Assorted links

by on April 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. The old version of China Star has reopened out near Fair Oaks under a new name.

2. Do selfies encourage more plastic surgery?  And barter markets in everything: payments in selfies, Beyonce edition.

3. Mango trees and African sadness.

4. “Dad’s Resume.”  An excellent piece.

5. How many people does it take to colonize another star system? (maybe more than you think, via The Browser)

sunbomb April 6, 2014 at 4:21 pm

4. Excellent read. Thanks!

anon April 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

4. Dad’s Resume.

Any interviewer who asks questions like “Tell me what makes you special.” does NOT deserve to be in Cooperstown. (Nor does “Dad” walking in late.)

But I will give him credit for recognizing a potential star in Gloria.

Is it just me, or did Bernie seem to admit to discriminating against older applicants?

prior_approval April 7, 2014 at 12:39 am

It is perfectly legal to discriminate against someone of Prof. Cowen’s age.

Ricardo April 7, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Umm… no.

Ray Lopez April 7, 2014 at 2:37 am

In the Dad’s Resume piece, I agree with “CoreyinSavannah” in the Comments section, who argues that anybody offering a job, even at $50k a year, in a hicksville out of the way place that only has one factory, is going to have to offer more than $50k or so to attract quality applicants. This is so true. In the DC area I bought and renovated a house in the country and had a hard time renting it, even though it was nice and renting for below market prices, since it was in the middle of nowhere and the people there had no initiative to move to a better house. It was too Hicksville, even though it was close to I-95. Location, location and location. By contrast, my slums near the DC Metro rent like hotcakes.

A April 7, 2014 at 4:39 am

Article 4 is interesting, but it doesn’t seem to support the skills mismatch hypothesis for modest employment growth. The employer accepted a lower quality worker (using his metrics), rather than raising the offered wages to attain more ideal candidates. The skills mismatch story has not explained the slow growth of wages and benefits.

By the way, is anyone else having trouble posting comments? I switched from “Al” to “A” to post this. Is this a wordpress issue, or is there a setting I should adjust?

Roy April 6, 2014 at 5:39 pm

5. “The population of 2000 gets halved over time, which is not good. And though the smaller populations (150 and 500) look as if they survived better, that’s partially because those populations had to have looser birth restrictions: Whereas in the simulations, the larger populations were allowed to have only one child per couple, the smaller populations allowed a couple to have two or three children to ensure the survival of the community. In the end, the growth cancelled out the disastrous effects.”

That is quite a restriction there… But I guess if we are colonizing a new world we want a one child policy. Of course a billion people who only have one child per couple will eventually die out.

Apeman April 6, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Yep. I stop being interested when I saw that.

Adrian Ratnapala April 7, 2014 at 12:07 am

I was only skimming, but I thought they the population controls were only during the voyage.

albatross April 7, 2014 at 11:39 am

I wonder how bringing along some frozen sperm/ova would affect this calculation. My intuition is that a one or two percent inflow of new genes into a community can keep it from spiraling down into a small set of genes, even if the inflow is random.

I’m not sure how long the frozen sperm and ova would keep (I guess there would be radiation damage over time), but the colonists could sequence everyone at birth and take sperm/ova samples early in life, and then use these to maintain desired genetic diversity. When it looks like a particular MHC complex is about to disappear thanks to neutral drift, you can just reintroduce it into a few dozen kids from frozen sperm samples from a couple generations back.

Colin April 6, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Is it just me or does #4 serve as evidence against Krugman’s insistence that the skills gap is a myth?

Bryan Willman April 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I wonder if Krugman has ever tried to hire anybody for a for profit venture in his life? Even when the economy is going great guns and you are offering amazing money there are skills gaps.

Marie April 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Are those skills gaps?
Most of the people just never showed up. Said they would, then didn’t.
Now, maybe they wanted to show up and couldn’t afford to travel to the interview? The reporter could have helped us out by calling the five? people who were no shows and asking.
But if they just didn’t bother after committing, then they were jerks.

I’m not convinced in any way that the problem with employment is the unemployed. But if this story really is representative, we’re talking about a moral crisis, not a skills crisis. And that’s not about welfare, etc., although that can be tangential. I don’t care if welfare is paying me a million a year, if I say I’m coming to interview for a job, I show up.

Colin April 7, 2014 at 7:16 am

Well, it seems to me that being dependable is a skill, or at least an attribute that is highly desirable among employers. Not being able to find dependable people would seem about as frustrating as not being able to find someone with a particular skill such as a certified accountant (if that’s what you’re looking for).

Marie April 7, 2014 at 10:32 am

Absolutely not arguing with you, I find your comment brings up an interesting question, have we just overall lowered our standards for decent human behavior and that has effected our economy substantially. It’s not just the 1% or the welfare queens — if, say, 40% of Americans are now inclined to make appointments and not show up, that sort of basic, self-absorbed rude behavior, that’s got to be a big deal.

Still, I’d like to know more about those folks who didn’t show. Because irrespective of the comments below, $50 with benefits in a rural area is an excellent salary and I don’t know why people would treat the opportunity to earn it lightly.

chuck martel April 7, 2014 at 12:44 pm

How many of those optimistic job seekers failed to show because they realized that they were unlikely to pass a background check for whatever reason, DUI, bad credit rating, checkered work history, etc.? As negative background checks become an automatic “No” for HR department screening, a steadily growing underclass of effectively unemployables are created. Since they can’t erase their past the only way these rejects will be able to survive is to work outside the regulated economy.

JWatts April 7, 2014 at 10:14 pm

“have we just overall lowered our standards for decent human behavior -… if, say, 40% of Americans are now inclined to make appointments and not show up, that sort of basic, self-absorbed rude behavior, that’s got to be a big deal.”

Marie, I think you overestimate the average human. Showing up on time, dependably has always been a highly sought after skill.

“Showing up is 80 percent of life” — Woody Allen

li April 7, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Just being picky, but a CPA is a credential, not a skill.

Boonton April 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm

So the gist of #4 is if you’re starting a factory from scratch in a totally new location where you have to fill lots of jobs and the highest level jobs will be the hardest to fill.

If the recession and slow recovery are due to a ‘skills gap’ would this article have read differently in different periods of time? Sorry but if I told you this article was actually written in 1985 or even 1975 you would all believe me (minus the references to emailing resumes of course).

Bryan Willman April 6, 2014 at 5:55 pm

re 4: I was not impressed with Bernie either.

And here are some other fun facts, some of which are pointed out in the comments to the original #4. (a) $50K wow – only, like, 1/2 the workforce makes more than that (it’s about median wage.) [To be fair cost of living in rural Ohio is probably low.] (b) 1.5 hours from “cities” none of which make the 1st list of Cities people want to go to in the first place? I’m suprized they don’t point out how quickly you can get to Detroit from there. [That's NOT to say that rural Ohio might not be a very appealing place for some people.] (c) They want people who write reasonably well, have a clue, can make a plan and follow it, understand computers, understand industrial processes, and will show up and do their job. Which is what most everybody else wants – and so they are in much more difficult competition than they realize.

Michael April 6, 2014 at 6:07 pm

#4 The factory owner gleefully discriminated for ageist reasons, tsked at file names (amusingly petty), and demonstrates some major lack of skills of his own–interviewing skills, people management skills, cost/benefit analysis skills, and so on. I wouldn’t work for him for twice 50k. What is this piece supposed to demonstrate–that people are being discriminated against by assholes who have all the capital, none of the brains, and all the power? Yeah, it demonstrated that in spades.

derek April 6, 2014 at 6:22 pm

You should get into the egg business, you could make a killing beating these dumb guys.

chuck martel April 6, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Bernie isn’t in the egg business. He oversees the opening of industrial operations.

Marie April 6, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Yes.

Thor April 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm

There’s what the article set out to demonstrate and what it demonstrated while doing that…

And that is: both managers doing hiring and people looking to get hired have flaws, sometimes serious ones. There are assholes everywhere, I’m afraid. (No comment on the distribution.)

The Anti-Gnostic April 6, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I found the article bizarre. You don’t solicit resumes for this type of work; you have them fill out an online application, interview, run a background check, check the references, make your choice and tell them when to start. This is not putting a man on the moon–it’s an egg-cracking factory. If the company doesn’t have enough automatic controls in that they are going to fret over hiring like this then I’m not sure how they’re going to be competitive.

derek April 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm

I’m amused at the response to this article. Does anyone here do any actual work, has anyone had to organize contractors and employees to get a building and process working? Has anyone here actually hired someone for a responsible job?

Reading this reminds me of a local business, electronics manufacturer for automotive. They make the interior lights in some Ford models that you wave your hand at to bring on, as well as seat heater controls, among others. When they built their current location, the CEO was running around taking concrete moisture samples to verify that the anti static tiles would stick to the floor. The concrete was wicking water from under the slab. They still have tiles lifting in some spots more than a decade later. Anyone who thinks an enterprise of even moderate size just runs itself has, frankly, no clue.

As for ageism. You are hiring for a job to run the plant, or run some aspect of it. Your business plan is set up for 10 years. Would you hire someone over 55, knowing that you will have to hire and train someone else in a few years?

This guy reminds me of people I deal with. They have experience and know how to get things done. I don’t have trouble dealing with them, and someone like me is doing work for them. One of the core competencies they would have had to establish in the planning stage was a guy like me to be available to service their equipment.

Another interesting bit. Post 9/11 there would be a line up of well qualified folks for these jobs, especially the management positions. Lots of people left the cities in the US, we saw a few here in our small town. Most of them have trickled back seeing that the attacks were not repeated.

Michael April 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm

“As for ageism. You are hiring for a job to run the plant, or run some aspect of it. Your business plan is set up for 10 years. Would you hire someone over 55, knowing that you will have to hire and train someone else in a few years?”

Then they should fire Bernie. He’s 62!

chuck martel April 6, 2014 at 10:46 pm

” Your business plan is set up for 10 years.”

Is that the normal lifespan of a business plan? Bernie’s going to be gone for good as soon that plant’s in operation, what happens 3,652 days down the road isn’t something he can do anything about. The business itself will likely be sold long before the 10 year plan expires, perhaps multiple times. The new owners will have their own ideas, which will include what management personnel to retain and whom to wave good-bye. During that ten year period some management people will die, move away and look for, and get, better jobs, although living and working in a small, rural community will limit their opportunities to move up.

chuck martel April 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Oh, yeah. It’s a normal part of opening up a new operation like Bernie’s to try to hire some good people and pay them well to get the thing running like a Rolex. That’s part of Bernie’s mission. Later, when the plant has settled into a routine and most of the bugs have been worked out, the highly-paid folks that brought it about are run off and replaced by their less well-paid subordinates, who have learned how to approach the unique problems in the plant.

zbicyclist April 7, 2014 at 12:44 am

“You don’t solicit resumes for this type of work; you have them fill out an online application, interview, run a background check, check the references, make your choice and tell them when to start.”

That’s how you hire the hourly workers. That’s not how you hire plant management.

Ed April 7, 2014 at 10:28 am

The company could have conducted the interviews over the phone. Unless the interview process was deliberately done the way it was done to test how willing candidates were to actually go to Fort Recovery. In which case they shouldn’t have been so surprised by the no shows.

Incidentally, one thing I learned from this article is that there might well be a “skills mismatch” in the labor market, but the trend towards moving operations to the middle of nowhere (its pretty much the norm now for production, and increasingly for services as well) has been contributing to it!

Marie April 7, 2014 at 10:36 am

I don’t know, isn’t there also a big trend for people to want to leave the urban and suburban areas? Maybe my peer group is abnormal, but I would think a lot of folks living in, say, the Chicago area would be really happy at the prospect of living on a decent salary in a nowhere area. Better when the zombies show up.

But I do think that the salary range and job description doesn’t warrant an expensive trip for an interview. Yes, if you think you really might get the job, but I’m sure most of these folks have been burned before and spending hundreds you don’t have to travel for any interview when you figure you won’t get the job doesn’t make sense. Maybe they accepted the interview because you don’t turn down an opportunity, but when it came time to fill the tank, just realized it was a bad risk.

JWatts April 7, 2014 at 10:25 pm

“I found the article bizarre. You don’t solicit resumes for this type of work; you have them fill out an online application, interview, run a background check, check the references, make your choice and tell them when to start. This is not putting a man on the moon–it’s an egg-cracking factory. If the company doesn’t have enough automatic controls in that they are going to fret over hiring like this then I’m not sure how they’re going to be competitive.”

I work in industrial controls. A highly automated facility requires smarter workers.

And in any case, the article was about hiring QA staff and management for a salaried position.

mike shupp April 6, 2014 at 6:24 pm

#5 — My far from original suggestion — It seems likely that interstellar flights would contain barrels of sperm as cargo, and swimming pool quantities of eggs. Alternately, our genetic knowledge and technology might be such that embryos could be manipulated to incorporate any number of desired traits — we’re not going to be launching such flights next year after all.

A somewhat greater issue — you’re more than what you eat. You’re your intestinal flora, your skin bacteria, and so on. There’s a huge quantity of biological material surrrounding us and inside of us which we don’t think of normally as being “us” but which is essential to life. Ditto for the beetles and earthworms and elephants and penguins and cattle and fungi which we are probably also going to take along.

ivvenalis April 6, 2014 at 6:52 pm

#5 – This just looks like a pretty standard modeling of population genetics. As a method of interstellar colonisation it’s about the dumbest idea ever.

I mean, e.g. “looser birth restrictions”? From where? Is there some kind of giant computer on board that enforces this? If it’s actually capable of doing so, why not just have it colonize the planet itself? If someone doesn’t like it, it seems pretty probable that sometime in between the reign of Augustus and 2014, which is the timescale we’re talking about, they’re going to find a way to get rid of it, whatever “it” is. Not to mention navigation. If I claimed that my reading of the New Testament indicated that we were approaching Paradise and that we needed to get the rockets under the Pyramids online so that we can leave Spaceship Earth before it runs out of fuel and we all freeze to death in interstellar space, would you take me seriously?

cfh April 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Navigation is the easy part. The 2nd generation won’t know how to change course and the 3rd won’t believe they’re moving.

Mark Thorson April 6, 2014 at 9:29 pm

This is how you create a modern technological slave state. Create a mock-up of an interstellar colonizing mission and raise the slaves inside it. Teach them that anyone who doesn’t pull their weight gets shoved out an airlock or recycled for their protein. Everybody has to work writing software to specification, designing clever 3D objects, monitoring production on semiconductor fab lines, and other high-value labor. None of them will know they’re not in space.

Willitts April 6, 2014 at 11:12 pm

How do we know that we are not in such a world now?

Have you ever seen Dark City?

ivvenalis April 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

Ha, he’s talking about the opposite of Dark City.

JWatts April 7, 2014 at 10:20 pm

“Create a mock-up of an interstellar colonizing mission and raise the slaves inside it. Teach them that anyone who doesn’t pull their weight gets shoved out an airlock or recycled for their protein.”

You might be interested in the Silo series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silo_(series)

Marie April 8, 2014 at 8:51 am

I don’t know who on here linked to that one once, but I’d never heard of them until then. Now my husband has been reading them like crazy and reading them with our oldest kid. Good stories, but also a good story the way they went straight to Kindle.

Dan Weber April 7, 2014 at 7:16 am

It’s right out of a Ben Bova novel.

The genetic diversity bit seems a red herring. IIRC the American Indians have about 70 ancestors (not counting those who went along with the journey but died before having kids), and lots of other places on Earth got colonized by very small groups, too. Not to mention that they were drawing from relatively limited pools themselves, not all of planet Earth.

And these groups had no knowledge of modern genetics which they could use to keep whatever their version of Tay-Sachs was in check. That’s something we can do today with entirely voluntary efforts. If the ethics of the colony allow, you can do post-conception screening/implantation/abortion. Or, in a century we can probably differentiate sperm in a machine based on which traits of the father we want, avoiding ethical issues of embryo rights or the need for surgery.

chuck martel April 7, 2014 at 10:28 am

Who is we?

Dan Weber April 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Me and your mom.

albatross April 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

If the colonists on the spaceship forget 20th century technology to the point that they can’t make freezers and get sperm samples from volunteers, they are utterly doomed regardless of their genetics.

The interesting thing will be the fall in ability from the first to second generation. The first generation will be super-carefully-selected genius athlete politician engineers, who can do anything well and many things amazingly well. Their kids will be bright, healthy, socialble, and pretty good with machines, thanks to regression to the mean. After that first drop, things will stay about the same, but that first generation transition will be like watching a basketball team transition from an average NBA team to an average NCAA team. Sperm and ova donations from other impressive people won’t help with that either–the original colonists will have brought about as good genes as could be found–but their kids will be average given their outstanding genes, whereas the original colonists will have been outstanding even given their outstanding genes.

Mark April 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

5. Ramp up computer-based education until computers and robots can raise children, then send robots which can raise human stock from frozen on-board genetic material.

Y’know what, just make the robots think and act kind of like us and send them by themselves.

Matt April 6, 2014 at 7:48 pm

The Beyonce selfie post is an April Fools joke.

chuck martel April 6, 2014 at 10:34 pm

“Schimpf has been in the plastic surgery business for the past seven years and during his time at work feels he has seen an increase in people taking more awareness in how they look, and feels this generation’s desire to constantly upload selfie photos is a big factor.”

Really? Seems that in those pre-historic days of the Reagan administration people could see photos of themselves fairly often and even take a look in a mirror while brushing their teeth. If people actually took more awareness in how they look, they wouldn’t be running around dressed like slobs in black H-D t-shirts, cargo shorts, garish running shoes and tasteless tattoos. There’s definitely some mood affiliation in the article.

Willitts April 6, 2014 at 11:10 pm

5. For an interstellar colonization mission, perhaps with the survival of the human race at stake, would it be ethical to prohibit abortion and contraception? Would a woman’s voluntary choice to join the mission permanently waive reproductive rights?

At what population on the new planet would it be “convenient” to restore reproductive rights such that humanity’s continued existence was not threatened by individual defections?

What punishment or remedial action would be appropriate for a woman who reneges on her choice after liftoff? Forced impregnation?

For that matter, on a mission to populate another planet for the sole purpose of saving humanity, could a woman be denied her choice of mates for the sake of genetic diversity?

Is it a worthy mission to save humanity if Earth is expected to be destroyed? Should we care?

chuck martel April 6, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Indeed, why should we care? Isn’t everyone mortal? Will the universe come to an end without humanity to do whatever it is that humanity does? Epicurus would probably cancel his reservations on the interstellar colonization mission if he were around today.

Boonton April 8, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I think the reason for thinking that one would have to prohibit reproduction on an interstellar mission is limited resources hence the need of some type of command economy in reproduction…I’m not sure this is right.

Let’s assume you’ll have a multi-generational ship and no ‘warp drives’ or ‘suspended animation’. Such a ship would have to essentially carry all it’s resources and in terms of matter be more or less self-enclosed. In that case you wouldn’t really need a command economy to control reproduction, you’d just need an economy. If individuals owned the resources on the ship, people would limit reproduction for the same reason they do on earth…babies cost money which means the decision to have more babies means you have to decide to have less other things.

In such a ship economy, the ship would either carry a super large amount of resources or it would have to recycle virtually all matter. This would mean plenty of jobs since it takes lots more work to recycle very last drop of matter. Put plenty of work together with private ownership of scarce resources and you’ll end up with an economy with no need to manage reproduction.

I wonder, in the history of colonies, is there any record of the colony needing to manage reproduction either on the way or when they arrived? Both cases are somewhat like interstellar travel. It’s not like food automatically sprouted the moment colonists departed their ship and stepped food on foreign soil. Any record of a human colony anywhere ruined by runaway reproduction depleting all the resources before the colony could establish itself? I don’t think so.

Shane M April 6, 2014 at 11:45 pm

#5: Is there reason to believe our current diverse set of genes be preferred on the new colony? Additionally, if so, as others have mentioned, send diverse set of frozen embroyo and grow them once you get there.

So Much for Subtlety April 7, 2014 at 3:50 am

3. Mango trees and African sadness.

It is an interesting choice of title. I would have thought that sadness was not much in evidence. Young men who have scored a dozen cows and a new bride are likely to be pretty cheerful in my limited experience.

It is more interesting that no one here cares. Even though this is perhaps a significant event in African history – and the War on Terror.

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