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Analyzing clicks

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.02.19

I thought this article was fascinating, on the terrible state of machine learning and big data.

It's not the usual panopticon terror-instilling kind of piece. The basic message is: everyone does an enormously shitty job harnessing the data for anything and on those occasions when an algorithm works well, it's usually using one or two data points that you deliberately handed over to help them, plus some intelligent, thoughtful hand-coding.

Via one of you, elsewhere.


 

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Questions about the villains

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.01.19

Is Steve Miller the mastermind orchestrating Trump's worst ideas?

Are Trump's paranoid border delusions of prayer rugs and women with duct tape because he watched a bad movie last summer?

Would you like to see a photo of the Nixon tattoo on Roger Stone's back?

How long do we have until Trump declares a state of emergency for Wall?

(First two via Dahlia Lithwick elsewhere)


 

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Guest Post - Rate Your Professor (1-6)

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 02.01.19

Nick S. writes: Fascinating story highlighted by Kevin Drum

A large research university decided to switch its teaching evaluation surveys from a 10-point scale to a 6-point scale. In most fields, this made little difference. But in fields that are traditionally male-dominated, the enormous gender gap in evaluations disappeared. Why?

Do you have any theories?

Heebie's take: That is super interesting, and I think the charts at the link are illuminating as to what's going on: students are equally happy to give either gender an 8/10, but much more enthusiastic about giving men 9s or 10s/10 than women. So with a coarser grading scale, you lose that high-end differentiation. (Note - this is exactly what's proposed at the link, as well.)

I dated a guy in college who just loved to muse that it was so interesting that the extremes of intelligence, both high and low, tended to be male, while women clumped in the middle. At that age, I bristled, but didn't have the wherewithal to argue with Scientific Facts, and so I basically did not argue the point. Which is just to say that that kind of frame of mind will reward male instructors with 10s and equally strong female instructors with 8s.

We've been revising our student evaluations at Heebie U and I have unconventional thoughts which I will put in the comments.

One final thought: I love a 6 point scale. Years ago, my parents used to go to Sundance, and they got in the habit of ranking movies on a 6 point scale, and in life, we used a 6 point scale as a yardstick. Then Sundance switched to a five point scale, and my parents followed in kind, and I thought it was significantly worse. A 6 point scale is perfect: first it's clumped in thirds: Good (5-6), Middle (3-4), Poor (1-2). Then it's just +/- thinking to distinguish between the items in a third. It's quick and easy and feels not-too-reductionist. It's the most common weight that I give math problems when I write an exam. 6 point scales 4-evah.


 

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Guest Post - NATO Support Act

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.31.19

Mochy writes: In a breathtaking act of sanity, a veto-proof majority of the House is trying to stop Trump from blowing up NATO.

In sum, under the prevailing understanding of current law, Trump has the constitutional authority to withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty, pursuant to its withdrawal provision, at least in the absence of formal action by Congress. And if he makes that decision, it is unlikely that a court would review it. Given NATO's historical and continuing importance, that might seem like a shocking proposition, and it is certainly a testament to the breadth of modern presidential control over international law. But it follows pretty clearly from current legal understandings.
The legal situation could change quite a lot, however, if Congress enacts the NATO Support Act.

Apparently the executive has withdrawn from hundreds of treaties without ending the world, so maybe you should just pass extra statutes to back up the important ones. Like, IDK, UN membership. Just a thought.

Heebie's take: It's hard to imagine it goes anywhere in the Senate.


 

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Teacher Unions

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.30.19

Here's your feel-good read du jour, on the LA Teacher strikes two weeks ago:

After months of systematic organizing and over a week of striking, educators on Tuesday voted by an overwhelming majority to support a tentative agreement that codified major wins for LA public schools. These include smaller class sizes, a nurse in every school, more counselors and librarians, steps against charter schools, and a slew of "common good" demands regarding social justice-issues like immigrant rights, racial profiling, and green spaces at schools.
It would be hard to overstate the importance of this victory in the country's second-largest school district. Against considerable odds, Los Angeles teachers have dealt a major blow against the forces of privatization in the city and nationwide. By taking on Democratic politicians in a deep-blue state, LA's strike will certainly deepen the polarization within the Democratic Party over education reform and austerity. And by demonstrating the power of striking, LA educators have inspired educators nationwide to follow suit.

 

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Stop Cooking

Posted by LizardBreath
on 01.29.19

Or don't, it's up to you. But a friend pointed me to this piece by Sarah Miller on her emotional relationship to chasing approval through cooking, and it reminded me of a lot of issues I'd had around mealtimes as my relationship with Tim was grinding to a slow and painful close. Basically, he got more and more avoidant about ever eating dinner with the rest of the family (that is, he wouldn't be elsewhere, he'd just not come out of his office to eat, and if he did he wouldn't sit down at the table without extended, maddening delays). And I'd get more and more tied in knots about alternately putting more effort into dinner (to make the food worth it? Yeah, I know that was nuts. While I had some awareness of what was going on at the time, it was much less than complete), or resenting cooking anything at all. While maintaining a facade of normalcy for the kids. It was a fun couple of years!

You will probably not have the same cascade of weird memories and emotions brought up by the linked essay, but it's worth reading anyway.


 

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Prediction

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.28.19

Mark my words: Shintoism and Japanese animism is going to be the next big Western fad. It's going to be pitched as the intersection of Marie Kondo, environmentalism, and spirituality.

First GOOP will pick it up, and then rightwingers will call it 'The New Sharia' and have hate-ins where they bring their possessions and hate on them, and then Vox will run an explainer on it, and then a children's show will have a character on it who is Shinto and someone on Fox will say it's a sleeper cell agent. This scenario is turning out to be very easy to churn out.


 

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Guest Post - This story stinks.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.28.19

Nworbie writes: This is the wackest story in a while from the Washington Post. Family (father, mother, toddler) gets booted from a domestic flight at Miami airport "because of an emergency". When they reach the terminal, they are told that it's because other passengers complained about the father's BO.

He says it was anti-semitism, and that he doesn't smell at all and "even if it wasn't [an anti-semitic reason] they were anti-semitic afterwards."

Adler described the experience as a "horrible" ordeal, explaining that airline employees were walking around the airport holding their noses and fanning their faces. He said that had there been a legitimate body odor issue, the employees, who have a responsibly in the service industry "to go above and beyond," should have helped him.

"Not once in my life has someone said I smell," he told The Post.
The reporter, sadly, only interviewed him by phone. Also, there are no quotes from his wife, who might have dared have an opinion.

The couple have a total of nine children, which makes me think Haredi, but in photographs he has no beard nor dreadlocks.

I have absolutely no idea about the standards of personal hygiene among the ultra orthodox. I do know that standards have changed massively in the last fifty-seventy years in the outside world. It is at least conceivable that a very socially conservative community could still smell as everyone did in 1950 and that this would be offensive today. But the story is in any case a marmalade dropper.

Heebie's take: One of my college boyfriends was a Jewish guy from Southfield, and so I can personally attest that it does in fact have a huge orthodox community. (But mostly not ultra-Orthodox, iirc.) I do not think there is any cultural hygiene issue - this guy is just his own smelly best self.

This part makes Adler seem sympathetic:

At one point, after Adler asked airline workers for an explanation for the removal, one of them asked him, "You told me for religious reasons you don't shower?"

"I shower every day!" Adler quickly responded. "I said you kicked me off because of religious reasons."

whereas this part makes Adler seem silly:

In any case, Adler said, had the airline been that concerned about his body odor, it should have given him clean clothes to wear. Instead, he said, he had to wear the same clothes on the flight the next morning because he did not have his belongings.

Enough about the stinkster, let's all enjoy the phrase "marmalade dropper".


 

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