Monthly Archives: September 2012

Harvard Business Review Press is going DRM-free! I’m not exactly their market, but I respect what they’re doing.

A leader in Germany’s Pirate Party wants the government to crack down on illegal copies of her book (or the publisher does, anyway).

From BoingBoing, a look at Victorian and Edwardian proto-science-fiction. I’ve got The Time Machine on my audiobook queue.

The Washington Post is identifying a trend that I suspect is not much of a trend: employers telling employees to avoid after-hours email. This has never really been a problem for me. The article refers to extra productivity reaped by employers after-hours as people have gotten company-issued cell phones, but doesn’t talk about what I suspect is at least a slight drop-off in productivity during work hours.

Salon’s Laura Amann has an interesting piece on increasing political polarization and its effect on her marriage.

I should have put this in my recent post about lawyers in ruralia, but hadn’t run across it yet.

Instead of saving money, electronic medical records is increasing billing. What did they think would happen with the advent of technology to make billing easier?

The Atlantic Cities looks at the relationship between person and place: the latter helps shape the former.

Category: Newsroom

The entire concept of 3D printers really blows my mind. Even though I understand the concept, I have difficulty wrapping my head around it. The Economist does a good job of exploring the ramifications of it.

In the US, we have a rather odd conception of “blue collar.”

From HuffPo, a look at Joseph Caramadre: the guy who scammed loopholed insurance companies for millions. This is the sort of thing I typically disapprove of (not unlike walking away from a mortgage you can pay for) and yet I find myself oddly ambivalent in this case.

If you’re drafting a list of the most and least cultured cities in the country, and New Orleans comes at the bottom of your list, you need to rethink your criteria.

Thomas Jefferson, defender of the degenerates! I’ve heard this story before, but it’s something I don’t mind being reminded about.

Kent Newsome’s post on Facebook and politics is worthwhile. Since Blogspot hit the scene, anyone who wanted to spout off about politics could. What Facebook has done is make it a norm on more of a commons area.

When reading this story of a dog’s loyalty to his dead owner, I am torn between sadness and being touched. It makes me want to hug my dog, yet I know there is no chance my dog would never do this (and, of course, it’s possible that this dog didn’t exactly do this in the way described).

I hadn’t heard about this story: Minnesota State (Mankato) football coach Todd Hoffner was charged with two child pornography counts for taking videos of his kids acting goofy while unclothed. Some of the details (as described by prosecutors) are a bit unnerving, and perhaps an investigation of his home computers was warranted (they found no child pornography), but I don’t think I am on board with this prosecution. Would this be an issue if not for Jerry Sandusky?

Jasmeet Sidhu has a piece on gender-selection and IVF. That parents overwhelmingly prefer girls should be news, but it doesn’t fit into anybody’s narrative.

Category: Newsroom

Last week I got an email from Audible saying that I was eligible for a special deal. I click on the link, and my account is not eligible for the special deal. The email said that I was emailed specifically because my account was eligible. This week, I got an email from Audible saying that I was eligible for a free Audiobook if I sign up for Gold Membership. I already have Gold Membership. Ergo, I am not eligible for the deal.

In other news, my optometrist’s office apparently refuses to send my prescription to the Redstone Walmart because the optometrist is on vacation. I cannot for the life of me figure out why that matters and why they don’t have my prescription on file so that they can send it out. Meanwhile, Redstone Walmart won’t let me place an order with a prescription to be named later, nor will they let me order over the phone even though they have my frame preference on file. This is going to set back my glasses order by a couple of weeks, most likely. My glasses are getting scratched up.

My credit card company blocked my credit card. I finally called them about it and for some reason it was the purchase of Audible (that Audible forgot about) that triggered it. Is there an industry of credit card fraud with audiobooks? Of all the things…

Category: Market

The Senate unanimously voted to keep their carbon taxes off our planes.

I hope to write a more thorough piece on this at some point, but in case I don’t, WaPo has a provocative piece on our comparatively very progressive tax system. I think the analysis is under-emphasizing the invisibility of VAT taxes compared to the conspicuousness of income taxes.

Go North-Central, young man!. North Dakota, that is. It’s nice to think that, if something happened to Clancy, there may be a place I could go and get a job despite my strained employment history. Not that I’d be working the oil fields, but I would be surprised if they didn’t have other things available.

Perhaps not unrelatedly, South Dakota School of Mines is beating Harvard in graduate pay.

Employees at Microsoft get free Surface Tablets, Windows 8 Phones, and PCs. That’s pretty cool, but do they have to use the phones? That’d be a mixed bag…

A rare spider shut down a $15m project in Texas. Well, the spider itself didn’t shut it down, but you get the idea.

McDonald’s will be posting their calorie count universally. This is a smart move because, despite the bad press they receive, their listed nutritional content is actually better than (or less bad than) most of its rivals.

GM is apparently ready to end the government’s investment in them, but the government is less hip to the idea. Having lost millions and all.

So some Swiss organization is going after Apple for patent infringement for ripping off their clock. I’d totally be with Apple on this if not for that very distinct second-hand.

Relatedly, German courts ruled that Android tablets and smartphones need to be recalled due to patent violations. Meanwhile, Motorola is asking the ITC to ban Macs, iPads, and iPhones. Fun!

Jerry Brown legalized the sale of home-cooked food in California. Or, at least, liberalized it. Good work.

Category: Newsroom

I am not one for public marriage proposals, but I don’t have a problem with this one if the bride doesn’t. This, on the other hand, is smackworthy. Coincidentally, a character in my first novel proposed along these lines. If I ever go back and clean that novel up, I have long-since decided that he won’t have. On the other hand, legos are a winner.

The Economist has a good article on spectrum, Verizon’s acquisition of it, and whether the whole thing is being handled like it should.

This is yet another reason I hate DRM. Look, if you want to sell it to us, then sell it to us. If you’re leasing it to us, then lease it to us. But don’t pretend you’re selling when you’re leasing. (Note: The Bruce Willis angle was bunk.) Copyright enforcement on the whole does lead to funny incidents like this.

Josh Barro proposes a “Race to the Top” for housing. I wish I could get on board with this as I support building up in addition to building out. I just don’t like using the federal purse strings to do it.

The Washington Post has a good post about sexual abuse by women against boys and how differently we respond to it. A more thorough look at the science behind pedophilia.

From 2006: A look at the awful coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Which the media still brags about.

I, too, hate this “fact-checking” fad. Investigating claims and putting them in context is helpful, but trying to grade a fact-check is a recipe for bias.

A mom doesn’t like the boy who is legally sniffing around her seventeen year old daughter. So what does she do? The invents a fifteen year old to entrap him and send him off to prison. Not that the perp acted with a great deal of class here, but the whole thing rubs me the wrong way.

Nooks are being banned from libraries because blind people can’t read them. This can be fixed with text-to-speech, which the Kindle offers. But oddly enough, you can’t just offer Kindles to some and Nooks to others. It’s like banning books that aren’t in brail.

President Clinton is concerned about the number of Americans enrolled in college. According to the Economist, he shouldn’t be.

Category: Newsroom

I remember when they were talking about bailing out underwater homeowners, some of the greatest objections came from renters. It’s no surprise then that people who worked out their own tuition are irritated with those who weren’t. However, of all of the examples to pick, they choose someone from Washington who went to California for a liberal arts degree? If ever we talk of student loan forgiveness, one can imagine that there will be a lot of folks crying bloody murder. Miss Ahn will be on the wrong side of that one.

The Atlantic has an article on how veterans, like our friend Kirk, have trouble fitting in on college campuses. James Joyner points out that it’s not anything unique to veterans but actually applies to non-traditional students more generally. Oh, and wants us to stop feeling sorry for veterans.

On the other hand, I do feel bad for this guy, and it is pretty related to his being a vet. Seriously, though, when we talk about addressing the mental health of potential Aurora shooters more aggressively, this is what we’re talking about.

Well, I suppose now I feel less bad that I can’t get ESPN3. But this makes me angry for the next time that I can. ESPN really pisses me off with their handling of some of their content.

This football loyalty map is why I wish that the WAC had expanded to include the Dakota and Montana schools. While we’re at it, I think we have room for another east coast conference that can include Maine, New Hampshire, and Delaware with some of the eastern members of the MAC and Conference USA. (Okay, the map itself is actually kind of useless, except as a prop to allow me to re-make a point I always look for an excuse to remake.)

Garrett wants to know if cigarette marketing counts as free speech. Not always, but sometimes yes. I think it should certainly count when we’re talking about forcing political statements on their product. In the “free speech” arena, one thing worse than silencing someone is forcing them to stay something. That doesn’t change just because we really, really don’t like tobacco companies.

Matthew Yglesias writes about social mobility and Westeros (the land from Game of Thrones).

We evidently benefit from seeing strong women on television.

Our streets are safer, but no one is sure why.

Paul Krugman argues that government controls health costs better than the private sector. Peter Suderman disagrees. Neither have done a particularly admirable job.

Category: Newsroom

A college professor mine once made the case that an early mistake that our country made was giving statehood away so freely. It would have been better, he reasoned, if statehood had been something earned and not given. He said that he went back and forth as to whether we should have stuck with the thirteen colonies, or maybe given statehood to the original thirteen and various states along other waterways. His model was that there would be states and territories within the continental US. He went on to argue that in addition to all of this, access to the states would be restricted to only the best and brightest of those raised in the territories.

“But why should the territories be places for second-class citizens?” we all asked (or maybe he asked knowing that we wanted to). He suggested a couple things. First, tough luck. It would no more be the responsibility of the states to allow someone from Kansas in than it is for Kansas to allow someone from Mexico in. Alternately, he suggested that it would leave the territories greater latitude to develop themselves. With enough of a push in the rugged and deregulated environment, people would start moving out of the states and into the territories. Which, once that happens, you make it a state in order to stop the bleeding. That would be how statehood would be earned.

As with a lot of things the professor said, this was met with howls at the whole inequality and just UnAmericanness of it. He then put up a map that he’d been keeping hidden throughout this entire discussion, delineating the comparative economic power disparities between regions. His entire plan, he explained, would only be the formalization of America as it currently exists and is headed towards. The best and brightest are pulled towards the coasts. Those that can’t cut the mustard and won’t be servants move to places like Colorado and eventually places like Colorado become “real” states, which he said was imminent. By “real states” he essentially meant blue states (though the term did not exist yet). States that are no longer laughed at in polite company. Colorado was almost there, Nevada would be there within a decade. Texas and Arizona would take a little longer, but eventually they will get enough of the coastal types (and Mexicans) to push them over. Then they’d be real states, too. The newcomers would pass all sorts of land regulations that would make the cities more expensive. The undesirables would start being priced out. They’d become places of affluent Americans, high-quality immigrants, their servants, and a few legacy admits.

I was reminded of this lecture when I read Virginia Postrel’s post on a growing disconnect:

As I have argued elsewhere, there are two competing models of successful American cities. One encourages a growing population, fosters a middle-class, family-centered lifestyle, and liberally permits new housing. It used to be the norm nationally, and it still predominates in the South and Southwest. The other favors long-term residents, attracts highly productive, work-driven people, focuses on aesthetic amenities, and makes it difficult to build. It prevails on the West Coast, in the Northeast and in picturesque cities such as Boulder, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first model spurs income convergence, the second spurs economic segregation. Both create cities that people find desirable to live in, but they attract different sorts of residents.

This segregation has social and political consequences, as it shapes perceptions — and misperceptions — of one’s fellow citizens and “normal” American life. It also has direct and indirect economic effects. “It’s a definite productivity loss,” Shoag says. “If there weren’t restrictions and you could build everywhere, it would be productive for people to move. You do make more as a waiter in LA than you do in Ohio. Preventing people from having that opportunity to move to these high-income places, making it so expensive to live there, is a loss.” That’s true not only for less-educated workers but for lower earners of all sorts, including the artists and writers who traditionally made places like New York, Los Angeles and Santa Fe cultural centers.

A lot of The Professor’s lectures were rather oblique in nature. I have my doubts that he actually supported the model that he was ostensibly supporting (just like I think he was trying to make a different point when he suggested that immigration policy be dictated by a reality TV show involving paintguns). He also framed the policies as being more deliberate than they are (I think). However, one thing I have noticed is a disconnect on the importance of affordable living. The degree to which red states are sponsored by a lower cost of living, and blue states are sponsored by a higher cost of living, is striking. Cause-effect is muddled, but it’s really one of the less discussed aspects of the red/blue divide. We discuss city versus country, but not what makes Boise different from Portland (Maine), or Phoenix and Santa Fe.

Category: Coffeehouse

I am back at the bookstore/coffeeshop that won’t let you use the bathroom without an escort.

When you tell them you need someone to unlock it for you, they go on the intercom and apparently their code for “Someone needs to unlock the restroom” is “Code USA.”

I went to Walmart earlier today to start getting everything in motion for a new pair of glasses. I specifically asked the Eye Care Professional if it was a problem that I forgot my prescription. Could they just get everything in line and then get the actual prescription tomorrow since I live an hour away? They said yes. By “yes” they apparently meant “no.” I spent fifteen minutes looking at frames, sat down to tell them what I wanted, and she then told me I would have to come back next week because apparently they need me and the prescription both in the same place.

It’s almost enough to make me just get the glasses in Callie. The gas costs of coming up here for a pair of glasses strip any savings. As it turns out, I have a job next week at the Holding Tank Alternative School. So I should be able to do it then.

Meanwhile, at my favored coffee shop (which closed at hours thus why I am now at the bookstore), the Truthers that own the place are apparently voting straight ticket Democrat at least at the state level (Democratic signs all over the place – sans Obama). I was actually wondering. The last time politics was discussed, they weren’t interested in voting for the Kenyan, but also had some pretty big reservations about voting for the Mormon-Freemason Cabal’s candidate.

The air quality up here is worse than it’s been in Callie.

Category: Downtown

Medical professionals are increasingly using mobile technology, though not to access records or prescribe. There are some liabilities involved with both, so maybe it’s just as well. At least for the time being. On a separate note, too many doctors are using iPhones.

Vitamin D supplements may protect us from colds. So when do we start putting it in the water?

The news about someone important’s cloud being hacked didn’t do much to make me think about my password complexity. This article did.

This touches on some of the things I’ve talked about with regard to employee disloyalty, employer entitlement, and the vicious cycle it creates.

I link to this George Will column mostly because I adore the term “apocalypse fatigue,” which I consider to be a big reason as to why Generation X isn’t freaking out over Global Warming.

South Korea is trying to rebalance power away from Seoul by building a new city. While this brings to mind China’s ghost cities, I am enough of a fan of decentralization to think of this as a good idea. After all, I support a built-from-scratch US capital in Nebraska. I got this link from Market Urbanism, who did not approve and mentioned Japan’s attempts to move things away from Tokyo. Anyone with some good links on Japan’s effort, please send them forth.

Speaking of ghost cities… Ireland.

Tero Kuittinen wonders if AT&T and Verizon are going too far. At issue, Verizon shifting to a family data plan and AT&T’s almost immediate announcement that it was doing the same. Honestly, of all of the issues going on in cellular America, this is pretty low on my list of concerns. It may push more people to this. It also may result in more people holding on to their phones or paying for the next one out-of-pocket. Oh, who am I kidding? Nobody is going to do anything outrageous like pay for their own phone. Speaking of which, a good rundown on how carriers are getting away with locking phones.

The Economist looks at Finland’s utter dependents on Nokia and wonders if anyone else is so dependent. Nokia’s fall from grace cannot be good for the country. Also, a look at Nordic crime-writing and globalization.

Stephen Smith looks at land reclamation around the world and in history. I love it when man goes to war against nature and wins.

Pop music is getting sadder.

Category: Newsroom

Of the churches within the United States, one of the most gay-friendly is The Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Church of England. Though it varies from region to region, The Episcopal Church allows its priests to perform gay marriages, allows them and their bishops to be gay. So it’s interesting that, across the pond, the Church of England is taking the opposite stand:

Responding to a consultation in England and Wales, the Church of England said government proposals to allow same-sex marriages by 2015 would “alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history”.

It said marriage acknowledged “an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation”.

Justice Minister Crispin Blunt: “We’re seeking to protect… religious organisations”

The Church claims that plans to exempt religious organisations from performing gay marriages would be unlikely to survive legal challenges in domestic and European courts.

As such, the government’s consultation exercise, which closes on Thursday, was “flawed, conceptually and legally”, it added.

Concerns over forcing churches to participate in ceremonies have been raised over here. If the day ever came where this was seriously proposed, I would stand arm-in-arm with the likes of the Southern Baptist Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Catholic Church in opposition. This, to me, stands at the core of what Freedom of Religion is about. I think such a day is unlikely, though, because I don’t think even a liberal court would allow it, much less force it. Churches have always had great latitude over who they have and have not allowed to marry under their steeples.

The European Union, of course, does not have the same First Amendment history that we do. That creates a whole different set of concerns. I honestly take the Church of England’s concerns in this area a lot more seriously, even though I wish they had the willingness to perform these ceremonies that their American counterparts do (and maybe they do, they just have some hold-outs).

It’s one of the things that points to the Constitution as being a valuable safeguard that, ironically, can allow the government a little more latitude in my view. When we know where there is a limit (at least currently), we feel more free to move a little closer to that limit.

I know that my view on Second Amendment Issues has been greatly effected by Heller v DC and McDonald v Chicago. Prior to that, I would have opposed any sort of gun registration tooth-and-nail in large part because I would fear it be a step along the way to confiscation. Knowing that there are indeed limits to the extent the government can ban guns makes me less likely to oppose some measures that I would otherwise see on a more slope-like surface. Not that I am entirely sanguine on the topic. The confiscations in New Orleans gives me some pause. They had to give the guns back, but there is something quite disconcerting about governments being willing to take the guns when you arguably need them most.

In a comment on a post about anti-discrimination law over at NaPP, Jaybird asks:

Here’s a question that may clarify some things (while it muddies others):

What are the limits to our jurisdiction when it comes to setting things right?

If any, of course.

In the modern day in age, the answer is “nowhere that isn’t expressly forbidden by the Constitution and modern interpretations thereof.” The Constitution is interpreted relatively broadly in some cases, and narrowly in others. Outside certain specific parameters, though, The Commerce Clause covers just about everything this side of a mandate and there’s nothing stopping mandates or anti-discrimination law on the state level which doesn’t even need a paper clause.

It is partially because the government can grab this much power in theory that I think we should sometimes take a step back and say that even though the government can do this and is perfectly within its rights to try to right this particular wrong, is this something we want the government involving itself in? At least a little skepticism in the notion that a wrong that we think might can be righted ought to actually be righted.

I believe that the vast majority of people who cite the possibility of churches having to perform ceremonies would argue against gay marriage in an equal amount if this were completely and entirely not a concern. I do think the CoE does demonstrate, though, that the more open-ended the willingness of the government to right wrongs, though, the more likely you might see some resistance on the basis of slippery-slope arguments. This makes it exceptionally important that when we run across stories like this, that we do not talk of stripping churches that do things we disagree with of tax-exempt status.

Category: Church, Statehouse