Monthly Archives: August 2012

We bought a new Subaru Forester in late 2010. It had been a long time coming. My Ford Escort was increasingly showing its age, among other things failing to start in really cold weather. For a couple months, we had three cars. I kept the Escort parked out front and used it for relatively short trips. It was handy. It also saved gas because it got roughly 27-33 miles to the gallon instead of the Forester’s 20-25.

It was a nice arrangement and I would have kept driving it until it stopped running. I still see it being driven around town by its new owner, so approaching two years later, it’s still going.

I sold it for a very small sum. The main reason I did was that I didn’t want the expense of insurance and registration. My father-in-law is about to sell one of his cars for the same reason.

The thought occurs to me that one minor thing we might be able to do to encourage people to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles is to change the way that we do auto insurance (and maybe registration). There isn’t much good reason, in my mind, that we’re charged per-car when we have more cars than drivers. The amount of road time with two people and one car is bound to make a difference than two people and two cars, but with more cars than drivers, one car is typically going to be on the sidelines at any given time. You might have to worry about them loaning the car out, but that’s really about it.

A lot of auto insurance is guesswork. There are factors we let them use and don’t let them use, but one of the biggest (how many miles we drive) is on the honor system and almost nobody I knows is particularly honorable. Maybe my insurance company is unique, but they could police this sort of thing more than they do. For whatever reason, it isn’t that big of a priority. There are estimates of who is driving which car more frequently, but these are just estimates and that doesn’t change by focusing more on the driver than the car.

Anyhow, there are reasons why going per-driver rather than per-car would be a good idea, environmentally speaking: it would encourage people to have lighter vehicles. The main reason we went with a crossover this time around was that sometimes we need to cargo/family space. Our next vehicle may be even larger. Most of the time, we don’t need this. But when we do, it’s good to have around. There would be real advantages to having an Escort sitting out front for trips that don’t matter much. Paying the extra insurance, however, complicates that. For no really good reason.

I consider Smart cars to be neat. I don’t think I’ll ever do the motorcycle thing, but I am just as happy in a tiny little car as a big one. But I can’t do the tiny little car, really, even for short trips by myself, because I need a family vehicle, I need cargo space, and I’m not going to pay the extra insurance on the same amount of driving. If you want me to drive a small car, you ought not penalize me for also having a larger one when I need it.

Category: Road

Dominic Tierney has an awesome look at the UK’s relationship with its flag. It’s also an issue over here, though not with the flag itself, how to reconcile the more unsavory aspects of our past with a sense of national unity and purpose. Some attempts are comically bad. DC Comics had a two-part series of their Uncle Sam character which essentially said “America is putrid and terrible and it exists on blood and treachery” and its attempt at reconciliation and patriotism is “but it doesn’t have to be this terrible going forward.” Here’s another Atlantic piece on the decline of the Confederate Flag.

Michael Moynihan asks why so many tour guides make excuses for dictators. My mother reads travel magazines and it’s interesting to read the same guy who called George W. Bush a tyrant explain that Hugo Chavez is misunderstood. There is some serious psychology at work here.

How call can buildings get? There is apparently a council looking at such things.

Arguably, the question is not whether God exists, but whether society is better for it believing He does.

Who is to blame for student debt? The upper middle class.

Lynn Beisner wishes her mother had aborted her. Michael Brendand Dougherty wishes his mother had had a man in her life.

Our fertility has apparently dropped below that of France. Not to get too deep into That Subject, but I wonder if this is related to the dramatic decline in illegal immigrations,among our more procreative demographics?

Freedom requires norms.

Japan’s idol singers are not allowed to date. I actually remember Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas complaining about this. He had a serious girlfriend (now his wife) when he rose to stardom and everyone kept trying to get him to keep it under wraps (have her make entrances ten feet behind him, etc.).

More surprising to me than the rise of Android is the fall of Symbian. From market-leader to non-entity in three years. That takes effort.

Cats, apparently, are mean.

Category: Newsroom

In roughly one in five property seizures, the IRS does not follow the law.

Kaid Benfield argues that high-density sprawl is still sprawl. Here is where I think the problem with his argument lies: The wide open spaces surrounding the dense communities may not stay wide open very long. The pattern back home is: first the houses, then the businesses, then the employers.

Also, since I have been known to talk up businesses moving to the suburbs rather than people moving back to the city, intellectual integrity requires I link to counterexamples. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this about Chicago. To be honest, I don’t actually like a lot of these suburban business parks. Employers in the suburbs can make a lot of sense, but it shouldn’t take 10 minutes to drive through the campus to your parking spot. Alan Ehrenhalt has a book about reurbanization wherein he talks about Chicago, but apparently lacks much data support for his “great inversion” theory.

This has always been a bigger deal for Web than for me, but since he has sort of moved on, a new study suggests that HFCS is actually no worse than sugar.

China’s cities are awesome, yet awful. While I mention China, here’s more stuff on their ghost cities.

Brazil’s cell infrastructure may be collapsing under its own weight.

A look at where the rich and super-rich get their income. Nothing surprising, though I would like more detail on the “other” category.

Our odd college funding system has some Cal State students refusing to accept in-state students.

London Mayor Boris Johnson wants to know how many paedophiles can there be? More about men, kids, and airplanes.

Category: Newsroom

I am looking at getting some more Bluetooth earpieces. I am looking for ones that fit very specific criteria. The model I have is one of the few affordable ones that can do it, but it’s hard to find because it was a free magazine give-away for Car and Driver a while back. Anyway, I found some! Only $19.95! But $12 for shipping. So, add three more, still $12 for shipping. Add one more to round it out to five, and shipping is… $600. I kid you not. Try it.

Add one more, shipping is $16.95.

Well, having shipping for five cost $600 is one way of making $17 shipping seem awfully cheap.

Category: Market

Microsoft and Mayor Bloomberg are teaming up to create the surveillance network in Person of Interest.

A look at Newark’s attempts to help ex-cons get back on their feet. Texas (of all states) is taking a second look at incarceration.

Apparently, The Champ is the saddest movie in the world. Or, at least, it’s used in experiments on sadness to get people all teary (or not).

Blatant partisanship, but I can’t resist: The Retina MacBook Pro is apparently a nightmare to try to repair. Truth be told, though, don’t we more or less replace laptops when they die? Related: David Carnoy regrets buying an iMac because, even though it’s great, it ceases being great when something goes wrong.

According to Charles Lane of the Washington Post, the money we’re spending on clean energy is being wasted.

London is working on better handicap-accessible cabs that we can’t have over here… because of the ADA.

Apparently, while you’re reading your ebook, it’s also reading you. My inability to get upset at things like this separates me from a lot of people I know. I’m mostly interested in how they can use this information for our mutual benefit (ie sell me stuff I might want). I think stuff like this is great.

Bakadesuyo: Having committed murder, what do you do next?

Advertisers apparently had to convince us that we smell bad.

Category: Newsroom

A little bit back I commented on teacher sex with students and suggested that, in the case of inverse genders the man would not get off as lightly as many of the women. Well, here is a counterexample:

A former North Texas high school teacher was convicted Friday and sentenced to five years in prison for having sex with five 18-year-old students at her home.

The Tarrant County jury decided on the sentence for Brittni Nicole Colleps, 28, of Arlington after nearly three hours of deliberation. It took jurors less than an hour to find her guilty earlier in the day of 16 counts of having an inappropriate relationship between a student and teacher. The second-degree felony is punishable by two to 20 years in prison per count.

The former Kennedale High School English teacher had sex with the students at her home over two months in 2011, authorities said.

Colleps is married and has three children. She turned herself in after a cellphone video of one encounter that involved multiple students emerged. That video was shown a trial.

Which I guess just goes to show, we might take women having sex more lightly than men, or maybe not, but definitely not freaky sex. Probably best not to have five partners, but if you do, not all at once. Eighteen or no.

Google’s self-driving cars have logged in 300,000 miles without a single accident (that we can blame on the computers).

Obama has actually been better on energy policy than I would have guessed. The two exceptions are the off-shore drilling moratorium and coal.

I don’t know what’s more encouraging, getting closer to effective male birth control, or a conversation that follows that doesn’t involve a bunch of people sneering about how men have no interest in such things.

Fully 98.3 percent of job gains among those with at least a bachelor’s were realized by those with advanced degrees – again, a small fraction of the overall population.”

Another link on a familiar Hit Coffee subject: Cohabitation does not improve likelihood of marital success.

I find an article about how the academy discriminates against conservative would-be professors to be uninteresting because it falls in “no, duh” territory (especially in social psychology, delved into here), but I found the counterpoint interesting: “Just because they say they would discriminate doesn’t mean they actually would.”

The thing about these “cut the cord” (cancel cable) articles is they all act like they are righteously retaliating against greedy providers. With the obvious exception of illegal downloading, who exactly do they think is giving them the means to do so? One way or another, they’re going to get their money. Or we’re going to stop getting content. has an interesting look on the history of pink and blue and their association with masculinity and femininity.

I’ve frequently used Portland as an example of a self-styled “creative class” city that didn’t pan out. I may have to take that back.

Category: Newsroom

Longtime readers of mine know that I am not particular concerned with the representation inequalities of the US Senate. One of the weak spots with it, though, are the great plains. The confluence of interests creates a degree of solidarity among its representatives that does not exist as much among the lowpop states that are separated by mountains, national parks, and culture. The population centers of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and (to a lesser extent) Kansas are all along a single freeway. There are some exceptions, like Wichita and Rapid City, but it’s really quite notable. They are also farming states with a lot of travel between them. To a much greater extent than Idaho and Montana (or even Eastern Idaho vs Northern Idaho), what’s good for South Dakota is good for North Dakota, and vice-versa.

There are a lot of oddities in how the states were drawn. There was a lot of chance involved (the border between Montana and Idaho was the product of a disgruntled judge). In some of them, there’s the question of what exactly they were supposed to do. Like Idaho, Nevada probably shouldn’t be a state because you have two cities more economically tied to their California brethren than one another, and a lot of open space. There’s no easy answer there. Combining Wyoming with Colorado or Montana would have been problematic, so what the heck are you going to do with Wyoming? Montana is kind of a mishmash of places, a confederation of small cities and country that create their own balance (assisted by the fact that the largest city is sort of removed from all of the others).

The Dakotas, however, were an unforced error. Combining them would have left a state that would have remained reasonably governable, and the separation of them left four senate seats where two might have been more appropriate. It would be large, but not too large. North Dakota and South Dakota each are population-centric in Fargo and Sioux Falls respectively, which is often problematic (having the capital removed helps, though, and SD does have Rapid City) and having the two of them live under the same tent, the same way that Montana balances its larger (small) cities with others, strikes me as beneficial.

We also might be looking at Kansas and Nebraska for potential consolidation, though the population imbalance might be a problem. I consider this less of a problem for the Dakotas. Though South Dakota is more populated by 140k or so, it is also the more geographically diverse and therefore might be less likely to vote as a single unit in the same way that Kansas might.

Note: I could be way off on this one. I sort of feel the same way about some of those northeastern statelets and have been told, by more than one person, that they couldn’t possibly live together under a single tent. They’ve got a lot of history under their belt. So, too, do the Dakotas, which would make a merger rather difficult.

Category: Statehouse

Aurora killer James Holmes’ psychiatrist did what she was supposed to in informing the university of his problems. Someone who seems to know what she is talking about explains what’s involved in that decision.

As the US kicks derriere in the Olympics on the women’s side, a lot of people are quick to credit Title IX. Not so fast, says Rachael Larimore. While I think that some are inclined to give Title IX too much credit, she doesn’t give it enough. Title IX was a key component in a whole change of attitude in women and athletics.

State and local governments were hit hard by the recession. Never fear, they’re coming back.

Why the facts should kill High-Speed Rail in California, and why engineers are turning against it.

Spirit Airlines apparently screwed up big-time, and Motley Fool explains why this is a problem with their very business model. I’m not sure. I think there might be a place for an airline if money is more important than time and the risk of great inconvenience. United accidentally killed a dog, which is a pretty big problem for a premier airline.

Though global carbon-dioxide emissions increased around the world, they are down in the US. Not just that, but they fell here more than anywhere else. It also appears that the planet may be absorbing more of the carbon than expected.

Evidently, energy company Anadarko thinks that Barack Obama is God. (h/t Mr. Blue)

Twenty pictures of scientists celebrating the landing of Curiosity.

Some looks at foreign leaders: India’s anti-graft tsar and Japan’s hawkish governor.

The government first told the makers of Buckyballs that they needed to put a warning on their product that they are only for children 14 and over. Upon realizing that nobody pays attention to the warnings, they want them banned outright?

Maryland passed a law finding owners of pitbulls liable for the first bite. This was declared problematic by singling out pitbulls. So now, maybe all dogs.

As long-time readers of Hit Coffee know, one of my three crackpot beliefs is that Peak Oil is, if not a myth, not likely to occur in our lifetime. So I have to link to things that support this belief.

Could the strengthening Canadian dollar improve our leverage in auto manufacturing negotiations?

Republican VP pick Paul Ryan is apparently catching some flack for his attire. Namely, that it doesn’t fit. Jennifer Rubin defends him. I think this is a pretty silly thing to be talking about it, btu since we are, while on the campaign trail there’s nothing wrong with ordinary clothes (and I sympathize as someone who has trouble finding good-fitting clothes), though as Vice President we’ll need to get a tailor involved.

A woman in Virginia was fined thousands of dollars for throwing a birthday party for the 10 year old of a neighbor (among other things). A woman in Pennsylvania was fined for feeding poor kids.

Category: Newsroom

My last year in Colosse, my car was broken into at a very inopportune time where there was much of value inside of it. It was enough that I would actually call the police (much to their dismay at being bothered with $3000 worth of stolen property). The only problem was that I couldn’t find the police department’s phone number on their website. I mean, I looked and looked and it wasn’t there. I didn’t want to call 911 since it wasn’t an emergency, but I was getting really frustrated (and irritated at myself for having thrown away my old fashioned phone directory. While they couldn’t be bothered to list their regular phone line, they did have, on every single page, a hotline to call in the event of a hate crime. Even “Call 911 for emergencies” wasn’t on every single page.

I was reminded of this when I came to a realization about Law & Order. For those of you that don’t know, there are currently three variations of the show. The flagship program follows a murder investigation, Criminal Intent follows a high-profile murder investigation, and Special Victims Unit follows typically anti-woman crimes or anti-kid. The realization I came to is that for the first two shows, which investigate murders, there are two detectives on each case. Whether it’s some fellow that was in the wrong place at the wrong time or the Mayor’s kid, you got two detectives. Meanwhile, the attempted abduction of a child on SVU gets four detectives.

Lesson: If you’re going to attempt to abduct a kid, you’re better off killing them. That way you’ll only have two detectives on your trail.

Category: Theater