Saturday, May 25, 2013

Weird Companies that Work

Four companies with strange but successful marketing plans.

Including "Goose Masters."  Now, Angry Alex, before you go moving here to Raleigh, you have to understand they are talking about big aquatic birds.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Headline Meme!

1.  Florida teen shots off own penis with gun he just bought.  Depending on whether he recovers, this is a Darwin award nominee.  Don't have to die, just to render self unable to reproduce by being an idiot.

2.  Mom has son arrested for stealing her Pop-Tarts.  Nice.

With thanks to Sid-Bro and the LMM.


Gay rights and gun rights linked.

Nearly everyone's head explodes.  Only libertarians recognize that these really ARE essentially the same issue.

One has to be amused at this response.  The writer literally cannot believe that someone might seriously support individual freedoms, as a matter of principle, rather than having memorized a series of contradictory "correct" positions on the left, or on the right.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Price-Gouging Law in OK

So, the intrepid folks of OK state government are out on patrol.  Be warned!  If you try to sell stuff that people need, especially if they REALLY REALLY need it, you will likely be arrested.

OK Gov announces price gouging enforcement.

I wish that the OK legislature could watch this short video:

On the other hand, to be fair, it wouldn't matter.  Price-gouging laws are extremely popular among voters.  To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, voters want price justice, and it is the job of government to give it to 'em, good and hard.

With thanks to Chris Zorn...

UPDATE:  Note that the authorities are careful to muddy the waters, conflating price-gouging and fraud.  Fraud is a problem, fraud is illegal.  It is COMPLETELY different from price-gouging.

More Debunking of Food Deserts

Foodways of the urban poor 

 Alison Hope Alkon et al. 
Geoforum, August 2013, Pages 126–135 

Abstract: In the past decade, progressive public health advocates and food justice activists have increasingly argued that food deserts, which they define as neighborhoods lacking available healthy foods, are responsible for the diet-related health problems that disproportionately plague low-income communities of color. This well meaning approach is a marked improvement over the victim-blaming that often accompanies popular portrayals of health disparities in that it attempts to shift the emphasis from individual eaters to structural issues of equitable development and the supply of health-inducing opportunities. However, we argue that even these supply-side approaches fail to take into account the foodways – cultural, social and economic food practices, habits and desires – of those who reside in so-called food deserts. In this paper, we present five independently conducted studies from Oakland and Chicago that investigate how low-income people eat, where and how they shop, and what motivates their food choices. Our data reveals that cost, not lack of knowledge or physical distance, is the primary barrier to healthy food access, and that low-income people employ a wide variety of strategies to obtain the foods they prefer at prices they can afford. This paper speaks to academic debates on food systems, food movements and food cultures. We hope that progressive policy makers, planners and food justice activists will also draw on it to ensure that their interventions match the needs, skills and desires of those they seek to serve.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dead Crows: Avian Flew?

Researchers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority found over 200 dead crows near greater Boston recently, and there was concern that they may have died from Avian Flu.  A Bird Pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was definitely NOT Avian Flu. 

The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts.

However, during the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colors of paints appeared on the bird's beaks and claws.  By analyzing these paint residues it was determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car.

MTA then hired an Ornithological Behaviorist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills.

The Ornithological Behaviorist very quickly determined the cause: when crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending dangers.

The conclusion was that while all the lookout crows could say "Cah", none could say "Truck."

That's for Shirley, folks.

Juliet and Rosaline

Gay folk finally achieve full equality in Florida.   18 year old girl/woman charged with statutory rape for consensual relationship with 16 year old girl/woman.

Note that if the age of consent is 17, then this would have been legal 18 months ago, before older woman turned 17.  And now gay people can be classified as sex offenders under this dumb law, exposing them to death, beatings, and harassment. 

A surprising number of people on sex offender lists either (1) urinated in public, perhaps after a concert or frat party, or (2) had sex with a minor when the "offender" was only a year or two older, but technically above the age of consent.  Now, #1 is dumb, but not a sex offense.  (And let's just say that it's possible I may have committed this act, at some point).  And #2?  I'm not going to say anything more, but it's been more than 7 years ago anyway, thank goodness.

Many states (though not enlightened Florida) have "minimum age difference" add-on before statutory rape charges can be brought. (Also called "Romeo and Juliet" laws.)  A Penna judge actually decided this on his own, in a common-law way.

So, perhaps gay folks do still have a ways to go for equality:  if we have "Romeo and Juliet" laws, we should have "Juliet and Rosaline" laws, right?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Robin Hoods....sort of

So, these kids in Keene, NH are going to have to face (at least) civil charges.

For harassing meter persons in the course of their meter duties.

Excerpt from the story: Members of the group place cards under windshield wipers that read, "Your meter expired; however, we saved you from the king's tariffs, Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Please consider paying it forward," and includes an address where donations can be sent

An interesting question:  can citizens legally follow law officers and taunt them?  Repeatedly?  To such an extent that the law officers quit, or become ill from the stress?

(Problem:  It's not clear those things will actually happen.  But, suppose, for the sake of argument, that that is what is happening.  It makes the case a more interesting problem.)

I guess I lean towards "no."  This is a protest, yes, I see that.  But are they seriously protesting fees for parking on city streets?  Here is the Keene city parking web site.

A video, from local Boston CBS station.    Call me a cynic, but my suspicion is that this is what is going on.

1.  Some of the RH's have in fact been aggressive and loud.  And it is quite possible that there has been overt "surveillance," as alleged by the meter guy who says the RH's were watching his family. 
2.  The city is "losing" a lot of money.  In fact, the city is losing enough that it has trouble justifying paying the meter persons.
3.  #2 is motivating the city to trump up charges based on #1, to try to harass and intimidate the RH's through the legal system, using lawyers and scare tactics.
4.  In short, and as usual, the state is actually doing something that if private citizens did it would be illegal.  The cute thing about this is example is that the state is actually accusing the private citizens of doing just. that. thing.  The state constantly conducts surveillance, harasses people, takes pictures of public gatherings, and makes threats.  The difference is that the state is not a bunch of skinny teenagers.  The state has guns.
5.  The state's job is not to protect "us," whatever that means.  The state's job is to protect the state.  I expect that the state will do its job.

Nod to Jeremy B.

Storm paths, then and now

Robin & I first moved to Norman shortly after the Moore tornado of 1999 which was a brutal storm. Now we've seen the Moore tornado of 2013, which may prove to be even more devastating. We are fine, but as you've seen, the images and statistics coming out of Moore are horrible.

Here's a chart from the National Weather Service comparing the two storms' paths:

You can see that Norman is at the bottom right of the map.

Thanks to everyone who's been contacting us with concern and good wishes.

People Are Getting Dumber! You are Right! Well, Everyone EXCEPT You is Getting Dumber.

Were the Victorians cleverer than us? The decline in general intelligence estimated from a meta-analysis of the slowing of simple reaction time 

Michael Woodley, Jan te Nijenhuis & Raegan Murphy I
ntelligence, forthcoming 

Abstract: The Victorian era was marked by an explosion of innovation and genius, per capita rates of which appear to have declined subsequently. The presence of dysgenic fertility for IQ amongst Western nations, starting in the 19th century, suggests that these trends might be related to declining IQ. This is because high-IQ people are more productive and more creative. We tested the hypothesis that the Victorians were cleverer than modern populations, using high-quality instruments, namely measures of simple visual reaction time in a meta-analytic study. Simple reaction time measures correlate substantially with measures of general intelligence (g) and are considered elementary measures of cognition. In this study we used the data on the secular slowing of simple reaction time described in a meta-analysis of 14 age-matched studies from Western countries conducted between 1884 and 2004 to estimate the decline in g that may have resulted from the presence of dysgenic fertility. Using psychometric meta-analysis we computed the true correlation between simple reaction time and g, yielding a decline of − 1.23 IQ points per decade or fourteen IQ points since Victorian times. These findings strongly indicate that with respect to g the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations. 

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday's Child is Full of Links

1.  What a silly slippery slope argument!  That whole, "if we regulate cigarettes, then we'll be regulating chain restaurants, and eventually even family-owned restaurants."  That could never happen.  Whoops.  New flash:  some Mexican food meals have quite a few calories.  (UPDATE:  As WH points out, Dr. Roberts is saying that people want more choices.  And what she means by "want" is that SHE, Dr.. Roberts, wants it.  And what she means by "choice" is to to be forced to do something by the government.  You have a choice NOW, Dr. Roberts.  Stay home and have a salad, go to a different restaurant, etc.)

2.  Nauseatingly sweet prom story.  Just the way I like it.  I'm a sucker for chickflix, on any scale.
Some background. All together....AWWWWWWWW.....

3.  Germany is concerned that the U.S. might actually mean what it said.  After all, Pres. O said chemical weapons would be a "red line."   I think we can reassure our German friends.  This goofball of a President just talks and talks.  He never actually does anything.  And in this case that may be just as well.

4.  One of the reasons that poor people and minorities think the Republicans don't care about them is that most Republicans just straight up do NOT care about them.  That may be okay, from some perspectives, if your program really is "we'll leave you alone."  But it isn't.  The Republicans pledge to cut benefits and ALSO harass, arrest, and abuse Latinos, blacks, and the poor.  The Repubs need to choose:  either do the "we care" thing and actually care, or else stop pretending.  An argument for the "we care" side, which makes sense to me.

5.  I'm not unemployed! I'm....retired!  Yeah, that's the ticket. Retired!

6.  Finger-lickin' good!  After you wash your hands, which got all dirty going through the tunnel.

7.  No evidence--none--that helmets reduce injuries.  Just faith-based medicine and a pathetic desire to order people around.

8.  No evidence--none--that reducing salt intake helps normal people achieve better health outcomes.  Just faith-based.. (see above).  (MORE AFTER THE JUMP...)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spelling Test

A spelling test with a high predictive power for career choice for men.

Rearrange the letters P-N-E-S-I to spell out the part of the human body that is most useful when erect.

1.  Those who think these kinds of "tests" are silly are destined for gainful employment and useful lives.
2.  Those who think all answers are equally valid and it depends on the reaction of the reader should become literature profs.
3.  Those of you who think the answer is "PINES" will be outside going on hikes and working in your gardens.
4..  Those who think the answer is "SPINE" should be doctors.
5.  Those who think the answer is "SNIPE" must have been Boy Scouts at some point.
6.  The rest of you are headed to some kind of political career.

Breaking down the higher ed wage premium

The wage premium for higher education is high and growing. This is well known. Perhaps less appreciated though is that the average premium can vary greatly by college major and by whether or not the person gets an advanced degree.

Luckily for us, there is a very nice piece from the Cleveland Fed on these questions.

Here's a graph from the paper of the overall premium (clic the pic for an even more educational image):

Median wages for BA/BS and higher have gone from 140% of high school only wages to 180% of high school only wages from 1977 to 2010. Note that the premium for "some college" has stayed fairly flat over the same time period.

So, "go to college, young person", right? Well there is the big issue of whether higher education creates human capital or just serves as a signal of innate ability (phone call for Robin Hanson).

And there's also the issues of "what major" and "what degree".

Here's another graph from that Cleveland Fed piece (clic the pic for an even more self-serving image):

English majors get a wage premium of a bit below 1.5 and if they get an advanced degree, it's around 1.75.  Economics majors get a wage premium of a bit below 2 and if they get an advanced degree, it's around 3.00

Yet the thickness of the bars tells us that there are more english majors than economics majors (of course this could have something to do with labor demand, but I somehow doubt it)!

Electrical engineering is the most remunerative major with an average premium of 2.5. Elementary Education is the least with a average premium well below 1.3.

In sum, a BA/BS is not a guarantee of an 80% wage premium. Not all majors may be "worth it" economically, given the accounting costs and opportunity costs of getting the degree.  

Trying to get a degree and failing can also be costly if multiple years are burned up in the attempt. Dropping out without a degree after 5 years of going to college is on average, an economic disaster.

So, "get a degree in the most remunerative major that you can get through, subject to the constraint that you can do it quickly and cheaply enough to make it worthwhile".

Note that these graphs are equally consistent with both the signaling and capital formation views of higher ed.

Aggressiveness for the Prez

The Biological Bases for Aggressiveness and Nonaggressiveness in Presidents 

 Rose McDermott
Foreign Policy Analysis, forthcoming

Abstract: Leaders remain subject to the same biological determinants and pressures that affect other humans. Yet, they also differ in their ability to regulate and marshal their emotions just as they diverge in their other skills, talents, limitations, and abilities. In particular, some are better at channeling their emotions to help shape foreign policy more efficiently than others. One of the most potent and powerful emotions with which leaders have to contend, particularly under conditions of provocation, is anger. Anger can influence judgment and decision making in systematic and predictable ways. Individual heritable differences can influence the conditions under which anger leads to aggressive action. Such differences can influence not only the environments into which leaders select, but also the ways they process and interpret information; these determinations can decisively influence the outcome of significant public policies, including decisions on conflict and war. As a result, emotion regulation can play a strategic role in leadership. Examples from several recent presidencies illustrate how such individual differences play out on the world stage.

Nod to Kevin Lewis

Bad Penny

Mouthpiece meets Codpiece.  John Edwards ready to ruin more lives

Edwards said last year he hoped to someday open an advocacy law firm to serve indigent clients and that he hoped to find a way to contribute to society. 

Wade Smith, a Raleigh defense lawyer who served as Edwards' mentor early in his legal career, said he saw Edwards recently and he looked great. "He looks so much better, more relaxed," Smith said. 

Smith said Edwards hadn't told him he had reactivated his law license, but Smith was not surprised. "He's got so much ability and talent," said Smith, who represented Edwards in the criminal case. "Lawyers who saw him in front of a jury will tell you they never saw anything like him, his ability to connect. That talent is still in there and I think he will find a space to use it."