Monthly Archives: May 2013


Abel Keogh ponders the his third grade son being given a (closed) email address.

Apparently some are suspecting that babies can be too fat. Great, something else to worry about…

I wrote the Free State Project off when they chose inferior candidate New Hampshire over superior candidates Wyoming and Montana. But Garrett Quinn says they’re having some success.

Bicycle highways were once the future of transit.

Doug Mataconis and Greg Beato ask whether driverless cars represent a threat to our privacy. Most likely, though I suspect that the threats will come in other forms, even if driverless cars don’t materialize.

I don’t know why I think this as cool as I do, but here are some illustrations of what New York City would look like on other planets. Also, what if Earth had a ring?

Matthew Yglesias makes the pretty obvious, but under-discussed point: Don’t go to college if you aren’t going to graduate. Another way of looking at this is that perhaps we (as a nation) shouldn’t be sending people to college who won’t graduate.

Successful people leave their loser friends behind. Fortunately for me, I have a dearth of successful friends.

David Wogan argues that fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere, while NewScientist looks at wave power farms.

American morality.

National Journal makes the case for the cost-effectiveness of supersized universities.

Private schools are struggling. A lot of what people used to need private schools, they now have charter schools for.

Category: Newsroom


John Goodman (not that John Goodman) thinks that we’re headed to a two-tiered health care system. Or rather, a more formal two-tier system, as we already have one. This is actually not far from my own predictions. I just don’t see it as dire.

I was and am neutral-to-skeptical on PPACA, but the exchanges are one of the areas that I had hopes for. I’m pleased as punch that rates are coming out below cost estimates. Go markets!

The Washington Post likes to use deceptive photography.

T-Mobile’s no-contract plans appears to be working well.

Aaron Renn writes about the limits of gentrification.

The Christian Science Monitor explains why high jackpot lotteries suck. I hate lotteries.

The New York Times demonstrates how not to take a tribute

As an avid Waze user, I’m keeping an eye on Google’s interest in purchasing Waze. I don’t know why, but I feel a little resentful that my input is helping make some Israeli a billion dollars.

The IRS has been targeted adoptive families. Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from a number of my friends, they probably had it coming. The list of right-wingers adopting kids is endless.

Scientific American argues that Portland was wrong about water fluoridation.

Scientific American writes on the revised estimates of the rate of global warming.

Robin Simcox looks at why soldiers get targeted by Muslim extremists.

Category: Newsroom

Janet Kornblum is finding out more than she would like about a guy named Josh Kornblum:

When I picked out jkornblum on Gmail those many years ago, I was in a race. I also had (now used only by spammers) because I joined before AOL had hit a million customers. I have other jkornblums: Twitter, Amazon and sites that have gone the way of Kozmo. (Pretty sure my user name for Kozmo was jkornblum.) I was in a race to make all the jkornblums mine.

We did stupid things like that back in the early days, racing for user names. That was when we thought there would be limited user names and limited URLs (back when you couldn’t just find a company simply searching for it). […]

But the real fallout I never could have predicted: Years down the line, after my successful mad dash for jkornblums, I often get emails for other jkornblums. jkornblums I will never meet, with whom I obviously share some kind of a heritage but little else.

My (non-trumwill) email address is not prone to error. Ultimately, though, this is a variation of finding out a whole lot of interesting things about the last person to have your phone number.

Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if they’d use more domain names.

Category: Server Room


Kevin Bullis argues that we need nuclear-powered airplanes. The Air Force proposed it back in the 50’s. The book Idaho Falls mentioned this as indicative of the silliness of the nuclear craze. (Not that there isn’t a difference between what is being proposed here and what was proposed then.)

The case for congressional raises. I dunno. Are any of these guys really strapped for cash? How much would it take to meet these guys’ next best offer? What about staffers and the like? Also underpaid, also often able to get much more in the private sector.

The case for and against young marriage. According to the Deseret News, once you’re out of your teens, it doesn’t matter much.

The National Museum of the USAF provides some cool images to some pretty awesome cockpits.

Michael Cain’s thoughts on energy and the future secession of the west are really interesting.

I have to agree with Aaron Tring about why Marvel and DC’s digital comics failed. No doubt they will blame it on the rising cost of paper.

In education, diversity is hard.

Dating in the 50’s. And Child-rearing at the turn of the 20th century.

I’ve talked in the past about Bregna, a place I used to work that monitored restroom breaks. Sadly, it turns out that tracking workers’ every move can boost productivity.

One in ten Americans would have sex with a robot.

In Victorian society, ladies defended their honor with Jiu-Jitsu.

The origins of prejudice?

Incredible fantasy maps. It seems wrong to me for fictional places not to have maps.

I didn’t think I wanted to know what was in dog food. I was kind of right.

Category: Newsroom

Forgive me for falling behind on my posting on certain things. It’s time to play catchup. So a while back, Mercatus came up with a rather problematic list of the most and least free states. It rightly got a lot of pushback due to the criteria and weighting that it used. Namely, choosing sides on tort but leaving abortion alone, while also giving 2/3 weighting towards economic freedom over civil liberty freedom. And, of course, everyone is going to weigh these things differently. To their credit, Mercatus gave you some tools to that end.

In response, though, The American Prospect wrote a truly snotty piece critiquing it:

After North Dakota, on their list comes South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. As it happens, a lot of people are moving to North Dakota, but that isn’t because you can be so free there, it’s because the state is experiencing a fossil fuel boom, so there are a lot of good-paying jobs in and around the oil and gas fields. I feel like I’ve read a half-dozen overly long “Letter from North Dakota” magazine articles in the last couple of months, and the picture that gets painted from all of them is that the people flocking there plan to work for a few years, save as much money as they can, and then get the hell back to civilization.

The piece is entitled “Not Fun to Visit, and You Wouldn’t Want to Live There. But the Taxes Are Low!”

North Dakota, what a hellhole. Except not, really. North Dakota is, on most lists, one of the happiest states in the country. And as convenient as it might be to say “People are only moving there because of the jobs, but they hate it there,” there is really little indication that it is true other than the fact that the author of the piece would hate it there. There’s no shortage of people moving to Fargo, on the other end of the state. Nor is there a shortage of people moving to the other listed states, including and especially internal migration.

Now, is this because of the low taxes and disregard for some of the freedoms that liberals care about? I’m certainly not making that claim. Anyone from the south is familiar with the migrant from someplace else who comes in and does nothing but complain about how this place is nothing like the awesome place that they left. It’s tied to jobs, as much as anything. Whether this is tied to low taxes and low regulation is an open question. Mercatus argues that it’s causal. I’m not sure it is, but there does seem to be a relationship, even if it is imperfect and with exceptions.

Waldman closes with the following:

During the 2012 primaries, I wrote about Rick Perry’s love of his tiny home town of Paint Creek, Texas, where he supposedly learned so many valuable lessons about life and America. The most important lesson he learned, however, was I’ve got to get out of Paint Creek, which he did at the first opportunity.

Well, speaking as someone who is looking forward to getting the heck out of Callie, Arapaho, I can relate to this. And if you look at a lot of these states, there is a huge drain of people in the more rural places. Whether this is because these are terrible places or merely places where it’s difficult to find work, it’s hard to say. But the status of Paint Creek actually tells us very little about the status of Texas. The boonies aren’t growing. Now, to that you can say “Ah-ha! It’s really the blue parts of Tennessee that are attracting people so it doesn’t count!” Except that a whole lot of that growth as occurred in the red parts (suburbs) of the blue parts (metro areas) of the red states. And beyond which, no matter how blue Nashville is, it’s still under the state laws of an electorate that is red, which is what we’re looking at.

I’m not trying to pump up North Dakota and South Dakota too much here. A lot of folks – particularly at The League, and many at Hit Coffee – would absolutely hate it there. And there’s nothing wrong with that, says the guy looking forward to leaving Callie. But the depiction of a hellhole that everybody is looking to get out of is not only snotty, but doesn’t particularly match up with reality. Taking a dump on North Dakota doesn’t make the point that the author seems to think it does.

Category: Statehouse


Between Google Glass and this superhuman mask, in the future will we all be dressed up like superheroes?

More than 300,000 babies die in India every year.

Huawei has a “ridiculously thin” new smartphone. Thin is nice enough, but I wish it were being used to bring back physical keyboard. Or that it being so thin didn’t mean that we needed to put a cover on it to be thick all over again.

The New Atlantis has a good piece on the nuclear energy, nuclear waste, and Yucca.

I’m not usually the kind of guy that spends $100 on shirts, but this shirt has my attention.

I was all prepared to be outraged at this Jordan Weissman article about how colleges are selling out the poor to court the rich, but then I saw it was primarily about merit scholarships, which I do agree with. Self-righteousness defused.

I hate finding out that there’s a kind of meat that I haven’t eaten yet. Now I need to figure out how to get me some swamp rat.

When selling efficient lightbulbs to conservatives, just don’t mention the environmental benefits.

I don’t know if this is the equivalent of New York Times’s trend invention or not, but I found this article about attempts by British people to tone down regional accents to be interesting.

Far be it for me to compliment Paul Krugman, but I thought this piece on density and housing prices was quite good.

Cell phone networks, democratized? It’s an interesting concept. The question is whether mobile carriers actually want us using less data. I think they do, but at some point once minutes and messages are free, data tiers will be their profit center.

More indication that, as far as the banking-housing crisis goes, they knew not what they did. For those that missed it, a previous linky post drew attention to this article, coming to the same conclusion.

For a potential writing project, I’ve been looking into (mostly Golden Age) superheroes in the Public Domain. Here are a couple of resources I’m using [Wikia][Comicvine] (Warning: the latter link takes up a significant amount of computer resources, do not open if you are running low on RAM)

Jon Perry takes ten views at concerns of technology putting us out of work. Ron Bailey examines whether the Luddites are right.

How the oil boom is improving the working class in North Dakota and maybe the tribes in Montana.

Category: Newsroom

Friday a week ago, I’d had an unusually long day with Lain and she was unusually fussy. So when Clancy got home from work, I asked if she could take care of the little lady. She could, and I was off to the supply store just to get out of the house.

Around closing time, a conversation was struck up with one of the cashiers, who was off for the evening. She asked how my daughter was. I’d only then been able to place her as one of the counter girls who had gooed and gahed over the cute little bundle that is our daughter. I told her that Lain was good and that her mother was looking after her while I got a break. We talked a little bit about babies. She mentioned that she is still a little daddy’s girl.

This got me talking about how Clancy and I felt when we didn’t know whether Lain was going to be a boy or a girl. I’d said that though we officially had no preference but a healthy baby, I had leaned slightly towards wanting a boy while Clancy had leaned slightly in the other direction. I come from a family of boys, she comes from a family of girls, it was a matter of familiarity as much as anything else. On the whole, I explained, there were advantages either way. With a boy, there’d be someone to carry on the family name. Since I come from a family of boys, I’d have a better idea what to do with a son. Though boys and girls both play sports, one is conditioned to be more enthusiastic about sports and the other about other things.

On the other hand, I would go on, as with the counter girl herself, while a son is more likely to be a son until he marries, a daughter is more likely to be a daughter for life. Having a girl is, for me, more adventurous. Without thinking about it, I also commented that if Lain turned out to be a lesbian, it’d be easier for her to have children than for a gay son. I say “without thinking about it” because I’m in a red county of a red state. A western state, sure, but even so. Beyond that, despite the cigarette in her hand and the fact that she was 25 and unmarried, she was wearing a BYU jacket and gave off Mormon airs. I don’t typically like to so forcefully bring contentious politics into family chatter.

But… “Right on,” she replied. She grinned and added, “Plus, if she’s a lesbian, her kids might get your last name.”

Which I hadn’t even thought of!

One of the “gotchas” I’ve known critics of homosexuality to pull is “Would you want your child to be gay?” Because, after all, if there’s nothing wrong with being gay, there should be no problem there. Now, the perfectly correct answer to that is “I will love him or her no matter what she is.” But that’s sort of an evasion. As with the Boy vs. Girl, is there a preference? At all? And I could deny that there was, but historically I’ve had a little hope of straightness due to (if it’s a boy) reproduction and discrimination. Ultimately, for the same reason I hope that any son I have is over six feet tall, and any daughter I have is under six feet. I will love the child no matter what, but I do hope certain things for their sake. They’ll have a social deck stacked against them anyway by virtue of being the spawn of Clancy and myself.

One of the most amazing things over the last couple of years is how much that has changed. How much more accepted homosexuality is, and how much anti-gay sentiment is censured. I figured that this would happen, and BYU Girl didn’t surprise me as much as she might have in part because of her age and how young people see it differently. Generational waves, a compelling argument, and I did think this change would happen. But seeing it happen has made for a whole new experience. And I find, the confirmation of it makes me more genuinely less averse to the possibility that Lain, or her future younger siblings, might swing in the other direction. That the two really are tied together, and it’s not just the excuse that the asker of the question of the previous paragraph assumes it to be.

I’m not arguing that it has ceased to be an issue. Or even that it will when Lain comes of age. Being a lesbian would mean that large parts of the country would be infertile ground for her to set down roots. It’s unlikely that a lot of the religions preaching against homosexuality now will completely change their tune on the subject. But there will be a lot of places, even in the south and even in the west, where she would be able to live peaceably. Plenty of places for her own place to be.

And, if she has a son, he will be able to carry on the William Truman name.

Category: Coffeehouse

Over at The League, in a thread about evolution, Pierre Corneille said the following:

Speaking for myself, sometimes I actually kind of get a little chip-on-shoulder-y with the pro-teaching-evolution-in-school crowd because I detect sometimes a certain arrogance that annoys.

When deciding where I want my wife and I to land, I sometimes say “I don’t want to live in a place where I am the only vote on the school board in favor of teaching evolution.” I actually stand by the content of that comment, but it means something different to me now than it meant when I first made it. Now, more than anything, I understand it as a matter of culture. Namely, that I don’t want to live in a place that is not only highly religious, but sufficiently unified in their religiosity that they feel comfortable inserting that religion into the school curriculum. It’s not so much about the curriculum of science class per se (that can be taught at home), but rather the unified religiosity and the effects it is likely to have on culture that extend far beyond the classroom.

St George slays a dragonAt some point, it dawned on me… do you know why I believe evolution? It’s because that’s what I was taught. I went to school five days a week, in an environment that taught it, and went to Sunday School only once a week in an environment that didn’t deny it. When I was a teenager, I started having serious questions about the veracity of the literal interpretation of the Bible. When I brought these concerns to my father, he basically said that I shouldn’t turn myself into a pretzel trying to verify what are often Very Important Stories and not necessarily a meticulous recording of events. And that the important parts of the Bible are not the recording of events at all.

That’s the sort of environment I was raised in. The results on my thinking of evolution are, by and large, a product of that raising. Because I am not a science-fiend. Science was easily my least favorite subject in school. I could spout off the answers to the questions, I could do the math parts really well, but I didn’t have the passion for it. At all. Unlike reading class, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t care. It was much, much easier for me to put my faith in what science people told me was true.

Now, I can list off a bunch of reasons as to why it is more practical to believe the White Coats over the White Robes, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that I was never really challenged on this front. To some extent, I believe the White Coats because that’s who I was told to believe and the White Robes were saying unrelated things that strained credibility. If I could lend credibility to the other things – the ones I went to my father about – then it would actually be a little bit tougher for me to say “Oh, yes, their views on the metaphysical being of humanity and existence are quite true, but their views on the origins of mankind and the planet are just nonsensical.” Not that it can’t be done, but it’s foolish to pretend that I came about my views objectively and intelligently while they didn’t when, for the most part, we are both just believing what we were told by the people we believe. People often reject what they are told to believe, but the same dynamics are there regardless “The White Robes were lying about this, therefore anybody and especially the White Coats are more credible on the whole creationism vs. evolution thing.”

The primary difference not necessarily being that one Cares About Science while the other Hates Science, but rather it revolves back to believing the people on your side of the line in the sand on other issues translating into belief of evolution.

Now, I speak mostly of people who are like myself in this regard. Who knows, I may be the only person in the entire universe who believes in evolution for relatively superficial reasons. But, I kind of doubt it. I’ve seen debates between creationists and evolution supporters wherein the former absolutely crushed the latter. The creationist was able to talk about micro-evolution and macro-evolution and something about the Grand Canyon that I forget and a whole host of reasons as to why they believe evolution – by which they really mean macro-evolution – is bunk. Meanwhile, the latter focuses scornfully on “That man in the sky” and “Republicans are stupid.”

Not that those arguments sway me to the creationist side. They don’t. Because, ultimately, I believe the White Coats. Mostly on faith and the reasoning of how they say they came about their views versus, ultimately, how I believe the other side came about theirs. Comparative credibility, when I am not really an objective party in any real sense.

I don’t mean to get all relativist here. I do genuinely believe in evolution and I don’t think the sides are really created equal here. What I am more leading to is this comment that I made, preceding Pierre’s:

I do want evolution taught in schools, and would vote on that basis, but a whole lot of very functional people – people in the medical profession, even – believe in creationism. It’s not the indicator of intelligence or competence that people make it out to be.

In addition to the above revelation, this is a product of being raised in the South as much as anything. Or any religious area, really. You meet and get to know a lot of really wicked-smart people that believe things that you believe completely and utterly defy common sense and credibility. And when you stop and think about it – if you stop and think about it – it really doesn’t make sense to really put people in one side or the other in the Smart Box and the Stupid Box. Republicans disproportionately believe in Creationism, and oppose AGW, but outside of that are not on average any more ignorant of SCIENCE! than are Democrats. It’s more about what I would consider to be blind spots than blindness.

It’s because of this that I am increasingly less patient with comments suggesting that creationists cannot be competent doctors, engineers, or so on. A part of my job description at an old job was to edit my boss’s religious tract. It was some 300 pages long, including quite a bit on evolution, wherein he came down pretty hard against. He was one of the most intelligent men I have ever known. He was a mechanical engineer, but if he’d chosen surgery or medicine instead, I would trust him with the care of my baby daughter. And I have virtually zero affection for the guy.

I still don’t understand it, to be perfectly honest. How smart people can believe these things that just seem so unbelievable to me. But ultimately, I have to consider that they got their views from a place not all that dissimilar from where I got mine, albeit from the opposite end. And as much as I am inclined to blame that on passivity, research on global warming has indicated that education mostly serves to harden views rather than lead everyone to the “right” one.

Category: Church, School

A movie to go with David Foster Wallace’s famous “This is Water” commencement speech.

Category: Theater


Contrary to popular belief, you can’t actually be too rich. I am less clear on how much of that is absolute, and how much of it comparative.

Sean Reardon writes about the growing gap in student achievement across classes. While Reardon blames the ability of wealthy parents, Megan McArdle thinks that it has more to do with assortive mating.

Natural gas, a better ecological solution than previously believed? Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins argues that whether we run out of fossil fuels or not, we’re paying too steep a price for it.

Apparently, song and dance aside, the Obama camp has more-or-less never really opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline.

I go back and forth on how to feel about lowering homeownership rates. On the one hand, renting equals greater mobility, which has economic efficiency. On the other hand, home ownership has cultural advantages, and I am conceptually uncomfortable with a more firm owner/rental class dynamic.

State and local governments get better ratings than national governments. Which makes sense, being that state governments tend to be closer and more in-line with views of the average citizen, but is also kind of funny, when you think about it, because states often have to make the tougher decisions that the federal government can more easily avoid.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has taken a lot of bad publicity for her “family-unfriendly” anti-telecommuting policy, but according to Nanette Fondas, her paternity leave policy is revolutionary.

Facebook is losing users. Alas, I don’t think it’s because Google+ is going to come out on top. But I’m a-hopin’.

It’s interesting the various semantic decisions that the press makes. Rather suddenly, Muhammad became Prophet Muhammad. My guess is that it has to do with the commonality of Muhammad as a name. If Jesus were common here, they’d probably make more of an effort to add “Christ” when referring to Jesus Christ.

Rosa Golijan makes the case for establishing Google Glass etiquette.

There is apparently a push to start mining the Grand Canyon for Uranium.

Government and oil firms are not actually acting like climate change is a problem.

3D Printers stand to wreak havoc with product piracy. It’s already started.

The Millenials are not any less polarized than the rest of us. The Brits have their own problems, in this regard.

Category: Newsroom