June 11, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


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.


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.


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.