February 19, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Experience: I accidentally bought a giant pig – This is why you never by a pig in a poke.


How beer brewed 5,000 years ago in China tastes today – This sounded really gross until I realized that they weren’t actually drinking 5,000 year old beer but were recreating it using an old recipe. It still sounds gross to me, but not nearly as gross.


After Heartbreak, A Happy Ending: 200 Whales Escape Stranding In New Zealand – Seems weird that we still don’t have a clue why they do these mass strandings in the first place. I suspect that it has something to do with whale cults.


Thieves steal £2m of rare books by abseiling into warehouse – Interesting heist and bonus points for using the word “abseiling” in the headline. I had to look that one up.


Libertarian Valentine’s Day Cards – I thought some of these were very funny. You probably won’t. Sorry.


How The Toilet Changed History – Who would have thought that you would see the history of the toilet on Youtube and sponsored by Bill Gates?


Judge: Snuggies are blankets, not robes or priestly vestments – I have nothing to add to this that could make it any better.


C-SPAN 2017 Survey of Presidential Leadership – See how somebody ranked the Presidents. Some decent rankings and some that are silly. I’d say that the biggest head scratcher was FDR ranked 5th best on economic management. Did they not know how our economy performed for the first two of his terms?

Health – Physical and Mental

There Are Six Styles of Love – Wait. There are 6 styles of love? Aren’t there also 5 love languages? Does that mean that there are 30 distinct categories of love conversations? The whole thing seems so confusing. I’m glad that I’m already married.


Fall in Love With Cannibalism This Valentine’s Day – If you love the taste of someone, is that a seventh style of love?

Art and Culture

Deconstructing the ‘Liberal Campus’ Cliche – A half-hearted defense of campuses against the charge of liberal ideological puritanism. I’m not sure where the truth in this debate lies.


‘There Is No Good Card For This’: What To Say When ‘Condolences’ Isn’t Enough – I should probably get the book. I’m at that age where I need to stock up on cards like these.


Liberals on Match.com aren’t in the mood since the election of Donald Trump – I think that this election has made it clear that people are starting to take elections too seriously. I think that the cure is to cut back on the power and scope of government so that it doesn’t matter as much who is in charge.


The Downfall Of YouTube’s Biggest Star Is A Symptom Of A Bigger Illness – This PewDiePie guy had 50,000,000 followers and was bringing in $15,000,000/year. If I didn’t have teens at home, I’d have never heard of him. I guess that doesn’t say much. I just looked up the Oscar nominees for best actor/actress and there were several I’d never heard of – Ryan Gosling – is he from The Woodlands? Andrew Garfield – related to the former President? Ruth Negga – Are you allowed to say her name on TV? Emma Stone – did Emma Watson get married? Isabelle Huppert – I’ve got nothing for this one. BTW, when I tried to look these up, the Academy’s website was down. Isn’t their big show tonight? That’s sad. Can’t they find someone that can at least act like they know what they are doing?


Even When White Men Can Jump … – An interesting examination of race and popularity of NBA stars. It appears that black basketball players are more popular at a given performance level than whites.


A Conversation With Brian Eno About Ambient Music – I’ve found his music to be hit-or-miss, but I can’t deny that he’s always been very inventive and interesting. He’s working on sort of auto-generated music. I want it tied into a fitbit and a camera so that it can act like a soundtrack for my life. The boss is coming and it looks like he’s in a bad mood, switch to ominous music!


Library Hand, the Fastidiously Neat Penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs – It is hard to justify an article about hand-written card catalog entries as “stuff I found interesting”, but it was. I love the notion that people had to meet to work out a standard font for hand-writing these things. It is interesting how problems transcend technology.


Researchers Tap a Sleep Switch in the Brain – I suspect that they got the idea during their staff meeting.


Love Is Like Cocaine – Is that true for every type of love?


Woolly mammoth on verge of resurrection, scientists reveal – I got kind of excited, but they aren’t really bringing back a woolly mammoth. It’s more like a hairy elephant. This thing sounded like an epic fail of an idea.


Making Out is the Most Enjoyable Way to Prevent Tense Jaws and Headaches – I need to check with Kathy to see if her jaw is bothering her.


Collapse of Aztec society linked to catastrophic salmonella outbreak – It’s not clear whether they got it from the Spanish invaders or from Chipotle.


If You Want to Learn Faster, Overclock Your Audio and Video – For those that don’t realize it, many video players (like YouTube) allow you to watch things at higher speed.


This Technology Could Finally Make Brain Implants Practical – The whole brain implant thing sounds really cool. Try it and tell me how it works.


Build An Obnoxious Alarm Clock That Forces You To Shut It Off with a Shot From a Nerf Gun – I can’t identify with this problem, but it does seem like a fun project (at least until it goes off while you are sleeping).


Amazon unveils Chime, looks to reinvent the conference call with new Skype and GoToMeeting competitor – Skype could certainly use another competitor. I think Microsoft should rebrand it as “Shyte”.


Adventures in Science: How to Use an Oscilloscope – I was always curious about how to use an oscilloscope. Still not interested enough to buy one.


Swedish Supermarkets Trial-Testing Laser-Etched Produce Instead of Stickers – Laser etched food? Sounds cool, I guess. I have to imagine that someone is going to complain.


How to Keep Your AI From Turning Into a Racist Monster – I wouldn’t read too much into this about AI or human nature. I just thought it was funny.


Why buying used cars could put your safety at risk – I sometimes marvel at how stupid companies can be. Some new cars have apps that let you control stuff remotely, apparently even after you have sold the car. While my car doesn’t have fancy apps like this, I bought it as a certified pre-owned car and the dealer neglected to wipe anything – address book, prior owner’s home location, phone log. It even had a full set of CDs in the CD player.

Politics and Policy

Robots that steal human jobs should pay taxes, Gates says – This could be the dumbest thing that Bill Gates has ever said. Would it not make as much sense to tax software that allows for head-count reductions as well? How many fewer typists and bookkeepers do we need because of Word and Excel? I suspect that he didn’t actually say it and that this is confusion resulting from a mis-transcribed voicemail.


3 Big Problems in How Schools Hire Teachers — and What Research Says About How to Solve Them – I lack the expertise to say whether any of this is correct. To me, it seems like a bigger problem is the difficulty in firing bad teachers and paying great teachers more.


Quality Counts 2017: State Report Cards Map – This was sadly disappointing. The meat of it is pay-walled. I am curious about the way they grade states based on spending. Is spending more for education good or bad? I suspect that they consider it good. To me, at any given level of educational quality, spending less is better.


Texas Judge Upends Effort To Limit Charity Funding For Kidney Care – This was hard to understand. The best I can figure, charities are paying the insurance premiums of some people with diabetes. The insurance companies want to make that illegal because it negatively skews their coverage pools by keeping these high costs patients from switching to Medicare, making insurance more expensive for everyone else and less profitable for them. I get that, but banning a charity from paying someone’s premiums sounds a lot like attacking the problem from the wrong direction.


Feisty, Protectionist Populism? New Zealand Tried That – Was Robert Muldoon a 70s version of Trump in New Zealand? I just think it’s funny to think of a Kiwi Trump down there with all the sheep.


Human genome editing shouldn’t be used for enhancement – yet – I think it is cute that people keep thinking that we can invent some amazing new technology and then decide that we aren’t going to use it.


Trump signs his first significant bill — killing a transparency rule for oil companies – I don’t know the specifics yet, but I will say that laws like this are often a real pain and provide virtually no benefit. Trying to determine what needs to be disclosed on a transaction-by-transaction basis is often very difficult because you are talking about multi-national companies with legal entities incorporated in many countries doing business in many countries often through intermediaries. Trust me, it’s a confusing jumble and the resulting information is generally close to useless. Not every policy that sounds like a good idea actually is.


A Conservative Case for Climate Action – If you want to slow CO2 emissions, a carbon tax is a good way to do it. The problem is that once you have one in place, people will to grow and sustain it even if it is no longer useful. Whoever is receiving that tax revenue is going to want more and more of it.


Why people should be able to buy drugs approved in other countries – You’re probably getting tired of me including these stories, but we keeping paying far more than we should and having far fewer drugs available than we could because we haven’t fixed the problem.


Pharma industry shuns Trump push for radical shift at FDA – Need any more evidence that reducing pharma regulation is a good idea? If the pharma cartels oppose it, it isn’t because they are concerned about you.


The Science of Smoking Bans – I’ve always thought that it was a mistake to ban smoking in public areas for health reasons. It should be banned in public simply because it is nasty and disgusting.


H-1B reduced computer programmer employment by up to 11%, study finds – The article makes no sense at first. It says that H-1B visas lower the cost of computer programmers, benefiting companies and consumers but reduced the number of programmers. But if programmers are cheaper, why would there be fewer of them hired? It only makes sense once you realize that they don’t count the H-1B visa holders that get hired. I guess those people aren’t really people.


An Ivy League professor who spent 4 months working in a South Bronx check-cashing store says we’re getting it all wrong – Two things to like with this. First, I applaud Ms. Servon for getting firsthand experience before making a judgment. Second, I like the reinforcement of the notion that when there is a thriving market for something, there really is a demand for it. I hate it when people want to shut down businesses that they don’t use because they think others shouldn’t use them either.


General Education, Vocational Education, and Labor-Market Outcomes over the Lifecycle – I’ve been seeing more agitation lately for increased vocational education. I can’t say whether it is a good or bad idea, but this study shows a possible negative side effect.


February 12, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


History of Japan – A trippy video summary of the history of Japan. (Warning: Language)


Which Country Is America’s Strongest Ally? For Republicans, It’s Australia – Rankings of our favorite and least favorite countries by partisan affiliation. Why have Democrats started hating Zimbabwe less in the last few years?


Going For Two: Optimizing Between Extra Points And Two Point Conversions In The NFL – With the recent rule changes, it looks like you’ll get more points by going for two, but people rarely do. Why not?


Buy This Utah Home Cut Into a Cliffside – Looks kind of cool. Lousy Internet, though. I wonder what it sold for.


Inside the crash of Fling, the startup whose founder partied on an island while his company burned through $21 million – I found it amusing that the investors complained that the CEO of “Fling” was blowing their money. This is one of those stories where almost everyone seems like a prat. I even came to dislike the author.


Health – Physical and Mental

Biohack: Are You a Supertaster? Take the test… – All that you’ll need is some blue dye, a ring binder re-enforcer, a magnifying glass, and either a partner or a mirror. Not sure what benefit there is to knowing whether you are a supertaster. Maybe it looks good on a resume.


Hijacking bacteria to kill cancer – What? Using salmonella to attack cancer? You go first.


The Low-Carb Lowdown – The conclusion – what matters in the end is calories, not carbs, but going low carb can make it easier to eat fewer calories. Not sure if that’s because carbs are less filling or if it is because they taste better, so you want more.


Here are 250 Ivy League courses you can take online right now for free – Want to learn about something?


Art and Culture

The Most Beautiful Shots in The History of Disney – A six minute montage of classic Disney movie scenes.


84 Lumber Super Bowl Commercial – Complete The Journey – This was just strange. It’s a melodramatic video about immigration and building doors. It comes across as opposition to the President’s wall, risking the annoyance of his supporters. The CEO of the company denies that was the intent and says that he supports the wall, risking the annoyance of the President’s opponents. Nice ad, but not a shining moment for the company and whatever the hell message they were trying to promote. On the other hand, I did include their ad in this list, so there’s that.


Inside the New York Public Library’s Last, Secret Apartments – I had no idea that people lived in libraries. Seems like it would have been an interesting place to grow up.


The Met Makes Its Images of Public-Domain Artworks Freely Available through New Open Access Policy – 375,000 public domain works. Pretty cool. Not sure what I’ll do with this information, but it seems cool.


Rare Color Photos Showcase Japan’s Last Samurai – Old pictures of real samurai. Judging by their expressions, it must have been a boring job.


The Casualties of Women’s War on Body Hair – I chuckled at the tag line “Hair removal, at its core, is a form of gendered social control.” Just don’t tell that to a guy while he’s shaving or keeping his hair cut acceptably short.



The Curious Case of Cockroach Magnetization – Not a topic that is likely to come up in conversation, but it is best to stay informed, just in case.


Demonic Influence: The Negative Mental Health Effects of Belief in Demons – Studies have shown that many religious beliefs, particularly belief in the afterlife, correlate positively with mental health. Apparently, belief in demons has the opposite correlation. The wording of the study implies causation, “belief in demons can lead to lowered mental health”, but I don’t want to jump to that conclusion. It may be that people that have to deal with demons suffer from that mentally.


Trends in premature mortality in the USA by sex, race, and ethnicity from 1999 to 2014: an analysis of death certificate data – Death rates are rising among 30-year-old whites. “These increases were mainly attributable to accidental deaths (primarily drug poisonings), chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and suicide.”


Mental retirement and health selection: Analyses from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study – Couldn’t find a free copy of the study, but it claims to show something to the effect that people are stupid to retire.


The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study – “the consumption of hot red chili pepper was associated with reduced mortality.” Looks like the message today is, stay away from drugs and alcohol and eat more chili peppers. I wonder if they help drive away demons.


Association of Facebook Use With Compromised Well-Being: A Longitudinal Study. – The more stuff a person “likes” on Facebook, the lower their self-reported mental health. Once again, this is written to imply causation, but it could just as easily be just a correlation. If you are concerned that I didn’t “like” your post, please don’t be offended. I’m just trying not to go crazy. Maybe you could post something about red hot chili peppers.


Emotional support during times of stress: Can text messaging compete with in-person interactions? – This is shocking news! When someone is emotionally distressed, face-to-face interaction helps them more than sending a text message. Who would have guessed?


Behavior-Based Personality-Assessment Method Reveals Personality Similarity Among Couples and Friends – Romantic couples have more personality similarity than friends. This was not nearly as interesting as the thing about the guy hacking the dating site to become the most sought-after nerd in history.



You Can Now Make Financial Trades In VR With A Swiss Bank – I can only imagine that this is the result of some developers at the company conning their managers into buying them VR headsets.


Dev-Books Is a Massive List of the Most Recommended Coding and Programming Books – I guess that “Most Recommended” is a reasonable proxy for best, so this is probably useful.


Politics and Policy

TV networks hiking ad rates for shows Trump watches – Surely the President of the United States has a DVR and skips commercials.


Trump sides with the sheriffs on their racket – Ever look at history and question the sanity of people that supported obviously stupid laws? Civil asset forfeiture, which is the ability for law enforcers to legally steal your assets without even charging you with a crime, has to be one of those that future generations will scratch their heads about. You may be innocent until proven guilty, but your stuff is guilty until you can prove that it was innocent.


Pence hires libertarian Calabria as chief economist – I’m delighted with the selection, but it leaves me scratching my head. Seems out of character for Pence and definitely not Trump-like.


Rest of USA to California: Make our day with Calexit – While it is amusing, I expect any Calexit proposition to fail overwhelmingly. One thing I was curious about was the impact of the Cal electors on presidential elections. If you look back to 1980, dropping the CA electors would not have changed the outcome in any presidential election. I was surprised.


Wave of illiberalism present in liberal quarters today – I think it has always been that way. As referenced in last week’s list, people’s political views are driven more by affiliation than policy. That many “liberals” aren’t liberal when it comes to tolerating alternative views should come as no surprise.


How do you solve a problem like Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley? – There is no better way to make your opponent seem reasonable than to engage in violent and destructive protest against him. Ignoring him would have been much more effective.


What If the Free Market Decided Whether or Not Drugs Work? – I’ve been a pretty outspoken critic of the FDA’s impact on the drug market. This is an opposing viewpoint. It ends with a quote about how drug companies charge what they can get away with and making it easier to get drugs approved won’t change that. If the author can’t see that making it easier to bring competitive drugs to the marketplace will lower drug costs, it is hard to believe that she’s taking this debate seriously (although she could just be profoundly ignorant of how markets work).


The delusion that openness has impoverished America – A counter to the now common argument that being open and trading relatively freely have hurt America.


Trump Can’t Stop the Globalization of Work—the Internet Will See to That – Borders don’t matter much on the Internet, so it will be harder to use the law to hold jobs captive inside of countries.


Who will protect Americans from their protectors? – A second good George Will article in one week. What’s the world coming to? This one is about the folly of protectionism.


To Drain the Swamp, Kill the Ex-Im Bank – This wouldn’t be popular where I work. I see that as an example that it is hard for people to disagree with a policy when the policy is in their personal interest, even if it is bad for the country.



The Market Remains the Most Reliable Pollster – This blog entry explains why you should ignore polls that show things like support for paid parental leave. Basically, people will support almost anything that sounds like they get something for nothing, but when they negotiate deals in the real world, their true preferences are displayed. If people really wanted paid parental leave, greedy companies would offer it to steal away employees from their competitors.


Confessions of a Catholic convert to capitalism – Wish he’d talk to the Pope. I encourage anyone that hates capitalism to look at which countries over the last 100 years have done the most to raise the living standards of their people. One thread common to virtually all of them is that they allowed markets to function more freely and did more to protect private property rights.


CONSIDERATIONS ON COST DISEASE – Interesting article on “cost disease” with a focus on health care and education, two areas where costs have gone up substantially.

February 5, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Denmark’s Cold War struggle for scientific control of Greenland – Geopolitics is strange. Tiny Denmark and the US battle over a sheet of ice that is nowhere near either of them.


Make Individual Ice Cream Cakes with a Muffin Tin – I can’t recall why I marked this for inclusion, but they do look tasty.


Avoid the “Backfire Effect” In an Argument By Appealing to Worldviews – Decent enough article, but it is still predicated on the notion that your goal is to convince people of the righteousness of your worldview. I think that a better plan is to try to understand each other’s worldviews and then let the chips fall where they may.


Johnny Depp spent $30K a month on wine: ex-manager – Curious as to how a super-high earning actor can end up bankrupt? Once again, if you aren’t saving, it isn’t because you aren’t earning enough. It’s because you are spending too much.


Bankruptcy Rates among NFL Players with Short-Lived Income Spikes – It isn’t just Johnny. It looks like NFL players aren’t always great savers either. I’m shocked.


Releasing Raptors Off The Great Wall of China – A short video about raptors in China.


Is Spotify Going Bankrupt In 2017? Wall Street Delivers Another Red Flag – Things don’t look good for the popular streaming service.


Mesa Verde’s Sun Temple Reveals Geometrical ‘Genius,’ Physicist Says – This seems less like science and more like ‘you see what you want to see’ to me.


I tried the caffeine bracelet that promises to be the next best thing to a coffee IV drip – Want the caffeine from coffee but don’t want to drink it? Now you can wear it.


To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics – It all adds up.


The Purpose of Sleep? To Forget, Scientists Say – I swear that they discover the purpose of sleep every couple of years and it is always different. Instead of jumping to a conclusion on this one, I’m going to sleep on it.

Art and Culture

Political dating sites are hot – Another opportunity to avoid having to deal with people that might question your world view.


Hater: Meet someone who hates the same stuff – Here’s a new approach to dating. Focus less on common interests and more on common dislikes. It seems vaguely appropriate given how important opposition seems to be to people’s worldviews these days, but I think it will fail.


Why Prejudice Alone Doesn’t Explain the Gender Gap in Science – With the movie Hidden Figures bringing this topic back to people’s minds, I thought this was worth looking at. Sadly, the topic has become almost taboo to discuss because people quickly get uncomfortable when there is a disparity between virtually any two groups of people.


Bibliomania: the strange history of compulsive book buying – I wonder how the makeup of compulsive book buyers will shift with the move towards electronic books.


15+ of the Coolest Bookstores to Visit Around the World – Some pretty cool looking shops. Oddly, Amazon didn’t make this list despite having a much better selection and the ability to share reviews of books with a huge number of people.


The Statue of Liberty Was Originally a Muslim Woman – She was apparently conceived as an Egyptian peasant but later made it to become a Goddess in New York. Kind of like Moses, but not really.


The Problem With Being Too Agreeable – Think that being really agreeable will make you more popular? This article says maybe not. There is a point at which being nicer makes you less well liked. I would be more agreeable, but I’m focused on staying popular.


English has 3,000 words for being drunk – I wonder how many fewer words the English would have for being drunk if their weather wasn’t so consistently awful.


Paris compost urinals open near Gare de Lyon station – I don’t understand this. Why don’t they just make enough bathrooms? Can the French not be civilized? Maybe the influx of immigrants will help.


The man who sold his back to an art dealer – I guess tattoos are art. And I guess you can sell art. So it stands to reason that you can sell your tattoo.


Scientists try to mitigate methane, from cows – OK, this wasn’t something I was wondering about, but I was surprised to learn that 90% of cattle methane is burped out rather than farted out. I never would have known that if we didn’t have diligent scientists.


Why Did Humans Evolve Big Penises But Tiny Testicles? – Scientists have been busy with things I have never wondered about. The answer, for those not wanting to click through to see sketches of various male primate genitalia, is that the small testicles are because humans are monogamous. The big penises thing is just a myth, at least according to the scientists.


Planet Earth makes its own water from scratch deep in the mantle – I didn’t find this very persuasive. I’m still more in the comet camp, but I’ll keep an open mind.


Why Whales Leap Into the Air – I thought that we had established that they did it for fun, but this article says that it is a way to yell to other whales. How much information can you encode into a big splash?


NASA: Earth’s Last Full Magnetic-Pole Reversal Occurred 780,000 Years Ago –“We Are Over Due” – Are you serious? If you aren’t worried enough about global warming, supervolcanoes, asteroids, solar flares, and pandemics, here’s another one for you. I’m anxiously waiting to see how the Group of Self-Important Scientists adjust the doomsday clock in light of this news. I hope that there is still time.


Scientists find ‘oldest human ancestor’ – It isn’t an interesting article. It is just an example that even stodgy sites like the BBC have turned to click-bait headlines as a way to drive traffic. The article is about a microscopic fossil.


A Ticket for Your Thoughts: Method for Predicting Movie Trailer Recall and Future Ticket Sales Using Neural Similarity among Moviegoers – I couldn’t find the actual study and the abstract looked both confusing and interesting. I’d swear that they are recommending hooking up people at theaters with portable electroencephalography systems to measure something they call cross-brain correlation to predict which trailers will be memorable. My advice is simpler – stop turning the previews up to ear-splitting volume levels so that I won’t associate your upcoming movies with pain and discomfort.


The Effectiveness of Using Sexual Appeals in Advertising – Shocker! Men recall advertisement with sexual content more than women. Sadly for advertisers, they remember the ad, but not what it was an ad for.


Product Line Bundling: Why Airlines Bundle High-End While Hotels Bundle Low-End – Ever wonder why expensive flights include lots of extras like food and drink but expensive hotels charge for breakfast, wi-fi, etc? Here’s your chance to finally find out.


Forget Autonomous Cars—Autonomous Ships Are Almost Here – That’s cool, I guess. Of course, it’ll suck for castaway stories.


Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2016 – Curious as to which drives tend to fail or how likely failures are? Here’s some data. Incidentally, Backblaze is the company we use for backups. Just a reminder – if you have important digital files (pictures, videos, documents) and you aren’t using some type of offsite backup system, you’re being foolish.


Bat Bot: It’s the ‘holy grail’ of flying robots – Just a reminder, I have a birthday coming up.


Former Mozilla Engineer Warns of 3rd Party Antivirus Software – I use Windows Defender on most of my machines, but it was fouled up on my main machine so I had to switch it off and changed to Avast. I haven’t noticed a problem with browser updates.

Politics and Policy

Politics is Not Usually About Policy – Excellent blog post by David Henderson on people’s political views being driven more by tribal loyalties than policy preferences. I think that it explains why a huge number of free trader supporters on the right became protectionists when the mood of the party shifted.


The High Cost of a Home Is Turning American Millennials Into the New Serfs – I find that there is a significant overlap between people that support policies that raise home prices and people that complain about high home prices. I think that is because the people that support those policies disproportionately live in places that put them into effect and then suffer the unintended consequences.


Carr: Dems would honor killer, not victim – I included this not because it was good, but because it was so awful. The basic message is that immigrants are awful because Nicolas Guaman, an immigrant, killed someone in a drunk driving accident. Of course, a rational argument would compare drunk driving behavior between immigrant and non-immigrant populations or use some other method to show that in aggregate they are a net harm to society. Instead, the argument falls back a classic emotional appeal by anecdote. If you thought that the refugee/skittles argument was a good one, this sort of weak argument might also appeal to you.


Syrian Refugees and the Precautionary Principle – This is a nice refutation of the precautionary principle that drives the arguments about refugees made above. To be fair, it isn’t just the anti-immigrant crowd that loves this sophistry. It drives a lot of policy on both sides of the partisan divide.


California Should Be More Like Texas – I’m just a sucker for any article that busts on California by comparing it to Texas.


The Data That Turned the World Upside Down – An argument that it was better data analysis that won the election for Trump.


Artificial intelligence and the law – Lots of questions need to be resolved. It a driverless ship crashes into your house, who’s fault is it?


Frederick Douglass Describes The “Composite Nation” – Frederick Douglass teaches lesson still not widely understood almost 150 years later. “Let the Chinaman come; he will help to augment the national wealth. He will help to develop our boundless resources; he will help to pay off our national debt. He will help to lighten the burden of national taxation. He will give us the benefit of his skill as a manufacturer and tiller of the soil, in which he is unsurpassed.”


Will Liberals Learn to Love the 10th Amendment? – I love these sorts of shifts that cause people to see a different perspective. I hope that the sanctuary cities thing is going cause people to view Scalia a little differently. OK, there is almost no chance of that, but I’ll at least take some pleasure at pointing out the inconsistencies of their views.


A Price Is a Signal Wrapped up in an Incentive – A short video explaining the value of prices as a source of information and a guide to change behavior.


U.S. Federal Reserve Explores The Potential of Blockchain, Lacks Vision – I’m still not sure whether blockchains are one of the coolest topics around or whether it’s just a fad or niche. This article didn’t help answer that question.


Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills? – Aside from the best 4% of performing stocks, they say no. Of course, the trick then becomes knowing which stocks are in that 4%. My simple solution is to just buy them all.


Baptists and Bootleggers in the Organized Effort to Restrict the Use of Cash – There is a growing movement to ban cash, despite the fact that most consumers don’t want that. This is a nice explanation of why unpopular things (like prohibition) happen. I’d like a compromise. Let’s just get rid of the penny and nickel.


Universal Basic Income – It is getting a lot of talk, but it still isn’t popular among economists. I fear the impact it would have on work incentives.


January 22, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Leonard Nimoy – The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins – This rivals the Debbie Reynolds video in absurdity. Perhaps, in his quest to shed the overly-logical Spock image, he thought this would help. Seems like the sort of thing designed to be used in psy ops program.

5 Chrome Extensions That Help You Save Money – The only one of these that I use regularly is the Camelizer. It’s great for seeing if that Amazon Deal is really much of a deal. It’s also good for putting alerts on things that you’ll be if the price drops enough.

Ask a Librarian: What’s the Strangest Thing You’ve Found in a Library Book? – I think raw bacon was probably the oddest thing on the list.

How Close Do You Live to a Nuclear Bomb? – A cute little video on how where nukes are.

Nash loses FCPS social media job a week after being in Twitter spotlight – This lady got fired for a single, inoffensive, humors tweet. Oddly, some people wonder why school choice is popular.

Quickly Learn the Differences Between Most Home Design Styles With This Chart – Looked at this earlier in the week and then reviewed it again this morning. I did quickly learn the differences, but I just as quickly forgot them. There appears to be no room left in my brain to store the term “Stick-Eastlake.”

New report details 2011 Alaska grizzly bear attack on outdoors school students – Interesting story about a group of students attacked by a grizzly bear and how they did many, many things incomprehensibly wrong during the attack. Oddly, that should come as no surprise because when a bear attacks, people react by instinct rather than by carefully analyzing their options. Still, I would have expected at least one of them to remember that they had cans of bear spray.

Watch: Disney Finally Confirms Pixar World is Connected – Not sure if this really shows that Pixar films are part of a connected world or that they save money by re-using 3D models across movies.

How to Protest Safely and Legally – Seems pertinent in today’s polarized environment. I would add a couple more tips – don’t get in people’s way and try not to make too much noise. Protesting is not an excuse to be rude.

Stunning plans unveiled for world’s first floating city in French Polynesia – I think the odds of this being built are pretty low, but it seems cool. It would be even cooler if the entire thing could travel around the oceans.

‘Cigarette smoke hid the smell of fear’: what flying in the Sixties was really like – I can only remember one pre-smoking ban flight and it was truly awful. I still don’t think they should have completely banned it. There should have a place for people to sit outside on the wing and smoke during the flight.

Politics and Policy

Why Are Drug Prices So High? – We’ve had a lot of stories recently about greedy companies jacking up drug prices, but they can only do so because we make competing with them so difficult. This article gives a nice overview of why drug prices are so high.

Donald Trump and Peter Thiel vs. the FDA: Be afraid. Be very afraid. – A very different view on the FDA and drug safety from my own. I still think the right compromise is for people like this guy to be free to do whatever the FDA tells him and for me to be able to overrule the FDA for myself. I wonder how people that support the current FDA power to decide what is safe enough and effective enough reconcile their views with “pro-choice” and a “woman’s right to control her body.” She should have the right to an abortion but not the right to use sunscreen legal for sale in France?

Stuck in Place: Law and the Economic Consequences of Residential Stability – People are moving between states less than they used to, which seems odd given how much easier inter-state communication and travel have become. This change has significant policy impacts.

Obama’s Economic Record: Disappointing, But Not a Disaster – A look back on the economy under President Obama. I think perspectives on his tenure will depend heavily on whether people think he saved us from another depression or lead a weak recovery.

How Media Fuels Our Fear of Terrorism – We are susceptible to this because we are inherently terrible at comparative risk assessment. I constantly see smart people make seemingly insane risk trade-off choices and am sure that I unconsciously do the same. This is one of the reasons why I eschew shows that focus on crime and criminality; I don’t want them coloring my pleasantly polyannish world view.

Can The Separation Of Powers In The Federal Government Be Righted? – A complaint about the growing power of independent agencies with limited accountability.

Democrats Must Become the Party of Freedom – This article wants the Democrats to become the party of freedom by increasing the government’s regulation of business – primarily by focusing on anti-monopoly policies. It seems contradictory to me, but I’m crazy enough to think the same about Trump professing to shift power from Washington to the people by making the people pay Washington a YUUUGE tax if they have the temerity to buy something from an un-American seller. It seems like everyone wants to give me the power and freedom to do what they tell me to do.

U.S. Abortion Rate Falls To Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade – Regardless of where you are on the abortion debate, this direction continues to be good news.

The polity that is California – An example of to encourage tolerance by discriminating against people based on their membership in a group that also includes intolerant people. Remember, stereotyping people is bad unless it is against “those” people.

China trade has been a boon to the US, China, and the world. – A nice perspective on trade with China by one of my favorite bloggers.

A few pertinent questions for Commerce Nominee Wilbur Ross – Some good points about the direction our new administration may be heading on trade.

Oxfam Thinks $8-Coffee-Drinking Millennials with Student Debt are the World’s Neediest – Few datasets attract dumber commentary that ones on wealth distribution.

Chile is thriving – so why is socialism rising? – There is a huge disconnect between empiricism and socialism. Iwill cease mocking insects’ suicidal urge to fly into the light (especially since they are getting better) when people quit think that socialism is going to make people better off.

Paul Ehrlich Addressing Vatican Conference on Biodiversity – More evidence that it doesn’t matter how wrong you’ve been proven to be. If you tell people what they want to hear, you’ll always find an audience.

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening – Iceland has dramatically cut substance abuse in teens. In fairness to the rest of us, it’s hard to take advice from people still marooned on a tiny island in the North Atlantic.

Don’t Give Silicon Valley More H1B Visas – I’d also like to see radical reform of the H1B visa program, but I’d go in a different direction. I’d remove the cap entirely and reform the program so that visa holders could move more easily between jobs. I’d prefer to have the option to import workers rather than just exporting the work.


Data Mining for Dates – This is an audio bit on using a supercomputer to become the top match on OKCupid. Very Amusing.

Natural selection making ‘education genes’ rarer, says Icelandic study – They studied genes related to education (huh?) and found that they have been decreasing in Iceland because educated people have fewer children. Iwonder if there is a relationship between the decline in education genes in Iceland and the decline in substance abuse?

How does a US president settle on his science policy? – “One of the president’s most important responsibilities is fostering science, technology and innovation in the U.S. economy.” I disagree. Those things can happen on their own and don’t need meddling from a President. A President does need good science advice. On that subject, Istrongly recommend Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller.

These Foods Aren’t Genetically Modified but They Are ‘Edited’ – This article is a good example of coming up with a definition of GMO. Is gene editing GMO or not?

Frankly, We Do Give a Damn – The Relationship Between Profanity and Honesty – “We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty.” Honestly, I think the study is total bullshit.

The Science of Swearing – Damn! Another article about swearing.

A bug for Alzheimer’s? – Claims that Alzheimer’s is caused by an infection. Like almost all science stories that herald a new understanding at odds with commonly held science views, it’s probably completely wrong.

Roly Polies Came From the Sea to Conquer the Earth – Who doesn’t like roly polies? OK, I was disturbed about the discussion of their flavor.

Endangered zebra shark hatches fatherless babies – Immaculate Conception in sharks. Off topic, but that got me to wondering about the DNA of Jesus. He couldn’t simply have Mary’s. Did God give him Joseph’s DNA? Or did he give him some unique male DNA?

Deadly superbugs may be spreading, evolving quietly among the healthy – This got me to wondering what happens if someone that is otherwise healthy is found to be a carrier of some dangerous virus. Can we lock someone away because of a germ they are carrying? I think that history says that we can and will.

Macropinna microstoma: A deep-sea fish with a transparent head and tubular eyes – A Youtube video of a really, really weird fish. I’m pretty sure these things are the result of some dalliance between fish and aliens.

The Man in the Zebra Suit Knows the Secret of the Stripes – Why zebras have their stripes. I always thought it was a fashion thing…makes them look slimmer, more active. Apparently, it’s an approach to debugging.

When The Brain Scrambles Names, It’s Because You Love Them – You can refer to this if you ever accidentally use a former lover’s name with your spouse. Don’t expect it to help.

Don’t Tell Your Friends They’re Lucky – It’s a glass half-full/half-empty sort of split, but my outlook emphasizes more on what people do with their lives rather than the luck they had in getting there. The author seems to have the opposite focus.  I understand both viewpoints, but I think that when you emphasize luck too much, it reduces motivation and the sense of empowerment.

New York Times’ Perry report another example of lapsed journalistic ethics – I’m not a Rick Perry fan, but I like seeing examples of the NYT being called out as basically the left’s version of Fox News.

Science falling victim to ‘crisis of narcissism’ – I think the crisis part is overblown. Scientists are people. They behave like people and it has always been that way. As a bonus it has a “narcissistic personality inventory” link at the end. I find the notion of a self-reporting test of narcissism quite amusing. I’d like to see an online humility testing site; I would be awesome at that.

VERY BRITISH VILLAINS (AND OTHER ANGLO-SAXON ATTITUDES TO ACCENTS) – A nice explanation of why villains so often use a British accent.

If you were an elephant … This was really weird, but interesting anyway.

Health, Food, and Fitness

25 Facts about Fitness – A Mental Floss video covering 25 fitness facts.

Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With Booze – I have a generally negative view of mind altering drugs, but here is an article that celebrates the role of alcohol in history. It’s probably a lot more convincing if you have a few drinks before reading it. It doesn’t mention Iceland.

HOW TO MAKE A MOTHERBOARD CAKE – A Youtube video of an extremely nerdy cook making a motherboard cake.

10 Habits That Will Dramatically Improve Your Life – A lot of fairly typical self-help type advice, but mostly all good. I think the blue light at night stuff is overrated. I’d also modify the “stick to realistic goals” to be something more like “have insanely optimistic goals, but break those down into realistic steps.”


The Strangest Gadgets of CES 2017 – We’ve already covered the brush and heels. It also includes a laptop suitable for a giant, vacuum shoes, a device that stinks you awake in the morning, and another device for which Ihave no words.

Why we should all be having sex with robots – Is this what people are going to be doing in self-driving cars?

Nissan’s Path to Self-Driving Cars? Humans in Call Centers – Wait, the cars won’t always be self-driving? Sometimes someone in a call center is going to be driving my car with me in it? I know I’ve seen this before.

Japan’s hi-tech toilets to get standardised symbols – The world is getting weirder and weirder. I guess I’m just getting old.

January 15, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Nifty Smartphone Study Links Happiness and Physical Activity – This study looks at cell phone movement as a proxy for physical activity and finds that active people are happier and people happier when they are active. Then again, it could be that people enjoy jiggling their phones.

Periodic Table of Stretching Exercises – I think that stretching is at the very top of my list for things that I know I should do more but don’t. I need more flexibility in my schedule.

Alcohol flips brain into hungry mode – This study claims that mice ate more when given alcohol. I’m not sure how significant the finding is given that the typical dose was equivalent to a bottle and a half of wine. I guess it is relevant if you are trying to cut down on your calories and plan to have 9 drinks in a sitting. If that’s the case, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about.


New Mac Candle – I wasn’t even aware that there was a “new Mac” smell, but if you like that scent, you can now get it in a candle. No word if there are any plans for a perfume or cologne.

How to Get Through a Miserable Winter With the Danish Concept of Hygge – I read this during our weekend of winter. It seems a little dated now that spring is here. Basically, it says that, to be happy, get cozy and relax during the winter. Just don’t forget to jiggle your phone.

Flaming Emoji Bag – If you’ve been looking for a bag with a flaming poop symbol on it, here it is.

Use the Fibonacci Sequence to Quickly Convert Between Miles and Kilometers – It’s not often that I see something and think derisively, “what a bunch of nerds”. It seems more complicated than just multiplying by 1.6.

What Happens When Algorithms Design a Concert Hall? The Stunning Elbphilharmonie – No clue how it sounds, but it sure looks awesome. I don’t go to many concerts, but I’d go to one there.

Employee-Free Bookstore offers a place to rest, and leisurely read – It isn’t just automation that is taking away our jobs, so is faith in the decency of other people. This store sells books without employees using the honor system. Obviously, it isn’t in D.C.

Virginia man spends $1,000 to deliver 300,000 pennies to Lebanon DMV – This guy paid his vehicle taxes in wheelbarrows full of pennies. When you read this, it comes across as a parable of what happens when obnoxious people have to deal with each other.

RIP, Lily Drone: $34 Million in Pre-Orders Isn’t Enough to Save It – This is a cautionary tale about buying things on Kickstarter or other crowd funding sites. They should be considered more in the category donations rather than purchases. People plunked down $500 each and will probably get pennies refunded to them (hopefully not in wheelbarrows).


Adventures in Science: How to Use a Multimeter – This is a nice intro to multimeters. Nothing really shocking.

This college just paid a $28,000 ransom, in bitcoin, to cyberattackers – Two points with this one. First, ransomware, the encrypting of people’s data and locking of their systems until they pay to the decryption and unlock keys, is getting to be a big business. Second, you need good backups. I highly recommend an online backup service like Backblaze (who we use) or Carbonite.

Chrome Has an Option to Export Passwords, Here’s How to Enable It – I wanted to share this mostly as a reminder that passwords saved in your browser aren’t secure. For important passwords, don’t do it. Get a password safe (Lastpass, Keepass, etc). Living without a password safe these days is like living without a lock on your front door. I suppose that this article could also be useful if you saved a password in your browser and forgot it, or if you want to steal a friend’s passwords.

Smart Heels: Yay or Nay? – Got the smart hair brush I mentioned last week, but you still feel like you aren’t getting enough data about yourself? Now you can get smart heels. These aren’t just activity trackers, they also allow you to control their temperature and height.

Japan researchers warn of fingerprint theft from ‘peace’ sign – Seriously? Now I have to worry about my fingers being visible in pictures? Sigh. This doesn’t work if they can only see the back side of a single finger, so most drivers I encounter should be OK.

Google Knows Where I’ve Been – This link is to a page that shows you the location information that Google has based on you (assuming that you are logged in with your Google account). It gathers this by tracking your phone. Your phone manufacturer and cell service provider also track information like this.  So do many other app providers, like Facebook.

I picked a day from our vacation last year and this is what it still remembered:

And for the record, I did not stay at the Pacific Grove Convalescent Home. I stayed nearby. I suspect that Google saw that I was in the area and that I wasn’t jiggling my phone much so they probably assumed that I was getting old.


JC in transition – An interesting blog post about a client scientist retiring to avoid the increasing politicization of science, particularly climate science.

A Nevada woman dies of a superbug resistant to every available antibiotic in the US – Humanity used to be wracked by horrible plagues. We seemed to have gotten that mostly under control. Time will tell whether we’ve really won that war or whether this was a temporary peace while the plagues adjusted.

Bird-loving vampire bats develop taste for human blood – Creeped out by bats? Not reassured when people tell you that they don’t attack humans? Now you’ve got something you can reference. That’s right; real vampire bats are being found with real human blood in them. As if Brazil didn’t have enough problems already.

Fossils from ancient extinct giant flightless goose suggests it was a fighter – Is this why geese are such obnoxious and aggressive animals? They haven’t lost that bully instinct after 6 million years?


Government Must Stop Protecting Cow Milk Producers from Competition – The dairy industry, already heavily protected by their well lobbied friends in government, wants to ban terms like “soy milk” or “almond milk” because they dislike people being aware of alternatives to cow’s milk.

European and American Views on Genetically Modified Foods – An interesting article on the different views of farming and GMO foods between Europe and the US. I still cling to my simple view that people should be free to grow whatever they want (within very broad safety guidelines) and people should be free to choose what they want to eat. I think GMO’s should be treated like we do successfully with Organics – come up with a generally agreed definition of “GMO free” and then let people apply that label to their food if it meets the criteria.

Thinking chickens: a review of cognition, emotion, and behavior in the domestic chicken – According to the study: “My overall conclusion is that chickens are just as cognitively, emotionally and socially complex as most other birds and mammals in many areas”. I would like to add that they are also tastier than most other birds and mammals.

Policy and Economics

Want More Productivity? Be Careful What You Wish For – A cautionary note that points out that improvements in productivity affect bad things as well as the good things. In this case, our productivity in producing addictive drugs has increased, which hasn’t necessarily been a good thing.

Without Uber or Lyft, Austin Experiences Skyrocketing DUI Rates – When Austin’s taxi lobby successfully changed the local regulations to drive off Uber and Lyft, DUI arrest rates went up. Ironically, the excuse the taxi industry used for the regulations was to improve safety.

Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse – Tragic traffic accidents, are a major source for donated organs. If we make driving safer, we’ll have fewer tragic accidents and fewer donated organs. To me, the simple answer is to encourage more organ donation by prioritizing those willing to donate ahead of others on the organ receiver lists and by allowing for compensation for organ donation. Both of these approaches would result in a large number of lives saved but are consider unethical by ethicists not in need of donated organs. An alternative would be to take Austin’s approach and encourage drunk driving.

Under President Trump, will Congress REIN in executive branch? – I had never even heard of the REINS Act until seeing this article. It looks pretty reasonable to me, which means that it is almost certain not to become law.  I have to say that I find it depressingly amusing to see people’s perspectives on whether the executive branch should have broad powers flipping 180 degrees depending on which party controls it.

How to Modernize Labor Law – A lengthy polemic on the inflexibility of federal labor laws. Sadly, instead of pushing real state flexibility, it argues for more waivers. That seems like a process bound to attract lobbyists and cronyism. I’d rather that they just devolve virtually all labor laws to the states and let them each do things their own way. If California wants to experiment with a $15 minimum wage, card check unionization, or 32 hour work weeks, let them. At the same time, if Texas wants to eliminate the minimum wage, collective bargaining, and mandatory overtime pay, let them.

The right look: Conservative politicians look better and voters reward it – This study alleges that politicians on the right are more physically attractive in the US, Europe, and Australia.

Are Democrats the Party of Science? Not Really. – Someone complaining that Democrats get a pass for their anti-science insanity. Republicans are already legendary for their anti-science insanity. The truth is that both parties are accountable to their voters and the vast majority of those voters have no understanding of science, so neither party is ever going to be free from this problem.

Stabilizing Social Security without Raising Taxes – An article about how to fix the projected shortfall in Social Security. It’s inevitable that you’ll see more of these over the years because it seems unlikely that we’ll do anything anytime soon and the problem won’t go away on its own. My solution – do nothing and just accept that fact that, at some point, SS payments will be about 70% of what was promised. Maybe people that believe promises from the government will learn something from that experience.

THE REAL REASON YOUR CITY HAS NO MONEY – This article posits that most cities cannot afford to maintain their infrastructure and that the answer is to live in more dense communities. I don’t agree with their facts or their conclusions, but I thought it was interesting.

The great lint migration – You’ve quit using plastic bags; you’re recycling and composting virtually all your trash; and you’re feeling like you are living in harmony with the planet. Don’t be too sure yet. It looks like your recycled plastic fleece jackets are on a rampage of environmental terror!

Hazmat Suits and 500 Shelter Cats: Rare Flu Forces New York Quarantine – I had no idea that they quarantined cats with the flu. Apparently there is a big cat flu going around.

Hugh Hewitt on the Interest Deduction – OK, I don’t think anyone on my list is going to find this interesting. It’s a blog post by an economics professor in California. I included it because I got mentioned at the end with a hat tip. I think that it is cool that you can reach out to authors and creators online and engage in conversations with them. Heck, Kathy once invited an author and his wife to stay as a guest at our house. It’s a small, weird, fun world.

By the way, the comment I made to the blog posting professor (David Henderson) was that in the original article, Hugh Hewitt was arguing against eliminating the home interest deduction because it would lower house prices by 10-15%. I was amused to see that someone thinking that lowering housing costs was a bad thing. I guess that as a homeowner, his perspective was so focused on the value of his home that he failed to see it from the perspective of potential home buyers.