Hunting the Wild Placebo

The New York Times’ Gary Greenberg asks “What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?” and gets some interesting answers.  Along the way, he tells the interesting history of the placebo and how it has become a standard in FDA=approved clinical trials.  My only question for the FDA is this:  if someone were to attempt to certify a placebo effect, what would you compare it to?PlaceboElixir
Tip from Drudge, who, like a blind squirrel, occasionally finds a fresh nut, and never leaves a permalink.

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“This is the greatest country in the world.”

An American veteran brings his Ukranian bride to the States for a honeymoon, and gets to see his country through fresh eyes.  And understands why not to sweat the small stuff:

…it’s all too easy to misjudge the gravity of life’s problems when you’re used to peace and prosperity—after all, there’s no microaggression, no trigger, no slur or verbal insult that could ever compare with the impartial brutalities of revolution and war.

Tip from Maggie’s Farm

UPDATE:  A young German woman, disillusioned with her life, is rescued from death by a kindly stranger.

As for Katharina, she said Nancy rescued her in more ways than one.

“Someone cared,” Katharina said.  She said the whole reason she did the hike alone was because she’d given up on people.

“I lost faith in humanity,” Katharina said.  But she said she got her faith back in a “really big way.”

“Come to America,” Katharina said.

Larry the Barbarian

Over at Monster Hunter Nation, Larry Correia puts us hip to a delightful and creative approach to F&SF book covers: incorporating the author as a cover character.  This one of L.C. and wife rocks it:

LarryTheBarbarianIf you’re not tuned into Larry’s worldview, you can get the 2-minute summary by clicking to the adjacent blog entry “Hoon for America: Manatee Party Stickers Now Available.”  And I concur: get off my lawn. Except you kids, you keep the porch pirates and daytime burglars away.

Trash, White Trash, and REAL Trash

Writing in Oxford American, Chris Offutt’s Trash Food almost gets it right:

My thoughts and feelings were completely irrational. I knew they made no sense. Most of what I owned had belonged to someone else—cars, clothes, shoes, furniture, dishware, cookbooks. I liked old and battered things. They reminded me of myself, still capable and functioning despite the wear and tear.

and

Nevertheless I’d felt compelled to mislead him [my Oxford friend] based on class stigma. I was ashamed—of my fifteen-year-old Mazda, my income, and my rented home. I felt ashamed of the very clothes I was wearing, the shoes on my feet. Abruptly, with the force of being struck in the face, I understood it wasn’t his judgment I feared. It was my own.

The road to getting over this is simple:  stop worrying about what other folks think and trust your own judgement.  Only a fool yuppie pays full price for goods that rapidly depreciate.  Tricks like eschewing $75 shirts and shopping at the resale store, the day-old bread store, and the discount market where no English is spoken have netted me enough cash to buy a gently-used BMW Z4.  OUTRIGHT. That car is now 12 years old, squeaky clean, well-maintained, and payment-free.

Offutt worries about the kind of folks labeled “white trash”

The term “white trash” is an epithet of bigotry that equates human worth with garbage. It implies a dismissal of the group as stupid, violent, lazy, and untrustworthy—the same negative descriptors of racial minorities, of anyone outside of the mainstream. At every stage of American history, various groups of people have endured such personal attacks. Language is used as a weapon: divisive, cruel, enciphered. Today is no different.

BUT, he needs to remember that there are plenty of folks who we white trash label as real trash: stupid, violent, lazy, and untrustworthy for starters,, But also whining, wheedling drug-addled grifters.  By their unkempt surroundings, undisciplined pets, garish grooming, tats, cigarettes, and pawnshop jewelry you will know them.

The sin of the white elites is their failure to make distinctions.  The racial stereotyping they so decry is exactly what they apply to working class whites.  Offutt, to his credit, knows how to deal with these smartasses:

When strangers thought I was stupid because of where I grew up, I understood that they were granting me the high ground. I learned to patiently wait in ambush for the chance to utterly demolish them intellectually. Later I realized that this particular battle strategy was a waste of energy. It was easier to simply stop talking to that person—forever.

Trash Food is good food for thought, go read the whole thing.

Tip from Vanderleun at American Digest, where he dishes some real pearls.

Non-tenure track salaries

I was preparing a data analysis assignment for one of my classes, and decided I needed an example for my students.  Similar to what I’m asking of my students, I wanted to use public employee salary data from the the Texas Tribune Government Salaries Explorer.  After a few moments’ thought* , I hit upon the topic of salaries for non-tenured faculty at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where I teach statistics.

I downloaded the UTSA data–an Excel CSV file–and selected out employees whose job titles contained the words “ADJUNCT”, “LECTURER”, or “TUTOR”, and copied those to a separate worksheet page.  From there on, every bit of my example was done using R, all composed and arranged nicely with RStudio.  The full analysis is here, but look at this interesting graph:

UTSANTTsalaries

  • How the heck do two part-timers in the College of Education and Human Development’s Department of  Educational Leadership and Policy Studies make over $100K annually?  That’s one sweet gig!
  • Working in the Women’s Studies Institute is a vow of poverty.  Should have gone to trade school.
  • The Writing Core Program is almost as bad.  Learn to write advertising copy and move to the College of Business Marketing Department.
  • Part-time NTT economists seem to make more than full-timers.  That doesn’t seem to make make economists credible.

*Thanks for the nudge from a new follower, Adjunct Professors—-Overworked & Underpaid!

Confucius say “Uh oh”

The Confucius Institutes in the US are in the government’s crosshairs:

President Trump is about to sign the new National Defense Authorization Act, which will prohibit funding to Chinese-run Confucius Institutes on American campuses.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz added the key amendment to “The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019,” which also restricts funding to universities that host Confucius Institutes and requires them to provide a public record of any agreements or contracts they have with the program, which has deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

This is going to be a bit of a problem at UT San Antonio:

UTSAConfuciusInstitute

Right out of Lenin: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

Update:  Apparently UTSA has learned from the Confucianists to “embrace the harmony of opposites.”