July 23, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


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 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.


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.


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.


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?