July 9, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.