July 30, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

SLEEP IN THESE BUBBLES AND WATCH ICELAND’S NORTHERN LIGHTS – Sleep in a clear bubble in rural Iceland. Looks like fun. A bit lacking in privacy, though.

 

The Inside Story of Why Disney Spent Half a Billion Dollars on an Avatar Theme Park – Remember a movie called Avatar? The one with blue people, not the bald kid. It was a big hit a while ago but seems largely forgotten now. Disney is making a major park addition based on it. This article tried to explain the mystery of why they chose to do that. I still don’t get it.

 

There’s a scientific reason why 2-week vacations are actually a waste – This article claims that longer vacations show diminishing returns because it still amounts to one “memory”. I think that is a stupid way of looking at it. To me, getting away from work for more extended periods pays huge dividends in mental refreshment.

 

Ever wonder how Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) actually work? – Probably not, but if you have, here’s a YouTube video that does a good job of explaining.

 

How earthquake scientists eavesdrop on North Korea’s nuclear blasts – Ever wonder how we know so much about the North Korean’s bombs? This is a good explanation.

 

Ravens Are So Smart, One Hacked This Researcher’s Experiment – They seem very smart and logical. Hmmm… Does anyone know if ravens live to be 35 years old? Are ones born in the US considered to be “natural born citizens?” Add your own joke about tweeting here.

 

Why I’m never signing up for Amazon Prime – A bizarre rant about Amazon. The best example of the author’s inanity is “Insofar as possible, I think we should pay full price for the things we want.” You go ahead, buddy.

 

Why Don’t Whales Get Out of the Way? – It looks like ships hit whales fairly frequently because it hasn’t occurred to whales that this is a risk so they don’t bother to get out of the way.

 

How to Fix Traffic Forever – Freeway access lights, congestion pricing, roundabouts, and new intersection designs – there are a lot of improvements we could make.

 

How often you should wash your bed sheets, according to a microbiologist — and what happens when you don’t – They never really come out and say how often, but they make sheets sound disgusting and imply that weekly is the longest acceptable time. Then again, remembering what I learned last week, maybe having clean sheets makes your immune system weak.

 

Two days in an underwater cave running out of oxygen – This is one reason why I don’t cave dive. He seems like a total nut job to me. Then again, I’m sure I seem like that to some people when I go canoeing with gators, go hang gliding, or go eight days without washing my bed sheets.

 

Health – Physical and Mental

Apparently, People Who Fart In Front Of Their Partner Are More Likely To Have A Lasting Relationship – This is good to know. I never realized that this was the key to a successful marriage. From now on I’m dropping “Excuse me” in favor of “You’re welcome”.

 

Is Peeing in the Pool Dangerous or Just Gross? – What is with all the articles on peeing in pools this year? Is “pee week” going to replace “shark week”? Once again, they use a lot of scary chemical names to make it sound like a major health hazard. I still think the primary reason is grossness and that the health issues are overblown. Either way, if you are in a waterpark on a crowded day and you notice that there is almost nobody in the bathroom, don’t think too much about it.

 

Intrepid: Methods to detect and prevent sexual assault – With some people claiming that a fifth of women in college are sexually assaulted, you can see how there would be demands for ways to improve safety. This video shows an interesting approach. It’s like an electronic chastity belt. Take it off and your phone asks you to confirm consent.

 

110 N.F.L. Brains – Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to play football. Based on this examination of donated NFL player brains (admittedly not a random sample), it looks like football has serious negative long-term cognitive effects. I know it sounds crazy, but I think we need to start seriously considering a move to flag football at all levels of play.

 

U.S. proposes cigarette nicotine cut, shift toward e-cigarettes – Will cutting the nicotine in cigs work to reduce smoking? Will it create a black market in stronger cigs for addicts? If you say it is OK for them to do this, what would your argument be against banning high sugar levels in soda? I’d love to see fewer people smoking, but I don’t know if this is the right way to do it.

 

Don’t Let That Viral Drinking Water Database Scare You – The Environmental Working Group has a database you can use to check out the safety of your local water supply. Sadly, the standards it uses for what constitutes safe water are crazy. I think that this is just another case of people realizing that you can get a lot of attention and make a lot of money if you scare people.

 

Amazon has a secret health tech team called 1492 working on medical records, virtual doc visits – I sure hope this is true. We definitely need much more efficient provisioning of health care. I’m picturing a near future where I can “visit” a doctor online for routine stuff and not have to go in to an office full of sick people.

 

Time, not material goods, ‘raises happiness’ – The concept of this article (spending money on time not stuff) make sense, but some of the specifics seem daft. In particular, “The researchers found that fewer than a third of individuals spent money to buy themselves time each month.” Really? They didn’t spend money on driving or mass transit to save the time of walking to get places? They didn’t spend money on meals they could have made or groceries that they could have grown? I think we all trade money for time so often that we lose sight of how often we do it. Still, I see how people don’t do this as often as they should. We were driving someone home the other day and I had the opportunity to save a couple of minutes by spending $0.50 to take a toll overpass instead of exiting and going through a couple of lights. With four people in the car and roughly 2 minutes to save, that worked out to spending the equivalent of $3.50/person/hour for the time saved. My wife was surprised that I would spend the money and I was surprised that she would even consider not trading it for the time.

Art and Culture

Surprise! You’re at Our Wedding! – It appears that people are having parties and then, during the party, announcing that it is really a wedding. I don’t get it and the article doesn’t make the “why” very clear at all. I guess if you show up to big fancy party and your friend and their partner have invited a bunch of friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers, be ready for a wedding to break out.

 

What Directors Really Think of Ballet Dancers Going To College – Apparently going to college isn’t a big thing for getting a job in ballet.

Science

Half of the Milky Way comes from other galaxies – Great. We we’re appropriating from other galaxies even before we started evolving. Now we’ve got to worry about aliens in other galleries demanding reparations.

 

DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites – An interesting look at the DNA from the people living in the region of the Bible in an attempt to ascertain whether the Canaanites were wiped out or not.

Generation of blue chrysanthemums by anthocyanin B-ring hydroxylation and glucosylation and its coloration mechanism – Real blue chysanthemums without having to use dye or photoshop. I love science.

Technology and Data

A Tech Bubble Killed Computer Science Once, Can It Do So Again? – Looks like majoring in computer science is hot again.

 

17 helpful Google products and services you never knew existed – A list of some of the stuff Google offers. I didn’t know they had animal sounds.

 

This is How Google will Collapse – Is Google about to collapse? The author of this thinks so.

 

Trusted Contacts now on iOS – This is a handy Google app that we use. You install it on your phone and you tell it who you trust to see your location. At any time, they can ask your phone to send them your location. By default, it gives you 5 minutes to refuse, but the latest version lets you change that delay. This is handy for things like trying to figure out why you are late coming home or where you might have left your phone. It shows the person whose phone is being located that you checked up on them, so it doesn’t have the creepy feeling of other less transparent monitoring tools. It’s also very likely that Google already knows where your phone is, so you aren’t sharing your location with yet another company. Don’t think Google is tracking where your phone goes? Try this link to see. I can use it to see where my phone has been every day since 2014.

 

A Wisconsin company will let employees use microchip implants to buy snacks and open doors – I wear a badge at work to unlock doors, let me use the elevator, check in at the gym, and even buy lunch. This company is giving people the option of implanting the chip from their badge chip into their hands. Would you do it? I’d probably say no as long as I still had to carry an office key.

 

The Scottish Scoundrel Who Changed How We See Data – I never thought about it, but somebody must have invented pie charts. This is the story about a color character named William Playfair, that either invented or popularized a lot of visualizations that are common today.

 

Our World in Data – This is a cool site with lots of visualizations of data. Categories include population, health, food, energy, environment, technology, growth & inequality, work & life, public sector, and more. William Playfair would be proud.

 

Roombas have been mapping your homes for years, and that data’s about to be sold to the highest bidder – Want data about the size and layouts of people’s homes? Buy it from Roomba.

 

How Cellophane Changed the Way We Shop for Food – It’s kind of hard to see cellophane as technology these days, but it was 100 years ago. It had a profound effect on the way we shop. I thought that this quote was interesting in the context of the recent move to pick-up grocery shopping: “retailers depended on a consumer’s ability to see a product before buying it.”

Politics and Policy

Texas man ordered to pay $65G in child support for kid who isn’t his – If I understand this correctly, this guy has to pay back child support for a child that isn’t his and that he only met once because that was the amount of child support that accumulated before he proved his non-parenthood with a paternity test. That doesn’t seem right. I’m guessing that there is more to this story.

 

Cop Brutally Arrests Woman For Selling Flowers – You can’t just go around selling flowers wherever you want. We have laws to protect people from flower solicitors and we appear to have law enforcement offers that are quite zealous about protecting people from those modern-day Eliza Doolittles.

 

Claremont college suspends students who blocked access to event with pro-police speaker – Props to Claremont. They had an unpopular academic giving a speech on campus. Many students exercised their right to protest. Some took it too far and blocked other people from getting in to see the lecturer. Those students have been suspended for a year. I consider people that block others from speaking to be intellectual cowards afraid that their own views won’t hold up to being challenged.

 

Election Betting Odds – This has been one of my favorite sites for monitoring approaching elections because it uses gambling odds rather than polls. It has two interesting parts relating to the US Presidency. One is a prediction of who will win the 2020 Presidential election (current odds are 27% Trump, 10% Warren, 8% Pence, 5% Sanders, 5% Dwayne Johnson, …) and the odds that Trump will leave office by year (2017 – 11%, 2018 23%, 2019 – 15%, >= 2020 50%).

 

Trump Reversal on International Taxes Could Hurt U.S. Workers – This article sees the impact of ending our policy of taxing companies on overseas earning exactly opposite from me. I think it will allow US companies to bring overseas profits back to the US to invest here. The author sees it as an incentive to invest more overseas. I think it is important to recognize that the US is the only civilized country that tries to tax its domestic companies on overseas earnings.

 

Trump is something the nation did not know it needed – This article shows an interesting perspective on how Trump is affecting the Presidency. In the author’s view, people have been putting too much faith in and granting too much power to the Presidency. Trump is teaching them the folly of that approach, thereby restoring more balance between the three branches. I’ll believe it when I see concrete action taken by congress to restore the power that it has ceded.

 

San Francisco DA: Anti-theft law results in huge drop in stolen phones – It looks like mandating kill switches for phones has been a big help in reducing phone theft.

 

Business & Economics

The World’s Highest Paid Athletes – It starts with Renaldo, LeBron, Messi, Federer, and Durant. Serena Williams is the only woman on the list. In this article on that subject, Serena says “When the subject of equal pay comes up, it frustrates me because I know firsthand that I, like you, have done the same work and made the same sacrifices as our male counterparts.” Surely she knows that’s not how it works. A lot of less athletically gifted people do “the same work and made the same sacrifices” and didn’t make nearly as much as she did. Athletes are entertainers and get paid based on how much money they make for sponsors. If she wants women athletes to get paid more, she needs to complain to the fans who clearly prefer male athletes.

 

P&G Cuts More Than $100 Million in ‘Largely Ineffective’ Digital Ads – Think the talk of Google being in trouble is just crazy talk? This article might make you take the threat more seriously.

 

We Need To Talk About Universal Basic Income – I thought that this was a really good explanation of Universal Basic Income along with some of the concerns about it.

 

Economy Needs Workers, but Drug Tests Take a Toll – According to this article, a lot of businesses are having a hard time finding workers that aren’t on drugs. If that is a problem today, imagine what it would be like with a Universal Basic Income, when people who want to sit at home stoned are guaranteed an income.

 

The opioid crisis is creating a fresh hell for America’s employers – This is a different article on the same topic drawing the same conclusion.

 

What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work – Here’s an article by someone that thinks that we’re moving to a world where people increasingly work as independent contractors hired to work on projects.

 

Is Amazon getting too big? – This is one of several article I saw this week on Amazon being “too big” and needing to be broken up by the government. Given that they aren’t close to a monopoly and that people clearly use them because they provided desirable services at good prices, this seems crazy to me. Can we at least wait until their customers hate them? Anyway, I thought it was interesting that this article appeared in Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post.

 

Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem? – An increasing percentage of young people view “capitalism” as a bad thing. They usually start with a bizarre description of it, like this article’s “a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on.” Here’s another profanity laden diatribe on the same topic. I see this as a combination of youthful jealousy of successful people combined with a failure of education. It’s hard to understand how any reasonably educated person can look at the relative success of capitalist countries vs those where the state controls the economy and still think that capitalism is bad. When the world’s poor and disposed flee, do they run to capitalist countries or socialist countries?

 

Socialist Sweden – Swedish historian Johan Norberg explains why we should be cautious when people hold up Sweden as a successful example of socialism.

 

 

July 23, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

The 10+ Most Hilarious Parenting Tweets Of The Year So Far – Amusing things that parents tweet, mostly conversations with their children.

 

Frances Gabe, Creator of the Only Self-Cleaning Home, Dies at 101 – Want a self-cleaning home? This lady built one. She sounds like a nutter.

 

DIY coffin-building workshop reviving dying art of casket-making – This almost seems worth doing just to see how it would impact conversations. “What did you do this weekend?” “I worked on my coffin.”

 

The Trouble With Sex Robots – This article is weird even by the standards of articles about sex robots. The author seems very bothered by the inability of sex robots to truly give consent. Now I’m wondering, should I feel shame for penetrating my toaster with a waffle this morning?

 

Take Photos of Stove Dials Before You Leave for Vacation – Do people worry about leaving their stove on when they take a vacation? I’ve never given it a second thought. I take a picture of where I parked at the airport.

 

First statewide bicycle tax in nation leaves bike-crazy Oregon riders deflated – What’s stronger in Oregon, the desire to promote biking over driving or the desire to raise taxes? Looks like raising taxes won this round.

 

IQ costs Oregon parents their kids, but is that fair? – How smart do you have to be to be a parent? Sounds like a joke, but it is a serious question. This couple had two children removed (one immediately after childbirth), not because of abuse or neglect, but because a caseworker didn’t think that they were mentally capable of being good parents. Keep in mind, this is in a state where most citizens aren’t considered competent enough to pump their own gas.

 

‘Anti-pervert’ flame-throwers for sale in China – What the heck? Women in China are buying personal flame throwers. They “can leave a permanent scar, but are a legal, non-lethal tool. Not a weapon.”

 

Body camera footage shows officer planting drugs, public defender says – This includes a video showing a cop planting some drugs and then “finding them”. He forgot that when he turned on his body camera, it would keep the 30 seconds of recording it made before he pressed the “record” button.

 

40 Ways the World Is Getting Better – One thing getting worse is the number of people whining that the world is getting worse. Most other things are getting better. This is a list of 40 of those ways.

 

Events in Iceland explain years of famine in Europe’s Dark Ages – Looks like a volcano in Iceland blew up in 820 and caused a famine in Europe. As a person of European decent, I’d like to see reparations or at least an apology from those smug Icelanders.

 

Disney

Disney Vows to Give Epcot a Magical, Long-Overdue Makeover – Epcot. It’s old. It’s not well attended compared to the other parks. Looks like it is time for a change.

 

Epcot Overhaul 2018-2021 – Here is a video with more information/speculation.

 

Disney is opening an immersive Star Wars Hotel where each guest gets a storyline – Looks like they are going to open a hotel themed to be like space ship. What about windows? They’ll replace them with screens of space scenes. A hotel full of windowless rooms? You try it first and tell me how it goes.

 

Fly-Through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – A video of a mockup of the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of Hollywood Studios. Surely they’ll get Samsung to sponsor it.

Health – Physical and Mental

‘Dirt Is Good’: Why Kids Need Exposure To Germs – “Wash a pacifier or lick it if it falls on the ground? Lick it. A study of over 300,000 children showed that parents who licked the pacifier and put it back in — their kids developed less allergies, less asthma, less eczema.” What the heck? How did somebody get funding for a 300,000 person study on parental pacifier licking? My BS meter is pegged at max on this one.

 

If you feel like you’re doing everything right and still can’t lose weight, this could be why – This article doesn’t say that the calories in/calories out school of thought is wrong. It says that those measures are so imprecise as to make them almost useless. The message is more along the lines of eat more stuff that is fulfilling but lower in calories.

 

Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health – This is a meta-analysis of studies on people switching to artificial sugar in place of sugar. The overall result is that fake sugar doesn’t seem to help reduce weight gain. My theory is that after drinking diet soda, you have to eat something else to get rid of the nasty aftertaste.

 

The Myth of Drug Expiration Dates – According to a recent study, most drugs aren’t dangerous and are still effective long after they’ve expired. The expiration dates are there because that’s the longest period for which we have reliable test data. So why not give them a try? Maybe it sounds crazy, but don’t people take herbal remedies with no real testing?

 

Forget sharks: 7 things in the water swimmers should actually fear – It’s a bunch of bugs. Sharks are more exciting. And what about jellyfish? And crabs? And surfboards? Drinks at resorts? My bet is that sunburn and subsequent melanomas kill more than all of those combined by far.

 

Married People Used to Be Healthier — But Not Anymore – Married people used to be healthier than single people. New studies don’t show that. Have the studies gotten better? Single life better? Married life worse?

 

Dining with kids? New York restaurant will limit you to one drink – This restaurant won’t serve you more than one drink if you drive there with kids. Why? I can see not wanting people to drive impaired with children, but is driving impaired without children really any better? It might even be worse. At least the kid could say “Hey mom, shouldn’t we stay in one lane, preferably on our side of the road?”

Art and Culture

Cats Photoshopped Into Pictures Of Soccer Make Everything Better – The first page of these are very amusing. The subsequent pages, not so much.

 

Being Pretty Is a Privilege, But We Refuse to Acknowledge It – This may be the oddest article of the week. It’s a transgendered author writing a humble brag about how she the privilege she gets from being pretty.

 

Where the streets have no statues: why do the Irish hate U2? – I never knew that U2 was unpopular in Ireland because Bono is a sanctimonious tax dodger.

 

Network Television Stations Speed Up TV Shows to Fit in More Ads – TV is getting faster. They are speeding up old TV shows so that they have room to fit in more ads. Are there really enough people that sit through ads to make it an effective way to advertise? Are these people allowed to raise children in Oregon?

 

Masters of Flight – If you can suffer through the slow loading times and bad UI for this page, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing high speed macro video of hummingbirds in flight.

 

Taiwan Surprised People By Turning Subway Cars Into Photo-Realistic Sports Venues For The Summer Games – Cute idea. To hype the upcoming Universiade, they made the floors look like the ground (or water) in sports venues.

 

A Wrinkle In Time Official US Teaser Trailer – It looks well made, but I’m still skeptical.

Science

Let’s twist again: the secrets of kissing angles revealed – “Humans are hard-wired to favour leaning to the right while kissing romantic partners, an international study by psychologists and neuroscientists has found.” How do they know it isn’t cultural? Because they studied Bangladeshis, who alleged don’t see other people kiss. If that’s true, how do they know how to kiss at all? I’m imagining some really awkward wedding nights there.

 

Weird Radio Signals Detected from Nearby Red Dwarf Star – “The signals consisted of broadband quasi-periodic nonpolarized pulses with very strong dispersion-like features.” They don’t think that it is E.T. phoning home. My bet – it’s an extremely clever viral marketing ad campaign for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

 

The uncertain future of genetic testing – This article focuses on the limitations of genetic testing. Apparently we are all mutants and we don’t have a good sense for what those mutations do.

 

Investigating the running abilities of Tyrannosaurus rex using stress-constrained multibody dynamic analysis – This study looks at how quickly T-rex could move. If it ran flat out, its bones would break from the impact. It could walk pretty darned fast though…almost as fast as a person can run. So if you do encounter a T-Rex (time travel, DNA recreation, whatever – it could happen), run fast. At the very least, run at least a little faster than the slowest person in your group.

Technology

Why A Blue LED Is Worth A Nobel Prize – Because without blue, you couldn’t make white and without white, you couldn’t have color LED displays.

 

Synthesizing Obama: Learning Lip Sync from Audio – Remember recently when I linked to something showing how easy it is to change a recording of what someone said just by using software that lets you edit the transcript? Today’s link shows how you can change the video of someone to make it match someone else’s words. In this case, they use modern Obama footage but modified it to match old Obama speeches. The future is going to be like Harry Potter and polyjuice potions.

 

Google’s DeepMind AI just taught itself to walk – They took stick figures and let an artificial intelligence program figure out how to walk. What is with the crazy arm flailing? I hope this isn’t how they program those sex robots. If so, somebody is going to get hurt.

Politics and Policy

Why hardly anyone dies from a drug overdose in Portugal – Portugal decriminalized drug possession in 2001. It doesn’t seemed to have caused problems. In fact, they have far fewer drug overdose deaths than more countries.

 

Imagine if the media covered alcohol like other drugs – If other drugs are illegal, why is alcohol legal? Here’s a look at how alcohol might get covered by the media if it was treated like other drugs. Amusing, and it makes a good point.

 

The next step on health care: Let the states decide – It seems like few people are happy with the way that healthcare works in this country. Maybe the best approach is to give states more autonomy to set the rules for their state.

 

Heather Gerken on the future of progressive federalism – It isn’t just crazy libertarians that want decisions made at more of a local level. This is an article on the progressive Yale Law School Dean who is also a big fan of federalism. It seems simple to me. If you believe your policy ideas are good, why not show them off at the state level where people can see how they compare with states that take a different approach?

 

Is your surgeon double-booked? – Wait, we’re already paying how much for healthcare and our surgeons aren’t even staying for our surgery? I’m not saying that this should be banned, but it does seem like we need better disclosure. It’s not like you can monitor what is going on while you are being operated on.

 

Is the upper middle class really hoarding the American Dream? – As an upper middle class parent, I wish I could guarantee the same outcome for my children. I can definitely give them advantages, but the game is a long way from rigged.

 

Social Security Reform Is Urgent and Necessary – I don’t think it is. I can live with the current law, which will result in a 25% across the board cut in SS payments starting in 15-20 years. If you don’t think that’s the right approach, this would be a good time to start doing something about it.

 

Why Won’t China Help With North Korea? Remember 1956 – This is a very interesting article on why China isn’t helping much to control North Korea.

 

Going blind to see more clearly: unconscious bias in Australian Public Service shortlisting processes – This is an Aussie study on bias in the process of hiring women and minorities for senior positions in the Australian Public Service. The results showed the when it was known that the candidate was a woman or minority, they had a significantly better chance of being interviewed and that making the process color and gender blind might actually hurt diversity.

 

Why So Many Democrats Are Embracing Single-Payer Health Care – I don’t believe that there are many Democratic politicians that really favor single-payer. If they did, we’d see blue states enacting versions of it. What you are seeing is the party out of power pushing for popular but unrealistic policies knowing that they can’t pass them. This is no different than when Republicans campaigned on repealing Obamacare but struggle to pass it now that they have the ability. It is easier to criticize than do legislate.

 

Back to Work – This is a proposal for a universal works program. The federal government would essentially become the employer of last resort so that everyone could have a job.

 

Athlete accused of rape by Colorado State – not his sex partner – is getting paid to drop lawsuit – This was a weird case. The university suspended a student after he was accused of raping another student. What’s really weird is that the rape allegation didn’t come from the “victim” but from a friend of hers. The victim testified that their relationship was completely consensual.

 

How Much Money Each State Saves Thanks to Homeschooling – If you look at what a state pays to educate a student and then look at the number of students home schooled, you can see how much money the state saves from homeschooling. According to this, Texas saves $1.2 billion / year. I suppose that you could do the same thing for private schooled children. My quick run of those numbers shows private schoolers in Texas saving the state $2.95 billion.

Economics

Saturday afternoon links, all graphic edition – A bunch of interesting graphs and graphics on things like crude production, taxi medallion prices, newspaper jobs, and the rate at which police offers are killed in the line of duty.

 

A basic income really could end poverty forever – Give everyone a guaranteed minimum income. It’s an interesting idea, especially if it replaced food stamps, housing vouchers, etc and just gave people cash and discretion on how to spend it. My suspicion is that the level high enough to keep people out of extreme poverty would also be high enough to entice a lot of people to leave the labor force, lowering our overall standard of living. I think it would be interesting for a community to test the idea. I’d prefer that someone else’s community go first.

 

Analyzing Policy with Supply and Demand: Tariffs – This is probably the nerdiest video I’ve ever referenced. It’s a really good explanation of the cost of tariffs using changes in supply and demand curves. It has all of 170 views, so I don’t think it is going viral just yet.

 

No need for Ivanka to apologize for sourcing her clothing in Ethiopia – She doesn’t need to apologize for employing poor laborers in Ethiopia. She’s getting lower cost labor and they are getting jobs that theey want. On the other hand, she and her father should apologize for hypocritically badmouthing others that trade internationally like they do.

 

How Subprime Car Loans Are Ruining Lives And Repeating The Mistakes Of The Housing Crisis – They describe a guy with poor credit taking out a 25% interest loan to buy a $21,000 truck and then losing the car for failure to pay in less than 2 years. They cast him as the victim. What’s the right answer? Even at 25%, I’m sure that they didn’t make money off this loan because it failed so quickly. If they put a cap on the amount of interest you can charge, this guy probably wouldn’t have gotten a loan at all. Maybe he would have been better off, but should we be in the business of protecting people from their own stupid financial decisions?

July 16, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

PAPER AIRPLANE MACHINE GUN V2.0 – This is too cool. It’s a machine gun that shoots paper airplanes. OK, that only sounds a little cool. The super cool part is that you put in a ream of copy paper and it folds the paper into planes as they travel through the gun. Think of the practical applications – shoot “thank you” notes to all your guests as you leave your wedding, distribute pink slips in a mass firing, …., um, OK, I guess there aren’t really any practical uses for it, but it sure seems cool.

 

Would Your Dog Eat You if You Died? Get the Facts. – It appears that dogs sometimes eat the faces off of their owners when the owner dies. Read more details here. It’s not clear to me how they can be sure that these owners died before their dogs ate their faces off. And if you are wondering, this article is in National Geographic not National Enquirer. Also, cats are said to do this too, so don’t think you’re off the hook if you’re a cat person.

 

Our First Subway Was Much Nicer – This is a quick article on New York’s first subway. It looked like a steampunk version of the Hyperloop. Like the Hyperloop, it was pneumatic. Unlike the Hyperloop, it was practical.

 

Of money and morals – I knew that some religions forbid the charging of interest, but I didn’t realize that it was forbidden and then regulated by the Catholic Church for much of history. I think it is sad when people ban useful tools like interest. Without it, but savers and borrowers both miss opportunities to help each other. If you can rent other forms of property, why can’t you rent money?

 

Do Cats Purr When Humans Aren’t Around? – Yes. The purr when feeding as kittens. They purr when grooming each other. They are even known to purr when in great pain or dying. I bet they purr when eating their owner’s dead bodies.

 

Eagle Steals GoPro – This is a YouTube video taken from a GoPro that was “stolen” by an eagle. Very cool, but not as good as the classic video taken by the squirrel.

 

Amazon Prime does more for northern food security than federal subsidies, say Iqaluit residents – Think Amazon Prime isn’t a good deal? Try living in the remote northern parts of Canada. For them, Prime shipping is the greatest thing ever.

 

The most effective individual steps to tackle climate change aren’t being discussed – What are the most effective steps? In decreasing order of effectiveness – have one fewer child, live car free, avoid one transatlantic flight, buy green energy, eat a plant based diet. I’m counting bacon as “plant based” because the pigs eat plants.

 

America’s best states to live in 2017 – I find these sorts of rankings to be silly. There is no objective standard – just whatever the writer thinks is important. I think that a real “best places to live” would be based heavily on net migration. Where do people choose to live when they consider everything relevant to them?

 

Sweden: Uncensored – According to this, if you call +46 771 793 336, it “connects callers to a switchboard and then, wherever in the world they are, to ‘a random Swede, somewhere in Sweden.’” I’m going to have to try that. What should I ask a Swede? Do you guys really eat Swedish Fish? Is the Swedish Chef offensive? Do you all drive Volvos? What’s going on with all that refugee stuff I keep reading about? Do Swedish dogs eat their dead owners or are their diets plant based?

Health – Physical and Mental

Maybe Don’t Put These Things in Your Face – People get their placenta’s made into pills and eat them. Why? I have no idea. People are crazy. Don’t do it. If it seems like a good idea, this article will explain some of the drawbacks.

 

How Strength Training Changes Your Body For Good – It seems like just about everyone knows to do cardio work, but strength training isn’t nearly as popular. It should be.

 

28 Super Simple Tricks That’ll Make Your Life Easier (Even if You Only Try One) – As usual, there are some good ideas, some bad ideas, and some weird ideas on the list.

Art and Culture

Photos of Animals Retouched to Look Like Real-Life Minecraft Creatures – Animals made to look blocky like Minecraft creatures. Why? I have no idea.

 

Standard eBooks Is a Gutenberg Project You’ll Actually Use – If you read old books, you probably know that you can download many of them for free from the Gutenberg Project. You probably also know that the formatting is often awful. This is a project to clean them up.

 

The Golden Age of Bailing – The author says that we are living in a “golden age of bailing” where people cancel or no-show for social engagements. If it is true, I suspect it is because technology has made social engagement much easier so we value it less.

 

baremetalHW – This is a YouTube channel dedicated to restoring hot wheels. This video shows you a full restoration that includes every step.

 

‘I was hooked for life’: science writers on the books that inspired them – I haven’t read a single book on the list. Maybe that’s why I didn’t become a science writer.

 

Is It OK to Put My Kid to Bed Early So I Can Watch Game of Thrones? – If you are so obsessed with your soaps that you want to put your kids to be at 6:00 PM to avoid waiting a couple of hours to watch them, you have issues.

Science

The massive volcano that scientists can’t find – We can see a lot of evidence about a huge volcano that exploded 700 years ago. The weird thing is that we don’t know where it was. Interesting story.

 

Nature’s Fireworks – A YouTube video on bioluminescence, which is one of the coolest things in the world.

 

Induced defences in plants reduce herbivory by increasing cannibalism – Some plants defend themselves by convincing their predators to become cannibals. Clever.

 

Logged In and Zoned Out. – Thinking about taking a laptop to class? This study concludes that you shouldn’t.

 

Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines – This paper predicts a biological catastrophe that we can only avert by taking drastic action now. It is being caused by “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich”. Don’t get too frightened. One of the authors is Paul Ehrlich who predicted in 1968 that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the 1970s because of overpopulation. He might be right this time, but after four decades of his crying wolf, I’m not going to get too fussed.

Technology

AI IS MAKING IT EXTREMELY EASY FOR STUDENTS TO CHEAT – This isn’t really an article about using AI to cheat. It’s about Wolfram|Alpha, which is an amazing AI based search site with a penchant for solving complex math problems and showing you how to do it. Is it cheating? I see it more like a tutor. I first heard about in a vague reference in the outstanding video This Is Engineering, which is the best (and nerdiest) thing to come out of Purdue since Neil Armstrong.

 

THE NETFLIX PRIZE: HOW A $1 MILLION CONTEST CHANGED BINGE-WATCHING FOREVER – How machine learning earned $1 million bucks for some college kids.

 

You can play this musical instrument with just your thoughts – I can assure you that you would not want to hear any music played by my thoughts. No beat. No melody. Just a lot of random discordant notes.

 

Can a Sideways Elevator Help Designers Build Taller Skyscrapers? – Instead of elevators, these are sort of like elevator cars that can move side-to-side in addition to up and down. That would allow you to have more cars running and to include horizontal movement between connected buildings. Cool. I wonder how the button panel would look.

Politics and Policy

Facebook can track your browsing even after you’ve logged out, judge says – Someone tried (and failed) to sue Facebook for tracking them on the web even after they logged out. Guess what; you are being tracked by bunches of companies as you surf the web. Don’t like it? Run something like Disconnect in your browser. It not only blocks them from tracking you, your pages load faster because you don’t have to wait on the trackers.

 

This Chart Shows How Your State Government Is Funded – An interesting chart the shows the proportion of tax revenue each state receives from different sources.

 

Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition 2017 Edition – This one rates each state by its fiscal health. Best – Florida. Worst – New Jersey. Texas ranked 23rd.

 

Will Trump Kill the Bourbon Boom? – Why would trump kill the “bourbon boom”? He wants to put high taxes on imported steel and this article suggests that Europe might respond with punitive taxes on bourbon. So we’ll pay more for steel, lose jobs in steel consuming industries, and lose sales of bourbon to Europe. Well, maybe more people in the US will take up drinking to get their minds off of the insanity.

 

Steel Tariff Letter – This is a letter cosigned by every living former leader of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (except Janet Yellen, who was not asked because that would be inappropriate). This isn’t a partisan thing. It includes the advisers from Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. From the letter: “The diplomatic costs might be worth it if the tariffs generated economic benefits. But they would not. Additional steel tariffs would actually damage the U.S. economy. Tariffs would raise costs for manufacturers, reduce employment in manufacturing, and increase prices for consumers.”

 

Why the drone industry actually wants more regulation – Well, not really. What they appear to want is the FAA to put some regulations in place that will allow for greater levels of commercial use of drones. So they want more regulation, but they want it in place of the outright bans that exist today. Eventually, the industry will mature and then they’ll want regulation to block competitors.

 

Alabama ABC says ‘no’ to Margaritaville with pitcher ban – You can’t buy a pitcher of margaritas in Alabama. Beer is the drink you can buy in a pitcher because, well, it’s Alabama.

 

Harvard Committee Recommends Banning Clubs – It isn’t just silly southern states that do stupid things. “A Harvard committee has today recommended banning all students from joining any final club or other unrecognized social organization.” They don’t like the choices some students are making on who they associate with.

 

The US had a clear shot at killing Kim Jong Un on July 4 — here’s why it didn’t strike – He was there at their July 4th missile launch (or was it a big fireworks show?). We knew it. We could have taken him out. We didn’t.

 

North Korea: a terrifying glimpse into what war with Kim Jong-un’s military would look like – We would “win”, but the cost would be very, very high.

 

The political beliefs of evangelical Christians – “Back in 2011, white evangelicals were the most likely group to say that personal morality was important in a president, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Since Mr Trump became the Republican standard-bearer, they have become the least likely group to say that, changing what seems like a fundamental issue of morality to accommodate their support for the president.” This is just more evidence that most people’s political views are derived more from tribal loyalty than logic or policy views.

Economics

Even the intellectual left is drawn to conspiracy theories about the right. Resist them. – I’ve avoided linking to any of the many criticisms I’ve read about the newly released book “Democracy in Chains”. It has been vigorously criticized by the economists I read, especially those that worked closely with Jim Buchanan, the Nobel Prize economist that is the focus of the book. This link is to a criticism, not by libertarian supporters of Buchanan, but by left leaning political scientists. Despite wishing what she said was true, they recognize that her work is fiction.

I feel compelled to give just one of many, many examples of how DiC twists the truth to tell a tale. In the book, she quotes Tyler Cowen as follows:

“The weakening of checks and balances” in the American system, Cowen suggested, “would increase the chance of a very good outcome.”

What he actually wrote was:

It is unlikely that the United States would be better off moving in that direction. While the weakening of checks and balances would increase the chances of a very good outcome, it also would increase the chance of a very bad outcome. Furthermore, the widely perceived legitimacy of the US Constitution suggests that such a change would involve disastrous transition costs.

If you want to read some other criticisms, you can see some here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Rather than making substantive responses defending her book (which is understandable given how hard it would be to defend), she has taken to Facebook asking for help in fighting the Koch conspiracy against her.

July 9, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Fourth of July Parade – Some footage of and from our entry in the local Fourth of July Parade.

America’s Ghost Army used deception to defeat the Nazis – I knew that we staged a fake army as a diversion for the D-Day landing, but I didn’t realize that we deployed this “ghost army” numerous times around Europe. They even brought speakers to play sounds of vehicles moving and GI’s shouting.

‘I Wish You Bad Luck.’ Read Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ Unconventional Speech to His Son’s Graduating Class – Chief Justice Roberts gave a very interesting commencement speech. He hoped that the listeners would experience enough misfortune to learn from it.

The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife – This article is about an ancient piece of papyrus that has the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” It’s a long, strange, and (I think) ultimately unconvincing story, but it was interesting.

Understanding Very, Very Smart People – I’ve known some really smart people in my life and I don’t think this advice applies well. The problem is that he stereotypes VVSPs when they are as varied as any other group of people. Just be nice to people and the rest is pretty easy.

Why the Northernmost Town in America Exists – Barrow is a town on the northern edge of Alaska. This is an interesting video about it. Now that I’ve seen it, I have no interest in ever going there. $17 for a frozen pizza? Seems crazy. Well, I guess any pizza up there is a frozen pizza, but still.

Wrestling’s new villain named himself ‘Progressive Liberal.’ Hillary’s on his shirt. – This guy is a bad guy wrestler and his shtick is playing an obnoxious progressive liberal – the perfect foil in the stereotypically conservative wrestling world.

Make “Air Goggles” to Search for Items You’ve Dropped in the Water – Want to see through the water but don’t have goggles? Here’s a way to do it. It’s really only a trick that is useful if the water is clear, it’s too choppy to see through easily, it isn’t so choppy that this won’t work, and you can shove your face in the water. If all that is true, this works. I tested it.

Good News, Despite What You’ve Heard – I hear the refrain over and over – the world is getting worse. But it isn’t. It’s getting much, much, much better for the vast majority of people in the world. This article lists many of the ways that is happening. Pull your head away from the new sources that make a living keeping you scared and look at the bigger picture. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that you are living in a more peaceful, less poor world than ever before.

This Fourth of July, let’s celebrate colonial failure. – This article takes the interesting perspective that the failure of British colonies to find precious minerals and easily controlled native populations made them unsuccessful in the short-term, which lead to changes that made them successful in the long-term.

My best friend is a CPA and a CFP — and he gave me the best financial advice I’ve ever heard – The same basic advice you always hear – spent less than you make. Why is that so hard, Kevin Bacon?

Health – Physical and Mental

You’re doing your weekend wrong – Not feeling refreshed after the weekend? Maybe you are spending your time on casual pursuits when you need more fulfilling activities. The article emphasizes doing things that involve socializing, hobbies, altruism, and play. I’d summarize it more simply as doing something meaningful to you with your time rather than just passing time. Get out and do things. Don’t fritter away our time reading e-mail lists of weird crap that some goofball found interesting.

This popular painkiller also kills kindness – According to a recent study, acetaminophen doesn’t just deaden pain; it also deadens empathy. Take ibuprofen instead. It’s better for your liver anyway.

What Cookies and Meth Have in Common – No, the answer is not that your granny cooks both of them. Well, maybe, but that’s not the point. This is an interesting look at how both drugs and food interact with dopamine receptors in the brain.

I went from sedentary academic to 100-mile marathon runner—thanks to the science of self-control – Sorry, but if you are running 100 mile races, you still have a problem with self-control. It may be a different problem, but you still have a problem.

What I Wish I’d Known About My Knees – According to this, knee surgery really doesn’t help much. Protect your knees. That means having enough self-control to stop yourself from running 100 mile races.

A Path Less Taken to the Peak of the Math World – “As a teenager he dreamed of becoming a poet. He didn’t major in math, and when he finally applied to graduate school, he was rejected by every university save one. Nine years later, at the age of 34, Huh is at the pinnacle of the math world.” I love the notion of a very, very smart person with the name “Huh”. He’s best known for his contributions to the proof of the Rota conjecture. I tried to read the Wikipedia article on what that means, but it didn’t make any sense to me.

Get Your Kid’s Ears Pierced at a Tattoo Shop Because They Know What They’re Doing – Having sons not interested in piercings or tattoos (yet), I’m hoping to sit out this debate.

Untreatable gonorrhea on the rise worldwide – This sort of surprised me. I know that we’ve been developing more anti-biotic resistant diseases, but I thought that STDs would be declining with AIDS scaring the pants onto people.

The Curse of the Second-Born Child Is Real – “second-born children (specifically sons) have a whopping 25% to 40% increased chance of getting in serious trouble at school or with the law when compared to the first-born in the same family.” As the fourth-born, I never got into serious trouble at school or with the law. I think that fourth-born children learn to be better at not getting caught.

Art and Culture

Fun Paper Animal Puppets Designed to Move in Unexpected Ways When Touched – The awesomeness of this is beyond my ability to describe. Click the link. See the images. Be awed. If you think I’m going to look up to you because you’re insane enough to run 100 miles, you’re crazy. If you create paper animals like this, I’ll be very, very impressed. This was done by a usefully very, very smart person.

The Story Behind the World’s Most Famous Desktop Background – The story behind the iconic image of a grassy hill under a cloudy spotted blue sky that adorned Windows XP. Guess where the picture was taken before reading the article.

The origin of the ’80s aesthetic – The “look” of the 80s – this video makes a case that it stemmed from the Memphis Design studio’s aesthetic.

The Church of CrossFit – “You always know if someone goes to Harvard or if they go to CrossFit—they’ll tell you.” This article compares CrossFit with religion.

In Norway, you can browse everyone’s tax returns, but there’s a good reason you might not want to – Imagine what it would be like if you could look at the tax returns of everyone you know. The catch is that they can see that you’ve looked. I wonder how that would change things if the same rules applied here.

It’s Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex. – When is it OK for married adults to spend time with another person of the opposite gender other than their spouse? This is a survey of opinions, some of which I found quite surprising. 25% of women think it is inappropriate to have a work meeting with a man. That seems kind of career limiting.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: A DIZZYING VIEW OF A BICYCLE GRAVEYARD IN CHINA – That’s a lot of bicycles!

The ‘Dog Photographer Of The Year’ Contest Announced Its Winners, And They’re Amazing – Cute pictures of dogs. Need I say more?

Carrie Preston’s 10 Favorite Books – Another “what 10 books would you take to a desert island” list. Once again, not one book on surviving on a desert island, boat building, navigation, or anything practical. Heck, at least ask for Robison Crusoe, Lord of the Flies, or even scripts from Gilligan’s Island. People are idiots.

This Is How You Confront a Chronic Flaker – This article is about how to deal with flaky people – those that either show up extremely late or don’t show up at all for social engagements. In my experience, flaky people are flaky people and they won’t change. For those that show up late, don’t invite them to things where their being late is going to be an issue. For those that chronically no-show, don’t invite them to things where their presence is important.

Science

The blue wings of this dragonfly may be surprisingly alive – Wow! I love dragonflies and these look like some of the coolest ones out there.

Do Neonics Hurt Bees? Researchers and the Media Say Yes. The Data Do Not. – According to this, a recent study shows that neonicotinoids are not causing a decline in bee populations.

We Analyzed 100 Million Headlines. Here’s What We Learned – They did an analysis of what was a catchy Facebook headline and what wasn’t. It looks like the phrase you want to use is “will make you”.

Neandertals and modern humans started mating early – This is the science version of a salacious who-slept-with-who story, but with the people being a million years old. This reminds me of why anthropologists end up in so many bad relationships. They’ll date any old thing.

The Black Death May Have Had a Surprising Effect on the Environment – It’s still under a lot of debate, but the theory put forward here is that industry ground to a halt for many years after the black death swept through Europe and atmospheric lead dropped to record lows.

Technology

Looking for a Coal Job? Better Work on Those PlayStation Skills – Even when we are still mining for coal, we’re doing it with fewer people. Miners often stay on the surface and remote operate mining equipment. Seems like a huge improvement to me.

Volvo, Betting on Electric, Moves to Phase Out Conventional Engines – This was the overhyped story of the week. Congrats to Volvo’s marketing department. Some people think they heard that Volvo will go all electric by 2019. No; by then, they believe that all new models they introduce (not existing models) will be sold as electric or hybrid vehicles. Given that they sell about 5% of the number of vehicles as any of the big three (Toyota, VW, GM), this says more about the niche they want to occupy than the direction of the auto industry.

The Best Bitcoin and Ethereum Explainers – Having trouble understanding what Bitcoin or Ethereum is? This is a collection of links to explanations.

This Is How Big Oil Will Die – Is oil going the way of the dinosaur? Here’s someone that thinks so. I think they are conceptually right, but their timeline seems rushed. Prices should stay reasonably high until I retire and then they’ll completely collapse.

Robots sorting system helps Chinese company finish at least 200,000 packages a day in the warehouse – This is not only efficient, it’s fun to watch.

Why female sex robots are more dangerous than you think – A scare-mongering article about the growth of the sex robot industry. It wasn’t very convincing. I also don’t understand why that industry is investing in artificial intelligence. Have their customers ever shown an interest in females demonstrating any kind of intelligence? I’m going to resisting tying this back to the prior article with any reference to the number of packages delivered.

Politics and Policy

Are goats taking jobs from union workers? – You can’t make this stuff up. A union in Michigan has filed a grievance against a college that hired goats to clear some brush.

How did we end up with health insurance being tied to our jobs? – You don’t get your home or car insurance through your company. Why health insurance? This article gives the history on how we got here.

Federal Appeals Court: You Have a Constitutional Right to Film Police Officers in Public – Another appeals court has confirmed it. You cannot interfere with the police, but you have a constitutional right to film them.

Are the Social Sciences Undergoing a Purity Spiral? – The article takes the position that the social sciences are increasingly being taken over by people on the radical left, and they value orthodoxy to far-left viewpoints more than objectivity. If this is true and if there is any commercial value in the social sciences, shouldn’t this create a market opportunity for a social science research group that isn’t tainted by this problem?

What to know about the Qatar crisis – I tracked this down because I kept seeing thee Qatar boycott in the news but didn’t really understand why it was happening. I still don’t, but I at least know more than I did.

The unexpected political power of dentists – They appear to have a very effective lobby. I wonder how much of that is because every politician regularly has a dentist with sharp instruments in his mouth. You don’t want your dentist to hate you.

When your next college free speech controversy erupts, don’t blame liberals – This article by a left-of-center professor says that we shouldn’t blame liberals for the anti-free speech movement popular on campuses. She says it is the radical left on campus that is pushing it to the ire of less extreme liberals that actually value free speech.

How the Left Lost Its Mind – This article bemoans the fact that there are a lot of crazies on the far left side of the political spectrum, something the author had always associated with the right. I suspect that we’ve always had lots of crazies on all sides. They just seem more numerous now because the Internet feeds them and gives them a forum to disseminate their rants.

How Liberal Portland Became America’s Most Politically Violent City – An interesting article on the history of political conflict in Portland and why it is increasingly violent.

A generational failure: As the U.S. fantasizes, the rest of the world builds a new transport system – An article showing how other countries are adopting high speed rail and the US really isn’t. It is missing several key features needed to win me over. Show me that the benefits outweigh the costs in those other countries. Then explain to me why it costs so much more to build high speed rail in the US. Then make a case that high speed rail makes economic sense here. Just showing me that other countries are doing it isn’t very convincing.

How Income Inequality Is Messing With Kids’ Brains – Despite its title, the article focuses on poverty more than inequality and that doesn’t make sense to me. “If we gave people more money, kids’ brains would look different.” But the poor in the US are wealthier than most Americans were 100 years ago and wealthier than the majority of the people in the world. Are they trying to claim that people’s brains have always been jacked up except recently in wealthy countries?

There Is No Evidence of an Illegal Immigrant Crime Wave: Why the “Elusive Crime Wave Data Shows Frightening Toll of Illegal Immigrant Criminals” Is Flawed – This article looks at the concern that immigration leads to higher levels of crime. It shows that the recent articles claiming that relationship exists are misusing the statistics.

The Real Reason The Elites Keep Killing Single-Payer – I’m still looking for a convincing argument as to why no state or collection of states appears willing to try radical health care reform despite a lot of talk about it. Here’s an unconvincing article that blames “oligarchs”. If the elite are so powerful, why do the top 1% pay half of all federal income taxes?

Economics

Minimum Wave – It’s a clever cartoon showing the effect of the minimum wage.

Job Growth Steady while Trade Deficit Swells – Economist Dan Griswold looks at six major economic indicators mentioned by presidential candidate Donald Trump and checks to see how they are performing under President Donald Trump.

July 2, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

The 1930s ‘Pedestrian Catcher’ That Promised to End Jaywalking Deaths – They wanted to equip cars with a lever operated basket that popped out at the front of cars to safely catch pedestrians. Wouldn’t just stopping make more sense? I do think this idea would be useful for things like golfing behind a slow player.

 

Inside a Japanese Diver’s 25-Year Friendship With a Local Fish – This guy swims down to ring an underwater shrine bell and his fish friend comes over to visit with him. Cute.

 

Zume’s robot pizzeria could be the future of workplace automation – This isn’t really about robot made pizza. It’s about a van that makes pizza on the road while driving to deliveries. That’s a cool concept. We need more readily available freshly made pizza in this world.

 

Charmin – Van-GO – This is also awesome. It’s a fleet of potty trucks. You summon one with your phone. I love it. I’m imagining a future where I wander around the country summoning pizzas and bathrooms wherever I go. I love the future.

 

The Best Invention You Don’t Know Exists: Toilet Paper Tablets – While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, if you want to carry some spare toilet paper, you can carry it in the form of tablets. You just have to add a little water. A lot of times, when I see an invention, I think “why didn’t I think of that?” This time, I’m thinking “why did they think of that?” Now imagine that you are sitting down in a public restroom in the middle of “a project” and you realize that there is no paper and you need to use one of your tablets. Are you going to leave the stall to go to the sink? If not, where are you going to get the water? The options aren’t good.

 

LEGO-Inspired Kits Let You Produce Pixelated Cat Sculptures to Roam Your Home – I don’t know why you’d want to do this, but I know a lot of people that like cats and a lot of people that like Lego, so maybe.

 

Why Credit Cards Are A Scam – Honest Ads – An amusing look at what credit card ads would be like if they were honest. (Language Warning).

 

“I Just Wanted To Survive” – This is “True Crime” story about a college football player that was kidnapped and tortured in a misguided revenge attack. It’s a pretty gruesome tale. What saved his life? His broker wouldn’t do a fund transfer over the weekend so his captors greedily kept him alive so that he’d be able to get to the money on Monday.

 

Meet the 89-Year Old Who Built a Train in His Backyard – This would be cool even if he wasn’t 89. That said, I don’t get the point of the air pressure transport system. Wouldn’t some form of magnetic induction make more sense? Seems like the energy loss would be huge with air pressure.

 

Texas couple victimized in ‘Satanic panic’ finally exonerated, but now we have new witches to hunt – Back in the 80s, the nation had a panic reminiscent of the Salem witch trials. Prosecutors were coercing children to make up fantastic stories about child care operators and then throwing them in prison on almost no evidence other than the obviously coerced testimony. One of the last couples convicted in this mania was finally exonerated in Texas.

 

Health – Physical and Mental

To Stay in Love, Sign on the Dotted Line – The author finds that the best way to handle relationships is to have a detailed annual contract stipulating what each person’s responsibilities are in the relationship. I don’t think it’s an approach I’d like, but it is interesting and it appears to be working for her so far.

 

Can Yoga Be Christian? – I never really thought of yoga as having religious overtones – just a little goofy mysticism to keep your mind off of how uncomfortable it is. Apparently the mysticism part bothers some people and they have decide to “Christianize” it. They should rebrand it something like “SFJ” (Stretching for Jesus).

 

Athlete Poop Won’t Improve Your Athletic Performance – People are trying what? You can’t be serious. I sure hope it doesn’t work. I guess it would provide a lucrative income stream for retired athletes. Not as fun as being a stud horse though.

Art and Culture

 

time for sushi – If this isn’t one of the weirdest things you’ve seen all week, I’m worried about you. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but it’s deformed naked looking people wandering in a weird way around town.

 

WoodSwimmer – I don’t really know how to describe this. Imagine seeing a log from the inside and moving along the grain watching it change. It looks cool. It also looks like it took a long time to make.

 

Boris Becker’s ‘five second sex’ in a cupboard has cost him his fortune – Salacious gossip about Boris Becker who paid £2m and monthly maintenance payments of £25,000 for a child he sired in a cupboard at a restaurant. He was a great tennis player, but he sure seems like a pathetic loser.

 

John McEnroe thinks Serena Williams would be ranked ‘700th’ if she played the men’s circuit – When interviewed by Lulu Garcia-Navarro, John said that Serena was the best female player ever. Lulu ask him “why qualify it?… why say ‘female’ player”. It’s not clear if she’s that ignorant about tennis or whether she was just trying to bait him into saying something inflammatory (never hard with McEnroe). It seems obvious that she’s not at the level of the top male players. They don’t have the men and women play separate matches for propriety reasons.

 

What CEOs are reading in 2017 – I’ve posted a bunch of reading lists. Here is one for what CEOs are reading. Judging from the list, they seem like dull people.

 

Proof that Americans are lying about their sexual desires – An intriguing attempt to reveal people’s true sexual preferences by looking at their porn viewing habits. I suspect that they are off the mark because people are going to be drawn to see that which isn’t normally available to them rather than that which they most want.

 

These charts show who you’ll spend your time with across your lifetime – Charts showing the average amount of time spent with friends, parents/siblings, co-workers, children, partners, and alone by age.

 

Are Consent Apps a Good Thing? – Consent apps? Do people that really date other real people think this is a workable idea? It sounds completely doomed to failure. I know I’m odd, but I don’t think “normal” people behave in a way where using a consent app is going to work.

 

What’s the best age gap in a relationship? – The article’s conclusion is that for women, the smaller the gap the better. For men, whatever gap there is between their current age and a 25 yr old female is optimal.

Science

Young children discover how to deceive in 10 days: a microgenetic study – According to this study, people start lying at around 10 days old. Despite that, we still make people wait until they are 35 years old to be President. I guess we want to give them time to master the skill.

 

A surprisingly simple explanation for the shape of bird eggs – Different birds have different shaped eggs. You can tell a lot about the bird by the egg shape. Spherical eggs are for birds that don’t fly.

 

What Happens to Wolves When They’re Raised Like Dogs? – Wolves aren’t dogs. They’re close, but different. This study digs into the differences via experimentation.

 

A Study About Nothing – This is a study about what happens in a vacuum. Not like your vacuum cleaner; you don’t want to know about that. I’m talking about a “nothing is there at all” vacuum. Apparently the universe gets bored easily and when there is nothing there, it makes a bunch of stuff and anti-stuff to fill the space. It’s sort of the same reason why closets are always full.

Technology

Before You Hit ‘Submit,’ This Company Has Already Logged Your Personal Data – Start typing something on a web page. Maybe it is a status update on Facebook. Maybe you start filling out a loan form. You change your mind. You don’t really want to share that. Well, you probably just did. Increasingly, companies don’t wait until you hit “Submit” before reading what you are typing. They just don’t tell you that they harvested all that data. And they sold it to anyone that offered them money for it.

 

Victoria Police to Withdraw 8000 Traffic Tickets After Roadside Cameras Infected with WannaCry Virus – That’s just funny.

 

Physicists Made the Brightest Light Ever – “The Diocles laser is as bright as one billion suns”. It’s even brighter if they turn it on when you first wake up in the morning.

 

Put Down the IPhone and Appreciate Its Genius – An article looking back at the impact of smartphones 10 years after the introduction of the iPhone.

 

VoCo: Text-based Insertion and Replacement in Audio Narration – I sometimes annoy people by creating images that show a reality different from what people remember. Handstands that didn’t happen, burning buildings that were never on fire, floods that weren’t there, kids driving fast in cars that didn’t actually move, etc. Looks like I’m going to have the ability to make people say things that they never actually said soon. The world is changing. Believe nothing.

 

The Biggest Challenges That Stand in the Way of Hyperloop – Waiting for the hyperloop? It isn’t going to happen. They try to sugar coat it a bit in this article, but they make it pretty clear that it isn’t going to happen.

 

AI Trying To Design Inspirational Posters Goes Horribly And Hilariously Wrong – Need an inspirational poster? This article talks about a site that uses artificial intelligence to generate them. For example, I just tried it and got one that told me “Don’t aspire to romance. Aim higher.

Politics and Policy

Lessons from Seattle’s courageous minimum-wage experiment – When Seattle passed its minimum wage law, they commissioned a study on its impacts. This is an article from the authors of the study. While the law raised hourly wage rates, the comprehensive study shows that it reduced workers monthly earnings by $125 through a combination of fewer jobs and fewer work hours. I still stick with my view – set the minimum wage at whatever you want, but let workers opt out if they choose. Accept the fact that some people would rather have a job at a lower wage than be unemployed or underemployed even though you feel smug and self-satisfied about protecting them.

 

The Three Blind Spots of Politics – This is a wonderful little article talking about three perspectives that are common in politics – liberal, conservative, and libertarian and how each sees the world. “Liberals see the world as a battle between victims and oppressors. Conservatives see the world as a battle between civilization and barbarism. Libertarians see the world as a battle between freedom and coercion.” It’s a really excellent article for helping people understand the perspectives of others and how that leads them to see things so differently. So while I see the minimum wage as a question of freedom from someone else dictating my wage negotiations, liberals see a need to protect the oppressed workers.

 

A Way to Own Your Social-Media Data – It used to be hard to change mobile carriers because you had to change your phone number when you did. The law gave us ownership of our phone numbers and that increased competition. Today, it is hard to change social media providers because you lose your friend network. This article proposes requiring social media companies to have open APIs allowing you to “own” your network. I think it is a nice sounding idea but unworkable in practice.

 

San Francisco Is Burning – Buildings in San Francisco are burning down. People think some of the fires may be deliberately set by building owners. This article goes into depth on the subject but ignores what may be the root cause. Many years ago, renters in SF banded together and used legislation to take control of the city’s housing stock. They let the owners “keep” it so that they didn’t have to compensate them for the taking, but they took away from the owners the ability to set market based rents. They started dictating whatever rents they though were justified. In doing so, they lowered the value of the buildings so much that they are afraid that owners are now burning them down so that they can use the property for other more valuable purposes. I don’t endorse arson, but it seems like the core problem here is that people who are occupying the buildings aren’t paying their fair share.

 

Detroit City Council approves $34.5 million in bonds for Detroit Pistons to move into new arena – Remember a few years ago when Detroit was bankrupt? It doesn’t look like they’ve gotten any smarter. They just spent $34.5 million from funds intended for schools and parks on their basketball team.

 

The Supreme Court’s Incredible Privileging of Religion – I struggled to understand the author’s perspective on this. They don’t like the recent Trinity Lutheran ruling saying that the state can’t discriminate against a church for non-religious activities. I think their argument boils down to something like “we exempt churches from some state controls so the state should be able to discriminate against churches in other ways.”

 

Socialism’s Future May Be Its Past – This is a positive look at socialism and its possible future. I have to admit that I’m surprised at the tenacity of socialism supporters. The fact that every successful society in modern times without exception has been capitalist and every attempt at socialism has resulted in both poverty and authoritarianism doesn’t deter them. Here is a nice response article: 100 Years After the Bolshevik Revolution, Communism Hasn’t Changed

 

The Export-Import Bank Needs to Go – Speaking of socialism, here’s an article on the Ex-Im bank. The bank is surprisingly popular amongst many normally pro-free market people I know. I suspect that the fact that their employer gets substantial financial benefits from the Ex-Im bank just might have a tiny bit of influence on their perspectives.

 

How the Government Can Bring Down Drug Prices – This was very disappointing. Is the answer making the drug approval process faster and cheaper? Allowing more drug imports to compete? Approving more competitive treatments? Nope. The author, who does not appear to have ever invented a life-saving drug, feels that the company that invented a cure for Hep-C is charging too much and so he thinks the government should confiscate their patent so we can get the drugs cheaper. Presumably he hopes that other people won’t notice that little trick when they are considering risking their time and money on inventing new cures.

 

California Democrats focus on virtue-signaling – California is banning its state employees from traveling to an ever growing list of states that pass laws they don’t like. I’m curious as to how this will affect state colleges recruiting trips and tournament play. I’m picturing “Sorry, Coach Alford. The players can go to the NCAA tournament this year, but you and the other paid staff can’t legally go with them.”

 

Without the State, Who Will Handcuff Teens for Selling Water Bottles? – Want to be a good capitalist? Find a need that people have and meet it. Maybe you can sell snow cones on a hot summer day. Be careful, that sort of radical thinking won’t be tolerated in some towns.

 

Why Congress should let everyone deduct charitable gifts from their taxes – When people take the standard deduction on their taxes, they take it in place of itemizing their deductions – fewer forms, fewer receipts to track. It’s much simpler. But, they lose the ability to itemize their charitable contributions. The author doesn’t like that, so he thinks you should be able to do both. Next up, realtors that feel the same about the mortgage interest deduction and local politicians that feel the same about local tax deductions.

 

This terminally ill infant will be allowed to die. But first, his parents will say goodbye. – This was a sad and odd story. These parents have an infant child, Charlie, who is almost certain to die. They wanted to take Charlie to the US for an experimental procedure, albeit one with a very low chance of success. It looks like their government determined that wasn’t in the child’s best interest and declined to allow them. Can they do that? I don’t think I’d be happy with anyone telling me I couldn’t take my kid someplace for medical care if I wasn’t asking them to fund it. On the other hand, I do live in a country that makes the decision about what treatmeents are safe and effective and doesn’t give me the opportunity to override their decision. At least it still lets me leave the country to get whatever treatment I want elsewhere.

 

Why ‘repeal and replace’ will become ‘tweak and move on’ – The whole health care thing is a mess. The author concludes that Republicans aren’t really going to change much about it. I’m aghast at the fact that both sides seem to agree that we need guaranteed coverage of pre-existing conditions but nobody wants to force people to buy coverage. Sounds like a ceretain way to guarantee that adverse selection will kill the individual market.

Universal health plan would save Californians $37 billion annually, study says – California recently considered switching to a universal coverage single payer health plan. People on the left have been clamoring for this for years. Why won’t they do it? It seems like the perfect opportunity. Let the country’s richest and most progressive state show the rest of us how it is done. I’m sure that we could all learn a lot if they tried it at the state level. Why won’t they do it?

Economics

A New Twist on Teaching Economics – Hip Hop Economics. I’m not a big fan of hip hop, but this is an awesome way to reach younger people. Given their support for things like minimum wage laws, we definitely have a need for younger people to better understand economics.

 

Do Americans spend more money on the health care of the poor than the rich? – Apparently so, once they reach adulthood. But is this because being sick makes you more likely to be poor?

 

Mandated Paid Family Leave Harms Its Intended Beneficiaries – People pay for their benefits. It’s easy to pretend that isn’t the case, but they really do. So when you mandate a new benefit that people haven’t already negotiating for, you are negotiating on their behalf for something they already showed they don’t really want when they factor in all the costs. In other words, if people wanted paid maternity leave, they would already negotiate it into employment contracts.

 

The Human Side of Trade – A nice explanation of why we need to look past the short-term dislocation effects of trade and focus on the long-term gains.

 

Cash Is Falling Out of Fashion – Will It Disappear Forever? – People are using less cash. Sweden uses it the least. We still use a lot in the US, but I’ve noticed that my kids rarely ever do.