April 30, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Is Every Speed Limit Too Low? – This article is an argument for why we should raise speed limits in the name of safety. The logic is roughly that most people drive whatever speed they are comfortable with but some drive whatever the posted speed limit is. If you set the limit well below the speed most people are comfortable, you increase the variance of speeds driven, which is bad.

 

Keep Your Eye on the Prize – Excellent advice from one of my favorite bloggers. All too often, when people get angry they rage. Instead, they should refocus on what it is that they want and act in a way that will bring them the best outcome.

 

Mud Denim Jacket – Why are we putting so much energy into deporting people that come to the US to work? Why aren’t we putting that energy into expelling the sort of people that buy jackets like this instead?

 

Echo Look – This product and the accompanying video would not have seemed out of place on The Onion. It’s an Amazon Echo with a built in camera. Why? So you can take selfies of your outfits every morning. I’m expecting to see a “people who buy this also buy…” link to mud denin jackets.

 

Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove – I am not a Steve Ballmer fan, but I love his new USAFacts website. Lots of good data to rummage through. Next rainy weekend I’ll spend some time binge analyzing.

 

Alaska dentist ‘pulled out patient’s tooth while riding a hoverboard’ – “A dentist in Alaska has been accused of performing a tooth extraction while riding a hoverboard.” I didn’t realize that there were rules against that.

 

Who wants to live forever? – It looks like a company wants to create chat bots that learn from people’s past chats and then mimic them after they die. Why? Forget about the mud jacket; this is the stupidest thing I’ve read this year. Maybe Amazon can make a special device that sends ghost selfies from them.

 

10 Things Not To Say To The Parent Of A Child With Down Syndrome – These run the gamut from things that nice people say because they don’t know any better to things that reveal the speaker to be truly awful.

 

How to Teach Your Kids About Money When You Are a Financial Disaster Yourself – Financial and parenting advice from a crazy person that desperately needs help with her finances. Let this article inspire you to feel unconstrained about what you can write about. Even if you’ve demonstrated total incompetence on a subject, you might still be able to get paid to write about it.

 

The discovery of alien life may be close. How will religion survive it? – I found this article amusing. It was clearly written by an atheist that thinks that we’ll discover aliens and it will cause major problems for our world’s religions. I’d toss back in his face that we’ve seen billions of stars and have yet to see any aliens. If this keeps up, how will atheism survive?

 

Photographer Uncovers The White Ravens Of Legend In West Coast Forest – Pictures of white ravens. Nice article and even nicer that there is no attempt to use it for racial commentary.

Health – Physical and Mental

How to Tell If You Smell – A whole lot of words that boil down to “ask someone”.

 

An Epidemic of Bad Epidemiology – Getting tired of seeing articles on how something new is bad for you? Odds are pretty good that it isn’t. This is a review of the book Getting Risk Right. Reading stuff like this makes me wish they spent a little less time teaching science and a little more time thinking like a scientist should.

 

Buying organic veggies at the supermarket is a waste of money – “The Organic Trade Association did not respond to a request for comment.”

 

You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better question – An interesting perspective. The author is essentially saying that getting what you want requires a lot of struggle, so a better question is “how do you want to struggle?” I guess it is sort of a “The journey is the reward” perspective.

 

Running May Give You More Time Than You Put In – Another “running helps you live longer” article. Sigh. Why can’t they discover that Cheetos make you live longer? This is why I don’t like scientists.

 

“Mindless Eating,” or how to send an entire life of research into question – A guy named Brian Wansink is behind a lot of the research that gets used for health advice. It appears that he didn’t understand statistics and the concept of p-hacking very well and so much of what he concluded is questionable.

 

Why Food Is Taking Over Your Life – Teens spend more on food than clothing (except those buying mud jackets). I don’t see food taking over my life. I’d be happy eating the same stuff every day.

 

How to make and keep friends as an adult – The difficulty in finding and making friends after you finish school is a challenge that is rarely warned about. This is someone’s advice on the topic. My simple advice is to be nice and have your wife cook really good food for them (because food is taking over their lives). It also helps to do interesting things so that interesting people will want to do them with you.

 

Are We Having Too Much Fun? – This is a long, pointless ramble on the downside of people having fun. This is a great example of the sort of person not to be if you want to make and keep friends as an adult.

 

Drinking Four Cups of Coffee Is Probably Safe – How much coffee can you safely drink in a day? This article says that we should consider caffeine a drug and be careful about our dosage. It appears to be either neutral or even beneficial in reasonable doses but not so good if you drink too much.

 

The Many Benefits of Vitamin D – This article makes vitamin D sound like a miracle drug. That’s almost always a sign that something is being overhyped. But I’m going to use it as an excuse to get outside and get some sun. Because “science”.

Art and Culture

Technology is for the rich – A whiny article complaining that technology increases income inequality. It somehow misses that facts that it increases incomes for the poor, just not as much as for the rich and that technology narrows the gap between the standard of living between the rich and poor. Bill Gates has access to the same Netflix shows that you do.

 

The 21st Century’s 100 greatest films – A list of what someone thinks are the 100 greatest films since 2000. I think I’ve seen three – Finding Nemo (#96), WALL-E (#29), and Spirited Away (#4). They were good, awful, and weird respectively.

 

Icelanders Seek to Keep Their Language Alive and Out of ‘the Latin Bin’ – It appears that at some point people in Iceland invented their own language. Not many people use it anymore and that is making some people dapur.

 

sam hyde gives a ted talk: 2070 PARADIGM SHIFT – If you feel that watching TED talks makes you a better person, this video is for you. Comedian Sam Hyde gives his own TED talk aimed specifically at that audience.

 

The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think – This article pontificates about the increasing insularity of media sources. It concerns me a bit because so many people have very little exposure to alternative viewpoints. On the other hand, there are so many different media sources with so many different biases that nobody is involuntarily trapped by this. Try to read stuff that you disagree with. Maybe you’ll learn something new, even if it is just a better understanding of why those idiots think the way they do.

 

Is the Internet Causing Political Polarization? Evidence from Demographics – Couldn’t find an ungated version of this paper, but the abstract appears to show that people getting their news online are less polarized. I presume that this is because the Internet makes it easier for them to see opposing views.

 

Liberals and conservatives are similarly motivated to avoid exposure to one another’s opinions – Sadly, this study shows that having opposing views available doesn’t mean that people will read them. People turned down cash to avoid having to hear something they didn’t agree with.

 

The Tricks Nature Documentaries Use to Draw You In – What? Those nature documentaries take things out of sequence and edit stuff to tell a better story? I’m shocked!

 

What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like A Celebrity – A cute GE commercial celebrating the scientist Millie Dresselhaus. I found it amusing that the comments quickly degenerated into a “why just women scientists” meme echoing the BLM / ALM arguments.

 

Amazing New Chinese Wind Tunnel Lets Shaolin Monks Perform in Midair – Seriously? It looks like a giant semi-outdoor version of iFLY for Shaolin Monks. Really. At least I think it’s real.

Science

Origins of Indonesian hobbits finally revealed – It appears that they are somewhat more distant genetic relatives and not just really small people. The article doesn’t say anything about whether they liked pipeweed or had an aversion to adventures.

 

The Problem With the March for Science – A good rant about how people with very little understanding of the scientific method want to co-opt science when they think it is on their side.

 

Scientists Have Observed Epigenetic Memories Being Passed Down for 14 Generations – Cool in several ways. I’d never heard of epigenetic memories. I also didn’t know that nematodes glowed.

 

Female dragonflies fake sudden death to avoid male advances – I had no idea dragonflies did this. I thought it was just the girls I tried to date in high school and college. I need to let the male dragonflies in on my secret; nothing revives them as quickly as shouting “Step back! I know CPR!”

Technology

Intel’s Optane Memory Makes Cheap Hard Drives as Fast as Expensive SSDs – This looks very cool. You need a newish motherboard to use it.

 

Unroll.me, the Email Unsubscription Service, Has Been Collecting and Selling Your Data – A company that offered a service to help you unsubscribe from mailing lists has been selling your information. Lovely. There are some cases where hoverboard based dental extractions are appropriate.

 

New password guidelines say everything we thought about passwords is wrong – I hope people start paying attention to these recommendations – no forced changes and no complexity rules. Passwords are a lousy idea, but sadly nobody seems to have a better one. Do yourself a favor and use a good password manager like LastPass or KeePass and let it handle the burden so that you can use long, machine generated passwords.

 

How to Secure Your Online Accounts By Revoking Access From Third-Party Apps – This is a good way to check major online sites to see where you’ve given permission to third parties. I’m always amazed at how easily people will hand over access to an account to find out what kind of Disney Princess they are. I don’t think people have a clue what they are doing.

 

How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’ – Based on some dodgy sales data, the author concludes that ebook reading is in decline. I found it quite amusing. Too each his own, but I’ll take a good e-ink ebook reader with built in dictionary, the ability carry hundreds of books, built-in light, and search capability over a paper novel any day.

 

The race to build the world’s first sex robot – (Not Safe For Work) – It appears that the people that make “realistic” sex dolls want to turn them into artificially intelligent robots. The challenge is the artificial intelligence. If it isn’t good enough, it’ll still seem like a robot. If it is good enough, it’ll probably want to fake death like a dragonfly.

 

PRODUCT REVIEW: TOO HOT, TOO COLD, OR JUST RIGHT? ORSCANA TAKES THE GUESS WORK OUT OF BLANKETING – A sensor and app for determining if your horse blanket is too hot or not. I’m going to add this to the small list of technology things I don’t need.

 

Say what? How a Canadian company can clone your voice – They can record you talking for a minute and then synthesize your voice to make it sound like you are saying whatever they want. Possible uses include recasting dead celebrities and scam artists calling and pretending to be loved ones in need of cash.

 

The plan to ‘reawaken’ cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone else’s skull – Is this serious? There is no chance at all that this will work. But it was the premise for a really creepy but amusing movie recently.

Politics and Policy

U.S. Can Afford Trump’s Radical Tax Cut – This is a version of the “spend it now and it’ll pay for itself with increased growth” argument. People on the right think that this works with tax cuts and people on the left think this works with increased government spending. Both sides seem to think the other side is crazy. I’d prefer a little more moderation on both sides. We do enough deficit spending already. I’d prefer that we focus on revenue-neutral tax reform and spending cuts. I’d also like to win the lottery and I think the odds of that are much better.

 

When Congress Made Taxes Fairer – OK, it did happen once. This is a pretty interesting read of what it took to get the tax reform of 1986 passed. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

 

How Best to Tax Business – Corporate tax reform is being discussed again and this article is a nice summary of the topic. Our corporate tax system is horrible. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it can’t get worse.

 

Speaker Ryan must step up for Puerto Rico – This is an argument that we need to address Puerto Rico’s severe fiscal problems soon. I doubt that most American’s realize that Puerto Rico is part of the US and that its people are US citizens. I think our solution should be to pay off their debts and set them up as a sovereign nation.

 

What Americans Really Think About Climate Change – This article confirms what I think most people already knew. People are somewhat worried about climate change, but not so worried that they are ready to make meaningful sacrifices to address it.

 

How America got fleeced by TurboTax – Why is filing our taxes so horribly complicated? This article claims that the tax prep industry lobbies congress to keep it that way.

 

Libertarianism Needs To Become More Realistic – This article points out the sad truth that most people don’t really want libertarian government. If they did, we’d have more of it in more places.

 

What’s the matter with Howard Dean? – This is more picking on Howard Dean for his stupid assertion that hate speech isn’t protected by the first amendment. If you disagree, remember that at some point someone you loathe will be the one that determines what speech is hateful, not you.

 

Why Colleges Have a Right to Reject Hateful Speakers Like Ann Coulter – This is an opposing view (from my position) on why it is OK to ban “hateful” speakers from colleges. Of course, the author assumes that people like himself will decide what speakers are hateful. And he doesn’t say that they should be “banned”, just that they shouldn’t be invited. I’m sure that he thinks those are different. Do people like this not remember Joseph McCarthy?

 

An Agenda for Retirement Security – A really good (but lengthy) discussion on the need for Social Security reform and a realistic assessment of our options.

 

Lawsuit: State of Oregon doesn’t own word ‘engineer’ – Don’t want people criticizing you? Tell them that they can’t because they need a license to be critical. Can you sue for regulatory malpractice?

 

The University of California Office of the President – It Failed to Disclose Tens of Millions in Surplus Funds, and Its Budget Practices Are Misleading – I’m still annoyed about how badly UC Berkeley defends the freedom of speech, so I thought I’d share this California State Audit report on the UC system. It’s pretty damning. It appears that the system is run by greedy crooks. I’m shocked!

 

As the poor join protests, Venezuela may be hitting a turning point – It keeps getting worse in Venezuela.

 

Reforming land use regulations – This article argues for land use regulation reform. I don’t think it is likely to happen until people realize that the high cost of housing in many cities is a direct result of land use regulations. Even then, existing property owners are not going to welcome any changes that make homes more affordable because it will hurt the market value of their homes.

Economics

Inflating our troubles away? – This article is a comment on another paper. It essentially says that, because so much government debt is short term, we can’t use higher inflation to meaningfully reduce our federal debt burden.

 

Growing, Shrinking, and Long Run Economic Performance: Historical Perspectives on Economic Development – Couldn’t find an ungated copy of the paper, but it sounds interesting. The theory is that improvements in long run growth come from minimizing shrinkage in downturns rather than increasing the rate of growth in booms.

 

Helium in crisis – Somebody is always whining about us running out of something. Here’s my simple test – look at the price history. If prices are rising very rapidly, we may have an issue. We won’t “run out”, but stuff might get so expensive that it is practically unavailable. In this article, there is no mention of prices, so I’m calling BS.

 

April 23, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Investigating Altruism and Selfishness Through the Hypothetical Use of Superpowers – It’s a sad study. It appears that most people want superpowers not to save the world, but for selfish purposes.

 

Why flying in America keeps getting more miserable, explained – Why is flying so awful? This article attempts to explain. At the heart of the problem is that fact that we aren’t willing to pay enough more for better service to cover the increased costs.

 

The Casualties of Women’s War on Body Hair – “Hair removal, at its core, is a form of gendered social control.” Written by someone with a feminism hammer looking everywhere for nails. Unintentionally amusing.

 

How the Discovery of Two Lost Ships Solved an Arctic Mystery – I have to confess that I’d never heard of the famous Franklin Expedition, but this is an interesting interview with an author of a recent book about it. Sounds like Franklin was a bit reckless, but it also sounds like he married well.

 

The most famous book that takes place in every state – Not sure how they determined “the most famous book”, but it is an interesting roundup of 50 books set in 50 states.

 

The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black – If you didn’t get enough of the crazy Rachel Dolezal during her 15 minutes of infamy, here’s an interesting follow-up article by a deeply offended black woman. I know it sounds stupid, but I found the article quite engaging.

 

NASA detained a 75-year-old woman selling a tiny moon rock. An appeals court says she can sue – An interesting story of abuse of powers. The good part is that she is suing the agent that arrested her and holding him personally liable. I hope she wins.

Health – Physical and Mental

The Deadly Downside of Marathons – Will running a marathon kill you? This article doesn’t say that. It says that your neighbor running one might kill you because he’ll get in the way of ambulances.

 

The “True” Human Diet – Want to eat paleo because that’s the way we evolved to eat? Get over it. This article explains that humans evolved to eat whatever the heck was available, which varied a lot. There is no real “paleo” diet.

‘Something wasn’t right’: When an infection after surgery isn’t what it seems – I’m generally not a fan of medical stories, but this one was very interesting in a number of ways. One takeaway is that if you are going to get a boob job or have fat injected into your butt, maybe the Dominican Republic isn’t the place to go to do it.

 

I didn’t shower for a week and got a staph infection, but I’m a lucky idiot – This article follows the week of a woman that decided to give up all grooming. I guess that’s not as crazy as flying to the DR to have your belly fat sucked out and put into your butt or to have bags of goo stuck inside your breasts, but EWWW. Isn’t there a happy medium between having a doctor carve you up and just letting yourself go?

 

Mayo Clinic researchers demonstrate value of second opinions – Huh? In talking about people getting a second opinion, “Mayo Clinic reports that as many as 88 percent of those patients go home with a new or refined diagnosis”. I’m not sure that this makes me feel good about second opinions as much as it makes me question medical opinions in general. “In 21 percent of the cases, the diagnosis was completely changed”. Seems like doctor opinions are pretty dodgy, which is probably because we don’t pay enough for health care.

 

A Helpful Woman’s Guide to Upgrading Your Entire Life With Homemade Marijuana Gummi Bears – I would have a hard time believing that this was really a thing if I didn’t know how common alcohol soaked gummi bears were. I don’t understand people.

 

The Quiet Power of Humility – An excellent article on humility, one my favor character traits (probably because I just so damn good at it).

 

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person – It seems like this happens a lot. I’d give my sage advice on the subject, but I think I just got lucky. Maybe if people consumed fewer drug infused candies and took a sober look at their future spouse, this wouldn’t be so common.

 

To Stay Married, Embrace Change – An article on how to stay married as you and your spouse change. Maybe the issue is that these people missed the prior article and just married the wrong people.

 

No Alcohol, No Coffee for 27 Months – He’s saving $1,000 a month? How much was he drinking?!?

Art and Culture

When downtown becomes a playground, where can its workers afford to live? – An article about how downtowns are getting “too expensive” for the people that work in service jobs in those downtowns. The interesting part is that they use Houston as an example.

 

Millennial Women Are Conflicted About Being Breadwinners – This is broader than a millennial issue. The percentage of marriages in which women earn more than their husbands is increasing and it is causing some stressful social changes. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it seems to be a hard adjustment for a lot of people.

 

New Poll Finds Majority of Americans Have Smoked Marijuana – I have mixed feelings on this. I’m hopeful for any shift that leads to an end of the “war on drugs”. Pot seems to be a healthier and safer drug than alcohol, so to the extent that it displaces drinking, we’re probably better off. On the other hand, it stinks. I’d rather be around people drinking beer than smoking dope.

 

Your Brain On Drug Policy – Speaking of the war on drugs, here is a remake of the iconic “This is your brain on drugs” video with an anti-drug war perspective.

 

3 Unfair Ways Being Perceived as Physically Average Privileges and Protects You – I’m not entirely sure that this isn’t satire. “The next time you hear or see someone being described as average, take a moment to think about the meaning behind the word average in that context and see what unspoken form of privilege this word average is covering.” I always though calling someone “average” was a horrible insult.

 

Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria – Google has over 25,000,000 books (most out-of-print) digitally scanned. Almost nobody can read them. Our copyright system is stupid.

Free Speech on College Campuses

This has been such a hot topic in my reading this week that I’m giving it a section of its own.

Understanding the Campus Free-Speech Crisis – A good summary of how we got to the situation we are in now, where people (ironically called “liberals”) are engaging in often violent attempts to block people with opposing views from speaking on college campuses.

Charles Murray’s ‘Provocative’ Talk – Charles Murray was recently blocked from giving a speech at Middlebury College by the threat of violent protestors. This article shows that his speech wasn’t really inflammatory. I suspect that it is less about what he has to say and more about tribal loyalties.

 

UC Berkeley surrenders to the fascists – An article taking Berkeley to task for canceling Ann Coulter’s speech because people that didn’t agree with her threatened to make trouble. Can you imagine them canceling a feminist speaker because so skin heads said they were going to show up?

 

Hate speech is not protected by the first amendment”. – Of course it is. That’s just a stupid tweet from Howard Dean. Hard to believe that someone that ignorant could have been a governor and a serious presidential candidate. Then again, saying incredibly stupid and ignorant things doesn’t disqualify one from becoming president.

 

A fraternity was told it was ‘appropriating culture.’ Administrators won’t say which. – Even if the frat is “appropriating culture”, what business is it of the university?

 

The Non-Battle of Auburn Was a True Victory for Liberty – At Auburn, they worked out their differences instead of rioting or banning people. I’m not as confident that this is a good thing. I’d prefer to see the rioters quelled so that people don’t consider it a viable option. To me, this is a bit like someone convincing the bus driver to let Rosa Parks sit up front rather than dealing with the broader issue.

Science

Randomness peaks at age 25 – My life was definitely more random when I was in my 20s, but that’s not what this is about. The article claims that people are best able to produce random looking lists when they are 25.

 

Blanket of Spiderwebs Covers Entire Field – Wow! This is so awesome. New Zealand is cool.

 

Why did these lions eat 35 men? Bad teeth – The theory is that when lions get a tooth ache, they go after people. “[They] probably targeted humans because they were easy and had soft flesh.”

 

Why Men Don’t Live as Long as Women – They blame testosterone. I think it would be more fun to blame matriarchal oppression. We need to end the life expectancy gap!

 

Technology

A Behavioral Economist Tries to Fix Email – Should our e-mail arrive in just three batches each day to cut down on distractions? I don’t think so. Heck, people would be even more tempted to call and that would be disaster.

Politics and Policy

Redefining accountability to treat teachers and leaders like the professionals they are – An interesting take on how to treat teachers. I don’t have enough expertise in the field to understand whether it makes sense, but it seems like something needs to be done. Like virtually every other group of professionals, we need a way to compensate teachers based on how well they perform. I hear a lot of good complaints about basing performance on test scores, but I rarely ever hear anyone suggest anything different.

 

How to Stop Drug Price Gouging – This article calls for the ability to important alternative drugs when US prices are too high. That’s a tiny step in the right direction, but it would be much better to let people buy whatever drugs they wanted from whoever they wanted to buy from. For those that don’t want that, they can stick with only US produced, FDA approved drugs.

 

Paid Leave Means Women Pay – This is an explanation of why paid leave will result in reduced salaries and women’s pay will suffer the most. There are no free lunches.

 

For Profit, Anti-Poverty – By blocking low cost retailers like Walmart, people like New York Mayor De Blassio are harming the poor. “I have been adamant that I don’t think Walmart—the company, the stores—belong in New York City”. Why is that the mayor’s decision? Shouldn’t the customers decide whether a store belongs someplace? If he doesn’t like Walmart, he doesn’t have to shop there.

 

Venezuela’s socialist hell – A good summary of the descent into hell that Venezuela has taken. Anyone that didn’t see this coming when Chavez turned the country socialist is either very young, very foolish, or both.

 

THE FOREIGN POLICY ESTABLISHMENT OR DONALD TRUMP: WHICH BETTER REFLECTS AMERICAN OPINION? – The interesting part of the article is the graphs. They show a huge disconnect between the views on globalization of “opinion leaders” and the “public”. That difference is much bigger than the difference between the parties.

 

The Tax Conundrum – A lot of talk about why income and corporate tax reform are going to be difficult. I think they are focusing on the wrong problem anyway. If you cut taxes but don’t cut spending, you are really just deferring the taxes with interest.

 

The United States of Work – A whiny screed by someone that objects to the popularity of corporate jobs. He appears to forget that people are free to choose whatever working relationships they want and most have chosen to work for big companies.

 

States Can’t Keep Criminal Fines of Exonerated, Supreme Court Rules – This actually went to court? You get convicted and pay a fine. Your conviction is overturned. In what country would you NOT be entitled to your fine back without having to sue for it? I guess they thought that since you can seize assets without even accusing someone of a crime, this made sense. Fortunately, the court felt otherwise. Hopefully they’ll use the same logic to fix the asset seizure stuff.

 

18 spectacularly wrong predictions made around the time of first Earth Day in 1970, expect more this year – I think of myself as an environmentalist. I love nature and the outdoors. I also feel totally out of place among “environmentalists” because they all seem so full of doom and gloom. The movement, at least in the US, has been wildly successful. The environment has gotten much cleaner. Forests are growing. It’s mostly good news, but I guess saying that doesn’t raise money.

Economics

The West Virginia Productivity Miracle. Really! – It feels a bit like damning with faint praise, but it is an article saying that West Virginia is doing well, at least compared with the low standard of what people expect from them.

 

Why Don’t All Jobs Matter? – I virtually never agree with Paul Krugman since he gave up economics and became a writer for the NYTimes, but this one is pretty sensible (except for his policy prescriptions at the end). He’s questioning why we bemoan the loss of some jobs (coal miners) while not really focusing on the loss of others (retail sales).

 

A Twisted Tale of Rent Control in the Maximum City – Mumbai’s buildings are crumbling because of rent control. This article reminds me of when I saw the movie “The Super” starring Joe Pesci. In the movie, he played the evil slumlord. At first, I didn’t understand why the people in his horrible apartments didn’t move. Then I realized that it was because they had used their political power to force building owners to rent to them below market prices. If you force someone to do that, why would you expect them to invest in the properties? The movie had the good guys and bad guys reversed. Looks like the same thing is playing out in Mumbai.

 

Section 232 study more about protecting U.S. steel industry than national security – The current administration is threatening to raise taxes on imported steel. That will help the US steel industry and hurt both consumers and all other US industries that use steel. Stupid, unless you are invested in US steel companies.

 

Here’s how much the average family in their 50s has saved for retirement – The median retirement savings for families between 50 and 55 is $8,000. That’s less than a year of alcohol and coffee! Maybe they should raise the catch-up contribution limits to 401ks and IRAs to help these people.

 

The Growing Funding Gap for State Pensions Puts Millions at Risk – The people that think they have pension money set aside for them by their states may be in for a shock at some point. I have this horrible vision of a future in which old people are so poor that they end up sober. Fortunately, the lack of coffee keeps them too tired to riot.

 

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All – An interesting history of setting prices in the Internet era. It’s not nearly over. There will always be a struggle between merchants trying to get the most money possible for their goods and services and customers trying to things as cheaply as possible.

 

April 16, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

People Are Photoshopping Mr. Bean Into Things, And It’s Absolutely Hilarious – Who wouldn’t want to see Mr. Bean as the Mona Lisa or Harry Potter?

 

New Spider-Like, Tree-Climbing Crab Species Found – Cool, but frightening. I don’t think I want to worry about crabs when I’m climbing trees.

 

Huge New Spider Species Discovered in Mexican Cave – Maybe it’s just a guy thing, but I can’t help but wonder who would win a fight – the softball sized Mexican spider or the tree climbing crab from India?

 

The world’s first dyslexic-only sperm bank – This is weird on many levels. I think my favorite thing about it is just the notion of a sperm bank article on a site called Virgin.

 

Riddle of Why Hitler Didn’t Use Sarin Gas Remains Unsolved – It is an interesting question. Hitler and Stalin were rivals for the most murderous rogues in modern history, but neither used gas in the war. Why not?

 

Vanguard Is Growing Faster Than Everybody Else Combined – People aren’t stupid.

 

British ex-bodybuilder convicted of killing rare butterfly – No clue why they identified the criminal as an “ex-bodybuilder.” It didn’t seem relevant at all.

Health – Physical and Mental

Should You Walk or Run When It’s Cold? – If you are naked at it is freezing, you should just shiver in place unless you plan to run a 5 minute mile pace. Honestly, you should also think about your lifestyle choices.

 

High-Intensity Interval Training Helps Slow Down the Aging Process – I can definitely attest to the fact that doing intervals makes life seem much longer.

 

An Hour of Running May Add 7 Hours to Your Life – If I run intervals for an hour, do I get even more?

 

How to Tell Someone You Have an STD – There is no good way to tell someone this. Don’t get one. That’ll save you a lot of trouble.

 

It’s True, Hot Baths Burn Calories – Mostly a screed against calorie counting with some praise of bathing. The author claims that a 104°F bath causes you to burn more calories. Perhaps, but a 104°C bath would burn much, much more.

 

The Strange Way Being “Good” Hurts Your Willpower – My conclusion was more that the author is an idiot.

Art and Culture

The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews – I agree that interviews are a lousy way to select people to hire, but they are better than any alternatives I’ve seen. And making them all the same is unrealistic. You don’t have enough time in an interview to ask everything of everyone, so you have to pursue different potential strengths and weaknesses with different candidates.

 

If Humble People Make the Best Leaders, Why Do We Fall for Charismatic Narcissists? – Um, what about those of us that are charismatic narcissists and are exceptionally humble???

Science

We sleep less as we age because our brains don’t think we’re tired – This article blames most problems of aging on a flaw that allows us to get lets sleep. This article seems stupid throughout.

 

Sleep Is the New Status Symbol – Probably because it is something only young people can do.

 

Do Honeybees Feel Pain? – Their conclusion is “no”, but it could just be that bees don’t like narcotics or they don’t work on them. Or maybe they get so pissed off when you amputate one of their limbs that they jack with your study to get revenge.

 

Does space heat up when you accelerate? Physicists propose test of controversial idea – Read it. Didn’t quite understand it. My understanding of the concepts of heat and vacuum don’t mesh. How can nothing but hotter?

 

A Simple Visual Proof of a Powerful Idea – Kind of a difficult article, but I like the pretty Spirograph picture.

Technology

‘We’re running with scissors’: Why some experts worry about VR dangers – There is something especially amusing about people being afraid of new things.

 

McDonalds wants ‘fellow kids’ to apply for McJobs over Snapchat – I’m confused. I thought snapchat existed so that your messages would quickly disappear. How does that make sense for job applications?

 

Bad News: Artificial Intelligence Is Racist, Too – Interesting. Basically, AI absorbs culture and not everything in our culture is positive.

 

Princeton’s Ad-Blocking Superweapon May Put an End to the Ad-Blocking Arms Race – We really need an alternative to ad-sponsored media. I avoid ads everywhere I can because they are annoying.

 

Automated automobile cattle avoidance – Probably wouldn’t have helped the morning I almost hit a cow in Oklahoma. It was pre-dawn, the cow was black, it was in the middle of my lane, and it was walking away from me. The backside of a black cow is surprisingly unreflective. I barely missed what would have been an udder disaster.

Politics and Policy

Separating Culture and State – There isn’t enough money in it to make it worth worrying about, but the NEA and NEH do seem like a bad idea.

 

Trump Unleashed – A nice summary of the fact that the recent attack on Syria, as much as they may have deserved it, was illegal. I really don’t want to the rules to be that the President of the US can bomb anyone he wants whenever he wants. That seems to be the standard at play here.

 

Moms Who Bake vs. the Cookie Police – It’s apparently illegal to sell baked goods without a license in some places. We have way too many laws.

 

Boys Will Keep Winning Girls’ Sports Trophies Until We Are Willing To Re-Assert Sex Distinctions – This is a super provocative subject. Some people are just faster. That’s the way it is. We can divide leagues however you want – chromosomes, self-identification, or whatever, but we’re just selecting different sets of people that now have a chance of winning.

 

Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise? – This one is a little tricky. The original post has been replaced by White Men And The Vote: Why We Took The Blog Down. Basically, it looks like they were punked. When something is gone or you suspect that it has changed, you the Wayback Machine to go find the original. You can see it here. It was a silly racist rant against white men. Was it intended to get people to see a different perspective? To mock SJWs? I don’t know.

 

Why Prison?: An Economic Critique – An argument that imprisoning people is a suboptimal solution to crime. I’m not convinced, but it is interesting.

 

Educating the Disadvantaged – A lengthy and interesting article on the challenge of educating children from disadvantages backgrounds. There are no easy solutions.

 

The government is demanding to know who this Trump critic is. Twitter is suing to keep it a secret. – Anonymity is important. Remember that when people whine about “dark money”.

 

University Students: Chick-fil-A Makes Us Feel Unsafe – A short article mocking students for whining about Chick-Fil-A coming to their school. My favorite quote, coming from a student at a Catholic University is “Chick-fil-A has a questionable history on civil rights and human rights”. Hmmmm….

 

Filing Taxes in Japan Is a Breeze. Why Not Here? – I’d prefer to focus on making our taxes simpler rather than having the IRS do all the filing work for us, but I can see their point.

 

How Payday Lenders and Check Cashers Help the Poor – Conventional wisdom is that payday lenders are evil and should be stopped. If they are evil, why do so many people freely choose to use them? Instead of shutting own the payday lenders, put your energy into giving people better alternatives.

 

Canada agrees on free trade with itself – Every time I start thinking Canada isn’t that crazy, I read something like this.

Economics

Are living standards truly stagnant? – One of the most common complaints I hear about our economy is that wages have been stagnant for decades. This paper indicates that the problem is more of a measurement issue than real wage stagnation. That’s pretty obvious. Look at how much better people live today than they did 40 years ago.

 

Consumption vs. GDP – An interesting comparison of individual consumption rates against per capita GDP. Americans are outliers.

 

An Open Letter from 1,470 Economists on Immigration – They say that immigration is generally a good thing.

 

April 9, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Informed Delivery – It’s a new service by the USPS. They’ll e-mail you an image of your letter sized mail that they are putting in your mailbox that day.

Russian’s Geography Problem – An interesting perspective on how Russia’s geography has influenced its history and current behavior.

This ≠ That – A fun video showing that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. Similar to (and probably inspired by Tyler Vigen’s classic site Spurious Correlations. Incidentally, you can type a ≠ sign by typing 2260 and then pressing alt-x. At least that’s how it works on a PC.

Floating ‘Trash Wheels’ Clean Up 1 Million Pounds of Debris in Baltimore’s Harbor – It’s like a big paddlewheel garbage eating bug. Sort of a cuter Roomba for the harbor.

Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains – Looks like it is getting harder to find the best deals on planes and hotels and such. Sigh.

For 18 years, I thought she was stealing my identity. Until I found her – That would suck.

The Countries That Are Actually the Most Dangerous for Tourists – Getting ready for trip?

What “Personal Space” Means to the Rest of World – Maybe knowing this will make you safer when you travel.

Here’s how good (or awful) your hometown drivers are at wearing a seat belt – There are places in the US where seatbelt usage is near or even below 50%? Where are all these stupid people? The article has a map.

The Future of Tickets – A prediction that tickets will go to block chains and ticketing agencies will become obsolete.

Health – Physical and Mental

Want To Be Happier and More Successful? Learn To Like Other People – I’ve met other people. This isn’t going to be easy.

Why French Fries Are More of a “Superfood” Than Kale – Pick a food preference and you can probably find someone that will tell you it is healthy.

Should you walk or run for exercise? Here’s what the science says. – It basically says running has a better health impact except that you are more likely to get hurt so maybe you should walk.

How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running – Whatever. I have these effects when I walk, but when I run all I can think about is how tired I am and how glad I’ll be when the run is over.

How Loneliness Begets Loneliness – Being lonely makes you lonelier. If you have some time to yourself, sit down and read up on how to not be so lonely.

Art and Culture

My 10 Favorite Books: Viggo Mortensen – I know almost nothing about Mr. Mortensen other than the fact that he is that actor that portrayed Aragorn in TLotR. These are purportedly his 10 favorite books or the ones they would take if they were marooned on an island. I’m calling BS. These look a lot more like the 10 books he most wants you to think are his favorite books or the 10. And favorite vs marooned island are very different lists. The first list would be enjoyable books and the latter would be books that tell me how to survive on an island.

Why You Shouldn’t Walk on Escalators – I drew a different conclusion. My take is that the problem is that some people don’t walk on escalators.

Science

Common Statistical Fallacies and Paradoxes – I up this in science because you often see these mistakes made in a lot of “science” reporting.

A Retiree Discovers an Elusive Math Proof—And Nobody Notices – “AS HE WAS brushing his teeth on the morning of July 17, 2014, Thomas Royen, a little-known retired German statistician, suddenly lit upon the proof of a famous conjecture at the intersection of geometry, probability theory, and statistics that had eluded top experts for decades.” Why is it that nothing like this ever happens when I’m brushing my teeth? I wonder what kind of toothpaste he uses.

Do Globalization & Free Markets Drive Obesity Among Children and Youth? An Empirical Analysis, 1990-2013 – The short answer is “no”.

Digital Health: Tracking Physiomes and Activity Using Wearable Biosensors Reveals Useful Health-Related Information – You can see that flying sucks using charts of data from wearables. It brings back fond memories of The Food Babe’s now classic article about flying. “The air that is pumped in isn’t pure oxygen either, it’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%.” – It still makes me laugh ever time.

Dolphins beat up octopuses before eating them, and the reason is kind of horrifying – Let’s get right to it. If you try to eat an octopus without chewing up really well, part of it might crawl back out of your stomach and choke you to death. Don’t mess with an octopus unless you plan to go all in.

America’s pronghorns are survivors of a mass extinction – I had no idea that pronghorns have been in the US for so long. And why did I have to find out from a British website?

Compass protein attracts heap of criticism – I’d never heard of “compass protein”, but it looks like it is BS anyway.

Why New Foods Taste Better on Vacation – This didn’t ring true for me because I like new foods even less when on vacation, but I thought I’d include it because food and travel are two of Kathy’s favorite things to read about.

Antarctic Ice Reveals Earth’s Accelerating Plant Growth – Stuff is growing faster.

Flawed Climate Models – There argument is that the margin of error in climate models is larger than the predicting warming.

Seasonality of auricular amputations in rabbits – For Christ’s sake, why are rabbit ears amputated seasonally?

Rituals Improve Children’s Ability to Delay Gratification – I’m not going to tell you about this one. You’ll have to just wait until you have time to read it yourself.

Technology

Project Sunroof – Type in your address and see which parts of your roof get the most sun. It’s a site designed to help you assess solar for your roof.

Flying Water Taxis Will Glide Down the River Seine in Paris This Summer – Looks like fun.

Graphene-based sieve turns seawater into drinking water – This will be really cool if it works well.

A Swedish company has started implanting microchips under its employees’ skin – If your employer wanted to implant a chip under your skin, would you be OK with that? I get the feeling that this wouldn’t go over as well in the US as it has in Sweden.

Why the Navy’s Tomahawk missiles were the weapon of choice in strikes in Syria – Curious as to why we used tomahawk missiles in Syria? Here’s an explanation.

Politics and Policy

How Does Populism Turn Authoritarian? Venezuela Is a Case in Point – It goes through the history of the process, but it seems unnecessary. It seems like populists always want to control how people live and so authoritarianism is inevitable.

Free Speech as Battleground – I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything else in Jacobin that I agree with. This is a defense of letting people you disagree with have the right to speak.

US HEALTHCARE: MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT – This article argues that the US does have very good health care outcomes despite mediocre life expectancies. Apparently we die more often from violence or accidents and we are more obese. But our health care is comparatively good. Woohoo!

On Judicial Confirmations — History and Numbers – A nice summary of how both major parties have been in a spiral of animosity over judicial nominations.

Does The Wage Gap Really Exist? – I find most of the “wage gap” stuff pretty misguided and I’ve referenced a few articles recently that attack the concept. Here’s a decent article defending the notion of the “wage gap”. I don’t expect them to follow up with articles on the “life expectancy gap”.

FDR’s War Against the Press – This was interesting. I’d never heard about FDR’s relationship with newspapers.

Citation Nation – We have some messed up incentives. Still, as much of a problem as this is, it doesn’t seem as bad as the asset forfeiture mess.

Man cited for eating pizza at SF bus stop – There should be a constitutional right to eat pizza. This is a travesty of justice.

Economics

The Value of Flexible Work: Evidence from Uber Drivers – Looks like people put a high value on flexible work hours. To clarify, that’s flexible hours that they control, not flexible hours that their employer controls.

Should You Get the Guacamole on Your Burrito? A Price Analysis of Your Favorite Foods – My main takeaway is that pizza should be cheaper.

April 2, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Amazon’s Ambitions Unboxed: Stores for Furniture, Appliances and More – I love all the retail innovation that is occurring. Sounds like Bezos is working on some interesting ideas.

 

This Evil Alarm Clock App Is the Only Reason I’m Awake Right Now – I have a hard time understanding people’s aversion to getting up in the morning. If you don’t want to get up but need to, this sounds like an evil way to force yourself to do it. I say that, but one of my children is sound asleep with his phone alarm going off right next to him.

 

Doomsday Prep For Non-Paranoid People – Her list isn’t my list, but the concept is good, especially now that we’re in severe storm season (runs from roughly January to December in the Houston area). Are you ready?

Health – Physical and Mental

Why Opposites Rarely Attract – Short answer: because we want people that are complimentary rather than opposite.

 

“Couple Workouts” Are the Answer to Exercising with Your Partner – Sadly, this is a safe-for-work article; not at all what hoping for when I saw the headline.

 

Fellow Dirt Bags: Turns Out It’s Okay If You Don’t Wash Your Legs – I didn’t realize that this was a contentious topic of debate. Are you a leg washer or not? I don’t want to know.

 

LIFE IS A VIDEO GAME—HERE ARE THE CHEAT CODES – This article is mediocre (and the language is ugly), but I like his view that you approach problems either with solutions or distractions – tackling your problems or avoiding them. I think that is a good perspective, for the most part. One exception I’d like to note is that for problems that are someone else’s but still worry you, distraction might be a better approach for you than trying to find a solution.

 

Why You Should Do Weights Before Cardio – Short answer, because your muscles can still get the cardio done when they are tired. I just do them at different times of the day and call it good enough.

Art and Culture

Actually, Not Everything Is a Feminist Issue – I don’t know if this article is incoherent or just written by someone with a perspective so different than mine that I can’t follow her logic. Here’s a quote from the article that illustrates my point: “What about poverty, racism, war, the environment, anti-democratic regimes, the occupation of one country by another, capitalism?”

 

No More Wedding Gifts – This is a complaint about the increasing cost and decreasing purpose of wedding gifts. I’d apply the logic more broadly to weddings in general. I think the cost of a wedding gift should be inversely related to the number of guests and the cost of the wedding.

 

You Can Now Beg for Money on Facebook – Facebook wants some of the GoFundMe action. Given that half of Americans can’t get their hands on $2,000 in an emergency, I’m sure that there is a lot of demand for this.

 

How Clown Pants Saved My Life – This was just weird. The author’s relationship to clothes is so different than mine that I felt like I was reading about someone from a radically different culture. On a positive note, if pant hems are getting really high, there is a chance that I’ll someday be able to find pants that aren’t too long to be worn without altering.

Science

Running a Marathon Is as Traumatic for Your Kidneys as Heart Surgery – Maybe runners should take more bathroom breaks.

 

Brain size in birds is related to traffic accidents – Big brain birds get hit by cars less often. They also mention in an aside that the same is true of birds being shot. Maybe hunters are inadvertently breeding a species of super-smart birds. We’re all worried about AI taking over the world, but that could all be part of the bird’s master plan.

 

Cars and second order consequences – This is a very interesting article that tries to think forward to the second order consequences of electric cars and self-driving cars.

Technology

AD AGENCIES AND ACCOUNTABILITY – An interesting article on shifts in the advertising market as they rely on providers that don’t control the content. When you advertise on a TV show, you have a good idea of what your ad is tied to. When you advertise on Facebook or Youtube, you have very little control over what insane ravings you may be sponsoring.

 

Verizon phones will soon get the useless ‘AppFlash’ search tool in an upcoming rollout – This behavior is one of the reasons why we dropped Verizon.

 

Rogue system admin shuts down servers and deletes core files on the day he is fired, now faces up to 10 years in prison – Wow! Talk about burning bridges.

 

Bomb Squad Academy – Learn about circuits playing a video game. Not sure why there isn’t more partnership between the education industry and the gaming world.

Politics and Policy

Why You Should Care About The Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges – Owning things isn’t what it used to be. Much of what you think you own, you “license” and you are restricted on what you can do with it. This case might impact your rights significantly.

 

You Could Be Committing a Crime and Not Even Know It – It’s a complex world with lots of complex rules. Still, it doesn’t seem right to punish someone for something that they don’t know is wrong. I guess this is why we have juries.

 

Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears – Should the FBI be able to track your movements through public places without any suspicion or warrant? Do you want the FBI to have that power? What about Disney? (How I Let Disney Track My Every Move)

 

A VPN can protect your online privacy. But there’s a catch – The Internet is afire with the horrifying news that your ISP can sell your browsing history. The weirdest thing to me about the reaction is that they have virtually always been able to do that. There was a recent regulation that was going to prevent it and that regulation was just rescinded. That’s the big scary news. Even if the reg were in place, it wouldn’t stop your browser provider, your OS provider, or your hardware provider from doing the exact same thing.

 

2 Activists Who Secretly Recorded Planned Parenthood Face New Felony Charges – Set aside your feelings about planned parenthood and ask yourself again what you think of this. I find it troubling.

 

Trump cuts show Paris treaty is a paper tiger: Bjorn Lomborg – I love Lomborg’s approach. Maybe that’s because he annoys both sides of true believers in the climate science debate.

 

Economics

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs – This is yet another article on how machines are going to take all of our jobs. I presume that similar articles were written about the printing press, the loom, the tractor, the computer, etc. I wonder what the Amish think of all this.

 

One Christian’s alternative view of globalization and American society – An excellent defense of globalization. My favorite paragraph: “First, globalization is not a top-down system imposed by elites. Globalization is what happens when people around the world are left free by their governments to do business with one another. It’s what Adam Smith called “the natural system of liberty.”