacy

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Sunk-cost fallacy is roughly equivalent to throwing good money after bad. James Surowiecki has a good column in the New Yorker that examines it in a football context:

After a farcical 2012 season, in which the New York Jets invented ever new ways to lose games (thus the “butt fumble”), the team’s general manager, offensive coördinator, and quarterback coach are all gone. Yet Mark Sanchez, the starting quarterback, remains. He has played poorly for two seasons in a row, and has now thrown more interceptions in his career than touchdowns. But the Jets have invested an enormous amount of energy and money in Sanchez, and, assuming that no one will trade for him, they are contracted to pay him $8.25 million next year, whether he plays or not. So figuring out what to do with Sanchez will be trickier than you might think.

The Jets have stumbled into a classic economic dilemma, known as the sunk-cost effect. In a purely rational world, Sanchez’s guaranteed salary would be irrelevant to the decision of whether or not to start him (since the Jets have to pay it either way). But in the real world sunk costs are hard to ignore. Hal Arkes, a psychologist at Ohio State University who has spent much of his career studying the subject, explains, “Abandoning a project that you’ve invested a lot in feels like you’ve wasted everything, and waste is something we’re told to avoid.” This means that we often end up sticking with something when we’d be better off cutting our losses—sitting through a bad movie, say, just because we’ve paid for the ticket. In business and government, the effect pushes people to throw good money after bad. The quintessential case of this is the Concorde. There was never a convincing business case for the supersonic airliner, and there were numerous attempts to kill it. But those attempts all failed, in large part because of the billions that had already been spent.

The sunk-cost dilemma isn’t just about waste. It’s also about reputation—after all, the future is uncertain, and if you keep a foundering project alive there’s always a chance that it will right itself. “Giving up on a project, though, means that somebody has to admit that he shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” Arkes says. “And there are lots of executives who would rather be tortured than admit that they’re wrong.” If you’re faced with this problem, it’s tempting to look to those times when staying the course has worked out. After all, plenty of N.F.L. teams have eventually been rewarded for sticking with struggling quarterbacks—most notably, the Giants with Eli Manning. Andrew Brandt, a former N.F.L. executive who’s now a business analyst for ESPN NFL, told me, “When you stray from decisions from year to year, that’s when you get in trouble, unless you have an option so attractive that it’s worth giving up on your current plan.” The problem is that patience is often simply self-justification. The organizational behaviorist Barry Staw, in a 1995 study of the N.B.A., showed that high draft picks consistently got more playing time than lower draft picks, regardless of whether their performance justified it. When executives think they’re being patient, they’re often just being obstinate.

The most intriguing aspect of sunk costs, as Arkes and others have documented, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Strange new fastidiousness: Not turning prisoners over to other governments to have them tortured

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For a while, particularly under the Bush Administration, the US routinely transported prisoners (sometimes people that the US had kidnapped) to foreign prisons so that they could be tortured without the US actually doing the torture itself—subcontracting the torture, as it were. At other times, of course, the US would happily do its own torture, as of the innocent German kidnapped in Macedonia.

Now, apparently, the US is trying to regain its torture virginity by being very public in its decision to protest torture of prisoners it transfers to prisons under foreign control; the military seems to think it deserves high praise for this (and never mind what we did earlier).

Rod Nordland and Thom Shanker report in the NY Times:

The American military has suspended the transfer of detainees to some Afghan prisons out of concern over continuing human rights abuses and torture, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said Wednesday in response to questions about the subject.

In addition, the American-led coalition said that it had asked the Afghan government to investigate allegations of torture by Afghan Local Police units that have been trained and advised by American Special Operations forces.

The moves were a setback on detention issues that have created tension between the countries, and on years of international efforts to promote humane treatment of prisoners. And under American law, the torture allegations could also set off significant financial aid cutoffs to parts of the Afghan security forces, which play a crucial role in plans for an American withdrawal that are based on handing over responsibility for security to the Afghans as early as this spring.

Afghan control over all detention in the country has been a primary demand of President Hamid Karzai and was a central issue of the summit talks between Mr. Karzai and President Obama in Washington just a week ago. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Military, Torture

Huge Bear Surprises Crew on EcoBubble Photo Shoot in BC

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Video

Review of Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief

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Laura Miller reviews Lawrence Wright’s book in Salon:

Several years ago, for a series of Salon articles about Scientology, I was asked to review the founding text of the church, Dianetics,by L.Ron Hubbard, first published in 1950. The book seemed so clearly the work of a man suffering from particular and pronounced mental health issues that I became, for the first time, curious about its author. Like most self-help books, “Dianetics” frequently invokes case histories or hypothetical scenarios, but unlike most self-help books, Hubbard’s stories featured an alarming amount of violence, specifically domestic violence.

Over and over, when imagining a childhood source for an individual’s problems, Hubbard spins tales of unfaithful wives and husbands who beat and verbally abuse them, sometimes kicking their pregnant bellies. Perhaps we can attribute some of this to a preoccupation with prenatal trauma; “Dianetics” insists that fetuses can understand damaging statements made to the women carrying them. Nevertheless, to me, the most striking thing about the book — besides Hubbard’s belief that it is “not uncommon” for women to make “twenty or thirty” attempts at a self-induced abortion with orange sticks and other implements — is its author’s assumption that such beatings are a commonplace aspect of most people’s home lives.

I wanted to find out if Hubbard had grown up amid such abuse, or had experience of it in his adult life, so I went online to poke around. What I found, on assorted anti-Scientology websites and discussion forums, seemed so outlandish and extreme that I decided not to refer to those charges at all in my review. I couldn’t be sure they were substantiated.

Scientology has involved preposterous claims from the very start — from before the very start, actually, since “Dianetics” (published two years before the foundation of the church) promises that a “clear” (an individual who has succeeded in using the Dianetic “technology” to free him- or herself of all impairing “engrams”) will attain assorted superpowers. These include healing his or her own disabilities and illnesses, as well as perfect recall, the capacity to perform “mental computations” at lightning speeds and various forms of mind reading and control. Scientology’s critics, on the other hand, accused Hubbard of — yes — domestic violence (including an incident in which he demanded that his second wife kill herself to prove she really loved him), to bigamy, lying about his service in World War II, engaging in black magic rituals and throwing followers who displeased him off the high deck of his ship. The church has countered such attacks by flinging accusations at its critics, from public drunkenness to adultery and homosexuality.

The whole mess seemed like a seething farrago of bizarre fantasies, vendettas and nightmares, indistinguishable from whatever grains of truth lingered here and there. A phenomenally diligent and rigorous investigator could probably sort it all out, but the Church of Scientology is notorious for using nuisance litigation to hound skeptical journalists to the brink of destitution and despair. Who’d be up for that?

Lawrence Wright was, and my long preamble is all by way of explaining why his new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, is so invaluable. There have been other exposés of the church — including last year’s fine Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion, by Janet Reitman, a book Wright praises in his own — but this one carries the imprimatur of both Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, and the New Yorker magazine, where Wright first wrote about the church in a story on its cultivation of celebrity members, as exemplified by movie director Paul Haggis.

The church adopted its scorched-earth policy toward critical journalists back when Paulette Cooper published “The Scandal of Scientology” in 1971; she was subsequently slapped with 19 lawsuits, as well as subjected to a harassment campaign with the stated intention of seeing her “incarcerated in a mental institution or jail.” What the organization did not foresee was that the effectiveness of such tactics could never be more than short-term. So ominous is the reputation of the Church of Scientology in this respect that when a major news organization of legendary rigor committed itself to an exposé, there could be no doubt that it was fact-checked to a fare-thee-well. The result, extended to book form by one of that organization’s most esteemed journalists, is completely and conclusively damning.

Not that Wright is the least bit intemperate in his account of the improbable rise of Hubbard from an unimpressive career as a naval officer and pulp science-fiction writer to a millionaire guru presiding over a high-seas empire of slavish devotees to reclusive leader holed up in a well-appointed mobile home. He doesn’t have to be. Hubbard’s outrageous shenanigans and flagrant misdeeds speak for themselves, so Wright need only convey the facts with a minimum of hoopla. He strives to be fair, noting all the ways that Scientology resembles other religions that began as suspect or fringe movements, but he catches church spokesmen in so many lies and unearths so much evidence of malfeasance that his caveats do tend to get swamped.

It turns out that . . .

Continue reading.

In this context, this intriguing article by Valerie Tarico at Alternet asks “Does the Internet Spell Doom for Organized Religion?” and lists ways in which free access to outside information and connections with like-minded individuals breaks the local ties that some organized religions have exploited.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Books, Religion

The perfidy of politicians, part MMCCCXXIV: Flat-out lies about Social Security

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Dean Baker in TruthOut points out the flat lies and deceptions politicians employ to secure re-election:

According to inside-Washington gossip, Congress and the president are going to do exactly what voters elected them to do: they are going to cut Social Security by 3 percent. You don’t remember anyone running on that platform? Yeah, well, they probably forgot to mention it.

Of course, some people may have heard Vice President Joe Biden when he told an audience in Virginia that there would be no cuts to Social Security if President Obama got re-elected. Biden said: “I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”
But that’s the way things work in Washington. You can’t expect the politicians who run for office to share their policy agenda with voters. After all, we might not like it. That’s why they say things like they will fight for the middle class and make the rich pay their fair share. These ideas have lots of appeal among voters. Cutting Social Security doesn’t.

While the politics of cutting Social Security are bad, it also doesn’t make much sense as policy. In Washington, the gang who couldn’t see an $8 trillion housing bubble until its collapse sank the economy has now decided that deficit reduction has to be the preeminent goal.

They don’t care that we are still down more than 9 million jobs from our growth trend; deficit reduction must take priority. These whiz kids apparently also don’t care that the cuts that have already been made are slowing growth and costing us jobs.

If we actually did have to reduce the deficit, it’s hard to see why Social Security would be at the top of the list. After all, the vast majority of seniors are not doing especially well right now. Our defined benefit pension system is disappearing and 401(k)s have not come close to filling the gap. Retirees and near retirees have lost much of the wealth they had managed to accumulate when the collapse of the housing bubble destroyed much of their home equity.

From a policy standpoint, . . .

Continue reading.

Obama should be ashamed.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 11:48 am

Slow movement toward drug sanity in the UK

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Phillip Smith reports in the Drug War Chronicles:

The use of drugs should be decriminalized, with the least harmful substances regulated and sold in shops, a group of British parliamentarians said in a report released over the weekend. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy reform made its findings in the report Toward a Safer Drug Policy: Challenges and Opportunities Arising from ‘Legal Highs’.

The report said that the 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act needs fundamental reform because it criminalizes young people for drug use, leaving them with reduced life prospects, while creating profits for illegal drug dealers. Instead, “low risk” drugs should be handled like cigarettes, with legal sales and warning labels, while higher risk drugs should be decriminalized, the peers found.

“The Misuse of Drugs Act is counterproductive in attempting to reduce drug addiction and other drug harms to young people,” said group chair Baroness Meacher.

The group took submissions from 31 experts and organizations, including the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the Association of Chief Police Officers. It called for the classification of drugs to be removed from the realm of politics and instead be based on scientific evidence.

This is the third report in recent months to call for fundamental changes in British drug policy and a move away from a prohibitionist approach to a public health one. The UK Drug Policy Commission released its Final Report in October 2012. The Home Affairs Select Committee published the findings of its Inquiry into Drugs in December 2012. All three reports make a strong case for changing British drug policy to better reduce harms posed by drugs to our population, and to take a greater consideration of evidence in doing so.

There is little sign Prime Minister Cameron is listening — despite his own past support for legalization. Still, Cameron’s ally in the governing coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been paying heed, saying he could support drug decriminalization, and that is causing tensions over drug policy at Whitehall.

Note this ranking at ProCon.org of drugs by overall harm they cause—and how drug laws seem totally unrelated to the effects of drugs. As the article at the link states:

The British peer-reviewed journal Lancet published a study titled “Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis” on Nov. 1, 2010 which ranked 20 drugs from alcohol to marijuana to tobacco based on harm factors.

Individual harm (such as dependence, mortality, and impairment of mental functioning) was considered under “harm to users,” while “harm to others” (such as crime, environmental damage, and international damage) took into account the number and extent of others harmed by individual drug use. The two charts below illustrate the study’s conclusions using a 100 point scale where 100 is the maximum harm and zero indicates no harm. The first chart broadly illustrates all 20 drugs by “harm to users” and harm to others” while the second chart illustrates those drugs on 16 criteria from drug-specific mortality to dependence to family adversities.

The study concluded that alcohol was the most harmful drug overall (72 out of 100), followed by heroin (55 out of 100), and crack cocaine (54 out of 100). The most harmful drugs to users were crack cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine (scores 37, 34, and 32, respectively), whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others (46, 21, and 17, respectively). Cannabis (aka marijuana) had an overall harm score of 20, putting it in eighth place behind amphetamine (aka speed) and before GHB (aka liquid ecstasy).

First, a ranking by harm to user and harm to others:

ranking-20-drugs-and-alcohol-by-overall-harm-2

Next, a ranking by overall harm:

ranking-20-drugs-and-alcohol-by-overall-harm

Source: David Nutt, Leslie King, Lawrence Phillips, “Drug Harms in the UK: A Multicriteria Decision Analysis,” The Lancet, Nov. 1, 2010

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 11:36 am

Posted in Drug laws, Government

New shaving vendor: WestCoastRazors.com

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Take a look at WestCoastRazors.com. They also do stunning restorations, like this Fat Boy replated in black nickel and rhodium:

Custom FatBoy

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 11:09 am

Posted in Daily life

Finally, a nick

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SOTD 17 Jan 2013

I am enjoying Honeybee Soaps again, and Floral Euphoria is a great one. Wonderful floral fragrance during the shave, but is completely gone following the shave leaving the aftershave fragrance a clear field.

I did indeed remember to use TSD’s Pre-Shave Balm, and the Mühle silvertip did a terrific job of making lather—and the lather from Honeybee Soaps is excellent.

Someone asked me to compare the Edwin Jagger to the straight-bar side of the OSS, so I used both today. The Jagger in fact feels smoother on my face, but the OSS is fine and also has the asymmetric thing going for it. Three smooth passes and—at last!—a small nick on my chin. I’ve been wanting a nick to test my Clubman Pinaud Dab-On styptic, and here at last was my chance. Unfortunately, it really was a small nick and by the final rinse it wasn’t showing much. Undaunted, I applied the styptic anyway, and got a reassuring bit of sting with no sign of blood. I see now that the applicator end seems to be a very fine-mesh nylon screen. At any rate, the styptic seems as though it will work well, and I’ll certainly try again on the next nick.

After a rinse and dry, a good splash of Saint Charles Shave Woods aftershave, one that I like a lot.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2013 at 11:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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