Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 80,214
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 02:04 PM
Number of posts: 80,214
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A whole new world of magic animals, brave young princes and evil witches has come to light with the discovery of 500 new fairytales, which were locked away in an archive in Regensburg, Germany for over 150 years. The tales are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.
Last year, the Oberpfalz cultural curator Erika Eichenseer published a selection of fairytales from Von Schönwerth's collection, calling the book Prinz Roßzwifl. This is local dialect for "scarab beetle". The scarab, also known as the "dung beetle", buries its most valuable possession, its eggs, in dung, which it then rolls into a ball using its back legs. Eichenseer sees this as symbolic for fairytales, which she says hold the most valuable treasure known to man: ancient knowledge and wisdom to do with human development, testing our limits and salvation.
Von Schönwerth spent decades asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been passed on by word of mouth. In 1885, Jacob Grimm said this about him: "Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear." Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother's work was Von Schönwerth.
Von Schönwerth compiled his research into a book called Aus der Oberpfalz – Sitten und Sagen, which came out in three volumes in 1857, 1858 and 1859. The book never gained prominence and faded into obscurity...
SAMPLE STORY: THE TURNIP PRINCESS
Posted by Demeter | Mon May 25, 2015, 10:45 PM (7 replies)
I’ve been thinking about it. Work, being a core part of life, is meant to be interesting, engaging, and meaningful. Otherwise, why are we wasting our time on this planet? Yet, for many, work is not living up to its name. Work of the good kind is less and less on offer in the jobs being created. I’ve been reflecting on possible reasons why, and decided it’s really simple. The problem is not the jobs. It’s us. Most humans are simply not the kind of people a boss would want to hire. Take yourselves as a case in point. I’m guessing you’re the kind of people who’d prefer to feel needed rather than expendable. Well, that kind of attitude won’t do. Bosses want to keep your wages down, and that would be harder to do if you were given opportunities to make yourselves invaluable and near on irreplaceable. Bosses need to keep their options open in case some of you get ideas about better pay and conditions, or just generally become ‘difficult’ or, dare I say, ‘bolshie’. You know it’s true. A boss needs to be able to dump you at the drop of a hat. Maybe it’s to boost profits. Maybe it’s to cut costs. Or maybe it’s just because it feels good.
And a boss needs to be able to dump you without it having detrimental effects. There must be ready replacements, eager to crank it up, the moment you’re out the door. And if morale suffers, because the buddies you left behind miss you, the boss will want to send them packing too, and bring in a fresh batch of wage-slaves.
Quite simply, there is little place for satisfying roles, the kind where you get to learn more and more interesting stuff over time. The only good on-the-job learning is no learning at all. Or, if you must learn, thirty minutes tops to master a dead-end role. Although the point seems obvious, I don’t believe it has been treated with the kind of gravity that only the economics blogosphere is fully equipped to deliver. It’s high time the situation was spelled out in painstaking – okay, not painstaking – analytical terms. Then we can all lower our expectations and knuckle down to a lifetime of short-lived McJobs and frequent sackings. If we’re lucky.
One way to characterize a job is by the learning that occurs in it. This can be described by a learning curve:
In the diagram, u(t) stands for the unit labor cost that a worker – let’s say you – achieves at a given point in time, after you have built up an amount, t, of experience. It is how much you cost the employer per unit of output produced, at a given moment in time. We can call this the ‘instantaneous unit labor cost’, or sometimes just ‘efficiency’ for short. If learning occurs on the job, you get more and more efficient, and your unit labor cost falls over time. The curve is drawn assuming a particular wage level. If the wage increases, the curve will shift up.
On first being hired, you were green, and cost the bosses m + c per unit of output. Eventually, through learning on the job, you will get this down almost to m, which is your ‘potential efficiency’, given current pay and conditions. Some jobs will allow more learning than others, which will be reflected in the amount c, which is the ‘scope for learning’.
Here is one possible algebraic representation of the learning curve:
The second term is the one that captures the learning process. When you just start the job, t = 0, and the second term equals c. Just as shown in the diagram, you cost the bosses m + c per unit of output. The longer you stay in the job, the larger t gets, and the closer the second term gets to zero, which it approaches asymptotically. Your unit labor cost converges on m, as indicated in the diagram.
The rate at which you reduce your unit labor cost from m + c down to m depends on how fast learning can take place on the job. The ‘rate of learning’ is represented by λ. When λ is large, the learning curve will be very steep initially, and almost all the learning will occur just after being hired. When λ takes intermediate values, the learning process is steadier and longer lasting, reflected in a more gradual curvature in u(t).
McJobs are those where learning is either nonexistent or extremely rapid but short-lived. If there is no learning, c = λ = 0 and the learning curve would just be a horizontal straight line showing a constant unit labor cost of m. Rapid but short-lived learning would mean the learning curve slopes down almost vertically until m is nearly reached, then stays almost flat after that. It would probably take most of us a half shift to master flipping burgers, but after that we’d have it down pat. Bosses love McJobs. They make us readily replaceable.
Satisfying jobs – let’s call them ‘good jobs’ – will generally be ones where learning occurs at a steady pace more or less indefinitely, probably as part of a defined career path. Bosses would prefer not to offer these, and will always be looking for ways to deskill roles that, for now at least, need to allow workers greater autonomy, ingenuity, and scope for on-the-job learning. Once you gain experience in a good job, you will soon become much more efficient in the role than an inexperienced replacement would be. This might remain true even if you happen to win a pay rise, work less hours, or start operating at a more leisurely – let’s say human – pace. Any of these things would shift your learning curve up, because you would now have a higher unit labor cost at any given level of experience. Even so, you might still be more efficient than a prospective replacement.
ORGASMIC MATHEMATICAL MODELLING FOLLOWS, AT LINK
Posted by Demeter | Mon May 25, 2015, 07:58 AM (5 replies)
...Why does the government have to rely on commercially-collected financial industry data sets or voluntary surveys of financial firms to discover the effects of policies the government has put in place? This is just embarrassing. The U.S. government has so little power over the financial industry – an industry that only exists by virtue of the full faith and credit, payments systems, FDIC insurance, etc. provided by the U.S. government – that it cannot demand data from banks and financial firms, but instead must ask politely for voluntary survey answers or search the data market and pay for information like a commoner?
The CFPB fancies itself a “data-driven agency” but is subject to budgetary constraints in obtaining that data. Worse, it can only obtain the data the market chooses to provide, which is often a bunch of incomplete data sets that cover performance of only a sample of any particular financial product or that consist of voluntary unverified survey responses of industry members. Even more galling, some of those data purchases come with use restrictions. For example, it appears that the CFPB's recent report on student loans was based on data provided voluntarily by lenders, data which was stripped of identifying information before it was shared with the government not merely to protect individual borrowers but to prevent identification of any particular lender within the data. Other government agencies are often in the same position. The Government Accountability Office, for example, often relies on data in whatever form industry chooses to sell or voluntarily share it (see, e.g., GAO’s report to Congress on the potential impacts of Dodd-Frank’s mortgage provisions, which forecasts the effects of Dodd-Frank's loan structure and underwriting provisions discussed in one of my prior posts by applying them to mortgages originations between 2001 and 2010, relying on loan-level data purchased on the private data market, data that covers only part of the mortgage market and only some of the pertinent loan structure and underwriting details).
I remember back in 2003 when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency suggested that the subprime mortgage loan market was price competitive and therefore not "predatory." The OCC based this conclusion in part on loan pricing and loss rate data from a single subprime lender. That lender had provided researchers with its claimed loss rate data from 2002 and with the interest rate sheets for 30-year fixed rate loans offered by that lender during a single week in 2002 for two subprime loan programs the lender ran in Colorado and Utah only. There was no evidence that any of this data was representative of subprime lending generally, or even of this particular lender's national portfolio or outside of the single week in which the rates were in effect.
How convenient for industry to be able to feed regulators the “data” it selects and restrict the use of that data as it sees fit. And if that data turns out less favorable than industry might have expected, it can then argue that any criticism of industry is based on “incomplete data.”
Each and every time the government issues, changes, or removes a regulation, industry should be required to report back with follow-up data, anonymized to protect individual consumer privacy, about which consumers have been affected by the change and how they have been affected. To the extent that trade secrets can be removed from the data, that data should be made available to the research community as well. No one can ever foresee all consequences of any regulatory change, or all the ways in which potentially affected parties might avoid the intended consequences. Particularly when a host of regulatory changes are made all at once, as in the Dodd-Frank regulations, vigilant monitoring of the effects is necessary to address the inevitable problems that will arise. Data alone will not yield all the answers; value-laden judgments are required because costs and benefits are rarely in commensurate currency. But exchanging data is no longer an expensive and time consuming proposition. Financial firms compile reams of data for their internal purposes, and the additional cost of sharing it with the government is almost certainly negligible. There is no need to deny the government the resources industry has. There is no need to regulate in complete dark when some light is available.
March 24, 2013
GIGO: GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE OUT.
WE DON'T REALLY WANT TO GOVERN, WE JUST WANT TO GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS....
Posted by Demeter | Sun May 24, 2015, 08:35 AM (0 replies)
I REMEMBER THE LIVING CATHEDRALS LINING DETROIT'S SIDE STREETS FROM MY YOUTH...
Decades after Dutch elm disease spread to Canada, killing many of Toronto’s elm trees, researchers have mapped the genome of a fungus that causes it. Understanding the make-up of Ophiostoma ulmi could be a step toward halting future destruction, said Dr. Dinesh Christendat. The University of Toronto associate professor and molecular biologist is part of a team that spent two years mapping the 30-million-letter DNA chain.
“It opens up a multitude of opportunities for research around the world . . . now they can start understanding how it’s infecting these trees,” said Christendat, one of the authors of an article outlining the findings published last week in the journal BMC Genomics.
About 4.4 per cent of Toronto’s 10.2 million trees are elms, said Beth McEwen, the city’s manager of urban forest renewal. She estimated that, before the disease hit the city, elms were closer to 12 per cent of Toronto’s trees. The fungus, which often kills trees two years after infection, is thought to have originated in the Himalayas, hitting the Netherlands shortly after the First World War. In Canada, it was first detected in Quebec in 1945, after spreading from the United States. Eventually it would kill 80 per cent of Toronto’s 35,000 elms in a single year, according to federal research...elms in Toronto include the American, Slippery and Siberian varieties. The latter is resistant to the fungus, which interrupts nutrient distribution by blocking the flow of sap....Christendat said the idea of using the university’s sequencer to map the fungus genome was sparked over coffee with a colleague who focuses on forestry.
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 22, 2015, 08:55 PM (4 replies)
As promised, the survey of La Isla del Encanto continues...
Christopher Columbus put Puerto Rico on the map, so to speak. He brought disease, slavery, Catholicism and Capitalism to the tribes that had lived forever without them.
But in 1898, Republican President William McKinley declared war on Spain (the Spanish-American War) and Puerto Rico, long desired by the Navy as a fueling station, was one of the plums of that victorious conquest....
The Spanish–American War (Spanish: Guerra hispano-estadounidense) was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, the result of U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. U.S. attacks on Spain's Pacific possessions led to involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately to the Philippine–American War.
Revolts against Spanish rule had occurred for some years in Cuba. There had been war scares before, as in the Virginius Affair in 1873. In the late 1890s, US public opinion was agitated by anti-Spanish propaganda led by journalists such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst which used yellow journalism to criticize Spanish administration of Cuba. After the mysterious sinking of the US Navy battleship Maine in Havana harbor, political pressures from the Democratic Party and certain industrialists pushed the administration of Republican President William McKinley into a war he had wished to avoid. Compromise was sought by Spain, but rejected by the United States which sent an ultimatum to Spain demanding it surrender control of Cuba. First Madrid, then Washington, formally declared war.
Although the main issue was Cuban independence, the ten-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. US naval power proved decisive, allowing expeditionary forces to disembark in Cuba against a Spanish garrison already brought to its knees by nationwide Cuban insurgent attacks and further wasted by yellow fever. Numerically superior Cuban, Philippine, and US forces obtained the surrender of Santiago de Cuba and Manila despite the good performance of some Spanish infantry units and fierce fighting for positions such as San Juan Hill. With two obsolete Spanish squadrons sunk in Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay and a third, more modern fleet recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts, Madrid sued for peace.
The result was the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the US, which allowed it temporary control of Cuba, and ceded indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine islands from Spain. The defeat and collapse of the Spanish Empire was a profound shock to Spain's national psyche, and provoked a thorough philosophical and artistic revaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of '98. The United States gained several island possessions spanning the globe and a rancorous new debate over the wisdom of expansionism.
The war began exactly fifty-two years after the Mexican–American War began, and was one of only five US wars to have been formally declared by Congress.
And things have been downhill ever since....our Instant Empire!
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 22, 2015, 05:20 PM (61 replies)
In 1983, the world lost one of its weirdest frogs. The gastric-brooding frog, native to tiny portions of Queensland, Australia, gave birth through its mouth, the only frog to do so (in fact, very few other animals in the entire animal kingdom do this--it's mostly this frog and a few fish). It succumbed to extinction due to mostly non-human-related causes--parasites, loss of habitat, invasive weeds, a particular kind of fungus. There were two subspecies, the northern and souther gastric-brooding frog, and they both became extinct in the mid-80s sometime.
Except--what if they didn't?
Taking place at the University of Newcastle, the quest to revive the gastric-brooding frog became known as the Lazarus Project. Using somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), a method for cloning, the project has achieved the major step forward of creating an early embryo of the extinct frog. Essentially, they found a related frog--the great barred frog, which also lives in Queensland and has cool eye markings, like it's wearing sunglasses--deactivated its eggs, and replaced them with eggs taken from the extinct frog.
Even though the gastric-brooding frog has been extinct for decades, it's possible to do this because individual specimens were kept preserved in, believe it or not, everyday deep freezers. When going through somatic-cell nuclear transfer, the eggs began to divide and form into the early embryo stage.
The embryos didn't survive much longer than that, but it was confirmed that these embryos contain genetic information from the gastric-brooding frog--that yes, in fact, they have brought it back to life. The researchers are confident that this is a "technical, not biological" problem at this stage to breed gastric-brooding frogs to adulthood. This is a big step forward for the worldwide attempts to revive extinct animals--the Lazarus Project researchers will soon meet with those working to revive the woolly mammoth, dodo, and other extinct beasties to share what they've learned.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: the gastric-brooding frog lays eggs, which are coated in a substance called prostaglandin. This substance causes the frog to stop producing gastric acid in its stomach, thus making the frog's stomach a very nice place for eggs to be. So the frog swallows the eggs, incubates them in her gut, and when they hatch, the baby frogs crawl out her mouth. How delightfully weird!
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 22, 2015, 01:13 PM (1 replies)
Beau Biden, a son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, has been hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside Washington, the vice president's office said on Tuesday. Biden, 46, a former Delaware attorney general, is undergoing treatment at the facility. No further details were available.
After eight years as attorney general, Biden joined the investor law firm Grant & Eisenhofer in 2015.
He served a yearlong tour in Iraq as a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard and underwent surgery at a cancer center in Texas last year. He suffered a mild stroke in 2010.
In a message to voters posted on his website in April 2014, Biden, a Democrat like his father, said he planned to run for governor of the mid-Atlantic state.
Posted by Demeter | Fri May 22, 2015, 08:10 AM (5 replies)
Yesterday, President Obama made headlines announcing new rules to limit the federal government's sale of military equipment to local police departments. As The Week's Peter Weber reported, the ban prohibited the Pentagon selling "tracked armored vehicles, weapons or ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, camouflage uniforms, grenade launchers, or bayonets" to police.
Unfortunately, an investigation by The Washington Examiner found that only one of the items on Obama's ban list (the bayonet) is actually affected by the rule change — the rest were already banned, some for more than two decades.
Meanwhile, Obama's rules do not ban the sale of other military equipment, notably mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles — the armored vehicles that became a defining image of police militarization in Ferguson, Missouri — to local police. And though the Obama Administration says it will consider having police departments return some of the equipment they've already received, it's worth noting that some departments have already tried to do this, only to have their returns refused by the Pentagon.
Finally, it is potentially significant that Obama's prohibition targeted the "sale" of military equipment to local police, but past equipment transfers have typically been loans or gifts provided free of charge without a sales transaction.
Posted by Demeter | Wed May 20, 2015, 02:51 AM (0 replies)
Scotland Yard kept a secret dossier on Star Trek and the X-Files in the run up to the millennium amid security concerns... For years Star Trek fans – known as Trekkies – have been the butt of jokes about their penchant for wearing pointy ears and attending science fiction conventions. But the police feared British fans of the cult American show might boldly go a little too far one day.
It has emerged that Scotland Yard kept a secret dossier on Star Trek, The X-Files, and other US sci fi shows amid fears that British fans would go mad and kill themselves, turn against society or start a weird cult. The American TV shows Roswell and Dark Skies and the film The Lawnmower Man were also monitored to protect the country from rioting and cyber attacks. Special Branch was concerned that people hooked on such material could go into a frenzy triggered by the millennium leading to anarchy. An undated confidential report to the Metropolitan Police, thought to have been filed around 1998-99, listed concerns about conspiracy theorists who believed the end of the world was nigh.
"Fuel is added to the fire by television dramas and feature films mostly produced in America," the report said.
The dossier – called UFO New Religious Movements and the Millennium – was drawn up in response to the 1997 mass suicide by 39 cultists in San Diego known as Heaven's Gate. The group members were "ardent followers of The X-Files and Star Trek" according to Special Branch. The secret briefing note was obtained from the Met under the Freedom of Information Act by Sheffield-based British X-Files expert Dr Dave Clarke while researching a new book, How UFOs Conquered the World. Dr Clarke, who teaches investigative journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, said: "The documents show the police and security services were concerned about the export of some new religious movements concerning UFOs and aliens from the USA in the aftermath of the mass suicide by followers of the Heaven's Gate.
HIGHLY ILLOGICAL...OR AS SAID IN GALAXY QUEST (A FILM PARODY OF STAR TREK) BY the character Guy Fleegman:
"Did you guys ever WATCH the show?"
AS IF FANDOM WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MENTALLY ILL OF THE WORLD....
Posted by Demeter | Tue May 19, 2015, 06:53 AM (8 replies)
9th Circuit: 4th Amendment Applies At Border; Also: Password Protected Files Shouldn't Arouse Suspic
from the well-that's-a-surprise dept
Here's a surprise ruling. For many years we've written about how troubling it is that Homeland Security agents are able to search the contents of electronic devices, such as computers and phones at the border, without any reason. The 4th Amendment only allows reasonable searches, usually with a warrant. But the general argument has long been that, when you're at the border, you're not in the country and the 4th Amendment doesn't apply. This rule has been stretched at times, including the ability to take your computer and devices into the country and search it there, while still considering it a "border search," for which the lower standards apply. Just about a month ago, we noted that Homeland Security saw no reason to change this policy. (MARCH 2013)
Well, now they might have to.
In a somewhat surprising 9th Circuit ruling (en banc, or in front of the entire set of judges), the court ruled that the 4th Amendment does apply at the border, that agents do need to recognize there's an expectation of privacy, and cannot do a search without reason. Furthermore, they noted that merely encrypting a file with a password is not enough to trigger suspicion. This is a huge ruling in favor of privacy rights. The ruling is pretty careful to strike the right balance on the issues. It notes that a cursory review at the border is reasonable:
Officer Alvarado turned on the devices and opened and viewed image files while the Cottermans waited to enter the country. It was, in principle, akin to the search in Seljan, where we concluded that a suspicionless cursory scan of a package in international transit was not unreasonable.
But going deeper raises more questions. Looking stuff over, no problem. Performing a forensic analysis? That goes too far and triggers the 4th Amendment. They note that the location of the search is meaningless to this analysis (the actual search happened 170 miles inside the country after the laptop was sent by border agents to somewhere else for analysis). So it's still a border search, but that border search requires a 4th Amendment analysis, according to the court.
It is the comprehensive and intrusive nature of a forensic examination—not the location of the examination—that is the key factor triggering the requirement of reasonable suspicion here....
Notwithstanding a traveler’s diminished expectation of privacy at the border, the search is still measured against the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement, which considers the nature and scope of the search. Significantly, the Supreme Court has recognized that the “dignity and privacy interests of the person being searched” at the border will on occasion demand “some level of suspicion in the case of highly intrusive searches of the person.” Flores-Montano, 541 U.S. at 152. Likewise, the Court has explained that “some searches of property are so destructive,” “particularly offensive,” or overly intrusive in the manner in which they are carried out as to require particularized suspicion. Id. at 152, 154 n.2, 155–56; Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. at 541. The Court has never defined the precise dimensions of a reasonable border search, instead pointing to the necessity of a case-by-case analysis....
For years, we've repeated two key arguments for why border searches of laptops and other devices should be illegal.
We'd never seen a court even seem to acknowledge that content on devices is different than contents in a suitcase... until now. One interesting tidbit, is that they specifically note that "secure in their papers" part of the 4th Amendment, while noting that what's on your device is often like your personal "papers."
NO KIDDING! MORE AT LINK
Posted by Demeter | Sun May 17, 2015, 08:24 PM (0 replies)