March 26, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Journaling Showdown: Writing Vs. Typing – I do both. I’m much, much faster typing, but I do enjoy writing and it is more portable.

The scents in your body wash, chicken stock and canned drink all come from one company – I had no idea this company even existed. I think I was happier before I did.

Catnip Ain’t the Only Plant That’ll Send Your Kitty to Blissville – If you are looking for recreational drugs for your cat, this article has some good tips.

Europe’s first sex robot brothel FORCED OUT of base as prostitutes complain of competition – NSFW. This was easily the weirdest thing I read all week. You can get a sense for the article with this quote from a prostitute: “It is another strategy of the patriarchy that presents us as objects without rights or soul. A privilege of the wealthy classes.”

Sherwin-Williams “Safari” – Yes, it is a paint commercial. But it is lovely.

Health – Physical and Mental

Is the dark really making me sad? – I get anxious when it is cloudy all week. I can’t imagine living somewhere where it is night for a long period of time.

Bruce Lee achieved all his life goals by his death at age 32 because of one personality trait – Confidence. Well, I’m not buying it. I know some really confident people that fail spectacularly. Life isn’t that simple. You need drive, ability, perseverance, etc to really be successful. You could say that I’m confident that this is BS.

Gwyneth Paltrow Wants You to Buy a $90 Cure For a Disease You Don’t Have – But she plays some smart characters, so maybe I should listen to her.

How Rock Climbing Is Helping Me Get Over My Fear of Failure – Makes me want to go hit a rock climbing gym. Anyone interested in joining me?

This is the exact time you should go to sleep if you need to wake up at 7am feeling refreshed – This is the dumbest article I read all week. Starting with the premise that you want to wake up between sleep cycles and then calculating that people take an average of 14 minutes to fall asleep and sleep cycles last an average of 90 minutes, they give you the exact minute you should get into bed. I still think a much better approach is to sleep until you wake up in the morning. If you sleep too late, go to be earlier. It worked for millions of years. Not sure why people don’t do it now. Don’t just reject the idea out of hand. Sleep on it.

Today’s men are not nearly as strong as their dads were, researchers say – This is probably true, but the research seems weak.

Art and Culture

French court bans television ad showing happy kids with Down syndrome – Sometimes other countries seem really strange. Did they really ban an innocuous commercial that made Down syndrome kids look happy because it might hurt the feelings of mother’s who had abortions? That seems hard to believe, even for the French.

FOR A MODEST PERSONALITY TRAIT, ‘INTELLECTUAL HUMILITY’ PACKS A PUNCH! – I find people that can’t listen or consider alternate views dull. I did think it was ironic that they article’s headline is in all caps. I also don’t think that making snarky comments about Gwyneth Paltrow is a sign of low intellectual humility. It’s just common sense.

Basing Life on What You Can Afford – A collection of anecdotes from people struggling financially. These are lower income people, but I see the same thing play out at all income levels. People have a tendency to live on the edge financially and then disruptions become catastrophes.

The idea of monogamy as a relationship ideal is based on flawed science – On one hand, I’d argue that given the near universality of monogamy as the standard for relationships, it seems like it must be the most successful approach. On the other hand, different standards have been common at different times. Maybe the times are changing. I’ll ask my wife what she thinks.

The Hamilton Hustle – I’m filing this one under “maybe I’m not going crazy”. With the popularity of Hamilton, I keep hearing people with a very different ideological outlook from Al talking as though they love him. Now it makes more sense.

Science

Physicists Find That as Clocks Get More Precise, Time Gets More Fuzzy – It’s interesting how different the universe is when you radically change scale. It’s a bit like zooming in too close to a picture and seeing little colored dots. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold – A summary of the current debate over where gold came from. I’m still not sure, but I don’t think I’ll ask Gwyneth Paltrow to weigh in on the debate.

Technology

Insect-Inspired Mechanical Resilience for Multicopters – A squishy drone.

Fury Road: Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google? – An interesting look behind the scenes at the development of driverless cars.

How to Get the Most Out of Google Maps – A lot of useful information here. I use the heck out of Google Maps, especially when I travel.

How to Stop Destroying Your Clothes in the Wash – My washer and driver may as well only have a “Start” button because I never change any settings. Maybe I should pay more attention.

TRAPPING A SELF-DRIVING CAR IS SURPRISINGLY EASY – This is pretty amusing, but it is also a good warning. People will jack with self-driving cars.

Politics and Policy

Patents Are A Big Part Of Why We Can’t Own Nice Things: the Supreme Court Should Fix That – We definitely need to rethink some of the laws in the IP space. An incidentally, when I click on a “Buy Now” button, I feel that I am buying something, not just licensing it.

Should You Need a License to Work in Texas? – People often mistakenly believe that Texas is a free market state. Maybe compared with some, but it generally tends to be a pro-business state. It looks like it is also a pro-occupational lobbyist state. I’d like to see all new licensing requirements get put on the ballot. I’d like to think that people wouldn’t vote to require all sprinkler systems testers be licensed. Then again, I’ve seen some of the people that they have elected so maybe this isn’t a good idea.

Warfare helps explain why American welfare is different – An interesting attempt to explain the lack of national healthcare or health insurance based on warfare history.

Economics

Venezuela has a bread shortage. The government has decided bakers are the problem. – I can’t believe those greedy bakers!

Robotization Without Taxation? – Robert Shiller is a brilliant economist, so when he writes something that seems idiotic, I have to take notice and re-read it carefully. I did and it still seems idiotic. Then again, he’s a much better economist that I’ll ever be, so I can’t be sure who the idiot is here. I’m still betting on him. Maybe it’s my lack of intellectual humility. I should check with Gwyneth Paltrow or some other celebrity to get a more informed perspective.

March 19, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Top 15 Most Dangerous Toys Ever Made – How many did you play with? I think I used 5 and survived. The list if flaky, though. No lawn darts? No Buckyballs? No easy bake oven?

How Maritime Law Works – A short video explaining maritime law, because I’m sure you’ve been wondering about it.

Rare White Rhino Killed for Coveted Horn at French Zoo – Seriously? What is the appropriate punishment for this crime. I think castration and then a lifetime of being exhibited in a zoo seems about right.

The Popular Car Models Owners are Most Likely Give Up After a Year – What cars do people not keep for more than a year?

Jimmy Buffett Launching Margaritaville Retirement Homes – I can’t really add anything more to this than you can get from the title alone.

Communism’s Legacy: Tyranny, Terror, and Torture – In case you need a refresher in just how evil communism has been, this is a pretty good article.

You Can Make Your Own Taco Shells Entirely Out of Bacon – I wonder if you can make a pizza crust out of bacon.

Why Aren’t There More Jewish Superheroes? – This is not a question I ever thought to ask. Now I’m curious as to whether there are any Buddhist superheroes.

20,000 Worldclass University Lectures Made Illegal, So We Irrevocably Mirrored Them – This is an interesting topic of discussion. The American’s with Disabilities Act appears to require that UC Berkeley make its video lectures accessible to blind and deaf students. This is expensive, so they opted to delete a bunch of them instead. Should we not let anyone have access to them if we can’t let everyone have access to them? If we make it OK in this case, do we discourage people from making things available to blind and deaf people in the future?

‘This is wizard!’ 100-year-old woman who flew spitfires during the Second World War celebrates her centenary by getting behind the controls again – Love it!

Health – Physical and Mental

Moral Outrage Is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists – This seems reasonable to me, which probably just means that it shows more confirmation bias than truth.

Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014 – Are people too busy to get busy? The surprising thing to me was what they didn’t conclude – that the decline is linked to Internet porn.

Sociodemographic Correlates of Sexlessness Among American Adults and Associations with Self-Reported Happiness Levels: Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey. – People not having sex are just as happy as those that are. I guess maybe that’s why it is in decline. I have to wonder about this result. Maybe people aren’t doing it right.

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms – A collection of ideas for making you happier. Some are good. Some are stupid. Some are vapid. It’s typical of this genre. Oddly, nothing in the list about having or not having sex. Oh wait, there is a suggestion that you take cold showers to make you happier. I’m putting that one in the stupid bucket.

How to Buy Happiness – Short answer – go to a bar or a bookstore depending on whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. Based on the study above, it looks like buying sex isn’t the answer. Besides, that’s illegal (see below).

Why You Should Scare the Crap Out of Yourself for Fun – I suggest watching Fox News and think about the fact that it is the most popular news program. Just be careful not to overdo it.

Why Do Prestigious Hospitals Sell Snake Oil? – Obvious answer – because that’s where the money is.

A History of Tug-of-War Fatalities – What the heck? I had no idea that people got maimed and killed playing tug-of-war.

Long-lasting mental health isn’t normal – It says that people that aren’t at least occasionally crazy are weirdos.

Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong – It seems to me that the more I know, the less confident I am that I’m right.

Art and Culture

Stop the Soft Despotism Stifling Campus Free Speech –When someone is saying something ridiculous or hateful, the obvious thing to do is to point out the flaws in their argument. You only fall back on suppressing them when you are worried that their argument is stronger.

The Kids Are Right – I thought it would be hard to find, but here is someone defending “stamping out bigoted speech.” As much as I disagree with the author, I’ll resist calling for suppression of their bigoted views.

Debate Rages Over How ‘Attractive’ Female Video Game Characters Should Be – Too sexy. Too ugly. You can’t please everyone. Maybe “attractiveness” should be an adjustable setting.

Difficult languages and easy languages – An informal comparison of which languages are hardest and easiest to learn. I have to assume that English is the easiest because I’ve seen little kids that are fluent in it and some of them weren’t all that bright.

The hazards of English spelling – An attempt to claim that English spelling makes sense.

Your Hot New Partner Might Already Have One Foot Out the Door – I’ve gone about 25 years with my hot partner and I’ve still got her locked down under contract, but it does give you something to think about. Reminds me of the song “If you wanna be happy”.

Why you should marry a cheapskate – So it’s looking like you want to marry a cheap, ugly person. Don’t laugh; it worked for Kathy.

The comforts of familiarity – A review of Tyler Cowen’s new book, The Complacent Class. It’s an interesting book, but I’m much more complacent about the problem than the author.

Interactive Rainbow Installation Invites Visitors to Explore a Forest of Numbers – I don’t “get it”, but it looks cool.

The Increasing Significance of the Decline of Men – Men are being badly beaten in the competition for which gender is the most abused, but it is good to see that some are still out there fighting for victimhood status.

Science

These elephants sleep only 2 hours a day, and scientists have no clue how they do it – Seems obvious to me; elephants don’t have to sit through meetings.

Infinity and beyond – A nice explanation of the difference between different types of infinities. I still prefer Vi Hart’s video on the topic.

De-extinction probably isn’t worth it – I don’t entirely agree. I would say that it isn’t worth it yet.

Technology

Amazon shares data with Arkansas prosecutor in murder case – Conclusion – if you are about to be murdered, shout “Alexa – I’m being murdered by Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe in the conservatory.” Sigh, too bad Peter Falk is gone. This would make for a fun Columbo episode.

Poachers are trying to hack animal tracking systems – Think you have it tough with governments and companies spying on you, it looks like animals have hunters using tech to track them down.

Waze and other traffic dodging apps prompt cities to game the algorithms – I remember when shortcuts were liked prized secrets. Once they are obvious to everyone, chaos ensues.

The Blockchain Will Do to the Financial System What the Internet Did to Media – Because the buzzword of the month is still “blockchain”.

Google’s reCAPTCHA turns “invisible,” will separate bots from people without challenges – I hope so. I’m often not human enough to figure out those stupid CAPTCHA things.

Disable Those Annoying Taskbar Pop-Up Suggestions In Windows 10 – I swear that if someone else tried to install something as ad-pushy as Windows 10 on my computer I’d expect it to be caught by my anti-spamware detecting software.

Imitating Bone Creates Stronger Steel – The article is pretty interesting, but I can’t think of anything to add.

the future – Billy Bass Alexa. Inspired!

Lab-Grown Meat Finally Available in Chicken Nugget Form – Will vegetarians be able to eat lab-grown meat?

Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster – We just did something like this at the Six Flags in Vallejo. It sounds really cool, but it was one of the worst rides I’ve ever been on. This is not a way to buy happiness.

Politics and Policy

Yale Lawsuit Spotlights Title IX, Sexual Assault ‘Hysteria’ – At least as far back as the witch trials, it seems that every generation picks a crime so heinous that we have to set aside the normal judicial process to make sure we convict the bad people. Is our generation’s version of this the accusation of sexual assault on college campuses? I’m not saying that they aren’t real and aren’t a serious problem. I’m just saying that it is unfortunate that in our zeal to do something about it, we appear to be stripping the (sometimes innocent) accused of their legal rights.

Why can’t you pay for sex? – It seems like a good rule of thumb for criminal law is that something should not be illegal if the “victim” prefers that it not be illegal.

Overdoses In W.Va. Drain Fund For Burials – The increase in drug overdose deaths is causing a strain on rural budgets. Is this a good counter-argument for not making something illegal if the “victim” prefers that it not be illegal?

Refugees, immigration, and the trolley problem – Does it really make sense to ban refugees because there is a small chance that some of them may be dangerous? Is that really the level of compassion that is appropriate for a predominantly Christian nation? Have we gone in less than a century from the “Greatest Generation” to the “Most Cowardly Generation?”

Retire This Rule vs Will Congress Undermine Retirement Coverage, Too? – Should states be allowed to auto-enroll people in IRAs when they don’t have a 401K? I guess my view is split. I think the state laws are bad but I see no reason why the feds should preempt them.

Common Sense on Immigration – Doesn’t everyone think their views on immigration are common sense? This article posits that we should make immigration more skill based.

Why Americans Pay Triple the World Price for Sugar – Because we are protecting US sugar growers. The rest of us all pay more. It also means that we import more products made with sugar because they can be made cheaper in other countries. It also means that we use a lot more HFCS as a replacement for sugar. But we’re making American great again for sugar growers. Isn’t that sweet?

How About Freedom for Dinner? – A review of the book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. I would like to see fewer laws banning foods and relying more on laws that “endorse” safe practices.

Paul Ryan Wants to Make You Less Free – It seems to be saying that taking more money from you and me and giving it to someone else makes those other people more free. I guess that’s true, but it still seems like it reduces overall freedom.

Lawmakers Try Yet Again To Create Minimum Seat Size Requirement On Planes – Do we really need laws for this? Can’t consumers be trusted to make their own choices? I understand why seats are getting less legroom (to put in more rows), but how are they getting narrower? Where is that extra space going? The aisles aren’t getting any wider.

Economics

Do Countries Consistently Engage in Misinforming the International Community about Their Efforts to Combat Money Laundering? Evidence Using Benford’s Law – One of the fun things about the widespread publishing of data and mainstreaming of stats techniques is that corruption is harder to hide. Sure, nobody is going to do anything about it, but at least it is more obvious that it exists.

THERE IS NO GENDER WAGE GAP – “If, for the same work, women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, why don’t businesses hire only women?”

What the President Could Learn From Professional Economists – A nice little summary from Greg Mankiw, President GWB’s former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Dead Wrong™ with Johan Norberg – Food Miles – Seems obvious, but the popularity of “buy local” and “eat local” stuff tells me that it isn’t obvious to everyone.

The Economics of Airline Class – An interesting breakdown of revenue by seating class and why airlines love business class.

March 5, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

If you want to persuade people, stop “winning” arguments – “One way, paradoxically, is to give up trying to persuade and instead ask questions.” Excellent article. I find that the best approach is not to try to win the argument but to sincerely try to come to a mutual understanding of why you and they disagree. Sometimes that leads to views changing and sometimes it just leads to better understanding.

 

New Zealand is offering free holidays to people who agree to a job interview – Where did I put that resume?

 

THESE ELDERLY DIY-ERS CAME TO PEACE WITH DEATH — BY CRAFTING THEIR OWN COFFINS – Wait. Is this really where I want to go for a job interview?

 

30 days jail for operator of drone that knocked woman unconscious – Looks like he deliberately flew over a crowd and it was his own piloting failure that caused the crash. Reckless endangerment seems like a reasonable charge and 30 days seems like a reasonable sentence.

 

The Real Difference between Google and Apple – Don’t look for deep insights into the companies. It’s just an interesting use of patent data and data analytics techniques.

 

Spurious Correlations – Sent this fun website to some colleagues this week. It’s a great source for examples when you are trying to show people that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean anything, let alone causation. I’ve seen a lot of people understand that better after looking at this site, although that may just be a coincidence.

Health – Physical and Mental

Diet Tracker Showdown: MyFitnessPal vs. Lose It – I’ve used MyFitnessPal and love it. I haven’t tried Lose It. If anyone is in the market for a diet tracking app or website, give them a look.

 

How to Keep Emotions From Running Your Life – This stuff all sounds good, but do people ever effectively put this stuff into practice? There are few things as hard or as worthwhile as changing the way you think.

Art and Culture

Beyond Curie is a design project that highlights badass women in science, technology, engineering + mathematics. – There’s no question that we need more chicks in STEM.

 

Architect Turns Old Cement Factory Into His Home, And The Interior Will Take Your Breath Away – Holy cow! That’s really cool. Definitely work checking out the pictures.

 

Oxford University launches summer school aimed at white working-class British boys – At first glance, it seems hard to think of white guys as Britain’s downtrodden. Class is still hugely important in Britain and classism is more entrenched in longstanding native groups than immigrants, so it isn’t surprising when you think about it.

 

How Does the Public’s View of Science Go So Wrong? – This is basically a complaint people don’t like scientists because they say things we don’t want to hear. Having more chick scientists wouldn’t hurt.

Science

Fasting diet ‘regenerates diabetic pancreas’ – “The pancreas can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet, say US researchers.” What is a “type of a fasting diet”? Isn’t “fasting” the same as “not eating”? “Type of fasting” sounds a lot like “color of invisibility cloak”.

 

Would You Want a Dog That Was Genetically Engineered to Be Healthier? – “Dogs have more genetic diseases than any other species on the planet.” Not coincidentally, they’re probably the animals that humans have done the most breeding work on, leading to a lack of genetic diversity. This feels like a common nature vs human control argument. As things go wrong, do we go back to a more natural approach or try to get better at human management?

 

Bias at The New York Times? ‘The Truth is Hard’ when reporting on bees and neonicotinoid pesticides – I know almost nothing about bees and neonicotinoid pesticides, so I have no clue who is wrong here. What I like about this article is that it challenges what was reported in the NYT, which is a good reminder to try to consume a broad variety of news sources because any one source is likely to fall into bias traps.

 

What will it take to break the 2-hour marathon? – Don’t look at me. My answer would be to make the race shorter, like they do in The Woodlands.

 

WW2 bomb craters are a home to rare and vulnerable animals – My takeaway from this is that nature is going to adapt to anything we do. While we have to be careful not to destroy too much, we should not make the opposite mistake of trying to hold the world in stasis either.

 

Physicists Say They’ve Created an ‘Impossible’ New Form of Matter: Supersolids – While they weren’t listed in the article, but I think my Quest Protein bars are made from Supersolids.

Technology

Why It Took the Washing Machine So Long to Catch On – The short answer is that they had to be cheap and reliable enough to gain widespread use. On a side note, when you see people say things like “we should have a tax on robots that take people’s jobs”, consider that you’d still be paying a tax on your robotic clothes washer for taking the job of washer women (who are now free to start STEM careers).

 

Isaac Newton Says You Can’t Have a Flying Car – Stupid jerk scientists. I want my damn flying car. It’s 2017 already! This is the farthest we’ve EVER been into the future and we’re not even close on this one.

 

How millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants – When any new technology becomes popular, you can count on two types of articles appearing – how it will be used for porn/sex and how it will be harmful to children. Does writing about how new technology harms children count as a STEM career?

Politics and Policy

Buffett and Gates: America Is Already Great, Thanks to Immigrants – Because I’ve been picking on Bill’s stupid taxing robots comment, I thought I’d post this interview. What he and Warren say in it makes a lot of sense.

 

Is Neil Gorsuch an “Originalist”? Impossible. – I lean towards originalism in my view of the appropriate way to apply the Constitution, so I thought this opposing viewpoint was interesting. He makes good points, but his argument sounds a lot like “it isn’t perfect so ignore it.”

 

The vote that could wreck the European Union – I think that it’s a bad sign that I was expecting this to be about one of several other big risks to the EU and not about the French. Still more surprising, it is about their election and not their inability to learn to pee in bathrooms.

Economics

Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part One – Understanding Uber’s Bleak Operating Economics – A very negative assessment of Uber’s business model. It sounds convincing, but I’m always skeptical of arguments that venture capitalists are foolishly throwing away good money. They rarely got all that money by being stupid.

 

Why Planes Don’t Fly Faster – This time it isn’t really the scientists that are to blame. They figured out how to fly much faster. It is the economists who aren’t letting us do it. Bastards.

 

How Blockchain Is Changing Finance – I strongly recommend using the term blockchain in conversation several times this month. It will make you sound really smart. It is still way too early to know if any of this hype will turn into reality, but people will have long forgotten that you were on the bandwagon if it crashes.

 

Why is Payola Illegal? – Because the record companies don’t want competitors to be able to advertise.

 

What do economists know? – An excellent article on what economists know and what is bloviating.