Thursday, the usual 6:30-7ish, the usual bar, the usual people plus Ajay. Have we completely exhausted the supply of lurkers? Anyone new shows up, I'll buy you a beer.
Mississippi, you are so depressing.
"We work hard at being last," said Roy Mitchell, the beleaguered executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, when we met in Jackson. "Even a dog knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked."
The especially depressing part is that Mississippi was actually ahead of the curve on building a healthcare exchange before Tea Party sheer hatred of Obama scuttled it. It was actually open and operational for four months, and then had its exchange application rejected by the federal government, because the governor would not sign on. It's hard not to lay all these unnecessary deaths and ill-health at John Robert's feet.
Via you-all, there-all
Lw writes: What's up with the gulf of Mexico? That's where our wild-caught shrimp comes from in the US, mostly. Science budgets for identifying harmful agents in the US are dwarfed by budgets to investigate compounds that can cure disease.
I really enjoy this artist's thematically related watercolors.
Heebie's take: I don't know if GB is around, but I also don't want to bust her pseudonymity too much.
Nick S. writes: I enjoyed the history of Autocorrect in Wired. I like stories about technology development that respect the role for boring, repetitive, human input. It's a nice compliment to the frequent celebrations of clever conceptual breakthroughs.
The two-letter-caps substitution (THis to This) was scheduled to go live in Word 6, but it immediately posed the problem of how to handle exceptions (like CDs). What they needed, they realized--not just for this type of exception but for all of them--was a master list, a kind of artisanal concordance. The task fell to Hachamovitch's intern, Christopher Thorpe, a 19-year-old on leave from Harvard. Thorpe wrote a script that compiled all the manual entries that Microsoft employees had made to their custom dictionaries--words the built-in dictionary hadn't recognized but that were judged by users to be legitimate. Thorpe gave the list a quick edit and then gathered the remaining entries into a corpus.
"I think if there's not an explicit campaign to hide it, there's certainly a tacit one," says Sarah Roberts, a media studies scholar at the University of Western Ontario and one of the few academics who study commercial content moderation. Companies would prefer not to acknowledge the hands-on effort required to curate our social media experiences, Roberts says. "It goes to our misunderstandings about the Internet and our view of technology as being somehow magically not human."
I'd like to be able to make a clever comparison between the two stories, but there isn't much to say except that the first story is charming and the second is depressing:
Given that content moderators might very well comprise as much as half the total workforce for social media sites, it's worth pondering just what the long-term psychological toll of this work can be. Jane Stevenson was head of the occupational health and welfare department for Britain's National Crime Squad--the UK equivalent of the FBI--in the early 2000s, when the first wave of international anti-child-pornography operations was launched. She saw investigators become overwhelmed by the images; even after she left her post, agencies and private organizations continued to ask for her help dealing with the fallout, so she started an occupational health consultancy, Workplace Wellbeing, focused on high-pressure industries. She has since advised social media companies in the UK and found that the challenges facing their content moderators echo those of child-pornography and anti-terrorism investigators in law enforcement.
"From the moment you see the first image, you will change for good," Stevenson says. But where law enforcement has developed specialized programs and hires experienced mental health professionals, Stevenson says that many technology companies have yet to grasp the seriousness of the problem.
Heebie's take: On the autocorrect article - it was interesting, but fuck autocorrect all the way back to Cupertino. I understand that its perks fly under the radar, and you only notice the gaffs, but the gaffs are way too high and frequent.
Also it is much too big a PITA to decline their corrections, and it often keeps them anyway, and so on and so forth. I'd disable it if I could, and I'm sure I can, but that thought hadn't explicitly occurred to me before.
How is Liberia doing? This is a wildly different picture than the bulk of the media portrayals. Basically, the epidemic appears to be subsiding:
According to official counts, this impoverished West African country of 4 million people is currently home to fewer than four hundred Ebola patients. Not millions of patients; not tens of thousands of patients; not even thousands of patients. Fewer than four hundred patients. Even as the World Health Organization warns that any day now we could be seeing thousands of new cases, and Obama's UN Ambassador Samantha Power claims the global response to the epidemic is "failing," the number of new cases each week in Liberia is falling, not rising. In August, the streets of Monrovia were strewn with bodies and emergency Ebola clinics were turning away patients. Today, nearly half of the beds in those treatment units are empty.
The bad news is that in many other ways Liberia seems to be falling to pieces. Shops are shuttered, schools and hospitals are closed, the government has failed to pass a budget, crucial legislative elections have been postponed, flights have been cancelled and mines, factories, and oil wells have been abandoned in the panic...Liberia's GDP--$2.7 billion in 2012--is smaller than that of many large US companies, but it was growing by a healthy 8.3 percent annually before the epidemic. In the worst case scenario, growth could fall to zero in 2015, according to the World Bank. For any nation this would be troubling; in Liberia it threatens to undue years of effort to bring stability to the country.
What's up with even serious predictions being so far off? I keep hearing the one about how, by the end of the year, we'll have 10,000 new cases per week.
Via you, elsewhere. WINK.
This teacher shadows a 10th grader for a day and a 12th grader for a day and writes about her days. There is absolutely nothing surprising in her experience, but it's the type of thing I should re-read every few months just to remind myself how goddamn awful it may be to be sitting in my class.
(I actually have a similar thought during faculty workshops at the beginning of each semester - that the point is to remind us how awful it is to sit in one chair all day long, so that we may empathize with our students.)
LW writes: Here's a list of short summaries explaining various mathematical objects.
Hoping to troll the blog, I claim that some of these are so abstract that they're not worth the attention. Possibly this is a problem of style. With the right guide (John Conway, Steve Smale, Terence Tao work for me usually), I am happy to put time into exploring pretty intricate stuff. Or maybe I'm just out of my depth here, and this style of thinking is rewarding, inacessible both to me and to my cat.
Heebie's take: I think the intended audience must be either curious grad students (ie not what I was) or mathematicians in altogether different areas. Judging from the first two paragraphs of a handful of them, some of them are reasonably accessible and others are totally ridiculous.
Pretty interesting article on where the youth are choosing to live.
Thoughts about the new kitchen and renovations:
1. We got one of those faucets with pull-out sprayer. It's great; gitch yerself one, as the locals say. Git it.
2. I've stuck with steaming things in the microwave, which I started doing when we were kitchen-less. Mostly frozen vegetables, but also chicken if I'm just going to shred it and throw it into a dish. It tastes totally fine to put chicken straight out of the package, into a corningware and into the microwave with absolutely no fixing. I mean fixin'.
3. What is up with that ubiquitous voice that all the recipe bloggers use? It's sort of self-deprecating gushing, with lots of cutesy fanfair. I should probably just shut up. (But it's so basic. Like so very.)