Free exchange of ideas

posted by marco on 05.04.13 at 18:12, politics, news, Leave a comment Permalink

Rice said she believed strongly in the "role of debate, the role of the open and free exchange of ideas."

But, she said, when decisions are taken, "I fully expect that people will support those decisions because there is only one president of the United States and that's President Bush."

Cuba, US, Health

posted by anwar on 05.04.13 at 07:07, Economics, null, 6 comments Permalink

Collin's post about Cuba got me thinking about health care...

..if you don't like these measures for health care, which ones do you propose we should use for comparisons?

From the CIA World Factbook:

Infant Mortality Rate (deaths/1000 live births)
-World 50.31
-USA 6.63
-Cuba 6.45
-EU 5.3
-Canada 4.82
-Japan 3.28

Avg. Life Expectancy at Birth
-World 64.05
-Cuba 77.04
-USA 77.43
-EU 78.1
-Canada 79.96
-Japan 81.04

comment by anwar on 05.04.13 at 09:30
Some ideas of better metrics (the idea is that these need to be relatively easy to measure):

%Chance of living to age 18

[this weeds out long term effects (that may not necessarily be dependant on the health policy) like radiation poisoning, health problems from smoking, etc]

# of able-bodied years (time in workforce?)

This might have some problems, as you will get skewed results in countries where there are incentives to work less/retire early.
comment by ben on 05.04.13 at 13:37
Comparing the numbers without error bars is pretty meaningless... though the samples are probably the entire population of a country, so the errors are very small.

I've seen the median used as a single indicator because it is less susceptible to bias from any outliers.

Then there's the question of what sort of quality we are considering. I would guess that in countries with socialized healthcare, the care an individual receives varies less than in a country without socialized healthcare. My guess would be that the US has higher quality healthcare, but it is not available to everyone. I wonder what happens if you consider the statistics for the US population with health insurance, or with some minimal quality of health insurance.

Then there are dietary and exercise considerations...
comment by marco on 05.04.13 at 14:07
Ben wrote:
Comparing the numbers without error bars is pretty meaningless... though the samples are probably the entire population of a country, so the errors are very small.

It depends on what you're counting. If the numbers truly come from the entire population (counting all deaths/births or whatever with reasonable accuracy) and if the statistic is something like "Infant mortality rate for 2004," then the statistics are population statistics so error bars would be meaningless. However, if you're trying to say something about the sustained rate over a period of years, then you could treat each year's rate as a data point, or you could use sampling to estimate the birth and death rates over a period of 20 years.

I do wonder how realistic it is to assume that the statistics are compiled by counting all births and deaths (or whatever you're counting). It's true that, at least in this country and probably most developed countries, birth records and death records are routinely kept. But there are plenty of people outside of the system, especially the very poor and illegal immigrants, who wouldn't necessarily be recorded. I wonder how they come up with numbers for those people.
comment by devin on 05.04.13 at 14:18
Ben wrote:
Comparing the numbers without error bars is pretty meaningless... though the samples are probably the entire population of a country, so the errors are very small.
Marco wrote:
I do wonder how realistic it is to assume that the statistics are compiled by counting all births and deaths (or whatever you're counting). It's true that, at least in this country and probably most developed countries, birth records and death records are routinely kept

As Marco points out, sample error is not the issue; systematic error is, especially in developing countries. In fact, Cuba's reported mortality rate rose during the early 60s. This is because afte the revolution, the Ministry of Public Health improved data gathering. (Source: Waitzkin, Howard. _At the Front Lines of Medicine_, a book I'm trying to slog through right now). In the case of Cuba, the Former Soviet Union, et. al. there is also the issue of whether you trust the government to accurately report their mortality statistics.

comment by collin on 05.04.13 at 21:02
So Marco, you contend that even in the US the government is aware of every birth? This is the problem with statistics (as opposed to probability theory), in the real world you cannot measure an entire population. I'm not saying that there are huge error bars on something like the infant mortality rate in a country like the US, but they're still there. Basically my point is that there will allways be sample error.

And as for something like "Life Expectancy at Birth," Jesus H. Christ that's complicated. Seriously, how is this computed? If it's just "for what age x are half the people of that were born in year now-x still alive" then "life expectancy at birth" is a horrible misnomer. I can't think of a sussinct explination of the extrapolations needed to make that phrase meaningful, but hopefully you can see my point. Ergo, I vote that error bars are needed for these measures to be meaningful. Do any of you know how you construct error bars for a sample when you don't know the size of the population? Things like this have never been explained to me with the rigor I want in order to believe them.
comment by ben on 05.04.14 at 01:32
My original point with the error bars was more that you need to know something about the relative sizes of the populations.

Also, I think the best way to model it is to treat the population as drawn uniformly from an infinite distribution since drawing a full population from a finite distribution would conglomerate additional stochastic processes with example selection. I don't know if that made any sense... I'm not sure how to explain what I'm thinking.


What does it mean?

posted by ben on 05.04.12 at 22:50, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

Computer science only indicates the retrospective omnipotence of our technologies. In other words, an infinite capacity to process data (but only data -- i.e. the already given) and in no sense a new vision. With that science, we are entering an era of exhaustivity, which is also an era of exhaustion. Of generalized interactivity abolishing particularized action. Of the interface which abolishes challenge, passion, and rivalry between peoples, ideas and individuals which was always the souce of the finest energies.

-Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories, pg 150

artificial intelligence has no artifice

posted by ben on 05.04.12 at 22:49, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

Clothed woman: obligation to see, prohibition on touching.
Undressed woman: obligation to touch, prohibition on looking.
But this is doubtless something that is changing.

-Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories, pg 20

This journal is a subtle matrix of idleness.

-Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories, pg 234

Seducing for a woman consists in sliding into an empty place, where her ideal form is already traced out by all those of her sex who have preceded her.

-Jean Baudrillard, Cool Memories, pg 229

No. No. Every love is unique and beautiful in its own right.

Copywrite and Inernet2

posted by collin on 05.04.12 at 15:07, nonsense, null, Leave a comment Permalink

NPR blurb: The RIAA is trying to subpeona "John Doe" (~400 people) for sharing copywrited things on the Internet2 (stupid name) network at about 18 universities. I remember seeing something on /. a while back about how the MPAA/RIAA wanted to montior this network and went to talk to the committee who runs it. Now since this is a closed network... Oh this is how.

Algorithmic Self-Assembly of DNA Sierpinski Triangles

posted by collin on 05.04.12 at 14:57, math, math, 3 comments Permalink

Why can't I get to do something fun, and get paid to do it. By the way Eric Winfree's a really nice guy, and I commend him for publishing this in an open journal. Give it a read, it's a cool paper.

comment by collin on 05.04.12 at 15:11
I forgot to mention that this paper shows (some how) that Eric's method is Turing Universal.
comment by ben on 05.04.12 at 15:15
What's the difference between Turing Complete and Turing Universal?
comment by collin on 05.04.12 at 16:32
This says that "a programming language or any other logical system is called Turing-complete if it has a computational power equivalent to a universal Turing machine." So, though I may be wrong, they mean the same thing. I just pulled the phrase out of the abstract. I allways thought "turing complete" meant the language/system was equivalent to a turing machine with a finite tape, "universal" one with an infinte tape, but I guess I'm wrong.

Collin's Favorite Senator

posted by devin on 05.04.12 at 12:33, Absurdities, null, coffee, math, books, 1 comment Permalink

"Sen. Joseph F. Biden, Jr., D-Del., who is leading the fight to block the nomination, responded angrily to the accusation of mistreatment. Anytime a senior official calls in a lower-level one 'and reams him a new one,' he said, 'that's just not acceptable.'"

Via the New York Times.

Biden would be Secretary of State today if Kerry had won.

comment by collin on 05.04.12 at 13:20
Speaking of Cuba and biological "weapons," I read an article a while back in Wired about Cuba's pharma program. The jist of it is after the collapse of the USSR, Cuba couldn't get a lot of drugs because of our embargo. So scientists there said, "Well shit. We'll have to make our own." And this became some what of an economic engine for Cuba. Some lines that stuck with me:

One beneficiary was Concepcion Campa Huergo, president and director general of the Finlay Institute, a vaccine lab in Havana. She developed the world's first meningitis B vaccine, testing it by injecting herself and her children before giving it to volunteers. "I remember one day telling Fidel that we needed a new ultracentrifuge, which costs about $70,000," Campa says. "After five minutes of listening he said, 'No. You'll need 10.'"

As much as I dislike Fidel, what with the jailing of journalists and suppression of dissent, you gotta smile at something like that. If my first line confused anyone, Biden is reffering to Bolton getting pissed off at some analysts who disagreed with him about Cuba's "bio weapons" program. Which makes one wonder if the fact that they're doing a lot to sneak pharma equipment around the embargo, which threatens government policy and not national safety, has anything to do with Bolton pushing a position that was not backed up by evidence...


posted by collin on 05.04.11 at 22:26, null, null, 1 comment Permalink

Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan

When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb; When you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb; When yer laggin' behind an' losin' yer pace; In a slow-motion crawl of life's busy race No matter what yer doing if you start givin' up; If the wine don't come to the top of yer cup; If the wind's got you sideways with with one hand holdin' on; And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone; And yer train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it; And the wood's easy findin' but yer lazy to fetch it; And yer sidewalk starts curlin' and the street gets too long; And you start walkin' backwards though you know its wrong; And lonesome comes up as down goes the day; And tomorrow's mornin' seems so far away; And you feel the reins from yer pony are slippin'; And yer rope is a-slidin' 'cause yer hands are a-drippin'; And yer sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys; Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys; And yer sky cries water and yer drain pipe's a-pourin'; And the lightnin's a-flashing and the thunder's a-crashin'; And the windows are rattlin' and breakin' and the roof tops a-shakin'; And yer whole world's a-slammin' and bangin'; And yer minutes of sun turn to hours of storm; And to yourself you sometimes say "I never knew it was gonna be this way. Why didn't they tell me the day I was born"; And you start gettin' chills and yer jumping from sweat; And you're lookin' for somethin' you ain't quite found yet...

How can a man accomplish anything of importance? How does he decide amongst the seemingly infinite paths he can take? How after life has beaten him does he lift himself back up and continue? How does he convince others to help him along his choosen path, if he himself is full of doubt? How does he decide that it's time to give up and start something new? If he decides to stay the course, how does he gather the courage to venture into the unknown, and attempt to do something important and new? And if what he is attepmting is in fact new, and he succeeds, what does he do if he was mistaken and what he has accomplished is trivial and useless? Tell me if you know.

comment by ben on 05.04.12 at 01:44
Don't give up. It gets worse after this.

I poisoned them.

posted by ben on 05.04.11 at 20:39, books, books, Leave a comment Permalink

I thought about killing myself but bought a plant instead.

I had never really had a plant before. I had a plastic plant once but even that died, eventually. The man at the store told me how to care for it. He said not to water it "too much." He said it wasn't supposed to get too much daylight. He said some other things I missed.

It's been two weeks since I got the plant and it's turning brown in spots.

-Kevin Sampsell, Beautiful Blemish, pg 70

Donna didn't like teddy bears. She decided to poison them. She said to her mom one morning in a serious tone: "I want the bears out of my room. They've been dead for a week now."

Her mother tried to hide her shock, and said, "What do you mean by that?"

She took a bite of her toast and said "I poisoned them." She swallowed and looked down. It seemed like she was about to cry or say she was sorry.

Her mother had all kinds of jabbing questions she wanted to ask running in her head: Why? Who told you to do that? Don't you like the bears? What's wrong with you? Did your brothers tell you to do that?

Donna interrupted those thoughts, "They were bored with their life," she said.

-Kevin Sampsell, Beautiful Blemish, pg 12

The coming Apocalypse

posted by marco on 05.04.11 at 15:52, null, insanity, Leave a comment Permalink


posted by collin on 05.04.11 at 15:07, null, null, 3 comments Permalink

Virtual! Bluetooth! But seriously, this is really cool. I remember seeing a blurb about this keyboard in SciAm a while back. But I didn't know it was on the market. Ben wants a wearable.

comment by graham on 05.04.11 at 18:35
Yikes... $80 more if you want bluetooth.
Do handhelds not use USB? I don't see why they'd put a serial connector on the wired version.
US Version
comment by ben on 05.04.11 at 20:19
This wouldn't exactly make for a wearable if you have to sit down and set up your little keyboard monolith before typing. Not that it isn't cool... It's just you would need a chording pad too for a more wearable computer.

Also... I think they're plans to change this, but right now I think one bluetooth device can only connect to one other bluetooth device at a time... which sucks because I can easily imagine wanting my keyboard, mouse and phone to work at once.
comment by graham on 05.04.12 at 01:04
This can connect seven devices at once. Which you will need if you want to use your keyboard, mouse, phone, and CAR-100 all at once.

best ski day of the year they say

posted by ben on 05.04.11 at 13:02, null, null, Leave a comment Permalink

How to properly stereotype Boulderites on the basis of their worldly possessions:

Mode of Transport Humorless Asshole Copasetic Imbecile
Snow Telemark Snowboard
Bike Road Bike Mountain Bike
Water Kayak Tube
Car A4 with 30 turbos Rusted Subaru


posted by ben on 05.04.10 at 21:14, null, null, Leave a comment Permalink

It’s snowing in Dublin. A child’s tongue is stuck to the Millennium Spire. She squeaks in surprise when she tries to pull away. In Dublin the cranes are covered lightly in ice. On Temple Bar the bike messengers are drinking Miller because it’s imported.

Things appearing in the desert.

posted by collin on 05.04.10 at 19:34, null, null, Leave a comment Permalink

At times like this I wish I was still back out west...

And a snip from here:
(if you're going to steal, steal from the best)

SQUINTING in the late afternoon sun at a topographic map covered with tiny elevation lines, Jeff Bury, an assistant professor of geography at San Francisco State University, had to admit the obvious. "I have no idea whether or not this way will go," he said, using canyoneering jargon for a route's viability. The reason for his confusion wasn't poor map skills - as a lifelong hiker, he has spent plenty of time navigating the backcountry. But this trip in southern Utah was different - the route he was hunting couldn't be found because until a few weeks ago it didn't exist.

Our destination was the Cathedral in the Desert, an often mythologized yet little-seen sandstone amphitheater in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area that has become a Brigadoon for the backpacking set. The Cathedral has been hidden for decades beneath the waters of Lake Powell. But a six-year drought has dropped the water level in Lake Powell 140 feet, and miles of sinuous slot canyons and rolling sandstone cliffs are visible for the first time since the 1960's. The result has been a poorly mapped land rush of sorts among desert aficionados like Dr. Bury.

How to write a political poem

posted by collin on 05.04.10 at 19:28, music, null, Leave a comment Permalink

"Remember somewhere in Florida, votes are still being counted.
And Dick Cheney is peeing all over himself in spasmotic glee."


From "How to Write a Political Poem" by Sage Francis