Shared posts

07 Jul 11:08

O que aprendi no mestrado

by Drunkeynesian
Estou há uns 3 meses enrolando pra escrever este post, que deve servir tanto para compartilhar um pouco da minha experiência com os nobres leitores quanto como um longo epitáfio para esses dois últimos anos. Agora que (temporariamente) acabaram minhas desculpas para falta de tempo livre, aqui estamos. Parte da enrolação também é devida à minha completa inabilidade de conseguir olhar para o passado em transições—vamos ver como me saio aqui.

Um bom resumo de tudo é este cartum do SMBC:

O mestrado me empurrou ladeira abaixo do "Mount Stupid" em muita coisa que eu achava que "sabia" (o sumiço do blog é, em parte, consequência disso). É muito difícil encontrar algo pra falar sobre um assunto que: i.você domina bem a ponto de saber que o básico já foi dito em outro lugar, ii. você não tem conhecimento suficiente para dizer algo que passe pelo seu novo filtro de autocrítica e, iii. você sabe de um monte de gente que escreveria melhor e com mais propriedade. Outra dificuldade associada é descer do nível de rigor e abstração que a academia impõe, que em grande medida não serve para o tal "mundo real" (i.e., a maioria dos empregos), nem para tocar um blog de público mais amplo. Acho que com o tempo vou achando um novo equilíbrio e me soltando, mas quando eu desandar a falar muito sobre qualquer coisa, tenham em mente que é mais provável que eu esteja no topo do tal Mount Stupid. 

Outras observações mais leves e, talvez, mais úteis (vou completando ao longo do tempo):

—Um outro lado do que disse acima talvez seja a tal "humildade epistêmica": saber mais sobre o tamanho do corpo de conhecimento sobre determinado assunto e a quantidade de incertezas que o cercam é o equivalente mental a levar uma surra daquele baixinho de quem você subestimou a força e chamou pra briga.

—A academia americana é muito mais generosa do que eu imaginava, pelo menos para quem consegue passar do portão. A grande maioria dos professores está disposta a gastar muito tempo com alunos, seja abrindo espaço na agenda para reuniões, respondendo e-mails ou compartilhando papers, bases de dados, códigos, etc. Um paraíso comparado ao clima de torre de marfim que predomina em alguns departamentos aqui no Brasil. Claro que alguns egos são de fato enormes e subindo na cadeia alimentar o clima talvez não seja assim tão amistoso, mas, no geral, até os professores mais famosos são acessíveis e dispostos a colaborar. No fim das contas, acho que tudo aquilo depende de uma troca incessante de ideias, e quem se isola tende a sair perdendo.

—Não dá para, hoje em dia, ser cientista social empiricista e não saber lidar com volumes colossais de dados, tanto para extrair informação e testar hipóteses quanto para gerar visualizações convincentes. Na maioria dos meus cursos usamos Stata, que é bem amigável e relativamente poderoso, mas não chega perto da fronteira. Jovens, aproveitem os neurônios frescos para aprender logo R ou Python. E a fronteira de verdade, mesmo em ciência política, está em machine learning.

—Os trade-offs saber fazer conta/ter bom raciocínio lógico e analítico x escrever bem/ser criativo/ser articulado não existem (isso eu já deveria saber). A separação dessas habilidades é coisa da preguiça intelectual daqui, ou: dá para negligenciar totalmente um lado se você for um artista genial ou um teórico brilhante, mas para nós, mortais, é muito melhor quando os dois lados se completam.

—Muitas conclusões "definitivas" e pseudocientíficas são tiradas a partir de amostras muito pequenas. Identificação causal em ciências sociais é um pesadelo.

—A boa política pública, aprendemos, deve ser tecnicamente correta, administrativamente factível e politicamente apoiável (esta é a santíssima trindade da Kennedy School). Calculem aí o quanto é difícil fazer isso em contextos de falta de mão de obra qualificada, interesses de pequenos grupos infiltrados há séculos na política e falta de capacidade de implementação do estado. Vivemos condenados a um mundo de "second" (ou "third", "fourth"...) bests.

—Microeconomia é muito mais legal (e difícil) do que eu sempre achei—cortesia tanto da minha ignorância quanto de uma horrenda geração de professores da FEA-USP.

—E, já que é pra falar mal da alma mater: é incrível notar como a USP transforma(va?) uma geração de bons estudantes (privilegiados, claro, mas tantos outros privilegiados não passavam no vestibular) em vagabundos desinteressados, e como uma universidade excelente faz algo totalmente diferente. A maioria dos meus colegas da Poli e da FEA não é menos "inteligente" que meus colegas de Harvard, mas a maioria teve trajetórias acadêmicas medíocres e enormes potenciais frustrados ou adiados, em grande medida, creio, por um sistema de incentivos que não leva o aluno a querer aprender e perseguir seus interesses. Também é chocante notar que é muito mais fácil encontrar alunos negros em Harvard do que em algumas das unidades da USP.

Tenho um monte de outras observações de caipira brasileiro deslumbrado com os EUA, mas vou poupá-los delas. Em um post futuro, falarei mais sobre o programa de mestrado que cursei.

07 Jul 02:29

Army scientists build smaller, tougher, cheaper solar cells

by Andrew Tarantola
Army researchers at the Redstone Arsenal have announced a significant breakthrough in solar energy production. They've created a photovoltaic solar panel that is smaller, more robust and less expensive to build and operate than any other panel curren...
07 Jul 14:48

Você já pensou como seria a sua vida em Aleppo?

by gustavochacra

No meu prédio em Nova York, vivem duas senhoras libanesas. Imigraram no começo da Guerra Civil do Líbano, nos anos 1970. Uma veio estudar medicina. A outra veio trabalhar na ONU. Converso muito com ambas, que ainda tem na memória uma Beirute cosmopolita sem similar no mundo hoje. Literalmente, um lugar que, como Smyrna e Alexandria, reunia o melhor do Ocidente e do Oriente.

Neste domingo, elas trouxeram uma amiga síria. Uma senhora elegante, que facilmente poderia ser confundida com alguém do Leblon, de Higienópolis ou dos Jardins. Parecia uma sócia do clube Harmonia de São Paulo ou do Country no Rio. Mas ela, na verdade, ela é de Aleppo. E, assim como as libanesas, deixou seu país por causa da Guerra Civil. A diferença é que, no caso dela, o conflito ainda está longe de terminar.

Aleppo, para quem não sabe, foi um dos grandes centros comerciais da humanidade, no corredor que une a Ásia e a Europa. É uma cidade milenar. E uma metrópole do século 21. Até 2011, tinha suas qualidades e defeitos. Diferentemente de Damasco, a capital, Aleppo era mercantil. Sempre teve uma classe média educada e multireligiosa. Os judeus, por séculos, fizeram parte do caldeirão religioso desta cidade, onde ainda convivem cristãos ortodoxos, assírios, armênios, muçulmanos sunitas, alauítas e drusos.

No começo da Guerra da Síria, Aleppo estava como Damasco – uma espécie de bolha em um país em guerra. Em 2013, porém, a guerra chegou forte a Aleppo, como um tsunami. Hoje a cidade se divide entre a área controlada pelo regime e a área controlada pelos rebeldes, muitos deles ligados à Al Qaeda. Grande parte foi destruída, incluindo a cidade velha, que era uma das mais bem preservadas do mundo com seus suqs (mercados). O governo bombardeia seus inimigos, que respondem com atentados terroristas.

Centenas de milhares de moradores de Aleppo fugiram. Os que tiveram mais sorte, para o exterior. Outros, para a costa mediterrânea ou Damasco, ambas controladas pelo regime de Bashar al Assad. Muitos, porém, tiveram que permanecer em uma cidade em guerra.

A senhora de Aleppo, em 2013, quando a guerra chegou à sua cidade, se mudou com o marido para o Cairo. Engenheiro mecânico, ele conseguiu um bom emprego na capital egípcia. Mas o Egito também está em crise. Depois de seis meses sem receber salário, deixou o emprego e voltou para a Síria. Hoje, segundo a mulher, ele tem de se esconder no corredor do prédio quando escuta os bombardeios.

Ela está temporariamente nos EUA, mas recentemente esteve na Síria visitando o marido e os filhos. Viajou para Beirute, pegou um táxi para Damasco e, de lá, um ônibus para Aleppo – é a forma mais segura de chegar à  cidade, antes ligada por avião a várias capitais europeias. Na sua visão, absolutamente todos os lados envolvidos no conflito são ruins e não existe perspectiva nenhuma. Sua única torcida é para a guerra acabar e Aleppo se reconstruir, assim como Beirute depois de ser arrasada nos anos 1980.

Como a senhora de Aleppo, há milhões de sírios. Até 2011, eles viviam em uma nação estável, por incrível que pareça. Tanto que era para a Síria que os iraquianos, especialmente os cristãos, fugiram depois da invasão americana em 2003. Ela ainda tem a sorte de poder vir aos EUA. Mas seu marido e outros milhões são prisioneiros da maior Guerra Civil do século 21.

Guga Chacra, comentarista de política internacional do Estadão e do programa Globo News Em Pauta em Nova York, é mestre em Relações Internacionais pela Universidade Columbia. Já foi correspondente do jornal O Estado de S. Paulo no Oriente Médio e em NY. No passado, trabalhou como correspondente da Folha em Buenos Aires

Comentários islamofóbicos, antissemitas, anticristãos e antiárabes ou que coloquem um povo ou uma religião como superiores não serão publicados. Tampouco são permitidos ataques entre leitores ou contra o blogueiro. Pessoas que insistirem em ataques pessoais não terão mais seus comentários publicados. Não é permitido postar vídeo. Todos os posts devem ter relação com algum dos temas acima. O blog está aberto a discussões educadas e com pontos de vista diferentes. Os comentários dos leitores não refletem a opinião do jornalista

Acompanhe também meus comentários no Globo News Em Pauta, na Rádio Estadão, na TV Estadão, no Estadão Noite no tablet, no Twitter @gugachacra , no Facebook Guga Chacra (me adicionem como seguidor), no Instagram e no Google Plus

07 Jul 07:52

Photo





07 Jul 09:00

Continuous delivery, the manual way

by sharhalakis

by @uaiHebert

07 Jul 14:46

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Truth About Centaurs

by admin@smbc-comics.com
07 Jul 04:12

Womanless Beauty Pageant Theory

by Stana
By Starla

Long time Femulate readers will recall regular contributor Starla, who perused online high school yearbooks and clipped any womanless events she found memorialized in those volumes. (You can view her collection of clips here.) 

Starla is back with her theory regarding the reasoning for the existence and popularity of womanless beauty pageants in the Deep South.


Those of you who have followed Stana’s blog for any length of time know that she shares my obsession with “civilian” womanless beauty pageants. It has been fascinating for me to seek out and discover many of these increasingly elaborate events as they have evolved over the last few years.

What has fascinated and intrigued me is that in recent years, the vast majority of the most elaborate and “realistic” pageants (in which the goal is to faithfully mimic girls and not to make fun of them with grotesque parodies), especially at the high school and middle school levels (and even occasionally elementary school), tend to take place in just two states: Alabama and Mississippi.

Yes, in two of the most religious and conservative states in the union, where gays and trans people encounter hostility and harsh judgment, people seem willing and eager to parade their tween and teen sons on a stage in up-to-date gowns, excellent wigs or natural hairstyles, perfect makeup, and high heels, and revel in the event.

Yet the cruel irony is that if any of those same young boys came home one day and announced that they were trans and want to actually become girls, those same parents would probably be horrified!

From a purely geographic standpoint, it’s not hard to imagine this phenomenon being concentrated in certain areas. After all, it's not unusual for any school fundraising or spirit building event to spread from school to nearby school. In this case, it’s also telling that while womanless pageants are held throughout the South, the few really top-notch and realistic events outside of Alabama and Mississippi tend to take place in border areas adjacent to those states. A good example is the annual pageant held at Ernest Ward Middle School, which is in the extreme northwest panhandle of Florida, just a few miles from the Alabama border. (Here in Florida, we tend to say that culturally, everything north of Gainesville is really Georgia and everything west of Tallahassee is really Alabama!)

The degree of attention to detail and realism in some of these pageants is remarkable. One recently discovered Mississippi event (in Kozciusko) had a dress shop owner bragging on her Facebook page that she had supplied dresses to four of the young male entrants in a local pageant (including her own 14-year-old son who, she proudly announced, had won the pageant). No thrift shop bargains or hand-me-downs – these were current fashions.

In many womanless events elsewhere, footwear tends to be male shoes, flip-flops, or bare feet. In these Deep South pageants, the boys almost uniformly wear stylish high heels and, judging from the ease with which they walk in them, they have practiced in them for some time. We’re talking about 3-to-4 inch heels on some of these! How many 12 to 16-year-old boys do you know who can walk gracefully in heels?

Makeup is done lavishly and professionally – one tween boy in an Alabama pageant looked like he had gotten a full M•A•C makeover. Nails are almost always painted – some even wear fake nails. A few of the pictures I’ve found show boys in open-toed shoes and it is apparent that their toenails have also been nicely painted. (This is the sort of obsessive detail that most audience members wouldn’t even be able to see from their vantage point.) 

The outfits are nicely accessorized with earrings, necklaces, bracelets, even rings. Not grandma’s old junk jewelry – stuff that would look right at home on any female pageant contestant.


And the parents – these same parents who trash Caitlyn Jenner on their Twitter feeds or fight to keep transgender students from using gender-appropriate bathrooms (if they allow trans kids at all in their schools), or encourage county clerks to ignore the SCOTUS ruling and refuse marriage licenses to gay couples, nevertheless revel proudly (and often, not ironically or jokingly) in their son winning or placing high in a womanless event. They will brag on how pretty their son looked and how they looked totally feminine. While simultaneously, their Facebook accounts feature hunting trips, NASCAR, scripture quotations, and proud, defiant and conspicuous display of the rebel flag.  

What’s going on here? 

Well, maybe they truly see no irony. For them, dressing in drag for a womanless pageant is a fun frolic, a tradition, an innocent pastime having no relation to those heathen LGBT folks. It’s even a sort of rite of passage – I’ve seen more than one parent or grandparent congratulate their young’un on his “first” womanless pageant. (Implying that there will be more to come.)

But the lengths to which they take these things! I’ve corresponded with a fellow womanless beauty pageant enthusiast who has even attended some of these events and talked to some of the parents. Believe it or not, in the most extreme examples, they have worked for weeks on finding the perfect dress, experimenting with makeup, and drilling their son in pageant deportment. This is not something they throw together two days before the event – this is serious business to many!

I strongly suspect that many of the mothers who go all-out for these events are established “pageant Moms” who have daughters who compete. Then when it’s Johnny’s turn to be “prettied up,” they just apply the same level of intensity and attention to detail to their boys as they do to their girls. 

Or they may be “wannabes” – I’ve noted a few cases in which a Mom freely admitted that they had no daughters and despaired of ever having the fun of preparing their kin for a pageant – until their son’s school held such an event and they were able to lavish their machinations on him! Beauty pageants, especially child pageants are big in the Deep South – it should perhaps not be surprising that much of this enthusiasm and borderline fanaticism spills over into the womanless pageant world.

As for the realism of the femulations, that, too, may be explainable. 

Traditionally, the South has viewed their girls and women with an inordinate degree of chivalry, seeing them as precious gems to be honored and celebrated for their femininity. To lampoon girls in a womanless pageant with an exaggerated and homely burlesque of the “fairer sex” would be anathema to them. If their boys are going to portray girls for an evening, they will do so in a way that honors and celebrates their beauty and special status.

What about the young men and boys who don female garb for these events? Well, in the region in question, they seem to enjoy the experience for the most part. This doesn’t necessarily signify anything profound. Dressing up for a womanless pageant is not going to turn a boy trans, though it may help to confirm and solidify an existing propensity or desire to crossdress in someone who’s already wired that way and provides a safe and fun way to indulge those stirrings in a socially acceptable context.

However one theorizes about this phenomenon, it is a fascinating window on the unique and contradictory culture of Dixie!









Source: Nine West
Wearing Nine West





Michel Epalza Betancourt

06 Jul 18:57

How Cool

05 May 19:37

machinery: Six-page story I did for the Monster Milk Newspaper...













machinery:

Six-page story I did for the Monster Milk Newspaper Comics anthology sometime early last year. Hagar vs. The Wizard of Id as a Conan story. One of the more successful short stories I’ve ever done, finally available online. 

Solid

06 Jul 15:07

This is why robots need faces

07 Jul 05:00

Comic for 2015.07.07

by Rob DenBleyker

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

07 Jul 07:01

Block

by Doug
06 Jul 17:53

Hacking Team Is Hacked

by schneier

Someone hacked the cyberweapons arms manufacturer Hacking Team and posted 400 GB of internal company data.

Hacking Team is a pretty sleazy company, selling surveillance software to all sorts of authoritarian governments around the world. Reporters Without Borders calls it one of the enemies of the Internet. Citizen Lab has published many reports about their activities.

It's a huge trove of data, including a spreadsheet listing every government client, when they first bought the surveillance software, and how much money they have paid the company to date. Not surprising, the company has been lying about who its customers are. Chris Soghoian has been going through the data and tweeting about it. More Twitter comments on the data here. Here are articles from Wired and The Guardian.

Here's the torrent, if you want to look at the data yourself. (Here's another mirror.) The source code is up on Github.

I expect we'll be sifting through all the data for a while.

Slashdot thread. Hacker News thread.

EDITED TO ADD: The Hacking Team CEO, David Vincenzetti, doesn't like me:

In another [e-mail], the Hacking Team CEO on 15 May claimed renowned cryptographer Bruce Schneier was "exploiting the Big Brother is Watching You FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) phenomenon in order to sell his books, write quite self-promoting essays, give interviews, do consulting etc. and earn his hefty money."

Meanwhile, Hacking Team has told all of its customers to shut down all uses of its software. They are in "full on emergency mode," which is perfectly understandable.

EDITED TO ADD: Hacking Team had no exploits for an un-jail-broken iPhone. Seems like the platform of choice if you want to stay secure.

07 Jul 00:00

Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata

"Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Give a fish a man, and he'll eat for weeks!"
07 Jul 10:58

This mural was purposely painted upside down to reflect off of the water.

06 Jul 12:14

RT @luscaspfvr: "eu te amo" "prove" http://t.co/6y6ela7F9V

by Pai Osias
800px-Coturnix_coturnix_eggs_normal.jpg
Author: Pai Osias
Source: Mobile Web (M2)
RT @luscaspfvr: "eu te amo" "prove" http://t.co/6y6ela7F9V
CJAgYCNWIAAMAXs.jpg:large
06 Jul 20:30

Photo



06 Jul 04:42

Photo



06 Jul 12:29

Scientists Predict A Talking Elephant, Szilamandee

white_elephant_talkA talking white elephant called Slizamandee could save the world with his wisdom and “teach us with the deepest voice of history”, according to an academic paper published today.

The article appeared in the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology. The authors are led by Otto E. Rössler, a biochemist. It’s called Is it Ethical to heal a young white Elephant from his physiological Autism? Many thanks to Michelle Dawson for bringing it to my attention.

Rössler et al. start out by introducing a theory of autism as “smile blindness”, suggesting that in non-autistic people, smiles serve to bond a child to his or her mother: “the playroom is the theater for a radical transformation occurring in a young human being who is not smile-blind”. They call this the “holy moment of personogenesis”.

In children who are ‘smile-blind’, this holy moment never occurs, but according to Rössler et al. this can be remedied: “these smile-blind individuals can be healed causally. Namely: by the ‘acoustic smile therapy.'” in which a positive sound is supposed to replace the smile.

Rössler et al say that this therapy was first proposed in 1968 and then “about a dozen times” since, but they admit that it has never been tried, “perhaps because it never came to the ears or eyes of an active member of the therapeutic profession”.

Nonetheless, they say, many eminent academic figures have expressed interest in acoustic smiles: Gregory Bateson and Niklas Luhmann supported it. Jürgen Habermas’ only criticism concerned the fact that an illegally printed edition of his book had been quoted. Noam Chomsky showed interest in a long phone conversation.”

So where does the elephant come in? Well:

Elephant mothers utter very deep, to the human ear, inaudible, bonding sounds for their calf and vice versa [20]. Can one use an infrasound generator with a loudspeaker carried along to consistently reward the toddler calf whenever oneself as the loving care-taker is delighted by the momentary happiness or friskiness of one’s protégé?

It goes without saying that the answer is in the positive. The consequence is bound to be the same as it was
described for the human playroom above: Interactional personogenesis.

Rössler et al say that using acoustic smile therapy, a baby elephant could be made into a person.

Imagine: a superhumanly wise elephant who talks to the more child-like humanity – a Hindu story [23] revived by modern science. Humankind would find itself in an ancient Abraham-Isaac-like situation, one could say.

…In this way, the holiest moments in a human playroom – never so far exposed to the public eye – could be reproduced in an elephant barn for everyone to witness and be moved in their hearts.

This elephant would teach itself to talk, and would become a new Nelson Mandela who would guide humanity to a “new Arcadia”:

The elephant may then love to learn to speak, in the aftermath of his having taken the initiative in trying to
reward his partner in a deep emotional connection… Eventually, the nonhuman partner might become the advisor of a planet in need of outside help.

But this will be possible only if the adoptee is never confronted with deliberate malevolence, as Jesus demanded for the holy souls of children.

The new partner of humankind would – it was argued – bring back the spirit of Mandela who was an equally foreign intelligence.

Rössler et al. note that the nuclear physicist Leo Szilard wrote a work of fiction in which dolphins turn out to be more intelligent than humanity. Therefore,

The elephant would then deserve to be given the composite name Szilard-Mandela (Szilamandee). Being human in the sense of humane is a much bigger thing than society is aware of. Szilamandee will be able to teach us with the deepest voice of history.

This is certainly the strangest thing I’ve ever read in the pages of a scientific journal, far outshining the previous record-holder. Otto Rössler is himself a remarkable researcher. A few years ago he unsuccesfully sued CERN in an attempt to prevent the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) from switching on.

Rössler expressed concern that the LHC might create a black hole, and thus destroy the world. In fact CERN gets a mention in the new paper, as an example of the kind of dangerous human foolishness that Szilamandee will put a stop to.

Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology is published by Elsevier and has Denis Noble of Oxford University, one of the fathers of systems biology, as editor-in-chief.

ResearchBlogging.orgRossler, O., Theis, C., Heiter, J., Fleischer, W., & Student, A. (2015). Is it Ethical to heal a young white Elephant from his physiological Autism? Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology DOI: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2015.06.020

CATEGORIZED UNDER: animals, autism, papers, select, Top Posts, woo
06 Jul 00:00

Solar System Questions

My country's World Cup win was exciting and all, but c'mon, what if the players wore nylon wings and COULD LITERALLY FLY?
04 Jul 13:06

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05 Jul 19:20

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03 Jul 23:00

(via tastefullyoffensive:Men-Dont-Scream)

05 Jul 16:00

Photo



05 Jul 00:07

CHIP – The World’s First $9 Computer | Ardevon

CHIPThe Raspberry Pi popularized the concept of the micro-PC with a compact and an extremely cheap device. Now a new player, Next Thing‘s CHIP, joins the race to build the world’s most affordable computer. CHIP is a fully functional Linux-powered computer and is just about one-quarter the size of a banana and one-quarter the price of the Raspberry Pi. Yes, that means it’s only $9!

To cut down the price, CHIP packs a 1GHz Allwinner R8 Cortex A8 processor with a built-in Mali400 GPU, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage. It also features a micro USB port, composite headphone/mic port, Wifi and Bluetooth. All this is powered by attaching a LiPo battery, DC power, or through the micro USB. The hardware is powerful enough to power LibreOffice, the Chromium browser, and a whole host of games and programs to teach programming.

CHIP_3

CHIP_2CHIP itself won’t come encased for $9, but Next Thing also designed PocketCHIP, a cute case to hold CHIP. The $40 device (Kickstarter price) features a full keyboard, 4.3-inch touchscreen and a 3,000-mAh battery which promises 5 hours of battery life.

Pocket CHIP

CHIP has blown way past its initial funding goal of $50,000 and raised over $2,000,000 on Kickstarter. We just can’t wait to get our hands on one. Next Thing should begin shipping CHIP in December, with the cases and additional adapters arriving in May 2016.

Obviously, you’ll have to spend additional cash for the VGA or HDMI adapters or any other additional hardware, but we’ll soon be able to buy a functional computer with a ten dollar bill and get change.

About The Author

Zantsu
Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
26 May 12:22

New C experimental feature: The tadpole operators

How often have you had to write code like this:

x = (y + 1) % 10;
x = (y + 1) * (z - 1);
x = (double)(f(y) + 1);

Since the + and - operators have such low precedence, you end up having to parenthesize them a lot, which can lead to heavily nested code that is hard to read.

Visual Studio 2015 RC contains a pair of experimental operators, nicknamed tadpole operators. They let you add and subtract one from an integer value without needing parentheses.

x = -~y % 10;
x = -~y * ~-z;
x = (double)-~f(y);

They're called tadpole operators because they look like a tadpole swimming toward or away from the value. The tilde is the tadpole's head and the hyphen is the tail.

Syntax Meaning Mnemonic
-~y y + 1 Tadpole swimming toward a value makes it bigger
~-y y - 1 Tadpole swimming away from a value makes it smaller

To enable the experimental tadpole operators, add this line to the top of your C++ file

#define __ENABLE_EXPERIMENTAL_TADPOLE_OPERATORS

For example, here's a simple program that illustrates the tadpole operators.

#define __ENABLE_EXPERIMENTAL_TADPOLE_OPERATORS 
#include <ios>
#include <iostream>
#include <istream>
 
int __cdecl main(int, char**)
{
   int n = 3;
   std::cout << "3 + 1 = " << -~n << std::endl;
   std::cout << "(3 - 1) * (3 + 1) " << ~-n * -~n << std::endl;
   return 0;
}

Remember that these operators are still experimental. They are not officially part of C++, but you can play with them and give your feedback here.

Bookmarked at brandizzi Delicious' sharing tag and expanded by Delicious sharing tag expander.
06 May 18:06

“La corrupción mata a la izquierda, lo de Brasil es inexplicable”

Fue guerrillero la mitad de su vida, pasó 15 años en la cárcel, vivió en el monte, en la clandestinidad, y ahora dice que está viejo y no sabe cómo estará dentro de cinco años para volver a presentarse a presidente de Uruguay. Pero nadie diría escuchando a José Mujica que está en el final de su carrera. Pletórico, influyente como pocos en la región, pendiente de todo y de todos, Mujica viajó a Buenos Aires a presentar el libro sobre su presidencia, Una oveja negra al poder, de Andrés Danza y Ernesto Tulbovitz, que en breve saldrá en España (Random House Mondadori).

Pregunta. Viaja ahora a España, a reencontrarse con sus orígenes vascos ¿Cierra el círculo?

Viene un estancamiento de la izquierda latinoamericana, pero la derecha no da respuestas

Respuesta. Sí, voy a Muxica, por un recuerdo a la familia de mi padre. Y después a un pueblito de Italia, cerca de Génova, donde está la familia de mi madre. Voy porque estoy entrando en una edad que si no voy ahora no voy más.

P. Dicen que usted va a volver a ser presidente de Uruguay, que sigue siendo el referente.

R. Sigo siendo referente pero ¡yo que sé cómo voy a estar dentro de cinco años! Tengo 80, pensar en los 85 es bravo, ¿no?

P. Usted se interesa por España. Podemos reivindica su inspiración en la izquierda latinoamericana. ¿Ve similitudes?

Tengo que hablar con gente de las FARC, hay dificultades pero nunca hemos estado tan cerca

R. Me parece que cuando los pueblos tienen una crisis honda como España lo mejor es que las tensiones se puedan encauzar políticamente. Que la crisis española haya producido una cosa como Podemos me parece de lo más saludable. Es un fenómeno más maduro. Y como tal manejable. Imaginemos una Francia que se cierra, que no quiere saber nada con la Unión Europea, con los negros. ¿Adónde vamos? Por eso apuesto siempre a la política.

P. ¿Está volviendo la política?

R. La crisis de la política solo acentúa el individualismo. Prefiero que la gente no esté con la izquierda pero que esté con la política. Pagaría ese precio. Lo antipolítico es aventurerismo o fascismo. Prefiero la política conservadora, pero política.

P. ¿Le da miedo el populismo?

Que la crisis española haya producido una cosa como Podemos me parece de lo más saludable

R. Me da miedo los sin partido, los que no responden a ninguna disciplina. Los partidos son el primer elemento de control que tienen los individuos. Se llame PP, socialismo, Podemos. Pero es algo colectivo. Pero ojo, si populismo es la lucha por elevar el nivel de vida de la gente o las políticas de igualdad, ese pecado lo pueden tener muchos. La frontera de eso es cuando las medidas que se toman paralizan a la economía, porque querés repartir tanto que al final quebrás el interés en el trabajo y la inversión. Si matás eso no tenés para repartir. Yo llamaría populismo a eso.

P. ¿Está pensando en Venezuela?

R. Venezuela tiene la desgracia del petróleo. El país más robado de América Latina. ¿Cómo va a andar una sociedad en la que cuesta más una botella de agua que un litro de nafta [carburante]?

P. ¿Recomendó a Maduro que no detenga a opositores?

R. Creo que hay un interés en ir preso en Venezuela. Es una técnica, es la forma de luchar de la oposición. Inducen al Gobierno a pasarse de la raya. Le crean una contradicción internacional notable y estos bobos entran. Se lo he dicho a ellos. Es un error.

La oposición venezolana induce al Gobierno a pasarse de la raya y estos bobos entran

P. La gente protesta y se aleja de la política en Brasil, en Chile, por la corrupción. ¿Las nuevas generaciones son más exigentes?

R. Tenemos un flagelo adentro de carácter ético. Cuando el afán de hacer plata se mete adentro de la política nos mata a la izquierda. ¿Por qué prolifera tanto la corrupción? ¿Parece sensato que gente de 60, 70 años se emporque en unos pesos inmundos? ¡Si sabe que tiene poca vida por delante! El tema de tener plata para ser alguien puede ser una herramienta de progreso en el mundo del comercio, donde se corren riesgos empresariales, pero cuando se mete en la política estamos fritos. Pasó en Italia, en parte en España. Es inexplicable lo de Brasil. Y aquí en Argentina el vicepresidente está procesado.

P. En el libro dice que en Brasil parece imposible hacer política sin ceder a la corrupción.

R. La democracia moderna es muy cara. Brasil es muy grande, tiene Estados que son como países. Allí hay partidos locales, y el que gana el Gobierno nacional tiene que transar con ellos. Ahí empieza todo.

P. ¿Viene una época difícil para la izquierda latinoamericana?

R. No sabemos. La derecha tampoco está dando muchas respuestas, no creo que pueda hacer maravillas. Yo creo que estamos en un momento de retroceso de la izquierda en Europa y cierto grado de estancamiento en América Latina.

P. ¿Cómo vive alguien que fue guerrillero el acercamiento de EE UU y Cuba?

Habrá que ver el efecto de "la magia de la mercadería", que decía Trotsky, cuando entre en Cuba

R. Era un remanente de la guerra fría, hay que terminar con eso. En EE UU mucha gente cree que esto va a llevar a cambios en la sociedad cubana y los cubanos piensan que van a resistir. La historia va a decidir. Los cubanos tienen un punto fuerte: mandan miles de médicos afuera y el grado de deserción es mínimo. ¿Lo podrán resistir? No lo sé, porque habrá que ver el efecto de la entrada en Cuba de “la magia de la mercadería”, en palabras de Trotsky.

P. ¿Está mediando en el conflicto de Colombia?

R. No estoy mediando nada. Pero tengo que tener una conversación con la gente de las FARC por dificultades de la negociación. No le puedo decir nada porque si no estoy quemando todo. Pero tengo que hablar.

P. ¿Es optimista?

Hoy es posible hacérselas pasar muy mal a un Gobierno sin tirar un tiro

R. Nunca se ha estado tan cerca. Vale la pena pelearla. Mantener un conflicto in eternum no es estrategia de nada. La geografía colombiana es de terror. Perseguir a las FARC en esas montañas es infinito. La guerrilla podrá no triunfar pero terminar con ellos es imposible. Es la guerra ucrónica, permanente. El presidente Santos tiene buena fe pero tiene resistencia dentro y quisiera ver si lo que está representando a las FARC en Cuba en las negociaciones es obedecido en todo el campo de las FARC. Cuando uno está con las armas en la mano la política pasa por la mira. Es un problema que tenemos siempre los hombres armados. Tendemos a ver la estrategia política a través de las armas, desconfiamos de lo demás.

P. Usted es la prueba de que se puede llegar al poder después de dejar las armas.

R. Yo sí, pero conozco las enfermedades. A las organizaciones armadas les cuesta mucho tener capacidad política para negociar. Pero hemos entrado en otra época. Con el adelanto tecnológico, la guerra es una ilusión óptica que dirime la tecnología. Nada tiene que ver con el heroísmo. Someterse a que te maten por control remoto… Hoy es posible hacérselas pasar bastante mal a los Gobiernos sin tirar un tiro. No hay que irse a la sierra.

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04 Jul 16:38

Delicate Pencil Lead Sculptures Carved by Salavat Fidai

by Christopher Jobson

pencil-1

Starting with carpenter and art pencils containing thick leads, Russian artist Salavat Fidai uses an X-ACTO knife to carve miniature renderings of hands, buildings, and various characters from pop culture. The delicate process requires a good understanding of how much pressure the lead can withstand, but even then mistakes are inevitable. The Ufa-based artist is fascinated by all things miniature, and also paints on seeds and matchboxes. Watch the timelapse below to see his process for carving an entire replica of the Eiffel Tower.

You can follow Fidai on Instagram, and some of his pieces occasionally end up in his shop. If you liked this, also check out pencil carvings by Diem Chau and Dalton Ghetti.

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16 Jun 09:39

Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | Pseudoerasmus

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Agora um post falando mal das espectativas exageradas na educação (que, como todo mundo sabe, é a "solução")

An elaboration on Ricardo Hausmann’s article “The Education Myth” arguing that education is an overrated tool of economic development. This post also responds to a criticism of Hausmann’s views which appeared at the Spanish group blog Politikon; and also discusses whether developing countries really can raise scores on achievement tests.

[Edit: This blogpost has now been translated into Spanish as “El romanticismo educativo y el desarrollo económico“.]

The Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann recently published a column in Project Syndicate called “The Education Myth“, arguing that education has been an overrated tool of economic development. His target is what he calls the “education, education, education” crowd, the sort you can find at Davos and other places where much bullshit is intoned with great piety. But I think his argument contains a valuable insight about the ability of developing countries to actually improve educational outcomes.

Hausmann’s primary observation is this: those countries which tripled their average years of schooling from 2.8 years to 8.3 years between 1960 and 2010 only managed to increase their GDP per worker by 167%. He cites Pritchett 2001, but I think a more interesting summary is found in Pritchett’s chapter 11 in The Handbook of the Economics of Education (Vol. 1) :

HEE_ch11_Pritchett

During those 35 years, the world’s standard deviation of GDP per worker increased, while the standard deviation of schooling per worker declined. The inequality between the 90th percentile amongst countries in GDP per worker and the bottom 10% nearly doubled, even as the 90/10 ratio of schooling per worker improved dramatically. If education is so important for development, this is a puzzle indeed.

Of course simply comparing schooling and growth rates is a crude correlational argument which omits the many other determinants of growth. But Hausmann is simplifying things for a popular audience in order to convey a solid finding from the empirical literature in economic growth: the variable “years of schooling” by itself has a low explanatory power for growth rates in GDP per worker whether in cross-country regressions that include standard controls, or in growth accounting which attempts to directly measure the contribution of human capital to the growth rates of individual countries.

Pritchett 2001 cannot find significant social returns to schooling in most developing countries — not much detectable impact above and beyond the sum of private returns to schooling. This is even though, within countries, those with more schooling still tend to have higher incomes. The table below for Africa is from Barro-Lee:

barrolee4.5

The above summarises the results of growth accounting — counting the inputs that go into the production process (labour, capital, educational capital) and comparing them with output. The unexplained or residual term (TFP) is conventionally interpreted as the growth in the efficiency with which the inputs are used to generate output.

What the above shows for Sub-Saharan Africa is that even as the contribution from educational investment was soaring, capital contribution and TFP were collapsing in the 1970s-90s. The associations here are not necessarily causal. But if they are causal, it could imply that the educated were doing socially useless things, such as taking bribes as functionaries in the customs bureau in exchange for import licences. If the associations are not causal, then it could imply that the supply of educated people was rising even as the demand for them was not growing fast enough. Or it could be a little of both.

Another possibility is that all these years of schooling were hollow, i.e., they implied no real learning nor any skill acquisition. Pritchett presents limited evidence this cannot be completely true, e.g., the fertility of women with more schooling declined. Evidence from Barro-Lee (also see their VoxEU article) also make that idea unlikely.

However, labour & education economist Eric Hanushek is quite blunt about it: despite large global increases in rates of school enrolment and in average years of school attendence, the “best available evidence shows that many of the students appeared not to learn anything” [emphasis mine]. This view is based on the very low test scores from developing countries in international assessments :

knowledge capital[Source: Hanushek & Woessman, The Knowledge Capital of Nations: Education and the Economics of Growth. The means don’t convey the full impression: see the distribution of scores, with 400 defined as “functionally illiterate”.]

So what’s the best way to interpret Hausmann’s article ?

  1. Yes, “years of schooling” is a poor proxy for educational outcomes. But it captures very well the policy instrument that governments can actually control easily — building large boxes and herding children into them like cattle. That investment has obviously not caused a convergence in test scores between developed and developing countries.
  2. There’s no evidence that education, how ever measured, promotes the sort of growth rates that result in eventual convergence with the rich countries.
  3. Nonetheless, there’s evidence to suggest education has contributed to the positive but relatively low growth rates which have been insufficient for convergence. Economic growth research implicitly assumes that the rapid convergence of East Asia with the western countries is ‘normal’ and the slow growth of other non-western countries ‘abnormal’. But maybe the former is the anomaly.

§  §  §

At the Spanish group blog Politikon, Roger Senserrich largely agreed with Hausmann. But two other Politikonistas, Octavio Medina and Lucas Gortázar took exception to the Hausmann-Senserrich view. (They were apparently trolling one another for fun.)

Medina-Gortázar’s main objection is that “years of schooling” is a bad proxy for education, so the quality of education, instead of measures of school access, is now being used to study the relationship between economic growth and education. “What a child learns in his first year of primary school is not the same in Kenya as what a child learns in Finland or Uruguay”. Then Medina and Gortázar present a plot very similar to the one below in order to argue, yes, indeed, there is an important relationship between economic growth and the “quality of education”:

knowledge capital[Source: the OECD publication “Universal Basic Skills” by Hanushek & Woessmann]

Unfortunately the Medina-Gortázar argument is also based on a bad proxy. Scores on PISA and TIMSS are not — I repeat, not — proxies for “educational quality”. They reflect student outcomes. Institutional input variables, like “teacher quality” or “school quality”, should not be conflated with student output variables. Hanushek and Woessmann consistently use test scores as a proxy for (their own words) cognitive skills. From the same OECD publication:

The focus on cognitive skills has a number of potential advantages. First, it captures variations in the knowledge and ability that schools strive to produce, and thus relates the putative outputs of schooling to subsequent economic success. Second, by emphasising total outcomes of education, it incorporates skills from any source – including families and innate ability as well as schools. Third, by allowing for differences in performance among students whose schooling differs in quality (but possibly not in quantity), it acknowledges – and invites investigation of – the effect of different policies on school quality. [pg 89]

So just how optimistic should we be about developing countries’ ability to improve test scores ? We do know poor countries have raised them, e.g., Brazil’s PISA score has gone up by about one-half standard deviation in the past decade. Rather it’s a question of whether the gap can be closed between developed and developing countries, i.e., Brazil’s is still more than a standard deviation below the OECD average which puts the country’s mean below the “functionally literate” category.

There’s a chain of causes that need to be addressed. We must know what achievement tests measure; whether ‘optimal’ schools can raise test scores to growth-accelerating levels; and what are the prospects for moving bad schools in developing countries closer to ‘optimal’ ones.

§  §  §

Although tests like PISA or TIMSS measure learning, they also implicitly and indirectly measure the ability to learn. Which is why these tests, along with the American SATs, are strongly correlated with IQ. (See Rindermann 2007 for the high correlations in country means; and Frey & Detterman 2004 for the individual-level correlation for the American SATs. Just FYI see the survey Bouchard 2004ungated version. I’ve extracted Table 1 containing a summary of results.)

I don’t want to get into the question of the malleability of cognitive ability, so I will simply assume that in developing countries (1) it is more malleable because of the much greater environmental variation and (2) the relationship between cognitive ability and achievement test scores is imperfect enough that in principle there is room for improvement in scores.

But those researchers who believe achievement test scores can be raised (in developed countries) usually stress the importance of very early childhood intervention. James Heckman, Nobel laureate and celebrated critic of The Bell Curve, presents the most informed case for optimism. Yet even he argues that the window for intervention in improving academic achievement (and other life outcomes) is substantially prior to conventional formal schooling. From Heckman :

Gaps in the capabilities that play important roles in determining diverse adult outcomes open up early across socioeconomic groups. The gaps originate before formal schooling begins and persist through childhood and into adulthood. Remediating the problems created by the gaps is not as cost effective as preventing them at the outset.

For example, schooling after the second grade plays only a minor role in creating or reducing gaps. Conventional measures of educational inputs — class size and teacher salaries — that receive so much attention in policy debates have small effects on creating or eliminating disparities. This is surprising when one thinks of the great inequality in schooling quality across the United States and especially among disadvantaged communities.

My colleagues and I have looked at this. We controlled for the effects of early family environments using conventional statistical models. The gaps substantially narrowed. This is consistent with evidence in the Coleman Report (which was published in 1966) that showed family characteristics, not those of schools, explain much of the variability in student test scores across schools.

Heckman argues improving family environments and implementing very early preschool programmes for infants (!!!) is the most cost-effective way to raise outcomes. These are things which developed countries even with their strong institutions can barely do, if at all. Imagine that for developing countries, many of whom barely manage universal school enrolment.

§  §  §

But I’m willing to believe developing countries have more room for improving test scores through better schools. That’s because having ‘schools’ on paper does not necessarily imply that even rudimentary education is taking place. Especially in some of the poorest countries, the problems with school quality often include the regular attendance of teachers, missing textbooks, or sometimes even no ceilings !

How to improve school quality in the first place, though ? Although I’m quite sceptical that middle-income countries would benefit from more spending per student, surely Afghanistan or Burundi might.

Glewwe et al. (2013) reviews studies between 1990 and 2010 about the impact of a variety of educational inputs on measures of student learning (such as test scores) in developing countries:

glewwe hanushek 2013

[The difference between the second and third columns (36) refer to studies containing OLS using only cross-sectional data which, according to the authors, did not adequately deal with omitted variables, endogeneity, self-selection, etc. etc.]

The inconclusive effect of even basic infrastructural inputs like textbooks is surprising. On the other hand, maybe there’s some hope from lowering the pupil-teacher ratio, and the impact of teacher absenteeism hasn’t been studied very much. But as the authors put it, “perhaps the most useful conclusion to draw for policy is that there is little empirical support for a wide variety of school and teacher characteristics that some observers may view as priorities for school spending”.

Of course there’s been an explosion of randomised controlled trials and experimental studies from developing countries in the last 10 years, so there will be much more evidence to come. But when I read about the collapse of a financial incentive experiment to reduce absenteeism by nurses (ungated) at Indian hospitals, I’m not terribly optimistic about the vast institutional changes that appear necessary to improve the quality of schools.

What is Hanushek’s advice to developing countries ? It’s mostly the fads that now animate the educational circles in the United States and some other developed countries:

  • get smarter teachers (and test them)
  • track students
  • use school leaving exams
  • decentralisation of educational decision-making

Hanushek actually argues “school choice”, by itself, is a bad idea in developing countries and could worsen student outcomes. So he prefers those reforms in combination, and his optimism is reflected in projections like this based on cross-country correlations with samples of 50 or whatever:

hanuwoess advice

Well, Nepal and El Salvador, problem solved !

§  §  §

Although the returns to improving school quality (with enrolment held constant) would be higher than increasing enrolment & attainment (with quality held constant), the latter seems the more realistic option for most developing countries. After all, the very rich and manageably sized Qatar can’t manage 400 ! And there’s still a lot of room left for raising percentage enrolled and years of schooling :

hanu-woess pie charts

We’ve come full circle. Things started with Hausmann’s observation that increasing access to schools per se hasn’t done very much. But despite the low productivity of schools and the high likelihood of diminishing returns to more inputs, maybe eliminating the educational ‘slack’ is still the low-hanging fruit for most developing countries.

Postscript: I posted a quick remark about causal identification regarding the relationship between test scores and economic growth in the first comment of the comments section.

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27 Jun 00:51

Dear governments and aid agencies: Please stop hurting poor people with your skills training programs - Chris Blattman

Adam Victor Brandizzi

Hmmmm... Conte mais...

Here is an incredible number: From 2002 to 2012 the World Bank and its client governments invested $9 billion dollars across 93 skills training programs for the poor and unemployed. In lay terms, that is a hundred freaking million dollars per program.

Unfortunately, these skills probably did very little to create jobs or reduce poverty.

Virtually every program evaluation tells us the same thing: training only sometimes has a positive impact. Almost never for men. And the programs are so expensive—often $1000 or $2000 per person—that it’s hard to find one that passes a simple cost-benefit test.

You might think to yourself: That’s not so bad. Nobody hurt the poor. Plus the trainers and the firms probably benefited. So it’s not a total loss.

If you think this, I urge you to transfer to an organization where you can no longer affect the world. I can think of a couple UN agencies with excellent benefits.

Because when you take billions of dollars a year (because the World Bank is hardly the only spender on skills programs) and you spend them on vocational bridges to nowhere, you have denied those dollars to programs that actually work: an anti-retroviral treatment, a deworming pill, a cow, a well, or a cash transfer. You have destroyed value in the world.

I know what some are thinking: skills program just have to be more market-driven, or on-the-job, or linked to firms, or targeted to the right people.

Maybe. And these might pass a cost-benefit test if you can make them cost much less. But I want you to ask yourself: do you want to run programs that are hard to get right, or hard to get wrong?

Because if you want to create work for unemployed people, and reduce extreme poverty, there are in fact programs that are hard to get wrong.

It gets better. Currently, about two billion people live in countries that are deemed fragile or have high homicides rates. Jobs and incomes in these countries will probably mean less crime, and maybe even a decrease in other kinds of violence. Especially if they are targeted to the highest-risk men.

If you’re thinking to yourself “hey, I would like to read 20,000 more words on this, preferably in dry prose,” well do I have the paper for you. A new review paper with Laura Ralston: Generating employment in poor and fragile states: Evidence from labor market and entrepreneurship programs.

it is a draft for discussion, and comments and criticisms (in emails, blog comments, and prank calls) will be integrated over the coming months.

Fortunately the paper includes a 4-page executive summary. And, even better, an abstract!

The world’s poor—and programs to raise their incomes—are increasingly concentrated in fragile states. We review the evidence on what interventions work, and whether stimulating employment promotes social stability.

Skills training and microfinance have shown little impact on poverty or stability, especially relative to program cost. In contrast, injections of capital—cash, capital goods, or livestock—seem to stimulate self-employment and raise long term earning potential, often when partnered with low-cost complementary interventions. Such capital-centric programs, alongside cash-for-work, may be the most effective tools for putting people to work and boosting incomes in poor and fragile states.

We argue that policymakers should shift the balance of programs in this direction. If targeted to the highest risk men, we should expect such programs to reduce crime and other materially-motivated violence modestly. Policymakers, however, should not expect dramatic effects of employment on crime and violence, in part because some forms of violence do not respond to incomes or employment.

Finally, this review finds that more investigation is needed in several areas. First, are skills training and other interventions cost-effective complements to capital injections? Second, what non-employment strategies reduce crime and violence among the highest risk men, and are they complementary to employment programs?

Third, policymakers can reduce the high failure rate of employment programs by using small-scale pilots before launching large programs; investing in labor market panel data; and investing in multi-country studies to test and fine tune the most promising interventions.

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