December 10, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


How a janitor at Frito-Lay invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos – This was easily my favorite story of the week. That’s partly because I love “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos”, but mostly because it is a great feel-good story.

The wounds they carry – This story takes you through the events of the Las Vegas shooting as experienced by some high school students at the concert. It’s disturbing but interesting.

HOW ONE WOMAN’S DIGITAL LIFE WAS WEAPONIZED AGAINST HER – This is a long and crazy story. Some married lady in Seattle had a virtual affair with some crazy guy in Arizona. Her husband found out and outed them to their families. The Arizona guy didn’t care for that and went way beyond boiling rabbits in his quest for revenge. I don’t think that it can be emphasized enough – stay away from crazy people.

Hedy Lamarr’s Forgotten, Frustrated Career as a Wartime Inventor – Great inventions don’t always come from janitors. Sometimes beautiful starlets invent things like frequency hopping.

Napoleon was the Best General Ever, and the Math Proves it. – The author used some battle statistics to determine who the best general was. Despite the “math proves” it bit, it still seems rather subjective, but I guess there is no chance for a playoff.

MoviePass drops pricing to under $7 per month, if you opt for the annual plan – I’ve never tried it, but MoviePass looks like a good deal for people that see movies a lot. My only concern is that their business model is so crazy that there is a non-trivial chance that you’ll buy the annual plan and the company will fold well before the year is out.

Leonia to shut down residential streets during rush hour – There is a town in NJ so tired of cut-through traffic that they have banned non-residence from their streets during much of the day. I sympathize with their problem, but this approach just seems so tacky. It would be fun for a city like NYC to reciprocate and not allow Leonia residents on their streets during the same time periods.

 ‘Who are they gonna believe, you or me?’: Texas prosecutor fired after drunken Uber tirade – There are some good things about a world where we can all be recorded at any time. In this case, a Dallas DA tried to intimidate an Uber driver but her tirade was recorded and made public. She lost her job and now people know that she’s an abusive jerk.

Bad News for the Highly Intelligent – The article claims that smart people are crazy. I guess that makes sense. Wouldn’t being around relatively stupid people all the time drive you crazy? Wait, the study didn’t use a random sample of smart people. It looked at people in Mensa. Everyone knows that Mensa people are crazy, so this really isn’t news.

Professor Marvin Hewitt’s Twisting Journey from Dropout to Rocket Scientist – This is a good anecdote in support of the smart people are crazy argument. This self-taught high school dropout successfully taught classes as a physics professor until he got exposed. Of course, he may have been teaching nonsense. When my physics professor said things that didn’t make sense, I just assumed that I didn’t understand the material. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might be a high school dropout spewing nonsense. Makes me wonder about quantum physics.

India’s Geography Problem – Why is India the way it is? This article uses geography to explain how it developed the way that it did.

Why the UK Runs Trains to Nowhere – The UK has regular train routes for trains that virtually nobody rides. Why? Because of contractual obligations that are easier to meet than to renegotiate.

TOTAL IDIOTS AT WORK #4 – This is like an America’s Funniest Home videos collection of people doing really stupid things at work. Warning – some of the accidents look rather disturbing.

Health – Physical and Mental

How Running May or May Not Help the Heart – This may or may not be an interesting article.

Generation Grumpy: Why You May Be Unhappy if You’re Around 50 – This article seems rather stupid, but as someone in the target generation, I’m going to keep this reference as a way to deflect blame the next time someone accuses me of being grumpy.

The Last of the Iron Lungs – I didn’t realize that we still had people using iron lungs.

Art and Culture

The Michelangelo of Microsoft Excel – As much as I like his art and his creative spirit, this video is going to give me nightmares. I’m going to wake up terrified that I’m going to have to support this is some bizarre way, probably automating painting tasks using VBA. And what is with the horrible framing in the video? Why on earth would you shoot only the bottom half of your subject’s face in so many shots?

Jackie Chan: Master of Silent Comedy – The greatest silent comedy actors of all time? Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and now Jackie Chan? This video makes the case for Jackie to be included in the list.

The Best Movies of 2017 – It is two lists of 10. In what may be a record for me, I’ve seen two of the movies – Get Out and Wonder Woman.

Bad sex award 2017 shortlist: the contenders in quotes – This is an odd award. It is for the worst description of a sex scene in a work of literary fiction.

The 500 best games of all time: 100-1 – The winner is Tetris. That choice would make sense if it was for the most ubiquitous game of all time, but was Tetris really the best?


The Top 10 Websites for Science in 2017 – Some seem like good and obvious choices – Science, Nature. Others seem rather questionable – Gizmodo?

Who is the greatest chemist of all time? – Marie Curie in a landslide, at least according to this article. But why was Dmitri Mendeleev not even in the competition? He invented the Periodic Table for goodness sake.


Politics and Policy

I am a Cherokee woman. Elizabeth Warren is not. – A Cherokee writer takes Elizabeth Warren to task for “misappropriating Native identity for her own economic and political gain.” I’m a little surprised that the identity politics crowd has largely given her a pass for cynically manipulating affirmative action and thereby helping delegitimizing it. Then again, many “feminists” aggressively backed Bill Clinton against the women that accused him of abuse and many on the religious right strongly back Donald “grab them” Trump. I guess the message is clear – hypocrisy is OK if it is for a good cause.

Members of Congress should get higher salaries – Given how much I criticize Congress, it is probably surprising to a lot of people that I agree with the author of this that we should pay them more. Their pay of $174,000 is stupidly low given what similar jobs pay, particularly when we expect them to support two households.

One law professor’s overview of the confusing net neutrality debate – Another nice summary of the “Net Neutrality” debate. I still find it bizarre that people are so convinced that rolling back a rule that has only been in place for a couple of years will cause the death of the Internet. How did we manage to survive 20 years without it?

Thoughts on “Net Neutrality” From Down Here in the Coal Mine – Guest Post Maria Schneider – A perspective on “Net Neutrality” from a Grammy winning composer. She seems a bit over-the-top in her antipathy for Google.

In Portland, You Can Steal Cars Over and Over—and Get Away With It. Here’s How. – It looks like you won’t be arrested for stealing a car in Portland if, when caught in the stolen car, you claim that someone loaned it to you without your knowing it was stolen. What’s next for Oregon – giving murderers a pass if they claim it was an assisted suicide?

Economics, Business, and Money

Watch Out for the Effects of Tax Reform on Tax Migration, the Fiscal Conditions of Affected States and Cities, and Polarity in America – This is a look at how ending the deduction for state and local property taxes might cause an increase in migration from high tax states to low tax states.

A Smarter Minimum Wage – This article by some minimum wage proponents shows that they are taking little baby steps towards sanity. The authors recognize that minimum wages high enough to make a difference in high wage areas will wipe out a lot of jobs in low wage areas. Hopefully they will follow that logic trail and reach my conclusion – every person should have the right to set their own minimum wage as best fits their particular circumstances.

If There’s a College Affordability Crisis, What Should We Do About It? – I like this article because it recognizes the insanity of the way we keep trying to deal with college affordability. We help people afford college by making it easier for students to get (usually borrow) money, which encourages colleges to raise prices, which makes it hard to afford college. I’d love to see an analysis comparing the budgets, in today’s dollars, between some universities from the past with universities today. Why is it so much more expensive? Where is that money going?

The Undertaker’s License – This is a nice little article on how occupational licensing results in higher costs for consumers. Of all the things that might need licensing, how is being an undertaker on the list? It’s not like there is a big risk that the dead are going to get injured by an unqualified undertaker. Maybe it’s fears that mishandling the dead will lead to the zombie apocalypse.