April 2, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Amazon’s Ambitions Unboxed: Stores for Furniture, Appliances and More – I love all the retail innovation that is occurring. Sounds like Bezos is working on some interesting ideas.

 

This Evil Alarm Clock App Is the Only Reason I’m Awake Right Now – I have a hard time understanding people’s aversion to getting up in the morning. If you don’t want to get up but need to, this sounds like an evil way to force yourself to do it. I say that, but one of my children is sound asleep with his phone alarm going off right next to him.

 

Doomsday Prep For Non-Paranoid People – Her list isn’t my list, but the concept is good, especially now that we’re in severe storm season (runs from roughly January to December in the Houston area). Are you ready?

Health – Physical and Mental

Why Opposites Rarely Attract – Short answer: because we want people that are complimentary rather than opposite.

 

“Couple Workouts” Are the Answer to Exercising with Your Partner – Sadly, this is a safe-for-work article; not at all what hoping for when I saw the headline.

 

Fellow Dirt Bags: Turns Out It’s Okay If You Don’t Wash Your Legs – I didn’t realize that this was a contentious topic of debate. Are you a leg washer or not? I don’t want to know.

 

LIFE IS A VIDEO GAME—HERE ARE THE CHEAT CODES – This article is mediocre (and the language is ugly), but I like his view that you approach problems either with solutions or distractions – tackling your problems or avoiding them. I think that is a good perspective, for the most part. One exception I’d like to note is that for problems that are someone else’s but still worry you, distraction might be a better approach for you than trying to find a solution.

 

Why You Should Do Weights Before Cardio – Short answer, because your muscles can still get the cardio done when they are tired. I just do them at different times of the day and call it good enough.

Art and Culture

Actually, Not Everything Is a Feminist Issue – I don’t know if this article is incoherent or just written by someone with a perspective so different than mine that I can’t follow her logic. Here’s a quote from the article that illustrates my point: “What about poverty, racism, war, the environment, anti-democratic regimes, the occupation of one country by another, capitalism?”

 

No More Wedding Gifts – This is a complaint about the increasing cost and decreasing purpose of wedding gifts. I’d apply the logic more broadly to weddings in general. I think the cost of a wedding gift should be inversely related to the number of guests and the cost of the wedding.

 

You Can Now Beg for Money on Facebook – Facebook wants some of the GoFundMe action. Given that half of Americans can’t get their hands on $2,000 in an emergency, I’m sure that there is a lot of demand for this.

 

How Clown Pants Saved My Life – This was just weird. The author’s relationship to clothes is so different than mine that I felt like I was reading about someone from a radically different culture. On a positive note, if pant hems are getting really high, there is a chance that I’ll someday be able to find pants that aren’t too long to be worn without altering.

Science

Running a Marathon Is as Traumatic for Your Kidneys as Heart Surgery – Maybe runners should take more bathroom breaks.

 

Brain size in birds is related to traffic accidents – Big brain birds get hit by cars less often. They also mention in an aside that the same is true of birds being shot. Maybe hunters are inadvertently breeding a species of super-smart birds. We’re all worried about AI taking over the world, but that could all be part of the bird’s master plan.

 

Cars and second order consequences – This is a very interesting article that tries to think forward to the second order consequences of electric cars and self-driving cars.

Technology

AD AGENCIES AND ACCOUNTABILITY – An interesting article on shifts in the advertising market as they rely on providers that don’t control the content. When you advertise on a TV show, you have a good idea of what your ad is tied to. When you advertise on Facebook or Youtube, you have very little control over what insane ravings you may be sponsoring.

 

Verizon phones will soon get the useless ‘AppFlash’ search tool in an upcoming rollout – This behavior is one of the reasons why we dropped Verizon.

 

Rogue system admin shuts down servers and deletes core files on the day he is fired, now faces up to 10 years in prison – Wow! Talk about burning bridges.

 

Bomb Squad Academy – Learn about circuits playing a video game. Not sure why there isn’t more partnership between the education industry and the gaming world.

Politics and Policy

Why You Should Care About The Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges – Owning things isn’t what it used to be. Much of what you think you own, you “license” and you are restricted on what you can do with it. This case might impact your rights significantly.

 

You Could Be Committing a Crime and Not Even Know It – It’s a complex world with lots of complex rules. Still, it doesn’t seem right to punish someone for something that they don’t know is wrong. I guess this is why we have juries.

 

Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears – Should the FBI be able to track your movements through public places without any suspicion or warrant? Do you want the FBI to have that power? What about Disney? (How I Let Disney Track My Every Move)

 

A VPN can protect your online privacy. But there’s a catch – The Internet is afire with the horrifying news that your ISP can sell your browsing history. The weirdest thing to me about the reaction is that they have virtually always been able to do that. There was a recent regulation that was going to prevent it and that regulation was just rescinded. That’s the big scary news. Even if the reg were in place, it wouldn’t stop your browser provider, your OS provider, or your hardware provider from doing the exact same thing.

 

2 Activists Who Secretly Recorded Planned Parenthood Face New Felony Charges – Set aside your feelings about planned parenthood and ask yourself again what you think of this. I find it troubling.

 

Trump cuts show Paris treaty is a paper tiger: Bjorn Lomborg – I love Lomborg’s approach. Maybe that’s because he annoys both sides of true believers in the climate science debate.

 

Economics

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs – This is yet another article on how machines are going to take all of our jobs. I presume that similar articles were written about the printing press, the loom, the tractor, the computer, etc. I wonder what the Amish think of all this.

 

One Christian’s alternative view of globalization and American society – An excellent defense of globalization. My favorite paragraph: “First, globalization is not a top-down system imposed by elites. Globalization is what happens when people around the world are left free by their governments to do business with one another. It’s what Adam Smith called “the natural system of liberty.”

 

 

March 26, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Journaling Showdown: Writing Vs. Typing – I do both. I’m much, much faster typing, but I do enjoy writing and it is more portable.

The scents in your body wash, chicken stock and canned drink all come from one company – I had no idea this company even existed. I think I was happier before I did.

Catnip Ain’t the Only Plant That’ll Send Your Kitty to Blissville – If you are looking for recreational drugs for your cat, this article has some good tips.

Europe’s first sex robot brothel FORCED OUT of base as prostitutes complain of competition – NSFW. This was easily the weirdest thing I read all week. You can get a sense for the article with this quote from a prostitute: “It is another strategy of the patriarchy that presents us as objects without rights or soul. A privilege of the wealthy classes.”

Sherwin-Williams “Safari” – Yes, it is a paint commercial. But it is lovely.

Health – Physical and Mental

Is the dark really making me sad? – I get anxious when it is cloudy all week. I can’t imagine living somewhere where it is night for a long period of time.

Bruce Lee achieved all his life goals by his death at age 32 because of one personality trait – Confidence. Well, I’m not buying it. I know some really confident people that fail spectacularly. Life isn’t that simple. You need drive, ability, perseverance, etc to really be successful. You could say that I’m confident that this is BS.

Gwyneth Paltrow Wants You to Buy a $90 Cure For a Disease You Don’t Have – But she plays some smart characters, so maybe I should listen to her.

How Rock Climbing Is Helping Me Get Over My Fear of Failure – Makes me want to go hit a rock climbing gym. Anyone interested in joining me?

This is the exact time you should go to sleep if you need to wake up at 7am feeling refreshed – This is the dumbest article I read all week. Starting with the premise that you want to wake up between sleep cycles and then calculating that people take an average of 14 minutes to fall asleep and sleep cycles last an average of 90 minutes, they give you the exact minute you should get into bed. I still think a much better approach is to sleep until you wake up in the morning. If you sleep too late, go to be earlier. It worked for millions of years. Not sure why people don’t do it now. Don’t just reject the idea out of hand. Sleep on it.

Today’s men are not nearly as strong as their dads were, researchers say – This is probably true, but the research seems weak.

Art and Culture

French court bans television ad showing happy kids with Down syndrome – Sometimes other countries seem really strange. Did they really ban an innocuous commercial that made Down syndrome kids look happy because it might hurt the feelings of mother’s who had abortions? That seems hard to believe, even for the French.

FOR A MODEST PERSONALITY TRAIT, ‘INTELLECTUAL HUMILITY’ PACKS A PUNCH! – I find people that can’t listen or consider alternate views dull. I did think it was ironic that they article’s headline is in all caps. I also don’t think that making snarky comments about Gwyneth Paltrow is a sign of low intellectual humility. It’s just common sense.

Basing Life on What You Can Afford – A collection of anecdotes from people struggling financially. These are lower income people, but I see the same thing play out at all income levels. People have a tendency to live on the edge financially and then disruptions become catastrophes.

The idea of monogamy as a relationship ideal is based on flawed science – On one hand, I’d argue that given the near universality of monogamy as the standard for relationships, it seems like it must be the most successful approach. On the other hand, different standards have been common at different times. Maybe the times are changing. I’ll ask my wife what she thinks.

The Hamilton Hustle – I’m filing this one under “maybe I’m not going crazy”. With the popularity of Hamilton, I keep hearing people with a very different ideological outlook from Al talking as though they love him. Now it makes more sense.

Science

Physicists Find That as Clocks Get More Precise, Time Gets More Fuzzy – It’s interesting how different the universe is when you radically change scale. It’s a bit like zooming in too close to a picture and seeing little colored dots. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

A New Blast May Have Forged Cosmic Gold – A summary of the current debate over where gold came from. I’m still not sure, but I don’t think I’ll ask Gwyneth Paltrow to weigh in on the debate.

Technology

Insect-Inspired Mechanical Resilience for Multicopters – A squishy drone.

Fury Road: Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google? – An interesting look behind the scenes at the development of driverless cars.

How to Get the Most Out of Google Maps – A lot of useful information here. I use the heck out of Google Maps, especially when I travel.

How to Stop Destroying Your Clothes in the Wash – My washer and driver may as well only have a “Start” button because I never change any settings. Maybe I should pay more attention.

TRAPPING A SELF-DRIVING CAR IS SURPRISINGLY EASY – This is pretty amusing, but it is also a good warning. People will jack with self-driving cars.

Politics and Policy

Patents Are A Big Part Of Why We Can’t Own Nice Things: the Supreme Court Should Fix That – We definitely need to rethink some of the laws in the IP space. An incidentally, when I click on a “Buy Now” button, I feel that I am buying something, not just licensing it.

Should You Need a License to Work in Texas? – People often mistakenly believe that Texas is a free market state. Maybe compared with some, but it generally tends to be a pro-business state. It looks like it is also a pro-occupational lobbyist state. I’d like to see all new licensing requirements get put on the ballot. I’d like to think that people wouldn’t vote to require all sprinkler systems testers be licensed. Then again, I’ve seen some of the people that they have elected so maybe this isn’t a good idea.

Warfare helps explain why American welfare is different – An interesting attempt to explain the lack of national healthcare or health insurance based on warfare history.

Economics

Venezuela has a bread shortage. The government has decided bakers are the problem. – I can’t believe those greedy bakers!

Robotization Without Taxation? – Robert Shiller is a brilliant economist, so when he writes something that seems idiotic, I have to take notice and re-read it carefully. I did and it still seems idiotic. Then again, he’s a much better economist that I’ll ever be, so I can’t be sure who the idiot is here. I’m still betting on him. Maybe it’s my lack of intellectual humility. I should check with Gwyneth Paltrow or some other celebrity to get a more informed perspective.

February 5, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

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.

Health

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.

Science

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.

Technology

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.

Economics

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

Other

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.

Science

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.”

Technology

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

Health

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.

Other

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).

Technology

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.

Science

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?

Food

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.