Open Thread, 07/09/2017

I’m a sucker for the aesthetics of Norden. Why? I wonder if part of it is that the fringe of Northern Europe is a science fictional setting. The long dark nights during the cold winter, and the twilight during midsummer. The sun may be bright, it never gets too high in the sky. The 13th Warrior wasn’t the best movie, but it was evocative. One of the problems with the film depiction of the Lord of the Rings trilogy is that New Zealand seems too bright and airy (and also not decayed enough).

Because of the SMBE meeting I haven’t made much progress on The Enigma of Reason. Much of it has been reviewing the literature in cognitive psychology and reasoning which I’m familiar with (system 1 vs. system 2, Wason reasoning task, etc.). Though it is leading me up to the main thesis.

I remember years ago Matthew Yglesias mentioned he was going to do a bit more reading of books, as opposed to news, to differentiate himself from other pundits. Today he admitted he wasn’t going to make a show of having an informed opinion about the Frankfurt School. I suggested he take time out to read The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950. The modern campus Red Guards don’t know anything about Adorno, Marcuse, or Horkheimer. But the outlines of contemporary project toward cultural revolution and exaltation of the marginalized are all there. Rather than being the origin modern radical movements, I suspect that the Frankfurt School simply provides a useful tool and framework to go about its project.

I do know that some politically moderate scientists who read The Dialectical Imagination, and saw campus politics in a totally different, and more intelligible, light.

Joe Pickrell’s new company, Gencove, Improving ancestry estimates in South Asia.

I said on Twitter that “easiest way to make housing affordable for non-rich is to build more houses for the rich so they won’t buy houses built for non-rich.” What do I mean? It’s all about supply. The well-off will always be first in line for any supply of housing. If you allow for copious development, vertically and horizontally, then the rich can purchase the luxury condos and mansions that they crave, while the middle class and lower class can buy up the more normal housing stock.

The Austin skyline, then and now.

Yazidi sex slave had to choose between son and escape from Isis.

Bangladeshi students test into elite schools. This story is about the entrance examinations for the elite public high schools of New York City. In 2010 the average Bangladeshi family in New York City had a household income of $37,000. I believe in the near future the entrance exams will not be the only criterion for gaining admission. The reality is that Asian American students lack “leadership” and are not “well rounded,” and all the Asian American applicants “look the same.”

A large-scale genome-wide enrichment analysis identifies new trait-associated genes, pathways and tissues across 31 human phenotypes.

Racism Is Everywhere, So Why Not Move South? This article is written in the context of black Americans. But the insights are general. Houston has a cost of living that’s at the national average. It’s the fourth largest city in the United States, and there is a lot of good phở because of the large Vietnamese community.

Patrick Wyman, who sometimes comments on this blog, has a great Fall of Rome podcast.

The Sad, Sexist Past of Bengali Cuisine. Really upper caste Bengali Hindu cuisine.

Utilities fighting against rooftop solar are only hastening their own doom. Not surprised. I have been following Ramez Naam’s commentary on this for years. He’s been on this.

Islamophobes are attacking me because I’m their worst nightmare. Linda Sarsour.

I thought Hillary would win the election. But I told a long-time reader of this weblog who is a Democratic operative that BLM activists getting in Bernie Sanders’ face did not presage well for the direction of the party. Linda Sarsour as the face of progressivism is a massive boon for the Right and Republicans.

Sarsour has left a trail of obnoxious and offensive comments on Twitter. So have many people. For me personally the biggest issue is possible solidarity with Rasmea Odeh. The PFLP is the literal definition of a terrorist organization (though a Marxist, not Islamic, one). But the reality is that her enemies on the Right know that she and her compatriots in the “woke” movement would never exhibit charity toward their political opponents, so they are attempting to destroy her because they know she would do the same to them. That’s where we are in American politics today. You destroy your enemies, or they destroy you. Let’s have fun until the last battle though!

A combined analysis of genetically correlated traits identifies 107 loci associated with intelligence. I guess I’ll start paying attention to when they can explain ~25% of outgroup sample variance. They’re already further than the 7% in this preprint, though that will take a little longer to publish.

Procedures for enumerating and uniformly sampling transmission trees for a known phylogeny.

A reanalysis of Schaefer et al. does not indicate extensive CRISPR/Cas9 mediated off-target editing events.

Evolutionary Action of de novo missense variants across pathways prioritizes genes linked to autism and predicts patient phenotypic severity.

7 thoughts on “Open Thread, 07/09/2017

  1. “Rather than being the origin [of] modern radical movements, I suspect that the Frankfurt School simply provides a useful tool and framework to go about its project.”

    I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago between 1965 and 1970. It was one of the loci of the infection that was the Weathermen movement. I can assure you that those people studied Marcuse and other Frankfort School writers. Marcuse himself was a professor on several American campuses during that era and taught and lectured widely.

    The “New Left” boomers learned their Frankfurt school Marxism from the originators. Their students, and their students’s students absorbed recycled swill from their respective teachers.

    I am sure that there is not one current campus radical in a thousand who has any clear idea of the genealogy of the slogans they regurgitate and the memes that control their behavior. It is just further proof, as if any more were needed, of the terminal worthlessness of the American higher education system.

  2. A big problem with the electric grid is that it, like most utilities, undercharges for connection and overcharges for usage. I’m not sure why, maybe price discrimination, maybe people would resent paying what the connection is worth. But the obvious solution is to raise the price of the connection and lower the price of electricity.

    Net metering is terrible and utilities are right to fight it. Maybe combined with time of use pricing it wouldn’t be so bad.

  3. Speaking of Northern things, I want to recommend a new translation of the Poetic Edda by Canadian poet Jeramy Dodds. Lee Hollander’s older translation has its merits, including great footnotes, but I can’t read it for very long before getting bogged down. Dodds really captures the poetry, and is exceptionally readable.

    In order to get much out of the Poetic Edda, you need to have a fair bit of background knowledge. First, read the tales in prose. Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda is still the most entertaining of these retellings (Jesse Byock’s transation is great), but Kevin Crossley-Holland is more comprehensive and still a lot of fun. Go with the latter. (And avoid Neil Gaiman’s new, overly genial versions.) Then read a good scholarly book on Germanic religion, like H.H. Ellis Davidson’s accessible Gods and Myths of Northern Europe.

    As for the heroic tales in the second half of the Poetic Edda, there isn’t a comprehensive modern retelling, nor is there any easily accessible scholarly book. But I would recommend at least reading the prose Saga of the Volsungs first. Again, Jesse Byock’s translation is top notch.

    You can read Dodds’ version of Hymir’s Lay here:

  4. Per capita income in the provinces of the Roman Empire in AD 14.

    That per-capita income map crystalizes a number of points, namely:

    1. Loss of Egypt was devastating to the Eastern Empire since it provided excess grain needed to keep the urban centers alive. And the later loss of the Anatolian heartland was catastrophic as it was both economically productive and provided much needed and reliable military manpower.

    2. Loss of Africa was perhaps equally devastating the Western Empire since it was the major exporter of grains to Italy (which was not self-sufficient in the empire).

    3. Illyria and Gaul provided the absolute majority of recruits into the imperial army, and Numidia/Mauretania, though less numerically important, still provided the highly valued and skillful light cavalry (so much so that some light cavalry units were named “equites mauri feroces” = “Ferocious Moorish Cavalry”).

    This begs further questions, such as a) did the low economic prospects of the regions induce increased military recruitment or b) did the increased recruitment in the areas lower productivity of the regions and reduce economic output? (That is, in addition to the constant warfare and raiding endemic to these border areas).

    4. Despite the Oriental provinces having the reputation of providing poor military recruits, warlords during various civil wars seemed to crave control of these eastern provinces. The reason seems clear – money, that lifeblood of armies.

    5. Italia the wealthiest! And the privilege of not paying taxes didn’t hurt either, I am sure! But are these based on GDP or GNP of the provinces? That is, given that the latifundia (prevalent in Sicily, for example) were owned by extremely wealthy absentee landowners.

  5. Do you think that one consumer genetics company will come to rule them all? I’ve talked with people who’ve done 23andme and I mentioned Seeq and ancestry, but they felt no reason to use them, even when free (which Seeq was for a little bit).

    I don’t think that most people will play with their own data and if companies don’t have a comparative advantage, then why bother buying from them? Especially if one of the first mover companies has a huge database and their friends/relatives are using it. However, I can see a low-cost good sequencing company doing well even if it comes in later.

    BTW, Gencov needs better marketing for the consumer side. Something that will simply tell average consumers why to use it vs. 23andme or other sites.

  6. Do you think that one consumer genetics company will come to rule them all? I’ve talked with people who’ve done 23andme and I mentioned Seeq and ancestry, but they felt no reason to use them, even when free (which Seeq was for a little bit).


    but u need to wait until 2020s. about 5 million americans have done DTC right now.

    i think it will be mainstreamed when it becomes part of our healthcare ecosystem. there will be side aspects similar to the diet industry probably which are less above-board or for ‘recreational use only.’

  7. I am in the middle of “The man on Mao’s right” ( ), the memoir of Chinese foreign policy interpreter and apparatchik (later under-secretary general of the UN) Ji ChaoZhu and the cultural revolution section is worth reading even if you are not a fan of modern Chinese history. When the Red Guards were unleashed in Beijing (in July and August 1966), the author (who is very intensely nationalistic, pro-CCP and generally an extremely careful mandarin who has surely written this book with as much care about being on the right side of history as he was throughout his career) paints a truly horrendous picture which is even more horrifying because of his calm detachment. He states that about one person was beaten to death per block in the city of Beijing (which has thousands of city blocks). How many countless thousands were beaten to death, blown up with dynamite, forced to eat shit or whatever other torture the young students could come up with is incalculable. But what is even more striking is the fear and the way everyone tried to lower their head and carry on. Children reported their parents, siblings stopped talking to suspect siblings. Sons and fathers disappeared and were not mentioned in case someone would slander you by association. People divorced their wives and mothers hanged themselves and the cadres being set upon were themselves almost all fervent supporters of the CCP and the revolution.

    It is worth mentioning that Ji Chaozhu is much more shocked by the cultural revolution than by the great leap forward. He thinks 30 million died in the famine of the great leap forward (an almost entirely preventable event), but he mentions it as a statistic, with no great feeling attached to it. The way he, his family and others of his background and class (educated mandarins) were treated in the great proletarian cultural revolution strikes him as a much worse crime than the way 30 million peasants were starved to death. Which makes sense, but is worth noting.
    Anyway, its worth reading just this section in a bookstore or library 🙂

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