Open Thread, 01/07/2019

Because of BookBub I get notified of a lot of book deals. For example, The Roman Empire and the Silk Routes: The Ancient World Economy and the Empires of Parthia, Central Asia and Han China is now $1.30 on Kindle. This is like when The Shape of Ancient Thought was steeply discounted a few years ago. The prices go up and down. But definitely a boon to any nerd.

It is highly likely I’ll try a leaky gated model for this weblog next month as a trial. I’ll try and set it up so a few extended entry posts are free so links from high-traffic sites aren’t impacted (I don’t see gating posts which aren’t extended entry). If it doesn’t work, perhaps I’ll try something else, or, just sunset the blog. There are enough posts that there is still value even if this becomes an archive website.

Twitter is toxic to discussions with any subtlety or depth are pretty. People are polarized. It’s a great place to get links to papers. But not a great place to have a discussion except on a subset of very narrowly delimited topics.

China Targets Prominent Uighur Intellectuals to Erase an Ethnic Identity. Looks like China wants all its citizens to become Han.

One of the major biases of the “chattering” classes is that they are drawn from the upper socioeconomic strata. And those that aren’t, tend to be conscientious and studious in relation to the average American.

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates. “News you can use.” This is usually on a list of “things doctors know that you don’t.”

The scientist who tried to be as selfless as possible, until it killed him. Props to Vox for putting a form of the Price Equation in the text! Oren Harman’s book The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness is highly recommended. I had drinks with Harman and George Price’s daughters in Berkeley about eight years ago. Unfortunately, it is clear Price’s personal life was a total mess in ways that aren’t totally communicable in books. It’s particularly interesting comparing Harman’s fuller picture with the George Price that you get to know in Defenders of the Truth, which was refracted through William D. Hamilton’s recollections.

Apple’s Biggest Problem? My Mom. Smartphones are utilities now. When was the last time you upgraded your microwave? There are lots of things in computing which are like this now. Until it breaks, why get a new computer, tablet, or smartphone?

Can Sexual Selection Cause Divergence In Mating System-Related Floral Traits?

Genetic legacy of state centralization in the Kuba Kingdom of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ecological causes of uneven diversification and richness in the mammal tree of life.

Must Writers Be Moral? Their Contracts May Require It.

Hidden ‘risk’ in polygenic scores: clinical use today could exacerbate health disparities.

Effects of phenotypic robustness on adaptive evolutionary dynamics.

Highly Heritable and Functionally Relevant Breed Differences in Dog Behavior.

Whole-genome sequencing of rare disease patients in a national healthcare system.

Locally Fixed Alleles: A method to localize gene drive to island populations.

The One Issue the Left and Right Can Agree On.

22 thoughts on “Open Thread, 01/07/2019

  1. I’m still a little fuzzy on your thought process behind a gated model. You said earlier that you aren’t planning on making enough income to turn blogging into a full-time gig. Would the cash then simply be an extra motivator to continue writing? And if motivation is the heart of the issue, then I’d be curious to know what has changed recently. You’ve been blogging for years; why are things different now?

  2. Re: future tight gene drive:

    The Han shall render unfruitful the loins of theirn enemies!

    California boys, watch out.

  3. just sunset the blog

    That would be sad, but I understand. Producing this kind of high quality work for a select audience (which means limited numerically by nature) is in many ways a thankless work. The morons shall inherit the Internet…

  4. You’ve been blogging for years; why are things different now?

    i have 3 kids. i have a lot less time on the margin than i did many years ago.

    the gated model will be a test. we’ll see. my wife really is curious if anyone cares about this stuff.

  5. ‘The morons shall inherit the Internet…’

    Twinkie, are you not the fellow who mentions that you have done well financially? Or is that ‘owwilke’ (sp). For the price of a buying and shooting a cheapish .50 cal for a year, a well-off guy can go a long way toward keeping Razib interested to continue throwing his pearls before us swine…I for one would laud such a contribution, and the patron would have the satisfaction of knowing that he’s helping to elevate the national conversation.

  6. SSD,

    to be frank if u told me in 2002 i’d be blogging in 2008, let alone 2018, i’d have laughed.

    my life situation and the relevance of blogs is a lot different now too.

    otoh, if there is a community here that is willing to pay me a nontrivial amount that might give me a signal.

    (i plan on keeping the archives free >30 days so the contribute to google will continue and will probably renew the domain for another 10 years next year)

  7. my wife really is curious if anyone cares about this stuff.

    You want us to prove (with money) to your wife that your blog is worthwhile?

    I think you need to let it go.

  8. Would be sad to see it go!!

    My rando comment for open thread: I’m puzzled that the process that caught the Golden State Killer hasn’t gone into mass production. I have the impression that the choke point isn’t DNA analysis, it’s people with the genealogical chops to figure out who’s both related to that 5th cousin showing up on GEDmatch and also is a plausible suspect. I’d have expected mass training in this new field of genealogical forensics.

    A guy I know is a retired police officer with some relevant experience. I asked him why this hasn’t happened – he guessed expense. I don’t know – I wouldn’t think it would be more expensive than the hours of fieldwork it would take to crack a case otherwise.

  9. Twinkie, are you not the fellow who mentions that you have done well financially?

    Yes, I am comfortable and don’t have to work (though I still do a little bit – my wife and I are on the board of a large healthcare system).

    For the price of a buying and shooting a cheapish .50 cal for a year, a well-off guy can go a long way toward keeping Razib interested to continue throwing his pearls before us swine…I for one would laud such a contribution, and the patron would have the satisfaction of knowing that he’s helping to elevate the national conversation.

    I’ve found over the years from both personal experience and that of others that being a major patron (being “the money”) of an endeavor rarely works out well. If I am to give substantial sums, naturally I would want some say in the operations and the product of the endeavor, and inevitably this tends to create discord with the types who just want the resources and not any input (let alone “power” as such in the endeavor).

    My wife and I are active in charitable works, but ONLY those in which we are active participants. And even in those, we are hardly the only benefactors. It’s good for an organization (charity, non-profit, political operation, even a blog) to have many financial contributors – it is unhealthy to rely on just one or a very few benefactors and, indeed, that is usually a sign of poor long-term viability (read “waste of money”).

  10. You retweeted “The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates”, which makes a convincing case that many drugs are safe and effective well past their expiration dates. And then leaves you with the impression that drug companies are responsible for hospitals and pharmacies throwing out lots of usable drugs that have gone past their dates. After all, the more that gets thrown out, the more they can sell.

    But drug companies have no power to make customers do anything. Hospitals and pharmacies are responding to a federal law prohibiting sale or dispensing past the expiration date, and FDA policies that determine what those dates are. If the FDA was truly interested in fixing the problem, it could.

  11. In On the edge of Africa and Eurasia, you state:

    Humans have two plausible avenues of migration out of Africa. In the north, through the Sinai, or in the south across the Bab-el-Mandeb strait between Yemen and the African mainland.

    Why not a 3rd, the Strait of Gibraltar, which is less than half as wide as Bab-el-Mandeb?

    Obviously, it is not relevant to the Arabian peninsula, the topic of that post, but it is relevant to human/hominin emigration from Africa.

  12. Mixed feelings about the drug expiration date article. I agree that many drugs are safe well past their expiration dates. I also agree that the incentives that govern extension of expiration dates are messed up.

    In the case of emergencies, they are a good option. In more controlled situations, it’s hard to say. The article focuses on the amount of active drug present per dose, but that is only part of the story. Release kinetics matter too — they are determined by changes in crystal form of both the active ingredient and the excipient(s). Dosing is determined by rate of uptake and the shape of the pharmacokinetic curve. It may not make a difference for most patients, but it could for some.

  13. Adding to my above comment, since I didn’t make it clear: It’s quite possible that while the amount of active ingredient in a given pill could remain constant for years after “expiration”, changes in the solid form of that ingredient (or an excipient) could mean that the drug is absorbed much more quickly or slowly than original intended.

  14. my sister is a social sciences grad assistant at portland state so your Urbane Cowboys episode made me feel “caught in the middle.” I can’t really say what i feel at family gatherings without seeming rude so…no comment!

  15. I’m a sucker for cheap reads. So I got the China/Roman book for my Kindle. Its quite good. Apparently the Chinese knew quite a bit about Rome, and even called it Da Qin, knowing that it was an empire fully equivalent to their. However, the Romans were less familiar with Han China, only knowing that the superb silk cloth they were being had to come from some place that featured a society as advanced as their own.

    The Persians, called the Parthians at the time, were reluctant to give up their middle-man role and allow for direct contact between China and Rome.

    Those damned middle-men! Why can’t they just go away.

  16. “Looks like China wants all its citizens to become Han.” – China is USA (United State of Asia). China has always been a melting pot for East Asia and run as civilization state instead of national state. Civilization state emphasize assimilation instead of discrimination. National state is based on discrimination against other nationalities. National state against discrimination or racism is really oxymoron.

    National state or colony is universal in animal world. But civilization state (empire with multi-nationalities) is also present in the nature too. The following is an example for another social animal to form their own empire (with multi-nationalities or clones).

    Empire of ants.

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