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February 28, 2014

Rhetoric of economics, marketplace is society

"We don't control what they do. We do support them.

We do support broadly what they are trying to do in the marketplace
-- in society maybe is a better way to say it."

"We are a commercial organization trying to bring health care treatments to patients.
I think, on balance, we are helping people."

-- Tom Casola, the Shire vice president who oversees the A.D.H.D. division.

Mrs. Parry still has the pamphlet given to her by the school psychologist, which states: "Parents should be aware that these medicines do not 'drug' or 'alter' the brain of the child. They make the child 'normal.' " She and her husband, Michael, put Andy on Ritalin. The Parrys later noticed that on the back of the pamphlet, in small type, was the logo of Ciba-Geigy. A school official told them in a letter, which they provided to The Times, that the materials had been given to the district by a Ciba representative.

"They couldn't advertise to the general public yet," said Michael Parry, adding that his son never had A.D.H.D. and after three years was taken off Ritalin because of sleep problems and heart palpitations. "But somebody came up with this idea, which was genius. I definitely felt seduced and enticed. I'd say baited."

February 25, 2014

Better track geography and know where stories are being published and talked about

Going forward, this study provides an interesting foundation for thinking about how our media are interrelated, and how various facts, anecdotes, and bits of misinformation make their way to the public.

"Can we start exploring the data not from identifying these topics of keywords upfront, but asking an algorithm to surface some of those for us?" asks Graeff. "What are some unusual things or clusters of news stories that will allow us to get a sense of news stories that otherwise wouldn't be seen?"

In the future, Graeff says he'd like to be able to better track geography and know where stories are being published and talked about. The team is also interested in using natural language processing to track the spread of quotations from source to source. In addition, "automated coding and sentiment analysis" could be used to better understand how perspectives in the newsroom are molding stories -- tools like OpenGender Tracker.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a suite of tools that activists, journalists, and academics can learn from. Says Graeff: "A lot of what we show here is that there are better methods for studying the media as a so-called media ecosystem that allow us to really understand how a story goes from barely a blip to a major national/international news event, and how controversies circle around that."

February 24, 2014

Zillow on race (African-American and Hispanic) and mortgages

African-American and Hispanic borrowers have been largely shut out of the conventional mortgage market, according to a new report from Zillow and the National Urban League. Citing 2012 loan data reported under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, along with results from a Zillow poll of 700 mortgage applicants in December, the analysis found that whites accounted for about 69 percent of all conventional mortgage applications. The share of applications filed by blacks was under 3 percent; Hispanics represented only 5 percent.



via NY Times

Black and Hispanic borrowers are far more likely to apply for low-down-payment loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. About 57 percent of black applicants and 60 percent of Hispanic applicants applied for F.H.A. loans, compared with 30 percent of white applicants.

ulia Gordon, the director of housing finance and policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group, has concerns about what she calls "the dual housing market," and says she believes the conventional market ought to be making lower-down-payment loans more widely available. "Like all the other separate-but-equal arrangements," she said, "this is not good for consumers or the market or for taxpayers. We are seeing creditworthy people who should be able to get loans in the conventional market but can't."


Jason R. Gold, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, a research group, also proposed the creation of "HomeK" accounts, which would give workers the option of using up to half of their contributions to 401(k) retirement savings for a down payment on their first home.

February 23, 2014

Most influential sources in the media

Media Cloud was used by Harvard's Yochai Benkler, one of its designers, to track media coverage of the SOPA-PIPA debate and to map that controversy via links throughout the media ecosystem. Benkler found that digital media like Reddit, Techdirt, and AmericanCensorship.org "were the most influential sources in the media ecosystem as ranked by incoming links, overshadowing the impact of traditional media sources." But as the authors point out, Benkler's subject matter was inherently Internet-centric; with this paper, they sought to repeat the controversy mapping on a less natively digital subject.

Digital activists are getting better at manipulating the media, promoting their own agendas and challenging official narratives. Newspapers, in turn, are vulnerable to this type of direction because of their reliance on newsy "actualities" like protests or other events.

Stimulant medication helped

Proper A.D.H.D. diagnoses and medication have helped millions of children lead more productive lives, concerns remain that questionable diagnoses carry unappreciated costs.

Studies had shown that stimulant medication helped some elementary school children with carefully evaluated A.D.H.D. to improve scores in reading and math tests, primarily by helping them concentrate. The concern, some doctors said, is that long-term, wider academic benefits have not been proved -- and that ads suggesting they have can tempt doctors, perhaps subconsciously, to prescribe drugs with risks to healthy children merely to improve their grades or self-esteem.

A.D.H.D. patient advocates often say that many parents resist having their child evaluated because of the stigma of mental illness and the perceived risks of medication. To combat this, groups have published lists of "Famous People With A.D.H.D." to reassure parents of the good company their children could join with a diagnosis. One, in circulation since the mid-1990s and now posted on the psychcentral.com information portal beside two ads for Strattera, includes Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Galileo and Socrates.

Shire's long-acting version of Adderall, Adderall XR:

Drug companies used the research of Dr. Biederman and others to create compelling messages for doctors. "Adderall XR Improves Academic Performance," an ad in a psychiatry journal declared in 2003, leveraging two Biederman studies financed by Shire. A Concerta ad barely mentioned A.D.H.D., but said the medication would "allow your patients to experience life's successes every day."

If a psychiatrist asked about issues like side effects or abuse, Mr. Lutz said, they were played down. He said he was told to acknowledge risks matter-of-factly for legal reasons, but to refer only to the small print in the package insert or offer Shire's phone number for more information.

"It was never like, 'This is a serious side effect, you need to watch out for it,' " Mr. Lutz recalled. "You wanted to give them more information because we're talking about kids here, you know? But it was all very positive."

February 22, 2014

Online ratings: biased or manipulated ?

Online ratings are one of the most trusted sources of consumer confidence in e-commerce decisions. But recent research suggests that they are systematically biased and easily manipulated.

-- Sinan Aral, the David Austin Professor of Management and an associate professor of information technology and marketing at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

n one study that examined the skewed distribution of online ratings, researchers Nan Hu, Paul Pavlou and Jennifer Zhang also conducted a small side experiment.7 They invited students to a lab to rate a single music CD selected at random from Amazon and compared the resulting ratings to the ratings of the same CD on the Amazon site. They did this to see if the distribution of (an albeit small) random sample of actual opinions about this item (66 students in a university lab) matched the distribution of ratings given on Amazon. What they found was puzzling: The ratings from their experiment were approximately normally distributed, like a standard bell curve, cresting in the middle (reflecting the higher frequency of two-star, three-star and four-star reviews) and sinking at the extremes (reflecting the comparable paucity of one-star and five-star reviews). Meanwhile, the distribution of ratings on Amazon for the same item followed the J-shape (with the frequency of five-star reviews more than doubling that of one-star, two-star, three-star and four-star reviews).

The authors interpreted these findings as evidence that Amazon's buyers are more likely to be positively predisposed to a product because they had voluntarily purchased it, creating a selection bias toward more positive ratings. Selection bias is a potentially good explanation for the J shape (if reviews come from purchasers and if purchasers are, indeed, positively predisposed). But here's the catch: Amazon does not require users to buy items before rating them. So I wondered: Were prior ratings in this experiment shown to raters before they rated? The paper makes no mention of this aspect of the experimental setup. I wrote to the authors and asked them whether prior ratings were visible to users during the rating process. They replied that they were not. Examining social influence bias was not part of their study. In other words, the simulated environment they had created mimicked Amazon's interface -- with one crucial difference: The raters did not see the distribution of prior ratings, or any information on prior ratings for that matter, before they rated any item.

February 21, 2014

nyc.gov motorist alternate side parking

Wherein "Do not park here" is revealed to be "park on other side of street": nyc.gov/motorist/alternate-side-parking.

February 19, 2014

Donkey auction

Where Enron learned economics:

A truck driver moved to Texas and bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100.
The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. The next day the farmer drove up and said: "Sorry, but I have some bad news. The donkey died."
"Well, then, just give me my money back."
"Can't do that. I went and spent it already."
"OK, then. Just unload the donkey."
"What ya gonna do with him?"
"I'm going to raffle him off."
"You can't raffle off a dead donkey!"
"Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead."
A month later the farmer met up with the truck driver and asked:
"What happened with that dead donkey?"
"I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and I made a profit of $898."
"Didn't anyone complain?"
"Sure, but just the guy who won. So I gave him back his two dollars."

February 17, 2014

r in a day #3: More Convert CSV to data set by reading as text file, in r

Get variable names, read only some rows

mydata <- read.table ('c:\\users\\me\\data\\myfile.csv',

Q. Is the first row the vriable names and all following rows data ?

No, all rows are data: header=FALSE

Yes. header=TRUE

From Coruscation's r: r in a day.

activist journalism grows

Breitbart News Network, a group of activist, conservative news sites -- including Big Government, Big Hollywood and Big Journalism -- said on Sunday evening that it was adding at least a dozen staff members as it opens operations based in Texas and London. Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, said that those offices were the beginning of an expansion that would add a new regional site roughly every 90 days. California, Florida, Cairo and Jerusalem have already been chosen as expansion sites, he said.

Mr. Bannon said he was taking his cue from The Huffington Post, the liberal news and commentary site that has been growing rapidly overseas. He said there was an audience hungry for his brand of activist journalism. "There is a growing global anti-establishment revolt against the permanent political class at home, and the global elites that influence them, which impacts everyone from Lubbock, Tex., to London, England," he said.

Breitbart is now the 49th largest global site in the news category, according to Alexa Internet, a web traffic measurement site. Alexa also puts Breitbart's monthly traffic ahead of The Daily Caller and RedState but behind The Blaze and the granddaddy of conservative blogs, The Drudge Report.

Mr. Bannon said the operation was not quite profitable, but is lean, with only about 25 journalists, and an additional dozen or so coming on for the new sites.

The London operation will be run by James Delingpole, most recently a columnist for The Daily Telegraph, whose rants against climate change orthodoxy have been big drivers of web traffic, and by Raheem Kassam, the founder of TrendingCentral.com, a London-based conservative news site for English-speaking countries.

February 15, 2014

Eating at the wrong times: bad and unsuitable

Eating at the wrong times is tied to such profound and negative effects on our bodies

According to Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute, "we are very different animals between the day and night."

Peripheral clocks

researchers discovered that the SCN is not the body's only timepiece. Additional oscillators in the peripheral tissues help adjust the daily rhythmic functions of organs. (See illustration here.) In the gut, for instance, intestinal motility and absorption differ depending on the time of day. Like all of the body's clocks, these rhythms are guided by clock genes that operate in a transcriptional feedback loop. Transcription factors such as CLOCK and BMAL1 activate the expression of a large number of genes, including Period and Cryptochrome, whose proteins, in turn, inhibit CLOCK and BMAL1, causing daily oscillations in their expression.

Circadian clocks in the periphery are guided by the SCN, and all of the clocks are vulnerable to the influence of zeitgebers (from the German for "time giver"), environmental stimuli that tell the body what time it is. The SCN's primary zeitgeber is light. Clocks of peripheral tissues, on the other hand, can take their cues from other inputs, such as food consumption.

Presenting food at times when the genome is hunkered down for fasting and energy storage might lead to weight gain and metabolic disorders. Lazar says the experiment has yet to be done to connect the dots between inappropriate food timing, epigenetic activity dysregulated by the clock, and metabolic diseases. But humans, particularly those in developed countries with abundant artificial light, late-night TV, and 24-hour diners, have been putting themselves through an inadvertent experiment over the last few decades. No longer does daylight dictate the times when we eat. "That is the cycle that has gone wrong in the last 50 years," says Panda.

With caution and caveats, one could speculate that this is, in part, why obesity and metabolic disorders have escalated to epidemic levels, particularly when mistimed eating is coupled with a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. It stands to reason that our metabolic functions, as controlled by the circadian clock, evolved to cycle in harmony with the Earth's daily rhythms, to optimize processes such as energy use and storage. In doing so, we became adapted to eat during the daytime, and maladapted for eating at night. Opposing these rhythms, as many of us now do, may challenge our bodies' normal cycles and set us up for disease. "Like many evolutionary arguments, it's hard to prove," says Lazar. "But otherwise it's hard to imagine why else we would need things so tightly linked to the Earth's rotation." 

February 13, 2014

1. Manage your energy, not your time

1. Manage your energy, not your time
2. Prepare the night before. Your to-do list for tomorrow takes 10 minutes that night and saves 3 hours the next day.
3. Don't open email until noon.
4. Turn your phone off and leave it in another room.
5. Work in a cool place. Turn the temperature down.
6. Sit up or stand up.
7. Eat as a reward for working hard.

-- James Clear

February 12, 2014

Order coffee in 3000 words or less

It felt like being hungry, I suppose, in a place where being hungry is shameful, and where one has no money and everyone else is full. It felt, at least sometimes, difficult and embarrassing and important to conceal. Being foreign didn't help. I kept botching the ballgame of language: fumbling my catches, bungling my throws. Most days, I went for coffee in the same place, a glass-fronted café full of tiny tables, populated almost exclusively by people gazing into the glowing clamshells of their laptops. Each time, the same thing happened. I ordered the nearest thing to filter on the menu: a medium urn brew, which was written in large chalk letters on the board. Each time, without fail, the barista looked blankly up and asked me to repeat myself. I might have found it funny in England, or irritating, or I might not have noticed it all, but that spring it worked under my skin, depositing little grains of anxiety and shame.

-- Aeon's Olivia Laing

February 10, 2014

Keep a journal with you at all times

Keep a journal with you at all times

Here is one, that is probably most underestimated. Keeping a daily journal of what you got done, of what worries you and what inspired you, is one of the best productivity tools there is. Some of the most famous writers of all time, including Franz Kafka, Virginia Wolf and others, strictly kept to daily journals. And Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile even wrote a whole book about it:

"One of the big reasons to keep a diary is to record small wins that otherwise might slip through your memory. You can leverage the progress principle and allow yourself to get that boost from realizing you are making progress. And it's also helpful to record major setbacks - or minor ones that recur - so you can think about how to get rid of inhibitors blocking your progress."

And journaling, fortunately is also one of the easiest ways to start writing consistently. To make keeping a daily journal even easier, here are 3 tools that make it a no-brainer:

Day One app - beautiful iOS and Mac apps for journaling

Moleskine - I've found that spending more money on a simple notebook, helps you to value your notes more too.

OhLife - Get a daily email asking about how your day went.

On twitter

Evan Fitzmaurice, an Austin-based lawyer and longtime friend who until recently was the Texas Film Commissioner, has attended many a SXSW. He tells me one night over dinner that while he's wired to the hilt ("I've gotta connect to the Matrix"), he sees the downside of perpetual connectedness. "You're truncating natural thought.

Things don't gestate anymore. It's instantaneous, without the benefit of reflection. And everything's said at volume 10. Nothing's graduated anymore. It's a clamor." Though not religious himself, he says what I witness at SXSW would be recognized by any religious person. "They're trying to supplant deliverance and redemption through religion with civil religion and technological redemption--the promise of a sublime life on a higher plane."

February 9, 2014

Rewards, frequency, engagement: needed for answers site

How Quora and StackExchange thrive where Mahalo failed.

ehow or aks.yahoo.

February 8, 2014

r in a day #2: Convert CSV to data set by reading as text file, in r

One line:

mydata <- read.table ('c:\\users\\me\\data\\myfile.csv', sep=",")

From Coruscation's r: r in a day.

February 7, 2014

Coffee mid morning

Ever wonder what the best time is to drink your coffee? You probably know it is not a good idea to drink part of your daily dose of caffeine in the afternoon. Especially for those who have problems sleeping. But, do you ever drink your coffee and feel like it just didn't work? I know I have that feeling sometimes. The explanation for this has to with a concept that I think is extremely interesting but rarely discussed: chronopharmacology.

Chronopharmacology can be defined as the study of the interaction of biological rhythms and drug action. One of the most important biological rhythms is your circadian clock. This endogenous 24-hour clock alters your physiology and behavior in variety of ways but it can also alter many properties of drugs including drug safety (pharmacovigilance), pharmacokinetics, drug efficacy, and perhaps even drug tolerance.

Drug tolerance is an important subject, especially in the case of caffeine since most of us overuse this drug. Therefore, if we are drinking caffeine at a time when your cortisol concentration in the blood is at its peak, you probably should not be drinking it. This is because cortisol production is strongly related to your level of alertness and it just so happens that cortisol peaks for your 24-hour rhythm between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on average (Debono et al., 2009). Therefore, you are drinking caffeine at a time when you are already approaching your maximal level of alertness naturally.

One of the key principles of pharmacology is use of a drug when it is needed (although I'm sure some scientists might argue that caffeine is always needed). Otherwise, we can develop tolerance to a drug administered at the same dose. In other words, the same cup of morning coffee will become less effective and this is probably why I need a shot of espresso in mine now.

Although your cortisol levels peak between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., there are a few other times where--on average--blood levels peak again, like between noon and 1 p.m., and between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. In the morning then, your coffee will probably be the most effective if you enjoy it between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., when your cortisol levels are dropping before the next spike.

February 6, 2014

NY Times: that made in usa premium

Correction: December 8, 2013

An article last Sunday about a revival of American-made clothing at the high end of the market misstated the name of events that Nanette Lepore, a New York fashion designer, has helped to organize. They are "Save the Garment Center" rallies, not "Save the Fashion District."

February 5, 2014

Make millions selling platitudes of frugal living

Fear and insecurity can be a salesperson's best friend.

Ms. Olen learns how lucrative it is to sell financial services to the elderly...

Desperation, fear and insecurity can be a salesperson's best friend. Ms. Olen learns how lucrative it is to sell financial services to the elderly, many of them terrified of outliving their savings. A 2009 AARP survey found that nearly one in 10 people over 55, or about 5.9 million Americans, had attended a free financial seminar in the last three years.

At the World MoneyShow, an annual event in Orlando, 80 percent of attendees were over 55. The author writes that "a panicked baby boomer is their best customer."

And while Ms. Olen roundly attacks the myth that women are too emotional or ignorant to handle money well, she notes that they often lack confidence in their money management skills. Women also live longer than men and earn less. Saving more money, as women are exhorted to do, isn't the issue, Ms. Olen says: "How they should do this with a lesser income that's expected to do more goes unsaid."

Unusual, and refreshing, is her inclusion of so many women's voices throughout the book, such as the writer Jane Bryant Quinn; the financial adviser Manisha Thakor, the labor economist Teresa Ghilarducci, and Elizabeth Warren, recently elected to the Senate from Massachusetts.

One woman who comes in for some scathing treatment is the best-selling financial adviser Suze Orman, whom Ms. Olen criticizes as offering "financial platitudes" and making huge amounts of money by telling others to be frugal. Ms. Olen writes that "Orman's supposed wisdom often contradicts itself," and that her affiliations with companies like FICO and Lending Tree raise questions about the impartiality of her advice.

February 4, 2014


vi implemented in javascript.

February 3, 2014

The Android mobile operating system was always intended as a gateway drug to Google products and ads. ("We don't monetize the things we create," Android creator Andy Rubin once told me. "We monetize users.") And Moto X is a tool to free-base Google.

The Android mobile operating system was always intended as a gateway drug to Google products and ads. ("We don't monetize the things we create," Android creator Andy Rubin once told me. "We monetize users.") And Moto X is a tool to free-base Google.

February 2, 2014

ConvergEx took no principal risk, didn't make markets, didn't hang on to shares, etc.: there's no actual trading profit here. It's just gouging profit.

ConvergEx took no principal risk, didn't make markets, didn't hang on to shares, etc.: there's no actual trading profit here. It's just gouging profit.

The Securities and Exchange Commission settled fraud accusations on Wednesday against ConvergEx, a group of brokers that, in the SEC's words, "held themselves out to the public as a unified conflict-free agency broker that charged explicit commissions for equity order execution." Surprise! Most of those words were false!

The basic deal was that you hired ConvergEx to do some pretty boring but big equity trades,1 and ConvergEx would do your trades for you on a purely agency basis and charge you a fixed stated commission. So you'd be like, "buy a million shares of Facebook," and ConvergEx would go buy a million shares of Facebook for your account and say, "okay we filled you at $55.05" or whatever and then charge you a penny a share for their trouble.

But in fact what would happen is that ConvergEx would secretly use a Bermuda affiliate broker-dealer (ConvergEx Global Markets Limited, or CGM), which would buy the shares at, say, $55.02, and then sell them on to the client-facing ConvergEx entity at $55.05, and ConvergEx would go to the client and say "okay we filled you at $55.05, so pay us $55.06 with the commission, thanks." ConvergEx called the extra three cents "trading profits," which is a little euphemistic,2 or "TP," which is not. "It was not uncommon for the amount of TP to be several times the amount of commission that the customer had paid," says the SEC.

CGM often took TP when customers were asleep during market trading hours because of time zone differences. On the other hand, CGM did not take TP from customers who actively monitored executions throughout the day through the receipt of real-time trade information.

Likewise, CGM, with the knowledge and approval of its senior management, did not take TP on trades if customers, prior to trading, requested a "€œtime and sales"€ report that would detail the times of execution and prices received on the individual executions underlying a customer's order, and thus expose any TP taken by CGM.

The CGM Division also suspended the practice of taking TP at times when it knew customers were scrutinizing their executions, in order to impress those customers and secure future business. In at least one instance, CGM suspended the practice of taking TP when a customer requested time and sales reports to analyze execution prices and then resumed taking TP after they were told that the customer was no longer conducting the analysis.

By Matt 'The Explainer' Levine.

February 1, 2014

New rules for education and status identification

Like many professions today, software development is developing new rules for education and status identification. At one point, a degree from MIT or Stanford was the key ticket to a major Silicon Valley company, and from there, a start-up or a management role.

The new culture around hackathons and open source projects is going to upend this forced march. Students increasingly are engaging with startups earlier in their careers, and they are building products rather than writing code samples. With a continued focus on education, there is an opportunity here to solve the engineer crunch, and perhaps even expand the range of people who are involved in engineering the next great startups.