Minor Zoe News

“The President Sang Amazing Grace” video showed up in the New York Times’ Tuesday Briefing. My mom told me first as she gets it as an email blast. It clearly is riding on the recent Atlantic reposting and is just some staffer going “cool” (which is awesome).

This suggests that a real surge might happen when Baez’s tour hits the States and US coverage heats up.


Even Kevin Drum…

Drum wrote a m post, entitled “GOPus delenda est“, which is pretty extreme for him:

Today, the Republican Party exists for one and only one purpose: to pass tax cuts for the rich and regulatory rollbacks for corporations. They accomplish this using one and only method: unapologetically racist and bigoted appeals to win the votes of the heartland riff-raff they otherwise treat as mere money machines for their endless mail-order cons.

Like it or not, this is the modern Republican Party. It no longer serves any legitimate purpose. It needs to be crushed and the earth salted behind it, while a new conservative party rises to take its place. This new party should be conservative; brash; ruthless when it needs to be; as simpleminded as any major party usually is; and absolutely dedicated to making Democrats look like idiots. There should be no holds barred except for one: no appeals to racism. None. Not loud ones, not subtle ones. Whatever else it is, it should be a conservative party genuinely open to any person of any color.

This is a hill I’m willing to die on as well.

Virtual Reduces Access

Digital artifacts, esp entertainment ones, seem to broaden access to the artifact. I can download a book, song, or movie at anytime from any place. With streaming services we all, in some sense, have access to virtual libraries beyond anything most of us could have hoped for.

And yet.

Consider Netflix. It’s streaming library is depressingly shallow and getting more so in many ways (note that Disney will pull much of its content soon in favor of its own platform). We will see more an more content fractured into different silos until someone bundles them up into very expensive packages a la cable.

Copyright increasingly sucks. I mean, it’s long been a horrible drag and boon to rentiers but it’s getting worse. It turns out that the Web and the Internet are not that hard for bad guys to control and they don’t have the common good job mind.

The Loss of Loss Aversion

As with ego depletion, loss aversion turns out to probably not be a thing:

However, as documented in a recent critical review of loss aversion by Derek Rucker of Northwestern University and myself, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, loss aversion is essentially a fallacy. That is, there is no general cognitive bias that leads people to avoid losses more vigorously than to pursue gains. Contrary to claims based on loss aversion, price increases (ie, losses for consumers) do not impact consumer behavior more than price decreases (ie, gains for consumers). Messages that frame an appeal in terms of a loss (eg, “you will lose out by not buying our product”) are no more persuasive than messages that frame an appeal in terms of a gain (eg, “you will gain by buying our product”).

People do not rate the pain of losing $10 to be more intense than the pleasure of gaining $10. People do not report their favorite sports team losing a game will be more impactful than their favorite sports team winning a game. And people are not particularly likely to sell a stock they believe has even odds of going up or down in price (in fact, in one study I performed, over 80 percent of participants said they would hold on to it).

I have dug into the paper so…who knows?! but I find it plausible.

This is super annoying. The ego depletion one was extra annoying due to the fact that the literature had seemed good. Loss aversion loss is annoying because of the pervasiveness of use of the concept. It was the example of behavior economics.

We really need to separate out the work that is inherently high risk in fields like psychology and nutrition.

Note: when looking up the ego depletion stuff I came across a post touting recent “strong” evidence for ego depletion in the form of two sorts large studies with preregistration. That’s prima facie interesting but I’m going to retain a pretty high level of skepticism. Certainly when folks write (emphasis added)

Moreover, combining results from the two studies, there was an overall small, but statistically significant, ego depletion effect even after removing outlier participants (and this was after only a five-minute self control challenge, so you can imagine the effects being larger after more arduous real life challenges).

Arrrrrgh! The results of two studies with a combined n of around 1000 is a small but “statistically significant” (I presume p=0.05) effect. No no no no. That’s super dangerous.

Worse, speculating about how much bigger the effects would be with bigger manipulation is super duper dangerous. This is stoking confirmation bias. And we shouldn’t be looking at current tiny effects as evidence for future awesome effects.

Music Monday: Teach Your Children Well

Jeff Scher has another music video out and it’s fab:

It’s all in his trademark animated watercolor-from-stills-and-footage style that we saw in his video for “The President Sang Amazing Grace”:

Aside from the sheer beauty of the paintings (which is a large part of their appeal), he excels in building a visual story from the images. In the “Teach” video the first half is black and white and covers protest and events in the 1960s era (when the song was written and recorded). He adds color as he shifts the images to the present day and the connections are literally illuminated. My favorite echo is the protest fist at the Olympics with the kneeling NFL players.

Watch it!

Zoe finally got to PA where Jeff had sent the frame he gave us:

Sunday Baking: Nougat and Blackberry Cake

Due to the ridiculous weather, the blackberries have ripened way early and in spite of the drought have produced bucketfuls. So I made a cake!

It was ok. If there’d been room in the paper I would have added a ton more blackberries. The recipe was fun in that you creamed the sugar and eggs and added melted butter. So oil would have been an easy substitute. I used a free standing baking paper because clean up is hard with my bum hand.

It was fine if a bit boring. The granulated sugar on top melted into a shiny crust which was nice.

I still have blackberries frozen from last year. Need to make pie.

I also made some nougat with Kilburn honey:

This recipe was disappointingly soft and sticky. I coated it in powdered sugar just to keep it reasonable. So you mostly taste powdered sugar. Oh well!

Two Text UI Todo Managers

I’ve been studying Text UI (TUI) frameworks in Python for a while now. In my class, we use the built in argparse module to mange command line argument handling. I fantasise pushing up to REPLs and then widget based full screen console apps. Ideally, the TUI widget framework would have GUI and Web based backends but alas none do. Also, I have a couple of grade and exam management tools with argument handling that I’m looking to add a better front end. A TUI is appealing because it’s lightweight, portable, and easier to security audit.

In this investigation, I stumbled across a couple of TUI task and todo managers. There are, of course, dozens and based on editors, file formats, etc etc. These accidentally juxtaposed by one of them being in an open tab from Hacker News and the other is built on one of the frameworks I’m playing with. The first is a node.js app called Taskbook which has a kind of Trello mentality. The other is a Python/urwid toolkit based app called todotxt-machine and is designed around the todo.txt file format.

(I haven’t fully investigated but it certainly seems that todo.txt is sufficient to capture Taskbook’s data model.)

So, with minor differences in list layout, they have very similar functionality but very different interaction designs. Taskbook is entirely a shell app and all interaction is via arguments from the shell. This is great for integration with scripts and thus larger workflows but can get get when manually manipulating lots of items. It’s primary mode is batch.

Contrariwise, todotxt-machine is a full screen, interactive console app with a bit of menuing, mouse support, and so on. It’s virtues and vices are the reverse of Taskbook.

Implementationwise, though I don’t have actual stats or anything, it’s much easier to add the command line processing than the console UI. Adding the Taskbook argument handling should be a doddle (given feature parity).

In a similar summery, Taskbook’s JSON is more ready out of the box for processing whereas todo.txt is much easier for people to manipulate.