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Suppose all races can be approximated by perfect spheres

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.07.12

Derbyshire and others are fond of focusing on the width of the spectrum of IQ scores. I have a question about the narrowness of the spectrum. Suppose you took 100 random newborns and placed them in families with optimal academic child-rearing practices (and let's suppose such a placement was friction-free, for the sake of argument.) How many of them would be capable of getting a degree from Harvard? What about a big state school?

I bet nearly all of them - let's say 95 - would be able to get a degree from a nurturing, mid-range private school like Heebie U. Fewer from a big state school like University of Texas, because it's easier to get lost in a school without much structure and support. (Although that optimal-academic family would provide lots of structure and support through college.) And not having attended an Ivy League school, I don't actually know how difficult the academic side of things are there.

Maybe reframing the issue of genetics as "how small is the range?" is just as dumb as obsessing about "how big is the range?" however. This question still isolates "What portion of raw firepower is genetic?" which might have once been an interesting question before it got highjacked by racist fools like Derby. Or maybe it is worth asking "How powerful is environment capable of being?" because even though it's the same question, it leaves the opposite impression.


 

horizontal rule

 

The Hungry Hungar

Posted by Stanley
on 04.06.12

When I tuned in, mid-program, to a story about a place that had decided to be a bunch of jackholes with regard to homeless people, my immediate thought was, Alabama or Arizona?

Lo and behold: Hungary. Showing my country up on the jerk scale. American Exceptionalism, my foot.


 

horizontal rule

 

Shorter John Derbyshire

Posted by Apostropher
on 04.06.12

I'm not a racist but-- oh, who am I kidding? I'm jaw-droppingly racist.


 

horizontal rule

 

Guest Post - Shearer

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.06.12

From Shearer:
There was a story in Monday's NYT about how many public entity pension funds are investing more money in high fee products like hedge funds to try to boost returns but have ended up worse off. This is one of the dangers of the unrealistically high return rates generally assumed, that the funds will end up taking stupid risks trying to achieve them. A classic quote:

"We can't put it in Treasury notes and bonds; that's just not making any money," said Sam Jordan, the chief executive of the Austin Police Retirement System in Texas.

The NYT also had a long article on the Martin Zimmerman affair which contains this bit buried deep in the story.

However it started, witnesses described to the 911 dispatcher what resulted: the neighborhood watch coordinator, 5 foot 9 and 170 pounds, and the visitor, 6 foot 1 and 150, wrestling on the ground.

Obviously this weight for Zimmerman is significantly different from many earlier reports. But the NYT does not acknowledge this or give a source which I think is lousy reporting. The news media have not covered themselves in glory in this case.

Heebie's take:
Fake flavors should be handled more like generics when it comes to marketing. Instead of calling your Starburst "grape-flavored", you should have to say "Compare with grape flavors!"


 

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Why did the 90s get misremembered so badly?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.05.12

I accept your apologies. Actually, Alameida, Sifu, Blume, and probably some others agreed with me.


 

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Rudy the Rockhead

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.05.12

Rudy Giuliani is a massively bigger fool than I expected him to be last night.

-"We need a candidate who is willing to bomb Iran."
- A full 45 minutes on how immature and stupid Obama is for shutting down coal production, and how he stifles energy production, and how China's energy production is booming and don't we want to keep up with them?
- "How is it that the price of technology drops the longer its been on the market, but the cost of healthcare keeps going up?" Complete with an idiotic story about his expensive plasma TV.
- "If Obama is re-elected, you're going to see your taxes go up to 50-60%".
- "I'm no scientist, but if China is going to burn our coal, or we burn our coal, isn't it the same environment? Why should we lose out if they're going to burn it anyway?"

And on and on. What a fucking asshat.


 

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Try the upper lefthand doll on video, and the upper righthand Battle on audio.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.04.12

Gender remixer: play boy commercial audio over girl commercial video, or vice versa. It's more fun that I thought it would be, because they map onto each other surprisingly fluidly.

Then I wrote a big angry rant and then I erased it. I'm sure my self-loathing as a child, for being a girl, is cute and funny in the right light.

Via Jammies


 

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Reasonable Doubt

Posted by LizardBreath
on 04.04.12

This is not it:

THE nine jurors who favored conviction on rape did not regard the physical evidence as a necessity, the juror said: "My argument, and the argument of others was, 'We've got clear, detailed testimony from a witness we believe, that we find credible, with no testimony disputing it -- what is keeping you from voting guilty?' "

He said that one holdout, a woman, had doubts about the victim's memory for several reasons, including her failure to recall the presence of a car in a driveway that Mr. Pena led her across. Also, when a male and female police officer arrived, the teacher ran to the male officer. "This juror thought that a woman who had just been raped would be more likely to run to a female officer," he said.

I can't think of when I've felt that hostile toward a juror, just for being stupid. If you read the story, they found the rapist guilty of sexual assault -- the doubtful issue was only if he actually penetrated the woman. At which point the stated reasoning makes no sense at all -- a rape victim would run to a male police officer if she'd been brutally sexually assaulted at gunpoint, but not if the sexual assault included penetration? (Not to mention that the reasoning is intrinsically stupid -- who's to say how someone who's just been raped might react? Nitpicking her reaction on that level is idiotic and offensive) but given the context it makes no sense even on its own terms.

It doesn't matter much practically, what the guy was convicted of is enough to put him away for a very long time. But fuck, the holdout jurors are morons.


 

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Rad Eradication

Posted by Stanley
on 04.03.12

So my housemate and I were just chatting, and this question came up: Why not just kill all the mosquitoes in the world?

There must be a good reason, right? I'm counting on you, Mineshaft. Save the mosquitoes.


 

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Movie trailers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.03.12

On movie trailers as an art form. I personally love movie trailers. Ideally, they whet your appetite for a good movie and satisfy your appetite for a bad movie.

While I basically agree with the article, trailers sure do still seem awfully formulaic.

This is my understanding of the history of advertising:
Stage 1: originally, advertising just stated "Buy our product! It's the best-tasting!"
Stage 2: advertisers started showing people enjoying the product, because it was so self-evidently tasty, and finally,
Stage 3: the commercial shows beautiful people doing something completely irrelevant, and that product is naturally part of their beautiful lifestyle, because look how beautiful they are.

It seems like movie trailers have moved from the first stage to the second stage. It used to be "Come see our movie, which we'll now describe for you," and it has become "This movie is self-evidently immersing! and has big emotions! which you're currently experiencing!"

Stage 3 doesn't really map onto movies, because the whole point of the movie is to get immersed in the movie, so how can it just be placed in the fabric of how beautiful people live their beautiful lives? But it does feel like trailers have more developing to do, because Stage 2 feels repetitive and trite.


 

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Guest Post - Halford

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.03.12

Here, you should definitely post this article, because I want to know what people (especially AWB, but many others as well) think about it. I think I saw it originally in K-Sky's Facebook feed. It is closely related to many familiar Unfogged themes, including nice guy-ism, geeks, David Foster Walace, America v. France etc.

Here's the key passage:

I submit that Wallace's thesis, and its accompanying fears and assumptions about the female reader, is also held by other male novelists, including those mentioned above. When you see the loser-figure in a novel, what you are seeing is a complicated bargain that goes something like this: yes, it is kind of immature and boorish to be thinking about sex all the time and ogling and objectifying women, but this is what we men sometimes do and we have to write about it. We fervently promise, however, to avoid the mistake of the late Updike novels: we will always, always, call our characters out when they're being self-absorbed jerks and louts. We will make them comically pathetic, and punish them for their infractions a priori by making them undesirable to women, thus anticipating what we imagine will be your judgments, female reader. Then you and I, female reader, can share a laugh at the characters' expense, and this will bring us closer together and forestall the dreaded possibility of your leaving me.


I don't have any real take except that the article rings true and I'm interested in others' takes.


 

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Not Tiresome, Either

Posted by Stanley
on 04.02.12

I watched Rubber the other night. I highly recommend it. It's surprisingly not super-weird.


 

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Guest Post - Helpy Chalk

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.02.12

I just spent a good hour researching and writing a good discussion question for my bioethics class, and I'm worried I won't get any good answers. I thought maybe if I passed the question on to the mineshaft, I'd get responses more interesting than the ones I have to grade. This is what I wrote for my students:

The movie October Baby (trailer here) has been getting a lot of attention. It is the fictional story of a woman nammed Hannah, who was adopted as a child and decides to seek her birth parents, only to find that she is the product of a "botched abortion". Hannah's birth mother, we are told, “wanted to go to school and have a career and she couldn’t do that with a baby,” and so had an abortion at 24 weeks gestation. When Hannah finally finds her birth mother, she turns out to be a wealthy lawyer who has no interest in reconnecting with Hannah and is last seen getting into a fancy Mercedes with her new, wanted baby. Hannah eventually learns to forgive her mother with help from a priest.

Part of the premise of this movie is that the mother had an abortion in at 24 weeks gestation, for reasons not related to her health or the health of the fetus, and the fetus somehow survived. Movie critic Andrew O'Hehir described the odds of this actually happening as "something like being struck by lightning and eaten by a shark at the same time. With a winning lottery ticket tucked in your swimsuit.” The vast majority of abortions (88%) are in the first trimester, and abortion after 20 weeks generally happen because something is threatening the health of the mother or fetus. It is possible, though, for a baby born at 24 weeks gestation to survive. The fetus is generally said to become viable somewhere between the 24th and 26th week of gestation. The youngest premature baby I can find stories about online is Amillia Sonja Taylor who was born after 21 weeks gestation. But that baby was from a wanted pregnancy, and had a team of high-tech doctors trying to keep her alive.

The movie was inspired by the story of pro-life activist Gianna Jessen, who was born after 30 weeks gestation, after her mother requested a saline abortion, for reasons I haven't been able to find out. A saline abortion is a kind of instillation abortion where an injection is administered to start labor, on the assumption that the fetus will die after birth because it is not viable. Apparently in Jessen's case, the fetus was viable.

What can fictional stories like Hannah's, or real stories like Jessen's, tell us about the morality of abortion? The emotional pull of these stories is undeniable. Film critic O'Hehir notes that "You could ask for no better twist, in an antiabortion drama, than having an aborted fetus return to life as an adult character (especially a really cute one)." Does it matter that most abortions take place in circumstances that are radically different than these? Does our ability to empathize with someone like Hannah or Jessen have implications for the moral status of a fetus in the 24th or 30th week of gestation?

If you do post this, there's one more question I'd like to put before the unfoggetariat: What question should I have asked my students about this movie?


 

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Harvard Debt-free

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.01.12

From Shearer, No More Harvard Debt dude has no more Harvard debt, three months ahead of schedule.

Shearer writes:
I don't have a lot to add except to make the obvious point that given his income and prospects his student loans weren't actually a big problem in the first place (which isn't the case for many less fortunate people).

Heebie's take:
He's mostly properly humble in this reflective piece, and acknowledges the element of luck. The is just something he wanted to do, and he thought it would be fun to do it publicly, and he did it.

Still, sentences like this make me cough sarcastically:

For the 15 months leading up to my NMHD challenge, I was spending an average of $7,754 per month, and that figure excludes my student loan payments. During the past seven months, the average has been $3,129.

His plan is not to return to full spendy ways, although not maintain quite such austerity, either. His new goal is to retire early - he wants to have a million in savings by the time he's 50, and then retire before 65.



 

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Be Excellent To Each Other

Posted by LizardBreath
on 04.01.12

I have confirmed that Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure still speaks to the youth of today. Lots of movies from my teenage years fall flat with Sally and Newt, but this, they ate right up.


 

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