Bits and Pieces

Guess which college asks  applicants to describe what “YOLO” means to them? 

Wikimedia photo

Wikimedia photo

Tufts. It’s Tufts. The class of 2018 may choose the following as one of the options:

E) The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?

no further comment. H/T Dan Drezner.

Below the fold: Books people stop reading, and why they put them down. How violence ensures trust in the Mafia. And what the terms development organizations like to use really mean.


This infographic froom Goodreads illustrates a survey they did on why people stop reading a book.

The Psychology of Abandonment

This infographic at Goodreads illustrates the results of their survey on which books people stopped reading, and why.

38 percent said “I finish a book, no matter what.” That seems like a waste of time to me. Life is too short for bad books. Oh well.

J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is one of the most abandoned book; mostly because people expected a Harry Potter Sequel and were disappointed when they didn’t get it.

Among the most-abandoned ‘classics’: Atlas Shrugged and Ulysses. A sign of amiable ambition with the latter; with the former perhaps the canon is at fault.

Click the link to see why people stop reading, and what keeps them going.


Violence as a Source of Trust in Mafia-Type Organizations

The findings of this study make a lot of sense. Criminals often have trust issues, and so use various mechanisms to ensure their collaborators won’t turn on them. Working with family members is an obvious choice. Another method: using shared knowledge about violent acts:

If I know that you have committed a violent act, and you know that I have committed a violent act, we each have information on each other that we might threaten to use if relations go sour

writes the Monkey Cage

The authors of the study tested this empirically:

Having shared information about violent acts increases the frequency of contacts occurring among two actors. The ‘violence effect’ is fairly strong, and greater than that recorded for kinship in both cases, including the Camorra.

.. .

There is additional, non-statistical evidence of the use of violence as a form of credible commitment. The boss of the Camorra clan discussed here would instruct all his men to shoot together at the same time when committing a murder. Everybody in the firing squad had to fire at least one shot. … Each perpetrator is made ‘a hostage’ to all the others, in order to reduce his incentives to defect and/or inform on his fellow associates.


The AidSpeak Dictionary

Bill Easterly asked his Twitter feed to translate Aid and Development Jargon. Some of my favourites:

“beneficiaries” : the people who make it possible for us to be paid by other people –@monanicoara

“empowerment” : what is left when all the quantifiable variables give non significant results –@MarianaSarastiM

“gender” : counting how many women attend your meeting –@liamswiss

“participation” : the right to agree with preconceived projects or programs –@edwardrcarr

“political will” :  I have no comprehension of the incentives faced by the people who I wish would do stuff I want @m_clem

“scale-up” :  It’s time for follow on grant –@HunterHustus

Funny, and kind of true.


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