humani nil a me alienum puto

random rants about news, the law, healthcare law, economics and anything I find amusing

Sentence of the Day

“Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax.”  Gona use this one some day.  Courtesy of Balloon Juice and paraphrased in Crooked Timber and it all starts with Marginal Revolution, of course.

Filed under: Personal Posts

Genius is Hard Work?

Freakonomics interviews David Shenk about his new book.  Mr. Shenk had some notable observations about genius and the work behind it.

[E]verything about talent is a process. There’s the genetic piece, and then there’s the ability piece. When you look very closely at [Michael] Jordan’s life, you see a rather ordinary teenage athlete with no particularly grand ambition until about mid-way through high school…After the deep disappointment of not making the varsity team, Jordan developed an unparalleled ambition that quite simply dwarfed that of his schoolmates in high school and later his teammates at the University of North Carolina. Jordan’s abilities developed according to what he demanded of himself.

The same is true of other super-achievers. From a distance, it looks like they’ve got something almost super-human about them. But when you look up close, at the moment-to-moment lives they lead, the sacrifices they make, the extraordinary resources they have around them, their abilities actually do make logical sense. If it’s documented closely enough, you can actually see how they went from mediocre to good, from good to great, from great to extraordinary.

He also gives some advice to parents that seem well put.  Persistence is more important than prodigy.  In fact, prodigy can box in young technical achievers into a comfort zone from which they will fear to emerge.  He says:

Show your kids how hard you work, how often you experience disappointments and how you respond to those disappointments. If you blame others for your failures or simply give up, that’s what your kids will learn. If you take on a long-term challenge, show a deep commitment to the process and a refusal to give up in the face of adversity, your kids will pick that up instead.

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Potpourri of Links

Imaging Technology Adoption: The Impact Of Self-Referral via Health Affairs Blog on 4/25/10.  Arguments proposing need to address physician self-referral under in-office ancillary exception.

The Role of Reputation in U.S. News & World Report’s Rankings of the Top 50 American Hospitals — Ann Intern Med via on 4/25/10. Reputation is everything and nothing: “The relative standings of the top 50 hospitals largely reflect the subjective reputations of those hospitals. Moreover, little relationship exists between subjective reputation and objective measures of hospital quality among the top 50 hospitals.”

Hacking Big Brother With Help From Revlon. via Slashdot on 4/25/10.  Cyberpunk with a purpose.
Russian Hacker Selling 1.5M Facebook Accounts. via Slashdot by Soulskill on 4/25/10.   That explains my recent posts.
Cleverest women are the heaviest drinkers – Telegraph via on 4/18/10.  That’s why they have a higher pain threshold (Mythbusters).

Filed under: Personal Posts

Paragraph of the Day… or at least one I read with easy computer access to note…

I am reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.  This paragraph made me pause, re-read it, and think about it a bit:

It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the cast, as it were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it’s true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It’s not even coincidence. It’s just the way the world works, with no regard for individuals or for propriety.

Filed under: Personal Posts

Just Like This

Filed under: Personal Posts

Reading the Fine Print

Do you actually read all the click through contracts?  Do you read the privacy policies?   When I went to test drive a car recently I signed a waiver of liability that had typos and grammatical errors.  One actually read to make the dealer liable when it was clear they wanted the driver to be liable.  I pointed them out and was told that I couldn’t drive the car if I made any change to their form.  This was by the same guy that asked if I could afford the car I was test-driving.  I grinned and signed it.

But this one takes the cake.  Fail to read the UK’s Gamestation terms of service this past April 4, 2010, and you might have sold your immortal soul.  Ok – maybe not.  I think I could nullify the contract for you.  (And Gamespot later did waive any enforcement of this provision – nice guys).  But here’s the full text of the contract.  Here’s the provision:

By placing an order via this web site on the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from or one of its duly authorised minions. We reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction.

They allowed customers to click to remove this provision.   So, what’s going on here?  A little social experiment.  Nearly 90% of those entering into this click-through agreement failed to remove the provision (and received a rebate voucher).   Amusing in the specific, disturbing more broadly.

ADDENDUM:  After thinking about this, perhaps this is not so surprising.  Generally, people know the terms and conditions for most online sites are adhesion contracts.  Either you agree to them (excepting only the check-out box regarding what types of communication you might receive) or you do not use the site.  The economic stakes are, perhaps, low.   Customers make the implicit calculation that there’s nothing in the fine print that’s going to raise the economic cost of the underlying service to a point that the service would not be worth it.  Those that are particularly sensitive about privacy issues will look closely and may decide the service is or is not worth it, or look to other providers if those provider’s terms are more to their liking.   But most of us just click through.    For bigger economic arrangements, such as buying a house or entering into a morgage or purchasing a car, one would expect consumers to actually take the time to protect themselves by reading the contracts (or hiring an attorney) since the stakes of those terms may be much more important to the transaction.  Maybe not, considering the role of mortgages/housing purchases in our current economic troubles.

It seems that sometimes this is not a good thing.  If someone does not even read the terms, there could be something that would raise the economic cost to a point you would not use the service.  Recent examples may be the ‘games’ on Facebook and terms requiring you to purchase other services (or needing to affirmatively opt out not to be charged for those other services) in undisclosed or unappreciated tying arrangements.  See for example Farmville.  In any event, as always, buyer beware.

Filed under: Personal Posts


April 2010

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