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.