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Paul Tucker
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Paul Tucker

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Today I drove some unnecessary miles in my car, to hike in a different park, from the one I can walk to from my home.  I burned more petroleum, a fraction of the cost of which went to support the regime in Saudi Arabia, which we would probably view as illegitimate as North Korea's, if it weren't for the inconvenient facts of geography and resource distribution.
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This sounds distressingly corrupt: alleged violations of law don't get prosecuted, but result in cronies of prosecutors being inserted into the suspect corporation as highly paid "monitors" under a secret system with little real accountability.   

Remember this next time Chris Christy is promoting himself as a trustworthy public servant.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/10/washington/10justice.html?pagewanted=all
 
I found this relatively short article quite unnerving.  It describes the how the US dept of Justice and the SEC "punish" bad corporations, not by prosecuting them but rather by not prosecuting them and, instead, sometimes installing a monitor to make sure that the bad corporation is no longer bad.

I like how Chris Christie, when he was a US Attorney, used this system to pass about $50,000,000 to his friend, former US Atty General John Ashcroft and then another wad of cash to Christie's alma mater.

In addition to being a merely a tap on the wrist, this system is done largely in secret - definitely from the public and even from the stockholders of the bad corporations.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren attempted to mitigate some of the worst parts of this but she got stonewalled.
A corporate monitor talks about what it's like to clean up after DPAs.
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I keep looking at this NIH published paper.  It's a marvelous example of how poor statistical foundations of an otherwise meaningful-appearing study are easily and often overlooked.  Doing good science is probably a stretch achievement on the edge of human cognitive capabilities, certainly not a core competency.  
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Digging a bit, found this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535973/

Quoting part of it: "Leibocivi first raised the possibility of retroactive prayer in 2001. He reported a study that showed prayer done for patients well after they had left the hospital, had reduced the length of stay in hospital and duration of fever from blood stream infections. In short, prayer somehow seemed to act backward in time to shorten patients' stay in the hospital. The study was intended lightheartedly to illustrate the importance of asking research questions that fit with the scientific model of the world."

And later (referring to this and other studies): "Firstly, the findings from human studies which Olshansky and Dossey cite are hardly robust; in places, they are clinically insignificant in terms of effect size and not uncommonly steeped in controversy. Secondly, they call on theoretical mechanisms that have, at best, a questionable connection to medicine. Without plausible mechanism, abundant data with strong significance is necessary. That evidence does not exist."

An interesting thought -- should the "presence of a plausible mechanism" influence the statistical significance requirements? Seems to make sense intuitively...
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 “There’s been this huge cultural shift. We now live in a society where most people believe a child can not be out of your sight for one second, where people think children need constant, total adult supervision. This shift is not rooted in fact. It’s not rooted in any true change. It’s imaginary. It’s rooted in irrational fear.”
A South Carolina woman thought it was better than forcing her kid to sit at McDonald's all day. Now the state has taken custody.
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A strange thing is that this cultural shift is true globally! What does it tell us?
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Paul Tucker

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Large scale employment of mercenaries by the government, in positions where plausibly the regular military ought to serve, has always seemed to me like a very bad idea.
Not long after the security firm’s top manager in Iraq told a State Department investigator “that he could kill” him, an inquiry was abandoned. Weeks later, the firm’s guards killed 17 civilians in Iraq.
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You've likely noticed that the US congress has difficulty in implementing long term strategy that is in the broad interest of the nation.  Arguably, part of the problem is an electoral financing system that enables narrow interests with wealth, available now and to be gained, to spend heavily and anonymously on elections.  Lawrence Lessig is organizing a PAC to combat the recent deregulation of PACs.  It's critical that this effort receive some more support in the next week.  I hope you'll join me in doing so.
Help us reduce the influence of money in politics and pledge today!
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I just donated to Lessig's new PAC to fight political corruption fostered by...PACs and the electoral system.  I hope you'll give some serious consideration to this problem and perhaps do the same.
MayOne.us - SuperPAC to end all SuperPacs. Join our effort to win a Congress committed to reforming the influence of money in Politics.
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A very worthwhile article, if you're interested in the internet economy and its effect on culture and politics.  Consider a generalization of "nerd sniping"; call it Weak Attention Sniping, perhaps: taking advantage of the propensity of most people at some times to be derailed from an activity of real value by some kind of conspicuously curious distraction.  The business model of the firm described consists entirely of arbitraging and  amplifying WAS, monetized by ads.   The content is copied with little or no modification from elsewhere.  The only value added, if one can call it that, is early recognition of viral content elsewhere on the web, substitution of more attention grabbing headlines, and more aggressive promotion (mostly via facebook).   Real-time data analytics are used to improve click-thru rates and stay ahead of competitors.

Why does this matter?   To me the article suggests a lot of interesting questions about psychology, education, economics and parallels between biological and cultural pathogens.  More narrowly, the business activity it describes is almost certainly making the internet less useful.

Its part of a larger context of internet practices, incentivized by the ease of copying without attribution and by monetization thru ads, that disincentivizes the production of high-quality content, where higher quality requires higher costs.

It may lower the utility provided by availability of high quality, more difficult to absorb information, by a kind of redirective priming.   Suppose there is a story with many aspects, some of them perhaps ambiguous.   Yet within it is a curious nugget that can be mined for WAS.  Those who consume the out-of-context neural candy, or just see in promoted in multiple places, can gain an erroneous impression of the thrust and value of the larger story, or their own understanding of it, and pass up opportunities to consider it more deeply.
Emerson Spartz calls himself an aggregator, but he acts more like a day trader. Credit Illustration by Oliver Munday
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I have had to actively train myself NOT to click on these types of articles. It has taken weeks - I've gotten better over time. I'm still having problems with Quora - admittedly better quality than "Top 10 Mistakes In Buying a Camera" - but it is still a negative with respect to time spent verses information gained.
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"This result requires exquisite control over the laser and the plasma," 
Using one of the most powerful lasers in the world, researchers have accelerated subatomic particles to the highest energies ever recorded from a compact accelerator.
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Capsule summary: Slot machines now dominate casino gambling profits due to psychologically targeted design that causes users to experience losing (money) as a (partial) win and a pleasurable "flow" state.  

Which begs the question to what extent do marketers and political organizers exploit analogous ways of encouraging detrimental behavior that feels beneficial.
 
Author Natasha Dow Schüll talks about the evolution of slot machines, exploring how and why they've become so addictive.
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I don't know why "gambling" is such a special case ... pretty much everything we spend money on that isn't absolutely necessary for our survival is sort of in this category of putting us in the pleasurable "flow" state :) ... these things can become "detrimental" behavior but not most of the time if you are in fact ending up in a real pleasurable flow.  It is only when the pleasurable flow starts becoming a necessity (addiction?) when it is detrimental.  

As far as your question about to what extent marketers are using these techniques ... I think the answer it as much as possible. We are manipulated with everything we see, hear, and get exposed to pretty much everywhere.
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It can be good to feel wealthy, but it's better to live in a middle-class country.  This makes the case for a higher minimum wage better than I've heard it before,
 
Memo: From Nick HanauerTo: My Fellow ZillionairesYou probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for...
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+David desJardins What evidence do you have that "we are laking in investment far more than in consumption"?  Also, wouldn't increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr put some upward pressure on wages which are currently above that floor?  What other policies would you support for decreasing income inequality?
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Fresh wasp galls on a small valley oak in Santa Clara County.

http://daviswiki.org/Plant_Gall
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Big eggs for such a small insect!
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Great Service: not everything about the entire experience was perfect, but the help I got from the staff was consistently excellent -- beyond expectations. For example, entirely through my own fault I was late for the trailer pickup when my own tow vehicle suddenly became unavailable: the staff showed no impatience, stayed late, and fixed me up with an SUV rental on the spot. A small equipment problem arose during my trip and the service desk routed me to another dealer near Redding who fixed it immediately. I saw no indication of any problems mentioned in other reviews. I will happily use Family RV for rentals again.
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Public - 3 years ago
reviewed 3 years ago
Small with knowledgeable friendly staff. Good selection for its size, particularly of acoustic instruments. The in-house repair service is a great convenience. I've purchased 2 guitars and an ukulele there and will get more.
Public - 4 years ago
reviewed 4 years ago
I shop at all the major hardware/home-fixup places within 5 miles of here, and I'm a regular visitor to this store. The strength of Los Altos True Value is its staff. They do a good job of maximizing the variety of stock in a limited space, and they generally know where everything is, to get you in and out quickly. It's a great place to go when you need some advice, or a few little parts to get something fixed so you can get back to your life.
Public - 4 years ago
reviewed 4 years ago
Aisle after aisle of pseudo-food. All with those ridiculous "club" card phony discounts. This place depresses me. I never go into Safeway when there's an alternative.
Public - 4 years ago
reviewed 4 years ago
7 reviews
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I kind of like this place, but not without reservation, and can see how you might not. There's a good variety of pancakes trending heavily towards the extremely sweet. If you want to really shock your system, get the giant baked apple thing (a dutch baby?) that looks like deep dish candied fruit pizza, and wash it down with lots of coffee. In my mind, this is pretty much what a pancake house is supposed to be. I rarely want to go here, but once in a while it seems to fill some urge. It can get pretty loud with all the sugared-up kids.
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Public - 4 years ago
reviewed 4 years ago
I can't say anything about the food or value. I visited once. We were seated alone in an adjunct dining room. We were brought water and menus then no one came by our table again for 30 minutes. A few times we saw someone walk rapidly past the door, ignoring our waving. We left and had dinner elsewhere. The interior was nice.
Public - 4 years ago
reviewed 4 years ago