Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Objective Journalism

As regular readers will remember, FLG is deeply skeptical of the idea of objective journalism.  Nobody is objective and trying to create the illusion of it is, at least in FLG's opinion, more insidious than being upfront about the point of view.   This story about a real estate developer who wants to buy a bankrupt Atlantic City casino and turn it into a university for "white" geniuses provides an example.

Here's the gist:
A Florida developer interested in remaking the shuttered Revel Casino Hotel told Reuters his vision for the empty Atlantic City property includes a university that would ideally be attended by students who are "white and over 21."
Next sentence:
Glenn Straub made the incendiary remark, which was his way of describing someone with no financial obligations, during a larger interview about his ambitious plan for the vacant property, Reuters reported.

FLG is okay there.  Incendiary, while getting closer to subjective thoughts by the reporter about the statements, can factually describe that some people are upset, not necessarily the reporter.

Ah, but then we get to the last sentence:
Despite his unsavory comment, his $90 million bid remains on the table.
Now, it is unambiguously clear where the reporter stands.  FLG is fine with that, but the language at the beginning is trying to keep it objective, only at the end does the reporters personal feelings get outed.

FLG would be more comfortable if the reporter had just started the story off with : Racist asshole wants to buy casino.   Regardless of where FLG or anybody stands, best to know where the reporter stands so you can take that into consideration. 

BTW, this is completely separate from the questionable choice to write a story solely using information from another news story, but that's neither here nor there in this case.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quote of the day

Anthony Bourdain:

There’s a guy inside me who wants to lay in bed and smoke weed all day and watch cartoons and old movies. I could easily do that. My whole life is a series of stratagems to avoid and outwit that guy.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

MBA, Innovation, & Selection Bias

Nathan Furr makes the case over at Slate that many notable innovators have qualms about hiring MBAs because, he thinks, the MBA curriculum teaches skills used in large, industrial corporations where there is more certainty, at least in comparison to innovative, start-up-ish companies.

FLG, who has an MBA, largely agrees, but thinks Furr misses something more fundamental -- selection bias.  People who chose to get MBAs, particularly name brand MBAs, are those who, pretty much by definition, are choosing the safe, well-worn path.  The stereotypical Harvard and Stanford MBA is somebody who did an Ivy League undergrad, then worked for McKinsey or Goldman for a couple of years, before heading to Palo Alto or Boston to punch their ticket one more time.   Basically, somebody who is extremely good at working within the established system, not the against the grain type that is needed to innovate.   The content of the coursework only further intensifies this, but the root is there at the selection bias.

Also, FLG realizes this reality flies in the face of the elite B-School marketing that emphasizes the social anthropology grad who did a tour in the peace corps and then successfully launches a company that produces cheap, solar powered toilets that produce potable water for the developing world, but that is just too bad. 


This is fantastic:

Quick Round-Up

As The Ancient hinted in the comments, September 19th was International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day.   FLG knew, but didn't get around to posting.  He thinks this might be the second year in a row, which is makes FLG sad.

On an completely unrelated note, apparently, the gray matter volume of a region in the right posterior parietal cortex is positively correlated with risk seeking.  FLG was then curious whether males this varies by sex, as this could explain why women are more risk averse than men.  Upon googling sex variations in the right posterior parietal cortex, he found this article, which reads like a bunch of gobbledygook and FLG isn't even sure he understands because he lacks sufficient knowledge of brain biology and isn't interested enough to learn it, but the last paragraph says:
in an MRI study of cortical volumes Kennedy et al. found normal sex differences in the parietal lobe, but although left and right hemispheric measurements were obtained, the authors did not specifically examine sex-by-hemisphere interactions (Kennedy et al., 1998). As sex-based asymmetries in the IPL have not previously been examined, we thus made the following hypotheses: (i) males have greater total IPL volumes compared to women, (ii) males have larger left versus right IPL volumes and (iii) males have larger left IPL volumes compared to women.

This is contrary to what FLG would have assumed.  If more gray matter in the right posterior parietal cortex is correlated with risk seeking, then presumably smaller volumes would be associated with risk aversion.  Yet, males, who are more risk seeking, have larger left relatively to right hemispheres.   Then again, the other article was just comparing gray matter volume of a particular region in the right posterior parietal cortex with the volumes across subjects in some absolute sense, not relative to the right.  So, the risk seeking behavior could be explained by the greater total volumes men have compared to women.   OR these studies could be talking about completely different parts of the brain entirely.  FLG, quite frankly, isn't very clear.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quote of the day

Matt Levine:
If you can find the people who generate alpha, and convince them to give you some of it, then that's great. If not, probably stick to indexing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

FLG is currently listening to

Quote of the Day

it appears that technical abilities are highly valued among recent graduates, which explains why a student who graduates from an engineering program at California Institute of Technology will likely be better compensated, at least up front, than a Harvard graduate with an English degree. It also seems that those specialized skills offer a comparative salary edge for only a handful of years before that advantage begins to dissipate--and the salary benefits of a holistic, liberal arts education begin to catch up.

Ties in well with what FLG has been writing about STEM education for years.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Is That Really Your Job Title?

FLG noticed that somebody had their job title listed as Principle on LinkedIn.   FLG made note to never do business with a company whose Principal  doesn't know the difference between Principal and Principle.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

FLG Goes Back To Tocqueville

There are a few passages from Tocqueville of which FLG is particularly fond of posting and reposting.   This article about how a hodgepodge of online courses will never replace a proper degree makes FLG want to post one of them again.

Enter the “nano-degree.” If you can’t “disrupt” education through innovation, the thinking goes, just downsize it so much that it becomes training for just one task that a particular company wants at one particular moment.
We’ve seen this many times before in American history. As I recently pointed out in Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, Booker T. Washington wanted to help ex-slaves acquire practical skills so they could become self-sufficient after the Civil War. And around the time of World War I, chambers of commerce and labor federations united to back legislation for a dual secondary educational system. According to that plan, some young people would be trained for specific jobs, while others would get a broad education allowing them to continue their studies in college. The movement led to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 to finance vocational instruction.
Those who opposed this vocational turn certainly realized that people needed skills to get jobs. But they also realized that this kind of tracking would only exacerbate social and economic inequality. As John Dewey wrote, some of us “are managers and others are subordinates. But the great thing for one as for the other is that each shall have had the education which enables him to see within his daily work all there is in it of large and human significance.”
Education should aim to enhance our capacities, Dewey argued, so that we are not reduced to being somebody else’s tool. “The kind of vocational education in which I am interested is not one which will ‘adapt’ workers to the existing industrial regime; I am not sufficiently in love with the regime for that.”
This is what Udacity is missing in its willingness to tailor its program to the existing industrial regime’s immediate needs. “You'll learn skills that match industry demands,” the company promises on its website. “With the credentials to prove it.” Fiona M. Hollands of Teachers College Columbia University voiced cautious approval, telling the Times: “We still need rounded people, which you can’t get through mini-certificate courses. But we also have an economy to run here.” Those who make the most lasting contribution to the economy, however, will be the “rounded people.”

FLG, who is deeply skeptical of all things John Dewey, thinks we ought to heed this passage from Alexis de Tocqueville:

It is important that this point should be clearly understood. A particular study may be useful to the literature of a people without being appropriate to its social and political wants. If men were to persist in teaching nothing but the literature of the dead languages in a community where everyone is habitually led to make vehement exertions to augment or to maintain his fortune, the result would be a very polished, but a very dangerous set of citizens. For as their social and political condition would give them every day a sense of wants, which their education would never teach them to supply, they would perturb the state, in the name of the Greeks and Romans, instead of enriching it by their productive industry. It is evident that in democratic communities the interest of individuals as well as the security of the commonwealth demands that the education of the greater number should be scientific, commercial, and industrial rather than literary. Greek and Latin should not be taught in all the schools; but it is important that those who, by their natural disposition or their fortune, are destined to cultivate letters or prepared to relish them should find schools where a complete knowledge of ancient literature may be acquired and where the true scholar may be formed. A few excellent universities would do more towards the attainment of this object than a multitude of bad grammar-schools, where superfluous matters, badly learned, stand in the way of sound instruction in necessary studies.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Did anybody else know that schools are banning dodgeball?   FLG was just informed when asking what Miss FLG Maior was doing in gym class.   What the fuck is wrong with the world?   FLG will tell you what, a bunch of yellow-bellied sissies mollycoddling the fucking kids.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Social Interaction

FLG found this article about politeness interesting.  It's different than the article about male charm FLG was so found of.  Politeness and charm are somewhat overlapping, but ultimately different things.  In fact, some of the most charming people occasionally breach certain norms of politeness.  Or perhaps in a Picasso-esque way, the charming know the rules, so they can break them.   In any case, a few things stuck out.

This passage, considering FLG's focus on time horizons:
She was surprised to see the stubborn power of politeness over time. Over time. That’s the thing. Mostly we talk about politeness in the moment. Please, thank you, no go ahead, I like your hat, cool shoes, you look nice today, please take my seat, sir, ma’am, etc. All good, but fleeting.

But then there's this statement:
One way to be polite is by not touching people unless they specifically invite it. 
And perhaps this is where the politeness versus charm divide is so striking.  FLG thought of the passage from Primary Colors about the handshake:
The handshake is the threshold act, the beginning of politics. I’ve seen him do it two million times now, but I couldn’t tell you how he does it, the right-handed part of it—the strength, quality, duration of it, the rudiments of pressing the flesh. I can, however, tell you a whole lot about what he does with his other hand. He is a genius with it. He might put it on your elbow, or up by your biceps: these are basic, reflexive moves. He is interested in you. He is honored to meet you. If he gets any higher up your shoulder— if he, say, drapes his left arm over your back, it is somehow less intimate, more casual. He’ll share a laugh or a secret then—a light secret, not a real one—flattering you with the illusion of conspiracy.
If politicians are anything, they're charming.  And then there's the Pick-up Artist community, which while not concerned with charm in the traditional sense or for its own sake, is on the other side of the not touching people divide:
Short for kinesthetics, "kino" is PUA language for light touching in order to get a lady in the mood.  

Even after all that, FLG isn't exactly sure of the relationship between politeness and charm, but if he had to be called one, then he'd prefer charming.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Grammar & Status

The person with the higher status uses the word "I" less.

We use "I" more when we talk to someone with power because we're more self-conscious. We are focused on ourselves — how we're coming across — and our language reflects that.
FLG found this fascinating because, just the other day, one of his newer coworkers was drafting an email to a very senior financial executive and asked FLG to review before sending.  FLG's comment was to drop as many "I"s as possible.  Sounded too submissive.
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