Thursday, July 27, 2017

You’ll find me buried, living-dead In these verses that you’ve read.

When I'm Killed
by Robert Graves

When I’m killed, don’t think of me
Buried there in Cambrin Wood,
Nor as in Zion think of me
With the Intolerable Good.
And there’s one thing that I know well,
I’m damned if I’ll be damned to Hell!

So when I’m killed, don’t wait for me,
Walking the dim corridor;
In Heaven or Hell, don’t wait for me,
Or you must wait for evermore.
You’ll find me buried, living-dead
In these verses that you’ve read.

So when I’m killed, don’t mourn for me,
Shot, poor lad, so bold and young,
Killed and gone — don’t mourn for me.
On your lips my life is hung:
O friends and lovers, you can save
Your playfellow from the grave.

Translation from Swedish: Socialism is for dweebs

From Individual risk preferences and the demand for redistribution by Manja Gärtnera, Johanna Mollerstromb, and David Seim. Abstract:
Redistributive policies can provide an insurance against future negative economic shocks. This, in turn, implies that an individual's demand for redistribution is expected to increase with her risk aversion. To test this prediction, we elicit risk aversion and demand for redistribution through a well-established set of measures in a representative sample of the Swedish population. We document a statistically significant and robust positive relation between risk aversion and the demand for redistribution that is also economically important. We show that previously used proxies for risk aversion (such as being an entrepreneur or having a history of unemployment) do not capture the effect of our measure of risk aversion but have distinctly different effects on the demand for redistribution. We also show evidence indicating that risk aversion can explain significant parts of the well-studied relations between age and gender on the one hand and demand for redistribution on the other.

Fleet Street on the wagon — I ask you!

Diary by Keith Waterhouse in the 13 May, 1995 Spectator. On the old British center of journalism, Fleet Street, and the new.
A non-drinking journalist is a paradox, like a non-swimming fish. Yet the plague of teetotalism is spreading through what we still call Fleet Street. The Murdoch papers have been completely dry for some time. Now the Independent also carries the Prohi- bition banner. No wonder the paper looks as if it's been put together by people who are stone-cold sober. And it's not only in the office. The last time I had lunch with someone from the Indie, she wouldn't have any wine, thank you, as she had to go back to Canary Wharf. Fleet Street on the wagon — I ask you! Whoever heard of a Perrier press?

Putting some parameters on what we don't yet know

From Measuring Social Connectedness by Michael Bailey, Ruiqing (Rachel) Cao, Theresa Kuchler, Johannes Stroebel, and Arlene Wong. The abstract:
We introduce a new measure of social connectedness between U.S. county-pairs, as well as between U.S. counties and foreign countries. Our measure, which we call the "Social Connectedness Index" (SCI), is based on the number of friendship links on Facebook, the world's largest online social networking service. Within the U.S., social connectedness is strongly decreasing in geographic distance between counties: for the population of the average county, 62.8% of friends live within 100 miles. The populations of counties with more geographically dispersed social networks are generally richer, more educated, and have a higher life expectancy. Region-pairs that are more socially connected have higher trade flows, even after controlling for geographic distance and the similarity of regions along other economic and demographic measures. Higher social connectedness is also associated with more cross-county migration and patent citations. Social connectedness between U.S. counties and foreign countries is correlated with past migration patterns, with social connectedness decaying in the time since the primary migration wave from that country. Trade with foreign countries is also strongly related to social connectedness. These results suggest that the SCI captures an important role of social networks in facilitating both economic and social interactions. Our findings also highlight the potential for the SCI to mitigate the measurement challenges that pervade empirical research on the role of social interactions across the social sciences.
An interesting step forward in measuring and understanding social networks and their consequence.

Not a criticism of the researchers approach but a matter of curiosity.
How many people, as personal individuals, use how many social networking sites?

How do they use those sites and for what purpose and duration?

What is the measured correlation for those individuals between the networks on the different social networking platforms they use?
For example, I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. Pinterest I use only to store images, not as a social networking platform. LinkedIn I use almost solely to keep track of colleagues with only the lightest of social networking engagement. Twitter I use for information access. Facebook I use to keep track of family and friends from my youth when I was growing up overseas. There would be almost no networking element to Pinterest or Twitter. The degree of network overlap between my LinkedIn network and my Facebook network would be minimal.

I think what the researchers has done is interesting but I also think there are a lot more points of consideration to take into account.

Tyler Cowen summarizes the key findings as:
1. For the population of the average county, 62.8% of friends live within 100 miles.

2. Over distances of less than 200 miles, the elasticity of friends to distance is about – 2.0, and about – 1.2 for distances greater than 200 miles.

3. Conditional on distance, social connectedness is significantly stronger within state lines.

4. “Counties with a higher social capital index have less geographically concentrated social networks.”

5. Social connectedness predicts trade flows, even after controlling for distance, and it also predicts patent citations.
All interesting but I am not sure what it tells us that we don't already know. Each one of these observations can be argued into a pretzel. For example, "Social connectedness predicts trade flows" might as easily be "Trade flow predicts social connectedness," i.e. the flow of causation might be the reverse of that implied. You do business and then you create relationships.

Personally, I am also concerned about the county-based approach to the analysis. After the election in 2016, there was a slew of maps looking at voting patterns by county. And that is useful to an extent. The drawback is that counties have a high standard deviation in population size ranging from a few dozens of people to nearly ten million (Los Angeles). By looking only at county level voting, you end up with a map that is a vast sea of red (Republicans) and a few small lakes of blue (Democrats). It is an interesting and useful perspective up to a point but is not a complete perspective when the election was within a couple of points.

Kudos to Bailey et al for focusing on the measurement of networks but I think we are at the very beginning of an immense field of inquiry and all early findings will be just a matter of sketching the terrain for later detailed exploration.

Thanatos Savehn (in the comments) puts it more bluntly.
Actually, you can specify your model first and then run a test to generate some data. If the data fits well you’re discovered something (e.g. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/07/how-a-guy-from-a-montana-trailer-park-upturned-150-years-of-biology/491702/ ) Sadly, only risk takers will look into an urn full of hypotheses, each with a prior probability of being true of 0.001 or less, pull out a promisingly interesting one and risk his reputation, time and future income by testing it. And most academics are by nature not risk takers. So instead they find some data, put their creative abilities into piecing it all together into a coherent and marketable (helpful, clever, weird, PC, etc.) narrative and sell it to the gullible public.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Where lies the land to which the ship would go?

Where Lies the Land?
by Arthur Hugh Clough

Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

On sunny noons upon the deck’s smooth face,
Link’d arm in arm, how pleasant here to pace!
Or o’er the stern reclining, watch below
The foaming wake far widening as we go

On stormy nights, when wild northwesters rave,
How proud a thing to fight with wind and wave!
The dripping sailor on the reeling mast
Exults to bear, and scorns to wish it past.

Where lies the land to which the ship would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away,
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

Getting to yes across cultures

Getting to yes across cultures from HBR



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pigeons in the park

From The New Yorker

Click to enlarge.


For last year's words belong to last year's language And next year's words await another voice.

Little Gidding is the last of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. Wikipedia has some background to the poem.

It can be read as a mystical poem, a theological poem, a poem of culture and allusion. Like much of Eliot's work, I respond more to individual lines than I do to the entire poem. That said, all of Eliot's work has grown on me over the years. Maybe I will live a long enough life to read and appreciate the entirety of the poem.

Some of the lines which resonate the most:
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers.

[snip]

And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment.

[snip]

You would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

[snip]

I met one walking, loitering and hurried
As if blown towards me like the metal leaves
Before the urban dawn wind unresisting.
And as I fixed upon the down-turned face
That pointed scrutiny with which we challenge
The first-met stranger in the waning dusk
I caught the sudden look of some dead master
Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled
Both one and many; in the brown baked features
The eyes of a familiar compound ghost
Both intimate and unidentifiable.

[snip]

I may not comprehend, may not remember.

[snip]

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.

[snip

And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.

[snip]

We cannot revive old factions
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the constitution of silence
And are folded in a single party.

[snip]

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

[snip]

We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

[snip]

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

[snip]

At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

Little Gidding
(No. 4 of 'Four Quartets')
by T.S. Eliot

I

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable
Zero summer?

If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city—
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.



II

Ash on an old man's sleeve
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended.
Dust inbreathed was a house—
The walls, the wainscot and the mouse,
The death of hope and despair,
This is the death of air.

There are flood and drouth
Over the eyes and in the mouth,
Dead water and dead sand
Contending for the upper hand.
The parched eviscerate soil
Gapes at the vanity of toil,
Laughs without mirth.
This is the death of earth.

Water and fire succeed
The town, the pasture and the weed.
Water and fire deride
The sacrifice that we denied.
Water and fire shall rot
The marred foundations we forgot,
Of sanctuary and choir.
This is the death of water and fire.

In the uncertain hour before the morning
Near the ending of interminable night
At the recurrent end of the unending
After the dark dove with the flickering tongue
Had passed below the horizon of his homing
While the dead leaves still rattled on like tin
Over the asphalt where no other sound was
Between three districts whence the smoke arose
I met one walking, loitering and hurried
As if blown towards me like the metal leaves
Before the urban dawn wind unresisting.
And as I fixed upon the down-turned face
That pointed scrutiny with which we challenge
The first-met stranger in the waning dusk
I caught the sudden look of some dead master
Whom I had known, forgotten, half recalled
Both one and many; in the brown baked features
The eyes of a familiar compound ghost
Both intimate and unidentifiable.
So I assumed a double part, and cried
And heard another's voice cry: 'What! are you here?'
Although we were not. I was still the same,
Knowing myself yet being someone other—
And he a face still forming; yet the words sufficed
To compel the recognition they preceded.
And so, compliant to the common wind,
Too strange to each other for misunderstanding,
In concord at this intersection time
Of meeting nowhere, no before and after,
We trod the pavement in a dead patrol.
I said: 'The wonder that I feel is easy,
Yet ease is cause of wonder. Therefore speak:
I may not comprehend, may not remember.'
And he: 'I am not eager to rehearse
My thoughts and theory which you have forgotten.
These things have served their purpose: let them be.
So with your own, and pray they be forgiven
By others, as I pray you to forgive
Both bad and good. Last season's fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.
Since our concern was speech, and speech impelled us
To purify the dialect of the tribe
And urge the mind to aftersight and foresight,
Let me disclose the gifts reserved for age
To set a crown upon your lifetime's effort.
First, the cold friction of expiring sense
Without enchantment, offering no promise
But bitter tastelessness of shadow fruit
As body and soul begin to fall asunder.
Second, the conscious impotence of rage
At human folly, and the laceration
Of laughter at what ceases to amuse.
And last, the rending pain of re-enactment
Of all that you have done, and been; the shame
Of motives late revealed, and the awareness
Of things ill done and done to others' harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools' approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.'
The day was breaking. In the disfigured street
He left me, with a kind of valediction,
And faded on the blowing of the horn.



III

There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Being between two lives—unflowering, between
The live and the dead nettle. This is the use of memory:
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country
Begins as attachment to our own field of action
And comes to find that action of little importance
Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.
If I think, again, of this place,
And of people, not wholly commendable,
Of no immediate kin or kindness,
But of some peculiar genius,
All touched by a common genius,
United in the strife which divided them;
If I think of a king at nightfall,
Of three men, and more, on the scaffold
And a few who died forgotten
In other places, here and abroad,
And of one who died blind and quiet
Why should we celebrate
These dead men more than the dying?
It is not to ring the bell backward
Nor is it an incantation
To summon the spectre of a Rose.
We cannot revive old factions
We cannot restore old policies
Or follow an antique drum.
These men, and those who opposed them
And those whom they opposed
Accept the constitution of silence
And are folded in a single party.
Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.



IV

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.



V

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this
Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

It is a place crying out for the convenience of warm, dry clothes.

From One household staple sums up why Americans and Brits will never see the world the same way by Corinne Purtill.

The exercise is tired, using a single fulcrum upon which to distinguish two different cultures. It is familiar but does have some element of truth to it.
This last sentence encapsulates what is, to me, a fundamental difference in the British and American psyches. The frustration an American feels upon removing a poorly washed, barely-dried load from his or her UK appliance isn’t really about the laundry at all. It’s about the tension between how each culture sees the world.

But first, for the uninitiated, some background. A typical London flat dweller fortunate enough to have in-home laundry facilities likely has the combo washer-dryer Furseth described above. The machine’s basketball-sized drum holds an amount equivalent to one queen-sized fitted sheet and two pillowcases, or two bath towels and up to three washcloths, or 1.7 days’ worth of a family’s dirty clothes. A wash-and-dry cycle takes three to four hours. Because the machine rumbles like a rocket on a launch pad, your drying is best done at a time that doesn’t disturb downstairs neighbors or sleeping children. Also, London water is hard and seduces the dye from the fibers of your clothes, commingling passionately for a few wild spins before draining away and leaving all items the same Dickensian gray.

The color challenge can be circumvented through assiduous sorting. But there is no getting around the fact that the drying function just doesn’t work. Clothes come out damp. The end result is a flat with socks and undershirts dangling over bathtubs and radiators. Of course, there are worse ways to live. But—why? When a technological fix is available, why would anyone choose to live this way?

Home drying technologies have been slow to catch on in the UK. An estimated 85% of US households have a clothes dryer; only 56% of UK ones do. “The first time I saw a tumble dryer was on an episode of Baywatch, when the clothes of a would-be drowning victim were put through the wash,” Furseth wrote. “My family had all the standard home appliances, but dryers aren’t very common in Europe. The idea that you could wash an outfit and wear it again the very same day seemed impossible.” That’s insane! Baywatch ran from 1989 to 2001. Electric tumble dryers were a fixture of middle-class US homes by the 1960s. What was happening in Britain during those lost decades? Why would a nation prioritize satellite television over the pleasures of freshly-laundered socks?

To an American, this is baffling. Britain is not sunny Italy, where I’m guessing you can simply fling washed clothes onto the terrazza in the morning and they’re crisp by the end of your post-prandial nap. Britain is damp. It’s wet all the time. It rained every single day for a month when I first moved there—and that was in the summer. It is a place crying out for the convenience of warm, dry clothes.

[snip]

This acceptance is at the heart of many American immigrants’ frustrations about life in the UK. And it highlights a fundamental cultural between the US and UK that I’d characterize, broadly, as a British inclination to accept things as they are, versus an American inclination to alter and change them.
What she says is all true.

Decades ago, a cartoonist in Punch (or possibly it was the Spectator) made the same point much more succinctly.

The single frame cartoon showed some angels in heaven, in the foreground, speaking to one another were two English angels, and on a cloud in the background, a rowdy group of angels hooting and hollering, clearly celebrating something. The one English angel says to the other in explanation, "Its the Yanks. They've struck oil."

That, to me, summarizes the difference in cultural orientation. The Americans are always seeking to make things better while the British, as described by Purtille, do take pride in their stiff upper lips, and capacity to muddle through no matter how challenging the circumstances.

Monday, July 24, 2017

You are going to believe - it's up to you what you believe in

If true, some interesting implications: Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s by Clay Routledge.
Furthermore, evidence suggests that the religious mind persists even when we lose faith in traditional religious beliefs and institutions. Consider that roughly 30 percent of Americans report they have felt in contact with someone who has died. Nearly 20 percent believe they have been in the presence of a ghost. About one-third of Americans believe that ghosts exist and can interact with and harm humans; around two-thirds hold supernatural or paranormal beliefs of some kind, including beliefs in reincarnation, spiritual energy and psychic powers.

These numbers are much higher than they were in previous decades, when more people reported being highly religious. People who do not frequently attend church are twice as likely to believe in ghosts as those who are regular churchgoers. The less religious people are, the more likely they are to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about U.F.O.s, intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans and related conspiracies about a government cover-up of these phenomena.

An emerging body of research supports the thesis that these interests in nontraditional supernatural and paranormal phenomena are driven by the same cognitive processes and motives that inspire religion. For instance, my colleagues and I recently published a series of studies in the journal Motivation and Emotion demonstrating that the link between low religiosity and belief in advanced alien visitors is at least partly explained by the pursuit of meaning. The less religious participants were, we found, the less they perceived their lives as meaningful. This lack of meaning was associated with a desire to find meaning, which in turn was associated with belief in U.F.O.s and alien visitors.
Everyone has a weltanschauung - whether it is self-constructed from the ground up, is an established ideology, a religion, a set of cultural beliefs, or is a set of assumed but unproven beliefs. You have a weltanschauung. What it is, what you make of it, and how useful it proves is an empirical question.