Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Sensory Integration and ADHD

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There's a growing body of research that suggests that kids who suffer from ADD & ADHD are actually suffering from some kind of sensory integration disorder. A quick comparison for "normals" - you know how you feel after you've been in a too-loud nightclub or bar for a little too long? Distracted, irritable, not able to sit or stand or do any one thing?

Sensory integration disorder is like being that way all the time.

So here's the kicker - this should imply that these kids once treated (including by just stimulants) should outperform normal kids in tasks that require assimilating lots of data.

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This isn't my idea...

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..but would American authorities please take note of this? Can we add in the (obvious, and apparently real) correlation between big flashy cars and insecurity in bed?

Making them feel small: ads wag the finger at speeding young men - National
YOUNG men who speed do so because they have a small penis - or so the new RTA road safety campaign implies.

Ads from the $1.9 million campaign - which targets speeding among 17- to 25-year-olds - aired for the first time on TV last night. They show onlookers who see speeding male drivers wiggling their pinkie fingers.

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Re-inventing Cable News Channels

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Have you noticed that the cable news channels are essentially using a lot of local stories lately? I have the misfortune of working somewhere where televisions are left on all day long, so I see a lot of this.

So why not take this a step further? During the day, have local stringers (or local stations) report on truly local stories. That will give a lot of that "local oooomph" that the cable news channels seem to go for anyway, but would allow local news to actually do some specific news reporting instead of simply repeating AP reports. Use the cable news channels as giant producers, and they can rotate the stories on a slow progressive rotation. The variety would also help keep people hooked - instead of more of the same local (but remote) tragedy bounced to national attention, it would be a new local (but remote) story - but you don't know what it is!  A mystery!

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Every little bit helps

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While at my university has motion-sensor lights in the restrooms, I realized that many other places do not. (The rest areas in Tennessee are a perfect example.) However, they do have those automatic flushing devices. Presumably, they use batteries or somesuch.

But why not put small solar panels on top of the flushers, akin to those for a solar calculator? They could cheaply recharge batteries and extend life, couldn't they?

An easy in-line recharger like that could have many applications in the business world - hospitals, stadiums, and the like. With energy prices likely to rise (either due to the environmental costs of coal or the market costs of oil), the concept of catching and using otherwise "wasted" light for things like so-called vampire appliances.

Yes, we are talking about small amounts of power, and small amounts of cost. But with the relative cost of solar (remember, I'm predicting "conventional" energy costs to rise) dropping, there is room for near-ubiquitous small solar reclamation of energy.

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Repetitive Learning

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It's arguable whether or not conciousness is involved with learning at all - but if consciousness is not involved, why bother to do drills? Why does drill-work (whether in martial arts, math, etc) help us, when it seems to have little to do with the output?

Perhaps all the repetition is simply to bore our conscious mind into getting out of the picture. There are lots of examples of where "thinking too much" interferes with a well-learned process. Try riding a bike while paying close attention to what you are doing!

If we could bore our consciousness more easily, perhaps we could learn tasks a lot more easily...

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The Internet's Demand Cone

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I've mentioned the Long Tail (and internet sales) before, and I was
reminded of them again tonight. Couldn't you rewrite the demand cone
equation suchly:

Total Percieved Cost = t+oc+p


t = monetary transportation costs (whether shipping & handling or gas/bus fare)
oc = opportunity costs for time investments (travel time, search for
the item in question, checkout time, wait for delivery)
p = sticker price

This equation includes the prices of transportation (both in time and
money), and also reflects the time and shipping of items from the
internet. It also illustrates where "t" can become fixed (such as
with Amazon Prime or free/discounted shipping) and the percieved
lowering of "oc" due to improvements in search technology, or the
percieved raise in "oc" due to difficulty navigating a website or web
checkout process.

This model would also reflect the emperical effects noted by free/flat
shipping and the "one click" checkout process (both of which increase
sales of online merchants). It considers time used to learn to use a
computer as sunk costs.

This model also demonstrates why the demand cone for internet
retailers is considerably flat - and vastly larger - than that of a
brick-and-mortar store. This explains the viability of relatively
"niche" products on the internet that you can rarely find in a store
(save in a large metropolis).

The implications are fairly straightforward, and fit right in with all the other long tail implications: niche markets and retailers will practically always increase demand by selling over the internet.

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Challenges I don't Understand

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I simply do not understand those who challenge the residency rule. Being paid by the city itself - but unwilling to live there or support it - seems rather parasitic, doesn't it?

Veteran city worker challenges Dayton's residency rule

The senior-most, city traffic signal electrician told the Dayton City Commission Wednesday that he's moving to Jefferson Twp., thus challenging a long-standing employee residency requirement.

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Integrating Worlds

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Considering how often people have a SL window open while doing other things (I'm looking at you TiaFix), wouldn't it be wonderful to have ways of communicating between SL and RL?

Scripts in SL that automatically SMS you in the real world. Scripts that read Twitter posts and parse them to have your avatar do appropriate things.

While it might originally start out as a toy (teledildonics, anyone?), this sort of thing could provide that "office" feel to virtual officemates. Need to walk down the hall to the office cooler? Your avatar can - and your RL officemates get a text/IM of your convo even though you're worlds away.

This kind of integration of the virtual and the real could either be a great big distraction - or provide yet another big "R" in the way things are done.

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Bad Landlords: Leveraging the Interweb

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Especially for commuter schools like the one I attend, there are a lot of students who have problems with landlords. Sometimes those problems are warranted; there are bad student renters. Then there are those landlords who simply do not follow state laws.

The legal department at my school handles lots of cases with landlords who violate contracts and state laws - and with a lot of repeat customers. Why not have a clearinghouse of such information, to create a reputation economy like that of eBay?

The military had lists of landlords that you simply may not rent from off base (and other businesses to avoid). They create these lists simply because so many soldiers have had problems with them, they've violated equal rights laws, and the like. These lists have huge amounts of power in the local community, especially when the base is a major economic force.

Universities and colleges are likewise economic forces in thier community. They should use this power to assist thier students. It is in the best interests of themselves and the students they serve.

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Memetic vs. Genetic Evolution

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There's a correlation (negative, strong) between number of children and level of education.  Causation is really unimportant here, just that the correlation holds.

So consider - those with more education are likely to have certain traits and characteristics. Certain memes, if you will. Yet it is likely that they will not pass along as many of thier genes.

At what point will it be that memetic evolution - the passing along of ideas, regardless of biology, makes that difference in reproductive rates moot?

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100 Ways to Help the Environment

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100 Ways to Help the Environment - what more is there to say?

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Minimum Wages

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Economists, take a look at the graphs on the page. The first - and yes, I mean first - thing you should notice is this: the time-series is showing something repeatedly coming out of equilibrium and then being corrected.

The second thing economists will do is get in an argument over whether the shift up or the shift down is the correction.

U.S. Minimum Wage History

A federal minimum wage was first set in 1938. The graph shows nominal (blue diamonds) and real (red squares) minimum wage values. Nominal values range from $0.25/hr in 1938 to the current $5.15/hr. The graph adjusts these wages to 2006 dollars (red squares) to show the real value of the minimum wage. Calculated in real 2006 dollars, the 1968 minimum wage was the highest at $9.27. The real dollar minimum wage (red squares) rises and falls because of periodic adjustments by Congress. The period 1997-2007, is the longest period during which the minimum wage has not been adjusted. The House, January 10, 2007, voted a minimum wage increase to $5.85, to take effect 60 days after the measure becomes law. The green triangles show the real minimum wage increase in 2006 dollars for the three increments $5.85, $6.85 one year after becoming law (i.e., 2008, assuming the minimum wage increases in 2007) and $7.25 after two years (2009). The real values after 2006 are projected for future decline in purchasing power if the minimum wager is not raised. Many states have departed from the federal minimum wage. Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country at $7.93 as of January 1, 2007.

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Medical Insurance

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Let's think about this for a moment.

Corporations are required by law to make money for thier shareholders.

Medical insurance companies are supposed to spend thier money on thier customers.

That reduces profit.

That's one big mixed message and it explains all the problems people have with thier insurance in the US in one fell swoop.

There's a simple solution, and it doesn't involve the government.

Make insurance companies co-ops. Make the customers the shareholders.

Think about it for a second, then go suggest it to your local political pundit.

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Displays of Grief

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The recent shootings at VT, while horrific, did not affect many persons where I live. A few people had relatives there, or friends and acquaintances.

Yet there was this widespread sense that they personally were saddened, grieving. Grief counselors were offered to the entire student body of some of the local colleges. Moments of silence were held.

Yet that day, several times as many people died in Baghdad, innocent victims of a car bomb. More people died in a senseless bus wreck in SE Asia. And far more Americans died of hunger or preventable illness.

Yet they recieved no notice at all

If it was just foreigners, we could claim that it was nationalism that caused the discrepancy. But it's not. Further, we saw this same outpouring with the tsunami at Christmastime in 2005. So what can explain this puzzling behavior?

The outpouring of displays of grief (note the word "displays") serve as visual status markers to show how caring we are (individually and as a society), while not requiring ANY cost of actually doing something. If we grieved for the 150 killed in a car bombing in Baghdad, or the 20k civilians killed by our bombs or those killed by our greed, or lack of donations... well, we'd be compelled to do something.

Quite a few people take that challenge - but society at large does not. But here is a way that everyone in society can show what a caring, sensitive person they are - and not feel obliged to do a damn thing.

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Realigning the "watered down" degree

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Our economy is changing.  It is not that degrees are being watered
down;  it is that the minimum requirements for our advanced economy has
gone up.  

So this means that a whole category of people who have never
needed a degree to survive before will soon find themselves needing a
degree to simply continue to exist. 

Either that or there will be a sizable poor,
unemployable (through structural unemployment) underclass, and that's a
BAD thing.  It'd do the captains of globalization to take note.  Class division and disruption was preempted once before when Marx made his predictions.  Can today's leaders understand that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" includes unions, anti-WTO protests and market forces outside of those in the NYSE?

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The Singularity

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Here's a couple of key points that often get glossed over in popular depictions of the Singularity:

  • You are reading this, therefore you are not relevant in a post-Singularity world.  You will be left behind.
  • Your relationship to post-Singularity life is not akin to a child regarding a parent, it is more akin to you looking at a dog.  At best.   (IMHO, Accelerando does a good job of exemplifying exactly how wierd things will get;  Cory Doctorow's work is great and I love it... but I think he underestimates the changes that will happen).
  • You will be competing for resources with post-Singularity life.
If you're suddenly wondering if there's a way to stop the Singularity, then I think I've conveyed my point well enough.

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Ideas Versus People

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I am surprised at the feature article "The Gentle Darwinians" from the 9 Mar 2007 issue. After reading the article, I could not help but think of it as a gigantic ad hominem attack -- a sideways swipe at those who champion evolution instead of whatever label creationism is calling itself these days. Tying Darwin's personal flaws - not uncommon in his time - even obliquely to modern evolutionary theory seems as wrongheaded as those who judge the modern Church by the Crusades or Inquisition.

Please do not mistake my position. I am quite interested in the historical figure of Darwin, and have great problems with the whitewashing of any historical figure. Our historical heroes -- whether saints who were once sinners, abolitionist politicians who didn't start out that way, racist scientists, or blind and deaf girls who became ardent Socialists -- are not idealized statues. They are deeply flawed humans - just as we are - who were still able to achieve some level of greatness.

It is very human to gloss over the flaws in one's heroes, and Mr. Quinn's correction of that is necessary. Yet the intellectual - and spiritual - world require that we recognize the worth of ideas despite the flaws of thier originators.

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Old time Radio Network

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"The OTR.Network Library is a free resource for Old Time Radio (OTR) fans. We have over 12,000 OTR shows available for instant listening, with 100 more added each week." -

[This text taken from the website]

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" is a web 2.0 compliant cellphone, (cell phone, mobile phone) service that enables users to escape their contract (cell phone contract, mobile contract, wireless contract, phone plan, mobile phone contract, cell contract) or even break contract (swap contract) and avoid the need for early termination or early termination fees." -

[This text taken from the website]

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The Economist, Teachers, and Unions

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The Economist magazine takes a pretty standard economist view of teacher's unions when looking at issues with USian education this week:

All this would be technically simple to fix. Tenure could be abolished, principals could be allowed to hire and fire freely and teachers could be paid by results. School funding could also be made dependent on how many parents choose to send their children to a particular school, so that good schools would expand and bad ones would close or be taken over. But all this is politically impossible - especially with the Democrats, who grovel to the teachers' unions, in charge of Congress.

Yes, this model makes perfect sense for business. However, we have to remember a few things:
  1. Get rid of teacher's unions, and teacher's pay is not guaranteed to go up, by any stretch of the imagination.

  2. Test-taking ability is not caused by good education, nor are high test scores the same thing as a good education. Witness the recent revamping of the SATs to remove injustices in the actual tests themselves.

  3. Ceteris paribus, home environment has a gigantic effect on performance in education. Teachers cannot be expected to correct for that in the aggregate. The few exceptions simply prove the rule, not the other way around.

  4. Public education is a positive externality, and as a result will be underproduced by profit-seeking organizations. Yes, those organizations will benefit from an educated work force, but (especially) USian organizations are looking at a 5-year horizon at most, not a12-year horizon. Therefore, using a free-market model will only exacerbate the education inequality that's already observable in most USian cities - and be bad for the US in the long run.

Please don't mistake me - bad teachers need to go. My worst teacher ever - he literally read the book to us for a year - is now the head of the science department at my old high school. That should never have happened. Simply assuming that market forces will take care of the issue is, however, a charming level of innocence that we simply cannot afford.

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CC Developing Nations

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Developing Nations license.

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Evolving Society

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Our society resembles - in many ways - that of some of our great ape relatives. This has led some scientists to posit "sociobiology"; that is, that our society is due to our genetics.

From what's been presented to me, they sound like a bunch of quacks - making very extreme and untestable claims. This does not mean, however, that they're simply wrong.

Our society has also evolved through the winnowing of the memes (ideas) that make up our society. Much as you frequently find the frequency of some genes having a strong correlation with other ones, you'd predict that some memes would have a strong correlation with others.

If sociobiologists just applied thier thoughts to memes instead of genes... they might find a lot more testable theories.

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Remixing Printcrime

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Printcrime Remixed - Abulafia Random Generators

Gods, this is good. Corey Doctorow's short-short _Printcrime_ is randomly remixed (a la postmodernism) via computer with every page refresh.

What separates this from most cutup techniques is that somehow (perhaps it's just Corey's uber writing), damn near every refresh is not only fresh and new - but good.

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Redefining Heroes

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This is amazingly cool on so many levels - as an art geek, as a comics geek, as a sociology geek, as an economics geek, and just as a gringo interested in the rest of America. Take a look, find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer coolness of it.

"The Mexican immigrant worker in New York is a perfect example of the hero who has gone unnoticed. It is common for a Mexican worker in New York to work extraordinary hours in extreme conditions for very low wages which are saved at great cost and sacrifice and sent to families and communities in Mexico who rely on them to survive."

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Virtual Stuff *IS* real

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This is absolutely fascinating, given the correlations between real life and virtual life implied by the virtual Milgram study.


I'm pretty sure I know what Dr. King would think of a protest against an anti-immigrant political party, but if you asked me what he'd say after the thing devolved into a virtual conflagaration of mini-guns, cursing Frenchmen, and exploding pigs, well, there I'm somewhat at a loss.

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CEO Rents

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Why is the demand curve for CEOs (and therefore thier wages) so much higher? What are the skills they have that everyone else has? I think there's two things that drive the rents (in econ-speak) for CEO's.

  1. The first, and perhaps more obvious thing, is that CEOs supposedly have a great deal of responsibility. That may have been true in the past, but I don't think that's a big explanation right now. G.W. Bush is an excellent example - all the companies he headed needed bailing out or otherwise did poorly. Which brings us to #2:
  2. The social connections and reputation of that CEO. Bush Jr. had the pull with family and friends to get those companies bailed out - and therefore was a goodchoice as CEO, at least from the point of the view of the company. Where he's a bad choice is from the point of view of the rest of us.
Such a system - where the social connections of the CEO have such influence - keeps the social class structure intact, and even strengthens it greatly. Since the quasi-meritocracy that the rest of USians work under doesn't apply here, there's practically no way to break into that upper crust circle.

Ironically, this would seem to work against the free market that such types as GW espouse so often, wouldn't it?

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CC Developing Nations

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Economics and Global Climate Change

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Market forces alone won't work with global climate change. This shouldbe evident to anyone who has studied basic economics. There's two major reasons:

  1. Externalities: Businesses are not made to fully bear the costs of thier pollution, therefore they will overproduce it. This is actually a literal textbook example.

  2. Tipping points: Global climate appears to have "tipping points" - that is, where no change appears to occur when something gradually changes until - BAM! - it changes dramatically. Any appeal to the market to come up with solutions ignores this; by the time there's feedback to the market to change its ways, the change is already too far gone.
Externalities are largely agreed upon as one of the best times for governments to become involved with the economy. This would argue that signing onto Kyoto and strengthening the EPA would be a necessary thing to do.

The only other option is to willfully ignore global climate change - and that's what this administration appears determined to do.

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