Saturday, February 28, 2009

Red state porn consumers

NewScientist reports:
A new nationwide study (pdf) of anonymised credit-card receipts from a major online adult entertainment provider finds little variation in consumption between states.

"When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different," says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.

However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

"Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by," Edelman says. ...

"One natural hypothesis is something like repression: if you're told you can't have this, then you want it more," Edelman says.
No, not exactly. The study found that a few more people subscribe to porn in Utah than Montana, and other studies found that more attend church in Utah. But we don't know that any church-goers are subscribing to porn, or that anyone is simultaneously consuming porn and outraged by porn.

Maybe people in Utah attend church more in order to pray for their non-church-going neighbors who are addicted to porn. Maybe also some porn consumers would rather have less porn on the internet. It would take a lot more research to show some sort of repression theory.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Failure of low-fat diets

Another big medical study failed to show that any diet is healthier than any other diet. I think that they were trying to show that a low-fat diet was better for losing weight. It is not.

Anderson shows his loyalty

Here is the 2005 SFGate story about the Greg Anderson conviction:
Greg Anderson, 39, weight trainer to San Francisco Giants' star Barry Bonds, was sentenced to three months in prison and three months of home confinement for conspiring to distribute steroids to professional baseball players. ...

The sentences were the result of a plea deal ...

Judge Susan Illston expressed frustration that the law didn't allow tougher sentences for Conte and Anderson.

At its heart, Illston said, BALCO was about athletes who knowingly broke the rules of their sports by using performance-enhancing drugs.

"They were cheating, and you helped them cheat," Illston told Conte, saying he set out to provide sports stars with "disguising agents that would make the drugs difficult or impossible to detect" on doping tests.

She called Anderson's steroid dealing "criminally wrong and morally wrong" and faulted him for continuing to protect the baseball stars to whom he provided drugs.

"Mr. Anderson is not naming names," she said. "... He doesn't want to harm his friends."
So the judge really wanted to punish Anderson for helping baseball players violate the baseball ethics, for not naming names, and for his loyalty to his friends. But she could only punish him for his guilty plea. Helping to break home run records is not a crime.

It seems to me that the judge was acknowledging that Anderson's plea bargain allowed him to avoid naming names. If so, then he should not have to name names now at the Barry Bonds trial.

This same judge now says that most of the evidence against Barry Bonds suffers from the same flaw -- the feds don't have a witness to testify about the link to Bonds. The feds need Anderson to double-cross him, just as a couple of Bonds's former associates have double-crossed him.

Mark Purdy, a local Bonds-hating sportswriter writes:
And so the judge, the Honorable Susan Illston, will have to make a choice. She can send Anderson back behind bars yet one more time. Or she could tell Anderson "thanks" and send him home, telling prosecutors they don't have a case. Or she could think about it awhile. And bet on the prosecutors seeking yet another trial delay. As we all know, baseball has no time limit or clock. Neither does the Balco trial, apparently.

In fact, right about now, the government must consider the Bonds case one of those fixer-upper houses that has turned into a bottomless money pit. But there has been so much dough invested in the project — millions and millions of taxpayer dollars — that no one in charge wants to blow up the house and walk away.

Some people might even be rooting for Anderson at this point, admiring his loyalty. But shouldn't he be more loyal to his country? The American legal system is based on witnesses not lying in court.
Yes, I admire Anderson's loyalty. He is not lying in court. He is not breaking his deal. He is obeying the law. He cooperated with the feds by pleading guilty and supplying the testimony that shut down Balco. What he is not doing is cooperating with a multimillion dollar effort to discredit some baseball records. Good for him.

The feds are the ones who have broken their deals. Their deal with Anderson was that he would not have to name names of baseball players. Their deal with Bonds was that they would keep his grand jury testimony secret. Their job was over when they shut down Balco.

Update: The feds decided today to postpone the Barry Bonds trial, while they hunt for more admissible evidence. I think that they should just give up. There must be some more serious crimes than breaking home run records.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Social neuroscience voodoo

Seed mag reports:
That area of research is the burgeoning subfield of social neuroscience, which seeks to understand the neurobiological basis of social behavior. Using neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI, researchers correlate neural activity with social and behavioral measures in order to pinpoint areas of the brain associated with social decision making or emotional reactivity.

The paper argues that the way many social neuroimaging researchers are analyzing their data is so deeply flawed that it calls into question much of their methodology. Specifically, Vul and his coauthors claim that many, if not most, social neuroscientists commit a nonindependence error in their research in which the final measure (say, a correlation between behavior and brain activity in a certain region) is not independent of the selection criteria (how the researchers chose which brain region to study), thus allowing noise to inflate their correlation estimates. Further, the researchers found that the methods sections that were clearing peer review boards were woefully inadequate, often lacking basic information about how data was analyzed so that others could evaluate their methods.
I think that the trick to publication is to include some pretty pictures of brain scans, and to have some data claiming to find some correlations. Science editors are just dying to believe that modern science is figuring out the brain.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Avoid teachers with education degrees

Public school teachers get pay raises from gaining seniority and from getting a master's degree in education. According to a recent Bill Gates lecture, those teachers with master's degrees in education actually do worse on the available performance measures.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Brits deny that marriage is good for kids

A UK mag reports:
As a result of increased break-up, a third of British 16-year-olds now live apart from their biological father. ...

For example, when asked whether ‘Married couples make better parents than unmarried ones’, 40 per cent of respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey disagreed, compared with 28 per cent who agreed. When asked whether divorce should be harder if children are under 16, 30 per cent agreed, 38 per cent disagreed, and 26 per cent were equivocal. The vast majority of respondents (78 per cent) agreed that: ‘It is not divorce that harms children, but conflict between their parents.’
For centuries, people have believed that it is better for kids if their parents are married. It appears that most Europeans do not believe that anymore.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New caller id service

Here is a complaint about a new Caller ID service:
The service comes as bad news to advocates for domestic violence victims, who fought hard to make free blocking an option in the early days of Caller ID. "I have huge concerns about that,” says Cindy Southworth, director of technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in Washington, D.C. Southworth fears that abusers will use the new service to locate partners fleeing a violent relationship. ...

The problem is serious, because domestic violence victims who've fled an abusive relationship often have to stay in contact with their abuser by phone, particularly in situations where the former couple share custody of their children,” Southworth says.

"The judge will require that the victim contact the offender to discuss where they’re dropping the children off, for example," says Southworth.
Someone is mixed up here. Caller ID just sends the caller's phone number, and not the address. If two parents share child-rearing responsibilities, then they need to be able to talk to each other. Caller ID just helps the other parent return a phone call, and does not give a location. Some phone numbers are listed with addresses in the phone book, but the caller can always use an unlisted number or a cell phone. Domestic violence is a non-issue.

A commenter writes:
If a battered wife wants to talk directly to her abusive husband, then she is absolutely stupid. Sorry. Battered wives should talk to abusive husband thru lawyers and police officers only. ...

Battered wives must be isolated from their abusers quickly, swiftly and irrevocably. If the system does not do that, they go back to him, many times because they think that they don't have marketable skills / enough money to raise the kids or to live, sometimes because religion tells them that they must cope with that, sometimes even because they were conditioned by the abuser to think they deserve to be beaten.

If she made it to the shelter, she calls 911 (999/190), the police gets her kids wherever they are, and they go thru the system. For the night, they don't stay with the abuser. She does not call him. Her lawyer/public defendant/the DA gets the abuser arrested, and the judge will see if it is enough a court order for him to be out of the house.

IN NO CIRCUMSTANCES should abuser and abused exchange words directly. If visitation is granted to him (normally after some time), the victim should arrange for other person (relative, neighbor) to deal with the exchanges of the kids, and should call 911 (etc) at once if the abuser disobeys any terms of custody and/or visitations, because he does not want to go to jail in contempt.

This is women's rights protection 101, ...
So women's rights consist of assuming that women are too stupid to decide who they want to talk to, and using the law to prevent them from calling their boyfriends? Weird.

At any rate, none of this should concern anyone. If you are concerned, just get a cell phone. If someone calls you back and you don't want to talk, then just don't answer the phone. It is that simple.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Advice on proper eating habits

Today's bad advice:
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend of 10 years, ... Simon is 30 now and eats only hamburgers, french fries, pizza and other fried or carb-loaded food. He includes absolutely no vegetables or lean protein in his diet. ... I love all kinds of foods. What can I do to bring Simon over to my side? -- WORRIED ABOUT SIMON IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR WORRIED: Until your boyfriend is willing to face the fact that he has a problem, and is willing to do something about it, there is nothing you or I can do. Simon may eat the way he does because he has abandonment issues or because he never learned proper eating habits in the first place. But until he's willing to face up to what's eating him and change the way he is eating, nothing will change.
If the concern is about Simon's health, then she could present scientific evidence that his diet is harmful. If she just wants to be taken to fancier restaurants, then maybe she can offer to exchange favors.

There is no proof that vegetables or lean protein are essential to a healthy diet.

Vitamins are worthless

The NY Times reports:
In the past few years, several high-quality studies have failed to show that extra vitamins, at least in pill form, help prevent chronic disease or prolong life.
That's right, there is no scientific evidence that vitamin pills have any benefit to typical Americans.

The only exceptions I know are people with rare medical problems, and people who don't get much sunlight. There is some evidence that people who lack sunlight would benefit from more vitamin D. I don't know how much sunlight or vitamin D is needed. But otherwise, vitamin supplements appear to be worthless.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

UK gives bad fat advice

The Half Sigma blog writes:
The UK government says you need to give your children less fat:
Children should be stopped from drinking full-fat milk from the age of two to prevent clogged arteries and heart disease in later life, the Government's Food Standards Agency will say today.
But the very same day, the government of the Netherlands says that children need to eat fat. ... I’m with the Netherlands on this one. They have the world’s tallest people, so they must be doing something right.
He's right. Kids need fat. We have a lot of fat kids, but it is not from eating too much fat.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

At odds with the feminist establishment

Christina Hoff Sommerswrites:
For the past two decades I have devoted myself to studying the influence of feminism on American culture-—with a special focus on campus feminism ... What I am is a philosophy professor with a respect for logic, clear thinking, rules of evidence and –- I hope –- a strong sense of fairness. In fact, I think it’s my bias toward logic, reason, and fairness that has put me at odds with the feminist establishment.

Monday, February 09, 2009

State workers are whining

The SF Calif paper reports:
More than 200,000 state government employees were off the job Friday as California imposed its first furloughs in state history to save money during an unprecedented fiscal crisis. ...

Shelia Byars, 47, a hearing officer at the DMV office in Van Nuys, said she would lose $200 in pay on Friday and about $400 a month. She was among about a dozen union members who protested under drizzling skies outside the downtown Los Angeles DMV office.

"It feels like we're being punished because we chose a career in state government," she said.
Punished? Three million Americans have lost their jobs in the last year. Millions more have lost much of their life savings. Meanwhile, California state salaries have grown uncontrollably. The state is spending twice what it was spending just ten years ago. There would be no fiscal crisis if the state would just cut back to what it was spending a couple of years ago. The state employee unions are extremely greedy.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Local papers hate Bonds

A San Jose newspaper editorial writes:
"The fact that someone should write in the newspaper is, I've never failed a drug test." — Barry Bonds, Sept. 18, 2005

... Court documents released Wednesday showed that he tested positive for three types of steroids from 2000 to 2003.

Some argue enough is enough. Now that it's clear Bonds was juiced, stop wasting taxpayer money on trying to convict him. ... That would be acceptable if Major League Baseball were seriously trying to clean up the sport — and if Bonds had come clean to the grand jury and to fans.
The above Bonds quote is true, or at least it was true at the time. Bonds passed that 2003 drug test. It has now been reported that Alex Rodriguez failed it, but Bonds passed it. The feds now say that Bonds's sample contained THG, but no one knew how to test for that in 2003. Bonds did admit in 2003 to taking what is now known as THG.

MLB is now testing for steroids and other drugs, and punishing players who test positive. It is cleaning up the sport. I don't know why the local reporters hate Bonds so much, but I don't think that they should accuse him of lying unless they can show that he made some false statement.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Novel with math plot

I somehow missed this book:
The plot centers on a Sri Lankan mathematician who, dissatisfied with Andrew Wiles's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, comes up with his own, simpler proof. But then the mathematician takes a back seat in the story as a group dedicated to stopping wars takes center stage and an alien armada threatens to attack Earth. "Disappointingly, the disparate plot threads never mesh," the review says.
Maybe they will mesh in a sequel.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Evidence against Barry Bonds

It is getting harder to defend Barry Bonds, now that the feds have disclosed their evidence:
(02-04) 17:57 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Giants slugger Barry Bonds used the BALCO designer steroid "the clear" during the 2003 baseball season and at the same time was taking a female fertility drug that can help beat steroid tests, federal prosecutors say.

Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, was secretly tape-recorded that same year describing the regimen of undetectable banned drugs that baseball's all-time home run leader was using, the prosecutors said in documents made public Wednesday.
I still don't see a smoking gun. Bonds tested negative for steroids in 2003, and the sample was supposed to have been destroyed. The feds raided the MLB samples, and claim to have found Bonds' sample, even tho it does not have Bonds' name on it. They retested it, and found THG. But Bonds had admitted that he used what Balco called the Clear, and what is now known to have contained THG.

The tape-recording was almost certainly illegal, and inadmissable as evidence. It is also hearsay, unless Anderson testifies, and it appears that he will not. Even if the tape is admitted, it is only evidence about what Anderson knew, not what Bonds knew.

Everyone in the SF Calif area predicts that Bonds is going to prison. All the local reporters say the case against Bonds is a slam dunk. I am not so sure.

I do know that Bonds was subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury about whether Balco was selling drugs without FDA approval. Bonds was promised immunity and secrecy for his testimony. The promise was not kept, as his testimony was leaked to local reporters who hated him and wrote nasty articles and books about him. Maybe Bonds lied to preserve his public reputation, but he did not impede the Balco investigation. Balco was shut down. The principals went to jail. The feds got what they wanted. Maybe Bonds realized that the feds were not going to keep their secrecy promises. It seems to me that the feds just didn't like Bonds breaking home run records, and they spent five years trying to figure out a way to break him.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Congress offers job security for whiners

MND Vox Populi reports:
As lawmakers tediously debate the economic stimulus plan, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California is pushing for change that we can really believe in. It’s called the Security and Financial Empowerment Act – SAFE for short – a bill that she and Rep. Ted Poe of Texas introduced in the Congress this past week.

The concept is so simple, it’s amazing no one dreamed this up before.

Here’s how it works: All you have to do is trot down to the local courthouse and convince the judge your husband or boyfriend did something that caused “substantial emotional distress or psychological trauma” – those are the words from the SAFE bill:

The bill never defines those words. So exactly what is emotional distress or trauma? ...

If passed, the bill will entitle you to take 30 days of emergency leave every year. That will allow you to obtain counseling, seek legal assistance, move to a new house, or, as explained by the bill, take “other actions to increase the safety of the employee.” Obviously a little vacation jaunt to Florida can do wonders to protect you from your abuser.

And what if you simply don’t want to work? Again, Rep. Roybal-Allard offers hope! Because Title II of the bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to grant you a new entitlement to unemployment compensation.
My guess is that most women have a complaint about a husband or boyfriend causing emotional distress.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

20 worst foods

Men's Health magazine lists 20 of the worst supermarket foods, and the worst packaged food is a chicken pot pie.

The main complaint seems to be that the package contains 2 530-calorie servings, but the editor thinks that someone will eat both portions himself and get far. So it recommends a lower calorie chicken dish instead.

This is crazy advice. If you don't want to get fat, then don't eat so much. A food does not become bad just because two portions are in a package.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Kids banned from snow-covered parks

News from the British nanny state:
Camden Council in North London decided to lock all of its gated parks because the snow has made paths slippery.

It meant that children enjoying a day off because of school closures could not take advantage of the deepest snow for 20 years in at least four popular parks.

A spokesman for the council said that grit put down on the pathways on Sunday had not been enough to cope with the heavy snowfall overnight, so the parks had been closed on safety grounds.
Of course snow can be slippery. That makes it fun for kids.