October 1, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination – This is the surprisingly fascinating story of the execution of Kim Jong-un’s older brother Kim Jong-nam (they have a weird naming convention). He’s the guy that was poisoned in an airport. The story has hookers, binary chemical weapons, spies – everything a good murder mystery should have.


Scott Baldwin: Lion bites Ospreys’ Wales hooker – This article was all sorts of weird. Why is a hooker playing rugby? Why was the hooker allowed close enough to the lion to get his hand bit? How much rugby does a hooker have to play to get dumb enough to think that petting a lion is a reasonable thing to do?


Where is Pizza Most Expensive (and Cheapest) in America? – The cheapest state is Alaska. The most expensive is North Dakota. The most pizza places per capita is Orlando, but I wonder if that is because Orlando has the most people per capita. I know that sounds weird, but I’m guessing that the “capita” in “per capita” is a count of residents and not a count of people there right now. By city, Lexington is the cheapest and Buffalo the most expensive.


NCAA Threatens College Runner With Ineligibility for Promoting Water Bottle Company – Did he do a side deal with Desani? Is he pushing Perrier? No. He and a friend started a bottled water business in high school. We can’t let those student athletes get away with running their own business.


Five Ways Ancient India Changed the World With Math – The gave us “Arabic” numerals (should have locked up the naming rights), zero (sounds like nothing but is quite valuable), quadratic equations (forcing us all to spend an extra year on high school math), rules for negative numbers (which they called “debts”), and the basics of calculus (this last seemed like a stretch).


Reserve private bathrooms across NYC with a new app – I guess that it’s hard to find a public restroom in New York. They need Buc-ee’s. The weird thing is that you get an hour reservation for the bathroom. If you need an hour in the bathroom, you need more help than an app is going to provide.


THE INSIDE STORY OF THE GREAT SILICON HEIST – How do you literally walk out with 43 tons of valuable silicon? This is another interesting crime story. Sorry, no hookers.


What You Actually Got From Those Back-of-Magazine Ads – If you are old enough, you probably remember those weird little ads in the back of magazines and wondered what you actually got from them. This article reveals the truth. It was probably one of those ads that I answered that caused someone to come to my house when I was about 10 years old. He was trying to sign me up for

stenography school. My parents sent him away, which is how I ended up where I am today.

Canada MPs to loosen penalties for drunks in kayaks – Looks like they are going decriminalize KUI in Canada. The problem is that they were overbroad with their law against operating vehicles under the influence, so now they are redefining it to not include personally powered vehicles like kayaks and bikes. Not sure about dogsleds.

Health – Physical and Mental

As Workouts Intensify, a Harmful Side Effect Grows More Common – Work out hard, but not too hard, especially when doing something new. Rhabdo appears to be getting more common. You don’t want it.


New antibody attacks 99% of HIV strains – This will be welcome news if it proves itself in the real world. I don’t hear much about HIV here in the US anymore, but my understanding is that it is still a horrible crisis in Africa.


We Expect Too Much From Our Romantic Partners – This was kind of weird. I understand that people get divorced more often now and that they expect more from marriage than they did. It’s really not a bad thing that marriage is now more of a choice than an obligation. Still, I have to think that the mumbo-jumbo about Maslow and self-actualization is probably part of their marriage problem. No spouse wants to listen to blather like that.


Let Kids Play With Junk – I’m a big fan of the idea. I remember the day that the kids spent a morning playing with a box of Styrofoam packing. They made an incredible mess all over the family room, but then they had even more fun sucking it all up with a shop vac. Also, one of my favorite quotes was from a Christmas when our two year-old son unwrapped the box containing his large present. His reaction – “Wow!!! A BOX!!!”


The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science – Have problems waking up in the middle of the night? This article will give you something to think about while you lay awake.


Get up at least once every 30 minutes. Failure to do so may shorten your life, study finds – This contradicts the prior story. If you get up once every 30 minutes, neither you nor your spouse are going to get enough sleep and your spouse will definitely shorten your lifespan.


The pursuit of pleasure is a modern-day addiction – This is a British story on the increase in drug addiction and subsequent shortening of lifespans there. They contend that dopamine tells the brain “This is good. I want more.” and serotonin tells the brain “this is good. I have enough.” The world is increasingly making dopamine easy to get and so we are getting less serotonin. I guess the lesson is to seek satisfaction rather than pleasure.


After 15 yrs in vegetative state, patient becomes minimally conscious – OK, “minimally conscious” is the key phrase here, but after 15 years, that’s still a big deal. Even teens don’t go that long without thinking.


Why Butter Used to Have Its Own Food Group – I love the thought of butter being a food group. “Kids, you have to finish your butter before you leave the theater!” Maybe some things in the past really were better.

Art and Culture

How The Negro Traveler’s Green Book Helped Black People Get Around in the 1950s – It was great that butter was a food group back in the day, but it sucks that people needed a special book to figure out where they could travel based on their skin color. Good for Victor Green for writing it and shame on the people that made it necessary.


The 100 Hardest Video-Game Bosses, Ranked – #1 was Skolas from House of Wolves. The toughest I’ve faced and beaten is #10 (Mike Tyson from Punch-Out!!). I’ve never heard of most of these.


There and Back Again – This is a celebration of The Hobbit on its 80th anniversary. I still love it and, while I wouldn’t call it my favorite book, it is the first book that completely engrossed me in a story.


Playing the Online Dating Game, in a Wheelchair – The author, who has been in a wheelchair for virtually her entire life, finds that online dating is harder when people see that she is in a wheelchair. That’s a shame, but it isn’t surprising. I’m sure that the same is true for people that are overweight, balding, unattractive, short, have low-status jobs, or any other “undesirable” traits. It would be interesting to see the relative negative weights of each. As a very short young man, I quickly learned that my height was a deal killer for many women. I also realized that it was a deal killer for women that I didn’t want to be dating anyway. It saved me from wasting time with shallow people and helped me eventually marry the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. It may suck for the author to feel rejected by so many men because of her wheelchair, but she’s probably better off not having to weed them out in a more time consuming way. Of course, I have to admit that I was attracted to my wife because she’s a hottie, so I’m not going to claim to be consistent here.


The Forgotten Man/Woman – I usually agree with the iconoclastic views that Bryan Caplan writes about, so I was surprised at how far off base he seems with this one. He’s basically taking the position that people of the opposite sex should avoid being alone together even at work for the sake of their respective spouses and families. Must suck to be a female grad student of his. I knew right away that I was going to disagree with the article because it started with “Even today, we rarely socialize with co-workers of the opposite sex.” Really?


We seem to be getting stupider and population ageing may be why – IQ test scores had been increasing for decades. Now they are declining. Is it because of the stupid millennials? A side effect of smart phone use? The author suggests that it is because the test takers are getting older and older people have lower IQs. That was definitely true when I was a teenager.


The Stability of Implicit Racial Bias in Police Officers – “when officers slept less prior to testing they demonstrated stronger association between Black Americans and weapons.” It looks like police racism is worse for tired cops.


Entropy Explained, With Sheep – This article is a wonderful explanation of entropy, which is rarely explained well.


The world could run out of food two decades earlier than thought – When Malthus made his original claims about overpopulation, they probably seemed reasonable. When Paul Ehrlich got everyone excited about it again in the 70s, they were clearly foolish. Now, someone claiming that we are two decades away from running out of food is an idiot. Here’s a better counterpoint than my dismissive summary.


Genetically modified approaches to fighting malaria succeed in new tests – They may have a way to make mosquitos resistant to malaria. Personally, I’d prefer a way to just kill all the damn mosquitos, but I guess this is better than nothing.


Could lab-grown fish and meat feed the world – without killing a single animal? – People are investing a lot of time and money into developing ways to grow meat in lab. I wonder what percentage of vegetarians and vegans will eat lab grown meat. And why “fish and meat” instead of just “meat”? In what sense are fish not made out of meat?


Project management: A surefire way to kill your software product – OK, I find project management and project managers annoying, but I don’t have nearly as negative a view of them as this author does.

Politics and Policy

THIS FOOD FOREST ON A BARGE IN NEW YORK FLOATS THE IDEA OF FRESH FOOD FOR CITIES – This is pretty cool from a technology perspective, but it seems pretty pointless from a practical standpoint. It’s more like taking “Eat Local” far enough to the extremes to show why it is silly.


This Tiny Country Feeds the World – The Netherlands grows and awful lot of food in a very small space. I have a hard time believing that this makes economic sense, but that’s their problem, not mine. I probably benefit as they learn more about increasing crop yields.


THE POOR ARE CARRYING THE COST OF TODAY’S CLIMATE POLICIES – “Climate change is doing more good than harm. Climate change policy is doing more harm than good.” That’s a pretty unconventional viewpoint.


How the Debate on Climate Change Is Cooling Down – Good news! The climate isn’t warming as fast as was predicted. The bad news is that it is still warming, but the slower rate gives us more time to adjust.


Tech’s push to teach coding isn’t about kids’ success – it’s about cutting wages – This made me chuckle. The writer seriously thinks that the big push by people in the Tech industry to encourage people to learn to code is because they want to cut wages. So suddenly are short-sighted corporate executives only focused on this quarter are now planning decades in advance to marginally decrease labor costs.


Puerto Rico’s American Dream Is Dead – The island was in bad shape before it was crushed by Maria. Even if we repair the damage from the storm, Puerto Rico will still be an American territory that is a mess without easy solutions. Keep in mind, there is no immigration policy that prevents the millions and millions of Puerto Ricans (all US citizens) from resettling on the mainland, so this could result in an unstoppable refugee crisis.


Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal in Puerto Rico – How did Puerto Rico get this messed up? Rexford Tugwell helped lay the foundation. I suppose you could argue that they are the richest island in the Caribbean, but I don’t doubt that if we’d established the same laissez faire policies that the Brits applied to Hong Kong they would be much better off today.


What Happened to Myanmar’s Human-Rights Icon? – The usual story is that the oppressors are the bad guys and the oppressed are the good guys. It looks like the oppressed Suu Kyi was just another oppressor that happened to be oppressed.


The New Fight For Labor Rights – This article pushes the notion that workers should fight for their “rights” and then abuses the term “rights” into insensibility. One example is his claim that workers have a first amendment right to criticize their employers on flyers, T-shirts, or Twitter. Well, they do. His mistake is not understanding that this means that the government can’t punish them for what they say. It doesn’t mean that their employer can’t fire them.

Economics, Business, and Money

Warren Buffett shared his best investment advice, and said the ‘elite’ have wasted $100 billion ignoring it – “My regular recommendation has been a low-cost S&P 500 index fund.” I couldn’t agree more. Well, I’d go for a total stock market index fund like VTSMX, but it’s basically the same thing.


This Brilliant Email From Netflix Was a Master Class in Dealing With a Legal Issue – Most lawyer letters are boring and overbearing. This is a clever example that goes against type. Kudos to Netflix legal team for not being jerks.


Hurricane Doofonomics – This article explains that the result of damage from hurricanes may cause an increase our GDP, but that doesn’t make us better off. GDP measures economic activity, but it doesn’t account for everything (like the losses caused by hurricanes).


OK, I have to come right and say that I think the whole controversy over the National Anthem at Footballs games is stupid. I don’t see the point of playing the Anthem before games. I don’t see why players should be compelled to come out and stand for it. I also think that coming out for it and then ostentatiously taking a knee is rude. It is the right of team owners not to hire an entertainer that their fans don’t want to cheer for (see my points about the first amendment not applying to employers above). Finally, I think we made a mistake in 1931 when we picked it to be our National Anthem. It’s a foreign song written by a slaver about a war that we lost. America the Beautiful is a much better choice. And as long as I’m offending everyone, someone needs to tell Colin to get a haircut. Long hair almost always looks silly on men and you can drop the “almost” when it is bushy.


Football Is Problematic, but Not Because of #TakeTheKnee – “There have been at least 44 different players who have been accused of physical or sexual assault in the last few years.” “Investigation has shown that many NFL teams have been violating federal laws when it comes to narcotic painkiller prescriptions.” “It’s been alleged that the NFL knew about the prevalence and negative effects of CTE and did nothing to warn players.” “So, the rampant drug use, physical and sexual violence, animal abuse, and widespread brain damage were fine, but the peaceful exercise of free speech is not? Duly noted, guys.”


In NFL Fight, Trump Embraces Political Correctness – The man elected because he wasn’t afraid to ignore political correctness and tell people what he thought is pushing for vengeance on someone not following his brand of political correctness. Nice.


Donald Trump and the USFL: A ‘Beautiful’ Circus – An interesting history of Trump’s history with the USFL. Most surprising fact – he paid Doug Flutie 40% more than Joe Montana was making coming off of a Super Bowl win. Weirdest fact – his celebrity judges to help pick cheerleaders included an offensive lineman, his wife, LeRoy Neiman (I loved his Olympics art), Beverly Sills (yes, the opera singer), and Andy Warhol. That’s right; Andy Warhol helped Donald Trump pick cheerleaders.