January 22, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Leonard Nimoy – The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins – This rivals the Debbie Reynolds video in absurdity. Perhaps, in his quest to shed the overly-logical Spock image, he thought this would help. Seems like the sort of thing designed to be used in psy ops program.

5 Chrome Extensions That Help You Save Money – The only one of these that I use regularly is the Camelizer. It’s great for seeing if that Amazon Deal is really much of a deal. It’s also good for putting alerts on things that you’ll be if the price drops enough.

Ask a Librarian: What’s the Strangest Thing You’ve Found in a Library Book? – I think raw bacon was probably the oddest thing on the list.

How Close Do You Live to a Nuclear Bomb? – A cute little video on how where nukes are.

Nash loses FCPS social media job a week after being in Twitter spotlight – This lady got fired for a single, inoffensive, humors tweet. Oddly, some people wonder why school choice is popular.

Quickly Learn the Differences Between Most Home Design Styles With This Chart – Looked at this earlier in the week and then reviewed it again this morning. I did quickly learn the differences, but I just as quickly forgot them. There appears to be no room left in my brain to store the term “Stick-Eastlake.”

New report details 2011 Alaska grizzly bear attack on outdoors school students – Interesting story about a group of students attacked by a grizzly bear and how they did many, many things incomprehensibly wrong during the attack. Oddly, that should come as no surprise because when a bear attacks, people react by instinct rather than by carefully analyzing their options. Still, I would have expected at least one of them to remember that they had cans of bear spray.

Watch: Disney Finally Confirms Pixar World is Connected – Not sure if this really shows that Pixar films are part of a connected world or that they save money by re-using 3D models across movies.

How to Protest Safely and Legally – Seems pertinent in today’s polarized environment. I would add a couple more tips – don’t get in people’s way and try not to make too much noise. Protesting is not an excuse to be rude.

Stunning plans unveiled for world’s first floating city in French Polynesia – I think the odds of this being built are pretty low, but it seems cool. It would be even cooler if the entire thing could travel around the oceans.

‘Cigarette smoke hid the smell of fear’: what flying in the Sixties was really like – I can only remember one pre-smoking ban flight and it was truly awful. I still don’t think they should have completely banned it. There should have a place for people to sit outside on the wing and smoke during the flight.

Politics and Policy

Why Are Drug Prices So High? – We’ve had a lot of stories recently about greedy companies jacking up drug prices, but they can only do so because we make competing with them so difficult. This article gives a nice overview of why drug prices are so high.

Donald Trump and Peter Thiel vs. the FDA: Be afraid. Be very afraid. – A very different view on the FDA and drug safety from my own. I still think the right compromise is for people like this guy to be free to do whatever the FDA tells him and for me to be able to overrule the FDA for myself. I wonder how people that support the current FDA power to decide what is safe enough and effective enough reconcile their views with “pro-choice” and a “woman’s right to control her body.” She should have the right to an abortion but not the right to use sunscreen legal for sale in France?

Stuck in Place: Law and the Economic Consequences of Residential Stability – People are moving between states less than they used to, which seems odd given how much easier inter-state communication and travel have become. This change has significant policy impacts.

Obama’s Economic Record: Disappointing, But Not a Disaster – A look back on the economy under President Obama. I think perspectives on his tenure will depend heavily on whether people think he saved us from another depression or lead a weak recovery.

How Media Fuels Our Fear of Terrorism – We are susceptible to this because we are inherently terrible at comparative risk assessment. I constantly see smart people make seemingly insane risk trade-off choices and am sure that I unconsciously do the same. This is one of the reasons why I eschew shows that focus on crime and criminality; I don’t want them coloring my pleasantly polyannish world view.

Can The Separation Of Powers In The Federal Government Be Righted? – A complaint about the growing power of independent agencies with limited accountability.

Democrats Must Become the Party of Freedom – This article wants the Democrats to become the party of freedom by increasing the government’s regulation of business – primarily by focusing on anti-monopoly policies. It seems contradictory to me, but I’m crazy enough to think the same about Trump professing to shift power from Washington to the people by making the people pay Washington a YUUUGE tax if they have the temerity to buy something from an un-American seller. It seems like everyone wants to give me the power and freedom to do what they tell me to do.

U.S. Abortion Rate Falls To Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade – Regardless of where you are on the abortion debate, this direction continues to be good news.

The polity that is California – An example of to encourage tolerance by discriminating against people based on their membership in a group that also includes intolerant people. Remember, stereotyping people is bad unless it is against “those” people.

China trade has been a boon to the US, China, and the world. – A nice perspective on trade with China by one of my favorite bloggers.

A few pertinent questions for Commerce Nominee Wilbur Ross – Some good points about the direction our new administration may be heading on trade.

Oxfam Thinks $8-Coffee-Drinking Millennials with Student Debt are the World’s Neediest – Few datasets attract dumber commentary that ones on wealth distribution.

Chile is thriving – so why is socialism rising? – There is a huge disconnect between empiricism and socialism. Iwill cease mocking insects’ suicidal urge to fly into the light (especially since they are getting better) when people quit think that socialism is going to make people better off.

Paul Ehrlich Addressing Vatican Conference on Biodiversity – More evidence that it doesn’t matter how wrong you’ve been proven to be. If you tell people what they want to hear, you’ll always find an audience.

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening – Iceland has dramatically cut substance abuse in teens. In fairness to the rest of us, it’s hard to take advice from people still marooned on a tiny island in the North Atlantic.

Don’t Give Silicon Valley More H1B Visas – I’d also like to see radical reform of the H1B visa program, but I’d go in a different direction. I’d remove the cap entirely and reform the program so that visa holders could move more easily between jobs. I’d prefer to have the option to import workers rather than just exporting the work.


Data Mining for Dates – This is an audio bit on using a supercomputer to become the top match on OKCupid. Very Amusing.

Natural selection making ‘education genes’ rarer, says Icelandic study – They studied genes related to education (huh?) and found that they have been decreasing in Iceland because educated people have fewer children. Iwonder if there is a relationship between the decline in education genes in Iceland and the decline in substance abuse?

How does a US president settle on his science policy? – “One of the president’s most important responsibilities is fostering science, technology and innovation in the U.S. economy.” I disagree. Those things can happen on their own and don’t need meddling from a President. A President does need good science advice. On that subject, Istrongly recommend Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller.

These Foods Aren’t Genetically Modified but They Are ‘Edited’ – This article is a good example of coming up with a definition of GMO. Is gene editing GMO or not?

Frankly, We Do Give a Damn – The Relationship Between Profanity and Honesty – “We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty.” Honestly, I think the study is total bullshit.

The Science of Swearing – Damn! Another article about swearing.

A bug for Alzheimer’s? – Claims that Alzheimer’s is caused by an infection. Like almost all science stories that herald a new understanding at odds with commonly held science views, it’s probably completely wrong.

Roly Polies Came From the Sea to Conquer the Earth – Who doesn’t like roly polies? OK, I was disturbed about the discussion of their flavor.

Endangered zebra shark hatches fatherless babies – Immaculate Conception in sharks. Off topic, but that got me to wondering about the DNA of Jesus. He couldn’t simply have Mary’s. Did God give him Joseph’s DNA? Or did he give him some unique male DNA?

Deadly superbugs may be spreading, evolving quietly among the healthy – This got me to wondering what happens if someone that is otherwise healthy is found to be a carrier of some dangerous virus. Can we lock someone away because of a germ they are carrying? I think that history says that we can and will.

Macropinna microstoma: A deep-sea fish with a transparent head and tubular eyes – A Youtube video of a really, really weird fish. I’m pretty sure these things are the result of some dalliance between fish and aliens.

The Man in the Zebra Suit Knows the Secret of the Stripes – Why zebras have their stripes. I always thought it was a fashion thing…makes them look slimmer, more active. Apparently, it’s an approach to debugging.

When The Brain Scrambles Names, It’s Because You Love Them – You can refer to this if you ever accidentally use a former lover’s name with your spouse. Don’t expect it to help.

Don’t Tell Your Friends They’re Lucky – It’s a glass half-full/half-empty sort of split, but my outlook emphasizes more on what people do with their lives rather than the luck they had in getting there. The author seems to have the opposite focus.  I understand both viewpoints, but I think that when you emphasize luck too much, it reduces motivation and the sense of empowerment.

New York Times’ Perry report another example of lapsed journalistic ethics – I’m not a Rick Perry fan, but I like seeing examples of the NYT being called out as basically the left’s version of Fox News.

Science falling victim to ‘crisis of narcissism’ – I think the crisis part is overblown. Scientists are people. They behave like people and it has always been that way. As a bonus it has a “narcissistic personality inventory” link at the end. I find the notion of a self-reporting test of narcissism quite amusing. I’d like to see an online humility testing site; I would be awesome at that.

VERY BRITISH VILLAINS (AND OTHER ANGLO-SAXON ATTITUDES TO ACCENTS) – A nice explanation of why villains so often use a British accent.

If you were an elephant … This was really weird, but interesting anyway.

Health, Food, and Fitness

25 Facts about Fitness – A Mental Floss video covering 25 fitness facts.

Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With Booze – I have a generally negative view of mind altering drugs, but here is an article that celebrates the role of alcohol in history. It’s probably a lot more convincing if you have a few drinks before reading it. It doesn’t mention Iceland.

HOW TO MAKE A MOTHERBOARD CAKE – A Youtube video of an extremely nerdy cook making a motherboard cake.

10 Habits That Will Dramatically Improve Your Life – A lot of fairly typical self-help type advice, but mostly all good. I think the blue light at night stuff is overrated. I’d also modify the “stick to realistic goals” to be something more like “have insanely optimistic goals, but break those down into realistic steps.”


The Strangest Gadgets of CES 2017 – We’ve already covered the brush and heels. It also includes a laptop suitable for a giant, vacuum shoes, a device that stinks you awake in the morning, and another device for which Ihave no words.

Why we should all be having sex with robots – Is this what people are going to be doing in self-driving cars?

Nissan’s Path to Self-Driving Cars? Humans in Call Centers – Wait, the cars won’t always be self-driving? Sometimes someone in a call center is going to be driving my car with me in it? I know I’ve seen this before.

Japan’s hi-tech toilets to get standardised symbols – The world is getting weirder and weirder. I guess I’m just getting old.