February 12, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


History of Japan – A trippy video summary of the history of Japan. (Warning: Language)


Which Country Is America’s Strongest Ally? For Republicans, It’s Australia – Rankings of our favorite and least favorite countries by partisan affiliation. Why have Democrats started hating Zimbabwe less in the last few years?


Going For Two: Optimizing Between Extra Points And Two Point Conversions In The NFL – With the recent rule changes, it looks like you’ll get more points by going for two, but people rarely do. Why not?


Buy This Utah Home Cut Into a Cliffside – Looks kind of cool. Lousy Internet, though. I wonder what it sold for.


Inside the crash of Fling, the startup whose founder partied on an island while his company burned through $21 million – I found it amusing that the investors complained that the CEO of “Fling” was blowing their money. This is one of those stories where almost everyone seems like a prat. I even came to dislike the author.


Health – Physical and Mental

Biohack: Are You a Supertaster? Take the test… – All that you’ll need is some blue dye, a ring binder re-enforcer, a magnifying glass, and either a partner or a mirror. Not sure what benefit there is to knowing whether you are a supertaster. Maybe it looks good on a resume.


Hijacking bacteria to kill cancer – What? Using salmonella to attack cancer? You go first.


The Low-Carb Lowdown – The conclusion – what matters in the end is calories, not carbs, but going low carb can make it easier to eat fewer calories. Not sure if that’s because carbs are less filling or if it is because they taste better, so you want more.


Here are 250 Ivy League courses you can take online right now for free – Want to learn about something?


Art and Culture

The Most Beautiful Shots in The History of Disney – A six minute montage of classic Disney movie scenes.


84 Lumber Super Bowl Commercial – Complete The Journey – This was just strange. It’s a melodramatic video about immigration and building doors. It comes across as opposition to the President’s wall, risking the annoyance of his supporters. The CEO of the company denies that was the intent and says that he supports the wall, risking the annoyance of the President’s opponents. Nice ad, but not a shining moment for the company and whatever the hell message they were trying to promote. On the other hand, I did include their ad in this list, so there’s that.


Inside the New York Public Library’s Last, Secret Apartments – I had no idea that people lived in libraries. Seems like it would have been an interesting place to grow up.


The Met Makes Its Images of Public-Domain Artworks Freely Available through New Open Access Policy – 375,000 public domain works. Pretty cool. Not sure what I’ll do with this information, but it seems cool.


Rare Color Photos Showcase Japan’s Last Samurai – Old pictures of real samurai. Judging by their expressions, it must have been a boring job.


The Casualties of Women’s War on Body Hair – I chuckled at the tag line “Hair removal, at its core, is a form of gendered social control.” Just don’t tell that to a guy while he’s shaving or keeping his hair cut acceptably short.



The Curious Case of Cockroach Magnetization – Not a topic that is likely to come up in conversation, but it is best to stay informed, just in case.


Demonic Influence: The Negative Mental Health Effects of Belief in Demons – Studies have shown that many religious beliefs, particularly belief in the afterlife, correlate positively with mental health. Apparently, belief in demons has the opposite correlation. The wording of the study implies causation, “belief in demons can lead to lowered mental health”, but I don’t want to jump to that conclusion. It may be that people that have to deal with demons suffer from that mentally.


Trends in premature mortality in the USA by sex, race, and ethnicity from 1999 to 2014: an analysis of death certificate data – Death rates are rising among 30-year-old whites. “These increases were mainly attributable to accidental deaths (primarily drug poisonings), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and suicide.”


Mental retirement and health selection: Analyses from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study – Couldn’t find a free copy of the study, but it claims to show something to the effect that people are stupid to retire.


The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study – “the consumption of hot red chili pepper was associated with reduced mortality.” Looks like the message today is, stay away from drugs and alcohol and eat more chili peppers. I wonder if they help drive away demons.


Association of Facebook Use With Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study. – The more stuff a person “likes” on Facebook, the lower their self-reported mental health. Once again, this is written to imply causation, but it could just as easily be just a correlation. If you are concerned that I didn’t “like” your post, please don’t be offended. I’m just trying not to go crazy. Maybe you could post something about red hot chili peppers.


Emotional support during times of stress: Can text messaging compete with in-person interactions? – This is shocking news! When someone is emotionally distressed, face-to-face interaction helps them more than sending a text message. Who would have guessed?


Behavior-Based Personality-Assessment Method Reveals Personality Similarity Among Couples and Friends – Romantic couples have more personality similarity than friends. This was not nearly as interesting as the thing about the guy hacking the dating site to become the most sought-after nerd in history.



You Can Now Make Financial Trades In VR With A Swiss Bank – I can only imagine that this is the result of some developers at the company conning their managers into buying them VR headsets.


Dev-Books Is a Massive List of the Most Recommended Coding and Programming Books – I guess that “Most Recommended” is a reasonable proxy for best, so this is probably useful.


Politics and Policy

TV networks hiking ad rates for shows Trump watches – Surely the President of the United States has a DVR and skips commercials.


Trump sides with the sheriffs on their racket – Ever look at history and question the sanity of people that supported obviously stupid laws? Civil asset forfeiture, which is the ability for law enforcers to legally steal your assets without even charging you with a crime, has to be one of those that future generations will scratch their heads about. You may be innocent until proven guilty, but your stuff is guilty until you can prove that it was innocent.


Pence hires libertarian Calabria as chief economist – I’m delighted with the selection, but it leaves me scratching my head. Seems out of character for Pence and definitely not Trump-like.


Rest of USA to California: Make our day with Calexit – While it is amusing, I expect any Calexit proposition to fail overwhelmingly. One thing I was curious about was the impact of the Cal electors on presidential elections. If you look back to 1980, dropping the CA electors would not have changed the outcome in any presidential election. I was surprised.


Wave of illiberalism present in liberal quarters today – I think it has always been that way. As referenced in last week’s list, people’s political views are driven more by affiliation than policy. That many “liberals” aren’t liberal when it comes to tolerating alternative views should come as no surprise.


How do you solve a problem like Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley? – There is no better way to make your opponent seem reasonable than to engage in violent and destructive protest against him. Ignoring him would have been much more effective.


What If the Free Market Decided Whether or Not Drugs Work? – I’ve been a pretty outspoken critic of the FDA’s impact on the drug market. This is an opposing viewpoint. It ends with a quote about how drug companies charge what they can get away with and making it easier to get drugs approved won’t change that. If the author can’t see that making it easier to bring competitive drugs to the marketplace will lower drug costs, it is hard to believe that she’s taking this debate seriously (although she could just be profoundly ignorant of how markets work).


The delusion that openness has impoverished America – A counter to the now common argument that being open and trading relatively freely have hurt America.


Trump Can’t Stop the Globalization of Work—the Internet Will See to That – Borders don’t matter much on the Internet, so it will be harder to use the law to hold jobs captive inside of countries.


Who will protect Americans from their protectors? – A second good George Will article in one week. What’s the world coming to? This one is about the folly of protectionism.


To Drain the Swamp, Kill the Ex-Im Bank – This wouldn’t be popular where I work. I see that as an example that it is hard for people to disagree with a policy when the policy is in their personal interest, even if it is bad for the country.



The Market Remains the Most Reliable Pollster – This blog entry explains why you should ignore polls that show things like support for paid parental leave. Basically, people will support almost anything that sounds like they get something for nothing, but when they negotiate deals in the real world, their true preferences are displayed. If people really wanted paid parental leave, greedy companies would offer it to steal away employees from their competitors.


Confessions of a Catholic convert to capitalism – Wish he’d talk to the Pope. I encourage anyone that hates capitalism to look at which countries over the last 100 years have done the most to raise the living standards of their people. One thread common to virtually all of them is that they allowed markets to function more freely and did more to protect private property rights.


CONSIDERATIONS ON COST DISEASE – Interesting article on “cost disease” with a focus on health care and education, two areas where costs have gone up substantially.