" /> Coruscation: December 2014 Archives

« November 2014 | Main | January 2015 »

December 31, 2014

A guide for discussing research you don't agree with

Obviously, these arguments are often correct. Experimental studies really are better than quasi-experimental studies which really are better than regression analyses which are certainly better than nothing. Big, broadly representative samples really are better than narrow ones and it is important to have multiple studies back up a conclusion. But given that people tend to read what they want to read in research, these points tend to be used more as bludgeons than as good faith critiques.


Economists do it with models, via Dylan Matthews at the Washington Post:
: just for fun: a handy guide for discussing research you don't agree with.

December 27, 2014

Facebook grows with or without you

Facebook largely sets its own rules for what its rules are. Remember, the company's privacy policy only dictates what it's allowed to do in legal terms--not how specific features are implemented. However, Facebook can and has drastically changed how your data is presented without necessarily changing its policies to do it. And whether it's a change to policy or functionality, Facebook is largely unaccountable due to its massive size.

December 26, 2014

Language profile forensics

Computational linguists at Taia Global, a cybersecurity consultancy, performed a linguistic analysis of the hackers' online messages -- which were all written in imperfect English -- and concluded that based on translation errors and phrasing, the attackers are more likely to be Russian speakers than Korean speakers.

Such linguistic analysis is hardly foolproof. But the practice, known as stylometry, has been used to contest the authors behind some of history's most disputed documents, from Shakespearean sonnets to the Federalist Papers.

Shlomo Argamon, Taia's Global's chief scientist, said in an interview Wednesday that the research was not a quantitative, computer analysis. Mr. Argamon said he and a team of linguists had mined hackers' messages for phrases that are not normally used in English and found 20 in total. Korean, Mandarin, Russian and German linguists then conducted literal word-for-word translations of those phrases in each language. Of the 20, 15 appeared to be literal Russian translations, nine were Korean and none matched Mandarin or German phrases.

Mr. Argamon's team performed a second test of cases where hackers used incorrect English grammar. They asked the same linguists if five of those constructions were valid in their own language. Three of the constructions were consistent with Russian; only one was a valid Korean construction.

"Korea is still a possibility, but it's much less likely than Russia," Mr. Argamon said of his findings.

Even so, Taia Global's sample size is small. Similar computerized attempts to identify authorship, such as JStylo, a computerized software tool, requires 6,500 words of available writing samples per suspect to make an accurate finding. In this case, hackers left less than 2,000 words between their emails and online posts.

It is also worth noting that other private security researchers say their own research backs up the government's claims. CrowdStrike, a California security firm that has been tracking the same group that attacked Sony since 2006, believes they are located in North Korea and have been hacking targets in South Korea for years.

December 24, 2014

Communication of serious risks

Scientists and engineers of the Serious Risks Commission went wrong, even if they didn't realize it. They had no sense of how their words would land. They were used to closed-door meetings, and the commission's mandate was to advise the Civil Protection Department, not the public.

But once microphones and cameras were added into the mix, everything changed: They were now risk communicators, and whether they knew it or not, or what they might have felt about it, became irrelevant. (Unfortunately, says Fischhoff, another robust result in social science is that "people tend to exaggerate how well they communicate.")

-- David Wolman

December 21, 2014

Serial wins

SEO: serial, Hae Min Lee, adnan syed.

Koenig has done what few historians have successfully achieved: she has made the process of research and analysis itself a compelling narrative. Mostly when historians go that route, it's because they're dealing with a murder or a like crime, in which case we can depend on readers wanting to follow the narrative of discovery the same as they might with a police procedural. (See e.g. the still-brilliant Return of Martin Guerre. Also, Ari Kelman manages it in his book on the Sand Creek massacre, because he's dealing with competing narratives about violent deaths much as a detective would deal with competing alibis.)

December 20, 2014

Ram mount adhesive mobile phone holder base

Would it stay stuck ?
For how long ?

RAM Flex Adhesive Mount with Universal X-GripĀ® IV Large Phone/Phablet Holder
Product Number: RAP-B-378-UN10U



December 19, 2014

To embrace the Tofflers as intellectual role models

To embrace the Tofflers as intellectual role models is to make a damning admission: that one is far more interested in inventing half-clever buzzwords than in trying to understand the messy reality that those buzzwords purport to describe. In a recent article in Foreign Policy on the Tofflers, the Khannas are unusually candid about what it is they admire about them:

Need we say more [about this prediction]? Even though it was written during the Carter administration, if you remove the dates from the passage above you have a template for most of today's editorial columns on the aftermath of the current financial meltdown. It's all here: the identity crisis of corporations, skyrocketing commodity prices, morally bankrupt economists, and currencies in flux and free-fall.

So the Tofflers have much to teach us about the origins or the consequences of the current financial crisis! This of course is laughable. The fact that, three decades later, their glib, abstract, and pretentious writings can still serve as a template for the likes of the Khannas says more about the state of public debate in America today than it does about the accuracy of Toffler-style futurism.

-- Evgeny Morozov.

When the Khannas discuss the charms of their newly found profession in Hybrid Reality, the whole enterprise is revealed as a jargon-laden farce: "Futurism is a combination of long-term and long-tail, separating the trends from the trendy and the shocks from the shifts, and combining data, reportage, and scenarios." It doesn't sound like a very demanding job: "It helps to travel and be imaginative, but it is even more useful to observe children." And why all this effort? So that we can better predict the apocalypse. "Avoiding civilizational collapse will require harnessing technologies that help us decipher complexity, overcome decision overload, and produce comprehensive strategies." The Khannas have come to accomplish nothing less than the rescue of civilization.

December 18, 2014

Kimichi belt in Murray Hill, Queens

Pete Wells explores Korean restaurants in Queens.


December 16, 2014

$VXX: value of roll yield

Trading Volatility's Secrets of $VXX: value of roll yield.

December 15, 2014

Nolita Mart

Nolita Mart , Mott Street's best coffee.

156 Mott Street
New York, New York, 10013

Torturous Top Ten

Mother Jones compiled a "chart" of the music used in US military prisons to "to induce sleep deprivation, prolong capture shock, disorient detainees during interrogations - and also drown out screams."

The top 10:

1. Fuck Your God - Deicide

2. Die MF Die - Dope

3. Take Your Best Shot - Dope

4. White America - Eminem

5. Kim - Eminem

6. Barney Theme Song - Barney the Dinosaur

7. Bodies - Drowning Pool

8. Enter Sandman - Metallica

9. Meow Mix TV Commercial - Meow Meow Meow

10. Sesame Street TV Theme

December 13, 2014

Schooling getting more boring due to growing alternatives

Driving the "epidemic" of A.D.H.D. has gone unnoticed: the increasingly stark contrast between the regimented and demanding school environment and the highly stimulating digital world, where young people spend their time outside school. Digital life, with its vivid gaming and exciting social media, is a world of immediate gratification where practically any desire or fantasy can be realized in the blink of an eye.

By comparison, school would seem even duller to a novelty-seeking kid living in the early 21st century than in previous decades, and the comparatively boring school environment might accentuate students' inattentive behavior, making their teachers more likely to see it and driving up the number of diagnoses.

One of my patients, a young woman in her early 20s, is prototypical. "I've been on Adderall for years to help me focus," she told me at our first meeting. Before taking Adderall, she found sitting in lectures unendurable and would lose her concentration within minutes. Like many people with A.D.H.D., she hankered for exciting and varied experiences and also resorted to alcohol to relieve boredom. But when something was new and stimulating, she had laserlike focus. I knew that she loved painting and asked her how long she could maintain her interest in her art. "No problem. I can paint for hours at a stretch."

Rewards like sex, money, drugs and novel situations all cause the release of dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain, a region buried deep beneath the cortex. Aside from generating a sense of pleasure, this dopamine signal tells your brain something like, "Pay attention, this is an important experience that is worth remembering."

The more novel and unpredictable the experience, the greater the activity in your reward center. But what is stimulating to one person may be dull -- or even unbearably exciting -- to another. There is great variability in the sensitivity of this reward circuit.

December 12, 2014

Helvetica can't do everything

Despite its grand reputation, Helvetica can't do everything. It works well in big sizes, but it can be really weak in small sizes. Shapes like 'C' and 'S' curl back into themselves, leaving tight "apertures"--the channels of white between a letter's interior and exterior. So each shape halts the eye again and again, rather than ushering it along the line. The lowercase 'e,' the most common letter in English and many other languages, takes an especially unobliging form. These and other letters can be a pixel away from being some other letter, and we're left to deal with flickers of doubt as we read.

Lucida Grande presents open apertures, inviting the eye to move along sideways through the text. It has worked really well--for years, and for good reason. For any text, but particularly in interfaces, our eyes need typefaces that cooperate rather than resist. A super-sharp Retina Display might help, but the real issue is the human eye, and I haven't heard of any upgrades on the way.

-- Tobias Frere-Jones

December 11, 2014

A single-member LLC (SMLLC) is a disregarded entity

A single-member LLC (SMLLC) is a disregarded entity, a tax nothing in the eyes of the IRS. An SMLLC trader qualifying for trader tax status (TTS) files a Schedule C for their trading business expenses. Trading gains and losses are reported on other tax forms - Form 8949 for securities, Form 6781 for Section 1256 contracts and Form 4797 for Section 475 MTM. Trading gains are not earned income, except for a full member of a futures exchange trading futures on that exchange (Section 1402i).

Sole prop traders, including SMLLC disregarded entities don't have earned income. That means no SE tax on trading gains and no AGI deductions for retirement plans and health insurance premiums on trading gains, either.

That's why we recommend S-Corp elections for SMLLCs, so they are separate tax-filing pass-through entities. The SMLLC S-Corp can pay the owner a fee or salary, to financially engineer some earned income to unlock AGI deductions. S-Corp elections can be filed late with Rev. Proc. relief. But, S-Corp 2012 extensions were due March 15, 2013 and the late-filing penalty is $189 per month, per partner (which is just one partner).

A Schedule C trader - sole prop whether SMLLC or unincorporated - can not pay themselves a fee.

-- Robert A. Green

Mar 28, 2013