Monthly Shorts 6/​22

Link post

Nifty Computer Things

I have a website! is the product of weeks worth of obsessing and fiddling with the little details, and I’m happy with the outcome.

arxiv-utils makes arXiv papers have names instead of numbers. Works smoothly, works everywhere.

I found a very useful map-builder for quickly coloring US states, countries, and more.

Fun fact: you can mark a deck of cards with IR-readable bar codes to track where every card is in a deck! There are reasons that gamblers want to crack open new decks

Words that demonetize you on Youtube.


For those of you playing along at home, among the list of distinctions graduates of my school have acquired is now included being convicted with the death penalty for insider trading in China. He apparently made $500k, which someone with a PhD in policy analysis can make in 2-3 years if they sell out to a consultancy in America. My conclusion is that we should have easier immigration laws.

If you want to know how to avoid being convicted of insider trading, by either of the obvious routes, I recommend reading Matt Levine’s Money Stuff, which has been excellent recently. You can get it as a newsletter if you don’t have access to the Bloomberg website.

Neat podcast transcript on multiple equilibria: Los Angeles apartments don’t come with refrigerators, unlike everywhere else. And on one hand, this is obviously absurd. A fridge is incredibly bulky, has weird sizing requirements, I get that Americans like their apartments much less furnished than Europeans (in Edinburgh you can move in and expect the previous tenants to have left couches and chairs), but refrigerators, really? And one theory might be that Angelenos are allergic to cold, explaining why AC isn’t universal in the hellhole of a state.

Queen Victoria going into mourning cancelled the London Season, where nobility and gentry would find suitable partners, for two years. Rather than simply delaying, they married peasants. Peer-commoner marriage increased by 40%.


danah boyd is looking for research assistants: I think fewer readers will want to apply for the job (basically checking to see if she’s interacting with literatures appropriately) than want to get an expert’s recommendation for how to get into the literatures of interest:

  • STS. Lots on infrastructures and sociotechnical imaginaries with a mix of SCOT, feminist STS, and occasionally some ANT (sans Latour ::wink::).

  • Organizational sociology. Much of this is a public-sector orgs ethnography of the Diane Vaughan or Janet Vertesi style. I’m also looking at organizational failure and resilience, and organizational communication.

  • History of statistics/​politics of numbers. Think Porter, Daston, Gallison, Hacking, Bouk, James Scott.

  • Public administration (and some administrative law), with a U.S. bent. Think Dan Carpenter, Pamela Herd, Don Moynihan, Elizabeth Popp Berman, David Pozen.

The ACLU: Bait and Switch by Andrea Dworkin is intended as a biting critique, and to my eyes is 90% praise 10% critique (people should be upfront about what they’re fundraising for).

Fun New Yorker article on the Vault 7/​Vault 8 CIA leaks has some great bureaucratic comedy elements:

Even as F.B.I. investigators pinpointed Schulte as the prime suspect, their work was frustrated by the pageantry of overclassification. WikiLeaks had posted the Vault 7 tools on the Web, where anyone could see them, but officially the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. maintained that the documents remained classified. As a result, only investigators who held the necessary security clearances were permitted even to access WikiLeaks to see what had been stolen. F.B.I. officials were so nervous about visiting the Web site using Bureau computers or Internet connections (thereby possibly exposing their own networks to a cyber intrusion) that they dispatched an agent to purchase a new laptop and visit the Web site from the safety of a Starbucks. Once the Vault 7 materials had been downloaded from the Internet, the laptop itself became officially classified, and had to be stored in a secure location. But the evidence locker normally used by agents, which held drugs and other seized evidence, wouldn’t do, because it was classified only up to the Secret level. Instead, the investigators stored the laptop in a supervisor’s office, in a special safe that had been certified to hold Top Secret documents—even though anyone could go to the Internet to see the materials that were on it.

I admit, my personal stance is that classified information is supposed to be information that, if released, could cause damage to national interests (sometimes slightly different language, but that’s always the point). After information has been released publicly, covered in multiple different press outlets, and permanently available online, the release of said information is no longer capable of causing damage to anything! Even in cases of more moderate release than wikileaks, (perhaps because someone’s posting on the Warthunder fora) The counterpoint, of course, is that in many cases the US Government can try to create ambiguity over whether a release was real, in whole or in part, and having as official policy that the information is now unclassified might allow confirmation of too many points of information. Insisting that it’s classified means being able to leak fake ’“classified” information without ever having to lie too much to the public.

I think the public attitude towards “the CIA leaked fake information they claimed was classified” would not be nearly as bad as deliberate deception. Of course the American public would strongly object to deliberate deception, like that time the CIA hacked congressional computers because Congress was investigating the CIA for torture, or that time the CIA and almost the entirety of the rest of the intelligence community warned of nukes in Iraq, or that time the CIA sold guns to Iran to finance a guerrilla war in South America in direct contravention of congressional directives.

An interview I read was interesting for one of my ongoing questions: what does intellectual conservatism look like in 5-10 years? I don’t think that this is an option, but it’s trying to have something resembling a solution for the problems conservatives have identified.

William F. Buckley Jr., best known for other work, wrote a series of spy novels starring a CIA operative.

Policing in 13th century Bologna is exactly as interesting to read about as it sounds. Uniformed cops! Who were legally barred from socializing with the residents of the city!

The quote below is from NPR, and a good encapsulation of much of my distaste for our current attitudes around doctors and healthcare more broadly. I’m aware that biology is horrendously complicated, but doctors can’t even improve the health of their own parents with an N of >40k, so the sheer degree of gatekeeping typical of the medical establishment offends me.

I’m also not thrilled that the CDC is actively refusing to disclose how many tests have been administered.

On June 13, a man in New York began to feel ill.

“He starts to experience swollen lymph nodes and rectal discomfort,” says epidemiologist Keletso Makofane, who’s at Harvard University.

The man suspects he might have monkeypox. He’s a scientist, and knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms, Makofane says. So the man goes to his doctor and asks for a monkeypox test. The doctor decides, instead, to test the man for common sexually transmitted diseases. All those come back negative.

“A few days later, the pain worsens,” Makofane says. So he goes to the urgent care and again asks for a monkeypox test. This time, the provider prescribes him antibiotics for a bacterial infection.

“The pain becomes so bad, and starts to interfere with his sleep,” Makofane says. “So this past Sunday, he goes to the emergency room of a big academic hospital in New York.”

At this point the man has a growth inside his rectum, which is a symptom of monkeypox. At the hospital, he sees both an ER doctor and an infectious disease specialist. Again, the man asks for a monkeypox test. But the specialist rebuffs the request and says “a monkeypox test isn’t indicated,” Makofane says. Instead, the doctor speculates that the man might have colon cancer.

A few days later, he develops skin lesions — another key sign of monkeypox.

Surprise! He finally found someone who could and would test him, and lo and behold, the man had monkeypox.


I’ve arrived in Edinburgh, and will be around for the better part of three months. Would love to meet people here, in London, or in Oxford.

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