Saturday, October 31, 2009

 

Intelligence by State

 

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Monday, October 26, 2009

 

Shaggy Manes and Puffballs from Latimer Woods

The whole family went on an ideal walk in Latimer Woods this afternoon. We found lots of pear-shaped puffballs at the edible, white, stage, and several black shaggy manes that we took home and cooked in butter. The flavor was not ideal---it was actually sweet. Perhaps it would have been better to cook them in milk and butter as a soup or for on toast. The puffballs were okay, but I have not found a good way to cook them.

I did find a good 2008 blog article, "Wild Mushrooms of Mid-fall – Wine Caps, Shaggy Manes and More."

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Medicare Administrative Costs and Fraud

An Philip Klein American Spectator article is relevant to thinking about health care policy.

Coburn based his figures on an estimate from health care fraud expert Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University, who has said -- at the low end -- 10 percent of the roughly $1 trillion in spending on government health care programs may be lost to fraud.

"By taking the fraud and abuse problem seriously this administration might be able to save 10 percent or even 20 percent from Medicare and Medicaid budgets," Sparrow said in May testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But to accomplish this, Sparrow explained, the government would have to boost anti-fraud spending to as high as 2 percent of the cost of the programs from the roughly 0.1 percent now dedicated to the task.

See also "Medicare’s Hidden Administrative Costs: A Comparison of Medicare and the Private Sector" (Based in Part on a Technical Paper by Mark Litow of Milliman, Inc.) Merrill Matthews, January 10, 2006. I read the intro, which makes a lot of sense. It notes that Medicare costs exclude management, research, the cost of collecting government funds (much less the distortionary costs of taxation), and the administrative costs to employers of collecting premiums from employees. Also, costs of buildings and much fraud pursuit is not included in the usual administrative costs of Medicare. And Medicare does not have to pay the 1-2% state taxes on premiums that private insurance companies must pay. Medicare's costs are also lower because Medicare does not scrutinize claims as private companies do--- the report claims that Medicare does not try to pursue fraud unless it is massive, which is plausible.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

 

Valedictions: Yours Truly

Wikipedia's article Valedictions is good. It talks about differences between England and America, and about French, German, and Hebrew valedictions. I don't like "Yours sincerely", because though I suppose I am always sincere, it seems inappropriate for describing the contents of a typical letter. "Yours truly" is always apt, nicely conventional, and sufficiently uncool. Cheers, Best Wishes, and Best Regards have their places too.

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What Does "Cool" Mean?

"John Scalzi Answers the Burning Question - Can SciFI Movies Be Cool?", via Instapundit, is a good short literary essay.

For example, there's "cool," as in "the studied indifference to cultural judgment regarding what you like," which means that you like what you like and you don't care if other people like it. Science fiction fails this definition utterly, because science fiction fans are monumentally uncool -- not because they are geeks and nerds, or at least, not directly because of that, but because generally speaking they really really really want you to love what they love, too, and that sort of insensible urge to share is the opposite of cool. Mind you, scifi fans understand other people don't love what they love, but rather than not caring, they feel a little sorry for those people. Which is a different dynamic altogether.

He then notes that 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix were cool movies.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

 

Mushroom Photography

"Top Ten Mistakes in Mushroom Photography" is an interesting long webpage. It has lots of photos, with the species identified, illustrating various mistakes. The photo tips are useful even if it is not mushrooms you are photographing.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

 

The Word "Autochthonal"

autochthonal: originating where it is found; "the autochthonal fauna of Australia includes the kangaroo"; "autochthonous rocks and people and folktales"; "endemic folkways"; "the Ainu are indigenous to the northernmost islands of Japan" (wordnetweb.princeton.edu)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

 

Flower Dutch Auction Clocks

A Clock
The Room

I found these pictures of a Dutch auction at http://www.flower-wholesale.com/hannsvba/klok.html, which tells how you can go and visit such an auction in Aalsmeer. The best YouTube video of it I found is here.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

 

A Bolete Turning Blue

I found a good, short, You-Tube video of a broken bolete turning blue. Browsing the web, it looks to me as if boletes are pretty safe. None are deadly poisonous. Some cause severe stomach-ache, but it looks as if you're safe if you avoid bad-tasting, blue-staining, or orange or red boletes.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

 

The Meadow Mushroom, Agaricus Campestris

Lillie and Faith and Benjamin and I went jogging (Ben on his bicycle) and brought home a white lawn mushroom with red-black gills. It seems to be an Agaricus Campestris, prettily named, a Meadow Mushroom. It had a brown spore print, free gills, and soaked up water readily. We looked at the spores under the microscope, and they did look like the spores above, though I don't remember seeing the green interiors under our smaller 900x magnification. That photo is from an amateur's good webpage at http://www.mushroom-collecting.com/mushroomhorse.html.

We had a coprinus for breakfast this morning--- two actually, probably shaggy manes, though I didn't check. Amelia and Mom collected them from near the church. They didn't liquefy overnight.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

 

IV as a Solution to Omitted Variables

We think of instrumental variables as a solution to Y causing X, but it also can help when there is an omitted variable. In that case, X ends up being correlated with the error term, because the omitted variable X2 is correlated with both Y and X. So what we can do is find a Z which is correlated with X but not with X2 or Y. We can do a first-stage regression of X on Z, and then use the fitted value Xhat in our main regression, Y on Xhat.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

 

Verbs in Writing

Via Marginal Revolution, here are some rules for good writing from Michael Nielsen.

Use the strongest appropriate verb: Identify the verb in every sentence, and ask if you can improve it, perhaps eliminating adjectives and adverbs in the process. This is simple and mechanical, but often yields great improvements with little effort.

Beware of nominalization: A common way we weaken verbs is by turning them into nouns, and then combining them with weaker verbs. This bad habit is called nominalization. Contrast the wishy-washy “I conducted an investigation of rules for rewriting” with the more direct “I investigated rules for rewriting”. In the first sentence I have nominalized the strong verb “investigated” so that it becomes the noun “investigation”, and then combined it with the weaker verb “conducted”.

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