August 13, 2014

11:21 AM | Illegal PayDay syndicate in New York busted
There’s an interesting and horrible New York Time story by Jessica Silver-Greenberg about a PayDay loan syndicate being run out of New York State. The syndicate consists of twelve companies owned by a single dude, Carey Vaughn Brown, with help from a corrupt lawyer and another corrupt COO. Manhattan District Attorneys are charging him and his helpers with usury under […]

August 12, 2014

3:44 PM | Chemist spam is fascinating: "3 Day MBA"?
"will teach you all you need to know about the stem cells industry." Well, sign me up. (Not.) 
2:59 PM | ACS San Francisco tweetup, tonight, 8 PM, Thirsty Bear
From an e-mail:"We have landed on the Thirsty Bear Brewing Company at 8pm Tuesday night. 661 Howard Street, right near the W Hotel. Invite anyone you know who cares about hanging out with awesome people."Go have fun, folks! 
11:30 AM | Weapon of Math Destruction: “risk-based” sentencing models
There was a recent New York Times op-ed by Sonja Starr entitled Sentencing, by the Numbers (hat tip Jordan Ellenberg and Linda Brown) which described the widespread use – in 20 states so far and growing – of predictive models in sentencing. The idea is to use a risk score to help inform sentencing of offenders. […]
10:30 AM | Shaping the brain and humans as complex systems
I linked to this interview with Robert Sapolsky a couple of weeks ago, but after glancing through it again, I felt it worth highlighting two paragraphs (both for your interest and so I can find them again). First, on the evolutionary purpose of the teenage brain: What I’ve been thinking might actually be going on is […]

August 11, 2014

4:57 PM | StripeyNanoparticleMania 2015!
Also in this week's C&EN, this letter to the editor:Having read “Big Tussle over Tiny Particles” with great interest, I suggest that ACS sponsor a meeting between the parties involved and provide objective observers (C&EN, May 26, page 43). Francesco Stellacci would bring his nanoparticles, and Philip Moriarty would operate the scanning tunneling microscope at various gain settings. Everyone present would see for themselves whether the nanoparticles were actually striped or […]
3:41 PM | This week's C&EN
Lots of interesting things in this week's C&EN:Big feature on the 100th anniversary of crystallography this week, including a fun editorial by Greg Petsko: "Clearly we are still a long way from the day when all structures of all molecules will simply be calculated from first principles. But if you seriously think that day will never come, I suggest you think again." This would make a great long bet, as to when that day would come. As a non-biologist, I learned a lot from this Matt […]
1:52 PM | White people don’t talk about racism
Here’s what comes up in conversations at my Occupy meetings a lot: systemic racism. Maybe once a week on average, whether we are talking about the criminal justice system, or the court system, or the educational system, or standardized tests, or chronic employment problems, or welfare rhetoric, or homelessness. There are many very well-informed people […]

August 10, 2014

3:18 PM | Ebola and the weak link of public health
It has long been my contention that one of the chief symptoms of the age of constraints we have now entered would be the decline of public health systems globally. This comes at a time when our vulnerability to a worldwide epidemic is increasing because of widespread international travel, the proliferation of densely populated megacities and the general trend toward urban living. Of course, urban environments are ideal for spreading disease because of the proximity of the residents.The sudden […]

August 09, 2014

12:20 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice: delicious crepes edition
Aunt Pythia is going to brag about something this morning. Namely, how delicious her crepes are. And here’s the thing, she’s generous and like to share. If you were willing to get to her house at 8:06am on a weekend morning, she’d also make you some crepes with fresh fruit. You could sit right there, […]

August 08, 2014

5:08 PM | Dude, what is this!?!?
A German song about silicon. Truly catchy/strange. Here's a version with an English translation, for those who spreche nicht Deutsch.h/t @dange82.
3:22 PM | Cursed labs?
Via Medium, the story of a U.S. Navy vessel, USS Cowpens, which seems to have suffered a number of unfortunate incidents, including:Two accidents that resulted in the deaths of sailorsOne captain who ruled the ship with an iron fist, including having sailors walk the captain's dogOne captain who was relieved for adultery with another officer's spouseThe latest: a captain who fell ill in the middle of a deployment, handed over their duties to an inexperienced executive officer and then holed up […]
11:23 AM | Navigating the mindset for data journalism
I’ve been working my butt off this summer starting up a data journalism program and teaching in it. I couldn’t ask for a better crew of students and instructors: engaged, intelligent, brave, and eager to learn. And my class has been amazing, due to the incredibly guest speakers who have given their time to us. On […]
11:00 AM | A week of links
Links this week: Academic urban legends spreading through sloppy citation. In PhD land, I have constantly found myself following citation chains that don’t lead to what they claim. Some progress in the replication wars. I’ll post about some of the specific examples over coming months. The evolutionary emergence of property rights (ungated working paper). HT: Ben […]

August 07, 2014

3:08 PM | Benefits: a favorite small company memory
So there we were, some years and some moves back, gathered for an all-hands meeting in the conference room with the new CEO and our local health insurance provider's representative. And he starts off with announcing some Great News! for the company: now, instead of employees paying 50% of their health insurance tab, the company would cover the entire cost except for $50.Great news!And then there's something mentioned about changes to the company's willingness to pay for health insurance for […]

August 06, 2014

11:34 PM | Um, Dear Leader, can I get you some PPE?
How about some safety glasses? Credit: NBC NewsFrom the Korean Central News Agency, a news report of Kim Jong Un's visit to a lubricant factory:...Pleased that the factory is turning out with indigenous efforts and technology the products for which it relied on import in the past period, he instructed it to wage a dynamic drive for boosting the production of quality lubricant and grease required by all types of vehicles and providing them to various fields of the national economy in the […]
3:26 PM | "We won't have RoboCops wandering around in the lab.”
"Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is an impurity forming."That quote via this very interesting feature from Nature News and Comment on organic synthesis software/hardware systems:...Grzybowski is also bidding for a grant from the Polish government, worth up to 7 million złoty (US$2.3 million), to use Chematica as the brain of a synthesis machine that can prove itself by automatically planning and executing syntheses of at least three important drug […]
12:37 PM | The economics of a McDonalds franchise
I’ve been fascinated to learn all sorts of things about how McDonalds operates their business in the past few days, as news broke about a recent NLRB decision to allow certain people who work in McDonalds to file complaints about their workplace and name McDonalds as a joint employer. That sounds incredibly dull, right? The […]
9:00 AM | Not the jam study again
Go to any behavioural science conference, event or presentation, and there is a high probability you will hear about “the jam study”. Last week’s excellent MSiX was no exception, with at least three references I can recall. The story is wonderfully simple and I have, at times, been mildly sympathetic to the idea. However, it is time for this […]

August 05, 2014

6:13 PM | Huh
I wasn't aware that the Facebook messenger app existed, but I find the logo design rather evocative of something...
5:38 PM | BREAKING NEWS: New York resident moves somewhere else for their first job
This New York Times article touting folks moving to middle of the country caught my eye today (emphasis mine):Affordable Housing Draws Middle Class to Inland Cities ...Rising rents and the difficulty of securing a mortgage on the coasts have proved a boon to inland cities that offer the middle class a firmer footing and an easier life. In the eternal competition among urban centers, the shift has produced some new winners. Oklahoma City, for example, has outpaced most other […]

August 04, 2014

11:44 PM | American chemists and World War One
Stuart Cantrill's retweet of this post reminds me that it is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, which reminded me of some relevant historical documents that a friend had provided me a number of years ago.First, (to left) a September 1918 questionnaire in the pages of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering from U.S. Army Major General William Sibert , who was the Director of the Chemical Warfare Service. I like this line: "The importance of a prompt return of the census […]
8:17 PM | You used to be a feminist before you got pregnant
Today I’d like to rant about a pattern I’ve noticed. Namely, I have a bunch of female friends and acquaintances that I consider feisty, informed, and argumentative sorts. People who are fun to be around and who know how to stick up for themselves, know how to spot misogyny and paternalism in all contexts, and […]
3:33 PM | 2014 ACS Salary Survey: employment up, unemployment down, median salaries flat
Finally, from this week's C&EN, news from the 2014 Salary Survey, written up by Sophie Rovner:Employment: "91.9% of ACS member chemists are employed full-time—defined as at least 35 hours of work per week. Over the past decade, that rate peaked at 92.5% in 2008 and then bottomed out at 88.1% in 2010. By last year, it had recovered to 91.1%."Unemployment: "Conversely, 2.9% of chemists are unemployed, down from 3.5% last year and 4.2% in 2012. This improvement is echoed in […]
3:25 PM | I see the cost of pride in belonging to the ACS is likely going up
Also in this week's C&EN, a little tidbit in the ACS Dallas official reports (emphasis mine):In other actions, the committee elected Joseph Heppert as vice chair and voted to recommend to the ACS Council that dues for 2015 be set at the fully escalated dues rate of $158, an increase of $4.00 versus the 2014 dues rate. That's a 2.5% increase, which is slightly higher than the 2.0% increase in inflation expected for 2014. I wonder if the Budget and Finance Committee is cognizant that […]
3:10 PM | This week's C&EN
Truly, a unique set of articles for this week:A long feature by Stephen K. Ritter on sugar and sugar substitutes, including Bob Lustig thundering away at sugar. Happily, some of Lustig's more controversial theories about carbohydrate chemistry are not present. I'd love to know if we're going to have taxation of sugared drinks and the like; if they start raising the price of ice cream, I'm gonna be unhappy. This article by Albert Censullo on the mole and the kilogram (including a quiz) […]

August 03, 2014

2:28 PM | Bubble time: Friends and relatives act as if we've returned to business-as-usual
It is a testament to the psychological power of financial bubbles that people who know and trust me and generally accept the analysis I've put forth in my writings over the last decade are jumping into the stock market again with a pledge that they are in for the long term--no matter what.Few would ever shop for a car, a house or even groceries the way people today are shopping for stocks--buying after the price has almost tripled. But a market experiencing a dramatic melt-up--26 percent for […]

August 02, 2014

2:06 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice
Hello and good morning! Aunt Pythia is feeling well-slept (thankfully!) and happy to be here. Another Saturday morning means – yes – another ride on the Aunt Pythia advice bus, which is leisurely rolling out of the parking lot with a full pot of fresh brewed coffee ready. Can you smell it, people?!! Plus, there’s […]

August 01, 2014

2:18 PM | Job posting: chemistry technician, Brownsville, NE
From the inbox, a A.A./B.S. chemist position at a nuclear power plant: The major responsibility is to monitor and maintain the following as specified in the individual employee training plan: Liquid and gaseous plant effluents, water quality in all plant systems, corrosion controls, biomonitoring, liquid radioactive waste processing, decontamination, environmental controls, personnel safety, and radiation and contamination surveys thus protecting plant systems, the general public and […]
2:13 PM | Parents warn of crucial "babysitter skills gap"
Couple warns of tight supply of qualified child care providers, supports BS-1 visa program"We just can't find people who have college degrees in early childhood education, but are willing to work for $7.50 an hour to look after our two kids," they complained. "America has a shortage of child care providers and we need the best and the brightest from around the world to compete in our increasingly global child care labor pool."NB satire
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