Thursday, June 29, 2006

A trip to China, part 1: a change of attitude

I write this post looking out a window at a typical section of the Chinese city of Guangzhou, a city of around 7 million people in southeastern China. It's a view that could be of any city of similar size in the US, except for the abundance of construction cranes. It has been about four years since I visited China, and in some ways it seems that major psychological changes have occured. I'd say "irreversible," but of course nothing is truly irreversible if you're willing to spread enough destruction around.

Here's the change in a nutshell: an overnight train trip. Yes, the equipment has been improved, but that's not such a big deal -- the big deal was the staff working on the train. Four years ago, as they had been for many years, the conductors working on each car were lords of their domain, and as far as they were concerned, the passengers could kiss their asses if they didn't like it. For example, on one trip several years ago, my wife and I thought we had gotten lucky by being only two people in a four-person sleeper cabin. But the gentleman working on that car decided to use the empty half as his entertainment space for the trip, sitting around smoking with his friends. That was typical behavior.

Now, there are young people working on the train. Instead of learning to be petty tyrants in their down time, they IM their friends on their cell phones. This is typical behavior for their generation, easily confirmed by walking around any Chinese city. China is a young country, and this leaves me feeling optimistic about the future.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Social networking with OPML

Via Scobelizer (in an article in which he opines that podcasts aren't taking off as much as people expected because of the difficulty to find and preview them), follow the link from the title to Share Your OPML. At that site, you can up upload OPML for the RSS feed you read and/or the podcasts you listen to, then see what people who read or listen to the same things you do have in the way of feeds. Right now, you can only upload one file, so if you export two OPML files (one for podcasts and one for RSS feeds), you'll need to combine them in a text editor.

For the record, my feeds are here.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gaming impact factors

Via Stephen's Web and ACRLog comes a pointer to a Wall Street Journal article from the title above. The article reports that some journals are trying to boost their impact factors by asking (telling?) authors of papers to cite more articles from that journal. When a scientific journal editor says something like:

...when we edit a paper...we sometimes ask authors to ensure that the relevant literature is cited... I can state unequivocally that we do not attempt to manipulate the JTT's impact factor. For a start, I wouldn't know how to.
You know that something's up. If a journal editor doesn't understand impact factors well enough to manipulate them, then who does?

I've blogged on journal rankings before. Taken out of context, impact factors don't tell much. For example, the Journal article says that an impact factor below 2 is "low". But this depends on the size of the field -- fewer researchers mean fewer citations -- not quality.

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Garden photo of the week

Clematis and Rose
Originally uploaded by stiber.
One of the best ideas I once read of is that of growing small-scale vines so they climb large-scale ones. This is especially useful for covering up the inevitable bare lower stems of the larger vine.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Carnival of the Liberals #14

Welcome one and all to the Carnival of the Liberals! This fourteenth edition is sure to be read and enjoyed by all six of my regular readers. I'm very impressed with the quality of the submissions I received, even more so when I consider that all of these writings are from the heart, not for the wallet. Some people may sneer at blogging, but I think it's remarkable that so many people over such a short time have turned to an activity like this. Picking just ten wasn't easy. I've assembled ten posts for this edition; an entirely different set might have been selected by a different host.

Please note that the next edition of Carnival of the Liberals is at The Uncredible Hallq on June 21st.

Daylight Atheism has a thoughtful essay, entitled "Memorial Day," on the meaning of Memorial Day and the tension between remembering those who fought for freedom and speaking out about the Administration's misdeeds:

This war has accomplished the uniquely paradoxical goal of removing a cruel and brutal dictator from power and simultaneously making the people of his nation far worse off than they were under his rule.

Aman Yala writes about the Haditha killings in "How Not to Win the War on Terror". Many people try to take a relativistic view of this (unless they're still denying it happened), saying that it (like Abu Ghraib) was an abberation. Does that mean a human life can be worth more or less because of the environment in which it is lived? And how is this different than the massacres committed by Saddam Hussein?

In "Taking Cohen at his word", Truth Tables examines Richard Cohen's New York Times editorial in which he attempted to show that Stephen Colbert isn't funny, especially when he's mocking President Bush. In this case, logic is applied (which I'm sure Mr. Cohen would consider as relevant as algebra).

Teenagers are told to "just say no" about sex, but that's not the same thing as actually not having sex. And who tells the truth about sex? In the teenage years, lying about sex is practically mandatory. And that's to each other; teenagers are even less honest to adults. Now there are adults telling kids that the important thing is virginity, not self-respect. Marcella Chester's post, "Virginity pledgers often dishonest about past and for good reason," at abyss2hope, says something important about valuing people.

"You have got to be kidding...Nope, not kidding", at That is so Queer..., is a story about AIDS and political meddling in a scientific conference, in particular to create "balance" on a panel about abstinence-only programs by removing scientists and installing apparatchiks and religious zealots. As Stephen Colbert says, reality has a well-known liberal bias.

"The Problem Of Mecca" is about the centrality of Mecca to Islam and the implications that has for whatever nation controls that city. Unwilling Self-Negation has a proposal to make in that regard.

I have a bit of trouble with the name, The Executioners Thong, for some reason. But "Slow motion train wrecks, mything the point" is a very good post about the disconnect between Americans' mythical views of their country and reality, one example of which is revealed in the Iraq war.

Future Geek has a true story about poverty, "Guns, Drugs, Race, and Poverty". It reminded me of when I lived in Santa Monica, and was, upon contacting the police about drug dealing in the area, advised to move (the police being primarily concerned with keeping such activity south of Wilshire Blvd).

In "Alien Invaders," RoundRock Journal presents an allegorical tale about invasive plants.

"Hey Hillary! Where you at?" is a tale of morality and video games by varkam at Neural Gourmet. Ask Hillary Clinton, and she'll tell you that a merely violent game about killing non-Christians who won't convert apparently isn't half as troublesome than one that includes sex.

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