Saturday, July 21, 2007

Teach a man to fish: Stop (?) the aid to Africa, part 2

But don't prevent him from fishing by cutting his line and squaring him in the balls once he gets a clue. Maybe some fairer trading from the wealthier nations would help (speaking of fishing, check this). Actually, the question mark is in the title because I can't believe that funding has gone beyond patchwork tokenism up to now, even if cumulatively large over time.
The article is properly dismissive of celebrity conceit not considering Africans as agents in the improvement of their lives. However, Jeffrey Sachs is lumped in with Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. His expertise shouldn't be regarded quite that askance -- note his coverage of
weather-linked bonds and co-op loans to buffer farmers' crop risk, a development that could use encouragement.
The news seems to be
getting better for sub-Saharan Africa: '04-'06 GDP growth at ~6%/yr, private capital inflow surpassing aid, elementary education expansion at twice the rate of Western experience; Nigeria's judiciary is starting to flex; and hopefully ideas like a charter establishing auditing standards for resource extraction and distribution will catch on.
For their part, wealthier citizens of the world can push their governments for fairer trade arrangements, and push companies to demand transparency from corrupt dictators in order to do business. There needs to be more noise about these points in the mainstream press.

Unexpected uses for bathroom items

With baby oil, and dental floss, antacid tablets, and cotton swabs.

Gallery called Living in Three Centuries: The Face of Age

Usually with excerpts of things they've seen in their lifetimes. Navajo woman at 104 years:

ThumbStrips -- page history filmstrip in browser

Now you can visually remember what pages you've looked at before. An extension for Firefox.

Law and economics of pirate organization

Even criminal organizations have observable laws and codes to maintain profits. In fact, a pirate ship was more democratic than the tyrannical legitimate navy and merchant vessels where the captain was accorded too much power.
The original paper here.

Politically incorrect but true facts of human nature

Well... These "truths" are based on an evolutionary biology interpretation of behaviors. It claims that suicide bombers in a Muslim society are more likely because of the greater violence from polygyny (seen in other cultures), and because of the promise of 72 virgins (mates) in the hereafter (What? Too broad a stroke. In a young male, testosterone can fuel hatred and self-aggrandizement to absurd levels, too. All battle sacrifices can be seen as helping a broader, threatened genetic strain with which the individual identifies.)
However, the point about a male's midlife crisis having to do with the wife's age rather than the man's -- they make it sound sensible.

Things your grocery store would prefer you not know

Basic marketing, but also mentions how fresh food prep could be suspect for microbial contamination.

China has to worry about an aging population too

The urban, blue collar, retirement age is 50 for men and 55 for women; five year bump up for govt or higher-grade professionals. Little early, huh? The one-child policy introduced in 1980 helped to make this catastrophe-in-development happen. Of course, having too many children is a catastrophe itself.

Jet-propelled kayak

Speeds over 30 mph, steering only with paddles. Actual footage of the kayak in action begins about 3 1/2 minutes into the video.

Wiki's potato famine entry

Linked to the Wikipedia entry on the famine. Some controversy on British role. Just wanted to show the picture here:

Caution with soy

I have heard that fermented soy, like miso, natto, tempeh, is okay in smaller portions (East Asian diets consume regularly, but not in huge North American portions). No very specific details here, but an intro to those unfamiliar with the issue.

Avoiding ID and data theft

Tips from heavy users and experts, including Frank Abagnale, made famous in Catch Me If You Can.

The biotech future

Wealth will no longer be concentrated in urban areas. Household energy generation and the coming of domesticated (like computers) green (mostly genomic here) tech will slow down the mass migration from underdeveloped rural areas to cities by providing economic opportunities.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Air-conditioned bed

Don't cool the whole room. Just cool the bed.
They have a USB-powered, cooling shirt as well.

90+ music and audio sites

Jamming, remixing online, identifying a track you've recorded from somewhere, ...

Four-foot-nine, 88 lbs., 75 years old, menace to the corrupt

Deeply loyal to the communist revolution in Vietnam, damned if 75-year old Le Hien Duc is going to allow corruption to defile it:

Like many others of her generation, Duc joined the revolution as a young woman. During Vietnam's war against French colonialists, she spent years in the jungle, decoding messages for the army.

``We gave our blood, sweat and tears,'' she said. ``There is no excuse for anyone to abuse their authority..."
Her fallback technique is getting home addresses of government officials, including ministers if necessary.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ways to deal with mosquitoes

Spray garlic powder and water all over your yard?

For the guys -- Roadbag portable urinal

This link goes to Neatorama which has a link to the German product site. It's 4 euros for three of them; less per unit if you get the larger quantity packs. There's some polymer to soak up the urine.

Swarm theory

Call it the wisdom of crowds, or crowdsourcing, or mass collaboration. How collectively, stupid units with only a few rules can display intelligent behavior. Each individual unit collects only local information from a neighbor and never sees the big picture, but impressive results are achieved.
We see such self-organization in resource collection of ants and bees, and in the movement of fish schools and bird flocks. There are applications to human group behavior, too. To my knowledge, it is the basis of AI. I mean, really, how intelligent is an individual neuron, all by itself?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Scrub off antigens to make type O blood

Machine using enzymes from two different bacteria, the sugar molecule antigens are taken off the surface of type A and B red blood cells. And voila -- immunologically neutral type O blood.

Things you didn't know you could do with Wikipedia

Like Cliffs notes-type summaries, stock image collection and a search trend tracker.

A people only in the now

This is probably the most fascinating post so far. The Piraha (pron. pee-da-HAN) language not only has no numbers, fixed color terms, terms for "left" or "right," nor quantifiers like "all," "each," "every," "most," and "few," they have no abstract thought at all. They live only in the sensate present. This means no tradition of art or history past a couple of generations, nor any mythology/religion.
This cracks my presumption that all earlier cultures had more accessible intimations of the Divine, more spirituality, as seemingly suggested by Joseph Campbell. Isn't mythologizing and yearning for the greater a natural function of the brain, like language (but read on below)? The Piraha's apparently deficient state, however, also shows up all the the vanity and pride other people put into the stories and identities they weave about themselves, especially collectively. Such an urge or cultural habit would appear to be unnecessary.
The language is somewhat rudimentary as it does not seem to have recursion. This is a phrase inserted in another phrase of the same type for infinite variation (e.g. The man who is wearing a hat is walking down the street), the only feature that Noam Chomsky whittled down to being the essence of universal, built-in-brain grammar that distinguishes humans from animals. The allegation is that culture/environment plays a more fundamental role than supposedly inviolable Chomsky doctrine allows -- acquired rather than built-in.
That's decades of widely accepted "truth" upended.
It's a New Yorker piece, so it's long. Just take it in bites.

Update on counting from MIT team here.

Insanely useful US government watch websites

Including a campaign contribution tracker.

Legendary landmark scams

How do you rent out the White House?

World's oldest car to be auctioned

Steam-powered, from 1884, estimated at between $1.5 to 2 million. I guess keeping it well-maintained for the very long run overcomes that depreciation!

15 uses for baking soda

Mostly cleaning this or that, but also to smooth skin, put out a small fire (fabric examples given), ...

When killer cops walk

After being tasered seven times, US Marine Hale was shot point blank in the chest three times by police Lt. William Browne:

Browne claimed self-defense. But Hale was no threat to anyone when he was killed. He didn't resist arrest. He had no weapon.
More detailed account here.
You have to wonder what kinds of individuals become constables. If you remember the Stanford Prison Experiment that induced "normal" students to become cruel when cued as guards, consider this revisit of the volunteering process -- you can guess what happened:
Carnahan and McFarland ... re-ran the volunteering part of the study to see what sort of people would volunteer for a two week study ‘of prison life’, compared to those volunteering for a study described in an identical manner but with the ‘prison life’ bit taken out.

Roswell PR officer leaves affidavit confirming ET craft and bodies

Lieutenant Walter Haut was the guy who issued the original disc capture press release and the subsequent ones with the change in story. He denied everything his whole life and left an affidavit to be opened after his death. In it, he confirms that he saw some egg-shaped craft and strange bodies.

Returning To Our Visual Roots (book)

Just for this quote, an Amazon link to Thinking Like Einstein: Returning to Our Visual Roots with the Emerging Revolution in Computer Information Visualization. Alleged thoughts from Socrates on technology:

Long ago, Socrates described some second thoughts he had about the new and questionable technology called a "book". He thought it had several weaknesses. A book could not adjust what it was saying, as a living person would, to what would be appropriate for certain listeners or specific times or places. In addition, a book could not be interactive, as in a conversation or dialogue between persons. And finally, according to Socrates, in a book the written words "seem to talk to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, from a desire to be instructed, they go on telling you just the same thing forever."

ETF bubble

Well, when you have a Georgia ETF and the HealthShares Infectious Disease Index, liquidity is being spread a little too thin, and speculative spiking becomes more likely. The premise is that a frenzy eventually ensues, involving many funds.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Real Player launches

The new player adds a “save this” button to any video playing in your browser. When you click it, Real will download the file in the background as you surf regardless of format.

Melting wall clocks for purchase

You can get the ant or fly if it pleases you.

Virtual game hires real economist

As the lead economist for EVE, my duties will include publishing economic information to the EVE-Online community. My duties will also be to coordinate research cooperation with academic institutions as the academic world has expressed quite an interest in doing research on this phenomenon (which shows how important MMOGs might become in future research into economic and human behavior).
Previous post on EVE's economy.

Class- and boardroom projectors could be damaging to eyesight

Some investigation needs to be done on how damaging even peripheral capture of over 1500 lumens could be.

Age of scientific ignorance

Concerning scientific illiteracy. Downbeat (regarding society) coverage of Natalie Angier's The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, a pop primer on the scientific ideas any person needs to know. It then turns optimistic when interviewing John Brockman, who started up the previously posted Stats claimed in this article:

Forty-two per cent of Americans in a recent survey said they believed that humans had been on Earth since the beginning of time.
... in the UK ... 20 per cent of people still believe that the Sun revolves around Earth

So you wanna make a movie?

Really, for a few thousand dollars and plenty of chutzpah, you can communicate a story through the screen.
Also, some screenwriting books from the same blog.

How to ace a test for facts: memorization technique

Essentially, make notes in complete sentences and progressively memorize more and more sentences, reading out loud. Optimal for up to six pages of notes.

Algorithmic arms race on Wall Street -- goodbye traders

Short, overview article on how even the more conservative, traditional firms are on the bandwagon now. Traders are becoming irrelevant. The IBM study mentioned is here (haven't read).
Also, this Institutional Investor article more specifically covering dark pools and algorithms for trading execution efficiency, rather than for strategy (I read some headline somewhere about applying peer-to-peer tech to orders). There's a lot of in-house order routing to dark books going on; not necessarily getting the best price in the world. There seems to be less and less point to a displayed, depth quote screen.
Regulation cannot help but lag.