Sunday, 27 January 2013

Shergar King

Horsemeat, then. The Guardian has a "why not" piece:
is it time to examine our prejudice against what is, after all, an extremely healthy meat?
Eating horses used to be one of the unspeakable things that the French did, so the prejudice was not only irrational but also xenophobic. In Verona once my friends tried donkey pizza.

But then, why stop at horses? Why not dogs? ... or grandma's corpse?

Even though if I were born elsewhere, I might eat horsemeat or many other things besides, I keep to the old local prejudices, fearing that without them I may get worse, not better.

Saturday, 26 January 2013


If you're interested in statistics, and would like to understand kernel regression -- and also understand linear regression better -- you could read these lecture notes, from the always excellent Three-Toed Sloth. It definitely expanded my mind. (Oh, and if you want to feel inadequate, read his summary of 2012.)
If you're interested in artificial intelligence and big data, check out Wikidata.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

For Essex computer users

Do you hate that annoying screen with distracting adverts that pops up when you log in to the Essex computers? Here's how to kill it:

  1. Open notepad. (Not Word or any other program.)
  2. Type in: taskkill /IM EssexMessage.exe
  3. Save the file on your desktop as killessexmessage.bat. You will need to save it as type "all files", not as a .txt file.
  4. When you log in double click on the file. Voila! No more adverts.

More on migration

Specifically, more on Mark Harrison's Christmas post.

The problem with Mark's thoughtful and open-hearted argument is this: it is undercut by admitting, and accepting as valid, some people's dislike of mixing with those of other cultures. But as soon as you have done that, the economic case for migration looks like this:


Here term 1, the market benefit, is large and quantifiable and regularly rehearsed by economics professors; but term 2, the non-market loss from people being exposed to cultural diversity, is unquantifiable. So now we no longer know whether migration is a benefit or a loss. Also, since apparently most people in the UK would prefer less migration, term 2 may be large.

Mark also admits that people who do not like diversity cannot avoid it by simply moving to more culturally uniform neighbourhoods, since this uniformity may swiftly be lost. Indeed, that is one reason to have national borders, since they preserve some level of uniformity, while allowing free movement (and the resulting gains from trade) within the itnerior.

There is an unavoidable choice here. You can take people's preferences for cultural unity seriously. If so, then it seems that the majority preference is for less immigration, and it is hard to see why that should not be respected - the most basic characteristic of any club is its membership criterion, and if this should not be decided democratically, what should be?

Or, you can think of people's views about immigrants not as raw preferences, but as mistaken - perhaps even toxic - beliefs. If so, then they do not come into the utilitarian calculus, any more than the public's mistaken beliefs about the costs of foreign trade. That is arguably a more liberal and optimistic position, but also a less democratic one.


Sun headline re the horse burger scandal: SHERGAR KING.


Mark Harrison's Christmas post on migration and diversity.
"The history of the Christian church in England began with migration. Christianity was originally an imported idea and so it was a gift of migration."

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


If you're interested in statistics, and want to understand p values - in particular, if you want to understand when p values do and don't mean anything much - why not read this critique of a famous/notorious paper in psychology claiming that precognition is real?
Here - also via Andrew Gelman's blog, incidentally - is a forthcoming AER paper about human genetic diversity and its economic effects. Here is a response by some (presumably) distinguished anthropologists.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A'thing that ony man can be's
A mockery o' his soul at last.
The mair it shows't the better, and
I'd suner be a tramp than king,
Lest in the pride o' place and poo'er
I e'er forgot my waesomeness.
Sae to debauchery and dirt,
And to disease and daith I turn,
Sin' otherwise my seemin' worth
'Ud block my view o' what is what,
And blin' me to the irony
Of bein' a grocer 'neth the sun,
A lawyer gin Justice ope'd her een,
A pedant like an ant promoted,
A parson buttonholin' God...

Hugh MacDiarmid