QOTD

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this_ a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

I've posted the first sentence of this quotation before, but hadn't read the subsequent lines until today.


Go Cards!

The playoffs start tonight, and while most columnists have picked the Phillies, Rany Jazayerli had this to say_

The Phillies have the best starting rotation anyone has seen in years. Which will just make their first-round exit at the hands of a team that no one thought would even be here that much more galling. In a season in which a pair of titans have already suffered shocking late-season collapses, the Phillies will be the biggest to fall. I fully expect that by the end of this series, at least one Phillies pitcher will suffer from PTSD thanks to Albert Pujols. Philadelphia fans already hate me, so I might as well earn their scorn_ St. Louis Cardinals in four games.

There's nothing quite like October baseball.


Grabbing Dinner

frog

"Now, Bill" Jody tells me, "you got to remember something when you go to grab that frog tonight - You're not petting that frog," he says. "You're not slapping that frog. You got to..." He presses his lips together, searching for something that will illustrate his point. His eye comes to rest on an empty coffee cup in the truck's holder. "You got to grab that frog." As he speaks, a large right fist shoots out, seizing and crushing the Styrofoam cup so quickly and completely that it basically explodes inside the cab. The noise alone is extraordinary.

Grabbing Dinner


Stuff I Like: Maglite flashlights

I've been using Maglite flashlights for years since they're durable, water-resistant, and come in a variety of sizes. I carry a 3 D-cell maglite on car-camping trips, and have a few mini-mags for backpacking or to stick in my pocket.

A while back, I went to change the batteries in my 3 D-cell maglite, and discovered that the end cap was stuck. Really stuck. Even using some clamps and a pair of vice grips wouldn't get it off.

As I later learned, the most common cause for this is corrosion from old batteries that leaked. I contacted Maglite and they told me to send it in and they'd take a look. About a week later, a brand-new model showed up at my door.

Turns out that they've worked out agreements with a few different battery manufacturers and they will replace flashlights at no charge to the customer when this happens. That's going above and beyond what I expect of a company, and that's why Maglite falls into the category of "Stuff I Like".


QOTD

I hear all this, you know, 'Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.' No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own - nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory - and hire someone to protect against this - because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless - keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

--Elizabeth Warren




QOTD

Half the harm that is done in this word Is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm - but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle To think well of themselves.

from "The Cocktail Party" by T.S. Eliot

via John Green



Fundamental truths and the future

And this way we live online brings us to the Fundamental Truth Number Three: That technology changes our expectations of each other. I collect these changes. I really like them. There are lots. A good example is about phone numbers. You might remember a time - I kinda do myself - where a phone number represented a place. That might be a hallway in a house, or a desk in an office, but it was a place - and there was a understanding that someone might not be at that place when you called. Weirdly, you used to be able to call people and find them in a strange state of being "not in". Schroedinger would have proud. Now, of course, a phone number is a person. If you call my number, whereever I am on the planet, more or less, I will answer the phone. Tomorrow I'll be in Amsterdam, and Friday I'll be in Athens, but that doesn't matter.

From Ben Hammersley's speech about information, security, culture, and how the generation gap is being exacerbated by technology. So much good stuff in here that it was pretty hard to pick a pullquote. Go read the whole thing.


Stuff I Like: Padmapper

When starting our search for an apartment in St. Louis last fall, I bounced from site to site, all the while thinking "there has to be a better way". As it turns out, there is, and it's called PadMapper.

At it's heart, PadMapper is just an aggregator. It scans listings from craigslist, apartments.com, and about a half-dozen other sites and puts them all in once place. That alone is worth the price of admission (free), but it's the filters that really make it useful. First set your maximum price, number of bedrooms, or even limit the commute time to your job. Then, you can flip through the locations on a google map, checking out different neighborhoods.

See a place in your price range? Click it to see the listing pop up right on the map. Want to see the street view of the building? It's one click away. It's even got the walkability score for each place, so you can get an idea of how close those shops, grocery stores, and restaurants are.

Bottom line (and I'm not being paid to say this), you should definitely check out PadMapper if you're looking for a new place to rent.

PadMapper (free)


The underground world of neuroenhancing drugs

The New Yorker looks at the trend of neuroenhancing drug use among people looking for an intellectual edge (adderal, modafinil, et al). This pairs well with the Nature piece from last year: Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy (pdf)

If additional research shows that they're safe for long-term use, I don't have a problem with the idea of cognitive enhancement. (better living through chemistry?) It's not conceptually different from the caffeine use that already pervades our society.


Memories

While skimming an otherwise forgettable article by Chuck Klosterman, I came to a full stop when I saw this sentence: "The proliferation of media means we don't get to decide what we remember." It captured my attention, and here's why it should capture yours too.

Science still doesn't understand a lot about how long-term memories are formed, but we know this much: Reinforcement is key. If we think about or talk about an experience often, the connections in our brain get strengthened, and it's much easier to call up that information at a later date. In practice, this works quite well, as it helps us remember important things, like which foods make us sick or even our phone number, while mundane details like trips to the grocery store fade away over time.

In an age of of constant and immersive media, though, we're no longer the ones setting the agenda. I could give a rat's ass about Michael Jackson's death or the Casey Anthony trial, but it's nearly impossible to avoid hearing about these stories over and over. Invariably, through reinforcement, the details start to stick.

Who decided to put those memories there? More likely than not, it was a news director looking for ratings. So without any conscious effort on my part, and entirely without my consent, memories of these things are forever burned into my mind.

It's humbling and a little scary to realize that the thing we hold most sacrosanct, our own thoughts, are perhaps not our own.


Face Facts

I use Facebook, in other words, like a search tool on human beings. For that, it is really great. But the fact that anyone would put anything of any unique nature on there, that matters to them, is beyond insanity - it's identity suicide. It's like you are intentionally driving down the road of life, ripping pages of your journal and photo albums, and tossing them out the window. Good luck finding anything again. Good luck knowing in six months, a year, something will even be findable.

Jason Scott - Facefacts"


New paper and open publishing

I had a paper go live last week, and you can read it here: Discovering functional modules by identifying recurrent and mutually exclusive mutational patterns in tumors

The interesting thing about this journal is that it's not only open-access, but the peer-review process is completely open. You can see the original article that we submitted, the comments from the peer reviewers (and their names!) and the revisions that we made in response.

For non-scientists, or early grad students who have never submitted a paper, it's an interesting look behind the curtain.

As someone who has published a few times, it was kind of refreshing to be able to attribute the review comments to specific authors. I think it helped in understanding where they were coming from with their criticisms and how to address them.

On the whole, the experience was a positive one. I feel like signing your name to a review probably makes people less likely to be dismissive (and sometimes just plain mean), and forces reviewers to justify their comments a little better.

Is it the future of publishing? Only time will tell, but I'd certainly publish or review papers for such a journal again.