Things I Like

The reviews of Joel M. Kauffman. Dr. Kauffman has a great eye for error.

This song (or here) (In Mongolian. A child asks her parents: “Sun, moon, stars – what are they?” Parents: “Three lucky things.” Child: “Greenery, flower, fruit – what are they?” Parents: “Three lucky things.” Child: “Father, mother, me – what are they?” Parents: “Three lucky things.” If you can give a better translation, please contact me.) Frequently played on Chinese TV.

2005 O’Brian, T. L. TrumpNation: The art of being The Donald. New York: Warner Business Books. “I haven’t read it but someone who did told me it is an inaccurate pile of crap,” said Trump about this book, according to the New York Post. AIDS researcher Robert Gallo was another fan of the I-haven’t-read-it trope.

Quasi-reinforcement is a way of making reward more powerful. It was discovered by Allen Neuringer and Shin-Ho Chung in pigeon experiments in the 1960s. Suppose a pigeon is given food every 500 times it pecks a key. It will peck a key for such “lean” reward, but slowly. Now suppose the experimenter briefly turns on a light every 20 pecks. The pigeon will roughly double its rate of pecking. The salary hasn’t changed — the light alone has no value to the pigeon, it will not peck to turn on the light — but output has doubled. What an incredible effect! It has not been studied much but has been found with rats.

The journalism of Bruce Bawer. While Europe Slept is fascinating.

2006 Easterly, W. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. New York: Penguin Press. Foreign aid efforts have failed again and again and again — the seeming inability of those in charge of those efforts to learn from failure is remarkable. I doubt this is restricted to foreign aid.