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Thinking About Density? Or Rezoning in Vancouver? Or Voting?

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Pseudonymous housing wonk YVRYIMBY (Vancouver, Yes In My Back Yard) has created a wonderfully simple yet powerful, data-driven graphical view of Vancouver and its housing crisis.

Consider it a required backgrounder to the premise that land locked up in exclusionary, low-density zoning inflates the cost of land in higher-density zoned areas, due to scarcity. Rezoning more land for higher density should reduce land cost per built square foot and, secondarily, reduce the demolition of existing rental stock.

Needless to say, these ideas attract varying opinion. Sort of like bike lanes did in the bad, primitive olden days.

YVRYimby has a longish thread, further discussing the ideas which follow from the data:

It’s necessary context in the face of the October 2018 civic election, as candidates transition from the “who’s nominated, who’s really running” phase, to the “here’s my platform” phase*, and finally to the “my opponent and their platform is <insert snark and expletives here/>” phase.

Will housing remain the big topic? Will density become untouchable, a poisoned lightning rod attached to the political third rail?

Will the wealthy’s save-the-mansion-zone spinmeisters succeed?

Will tomorrow’s earnest reformers win council and save the day?

*with thanks to Justin McElroy at CBC.ca.

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Joe Rogan Experience #1121 - Michael Pollan

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RT @nathancofnas: The Stanford Prison Experiment—since 1971 held up as proof that people do bad things only because of bad circumstances—wa…

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The Stanford Prison Experiment—since 1971 held up as proof that people do bad things only because of bad circumstances—was a fraud. Philip Zimbardo told the guards to be cruel, told the prisoners they couldn’t leave, then tried to censor criticism. medium.com/s/trustissues/…


Posted by nathancofnas on Monday, June 11th, 2018 4:49pm
Retweeted by RealPeerReview on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 11:01pm


1654 likes, 921 retweets
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RT @SteveStuWill: No effect of stereotype threat on girls' math performance in a large, pre-registered study (N = 2,064) https://t.co/vZ5u7…

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No effect of stereotype threat on girls' math performance in a large, pre-registered study (N = 2,064) programme.exordo.com/isir2018/deleg… pic.twitter.com/ZvNTqZOcIG



Posted by SteveStuWill on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 9:59pm
Retweeted by RealPeerReview on Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 10:00pm


821 likes, 337 retweets
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Torrents Turn Rambo-Prequel Novel into a Success

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In this day and age, aspiring artists have access to a wide variety of tools they can use to create a decent product.

Creating something is easy, but the real challenge is to escape obscurity and get noticed by the public.

Traditionally, this task has been fulfilled by major publishers and other media distributors, but there are also alternative routes.

The stories of YouTube sensations who turned into their own media empires come to mind. But in darker corners of the web, which are mostly associated with piracy, there are success stories too.

This week we spoke to Italian author Wallace Lee, whose unofficial Rambo-prequel “Rambo Year One” received great reviews after relying on torrents as a main distribution channel.

Lee’s story starts several years ago, when he began publishing short Rambo stories on a personal blog hosted by WordPress. It was fan-fiction in its purest form, but the author soon realized that not everyone was happy with his work.

“Two years before free-sharing my first novel, I had a blog where I used to post my Rambo prequel short tales for free. And yet, a few months later, my site was shut down because the laws in the US allow copyright owners to stop fanfiction too, and even if it’s just for free.”

It turned out that a rightsholder objected to his use of the Rambo character. While Lee doesn’t recall the sender of the notice, it meant that he could no longer publish his work as he pleased.

Caught in a copyright stranglehold, the author felt limited in his creative expression. Ironically, he saw torrents as his way out. If he published his works on The Pirate Bay, copyright holders couldn’t touch him, he thought.

It was a defiant thought, which may have worked, but luckily for him, it didn’t get that far. Instead of becoming a ‘pirate writer,’ Lee received permission from David Morrell, author of the novel “First Blood” on which the Rambo empire was built.

“Frankly, I feel very lucky things ended up this way because I did not want to be at war with the same guys who owned Rambo in the first place,” Lee tells TorrentFreak.

With permission to freely share his book, the unofficial Rambo-prequel was finally released. While Lee no longer had to turn to piracy, he was still committed to using torrent sites to get exposure and escape obscurity.

That worked to a certain degree. The book was picked up here and there, but without a major publisher, it was hard to be taken seriously by literary critics.

“The prejudice was extremely harsh and lasted for a very long time. For one whole year at least, I was just ‘the crazy guy who was writing a Rambo-prequel saga for nothing’,” Lee says.

That changed when the author started to point people toward the historical accuracy of the book, which has the Vietnam war as the backdrop, and using that as one of the main selling points.

“Everyone was astonished by the idea that a Rambo prequel aspired to be a good historical novel too, and that was when important people decided to finally give me a chance. And when they did, they were pleased.”

This eventually led to more and more positive reviews, including a reading recommendation from the Calvino literary awards in Italy.

Recognition

Looking back, Lee doesn’t think he would have come this far without torrents. They helped, not only to keep distribution costs low, but also to make his work visible to an audience of millions.

“Torrents helped a lot, and they’re still doing so in terms of distribution. Distribution is the most important part of the success of ANY artwork: books, music, films, everything,” Lee tells us.

“Torrents solved the problem by making my work worldwide both visible and available at the same time. Without the torrents, thousands of people in the world would have never found my websites and novels on the internet.”

Now, a few years later, the book has been translated by fans into two more languages, German and Spanish. They are all available for free in Epub, Mobi, and Pdf format, and the author uploaded new torrents on several sites just last week.

Rambo Year One

In addition to public sites such as The Pirate Bay, 1337X and Ettv, Lee also uploaded the release to the Italian private tracker TNT Village, which helped him a lot over the years.

Looking back, the whole experience has been a great success. In addition to getting recognized internationally as an Italian author, he is now in talks with several publishing companies to publish his non-Rambo novels.

Lee currently accepts donations on his site, where people can also find his other novels, for free. He never made a penny from the Rambo-prequel though, and never intended to. What he got instead was worth much more than that.

“Receiving words of appreciation from actual US veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for your Rambo-prequel novels, has no price,” Lee says.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

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Can “effective altruism” maximise the bang for each charitable buck?

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DONORS to charities rarely make the sort of cost-benefit calculations investors, for example, would think obligatory. So charities attract donations with pictures of smiling gap-toothed children, rather than spreadsheets showing how they actually spend their money. Tugging at the heartstrings, however, does little to allay the doubts of economists sceptical about the efficacy of charity. Who is to say whether donating to a homeless shelter is a better use of money than donating to a school?

Yet advances in social science, particularly in development economics, mean donors can now have a reasonably good idea of how far each dollar will go. Empirically minded do-gooders, members of the nascent “effective altruism” movement, argue that it is at last possible to put into practice a “fundamental axiom” of utilitarianism, first invoked in 1776 by Jeremy Bentham, a British philosopher: “It is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.”

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The vast majority of charitable contributions come not from big foundations, but from individuals. Data from the Giving USA Foundation, a non-profit, show that of the $390bn Americans gave to charity in 2016, $280bn came from individual donors. Of this, around $120bn went to religious organisations and $60bn to educational institutions (mostly universities).

Not all of this money was given with the intention of maximising human welfare. Take, for instance, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which helps children stricken with life-threatening illnesses, by granting “wishes”, such as meeting celebrities or visiting theme parks. The typical wish costs the foundation around $10,000 to fulfil—heartwarming for the recipient but of little help in improving health generally. Yet some charities, notably those active in poor countries, can produce big public benefits for relatively small amounts of money. One estimate finds that surgery that prevents blindness induced by trachoma, an infectious disease, costs a charity just $100 per operation.

William MacAskill, a philosopher at Oxford University, argues that promoting inefficient charities might actually do more harm than good. Competition for donations is acute. Research by the Centre for Effective Altruism, a think-tank he co-founded, finds that every dollar raised by one charity means 50 cents less for others. Mr MacAskill also worries about “moral licensing”. One study found that people tend to treat giving to charity like buying a medieval indulgence—they may believe they have the right to act immorally if they have done something they deem altruistic.

Measuring a charity’s efficiency is not straightforward, however. Effective altruism’s most-cited evaluator is GiveWell, a non-profit group based in San Francisco founded in 2007 by Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld, two former hedge-fund analysts. Traditionally, charities used to be rated according to their overheads. GiveWell instead calculates standardised returns on investment across charities, as measured by factors such as cost per life saved (see chart). The charities it rates most highly are not all household names.

Toby Ord, another philosopher at Oxford, argues that people from rich countries who are interested in maximising human welfare should focus their charity abroad. A donor who wants to improve educational outcomes, for instance, would do better to donate not to American schools but to charities trying to improve the diets of children in poorer countries. A rough meta-analysis by GiveWell finds that ensuring children in a poor country have enough iodine in their diets can lead to a four-point increase in average IQ.

One of GiveWell’s highest-rated charities is the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), which distributes medically treated bed nets in poor countries. Malaria still kills some 400,000 a year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. There is still no cure for the mosquito-borne disease. But it is relatively easy to prevent its spread. The AMF estimates that it costs $4 to buy and distribute a treated bed net. According to GiveWell’s analysis, the health benefits from this in sub-Saharan Africa are equivalent to a child’s life saved for every $2,000 spent.

GiveWell’s approach to evaluation has its limitations. It is hard to make like-for-like comparisons of the efficacy of different charities with different goals. An alternative approach is simply to give money to poor people. A proliferation of mobile-payment apps has made this easier than ever before. GiveDirectly, a charity founded by a group of development economists in 2008, facilitates direct transfers to people in Kenya and Uganda. Mr Hassenfeld likens the organisation to an index—it serves as a baseline against which other charities can be judged. GiveWell reckons that in order for a charity to be more cost-efficient than GiveDirectly, it would have to provide goods or services that people cannot readily purchase by themselves.

Inevitably, even effective altruists have to accept a degree of uncertainty about the impact of their donation. The question is how much? GiveWell is relatively conservative when it comes to recommending charities, listing just nine organisations under its list of “top charities”. The Open Philanthropy Project, a research group spun out of GiveWell, is more willing to back ventures with only a small chance of success provided the potential benefits are big enough. An extreme example is its recommendation that donors finance research on the safe use of artificial intelligence (AI). The increasing economic importance of AI, and the fact that it is so poorly understood, have led many altruists to believe it may soon become one of the biggest threats to society.

It is hard to gauge quite how big the effective-altruism movement has become. But it does have some serious backers. Good Ventures, a non-profit group founded by Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook, and his wife, Cari Tuna, makes donations based almost exclusively on the Open Philanthropy Project’s recommendations. It does not accept outside donations, but is dedicated to spending Mr Moskovitz’s and Ms Tuna’s wealth, which Forbes reckons to be $15bn. Last year, Good Ventures gave out over $300m in grants.

Effective altruists fret that their movement might, in fact, have very limited appeal. Utility-maximising automatons might see the sense in buying mosquito nets over the internet for distant strangers. Human beings might find, say, volunteering at a local soup kitchen more satisfying emotionally. Ari Kagan, a researcher at the Centre for Advanced Hindsight, a think-tank at Duke University, points out that many people find the idea of applying quantitative reasoning to altruism repugnant—like charging family members for a meal. Surveys show that while the effective-altruism movement has grown quickly, it has mainly done so within a limited group of people—ie, young white men with degrees in science and philosophy.

Effective altruism can be a hard sell, even for the rationally minded. Silicon Valley-types have been keener to embrace the philosophy than those working on Wall Street, for instance. Mr Hassenfeld reckons that this is partly because programmers who get rich tend to do so at a young age, and are hence more open-minded about charity. Bankers, in contrast, start to make real money only in their 40s, by which time they may already have formed their charitable habits. With many potential donors, Mr Hassenfeld says, “it’s easy to get intellectual agreement, but harder to get action.” As utilitarians have long found, and Bentham himself lamented, “the rarest of all human qualities is consistency.”

Correction (June 7th 2018): This article originally cited an estimate of $5 to buy and distribute a treated bed net. The AMF informs us that figure should be $4. Sorry.

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