Monthly Archives: October 2013

No great surprise: Facebook knows who you’re dating:

Though 27% of Facebook users don’t list their relationship status at all, only about half of those people are single, according to a Men’s Health article. If you’re one of these users committing the crime of omission, Facebook’s team of “in-house sociologists” has been researching ways to find you out. […]

f you’re “friends” with several of your other half’s co-workers, family members and friends, for example, Facebook may deduce that your only mutual link to these profiles is your assumed wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend. Researchers said they had a high success rate in correctly guessing someone’s romantic partner by this method.

Of course, these types of sleuthy Facebook social science projects have been ongoing for some time now. A research project earlier this year from Cambridge claimed it had success detecting non-volunteered information like users’ sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views just from what people “liked” on the site.

This opens up a potentially crucial role for Facebook in the human social domain. You know what I always hated about relationships? I hated trying to nail down where exactly things stood. I’ll bet there is a lot of potential here for Facebook to tell you. Or they can at least give you a heads up. “In case you were unaware, statistically speaking, you are in a relationship with Suzie.” It would be a very helpful pointer for the unaware.

Of course, you could decide that you don’t want to be in a relationship with Suzie at all. And you can say “Facebook! You’re wrong!” But you ought to make sure that Suzie thinks that Facebook is wrong, too. It could have a real positive social impact of making us have the very important conversation that some are too good at avoiding. Among other things, that’s one of the things I consider great about the institution of marriage. It seems to break up more relationships than it saves, sometimes. But! It helps those who were going to break up later realize that they need to break up sooner.

On the other hand, Facebook can’t figure out which movies I want to see. So maybe it would be in over its head here.

On a more serious note, it rather blows my mind that they haven’t gone hog wild of matchmaking. I met Evangeline (as well as Porky, the girl who was way out of my league) on something that was actually somewhat like Facebook, though only a little. It wasn’t a full-on social networking site, but it wasn’t a matchmaking site either. Since it wasn’t the latter, it made trading messages a lot less formal and more friendly than on the matching sites I was on at the time. The creators of that site are probably kicking themselves for falling just shy of what Facebook became. Now it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry and the domain points to

I recently took a trip to a strange and wondrous land called New Jersey. You won’t find it on the Trumanverse map. It exists on that other map, to the east of Real-Life Pennsylvania and the south of Real-Life New York.

New Jersey is a strange land of quaint, strange customs as well as futuristic technology. Unlike in the real world, when you refill your gas tank there, you simply park and someone will come out and pour your gas for you. Fascinatingly, gasoline in New Jersey is cheaper than it is in the surrounding area.

While someone pours your gas for you, when you go inside their commerce hut – WaWas, it is called – they do not have someone there to take your order. Instead, you order it in a futuristic touchscreen panel. After which, you can either take your receipt to a counter where they do still have human-persons to collect your money, or alternately you wait and collect the food (prepared by human-persons, without any further direction than what you typed into the touchscreen).

On the whole, both added to my enjoyment of the trip. I was warned by the natives that there might be a wait at the gas pump, but there was none. The food from the commerce hut was tasty – if on the expensive side – and it was a pleasure not to have to deal with people.

I was going to do another entry on this nightmarish land called Real-Life Delaware, which is to Real-Life New Jersey’s south. I never left the car in Delaware, merely driving through the northern tip of it. For which, I paid a whopping $5 for the privilege. Which is all I really have to say about Delaware.

Category: Road

Before I’d had my morning nicotine and caffeine, I prepared my drink. Usually this consists of mixing Mountain Something (generic brand mountain dew) with sugar-free coolade. The latter is in a vacated water jug that is the same size and dimension as a jug of milk. So, as the title suggests, I got the wrong jug. I realized my error before too much milk made it in.

Rather than toss the contents of the contraption (at this point, Mountain Shoutin’ and milk), I went ahead and added the coolade.

I cannot taste the (skim) milk. Something seems to taste just a bit off, but honestly that may just be my imagination. It certainly doesn’t taste like milk, skim or otherwise.

The problem is that it just looks gross. The milk didn’t fully integrate with the contents of the drink. Because it’s carbonated, I can’t really shake it to try to get it to mix. Maybe it’s not chemically possible for that to happen (I forgot just about everything I learned from chemistry class). I’m not sure. Whatever the case, though, the usual orange-green color is roughly the same, except with these little white clouds.

This should not inhibit my enjoyment as much as it does. But it’s weird to drink something that looks so weird, whether I can taste the milk or not.

Category: Kitchen

Summers PaintingI think the prime factor of the VP isn’t the breaks-a-senate-tie. Or any of the informal influence given to them that can be taken away or given to anyone else quite easily. Rather, the issue is that they are the person in line for the presidency before you get into the constitutionally murky issue of handing it over to someone to the legislative branch. Which is possibly someone of the different party.

My view is that it would potentially be a disaster of epic proportions should both the president and vice president be incapacitated. There could be lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the POTUS while they are executing their duties (particularly if they are of a different political party than the president). The Constitutionality of it is actually a bit iffy. And even if there weren’t, it’s just bad policy anyway.

Granted, the best way to prevent this from happening is change the line of succession. Which would also be the easier fix. On the other hand, the reason that they did this was that they didn’t want the president to be able to choose his own successor. This is one of the reasons that we don’t want a president to be able to fire his Vice President: You don’t want an embattled president facing impeachment and/or indictment saying to his VP “If you don’t agree to pardon me, I will fire you and you will never be president.”

Whether that’s better or worse than a Pataki/McCaughey situation is uncertain, but I think I will take the latter.

The danger of a president being able to hand-pick a successor (assuming a vice presidential vacancy) has already been nullified when we allowed presidents to appoint successor vice presidents. And second, just as a vice president has to be confirmed, so too do cabinet picks. We’re not talking about putting the Chief of Staff on the list. A Secretary of State would be confirmed in part on the basis of their ability to serve as president if called upon to do so (and if eligible).

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever have a Glenallen Walken situation. There has been some interesting speculation that, in the event that the 2000 election hadn’t been settled, Larry Summers would have become acting president because the Speaker and Senate President Pro Tempore. On the other hand, if you have a Speaker or more likely a Senate President who is considering retiring anyway, I could very much see it happening.

Category: Statehouse

It’s no secret that the NFL wants back into Los Angeles. The two questions have always been “Can we move a team there?” and “If we can’t, where do we put the other expansion team?”

On the latter, Roger Goodell says London.

I think that would ultimately be very unsuccessful. London couldn’t really maintain sufficient interest to maintain their World League team. The London Monarchs left London on a part-time basis, then completely, well before the league ultimately folded. They actually got off to a good start,but interest faded once the novelty wore off (unlike in Germany, where interest was maintained much longer because they actually enjoy football in that country). Which is why I am unconvinced by what we can learn by the success of the recent games the NFL has played out there.

So no, I don’t think a team in London would work.

But I hope the NFL puts a team in London.

Why? Because that will, after it fails, lead to another team in the United States. And that will be a team in San Antonio, or Portland, or somewhere else of note. If putting teams in foreign cities that are doomed to fail will help me achieve my vision of a 40-team NFL, so be it!

Category: Theater

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler waded through a rockin’ teenage party in search of his son and didn’t notice all of the drinking underagers:

Gansler, a Democrat who is running for governor, said this week that he stopped by the Delaware beach house to talk briefly with his teenage son and then left. He said he does not remember whether he saw anyone drinking. But even if he had, Gansler said, it was not his responsibility as a parent or a high-ranking law enforcement official to intervene.

“Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party,” Gansler said. “How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state? I say no.”

That’s a good point. It’s not as though he is the chief legal officer of the State of Maryland. Except he is. Nor is there an element of hypocrisy here because it’s not like he has made underage drinking one of his issues. Which he did.

This is low-hanging fruit, though. There is a fundamental truth here that underage people will drink and will party if they are invited to them. Should his son have to live in fear because his father is a politician and if his son finds the party it’s bound to get busted up by Johnny Law? In a sense, that’s unfair to the kid. Of course, it also goes to show the problems of things being against the law even when everyone pretty much knows that they are broken on a pretty regular basis. One would also assume that had the police been called, the treatment of the sorts of kids attending a party with the Attorney General’s son might be treated differently than a party attended by rabble.

Back when I was in high school, I attended one of my brothers’ frat parties. I remember some cops coming around beforehand offering their services for security. If you have a cop on sight, apparently you can get an insurance break. “Don’t worry, they said, we are keeping our eyes looking out and not in, unless asked to do otherwise. Which pretty much goes to show the nature of the law as it is in effect.

The only time I ever came close to having to deal with the consequences of such a thing is when I was about 17 or so and at a drinking party of my friend Charlie Langston. There was a cop there who came out of nowhere. Actually, judging from where he was, he had probably been there a while. He was sitting on a deck chair by the pool talking to a female attendee of the party. I am guessing he was acting as apartment security or something and not in his official capacity as a cop. I just remember screaming “Holy $%@#, you’re a cop! What are you doing here?!”

I was, in all likelihood, inebriated at the time. And seventeen.

Fun fact: I held up the left leg of the son of the State Treasurer (at the time) of Deltona while he did one of those keg things.

For whatever reason – community spirit or a lot of suckers in the region – Arapaho was a hub of telemarketing activity for fundraisers, pollsters, and the like. I never got as many calls as I did while I was out there. Arapaho is a big military state and so veterans organizations call a lot. Plus, I answered that pollster once and that was blood in the water as far as they are concerned.

There are many conveniences of living in the eastern timezone. Now, when I am dealing with various family and friends in a different timezone, it’s always a later timezone. Last week I had a Google Hangout with my aunts and I got to do it at 9pm because it was earlier in their timezone.

The downside is telemarketers. We still have our (Mountain Time Zone) Arapaho phone number. We also have multiple Arapaho phone numbers, which means that we are on everybody’s list three times. And when they call at eight o’clock, our phone goes off at 10.

There isn’t much that sets me off like rocking the baby to sleep and having a telemarketing call at 11pm reversing the progress of the baby falling asleep.

Category: Market

Michael WestonSo I’m watching the last season of Burn Notice and something struck me: They have scarcely changed the intro to it at all over its seven seasons.

That wouldn’t be a big deal if the intro were a theme song or something. But it’s a narrative. Michael Weston, the protagonist, explaining the predicament he is in at the beginning of the show. That last bit is important because his problems change over the course of the show. At the beginning of the show, he explains that when a spy is burned he is left to his own devices and whatever friends and family are willing to help (with clips of said friend and family). In the later seasons (spoiler alert, I guess) he actually successfully rejoins the CIA. So the explanation becomes quite inaccurate.

They do change a couple of things. The character Fiona starts off as his ex-girlfriend and he initially describes her as “a trigger-happy ex-girlfriend” and later drops the “ex.” Likewise, Sam is initially a “friend who informs on you to the FBI” but becomes “friend who used to inform on you to the FBI.” The big change is that a supporting character – Jesse – was added and he is not in the intro.

Besides that, even the clips are the same. All (except Jesse’s) from the opening season.

It seems to me that the show would be better served if they actually had an accurate intro. They could go even further by reminding us who characters are when they re-appear. The computer guy, the money guy, and so on. I am guessing the reason that they don’t is that for a character to get onto the intro means a change in status of the actor who plays the character. Which is why Jesse went from being a guy who was in every episode to one who became in the intro.

When I was a kid, all of the shows had intros that told you who the actors were. A theme song. Those went away as they sought more commercial time, I guess. It’s weird that when they came back, a lot of them stopped showing the actors names or serving much of any purpose at all. For a little while, Burn Notice had what I thought would be a great use of that time: to give you an idea of the premise without spending too long on “Previously on…”

That is somewhat contingent on the introsplanation being accurate, though.

Category: Theater

When Lain was born, our parents chipped in and bought us a pretty nice crib from Graco. During the process of moving from House #1 to House #2, the screws to said crib got misplaced. Since we weren’t going to stay in House #2 for very long, we didn’t really sweat it. Our first house here in Queenland, on the other hand, we will be in for at least a year and perhaps longer. Plus, baby turned 1 a few days ago and we’re going to need to start moving her over to her own bedroom instead of the playpen/nap-pen by our bed.

The screws hadn’t turned up, so I contacted Graco. Graco, in turn, said that even though it carried their brand name, they didn’t actually make the crib and instead it was made by a company called LaJobi. LaJobi couldn’t help me until I tracked down some information from the crib. That took a while because the crib was still in a mountain of boxes. When I finally did, they told me to call them.

Here is how I think the conversation went: I told them that I would like to purchase a screw set for the crib. They said “Let’s check and see if we have that in stock” which they did. They took my credit card information for the $35 the screws would cost.

I hadn’t asked how long it would take it to arrive, so I decided to give them the 6-8 weeks I consider to be the maximum. That came and went, and it still hadn’t arrived. I called them back to find out that this is how they thought the conversation went: I told them that I would like to purchase a screw set for the crib. They said “Let’s check and see if we have that in stock” which they did not as it was on back order. They may or may not have taken my credit card information, but they delete credit card information after 24 hours. I went back and looked and sure enough, the $35 had never been charged.

Basically, they said that the interaction was put into their system as a backorder. did I misunderstand them? It’s possible, though I am sure they took my credit card information and I certainly left the conversation thinking that my screws would be on their way. Anyway, they said that the screws were still on back order. However, they would open a new crib box with a set of screws and send that to me, since I had been waiting so long.

I was really impressed that they would do that, since that would mean that they couldn’t sell the crib from which they got the screws until they got more screws in. I almost felt bad since apparently this particular set of screws is such a hot commodity. And since it was our own fault for losing the screws in the first place. I was very appreciative, gave them my credit card number, and then waited the 7-10 business days it would take for them to get the screws to me.

Then, nothing. And I check my records, and once again we were never charged.

Now, as I say, it’s my own darn fault for not keeping track of the screws during the move. Neither Graco nor LaJobi have any obligation to offer replacement parts. But it’s been three months since they first (I am pretty sure) said that I would be getting the screws. If they can’t replace the parts, I wish they would have just said so and we could have made plans accordingly, instead of planning for the arrival of the screws.

In the end, it worked out. Over last weekend, when I was waiting to call LaJobi back and giving them a piece of my mind, the screws magically turned up. It’s possible that had LaJobi been straight with me, I would have purchased a new crib by now. It’s also possible that I would have gone on a blitz and located them. I can’t even boycott LaJobi going forward since we didn’t intentionally buy their product in the first place. We own a lot of Graco products and I had previously looked at their brand favorably. While they weren’t the ones that gave us the runaround, though, they contracted with the ones who did and that makes me less likely to buy their products in the future.

On the other hand, I will say these two things for LaJobi: First, the crib is pretty awesome. Good work on that. Second, the LaJobi people were very polite and pleasant and had they not been telling me things that were not true, I am big into customer service and the customer service would have had me buying LaJobi in the future.

Category: Home, Market


Well, that (the above) is one way to screen job applicants.

GE is working on a way to solve fracking’s water contamination. I wonder if environmentalists hope that this doesn’t work, if it results in more fracking.

Miles Brundage looks at a study on automation putting people out of the job. He’s a bit skeptical.

In 1948, smog killed 70 people in Pennsylvania.

America’s retreat from marriage may have hit bottom.

I don’t know whether indefinite engagements are better or worse than shacking up. Probably better, but more frustrating in their own way.

A smartphone charger that sniffs for malware? Consider me intrigued!

Between my bluetooth earpiece and my interest in smartwatches and google glasses, I want to be a cyborg. So an MP3 player that lives in my ear appeals to me.

Researchers may have found a gene for obesity.

If you want to get people to follow social norms, zap their brain.

It’s really quite aggravating that GoogleDocs/Drive doesn’t support ODF file-types. In fact, there is no editor available in Android. That’s a problem and why I will not be using their services any time soon.

Thirteen gateways to hell? Flagged for future fiction.

Category: Newsroom