Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three Research Links

Important School Info:

kindergarten test scores are highly correlated with outcomes such as earnings at age 27, college attendance, home ownership, and retirement savings. ...  the effects of kindergarten class quality fade out on test scores in later grades but gains in non-cognitive measures persist. We conclude that early childhood education has substantial long-term impacts, potentially through non-cognitive channels.

That was from a randomized assignment to classes.  When looking at things like this, it it is important to remember that 'statistically significant' does not necessarily mean 'life-changing'.  You need to dig up the magnitudes to get a feel for what the effect is.  Here are dollar details from the text of the paper:

Students randomly assigned to a class that is one standard deviation higher in quality score 6.27 percentile points higher on end-of-year tests and earn $483 (3.0%) more at age 27.

The difference between a really good class and a really bad class is going to be about four standard deviations, which implies that the kindergarten class your child is assigned to can make a difference of up to $2000 on average in yearly earnings at the start of their career.  That is actually pretty big, when you consider that this in the same school.  The effects from moving to a better school and a better neighborhood could be quite a bit bigger.

It really is kind of scary how much your life is affected by your teachers and peers at such an early age.  Parents are right to be paranoid about this kind of thing.  The habits and attitudes formed in childhood, mainly from exposure to other people, have a big impact on your future.

A randomly chosen subset of employees of the University of California was informed about a new website listing the pay of all University employees. All employees were then surveyed about their job satisfaction and job search intentions. ... workers with salaries below the median for their pay unit and occupation report lower pay and job satisfaction, while those earning above the median report no higher satisfaction. Likewise, below-median earners report a significant increase in the likelihood of looking for a new job, while above-median earners are unaffected.

This relates to my previous post about money attitudes.  The wording of the abstract implies that people are unhappier or worse off after learning salary information, but it may be that the information is better for them in the long run.  If they succeed in finding a new job or renegotiating salary, their life will be better.  This is clear evidence that employers gain when salary info is hidden.  Whether or not people deserve the low pay they are getting, they are happier and easier to control when kept ignorant.

And finally, research about Robot Dogs and Real Dogs that is not important at all:

Results were mixed, depending on a number of factors, including the age of the real dog and the social situation in which the interactions occurred. There were, however, very strong responses from dogs in scenarios in which they felt that the AIBO might be about to indulge in some cyber food-pilfering.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scary Fact

Even the children of wealthier families suffer surprisingly high rates of malnutrition. Government data show that a third of children from the wealthiest fifth of India's population are malnourished. This is because poor feeding practices—foremost among them a failure exclusively to breastfeed in the first six months—play as big a role in India's malnutrition rates as food shortages. 

It really is amazing how much damage people can do to themselves and their families through ignorance.  Bad habits get embedded in a culture, and people accept the consequences of these bad habits as a fact of nature.


People often try to score political points by complaining about 'elites'.  This might have made sense in the old days when the 'elites' were aristocrats, the beneficiaries of hereditary privilege, but in today's mostly meritocratic society it makes very little sense.

Being an elite in anything requires the successful application of some kind of skill.  That skill might be making money, writing books, being  telegenic, winning votes, bureaucratic infighting, or any number of other things, but anyone who can be described as 'elite' got their position by doing something, and doing it skillfully.

In many cases, the skills that enable people to be elites do not add value to society.  People who complain about 'elites' are most often complaining about people with these kinds of skills.

But if you got rid of all the existing elites without changing the incentives inherent in the system, then nothing would change.  The people at the top got there because a certain set of skills were rewarded.  As long as the system is set up to reward those skills, then people with those skills will always be at the top.  

The more competitive the system, the more likely it is that the people who win the contest will have those skills, and no others.  Developing character traits that are socially good, useful, and productive takes time and effort, and this means that you are less likely to be the best at the skills that let you rise to the top.

The quality of the people who rise to the top of a system should be seen as a symptom, not a cause.  If bad people are at the top, that is a sign that the incentives of the system reward people who act badly.  Getting rid of the current crop of bad people will change nothing.

In a democracy, the political elites are those who are best at winning votes in their state or district.  A successful politician is one who devotes his or her entire existence to winning votes, and is skillful at this.  If you have a complaint about politicians, then you are really complaining about the identity, attitudes, and preferences of the people who vote for those politicians.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Last week, a professor took some of us out to dinner to discuss a paper.  This week, a different professor took a different group out to discuss our papers.  The first dinner was at a nice local restaurant, the kind of place with a decent wine list and meals that averaged $20.  I ordered some kind of lamb cut that came with veggies and mashed potatoes.  It was really good.  The main problem with that restaurant is that the acoustics are terrible, so it was hard to hear people talking.

This week we went to a Ruby Tuesday's, a chain where dinners are usually about $15.  The environment was much better for conversation but the food was fairly bad.  I have had better at buffets and cafeterias.  I ordered a steak 'medium well' and it came out completely brown and as dry as charcoal.  The asparagus was burnt, and the rice had some kind of crusty solidified sauce on top.  The lobster tails were okay, though.

I have noticed, in general, that the marginal value of spending a few more dollars on food is huge.  There is a huge difference between a $10 meal and a $15 meal (usually) and an even greater difference between a $15 meal and a $20 meal.

This is related to the cost structure of restaurants.  A third of their costs are labor, another third are rents and utilities, and the last third is on the food.  But those are just averages; if labor and rent is $5 each, a $20 meal will mean that the restaurant spent twice as much on the food, and that typically means a huge jump in quality.

I will only pay for restaurant food when it is unavoidable, like on vacation or trips.  And in that situation, when I have to pay the money anyway, I might as well pay a little extra for something that is actually better than, or different from, the stuff that I and my family cook on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, there are an increasingly limited number of places that meet that standard.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WEIRD People Part 2

Earlier I discussed a paper talking about how unusual the people in Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic societies are compared to the human average.  Here's a new angle of analysis:

In their main article the authors don't speculate on why WEIRD folks act so differently, but when pressed by comments they suggest:

[Consider] the relative strangeness, in a broad global and historical context, of modern middle-and upper-class American beliefs, values, cultural models, and practices vis-a`-vis childrearing. … These practices impact cognitive, linguistic, and motor development, including long-term cognitive outcomes. …  We speculate that in the context of mobile, meritocratic societies, … cultural evolutionary processes rooted in our evolved tendencies to imitate successful and prestigious individuals will favor the spread of child-rearing traits that speed up and enhance the development of those particular cognitive and social skills that eventually translate into social and economic success in these populations. This kind of cultural evolutionary process may be part of what is driving the dramatic increases in IQ observed in many industrialized nations over the last century, along with increases in biases toward analytical reasoning and individualism. It would also explain the obsession with active instruction of all kinds shown by middle- and upper-class Americans.

It sure seems that these Canadian authors are suggesting that the US (which on a world scale is almost like Canada) is different mainly because the US is better: stronger US competition has more quickly selected for kid-raising norms that make more successful kids, and work norms that are more productive. Seems a remarkably self-centered interpretation for an article claiming that US psychologists are too self-centered.  Doesn't make it wrong of course, but it is noteworthy that they didn't even notice its self-centeredness.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Green Burials

One of the more useful and promising features of the environmental movement is that it gives ammunition to change old and inefficient practices that remain in place due to cultural inertia.

Both [cremation and burial] tend to make extravagant use of coffins made from valuable hardwoods such as oak and mahogany. In America the coffin may then go into a cumbersome and expensive burial vault. Unpleasant chemicals abound. A paper published in the Journal of Environmental Health in 2008, entitled "Drinking Grandma", warned about the public-health risks of formaldehyde leaking from cemeteries into groundwater. Cremations are dirty too. Dental fillings mean that they account for as much as a fifth of Britain's mercury emissions: regulations require crematoria to cut mercury emissions by half by 2012.

If economists complain about the money and resources wasted on coffins and other funeral nonsense, we are seen as cold-hearted and inhuman.  But if you greenwash those objections you can get people to listen.  I like the idea of alkaline hydrolysis, also called tissue digestion and resomation; hopefully mass production and legal and cultural acceptance will make it a cost-effective option in the near future.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Scope Sensitivity

The researchers also examined 133 jury cases between 2000 and 2009 involving exposure to toxic chemicals. They found as the number of people that were effected by the toxic chemicals increased, the amount of total damages the person responsible was asked to pay decreased.

Now those are some perverse incentives.  If you know that you have harmed a few people, and you know that you will be caught eventually and involved in a lawsuit, then you should try to harm as many other people as possible.  After all, a jury will punish you more for poisoning 5 people than for poisoning 500.

Our instincts and emotions simply do not know how to think about any number of people greater than 150.  Our brains only know how to operate in the context of a small tribe, unless we properly train ourselves to avoid these kinds of cognitive biases.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Antibiotic Costs versus Benefits

One of the fundamental lessons of economics is that everything has increasing marginal costs and decreasing marginal benefits.  Antibiotics can be amazingly valuable, saving lives that would have been lost in a previous century.  But they are not a miracle: they have costs, and you should think carefully about using them:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Reading

If you want to spend a few hours reading summaries of cutting-edge thought, this is a good way to do it.  A lot of scientists and philosophers were asked 

The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

I am already familiar with almost everything presented there, and some of them are small-minded and trite, but overall it is full of well-presented short essays.  Here's an especially good one

I suggest a different, even darker solution to Fermi's Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don't blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they're too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don't need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Farming Techniques

This looks impressive, but I do not know how accurate it is:

Now for the hopeful part: Biological processes can bring carbon into balance. Think of the dreary climate predictions you read in the news and compare that with what Ian Mitchell-Innes, a South African rancher and trainer in holistic management, has to say: "If we improve 50 percent of the world's agricultural land we could sequester enough carbon in the soil to bring atmospheric CO2 back to pre-industrial levels in five years."

According to Collins, a 1 percent increase in soil carbon on 5 billion acres of agricultural land would not only relieve our atmosphere of some 200 billion tons of CO2 — the equivalent of 100 parts per million — but also enhance food production, and, because its covered, carbon-rich soil infiltrates and holds significantly more water than its dried-out counterpart, aids stream and river flow, and protects against flooding and drought.

I do know that farming has a very large impact on land and the planet, and changes in farming practice could do a lot of good.  If this is as good as they say, it will soon be widely adopted and could help a lot of things.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pokeberry Power

I am slightly skeptical of this, but it would be nice if it works out:

Carroll says a red dye made from pokeberries can be used to coat a new type of solar cell that's produced from millions of tiny plastic fibers. Unlike traditional solar units, fiber cells — thanks to a patented design that exposes more surface area to the sun's rays — can produce a usable amount of power even at sunrise and sunset.

The dye acts as an absorber helping the cell's tiny fibers trap significantly more sunlight during the day, compared to current solar systems, that then gets converted into energy. The technology is especially promising because it is able to generate twice the total kilowatt-hours per day than traditional silicon-based units. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stupid Parents?

Whenever I read stories like this, my first reaction is "People cannot really be that stupid."

Based on surveys Barnes collected, the top five worries of parents are, in order:

School snipers
Dangerous strangers

I wonder what the survey methodology was. It is really capturing what people actually take time and effort to prevent, or does it ask the first thing that pops into peoples' minds?

My parents, and the parents of most people in our social circle, had a good sense of the things that actually hurt children. They made sure that I wore seat belts, and helmets, and learned to swim at an early age. They made sure I had reasonably nutritious food without being obsessive about it. They maintained a clean and safe environment, and then let me play around in it. They encouraged me to play outside, where I got plenty of scrapes and bruises, which taught me how to be careful and play safely.

But maybe other parents are that stupid. Politicians seem to earn votes by proposing policies that focus on these kinds of things, and I often meet people who do not know how to swim. At first I assumed that not teaching children to swim was limited to low-class and neglectful parents, but then I meet otherwise well-cared-for upper-middle-class children who were never taught to swim. This always stuns me.

How will we ever have a rational civilization if people cannot be bothered to do some basic research on what actually is the biggest threat to the lives and safety of their beloved progeny?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Serious Words

The harshest things I have ever said on this blog are nothing compared to this:

 But Obama has gone much further than this now. The cloak of secrecy he is invoking is not protecting national security but protecting war crimes. And this is now inescapably his cloak. He is therefore a clear and knowing accessory to war crimes, and should at some point face prosecution as well, if the Geneva Conventions mean anything any more. 

And this is a well-known writer from a mainstream magazine.  I've never seen any Tea-Partier write what he does, seriously and in cold blood.  Read the whole thing.

Greek Money and Culture

Here's a long but good popular article about the Greeks and their financial mess.

iPhone vs Medical Status Quo

This article shows how expensive and messed up the health care system is.  It talks about computer communication devises for people who cannot speak:

But acquiring such a computer is not as easy as walking into a store and purchasing one. An extensive evaluation and trial must be conducted to assess the user's needs. Then, it can take many months to gain insurance approval, if coverage is available at all. A device sophisticated enough to produce full sentences usually costs upwards of $7,000.

Traditional AAC devices — the acronym refers to "augmentative and alternative communication" — have a few more knocks against them. They're much heavier than a laptop, can take a long time to boot up and have a short battery life. Accessories, like protective cases or extra batteries, must be purchased through the company, aren't covered by insurance and are pricey.

And for a young child (or even an adult), they can be stigmatizing — most of them lack any sort of "cool factor." They scream, "I'm different." What's more, insurance won't pay for a device that's "open" — one that connects to the Internet for browsing and e-mail or runs other applications, even a word processor. The user can run only the communication software on the device. With the online world as integrated into life it is these days, this limitation has become positively absurd.

Thankfully, consumer electronics and open platforms come to the rescue: 

With an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad and Proloquo2Go, available to download for $189.99 from the iTunes store, someone who needs augmentative communication can have a functional voice for well under $1,000. That's cheap enough to avoid the labyrinthine process of dealing with insurance, plus the user can access e-mail, browse the Internet, visit social networking sites and do anything an application can do — manage a to-do list, use a daily schedule or text a friend. 

If the insurance companies had any sense, they would have made something like this on their own.  Any functioning organization would love to pay $1000 instead of $7000 for something that their customers like a lot more.  But the health care system is riddled with perverse incentives and institutional problems that prevent these kinds of efficiencies.

In this case, if the company started giving out iPhones to people with speech problems, then there would probably be a large number of people mysteriously developing communication disorders.  They would have to test people and turn them away suspected cheaters.  There would be mistakes and people would get mad.  By only offering an undesirable product after extensive testing, they screen out people who do not really need it.  Now that the thing exists, it might be cheaper to give away more of them and accept the cheating, but it would not have made much sense to invest in the research and development to make a customer-pleasing product.  

In a normal business, making something that people like means getting more money.  But with medicine that is provided for free or at a tiny fraction of costs, making something that people like means losing money.  More people will come in, and you lose money on every one.  If people chose their insurance company and things were not so heavily regulated, the desire to gain customers would give them an incentive to lower costs and improve service.  But most people are stuck with a government system or whoever their employer chooses, so they have no choice.  If you have a captive pool of customers who are all forced to pay you a fixed amount each year, and you are forced to serve anyone who wants it, then the only way to boost profits, or even stay in business, is by making your product as unpleasant as possible so they don't want to come in.

There may be another issue.  Government regulatory agencies are often 'captured' by people who want to protect their salaries.  A system intended to protect consumers ends up stifling competition to protect a vested interest.  Insurance companies are so regulated that it may make sense to treat them as government agencies.  Doctors will end up setting the rules, and their goal is to raise the incomes of doctors.  Most of that $7000 goes to speech therapists and medical technicians.  If people start solving their problems by downloading iPhone apps, the therapists are out of a job.  They will have an incentive to write insurance reimbursement rules so that anyone with a speech problem is forced to go through them. The current system is bad for insurance companies and bad for patients, but it is good for the doctors and they will fight to keep it in place.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ancient Pills

This is interesting.  I had never heard of archaeobotanists before.

At first it seemed that the plants were ordinary and boring (what did they think celery does?), but then I realized that there are only so many plants that have had their DNA sequenced.  There were probably a lot of plants in there that we do not have in libraries because the DNA has not been sequenced yet.

Barbeque Technology

People think of 'technology' as being something new and flashy that only a scientist can come up with.  But economists know that technological progress, and the resulting economic growth, takes many forms.  For example, here is an advancement in production technology:

Brisket is the biggest challenge for any aspiring barbecue pit boss. The cut, from the under-belly of the steer, is one of the toughest and fattiest parts of the animal—a cut that invariably went unsold in olden days. The only takers in the past were the dirt poor and the slaves. As in Britain, brisket in Texas was traditionally either pickled or boiled all day—and even then, remained barely edible. But in the late 1800s, German immigrants settled in the state to ply their butchering and sausage-making skills to the rapidly expanding cattle trade. Once there, they quickly taught the locals how to slow roast tough and fatty brisket in an open pit to create one of the most succulent meats of all. 

This, like crock pots, is the kind of thing that governments and central planners never think of.  Our lives are what they are mainly because of millions of small advancements like these that mean less waste, more efficiency, and a higher standard of living as a result.  Even if you don't eat brisket, the fact that it can now be sold rather than thrown out makes all of the rest of the cow cheaper.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Everyone knows that women's clothing sizes are nebulous and change over time.  But men's pant sizes are also lying to you.

I wonder how this has changed over time.  Would old pants from thrift stores be more honest?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: The Bonfire of the Vanities

I saw a copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities in the thrift store recently, and since it is a well-known and culturally important book, I decided to grab it and see what it was like.

At first I was impressed. The prose was first-rate, with excellent descriptions and characterizations. I could tell that this was the work of a highly skilled writer. But it got old really fast. Every single character is evil and stupid, except for a few cameo appearances from people who are evil and smart. I had no sympathy for anybody and no curiosity about what would happen next. The plot moved at the pace of molasses, and most of the book ended up being the internal monologues of really despicable people.

I stopped reading The Bonfire of the Vanities about two-fifths of the way through, when it became clear that the book would remain a festering labyrinth of toxic cynicism. I felt like I was reading a bad Seinfeld episode wrapped in thick layers of literary pretension.

I understand the social value of pointing out hypocrisy and bad behavior. This kind of thing can be a good antidote to those who are star-struck or hold unrealistically high opinions of certain groups of people. But The Bonfire of the Vanities, by making rotten attitudes and behavior seem so commonplace, ends up justifying this behavior and making it acceptable. One gets the impression that the entire world is rotten, and that rotten behavior is the norm. Given what we know about human psychology, this will make people who read the book more likely to act rotten.

This effect is magnified by the skill of the writer. Everything is so vivid and memorable that it is bound to stick in one's subconscious. Reading The Bonfire of the Vanities is quite similar to watching Triumph of the Will. I see great artistic skill used in the service of subtle and nasty propaganda, and I get grim and depressed. This book, like Catch-22, is probably responsible spreading a taint of bleak nihilism among the people of our country.

While reading the book, I found myself starting to hate humanity. I had to back up, take a breath, and tell myself that the book is not an accurate representation of society or reality. It is a caricature, one man's distorted look at a small group of people. For example, many of the characters are obsessed with issues relating to Jews. The book is full of descriptions about how people hate Jews and how Jews despise other people, how people's minds and thoughts are always focusing on this, and how the fact that one is a Jew is central to that person's identity.

But 'The Jewish Question' has never been a part of my life. It is not an issue at all. I do not know which names are Jewish, and I cannot identify a person as Jewish unless he is wearing a yarmulke. Nobody I know has ever said anything about Jews or even, to my knowledge, thinks about them as a group. Holding strong opinions about Jews is like holding strong opinions about Vietnamese or Latvians or Algerians. Thinking about them is an alien concept. Antisemitism, like public executions, is a strange, foreign, primitive thing that, in my experience, only exists in history books and news reports from Islamic countries. Maybe it was a feature of New York in the 1980's. But by dragging out this kind of old rubbish, The Bonfire of the Vanities simply serves to keep it alive and in people's minds.

I know that we all have instincts that can cause us to act beastly. When placed in a bad environment, or when given power or secrecy, people will often be corrupt and venal. But we also have instincts to follow the behavior patterns of our peer group, and we have the tools to motivate people to act well. Civilization depends on using socialization and good incentives to create patterns of good behavior. The most charitable thing that can be said about The Bonfire of the Vanities is that it shines a spotlight on a problem that needs to be solved. But the method it uses to do this causes more harm than good, by making rotten behavior seem like a social norm.


These studies back up our theory that many leaders owe their position not to calculated, rational decisions on the part of the electorate or interview board, but to their ability to push a "leader button" in the human psyche

Our decision-making is far more primitive than we usually admit, and these primitive instincts are increasingly unsuited to the modern world.

Economics Parenting Tip

How do you best get your children to sleep in the car?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Language and Thought

Here's a good article about the cognitive effects and benefits of language.

Lupyan found that participants who were given names for the aliens learned to identify the predators far more quickly, reaching 80 per cent accuracy in less than half the time taken by those not told the names. By the end of the test, those told the names could correctly categorise 88 per cent of aliens, compared to just 80 per cent for the rest (Psychological Science, vol 18, p 1077). So naming objects helps us categorise and memorise them, Lupyan concluded.

However language emerged, it seems that our inner voice changes the way we experience the world. "Language is like augmented reality - an overlay that changes how we think, reason and see," says Clark. Boroditsky believes that this is as relevant to us today as it was to early humans. "The sheer amount of information arriving down the optic nerve is far more than the brain can process consciously," she says. Language, she believes, is how the human brain focuses on the essential details. "It's like a guidebook that has been developed by thousands of people before you, who have figured out what is important for us to survive and adapt to our environment." 

This has important and ominous implications that are not discussed in the article.  If language is so important to thought, then people with smaller vocabularies will, ceteris paribus, be worse at thinking, and on a very fundamental level.  They experience the world differently than those with rich vocabularies; their world will be full of confusing, complicated, and unclassifiable objects and concepts.  This is a horrifying handicap to a successful life.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Here's a long but interesting article about the company that owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster:

At the helm of this quiet giant is the 53-year-old son of a janitor from Watts, the Los Angeles neighborhood that made headlines for riots in 1965. "You hear people in the restaurant industry say, 'I have a feel for the business,' " says CEO Clarence Otis. He's not one of those people. "On the continuum of intuitive restaurants versus systematized, analytic restaurants, we're very analytic," he says. "The direction of our business is based on understanding customers."

Darden turned to research. "The key consumer insight was that people missed the emotional comfort and connectivity that comes with family," says chief operating officer Drew Madsen, then the chain's head of marketing. "People come to a restaurant for both physical and emotional nourishment. The physical is the food; and the emotional is how you feel when you leave." 

My family used to like these restaurants, before we became really focused on eating healthy.  But even then, we hardly ever ate out.  I and both of my parents are willing and able to cook good homemade food, so we simply do not need or want restaurants most of the time.

As attitudes changed, the test kitchens took on the preparation challenge; risotto requires 20 minutes to cook, longer than customers are willing to wait.

Restaurant speed has changed a lot in the past couple of decades.  Everything is so much faster.  It makes economic sense, of course.  Not only do people demand it, but the faster you can get people in and out the more people you can serve and the more money you can make.  But something has been lost when people are unwilling to wait 20 minutes in a nice environment.  The 'slow food' people do have a point.

This summer, she's launching another project to share wait times across restaurants so that a hostess can steer customers to nearby Darden establishments that aren't as busy. The next logical step, White says, would be to give customers online access to that information.

I predict that this will boost their restaurant profitability far more then they expect, especially if they provide historical minute-by-minute graphs of wait time.  People will go to their site and find the best time and place to eat,and this will spread out arrival times and make everything run more smoothly.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paper Fan

I was just copying off the quiz for tomorrow's class when the copier jammed.  I took it apart and found apiece of paper, beautifully folded up like a paper fan.  I kept it, spread out one side, pinched another, and made it an actual fan.

It works amazingly well.