February 19, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Experience: I accidentally bought a giant pig – This is why you never by a pig in a poke.


How beer brewed 5,000 years ago in China tastes today – This sounded really gross until I realized that they weren’t actually drinking 5,000 year old beer but were recreating it using an old recipe. It still sounds gross to me, but not nearly as gross.


After Heartbreak, A Happy Ending: 200 Whales Escape Stranding In New Zealand – Seems weird that we still don’t have a clue why they do these mass strandings in the first place. I suspect that it has something to do with whale cults.


Thieves steal £2m of rare books by abseiling into warehouse – Interesting heist and bonus points for using the word “abseiling” in the headline. I had to look that one up.


Libertarian Valentine’s Day Cards – I thought some of these were very funny. You probably won’t. Sorry.


How The Toilet Changed History – Who would have thought that you would see the history of the toilet on Youtube and sponsored by Bill Gates?


Judge: Snuggies are blankets, not robes or priestly vestments – I have nothing to add to this that could make it any better.


C-SPAN 2017 Survey of Presidential Leadership – See how somebody ranked the Presidents. Some decent rankings and some that are silly. I’d say that the biggest head scratcher was FDR ranked 5th best on economic management. Did they not know how our economy performed for the first two of his terms?

Health – Physical and Mental

There Are Six Styles of Love – Wait. There are 6 styles of love? Aren’t there also 5 love languages? Does that mean that there are 30 distinct categories of love conversations? The whole thing seems so confusing. I’m glad that I’m already married.


Fall in Love With Cannibalism This Valentine’s Day – If you love the taste of someone, is that a seventh style of love?

Art and Culture

Deconstructing the ‘Liberal Campus’ Cliche – A half-hearted defense of campuses against the charge of liberal ideological puritanism. I’m not sure where the truth in this debate lies.


‘There Is No Good Card For This’: What To Say When ‘Condolences’ Isn’t Enough – I should probably get the book. I’m at that age where I need to stock up on cards like these.


Liberals on Match.com aren’t in the mood since the election of Donald Trump – I think that this election has made it clear that people are starting to take elections too seriously. I think that the cure is to cut back on the power and scope of government so that it doesn’t matter as much who is in charge.


The Downfall Of YouTube’s Biggest Star Is A Symptom Of A Bigger Illness – This PewDiePie guy had 50,000,000 followers and was bringing in $15,000,000/year. If I didn’t have teens at home, I’d have never heard of him. I guess that doesn’t say much. I just looked up the Oscar nominees for best actor/actress and there were several I’d never heard of – Ryan Gosling – is he from The Woodlands? Andrew Garfield – related to the former President? Ruth Negga – Are you allowed to say her name on TV? Emma Stone – did Emma Watson get married? Isabelle Huppert – I’ve got nothing for this one. BTW, when I tried to look these up, the Academy’s website was down. Isn’t their big show tonight? That’s sad. Can’t they find someone that can at least act like they know what they are doing?


Even When White Men Can Jump … – An interesting examination of race and popularity of NBA stars. It appears that black basketball players are more popular at a given performance level than whites.


A Conversation With Brian Eno About Ambient Music – I’ve found his music to be hit-or-miss, but I can’t deny that he’s always been very inventive and interesting. He’s working on sort of auto-generated music. I want it tied into a fitbit and a camera so that it can act like a soundtrack for my life. The boss is coming and it looks like he’s in a bad mood, switch to ominous music!


Library Hand, the Fastidiously Neat Penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs – It is hard to justify an article about hand-written card catalog entries as “stuff I found interesting”, but it was. I love the notion that people had to meet to work out a standard font for hand-writing these things. It is interesting how problems transcend technology.


Researchers Tap a Sleep Switch in the Brain – I suspect that they got the idea during their staff meeting.


Love Is Like Cocaine – Is that true for every type of love?


Woolly mammoth on verge of resurrection, scientists reveal – I got kind of excited, but they aren’t really bringing back a woolly mammoth. It’s more like a hairy elephant. This thing sounded like an epic fail of an idea.


Making Out is the Most Enjoyable Way to Prevent Tense Jaws and Headaches – I need to check with Kathy to see if her jaw is bothering her.


Collapse of Aztec society linked to catastrophic salmonella outbreak – It’s not clear whether they got it from the Spanish invaders or from Chipotle.


If You Want to Learn Faster, Overclock Your Audio and Video – For those that don’t realize it, many video players (like YouTube) allow you to watch things at higher speed.


This Technology Could Finally Make Brain Implants Practical – The whole brain implant thing sounds really cool. Try it and tell me how it works.


Build An Obnoxious Alarm Clock That Forces You To Shut It Off with a Shot From a Nerf Gun – I can’t identify with this problem, but it does seem like a fun project (at least until it goes off while you are sleeping).


Amazon unveils Chime, looks to reinvent the conference call with new Skype and GoToMeeting competitor – Skype could certainly use another competitor. I think Microsoft should rebrand it as “Shyte”.


Adventures in Science: How to Use an Oscilloscope – I was always curious about how to use an oscilloscope. Still not interested enough to buy one.


Swedish Supermarkets Trial-Testing Laser-Etched Produce Instead of Stickers – Laser etched food? Sounds cool, I guess. I have to imagine that someone is going to complain.


How to Keep Your AI From Turning Into a Racist Monster – I wouldn’t read too much into this about AI or human nature. I just thought it was funny.


Why buying used cars could put your safety at risk – I sometimes marvel at how stupid companies can be. Some new cars have apps that let you control stuff remotely, apparently even after you have sold the car. While my car doesn’t have fancy apps like this, I bought it as a certified pre-owned car and the dealer neglected to wipe anything – address book, prior owner’s home location, phone log. It even had a full set of CDs in the CD player.

Politics and Policy

Robots that steal human jobs should pay taxes, Gates says – This could be the dumbest thing that Bill Gates has ever said. Would it not make as much sense to tax software that allows for head-count reductions as well? How many fewer typists and bookkeepers do we need because of Word and Excel? I suspect that he didn’t actually say it and that this is confusion resulting from a mis-transcribed voicemail.


3 Big Problems in How Schools Hire Teachers — and What Research Says About How to Solve Them – I lack the expertise to say whether any of this is correct. To me, it seems like a bigger problem is the difficulty in firing bad teachers and paying great teachers more.


Quality Counts 2017: State Report Cards Map – This was sadly disappointing. The meat of it is pay-walled. I am curious about the way they grade states based on spending. Is spending more for education good or bad? I suspect that they consider it good. To me, at any given level of educational quality, spending less is better.


Texas Judge Upends Effort To Limit Charity Funding For Kidney Care – This was hard to understand. The best I can figure, charities are paying the insurance premiums of some people with diabetes. The insurance companies want to make that illegal because it negatively skews their coverage pools by keeping these high costs patients from switching to Medicare, making insurance more expensive for everyone else and less profitable for them. I get that, but banning a charity from paying someone’s premiums sounds a lot like attacking the problem from the wrong direction.


Feisty, Protectionist Populism? New Zealand Tried That – Was Robert Muldoon a 70s version of Trump in New Zealand? I just think it’s funny to think of a Kiwi Trump down there with all the sheep.


Human genome editing shouldn’t be used for enhancement – yet – I think it is cute that people keep thinking that we can invent some amazing new technology and then decide that we aren’t going to use it.


Trump signs his first significant bill — killing a transparency rule for oil companies – I don’t know the specifics yet, but I will say that laws like this are often a real pain and provide virtually no benefit. Trying to determine what needs to be disclosed on a transaction-by-transaction basis is often very difficult because you are talking about multi-national companies with legal entities incorporated in many countries doing business in many countries often through intermediaries. Trust me, it’s a confusing jumble and the resulting information is generally close to useless. Not every policy that sounds like a good idea actually is.


A Conservative Case for Climate Action – If you want to slow CO2 emissions, a carbon tax is a good way to do it. The problem is that once you have one in place, people will to grow and sustain it even if it is no longer useful. Whoever is receiving that tax revenue is going to want more and more of it.


Why people should be able to buy drugs approved in other countries – You’re probably getting tired of me including these stories, but we keeping paying far more than we should and having far fewer drugs available than we could because we haven’t fixed the problem.


Pharma industry shuns Trump push for radical shift at FDA – Need any more evidence that reducing pharma regulation is a good idea? If the pharma cartels oppose it, it isn’t because they are concerned about you.


The Science of Smoking Bans – I’ve always thought that it was a mistake to ban smoking in public areas for health reasons. It should be banned in public simply because it is nasty and disgusting.


H-1B reduced computer programmer employment by up to 11%, study finds – The article makes no sense at first. It says that H-1B visas lower the cost of computer programmers, benefiting companies and consumers but reduced the number of programmers. But if programmers are cheaper, why would there be fewer of them hired? It only makes sense once you realize that they don’t count the H-1B visa holders that get hired. I guess those people aren’t really people.


An Ivy League professor who spent 4 months working in a South Bronx check-cashing store says we’re getting it all wrong – Two things to like with this. First, I applaud Ms. Servon for getting firsthand experience before making a judgment. Second, I like the reinforcement of the notion that when there is a thriving market for something, there really is a demand for it. I hate it when people want to shut down businesses that they don’t use because they think others shouldn’t use them either.


General Education, Vocational Education, and Labor-Market Outcomes over the Lifecycle – I’ve been seeing more agitation lately for increased vocational education. I can’t say whether it is a good or bad idea, but this study shows a possible negative side effect.