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Knowledge is dangerous

Posted by Ben
on 03.12.11

I am advised by sensors-detect that

This program will help you determine which kernel modules you need to load to use lm_sensors most effectively. It is generally safe and recommended to accept the default answers to all questions, unless you know what you're doing.


 

horizontal rule

 

OMSG

Posted by Stanley
on 03.11.11

You were probably just sitting there thinking, "Drink an entire bottle of soy sauce? That sounds like a terrible idea. I bet no one would try that."

And you would be wrong.


 

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So, Tokyo

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.11.11

It's not clear to me how bad the damage is going to end up being, but this is certainly a moment for everyone to spend a moment thinking about the government regulations, in the form of modern building codes, that will keep it from being worse. The difference between Haiti and Tokyo is well-functioning regulation.


 

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Knitting Again

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.11.11

I used to knit in college, but quit after I spent a year of my time in Samoa knitting myself an absolutely gorgeous Aran sweater, with the cables and the texture and all that, out of this really great undyed grey wool I bought in New Zealand. The sweater turned out spectacularly, except the size -- I've considered mailing it as an unsolicited gift to Charles Barkley, maybe Shaq. All that effort for something that was no use at all to me or anyone else I know (in theory I've given it to Buck. In practice, given that three guys his size could stand inside it without intruding in each other's personal space, he doesn't wear it) turned me off knitting for fifteen years.

But I just picked it up again this fall -- made a couple of hats, and now have finished my first sweater since Clinton's first term. Anyone else knitting, or posting pictures of stuff to Ravelry?


 

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Phobe Bidden

Posted by Stanley
on 03.10.11

Golly, Peter King seems like a terribly helpful person.


 

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Talky Times about assessing teachers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.10.11

James Shearer sends along this article on evaluating teacher effectiveness in New York. In short, this piece gives you a picture of a teacher who tugs at your heartstrings in every way possible, yet scores an inexplicable 7th percentile on the Teacher Effectiveness Voodoo formula. As Shearer says, "it was annoying to have the reporter (out of what one suspects was pure laziness) play the "this is too complicated to explain" card." I had the same reaction.

The reporter's symapathies lie with the teacher, saying things like:

Moreover, as the city indicates on the data reports, there is a large margin of error. So Ms. Isaacson's 7th percentile could actually be as low as zero or as high as the 52nd percentile -- a score that could have earned her tenure.

I always have questions about what content is actually being tested when you assess students, anyway. It's not obvious to me that standardized testing can measure how a student matures in their thinking on a given topic very well.

Nevertheless: if you had a teacher who was widely acclaimed anecdotally, but year after year kept scoring near the bottom of the pack, I'd have a question mark in mind about how well they teach. It is possible for a teacher to be hard-working and friendly, and leave students with the impression that they've learned a lot, when really they've learned a bunch of unimportant, unstructured crap. (The example that comes to mind is the math teacher who teaches their students a hundred paths on their calculators for solving a hundred different types of problems.) And it's possible that standardized testing sometimes detects this situation.


 

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Determination is not a formal virtue

Posted by Ben
on 03.09.11

I'm sure that many people are saying, have said, or will say "You've sort of got to admire the gritty determination of the Wisconsin GOP" (that formulation in particular comes from Yglesias), but, you know, you really don't. I see nothing admirable about the dogged pursuit of bad ends, not even the doggedness of the pursuit.


 

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Guest Post - Nick S - Checklists and Autopsies

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.09.11

A couple of months ago I read Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto which I liked a great deal. At one point he remarks about the different receptions accorded to new tech vs ways to improve consistency of existing procedures.

"Take the surgical safety checklist. If someone discovered a new drug that could cut down surgical complications with anything remotely like the effectiveness of the checklist, we would have television ads with minor celebrities extolling it's virtues. . . . If the checklist were a medical device, we would have surgeons clamoring for it, lining up at display booths at surgical conferences to give it a try, hounding their hospital administrators to get one for them -- because, damn it, doesn't providing good care matter to those pencil pushers?"
"That's what happened when surgical robots came out -- drool-inducing twenty-second-centure $1.7 million remote-controlled machines designed to help surgeons do laparoscopic surgery with more maneuverability inside patients' bodies and fewer complications. The robots increased surgical costs massively and have so far improved results only modestly for a few operations, compared with standard laparoscopy. Nonetheless, hospitals in the United Stats and abroad have spend billions of dollars on them."

This is a familiar issue in discussions of the rising costs of health care -- do we have a system that is good at rapidly adopting expensive new technologies but not necessarily good at recognizing simple cost efficiencies. In the quoted passage one can imagine a couple of dynamics at work -- as he says expensive new technologies have paid salespeople to pitch them, but one that strikes me is just that it's always easier to imagine how change could improve the current procedures, and more difficult to recognize the parts of the system that actually work quite well as they are.

It's always easier to be excited about hypothetical new technologies, and new capabilities and underestimate the difficulty of implementing them or they way in which they can just crowd out attention to existing practices that large benefits.

Obviously any attempts to control the growth in health care costs have to push back against this in some way. Ideally they should encourage innovation when it delivers benefits, but also encourage doctors and hospitals to put appropriate resources into making sure that people do things like wash their hands.

From that perspective I was fascinated to read this article, from a couple of years ago, about the fact that autopsy rates have been declining in American hospitals for the last 40 years, and that this may be hurting the quality of care.

"

When Schiller went to medical school in the 1960's, hospitals in the United States autopsied almost half of all deaths, and the autopsy was familiar to medical students and practitioners alike. The United States now does post-mortems on fewer than 5 percent of hospital deaths, and the procedure is alien to almost every doctor trained in the last 30 years. Schiller has fought this."

"The heart of his [complaint' is that nothing reveals error like the autopsy. As Lundberg noted in a 1998 article, numerous studies over the last century have found that in 25 to 40 percent of cases in which an autopsy is done, it reveals an undiagnosed cause of death. Because of those errors, in 7 to 12 percent of the cases, treatment that might have been lifesaving wasn't prescribed. (In the other cases, the disease might have advanced beyond treatment or there might have been multiple causes of death.) "
"Lundberg doesn't fantasize that the autopsy can make medicine mistake-free; medicine poses puzzles too various and complex to expect perfection, and indeed error rates run about the same no matter how many autopsies are done. But autopsies can keep doctors from repeating mistakes, and thus advance medicine. Doctors miss things. But without autopsies, they don't know when they've missed something fatal and so are likely to miss it again. They miss the chance to learn from their mistakes. Instead, they bury them. This, Lundberg says, ''is endlessly galling.''"
...
Perhaps the most troubling reason for the decline of the autopsy is the overconfidence that doctors -- and patients -- have in M.R.I.'s and other high-tech diagnostic technologies. Bill Pellan of the Pinellas County medical examiner's office says: ''We get this all the time. The doctor will get our report and call and say: 'But there can't be a lacerated aorta. We did a whole set of scans.' We have to remind him we held the heart in our hands.'' In fact, advanced diagnostic tools do miss critical problems and actually produce more false-negative diagnoses than older methods, probably because doctors accept results too readily. One study of diagnostic errors made from 1959 to 1989 (the period that brought us CAT scans, M.R.I.'s and many other high-tech diagnostics) found that while false-positive diagnoses remained about 10 percent during that time, false-negative diagnoses -- that is, when a condition is erroneously ruled out -- rose from 24 percent to 34 percent. Another study found that errors occur at the same rate regardless of whether sophisticated diagnostic tools are used. Yet doctors routinely dismiss possible diagnoses because high-tech tools show negative results. One of my own family doctors told me that he rarely asks for an autopsy because ''with M.R.I.'s and CAT scans and everything else, we usually know why they died.''

...

I have no knowledge beyond what the article reports, but it sounds completely plausible to me.


Nick


 

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One of three Talky Times I was sent last night

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.09.11

From Persistently Visible: Article on Dan Savage by Lutheran pastor Brian Dueholm, and response by Amanda Marcotte.

My personal thoughts: I like Dan Savage a lot, and generally think he gets it right more often than wrong. The first article far exceeded my attention span, so much so that I didn't pick up on Dueholm flying off the rails, as Marcotte puts it. Then when I went back to look for it, I started skimming again and never really did find it. But her response seems reasonable.


 

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What Quiggin Said

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.09.11

About Obama on willingness "to suppress basic human and civil rights in the name of security". I should be posting on this sort of thing more, but given that I haven't been posting about anything much, it's good to know someone is:

A natural starting hypothesis would be that Americans, or the American ruling class, benefit from the abandonment of the rule of law. It's certainly true that the suppression of basic rights has gone hand in hand with the development of a culture of impunity for the ruling class, particularly in relation to crimes committed in the name of security. But there's very little evidence to suggest that Gitmo, military commissions and so on have done anything to promote security. Most obviously, after nearly a decade, they have yet to secure any genuine convictions, just a couple of squalid (on the government side) plea bargains, and one case where the defendant boycotted proceedings. Prosecutions of accused terrorists in criminal courts in the US and elsewhere have produced far more convictions and prison sentences, although of course they have also produced some acquittals and releases, outcomes that seem unthinkable in the US context.

A second hypothesis, which seems more plausible, is that Americans generally support these measures, and that Obama either shares their views or is acting out of political expediency. There's plenty of opinion poll evidence to support this hypothesis. On the other hand, Obama easily beat Bush running on a platform based on the traditional rule of law. Moreover, you could probably get similar opinion poll responses in other countries, but restrictions on civil liberties have faced far more resistance nearly everywhere outside the US, even in countries that have historically been less interested in individual rights than the US.

A third possibility is that Obama has been captured by the national security apparatus within the US state, either through access to secret information (reliable or not) about the magnitude of the terrorist menace, or through the hidden exercise of political power. Certainly, the military-industrial complex seems only to have gained in power, despite its manifest incapacity to deliver on its promises in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc, and despite the absence of any apparent capacity on the part of the CIA and similar bodies to predict the course of international events.


 

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Running, Jumping, Climbing Trees

Posted by Stanley
on 03.08.11

For reasons both scandalous and weather-related, my bike finished out the weekend halfway across town. And since I lack the vehicular resources to transport a bicycle, I was faced with the challenge of retrieving said bike, which challenge I quickly solved in a "Duh!" moment: why not, in lieu of my usual evening run, go running to the bike, and then ride it home.

(I know: obvious, right? Honestly, it's a miracle I manage to put on pants most days.)

So I did the running/biking thing last night—and it was really, really fun! Something about the transition from running to cycling was just very exhilarating.

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that I didn't, you know, swim, the experience left me halfheartedly considering looking into doing a (short) triathlon. Is that totally crazy?

Some concerns:

- I woke up this morning feeling very stiff, despite the fact that both the running and biking segments were rather short (only about a mile and a half each way) compared to what I'd normally do when just running or just biking. Not sure if this stiffness would go away with more experience and/or better stretching.

- I enjoy running and biking and swimming, but I've never been concerned with speed. I suspect that entering the world of triathlons would leave me rolling my eyes at the competitiveness. I'd want to do it just because it's fun to run, bike, and swim. Period.

- I haven't really been swimming in any serious, doing-laps way in several years. I'm probably overly confident about how easily I could return to swimming a fairly long distance.

Oh, look, it's a swimming post!


 

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Dubious honors

Posted by Ben
on 03.08.11

According to a commenter on Youtube, "Warren Zevon scored the highest IQ ever recorded in Fresno, Calif."


 

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Chart toppers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.07.11

Nicks sends along this link to all 1000 Billboard Number 1 hits ever. You can get seriously immersed in this site. I don't know whether this is a good thing, but I'd estimate I could sing the chorus of at least 95% of the songs.

Here's Nick's take:

It's interesting to see some trends, like the fact that in the 80s there was a lot more turnover at the top of the charts than there has been since. There were 231 distinct #1 singles in the 80s for an average of just over 2 weeks at #1!, compared to 140 in the 80s and 150 since 2000.

But the kicker is that they've linked to video for each of the 1000 songs (sometimes but not always, the official video).

Want to see the Supremes on Television in awesome reflective blue gowns, it's there. Want to be reminded of how young Rod Stewart was in 1971?

Or you can just be amused at juxtapositions like the fact that "Come On Eileen" was the song that knocked "Billie Jean" out of the #1 position (and was, itself, replaced by "Beat It" which then gave way to "Let's Dance")

Nick


 

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It's Like They Have A Different Word For Everything!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 03.07.11

Crooked Timber linked an article from the Financial Times on cultural differences in conventional social interactions: the French kiss and flirt with everyone, but only chat with their friends; Americans chat with strangers, but don't touch people they're not close to; Brits don't make eye contact with, speak to, or touch other life-forms; and Finns don't associate nudity with sex.

This is all familiar stuff, but I think it's wrong on Americans, at least East Coast urban Americans -- IME, friendly acquaintances tend to take leave with a quick hug and kiss. Although I have to admit that I always feel vaguely awkward and phony about it; my natural default is to never touch anyone other than close family members, and I manage social kissing by watching other people for what they're going to do first. Possibly I've discovered an area where I'd be more comfortable, and fit in better, somewhere in the Midwest.


 

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On the new "Puss in Boots" movie

Posted by Ben
on 03.06.11

Der Prolog spielt sich zunächst im Parterre des Theaters ab. Die sich selbst als „aufgeklärt" bezeichnenden Zuschauer stehen dem bevorstehenden Stück mehrheitlich verwirrt und ablehnend gegenüber. Das engstirnige, banausische, aber auch schlecht auf die Vorstellung vorbereitete Publikum fühlt sich dem verpflichtet, was es für guten Geschmack hält, und beginnt deswegen, zu pochen, um zu zeigen, dass es ein Kindermärchen, in dem ein Kater vorkommt (was die Zuschauer offenbar vor der Vorstellung nicht wussten), nicht akzeptiert.

Just so.

 

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Nice Jewish Girl

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.06.11

This was linked in the BYU post, but I think it deserves a post of it's own.


 

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