Cold Reading

Astrologers and psychics have known these tricks for years. The magician Ian Rowland, in his classic “The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading,” itemizes them one by one, in what could easily serve as a manual for the beginner profiler. First is the Rainbow Ruse – the “statement which credits the client with both a personality trait and its opposite.” (“I would say that on the whole you can be rather a quiet, self effacing type, but when the circumstances are right, you can be quite the life and soul of the party if the mood strikes you.”) The Jacques Statement, named for the character in “As You Like It” who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech, tailors the prediction to the age of the subject. To someone in his late thirties or early forties, for example, the psychic says, “If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger.” There is the Barnum Statement, the assertion so general that anyone would agree, and the Fuzzy Fact, the seemingly factual statement couched in a way that “leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific.” (“I can see a connection with Europe, possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?”) And that’s only the start: there is the Greener Grass technique, the Diverted Question, the Russian Doll, Sugar Lumps, not to mention Forking and the Good Chance Guess – all of which, when put together in skillful combination, can convince even the most skeptical observer that he or she is in the presence of real insight.

From Malcolm Gladwell via Bruce Schnier

Criticism of Civic Literacy

I’ve been reading up on Civic Literacy and so far I’m kind’ve disappointed with what I’m seeing and my own involvement in it as well:

Civic Literacy seems to be geared towards government and politics, as opposed to broad participation in communities and society—especially NGOs or other social groups. They seem to be based on what is an arguably outdated concept of American government providing broad social services. Apparently the Reagan and Gingrich revolution haven’t made it into the curriculum yet.

Also, it appears to be based a lot more around how the government works, as opposed to how to participate within government (and resultantly alter its operation) but that is a standard pedagogical issue.

Some links:

Creating Models

I’m taking Mathematical Models in Biology and we had an interesting problem in our last class. We were broken up into groups and asked to create a model around malaria infection. We received some information on mosquito behavior and lifecycles, infection rates and patterns, and effects. That was it.

The primary tenet of mathematical modeling is simplification. We quickly realized that when trying to simplify the process, we needed to know what information we wanted to gain from the model. The standard (and incredibly simple) SIR model, for example, answers the question “how many people will be infected at any one time?”, not necessarily, “how many will recover or die?”.

To put it into mathematical terms, if we’re going to reduce the number of dimensions (by simplifying), we want to make sure that the information we’re left with has useful meaning for the situation.

Which also leads me to thinking about reductionism and holism.


While it is undeniable that people who watch lots of vampire movies have nightmares with vampires, it is also true that people who work at UPS have nightmares about boxes (according to a former anthro teacher of mine who also once worked at UPS). From Wired’s Geekdad Blog

Chill Units

If you grow peaches for a living, you know all about chill units. They measure how much cold a plant experiences during a winter. And chill units are essential to a good crop of peaches. When plants go dormant at the end of summer, many of them have to experience a certain amount of time in cold weather before they can grow on schedule in the spring. If a peach tree doesn’t get enough chill units, it can’t respond promptly to the warmth of spring. It is still in a zombie-like dormancy, and it can only rouse itself after the spring gets even warmer.

From a Wired article on greenups , or when plants begin growing in Spring.

The John Hancock Building

The JHB was known as the “Plywood Skyscraper” after having faulty glass windows that would pop out during it’s construction in the 1970s.

Police were left closing off surrounding streets whenever winds reached 45 mph

Also interesting description of two 300-ton weights that sit on the 58th floor to damp swaying motions.

via wikipedia. Researched due to an article today about MIT suing Frank Gehry over the Stata Center.

Understanding Academia and Legitimacy Exchange

According to Fred Turner in From Counterculture to Cyberculture legitimacy exchange is…

…a term that refers to the process by which experts in one area draw on the authority of experts in another area to justify their activities.

and it follows interestingly with

As Bowker explains, “An isolated scientific worker making an outlandish claim could gain rhetorical legitimacy by pointing to support from another field–which in turn referenced the first worker’s field to support its claim. The language of cybernetics provided a site where this exchange could occur.”

The other term I took from the book is “network forum” in which individuals from different fields can meet and exchange legitimacy. Turner’s book gives the Whole Earth Catalog as a print example.

Alternatives to a Nonprofit Job

I was really happy with the feedback I received from my last article”Should I get a nonprofit job?” The responses I got, some of which you can read in the comments, helped me focus the message I was trying to convey:

A nonprofit job is not the only way to make a living and make a difference in the world.

In the comments, I think I hit upon the real issue, which is the lack of Civic Literacy I see among people in my age/social group. I don’t mean “young people are lazy/apathetic/ungrateful/whatever”, but that we don’t know how to effectively participate and initiate change in our communities and society—for no lack of interest. We’re having to make things up as we go along, which as I think my parent’s generation would agree, didn’t work out quite the way they thought it would.

So below are three suggestions I have for the intelligent, well-educated (or seeking to be), self-motivated and upwardly mobile individual who can be an ally of the nonprofit sector, but not necessarily employed by it.

  1. Serve on the Board

Executive Boards are the driving force behind nonprofit organizations. Boards set broad goals and provide important oversight for the functioning of the organization. Many boards have term-limits for serving, which means they need a constant influx of knowledgeable and engaged individuals. Boards often run by the Three-G’s—Give, Get or Get out—but an active board will provide great opportunities for involvement beyond fundraising.

  1. Start a Family Foundation

You can turn the typical fundraising experience on it’s head by offering a Request for Proposals, and get a tax write-off as well. Starting a Foundation allows you control social priorities by controlling the purse-strings. Because you’re offering a grant and not an individual gift, you have a better opportunity to target specific programs or objectives with increased accountability and oversight. Did someone say “site visit”?

  1. Write your Public Representative

There was once a time in America when people believed it was the federal government’s responsibility to offer many of the services that the nonprofit sector now provides. Regardless of your political-philosophical position, the government still provides massive amounts of funding to social causes. Contact your local, state or national representative and request support for your particular cause. You might not be able to target a particular organization for earmarks, but a rising tide raises all the boats.

San Diego is Burning

I got an email from my mom this morning that the wildfires in Southern California county were strongly encroaching on my hometown of Poway and the surrounding communities. A couple of my friends started an email list and we’ve been sending around information about what’s happening.

My heart goes out to everyone that’s lost something or is worried they may. I hear that both Tabitha’s and Liz’s dad’s, school bus driver and reserve sheriff, respectively, are helping to evacuate people and I’m grateful to them.

For news I’ve been following the local Public Radio Station KPBS which is doing an awesome job of keeping up with news and updates.

Partial list of burned houses (thanks Corinne!)

Pictures and info (thanks Tabitha!)

Another map (thanks Nicole!)

(all times are Pacific)

8:30am - Tabitha reported that Rancho Bernardo and Espola Road in Poway have been evacuated. They’re taking people to the community center off of Poway Rd, and they evacuated West View HS as another safe haven.

9:30am - Corinne thinks her families home in Lake Hodges has been lost and Liz reports that someone’s house in the same area has been burned.

10:30am - Kara’s family in North Poway was evacuated at 5am that morning “Just as he was leaving the power went out and he said he could see flames on one of the ridges in the area (not sure which)”. This was the same time that Corinne says her folks were evacuated too.

10:30pm - Nicole reports that it “sounds like the Poway Community center is overflowing - my grandpa’s assisted living facility tried to evacuate their senior citizens there, but couldn’t.” On the South-East side of Pomerado mountain nicole says “It’s nothing like four years ago. No dark black clouds. We’re all hoping it will not get worse. No helicopter noise, no fire engine sirens… “

She also includes some pictures:

12:00noon - Nicole says “Oye… I think we are evacuating now. things seem to be getting a bit worse, but then again it’s hard to tell.”

1:00pm - Nicole again: “the dogs, my mom, and I are camped out at my dad’s work in poway’s industrial park. Saw some flames on the Poway grade as we drove over.North Poway is a bit worry some, but looks like south of Twin Peaks is okay.”

2:00pm - Tabitha reports that her mom was evacuated an hour ago.

3:00pm - Liz reports “parts of Bridlewood were on fire so it’s really not looking good for my neck of the woods. I hope Old Coach is better”

4:30pm - David says that he’s been putting out hot spots all afternoon near his house at the end of Twin Peaks (right beneath the Poway Grade, beneath Tooth Mountain).

5:00pm - Kara says that her parent’s house is gone (along with some neighbors): “When I talked to my mom, she said: ‘Well, this solves our problem of selling the house! We can build something smaller and better.’”

5:00pm - Adam reports that his parents are staying in a hotel in National City. He also says the international news leaves something to be desired (he’s in Australia right now): “CNN won’t shut up about Olivia Newton John’s home being evacuated, more or less ignoring the 250,000 evacuees in San Diego.”

6:00pm - Jason reports that a couple houses along Country Day has burned and is worried about Aaron’s house.

7:00pm - Mandy says that her parents in Upper Windmill have evacuated to Mira Mesa, but that her dad checked a few hours ago and the house is still accessible.

8:00pm - Kara sends some pictures she found on “The first one is of the front door (or what was the front door I guess) and the second is from where the office was (you can see the pool….I think the patio furniture is ok! :)”