Open Thread, 9/3/2017


I found the above video through Rod Dreher. It touched me on a visceral level because the baby in the first portion looks strikingly like my youngest. He’s sitting and smiling so much now. Really appreciating his infant-hood, as this is the third time we’re going through this.

All I can say in relation to having children is that now I know what matters, all that matters, and that none of the rest matters.

The penultimate season of Game of Thrones has come and gone. They’re really compressing a lot of material into only a few episodes. I didn’t watch the earlier seasons before the show got ahead of the books, but I have to think they were more leisurely. I’ll watch the final season to get a sense of the ending in the books in case George R. R. Martin doesn’t finish them, but I think the sprint to the finish line means that if he does write the remaining books he’ll have a lot of free territory to himself.

Now on Stage: The Countdown to a New Taylor Swift Album. Streaming has gone from 23 to 63 percent of the market in three years.

Neanderthals and Denisovans as biological invaders.

Evolutionary biology today and the call for an extended synthesis.

The second sage. The fact that Westerners don’t know who Mencius is (a premise of the piece) is ridiculous. But probably true. I would still recommend Xunzi: The Complete Text for another early Confucian viewpoint.

I added a disclosures page. Mostly all that matters right now is that I work at Insitome, trying to do interesting things in the personal genomics space (and now that the Helix store is open you can purchase our first offering).

If you haven’t, please sign-up for my newsletter. I’m seeing more and more despondency on the nature of Twitter from the people who use it the most and produce the vast majority of the content. I suspect it will collapse sooner than later….

The Looming Decline of the Public Research University. As someone with intellectual aspirations but a conservative political viewpoint I’m conflicted. On the one hand the academy produces great work. On the other hand a lot of academics don’t see a difference between someone like me and Nazis (judging by “likes” of things I’ve retweeted to test the waters in relation to those promoting the proposition). Like it or not many conservatives perceive that a subset of the academy is dangerous to us on existential grounds. Why should we pay for our own destruction? If we could surgically remove these departments then the university could maintain itself, but that seems impossible. So you see where the future leads.

This is probably the worst US flood storm ever, and I’ll never be the same. “…Houston may not be a nice place to visit, but you would want to live there. I do.”

The Best DNA Ancestry Testing Kit. There is some good and some bad in this review. But it’s thorough.

Fun fact, 44% of this site’s traffic is now mobile.

18 thoughts on “Open Thread, 9/3/2017

  1. I’m a contributor to those mobile stats, typing this out on a tablet right now. I used to wonder what tablets’ “niche” was, but now I realize it is “enjoying the internet on a device bigger than a phone screen on your bed”.

    The showrunners for Game of Thrones are really destination-centric, so at least the ultimate ending might be the same.

    Only 20% of the alumni for the Midwestern research schools even stay in state. I’m surprised it isn’t an even harder sell to get the state’s to provide funding.

  2. Yes, they are all that matter.

    After my daughter was born, predictably people kept asking me in very bubbly, cheery voices how I felt about having a child. I answered honestly: “I am no longer afraid of dying.”

    I got some very weird looks for saying that, but it was the first conscious thought that formed in my mind after she was born. Apparently I was supposed to rabbit on about the miracle of birth, etc. like a lot of new parents are inclined to do. No, nothing miraculous about it to me. Biology 101, no miracles required.

    I have been very close to dying on one occasion since then, and I wasn’t afraid. I saw it coming, and had been in such intense pain unrelentingly for so long that I willed it to come and take me, so the pain would stop. I felt regret at the prospect of leaving my wife and daughter, but fear, no, there wasn’t any.

    As it happened, a very fast and skilled surgeon got to me just in time, and I didn’t die after all. Those were the words he used when he came to see me afterwards: “You were lucky – we only just got to you in time.” But it will come one day, and I’m still not afraid.

  3. Curious to know if anyone has seen “Best of Enemies” on Netflix. It’s about the Vidal/Buckley debates in the late 60s. I found the actual debates boring but thought it amazing how unbelievably relevant they were. I feel like they were discussing *current* cultural divides and I really mean that. These debates could have been taking place right now! I actually found this heartening because, the more i investigate history, the less I worry about the future of America as this seems to have been going on since the aristocrats/Quakers, Confederacy/Union, business owners/labor unions, squares/hippies. Seems less violent than ever to me. Maybe it’s even a good thing that we have both extremes – if you get too many alike people you can get South America or Chinese politics or whatever. Maybe the Enlightenment unleashed these raging extremes and we’re better for it? Idk, just thinking out loud….

  4. Regarding: All I can say in relation to having children is that now I know what matters, all that matters, and that none of the rest matters
    Now you know. I had to commit in order to discover this, and then it was beautiful!
    I worried about the world back in the day and what our progeny might face. The kids are alright! It’s largely in their hands now, and everything depends on that. Everyone says our son is beautiful, brilliant, friendly, funny, and he can get stuff done! Our gift to the world. Any other personal contributions I made will not match what he is now.

  5. “The Looming Decline of the Public Research University.”

    The fabulous invalid. Whatever their problems are the answer is always the same: give us more money. Why? Our costs are going up.

    Their costs are: 1 out of control. 2. completely unaccounted for.

    Just a small example:

    “More foreigners seek US graduate degrees in STEM fields” By Danae King in The Columbus Dispatch on Sep 3, 2017
    http://www.dispatch.com/news/20170903/more-foreigners-seek-us-graduate-degrees-in-stem-fields

    “Serrani, chairman of graduate studies in electrical and computer engineering and a professor with a focus in control systems, has seen 15 students graduate in the doctoral program, and 13 of them were international students.”

    “Of the approximately 10,000 graduate students at OSU, about 25 percent are international, said Scott Herness, interim vice provost and dean of the university’s Graduate School. Among STEM disciplines, that percentage is slightly higher, hovering around 31 percent for master’s degrees and 40 percent for doctorates.”

    How much does it cost to subsidize foreign students? Why should the taxpayers subsidize foreigners?

    I could bang on about $2 million Presidents, and $6 million football coaches. But the larger point would be missed. We haven’t the vaguest idea of what these people are doing with our money.

    I share Razib’s concern with the political climate of the campuses. But, I am more worried about the skyrocketing costs.

    My slogan would be no money without accountability and accounting.

  6. All I can say in relation to having children is that now I know what matters, all that matters, and that none of the rest matters.

    I think I would ask for a bit more context from a statement such as this. The reason I am cautious about this is that it can be a justification for objectively bad, or even evil, behavior – “It’s for my children!”

    I had an unhappy childhood. So, from early on I planned on having no child. Eventually God opened my hearts and I ended up having many. And when I first started to have children, I wanted “the best of everything” for them. It’s not just that I wanted materially good things for my children, but also that I obsessed over their well-being in exclusion to other things. I had and still have that intense and overwhelming feeling of love and affection toward them. Like nothing else matters.

    Now that my older children are at a certain age where they are starting to become autonomous human beings, my earlier feelings are tempered by experience and a bit more wisdom.

    All parents want – or should want – the best for their children – to be successful, to be affluent, to be smart, etc. But I don’t want their success to be in opposition to, or to the detriment of, the world at large. In other words, I want my children to be good – to be people with that beacon of light inside them. Moreover, I also want the world to be a good place – it would be a hollow victory to raise “successful” children in a world that has gone bad.

    So, I would caution that “the rest” indeed does matter. Children are not islands. Families are not islands unto themselves. I must share that overwhelming feeling of love and affection, not just with my children, but their friends and the neighbors’ children who play with them. I must teach them to be successful, but also to be good and to help build a good world for themselves AND OTHERS.

    Obviously very few of us are or will be saints. But every ordinary parent, I think, should keep this in mind and be wary of valuing their children in opposition to, or in exclusion of, the world.

    I answered honestly: “I am no longer afraid of dying.”

    Before I had children, I was fearless. My wife and I would ride a waverunner off the Florida Keys in a lightning storm. We would swim miles from the shore off Maui (yes, with sharks). We would ride mountain bicycles down mountains (no trail) at full speed with trees and rocks in the way. I would volunteer for dangerous assignments. I almost died several times.

    After my father died and my first couple of children were born, I came to fear death – because I was afraid of not being there for my children before they were ready to be on their own (I get why Cormac McCarthy wrote “The Road”), and also because I dreaded about not being able to see them at all.

    I had something for which to live.

  7. “I didn’t watch the earlier seasons before the show got ahead of the books, but I have to think they were more leisurely.”

    Very much nope. Earlier seasons were also extremely rushed and hard to understand if you hadn’t read the books as a result which is why recaps have become such a cottage industry.

  8. Razib–how’s the keto diet coming? I’m leaning toward trying it out. I’m curious about what your experience has been. Do you feel it was worth it?

  9. “How much does it cost to subsidize foreign students? Why should the taxpayers subsidize foreigners?”

    What makes you think that they are being subsidized?

    Lots of foreign students pay full tuition and they also work as cheap labor in TA and RA posts doing highly skilled work – part of their low pay is that the tuition waiver plus wages is still not very high pay for the work they do. Also, lots of those graduate students end up staying in the U.S. economy and increasing GDP. Foreign students also are very low costs in terms of services provided by non-university government entities.

  10. ohwilleke is right. foreign students are to some extent cash cows. when they are out of $ they TA and do other things. they can win internal fellowships….

  11. Razib–how’s the keto diet coming? I’m leaning toward trying it out. I’m curious about what your experience has been. Do you feel it was worth it?

    yes. but hard to socialize. fell off wagon during conference time…

  12. foreign students are to some extent cash cows.

    There are several layers to this:

    1. Undergraduate, upper-tier university

    High reputation universities (e.g. Harvard, Stanford, etc.) already attract full-tuition-paying native students from the upper and the upper-middle class. They do not need foreign students to fill their already gigantic coffers. The foreign students to whom they offer admissions tend to be 1) of high prestige (e.g. the Crown Prince of Jordan, son of a Chinese tycoon, etc.) and/or 2) of exceptional personal quality. In other words, they can afford to be choosy.

    2. Undergraduate, mid-tier university

    This is where the “cash cow” syndrome becomes apparent. In particular, many mid-tier state universities are having financial shortfalls, in part due to budget cuts from the states.* Those universities on the higher reputation end of the spectrum of the “mid-tier” are now meeting the shortfalls by admitting more out-of-state students who pay the higher out-of-state rates. Those universities on the lower reputation end that have trouble attracting out-of-state students are raising revenues by aggressively attracting foreign (especially Chinese) students. This is now beginning to cause substantial cultural friction at many universities that hitherto served as a gateway to middle class professions for economically downscale native students.

    3. Undergraduate, low-tier university

    At this level, taking grossly high-priced tuitions and churning out foreign-born graduates of questionable academic merit has made them, effectively, diploma-mills.

    4. Graduate, upper-tier university

    The same dynamic as no. 1., especially for professional schools. For Ph.D. students, the personal qualities are of very high caliber.

    5. Graduate, mid-tier university

    Here is where it gets a bit thorny, especially with Ph.D. programs and particularly with state universities. Research in many fields is, to a great degree, funded by the government either directly or indirectly. In other words, there is considerable tax payer-subsidization into minting Ph.D.’s, of whom a substantial number – in STEM fields, to be specific – are foreigners (Chinese and Indian in the main). There ought to be a debate on the wisdom of spending American tax payer money to generate Chinese and Indian engineering Ph.D.’s, but there is not.

    they also work as cheap labor in TA and RA posts doing highly skilled work

    One of the reasons why many professors (“advisers”) and administrators prefer Chinese and Indian Ph.D. students is, setting aside their actual qualifications, is perceived and actual docility. Foreign students are far more afraid of losing their funding and visas and tend not to complain or “get uppity.” They also often work without getting authorship credits on research. Some would see this as importing and abusing (high IQ) foreign workers in exclusion of native (high IQ) workers.

    Also, lots of those graduate students end up staying in the U.S. economy and increasing GDP.

    Heck, just increasing population increases GDP. There is this odd cult of “increasing GDP” with some people who seem completely oblivious to negative externalities (I suppose because those externalities do not affect them).

    This is essentially high IQ immigration. It will, indeed, increase the GDP and perhaps even the GDP per capita. But the benefits accrue only to a certain (small) segment of the native population while imposing costs on others.

    *Budget gaps. The proximate cause of the budget gaps many state universities are having is indeed the increasing reluctance among many state legislatures (often Republican) to fund them lavishly. But the real reason why these gaps exist today is largely because of the growth of the administrative side of universities. The actual cost of furnishing professors and classrooms has not risen much. But there sure are today many more administrators and hugely increased associated costs, most of which I believe are of dubious value.

Comments are closed.