August 27, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Montgomery County Flood Plain Map – A map of the flood plain for Montgomery County. Comforting or disturbing based on what you see. It shows the 100 year and 500 year flood plains.


DriveTexas – Road closures in the state of Texas. It’s a really busy map right now.


LA Speed Check – A classic little video about the fastest plane in the sky asking for a speed check.


The Smiley Index: Ranking Countries, Companies & Jobs by ‘Smileyness’ – Thee Smiliest country is the United States and the least smiley is Romania. The smiliest industry is “Staffing and Recruiting”, all of whose smiles are fake and the least smiley is Computer Networking. The industry surprise was that accounting made the top 10 smiliest. The least smiling company is Verizon and the most smiling (by far) is Disney.


Another Variation on the Selfie: Get Ready for the Elfie – What? People are getting cosmetic surgery to look more elves.


Chiune Sugihara – I’d never heard of this guy. He was a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania during WWII. He illegally provided exit visas to thousands to help them flee the Nazis.


100 trips everyone should take in their lifetime, according to the world’s top travel experts – These premise of this article is stupid. How many people actually take 100 trips in their lifetime? And if any appreciable amount of them did, some of these “off-the-beaten-track hidden gems” would be overrun. If you ignore the headline and think of it as 100 places you might want to visit, it’s not a bad article.


We tried to buy people’s Powerball tickets – This was weird. They went to a place selling lottery tickets and tried to buy people’s tickets right after they bought them. Most people refused to sell even though they could have taken the money (double what they paid for the ticket) and bought more tickets.


Thanks to Amazon, Seattle is now America’s biggest company town – Wow! I had no idea how much Amazon has come to dominate downtown Seattle. They control almost 20% of all prime office space in the city.


A Texas newsroom predicted a disaster. Now it’s close to coming true. – This talks about what would happen if a strong hurricane hit the Houston Ship Channel directly. The results could be much worse that the terrible situation we are facing with Harvey.


A London family is offering their future nanny $129,000 and access to a Maserati – Want to make good money and hang out with rich people? OK, you’ll be spending all of your time with rich kids, but you’ll still be in nice places.


Health – Physical and Mental

The $37 billion supplement industry is barely regulated — and it’s allowing dangerous products to slip through the cracks – Supplements aren’t really regulated, which means that the FDA isn’t testing them to see if they are safe or effective. I’m OK with that.


Cancer, Herpes, Metformin and the FDA – An interesting look at interactions with the FDA. The most interesting part is that Metformin, a very cheap diabetes drug, appears to have outstanding cancer preventing characteristics.


The Texas telemedicine breakthrough – This is cool! It looks like we can use online doctors in Texas now. I need to research this more. This could be a really cheap and convenient way to deal with a lot of minor medical issues.


NIX – This company appears to be making a wearable (stick on?) device that shows when you should drink to maximize performance. I thought we already came with a sense of thirst, but maybe this will be better. Their video had my BS meter pretty active with phrases like “a performance impairment up to 29%” (unusual precision), “nanotechnology” (buzzword alert), and “hybrid photonic system” (sciency word salad).


Art and Culture

Underpass Studio Workspace – This guy built a really clever workspace under a freeway overpass.


The History of Ink – This has nothing to do with tattoos. It’s an online copy of the book “The History of Ink”, which is a book from about 1860.


All the Ways You’re Secretly Being Rude Abroad –Asking someone what they do for a living is rude in France? Good grief. I do agree that using a handkerchief instead of a tissue is gross. That’s true here too. It looks like it is impossible to arrange your fingers in a way that won’t upset someone, so don’t even worry about it.



Birth of farming caused jaw-dropping changes to the human skull, scientists find – This article claims that farming made people’s jaws smaller and weaker by showing that people in areas that adopted agriculture did, in fact, have smaller jaws. I’m not dismissing the possibility that smaller jawed people invented agriculture to protect their fragile jaws – correlation doesn’t imply causation.


Assessing the accuracy of perceptions of intelligence based on heritable facial features – Apparently, some people look smart. I wonder if it is just the nerd glasses. I’d love to see full study if anyone can find an ungated copy of it.



The App Allows Parents To Send Emergency Texts Kids Can’t Ignore – This looks like the texting equivalent of a Howler from Harry Potter. I can see the use, but I also fear abuses. The controlling boyfriend/girlfriend. Leaving your phone in your office or locker and annoying the hell out of everyone around it. I’m sure that some kids need this, but I’m going to pass.


How To Choose A Microcontroller – Nothing is more embarrassing than showing up to a hacker party with the wrong microcontroller. I have nightmares about it.


There’s a world championship for Excel spreadsheets – It’s only open to youngsters (ages 13-22). I only pray that we don’t hire anyone in this competition.


How To Download All of Wikipedia Onto a USB Flash Drive – This could be useful.


Politics and Policy

Digital Rights Don’t Stop at the Border – What the heck? They can demand to search your phone when you come back into the country? That doesn’t seem right. Maybe what we need is an app that hides everything on your phone and puts it into a state that looks like an almost entirely factory reset phone. Then, once you get through customs, you do something that restores everything.


Taxpayers will pay a high price for loss of flood protection standards – This is a pre-Harvey article about President Trump rescinding President Obama’s policy that “limited federal subsidies to build in areas likely to flood.” Our flood insurance program is a total mess.


How Hurricane Harvey Could Cause Long-Term Devastation – Here’s another article on the problems that National Flood Insurance is facing. We definitely need some real reform, but it is going to make some people very unhappy.


Greece Should Copy New Zealand’s Dramatic Policy Reform – I don’t think this is likely to happen at all. It seems like most leaders don’t want to do what has been shown to work for countries as a whole. Instead, they want to do what works best for leaders, which is usually big, invasive governments.


Walter Williams: Suffer No Fools – An interesting show on African American intellectual Walter Williams. He’s an interesting thinker.


The Tenure Track Is Too Rigid to Help Diversity – Lots of valid complaints about the tenure system at universities.


This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley – A first person account of sexism in the Silicon Valley venture capital business.


America, Home of the Transactional Marriage – This article takes the position that low income marriage is in decline because of the loss of relative earning power of low income men.


First Amendment in Peril? – This article argues that, with their control of 98% of mobile phone OSes, the duopoly of Apple and Google effectively have the ability to censor apps.


Don’t Demonize Immigrants, My Fellow Conservatives – The change to demonization of immigrants is the saddest recent changes to the Republican Party. I’m all for making sure that all immigrants are legal, but to make that work, we need to make it much easier for many more people to come here legally. This will be especially true as we look for help in rebuilding SE Texas after that most unwelcome immigrant Harvey came to visit.


The Conservation of Coercion – This was a weird essay that seems to be saying that there is a certain natural level of coercion in society and that if you liberalize the government, informal rules will increase to fill the void.


The Socialism America Needs Now – This guy is arguing that instead of replacing capitalism with socialism, we need to grow socialism within it. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be driven by a recognition that socialism doesn’t work and needs to rely on markets. Rather, it is an argument for incrementalism and getting as much socialism as is politically feasible.


An Intellectual Historian Argues His Case Against Identity Politics – A criticism against a book written by a left leaning professor who opposes identity politics.


Three Generations of a Hackneyed Apologia for Censorship Are Enough – This is a nice review of the “shouting fire in a crowded theater” defense of censorship. It shows how the view that the government can censor “dangerous” opinions is no longer the law of the land.


Local NAACP Leader Defies Own Group, Supports New Florida Charter School – The battle over charter schools is an interesting one because it pits two usually aligned constituencies against each other.


PEDIATRICIAN FIRED OVER ANTI-DIVERSITY MEMO – This is a somewhat amusing mocking of the Google Memo situation using pediatricians (a group that skews heavily female) as an example. I wish it had been either funnier or more thought provoking, but it wasn’t bad.



Economist: Cigarette tax debate should include lawlessness – Oklahoma’s Supreme Court struck down a huge cigarette tax increase on the grounds that smuggling would completely undermine it. I don’t know if they make the correct legal decision, but it seems to have been the right economic decision.


An Open Letter to the Attorney General of Texas – I know that the anti-price gouging laws seem like a good idea, but they are stupid. We are running out of things like water and gasoline because people are buying far more than they really need because it is cheap. If we let prices increase, people wouldn’t horde as much AND suppliers would work harder to increase supply. So arguing for anti-price gouging laws makes you sound generous, but the truth is that you are causing shortages that leave people unable to get the things that they really, really need in favor of people hording stuff that they might use.

August 20, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Solar eclipse of 2017: Conroe ISD teacher, student weigh in on the event – The student in the article is none other than our Dante. By cautious about the eclipse. The sun is a huge orange flaming ball of gas and looking at it can cause serious damage. I saw something like that on twitter last week and my eyes still hurt.


How strong is Oobleck? – This YouTube video shows various backyard experiments with Oobleck, including shooting a balloon of it with a golf ball from a propane powered gun.


Ten Years Ago – Take a look at what some popular Internet sites looked like 10 years ago. Was it really ugly then or have our tastes just changed?


Here Is the Best Language Learning App for You – Want to learn a new language? I still think it would be much easier if we all just agreed to standardize on English. If you’ve watched virtually any science fiction movie, you know we will all speak English in the future anyway, so let’s get it done.


Strawberry Valley –Driscoll’s is the largest berry company. This is an interesting article on how they’ve developed the industry.


You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf – This guy was trippy. I love the story of his theatrical confrontation involving splashing blood on his fellow Quaker’s over their acceptance of slavery. This guy was a character.


Infographic of the fascinating timeline of the far future – Sorry the quick transition from blood spraying dwarfs of the 18th century to the far future, but this is an interesting look at where we are probably heading, including tidbits like the end of Niagra Falls (about 50K years from now) two when Voyager 2 will make its closest pass to Sirius.


Exposed: How maulvis take money for one-night stand with divorced women trying to save marriage – This was a weird one. Apparently there are imam’s that get paid by women to have one-night stands with them (basically getting married, consummating the marriage, and getting divorced all in one night). They do it because the women want to remarry their husbands and think that they need to do this for religious reasons first. I’m not sure what religious instruction they are getting, but I’d ask for a second opinion. This could be a good argument for the need to have some women in the clergy.


Japan Is Selling Ice Cream That Doesn’t Melt – I don’t understand this. One of the things that makes ice cream awesome is the way that it melts in your mouth. If it doesn’t melt, how is it ice cream?

Health – Physical and Mental

Why we fell for clean eating – Clean eating. It’s one of those vague terms that sounds good but doesn’t really mean much of anything. This article talks about it from a British perspective. My favorite is the insanity of the Blonde Vegan getting death threats when, after serious health issues, she decided to start eating fish.


Eating “Clean” Won’t Solve Any of Your Problems – This is a second article I came across that criticizes “clean” eating. Has a backlash started?


Art and Culture

The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television: Increases in the Use of Swear Words in American Books, 1950-2008 – This article uses Google N-Grams to show that the seven swear words listed by George Carlin have become much more common in books in the last few decades. I don’t think we’ll ever live in a world where swearing isn’t commonplace; we’re cursed.


Save Your Sanity. Downgrade Your Life. – Reading this lady’s article, I see how people were attracted to Amishism (or whatever the appropriate word is). “I cut out personal phone calls (unless the person is a continent away), then anything other than businesslike emails. If I want to catch up with a good friend or a family member, I wait until we actually see each other.” Then again, she writes articles to publish online.


Cheese Powder and Other Hobgoblins: A Double Standard in Risk Reporting – This article talks about our selective skepticism about science studies. We’re rightly skeptical about studies funded by companies that benefit from them but not nearly as skeptical when it is a non-profit or government agency that benefits from a study that they are backing.


The corruption of modern academic medicine — How your doctor was bought – This is a very skeptical article basically saying that far too many medical studies are untrustworthy because of influence by pharmaceutical companies.


Where is everybody? The implications of cosmic silence – A paper arguing that lack of evidence of any extraterrestrial intelligence is because once a species gets technically advanced enough, it kills itself.The idea is that technology increases our destructive power faster than our ability to wisely use that power. This would have been much easier to mock before last November.


Back to the past – This is a collection of studies on race. It’s a page of a daily blog by Kevin Lewis that I often scan to look for interesting studies.


How to Create a Strong Password – This is about the one millionth article exhorting you to use strong passwords, not share them between sites, and to store them securely. I’d go on about how crazy it is for people to keep writing articles on this topic, except for the fact that most people still do all the things they say not to do. Don’t you?


Charlottesville white nationalist demonstrator loses job at libertarian hot dog shop – Remember the article last week about the guy taking stranger’s pictures on subways and then searching for their faces online to see who they are? The same technique was used on the Nazi’s in the march. Before you get too excited about how great that is, remember that the same approach can be used on good people fighting for good but unpopular causes.

Politics and Policy

A STATE BROADCASTER IS AN ANACHRONISM – This is an argument for dropping the poll tax that supports the BBC. I don’t know why Britain, or the US for that matter, feels the need to use taxpayer funds to support domestic broadcasters. The funny thing is that the audience that they target with subsidies skews towards those most able to afford to pay for their own entertainment.


This University President Can’t Take a Joke – This is by the creator of the documentary Can We Take A Joke? It pokes fun of the president of Lawrence University for refusing to recognize a student group for showing the film because it upset other students. The overall gist of the article is positive, saying that the movie has been shown at about 250 theaters without other incidents.


Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals – This article blames neoliberalism (a vague term that roughly means people that like more individual freedom than the speaker wants them to have) for the difficulty fighting global warming. It appears to view ending capitalism as key to saving the world. What was it that Einstein said about the definition of insanity?


After Backing Alt-Right in Charlottesville, A.C.L.U. Wrestles With Its Role – The A.C.L.U. once again backed Neo-Nazi’s right to speak. They’ve taken a lot of criticism over it. I’m still a free speech extremist. Taking away the right to speak from anyone is conceding that it’s a right that can be taken away. At that point, is it really a right anymore? It reminds me of the old joke where the billionaire offers a woman $100,000,000 if she’ll sleep with him. She agrees. Then he says changes his offer to $50. She exclaims “what kind of woman do you think I am!” He responds “We’ve already established that. Now we’re just arguing over the price.” If we agree that we are country that censors people, we’re left arguing over who we will allow the right to speak.


The Misguided Attacks on ACLU for Defending Neo-Nazis’ Free Speech Rights in Charlottesville – Here’s a better defense of the A.C.L.U.’s stance than my prostitute joke.


Robert E. Lee Quote – “I think it wiser, moreover, not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.” It looks like those protesting the removal of civil war statues do so against the wishes of one of their heroes. Not that this will buy us anything. These people have proven beyond any doubt that they can hold their views in the face of any amount of logic or reason.


Why state-level single-payer health care efforts are doomed – I’ve been searching for a good explanation of why states with populations that overwhelmingly support single-payer don’t just do it at a state level. This article is sort of an argument for why they can’t. I found the few arguments they made to be weak. One is that sick people would move to those states. That could be mitigated by having a multi-year wait before getting the benefits. The other is that states have to have balanced budgets. That’s a frighteningly bad argument. The author appears to believe that it is OK to borrow money from future taxpayers to pay for current health expenses. Um, wow. Not sure what to say about that other than I’m glad he isn’t managing my finances.


Socialism – not oil prices – is to blame for Venezuela’s woes – Well, duh. How many times will socialism have to fail before people give up on the idea?


Why a Top Obama Adviser Is Looking at Concert Ticket Pricing to Help the Nation’s Economy – Concert pricing has always seemed a bit crazy. This is an interview with Alan Krueger on the topic.


Is “Buying Local” Even Possible? – This is an article showing how silly much of the “buy local” nonsense is.


The Fight For $15 Fizzles – The movement to ban all people not able to earn $15/hr from having jobs appears to be dying. I think this experience is a great lesson in the value of doing these things locally before making a national commitment. We’ve been learn enough to local experiments to see what a bad idea this is before ruining the lives of poor people across the country.


People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs – This study looks at the employment impact of minimum wage increases on jobs that are easy to automate. Not surprisingly, it finds that “increasing the minimum wage decreases significantly the share of automatable employment held by low-skilled workers.”


The U.S. trade deficit is a good thing. Really. – This is an op-ed by US Senator James Lankford taking the position that the trade deficit is actually a good thing. I think he’s correct in saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about the deficit, but I don’t think you can necessarily conclude that it is good (or bad) to have one.


No. The U.S. Trade Deficit Is Not a Good Thing – This is a response by John Carney to the prior article. It’s full of bad economics (which is why it’s on Breitbart), but I thought it was good to read to see what arguments anti-trade people believe.


What John Carney At Breitbart Gets Wrong About Trade Deficits – Finally, here’s a response to Carney’s response to Lankford’s article claiming that deficits are good.


Evidence of a Toxic Environment for Women in Economics – An interesting study of comments on econjobrumors showing a disturbing level of misogyny there. I don’t know enough about the economics profession to say what that means for gender bias in the field versus what it says about the tendency of online commenters to be extremely misogynist. Why are online commenters so insane?


Will Robots Steal Human Jobs? – Short answer – no. The economy is not that limited. The more we can do, the more we’ll want. We’re very far from having robots do everything we want, so we’ll still be offering each other pay to do more things for us.


Google Memo – Week 2

Tech’s Damaging Myth of the Loner Genius Nerd – This article argues that interpersonal skills and broader cultural knowledge are important in tech, so it is in company’s interests to be more inclusive. I think misses the mark. It is definitely true that in tech groups, you need people that can anticipate user’s desires, communicate to non-technical people, and all that. You also need some people to write code and those people need very little in the way of people skills. I think you’ll continue to see those roles filled by socially awkward people – often male, often living outside their native culture.


The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond – Perspectives on the Google Memo from social psychology professor, a personality psychology professor, an evolutionary psychology professor, and a science writer with a PhD in sexual neuroscience.


Some scientists respond to the controversial Google memo – This is primarily a reference to the article listed above, but it makes one fun point. People are simultaneously arguing that there is no real difference between male and female minds and so we should expect equal representation in tech jobs AND that we should push for gender diversity to reap the benefits of the different ways that men and women see and experience the world.


As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My People – This woman’s perspective is roughly that women generally aren’t as interested in tech as men are, but even for those that are, it is tougher than it should be and that companies should do more to make them feel more welcome. I think this article was the one that influenced my thinking on the subject the most.


August 13, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Unpaid internships damage long-term graduate pay prospects – I doubt that it is the unpaid internship that causes the problem. My bet is that not being able to find paid work leads people to take unpaid internships. They may help, but the people that take them are likely not going to be as well off as those that got paid offers. It’s a bit like saying that crutches damage people’s mobility by comparing the mobility of people using crutches with those that don’t use them.


How Checkers Was Solved – Marion Tinsley dominated checkers possibly more than anyone has ever dominated a competitive activity. This article is about his battle with a computer program and how the programmer eventually went on to work out every possible move in checkers.


The Food Lab: How to Organize Your Refrigerator for Better Food Storage – I had no idea people put so much thought into where to put things in the fridge. I just look for an open spot.


Walkway barrier planned to ensure Supreme Court’s independence – I didn’t actually read through this whole article. I just thought the picture was really funny. For just a second, I thought it was the US Supreme Court dressed up as Santa’s for Christmas, but it’s the Canadian Supreme Court and apparently their business attire is a Santa suit. No beards though. Maybe they save those for court sessions.


Texts on a Plane About Child Molestation Lead to Two Arrests – A teacher on a plane reads someone’s texts, realizes that he’s a child molester, and has him arrested. Overall, that’s a good thing, but…who reads stranger’s texts? Who openly texts about molesting children while surrounded by other people? Weird.


How Airlines Schedule Flights – I thought this would be fairly dull, but it was actually quite interesting. There are two main ways that airlines schedule flights. Low cost airlines try to maximize plane and employee utilization. High cost airlines try to minimize layovers. Those goals impact how they schedule flights.


Victoria Skye’s Unbelievable Optical Illusion – Whoa! My brain is totally tricked by this and it bothers me. But it is cool. But still frustrating.


Why Some Schools Are Ditching Homework – Kids get way too much homework, but getting rid of homework isn’t the right answer either. Make it meaningful and not busywork. For math, make it enough to practice and help the student determine whether they have mastery. For reading, give students books to read and an occasional paper to write. Throw in a few other things like science fair and you’re good. All the rest should be optional stuff to help students make sure they understand the material before tests. That’s my totally lacking in expertise opinion.


America’s most expensive home hits the market in Bel-Air at $350 million – The Beverly Hillbillies house is for sale. Seriously. But why do they list it as having a swimming pool instead of a cement pond?!?


What Data-Mining TV’s Political Coverage Tells Us – This is an analysis of how news coverage shapes elections. The best part is the reference to this site that you can use to do your own analysis. You put in a word of phrase and it shows you how often it got mentioned by various different news sources. Loads of fun.


Meet a Real-Life Lara Croft: Kimi Werner, Freediver and Spearfisher – OK, word analysis of news sources isn’t exciting to you? Try this article on a lady that does all sorts of adventure sports – often in a bikini.

Health – Physical and Mental

A race is underway to repair our hearing — with medicine – I sure hope it works. Hearing loss is one of the things I’m really not looking forward to about getting older. Then again, I can see not being able to hear would be very useful in some circumstances.


Crying – The author tracked her crying and did analysis on the data. I love the weird juxtaposition of an extreme emotional response (crying) with cold, hard-headed analytics.


12 Clever Ways To Motivate Yourself To Wake Up For The Gym – Set two alarms? Eat some citrus? Turn your lights on right away? Seems complicated. I prefer a simple approach – don’t be pathetic; just wake up and get it done. It’s not really that hard.


This App Works Like Tinder, Except It’s for Making Platonic Friends – Is this the future? Online friending apps? It seems odd, but I can’t think of why it wouldn’t work. I suspect that many people could use more friends.


We Evolved to Run—But We’re Doing It All Wrong – The author says that we should run slowly, which seems to be my only option. My favorite quote: “The treadmill was invented in the early 19th century, when penal philosophers were trying to work out a punishment that was just short of the death penalty.”

A DIY Pharmaceutical Revolution Is Coming—If It Doesn’t Kill Us First – I should have seen this coming. With all the expensive restrictions on drugs put in place by the FDA, it was only a matter of time before someone started working on kits allowing people to make their own drugs. The future is going to be very interesting.


Put a Glow Stick in Your Kid’s Nighttime Barf Bucket – All sorts of useful information on setting up a good barf bucket for your kids. I hate to think of what inspired the author to research and write this article.


Are you a medieval sleeper? Why it’s time to put the eight-hour night to bed – According to this article, some people are wired to wake up for an hour or two as a break between periods of sleep. I don’t think it is natural. I think that it is a habit picked up by people that have a gap between regularly scheduled meetings at work.


Oliver Sacks on How Our Hobbies Can Kill Us – Not really. It’s about an obsessive weightlifter showing how obsessions can be harmful.


Why Do Rich People Love Endurance Sports? – Why does anybody like endurance sports? I think it is a form of mental illness.


This is what happens to your body when you stop having sex. No. 3 makes me really scared. – OK, not all endurance sports are bad.


Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk, study says – I don’t know how important these really are, but it seems like you’d be crazy not to do some of them.


Please Do Not Ever Rest Your Feet On The Dashboard Please – Ouch! I guess resting any part of your body on an explosive device has its risks.

Art and Culture

What I Hear When You Tell Me Your Company Doesn’t Do Meetings – I frequently make fun of meetings, but I don’t think I’d work at a company that didn’t do meetings at all. Well, maybe if it was a sole proprietorship.


Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? – According to this article, yes. Reminds me of a quote attributed to Socrates: “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”


I’m A Woman, Shake My Hand, Damn It – Written by a woman bitter about the fact that people hug women but shake men’s hands. Personally, I’d prefer that we go with the bowing approach.


Photographer Proves End of Privacy Is Here Through Photos That Will Blow Your Mind – Guy takes pictures of strangers on mass transit. Then he searches for matching pictures to identify people and gets hits in a high percentage of cases. Interesting. Kind of scary.


Having Work Friends Can Be Tricky, but It’s Worth It – “Only 19% of the people surveyed had a significant relationship with a workmate.” I guess it depends on how you define “significant relationship”, but the implication of the article is that fewer than one person in five is friends with any of their coworkers. That seems a little hard to believe.


Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator: 300 Jedi vs. 60,000 Medieval Soldiers – This is genius. Someone wrote a simulator that lets you test how well different combatants would do against each other. You can pit Roman Legions and against WWII infantry, or T-Rexes against Chuck Norris. Finally, computers are being put to good use.


Why Funny, Falling, Soccer-Playing Robots Matter – Robots are playing soccer. They are comically bad at it…for now.


Man used DDoS to try and get Fairfax Media, others to remove articles – The stupid is strong with this one. This guy is now famous for attacking media sites to get them to remove stories about his criminal history.


The Most Important Invention You Never Thought About – The container ship. It helped shrink the world and make you much richer.


COMPANION ROBOTS ARE HERE. JUST DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH THEM – These aren’t the creepy sex robots of some future Westworld. These are little androgynous helper bots that you can buy today. They seem cool, but not very useful.


You Don’t Need Desktop Apps Anymore – This guy is basically saying that you should just use web based apps except for maybe stuff like Photoshop. Here’s my list of some of my regularly used desktop apps at home – KeePass, TrueCrypt, Quicken, the Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere, Acrobat), Handbrake, the Arduino IDE, Office (Excel, Word), UltraEdit, Simplify 3D, OneNote, and Inkscape. I’m still a long way from not using desktop apps.


Robots Are Ruining Your Driving Skills – The author contends that driving aids like lane detection and automatic braking are ruining people’s driving skills. In a way, he’s right, but the same can be said about things like power steering, anti-lock brakes, automatic transmissions, and automatic chokes. My favorite part is the chart showing what people would do while riding in self-driving cars. In order, they are:

  • Make calls – More than they already do?
  • Eat – Again, more than they already do?
  • Text/Email – Sadly, I have to ask again – more than they already do?
  • Read – Finally, something people don’t already do much of.
  • Watch TV – Because people don’t get enough TV today.
  • Sleep – This makes sense, especially if you have one of those medieval sleep patterns.
  • Groom – It just seems funny that people would do this in a public space.
  • Meditate – It seems even funnier to think of people trying to meditate in traffic. Will self-driving cars curse out other drivers for us while we go to our Zen place?
  • Romance – I’m guessing that this is a euphemism.
  • Drink Alcohol – I actually see this as one of the best things about self-driving cars; not the ability for me to drink, rather I like the idea of getting drunks out from behind the wheel.
  • Exercise – Huh? What exercise can you actually do in a car? Or is this another euphemism for “Romance”?

Politics and Policy

When Should a Child Be Taken from His Parents? – That’s a tough question. I wish that the answer was never, but there are abusive and dangerously neglectful parents. This article takes you through some difficult examples and describes the process.


A Right-Left Fusion Agenda on Zoning & Occupational Licensing – It looks like we may be seeing the start of a bi-partisan consensus that we need to relax zoning and occupational licensing restrictions. Sounds too good to be true.


Justice Dept. to Take On Affirmative Action in College Admissions – Looks like affirmative action is going to be under more legal assault. My guess is that white people thinking that this will help them will be disappointed. It will probably hurt Blacks and Hispanics, but my guess is Asians will be the big beneficiaries rather than Whites because they are the ones most hurt by racially discriminating admissions policies.


How Fast Food Chains Supersized Inequality – According to this article, poor people are effectively forced to eat unhealthy fast food because big corporations used the government to make it so. This is a great example of the contention from The Three Blind Spots of Politics saying that “Liberals see the world as a battle between victims and oppressors.”


Some Kenyans, keen to vote, rent babies to jump long queues – You can rent babies in Kenya to skip to the head of the voting lines. Does that sound like a crazy third-world sort of thing? Disney had to change its policy on handicap access because people were renting the disabled to skip lines.

Diversity and Affirmative Action

An internal memo criticizing Google for stifling internal debate on affirmative action and criticizing the policy leaked out this week. The author was summarily fired. I’ll list several viewpoints on the memo. A few of my points:

  • I’m disappointed by the Google VP of Diversity’s response. If someone accuses you of stifling debate on a topic, ending your response (which lacked any sort of rebuttal) with the phrase “‘Nuff said” seems to play directly into their hands.
  • Is this firing a modern form of McCarthyism? With McCarthyism, the people afraid of dissent stripped people of their jobs for advocating a political system that lead directly to the deaths of over 100,000,000 last century and impoverished more than a billion others. In this case, they demanded the dismissal of a guy because he said that men are disproportionally more interested in and better at some technical jobs than women on average. Both are overreactions, but this one seems a bit farcical.


Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber – This is the memo that started the whole discussion.


Everything White People Think About Affirmative Action Is Wrong – A black writer explaining why white people have a misguided view of affirmative action.


A Melbourne cafe is charging an 18 percent ‘man tax’ – I’m a bit surprised that it is legal. Are we at a place now where we can let people sell to who they want to sell to and buy from who they want to buy from?


The Uncomfortable Truth About Affirmative Action and Asian-Americans – An interesting article about affirmative action written by an Asian law professor at Harvard.


Why the Conservative Response to the Google Memo Is Hypocritical – This is an inane article that does more to show how intolerant the writer is than it does to make his point. “Arguments that cite innate biological differences between the minds of men and women are incorrect, and they’re not an acceptable part of a public discourse about gender.” I’m not an expert in this area, but everything I’ve seen says that this is still a very open question in science and anyone that says that it is not an acceptable part of a public discourse is clearly trying to stifle academic freedom.


Is it just my imagination… – A blog post from one of my favorite economics bloggers on the Google Memo situation.


Differences between Men and Women are Vastly Exaggerated – An article by a social scientist downplaying the differences between men and women and CONTRA GRANT ON EXAGGERATED DIFFERENCES is an excellent criticism of that article.


Should We “Stop Equating ‘Science’ With Truth”? – Written by a female professor of evolutionary biology, the article basically says that even if women are disproportionally less interested in some tech jobs, firms should still discriminate in their favor for good reasons.


Outraged By the Google Diversity Memo? I Want You to Think About It – The viewpoint of a female, German physicist that worked in both the US and Canada.

Special Note

Sometimes when I go to read an article, the site won’t let me because I’ve read too many free articles already. At that point, you have three options – don’t read it, pay for it, or go into private/incognito mode. When you are in private mode, the site doesn’t know whether or not you’ve been there, so it can’t tell how many articles you’ve read.