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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in abb3w's LiveJournal:

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    Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
    11:05 am
    Nothingarians, Nones, and Social Dominance Orientation
    ...there is floating upon the surface of society, a body of restless, disappointed, jealous, indolent spirits, disgusted with our present social system, not because it enchains the masses to poverty, ignorance, vice and endless servitude; but because they could not render it subservient of their private ends. Experience has convinced us that this class stands ready to mount every new movement that promises ease, abundance, and individual freedom; and that when such an enterprise refuses to interpret license for freedom, and insists that members shall make their strength, skill, and talent subservient to the moevement, then the cry of tyranny and oppression is raised against those who advocate such industry and self-denial; then the enterprise must become a scape-goat, to bear the fickleness, indolence, selfishness, and envy of this class.
    John A. Collins, writing about the Skaneateles community in "The Communitist", quoted in "History of American Socialisms" by John Humphrey Noyes.

    Poking through old references to "Nothingarians" in Google Books, in search of earlier waves of "the Nones", turned up this tidbit. It seems to link to my speculations in various corners of the Web about high-SDO/low-RWA types in the modern atheist/skeptic movement, suggesting this personality type is an old challenge to irreligious communities.
    Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
    12:29 pm
    Another couple tidbits
    Two papers raising my interests, from a sociological engineering perspective on social psychology: "Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory" (doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000968) and "Attitudes and Attitude Change" (doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131609)

    There's probably some more stuff out there on "attitude change" at Google Scholar. The opposite side of that coin seems to be "persuasion resistance". Both seem to tie to changing people's minds (or not) about how society ought to be run, which in turn impacts how it does get run.

    Current Mood: thoughtful
    Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
    4:40 pm
    A tidbit I rather thought might be out there....
    The high-RWA personality type that Altemeyer talks about are indeed those who in Milgram's Obedience experiment tended to follow orders from the scientific authority figure. The correlation is in the zone Altemeyer would call "strong", but not one of the "unheard of" type that sometimes turned up.

    Specific paper: Dambrun and Vatiné (2010), "Reopening the study of extreme social behaviors: Obedience to authority within an immersive video environment." Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 760–773. (doi:10.1002/ejsp.646)
    Sunday, February 5th, 2012
    7:26 pm
    Before I forget this again....
    An excerpt from an old New York Times piece, about the book The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers.

    Transience, absent-mindedness, and blocking are sins of omission: we fail to bring to mind a desired fact, event, or idea.

    Transience refers to a weakening or loss of memory over time. It’s probably not difficult for you to remember now what you have been doing for the past several hours. But if I ask you about the same activities six weeks, six months, or six years from now, chances are you’ll remember less and less. Transience is a basic feature of memory, and the culprit in many memory problems.

    Absent-mindedness involves a breakdown at the interface between attention and memory. Absent-minded memory errors — misplacing keys or eyeglasses, or forgetting a lunch appointment — typically occur because we are preoccupied with distracting issues or concerns, and don’t focus attention on what we need to remember. The desired information isn’t lost over time; it is either never registered in memory to begin with, or not sought after at the moment it is needed, because attention is focused elsewhere.

    The third sin, blocking, entails a thwarted search for information that we may be desperately trying to retrieve. We’ve all failed to produce a name to accompany a familiar face. This frustrating experience happens even though we are attending carefully to the task at hand, and even though the desired name has not faded from our minds — as we become acutely aware when we unexpectedly retrieve the blocked name hours or days later.

    In contrast to these three sins of omission, the next four sins of misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence are all sins of commission: some form of memory is present, but it is either incorrect or unwanted.

    The sin of misattribution involves assigning a memory to the wrong source: mistaking fantasy for reality, or incorrectly remembering that a friend told you a bit of trivia that you actually read about in a newspaper. Misattribution is far more common than most people realize, and has potentially profound implications in legal settings.

    The related sin of suggestibility refers to memories that are implanted as a result of leading questions, comments, or suggestions when a person is trying to call up a past experience. Like misattribution, suggestibility is especially relevant to — and sometimes can wreak havoc within — the legal system.

    The sin of bias reflects the powerful influences of our current knowledge and beliefs on how we remember our pasts. We often edit or entirely rewrite our previous experiences — unknowingly and unconsciously — in light of what we now know or believe. The result can be a skewed rendering of a specific incident, or even of an extended period in our lives, which says more about how we feel now than about what happened then.

    The seventh sin — persistence — entails repeated recall of disturbing information or events that we would prefer to banish from our minds altogether: remembering what we cannot forget, even though we wish that we could. Everyone is familiar with persistence to some degree: recall the last time that you suddenly awoke at 3:00 a.m., unable to keep out of your mind a painful blunder on the job or a disappointing result on an important exam. In more extreme cases of serious depression or traumatic experience, persistence can be disabling and even life-threatening.


    I'll leave the proximate significance for this obscure.

    Current Mood: Forgetful
    Tuesday, January 10th, 2012
    12:56 pm
    Perverting the work of Dale Cannon to considerable degree
    From Dale Cannon's Six Ways of Being Religious:
    [T]he way of shamanic mediation consists into entry into altered states of consciousness in which persons become mediators or channels for the intervention of spiritual reality°, in the expectation that "supernatural" (transmundane) resources of imagination, power, and guidance will be released for solving or dealing with otherwise intractable problems of life.

    If one pretty much rapes the context of the quote and posits:
    • thinking in formally logical, mathematical, scientific modes is an example of "altered states of consciousness"
    • "mundane" refers to "folk science" conceptions of the universe
    • the referent of "spiritual reality°" is the universe of space-time as it actually is (the idealized limit condition of what scientific methods attempt to approach via models)

    ...this implies a view that:
    • Technology is Science's form of Magic.
    • It's pretty miraculously powerful, compared to mundane° means
    • It's a lot more reliably effective than most other religions' forms of Shamanic Mediation


    Current Mood: contemplative
    Monday, September 5th, 2011
    11:43 am
    A bit of History Examined
    So, I spotted a piece by Greg Laden complaining about editors publishing letters from cranks (in particular, on creationism). "But major cities have 'local' newspapers that are supposed to be above all this." Well, in theory. Perhaps less so in practice.

    However, his observation reminded me (for reasons beyond fathom) of the habit of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I (Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico) to provide his official proclamations to the local press, that they might publish them for the edification of his leal subjects.

    Looking through Wikipedia shows his first proclamation was published in the San Francisco Bulletin. In 1929, this paper merged with another and became the San Francisco Call-Bulletin. In 1965, this merged with the San Francisco Examiner, which in turn jointly operated with the San Francisco Chronicle until about 2000 when it again became independent. This, in turn, spun off the new Examiner.com domain.

    This historical cultural legacy seems to explain an awful lot about the people writing for Examiner.com these days.

    Current Mood: curious
    Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
    8:51 am
    An interesting passage by Karl Marx, translated from his 1847 Wage-Labor and Capital (a precursor to Das Kapital), talking about America:

    In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism.

    It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

    Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

    Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class--neither work for others nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters, while in the Northern a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families--wives, sons, and daughters--work for themselves on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital; that is, they labor with their own hands and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.

    Again, as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years back in their lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.


    Except... it's not from Wage-Labor and Capital, or from anything by Marx at all. (I lied.) It's from Abraham Lincoln's first State Of The Union on December 3, 1861. Which is part of what makes it interesting, given how much contemporary members of "The Party of Lincoln" rant about rising "socialism".

    No, this doesn't mean I think communism is a great idea. It means I think the modern GOP is dominated by ignorant idiots.
    Monday, November 8th, 2010
    4:11 pm
    Some notes on the "Rise of the Nones"
    Over the last couple years, there's been more than a few pieces on the "New Atheism" and the "rise of the Nones". Of course, discussion should bear in mind that these are two different things. The Pew Forum's Religious Landscape Survey found over 15% of the US fell in the "Nones" category, but were able to give a further breakdown into "Atheist", "Agnostic", and "Nothing in Particular" - the last being subdivided into "secular" and "religious". Only about 10% of the "Nones" self-identify as atheist; the split is about 10/15/40/35.

    There's been lots of sound and fury about this "new" trend since the Pew and ARIS studies came out. However, the GSS data suggests the trend is not so much "new" as an old trend finally rising to noticable levels.

    In particular, I went looking at RELIG vs COHORT. The former is the respondents' religion, recoded to simplify down the the Irreligious vs the Religious. (The RELIG=11 "Christian" and RELIG=13 "Inter-NonDenominational" generics look like the next level in from "religious, nothing in particular"; but I can leave that aside.) The latter refers to the year when they were born, recoded to decade-lumps to smooth out sampling irregularities.



    The data looks to sit more-or-less on a logistic "S" curve - about a 27 year scaling constant for time, and a midpoint centered around 2013. (The picture above has one percent of theists and atheists unconvertable). Which means that by the time they become old enough to be on the GSS 18-and-up survey radar, 48% of the kids born this year can be expected to end up in the "NONEs". (Cue further media frenzy.) Playing around with regional constraints shows the South [REGION(5,6,7)] are on a similar curve, although with a slightly longer constant, and a midpoint nearer to 2038 - about a generation behind. On the other hand, Region 6 considered separately has been essentially stagnant since the 1960s - perhaps because the holding actions against teaching evolutionary biology have had some success.

    But despite the sound and fury, the real peculiarity is not the future, but the past, because the trend fit goes back almost to the dawn of the 20th century. Which suggests the phenomenon isn't something born of Generation X, or even of the Baby Boomers; whatever's underlying this seems to have shared it's childhood with either the Silent Generation, the GI generation, or perhaps even earlier.

    Current Mood: Analytic
    Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
    12:54 pm
    Mac OS X.5 Printing
    One of the crawling bits of wonky in OS X for those still stuck with X.5 (such as PPC computer users) is that with some of the more recent patches, the computer asks for an _lpadmin password when adding or removing a printer. The solution Apple recommends is to incant:

    dseditgroup -o edit -p -a(affected_username) -t user _lpadmin


    ...at a Terminal shell prompt. This, however, needs to be done specifically for each affected_username. A seemingly more elegant solution is to just dump the entire admin group into the printer group:

    dseditgroup -o edit -p -a admin -t group _lpadmin


    I don't know why Apple directs people to make this change the hard way; possibly to highlight that non-Admin users can be made printer admins.

    Current Mood: confused
    Monday, May 31st, 2010
    5:50 pm
    To perhaps save someone else some research....
    I noticed (after commends closed) in one of the many religion-and-science threads over on Fark.com yet another dubious-seeming "quote":

    Sir Isaac Newton predicted that men would someday travel as fast as forty miles per hour. Voltaire, an enemy of Christianity in that era, scorned Newton's statement, saying, "See what a fool Christianity makes of an otherwise brilliant man, such as Sir Isaac Newton! Doesn't he know that if a man traveled forty miles an hour, he would suffocate and his heart would stop?"


    This is apparently tied to interpreting as a prediction Daniel 12:4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

    Poking at Google Books turned up this exact quote several times... in Christian apologetics published since 1953. The earliest of these was a magazine "The Defender" that apparently was published by an anti-evolution, anti-semite, early dominionist kook. Not a promising sign.

    However, this story does not appear to have originated with him. A slightly more general phrasing of the search turns up a cluster of earlier references to a different version, dating to the early days of railroading:
    Sir Isaac wrote a work on the Prophet Daniel, and another upon the book of Revelations, in one of which he said that, in order to fulfill certain prophecies, before a certain date-namely 1260 years-there would be a mode of travelling of which the men in his time had no conception; nay, that the knowledge of mankind would be so increased that they would be able to travel at the rate of fifty miles an hour. Voltaire, who did not believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, got hold of this, and said: "Now look at that mighty mind of Newton, who discovered the laws of the universe, and told us such marvels for us all to admire! When he became an old man and got into his dotage, he began to study that book called the Bible; and it seems that, in order to credit its fabulous nonsense, we must believe that mankind’s knowledge will be so much increased that we shall be able to travel fifty miles an hour. The poor dotard!" exclaimed the philosophic infidel, Voltaire, in the complaisancy of his pity. But who is the dotard now?

    -Rev J. Craig


    Poking further at Google makes it seem likely that this was Reverend John Craig, vicar of All Saints Church in Leamington, UK.

    This anecdote was published in a magazine called The Leisure Hour. Several of the later references suggest the anecdote was part of "Astral Wonders", which appeared 1853-04-21 (Vol 2, No. 69); however, it appears to be instead in a miscellany column titled "Facts, Anecdotes, and Counsels" for the 1853-05-12 (Vol 2, No. 72) issue. There is also subsequent reference to appearance in "Astral Wonders" as a "tract"; in theory, this might be included in "Lectures delivered before the Church of England Young Men's Society" for 1853, as the 1854 mentions its inclusion therein in an advertisement. However, Google doesn't seem to have made that volume available. The anecdote might have been part of the "Astral Wonders" lecture not published in the original article; or, it's alternately possible that attribution to Reverend Craig was a fabrication of some editor at Leisure.

    While Voltaire wrote extensively on Newton, my poking at his works does not turn up such reference. More interesting, however, is that via Project Gutenberg, the entirety of Newton's work Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John can be found on-line. While Newton did therein (in the first chapter of the second part, footnote 42) reference this verse of Daniel, he did not (so far as I can see) associate a speed prediction with it— or, any other verse, anywhere else. In fact, in the paragraph subsequent that reference, Newton appears to disparage any attempt at such predictions by noting "The folly of Interpreters has been, to foretel times and things by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them Prophets."

    Thus, whosoever is responsible for the origination of it, the anecdote appears to be utter crap.

    Current Mood: irritated
    Thursday, December 31st, 2009
    2:39 pm
    Today's word....
    is pha-tic.

    Current Mood: thoughtful
    Saturday, September 12th, 2009
    12:48 pm
    Some fun with the GSS
    Jonathan Haidt of UVa's psychology department has some interesting ideas on morality. The central-seeming paper on this is When Morality Opposes Justice: Conservatives Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals may not Recognize (doi:10.1007/s11211-007-0034-z). He claims that "there are five psychological foundations of morality", denotable as FAIR, HARM, INGROUP, AUTHORITY, and PURITY.

    Now, I'd disagree slightly with the terminology on this, in that I would use the term "ethics" rather than "morality". Morality I would consider to simply be the ultimate question of "good or evil"; ethics, particular rules to give approximate answers to this, which may come into conflict with each other. Ethics may be restricted to those of an individual, a culture, or a species; while morality includes such questions, it need not be restricted to these. Since Haidt's indicates these are psychological foundations, and thus presumably human psychology, these are the particular and not the general. This, however, is mostly just a question of translating terminology.

    I have a conjecture that all five of these ethical "flavors" (for lack of a better term) are particular aspects of the same ultimate root of morality. It's not a psychological root, since it's far more fundamental and universal, applying even to bacteria. So, I'll leave the details on that for another day. (There's enough math that the reasoning connections are not obvious. That I lost Haidt when I stopped by his office to try explaining may be symptomatic of this... or symptomatic that I'm inept at explaining. Or perhaps that I'm just crazy. Or more than one of these.)

    For today, I'll note that I also suspect he may not have identified all of the flavors humans use. more details...Collapse )
    Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
    11:04 am
    Since it doesn't seem to have sunk in the first time...

    You guys don't understand. You've already lost. The current generation doesn't care.



    Current Mood: aggravated
    Monday, May 11th, 2009
    12:02 am
    You have a decent introductory education in mathematics when...
    ...you understand all of these jokes without having to resort to reference materials.

    For those who do not yet have a decent introductory education, go poke around Wolfram's Mathworld for a bit.
    Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
    3:59 pm
    Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
    3:53 pm
    Stupid UVA Mac Geek Tricks
    ITC has taken down the instructions for piece of deep magic for UVA Mac OS X Users; I've reconstructed them.

    To use Apple's Network Utility to query the UVA directory via "whois", open Terminal.app and incant the two magic commands:

    defaults write com.apple.NetworkUtility NUWhoisServers -array-add whois.virginia.edu
    defaults write com.apple.NetworkUtility NUWhoisSelectedServer -string whois.virginia.edu



    Warning: playing with "defaults write" on OS X is equivalent to mucking with the Windows Registry. Ergo, this information is offered without expressed or implied Warranty. However, if you track down my home phone number and leave a message on my answering machine about how this destroyed your Mac, I will take a few seconds to laugh heartily at your plight.

    Current Mood: Needing to be elsewhere....
    Tuesday, January 13th, 2009
    2:49 pm
    Word of the day...
    "Metathesiophobia": The persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted fear of change.
    Thursday, October 30th, 2008
    5:49 pm
    doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1182
    "Evolution of trust and trustworthiness: social awareness favours personality differences"

    The evolution of social awareness. Ayn Rand was a moron.
    Friday, October 17th, 2008
    4:22 pm
    Summary of a Scientific paper on human brains while doing Science. Self-referential science at its best.

    Current Mood: amused
    Tuesday, October 14th, 2008
    11:31 pm
    Economics insight of the day
    Prompted by some political irrelevancy which now escapes me, an aphorism from ECON 201 wandered through my brain today: "The value of a thing is what it will bring."

    Quoth I, "wrong."

    I believe the more accurate description of the situation is that "What a thing will bring will most probably approach over time to its value."

    Furthermore, this misconception may be what is fundamentally wrong with our present economic fiasco. However, I won't solve that tonight. Instead, I'll address a simple case.

    Imagine I hand you a pair of 10 kilo Platinum barbells. Wow! You're rich, right? Well... not necessarily. For example, if several hundred billion of these mysteriously materialized all over the Earth's surface, they may still be worth something (platinum is pretty useful), but probably not enough to go to the trouble of getting it out of barbell form.

    Furthermore, the "real" value doesn't change when you discover Earth's new clutter. It changes because the new clutter is there. However, if you have a similarly ignorant sucker next to you, you might easily get a check for $100k out of 'em.

    The fundamental value is a function of what is "needed", and what is "scarce".

    I think... I may have an idea of how to mathematically define "needed".

    Current Mood: geeky
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