June 25, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Why The US Military Made GPS Free-To-Use – An interesting video on how the GPS system works, how it came into existence, and how it came to be free to use. Well, that’s the first half of the video. The second half was a really long ad that I skipped.

 

If you can’t explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it – A very short article that makes a useful point. I’ve seen it in myself many times. If I understand something well, I can explain it. I find this concept so powerful that when I’m struggling to master a topic I think about how I would explain it to someone. That helps me see the bits I’m struggling with.

 

Here’s How To Get Used Motor Oil Off Of Your Walls – Short answer: Scrubbing Bubbles. I wonder if I can use it to get oil and grease stains off of leather seats.

 

Would You Trust Tom Selleck With Your Life Savings? – An interesting article on how celebrities are chosen to represent financial products to old people. I have to admit that I find it odd that people would trust an actor’s word on whether a financial product made sense for them. I would assume that even if the actor were speaking honestly he wouldn’t have the expertise to know.

 

Mortgages for Seniors? Available, but Exacting – It’s a relatively dull article about the challenges for retired seniors to get a mortgage. The one bit I found amusing was this quote from one of the couples in the article “but our financial adviser suggested that we get a mortgage so we can get a tax deduction, and our money keeps working for us.” Keeping the money working for who? Let’s not forget that the advisor doesn’t get paid to manage the money once it goes into buying a house. Of course he thinks you should keep the money invested with him and get a mortgage instead.

 

Taking On the Scourge of Opioids – A long and interesting article on the opioid epidemic sweeping white rural America. It is interesting how much more empathy there is than when drug crazes swept through black urban America.

 

The Case Against Work-Life Balance: Owning Your Future – I thought one of their points was interesting. Working extremely hard in early life can bring results that compound over the rest of your life, which is a good argument for working really hard when you are younger and then slacking more as you get older. It’s just a coincidence that I find this interesting and happen to be one of those people that is getting older.

 

What Latin Sounded Like – and how we know – A video on how we know what Latin actually sounded like.

 

Health – Physical and Mental

How to Survive the Summer When Summer Makes You Miserable – They’ve invented a new malady called “Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder” for people that are sad during the summer. I understand that summer heat can be miserable, but seriously, this seems a little silly.

 

Dear EWG, Sunscreen Is Essential For Summer Safety – The Environmental Working Group is using some dodgy science to warn people about what they claim is a cancer risk from using sunscreen when the science is very clear that not wearing sunscreen in the sun is a much bigger cancer risk. Makes me sad just thinking about it.

 

The science of sunscreen – How does sunscreen work anyway? This gives a bit of an explanation. Most interesting line: “With sunburn, the cause of the inflammation is deliberate cell death, known as apoptosis. Cells are intentionally killing themselves to prevent potentially cancerous mutations occurring.”

 

How to Start Working Out in the Mornings – Does this really require an article? Go to bed a little earlier. Wake up a little earlier. Use that extra time to exercise. It’s that simple.

 

Yoga Works as Well as Physical Therapy for Back Pain – I’ve done yoga. I’ve done physical therapy. They seem pretty darn similar to me, so this doesn’t surprise me. PT costs more, but they don’t drone on and on about mystical crap or my breathing. On the other hand, they don’t touch me when I do yoga.

 

Breast Implants Might Give False Heart Attack Readings, New Research Suggests – Not something I would have expected. “(1) If you’re considering having breast implants in the future, have a ECG performed before the surgery to serve, if needed, as a baseline; it can be kept on file. (2) If you already have implants make sure your doctor is aware of their existence prior to having an ECG, and ask about any new research on this topic prior to performing the test.” And I thought it was an EKG not an ECG.

 

Meet the chef who’s debunking detox, diets and wellness – The Angry Chef. He’s the author of “Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating”. Sounds like a sensible guy…and not really very angry. I think the food hysterias of our age will be something people look back on this era and laugh about.

 

 

Art, Culture, and Society

Future Classics: 50 Literary Greats – Barnes & Noble (they’re still around?) put together a list of 50 books they think will be literary giants. Or maybe it’s just books they have overstocked. I’d only heard of one of them and that was only because they made a movie I haven’t seen from it. I should probably try reading more literature. Maybe next year.

 

Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That’s OK. (For Now.) – A surprisingly lengthy discussion of the impact of video games on society – particularly young, non-college educated males.

How to Think About Bill Cosby and ‘The Cosby Show’ – Cosby was one of my biggest heroes as a child and I loved the Cosby show. I’m deeply saddened by the dark truth that has been exposed.

Free Speech Madness

Who’s Afraid of Free Speech? – A half-hearted defense of the anti-speech stances taken at many colleges. The author’s depiction of the complaints of the right don’t seem like the complaints I actually see. He sees them as complaining about the left’s counter-speech but I see them complaining about being blocked from being able to speak. Very different things.

 

Evergreen State College Controversy (HBO) – A video on the handling of racism at Evergreen. The craziness is strong in this one.

 

The Dalai Lama Is the Latest Speaker to Cause a Campus Freakout – Wait, what? Apparently the Chinese students at UC San Diego wanted to get the DL disinvited because he’s a divisive figure.

 

The Canadian Taliban – An amusing editorial about some of the Taliban-like behavior of the politically correct Canadian Writers’ Union from one of my favorite economists. Best line: “If I were to graph the fraction of the articles I read each day that seem indistinguishable from an Onion parody, it would have risen from under 1% in 2000 to perhaps 5% today.”

Science

Humans Evolved Big Brains to Keep Track of Friends – As people evolved, their social groups grew. This article theorizes that this was related to an increase in brain size. Now after millions of years of evolution, we have online social networks. Does that mean that our brains will shrink?

 

How Cats Used Humans to Conquer the World – A history of cats as told by their DNA.

Cats are an extreme outlier among domestic animals – Another article on the same study. It says that cats have changed surprisingly little for “domesticated” animals. Cats disagree, saying that they’ve changed humans enormously since they domesticated us.

 

This Common Butterfly Has an Extraordinary Sex Life – Weird stuff. Males deliver a sperm packet about 13% of their body weight mean for the females to consume over time. This is not an article to read for dating tips.

 

Panhandling in Downtown Manhattan: A Preliminary Analysis – Interesting research on panhandling, touching on topics like the allocation of locations and strategies used by professional panhandlers. I glossed over most of the equations, but it was an interesting read nonetheless.

Technology

Revealed: Facebook exposed identities of moderators to suspected terrorists – Oops! Imagine that you agree to work undercover with Facebook to moderate groups of suspected terrorists. Wouldn’t you want to do that anonymously? Looks like Facebook revealed their moderators personal info to the groups. Never share anything with Facebook that you don’t want made publicly available regardless of what promises they give you.

 

Call it a comeback: Typewriters attracting new generation of fans – Are typewrites becoming chic? The author thinks so, but I don’t agree. Here’s a quote from an upcoming film: “I hate getting email thank-yous from folks. Now, if they take 70 seconds to type me out something on a piece of paper and send to me, well, I’ll keep that forever. I’ll just delete that email.” I can understand wanting something hand written, but typed? What’s different from that and just printing the e-mail?

 

An Incredibly Clever Lock Design from 1680 – As much as I dismiss the return of typewriters, there is something undeniably appealing about complicated little mechanical machines. Here’s a really cool lock made over 300 years ago.

 

12 ways to study a new programming language – I’m surprised that they didn’t include the most traditional method. You get assigned to help out on a project using a language you don’t know with an unrealistic deadline. You dig in and try to survive. You learn primarily from seeing the results of the mistakes made by the team.

 

Introduction to Python, Data Science & Computational Thinking: Free Online Courses from MIT – Didn’t have time to take the Python class while you were at MIT? Here’s your chance to make it up.

Avocados with laser-printed labels go on sale at M&S in bid to cut paper waste – Cool! I want laser printed food. OK, technically it is laser etched, but that’s even cooler. I wonder if they could laser etch nutrition labels on them.

 

Apple Gets Greedy in China – Ever heard of WeChat? I hadn’t. It is huge in China and it looks like it is doing battle with Apple over platform control.

Politics and Policy

Ballot language approved for age limits on smartphone sales – It is one thing to believe that there is an age below which it isn’t appropriate for your child to have a smartphone. It’s quite another thing to believe that you have the right to tell other people at what age they can give their kid a smartphone. It looks like Colorado is putting that on the ballot. If you want to read a really longwinded article on smartphones, try A Sociology of the Smartphone.

 

Reforming land use regulations – Want to lower the cost of housing? Reform land use regulations. It isn’t going happen because existing home owners don’t actually want housing costs to be lower.

 

Right-to-Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State-Level Synthetic Controls Analysis – A study on the impact of RTC laws on violent crime levels. “The magnitude of the estimated increase in violent crime from RTC laws is substantial in that, using a consensus estimate for the elasticity of crime with respect to incarceration of .15, the average RTC state would have to double its prison population to counteract the RTC-induced increase in violent crime.”

 

Raise the Wage Act-Intern Analysis – This is amusing. It is a list of the Senators and House Members sponsoring the “Raise the Wage Act” along with how much they pay their interns. In almost all cases, it’s $0. It looks like they believe you should have to pay employees $15/hour or fire them, but they don’t believe their offices should have to pay people at all. Nice.

 

The US Government Wants to Permanently Legalize the Right to Repair – There is a battle slowly building around whether you have the right to repair stuff you own. Manufacturers are fighting to make it impossible but consumers are fighting back and pushing legislation.

 

How the Rhetoric of Responsibility Hurts the Welfare State – This article makes a case against demanding responsibility from welfare recipients. I’ll briefly make the counter-argument and say that if you make welfare too easy and too complete, you’ll needlessly ensnare a lot of people into a life of poverty that would make it on their own if pushed. Every parent with a teenager knows this.

 

Supreme Court Stuff

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Property Rights – In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of the government to decimate the value of private property without compensation as long as it isn’t completely taken. Disappointing. I’d rather some approach that when changes in the regulatory environment take over some amount (30%? 50%?) of the value of a property, the property owner should be compensated.

 

SCOTUS Says You Can’t Lose Your Citizenship for Lying About Your Weight – In better news, the SC decided 9-0 that immaterial lies can’t cause you to lose your citizenship. “Can a naturalized American lose his citizenship because he misrepresented his weight on his application form, neglected to mention that he once belonged to a Barry Manilow fan club, or failed to acknowledge the various occasions on which he exceeded the speed limit without being caught? The Justice Department, under Barack Obama as well as Donald Trump, said yes. Yesterday the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed.”

 

Clarence Thomas Attacks Civil Asset Forfeiture, Lower Court Follows His Lead – Here’s one more. “In March the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case filed by a Texas woman fighting for the return of over $200,000 in cash that the police seized from her family. Although neither Lisa Olivia Leonard nor any of her relatives were ever charged with any underlying crime connected to the cash, the state’s sweeping asset forfeiture laws allowed the authorities to take the money.” The court didn’t take up the case, but Justice Thomas put out a statement anyway and it appears to have influenced some lower courts.

Economics

Amazon’s Move Signals End of Line for Many Cashiers – I say, bring on the automation! The faster you can make it for me to get out of the store, the happier I’ll be. Those cashiers can do the same thing that washerwomen, computers (the people that computed before we had machines do it), and elevator operators did – adapt and move on to something else.

 

June 18, 2018 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

REMEMBERING THE MURDER YOU DIDN’T COMMIT – Six people confessed to a gruesome rape/murder. It now appears likely that none of them were actually involved despite the fact that some of them still “remember” it. It’s a weird story.

Inside the Deep Caves Carved by Lava – When lava cools, it often forms long caves. They look really cool. I’m going to add this to “my things I want to see” list.

Armless Droid Calls Cops After Being Assaulted by Drunken Man – Companies are making droids that roam around commercial properties looking for whatever a droid might find suspicious. Apparently one got assaulted by a drunk.

Bald Eagle Adopts Baby Hawk Instead of Eating Him – Some eagles were found raising a hawk. The article speculates on why the raised him instead of just eating him. My favorite theory is that they at the mom and the egg just sort of popped out and so they just thought it was one of theirs.

Let’s Settle This in Court: What, Exactly, Is Stand-Up Paddleboarding? – Who should manage SUP for the Olympics? The surfacing associations or the canoeing associations? I don’t think it matters because it shouldn’t even be an Olympic sport.

Just How Much Pee Is In That Pool? – An estimate of the amount of pee in public pools and some information on why pee in a pool isn’t a good idea. They estimate that the typical 220,000 gallon public pool has about 20 gallons of pee in it.

Museum of Failure – A museum dedicated to failures. There are too many possible jokes for me to make about this one, so I’m just going to leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Ever wanted to live in 2 countries at once? Here’s your chance – One of the sad realities of modern times is that it is a hassle for people to go between the US and Canada? Why is that? Seems like a totally pointless waste. Anyway, if you want a house that straddles the border, you can get one cheap.

Here’s How Much Businesses Pay To Get On Those Big Blue Exit Signs – You know those blue signs along highways that tell you what hotels, gas stations, an restaurants are at that exit? This article explains what is required to get your logo on the sign and what it costs. In Michigan, you must be in one of six categories – Gas, Food, Lodging, Camping, and Pharmacy. Pharmacy?

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person – Wow, this guy has a really weird view of why people get married. I think he is concluding more that we marry for the wrong reasons or have the wrong expectations rather than marrying the wrong person. “We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.”

Why Amazon Bought Whole Foods – I read this and I still don’t understand why. My guess is that Jeff Bezos went shopping there for a big party and when they rung him up, he thought “hell, I could buy the whole company for that much.”

Track’s Most Resilient (and Suspect) Record Is in Danger – Track is going to drop all records before 2005 because they are all “suspect”. Some “lady” from Eastern Europe is in a rage because she swears she wasn’t taking steroids. Take a look at the picture of her at the start of the article. It’s pretty much all you need to know.

Health – Physical and Mental

How to Fall Down – There are 8 million emergency room visits each year from people falling. This article gives a six point list of things to do while you are falling. Perhaps this is a useful list on the moon where you have a lot of time to think things through during a fall. When I’ve fallen on earth, I’ve barely had time to think of anything other than “Dammit! Ouch!”

How I learned to live with multiple personalities – A story about some crazy lady with multiple personalities and what we’ve learned about how that happens and how it works. Part of me struggles to believe it.

Neural Implant Tech Raises the Specter of Brainjacking – If you were thinking about getting a brain implant, be careful. Hackers could take over your brain. Kind of like cable news stations do to people that watch them too much.

Art and Culture

Bias, She Wrote – A look at the gender balance of the NY Time best seller list.

For an Inclusive Culture, Try Working Less – This was an odd rambling article on how long working hours and the lack of formal dress makes workplaces less diverse. This article may have less useful information that the one on things to think about when you fall.

Weddings of the 0.01 Percent – This article about planning weddings for the ultrarich along with some general commentary on weddings. This is a good time to remind people that there is an inverse relationship between price of an engagement ring and wedding with marriage duration.

In Defense of Cultural Appropriation – A nice argument against the bigoted notion that certain aspects of cultures should be restricted by race or ethnicity.

Megyn Kelly Exposed by Alex Jones in Leaked Audio Recordings – I know almost nothing about who Megyn Kelly or Alex Jones are, but it appears that she may have lied to him to get him to do an interview and he secretly recorded it so that she couldn’t edit it to spin it. It makes me wonder why it isn’t common practice to insist on having your own recording for any interview. I can’t imagine letting someone interview me on a controversial topic without keeping my own unedited version.

Teaching Humility in an Age of Arrogance – This sounds like a job that only I could do really well.

Science

E-cigarettes ‘Potentially as Harmful as Tobacco Cigarettes’ – I suspect that this is a tobacco industry propaganda piece. When you read it, you’ll see that it is talking about similar risks of DNA damage and it completely ignores the huge list of other health issues caused by traditional cigarettes.

The acid (bath) test – This is a whole article on whether you can completely dissolve a dead body and whether it works better with a strong acid or a strong base. I’m hoping that this isn’t “news you can use.”

Technology

The Octogenarians Who Love Amazon’s Alexa – According to this, old people like Alexa but think her voice is too deep (huh?). Voice assistants actually seem like a great thing for old people – emergency calling when you’ve fallen, easy access to information like the news and weather without having to read a computer screen, pill reminders. I see lots of possible uses. The SNL sketch making fun of Alexa for old people was funny though.

Shipping Giants Are Looking to Self-Piloting Boats to Shift Cargo – Gigantic cargo ships traveling around the world with nobody on board…what could possibly go wrong.

PYPL PopularitY of Programming Language – A measure of programming languages relative popularity based on frequency of Google tutorial searches for them. Java, Python, PHP, C#, Javascript are the top 5 followed by three flavors of C (C++, C, Objective-C).

Beats Solo Bluetooth Headphone Teardown – A teardown showing you what is inside “Beats Solo” headphones. The answer – not much. They may be amongst the most overpriced pieces of crap on the market.

Craig Venter’s ‘Digital-to-Biological Converter’ Is Real – It prints proteins. The concept is to be able to print an increasing array of biological stuff. That gives rise to this interesting sci-fi scenario. Send a machine like this and some robots to a far, far, far distant planet. Have it print fertilized human egg cells when it gets there. Have the robots raise the first generation of people. It’s a way to colonize space by sending information and bots and making the people once you get there.

American and Chinese aircraft could be flying 4,000 miles per hour by 2030 – Don’t get too excited. With all the new security stuff they’ll add by then, overall travel time won’t be any faster.

Tertill: The solar powered weeding robot for home gardens – Want to buy a weeding robot? It roams around garden (which must be bordered or it will roam around the entire continent) and, when it finds little plans, it whacks them. It’s solar powered, so you pretty much just set and forget it.

How to Browse the Web and Leave No Trace – Remember that song “I always feel like somebody’s watching me”. They are. Your browser company, your ISP, the sites you visit, the sites they partner with – they are all tracking what you do online. This article talks about steps you can take to minimize how much other people know about your online habits.  If the “dissolving bodies in acid” article got you thinking, you might want to read this one carefully before doing more research.

NICEST Car Horn Ever- DIY – How to mod your car to have an alternate horn that isn’t so rude to use in non-emergency situations. If we’re going to mandate a lot of equipment on cars, we should require something like this.

The new new things that weren’t – A list of things that were supposed to be the big new thing that weren’t.

Politics and Policy

Michelle Carter Didn’t Kill With a Text – Can you be convicted of manslaughter by sending text messages to someone suicidal telling them “you just need to do it!”? At least one judge thinks so. We’ll see where this goes on appeal. My guess is that the conviction won’t stand. That said, she seems like a nasty piece of work.

Augmented reality lawsuit provides augmented view of 1st Amendment – Remember the Pokemon Go craze? It looks like Milwaukee County wants to regulate augmented reality games in its parks.

How to Think about Low-Income Housing – This starts off by pointing out how the recent spate of articles comparing median rents to minimum wages are stupid because low income people obviously can’t afford median priced housing. It then segues to an argument that the problem with affordable housing is a supply side issue rather than a subsidy or price control issue. We don’t make it easy to build inexpensive housing. I see that as part of a broader problem where people complain about the price of things (health care, college, housing) and then propose solutions that do nothing to lower the cost of providing the things they want. Instead, they focus on getting other people to pay for it.

An Affordable-Housing Fix – This is less about making affordable housing and more about how hard it is to make affordable housing in those trendy master-planned towns. What it boils down to is that providing lots of amenities for people costs lots of money.

The States Where Campus Free-Speech Bills Are Being Born: A Rundown – It looks like some people are trying to fix the problem of censorship and intolerance on college campuses with more laws. I guess I can get behind barring schools from restricting free speech to “zones”, but I don’t think that barring the disinviting of speakers or requiring them “to adopt broad statements of support for free expression” are the right answer. Isn’t requiring someone to make a statement in favor of free expression a little Orwellian?

Man Sentenced to Death for Blasphemous Facebook Comments in Pakistan [Updated] – This is one reason not to go to Pakistan. Death penalty for blasphemy? I wonder if that’ll inspire some university students to be tougher on their crackdown on thought crimes.

Millions Died Thanks to the Mother of Environmentalism – Should people in history be judged by their intents or their results? Rachel Carlson was instrumental in getting DDT banned around the world, which lead to millions of people dying from malaria. In 2006, the World Health Organization, finally started using DDT again. This article views Carlson harshly because of those millions of preventable deaths.

Economists’ View of Qatar Cutoff Is a Little Scary – I find the whole Qatar/Saudi thing perplexing. I’m not sure what is going on there. This article talks about how odd it is for us to be taking sides against Qatar given that we have an important military base there. That may harm the trust in other countries that give us military basis in return for implied support.

In Private Letter, Jeff Sessions Asks Congress for Permission to Go After Medical Marijuana – With all of the states legalizing pot, it is important to remember that it is still against federal law – even medical marijuana.

Gorsuch’s First Opinion: Let Debt Collectors Run Amok – Here’s a propaganda piece from someone that doesn’t like Gorsuch. It would make some sense if he was the deciding vote. He wasn’t. It was a unanimous 9-0 decision. Apparently the law restricting what debt collectors can do only applies to companies whose business is to collect debts for companies. If a bank buys debts, it isn’t restrained by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. That’s probably not good, but it is the way the law was written according to all 9 justices.

The Solution Is Single-Payer – This article talks about how CA and NY are considering single-payer systems and says “the fact that they have come this far shows that support for single-payer health care is strong and surging.” But support isn’t strong. If it was, the bluest states would set up single-payer solutions, but they aren’t. I challenge those blue states to do it. Instead of fighting the futile battles to get a national single-payer system in place, create state systems or even a single system that spans many states. What’s stopping you? Show those backward red states how it is done.

FDA misinterprets massive victory on teen smoking – High school student smoking rates have fallen by almost half in just 6 years! Somehow the FDA ignores the role of e-cigs in this amazing feat. Instead of celebrating e-cigs as a way to cut down on smoking, they FDA is trying to regulate them out of existence. Why? Favor to the tobacco lobby? Trying to preserve cig tax revenue? Just stupid?

Could Illinois be the first state to file for bankruptcy? – There is no legal framework for states to declare bankruptcy. On the other hand, Illinois is heading towards insolvency, so something has to happen. It’s going to be interesting. Maybe what we need is for the eligible voters in a state to take personal responsibility for a portion of the debts incurred when their elected leaders are in office. I think we’d see much more balanced budgets if that were the case.

A racist vestige of the past that progressives are happy to leave in place – There is a law, Davis-Bacon, that requires governments to pay union scale wages on federally funded projects. It is one of many reasons why infrastructure is so expensive to build in the US compared with everyplace else. This article points out the racist origins of the law. Bacon was upset that southern companies using black laborers were underbidding his local construction crews. You have to appreciate a law requiring overpaying workers on federal contracts being called “Bacon” – honesty in pork labeling.

Economics

Why The Fed Should Only Own Treasuries – An argument from Charles Plosser (former head of the Philadelphia Fed) that the Fed should only be able to buy treasuries. They bought a lot of mortgage backed securities in QE1-3.

The Long-Term Price of Oil Is … – An article speculating on the long term price of oil. I wish I knew where it was heading. Does anyone have a cost effective way to personally hedge against further oil price declines?

Next Steps for Gas Pricing – Building a liquid natural gas (LNG) plant is crazy expensive, so you need long term contracts to make financing possible. To do that, you need to settle on a way to determine the price of the gas over time. Up until recently, the price has primarily been determined by using an index based on the price of oil. Now, oil and gas prices have become so decoupled that a new method is needed, but natural gas markets aren’t robust enough to supply their own benchmark. An interesting problem.

Restaurant die-off is first course of California’s $15 minimum wage – The obvious result of the significant increase in the minimum wage is that businesses that depend on low wage workers are closing at a faster rate, just like everyone with a clue expected. Incidentally, just like Davis-Bacon, minimum wage laws in the US were originally started to prevent minorities from underbidding white workers.

June 11, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

How Lego clicked: the super brand that reinvented itself – As recently as 2003, the company was in so much trouble that it looked like it might not survive. Now it is the world’s most powerful brand. My favorite from the article line: “The Lego Batman Movie, outperformed the last “proper” Batman movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to such a degree that DC Comics now faces a genuine problem: audiences overwhelmingly prefer the Dark Knight in his pompous and plastic version voiced by Will Arnett, rather than Ben Affleck’s portrayal.”

 

Amazon is offering a discount on Prime for people on government assistance – Why? Because businesses make more money using price discrimination. They all want to charge each customer as much as that customer is willing to pay. Of course, it is usually hard to charge different prices to different customers. Some companies use things like “senior discounts”. Amazon has decided to use eligibility for government assistance as a guide. Colleges are smarter. They require that you fill out a detailed assessment of your finances so that they can be certain that they are getting as much money as possible from you.

 

Solved: The 47-Year Mystery of a Murder Victim’s Many Identities – This was a surprisingly interesting story of a mysterious corpse. It turns out that she was a cross-dressing drug dealer that moved to NYC from the South.

 

Why Men Don’t Live as Long as Women – DISCRIMINATION! Not really. This article says that it is the testosterone and extra muscle mass – get bulky, get more chicks, die younger.

 

How to Pack the Perfect Beauty Bag for Summer Travel – This was definitely written for women that rely on what seems like a lot of makeup to me. They didn’t cover it, so here is my advice to guys. Get your hair cut short enough that you can comb it with your fingers. Don’t bother shaving while you are traveling. Pick up some sunscreen when you get there. As a guy, you don’t have as long to live as chicks do, so don’t waste it futzing about with your appearance while you are on vacation.

 

The Weird, Forgotten, Awesome Sport of Spaceball – The guy that invented the trampoline invented a really awesome (their term; it looked kind of stupid to me) sport called Spaceball. In the second video in the article, there is a guy with pants that have one white leg and one red leg. The 70s may have been the most embarrassing decade in history.

 

AMTRAK AND EXPRESS COACH LINES: WHAT’S COMPETITION HAVE TO DO WITH IT? – There are buses that compete with Amtrak to haul people across the country. Who are these people? I don’t think I know anyone that takes the train or bus for long distance travel. Not in my bubble.

 

Tickets and Auto Insurance Rates: What’s Fact or Fiction Regarding Moving Violations – Different moving violations result in different insurance prices increases in different states, mostly driven indirectly by regulations. In states that require the primary means of determining rates to be driving records (rather than other predictive characteristics like credit ratings), violations result in larger price increases.

 

Movie Accent Expert Breaks Down 32 Actors’ Accents – I rarely pay attention to accents in movies. This is a dialect coach commenting on 32 different performances. There’s more to it than I thought.

 

What is a cult? – How do you define cults as distinct from religions? They couldn’t come up with an objective definition. It’s kind of like determining the difference between art and pornography. I found it amusing that the compared CrossFit to a cult.

 

A Bizarre SS Expedition to Tibet – A weird trip to Tibet by Nazis looking for a hidden tribe of Aryans. They brought home a bunch of dead birds instead.

Health – Physical and Mental

The Mackinac Island Stone Skipping Competition – The winner is typically in the low 20s of skips.

 

Just Give It 7 Seconds – I sometimes enjoy reading things from people so very different from me that it seems almost like an anthropological study. This is by a woman relating the very common (in her world) problem of being drunk or stoned and saying something embarrassing and then worrying about it. This is her advice on how to deal with that. I’m sure that you’ve already guessed that her answer doesn’t involve not getting drunk and stoned so often. It’s to not dwell on your embarrassing faux pas for more than 7 seconds.

 

Even moderate drinking can damage the brain, claim researchers – I’m shocked! Something that jacks with your brain may have lasting effects if you do it pretty much every day? Seriously though, this is a British study, so when they talk about “moderate drinking”, they are using British standards. And what they tested was “the ability of a person to name as many words as they can within a minute beginning with a certain letter.”  Outside of Boggle, how often is this an important skill?

 

MOST PEOPLE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND MY EATING DISORDER – This isn’t the Onion, but it reads kind of like it. This guy has “Exercise Bulimia”. He overeats and then goes on an exercise bender to burn it off. Then he celebrates with food and, well, you can guess the rest of the cycle. I’m struggling to take the seriously and feel empathy rather than just saying “quit being an idiot”. Anorexia is a real and serious thing, so I guess maybe this is too. It just seems so weird.

 

Why Weight Training Is Ridiculously Good For You – Wait a second. I thought weight training was going to make me bulky and die young. Or give me “exercise bulimia”. Now you’re saying it is good for me. Sometimes I wish the Internet would get its story straight.

 

Ancient Practice of Eating Soil Might Pose Risks to Unborn Babies – Speaking of seeming weird, the surprisingly common practice of eating soil (typically clay) by women can be harmful for their unborn children.

 

How to Deal with Resentment When Your Friends Make More Money Than You – Drink alcohol? Eat clay? This is another one I struggle to take seriously. Why would you resent someone because they make more money than you do? Besides, there is a good chance that they don’t; they just spend more than you do. Either way, don’t measure yourself against other people. That’s stupid.

 

Do Different Sugars Have Different Health Effects? This was probably the stupidest article of the week. It whines about various sugars, but it never really answers the question at all.

 

Popeyes is now frying its chicken in mashed up cookies — here’s the verdict – Fried chicken coated in cookie crumbs. I loved fried chicken and cookies, but this doesn’t really sound appealing.

Art and Culture

The Road Not Taken – Everyone is familiar with the Robert Frost poem about taking the road less traveled. I always assumed the poem was about choosing your own path. It wasn’t. It was about “one who habitually wastes energy in regretting any choice made: belatedly but wistfully he sighs over the attractive alternative rejected.” Just pick a road and don’t waste time looking back.

 

Wonder Woman 1967 Screen Test – They almost made a TV series about Wonder Woman back in the sixties. Take a look at this and you’ll quickly see why they opted not to. What the hell were they thinking? It is worse than you think it will be.

 

When Steven Van Zandt convinced AZAPO to take Paul Simon off a hit list and what Paul Simon really thought of Nelson Mandela – There was a group of people that had Paul Simon on their assassination list because he violated a boycott of South Africa to make his Graceland album. That’s taking Social Justice Warrior to a disturbing level.

 

6 Things OKAY in the USA (but rude/prohibited in Japan) – There was stuff I didn’t know in this. I learned that tattoos are so frowned upon that most pools and hot springs in Japan don’t allow people with tattoos unless they are covered with a patch. I learned that it is rude to ask for menu changes. It is always rude to talk on your phone in public places like trains. OK, I thought that was considered rude here too.

 

See the Most Exquisite Mosques Around the World – Pretty slideshow of beautiful Mosque pictures.

Science

Celestial boondocks: Study supports the idea that we live in a void – It looks like our galaxy is in a relatively quiet part of the universe. We’re rural in universe terms.

 

Data, Truth and Null Results – Remember that study that showed that if you force yourself to smile, you’ll find things more amusing? It was crap. Not reproducible.

 

Mysterious and rare whale, spotted in new waters – Pygmy Killer Whales off the coast of Mozambique. They look like dolphins to me.

Technology

Before Silicon Valley, New Jersey Reigned As Nation’s Center Of Innovation – Things change. About the only thing that doesn’t change is that things change.

 

Eager To Burst His Own Bubble, A Techie Made Apps To Randomize His Life – This crazy guy wanted to branch out, so he wrote an app that sent him off to random events. I kind of admire the spirit, but I’d want to be a little more discriminating, which would kind of defeat the purpose.

 

NSA Leaker Outed Thanks to Modern Printer Technology – How did they catch Reality Winner so quickly? One method may be that the printer she used encoded the date, time, and its serial number of the printout she made. That’s almost universal behavior in color laser printers. They print the code using really faint yellow dots, which most people can’t see or just assume to be spots from microwave popcorn.

 

What to Do If You’re Getting Ringless Voicemail From Telemarketers – Have you gotten these? I haven’t. Apparently some companies can have spam appear directly in your voicemail on your cell phone without having your phone ring. Some people are arguing that this should be perfectly legal and acceptable. I say it should result in the death penalty.

 

Russian malware communicates by leaving comments in Britney Spears’s Instagram account – I’m sure that you, like me, have been confused by some of the nonsensical comments on Britney’s Instagram pages. It turns out that these were encoded messages used by Russia malware to let copies in the wild know where to report back information.

 

Hyatt shopping for speakers as smart concierge battle heats up – Looks like Hyatt is testing out the Amazon Echo for hotel rooms. I tell you who really needs this – hospitals. Even something as simple as using it as a speakerphone that you can answer and control by voice would be nice when you are stuck in a hospital bed. Not sure what they’d do in Scotland though.

Politics and Policy

Ocean City acts to keep women from going topless at beach – I don’t see the point in rules barring women from going topless at beaches. Besides, many of the bathing suits worn today don’t really cover much of anything anyway. Just let people do what they choose. Of course, those people should also realize that the law allows people to take pictures in public places.

 

House Overwhelmingly Supports Bill Subjecting Teen Sexters to 15 Years in Federal Prison – Looks like we’re getting tough on sex crimes again. As usual, we aren’t being very careful about it. Should this law pass (which seems likely), judges will be compelled by the law to sentence a teen that sends a nude photo of themselves to another teen to 15 years in prison.

 

Dems want Hillary Clinton to leave spotlight – Who doesn’t? She was an awful candidate. She lost to Donald Trump in the general election for goodness sake.

 

E-Cigarettes: When Regulatory Overkill Actually Kills – E-Cigarettes aren’t really safe. Users are inhaling cancer causing chemicals. On the other hand, they are much safer than cigarettes, which they typically replace. I suspect the fuss is being driven by a combination of the tobacco companies and the governments that thrive off of tobacco revenue.

 

Trump’s Plan To Privatize Air Traffic Control Explained – We have one the most pathetic and antiquated air traffic control systems in the world, so I’m game to try almost anything new.

 

Freeze That Slush: DoJ Cuts Off Flow of Settlement Cash To Private Groups – The practice of giving legal settlement money to politically favored private groups has been increasing. It’s an awful practice that shouldn’t be constitutional as it bypasses the legislature. AG Sessions has temporarily put a stop to it.

 

Meet the Texas Lawmaker Fighting Trump on Civil Asset Forfeiture – Not every position held by Tea Party people is crazy. Here’s a Texas lawmaker fighting to make it against the law for the police to steal from people. Today, they can confiscate your cash without even accusing you of a crime and force you to go through lengthy and expensive lawsuits to get your own money back. I’d like a compromise. Let them keep the ability to confiscate stuff, if they take someone’s assets and don’t get a conviction, they have to return them and pay the same interest and penalties that the IRS would have assessed for a similar take underpayment. If they do it often, they should have their assets seized and be prosecuted for theft.

 

Jeremy Corbyn has caused a sensation – he would make a fine prime minister – Yeah, like Hugo Chavez made a great leader for Venezuela. Has it been so long since Maggy rescued Britain that they’ve completely forgotten how bad their path toward socialism was? I guess so.

 

Trump is dismantling Obama’s workplace law legacy – Trump is undoing a lot of regulations put in place during the Obama administration. How? Because they were all done via executive agencies. What one executive can do, the next can easily undo. Just another reminder that legislation should come from congress rather than the White House or the executive agencies.

 

Public broadcasting can survive, and even improve, without federal subsidies – It strikes me as odd that we use tax money to subsidize programming that has a much wealthier than average demographic. PBS gets something like 15% of its funding from the feds. It’ll be just fine without that revenue.

Economics and Finance

Do Not Drain Your 401(k), or Let a Former Employer Do It – Duh. Maybe we should replace SS with a system where people are allowed to save and manage their own retirement, but if they set aside too little, then the state takes control of their retirement savings for them. Smart people get the freedom they deserve and those with less foresight get the protection that they need.

 

Do minimum wage increases influence worker health? – Short answer – yes, negatively, mostly because of the large impact to the health of those made unemployed.

 

Venn diagram of the day: Does the Law of Demand apply to sugary drinks but not unskilled labor? – Cute little article showing that there is a huge overlap between people that correctly believe that raising the price of soft drinks will reduce consumption of those soft drinks but also believe that they can raise the cost of unskilled labor without reducing the demand for unskilled labor.

 

How Much Do Shoes Cost (for Men vs Women)? – This was surprisingly bad. Priceonomics usually has well thought out articles, but this was just weak. They compared median prices by brand rather than trying to compare comparable shoes. It’s just terrible is so many ways.

 

Summary of Solutions by Overall Rank – What should we do about climate change? This page attempts to summarize the areas we can address by their impact and includes their cost where possible. Big winners – reducing CFCs, wind turbines, and reducing food waste. Low ranked items – ridesharing, trains, green roofs.

June 4, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

This is much shorter than usual. It was a busy week for me, so I didn’t read much.

Other

The Curious Case of the Disappearing Nuts – People steal nuts. In bulk. By the truckload. Regularly. I’d heard of a few cases, but this article tells about how common it is and how it works.

Wedge-tailed eagle captured swooping on drone – Just a picture; no video. A farmer in Australia was monitoring his barley seeding equipment with a drone when an eagle objected.

My Short Life On a Real Ranch – A city boy in college goes to stay with his friend on their family’s ranch. It sounds like ranching involves a lot of work, much of it done early.

When Buying Life Insurance Was Deemed Immoral – What? Apparently people thought that insuring against death was tantamount to challenging God’s plan or something. Interestingly, buying life insurance became popular as people moved from farms to the cities because the financial consequences of death increased.

Revealed: Sergey Brin’s secret plans to build the world’s biggest aircraft – If I had tens of billions of dollars, I think I’d make a giant airship too.

New York Pizza Styles: A Complete Guide – A list of a bunch of different New York Style pizzas. Some are familiar here. Neapolitan (Grimaldi’s). NY Style (RC’s, Brothers). We have some local styles that I didn’t see on the list– Biba’s very doughy Greek style. Greek Tony’s sweet sauce. I often hear that you can’t get NY pizza anywhere else. That’s just a fantasy. It is undoubtedly where a lot of great pizza was originated, but nothing stopped people from taking those same ingredients and techniques to other places.

Ray Spencer Didn’t Molest His Kids. So Why Did He Spend 20 Years in Prison for It? – Back in the 80s, the country was caught in a Salem witch-trial like mania regarding stories of child molestation. That’s not to say that it didn’t happen. But prosecutions got so zealous that they railroaded innocent people by manipulating kids into making stuff up. This is a story of a relatively typical case. It should serve as a reminder that even when awful crimes are alleged, you should still require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to convict people. Could something like this happen again? Absolutely. Look at the way sexual assault charges are prosecuted on college campuses.

5 choices you will regret forever – This is one of those articles on what dying people regret, presumably to help us not make the same mistakes. I think they all make the mistake of assuming that a dying person has a perfect perspective. For example, “They wish they hadn’t worked so hard”. My guess is that as death approaches, they focus on the missed opportunities from working hard (and the bigger concern is probably working long hours), but they don’t think about how much materially better off their lives were or how much earlier they were able to retire because of that hard work. So listen to dying people, but put their advice in the proper perspective or you may regret it.

Health – Physical and Mental

The Weight Loss Trap: Why Your Diet Isn’t Working – An interesting collection of information on dieting and how successful diets vary. What works for some people doesn’t work for others. Well, eating fewer calories than you burn always works, but how to do that sustainably varies. Given how many people try very, very hard to lose weight and keep it off, it seems clear that the answer isn’t simple.

How to Warmly Greet People Without Having to Touch Them – This article doesn’t live up to its billing. One defense it suggests against huggers is to preemptively stick your hand out for a handshake, but that involves touching them. I’ve found that an icy glare works best, but some people are still oblivious and insist on hugs. I think I’m going to start coating my clothing with Iocane powder.

Popular People Live Longer – Well, at least I made it to my 50s. The thrust of this article is that people live on average longer if they have good social connections. They stress that this means real friendships and not just having high social status but not really being connected to people.

 

A cognitive scientist has devised a drug-free sleep trick for your restless mind – My first thought when I saw the headline was “staff meetings”. Then I read it and realized that was exactly what this was about. “lull the brain into that groggy state that precedes a sleep cycle by asking it to focus on random words and images, without making connections between them.” I rest my case.

“They Basically Reset My Brain” – Jermichael Finley rights about his concussion issues. Very moving. Seems like things are getting better for him, but this story rarely ends well. Once again I have to ask whether switching to flag football might not be a better option that the maiming that occurs regularly in the NFL and even college football.

Art and Culture

Japan is suffering from a ninja shortage amid huge demand from foreign tourists – Add this to the list of jobs not likely to be taken by robots anytime soon. Well, maybe in Westworld. Or would that be Eastworld?

Colleges Celebrate Diversity With Separate Commencements – There is a weird tension between people wanting to celebrate their cultural differences and complaining about being seen as different.

I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind. – I’ve never been fond of the intentionally inflammatory term “breeder” for people who have children, but I sympathize with the frustration that couples not having children must feel with the constant nagging they get to have children. This is by a woman that changed her mind and had a child. The best takeaway from this is to be careful about making judgments about how you’ll behave in the future. Don’t close doors without a good reason.

Johnny Depp: A Star in Crisis and the Insane Story of His “Missing” Millions – Gossip about Johnny Depp’s financial mismanagement. Who doesn’t want to read about how someone that earned over half a billion dollars is a drunkard in financial trouble?

16 dining etiquette rules every professional should know – I’ve always found etiquette rules to be fascinating. Some make logical sense, saying “please” and “thank you” to the wait staff. Others seem terribly silly and arbitrary, like we’re some sort of primitive tribe following rituals – “Wait for the host to take his or her napkin before touching yours” or “Always break bread with your hands”. Some just seem stupid, like “Never ask for a to-go box” or “Do not push away or stack your dishes”. I’d add in a #17, which is “Don’t judge business associates by how well they adhere to some arbitrary set of eating utensil handling rules unless that probably has something to do with the business you are engaged in.”

Science

Snakes can actually hunt in packs – Just in case you didn’t have enough to worry about. This study done in caves in Cuba showed that snakes coordinate the attacks because attacking as a group is more effective. It may only apply to communist snakes.

Two minds – An article about the brain differences between men and women. My favorite line (because it confirms what I’ve observed: “Navigation studies in both humans and rats show that females of both species tend to rely on landmarks, while males more typically rely on ‘dead reckoning’: calculating one’s position by estimating the direction and distance traveled rather than using landmarks.”

Technology

Colossal Cave Adventure – The granddaddy of all computer adventure games has been open sourced. If you aren’t familiar with the game, you can read about it on Wikipedia here. It was the first significant computer game that I ever played.

King Chrome: Microsoft’s browsers sidelined on its own OS – I’ve switched to using Chrome as my default at work. It’s best with plugins. The ones I use at home are uBlock (ad-blocking), Disconnect (tracker blocking), Camelizer (Amazon price history), Google Dictionary, Personal Blocklist (to block specific sites from coming up in search results), Pocket (save pages for referencing later), HTTPS Everywhere (increased security), MightText (texting via my computer), Disable HTML5 Autoplay (to stop videos from playing without me starting them).

Business

Emotional Intelligence Is The Real Secret To Getting Promoted Faster – It certainly helps, but it is neither a secret nor the only ingredient.

Politics and Policy

Why Toyota is an American Car – A short article explaining that because supply chains are global, talking about a complex product like a car as “American” or “foreign” is nonsensical.

A Tax Cut Might Be Nice. But Remember the Deficit. – An article on the trade-off between tax cuts and deficit spending by former GBW economic advisor Greg Mankiw. I think the focus should be on tax simplification and spending reductions rather than tax reductions. Cutting taxes without cutting spending is just another way of deferring taxes.

You’re Not Going to Change Your Mind – The gist of the article is that if people would just look at the facts, they would agree more on political issues. I think it is misguided for many reasons. First, most political views are the result of tribal loyalties and not an assessment of the facts. Second, many views derive from different value judgments (balancing increases in wealth vs inequality, trading off freedoms for safety, etc).

Students harass white professor for refusing to leave campus on anti-white ‘Day of Absence’ – Evergreen State College has had a tradition in which all non-white students and faculty are absent on a particular day. This year, they decided to reverse it and have all white people leave campus, but one prof didn’t want to. That made a lot of people really angry, with some of them demanding that he be fired. OK….scratch Evergreen State off the list of potential colleges for my kids.

Economics

The Indestructible Idea of the Basic Income – A good overview of the concept of a state supplied universal basic income. I’m still very skeptical of the idea. To me, it is an idea whose time has not yet arrived, but I’d love to see some places (in which I am not a taxpayer) experiment with it.

The world is sitting on a $400 trillion financial time bomb – It’s a pretty dumb article, but an interesting topic. It insists that we need to save more for people’s retirement. But if we all save more, won’t that further depress returns on capital?

Paris Climate Agreement

I didn’t read anything very good on the climate agreement or the US rejection of it. My instinct says that it was probably an unenforceable agreement without much substance, like Kyoto was. It certainly seems that climate change is real and largely human related, but saying that doesn’t automatically mean that any given proposal to do something about it makes sense. To know that, you have to be able to estimate the effects of taking the course of action – both the costs and the benefits and compare those to the cost of not taking the action. I almost never see anyone trying to do that. Everyone seems to just be for or against a proposal based on which team they cheer for. If I were to do anything about the climate today, I would focus on two things – spending money on research and experimenting with carbon taxes. The former will help us understand the consequences of more warming (which seems inevitable) and the latter will help us understand the costs of carbon reduction.