November 5, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Once again, I’m skimping on the commentary. It’s our final photoshoot weekend. I hope to be back to my usual annoying comments next week.

Other

Startup will train crows to pick up cigarette butts in return for peanuts – Very cool. I loved this.

 

Frank Stephens: “I Am A Man With Down Syndrome And My Life Is Worth Living”

 

Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona Sells For $17,752,500, Becoming The World’s Most Expensive Wristwatch Ever Sold

 

LIGHTS ON | LIGHTS OUT – A look at changes in light emissions by areas. Some are getting more electrified and lighting up. Other areas are making an effort to reduce “light pollution”.

 

Virginia is betting more people will turn to transit when I-66 tolling begins – We should use more congestion pricing in more places, but the politics of it looks hopeless.

 

Time to bury Che Guevara for good

 

THE ASTOUNDING ENGINEERING BEHIND THE WORLD’S LARGEST OPTICAL TELESCOPE

Health – Physical and Mental

Narcissism and Self-Esteem Are Very Different – I feel that I’ve mastered both of them.

 

The Fragile Generation – How not to raise a snowflake.

 

A Pill to Make Exercise Obsolete – They invented a pill that gives you most of the benefits of regular, strenuous exercise without having to do the work! The only significant downside is that it causes cancer at an alarmingly high rate. Now they’re working on pills that make you want to exercise instead of just giving you the effects of exercising. Disappointing.

 

The ‘drunken monkey’ argument: are we predisposed to alcohol addiction?

 

Companies claim marijuana makes cancer “commit suicide,” FDA loses it

 

Is He Really That into You? – Weird. Why do I get the feeling that creepy guys are going to read this looking for ways to hit on women?

Art and Culture

Muslim Vikings and Abuses of History – Remember that article about Muslim artifacts in a Viking grave? It appears to have been someone stretching to find what they wanted to find, at least according to this article.

 

Outrage after Kyrgyzstan reburies its only ancient mummy – Why is this in “Art and Culture”? It’s a weird article. I had no idea what to make of it.

 

BrandColors, Team Color Codes – Color codes for popular brands and sports teams. I found this stuff while researching face painting in Photoshop. Seems like these pages could be very useful.

Science

Are People More Disturbed by Dog or Human Suffering? – “We also found more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans.”

 

Postmodern Creationism in Academia: Why Evergreen Matters – I’m familiar with people that challenge the scientific consensus on evolution and the age for the earth because of their Biblical interpretations. This is the first I’ve heard of “Native Americans” also challenging that consensus because it can be seen as decreasing their claim on the Americas.

 

Why Dozens of Octopuses Marched Out of the Sea – Labor dispute? Protest? No. They think it was overcrowding and a lack of food. Is “marched” the right term here?

 

Climate Scientist Mark Jacobson Sues Journal For $10M Over Hurt Feelings – Sigh

 

Inseparable: Ten Years Joined At The Head – Fascinating! Two girls joined at the head actually share portions of their brains, senses, and motor control. Please read the story despite how bad the following joke is. From the article – “Though academically delayed, they are learning to read, write and do arithmetic.” Apparently two heads aren’t always better than one.

Technology

How Google’s Physical Keys Will Protect Your Password – Yuck. Passwords are annoying enough. Now we’re moving back to a world with physical keys?

 

Familiar-Looking Numbers Are The Latest Twist In Robocalls – I’m generally not a fan of the death penalty, but I might be willing to make an exception for robocallers.

 

Microsoft Engineer Installs Google Chrome During Presentation After Edge Freezes

Politics and Policy

Sexually active students must be reported to law enforcement or state officials, Oregon school district says – I remember when people laughed at conservatives for teaching “abstinence”. They laughed because they knew that it would have almost no impact on young people’s sexual behavior. It appears that the left is now getting into the game. “According to Oregon law, anyone under 18 years old cannot legally give consent, meaning all sexual activity between minors is considered sexual abuse.” Interestingly, the minimum age for marrying in Oregon is 17.

 

From chaperones to modesty wear, a sexual reformation is underway

 

Fix this democracy — now – I disagree when most of these, but it is an interesting list of ideas to improve our country. Some are horrible – require everyone to vote, teach identity 101 in high school, and outlaw private education; but some aren’t so bad – befriend a libertarian, allow garage unit rentals, and switch to instant run-off elections. It’s a collection of short essays.

 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says 2016 Democratic primary was rigged – It appears that the “Democratic” party wasn’t. Maybe democracy does need to be fixed.

 

Donna Brazile and the Latest Great Hillary Scandal – Here’s a counterpoint. It was hard to find one.

 

Bringing Back the Draft Won’t Stop Unnecessary Wars – One of the smartest policy changes we made last century was to end conscription. Do people seriously want the draft again?

 

Progressives Are Now Arguing that the First Amendment Is Profoundly Limited on College Campuses – It’s strange how things change.

 

Professors like me can’t stay silent about this extremist moment on campuses

 

Why I’ve Started to Fear My Fellow Social Justice Activists

 

Get On the Bus or Get Under It: Shouting Down Free Speech at Rutgers

 

Harvard Returns to Its Puritan Roots

 

Philosophy Professor Tells Bisexual Student Who Criticized Islam ‘We’re Not Going to Let You Damage the Program’ – How does someone get to be the dean of a philosophy department while thinking like this? This was a UTSA.

 

University cancels play accused of criticizing Black Lives Matter – Ironically, the play was about political correctness run amuck at colleges making it hard for people to express unpopular opinions.

 

Forget Washington. Facebook’s Problems Abroad Are Far More Disturbing. – There seems to be a growing consensus that Facebook (and Google) need to start addressing the political implications of the content they serve. I still disagree.

 

Would You Blame the Phone for Russian Interference?

 

Why Feminists Must Understand Evolution

 

Prostitution Reduces Rape – Interesting blog post with some interesting (and some insane) counter-arguments in the comments.

 

A Broke, and Broken, Flood Insurance Program

Economics, Business, and Money

The World’s Poorest People Are Getting Richer Faster than Anyone Else – It doesn’t get much press, but the last few decades have seen some of the greatest improvements in the wellbeing of the world’s poorest people.

 

Stuck! The Law and Economics of Residential Stagnation – At a time when families are getting smaller, travel costs lower, and communications better, I would have expected more people to be willing to move to find work. I guess I would have been wrong.

 

Labor Market Equilibration: Evidence from Uber – The supply of driver hours is very elastic, so you cannot easily increase driver pay by having Uber raise rates. If you did, it would just draw in more driver hours, which would compete the price back down.

 

Import duties are taxes imposed on, and paid for, by Americans, not foreign producers

 

DNAinfo and Gothamist Are Shut Down After Vote to Unionize – Here’s a little friendly advice. If you work for a company owned by someone that hates unions and the company has been losing money ever since it was started, forming a union might not be the best idea.

 

Who Pays for Free College? Crowding Out on Campus

 

Why Movie-Ticket Surge Pricing Is a Bad Idea

 

We Can’t Reduce Housing Costs by Wishing for Rent Control – This should be really simple for people to understand. If you propose something to lower housing costs, the proposal needs to either increase the supply of housing or reduce the demand for it. Rent control does the opposite, so it will inevitably lead to some combination of higher housing prices or shortages. It’s just that simple. It all comes down to supply and demand.

 

Yellen Retrospective – By objective measures, she appears to have been one of the most successful FED chairs in history.

 

Bubble Investing: Learning from History

October 29, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

I’m going to be short on pithy commentary this week. I’m in the middle of our fall photo shoot and don’t have a lot of time.

Other

Love After Life: Nobel-Winning Physicist Richard Feynman’s Extraordinary Letter to His Departed Wife

 

Nearly every country on earth is named after one of four things – A directional description of the country, a feature of the land, a tribe name, or an important person.

 

The Only Underwater Submarine-to-Submarine Kill in History

 

Did Sally Hemings And Thomas Jefferson Love Each Other? – I like the article’s conclusion that it is really impossible to know. Can a slave ever really be said to “love” their master?

 

These Are the Happiest Cities in the United States – It’s not. It’s a list of cities that meet the author’s criteria for what would make him happy.

 

Seven Things You Don’t Need to Fear, No Matter What the Internet Says – According to some article on the same Internet that the subject discredits.

 

Mark Barbieri – You can find my name on the list. What I found interesting was what a great job they did with the complete list of places that I’ve lived. In fact, I planning on referring back to this when I get those questions asking me to confirm who I am by specifying which address I’ve lived at, which gives you some sense of how useless those things are.

 

Foursquare data reveals the most popular fast-food chain in every state — and America has a clear winner – It’s a Chick-fil-A country, but surprisingly they didn’t win in Texas.

 

Health – Physical and Mental

Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend? – I think it is a major plus, but I guess it isn’t necessary.

 

Art and Culture

In Norway, the Journey Is the Destination – Amazing scenery, nice people, and lots of blondes apparently weren’t enough so they are adding some interesting art. Definitely high on my list of travel priorities.

 

The Blonde vs. Brunette Map of Europe – Just in case you were wondering where in Europe to go to see the most blondes. Incidentally, neither Alexa nor Google Home will tell me a blonde joke, presumably to avoid giving offense to blondes (like they’d even understand).

 

The Uncanny Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons

 

Which Disappointing TV Show Do You Resent for Consuming Your Time? – I can proudly say “none of the ones listed in the article”. I do resent wasting the time to read the article, though. And Napoleon Dynamite. I’m still bitter about the time wasted watching that movie.

 

Maybe Don’t Dress Your Kid Up As Moana This Halloween? – And while you’re at it, don’t let them dress up as Elsa unless they are Scandinavian AND a princess. Or the Ariel if they haven’t grown up under the sea. Never let your child dress as anything other than who they are or you are an insensitive bigot.

Science

When you die you know you are dead: Major study shows mind still works after the body shows no signs of life – Really cool. Apparently, your brain and hearing still work for a while after you are dead. Makes the guillotine even crueler.

 

Conspiracy Theorists Have a Fundamental Cognitive Problem, Say Scientists – There is no way that people believe all these crazy conspiracy theories on accident. I think someone is putting something in our water or air to make us more inclined to believe nonsense.

 

CHANGING ATTITUDES TOWARDS RISK AS WE GET OLDER: New evidence that ageing societies become more risk-averse – Seems a bit backwards. Logically, you’d think that older people would be more willing to accept risk since they have fewer years of life at stake.

 

Bird feeders might be changing bird beaks

 

Technology

MugLife – This is an iOS only app that looks fun. It allows you to jack with people’s faces in pictures.

 

Japanese noodle company invents noise cancelling fork to mask offensive slurping – I thought that Japanese people slurped noodles using chopsticks, not forks.

Politics and Policy

Why the trial by ordeal was actually an effective test of guilt – This was weak. The idea is that if everyone believes that the trial by ordeal will work, only the innocent will go through with it, so the people conducting it will fudge it so that they look innocent.

 

Liberate government workers from forced union fees – This, essentially making government unions follow “right to work” principals, seems likely to happen via Supreme Court fiat this session.

 

The New Populism Isn’t About Economics

 

My liberal white male rage: What should I do about it? – a LWM SJC has frequent violent fantasies. The author comes across as rather disturbed. I’d avoid him.

 

The Misguided Student Crusade Against ‘Fascism’ – It does seem that a lot of anti-fascist crusaders really are fascists at heart (but for a good cause, of course).

 

Why ‘Medicare for All’ Will Sink the Democrats – I’d like to see reforms to allow states to experiment more with the provision of medical care, including “Medicare for All” or some other form of single-payer system. Let the states that want it try it and let the other states learn from them.

 

How do I get my daughter interested in computers?

 

New Zealand Government to ban foreigners from buying property – The new government is wasting no time in doing stupid things.

 

Facebook censored me. Criticize your government and it might censor you too. – I’m tempted to write the author and ask the he post something I’ve written and, when he refuses, accuse him of censoring me. Sorry, but nobody has a right to make Facebook publish their thoughts. In fact, I wish that they exercised that discretion much more often.

 

Cops Claim Teen Consented to Sex in Their Custody, Point Prosecutors to Her ‘Provocative’ Selfies – This seems pretty simple. You cannot arrest someone, lead them away in handcuffs, and then claim that they consented to having sex with you while they were in your custody.

 

Che Guevara: Symbol of Love or Hate? – He was one of the more loathsome people of the last century. Why do people celebrate him? Why where Che shirts but not Goebbels? In what meaningful way were they different (besides their hair?)

 

Economics, Business, and Money

Americans are still terrible at investing, annual study once again shows – Repeat after me – hold a balanced portfolio of low cost index funds and don’t trade them. It’s pretty simple.

 

How Retailers Use Personalized Prices to Test What You’re Willing to Pay

 

Forced Scarcity Won’t Make This Country Richer

 

Fortune 500 firms 1955 v. 2017: Only 59 remain, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity

 

401k plans do not “subsidize saving”

October 22, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Butterfly swarm shows up on Denver radar system – I love living in a world with so many butterflies that they sometimes show up as clouds on radar systems. I want to see this happen in my area.

 

Three Chinese women stuck at South Korea airport unable to confirm identities after plastic surgery – This isn’t a problem I ever really thought about. What if you don’t look your passport photo anymore?

 

Chinese scientists can identify you by your walk – I guess they needed this because of the plastic surgery women. More seriously, this is interesting stuff. You are getting increasingly less anonymous. I wonder what impact this will have on masked protesters.

 

Dubai Airport Plans to Put Tunnels with Face-scanning Aquariums as Security Checkpoints for All – “Not only those boarding departure flights but also those catching connecting flights at Dubai will have to walk through the tunnels with face-scanning aquariums.” I understand that the biggest challenge is training the fish to recognize faces.

 

The Enormous Spreadsheet that Runs the World’s Mail – When you send a letter to another country, how to the intermediate countries get paid? This video describes the process and the spreadsheet at the heart of that process.

 

America’s Top Fears 2017 – Corruption of government officials came in at #1. Health care #2. Last year, Terrorist Attack was #2 and Terrorism was #4. Neither made it onto this year’s list.

 

Camp Chef’s Italia Pizza Oven is Worthy of Your Dough – I think everyone should have a pizza oven.

 

Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild. – Wolves don’t make good pets. This article talks about why. It’s something about them being wild animals.

 

‘My wife thinks I’m crazy:’ Grower of gargantuan fruit nabs new record with world’s largest squash – He grew a one ton squash. I read the article, but I still don’t understand why. It’s his third world record squash. I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Health – Physical and Mental

Study fails to discover why old women exist – There are three popular theories. #1 – it’s hard for evolution to make women alive and healthy while raising children and then die shortly afterwards. #2 – Men can still have children when they are old and maybe women get some of those genes. #3 – Old women are helpful and improve the success of the community overall. This study didn’t find evidence of any of the three. I’m trying to imagine the conversation he has with his mother over Thanksgiving when she asks what he is studying.

 

Why Adults Need to Play More Often – I wouldn’t have thought that the benefits of playing as an adult needed any explanation, but here’s one.

 

You Must Get Started on Your Swedish Death Cleaning – It’s a book about straightening out your stuff before you die. When you are done cleaning up, don’t forget to build your coffin. And if you could dig a hole about six feet deep, that would be great.

 

Magic mushrooms ‘reboot’ brain in depressed people – study – This was curious. It appears that a treatment of psychedelics can rewire the brain enough to permanently fix some problems with depression. I’ve found that eating at Mellow Mushroom helps with depression, but the results are only temporary.

 

SSC JOURNAL CLUB: SEROTONIN RECEPTORS – This is a little geeky, but an excellent read. It goes into much more detail about dopamine and serotonin than most articles. It does a much better job of discussing the magic mushroom study than the prior article. I also loved the explanation of “Algernon’s Law”.

 

Forget getting rich – sex and sleep are the real keys to happiness – OK, but if you are rich enough, you can sleep all day and, when you wake up, hire people for sex.

Art and Culture

Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades – Disgusting on so many levels. How can a person be that depraved? Why were so many people silent for so long? I guess this should be a surprise. Our current President bragged about his ability sexually abuse women. His opponent destroyed the reputation of women that made allegations of sexual abuse against her husband, who was forced to settle with one accuser. Despite all that, they are both popular with women and “women’s rights” advocates. Another weird thing is how many people that are criticizing Harvey turn around and defend Roman Polanski after he admitted raping a young girl and then fled the country to escape punishment. It’s no wonder that Harvey thought that he would be forgiven if he kept supporting causes popular among women’s groups.

 

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories – I couldn’t make it through this. The stories were just too disturbing. What a loathsome person.

 

What to know about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Ben Affleck allegations, and how Matt Damon fits in – Look like Ben Affleck, while criticizing Harvey (that name sure has taken a beating lately), is facing allegations of his own misbehavior. Matt Damon’s name was also sullied during the week, but that appears to have been a misunderstanding.

 

Celebrity Misbehavior – “Casual empiricism suggests that celebrities engage in more anti-social and other socially unapproved behavior than noncelebrities. I consider a number of reasons for this stylized fact, including one new theory, in which workers who are less substitutable in production are enabled to engage in greater levels of misbehavior because their employers cannot substitute away from them.”

 

Leonard Nimoy – Both Sides Now – What the hell was going on the 60s? This wasn’t nearly as bad as sexually assaulting someone, but still. Why?

 

It’s No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry – This is an interesting retake on “Take on Me”. It was redone as an acoustic ballad. The video isn’t nearly as cool as the original, but the song is surprisingly good in a different way. It is certainly better the Leonard Nimoy singing “Both Sides Now”, but what isn’t?

 

The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating – Most heterosexual couples still meet through friends, but meeting online is a close second. Meeting online is dominant for same-sex couples. Interracial marriages increased sharply with the advent of online dating sites twenty years ago.

Science

Has adult sleep duration declined over the last 50+ years? – Surprisingly, the answer is no. It seems like we’re busier than people used to be, but maybe we make up for it by having more meetings to sleep through.

 

Easter Islanders Falsely Blamed For Their Own Demise – That story about the Easter Islanders destroying their own habitat? It looks like that might be wrong. This guy blames rats.

 

Who Would Agree to Have Sex With a Total Stranger? – According to this, one of the biggest differences between men and women is their willingness to have sex with strangers. In studies, about 75% of men will but virtually no women will. The article goes into much more detail. The difference is essentially unchanged even when the stranger danger aspects are mitigate.

 

The scientist who spots fake videos – This is going to be an increasingly important skill as it gets easier and easier to create fake photos and videos. I’ve heard that it is already possible for amateurs to fool people with faked pictures.

Technology

Bringing Portraits to Life – Don’t think we need better ways to spot faked videos? Check this out. They are taking still images of people and then animating them based on the actions of third person. Wow!

 

Google Pixel Buds Speaking Translator|Translate Language Instantly – It’s Babel Fish 1.0. This is really, really cool. Really cool. I need this before our next exchange student arrives.

 

How Computers Compress Text: Huffman Coding and Huffman Trees – Want to understand how computers compress text? Probably not, but if you do, here’s a simple explanation.

 

Fibonacci Numbers hidden in the Mandelbrot Set – Numberphile – Last video got you in a mood for nerdy videos? How about watching Dr. Holly Krieger show you how Fibonacci sequences appear in the Mandelbrot Set. Don’t worry, she explains what Fibonacci numbers are and what the Mandelbrot Set is. I hadn’t seen her videos before. She’s no Vi Hart, but I’m excited to go watch more.

 

Why Stanford Researchers Tried to Create a ‘Gaydar’ Machine – Remember my references to gender preference determining facial recognition software? This article tells the story of the guys that made it.

 

U.S. signals tougher stance with tech companies on encryption – This is another move in the fundamental debate over whether we are entitled to privacy or whether that is too dangerous. Should we be able to encrypt things? If so, that means that terrorists and pedophiles can encrypt things. If not, that means that none of our communications and records are very secure. It’s a little like the free speech debate. You can just have a right for good people to have free speech.

 

Why Commodore Failed – A Conversation with Commodore UK’s David John Pleasance & Trevor Dickinson – Commodore was one of the dominant PC brands in the 80s. Then it died. Here’s an insider’s perspective on why.

 

An Apple Genetically Engineered to Never Brown Will Hit Stores This Fall – New apples that don’t brown as quickly are about to hit the shelves. They’ve shut down the gene that “controls polyphenol oxidase production”. I guess that’s the stuff that makes apples go brown. Anyway, this cool because it will make sliced apples easier to deal with and should lead to a reduction in food waste.

 

Why SQL is beating NoSQL, and what this means for the future of data – This is a good article defending SQL.

Politics and Policy

Russia reportedly used Pokémon Go in an effort to inflame racial tensions – Are we living inside a badly written dystopian future novel?

 

5 Ways White People Can Fight White Supremacy – This was so stupid that I posted it to complain about its stupidity. “[Racism] is a contagion carried and spread by white people among white people.” There you have it. Racism isn’t a universal problem that we all need to struggle with. According to the author, it’s only a white person problem. It appears that the author could stand to do a little self-reflection.

 

President Reagan’s Radio Address on Canadian Elections and Free Trade on November 26, 1988 – Just a little nostalgia for when we had a President that was a vocal supporter of free trade. “Over the past 200 years, not only has the argument against tariffs and trade barriers won nearly universal agreement among economists but it has also proven itself in the real world where we have seen free trading nations prosper while protectionist countries fall behind.” Instead, we have a President that has jacked up the cost of lumber at a time when many people in Houston, California, and Puerto Rico are rebuilding after natural disasters. He did so by sticking high tariffs on Canadian lumber to help US lumber companies price gouge people rebuilding their homes. To be bipartisan, he did so with the support of former President Jimmy Carter, who owns tree farms and stands to profit from the tariff.

 

Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice – The conclusion is essentially “we don’t know.” From the study: “We conclude that the causal effects of many widespread prejudice-reduction interventions, such as workplace diversity training and media campaigns, remain unknown.”

 

I Tweeted About My Toddler and Someone Called Child Protective Services – This was an interesting story about the abuse of child protective services as a means of harassing parents. The evidence used to start the investigation was a tweet saying “3-year-old for sale. $12 or best offer.” This isn’t an easy problem to solve. The more you encourage CPS not to pursue obviously frivolous charges, the more often they’ll miss cases of serious abuse.

 

Salt Lake Police Fire Cop Who Arrested Nurse Over Blood Draw – Remember the jerk cop that arrested the nurse for not letting him draw blood from an accident victim? He got fired from his police job. He had already been fired from his EMT job. It looks like body cameras are a good thing because he would probably not have been punished if we didn’t have the footage. Incidentally, his union is still angry that the footage was released. When the union uses the phrase “protect and serve”, they are deliberately vague about just who they are protecting and serving, but it seems pretty obvious that is isn’t citizens like the nurse in this story.

 

Obamacare Was Built With the Flaws Trump Now Exploits – Setting aside the debate over the goals and merits of the legislation, the Affordable Care Act was one of the worst crafted major pieces of legislation I can recall. I assume that is due to the rush to get it passed and the razor thin margins on which that happened. As a result, the law was unworkable without significant (and probably illegal) executive intervention. It’s a mess. I don’t know what will or should be done, but we definitely need some form of health care reform – hopefully bipartisan and better thought out.

 

We Brought Charles Murray to Campus. Guess What Happened. – OK, this is turning into a repetitive old meme, but I still find the intolerance closed minds of college “liberals” to be depressing. Schools are failing students if they aren’t teaching them how to appropriately disagree with people. What sort of employees will these kids become if shout downs are their way of dealing with people they disagree with?

Economics, Business, and Money

Ceteris Numquam Paribus – Prof. Deirdre McCloskey – This is from an econ blog written by a teen. This entry is about a very interesting professor. “She is known as a “conservative” economist, Chicago-School style (she taught at the University of Chicago from 1968 to 1980), but protests, “I’m a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian libertarian.”” She’s actually a very interesting writer and I’m delighted to see some teen interested enough in libertarian economists to blog about them.

 

We’re Number 11, We’re Number 11! Eh? – We’ve tied Canada for 11th in this year’s Economic Freedom of the World index. Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Ireland took the top 5 spots. We improved a bit from last year, primarily from sound money and de-regulation but lost ground on freedom to trade.

 

The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself – A nice little summary of behavioral economics, for which Richard Thaler just won the economics “Nobel” prize.

 

Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend – Yet another article calling for the breakup of the tech giants. This time the angle is that they “don’t have our best interests at heart.” First, no company has your best interests at heart. Second, the author calls for them to be regulated by the government, but the government doesn’t have our best interests at heart either. It helps to remember that every organization, whether public or private, is guided by people and those people have their own interests and they don’t necessarily align with yours.

 

October 15, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Butterfly swarm shows up on Denver radar system – I love living in a world with so many butterflies that they sometimes show up as clouds on radar systems. I want to see this happen in my area.

 

Three Chinese women stuck at South Korea airport unable to confirm identities after plastic surgery – This isn’t a problem I ever really thought about. What if you don’t look your passport photo anymore?

 

Chinese scientists can identify you by your walk – I guess they needed this because of the plastic surgery women. More seriously, this is interesting stuff. You are getting increasingly less anonymous. I wonder what impact this will have on masked protesters.

 

Dubai Airport Plans to Put Tunnels with Face-scanning Aquariums as Security Checkpoints for All – “Not only those boarding departure flights but also those catching connecting flights at Dubai will have to walk through the tunnels with face-scanning aquariums.” I understand that the biggest challenge is training the fish to recognize faces.

 

The Enormous Spreadsheet that Runs the World’s Mail – When you send a letter to another country, how to the intermediate countries get paid? This video describes the process and the spreadsheet at the heart of that process.

 

America’s Top Fears 2017 – Corruption of government officials came in at #1. Health care #2. Last year, Terrorist Attack was #2 and Terrorism was #4. Neither made it onto this year’s list.

 

Camp Chef’s Italia Pizza Oven is Worthy of Your Dough – I think everyone should have a pizza oven.

 

Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild. – Wolves don’t make good pets. This article talks about why. It’s something about them being wild animals.

 

‘My wife thinks I’m crazy:’ Grower of gargantuan fruit nabs new record with world’s largest squash – He grew a one ton squash. I read the article, but I still don’t understand why. It’s his third world record squash. I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Health – Physical and Mental

Study fails to discover why old women exist – There are three popular theories. #1 – it’s hard for evolution to make women alive and healthy while raising children and then die shortly afterwards. #2 – Men can still have children when they are old and maybe women get some of those genes. #3 – Old women are helpful and improve the success of the community overall. This study didn’t find evidence of any of the three. I’m trying to imagine the conversation he has with his mother over Thanksgiving when she asks what he is studying.

 

Why Adults Need to Play More Often – I wouldn’t have thought that the benefits of playing as an adult needed any explanation, but here’s one.

 

You Must Get Started on Your Swedish Death Cleaning – It’s a book about straightening out your stuff before you die. When you are done cleaning up, don’t forget to build your coffin. And if you could dig a hole about six feet deep, that would be great.

 

Magic mushrooms ‘reboot’ brain in depressed people – study – This was curious. It appears that a treatment of psychedelics can rewire the brain enough to permanently fix some problems with depression. I’ve found that eating at Mellow Mushroom helps with depression, but the results are only temporary.

 

SSC JOURNAL CLUB: SEROTONIN RECEPTORS – This is a little geeky, but an excellent read. It goes into much more detail about dopamine and serotonin than most articles. It does a much better job of discussing the magic mushroom study than the prior article. I also loved the explanation of “Algernon’s Law”.

 

Forget getting rich – sex and sleep are the real keys to happiness – OK, but if you are rich enough, you can sleep all day and, when you wake up, hire people for sex.

Art and Culture

Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades – Disgusting on so many levels. How can a person be that depraved? Why were so many people silent for so long? I guess this should be a surprise. Our current President bragged about his ability sexually abuse women. His opponent destroyed the reputation of women that made allegations of sexual abuse against her husband, who was forced to settle with one accuser. Despite all that, they are both popular with women and “women’s rights” advocates. Another weird thing is how many people that are criticizing Harvey turn around and defend Roman Polanski after he admitted raping a young girl and then fled the country to escape punishment. It’s no wonder that Harvey thought that he would be forgiven if he kept supporting causes popular among women’s groups.

 

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories – I couldn’t make it through this. The stories were just too disturbing. What a loathsome person.

 

What to know about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Ben Affleck allegations, and how Matt Damon fits in – Look like Ben Affleck, while criticizing Harvey (that name sure has taken a beating lately), is facing allegations of his own misbehavior. Matt Damon’s name was also sullied during the week, but that appears to have been a misunderstanding.

 

Celebrity Misbehavior – “Casual empiricism suggests that celebrities engage in more anti-social and other socially unapproved behavior than noncelebrities. I consider a number of reasons for this stylized fact, including one new theory, in which workers who are less substitutable in production are enabled to engage in greater levels of misbehavior because their employers cannot substitute away from them.”

 

Leonard Nimoy – Both Sides Now – What the hell was going on the 60s? This wasn’t nearly as bad as sexually assaulting someone, but still. Why?

 

It’s No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry – This is an interesting retake on “Take on Me”. It was redone as an acoustic ballad. The video isn’t nearly as cool as the original, but the song is surprisingly good in a different way. It is certainly better the Leonard Nimoy singing “Both Sides Now”, but what isn’t?

 

The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating – Most heterosexual couples still meet through friends, but meeting online is a close second. Meeting online is dominant for same-sex couples. Interracial marriages increased sharply with the advent of online dating sites twenty years ago.

Science

Has adult sleep duration declined over the last 50+ years? – Surprisingly, the answer is no. It seems like we’re busier than people used to be, but maybe we make up for it by having more meetings to sleep through.

 

Easter Islanders Falsely Blamed For Their Own Demise – That story about the Easter Islanders destroying their own habitat? It looks like that might be wrong. This guy blames rats.

 

Who Would Agree to Have Sex With a Total Stranger? – According to this, one of the biggest differences between men and women is their willingness to have sex with strangers. In studies, about 75% of men will but virtually no women will. The article goes into much more detail. The difference is essentially unchanged even when the stranger danger aspects are mitigate.

 

The scientist who spots fake videos – This is going to be an increasingly important skill as it gets easier and easier to create fake photos and videos. I’ve heard that it is already possible for amateurs to fool people with faked pictures.

Technology

Bringing Portraits to Life – Don’t think we need better ways to spot faked videos? Check this out. They are taking still images of people and then animating them based on the actions of third person. Wow!

 

Google Pixel Buds Speaking Translator|Translate Language Instantly – It’s Babel Fish 1.0. This is really, really cool. Really cool. I need this before our next exchange student arrives.

 

How Computers Compress Text: Huffman Coding and Huffman Trees – Want to understand how computers compress text? Probably not, but if you do, here’s a simple explanation.

 

Fibonacci Numbers hidden in the Mandelbrot Set – Numberphile – Last video got you in a mood for nerdy videos? How about watching Dr. Holly Krieger show you how Fibonacci sequences appear in the Mandelbrot Set. Don’t worry, she explains what Fibonacci numbers are and what the Mandelbrot Set is. I hadn’t seen her videos before. She’s no Vi Hart, but I’m excited to go watch more.

 

Why Stanford Researchers Tried to Create a ‘Gaydar’ Machine – Remember my references to gender preference determining facial recognition software? This article tells the story of the guys that made it.

 

U.S. signals tougher stance with tech companies on encryption – This is another move in the fundamental debate over whether we are entitled to privacy or whether that is too dangerous. Should we be able to encrypt things? If so, that means that terrorists and pedophiles can encrypt things. If not, that means that none of our communications and records are very secure. It’s a little like the free speech debate. You can just have a right for good people to have free speech.

 

Why Commodore Failed – A Conversation with Commodore UK’s David John Pleasance & Trevor Dickinson – Commodore was one of the dominant PC brands in the 80s. Then it died. Here’s an insider’s perspective on why.

 

An Apple Genetically Engineered to Never Brown Will Hit Stores This Fall – New apples that don’t brown as quickly are about to hit the shelves. They’ve shut down the gene that “controls polyphenol oxidase production”. I guess that’s the stuff that makes apples go brown. Anyway, this cool because it will make sliced apples easier to deal with and should lead to a reduction in food waste.

 

Why SQL is beating NoSQL, and what this means for the future of data – This is a good article defending SQL.

Politics and Policy

Russia reportedly used Pokémon Go in an effort to inflame racial tensions – Are we living inside a badly written dystopian future novel?

 

5 Ways White People Can Fight White Supremacy – This was so stupid that I posted it to complain about its stupidity. “[Racism] is a contagion carried and spread by white people among white people.” There you have it. Racism isn’t a universal problem that we all need to struggle with. According to the author, it’s only a white person problem. It appears that the author could stand to do a little self-reflection.

 

President Reagan’s Radio Address on Canadian Elections and Free Trade on November 26, 1988 – Just a little nostalgia for when we had a President that was a vocal supporter of free trade. “Over the past 200 years, not only has the argument against tariffs and trade barriers won nearly universal agreement among economists but it has also proven itself in the real world where we have seen free trading nations prosper while protectionist countries fall behind.” Instead, we have a President that has jacked up the cost of lumber at a time when many people in Houston, California, and Puerto Rico are rebuilding after natural disasters. He did so by sticking high tariffs on Canadian lumber to help US lumber companies price gouge people rebuilding their homes. To be bipartisan, he did so with the support of former President Jimmy Carter, who owns tree farms and stands to profit from the tariff.

 

Prejudice Reduction: What Works? A Review and Assessment of Research and Practice – The conclusion is essentially “we don’t know.” From the study: “We conclude that the causal effects of many widespread prejudice-reduction interventions, such as workplace diversity training and media campaigns, remain unknown.”

 

I Tweeted About My Toddler and Someone Called Child Protective Services – This was an interesting story about the abuse of child protective services as a means of harassing parents. The evidence used to start the investigation was a tweet saying “3-year-old for sale. $12 or best offer.” This isn’t an easy problem to solve. The more you encourage CPS not to pursue obviously frivolous charges, the more often they’ll miss cases of serious abuse.

 

Salt Lake Police Fire Cop Who Arrested Nurse Over Blood Draw – Remember the jerk cop that arrested the nurse for not letting him draw blood from an accident victim? He got fired from his police job. He had already been fired from his EMT job. It looks like body cameras are a good thing because he would probably not have been punished if we didn’t have the footage. Incidentally, his union is still angry that the footage was released. When the union uses the phrase “protect and serve”, they are deliberately vague about just who they are protecting and serving, but it seems pretty obvious that is isn’t citizens like the nurse in this story.

 

Obamacare Was Built With the Flaws Trump Now Exploits – Setting aside the debate over the goals and merits of the legislation, the Affordable Care Act was one of the worst crafted major pieces of legislation I can recall. I assume that is due to the rush to get it passed and the razor thin margins on which that happened. As a result, the law was unworkable without significant (and probably illegal) executive intervention. It’s a mess. I don’t know what will or should be done, but we definitely need some form of health care reform – hopefully bipartisan and better thought out.

 

We Brought Charles Murray to Campus. Guess What Happened. – OK, this is turning into a repetitive old meme, but I still find the intolerance closed minds of college “liberals” to be depressing. Schools are failing students if they aren’t teaching them how to appropriately disagree with people. What sort of employees will these kids become if shout downs are their way of dealing with people they disagree with?

Economics, Business, and Money

Ceteris Numquam Paribus – Prof. Deirdre McCloskey – This is from an econ blog written by a teen. This entry is about a very interesting professor. “She is known as a “conservative” economist, Chicago-School style (she taught at the University of Chicago from 1968 to 1980), but protests, “I’m a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian libertarian.”” She’s actually a very interesting writer and I’m delighted to see some teen interested enough in libertarian economists to blog about them.

 

We’re Number 11, We’re Number 11! Eh? – We’ve tied Canada for 11th in this year’s Economic Freedom of the World index. Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Ireland took the top 5 spots. We improved a bit from last year, primarily from sound money and de-regulation but lost ground on freedom to trade.

 

The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself – A nice little summary of behavioral economics, for which Richard Thaler just won the economics “Nobel” prize.

 

Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend – Yet another article calling for the breakup of the tech giants. This time the angle is that they “don’t have our best interests at heart.” First, no company has your best interests at heart. Second, the author calls for them to be regulated by the government, but the government doesn’t have our best interests at heart either. It helps to remember that every organization, whether public or private, is guided by people and those people have their own interests and they don’t necessarily align with yours.

 

October 8, 2017 – Stuff I Found Interesting

Other

Smartest man in Texas saves his home during the flood with something his friends laughed at him for – This video shows a guy that filled tubes around his house with water to form a makeshift damn that protected his house.

 

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights – This is a very scary and fascinating story. In many places (they focus on Nevada), someone can petition the court to make them the guardian of an elderly person with whom they have no relationship. This tells about someone effectively enslaving an elderly couple and bleeding them of their funds. I guess that the lesson here is that if you are going to grow old with assets worth stealing, make sure that you have some younger people close to you that will fight this sort of thing vigorously if it happens.

 

Mass Killings: An Evolutionary Perspective – This article sees mass killings as being status related.

 

Why Can’t Americans Ditch Checks? – We really need to move beyond checks. At the very least, don’t allow anyone to write a check at a store when someone is behind them.

 

A ‘Sonic Attack’ on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It – I’m not a scientist, but I thought this was stupid the minute I heard of it. Maybe they are being poisoned. Maybe it is a mass hallucination. Maybe it is some weird spy game thing. It is not some sort of sonic attack.

 

GiveDirectly comes to Houston – It looks like GiveDirectly is a charity that hands out cash and lets the recipients use it however they need it. I think it is an interesting concept, but not so interesting that I’m going to donate.

 

Buy These 20 Toys Now Because They Will Sell Out By the Holiday – Someone’s predictions for what the hot toys will be this Christmas. Looks like a pretty weak year to me.

Health – Physical and Mental

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things? – Being smart and wise (they refer to it as being able to think critically) are different things.

 

Scientists Are Racing to Create Synthetic Blood in the Wake of Mass Tragedies – Hurry up. I’ll be delighted when “giving blood” is a thing of the past. Oh, and for those of you that don’t give blood because you don’t like needles or whatever, NOBODY likes having a needle jammed in their arm for 15 minutes. You’re just making excuses. Just like the way that they should (but don’t) allocate organs to organ donors first, when they need to dole out limit supplies of blood, they should give it to the donors first and only give the non-donors whatever is left over.

 

Psychological stress declines rapidly from age 50 in the United States – Really? The first few years after fifty haven’t really seemed that much less stressful. Oh well, I’m not going to worry about it.

 

Seven Body Organs You Can Live Without – Sort of. Some, like the Appendix, make sense. Others, like Kidneys, less so. Yes, you can live without them, but at considerable cost and inconvenience. If you are going to go that route, why not add lungs and hearts to the list? It’s just a more extreme form of the same concepts.

Art and Culture

Behind the Magic of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – This video shows how some of the effects for the most recent Star Wars movie were put together.

 

An Artist Is Launching a 100-Foot Satellite That Will Be Visible to the Naked Eye – OK. Not sure what to think about this one.

 

Number Six At 50: The 50th Anniversary Of ‘The Prisoner’ – The 50th anniversary of a cool (but very, very weird) show. It was the show that introduced me to the Lotus Seven.

Science

Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation – This wasn’t convincing at all. Their argument is that, as the number of particles you have to simulate grows, the complexity of the simulation grows exponentially – a concept familiar to anyone that has had to watch more than one child. But this logic assumes that whatever runs our “simulation” isn’t infinitely powerful (by our standards).

 

Violent helium reaction on white dwarf surface triggers supernova explosion – They think they saw a helium explosion trigger a supernova. That’s interesting enough, I guess, but what really struck me was this line “Among 100 supernovae we discovered in a single night, we identified a Type Ia supernova that had exploded only within a day before our observation.” We must live in a big universe when we can find 100 giant stars exploding in one night.

 

Why fake islands might be a real boon for science – Not sure about this. It seems like an awfully expensive way to add more land. The biggest potential benefit that I see is the ability to create places that aren’t under the control of any existing government, hopefully allowing more experimentation in governing models.

Technology

APPLE IS REALLY BAD AT DESIGN – I don’t really follow the iStuff space in much detail, but I’ve been somewhat surprised at how many iStuff fans have reacted so negatively to the new iPhones. I’m not sure why that is. It almost feels like the reaction of someone with an insufficiently requited crush.

 

Free Viewpoint Video – The concept that this video attempts to illustrate is that if you have a lot of high resolution cameras around a stadium and enough computing power, you can place virtual cameras almost anywhere and watch the event from almost any perspective. The future is going to be really cool.

 

The Rise of Necrofauna and the Ethical Dilemma of De-Extinction –I love the term Necrofauna. I’m a fan of the idea of bringing back extinct creatures, but it looks like it isn’t really possible. It looks like they are talking about recreating them. Sort of like the difference between running the original code for an old game on an emulator vs rewriting the game.

 

GoPro: This Is Fusion – This is the future of action cameras. It’s a camera that shoots high resolution 360° video and then you control the viewpoint in post-production so you always have the perfect angle. This will do nicely until we get that “free viewpoint” stuff working better.

Politics and Policy

Is Health Care a Right? – This article talks about the debate over whether health care is a right or not. It’s hard for me to really sink into because I am solidly in the camp that believes that our rights restrict what the government can do to us or require from us, not what we can require from it. The article talks a lot about water, as an example, but the government isn’t obligated to provide water and even municipal water services will shut off your supply of water if you don’t pay for it.

 

Bogus Stoned Driving Arrests Highlight Dubious Methods of ‘Drug Recognition Experts’ – One of the challenges of legalized marijuana is that there is no easy way to test whether someone is high right now or not. You can test whether or not they have used the drug in the past several weeks but not whether they are currently under the influence. Because of that, we are back to relying on unreliable field sobriety tests and, as you can expect, abuses by overzealous enforces are occurring. For example, you can’t assume that someone is on drugs because they drive a Nissan Cube. They may just have bad taste in cars.

 

100 years of Communist Disaster – A short video talking about the disaster that communism was.

 

They thought they were going to rehab. They ended up in chicken plants – It seems like a waste to lock people away in prisons when we and they could both benefit from them being productive. The problem is that this sort of thing ends up happening – they essentially become slaves. And while this article doesn’t go into it, when you allow a lot of people to profit from prisoners, you risk having a system that encourages the creation of more prisoners, kind of like when municipalities that made money from red light cameras started shortening the yellow lights to generate more revenue.

 

I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise. – I don’t want to wade too far into the murky swamp of gun law debates, especially right now, but I thought this was an interesting article.

Economics

A progressive VAT – An interesting argument that a progressive VAT tax would be both fair and efficient. I found the article intriguing.

 

The End of Free College in England: Implications for Quality, Enrolments, and Equity – This study concludes “that tuition fees, at least in the English case supported their goals of increasing quality, quantity, and equity in higher education.” I still remember how excited and then disappointed I was by Bernie Sander’s proposal for free colleges. At first, I was amazed that so many people would donate their time to teach, donate supplies, donate buildings, donate their labor to maintain the physical plan, etc. Then I found out that the colleges weren’t going to be free at all. His proposal was for me to pay for other people’s college.

 

THE ESPORTS PLAYBOOK – This is Neilsen’s (the ratings company) guide to eSports ostensibly from an investment perspective but really to help you understand how and why you should target that market. It’s a decent, but not surprising, overview of the fans.

 

MONTESQUIEU’S “SWEET COMMERCE” AND COBDEN’S “GOD’S DIPLOMACY” – This article argues that free markets and free trade actually make people more cooperative than people are when they live in more “managed” economies. I agree.

 

This is How Shake Shack Will Pay for Higher Minimum Wages – Shake Shack is preparing the use of more automation to reduce labor use in preparation for higher minimum wages. Yet more evidence that the $15 wage is going to be a disaster for those it promises to help. I still like the idea of a minimum wage, but I think every person should be free to pick their own personal minimum wage.