STUMP » Articles » Happy News for Vacation Time! » 13 July 2016, 14:55

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Happy News for Vacation Time!  


13 July 2016, 14:55

I’m chilling in North Carolina, so let me lay some more good news on you!


For those who donated to the Vladimir Bukovsky fundraiser — we reached the $30K goal!

Fundraiser page message:

NOTE: Enormous thank-yous to all our donors and supporters, we MADE OUR GOAL. I’m trying to get the Donate button removed from the site now. Bukovsky will be going to court with the best lawyers thanks to your support!

“With his back to the wall a man understands: ‘I am the people, I am the nation, I am the party, I am the class, and there is nothing else at all.’ And an astonishing thing happens. In fighting to preserve his integrity, he is simultaneously fighting for his people, his class, or his party. It is such individuals who win the right for their communities to live—even, perhaps, if they are not thinking of it at the time.”
-Vladimir Bukovsky

Very happy to see Vladimir getting the support he deserves.


Inmates break free from cell to help ill jailer

A Parker County jailer who had an apparent heart attack may very well be alive thanks to inmates who put themselves at risk to help him.

It happened on June 23 in a holding cell in the basement of the District Courts Building in Weatherford.

At least eight prisoners were behind a locked door in a small room off to one side. Their lone guard sat outside and had been joking with them when he slumped over unconscious.

“He just fell over,” said inmate Nick Kelton. “Looked like an act. Could have died right there.”

The guard had no pulse. Inmates screamed and banged on doors. They raised such a ruckus that deputies upstairs in court came running.

“They thought it was a fight,” said inmate Floyd Smith. “They thought we were taking over.”

Parker County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ryan Speegle says he didn’t know what to expect when he got downstairs.

Capt. Mark Arnett believes prisoners certainly helped the guard, and likely saved him.

“He could have been there 15 minutes before any other staff walked in and found him,” Arnett said.

One more twist. The room that inmates broke out of to raise the alarm has now been reinforced.

Doing what you can, no matter how (literally) shackled — makes the world a better place. Even if you’re a meth addict.


Telephone Hotline Data Forecasts Dengue Outbreaks Three Weeks Ahead:

Researchers have developed a reliable early warning system for dengue fever outbreaks in Lahore, the capital city of the province of Punjab in Pakistan. Based on statistical analysis of dengue-related phone calls to a public health hotline, the system can track the incidence of symptoms down to the neighborhood and give local government officials a three-week heads up on potential outbreaks.

The forecasting system was developed by researchers at New York University and the Information Technology University in Lahore. Reserachers there worked with local Pakistani government officials to record and analyze over 300,000 calls to the hotline from 2012 to 2015. During that time, the system accurately predicted dozens of spikes in dengue cases. The results are described today in Science Advances.

An inexpensive forecasting system with neighborhood-level predictions is particularly helpful in developing countries. Their governments may not have the resources to collect and analyze disease incidence in real-time nor the funds to reduce mosquitoes everywhere all the time. With intra-city-level data, public health officials can concentrate their efforts on certain blocks or neighborhoods where the danger is greatest.

The hotline was set up by the Punjab provincial government in 2011, after a dengue outbreak killed more than 350 people and affected more than 21,000 in the province. The hotline lets residents report their symptoms and locations, standing water issues, and ask questions about availability of beds in treatment centers. It was advertised on television and at local meetings.

University researchers analyzed the information from the calls to get a sense of where in the city symptoms were occuring. “This was essentially crowd-sourced data,” says Kurth. “They didn’t have to pay anyone for it.”

Yay for cheap warning systems!

Also yay for these other tech solutions helping with medical issues:

Also, a drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, much better than WSJ originally reported.


I mentioned Bobby Bonilla Day, which is July 1. Turns out it’s Bronson Arroyo and Ken Griffey, Jr Day, too::

We all make fun of the Mets for having to pay Bobby Bonilla $1.19M through 2035 but we’re doing the same damn thing. Maybe worse.

From today until the contracts run out the Reds will pay Bronson Arroyo $8.1M and $32.3M to Ken Griffey Jr. To put that in perspective Griffey Jr. played with the Reds from 2000-2008, he signed a 9-year, $112.5M contract with the Reds in 2000. The Reds paid him $82,580,951 during his time in Cincinnati. Meaning the other $32.3M would be paid out over the next 15 years. Insanity.

Teams do this so that they can compete in the moment and they pay off the contracts over time. Pretty sure Joey Votto’s deal is structured like that. If you’re a baseball player and you’re offered a deal like that, take it. You get your game checks during your playing career but then you can plan on getting a yearly payment every July for like 5-20 years depending on the deal. Take it.

Bronson getting paid still was a bit of a surprise. $8.1M is bearable, it still sucks because that money could be going to someone but he was still a great Red. Not that Griffey wasn’t but he was never the Seattle Junior that we all were enamored with. Plus $32.3M is a crazy amount to pay out after his career is over. Dude is making an NFL salary for doing nothing.

Man, these people have no clue what an annuity is. The deal is a deal — and the teams would prefer to pay the money later rather than a hell of a lot more now.

Though that 8% assumption is really biting them on their asses. The ball teams, I mean. The players are doing awesomely.


It’s called eudaemonia.

Nearly two and a half millennia ago, Aristotle triggered a revolution in happiness. At the time, Greek philosophers were trying hard to define precisely what this state of being was. Some contended that it sprang from hedonism, the pursuit of sensual pleasure. Others argued from the perspective of tragedy, believing happiness to be a goal, a final destination that made the drudge of life worthwhile. These ideas are still with us today, of course, in the decadence of Instagram and gourmet-burger culture or the Christian notion of heaven. But Aristotle proposed a third option. In his Nicomachean Ethics, he described the idea of eudaemonic happiness, which said, essentially, that happiness was not merely a feeling, or a golden promise, but a practice. “It’s living in a way that fulfills our purpose,” Helen Morales, a classicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told me. “It’s flourishing. Aristotle was saying, ‘Stop hoping for happiness tomorrow. Happiness is being engaged in the process.’ ” Now, thousands of years later, evidence that Aristotle may have been onto something has been detected in the most surprising of places: the human genome.

The study indicated that people high in eudaemonic happiness were more likely to show the opposite gene profile of those suffering from social isolation: inflammation was down, while antiviral response was up. Since that first test, in 2013, there have been three successful replications of the study, including one of a hundred and eight people, and another of a hundred and twenty-two. According to Cole, the kind of effect sizes that are being found indicate that lacking eudaemonia can be as damaging as smoking or obesity. They also suggest that, although people high in eudaemonic happiness often experience plenty of the hedonic stuff, too, the associated health benefits tend to surface only in those who lead what Aristotle might have called a good life.

But what, precisely, is this quasi-mythical good life? What do we mean when we talk about eudaemonia? For Aristotle, it required a combination of rationality and arete—a kind of virtue, although that concept has since been polluted by Christian moralizing. “It did mean goodness, but it was also about pursuing excellence,” Morales told me. “For Usain Bolt, some of the training it takes to be a great athlete is not pleasurable, but fulfilling your purpose as a great runner brings happiness.” Fredrickson, meanwhile, believes that a key facet of eudaemonia is connection. “It refers to those aspects of well-being that transcend immediate self-gratification and connect people to something larger,” she said. But Cole noted that connectedness doesn’t appear to be an absolute precondition. “It seems unlikely that Usain Bolt is doing what he does to benefit humanity in any simply pro-social sense,” he said. “If that’s the case, is eudaemonic well-being mostly about the stretched goal, doing something you personally think is amazing or important? Or does it involve something more around pro-social behavior?” For Cole, the question remains open.

As the lede indicates, the concept is not new.

I’ve got some ideas bubbling up from that, but it needs to brew.


Yes, there are a couple nasty tales out there so far (and yes, you really ought to put the games away in the Holocaust Museum. No, I’m not going to link it.)

Lots of people have been linking great stories to the new game.

I thought this list at Dorkly was nice: (edited for just the items)

8 Reasons Why Pokemon GO Is the Most Important Game of the Decade

1. It’s the best thing Nintendo has released, ever
2. It saved Nintendo
3. This fun app that gets people outdoors is becoming enormously, insanely popular
4. It achieved the impossible: a nice gaming community
5. The game WANTS you to be social – and it achieves it.
6. The net effect of Pokemon GO is better mental health
7. All of society is getting in on the game
8. It’s not perfect, and that’s why it’s great

It’s funny…last Friday, as I was going up in the elevator of the parking garage, another guy in there was moving his phone around and saying “dammit, where is it?” and I first thought he was trying to get a stronger cell signal, and then I asked: “Are you playing Pokemon GO?” (he was).

I have no intention of playing the game myself – I don’t have a smartphone, and I’m certainly not buying one for a game – but I’ve had fun talking with people about the game. It’s like this tweet:

Yeah, I’m a Non-Player Character.

Some of the cool stuff from the Pokemon Go stories include:

A couple of my friends have already been remarking about some changes — keep in mind most of my friends are around my age (42), and have pretty settled lives. Many of us have kids, 9-5 jobs (and other kinds of jobs), etc. Some had been into geocaching and Ingress (a predecessor game that uses much of the same mechanics… but not so much the Pokemon).

I’m not going to quote them directly, but one remarked how much more fun it was to go walking, another mentioned he found several new hangouts in a town where he has been living for some years now. Some of the pictures people take are really funny:


Okay, maybe not fun, but some of us at the Actuarial Outpost got some enjoyment from it:

A Friendly Introduction to The Riemann Hypothesis by Thomas Wright

Here are the Chapter Headings:

Chapter 1
Historical Background:
Straight Cash, Homey and
Other Mathematical Concepts

Chapter 2
Make My Funk a Z-Func(tion)1

Chapter 3
The Zeta Function: Magical,
Mystical, and….Dear God,
What Is That Thing?

Chapter 4
Application: Primes on Parade

Chapter 5
Appendix A: Analytic

Okay, that last one looks like the same old boring stuff. But it’s only 23 pages, and it explains why mathematicians care so much about the Riemann Hypothesis. And it really isn’t all that complicated math… you do have to understand what a function is, but that’s the main thing.

Okay, I’ll give (some of) the game away:

3.2 Wait, Wait, What? The Question of When
Some Esoteric Function Hits Zero is The
Most Important Problem In Math?


3.3 How?

I’m glad you asked. Because the Riemann Zeta Function is based on such
a simple equation (namely, Z(s)), it’s something that comes up in a lot of
computations, so having a good understanding of it would help us calculate
out all sorts of interesting properties about integers and primes numbers. As
far as conjectures go, it’s not as sexy (or as likely to generate crank mail) as
something like the Twin Primes Conjecture, but we all know that beauty is
skin-deep, and the Riemann Hypothesis is nothing if not deep.

It’s not all good news for me, b/c I keep losing internet (in RTP?! FOR SHAME NORTH CAROLINA), but I hope to be back up to full speed when I’m back in New York next week.

Finally, for a laugh, enjoy an actuary playing a theremin: