Monday, November 30, 2009

Sir Winston Churchill, S.O.B.

From S.:
[Churchill] told the Americans during WWII that if a constituent assembly or national government reflecting the true majority of Hindus [in India] was constituted, the Muslims in the Indian Army would refuse to fight the War. Churchill even lied about the Muslim percentage in the Indian Army to get Americans to acquiesce in denying India a constitution and self-rule.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kabhi Kabhi Aditi...


On the forum, the question was asked: what is the difference between a candid shot from a snapshot.

As one participant put it : "To me, a snapshot is a picture that looks as though the photographer didn't spend much time composing or worrying about their camera's parameters."

The quote of the day is:

I would think there is a difference and its important that we take more "snapshots" as they are part of the collective memory of our planet.

As a photographer I take shots as requested by paying clients or what I want for my personal work. What I don't do enough of is take snaps of family and friends which just record a moment in time.

Just an other take on the place of the snap shot in our world.

A response by shootr was:
Thats a very interesting idea John.

I have begun to find it odd that virtually every one of my friends who doesn't shoot professionally has literally thousands of images documenting and capturing the various moments of their lives.

I am lucky if I have a handful.

The tales and stories that their images tell live many years past them. I was reminded of this recently by a few deaths of people I knew. Two separate and distinct twenty something girls I hung out with. At their memorials, and online were gathered a massive collection of visual reminders of who they were, their vibrance and life.

It really stopped me dead in my tracks when it struck me that if I would so tragically end, how little of who I was could be shared beyond the sequestered groups of friends I maintain.

At those memorial services, I relived happy memories, as well as developed some new ones from images where I had not been a participant. I left the memorial knowing that they were incredibly diverse and wonderful people who impacted so many people's lives in so many positive ways.

So I fully agree with your notion of improving the collective memory of the planet.

Life as a Dhimmi-6

Times of India:
AMRITSAR: A Sikh advocate in Pakistan was reportedly thrashed and threatened with dire consequences recently if he did not convert to Islam, forcing his family to run for safety to a gurdwara in Hassanabdal near Rawalpindi.


The disadvantage of upgrading my satellite TV service to HD is that seeing George Will in high definition induces a certain biliousness.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tom Lehrer's The Elements

Using IQ as a predictor

Back in October, CIP posted some stuff about IQ as a predictor, and in particular, this quote:
The upshot of this research is that general mental ability (IQ and related tests) was the best predictor and work sample tests (e.g., seeing if people can actually do key elements of a job -- if a secretary can type or a programmer can write code ) were the second best of the 19 examined.

Well, if you examine the comments thread, you will find if you chase down the original research results, IQ is second best, after work sample tests. But there was something else, that did not strike me with full force back then.

Look up the Handbook of Industrial, Work and Organizational Psychology: Personnel psychology,by Neil Anderson on (g is the supposed real life "thing" that IQ purports to measure.)

Schmidt, Gooding, Noe and Kirsch (1984) performed a 'bare bones' meta-analysis (McDaniel, Hirsh, Schmidt, Raju & Hunter, 1986) of the predictive efficiency of g for job performance. Schmidt et. al. reported an average validity of .248. Ree and Carretta (1998) corrected this value for range restriction and predictor and criterion unreliability using the meta-analytically derived default values in Raju, Burke, Normand and Langlois (1991). After correction, the estimated true correlation between g and job performance was .512.

What is the "corrected for range restriction"? A comment on this blogpost explains (context: a study of eight graders at a school showed that school performance correlated much better with measures of self-discipline than with IQ).
this study covered only eighth graders in a relatively privileged school.
I was thinking this during the whole post, and then here's confirmation. In statistics, this is called "restriction of range" for some variable, here IQ (because the school is privileged, indicating that students of low or average IQ are unlikely to be found in the expected proportions). The less a variable varies, the less power it has to account for some outcome.

The point is that if you include the full range of human IQs, from the severely retarded to the highest intelligence, there is a stronger correlation between IQ and performance (at work, or at school or whatever) than in a limited population.

But think about it - when using IQ as a practical predictor, e.g., for college admissions or for selection for a job, you always, in practice have "restriction of range" - the candidates you are considering all are pretty much very similar. So, unless you are dealing with conscripts - involuntary applicants - or are a social engineer on a grand scale, IQ is, precisely because of the range restriction, a pretty useless predictor. This sentence is thus total B.S.
After correction, the estimated true correlation between g and job performance was .512.

On the radio: a new science of education

From Krista Tipett's program, Speaking of Faith, a interview of neuroscientist Adele Diamond (full transcript)

First, my obligatory bash of I.Q. (IMO, the emphasis on "intelligence" as displayed in IQ rather than the skills mentioned below has ruined a great many lives, and that, apart from its shaky foundations, is why I execrate I.Q.).
Ms. Tippett: I think, was it Vygotsky who maintained that a child's ability to play creatively with other children is a better indicator of future academic success than IQ? And you've also said that discipline is a better indicator than IQ.

Ms. Diamond: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: Which, when I was growing up in the 1960s, '70s, you know, everybody got IQ tests, but I remember being aware even then that they didn't know what to do with it. Right? And that they would …

Ms. Diamond: Oh, you see, when I was growing up in the 1970s, they segregated us by IQ. So they had the intellectually gifted classes whose children had scored higher in IQ. And if you had a super high IQ and you were a girl in New York City, you could go to Hunter High School.

Ms. Tippett: OK.

Ms. Diamond: So IQ meant a lot in terms of tracking back then. But it turns out, the work of Angela Duckworth and Marty Seligman shows that even in college discipline — being able to exercise discipline and keep at it and practice and study and finish your assignments and start your assignments when you need to — is much more important than IQ. Which is kind of hopeful because then you don't have to worry, you know, gee, I wasn't born with this high IQ so I can't achieve. And the evidence is that that's not so.

Second: executive functions:

Ms. Tippett: The early childhood educational method that Adele Diamond has evaluated is called "Tools of the Mind." It incorporates the kind of role-playing mouth-ear exercise she just described as well as structured or formal dramatic play. This approach is based on new understanding of what is called executive function. Executive function describes the brain's capacity to coordinate the many kinds of mental activity that are involved in any human experience and certainly in learning, from how we focus to how we feel. Executive function enables us to take charge of our responses and actions. It is different from innate intelligence but Adele Diamond and others in this field say that more directly than intelligence, this determines how well we learn, how much we achieve, and how we apply what we learn in real life. Executive function is, in part, about what Adele Diamond describes as inhibitory control.

Ms. Diamond: You need inhibitory control to stay on task when you're bored or when you meet initial failure. You need inhibitory control to focus in on something in the environment so that you're not overwhelmed by all the other things around. You need inhibitory control — for example, let's say you see an old friend that you haven't seen in years. And your first reaction on seeing your old friend is, "My god, how much weight you've gained." But you don't say that. Instead you exercise inhibitory control and you instead say something to make your friend feel good.
And if you think about it more in terms of the things the Dalai Lama talks about, the Dalai Lama talks about how easy it is when you get hurt to react by hurting the next person. But if you exercise inhibitory control, you can say, "Wait a minute."
Another aspect of executive function is working memory. It's holding information in mind and playing with it, and you need working memory for anything that unfolds over time. You also need working memory for creativity because the essence of creativity is holding things in mind and disassembling them and putting them together in new ways. That's where you need working memory.
And the last executive function is cognitive flexibility. It's being able to switch your perspective or switching the way you're thinking about things, being able to think outside the box. And of course, that's also an aspect of creativity.
So those are the basic aspects of executive function, and out of that, more sophisticated executive functions like planning and problem solving get built up.

A very simple example:
Ms. Diamond: The having to do it when your first inclination isn't to do it. An example in a math context is a lot of children will do mirror writing. Like, they'll write a six reversed.

Ms. Tippett: Right.

Ms. Diamond: Now, that's very normal, but a lot of teachers will pull their hair about this, so they might have the child write 6 a thousand times. It doesn't help, but they'll try whatever they can to try to get the child not to do it. And Elena Bodrova has a very simple way and after an afternoon or an evening, the mirror writing is gone. What she says is when you go home tonight and you do your math homework, every time you're supposed to write a 6, put down your pencil and pick up a red pencil. That's all she says. That's the whole instruction. None of this "you're a bad kid." No. And the reason it works is because the child has an automaticity to do this mirror writing, and what the child really needs to do is take a moment and think and do what you really know you should do but is not your first inclination. But if you ask a child this young to wait it doesn't help.

Ms. Tippett: That is really interesting.

Ms. Diamond: So it gives the child some way to wait, which is the time it takes to put down the pencil and pick up the red pencil.
Some of the components of executive function would contribute to I.Q.; but I doubt inhibitory control is part of it. Classical cultures value inhibitory control greatly; you see the mention of the Dalai Lama already.  But it goes much beyond that.  E.g., one of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita is to master the ability to do what you have to do ignoring your likes and dislikes.  The path to liberation requires a well developed inhibitory function.


PS: a blog post on Duckworth and Seligman.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Verizon's advertising scam

See here.

PS: full disclosure: I work for T.

The Lawn Game

November twenty-first, and I could be observed mowing the lawn. Why?

The weather has been warm (50s and 60s Fahrenheit) and the grass has been growing. That makes the lawn surface uneven. There is the matter of leaves. Whichever lawn has the smoothest finish accumulates the least leaves for clean-up. The wind tends to blow them off and deposit them elsewhere. Lastly, because I do my own lawn work, I **can** mow my lawn (unlike most of my neighbors). Most lawn service companies seem to have wound up their activities for the year.

Mumbai 26/11: Arrests in Italy

Via BRF, a AP newsitem (link will probably disappear), about the Italian police arresting two Pakistanis for involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai massacres.
ROME — Italian police on Saturday arrested two Pakistani men accused of providing logistical support for last year's terror attacks in Mumbai, officials said.

The two, father and son, were arrested in an early morning raid in Brescia, police in the northern Italian city said.

The suspects managed a money transfer agency and helped fund the Nov. 26 attacks, police said in a statement. The day before the attacks they transferred money to activate an Internet phone account that was used by the attackers and their accomplices, said Stefano Fonzi, the head of anti-terror police in Brescia.

Italian police began the probe in December after being alerted by the FBI that the money had been sent from Italy, Fonzi told The Associated Press.

Two points of interest are that the Pakistani conspiracy against Mumbai reached around the globe; and that it was the FBI that tipped off the Italian police.

PS: CNN has this:
Italian police started their investigation the following month after being alerted by Indian authorities and the FBI that funds had been transferred from Italy, Fonzi said.

So much for AP reporting.

PPS: Bloomberg and BBC agree with CNN, not AP.

Saturday Snark

Glenn Greenwald on primitive East European notions of the rule-of-law.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


No one who put this person near the nuclear button should have a future in public life.
Andrew Sullivan on John McCain's responsibility for Sarah Palin.

Systems thinking - Russell L Ackoff

Starting an exploration (HuffPo).

"Problems dissolved, never to return? What are you talking about? If such a thing were true, how come I haven't heard of it before? If Russell Ackoff - and no disrespect intended... may he rest in peace - helped develop such a miraculous way of solving problems, how come he isn't as famous as Einstein? In fact, how can you compare someone who's unknown to someone as famous as Einstein?"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Diwali at Princeton Chapel

The first Diwali in Princeton University Chapel was held yesterday (though this says it is the second; I believe the first "official" recognition of Diwali was last year, and this is the first event in the chapel).

The event was captured the spirit of Diwali. Well done!

The Chapel isn't exactly the best place to hold an event. It is large and full of reverberations, is dark with wood panelling and is poorly illuminated. The acoustics and lighting are challenging to say the least. For this photographer, lighting and position/perspective, both were less than optimum. 5D at ISO 3200, 70-200mm f/2.8 and flash were used - but the chapel seems to absorb all the light. A 200mm f/2 or 85mm f/1.2 would have been a good lens to have. Some pictures are here (clicking on the picture below will take you to a Picasa album). Consider these to be news photographs. :)
Diwali at the Chapel

PS: Trying Picasa's embeddable slideshow:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Misunderstanding the problem of time

Physicist Sean Carroll as quoted on NEW:
Every time you put milk into your coffee and watch it mix and realize that you can’t unmix that milk from your coffee, you are learning something profound about the Big Bang, about conditions in the very, very early universe. This is just a giant clue that the real universe has given to us to how the fundamental laws of physics work.

Sorry to say this, but the standard of physics at Caltech has gone down greatly. When you learn that you can't unmix milk from your coffee you simply learn that physical systems that occupy a very, very, very large volume of phase space require a lot of work to be reduced to a very, very, very, small volume of phase space. The increase of entropy would be true even if God created the universe as described in the book of Genesis. It would be true even if we were heading to the Big Crunch. Now if you contemplate why your milk and coffee and you yourself exist, then you are learning something about the initial conditions of the universe. You realize that you and the milk and the coffee could have arisen only from a preceding state with lower entropy, and thus, at the Big Bang, the Universe must have been in a relatively low entropy state. Now that is something profound. But that is not what Sean Carroll writes.

Extraordinary Rendition

I report here a case of extraordinary rendition. Not much is known about the subject, the photograph below was obtained by a covert operation, and was released to the public under the freedom of information act. The subject below was last seen being carted away in a white truck purporting to be that of "Lil' Bugger Pest Control Services". He was suspected of biological warfare in the attic. Toxic residues of his activity were found there. Unlike the unfortunates in the CIA's custody, he will not be subject to torture or the risk of death in custody.

Friday the 13th was not his lucky day.


The Depravity of Our Political Class

Sickening. (Senators voted in favor of keeping US government contractor provisions requiring employees to keep mum about rape, and are upset only because they went to a floor vote where they can be held accountable for their votes rather than a vote by acclamation.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The immutability of IQ?

Via Yglesias:
Their answer – a provisional one, since they are still refining the research – is that feeding primary school kids less fat, sugar and salt, and more fruit and vegetables, has a surprisingly large effect. Authorised absences, the best available proxy for illness, fell by 15 per cent in Greenwich, relative to schools in similar London boroughs. And relative to other boroughs, the proportion of children reaching Level Four in English rose by four and a half percentage points (more than six per cent), while the proportion of children achieving Level Five in Science rose by six points, or almost 20 per cent.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Via here
where this gets scary is when you hear a conversation like:

Person 1: “The Taliban couldn’t have blown up the market in Peshawar because a Muslim wouldn’t do that.”

Person 2: “No, the Americans did it. But you know, the market that got blown up catered for women. And you know it’s haram for women to go out of the house.”

Person 1: “oh…..yeah”

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Clever Desalination Idea

I'm not a chemist, but the idea seems plausible; it will be wonderful if it works!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

QOTD - Keynes

The NYT has reviews of two new books on the economist John Maynard Keynes.

The reviewer, Justin Fox, tells us that "what’s vital about Keynes today is not so much a well-defined economic doctrine as the attitude and the tools with which he attacked economic problems". "He thought theory — including conventional economic theory — was important and useful. But he was willing to go straight back to the drawing board when it didn’t provide satisfactory answers to his questions. The contrast with modern academic economists and their attachment to elegant mathematical models is instructive."
Neither should the Keynes comeback be seen as an attempt to establish his “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,” first published in 1936, as an economic bible to be consulted at every turn by students and policy makers. Keynes would have found such an effort silly. He was dismissive of those who leaned too heavily on rules derived from a sacred text, be it the Koran or “Das Kapital.” Clarke quotes him saying in 1944, after a meeting with several of his American disciples, “I was the only non-Keynesian there.”