Monthly Archives: February 2014

CatTakesOffThere are, and have been, a pretty crazy number of indoor football leagues over the years. Here’s Wikipedia’s list.

Some people like to be able to say that they listen to music that nobody else does. Here’s a tool to help you with that.

Next week the NCAA will (likely) vote on The Saban Rule, which in true college fashion will call a “delay of game” penalty on teams that move the ball too quickly. Michael Reagan and Robert Charette think it’s a stupid idea. To be fair, anything that makes Alabama vulnerable must be unfair, right?

Glyph approves of The LEGO Movie, but Sonny Bunch says it exemplifies everything wrong with LEGOs.

This article’s title is stupid because wind power isn’t boring (windmill farms are cool looking!). The map is pretty cool, though.

Nuclear power seems to operate in a real sour spot, the anti-Goldilocks. It’s considered more expensive than coal and less environmentally friendly than solar rather than more green than coal and cheaper than solar.

California now boasts the world’s largest solar thermal grid, but its droughts are complicating the solar energy project.

North Dakota pumped a record 313.5 million barrels of oil last year and some are arguing that we need to lift our export embargo.

I’ve previously mentioned the potential inconvenience of a man banned from the US becoming the Indian prime minister. The Global posts says Hindu fundamentalists are taking over India.

Queen Elizabeth is running out of money? Woah.

In the face of (religious?) cartels and crime, Mexico is turning to sponsored vigilantism.

A London court is putting the LDS Church on trial. With our First Amendment protections, the concept seems alien to us. Even over there, their legal experts are surprised.

Category: Newsroom


The army built a fake city:

The US army has built a fake city designed to be used during combat training exercises.

The 300 acre ‘town’ includes a five story embassy, a bank, a school, an underground subway and train station, a mosque, a football stadium, and a helicopter landing zone.

Located in Virginia, the realistic subway station comes complete with subway carriages and the train station has real train carriages.

We have a vacant lot across the street. You can see it the Hit Coffee background and many of the recent header images. It looks like it was a storage facility of sorts for cargo coming off the nearby train tracks.

The layout is above and we’re one of the houses south.

Local fire departments love to use it for drills and such, which is what made the Army’s Fake City remind me of it. At first I found myself worrying why they were over there. But as it kept happening, I figured out what was going on. They even bring in bails of hay to light on fire to I guess simulate the real thing. Other than that, I’ve seen the parking lot used as a staging ground for a parade and as a dump site for mountains of snow.

The lot is supposed to be torn down soon. There’s a sign for the office complex they’re going to be putting there. It seems like a sub-optimal place for an office park because we’re not exactly in the best part of town. We are pretty centrally located, though, and I guess that counts for something.

Category: Downtown

Robin Hanson argues that our preference for product variety is costing us dearly:

It is interesting to wonder what sort of lifestyle we could manage if we worked three to ten times fewer hours on average. And it occurs to me that we could probably work far less, and still have just as much stuff, of just as high a quality, if only we’d sacrifice product variety.

Imagine that we made just as many cars, houses, clothes, meals, furniture, etc., each one just as big with just as high quality materials and craftsmanship. But instead of the making these in the stupefying variety that we do today, imagine that we made only a few standard variations, and didn’t update those variations as often. A few standard cars, standard clothes, standard meals, etc. Enough variety to handle different climates, body sizes, and food allergies, but not remotely enough to let each person look unique. (An exception might be made for variety in music, books, movies, etc., since these are such a tiny fraction of total costs.)

It’s a seductive concept. I mean, ten percent more is a whole lot. And all we’re sacrificing is the ability multiple things to choose from of the stuff we want? That seems like such a small price to pay. Indeed, it’s a price that we pay with great regularity. Levittown was built on the notion that people wanted houses and that if you sacrificed choice you could put unprecedented numbers of people in homes. Master-planned communities work on the same premise. It’s also an argument you hear in the Costco/Walmart wars. Costco is able to save people money because they have a significantly smaller product range while Walmart relies on other things.

Could we take this to its logical conclusion? Would we receive enormous dividends if we tried? I can’t dispute Hanson’s numbers – I have no idea if they’re accurate – but even if I concede them I am hesitant largely on the basis of what it would do to innovation.

In the comments, Hanson disputes the notion that variety and innovation are intertwined, but I have a lot of difficulty imagining how that’s not the case. Let’s take smartphones. Apple has, to say the least, a very limited product selection for the iPhone. Now, a whole lot of people love this. They reap the benefits that Hanson refers to. What about us Android holdouts? Would we accept all of the limitations of Apple if we could cut down the costs so considerably? I have never owned an iPhone and never plan to, but I absolutely would.

But would our version of the smartphone actually look like an iPhone? Wouldn’t an iPhone merely be “product variety” of the smartphones that came before it? So we wouldn’t all have iPhones, we’d have HTC Wizards or something even more rudimentary. That’s assuming that a smartphone isn’t considered a “variety” of PDA, which I actually think is a fair assumption. Even if the vast majority of product varieties are purely about aesthetics or self-image (which is debatable, depending on how you look at it), those few that aren’t are very, very important.

Presumably you could address this by arguing that every deviation from the standard must be justified on the basis of actually innovation. Of course, the more exceptions you carve out, the less savings you see. You might have to demand that once an innovation is accepted as the standard, everyone must adopt it. Otherwise you would have a whole army of products with different capabilities for some to save money and others to maximize product quality. Standardizing features presents its own problems. A reworking of the economy or at least of how innovators are compensated, if there’s any innovation still ongoing.

All of which is to say that the theory itself does sound attractive, but the complications involved represent serious concerns and compromises that would almost certainly undermine the entire project (and, I suspect, become subject to a great degree of rent-seeking).

I know some people object to the notion that “the market has solved this” but to some extent it already has. As mentioned, Apple maintains some degree of cost control on the basis of the uniformity of its products. Levittowns are constantly being built with a minimum of variation because of the savings that occur. But without nearly so much sacrifice of tomorrow’s innovation.

Category: Market

BabyBirdHeadAccording to a trial judge in St. Louis, we have a First Amendment right to warn drivers about speed traps.

Note to congress: Pretty much anything that gives carriers incentive or justification to take more control over their phones and phone ownership is a bad idea. And so it is with the kill switch.

Gordon Kelly argues that Lenovo’s purchase of Motorola was a genius move on par with their purchase of the ThinkPad line, and that this follows Google’s brilliance in purchasing and dumping Motorola as a pressure point against Samsung.

Apple is looking towards cars and medical devices to ignite growth. Google should have made the former a priority a long time ago. I’ve been wanting to get Android in my car for a while, but it hasn’t been made easy.

Oddly, Windows XP gained market share in January.

Just when you think the tinkerers can’t tinker with something because it’s settled, they go an invent a new kind of doo.

Introducing the secret origin of masked superheroes and adventurers.

Peter Lawler makes the case that Man of Steel was about Plato’s Republic.

So there’s apparently a French superhero show called H-Man. Now with Fionna Apple.

A Chinese con artist is bilking people… with superpowers! Fake superpowers, of course.

Hit Coffee favorite Mark Mangino has lost 127 pounds and starting next season will be the offensive coordinator at Iowa State.

Category: Newsroom

“I don’t know what you expect me to be able to do about it,” said the woman at the counter when I told her my storage garage wouldn’t lock.

My to-do project this weekend (weekends these days are Friday and Saturday) included two important things: I was going to go to the recycling center and drop off a lot of the cardboard boxes that have been cluttering up the basement. Then I was going to take some other stuff cluttering up the basement and take that to the storage garage. In case you can’t read between the lines, I am trying to get a handle on the basement.

The initial plan was recycling on Friday and then garage on Saturday, but Clancy was slow getting out of bed from having been on call and it was too late to go to the recycling center. So off to the storage garage I went. It was apparent pretty quickly that it would require two trips. After the first trip, though, I couldn’t get the door to lock. I figured that it might be related to the accumulation of snow and ice that they hadn’t really bothered to clean up. So on my second trip, I took a shovel.

Shoveling the snow didn’t help, though. It still wouldn’t lock. So I worked at it and worked at it and had no success. At some point, I slipped on the ice and laid there in pain for about ten minutes while waiting to get movement back in my arms. Then I worked at it some more. No luck. They do keep Saturday hours (9am to 1pm), I confirmed, so I decided to slap the padlock on there so that it wouldn’t look so obviously unlocked, and then come back Saturday morning.

It was noon wherebouts when I was finally able to make my way back out there. Hoping that maybe the heat would unfreeze something that maybe had gotten frozen, I tried one more time on Saturday before going to the front office. No luck, so I went to the front office.

I explained my problems and she looked at me and said “Well, I don’t know what you expect me to be able to do about it.”

I honestly wasn’t sure myself. I was hoping that I was simply doing something wrong and that she could fix it. Other than that, well, the ball was in her court. The ability to lock my belongings away safely was not tangential to our lease agreement. Indeed, they wouldn’t even lease the garage to me unless I had a lock ready to slap on it immediately. It was pretty central to the deal. She wasn’t particularly surprised by my predicament, only that I couldn’t lock it. She was used to people not being able to unlock it which was the way it usually went. Not very confidence-inspiring.

Without my mentioning my fall, she took note of all of the ice and snow and was apologetic about it. I give her points for that.

Think of the lock of the door I am describing as being like those locks high-ish on the doors of hotel rooms where you flip the knob up and slide a bar across. Except that instead of flipping a knob, you just slide it over and then use a padlock to prevent people from sliding it right back. The problem I ran into below is that it wouldn’t slide. The reason I thought that the snow might be a problem is that it was vertical garage door and if it didn’t get low enough then perhaps the bolt wouldn’t go into the hole the same way a deadbolt won’t work if a door isn’t completely closed.

The solution to my problem was apparently a hammer. She just took out a hammer and pounded away at the lock until it lined up. I slapped the padlock on there and we were good to go. I can only hope that I will be able to unlock it again when needed. She said that it’s okay to use hammers or whatever else to get the stubborn locks to work and that if I break the whole thing wide open they won’t charge me for it. Fair enough, I suppose.

I had arrived at noon in part because I didn’t want to stroll in there right as she was about to leave. As it turned out, she was about to leave anyway and left immediately after helping me out. If I’d actually tried to arrive at the last minute, I would have been greeted with a “Closed” sign regardless of the posted hours from 9-1.

Clancy thinks we need to find a new storage garage. I think it’s worth a whole lot of trouble not to have to relocate all of our stuff. Besides which, if we buy a house, our new storage garage may well be a garage. Or we’ll actually have room for all of our stuff.

Category: Market

Following a dude to fixes power lines wearing a Faraday Cage from a helicopter:

Climbing up Shanghai Tower (650 meters):

Climbing up an antenna station (1800ft):

Category: Theater

LlamaHeadAdvanced Cell Technology, which is the only US outfit running clinical trials on embryonic stem cell therapies, is having some financial woes while the US and Japan are achieving a possible stem cell breakthrough.

Pollution from drilling the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta may be a lot worse than estimated.

In Texas, local residents are paying the price for fracking. Such things are one of my discomforts with fossil fuel exploitation, which I am generally supportive of. Not that there are these costs, as I believe under current constraints they are still outweighed by the overall benefit, but the mismatch between cost payers and benefit recipients is disturbing.

Kevin Williamson, meanwhile, writes a full-throttle defense of fracking.

I know at least couple creationists who will feel vindicated by the news that the Grand Canyon may not be as old as previously suspected.

Facebook knows when you fall in love and here’s how. I have previously written about how Facebook should take a greater role in establishing whether there is or is not a relationship.

Need up-to-the-minute dating advice? Here’s an app that lets you crowdsource your date.

If you’re a researcher and you’re asking a bunch of teenagers about sex, you might should consider that they are lying to you.

More online dating data! Use these words to be more attractive to women.

Lawyers are trying to sort out who owns a married man’s sperm.

How can we increase trust in driverless cars? I wonder if American litigiousness might result in their appearing abroad before they start showing up here.

Category: Newsroom

-{The following was my entry into Ordinary Times’s Love Symposium. Readers here are already familiar with the music video.}-

I honestly think that the above may be the most profound love song ever written.

Some time back, a girl with green eyes and I debated the merits of God and the belief in a single, completing person out there for us. I believed in the former and she did not, while she believed in the latter while I did not. The debates felt like we were going around in circles. I would be over here, and then she would be over here, then I would be over there and then she would, depending on what we were talking about.

What she didn’t understand was how love could be real if it was actually replaceable? If there are hundreds that you could successfully partner with, were any of the partnerships really successful? Or were they just tolerable. I didn’t have great answers at the time. It was just something that was. I wasn’t looking for a prosaic partner. I was looking for a life partner. A soulmate, in a way, but a soulmate chosen and cultivated rather than one ordained by the God I believed in and she did not.

Minchin focuses on the shared experiences of love, which is a perspective that I agree with a great deal. A life with a Portuguese skier who brews her own beer is entirely theoretical. And while he can come up with a million other possibilities, in joke form or in earnest, it is his wife who he married, had a child with, and so on. It’s not inertia that keeps people together (when they stay together) but a bond that really does grow over time. The thought of dropping everything to start over with someone else seems… silly.

The larger element, however, is not about the person who made the decision to get married at all. It’s about who that person becomes.

I didn’t marry the girl with the green eyes. I married the girl with the brown ones. Without getting into too many of the details, there was a choice involved. There was a moment, and a crossroads. I knew at the time that I would be stuck with a ghost in my mind imagining how things would be going on the other road. A lifemap that the girl with the green eyes herself had me draw out, once upon a time.

As things moved along, though, the conflict in my mind faded. It faded because of time and because of distance, but also because of something else: With each passing year, I was growing into somebody different from who I was at that crossroads. As my life changed, I changed. My wife was a big part of that change because I had to step up in some places and back off in others. I had to learn to control my temper and I had to learn to be the easygoing one without sacrificing my own wants and desires. She, too, had to make changes and had to learn things about herself that she wouldn’t have if I weren’t in her life. Her priorities had to start becoming mine, and mine had to start becoming hers.

The question I wish I had been asking myself – or asking myself more directly – is whether or not I liked the person that she brought out in me and whether or not I wanted to be that person. Had I done that, the answer would have been obvious. The girl with the brown eyes inspires in me a greater degree of honesty, integrity, and patience. The girl with the green eyes fed in to my temper, insecurities, and overall anxiety. It’s not fair to mention the positives on one side and the negatives on the other as neither are the sum of how they influenced me, but they are indicative of what would have lead me to the right conclusion. I made the right choice anyway, of course, but not exactly for the right reasons.

At Leaguefest in 2012, the group of us sat in a hotel-casino and chatted. It took me a few minutes to realize something: A few years earlier, the girl with the green eyes was married in that very building. The idea of getting married in Las Vegas was never something that had great appeal to me, though had things turned out differently I could see myself coming around to it. There are a lot of things I would be doing on that other road that I haven’t done on this one. It no longer matters whether or not I would be happy on that road or not, as the guy on that road wouldn’t be me. It is cliche to say that when you love someone, and are with them long enough, that they become a part of you. But on a fundamental level, it’s true because “me” is a construct influenced by the girl with the brown eyes more with each passing day.

She isn’t unique in this regard. There was a time when the girl with the green eyes was playing a role in my formation. The girl with the hazel eyes before that. They came and went, however, while my marriage to my wife is – I hope – indefinite. While the person I would be had I chose differently is a nice-enough bloke, full of intensity, passion, and moral certitude, and though we otherwise would have a remarkable number of things in common, I have a life and self that I look forward to.

Category: Coffeehouse

My TV consumption is relatively modest. I watch somewhere between one and two 1-hour programs a day. It’s not supposed to be good for babies, though it’s good for daddy.

Fortunately she’s not very interested in it for the most part. I don’t think she actually registers anything but that there are moving images and sounds. Once she repeated the words “High school” after somebody said it on the program, but that’s about it. She does recognize that some shows are more interesting than others. I had to stop watching cartoons because she will sit there transfixed.

Her favorite, though, is music videos. She loves music videos. In fact, I pretty much only watch music videos for her sake. When she’s upset, and nothing else works, music videos make her forget why she is upset. Since the bottle used to be our go-to for such things, it’s handy to have a substitute distraction. As soon as she’s calm, I’ll turn it off and we will go on about business as usual.

But regular live-action TV holds very little interest in her. Except opening sequences with songs, which I guess are like music videos.

I’m wondering how long my luck here will hold out. Especially since a lot of the stuff I watch is not really kid-appropriate. Very little in the way of cusswords, which is good because it means that she won’t be parroting those instead of “high school” (to date, the only word/phrase she has parroted). Even so, that’s something I am going to have to keep an eye on. No pun intended.

Category: Theater

Netflix is getting some bad press for deciding to stick with the plan:

“If/when DC shuts down for blizzard Thursday, Netflix would be smart to make new ‘House of Cards’ available one day early,” tweeted Alex Conant, the press secretary for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Hundreds of people agreed, and said so online. Fox News anchor Greta van Susteren replied to Conant: “You are right…one day early would be appreciated.” Someone even set up a petition on

A number of people have pointed out that Netflix’s business model is to give people what they want before they want it. So why not here? Heck, why not always? I mean, what’s the point of having a release date? They should just release each scene as they film it. Then we can decide how we want to watch it. Anything else is just screwing the customer!

Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but why not here? I can think of a really big reason: When this show is released, their servers are going to be crammed with people who maybe watch 5-10 hours of Netflix a month (if that, some people will subscribe to Netflix just for this) instead watching ten hours or so all on the same day. That sort of thing takes quite a bit of planning. Releasing a show ahead of schedule probably would have resulted in a whole lot of irate customers yelling at their monitor while their monitor calmly explains that it is caching video.

That’s my guess, anyway.

It actually speaks to what exactly Netflix is doing to us. It’s actually kind of odd that Netflix releases their programming in bulk while Amazon doesn’t. If anything, the incentives run the other way. Since Amazon goes by annual subscriptions, they have comparatively little to fear with people signing up for a month and then letting their subscription lapse. Meanwhile, Netflix almost certainly gets quite a few of one-and-done subscribers, including yours truly. So if the economics woe rk the way I expect, Netflix is really doing customers a solid. It could work the other way, wherein Netflix gets one-and-done subscribers that they wouldn’t if people knew they’d have to sign up for three months worth of service. But anecdotally, I would probably sign up either way. So if Amazon decides to do it one way and Netflix to do it another, I’d expect it to be the other way around.

Both of them, though, have incentives to release them piece-mail. It would probably be easier for Netflix’s servers if all of those people were watching one episode at a time. They could release them daily or something over ten days, though you’d probably still have a lot of people waiting until the next Saturday and watching it all then. Alternately, they could have planned it on a Monday and so people would have watched catch-as-catch can until their servers got hammered on Saturday. But instead, they released it on a Friday so that fewer people would have to wait.

Either way, though, server constraints is something that I would expect to have to be planned ahead of time and not subject to last minute “Snow day!” changes.

Sonny Bunch at the website that date not be named takes it a step further:

In all seriousness and without any hyperbole whatsoever: If you’re actually angry at Netflix for refusing to let you watch their product 12 hours early—if you’re legitimately whipping up a backlash because they didn’t give you exactly what you wanted exactly when you wanted it—you are terrible and you are killing America. Stop being terrible. Stop killing America. Show a modicum of restraint.


Category: Theater