July 2, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


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.


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.


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?


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.