Monthly Archives: September 2013

Baby ChesthairAs I have previously mentioned, I think solutions like carbon farms may be our only hope, as far as global warming is concerned. Otherwise, if projections and predictions are right, it could get expensive and messy.

North Dakota has been one of the economic bright spots of the country. If visits are any indication, Obama isn’t very interested, as he has yet to visit the state.

Seems obvious to say that anti-fat bias correlates with a pro-thin preference, but the always-great Pacific Standard nonetheless made an interesting story out of it.

I get giddy at the thought of what the future might hold in traffic management innovation. Waze has proven to be a pretty cool app.

In 2005, Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt argue that kid-carseat-mania is misguided.

I don’t even know how to begin to describe this article on Occupy and anarchism. But if the subjects of Occupy and anarchism interest you, I think you’ll really like it.

Hanna Rosin points out what most people should already know: the “Women make 77 cents on the dollar for the same job as men” isn’t true. A couple caveats, of course: Even if it’s not 23%, 9% is significant. And second, not all of the reasons for the other 14% are benign.

The UK and Ireland are having serious problems with the sale of illicit tobacco, complete with fears of trade funding terrorism.

I love these motivational posters from the 20’s. My funny-favorite is “Criticism is necessary” and my straight-favorite is “Step up!”

There are more to the “young people living with their parents” stories and statistics than we think.

For the longest time, the US only had three colleges.

My own morbid curiosity keeps me interested in China’s ghost cities. So cool, so depressing. Anyway, here’s the story of a German-flavored one. And Italian.

Are online/MOOC courses transforming Duke University?

Category: Newsroom

A spooky clown has been poking around Northampton, England. It feels like the almost perfect counterbalance to the likes of Phoenix Jones and other do-gooders. The thing is, though, that this clown doesn’t actually do anything except be spooky.

The editors of the Northampton paper want people to take a deep breath:

Sadly – bizarrely – an equally large number are offering up violence of the “If I see him I’ll deck him…” variety.

I really don’t understand that. I wonder what it is about an unexpected clown that is so difficult to cope with that it would provoke an outburst of uncontrolled physical agression? How do these people cope with Halloween, fancy dress parties or even fashion makeovers?

I’m sure most of it is just talk, but why do so many people think it is still ok to write in recorded, traceable, comments threats that they wouldn’t make in person for fear of being arrested?

On his Facebook site, Spot Northampton’s Clown, the clown has posted today: “Too much hate not enough love . No, i don’t have a knife on me!, thats just stupid rumours spread by stupid people. I’m also ‘not’ on twitter as it confuses the heck out of me.

“However, i might go for a jog around that pond in Abington park later as i’m really unfit… See you around! Beep Beep!”

As a defender of the right to be in public without cause, such as loitering or being a spooky clown, I wish him all the best.

Category: Newsroom

Renegades!Ottawa’s new CFL team is to be called the RedBlacks.

My first observation is how terrible we have become at naming teams. There’s really no excuse for it. At the college level a number of schools have had to find new mascots because the old ones were Indian-related. Those names have been utterly bland: Red Wolves, Warhawks, Mustangs, Warriors, etc. Warhawks is okay, but the rest stink (and Warhawks is like the Redhawks replacement that too many other Indian-mascotted teams chose. Schools, though, should work on having more unique mascots. Some of the newer schools do (Grand Canyon Aardvarks, UC-Irvine Anteaters, UTSA Roadrunners) At the professional level, there seems to be a choice between the bland (NFL, except the Ravens) or obnoxious (NBA, expansion before last).

So along those lines, hooray for Ottawa which chose a name that is (a) unique and (b) a plural noun. Even if I have no idea what a RedBlack is supposed to be. And think innercaps are stupid. And kind of wonder why they didn’t go with their previous franchise name.

Which brings me to the other question, which is why they’re putting a team back in Ottawa when they have twice failed there. I mean, two NFL teams have left Los Angeles but no doubt the NFL will land another team there again at some point, but that’s Los Angeles. Ottawa is Ottawa. The nation’s capital, with a population just shy of that of Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Birmingham, Alabama. Of course, this is the CFL where the population demands are less stringent. Regina has a population of Prescott, Arizona. Where? Exactly. Maybe you’ve heard of Idaho Falls, which is about in the same ballpark. No? Burlington, Vermont then. Presumably, the entire province of Saskatchewan has their back, though, so that’s a population of El Paso.

Canada is kind of weird.

My big question is why not expand into the markets in the United States. They tried that, though, and it was an abysmal failure. Even so, I wonder if they might reconsider with the following stipulations: Northern cities only[1], cities without any professional teams[2], and expand one at a time[3]. It seems possible that some northern cities might feel more a “part” of something called the Canadian Football League and be more likely to embrace that team. It would also keep travel expenses down and help keep east-west alignment rather than the creation of a “south” division. The second thing would be taking a page out of the NBA, which has had success with numerous franchises in towns where there is little competition.

In an age where cable networks are looking for content, I think there’s a decent chance that things could go better this time around.

The divisions within the CFL are a bit of an issue. One which having a team in Ottawa actually solves. With only eight teams, they have to have four teams in each division. That means separating Winnipeg and Saskatchewan who are rivals. Adding Ottawa means that Winnipeg can go back to the western division. Of course, that creates a bit of a problem for my designs on CFL expansion as a number of decent candidates are in the west.

Boise, Idaho is one of the first places I would look. Not only is there no professional team in Boise, there are not any nearby. The only two problems are that (a) Boise is in the west and (b) the Boise State Broncos.

Though Portland, Oregon breaks the “no other sports team” rule, it is nonetheless worth considering. Unlike Boise, there’s no significant college team in Portland. The primary competition would be the Ducks and Beavers of college ball.

Another consideration would be Spokane, Washington. Spokane roots for the Seahawks, but is a significant city in its own right. The only other issue (besides being in the west) is Washington State, which isn’t too far away. They presently have an Arena team, so you’d have to wait for that to pass before considering Spokane.

That’s the west. What’s available in the east?

The candidate that most comes to mind is Portland, Maine. No NFL team. Not even a college team. It’s Patriots Country, though. But they have never had a professional sports team of any sort. On the other hand, maybe there’s a reason for that.

Really, most of the other places in the east have serious NFL competition even if there is no team in their city. Grand Rapids has the Lions, Fort Wayne has the Colts. Milwaukee has the Packers (and an Arena team for now). Columbus has the Buckeyes. Des Moines has easy access to two college teams plus are a perpetual site for Arena League teams. Sioux Falls could be put in the east division, but is not much larger than Regina and is smaller than Halifax, the largest Canadian city without a team (other than Ottawa).

But between all of these options I would think that there would be a city or two that’s not too far removed from Canada. The attendance requirements in the CFL are not all that great. You only need about 30,000 people to show up, and you’re doing pretty well. And with TV content at a premium, I’d think that the money would be there for more teams and more games.

Unlike my other idea[4], I think it could be a financial winner.

[1] Previous CFL sites included Birmingham, Sacramento, Shreveport, Las Vegas, San Antonio, and Memphis.

[2] Of the above, half had teams in other leagues. Now it’s just Shreveport and Birmingham that don’t. Never, ever put a football team in Birmingham. The CFL is lucky it survived. Every other league that’s put a team in that city folded quickly. Why did the original Arena League last so long? They never put a team in Birmingham, that’s why.

[3] After early success in Sacramento, the CFL expanded everywhere at once.

[4] That would be dismantling the playoffs. Because playoffs ruin everything.

Category: Theater

Totally. Not safe for work.

But funny.

Category: Espresso


Vikram Bath predicted that contrary to reports, Apple would not be releasing a cheaper model. I give him at least partial credit.

Tim Harford writes about the minimum wage issue in the UK.

According to Reihan Salam, he lesson of Tony Abbott’s ascent in Australia is that the future of conservatism may have little to do with small government and more to do with social and family issues.

The Secretary of Education lent some support to an important idea: start school later in the day.

Avik Roy is compiling a map, comparing pre-PPACA (individual market) and post-PPACA (exchanges) costs on comparable plans. State by state.

Relevant to me and few of y’all: Dr Seuss is coming to ebooks!

Do you want to know who the 24 worst-dressed members of GI Joe and Cobra are? io9 is on it. The 80’s were embarrassing in so many ways.

Some people think that the 2014 elections, by virtue of the group next up for Senatorial votes as well as gerrymandered House districts, will benefit Republicans and put to rest talk about how the party needs to change. Not so fast, says National Memo. The Republicans are in trouble, and everyone knows it.

One thing the Ohio Republican Party can’t really afford is implosion, not that Ohio Republicans care.

Lest I be too one-sided, I should point out that the emerging Democratic coalition is built on the collapse of the traditional family.

California has a bit of a problem (though some would argue that it’s not a problem) in that it is losing internal migrants to other states like Texas. Fortunately for California, there is New York. Meanwhile, states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona are getting some of their millionaires.

Joel Kotkin and Mark Schill look at regional growth rates in the US.

James Fallows has a great series on Sioux Falls, a boomtown not like the other boomtowns of Dakota.

Category: Newsroom

Joseph_Smith_receiving_golden_platesI was planning to go through the whole Book of Mormon and do posts on it, but that didn’t happen. Instead I just have this piece, about the First Book of Nephi, which kicks the BOM off. So though this is basically part one of one (maybe I’ll go back at some point), I thought I would share it. I read it mostly as a learning exercise. I am writing about it in a relatively neutral manner. I’d prefer comments remain respectful and not veer in the direction of “But the whole thing is a crock!” Religious diversity and tolerance uber alles.

A few random observations.

Plot: God tells Lehi to get the heck out of Dodge (Jerusalem) because there is some bad stuff coming. Lehi tries to round up his family, but a couple of his sons (Laman and Lamuel) object. God picks Nephi, the youngest (at the time) son, as his favorite. This causes much trouble and murmurring with the other brothers. Laman and Lamuel are tagged as bad apples, though God (through Lehi and/or Nephi) alternates between telling them that they are bad apples and that they should behave. There is another son, Sam, who seems to be a swing vote between good (Nephi) and evil (the other two). God gives Nephi some shapechanging powers and gives them a magic compass. After some time in the wilderness, Nephi builds a boat and they sail off to America.

Lesson: DO NOT MURMUR. Murmuring is at the root of a lot of ills. This is not a serious lesson. Mostly a reference that the word is used more than I have ever heard it used before. The real lesson appears to be that you should listen to word of God and the people who God chooses to command, though also an overwhelming sense that dissent is bad more generally.

Freedom: On the other hand, lots of talk about how great freedom is.

Observation: Bad stuff happens on the voyage, presumably because God is testing Lehi’s clan. Laman and Lamuel revolt and tie Nephi up. After that, the bad stuff that happens is because Laman and Lamuel are doing bad things.

Neat: There is a subplot involving a character named Laban, who is some sort of record-keeper or artifact-collector in Jerusalem. He is a villain who ends up getting killed by Nephi with his own sword (which he then keeps). Nephi then shapechanges and pretends to be Laban for a bit. I actually have a character in a story I am thinking of who is a thoroughly corrupt recordkeeper. I’m thinking of working the Laban name into it. I’m not going to name the guy Laban since I don’t believe in symbolic naming. But I’ve definitely got it filed away. I’m not sure why I find this bit so interesting. Maybe because the rest of the story didn’t jump out at me.

Symbolism: Some of it is actually pretty good. They go on to explain it unless you miss it. Some of the imagery is interesting.

Prophecy: America was foretold and it was foretold that America will be awesome. Actually, America isn’t named specifically. Also, the way that the settlers made their way west is because God gave them the equivalent of a GPS.

Surprise: Mormons do not believe in Original Sin, at least not in the same way that most Christian sects do. [Addendum: While I don’t remember if it came up in Nephi I, it’s noteworthy how insistently anti-polygamy the Book of Mormon is. It will later be defined as the primary failing of “the good tribe” – the Nephites – in comparison to “the bad tribe” – the Lamanites – who, despite their faults, were good on the marriage issue.]

Repetition: As mentioned before, I have heard the words “it came to pass” and “murmur” enough to last me a lifetime.

Telephone: The Book of Mormon’s origins are (as best as I can tell) Joseph Smith translating plates from Mormon, who translated from the writings of Nephi. And Nephi got some of his stuff from Lehi. It’s like a game of telephone, though presumably more reliable since it was written down rather than told from one person to the next. I’m not entirely sure how the language issue was supposed to have been handled.

Category: Church

So I fired up my TV computer to watch some morning games on ESPN3. But there were none. What happened to all the 10am games?!

It took me a few minutes to realize that I am in the Eastern Time Zone now. 10am games are now at noon.

In my defense, I hadn’t had any morning caffeine.

Category: Theater

A pretty genius idea for a commercial. I don’t even need to speak Spanish to understand it.

Category: Theater

peekingraccoonOil, oil everywhere, but not a drop of water to drink. Also, a look at the US groundwater supply, in map form.

This seems so intuitively incorrect: iPhones use more energy than some refrigerators. If true, another indication that if global warming is as real and as bad as they say, we’re doomed.

Those unimaginative, killjoy left-brainers are arguing that there’s no such thing as left-brainers (and right-brainers).

BusinessWeek has a piece on the dire state of nuclear power in this country. Which some will celebrate, because even though global warming threatens imminent ecological catastrophe, we can’t have nuclear power because something bad might happen.

But if the economics can’t support nuclear, the economics can’t support it. There’s always coal. According to the EIA, by 2040 nuclear will only be supplying 7% of our energy. Renewables? 15%! Yay.

According to the WSJ ($), young rebels become entrepreneurs.

Step one, get people to move into cities. Step two, turn out the lights?

In Green Bank, West Virginia, you can’t use wireless signals. Which is a draw for some.

Private education in Britain is becoming more egalitarian.

Enterprising folks are working on replacing the FEMA trailers with nicer amenities. I am all about cheap housing, so I wonder about the non-FEMA applications.

Evidently, the notion that clowns are scary has long roots in history.

Category: Newsroom


A stripper’s guide to North Dakota. In some ways, it sounds positively Republican.

Dave Schuler, and Howard Dean, are skeptical of claims of easy cost savings. Without an overhaul, anyway.

Data systems may be able to predict who will drop out of the school… by looking at them in the first grade.

Copyright protections may be killing art. Honestly, I doubt this is a case where correlation equals causation. But the ostensible reason we have copyright law does not appear to be panning out.

How BitTorrent downloads so fast. It’s truly amazing how much faster BT is at downloading free software than are dedicated servers.

It’s been discussed recently at Not a Potted Plant, but here’s a rundown of why ebooks are so expensive. I would argue that while ebooks may cost as much as regular published books, I am less sure that they have to. That they are working towards a particular price point does not actually mean that the price point is unavoidable. (I’d also add it’s funny to hear about how production and distribution costs aren’t actually all that much, after hearing for years and years about how the rising cost of paper was responsible for the rise in prices of comic books.)

It will be a sad day when redheads are no more, if this comes to fruition.

I might be more comfortable with premarital cohabitation if we could more easily nail down what level of commitment it implies. But we haven’t.

Walter Hickey thinks pie charts are useless. I was prepared to disagree because there are narrow circumstances in which a pie chart is better than the alternatives, but he addresses that. He spends a lot of time pointing out to examples where pie charts are particularly opaque to make his case.

Connecticut should have a strong economy. Why doesn’t it?

Category: Newsroom