Recent Articles

Unread journal articles

| March 18, 2014 | 2 Replies

If you spend many months writing a journal article, will anyone read it? If you are lucky, yes, according to this article at Pacific-Standard.

A burgeoning field of academic study called citation analysis (it’s exactly what it sounds like) has found that this joke holds true for not just dissertations, but many academic papers. A study at the University of Indiana found that “as many as 50% of papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors.” That same study concluded that “some 90% of papers that have been published in academic journals are never cited.” That is, nine out of 10 academic papers—which both often take years to research, compile, submit, and get published, and are a major component by which a scholar’s output is measured—contribute little to the academic conversation.

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The Fourth Amendment should be top secret

| March 18, 2014 | Reply

Here’s a well written article by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. Of course, it’s tongue in cheek.

But listen to the serious argument by an attorney who represented Homeland Security, and a response by Freedom of Press Foundation:

“You can’t debate our intelligence capabilities and how to control them in the public without disclosing all of the things that you’re discussing to the very people you’re trying to gather intelligence about,” he said. “Your targets are listening to the debates.” In fact, he continued, they’re listening particularly closely. For that reason, publicly debating intelligence techniques, targets and limits is foolish. As soon as targets figure out the limits of what authorities can touch, they’ll change their tactics accordingly. In his view, limits should be set in secret. A class of overseers with security clearances can make the necessary judgment calls.

Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, attempted to defend normal democratic debate. “What separates us from countries like Russia and China is that we can have these types of debates with an informed public that are completely aware of what types of surveillance are available to governments and what the legal standards are,” he argued. “We’re not specifically debating who the NSA is going to spy on, but whole surveillance regimes. If we didn’t debate that in this country, the Fourth Amendment would be classified. But it’s not.”

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Cosmos

| March 18, 2014 | Reply

Are you watching the new version of “Cosmos,” hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Excellent work so far. You can get the episodes here, at least for awhile.

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Diane Feinstein doesn’t like it when she herself is the victim of government spying

| March 18, 2014 | Reply

Hypocrisy is not a beautiful thing, though sometimes it is a tiny bit gratifying. Rolling Stone reports. My favorite is #8:

8. The CIA was so angered by the Senate having its hands on the Panetta Review that it spied on the work of its Senate overseers.

[O]n January 15, 2014, CIA Director [John] Brennan requested an emergency meeting to inform me and Vice Chairman Chambliss that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a “search” – that was John Brennan’s word – of the committee computers at the offsite facility. This search involved not only a search of documents provided to the committee by the CIA, but also a search of the “stand alone” and “walled-off” committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications.

According to Brennan, the computer search was conducted in response to indications that some members of the committee staff might already have had access to the Internal Panetta Review. The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the Internal Review, or how we obtained it.

Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computers.

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How to break habits

How to break habits

| March 18, 2014 | Reply

This is a good collection of advice on how to break a bad habit.

Here are the first 3 steps:

Step 1: Define the habit. What is the behavior you want to stop?

Step 2: Identify your trigger. What is the cue that sets you off? It can be subtle — a time of day, a memory, an odor, an emotion or a set routine. Ask yourself: I do this habit whenever I [fill in the blank]?

Step 3: Identify the reinforcement. What are you really getting out of this action?

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Foot in the door effect

| March 17, 2014 | Reply

This video makes the point that you might want to get your foot in the door before seeking the full measure of what you seek.

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Bug church

| March 17, 2014 | 1 Reply

Here’s another religion cartoon I spotted on FB. Can’t quite make out the author, or I would provide full attribution.

bug church

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Amazing pool shots

| March 15, 2014 | Reply

I’ve always enjoyed these creative collections of billiards trick shots.

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Collapse of industrial civilization

| March 15, 2014 | Reply

As reported by the U.K. Guardian, the unsustainable ways of modern societies is posing a serious threat:

A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

Noting that warnings of ‘collapse’ are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.” Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to “precipitous collapse – often lasting centuries – have been quite common.”

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