" /> Coruscation: March 2016 Archives

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March 31, 2016

Microaggression and Moral Cultures

One-upmanship of absorbed pain may be the strongest force behind the rise of the microcomplaint. "Whatever happened to Gary Cooper?" Tony Soprano asked, in his first therapy session, on the pilot episode of "The Sopranos," back in 1999. "The strong, silent type. That was an American. He wasn't in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do. See, what they didn't know was once they got Gary Cooper in touch with his feelings that they wouldn't be able to shut him up! And then it's dysfunction this, and dysfunction that. ..."

While Tony was talking explicitly about the culture of therapy and confession, he identified a general transformation in the way we regard stoic reserve versus expression of vulnerability.

He surely would have agreed with the conclusions drawn in a 2014 paper in the journal Comparative Sociology called "Microaggression and Moral Cultures." The authors Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning argue that the increased attention recently given to microaggressions (commonplace exchanges that denigrate marginalized groups; see the recent controversy at Yale over Halloween costumes) on college campuses is a result of "the emergence of a victimhood culture that is distinct from the honor cultures and dignity cultures of the past."

The conclusions drawn in a 2014 paper in the journal Comparative Sociology called "Microaggression and Moral Cultures." The authors Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning argue that the increased attention recently given to microaggressions (commonplace exchanges that denigrate marginalized groups; see the recent controversy at Yale over Halloween costumes) on college campuses is a result of "the emergence of a victimhood culture that is distinct from the honor cultures and dignity cultures of the past."

The authors of the paper assert that we are now in a culture that valorizes victimhood. "The moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights," they write, which "increases the incentive to publicize grievances." Instead of pursuing violent or legal confrontation or letting the insult slide, the victim now appeals for support from third parties while "emphasizing one's own oppression," often through social media.

So pervasive is this sentiment that it breeds "competitive victimhood," infecting even those who have relatively little standing to cite their persecution -- for instance, white people who bring up reverse racism, or various Fox News broadcasters. (As one may expect, the paper has been endorsed by social centrists and conservatives such as Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who has written about discrimination in his field against conservatives.)

Although microcomplaints are an apolitical phenomenon and distinct from complaints arising from microaggressions, there may be a connection. Since whatever the microcomplainers have endured casts their adversaries as villainous (whether it's a tardy cable technician or inclement weather), it correspondingly raises their own moral status as innocent victims.

March 30, 2016

Self dealing car dealers make sales

Update: Inventory management 2.

When an automaker posts its sales figures at the end of the month, how many vehicles actually left the dealer lot?

Not all of them, according to a top BMW executive, who admitted that his company and others "punch" up sales numbers to boost their standing, according to Automotive News.

Punching cars is "not an ideal practice," but it's a reality in the industry, BMW of North America CEO Ludwig Willisch said on March 22.

Speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association-J.D. Power Automotive Forum in New York, Willisch said there was "a lot of pressure" to boost sales numbers. The practice involves an automaker purchasing its own vehicles to serve as dealer loaners, then quickly re-selling them as pre-owned after having seen very little use.

The issue of punching arose from last year's close four-way battle for the top luxury automaker spot in the U.S., a battle BMW won -- on paper, at least.

Recording 346,023 U.S. sales in 2015, BMW placed first in the race and Lexus third, but when actual vehicle registrations were tallied, Lexus came out on top.

Numbers gathered by IHS Automotive/Polk showed a gap of 10,764 vehicles between BMW's sales and registration figures, the largest of the top three luxury automakers.

March 29, 2016

Pay to play, Hollywood disrupted casting

Forget casting directors schlepping to 99-seat theaters to check out plays, another once-common, now nearly extinct form of assessment. "Productions aren't paying for them to make discoveries on their time," says manager Alan Mills, a partner with Marshak.

Technological disruption has changed the landscape, too. Perhaps the most significant change occurred in 2003, when Gary Marsh's Breakdown Services, which has a virtual monopoly as a clearinghouse for casting notices for upcoming TV projects, went from messenger delivery to digital. This has been a boon for efficiency but cut a key human element out of a human resource function. "Breakdown streamlined a ton of things," says Scott David, who casts CBS' Criminal Minds and also owns a workshop studio, The Actors Link in North Hollywood, where he runs classes. "Agents used to come to people's offices and discuss their clients with a book of their clients. Now you can get a reel on somebody in seconds via online."

March 28, 2016

Heads I win, tails it's chance: Attribution Bias

When events unfold that confirm our thoughts or deeds, we attribute that happy outcome to our skills, knowledge or intuition. But when life proves our actions or beliefs to have been wrong, we blame outside causes over which we had no control -- and thus maintain our faith in ourselves. The Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer describes the phenomenon as, "Heads I win, tails it's chance."

March 27, 2016

Professional obligations prevent compliance

"In the hierarchy of civil disobedience, a computer scientist asked to place users at risk has the strongest claim that professional obligations prevent compliance," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "This is like asking a doctor to administer a lethal drug."

"If -- and this is a big if -- every engineer at Apple who could write the code quit and, also a big if, Apple could demonstrate that this happened to the court's satisfaction, then Apple could not comply and would not have to," said Joseph DeMarco, a former federal prosecutor. "It would be like asking my lawn guy to write the code."

Mr. DeMarco, who filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of law enforcement groups that supported the Justice Department, also noted that if the engineers refused to write the code, rather than outright quit, "then I think that the court would be much more likely to find Apple in contempt," he said.

Rather than contempt, Riana Pfefferkorn, a cryptography fellow at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said Apple could incur daily penalties if a judge thought it was delaying compliance.

The government has cracked down on tech companies in the past. A judge imposed a $10,000-a-day penalty on the email service Lavabit when it did not give its digital encryption keys to investigators pursuing information on Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked documents about government surveillance.

March 25, 2016

Suburban Jungle

"Neither of us really wanted to live in the suburbs," he said. They came across Suburban Jungle while attending a baby industry event last May and spent an hour and a half on the phone with a consultant who sent them town reports on Harrison and Rye in Westchester County and Darien and Greenwich in Fairfield County.

"They could tell us more than a broker is legally allowed to tell us," Mr. Allen said. "Because they were moms living there with their kids," he added, the strategists not only knew which areas were zoned for good public middle schools, "they knew which roads you don't want to live on because the traffic is heavy." He added, "It was like getting an insider's perspective."

After ruling out Westchester because of high taxes, they narrowed their search to Old Greenwich for its "proper Main Street," good schools and proximity to the water.

"We weren't sure where we wanted to live, and they were really helpful in narrowing it down," said Amanda Allen, 33. Ms. Allen moved to Old Greenwich, Conn., from Manhattan earlier this month with her husband, Edward, 42, who works in finance, and Grayson, their 2-year-old son.

After selling their one-bedroom co-op in Greenwich Village about a year ago, the Allens, who are expecting their second child in May, had hoped to use the profit to buy a larger apartment in the city. "About a year ago we put in a bid for a two-bedroom," said Mr. Allen. "It went for $350,000 over ask." In the meantime, they rented a two-bedroom near Lincoln Center.

March 24, 2016

Economists need data

Angus Deaton, this year's winner of the Nobel in economic science, was honored for his rigorous and innovative use of data -- including the collection and use of new surveys on individuals' choices and behaviors -- to measure living standards and guide policy.

House Republicans, for example, have been especially scornful of the decennial census, the nation's most important statistical tool, and the related questionnaire, the American Community Survey. They have placed prohibitive constraints on the Census Bureau, including a mandate that it spend no more on the 2020 census than it spent on the 2010 census, despite inflation, population growth and technological change.

March 23, 2016

Lumosity lawyer needed 2

In one TV commercial, a man declared that with Lumosity "decisions come quicker. I'm more productive." The company website stated that brain training could help "patients with brain trauma, chemofog, mild cognitive impairment and more," adding that "healthy people have also used brain training to sharpen their daily lives and ward off cognitive decline."

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission said: No more.

Its complaint charged that the company could not substantiate such marketing claims. "The research it has done falls short because it doesn't show any real-world benefits," said Michelle Rusk, an F.T.C. staff lawyer.

She called the commission's yearlong investigation "part of an effort to crack down on cognitive products, especially when they're targeted to an aging population."

Lumosity agreed to give its one million current subscribers, who pay $14.95 a month or $79.95 annually, a quick way to opt out. It also accepted a $50 million judgment, all but $2 million suspended after the commission reviewed the company's financial records.

Previously: Lumosity lawyer needed ?

Critics have pointed out, too, that the cognitive tests used to assess participants' progress are often so similar to the training games that investigators may be "teaching to the test." They also question self-reported assessments of the results.

"When they train on these games for 15 or 20 sessions, people get better -- on these games," said Thomas Redick, a psychologist at Purdue University. Improvement often shows up between pre- and post-tests of cognition, too -- an example of "near transfer," the ability to do better, with practice, on similar tasks.

But what about "far transfer," affecting participants' ability to function in their daily lives? Does cognitive training help people handle their finances or remember where they parked?

March 22, 2016

Cappuccino by Torrefazione Italia

Old-school notions of what makes a cappuccino, with the layering of ingredients as the main thing. "The goal is to serve three distinct layers: caffè, hot milk and frothy (not dense) foam," the chef and writer Mario Batali wrote in an email. "But to drink it Italian style, it will be stirred so that the three stratum come together as one."

The Instituto Nazionale Espresso Italian, for one, calls for "25 ml espresso and 100 ml steam-foamed milk." Coffee lovers in Italy believe so strongly in the idea of an authentic cappuccino that in 2007, the head of the nation's commission on agriculture, Marco Lion, proposed government certification for cafes that make the drink the right way.

Joe, a cafe with 13 locations in New York and Philadelphia, serves a cappuccino that is not layered, with no bubbly foam on top. "The consistency should be the same from the first sip to the last," said Jonathan Rubenstein, one of Joe's founders.

The Joe version would seem to violate the cappuccino standards put forth by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (S.C.A.A.) and its Barista Guild, which advocate a one-centimeter layer, minimum, of milky foam.

Only one centimeter? Sounds dangerously close to a latte. But who would know better than the S.C.A.A.? "It's kind of ridiculous," said David Schomer, the founder of Espresso Vivace in Seattle.

Some coffee specialists pointed to "latte art creep" as responsible for the small amount of foam in the modern-day cappuccino, noting that it is easier for baristas to make intricate designs with less froth in a time of Instagram-ready food and drink.

Given the changes in what constitutes a cappuccino, some people may find themselves with an attachment to an incarnation of the drink that was in style when they came of coffee-drinking age. "Back in 1985, the best cappuccino was the one with five-inch mounds of froth sprinkled with cinnamon," the restaurateur Daniel Meyer wrote by email. "We gave up on foam in 2006."

Mr. Carmichael of La Colombe recalled the cappuccino at an influential cafe in Seattle, Torrefazione Italia, long before specialty coffee drinks were common. "Cappuccino was coffee with really thick meringue-type foam," he said. "You could set an olive on it and it wouldn't sink."

Kenneth Nye, who founded the East Village cafe Ninth Street Espresso in 2001, grew so sick of customers' insistence on what they believed to be a "real" cappuccino that he removed all the drink names from his menus. "All it says is 'espresso with milk,' " Mr. Nye said. "We stopped with the names because it's all silly."

March 21, 2016

The panelaks of Bratislava

The panelaks of Bratislava, Slovakia's capital on the Danube, will never make the list. The term, though, is potent. And the sight is a marvel -- assuming, under the category of the marvelous, that you count, as I do, the existence of the largest concentration of graceless concrete high-rise housing units ever to stomp across the landscape of a Central Europe country formerly under Communist control.

March 20, 2016

Women on the site that are reaching out, and they're getting all of the benefits

OkCupid, Tinder and Bumble, the opening lines above might sound horrible. If you have used the apps, and you are a woman, those lines most likely sound horribly familiar.

The boring conversations -- if you can call them that -- tend to be started by men, owing to centuries of Western courtship convention that have remained mostly consistent in the digital age. But in data published Monday, OkCupid, a popular online dating site, said women who take the initiative to reach out to men are rewarded with higher response rates and more desirable men.

"There are women on the site that are reaching out, and they're getting all of the benefits," said Jimena Almendares, the chief product officer at OkCupid.

March 18, 2016

Investor immigrants are lucrative criminals seeking refuge ?

The program, called EB-5, allows wealthy foreign investors, for a price ranging from $500,000 to more than $1 million, to put themselves on a path to United States citizenship. The money must be used to finance a business in this country and eventually employ -- directly or indirectly -- at least 10 American workers in economically depressed areas.

But EB-5 has been the subject of increasing scrutiny since investigators uncovered numerous cases of fraud, discovered individuals with possible ties to Chinese and Iranian intelligence using fake documents and learned that international fugitives who have laundered money had infiltrated the program.

"It's no secret that the program has long been riddled with corruption and national security vulnerabilities," said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and a frequent critic of the program.

A number of Democrats echo his criticism, in large part because while most visa applicants must meet education or work requirements, the primary requirement for the EB-5 program is a "lawful source of investment income," one Department of Homeland Security memo said.

"I don't believe that America should be selling visas and eventually citizenship," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who wants to terminate a part of the program that allows foreign applicants to invest through regional development centers that pool investor money. "The right to immigrate should not be for sale."

A Government Accountability Office report released in August found that the agency could not be sure that money used for the visas was not coming from "the drug trade, human trafficking or other criminal activities."

March 16, 2016

The so-called Google buses

The so-called Google buses -- private commuter buses that whisk tech workers from the city to the corporate campuses to the south -- will be used to transport fans to Santa Clara on game day, which tourists may see as a treat. Although this does not seem to have caused an uproar among San Franciscans, it is perhaps symbolically significant, given that the buses have been a lightning rod for anger over the Bay Area's growing wealth disparity.

March 14, 2016

Trumpers are American

The places where Trump has done well cut across many of the usual fault lines of American politics -- North and South, liberal and conservative, rural and suburban. What they have in common is that they have largely missed the generation-long transition of the United States away from manufacturing and into a diverse, information-driven economy deeply intertwined with the rest of the world.

Source Upshot.


March 13, 2016

WhatsApp cannot provide information it does not have

Jan Koum, WhatsApp's founder, who was born in Ukraine, has talked about his family members' fears that the government was eavesdropping on their phone calls. In the company's early years, WhatsApp had the ability to read messages as they passed through its servers. That meant it could comply with government wiretap orders.

But in late 2014, the company said that it would begin adding sophisticated encoding, known as end-to-end encryption, to its systems. Only the intended recipients would be able to read the messages.

"WhatsApp cannot provide information we do not have," the company said this month when Brazilian police arrested a Facebook executive after the company failed to turn over information about a customer who was the subject of a drug trafficking investigation.

For more than a half-century, the Justice Department has relied on wiretaps as a fundamental crime-fighting tool. To some in law enforcement, if companies like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram can design unbreakable encryption, then the future of wiretapping is in doubt.

"You're getting useless data," said Joseph DeMarco, a former federal prosecutor who now represents law enforcement agencies that filed briefs supporting the Justice Department in its fight with Apple. "The only way to make this not gibberish is if the company helps."

March 12, 2016

Growing equality between husbands and wives, paradoxical effect of growing inequality across households - Christine Schwartz

"It's this notion of this growing equality between husbands and wives having this paradoxical effect of growing inequality across households," said Christine Schwartz, a sociologist who studies the topic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Assortative mating is the idea that people marry people like themselves, with similar education and earnings potential and the values and lifestyle that come with them. It was common in the early 20th century, dipped in the middle of the century and has sharply risen in recent years -- a pattern that roughly mirrors income inequality in the United States, according to research by Robert Mare, a sociologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. People are now more likely to marry people with similar educational attainment -- even after controlling for differences between men and women, like the fact that women were once less likely to attend college.

Even though the typical husband still makes more than his wife, the marital pay gap among opposite-sex couples has shrunk significantly in the decades since women started entering the work force en masse. Today, wives over all make 78 percent of what their husbands make, according to an Upshot analysis of annual survey data from the Census Bureau. That's up from 52 percent in 1970.

In opposite-sex marriages in which both spouses work some amount of time, 29 percent of wives earn more than their husbands do, up from 23 percent in the 1990s and 18 percent in the 1980s, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

March 11, 2016

Trulia maps for choosing a neighborhood

Educated yet ? Via trulia.com/local/.

Northern Queens, how good it is ? Flushing, East Flushing, Murray Hill, Auburndale, Oakland Gardens ?

March 9, 2016

Hockey ladies impress Boston

Highlight of Winter 2015-2016:

Les Canadiennes de Montreal (CWHL) played in Boston.

Canadiennes 2016 outdoor.png

March 7, 2016


1. In a broad sense, it denotes the act of referring. Any time a given expression (e.g. a proform) refers to another contextual entity, anaphora is present.

2. In a second, narrower sense, the term anaphora denotes the act of referring backwards in a dialog or text, such as referring to the left when an anaphor points to its left toward its antecedent in languages that are written from left to right.

The music stopped, and that upset everyone.

3. In writing or speech, the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect is known as Anaphora.

March 5, 2016

Sleep or eat

A less-than-novel solution -- getting more sleep -- would also help.

The endocannabinoid system is involved in various brain functions, including stress management, immune response and pain modulation. It has even been linked to the "runner's high" that many feel after aerobic exercise. But the new study represents the first time that scientists have found the system to be affected by sleep deprivation, Dr. Hanlon said.

Research suggests that losing sleep slightly increases the body's need for calories, but that people who are sleep deprived often consume far more than they need.

The study comes as Americans are voluntarily curtailing their own sleep, a practice that may correspond to a sharp rise in obesity rates over the last several decades.

Between 2005 and 2007, nearly 30 percent of adults said that they slept six hours or less per day, according to data from the National Health Interview Survey. That's an hour less than the minimum amount of sleep recommended for adults.


Sleep Restriction Enhances the Daily Rhythm of Circulating Levels of Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol


Erin C. Hanlon, PhD1; Esra Tasali, MD1; Rachel Leproult, PhD2; Kara L. Stuhr, BS3; Elizabeth Doncheck, BS3; Harriet de Wit, PhD4; Cecilia J. Hillard, PhD3; Eve Van Cauter, PhD1

March 4, 2016

VPN, Netflix, and PayPal

Since VPN providers can easily obtain and use new IP addresses, simply blocking the IP addresses they use is a futile game of cat-and-mouse. However, what happens when those same VPN providers aren't able to accept money from their customers? That's an issue that at least one company is facing.

UnoTelly is a company that provides VPN and SmartDNS services to their customers. There are many reasons why a person would need to use these types of services. But since it can be used to circumvent regional restrictions on services like Netflix, Paypal has stepped in and cut them off.

Earlier this week Paypal sent UnoTelly an email stating the following: "Under the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy, or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction."