December 17, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

FACE BLINDNESS – In some people, the part of the brain that recognizes faces doesn’t work. They can see people that they know well and still not recognize them. I think I have a touch of this. At some point, I expect Augmented Reality glasses and facial recognition software to help with this.

The (Math) Problem With Pentagons – Why can you cover a page with triangles, squares, or hexagons, but not pentagons? It’s all about the angles.

In 2017, UK water companies still rely on “magic” – Many water companies in the UK still use dowsing rods to find water. Seriously.

Switzerland is Prepared for Civilizational Collapse – I’d never thought of Switzerland as a country of survivalists. One aspect of that is that they have fountains in most towns in case the central water systems fail. I guess that is a better approach than Britain’s relying on a well-trained cadre of dowsers.

The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective – A Chinese immigrant to the US gives his perspective on western culture. “In Communist China, I was taught that hard work would bring success. In the land of the American dream, I learned that success comes through good luck, the right slogans, and monitoring your own—and others’—emotions.”

Mistletoe and (a large) wine: seven-fold increase in wine glass size over 300 years – An interesting look at the increase in the average wine glass size in England from 1700 (70ml) to the present (450ml). The biggest growth has been in the last 70 years.

Health – Physical and Mental

Your 50s Will Probably Be the Most Unhappy Time of Your Life – This is great news! Life is good but it is only going to get better. Woohoo! OK, the truth is that this article is stupid.

Why It Feels So Good to Cancel Plans Last Minute, and How to Stop – It’s annoying, when hosting an event, to have people bail at the last minute. This article gives advice on how not to repeatedly be one of those rude people.

Art and Culture

“STRANGER THINGS: A Bad Lip Reading” – If you are a fan of Stranger Things and the Bad Lip Reading series of YouTube videos, this is for you.

The Best TV Shows of 2017 – Not only have I not seen any of these, I’ve never even heard of any of them. Is this a real list?

Japanese Mascots Are Too Damn Big – Japan loves its mascots. Maybe a little too much.

Winners of the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest – Very pretty pictures. Incidentally, if Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox goes through, they will own a controlling share of National Geographic.

The art of flying – This is hypnotic video of a cloud of birds moving about the sky. They look a lot like a school of fish.

HYPER-REALITY – Still thinking about how augmented reality glasses could help you with recognizing people? Here’s a video showing just how freaky an AR world might look.

Science

A space rock from another star is spotted in our solar system — a cosmic first – This is from October. How did I miss this? A 400 meter long rock from outside our solar system did a quick flyby of earth and is now heading back out into space. Are we sure that it is really a rock??? I need to go re-read Rendezvous with Rama. Incidentally, I noticed that it can bought on audible for only $1.99 right now.

First multimessenger observation of a neutron-star merger is Physics World 2017 Breakthrough of the Year – The science story of the year was watching two neutron stars collide.

Study may explain counterintuitive effect of why hotter systems can cool more quickly – It appears that really hot water freezes faster than cold water, but we’re still not really certain why. I think the universe does it just to jack with us.

Technology

Fabric-based biobattery could power future wearables – Are you ready for a world where you need to charge your underwear?

HOW A DORM ROOM MINECRAFT SCAM BROUGHT DOWN THE INTERNET – Some college kids discovered that they could take over security cameras, routers, and other stuff connected to the Internet and use them to build a big bot-net. It’s interesting to see how vulnerable the Internet is despite how much we all depend on it.

Politics and Policy

The final GOP tax bill is complete. Here’s what is in it. – This article leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Overall, it looks like my taxes won’t change much. However, because revenue is going down significantly and spending isn’t, that means that I’ll eventually be asked to pay more to cover those additional debts, so this feels like a long-term tax increase to me. Remember, cutting taxes without cutting spending is really just deferring taxes.

The tax bill destroys an important part of Obamacare. The states can save it. – Hooray! Someone on the left is finally realizing that they don’t actually need the federal government to implement the health care system that they want. They can do it at a state level and then we can all see how marvelous (or terrible) their system is. In this case, they are suggesting that the states replace the health care provider subsidies that the feds have stopped paying. Go for it, blue states!

New Zealand has worst level of homelessness in the world, Labour says – This article relies on a relatively expansive definition of homelessness. NZ doesn’t actually have a huge problem with people sleeping on the streets, but they do have a problem with the housing supply.

France to ban mobile phones in schools from September – I can see arguments for banning or not banning phones in schools. What I can’t see is why this needs to be handled at the national level. Shouldn’t this be a decision best made at the school or school district level?

Economics, Business, and Money

The hard road of free markets – The author is pleased by the fact that people increasingly see high housing costs in some cities as the result of restrictions on adding more housing.

China’s rise: The wealth of a nation (not ours) – China was very, very, very poor not long ago. In the last 40 years, they have gone through an incredible amount of growth. This will be remembered as a wonderful time in history for the improvement in many people’s living standards.

There’s a Digital Media Crash. But No One Will Say It – The author predicts the collapse of digital media because investors are starting to realize that the market is too crowded and not profitable. I agree that there will be a lot of changes, but their argument boils down to a fancy way of rewriting an old Yogi Berra saying – “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

When the remedy is more destructive than the disease – The IRS is trying to impose a tax on bitcoin trades. Since all trades have a winner and a loser and you can deduct the losses, this ends up being a roughly revenue neutral tax minus the considerable cost of tracking, reporting, and enforcement. So why even have a tax that results in a net cost?

December 10, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

How a janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos – This was easily my favorite story of the week. That’s partly because I love “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos”, but mostly because it is a great feel-good story.

The wounds they carry – This story takes you through the events of the Las Vegas shooting as experienced by some high school students at the concert. It’s disturbing but interesting.

HOW ONE WOMAN’S DIGITAL LIFE WAS WEAPONIZED AGAINST HER – This is a long and crazy story. Some married lady in Seattle had a virtual affair with some crazy guy in Arizona. Her husband found out and outed them to their families. The Arizona guy didn’t care for that and went way beyond boiling rabbits in his quest for revenge. I don’t think that it can be emphasized enough – stay away from crazy people.

Hedy Lamarr’s Forgotten, Frustrated Career as a Wartime Inventor – Great inventions don’t always come from janitors. Sometimes beautiful starlets invent things like frequency hopping.

Napoleon was the Best General Ever, and the Math Proves it. – The author used some battle statistics to determine who the best general was. Despite the “math proves” it bit, it still seems rather subjective, but I guess there is no chance for a playoff.

MoviePass drops pricing to under $7 per month, if you opt for the annual plan – I’ve never tried it, but MoviePass looks like a good deal for people that see movies a lot. My only concern is that their business model is so crazy that there is a non-trivial chance that you’ll buy the annual plan and the company will fold well before the year is out.

Leonia to shut down residential streets during rush hour – There is a town in NJ so tired of cut-through traffic that they have banned non-residence from their streets during much of the day. I sympathize with their problem, but this approach just seems so tacky. It would be fun for a city like NYC to reciprocate and not allow Leonia residents on their streets during the same time periods.

 ‘Who are they gonna believe, you or me?’: Texas prosecutor fired after drunken Uber tirade – There are some good things about a world where we can all be recorded at any time. In this case, a Dallas DA tried to intimidate an Uber driver but her tirade was recorded and made public. She lost her job and now people know that she’s an abusive jerk.

Bad News for the Highly Intelligent – The article claims that smart people are crazy. I guess that makes sense. Wouldn’t being around relatively stupid people all the time drive you crazy? Wait, the study didn’t use a random sample of smart people. It looked at people in Mensa. Everyone knows that Mensa people are crazy, so this really isn’t news.

Professor Marvin Hewitt’s Twisting Journey from Dropout to Rocket Scientist – This is a good anecdote in support of the smart people are crazy argument. This self-taught high school dropout successfully taught classes as a physics professor until he got exposed. Of course, he may have been teaching nonsense. When my physics professor said things that didn’t make sense, I just assumed that I didn’t understand the material. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might be a high school dropout spewing nonsense. Makes me wonder about quantum physics.

India’s Geography Problem – Why is India the way it is? This article uses geography to explain how it developed the way that it did.

Why the UK Runs Trains to Nowhere – The UK has regular train routes for trains that virtually nobody rides. Why? Because of contractual obligations that are easier to meet than to renegotiate.

TOTAL IDIOTS AT WORK #4 – This is like an America’s Funniest Home videos collection of people doing really stupid things at work. Warning – some of the accidents look rather disturbing.

Health – Physical and Mental

How Running May or May Not Help the Heart – This may or may not be an interesting article.

Generation Grumpy: Why You May Be Unhappy if You’re Around 50 – This article seems rather stupid, but as someone in the target generation, I’m going to keep this reference as a way to deflect blame the next time someone accuses me of being grumpy.

The Last of the Iron Lungs – I didn’t realize that we still had people using iron lungs.

Art and Culture

The Michelangelo of Microsoft Excel – As much as I like his art and his creative spirit, this video is going to give me nightmares. I’m going to wake up terrified that I’m going to have to support this is some bizarre way, probably automating painting tasks using VBA. And what is with the horrible framing in the video? Why on earth would you shoot only the bottom half of your subject’s face in so many shots?

Jackie Chan: Master of Silent Comedy – The greatest silent comedy actors of all time? Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and now Jackie Chan? This video makes the case for Jackie to be included in the list.

The Best Movies of 2017 – It is two lists of 10. In what may be a record for me, I’ve seen two of the movies – Get Out and Wonder Woman.

Bad sex award 2017 shortlist: the contenders in quotes – This is an odd award. It is for the worst description of a sex scene in a work of literary fiction.

The 500 best games of all time: 100-1 – The winner is Tetris. That choice would make sense if it was for the most ubiquitous game of all time, but was Tetris really the best?

Science

The Top 10 Websites for Science in 2017 – Some seem like good and obvious choices – Science, Nature. Others seem rather questionable – Gizmodo?

Who is the greatest chemist of all time? – Marie Curie in a landslide, at least according to this article. But why was Dmitri Mendeleev not even in the competition? He invented the Periodic Table for goodness sake.

Technology

Politics and Policy

I am a Cherokee woman. Elizabeth Warren is not. – A Cherokee writer takes Elizabeth Warren to task for “misappropriating Native identity for her own economic and political gain.” I’m a little surprised that the identity politics crowd has largely given her a pass for cynically manipulating affirmative action and thereby helping delegitimizing it. Then again, many “feminists” aggressively backed Bill Clinton against the women that accused him of abuse and many on the religious right strongly back Donald “grab them” Trump. I guess the message is clear – hypocrisy is OK if it is for a good cause.

Members of Congress should get higher salaries – Given how much I criticize Congress, it is probably surprising to a lot of people that I agree with the author of this that we should pay them more. Their pay of $174,000 is stupidly low given what similar jobs pay, particularly when we expect them to support two households.

One law professor’s overview of the confusing net neutrality debate – Another nice summary of the “Net Neutrality” debate. I still find it bizarre that people are so convinced that rolling back a rule that has only been in place for a couple of years will cause the death of the Internet. How did we manage to survive 20 years without it?

Thoughts on “Net Neutrality” From Down Here in the Coal Mine – Guest Post Maria Schneider – A perspective on “Net Neutrality” from a Grammy winning composer. She seems a bit over-the-top in her antipathy for Google.

In Portland, You Can Steal Cars Over and Over—and Get Away With It. Here’s How. – It looks like you won’t be arrested for stealing a car in Portland if, when caught in the stolen car, you claim that someone loaned it to you without your knowing it was stolen. What’s next for Oregon – giving murderers a pass if they claim it was an assisted suicide?

Economics, Business, and Money

Watch Out for the Effects of Tax Reform on Tax Migration, the Fiscal Conditions of Affected States and Cities, and Polarity in America – This is a look at how ending the deduction for state and local property taxes might cause an increase in migration from high tax states to low tax states.

A Smarter Minimum Wage – This article by some minimum wage proponents shows that they are taking little baby steps towards sanity. The authors recognize that minimum wages high enough to make a difference in high wage areas will wipe out a lot of jobs in low wage areas. Hopefully they will follow that logic trail and reach my conclusion – every person should have the right to set their own minimum wage as best fits their particular circumstances.

If There’s a College Affordability Crisis, What Should We Do About It? – I like this article because it recognizes the insanity of the way we keep trying to deal with college affordability. We help people afford college by making it easier for students to get (usually borrow) money, which encourages colleges to raise prices, which makes it hard to afford college. I’d love to see an analysis comparing the budgets, in today’s dollars, between some universities from the past with universities today. Why is it so much more expensive? Where is that money going?

The Undertaker’s License – This is a nice little article on how occupational licensing results in higher costs for consumers. Of all the things that might need licensing, how is being an undertaker on the list? It’s not like there is a big risk that the dead are going to get injured by an unqualified undertaker. Maybe it’s fears that mishandling the dead will lead to the zombie apocalypse.

 

 

December 3, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

What Archaeology Is Telling Us About the Real Jesus – This is an interesting look at archaeology focused on the life of Christ.

Olympic Doping Diaries: Chemist’s Notes Bolster Case Against Russia – This article is about the detailed notes kept by a doctor that allegedly helped provide performance enhancing drugs to Russia athletes. I’d get more outraged about this stuff if I didn’t suspect that it was common. We may have a Russia-free Olympics coming up.

Belgian prince says proposed pay cut would breach his human rights – This is why we don’t want royalty.

Chinese man repaints road markings to make his commute quicker – This guy gets huge bonus points for moxie, but it leaves me wondering who the heck is designing intersections in China. It looks like this intersection already has 2 lanes merging into one in the intersection itself. This guy was trying to make it a three-in-one.

Shared Space’ Design: Road Signs Suck. What if We Got Rid of Them All? – This seems even crazier. I’ll keep an open mind, but I struggle to see how this will work.

TRANSPORTATION CODE – TITLE 7. VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC – SUBTITLE C. RULES OF THE ROAD – CHAPTER 552. PEDESTRIANS – I was curious about Texas laws regarding pedestrian crossing. Chapter 522 covers it. I was surprised to see that Texas law requires cars to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks (and it implies that also includes unmarked crosswalks) when there is no traffic signal present. How often do you see that happen?

More Than 180 Women Have Reported Sexual Assaults at Massage Envy – This story is just gross and furthers my view that undressing and getting handled by a stranger in a private room is not something I want anything to do with.

Elon Musk says SpaceX will try to launch his Tesla Roadster on new heavy-lift rocket – That seems staggeringly stupid.

Health – Physical and Mental

We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner – I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on science information from “Business Insider”, but I thought it was an interesting perspective.

Afterglow (NSFW) – This article is about the importance of post-sex cuddling on a long-term relationship.

Study Shows Strength Training Can Add Years to Your Life – Before you run out and join a gym or buy a bunch of weights, “…an interesting takeaway from the study was that simple exercises like weight-free, equipment-free squats, planks, sit ups, crunches, and push-ups were just as effective as working with actual weights and gym equipment.” It sounds like the aerobic stuff – a little is enough to get a lot of benefit and then you hit diminishing longevity gains.

Warren Buffett says this quick mental exercise will make you a happier person – In summary, his advice is to look at the people you admire most and least and emulate the things you like in the people you admire and avoid doing the things you dislike in the people you don’t admire.

Art and Culture

This Drone Photographer Sees Things In the Surf on Beaches – Some of these shots are amazing.

89-Year-Old Japanese Grandma Discovers Photography, Can’t Stop Taking Hilarious Self-Portraits Now – Some people are just cool. I don’t really get her sense of humor, but I love that she’s out there doing stuff. If I’m still alive at 89, I hope I’m like her – living life and not just going along for the ride.

NYC Layer-Lapse – This video is a composite of time-lapses of the NYC skyline that mixes images from different times of the day together. Technically, it’s amazing. Artistically, it doesn’t do anything for me.

Sesame Street: Sharing Things (Stranger Things Parody) – I haven’t seen Stranger Things, but I thought this was amusing.

The Grad Student Who Finds Out She’s Pregnant (NSFW) – This is an entry in something called “Sex Diaries”, which appears to be short diaries from cosmopolitan people with a focus on their sex lives. This one is about a grad student impregnated by her FWB. It reads like something written by someone from a totally alien culture – a very lonely and empty culture. Very sad.

Five Books That Have Changed My Life – Another book list. This one is by an econ blogger I follow. I’ve only read one of the five, Foundation, and, while I thought it was good science fiction for its time, it didn’t change my life. What books changed me the most? Free To Choose gave me a much deeper appreciation for freedom. The Lord of the Rings gave me a sense for how engrossing a good story can be. Math Is Fun made me see how much fun solving problems can be. There are many, many other books that I love, but those are the few that jump out as books that have changed me.

THE “LORD OF THE RINGS” OF CHINESE LITERATURE IS FINALLY BEING TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH – I’ve never heard of him. I’ll have to try some of his stuff.

The Delights of Parsing the Beatles’ Most Nonsensical Song – I Am The Walrus. It’s not one of my favorites and I’m not drawn to its “mysteries”, but it was interesting to read about it.

Science

Why are scientists filing lawsuits against their critics? – I’d be interested to hear both sides of this story, but the article certainly paints a damning picture of Mark Jacobson.

If science is what scientists do, what happens if scientists stop doing science? – I thought that this article muddied a fairly simple concept. Science is making testable conjectures about how the world works and then testing them. Those that survive tests well are more likely to be true. It doesn’t matter who does it and people calling themselves “scientists” that don’t do it are doing science.

A tad of gay holds sway – I have absolutely no expertise in this area, so this article may be insane rantings. It is an interesting conundrum, though. If homosexuality is genetic, how do the genes for it survive? His theory is that it is similar to the genes that cause sickle cell anemia. If you get one of those genes, you are more resistant to malaria but if you get both, you get sickle cell anemia. The advantages in areas with a lot of malaria outweigh the costs genetically, so the genes survive. Maybe having some “gay” genes provides reproductive advantages that outweigh the reproductive costs of having so many those genes that you are gay.

Technology

More than 480 web firms record ‘every keystroke’ – Start to fill out a form online. Change your mind and close the page before you hit the submit button. Nobody knows what you did, right? Wrong. It looks like growing number of sites are recording every keystroke you make on their site and every movement of your mouse without you having to “submit” the information. They are using a third-party to gather that information, so there is no telling who it is being shared with. You can’t do anything about it, but it is good to be aware. It feels like a trust violation to me.

The 10 most useful things you can do in Excel – A lot of this stuff is common knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows it. I learned something I didn’t know from the article (flash fill).

DNS resolver 9.9.9.9 will check requests against IBM threat database – It looks like 9.9.9.9 is another free DNS service. This one blocks “threatening” addresses. I’m not sure whether the benefit is worth letting someone else decide what is a threat and what isn’t. Regardless, if you don’t have a backup DNS set up, you should. The majority of Comcast Internet “outages” I’ve seen are really just problems with their DNS service.

Politics and Policy

A panic is not an answer: We’re at imminent risk of turning this #metoo moment into a frenzied rush to blame all men – Is the pendulum going to swing too far? I don’t think it has yet, but I suspect that it will.

The American Indian foundation of American gun culture – This is an interesting perspective on the relatively unique gun culture in the United States and how it was influenced by American Indians.

Records: Suffolk DA’s office bonuses totaled $3.25M since 2012 – Asset forfeiture is madness. Here’s an example of the DA in a county I used to live in giving himself a bonus from money that has been taken from people. Keep in mind, this money is seized and kept even when it is never used as evidence and no crime is alleged. We should not have a system where law enforcement has a financial incentive to take money from innocent people. Incentives matter.

Wyoming Forfeiture – Here’s another one, but with a strange twist. This musician agreed to sign over his life savings to cops that stopped him but later changed his mind. It’s kind of strange. Was he coerced? Stupid? We really need to take away the financial incentives for police to take people’s money so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

FCC Head Ajit Pai: Killing Net Neutrality Will Set the Internet Free – I know that the majority of my techy friends believe strongly in increasing federal regulation of the Internet in the form of the “Net Neutrality” rule. The fact that the Trump administration wants to roll it back makes it even harder to oppose it. Still, I think “Net Neutrality” is a bad idea and that we should let free markets sort things out. Only after we start to see serious problems, should we can add more regulation.

Why Net Neutrality Was Mistaken From the Beginning (AOL Edition) – Another article in opposition to Net Neutrality. I’d include some in favor of it, but I see so many those that I’m not sure which one I’d pick. It seems like aside from libertarians and economists, almost everyone wants a highly regulated Internet.

Another year of American hilarity – This is a list of what George Will sees as political absurdities for the year.

Special Report: ‘Treacherous shenanigans’ – The inside story of Mugabe’s downfall – This is an interesting look at the final days of Mugabe’s rule and how a coup unfolds. I’m surprised by how many people are bothered by the coup. I don’t have hope that the perpetrators will be any better the he was, but are they going to be any worse? Is it really a moral affront to have a brutal dictator removed in a coup even if it is just by another brutal dictator? I feel like I’m watching a mugger getting mugged and my sense of outage just isn’t there.

For elites, politics is driven by ideology. For voters, it’s not. – This matches what I’ve observed. I don’t know about elites, but most people seem to put tribal or party loyalties ahead of ideology.

He Took On the Voting Rights Act and Won. Now He’s Taking On Harvard. – This is an article about Ed Blum, the iconoclast battling “reverse” discrimination. I think his current approach of using Asians to battle racial discrimination by colleges is smart.

What we’ve learned about the North Korean soldier whose daring escape was caught on video – Interesting. Sad. Countries shouldn’t be prisons.

For Illinois Sex Offenders, Six Years Can Turn Into Life In Prison – There are people that have served their sentences (or at least are eligible for parole) that can’t be released because the rules on where they can live are so restrictive that they can’t find anywhere outside of prison to live. It looks like their only option is to work at Massage Envy.

Sorry, Mr. President. You can’t make Mulvaney ‘acting’ head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. – This is Laurence Tribe’s opinion of the CFPB controversy. The agency was set up to be unaccountable (gets funding without need for congressional approval, has no oversight board, and is protected from most Presidential influence). The outgoing director appointed his successor, but President Trump overruled that and appointed his own director. Tribe is arguing that the law doesn’t allow the President to do that. To the extent that Tribe is right, it makes the agency look like an even worse idea. Since this was written, it looks like Tribe was wrong and Trump’s appointee has complete control over the agency.

Pence’s claim that ‘more Americans are working today than ever before in American history’ – This was just weird. He made a true statement of fact. It’s a little misleading because some people might interpret it to mean that a higher percentage of people are working than ever before and that isn’t the case. But the article concludes by giving it “3 Pinocchio’s”, implying that it is a lie. That conclusion seems more dishonest than the original statement.

Trump has ushered in America’s darkest hour – I don’t like Trump. I think he’s a terrible person and a lousy President. But “America’s darkest hour”? Really? This is worse than the WW2? The Great Depression? The Civil War? Slavery? What we did to the American Indians? Get a grip. This guy should be mocked over this article for the rest of his career.

Tax Bill – I don’t have any stories about the tax bill because it is unclear to me what is really in it or what it will do. I’d really prefer it if we had a rule that new legislation had to be posted online for 30 days before the final vote unless the vote is 2/3 majority in both chambers.

Economics, Business, and Money

After a Natural Disaster, Do Landlords Jack Up the Rent? – This was a shockingly bad article on the usually interesting Priceonomics site. They investigated whether Houston landlords were “price gouging” by raising rents in areas hardest hit by Harvey. Sadly, in their zeal to condemn higher prices, they completely forgot Econ 101. Demand is up – people left homeless by the storm, people moving into the area to help with reconstruction. Supply is down – properties destroyed by the floods. Rising prices in this case is a good thing. It will encourage people not to overconsume (keep your roommate, stay at home with your parents). It will encourage additional construction. These are things I would expect a high school econ student to understand.

The real effects of good intentions – This is an interesting short article on why trying to legislate good intentions often backfires.

Offshore Banking Guards Against Tyranny – I thought that this was an interesting perspective. Secretive offshore banks allow despots and criminals to hide their stolen money. They also allow innocent people to hide their money from despots and criminals.

Even a $1 million retirement nest egg isn’t enough anymore – It’ll get you roughly $40,000/yr in income. Whether that is enough, depends on your expenses.

November 19, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Brazil has nearly 60,000 murders — here’s a map to put that number in perspective – Wow. I didn’t realize that murder was so common in Brazil. The maps shows that there were more murders in Brazil in 2015 than in the US, Canada, all of Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Australia and many other countries combined.

Here’s How The Jeopardy! Dude’s Road Trip Around The World Could Work – Some guy that has been doing really well on Jeopardy is talking about driving around the world. This article maps out a rough itinerary. I hope he’s careful in Brazil.

Do civilisations collapse? – This article talks about Easter Island, the Mayans, and even ancient Greece. It argues that these civilizations declined rather than collapsed.

After Weinstein: A List of Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct and the Fallout for Each – It’s getting hard to keep track without a scorecard, so here’s one. The latest addition – Al Franken.

How, if You’re a Man, to Deal With the Fact That You’re Probably Trash – This guy basically says that everyone is complicit. It sounds more like this guy is a total jerk and wants to cover for that by saying that we’re all jerks.

Genetically Engineering the Natural World, it Turns Out, Could Be a Disaster – The Kiwis want to genetically engineer rats in a way that will kill off their rats. They aren’t native species, so some people presume that’s OK. There are concerns that the GMO rats could spread and kill rats in other countries, which would be a problem for reasons that aren’t clear to me. I want to know why we don’t try this with mosquitos. I’m willing to face up to whatever environmental harm is caused by the sudden extinction of all mosquitos.

From temptation to sextortion – This is a fascinating article on a multi-level Facebook scheme to lure people into sharing compromising videos of themselves with people they think are under-aged so that they can be blackmailed. It looks like a huge criminal enterprise, but if I was in law enforcement, I don’t think I’d put a high priority on stopping this.

What’s the Deepest Hole We Can Possibly Dig? – This is a nice little video showing how deep we’ve dug and how deep some natural holes are. We haven’t come close to digging to the center of the earth. In fact, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Just in case the article’s title mislead you, this is not about Roy Moore.

Health – Physical and Mental

Placebo Myths Debunked – I often hear about how “effective” placebos can be. This article does a good job of explaining the “placebo effect”.

What’s worse? Doctors who believe homeopathy or just use it for placebo effect – It seems like these doctors need to read the article above. Sadly, knowledge is often an ineffective cure for ignorance.

Harvard and Yale should stop playing football – The author isn’t saying that they should stop because they are bad at it (although that’s true), but because it’s now thought to be very harmful to the minds of the players. That’s kind of in conflict to the mission of a University. I’m curious to see how this plays out. I think there is a very good likelihood that we’ve seen peak football already.

Ex-NFL player confirmed as 1st case of CTE in living patient – We’re still a few years away from it, but it looks like good progress is being made on a method to diagnose CTE in living people. That may go a long way to either dampening fears about it or causing the virtual end of football as a major sport, depending on what we learn.

Art and Culture

These may be the world’s first images of dogs—and they’re wearing leashes – It appears that the leash is at least 9,000 years old. Somehow 9,000 years has not been long enough for dogs to learn not to walk in circles around the person holding the leash.

5 Things Taylor Swift Should Have Addressed on ‘Reputation’ but Didn’t – I found this amusing because the first of the “5 things” was calling Taylor Swift out for remaining apolitical in 2016 (which, if you recall, is the year we got to choose which of two horrible people would become President). I don’t know much about Ms. Swift, but I’m inclined to think more highly of any entertainer that doesn’t mix their political views with their entertainment.

Science

Dark-matter hunt fails to find the elusive particles – Maybe it’s just not there. Or maybe it is really, really hard to detect. I think they should rename it ninja matter.

Exploring the relationship between video game expertise and fluid intelligence – “We show that performance in the popular MOBA League of Legends’ correlates with fluid intelligence as measured under controlled laboratory conditions.” I wonder if Erik can get into a good college based on his LoL ranking.

Technology

I’ve got nothing in this section this week. Sorry.

Politics and Policy

Mind the Gap – This article talks about how land use policies drive up the cost of using real estate and cause some of it to unnecessarily drop from productive use.

The devious art of lying by telling the truth – They’ve coined a new word for it – “paltering”. I suppose you could try to ban this, but then politicians wouldn’t be able to say anything at all.

Dear Prudence Meets Due Process – This is an interesting interview with Emily Yoffe, an Atlantic author writing on campus sexual violence.

I’m a feminist. I study rape culture. And I don’t want Al Franken to resign. – My summary of her argument is this: He shouldn’t resign because he’s a Democrat and, even though his replacement will be re-appointed by another Democrat, it’ll set a precedent and then other Democrats might have to resign and be replaced by Republicans. Seriously. Maybe I’ve misread it, but it seems like the most pathetic “ends justify the means” argument I’ve read in a long time.

 

Economics, Business, and Money

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Does Not Protect Consumers, It Harms Them – This video explains that the CFPB is not under the control of either Congress or the President. The last thing we need is a government agency intentionally designed not to be accountable.

 

Tesla Approaches Terminal Decline – Tesla just announced a new roadster that may be the fastest production car ever made. They also announced a semi. They are struggling to keep up with demand. This article says that they are on track to completely fail financially.

November 12, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Cool Iceland Crosswalk – It’s a crosswalk painted with an optical illusion. I’d love to see more stuff like this here.

How to Hire Fake Friends and Family – No, this is not about Facebook. It’s about a Japanese company that rents out actors to pretend to be family members or friends. It’s a really strange article and seems very Japanese. Highly recommended.

L.A. family disappears after pirate raid in Amazon rainforest, then re-emerges on a surfboard – This family – mother, father, two young daughters (none of whom appear to be rented) – decided to take a long family vacation together. In fact, they decided to drive down to South America (presumably taking a boat around the Darien Gap). The got kidnapped by pirates in the Amazon area and fled in the middle of the night, paddling across a river on their trusty surfboard.

You Can Rent a (Grounded) Private Jet Just to Take Instagram Photos In – Want to show off your private jetting ways to your friends but you don’t actually have a private jet? Why not rent one for a photo shoot?

Why you should give money directly and unconditionally to homeless people – I can’t say that I agree, but it is an interesting perspective.

The Three Students Who Uncovered ‘Dieselgate’ – Two guys from India and a third guy from Switzerland were studying at West Virginia University when they caught a German car company cheating on emissions tests. Their work cost Volkswagon tens of billions of dollars and may lead to saving many thousands of lives. It’s strange how the world works.

Health – Physical and Mental

Risks of a Gluten-Free Diet – Let’s just say it one more time. If you aren’t a celiac, going gluten-free isn’t doing yourself any favors. It’s like going peanut-free because some other people are allergic to them.

SHOULD EXERCISE BE WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERS FOR DEPRESSION? – This seems counterintuitive. If someone is already depressed, isn’t telling them that they need to exercise going to just make things worse? These people claim that regular exercise actually makes people less depressed. That seems like a stretch.

Cancer Doctors Cite Risks of Drinking Alcohol – “Heavy drinkers face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers, the group cautions. Light drinking can slightly raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer and increase a common type of esophageal cancer.” They aren’t telling people not to drink. They’re just suggesting that people do it less. It should also be noted that some studies have shown that light drinking correlates with increased overall life expectancy.

Vegetarian Men Are More Depressed – Are Steaks A Treatment? – Isn’t the reason obvious? It’s not steak. It’s the lack of bacon. That would make anyone depressed or angry. Why do you think there are so many violent Islamic terrorists?

So That’s Why Some People Are Night Owls And Others Are Up At The Crack Of Dawn – This article claims that people have different sleep cycles so that someone in the tribe is always awake to be on guard.

Art and Culture

A Hard Day’s Night: Solving a Beatles mystery with mathematics – How did they create the opening cord of A Hard Day’s Night? This article claims to have solved the problem using math.

You Won’t Believe the Insane Detail In These Incredible Movie Maps – This guy creates huge maps showing all of the locations in a movie. The link is to an article about it. His site is http://www.andrewdegraff.com/moviemaps/, but it isn’t working this morning.

The Secret Jews of The Hobbit – According to this article, the Dwarves in Tolkien’s Middle Earth were inspired by Jews.

Prop Town: The Fake Rooftop Suburb that Hid a Whole WWII Airplane Factory – How do you hide a huge plane factory? You create a fake suburb on its roof.

Louis C.K. Is Accused by 5 Women of Sexual Misconduct – I’m shocked! Another male celebrity accused of sexual misconduct. It’s getting to be quite a list. I’m still baffled by how Woody Allen (married his step daughter) and Roman Polanksi (admitted to raping a child) are above all this. Is it something like the Clinton exception?

The History Of Breasts In Comic Books – I love studying history.

Science

A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer – Bigger animals have more cells, so they should be more likely to get cancer. But that isn’t the case. This article tries to explain why.

Most scientists now reject the idea that the first Americans came by land – Thousands of years before the Clovis people wandered over here, people traveled along what the article calls the “kelp highway”, boating and hiking along the coasts. Maybe they should have built a wall.

See What’s Controlling These Zombie Ants – There is a fungus that turns ants into zombies, but it does it by controlling their bodies rather than their brains. How long before it makes the jump into humans? Be very afraid.

Science explains why highly intelligent people prefer to be alone – My guess is that it is the same reason why we prefer not to be around stupid people.

Technology

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met – How is it that Facebook finds “People you may know”? According to this article, one of the main techniques is using the contact lists that people upload. So if someone you know uploads their contact list, FB can now associate your contact info with everyone else in their contact list – even if you’ve never been on Facebook. This can end up revealing relationships people would prefer not to have made public.

US Air Force Wants to Put Lasers on Fighter Jets By 2021 – I have a hard time seeing this work. Given the huge cost in weight for an effective system and given the short range, this seems like a fantasy.

Politics and Policy

How I Left the Liberal Bubble and Learned to Love the Right – Everyone should try to understand different viewpoints. The anger and polarization that seems so prevalent in politics today would be lessened if people did this. People generally aren’t evil. That’s not saying that you need to agree with everyone, but take time to try to understand their perspective.

Things that go bump in the night in Riyadh – Strange stuff is going on in Saudi Arabia. Multi-billionaires are being arrested and having their money taken. The prime minister of Lebanon traveled to Saudi Arabia and, while there, announced that he was stepping down. These are interesting times.

Is Saudi Arabia Pushing Israel Into War With Hezbollah and Iran? – Maybe they are trying to destabilize Lebanon (not that hard to do) in order to create more trouble for both Israel and Iran.

The Middle East Is Nearing an Explosion – I have no idea where this is all heading. I just hope that it drives up oil prices.

Dan Rather Laments That Americans Think the Media ‘Make Up Stories’ – I thought this was very amusing. Dan Rather telling people not to make things up is like Harvey Weinstein lecturing people on how to treat women with respect.

The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America – This article is woven around a bunch of survey data on people’s views about freedom of speech. Support for free speech isn’t all that strong. Maybe we should ban criticism of the first amendment.

Some Conservatives Have Been Against Capitalism for Centuries – It’s not something new with Trump. The conservative movement has always had its share of big government, anti-capitalists.

Get Rid of Capitalism? Millennials Are Ready to Talk About It – It’s not just free speech that is declining in popularity. Despite the incredible historic success of capitalism and failure of state run economies, young people today increasingly want state run economies. Perhaps they realize that it is a stupid idea and they want to restrict free speech because they don’t want to have to defend their views on it.

NAFTA negotiators should respect domestic labor rules – Canada is complaining about having to compete with Right-To-Work states and wants NAFTA changed to strip workers of their right not to be unionized against their will. Oh, Canada.

Why I’m Uneasy With the #MeToo Movement – Interesting thoughts. I’m still baffled by why, in a gender-equality focused society, it is assumed that when a man and woman too drunk to consent have sexual relations, the man is presumed to be the aggressor and the woman is the victim.

Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32 – I find Roy Moore, who was removed from the bench as a judge for refusing to follow the law, disgusting enough without reading about how he liked to date children, but given all the references to the allegations of misbehavior of celebrities, I thought I would be remiss if I left this off today’s list.

Economics, Business, and Money

Republicans are right to limit mortgage deduction – Why have a huge tax break for the well off? Getting rid of the deduction and lowering rates makes sense.

This 28-year-old’s company makes millions buying from Walmart and selling on Amazon – This guy buys clearance stuff at Walmart and sells it on Amazon.