2017-Jul-09, Sunday 14:10
mindstalk: (Default)
Is Tesla overvalued? Argues Tesla either can't cause disruption, or can't monopolize it.

did Seattle's minimum wage lower employment? two studies, two reports
and two summaries, differing about which sucked

Internet addiction and ethical web design

Asian anthem authoritarianism

Air pollution still kills thousands.

Intravenous vitamin C as cure for sepsis?

origin of Ashkenazi?

slow progress in parking reform:

Sea Trek

plate tectonics and evolution

right to carry increases violent crime, maybe? It uses a fairly new statistical technique to make synthetic controls. The result sounds robust. But the abstract says "elevates violent crime rates, but seems to have no impact on property crime and murder rates". Isn't murder a violent crime?

expert view on reducing gun deaths

oil eating bacteria
Neanderthal dentistry
host specific enemies and tropical biodiversity

Vancouver sea wolves
mindstalk: (Default)
"Jumping spiders can see the moon." Awesome eyes, apparently.

Cabbage white sex life

Papa John's peppers

What happened to the Greenland Vikings (2015). Leans toward the settlements existing for the walrus ivory hunt, and being abandoned after the rise of elephant ivory, the Black Death, and oh yeah, a century of cooling climate.

Hearing voices and how culture can affect dealing with non-standard neurology. (Psychic, weird, or schizophrenic?)

10 year old article on "positive psychology"

11 year old article on behavioral economics

Decline of front bench seats in cars

1660s air pollution

Jared Diamond on hunter-gatherer childrearing.

Suffragette martial arts

Nice table of Gospel events

Mussels that live on asphalt volcanoes

How New Zealand got PR elections

Memory oddness

2016-Nov-30, Wednesday 18:27
mindstalk: (Mami)
So we have these things called artificial neural networks, that learn in a supposedly neurologically-inspired manner. But AIUI, they typically take many repetitions to really learn something. Many many. And sometimes human learning seems like that, like rote memorization.

But other times, we learn with single-instance burn in. And not always because of some great emotional association, or repeated reflection. I had two instances of that yesterday.

First, I was up in Lowell for a job interview, and took the train. Now, I did that a few years ago, when a bunch of us went together to museums there. So as I emerged from the station this time, and looked across the street, suddenly I remembered exploring the park last time, before I'd gone to meet the others (who biked up). It's not like it's a particularly exciting or distinctive park, and I doubt I've thought of it since... but the impressions were there to be recalled.

As were the memories of being daunted and confued by crossing the nigh-freeway streets to get downtown, but that actually was mildly traumatic.

Second, I've been reading someone's Where I Read thread of the Robotech novels, based on the Robotech animated series, much of which I saw as a child. Last night the reader described a late scene where Minmei is seated outside somewhere, and her douchebag cousin-lover-manager Kyle is chugging a liquor bottle, before he finishes it and smashes it in mid air with a dropkick.

And I remember all that! Not well enough to guess who was on which side of the screen, but all of that suddenly seemed vividly familiar, in a way that other described scenes recently haven't. And unlike other remembered scenes -- the firing of the main gun, Roy dying, Max and Miriya fighting/courting, the SDF-1 punching a Zentraedi ship in Operation Daedalus -- I don't think I've thought about or reflected on this scene in the intervening nigh thirty years; it doesn't seem that iconic (though true, raging alcoholics are rare on Saturday morning cartoons, along with many other things distinctive about Robotech.) It's just some scene... that suddenly feels very fresh, after all this time.

I can't prove it's not some false memory constructed in response to the text. But I see no reason it has to be.

more trees

2016-Jun-06, Monday 17:13
mindstalk: (riboku)
But first, unrelated stuff:

I was going to drop off some mail, and passed a postman sitting in his truck. "I don't suppose I could just give--" "Sure you can." And I handed it over. One fewer rush hour crossings of Mass Ave!

Coming home, I saw a Drain Doctor van outside. And now I hear mysterious chunking sounds from the bathroom ceiling. I suspect he's working in the apartment upstairs. Amusing to ID that out of a medium-large apartment complex.

A while back, I saw advice about looking at things and imagining drawing them. Even though my drawing skills are rudimentary and I haven't tried physically drawing any of the things I've looked at since, applying this advice has been useful for focusing visual attention, especially on details. Tracing outlines with my eyes, counting elements, paying attention to colors. "If I were drawing this, what would I need to know... aha."

Similarly, though I don't remember all the tree stuff I've read so far, and there's obviously far more I don't even know yet, there's already a change in how I look at them: now that I've run through a few ID keys, I have an idea of what to look for. "I have no idea what this is, but these are the things I'd want to look up." Or as today, "I'm not sure this is a honey locust, but it sure has similar pinnate leaves without a leading leaf."

And, today's haul! I think I found a ginkgo: certainly it was something with a very fan-shaped leaf, though I didn't see any top notches.

And... a day or two ago I learned that 'sycamore' seems to be a somewhat generic term for star ("stellate") or maple shaped leaves. There's a sycamore maple, which is really a maple, but there are also unrelated trees with similar leaves, like the American sycamore, distinctive for mottled exfoliating bark, and 'naked' light gray or white upper branches, and spiky spherical seeds.

So, a few feet beyond the suspected ginkgo, I notice a bunch of "maple" leaves, and then that they're hanging off of bone-white branches, and then that this tree doesn't have any of the 'helicopter' maple seeds that I've seen quite a lot of under other maple trees. Hmmmm. Found a few more like that, and then some undeniable maple trees -- helicopter seeds ahoy! -- that had more conventionally barky upper branches.
mindstalk: (Default)
I accidentally (reading Spanish or Chilean news) learned today that Chile had won their first World Cup match. Despite my not caring about sports in general, thinking that the World Cup is a corrupt menace to developing democracies, and that this World Cup has been a disaster for Brazil (and why are we playing soccer in a malaria zone?), I felt some joy for them, if not pride, due to my tenuous connections. Goooo monkeysphere! Oook ook woo!

I belatedly thought of the US. I doubt I would actually care either way -- the Chile thing is as much having close friends there who'd care, I think -- but they, I mean 'we', haven't played yet.

I think my friends get to root for the US, Chile, and Germany. Three chances at victory!

WEIRD Americans

2013-Mar-06, Wednesday 00:08
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
On cultural differences in human psychology
58 page research paper PDF:

Americans are most susceptible to the Muller-Lyer optical illusion (the one with the double 'arrows' that look different lengths), perhaps from growing up most in boxy rooms, and least susceptible to the Asch conformity result. Worse at noticing background details of an aquarium, better at judging the verticality of a line despite confounding context.

"Children who grow up constantly interacting with the natural world are much less likely to anthropomorphize other living things into late childhood." “Indeed,” the report concluded, “studying the cognitive development of folkbiology in urban children would seem the equivalent of studying ‘normal’ physical growth in malnourished children.”

'People are not “plug and play,” as he puts it, and you cannot expect to drop a Western court system or form of government into another culture and expect it to work as it does back home. Those trying to use economic incentives to encourage sustainable land use will similarly need to understand local notions of fairness to have any chance of influencing behavior in predictable ways.'

'Recent research has shown that people in “tight” cultures, those with strong norms and low tolerance for deviant behavior (think India, Malaysia, and Pakistan), develop higher impulse control and more self-monitoring abilities than those from other places. Men raised in the honor culture of the American South have been shown to experience much larger surges of testosterone after insults than do Northerners. Research published late last year suggested psychological differences at the city level too. Compared to San Franciscans, Bostonians’ internal sense of self-worth is more dependent on community status and financial and educational achievement.'
mindstalk: (Default)
Long but interesting article alleging that the conservative movement is deeply entangled with outright cons. As in, sign up for a newsletter, get snake oil investment tips in the mail.
In the interest of skepticism, I'll note it's hard to trivially verify his claims -- though I checked, and Mitt Romney did indeed say _Battlefield Earth_ was his favorite novel.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
Sometimes you see people arguing, explicitly or implicitly, as if the truth can be found between two extremes of argument. Technically, this is a heuristic or Bayesian prior: "I am unwilling or unable to find out where the actual truth is, but I assume it's over here." And there's nothing wrong with heuristics if they work; however, I think this one is fatally flawed.

It would make sense if people tended to argue honestly and in good faith, *and* if their reasons for disagreement were random biases. Alternately, if arguments were usually of equals arguing about the division of a virtual pie, then expecting truth, or rather fairness, to be in the middle would be a good start.

But in reality, people are often predatory, deceitful or adaptive, and conflicts often take place between highly unequal parties. The truth does not lie halfway between a rapist and his victim, a slaveowner and his slaves, a concentration camp guard and his inmates, a lord and his serfs. People lie, people study and teach each other how to lie better; people figure out your assumptions heuristics and cognitive biases, and use them against you. Reality includes propaganda, aka "appeals to people's emotion rather than intellect", and Hitler's "Big Lie"[1]: tell a giant whopper, counting on people refusing to believe you would be brazen enough to tell a blatant lie and thus assuming there must be some merit to what you say.

And, skipping from politics to science, math and engineering, in those fields truth is often quite demonstrable or provable, and likely someone is right and someone is simply wrong, whether due to ignorance, stupidity, or delusion.

There's probably no real substitute for actually finding out the truth, and applying one's intellect, but if there are useful heuristics, this isn't one of them.

[1] And it went meta from the start: Hitler's big lie being that Jews told a big lie framing some army officer for Germany's loss of WWI

Edit: a friend links to the fallacy of the middle ground, or of moderation. Perhaps we can see this as a category error, taking a heuristic that does work in some domains and applying to one, that of human disagreement, where it really doesn't.
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
Years ago I read Paul Ekman's Emotions Revealed on emotions and facial expressions. He identifies seven major emotions:

major emotions: my adaptive annotations

fear: don't eat me
anger: don't eat my child/food
sadness: someone ate my child
surprise: what's that?
disgust: that wasn't food!
contempt: you're beneath me
happiness: i ate/i had sex/my child done me proud/etc

Later he breaks happiness down:
16 possible positive emotions: 5 for pleasure from each of the 5 senses.
Amusement, excitement, contentment, ecstasy, wonderment, relief, fiero,
naches, elevation, gratitude, schadenfreude. He's not sure the last three are
emotions as opposed to other emotional states.

elevation -- feeling uplift from seeing surprising moral acts.
fiero -- From Italian. Pleasure-pride in a difficult accomplishment.
naches -- From Yiddish. Pleasure-pride in the accomplishment of your child or student.

There's an odd pleasure I experience a lot, which I don't know a name for. I guess it's closest to fiero, though sometimes secondhand or like elevation (pleasure from someone else's difficult accomplishment.) It's like solving puzzles, but these aren't deliberate puzzles, more like using a set of tools someone else provided in a surprising way, or making sense out of nonsense. I guess it's related to hacking, like building an operating system out of elisp, or a one-line program that generates cool graphical patterns. I should just give examples:

Firefly: eventually we realize that the show isn't just being coy about FTL or not, that there is no FTL, and that there's dozens of habitable and terraformed worlds in one system. At first this seems like bullshit, even with the humility proper to current planetary science. Then they say "multiple" stars and you're still skeptical. But then you learn that Castor is a real sextuple system in like the orbit of Pluto (two binary stars, themselves in a binary setup, and with another binary star revolving around the other four), and that there's another known sextuple (two triple stars), and you go huh. And gas giants can hold lots of large moons in a small space. And then you read some semi-canon explanation with artificial gravity and sent-ahead terraforming probes, and moons and dwarf planets being compressed for a more Earthlike surface gravity, and you remember Paul Birch's ideas for mass stream momentum transfer to change orbits and rotations with tech we could do today, and you go "huh. Unlikely, but more possible than FTL."

Or (lots of RPG examples now), you known Dungeons and Dragons, and the magical spells and items and item creation rules provided, all meant to model vaguely medieval fantasy, but someone figures out how to make a post-scarcity society with wall of iron spells and decanters of endless water and you feel proud of them for building something surprising. (But if they notice that a ladder costs less than two ten foot poles, that's just exploiting an obvious bug and stupid.)

Or there's D&D's Great Wheel cosmology, based on a two axis moral alignment system that has never made sense, with planes of existence that have their intrinsic cool elements, and someone
preserves most of those elements while using order/violence axes that make a lot more sense, and in fact making many of the elements even more sensible and attractive as variant afterlives, and you vow to use it should you ever run Great Wheel D&D.

Or there's Exalted, with a semi-standard fantasy trope of gods powered by prayer and worship built in, but later someone publishes a goddess who's found a niche as a voice mail service, taking messages in the form of prayer and passing them on in dreams, and you go "cool, yeah, that makes sense", and then you remember that the gods are in a Celestial Bureaucracy, and imagine underlings who run the equivalent of mailing lists...

Or looking at the Blue Rose magic system, and realizing that if I dropped the Shaping Arcana, the rest could emulate a lot of Tolkien magic, including the corrupting sorcery, pretty well, even to building the Rings of Power. But Blue Rose was designed for romantic fantasy, not epic! Go me!

Or again in Exalted, my combining some obscure Charms and rituals to create a society of enlightened mortals with a Sidereal patron and integrated afterlife and Wyld polders, and I'm proud of having built this out of the provided elements, even if I haven't properly written it up yet... but if I try to imagine a fantasy society on my own, free of any constraints or strong influences, my mind blanks out at the sheer openness of it all. Magic can do anything, until you pick constraints, but picking my own? Feels artificial, I should go do something useful...

So yeah, partly it's hacking RPGs. But also married to that "making sense out of incoherence" a la Firefly and the Great Wheel, which also applied to reading Mere Christianity and seeing Lewis give a metaphor for the Holy Trinity that almost made sense. Doesn't quite seem like hacking. A joy in rationalization? Mystery-solving? I don't know. Maybe it's entirely unrelated emotions that I happen to associate because RPGs are often both hackable and nonsensical, whereas computer programs and (theology or sloppy SF) tend to be separate.

A friend calls it lateral thinking, which certainly applies to some of the 'hacking' "make it do something unexpected" stuff.


2011-Jan-19, Wednesday 13:44
mindstalk: (Default)
Yeah I'm never catching up. Time to just post stuff.

US claims to opposed Israel's illegal settlements, but also opposes doing anything about it, even mostly toothless things like a Security Council resolution.
Meanwhile there's been a burst of recognition of the Palestinian state: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and other Latin American countries, joining a wide range of Mideast and African countries. I.e. no one with real weight yet, or willing to use that weight effectively.

Spokane pipe bomb for MLK

Amish growing at 4-5% a year; 85% retention rate
Move over vampires: it's Amish romance time!

Phoenix as future Detroit?

Boston colleges picture

ghost rockets of Sweden
Seattle windshield pitting epidemic

new cornucopian oil bet a la Julian Simon

flaws of and changes to AP biology and history
hey, I forget, were Whitney Young AP science (or just AP) classes

Pakistan's young lawyers support Islamic killing of liberal politician

law school fraud

Senate conservatives out to make US safe for pollution
mindstalk: (Default)
The Big Five personality traits and US states, correlated -- also with things like liberalness and mortality, in later tables.

If I weren't 40 minutes overdue for bed I'd try reading it properly and analyzing it, but maybe someone can beat me to it.