April 30, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


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.


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!”


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.


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.