Hope Christmas went well for everyone. No complaints about mine.
Pinboard. Thanks for the Delicious replacement recommendations. I know that Delicious is going to be sold and not shutdown, but confidence is lost. Pinboard seems to work well, and you can import all your Delicious bookmarks. Additionally, there’s a serviceable Chrome extension so that I can easily add bookmarks. Already have the new RSS up: http://feeds.pinboard.in/rss/u:gnxp/.
HTC Evo 4G. I’m not an early adopter of hardware, but I have no big complaints about the HTC Evo 4G. It’s lame that they call it 4G when Sprint’s 4G coverage is so sparse (no coverage in San Francisco, but coverage in Merced and Stockton!). But their version of Android is reasonably user friendly, though not as much as the iPhone (or at least what I could gather from playing around with the iPhones of others). Though I already ran into one app which made the phone crash and reboot. It was an online banking app, distributed by that specific bank.
The genome of woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca). It’s in Nature, but open access!
Genomic DNA Sequences from Mastodon and Woolly Mammoth Reveal Deep Speciation of Forest and Savanna Elephants. This paper has gotten a lot of coverage. I didn’t hit it mostly because of the time investment I made in the Denisovan paper, but I do think it is interesting. The deep separation of African forest and savanna elephant populations may be interesting because of the sort of analogies one can make about the gross evolutionary pressures on mammalian lineages due to ecological and geological parameters. I’m thinking in particular of apes, the bonobo-chimpanzee and hominin vs. ‘great ape’ divisions.
Peretz in Exile. The future of Israel seems to be that of a more conventional Middle Eastern state. The ultra-Orthodox are reproducing at a fast rate, and currently their labor force participation is low. This is not sustainable. I suspect once they are forced to enter the labor market en masse they will be much more assertive than they are now in the domain of politics. Producers can call the shots more than consumers.
Person of the Year 2010. Mark Zuckerburg. Nothing too original in the piece, though it’s well written. I would also add that it’s a pretty good sign that Facebook’s phase as an “It” company is nearing an end as it starts to saturate the mainstream media chatter. It’s profitable, and it will get bigger, but the rate of growth is already decreasing (second derivative is negative). Amazon, Microsoft and Google make bank, so it isn’t as if Facebook is going away. But soon there’ll be someone else on the horizon (I’m skeptical of the sustainability of Groupon in some of the areas where it is popular, such as restaurants).
Conflict Over Squatters Divides Argentina. Peronism has always been a contradiction in so many ways.
Tallinn-Evans $125,000 Singularity Challenge. ” Jaan Tallinn, a founder of Skype and Ambient Sound Investments, and Edwin Evans, CEO of the mobile applications startup Quinly, every contribution to the Singularity Institute up until January 20, 2011 will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $125,000.”
Thiel Fellowship. Deadline December 31st.
Grown-Up Startups. “Why old people make better entrepreneurs than young ones.” I’m interested in the academic literature on this. I believe it is better for society to produce more failed entrepreneurs than successful financial engineers. A few Fritz Haber’s per generation will do.
The Priorities of the Left. Kevin Drum explains why the nature of the Left and Right coalitions in the USA over the past two generations have resulted in more economic and social liberalism. That is, less regulation and welfare state, more individual personal liberty. See The Age of Abundance for a positive take on this.
Necessity Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril. “Then he confiscated her uniform, slapped her across the face and threatened to break her legs if he saw her outside the home….Her family may be outraged, but they are also in need. Ms. Sultana donates her $100 monthly salary to supplement the household budget for expenses that the men in her family can no longer pay for….” Men during the Victorian era regularly visited brothels. There is a level of sexual “traditionalism” which turns men into habitual perverts and male relatives of women into de facto chattel slave owners. This is relatively common in the Muslim world and much of South Asia. I think most people lead more balanced lives somewhere between this sort of barbarism and the “no rules” sexual liberation experiments which have caused such havoc in communes since the 19th century.
Fears Growing of Mugabe’s Iron Grip Over Zimbabwe. The difference between Zimababwe and Bostwana show to some extent the importance of contingency. It is arguable that the rational thing for an autocrat to do is behave like Robert Mugabe, squeeze as much out of the orange as possible and leave it dry. But the cost in aggregate misery is high. I think this might give us an insight into the problems Western nations are starting to have due to problems of coordination for the greater good.
Female Bomber Kills Dozens in Pakistan, Official Says. Never underestimate the pragmatism of “principled” radicals. Here you have a case of reactionaries who would prevent women from becoming literate using a woman as a weapon of war; a highly transgressive act which even most Western nations avoid except in circumstances of extreme need.
Chip To Sequence Genome In Minutes? Someday. Though let’s wait a bit, because the hype is getting to become a bidding war in this area.
What is a human? Mulling the implications of the Denisova admixture paper.
Too Big To Bail. “Is Japan the next major world economy to tank?”At ~120 million people Japan has a population greater than the “PIIGS” combined. I do think either innovation will save them/us, or, they/we’ll have to get used to a reduction in nominal per capita wealth.
Neandertal band of brothers. John Hawks on the Neandertal cannibal story, and its implication of patrilocality. Only ~70% of human societies are patrilocal, so I wouldn’t be surprised if our own lineage doesn’t exhibit the extreme obligate social patterns of bonobos, elephants and chimpanzees.
Genetic evidence for patrilocal mating behavior among Neandertal groups. The paper is open access. Social evolution and cannibalism all in one!
The Influence of Natural Barriers in Shaping the Genetic Structure of Maharashtra Populations. “Our analysis suggests that Indian populations, including Maharashtra state, are largely derived from Paleolithic ancient settlers; however, a more recent (~10 Ky older) detectable paternal gene flow from west Asia is well reflected in the present study.” First, I suspect that the dating here is wrong. Second, I don’t think that southern Indian populations by and large have such deep roots, because there are strong pointers from the autosomal data that they don’t, and, the nature of farmer & hunter-gatherer interaction make it implausible, though not impossible.
Jon Tester draws ire of liberals. This is a bad thing in Montana? Avowed liberals are only ~20-25% of the American electorate, vs. ~30-40% who are avowed conservatives. This means that liberals can mobilize and impact successfully when the public is on their side (e.g., “Don’t ask, don’t tell”). But when it come to policies where there is less unanimity locale matters.