Sunday: Hili dialogue

October 30, 2022 • 6:30 am

Good morning on Sunday, October 30, 2022, and the worst food holiday of the day: National Candy Corn Day.  This “foodstuff”, made of petroleum byproducts, wax, dyes, and sugar, is one confection that even I, with a big sweet tooth, won’t touch. Read the article below (click on screenshot) if you want to see why you should stay away from candy corn:

It’s also Pumpkin Bread Day, Buy a Doughnut Day, Sugar Addiction Awareness Day, Visit a Cemetery Day, and Mischief Night in Ireland, Canada, United Kingdom, United States and other places.

Readers who want to enlighten us on notable events, births, and deaths on this day can click on the October 30 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz: The news is truncated today as I’m on vacation.

*Bad news from South Korea, and hard to understand. The NYT reports that at least 149 people were killed in a big crush, celebrating Halloween!

The crowd surge happened during one of the most raucous celebrations of the year in the nation’s capital, where as many as 100,000 people, local news media said, had clogged the narrow streets of the Itaewon nightlife district Saturday evening for Halloween festivities.

Here’s what to know:

  • The trouble began at a narrow alleyway, right outside exit 2 of the Itaewon subway station, near a row of bars that included, among others, Oasis Bar & Cafe, Gathering and Ravo. An emotional bystander at the scene who witnessed the event said he saw bodies, limp, on the street. “I wish I hadn’t, but I did,” he said. “It was heartbreaking.”

  • Photographs showed citizens, police officers and emergency medical workers performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on people sprawled on the pavement. Of the dead, at least 101 were transferred to nearby hospitals, while 45 were taken to a multipurpose gymnasium, said Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul’s Yongsan fire department.

  • Itaewon developed as a district of bars, nightclubs and shops catering to American soldiers based nearby in the decades after the Korean War. Now, it is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Seoul, known for its nightlife, young patrons, foreign tourists and stylish restaurants.

  • Questions immediately surfaced about crowd management and planning at the long-publicized event. Traffic jams and clusters of pedestrians restricted the movements of emergency vehicles both coming and going from the site of the deaths.

I was puzzled. Usually people in these situations are jammed in a restricted space like a tunnel or a stadium, but this was out in the street. However, as the article notes, the deaths occurred, “as thousands of people [crammed] into a narrow, hilly alley next to the Hamilton Hotel created a deadly crowd crush.”

*On Monday the Supreme Court will hear arguments in its momentous affirmative-action case, ruling on two cases in which race was used as an admissions criterion. That the Court took the case at all is a bad sign:

The court on Monday will be reviewing the admission policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, cases brought by longtime affirmative action opponent Edward Blum and his Students for Fair Admissions. After extensive trials, lower courts found each university complied with the Supreme Court’s precedents about considering race as only one factor in building diverse student bodies.

Given those rulings — and just six years after the Supreme Court approved a similar race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas — analysts say it seems likely the right wing of the court accepted the new cases to redefine the law about race, not to affirm the lower courts.


. . . The authority of college administrators to use race in a limited way to build a diverse student body has barely survived previous challenges. But even a defender of such policies, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, wrote in 2003 that racial preferences were not likely to be needed in 25 years. And a more dominant conservative majority is in place now.

I predict the vote will be 6-3. Affirmative action will certainly be found unconstitutional, but the vote may not be that lopsided:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina, is the boldest defender of what she prefers to call “race-sensitive” admission policies; she has offered herself as the “perfect affirmative action child” — one who would not have been transported from Bronx housing projects to the Ivy League without a boost, but excelled as a top student once she got there.

Then there is Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who usually is the conservative least likely to champion dramatic change in the court’s precedents. But his entire legal career is anchored by a deep skepticism of what he has called the “sordid business” of dividing Americans by race.

Add to the mix this: Five of the nine justices have yet to cast a vote on affirmative action in a Supreme Court challenge.

If there is a wild card among them, it might be conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the member many consider key to the court’s direction.

Kavanaugh’s recorda as an advocate and judge suggest an aversion to racial classifications. But he has also displayed an aggressive pursuit of diversity among the clerks he has hired, with repeated outreach to Black student organizations at the nation’s elite law schools. His first group of law clerks at the Supreme Court was also the first to be all-female.

I’m assuming that the court will rule against race-based admissions, and I have mixed feelings about that.  After trying to determine how one could enact affirmative action on a racial basis, and not coming up with a good plan in the face of decades of attempts to do so, I am coming around to the view of affirmative action based on socioeconomic status, which will still increase ethnic diversity. What I’m curious about is how colleges and universities, with their extensive DEI apparatus, will try to circumvent the Court’s ruling, for they surely will.

*In an editorial on the same page, conservative Ross Douthat raises all the familar arguments against affirmative action: are they reparations or is diversity an innate good (the basis of the Bakke ruling?

But that emphasis on how graduates look points to what became a key problem with this approach, which is that after decades of diversity talk, everyone can see that elite student bodies are as stratified and set-apart as ever — conspicuously lacking in diversity of class, ideology and thought. And with the reparations argument set aside, the general quest for racial diversity doesn’t obviously answer the problem that Lyndon Johnson identified, since a scion of the Nigerian upper class might be its beneficiary instead of a descendant of American slaves.

All this helps explain why so much cynicism attaches to academic diversity rhetoric; it’s one reason why affirmative action is consistently politically unpopular.

But it’s taken the claim that universities have ended up discriminating against some minority applicants, against Asian Americans specifically, to push the system into crisis.

The Asian American case has split affirmative action’s pan-ethnic constituency — at a certain point all minorities don’t benefit from engineered diversity, it turns out. It has publicized the specific numbers, the stark advantages and disadvantages for different racial or ethnic groups, behind the euphemistic language of “considering” race. And by bringing up the memory of the Ivy League’s Jewish quotas, it’s emphasized academia’s habit of self-interested discrimination, its recurring fear that having too many of a certain group will ruin the brand, the optics, the image.

For years I’ve been swayed by the “optics” trope, thinking that a nearly all white and Asian elite university is just an unsavory thing, for it doesn’t “look like America.” This argument still moves me, but I find it hard to justify on rational grounds involving fairness to everyone. Socioeconimic affirmative action is at least easier to justify, and still increases diversity.

*Microbiologist Elizabeth Bik has a fascinating but depressing piece in the NYT called “Science has a nasty Photoshopping problem.” If you follow science news, you’ll know that several researchers have been brought down by photoshopping images or using the same image over and over again as if it were documenting distinct experiments. Several people have now devoted themselves to sussing out this kind of fraud, and the results are depressing.

After finding one such case, Bik became a bloodhound:

But were those duplicated images just an isolated case? With little clue about how big this would get, I began searching for suspicious figures in biomedical journals.

. . .By day I went to my job in a lab at Stanford University, but I was soon spending every evening and most weekends looking for suspicious images. In 2016, I published an analysis of 20,621 peer-reviewed papers, discovering problematic images in no fewer than one in 25. Half of these appeared to have been manipulated deliberately — rotated, flipped, stretched or otherwise photoshopped. With a sense of unease about how much bad science might be in journals, I quit my full-time job in 2019 so that I could devote myself to finding and reporting more cases of scientific fraud.

Using my pattern-matching eyes and lots of caffeine, I have analyzed more than 100,000 papers since 2014 and found apparent image duplication in 4,800 and similar evidence of error, cheating or other ethical problems in an additional 1,700. I’ve reported 2,500 of these to their journals’ editors and — after learning the hard way that journals often do not respond to these cases — posted many of those papers along with 3,500 more to PubPeer, a website where scientific literature is discussed in public.

The article has animation so you can see how images were manipulated. The rate of fraud she found is 2.5%, surely an underestimate of true fraud. I can’t claim that this problem is limited to microbiology or molecular biology, either, since many experiments in organismal biology are one-offs and will never be repeated; nor do they contain images that can be manipulated.

*Finally, even more depressing is this aspect of America’s gun problem discussed by the AP.

Police saw Carmon Tussey walking briskly toward a crowded Louisville bar carrying a semi-automatic weapon.

With people running away, officers moved in, service weapons drawn. They put the 26-year-old in handcuffs and confiscated his gun. Tussey was later charged with terroristic threatening, wanton endangerment and disorderly conduct, prosecutors said, and could face up to 20 years in prison.

His lawyer says he “was engaged in perfectly legal behavior” in the incident last year, raising a relatively new legal argument in the United States that now stands before the courts to settle.

That’s because Kentucky made it legal in 2019 to carry a gun in public without a permit, joining what is now a majority of states with similar laws.

I had no idea you could carry a gun, much less a semiautomatic rifle, without a permit! I knew there were states that allowed “open carry”: carrying guns out in public rather than concealed on your person, but without a permit?  Oy vey! Here’s the problem:

Many celebrate the end of the bureaucracy erected around what they consider every American’s constitutional right to carry any firearm they want. But permitless carry laws have created a dilemma for officers working the streets: They now have to decide, sometimes in seconds, if someone with the right to carry a gun is a danger.

. . .“It’s no secret why so many law enforcement leaders are speaking out against permitless carry laws,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Allowing anyone to carry a gun anywhere makes the job of a police officer harder and more dangerous.”

Gun violence is up nationwide. There have been 35,000 deaths in the U.S. so far this year, following 45,000 deaths in 2020 and the same in 2021. About 79% of the killings in 2020 involved a firearm, the highest percentage since at least 1968.

My fervent wishes for very strict gun regulations in America, along the lines of Scotland or England, are doomed: the laws just get more and more lax. Ceiling Cat help us every one.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is beefing about ancient photographs:

Hili: Yesterday I was looking at old pictures.
A: And?
Hili: They were not sharp.
A: Even today we have such pictures.
In Polish:

Hili: Oglądałam wczoraj stare zdjęcia.Ja: I co?Hili: Były niewyraźne.Ja: Dziś też się takie zdarzają.

Photos of baby Kulka in the garden taken by Paulina. Caption: “A young, hard working woman rested actively during the sunny afternoon in the garden with a camera, a cat and a husband in the role of an assistant.”

In Polish: Młoda, ciężko pracująca kobieta wypoczywała aktywnie w słoneczne sobotnie przedpołudnie w ogrodzie, z aparatem, kotem i mężem w charakterze asystenta.


From Nicole:  “Tiger in the Snow, 1849. One of Hokusai’s last pieces.”

From Scott:

From the Catspotting Society FB page:

Two from God; one about Twitter (and other stuff):

. . and one (the second one below) He retweeted about Iran (sound up):

Two heartbreaking tweets from Masih:

From Malcolm, a clumsy cat:

From Thomas: the Episcopalians decide that they can get recruits by promoting a mix-and-match theology using, yes, apps:

From Simon, who says, “Who knew that elephants were tidy freaks?”

From the Auschwitz Memorial:

Tweets from Matthew. You figure the first one out; my brain is too fogged to function:

Sound up on this awesome movie preview. Top Gun 3 with Tom Cruise and Owlkitty!

30 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. My fervent wishes for very strict gun regulations in America, along the lines of Scotland or England, are doomed: the laws just get more and more lax. Ceiling Cat help us every one.

    Unfortunately the USA will find great difficulty in imposing strict gun regulations. It’s starting from the wrong place – people will always resent far more losing what they have than what they never had. And there are so many with guns, illegal and legal.

    1. There are people who fervently wish we still had anti-blasphemy laws. I’m glad we have a Constitution that frustrates their wishes.

  2. “socioeconomic status”

    That’s what Greg Loury argues and I agree.

    but one important distinction between socioeconomics and whatever “race” is :

    socioeconomics is not fixed.

    The poor can become rich – and vice versa.

    1. … so how a decision at one moment in time based on a changing variable can be relied upon …

      I mean, I wonder about it. I don’t know.

      Was just a thought that occurred, is all.

    2. I was wondering if another method could be regional admissions. That is, in the matrix of criteria used, colleges that are especially heavy on enrollment from a region could look to admit students from this and that neighborhood. Since those can be concentrated by race, then there is your racial diversity.

    3. Presumably affirmative action based on socio-economic status means lowering admission standards for poorer kids. What is the expected good for society in this? The policy would be open to all the criticisms of AA as currently constituted – patronizing, setting them up to fail, second class students, diluting the worth of the degree. Yes, it would increase ethnic diversity, but if that’s your stealthy goal, why not continue what you currently do with affirmative action?
      Now if instead you said let’s help poorer kids who meet the admissions standard (the same standard for everyone) by giving them scholarships I’d be all on board. You don’t waste good brains, you increase social mobility and ethnic diversity, and you don’t devalue the worth of the degrees awarded.
      I think there is confusion, sometimes, in what we are hoping for. Why don’t poor kids go to good universities? Partly because they can’t afford to, and partly because the schools they attend don’t educate them well enough, and some of it may be the social/cultural milieu they grow up in that does not value education or actively derides trying to “better oneself.” Lowering admission standards for those kids doesn’t help the cost factor (and saddles them with useless debt if they drop out), and if they get in without full ability to do the courses you make them into unhappy self-conscious second tier students, and you have to choose whether to flunk them (wasting their seat on the course, and giving them useless debt), or to pass them anyway and thus make the degree worth less than before. When high school graduation meant something it was because some people failed. When an undergraduate degree was valuable, it was because most didn’t get them. We have gone far enough down the “all shall have prizes” path that now a bachelor’s degree is generally of no help professionally, and a postgrad degree is a minimum standard. Admittedly, universities have connived at this, as they make more money if everyone gets a bachelor’s and a lot go on to postgrad degrees.
      If our goal is to allow good minds to flourish and not be wasted, to do a little social engineering with respect to social mobility and racial diversity, then providing financial aid—scholarships—to capable kids is the best way to do it. Combine that with similar help for the less academic poor kids with similar help to go to trade school and you might be doing some good.

      1. Yes, true in every respect, Christopher. But scholarships for poor kids—a good idea at least for the ones whom you “just know” have more ability than every measure seems to indicate—requires somebody to put up actual money. Quite a lot of money. Affirmative action merely requires someone to pass a law or compel a policy and then walk away.

      2. Race-based affirmative action versus economics based a.a. can sample from the same cross section of applicants. So I don’t see how such a change necessarily means a significant change in who is being admitted now.

      3. The argument would be that the kid from the worse school is likely as good as the well-taught kid with slightly better grades, so will do well after being admitted. I can accept this argument so long as the difference in grades is indeed only slight, so effectively the socio-economic status is being used as a tie-breaker.

    4. I’ve got it :

      Imagine – application to something :

      Do you elect this application to be considered in terms of Affirmative Action? (circle one): yes / no

  3. Justice Sonia Sotomayor […] has offered herself as the “perfect affirmative action child” — one who would not have been transported from Bronx housing projects to the Ivy League without a boost, …

    Is that really so? From her wiki page: “For grammar school, Sotomayor attended Blessed Sacrament School … where she was valedictorian … Sotomayor passed the entrance tests for and then attended Cardinal Spellman High School … She graduated as valedictorian …”

    Sounds like she was doing well anyhow, and would have got into a top university whatever.

    OK, she herself has said: “My test scores were not comparable to my colleagues at Princeton and Yale. Not so far off so that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions.”

    She has also said that the purpose of affirmative action is to “create the conditions whereby students from disadvantaged backgrounds could be brought to the starting line of a race many were unaware was even being run”.

    But the point is that few are against preferential treatment for “students from disadvantaged backgrounds”. If a student is the valedictorian from a high school in the Bronx where very few students have gone on to the Ivy League, and who has standardised scores “not so far off” students from advantaged backgrounds, then sure, look at giving that student a boost and admiting them.

    But that is not doing so on the basis or race or ethnicity, but on the basis of their socio-economic background and schooling. That really is very different.

    (It’s also worth pointing out that her experience was 1972, so 50 years ago, and I suspect that quite a bit has changed since then.)

  4. The beautiful “Tiger in the snow” painting looks much more like a clouded leopard or something like that. The color is yellow rather than orange, and the pattern is different. His other tiger paintings are immediately recognizable as real tigers. Eg:
    Elsewhere on the internet, “Tiger in the snow” is titled “Snow leopard in a storm” so these titles must be made up by others or translated from a very vague or ambiguous Japanese title. This painting is a better match with a snow leopard than with a tiger. But even so, it really doesn’t look like a snow leopard either. It is a good match for a clouded leopard, though the habitat would be wrong for that species. This could be artistic license?.
    The artist is aware of the differences between big cats and knows how to paint other species besides tigers:

  5. Posie Parker’s Let Women Speak Tour, will be in today, from 1-3pm, across from the Wrigley Building.

    As part of her American tour, Posey was in Austin, TX yesterday, but Portland was cancelled due to credible death threats. Today’s rally will be made possible, in part, by a benefactor who paid for off-duty police protection.

    Eventbrite immediately cancelled the event, as soon as Eventbrite posted it, citing “community standards,” so notice of the rally was spread selectively. It should be a small gathering, as advance public disclosure brings a mob of protestors and the threat of (and actual) violence.

    1. The Let Women Speak event in Tacoma ended up with some of the women being spat at and pepper-sprayed, sadly.

      Posie Parker (Kellie-Jay Keen) is sometimes seen as a divisive figure, but her plain speaking and laser-like focus are undeniable and I have huge admiration for her courage and energy.

      1. A man also grabbed a woman’s hands and crushed her fingers. Posey mentioned that at today’s rally where their small group was mobbed by the activists carrying bullhorns, dumming, banging metal spoons against skillets, window alarms, and every other noise-making device on the planet. Including their own portable sound system. Have no idea what Parker managed to record, I barely hear anything, and I was standing right next to the speakers.

  6. You figure the first one out; my brain is too fogged to function

    The distance between the cat’s two pointiest teeth is measured and then compared with mysterious pairs of puncture marks that have appeared on various objects. In all cases, the distance between the two puncture marks is found to exactly match the distance between the teeth of the cat.

  7. “…a narrow, hilly alley next to the Hamilton Hotel…”

    Search for Itaewon in Google Maps, and you’ll see the site of the disaster clearly marked. Streetview gives you an idea of the problem.

  8. The mole Venn diagram missed another “mole”, the wonderful Mexican sauces that often contain chocolate and red pepper.

  9. Notable science birthdays:

    1817, Herman Koop, chemist, heat capacities & boiling points

    1857, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, neurologist, Tourette’s syndrome

    1894, Jean Rostand, Biologits, amphibian embryology, teratogeny

    1895, Dickinson W. Richards, physician, Nobel prize (1956) cardiac catheterization & cardiac diseases

    1895, Gerhard Domagk, bacteriologist. Nobel prize (1939) antibiotics-Prontosil

    1900, Ragnar Granit, neuroscientist, Nobel prize (1967) physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye

    1909, Homi J. Bhabha, nuclear physicist, Tata institute

    1928, Daniel Nathans, microbiologist, Nobel prize (1978) restriction enzymes

    1939, Leland H. Hartwell, Nobel prize (2001) protein molecules that cause division & duplication in cells

    1957, Aleksandr Lazutkin, cosmonaut

    1964, Sandra Magnus, NASA astronaut, STS-119

    1. Topology is a field of mathematics I wish I understood. I find it fascinating, but was only exposed to it a few years ago thanks to Numberphile videos, ones featuring Cliff Stoll in particular. I found an old Mr. Wizard video that had some basic topology and was shocked! Imagine, teaching a 10-12 yr old kid and expecting them to understand! We now allow those kids calculators and multiplication tables to do maths tests.
      I had never heard of Thurston, but then I don’t know many mathematicians excepting ones I’ve learned via Numberphile or even the tv show The Big Bang Theory. They are not household names and certainly not considered worthy of fame or admiration. Pity. Our culture values bubble-butted bimbos, muscled morons, and internet effluence influencers instead. I guess you’re not likely to find a poster of Gauss on a teenager’s bedroom wall. Not that I was any different though.

  10. I think everyone is in favor of finding and promoting talent among kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    What I think is objectionable is the idea of “under-represented groups.” If Asian Americans are more interested in computer science than Black Americans, why should we discriminate against Asians because they are “over-represented” and in favor of Blacks because they are “under-represented.”

    Not only is this unfair, but it won’t work because putting less qualified kids in situations in which they perform poorly is not going to help them or anyone else.

    But that is exactly what we are doing.

  11. The Episcopalian mix-‘n’-match “spirituality app” cracked me up, but raised an odd bit from my own background: both of my parents were enthusiastic atheists, each descended from old Atlantic Seaboard clans of similar bent. However, they loved the Episcopal church for what was then its sheer Britannic majesty, its medieval pomp, spectacular architecture, and especially its soaring music, with richly-clad choral arrays accompanied by brilliant brass detachments and, O yes, Beefy Organs of stunning craftsmanship and earth-shaking power. They even recited the nonsensical creeds with ironic delight, and they certainly enjoyed the post-church “coffee” gatherings, with nice wines and fine single-malts.
    Most of their peers were similarly unbelievers with an affinity for glorious ancestral display, and no one questioned the disjuncture. They were having fun.
    I believe even Richard Dawkins has acknowledged a fondness for such antique grandeur; I know that I still miss it. I suspect that in foregoing celebratory tribal spectacle in favor of following lowest-common-denominator fashion, such enterprises as Episcopalianism foul their own econiches.
    Meh. I haven’t time anyway. But for a brief sample of that Old Time oomph, check this out:

  12. “I can’t claim that [scientific fraud] is limited to microbiology or molecular biology, either, since many experiments in organismal biology are one-offs and will never be repeated.”

    Jerry knows about the ecologist and serial fraudster Jonathan Pruitt, but other readers might get a kick out of his story. This is a long read posted last year by one of the journal editors who helped uncover the extraordinary extent of the fraud (Nature and Science had shorter summary stories about the damage to Pruitt’s unwitting collaborators).

    The story ended earlier this year with McMaster University quietly letting Pruitt go from his lucrative Canada 150 Research Chair. In an ironic twist, Pruitt then became a fantasy novelist.

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