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April 15th, 2005

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02:38 am - The people have declared a GIP, the people get a GIP
1. A Conservative party candidate poses with a prominent fellow party member at a protest. He then edits the picture and uses it on his manifesto, suggesting their opinions have changed somewhat. (Story here.) I personally regard this as not really very naughty, especially if he had permission from the other politician in the picture, but people are up in arms. A newspaper invites the world to Photoshop the original picture more entertainingly, and prints the results. One person declares that the sign should read STOP THIS JIGGERY POKERY. (From here.) Three people post or comment to let me know about this and two more mail me links with the identical subject line GIP! Thank you, everyone. It has been declared a GIP on my behalf.

2. There's discussion of introducing pre-university tests in the UK assessing generic "thinking skills", additional to the traditional subject-specific academic tests. However, the sample "plausible reasoning" question looks frankly bizarre. I vaguely agree with their answer, but cannot really say why that answer is correct and the others are wrong. What do you think? Can convincing arguments be made for any of the other answers? For any of the answers at all, really?

3. An a capella music band sing famous video game themes - embedded Windows media file, about 9 MB. Another blog, which I shall not link to, links and mocks declaring it "bad geekery". I disagree. Firstly, I take the liberal view that declaring good genres of geekery and bad genres of geekery is inherently bigoted and prejudiced, though obviously distinguishing between good geekery and bad geekery within a genre is possible. Secondly, this is imaginitive, creative, funny geekery; I say two thumbs up and give it a glowing write-up rather than flaming the knocker.

3b. From the same site, a clip supposedly from the British game show Countdown - embedded Flash video, 4 MB, not-quite-safe-for-work video, safe-for-work audio. Now obviously it's been altered for the sake of some good old-fashioned obscenity, but the interesting question is how little. Letters 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 look 'shopped to me; note the audio cut failing to announce letter five - and there seems to be a slight repeat in Richard Whiteley's laughter, but it can't be too far from having happened. What did happen for real, I wonder?

4. We read that meetup.com is about to charge $9/month or more to people using the site to, er, organise meetups. ($9+/month per group organiser, not per attendee.) This seems to spell instant site death to me to such an extent that I am convinced they plan to back down. As they say, "We expect the number of Meetups will go down at first, but the community will rebound stronger than ever. The Group Fee will weed out less committed groups; the community will be smaller in the near-term, but it will be made up of the best Meetup Groups."

Now there are some big and vibrant Meetup groups out there, especially in the very big cities and for the very big topics, but surely fewer than 5,000 viable groups worldwide so far. If they were to say "$4/month for a group with 20 members, $8/month for a group with 40 members, $12/month for a group with 80 members, $16/month for a group with 160 members" or similar then I don't think people would object too strongly, but meetup hasn't reached nearly critical mass yet and a move like this will really stop new groups from being formed using the service. A shame. Any meetup.com's demise might well inspire competitors, but the value in the system is in the number of links, proportional to the square of the number of members, so splitting the space evenly between three competitors reduces the net utility to one-third.

5. My planned availability for the near future includes the following:
  • Saturday 23rd April to Monday 25th April: Athens, GA and Atlanta, GA with dezzikitty
  • Wednesday 27th April to Tuesday 3rd May: Boston, MA with dezzikitty
  • Thursday 5th May to Monday 9th May: United Kingdom - I land in Manchester after an overnight flight and will dash home to vote, but might end up rushing off somewhere else after that.
In any case, I would love to meet friends old and new should schedules overlap. (Unfortunately I'll miss bumping into LJ goths who have to change trains at Middlesbrough station to go to the Whitby Gothic Weekend this time. Maybe October?)
Current Mood: okayokay

(32 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:April 14th, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC)
Re: 2, I chose the answer they did, though it took me a minute to really figure out why. I think my reasoning was that the television is taking the place of a cube or box in that picture, so it is becoming part of the set. Were there another box shape, I think you could more easily argue for one of the other answers, but it really does seem like they are trying to make it blend with the set.

Of course I'm a designer and noticing inane things about shape and form has been beaten into me for the past six years or so. ;)

That said, I think it's a rather bonehead question and hardly something I would want on a test that's going to determine whether I get into a university or not.
[User Picture]
Date:April 14th, 2005 10:49 pm (UTC)
I chose their answer too, I think on the grounds of elegance -- none of the others seemed nicely to encapsulate a message to which the picture would be relevant. I take your (implicit) point that it's a bit spooky though, as three of us have now gone for it...

I think it would be a better university-entrance question if you were allowed a paragraph to argue entertainingly for your choice.

(And an opportunity, for extra credit, to simplify Dale's hideous flowchart!)
[User Picture]
Date:April 14th, 2005 08:14 pm (UTC)
No Pokery!!!! LOL Wish I was independently wealthy so that I could travel. ;) Decide if you're going to TWH yet? What about Lumos? You doing the games there?
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 03:26 am (UTC)
I've asked the friend with whom I would need to swap shifts whether she's available for the swap and hope to know one way or the other in the next week. (I meant to ask earlier, but unfortunately she lost her mother too very shortly after I lost mine, so I didn't want to press the issue...) Currently I'd say it's about 35% likely, 65% unlikely.

Lumos: it would be nice to go, especially if TWH proves impossible, but definitely no decision before I find out what my shift pattern is next year, then to thoughts about budgeting. I'm more likely to be a player than a staff member if I do go.
Date:April 14th, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
The "CUNTFLAPS" didn't actually happen. I play in a Countdown league on MSN; the Yahoo group's digests generally come with recaps of actual games... if you notice the score was 0-0 so it was clearly round one... there was no round one that had "CUNTFLAPS" as the selection.

OH, also, here's proof it's fake: only two vowels? You have to choose between 3-5 vowels per letters round. Definitely a fake.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 03:27 am (UTC)
Excellent analysis - I hadn't spotted the "round one" clue. Theoretically there shouldn't be too many episodes with the new set where both contestants were priests, so it should be easy to find out the real round one letters from there.
Date:April 14th, 2005 10:39 pm (UTC)
I'll catch you in Boston this time, promise! None of us allowed to get sick!
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 03:28 am (UTC)
Hooray! Looking forward to it. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 01:55 am (UTC)
Re: 2

I found the question quite good, actually.

What I like about it is that it tests whether you can separate ideas from non-falsifiable but otherwise worthless statements.

One of the great strengths of mathematics is that if person A and person B disagree on a mathematical issue one of them can often be proven completely wrong to the extent that all discussion ends. This is much harder to do in some other fields and it's quite possible for competing "schools of thought" to arise which last for years (or even the lifespans of those involved) despite the fact one side is essentially talking cobblers.

What worries me about this kind of question is the potential for the examiner to be wrong. That could lead to some serious (and very hard to spot or fix) trouble.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 03:39 am (UTC)
Excellent insight which gets to the root of the issue. Hadn't grasped that.

We read these days about computer marking of essays. The story which made the headlines is a system which does not use the computer essay-marking scheme as definitive but merely treats the computer grade as indicative for early feedback during assessment, but it's also interesting that there have been trials of essay marking in the US's GRE test (see here) which have apparently proved remarkably accurate. Can a computer really make worthwhile judgments on people's manner of expression? Jumping slightly, can a computer really pick out an idea from a non-falsifiable but otherwise worthless statement?
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 05:54 am (UTC)
I'm so excited to see you next weekend! It's going to be great to hang with you again - especially in my town!
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC)
Looking forward to it! I don't really know what to expect, but that's OK, and the company will be fun, so what's not to like?
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 07:25 am (UTC)

and now - a hedge against dementia!

Actually I came over here because Megan and I wanted you and Meg to see this, if you haven't already; emphasis ours:


Pessimism Raises Dementia Risk, Study Finds

Thu Apr 14, 5:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pessimistic, anxious and depressed people may have a higher risk of dementia, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

A study of a group of 3,500 people showed that those who scored high for pessimism on a standardized personality test had a 30 percent increased risk of developing dementia 30 to 40 years later.

Those scoring very high on both anxiety and pessimism scales had a 40 percent higher risk, the study showed.

"There appears to be a dose-response pattern, i.e., the higher the scores, the higher the risk of dementia," Dr. Yonas Geda, a neuropsychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota who led the study, said in a statement.

Geda and colleagues looked at the medical records of 3,500 men and women who lived near the clinic between 1962 and 1965.

They all took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a standard personality and life experience test, Geda's team told a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Miami.

In 2004 the team interviewed the participants or family members.

Those who scored higher for anxiety and pessimism on the test were more likely, as a group, to have developed dementia by 2004, including Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

This did not mean a person who is pessimistic could assume he or she has a higher risk of developing dementia.

"One has to be cautious in interpreting a study like this," Geda said.

"One cannot make a leap from group level data to the individual. Certainly the last thing you want to do is to say, 'Well, I am a pessimist; thus, I am doomed to develop dementia 20 or 30 years later,' because this may end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy."

And there is not any specific way to prevent dementia, although many studies have shown that a healthy diet, exercise, keeping active in other ways, doing puzzles and other activities lower the risk.

[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC)

Re: and now - a hedge against dementia!

Definitely true. At the third Mind Sports Olympiad, we had a relative celebrity (Magnus Magnusson) perform the grand opening and talk about opsimathy - learning acquired late in life - and mind sports' benefits towards the same.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 07:38 am (UTC)
* Saturday 23rd April to Monday 25th April: Athens, GA and Atlanta, GA with dezzikitty
* Wednesday 27th April to Tuesday 3rd May: Boston, MA with dezzikitty

Whoops, wrong coast! (We will be in the LAX area from this Sunday until Thursday 28th.)

* Thursday 5th May to Monday 9th May: United Kingdom - I land in Manchester after an overnight flight and will dash home to vote, but might end up rushing off somewhere else after that.

Election party? :-)
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2005 06:30 pm (UTC)
Very much so. Am looking forward to finding out what's going on that evening in more detail.

Enjoy LA! (Are you doing the Frequent Flyer miles thing? A return trip to LA with, say, Virgin would be worth 10,884 flying club miles each, which is almost enough for a free return with bmi. There are referrer bonuses to be had, too...)
[User Picture]
Date:April 18th, 2005 04:39 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, April 23 is the one Saturday I have to work this month--otherwise, we'd love to come to Georgia and say hi.
[User Picture]
Date:April 19th, 2005 02:06 pm (UTC)

Thanks for thinking of us! There will be opportunities in the future, I am quite sure. :-)

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