December 3, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

What Archaeology Is Telling Us About the Real Jesus – This is an interesting look at archaeology focused on the life of Christ.

Olympic Doping Diaries: Chemist’s Notes Bolster Case Against Russia – This article is about the detailed notes kept by a doctor that allegedly helped provide performance enhancing drugs to Russia athletes. I’d get more outraged about this stuff if I didn’t suspect that it was common. We may have a Russia-free Olympics coming up.

Belgian prince says proposed pay cut would breach his human rights – This is why we don’t want royalty.

Chinese man repaints road markings to make his commute quicker – This guy gets huge bonus points for moxie, but it leaves me wondering who the heck is designing intersections in China. It looks like this intersection already has 2 lanes merging into one in the intersection itself. This guy was trying to make it a three-in-one.

Shared Space’ Design: Road Signs Suck. What if We Got Rid of Them All? – This seems even crazier. I’ll keep an open mind, but I struggle to see how this will work.

TRANSPORTATION CODE – TITLE 7. VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC – SUBTITLE C. RULES OF THE ROAD – CHAPTER 552. PEDESTRIANS – I was curious about Texas laws regarding pedestrian crossing. Chapter 522 covers it. I was surprised to see that Texas law requires cars to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks (and it implies that also includes unmarked crosswalks) when there is no traffic signal present. How often do you see that happen?

More Than 180 Women Have Reported Sexual Assaults at Massage Envy – This story is just gross and furthers my view that undressing and getting handled by a stranger in a private room is not something I want anything to do with.

Elon Musk says SpaceX will try to launch his Tesla Roadster on new heavy-lift rocket – That seems staggeringly stupid.

Health – Physical and Mental

We took a scientific look at whether weed or alcohol is worse for you — and there appears to be a winner – I wouldn’t put a lot of weight on science information from “Business Insider”, but I thought it was an interesting perspective.

Afterglow (NSFW) – This article is about the importance of post-sex cuddling on a long-term relationship.

Study Shows Strength Training Can Add Years to Your Life – Before you run out and join a gym or buy a bunch of weights, “…an interesting takeaway from the study was that simple exercises like weight-free, equipment-free squats, planks, sit ups, crunches, and push-ups were just as effective as working with actual weights and gym equipment.” It sounds like the aerobic stuff – a little is enough to get a lot of benefit and then you hit diminishing longevity gains.

Warren Buffett says this quick mental exercise will make you a happier person – In summary, his advice is to look at the people you admire most and least and emulate the things you like in the people you admire and avoid doing the things you dislike in the people you don’t admire.

Art and Culture

This Drone Photographer Sees Things In the Surf on Beaches – Some of these shots are amazing.

89-Year-Old Japanese Grandma Discovers Photography, Can’t Stop Taking Hilarious Self-Portraits Now – Some people are just cool. I don’t really get her sense of humor, but I love that she’s out there doing stuff. If I’m still alive at 89, I hope I’m like her – living life and not just going along for the ride.

NYC Layer-Lapse – This video is a composite of time-lapses of the NYC skyline that mixes images from different times of the day together. Technically, it’s amazing. Artistically, it doesn’t do anything for me.

Sesame Street: Sharing Things (Stranger Things Parody) – I haven’t seen Stranger Things, but I thought this was amusing.

The Grad Student Who Finds Out She’s Pregnant (NSFW) – This is an entry in something called “Sex Diaries”, which appears to be short diaries from cosmopolitan people with a focus on their sex lives. This one is about a grad student impregnated by her FWB. It reads like something written by someone from a totally alien culture – a very lonely and empty culture. Very sad.

Five Books That Have Changed My Life – Another book list. This one is by an econ blogger I follow. I’ve only read one of the five, Foundation, and, while I thought it was good science fiction for its time, it didn’t change my life. What books changed me the most? Free To Choose gave me a much deeper appreciation for freedom. The Lord of the Rings gave me a sense for how engrossing a good story can be. Math Is Fun made me see how much fun solving problems can be. There are many, many other books that I love, but those are the few that jump out as books that have changed me.

THE “LORD OF THE RINGS” OF CHINESE LITERATURE IS FINALLY BEING TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH – I’ve never heard of him. I’ll have to try some of his stuff.

The Delights of Parsing the Beatles’ Most Nonsensical Song – I Am The Walrus. It’s not one of my favorites and I’m not drawn to its “mysteries”, but it was interesting to read about it.

Science

Why are scientists filing lawsuits against their critics? – I’d be interested to hear both sides of this story, but the article certainly paints a damning picture of Mark Jacobson.

If science is what scientists do, what happens if scientists stop doing science? – I thought that this article muddied a fairly simple concept. Science is making testable conjectures about how the world works and then testing them. Those that survive tests well are more likely to be true. It doesn’t matter who does it and people calling themselves “scientists” that don’t do it are doing science.

A tad of gay holds sway – I have absolutely no expertise in this area, so this article may be insane rantings. It is an interesting conundrum, though. If homosexuality is genetic, how do the genes for it survive? His theory is that it is similar to the genes that cause sickle cell anemia. If you get one of those genes, you are more resistant to malaria but if you get both, you get sickle cell anemia. The advantages in areas with a lot of malaria outweigh the costs genetically, so the genes survive. Maybe having some “gay” genes provides reproductive advantages that outweigh the reproductive costs of having so many those genes that you are gay.

Technology

More than 480 web firms record ‘every keystroke’ – Start to fill out a form online. Change your mind and close the page before you hit the submit button. Nobody knows what you did, right? Wrong. It looks like growing number of sites are recording every keystroke you make on their site and every movement of your mouse without you having to “submit” the information. They are using a third-party to gather that information, so there is no telling who it is being shared with. You can’t do anything about it, but it is good to be aware. It feels like a trust violation to me.

The 10 most useful things you can do in Excel – A lot of this stuff is common knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows it. I learned something I didn’t know from the article (flash fill).

DNS resolver 9.9.9.9 will check requests against IBM threat database – It looks like 9.9.9.9 is another free DNS service. This one blocks “threatening” addresses. I’m not sure whether the benefit is worth letting someone else decide what is a threat and what isn’t. Regardless, if you don’t have a backup DNS set up, you should. The majority of Comcast Internet “outages” I’ve seen are really just problems with their DNS service.

Politics and Policy

A panic is not an answer: We’re at imminent risk of turning this #metoo moment into a frenzied rush to blame all men – Is the pendulum going to swing too far? I don’t think it has yet, but I suspect that it will.

The American Indian foundation of American gun culture – This is an interesting perspective on the relatively unique gun culture in the United States and how it was influenced by American Indians.

Records: Suffolk DA’s office bonuses totaled $3.25M since 2012 – Asset forfeiture is madness. Here’s an example of the DA in a county I used to live in giving himself a bonus from money that has been taken from people. Keep in mind, this money is seized and kept even when it is never used as evidence and no crime is alleged. We should not have a system where law enforcement has a financial incentive to take money from innocent people. Incentives matter.

Wyoming Forfeiture – Here’s another one, but with a strange twist. This musician agreed to sign over his life savings to cops that stopped him but later changed his mind. It’s kind of strange. Was he coerced? Stupid? We really need to take away the financial incentives for police to take people’s money so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

FCC Head Ajit Pai: Killing Net Neutrality Will Set the Internet Free – I know that the majority of my techy friends believe strongly in increasing federal regulation of the Internet in the form of the “Net Neutrality” rule. The fact that the Trump administration wants to roll it back makes it even harder to oppose it. Still, I think “Net Neutrality” is a bad idea and that we should let free markets sort things out. Only after we start to see serious problems, should we can add more regulation.

Why Net Neutrality Was Mistaken From the Beginning (AOL Edition) – Another article in opposition to Net Neutrality. I’d include some in favor of it, but I see so many those that I’m not sure which one I’d pick. It seems like aside from libertarians and economists, almost everyone wants a highly regulated Internet.

Another year of American hilarity – This is a list of what George Will sees as political absurdities for the year.

Special Report: ‘Treacherous shenanigans’ – The inside story of Mugabe’s downfall – This is an interesting look at the final days of Mugabe’s rule and how a coup unfolds. I’m surprised by how many people are bothered by the coup. I don’t have hope that the perpetrators will be any better the he was, but are they going to be any worse? Is it really a moral affront to have a brutal dictator removed in a coup even if it is just by another brutal dictator? I feel like I’m watching a mugger getting mugged and my sense of outage just isn’t there.

For elites, politics is driven by ideology. For voters, it’s not. – This matches what I’ve observed. I don’t know about elites, but most people seem to put tribal or party loyalties ahead of ideology.

He Took On the Voting Rights Act and Won. Now He’s Taking On Harvard. – This is an article about Ed Blum, the iconoclast battling “reverse” discrimination. I think his current approach of using Asians to battle racial discrimination by colleges is smart.

What we’ve learned about the North Korean soldier whose daring escape was caught on video – Interesting. Sad. Countries shouldn’t be prisons.

For Illinois Sex Offenders, Six Years Can Turn Into Life In Prison – There are people that have served their sentences (or at least are eligible for parole) that can’t be released because the rules on where they can live are so restrictive that they can’t find anywhere outside of prison to live. It looks like their only option is to work at Massage Envy.

Sorry, Mr. President. You can’t make Mulvaney ‘acting’ head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. – This is Laurence Tribe’s opinion of the CFPB controversy. The agency was set up to be unaccountable (gets funding without need for congressional approval, has no oversight board, and is protected from most Presidential influence). The outgoing director appointed his successor, but President Trump overruled that and appointed his own director. Tribe is arguing that the law doesn’t allow the President to do that. To the extent that Tribe is right, it makes the agency look like an even worse idea. Since this was written, it looks like Tribe was wrong and Trump’s appointee has complete control over the agency.

Pence’s claim that ‘more Americans are working today than ever before in American history’ – This was just weird. He made a true statement of fact. It’s a little misleading because some people might interpret it to mean that a higher percentage of people are working than ever before and that isn’t the case. But the article concludes by giving it “3 Pinocchio’s”, implying that it is a lie. That conclusion seems more dishonest than the original statement.

Trump has ushered in America’s darkest hour – I don’t like Trump. I think he’s a terrible person and a lousy President. But “America’s darkest hour”? Really? This is worse than the WW2? The Great Depression? The Civil War? Slavery? What we did to the American Indians? Get a grip. This guy should be mocked over this article for the rest of his career.

Tax Bill – I don’t have any stories about the tax bill because it is unclear to me what is really in it or what it will do. I’d really prefer it if we had a rule that new legislation had to be posted online for 30 days before the final vote unless the vote is 2/3 majority in both chambers.

Economics, Business, and Money

After a Natural Disaster, Do Landlords Jack Up the Rent? – This was a shockingly bad article on the usually interesting Priceonomics site. They investigated whether Houston landlords were “price gouging” by raising rents in areas hardest hit by Harvey. Sadly, in their zeal to condemn higher prices, they completely forgot Econ 101. Demand is up – people left homeless by the storm, people moving into the area to help with reconstruction. Supply is down – properties destroyed by the floods. Rising prices in this case is a good thing. It will encourage people not to overconsume (keep your roommate, stay at home with your parents). It will encourage additional construction. These are things I would expect a high school econ student to understand.

The real effects of good intentions – This is an interesting short article on why trying to legislate good intentions often backfires.

Offshore Banking Guards Against Tyranny – I thought that this was an interesting perspective. Secretive offshore banks allow despots and criminals to hide their stolen money. They also allow innocent people to hide their money from despots and criminals.

Even a $1 million retirement nest egg isn’t enough anymore – It’ll get you roughly $40,000/yr in income. Whether that is enough, depends on your expenses.