Monthly Archives: November 2014

babycageZack Morris was kind of a scumbucket.

Aaron Renn praises the boring city, which he argues is mostly code for “stuff I don’t like.”

A WWII veteran was given a Viking funeral by the coast guard.

Brian Palmer’s piece on his secular discomfort with medically missionaries got a lot of (mostly negative) attention, though I personally applaud its honesty. Matthew Loftis looks at the role of evidence in medical missionary work.

Marriott apparently made a habit out of jamming signals to get you to sign up for its WiFi service. Turns out, not only is that scummy, but it’s against FCC regulations. (This is also why, for instance, movie theaters can’t disable phones to prevent disruption of the movie.)

Tanya Basu writes about the gender politics of pockets (and smartphones). It does seem to me that a lot of women’s clothes are impractical. Then again, I’m the guy who wears a phone holster and thinks everybody should be wearing utility belts (or at least belts, for chrissakes).

Yeonmi Park escaped from North Korea, and lived to tell the tale.

An estranged daughter in New Jersey took her parents to court over college tuition and won.

Batkid‘s cancer is in remission.

If there is a person that washes rent-control beneficiaries more than this guy, I’d love to hear about it.

My latent skepticism towards solar and wind energies revolve around price (not there yet but getting closer), scalability (progress!), and reliability (hurm).

The president of France is now easier to impeach.

This update on the state of DC Comics is giving me a headache. I have felt for some time that they needed to blow it all up and start over. Which it sounded like they were about to start to do, but they couldn’t even do that all the way, and now they can’t even do half-measures right.

Category: Newsroom

It used to be a custom to pose the dead and take pictures of them. Little Things has the scoop, and some pictures:

Turns out Victorians were actually massive weirdos by today’s standards. They stampeded over one of our most sacred taboos nowadays – our rituals when it comes to death and dying. These days, we have pretty traditional funerals replete with church services, hymns, and visitors of all times – but you wouldn’t be caught dead with a camera in a funeral.

Victorian times were a bit different. In this dark era, people didn’t call for the coroner after a loved one died. THEY CALLED FOR THE PHOTOGRAPHER FIRST.

Welcome to the creepy yet fascinating world of Victorian Post Mortem photography – and, yes – it’s EXACTLY what it sounds like:

It is a bit cringe-inducing for a moment, but for me it only lasts a moment. Past that, it mostly seems kind of sad to me. We are blessed to live in an age where photography is ubiquitous* and so there doesn’t seem like there’s much point in taking pictures of the dead. But back then, having your picture taken was more of a special event, and you needed something to remember them by. Particularly, as in the case of a lot of these pictures, when the deaths were young.

A lot of things that seem weird make more sense in the proper context. It’s cliche to say that things that seem normal now will be viewed as strange. But in some ways, it’s the why that matters. It’s not necessarily that our great-great-great-grandchildren will be more evolved (thought they might). It’s more that social advancement will make things we do now seem weird because whatever the thing is that makes us do it now won’t be an issue anymore.

Beyond that, it’s not like what we do today with dead bodies isn’t pretty icky, when you think about it:

The eyes are closed, often using skin glue and/or plastic flesh-colored oval-shaped “eye caps” that sit on the eye and secure the eyelid in place. The mouth is closed and the lower jaw is secured, either by sewing or wires. If the jaw is sewn shut, suture string is threaded through the lower jaw below the gums, up and through the gums of the top front teeth, into the right or left nostril, through the septum, into the other nostril, and back down into the mouth. Then the two ends of suture string are tied together. If the jaw is wired shut, a tool called a needle injector is often used to insert a piece of wire anchored to a needle into the upper and lower jaws. The wires are tied together to securely close the mouth. Once the jaw has been secured, the mouth can be manipulated into the desired arrangement.

The body isn’t particularly made to be presentable after death. But whether we’re propping them up for a photograph or draining their blood and replacing it with formaldehyde, it’s all a part of the same effort.

My father expressed a wish a long time ago to be cremated. Which I didn’t understand at the time. The more I learn about the alternative (and the more I think about it generally), the more I want to go that route myself.

* – Seriously, thank the good heavens that Lain was born in the age of the digital camera. I have pictures of her for just about every week she’s been alive. It’s amazing, when you think about it.

Category: Newsroom

HeadUpsideDownRather than taking potshots of the North Dakota oil boom from DC or NY, Maya Rao actually went to western Dakota and wrote her account. (The article itself is more mixed than the headline.)

Laura Dattaro says that we need to stop babying Mars.

Andrew Burstein argues that we need a new Constitutional Convention. I shudder at the prospect.

It turns out that there are a bottom to the previously-assumed bottomless market for luxury condos in tight markets.

That time when Londoners volunteered to give up their first born for WiFi. (It’s actually a fascinating glance at WiFi security.)

Ben Franklin: Security risk.

GM and Ford are being sued over a new feature that allows you to rip CDs in your car.

The UK is legalizing parody works and media backups.

Drew Magary writes about the problem with Problem Blogging, by way of sociological criticism of “Too Many Cooks.”

Meet Millie and Clem Mintz, married for 75 years.

State Rep Dan Flynn (R-TX) wants to abolish Daylight Savings Time in the Great State of Texas. Godspeed, Rep Flynn. Godspeed.

The source of Grubergate is apparently one of those people who lost their insurance plan on account of PPACA.

Nate Silver says we shouldn’t be worried about polls that are outliers, we should worry when there aren’t outliers.

Onion for sale! Onion for sale! The Onion, that is. Maybe.

Some have been trying to explain the 2014 results as a failure of Democrats to get out and vote. The thing is, the Democratic field operation was probably a success.

Category: Newsroom

pukechipsAncient Egyptians used d20 die.

Professional porn industry is in something of a death spiral, thanks in large part to piracy. Grant Stoddard says that the future may be in custom porn.

Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/IS) tried to win converts by reversing a smoking ban. So remember, if you support smoking bans, you’re worse than terrorists.***

I’ve seen a few people cite some California figures suggesting that the entire rise in student tuitions in California has been due to decreasing state support. It turns out that the numbers are flawed, and Andrew Gillen knocks them down.

CR Wiley argues that Shakers have liberaled themselves into oblivion.

Conor Williams thinks too much focus – and particularly too much negative focus – has gone to Teach For America.

The cost of becoming cool: Nashville’s Music Row is becoming Condo Row, and Ben Folds is among those affected.

As Constance Manzanares drowned, the police actively threatened to arrest the Samaritans that had tried to save her.

It’s a good thing that barber shops are so tightly regulated, because it gives SWAT teams the opportunity to poke around in service of the War on Drugs.

Online classes work! According to a study, anyway.

The Saturday morning cartoon is finito. For those longing for a bit of nostalgia, here are the Saturday morning TV schedules in the eighties.

Brent Rathgeber (MP) on the Americanization of Canadian politics.

Category: Newsroom

The Thinkpad T60-series is among the best series of computers ever produced. I have purchased several, and some of them still work despite being released in 2006.

The only big problem with them is that they overheat. Badly. And it gets worse as they age, even if you replace the fan, clean it out, etc.

It can be enough to make them borderline unusable, because once they reach 90-degrees, they start rebooting or going into sleep mode, and you have to wait for them to cool down before you use them again.

Since the weather has gotten colder, though, they’re much less inclined to overheat. Which sort of makes them default winter laptops, because right now they are extremely usable.

Until we start trying for Kid #2. Then I’ll have to get the still-warm laptop off my lap.

Category: Server Room

A town in Massachusetts was looking at becoming the first in the country to ban tobacco products:

This sleepy central Massachusetts town of 7,700 has become an improbable battleground in America’s tobacco wars. On Wednesday, the Board of Health will hear public comment on a proposed regulation that could make Westminster the first municipality in the United States to ban sales of all tobacco products within town lines.

‘‘To my knowledge, it would be the first in the nation to enact a total ban,’’ said Thomas Carr, director of national policy at the American Lung Association. ‘‘We commend the town for doing it.’’

Town health agent Elizabeth Swedberg said a ban seemed like a sensible solution to a vexing problem.

‘‘The tobacco companies are really promoting products to hook young people,’’ she said, pointing to 69-cent bubblegum-flavored cigars, electronic cigarettes and a new form of dissolvable smokeless tobacco that resembles Tic Tac candies. ‘‘The board was getting frustrated trying to keep up with this.’’

It… didn’t end well:

Emotions flared at the hearing, where about 500 people crowded into an elementary school gym. When one resident loudly pronounced himself “disgusted” that the board would make a proposal that infringed on personal choice, the crowd roared with approval.

After several failed attempts to bring the hearing to order, chairwoman Andrea Crete gaveled the session to an end. As police shadowed Crete out of the building, many in the audience broke out in a verse of “God Bless America.” Opponents also collected signatures on a petition to recall the three elected board members.

“It was going to get out of control,” Crete said later. “We don’t need any riots.”

According to a Selectman, it was voted down unanimously.

And this, apparently, is where the slippery slope ends. Or, at least, this slippery slope. There are still plenty of places that people are allowed to enjoy cigarettes, and they will presumably be targeted until everyone has to commute to Iowa.

Restricting sales is likely to be much more difficult than restricting smoking. The “second hand harm” argument doesn’t really fly for it. That in and of itself doesn’t really matter all that much these days, though. What really matters is that livelihoods depend on this. Not evil tobacco company execs and their minions, but neighborhood convenience stores.

As mentioned in the articles, this is a really big deal. Smokers do a lot to keep these places afloat. Not just by buying cigarettes, but by getting other things when they come in to buy cigarettes. When we bought our house, I made a mental note of where the nearest convenience store was. This was important because… wait, I don’t need to know where to get cigarettes anymore, do I? And with that (or without that), my convenience store food and drink purchasing has fallen dramatically. It’s difficult to over state, really.

So a plan like this was bound to meet with a lot of resistance. Ban tobacco sales, and convenience stores will go out of business. Not all of them, obviously, but some of them.

Which is actually kind of a shame. Because you know what? I almost support this proposal. Almost. I think it’s a bad idea to do it on a township basis. You’d (at least potentially) be destroying businesses in your township as smokers start not only getting their cigarettes (and food and drinks) elsewhere, but also their gas and whatnot. No, you’d need to do it statewide. Except that’s overkill.

But if you want to look at the Next Great Way to reduce smoking, it’s getting them out of convenience stores and into tobacco shops. If you’re trying to quit smoking, convenience stores remain one of the biggest ways to relapse. If you’re a young person that might kinda-sorta be interested, there they are right there. You could quite easily continue to allow smokers to purchase tobacco products while at the same time reducing temptations and creating a safe space for would-be quitters.

The two big problems with this are, of course, the damage that this would do to convenience stores, and slippery slope concerns. This failed, and so the slope is ended, but if they actually got them out of convenience stores, the precedent would indeed be set and the temptation would be great to start regulating tobacco stores into the ground. Which in and of itself could backfire if encourages smokers to buy cigarettes by the carton, which increases consumption among the damned.

So in the end, this was likely a non-starter and will continue to be except at the sorts of places that don’t actually need convenience stores (as such), which makes it less likely to spread like wildfire the way that smoking bans did. I still wish that there were a way to get them out of convenience stores, especially if you would allow those convenience stores to carry ecigarettes (“I can’t find a smoke, maybe I’ll try one of those things. Hey, these aren’t mad. Maybe I should go with these instead”) but the War on Tobacco remains a war, and we have long-since forsaken reasonable policy as the pendulum swung from one extreme to another.

Category: Courthouse

TrashyWomenGeorge Doe gave his parents the gift of divorce, by way of genetic testing. Meanwhile, a similar story with a happier ending, as a woman from Virginia found her uncle, cousins, and the identity of her father using DNA.

Russell Saunders objects to parents needing a doctor’s note to let their kids stay home from school. I concur.

Men on OKCupid (mostly) adhere to the half-plus-seven rule, and women overwhelmingly do.

Midland (TX) schools are developing a Petroleum Academy.

PEC argues that the Catholic Church needs a new dating script to replace the current sexual and emotional chaos.

Compact Discs are so yesterday… except in Japan.

If you want to live the good life, head south to… Panama?

The Boston Globe sounds the alarm on age segregation. Honestly, in some ways I wish that we had a bit more of it than less of it.

Paul Krugman (echoing the thoughts of many others) argues that the housing costs of our nation’s talent hotbeds are causing economic inefficiency on a macro scale. Dietz Vollrath argues that maybe we should actually hasten the exodus, since it doesn’t matter where the best and brightest live as long as they life together, and there’s more room in Houston and Atlanta.

Mara Gordon has an account of her decision to go into primary care medicine. Our lives have improved immensely since Clancy left clinic work behind.

We need to import more IT workers because firms in the US just can’t find good people. Unless you make any sort of small mistake, in which case your resume will be discarded because it’s a fiercely competitive market.

You can make teachers happier by doubling their pay, but it won’t necessarily help student learning.

Category: Newsroom

20141013_175425When I was growing up, I had a very sturdy build. Mom called me Fatboy way before I was anything approaching overweight. Lain shares my build. Like me at that age, though, she isn’t particularly fat.

Unless you ask some random lady at Walmart, anyway.

Last week I was at Walmart and Lain was reaching for some candy. A woman with her daughter were in the aisle with us. The daughter said that she wanted that candy. The mother said “You don’t want that candy, it will make you fat like her.”

I tried to glance behind me, mortified by whatever overweight lady had to be standing behind us. There was nobody behind us.

I don’t know if the woman herself was simply obese or actually morbidly obese, but she didn’t have a discernable chin either way. The daughter herself (between five and seven, I would guess) was starting to carry some extra baggage and the prognosis did not look good. So I guess I can sort of understand why she might be concerned. And, out of a sense of pride or dignity or something, why she wouldn’t use herself as a cautionary example.

I am still dumbfounded that she chose my daughter as some sort of cautionary tale. The best I can think of is that she didn’t really look at Lain and assumed that anybody shopping at Walmart late on a Sunday evening (around nine or so) was probably overweight.

I didn’t have a response. I was too confused to. Not that I would have said anything anyway. (Clancy wishes she was there, because she would have.)

Lain did not eat anything for dinner that night. We are hoping that this is not going to give her an eating disorder.

Category: Market

There is a monthly service that I use that I wish to upgrade from the $7/mo plan to the $10/mo plan.

They won’t let me give them more money in exchange for a higher tier of service.

To repeat, I want to give them more money than I currently do, for a service they provide, and they won’t let me.

When I emailed them to ask how to upgrade, they said “Just stop the monthly payments.”

So I did. The deadline has expired, but they haven’t cut off my old services, and won’t let me upgrade as long as I am on the old plan. I try and it tells me that there is already an active service on the account. I try to set up a new account, and it automatically links the new account to the old account, complete with a “Good news! We found your existing account!”


I am about to create an account under my wife’s name.

All so that I can start giving them more money.

Category: Server Room


Dr. Phi ponders the difference between responsibility and license.

James Fallows seems pretty excited about the climate deal worked out between the US and China. It apparently took a lot of work. John Kemp and Tim Mak, however, are less impressed. The major concession that China is making, was already believed to be the case two years ago.

A Russian lawmaker thinks there need to be a bunch more Putins, and propose mailing women his sperm so that they might produce them. Patrick Smith at Salon might approve.

Once upon a time, the SS United States was one of the most remarkable watercraft in the United States. Now it sits in decay, paying dock rent of $60,000 per month.

Sweden has a lot of the laws (and culture) that people here say we need to help women in the workplace, and the result isn’t all that different than here. Ditto Norway.

A third of all divorces in 2011 contain the word “Facebook.”

Gary Ries picks up recycling bottles and cans from city trash cans in San Diego, helping the environment and making a little bit of money. The city seeks to put a stop to that.

Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, a truly great record, turns 20. Man, I feel old.

Megan McArdle goes to bat for alimony.

Taylor Swift, whose eight seconds of static made it to #1, opts out of Spotify. It would stand to reason that more big artists would benefit from doing the same, which makes me wonder if Spotify won’t eventually become something of a platform for discovery.

Politicians often follow polls, but when they don’t they have the ability to actually help shape public opinion.

Category: Newsroom