April 23, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


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.


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!



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.


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.