March 19, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


Top 15 Most Dangerous Toys Ever Made – How many did you play with? I think I used 5 and survived. The list if flaky, though. No lawn darts? No Buckyballs? No easy bake oven?

How Maritime Law Works – A short video explaining maritime law, because I’m sure you’ve been wondering about it.

Rare White Rhino Killed for Coveted Horn at French Zoo – Seriously? What is the appropriate punishment for this crime. I think castration and then a lifetime of being exhibited in a zoo seems about right.

The Popular Car Models Owners are Most Likely Give Up After a Year – What cars do people not keep for more than a year?

Jimmy Buffett Launching Margaritaville Retirement Homes – I can’t really add anything more to this than you can get from the title alone.

Communism’s Legacy: Tyranny, Terror, and Torture – In case you need a refresher in just how evil communism has been, this is a pretty good article.

You Can Make Your Own Taco Shells Entirely Out of Bacon – I wonder if you can make a pizza crust out of bacon.

Why Aren’t There More Jewish Superheroes? – This is not a question I ever thought to ask. Now I’m curious as to whether there are any Buddhist superheroes.

20,000 Worldclass University Lectures Made Illegal, So We Irrevocably Mirrored Them – This is an interesting topic of discussion. The American’s with Disabilities Act appears to require that UC Berkeley make its video lectures accessible to blind and deaf students. This is expensive, so they opted to delete a bunch of them instead. Should we not let anyone have access to them if we can’t let everyone have access to them? If we make it OK in this case, do we discourage people from making things available to blind and deaf people in the future?

‘This is wizard!’ 100-year-old woman who flew spitfires during the Second World War celebrates her centenary by getting behind the controls again – Love it!

Health – Physical and Mental

Moral Outrage Is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists – This seems reasonable to me, which probably just means that it shows more confirmation bias than truth.

Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989–2014 – Are people too busy to get busy? The surprising thing to me was what they didn’t conclude – that the decline is linked to Internet porn.

Sociodemographic Correlates of Sexlessness Among American Adults and Associations with Self-Reported Happiness Levels: Evidence from the U.S. General Social Survey. – People not having sex are just as happy as those that are. I guess maybe that’s why it is in decline. I have to wonder about this result. Maybe people aren’t doing it right.

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms – A collection of ideas for making you happier. Some are good. Some are stupid. Some are vapid. It’s typical of this genre. Oddly, nothing in the list about having or not having sex. Oh wait, there is a suggestion that you take cold showers to make you happier. I’m putting that one in the stupid bucket.

How to Buy Happiness – Short answer – go to a bar or a bookstore depending on whether you are an extrovert or an introvert. Based on the study above, it looks like buying sex isn’t the answer. Besides, that’s illegal (see below).

Why You Should Scare the Crap Out of Yourself for Fun – I suggest watching Fox News and think about the fact that it is the most popular news program. Just be careful not to overdo it.

Why Do Prestigious Hospitals Sell Snake Oil? – Obvious answer – because that’s where the money is.

A History of Tug-of-War Fatalities – What the heck? I had no idea that people got maimed and killed playing tug-of-war.

Long-lasting mental health isn’t normal – It says that people that aren’t at least occasionally crazy are weirdos.

Why you think you’re right, even when you’re wrong – It seems to me that the more I know, the less confident I am that I’m right.

Art and Culture

Stop the Soft Despotism Stifling Campus Free Speech –When someone is saying something ridiculous or hateful, the obvious thing to do is to point out the flaws in their argument. You only fall back on suppressing them when you are worried that their argument is stronger.

The Kids Are Right – I thought it would be hard to find, but here is someone defending “stamping out bigoted speech.” As much as I disagree with the author, I’ll resist calling for suppression of their bigoted views.

Debate Rages Over How ‘Attractive’ Female Video Game Characters Should Be – Too sexy. Too ugly. You can’t please everyone. Maybe “attractiveness” should be an adjustable setting.

Difficult languages and easy languages – An informal comparison of which languages are hardest and easiest to learn. I have to assume that English is the easiest because I’ve seen little kids that are fluent in it and some of them weren’t all that bright.

The hazards of English spelling – An attempt to claim that English spelling makes sense.

Your Hot New Partner Might Already Have One Foot Out the Door – I’ve gone about 25 years with my hot partner and I’ve still got her locked down under contract, but it does give you something to think about. Reminds me of the song “If you wanna be happy”.

Why you should marry a cheapskate – So it’s looking like you want to marry a cheap, ugly person. Don’t laugh; it worked for Kathy.

The comforts of familiarity – A review of Tyler Cowen’s new book, The Complacent Class. It’s an interesting book, but I’m much more complacent about the problem than the author.

Interactive Rainbow Installation Invites Visitors to Explore a Forest of Numbers – I don’t “get it”, but it looks cool.

The Increasing Significance of the Decline of Men – Men are being badly beaten in the competition for which gender is the most abused, but it is good to see that some are still out there fighting for victimhood status.


These elephants sleep only 2 hours a day, and scientists have no clue how they do it – Seems obvious to me; elephants don’t have to sit through meetings.

Infinity and beyond – A nice explanation of the difference between different types of infinities. I still prefer Vi Hart’s video on the topic.

De-extinction probably isn’t worth it – I don’t entirely agree. I would say that it isn’t worth it yet.


Amazon shares data with Arkansas prosecutor in murder case – Conclusion – if you are about to be murdered, shout “Alexa – I’m being murdered by Colonel Mustard with a lead pipe in the conservatory.” Sigh, too bad Peter Falk is gone. This would make for a fun Columbo episode.

Poachers are trying to hack animal tracking systems – Think you have it tough with governments and companies spying on you, it looks like animals have hunters using tech to track them down.

Waze and other traffic dodging apps prompt cities to game the algorithms – I remember when shortcuts were liked prized secrets. Once they are obvious to everyone, chaos ensues.

The Blockchain Will Do to the Financial System What the Internet Did to Media – Because the buzzword of the month is still “blockchain”.

Google’s reCAPTCHA turns “invisible,” will separate bots from people without challenges – I hope so. I’m often not human enough to figure out those stupid CAPTCHA things.

Disable Those Annoying Taskbar Pop-Up Suggestions In Windows 10 – I swear that if someone else tried to install something as ad-pushy as Windows 10 on my computer I’d expect it to be caught by my anti-spamware detecting software.

Imitating Bone Creates Stronger Steel – The article is pretty interesting, but I can’t think of anything to add.

the future – Billy Bass Alexa. Inspired!

Lab-Grown Meat Finally Available in Chicken Nugget Form – Will vegetarians be able to eat lab-grown meat?

Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster – We just did something like this at the Six Flags in Vallejo. It sounds really cool, but it was one of the worst rides I’ve ever been on. This is not a way to buy happiness.

Politics and Policy

Yale Lawsuit Spotlights Title IX, Sexual Assault ‘Hysteria’ – At least as far back as the witch trials, it seems that every generation picks a crime so heinous that we have to set aside the normal judicial process to make sure we convict the bad people. Is our generation’s version of this the accusation of sexual assault on college campuses? I’m not saying that they aren’t real and aren’t a serious problem. I’m just saying that it is unfortunate that in our zeal to do something about it, we appear to be stripping the (sometimes innocent) accused of their legal rights.

Why can’t you pay for sex? – It seems like a good rule of thumb for criminal law is that something should not be illegal if the “victim” prefers that it not be illegal.

Overdoses In W.Va. Drain Fund For Burials – The increase in drug overdose deaths is causing a strain on rural budgets. Is this a good counter-argument for not making something illegal if the “victim” prefers that it not be illegal?

Refugees, immigration, and the trolley problem – Does it really make sense to ban refugees because there is a small chance that some of them may be dangerous? Is that really the level of compassion that is appropriate for a predominantly Christian nation? Have we gone in less than a century from the “Greatest Generation” to the “Most Cowardly Generation?”

Retire This Rule vs Will Congress Undermine Retirement Coverage, Too? – Should states be allowed to auto-enroll people in IRAs when they don’t have a 401K? I guess my view is split. I think the state laws are bad but I see no reason why the feds should preempt them.

Common Sense on Immigration – Doesn’t everyone think their views on immigration are common sense? This article posits that we should make immigration more skill based.

Why Americans Pay Triple the World Price for Sugar – Because we are protecting US sugar growers. The rest of us all pay more. It also means that we import more products made with sugar because they can be made cheaper in other countries. It also means that we use a lot more HFCS as a replacement for sugar. But we’re making American great again for sugar growers. Isn’t that sweet?

How About Freedom for Dinner? – A review of the book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. I would like to see fewer laws banning foods and relying more on laws that “endorse” safe practices.

Paul Ryan Wants to Make You Less Free – It seems to be saying that taking more money from you and me and giving it to someone else makes those other people more free. I guess that’s true, but it still seems like it reduces overall freedom.

Lawmakers Try Yet Again To Create Minimum Seat Size Requirement On Planes – Do we really need laws for this? Can’t consumers be trusted to make their own choices? I understand why seats are getting less legroom (to put in more rows), but how are they getting narrower? Where is that extra space going? The aisles aren’t getting any wider.


Do Countries Consistently Engage in Misinforming the International Community about Their Efforts to Combat Money Laundering? Evidence Using Benford’s Law – One of the fun things about the widespread publishing of data and mainstreaming of stats techniques is that corruption is harder to hide. Sure, nobody is going to do anything about it, but at least it is more obvious that it exists.

THERE IS NO GENDER WAGE GAP – “If, for the same work, women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, why don’t businesses hire only women?”

What the President Could Learn From Professional Economists – A nice little summary from Greg Mankiw, President GWB’s former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Dead Wrong™ with Johan Norberg – Food Miles – Seems obvious, but the popularity of “buy local” and “eat local” stuff tells me that it isn’t obvious to everyone.

The Economics of Airline Class – An interesting breakdown of revenue by seating class and why airlines love business class.

March 5, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


If you want to persuade people, stop “winning” arguments – “One way, paradoxically, is to give up trying to persuade and instead ask questions.” Excellent article. I find that the best approach is not to try to win the argument but to sincerely try to come to a mutual understanding of why you and they disagree. Sometimes that leads to views changing and sometimes it just leads to better understanding.


New Zealand is offering free holidays to people who agree to a job interview – Where did I put that resume?


THESE ELDERLY DIY-ERS CAME TO PEACE WITH DEATH — BY CRAFTING THEIR OWN COFFINS – Wait. Is this really where I want to go for a job interview?


30 days jail for operator of drone that knocked woman unconscious – Looks like he deliberately flew over a crowd and it was his own piloting failure that caused the crash. Reckless endangerment seems like a reasonable charge and 30 days seems like a reasonable sentence.


The Real Difference between Google and Apple – Don’t look for deep insights into the companies. It’s just an interesting use of patent data and data analytics techniques.


Spurious Correlations – Sent this fun website to some colleagues this week. It’s a great source for examples when you are trying to show people that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean anything, let alone causation. I’ve seen a lot of people understand that better after looking at this site, although that may just be a coincidence.

Health – Physical and Mental

Diet Tracker Showdown: MyFitnessPal vs. Lose It – I’ve used MyFitnessPal and love it. I haven’t tried Lose It. If anyone is in the market for a diet tracking app or website, give them a look.


How to Keep Emotions From Running Your Life – This stuff all sounds good, but do people ever effectively put this stuff into practice? There are few things as hard or as worthwhile as changing the way you think.

Art and Culture

Beyond Curie is a design project that highlights badass women in science, technology, engineering + mathematics. – There’s no question that we need more chicks in STEM.


Architect Turns Old Cement Factory Into His Home, And The Interior Will Take Your Breath Away – Holy cow! That’s really cool. Definitely work checking out the pictures.


Oxford University launches summer school aimed at white working-class British boys – At first glance, it seems hard to think of white guys as Britain’s downtrodden. Class is still hugely important in Britain and classism is more entrenched in longstanding native groups than immigrants, so it isn’t surprising when you think about it.


How Does the Public’s View of Science Go So Wrong? – This is basically a complaint people don’t like scientists because they say things we don’t want to hear. Having more chick scientists wouldn’t hurt.


Fasting diet ‘regenerates diabetic pancreas’ – “The pancreas can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet, say US researchers.” What is a “type of a fasting diet”? Isn’t “fasting” the same as “not eating”? “Type of fasting” sounds a lot like “color of invisibility cloak”.


Would You Want a Dog That Was Genetically Engineered to Be Healthier? – “Dogs have more genetic diseases than any other species on the planet.” Not coincidentally, they’re probably the animals that humans have done the most breeding work on, leading to a lack of genetic diversity. This feels like a common nature vs human control argument. As things go wrong, do we go back to a more natural approach or try to get better at human management?


Bias at The New York Times? ‘The Truth is Hard’ when reporting on bees and neonicotinoid pesticides – I know almost nothing about bees and neonicotinoid pesticides, so I have no clue who is wrong here. What I like about this article is that it challenges what was reported in the NYT, which is a good reminder to try to consume a broad variety of news sources because any one source is likely to fall into bias traps.


What will it take to break the 2-hour marathon? – Don’t look at me. My answer would be to make the race shorter, like they do in The Woodlands.


WW2 bomb craters are a home to rare and vulnerable animals – My takeaway from this is that nature is going to adapt to anything we do. While we have to be careful not to destroy too much, we should not make the opposite mistake of trying to hold the world in stasis either.


Physicists Say They’ve Created an ‘Impossible’ New Form of Matter: Supersolids – While they weren’t listed in the article, but I think my Quest Protein bars are made from Supersolids.


Why It Took the Washing Machine So Long to Catch On – The short answer is that they had to be cheap and reliable enough to gain widespread use. On a side note, when you see people say things like “we should have a tax on robots that take people’s jobs”, consider that you’d still be paying a tax on your robotic clothes washer for taking the job of washer women (who are now free to start STEM careers).


Isaac Newton Says You Can’t Have a Flying Car – Stupid jerk scientists. I want my damn flying car. It’s 2017 already! This is the farthest we’ve EVER been into the future and we’re not even close on this one.


How millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants – When any new technology becomes popular, you can count on two types of articles appearing – how it will be used for porn/sex and how it will be harmful to children. Does writing about how new technology harms children count as a STEM career?

Politics and Policy

Buffett and Gates: America Is Already Great, Thanks to Immigrants – Because I’ve been picking on Bill’s stupid taxing robots comment, I thought I’d post this interview. What he and Warren say in it makes a lot of sense.


Is Neil Gorsuch an “Originalist”? Impossible. – I lean towards originalism in my view of the appropriate way to apply the Constitution, so I thought this opposing viewpoint was interesting. He makes good points, but his argument sounds a lot like “it isn’t perfect so ignore it.”


The vote that could wreck the European Union – I think that it’s a bad sign that I was expecting this to be about one of several other big risks to the EU and not about the French. Still more surprising, it is about their election and not their inability to learn to pee in bathrooms.


Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part One – Understanding Uber’s Bleak Operating Economics – A very negative assessment of Uber’s business model. It sounds convincing, but I’m always skeptical of arguments that venture capitalists are foolishly throwing away good money. They rarely got all that money by being stupid.


Why Planes Don’t Fly Faster – This time it isn’t really the scientists that are to blame. They figured out how to fly much faster. It is the economists who aren’t letting us do it. Bastards.


How Blockchain Is Changing Finance – I strongly recommend using the term blockchain in conversation several times this month. It will make you sound really smart. It is still way too early to know if any of this hype will turn into reality, but people will have long forgotten that you were on the bandwagon if it crashes.


Why is Payola Illegal? – Because the record companies don’t want competitors to be able to advertise.


What do economists know? – An excellent article on what economists know and what is bloviating.


February 26, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting


25 Airbag Rainbow Explosion in 4K – A totally pointless display of clouds of colored power made by exploding a bunch of powder with airbags. Looks cool.


Google Maps: Hyperlapse Around the World – A fun virtual tour around the world.


In their own words: How Texas pimps recruit and sell girls for sex – Very interesting story on 3 Texas pimps (one female!) and their take on the business. I found it fascinating. We hear a lot of stories about sex trafficking, making it sound like prostitutes are in the business against their will, but in a lot of cases, it is much more complicated. At least for some, it seems to them to be the least bad choice available to them. This article gives an insight into how the pimps twist their minds to get them there.


Queens of the Stoned Age – This was another fascinating story. This one was about a woman that set up a pot delivery business in New York relying on young, attractive, professionally dressed women to avoid detection.


Cracking story: French artist to entomb himself in rock for a week, then use body to hatch eggs – This article contains multiple levels of stupid. I’m totally calling BS. The whole concept seems stupid and the lack of a way to deal with excrement is a giveaway to this being a fraud.

Health – Physical and Mental

How I became a morning person (and why I decided to make the change) – Seems way overworked. Want to be a morning person? Get to bed earlier. Problem solved.


So, Um, How Do You, Like, Stop Using Filler Words? – I’ve never recorded myself doing public speaking. I think I prefer to live with the belief that I do it well enough rather than confront the reality that I should improve.


This State Is Now “Protecting” You from Kerrygold Butter – I’ve never heard of Kerrygold Butter, but if you live in Wisconsin, you don’t have to worry about it because the health authorities are protecting you (and the local butter industry) from it.


This Is How To Make Friends As An Adult: 5 Secrets Backed By Research – Once you get out of school, which is like a huge continuous mixer, making meaningful social connections gets harder. This article gives some advice on how to do it. There is no silver bullet.

Art and Culture

Skywhales and Jumping – Decades ago, I used to go to see a collection of animated shorts at some film festival each year. Many of them were awesome. Skywhales and Jumping were two of my favorites. I was able to find them both on Youtube.


Facebook Plans to Rewire Your Life. Be Afraid. – A screed about the evils of Facebook. I’m still of the view that the people that struggle the most with it are seeing a manifestation of problems that people bring with them and which are intensified rather than caused by FB. But it seems quite simple – don’t use it if it makes you worse off.


How mammoth cloning became fake news – I referenced an article on mammoth cloning last week and expressed my disappointment in what they were actually proposing to do. Here’s a follow-up article that describes it as “fake news” and goes into a lot more detail about why.


How This 11-Year-Old Girl Is Changing Prosthetics With Glitter – Jordan Reeves rocks. She’s not jumping fences on a cow, but she’s still cool in my book. “You can never be sad with sparkles”.


Why Millennials Are Lonely – Are they really lonelier? Or just whinier? And they even whinier or is the whiny millennial just a popular meme? I think we exaggerate the differences between generations.


Outlandish Trump Hysteria Mirrors Obamaphobia – Reagan was the anti-Christ. Clinton was destroying the dignity of the Presidency. Bush derangement syndrome was enough of a thing to get a name. Obamaphobia made people seem insane. Is it really a surprise that some people are hysterical about Trump? It would feel odd not to have a segment of the population apoplectic about whoever the President is.


Should we treat obesity like a contagious disease? – Based on the concept that obesity “spreads” through social networks, it should be considered contagious. Personally, I think that is stretching things, but it does introduce some ideas worth chewing on.


What’s the Oldest Thing Alive Today? – Apparently, it’s some scraggly tree in California.


Thousands of horsemen may have swept into Bronze Age Europe, transforming the local population – Interesting use of DNA to show that migration from Eurasia into Europe about 5,000 years ago was predominantly male.


Feral Hogs Root Through History – We all have different concerns. This author is seriously chuffed about wild pigs tearing up archaeological artifacts in Florida. If I put together an ordered lists of my concerns, this would not be high on my list.


Harvesting therapeutic proteins from animal slobber – Gross! “Wu says that swine produce about 15 L of saliva per day, and his team has been able to collect 3 L of spit per day from pigs, for 40 days straight, without any apparent harm to the animals.” Yuck. Their probably drooling with excitement over being able to jack with archeologists. Who wouldn’t?


Brain Imaging Identifies Different Types of Depression – Looks like there is a biological difference in different types of depression. Knowing that may lead to different types of treatment. I guess that’s a happy thought.


Bees learn football from their buddies – Bees are smarter than I thought. I wonder if they can help me understand the rules for offside in soccer.


20 Years After Dolly, Where Are We With Cloning? – Nice little summary of where we are with cloning and gene manipulation. I didn’t know that they made cows without horns. That could be a good first step to genetically engineering the extinction of longhorns.


Why Did Greenland’s Vikings Vanish? – Did they die off? Go “home”? Who knows? Very interesting article.


Why Did Danish Vikings Move to England? – Maybe real estate prices in Greenland got too high?


Is Crime Genetic? Scientists Don’t Know Because They’re Afraid to Ask – Obviously, crime is not genetic, but the propensity to commit it probably is, at least to some extent. But some subjects are apparently too taboo to study. Are there things that, as a society, we are better off not knowing?


Urban crime rates and the changing face of immigration: Evidence across four decades – Everyone knows that immigration leads to higher crime. Well, everyone except the people that actually look at the data and realize that it isn’t.


Here’s why you should stop memorizing your passwords – A short video on why you should use a password manager rather than trying to memorize your passwords. Obviously, nobody I know is stupid enough to re-use their passwords across multiple important sites, so this is preaching to the choir.


Adventures in Science: How to Use Calipers – I love calipers. I have a nice Mitutoyo set. But a video on how to use them? It seems about as useful as a video on how to use scissors.


Use of weaponized drones by ISIS spurs terrorism fears – This is one of the obvious downsides to drones becoming cheap and ubiquitous.


Why you should donate your data (as well as your organs) when you die – I hadn’t given this much thought. After reading the article, I still haven’t given it much thought. I’m more concerned about it than the impact of wild pigs on Florida’s archaeological evidence, but not much.


Scientists are making remarkable progress at using brain implants to restore the freedom of movement that spinal cord injuries take away. – Another article on brain implants. Is this becoming a thing?


Rogue One: Visual effects revealed – A look at the VR technology they used to set up shots for the movie. It reminds me of Johnny Lee’s old Wii experiment. That was sooooo cool.

Politics and Policy

Could Betsy DeVos be an ally for transgender students? It’s complicated. – Thought this was an interestingly nuanced article on a woman that doesn’t seem to be the subject of many nuanced articles.


The End Of Identity Politics – This article posits the notion that intermarriage and integration are going to end identity politics. I doubt it. People always find ways to group themselves into “us” and “them”. Well, you and I don’t, but they do.


Apple Tells Lawmaker that Right to Repair iPhones Will Turn Nebraska Into a ‘Mecca’ for Hackers – I haven’t studied this in any depth, but I like the notion of “right to repair” laws. I like to own my stuff and if I can’t open it, fix it, or mod it, then I don’t own it.


6 Big Differences That Turn City Dwellers Into Liberals – An interesting take on why people in urban environments tend to be more liberal (in the modern US sense, not in the sense of actually favoring liberty).


How San Diego Built a Bridge Over the Wall – There is an airport that effectively straddles the border in sort of a form of jurisdictional arbitrage. Cool concept.


Teen Girl Sent Teen Boy 5 Inappropriate Pictures. He Faced Lifetime Registry as a ‘Violent Sex Offender’ or 350 Years in Jail. – The sex offender registry concept needs to be reviewed. Is it really providing enough value to make it worth accepting abuses like this?


Why Government Funding Hurts PBS and NPR – An interesting take on the impact of federal funding for the CPB. Is it really helping programming or just propping up small rural stations?


The Folly of Abolishing the N.E.A. – I think people like to argue of budgetary minutia like this to avoid talking about the much bigger and more important issues that they don’t want to deal with. Whatever good or bad the N.E.A. does is trivial in the grand scheme of things compared with the harm being done by underfunded pensions or the growing mismatch between social security taxes and spending, but those are hard problems so let’s argue over whether or not we should spend a few pennies on art projects of questionable value.


Absurd State Licensing Rules Could Send A Woman To Jail Just for Touching a Horse – I had no idea that horse massage was a thing, but it doesn’t surprise me that someone would want to use the law to block competition.


The real assimilation dilemma – This blog entry was an interesting take on assimilation. Roughly, immigrants are assimilating just fine but some longstanding native-born Americans are having trouble adapting to resulting changes in our culture. The flavor of the melting pot changes over time.


Dallas Is About To Go Broke – The fact that Dallas is struggling to meet its pension obligations during relatively prosperous times is a good sign that our pension funding system is broken. The longer we wait to fix it, the worse the problem will be. But let’s spend our time arguing over whether or not to use federal funds for Sesame Street because that has a lot more emotional resonance.


Dispelling More Myths About Trade Deficits – If you are concerned about our trade deficit (or our capital account surplus, which is the same thing), we need to have long talk.


The Future of Not Working – Despite Milton Friedman being a fan of the universal basic income concept, I’m still skeptical. It’ll be interesting to see how the experiments play out. I think I’d prefer a UBI that is tied to work in some fashion because my biggest fear is the impact on motivation to work and the subsequent harm to societal productivity.


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 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.