Monday, July 11, 2011


Sometimes state flags…”

Scientists insert artificial human livers into mice.

How China’s new rich are stimulating the trade in illegal elephant ivory. Also, how China’s bad debts are cause for concern. Discovering the mysteries of the Chinese consumer.

Microsoft’s patent shakedown.

Australia is proposing a radical carbon emissions plan.

We’re about to experience one of the harshest droughts in decades, since a little old thing called the Dust Bowl. But remember: climate change isn’t real, climate change isn’t real, all that weird weather stuff that you didn’t notice before is just random chance, climate change isn’t real LA LA LA. IT'S NOT HOT OUT.

When the Mainstream is easy to shun

Julian Sanchez writes this, of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s pretty excellent New York Times essay on the ease of acquiring knowledge about your obscure tastes in music:
Developing non-mainstream tastes in almost anything used to be pretty hard.

The driver for this is a good thing, but I’m not sure this particular effect is. If you had non-mainstream tastes back in the day, it was a sign you were honestly committed to those beliefs as evidenced by all that effort you put into it. Maybe you became a bit close-minded as a defensive mechanism (otherwise all that work was wasted), but overall you were an interested person, and interested people are more likely to be interesting and do interesting things.

There are a large number of people these days who seem weird for weird’s sake, and I don’t find this particularly interesting.

War on Salt

So there’s this:
This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure. In May European researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that the less sodium that study subjects excreted in their urine—an excellent measure of prior consumption—the greatertheir risk was of dying from heart disease. These findings call into question the common wisdom that excess salt is bad for you, but the evidence linking salt to heart disease has always been tenuous.

This should make Mayor Bloomberg look ridiculous, who personally led the anti-salt crusade from the front, loudly. To hear the rest of the Scientific American article tell it, the evidence linking salt intake to hypertension has always been flimsy, which should make everyone have a good think and particularly the technocrats: what other common nutritional advice is based on similarly flimsy evidence? What are we doing to study this?

I was always suspicious of the salt-cutting initiative because it seemed much too easy and too obvious. People are capable of surpassingly dumb omissions, but this seems a bit too much.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Developed-world deleveraging will take an awfully long time.

How to reduce the costs of universities.

China appears to be getting a big appetite for corn.

Shelia Bair’s exit interview in the NYT Magazine supposedly is excellent; haven’t yet read it.

NYT writers’ fiction recommendations. Some are strange (Jaws), some are a bit surprising (if you had to guess one Gabriel Garcia Marquez book that would be recommended, it’d be the sublime One Hundred Years of Solitude or the slightly-less-sublime Love in the Time of Cholera, but no—it is “Strange Pilgrims,” which I have never even heard of.)

40 people die in Mexico at the hands of drug gangs.

Looks like Pakistan v. the U.S. government is escalating, particularly over this dead-journalist contretemps.

When theories go wrong: automatic enrollment in 401(k)s decrease saving.

What summer camp inflation tells us about education.

Congratulations, But Sarcasm

So a few days ago, this headline was blared:

Now, 3,000 hits is quite the feat and deserves congratulations. Nevertheless, the aggression with which we're being told to respect Derek Jeter is more than a bit patronizing, as if we can't be trusted to respect Derek Jeter on his own. I mean, "RESPECT DEREK JETER" is right up there with these sentences:

"It's time to respect Michael Jordan."
"It's time to respect the troops."
"It's time to respect our firefighters."
"It's time to respect our police officers."
"It's time to respect our new alien overlords."

There is no one on the You Ess of Ehh that has not been informed about the necessity of respecting Derek Jeter, and I doubt there's anyone who doesn't have at least a smidgen, a soupcon, a mite of respect for Derek Jeter. So why are we being informed, over and over, that we must respect Derek Jeter? Don't we have at least a bit of intelligence?*

* the RESPECT DEREK JETER campaign is eerily similar to the RESPECT KOBE BRYANT campaign, in that you sense sportswriters are a beleaguered group searching for human beings who fit the archetype from which they can propagandize endlessly from, as they were endlessly propagandized by their sportswriters in the forms of the same archetypes. (And what's a sportswriter but the truest believer, anyway?) So they have to force people into their archetypes and ignore flaws: i.e. that Bryant and Jeter, while both very good players and among the best players to play their games, are nowhere near as good as sportswriters' limited yet creatively exaggerating imagination would have them be.


Questions are being asked, whether this is the time that Rupert Murdoch will finally get it. I'm skeptical, though when I see this picture:

I think late Marlon Brando in Godfather. Astute readers (or, really, anyone) will recall that this look features right before Don Corleone dies.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Some commercially valuable fish are going to be on endangered species list.

What happens if the U.S. breaks the debt ceiling.

Scientific knowledge and democracy—what happens when people don’t have scientific knowledge.

What’s drug resistance worth to governments?:
For every death from AIDS, the US federal research establishment awards approximately $69,000 in grant funds. And for every death from MRSA, it awards $570…. the research budget at the National Institutes of Health has been rising, from $13.1 billion in 1998 to $28.7 billion in 2008; within that, so has the research budget at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), from $1.4 billion to $4.6 billion over that same decade. They wondered how much of that research funding was going to this resistance problem that health authorities nationally and globally have pronounced a crisis. MRSA, let’s remember, kills an estimated 19,000 Americans a year: more than HIV, and more than pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, H. influenzae and group A Streptococcus combined.
MRSA, remember, is a big, big deal—it’s the nasty antibiotic-resistant disease that we should be looking out for.

China’s cities’ debt overloads.

Why illegal immigration from Mexico is less appealing (Mexicans are better off).

Using satellite data to predict cholera outbreaks.

The final space shuttle liftoff—what it’s like in the astronaut’s words.

A interview with Bill James on crime.

Chicago by boat: A timelapse journey from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.