Monthly Archives: June 2015

Problem: Dogs like to look out the window, but are too short to do so without standing on their hind legs.
Solution: Build a window seat for canines.

So my wife asked, “Do you think you could build a bench so the dogs can sit and look out the window?” Why, of course I can. And what’s more, I have nearly all the materials I need right on hand, in the ridiculous amount of scrap lumber stored beside my shed, some from finished projects, some from projects that never got finished (or even started, beyond a trip to the lumber store), and some from the bunkbeds I built eight years ago and tore down last year. And so it began. (more…)

Category: Elsewhere, Home

canadianpropagandaHow activists investors are improving our lives, Olive Garden edition.

Ever want to give a eulogy at your own funeral? Now, maybe, you can.

Ross Elliot argues that better suburbs make for better cities.

Fortunately for people who like their contact lenses, people in power like contact lenses, otherwise they might not be legal.

Is there really any way that gun control can work in the age of 3D printers?

I disagree with some of the examples of antagonists who were right, but I pretty much agree about Iceman.

Katerina Cizek argues that Canada needs to recognize that it is a nation of highrises.

Well this is a lovely story, if true. A man’s wife runs off with their daughter. Sixteen years later he finally tracks her down, discovers that she spent most of that time in foster care, and then is handed a bill.

According to Brookings, even controlling for the obvious factors, getting welfare correlates with unhappiness. They blame the stigma.

The rise and fall of Subway. There’s actually a case that this is less about Subway and more about the state of affairs of those who sell to those who are well off and to those who are not.

Professor Alan Matthews argues that Ireland should, in the words of Michael Brendan Dougherty, “stop making food its people can eat, start planting trees they can’t sell.”

Hayley Manguia reports that the class of 2014 is doing alright. Naturally, I’m more interested in the helpful chart about positive and negative outcomes for various majors.

Wait, there’s an equivalent of the Kelley Blue Book for… used sneakers?

Not only is the Great Inversion not really happening in the US, but Europe is suburbanizing.

Category: Newsroom

1) The political implications of this may be pretty significant. Though the numbers didn’t disfavor the GOP until more relatively recently, this issue was singularly a stumbling block with the GOP towards a significant portion of the electorate with outsized influence. They’re not going to go flocking to the GOP now, and wouldn’t if the GOP had switched sides sooner, but going forward more people might actually be willing to hear the GOP out. This, combined with the disparate impact in housing ruling (which may damage the Democratic Party in the suburbs), has enormous potential consequences for future political alignment.

2) I would have preferred that this be settled democratically, but some of my earlier concerns about bypassing public opinion hold less weight since public opinion on the issue has shifted. While marriage tends to be a state issue within certain parameters, this is a case where a patchwork of wildly different laws was not tenable. So I find myself not particularly inclined to get upset at the “judicial activism” here. As a practical matter, it is time.

3) I am happy with the result, though less than happy with the ruling itself. I wish that Kennedy had used a different bases for the decision. I’m a bit surprised that Roberts didn’t go along, though that might have been with the comfort of the outcome not being in doubt and had Kennedy waivered, he might have switched. Many of Roberts’s criticisms about the nature of the ruling seem on-point. I’m not worried that public approval of SSM will lead to public approval of polygamy, but am worried that this ruling may allow public approval to be bypassed.

4) That this was settled the way it was is due in good part to a failure of opponents to read the very clear writing on the wall and navigate the situation better once it was clear how this was going to turn out in the long run. Sometimes compromise puts you in a worse position by moving the Overton Window, but sometimes – as in this case – you’re merely propping up a dam that would will only burst with a greater flood when it comes down.

5) A significant chunk of the Democratic Party should be pretty ashamed of themselves. This all could have happened sooner – and with more democratic legitimacy – if they’d shown an ounce of courage on the issue. I’m not even talking about 2004 when there was a significant price to be paid, but between 2007 and 2012 when there wasn’t a huge price (or maybe even a price at all), and they declined to pay it anyway. They could have helped drive public opinion.

6) Twitter was pretty depressing. A lot of liberals seem less happy about their victory than that the other side lost. A lot of otherwise pragmatic conservatives seem to want to dig in rather than say “let’s move on.” This is in contrast to Facebook, which for once actually seemed more grounded in its response.

7) I don’t have a particular problem with states wanting to change the marriage process to avoid clerks being required to issue marriage licenses to marriages that they disapprove. I didn’t object wildly to plans in Oklahoma to do this, and I thought Alabama’s plan made good sense. The latter didn’t pass, and now we’re in a situation where clerks are refusing to do their jobs and gay couples are either left in limbo or having to county-shop when they shouldn’t. The likelihood of this ruling was known well before know. The time to make these provisions was this spring, when legislatures were in sessions. If you didn’t do it then, that’s not anybody’s problem but the state’s. If they want to try again, they can, but until then the county clerks need to do their job or be removed from their post. I support a right of any pastor – whether at a church, running a business, or itinerant – to refuse to perform these services. But public officials are public officials. A judge or JP may have absolute discretion over with whom to conduct ceremonies, but a clerk should issue licenses or file them without regard to personal beliefs. Our government simply can’t function otherwise.

8) I am unclear on what the social status of a rainbow confederate flag is (which I saw in several pictures during the brief window when gay marriage was previously allowed in Alabama).

Category: Courthouse


Some Tories are complaining that Cameron is rigging the EU referendum.

Though maybe it wasn’t actually a cigarette in Obama’s hand, I agree with Philip Bump that we shouldn’t really care if it was.

John Kasich has apparently decided to go Full Huntsman, breaking several of Dan McLaughlin’s rules (3,50,52, and 65) and removing himself from my list of credible candidates.

Amber Frost reports back (sort of) from the Commie Con, a gathering of leftists known as the Left Forum.

Erica Grieder expresses sympathy for the social conservatives in Texas, who had a disappointing legislative session.

The networks made fools of themselves ignoring Ron Paul in 2012. Is Fox continuing the tradition in 2016 with Rand? I find their explanation less than satisfactory.

The Republicans should use this data to keep Donald Trump out of the debates.

Among the more surprising about-faces on the Confederate Flag: The Southern Avenger.

I don’t think the use of the Confederate Flag in southern Italy and Donetsk changes the context here in the US, but it is interesting.

I enjoyed Lion’s account of his trip to Reno.

That fathers on television are portrayed as bumbling idiots is not new to Hit Coffee readers, but the thing about working class fathers being portrayed more generously than middle class ones is interesting.h

Amazon is changing how ebook authors are paid under Kindle Unlimited, from “must have read 10%” to looking at page count. Hit Coffee patron Abel passes along this defense of the plan. I’m wondering – and kinda hoping – that writers try to game the system by adding art to beef up their page count. More books should contain art. McMegan also comments.

Birds are scary, and smart.

Jonathan V Last argues the greatness of Jurassic Park. I watched it again earlier this year, and was really impressed by the movie’s pacing.

Will virtual reality help college football players practice more safely?

Saudi Arabia is claiming success in killing US shale drilling, but production in the US is rising as the drilling costs are falling.

Damon Linker looks at Vox’s terrible track record on ISIS, and touches on just about every problem I’ve had with the site since its inception. It has a roster whose writers I enjoy, and somehow made me enjoy each of them less together than I enjoyed them separately. Also, here’s the voxiest headline ever written.

Category: Newsroom

“Waitaminute. What happened to #Dontbackdown! Free speech is at stake here!” –Stillwater

burnbabyburnA small bit of backstory. Over There, we had a series of conversations about the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the free speech implications. There were two lines of thought. The first was that we should rally behind Charlie Hebdo and the notion of free speech. We’ll call this TFS (Team Free Speech), and consisted of James Hanley, Mr Blue, Oscar Gordon, myself, and others. The other side of the conversation consisted of people who believed that the murders were wrong and claimed varying degrees of commitment to free speech, but believed in the importance of expressing disagreement with Hebdo’s speech, defending those who express disagreement, and often against exercising one’s freedom of speech in support of such blasphemy in general. We’ll call this TAB (Team Against Blasphemy [2]) included Stillwater (who doesn’t participate here), Chris (who does), and others.

The conversation created a lot of bad blood, that still gets spilled in ostensibly unrelated threads. Stillwater’s above comment was a reference to it.

I’m not sure whether Stillwater was trying to point out an inconsistency within TFS, or mocking them for being indifferent to offensiveness, or both. It might have been both, the first for those who want the flag to come down and the second for those who don’t. I can’t really speak to the second, but as a TFSer who wants to see the flag come down, it does present an interesting question: Do people who would defend Charlie Hebdo’s offensive cartoons similarly defend the Confederate flag?

The issue, for me, is that context matters a great deal. While some TFSers might object to any criticism of any speech ever, or at least object to criticism of any speech they disagree with on the basis of “Free Speech”, that wasn’t really my position or how I read the position of the others. Most of the time, the justification (or lack thereof) in criticizing Hebdo depends almost entirely on whether the criticisms are correct. Which is to say “Are these cartoons offensive or should we defer to those who believe they are?” is the primary question of relevance.

Which changes almost immediately, though, when violent terrorism occurs. As soon as that happens, the context changes. Not permanently, and pretty immediately. At that point, I could care less if the cartoon was disrespectful. It’s beside the point. Conversations about whether or not we should say offensive things become out of place. In the context of blood a murder having just occurred, it’s really the murder that’s the important thing and any mention of objecting to the cartoons is an afterthought. I mean say it, or don’t, but if that’s your central point, I’m not particularly interested in your point of view.

Time has passed, though, and the context has changed. So if you want to talk about whether we should or shouldn’t make fun of religion in a way that makes people mad, we can definitely have that conversation. I find many of Hebdo cartoons to be rather defensible, but I think a lot of criticisms of Islam – including cartoons – are often things that are better left unsaid.

What about the Confederate Flag? This is where context matters. And I don’t see much inconsistency here. I want the flag to come down from the South Carolina statehouse. I want the emblem removed from Mississippi’s flag. Last week I approvingly tweeted a photo of people burning it. And though people have a right to fly the flag on their cars, I’d like them to take it down. I have no issue – whatsoever – of criticizing the Confederate Flag as bad speech that should be scorned.

But if someone bombed a Daughters of Confederate Veterans office building, or shot someone who had it flying on their car, then my objections to the flying of the Confederate Flag go on hold. And I would be (at least) biting my tongue on anyone whose primary interest in such a story is that the Confederate Flag is wrong, wrong, wrong. Yeah, it may be wrong, but in the aftermath of such a killing, it’s secondary. (And meanwhile, in our timeline, taking down the flag would be a thumb in the eye of the person who committed the violence.)

Would I put the Confederate Flag on Hit Coffee? No, for some of the same reasons that we didn’t republish Hebdo, and for some different ones as well. The first of those reasons are personal and not especially pertinent[1], but the second reason is a rather significant difference between the two. There is no ISIS for opponents of the Confederate Flag. There is no group of people where I believe that giving them what they want might encourage them to engage in more violence. There is no organized violent opposition to “Back down” from, assuming that the bomber or murderer either acted alone or as part of an otherwise-irrelevant group. But tweak the circumstances – and context – a little, and my views align perfectly.

But even though I have negative assumptions of people who put up the flag generally, in the context of violence having just occurred, I would consider it an expression of speech rather than an expression of support for the Confederacy.

[1] The first reason is that I am myself a southerner, and therefore I have to be particularly careful about such associations. It’s too likely the content of the speech would be considered endorsed, rather than the speech of the speech. The context for me, personally, as well as most white southerners, is inherently going to be unfavorable.

[2] In the comments, Chris says it was not so much blasphemy as mockery that he was objecting to, so wherever you read TAB, TAM (Team Against Mockery) may be more appropriate.

Category: Newsroom

Aaron Warbled (who may be the commenter here known as Aaron David) expresses pleasant surprise over the tide turning on the Confederate Flag.

Perry and Graham are both politicians who have seriously stepped in it on racial issues over the years and are people whom I never thought would be coming around on this. And I know that the reasons for this might not be the purest, they might be simple political calculations. But if the political calculation of southern Republicans now includes rethinking that flag, well that means the wind is blowing strong.

I am not from the South and have no attachment to the area other than through my Father-in-law. That flag means nothing to me and is definitely not part of my history. For all intents and purposes I am a fourth generation Californian who was raised in a small coastal college town. A one high school town that was approximately 1% African American, making many of these issues very far away and academic as I was growing up. I am in my forty’s now, with a son of my own. As he goes to college in my hometown he remarks often how white the town is. And while I have many African American coworkers, I never realized how whitewashed my vision was. And that was a vision of this as far away and never ending.

I am a little surprised about Graham, who turned an about-face over a couple of days. I’m less surprised about Rick Perry, who was involved in a similar – though slightly less contentious and high-profile – debate in Texas about fifteen years ago. And Mitt Romney, who I also mentioned, talked about his opposition to the flag while running in both 2008 and 2012.

And I am, to be honest, not very surprised about this at all. I won’t say that I knew it would happen, but from pretty early on I felt that the stars were aligned this time that it really actually could. First, because that’s where the murders occurred, but also because it’s an important primary state and I suspect virtually every important figure in the GOP had nightmares imagining a dozen candidates all pandering to South Carolinian pride at the expense of a general election viability. And for what? First, a series of states they’re virtually guaranteed to win in the general election. And second, and perhaps most important, the flag isn’t actually that popular in the South.

Most whites in the south are indifferent. In most states, its continued placement in such exaltation has been an indulgence of a small but loud contingent of the southern population, rather than an expression of popular sentiment. Further, over the last twenty-five years the class implications of the flag have become more noticeable, and you never want to be on the side of poorer people – even poorer whites – in a class struggle when they’re squaring off against wealthier whites (who may be even more opposed to the flag than black folks actually are). And when I saw that the South Carolina business community was involved, I knew it was probably over.

There just isn’t much percentage in it anymore.

It’s been a downhill roll since Governor Haley made her announcement. It’s taken an unfortunate detour to the private sector that means that it may exhaust itself before it gets to Mississippi, the other state under review. I say “unfortunate” reservedly. I’m actually glad that Walmart is taking it off the shelves. I sort of feel different about marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. Not because I want it to be easy for people to get a freshly-minted Confederate Flag, but because the policies sound so broad as to include anything containing the flag as well as legitimate historical artifacts. But my main issue is that it’s a distraction from related issues I consider more important: Mississippi, things named after confederate war leaders, and things along those lines.

Some have argued that this whole thing is a distraction from more pertinent issues related to the Charleston attack. I disagree. In part because I did view knocking the flagpole down as doable. A small, but significant and most importantly permanent change that can, over time, make more change possible.

Category: Statehouse

startrekwarsOne of the result of family-friendly policies is that women end up being paid less. Whenever Clancy interviewed for a job, I was always concerned that they would see her as a woman of reproductive age – with not a lot of time to spare – who would need some time off in the near future.

I was really surprised to discover that there was a lyme vaccination for our dog, since I knew that there wasn’t for people. Turns out that there is and we just can’t get it either because of anti-vaxxers or market failure.

Solar-powered airplane? Cool.

Erica Barnett looks at new rules in Seattle that would serve to limit density.

Has Silicon Valley been displaced by Austin?

Marshall Islands, where the US tested our nuclear weapons, is suing the nuclear-superpower world.

Men are more likely than women to be down with the idea of being time-traveling assassins.

Thirty embarrassing facts about thirty cities or so. I actually only knew about The Strip not being in Las Vegas proper because of UNLV being in the same townlet.

Average SAT scores and graduation rates track very, very closely (in California).

Danny Resnic contracted HIV, and has made it his life’s mission to build a better condom.

The Science of Ouch: Why it hurts so much when you stub your @$*@ing toe.

Some of those cute animal photographs you see have kind of a dark background.

I thought that everybody knew that Disney ripped off the Lion King?

Andrew Stuttaford argues that with regard to Snus, anti-tobacco advocates are putting purity and dogma before safety and science. What’s particularly frustrating about some of these prohibitions is that they prevent companies from advertising their product for what we want people to use it for: smoking cessation.

Category: Newsroom

I agree almost entirely with Megan McArdle’s critique of Lee Siegel, in his article on why he chooses to default on his student loans (NY Times Link). And I don’t particularly wish to defend Mr. Seigel, who, as McArdle says, presents what is perhaps the least sympathetic account of why he has defaulted. Mr. Siegel comes across to McArdle–and to me–as an entitled, even snobbish, person who doesn’t wish to live up to his freely-incurred obligations mostly because it’s inconvenient for him to do so. I’d also add, though McArdle doesn’t say this, that if, as Mr. Siegel urges, all who hold student loans boycotted paying them, then one possible consequence would be a huge curtailment of the loan program, such that others would not have the same opportunities that loans have afforded him.

But there’s a little bit of something in the article that does give me some sympathy, if not for Mr. Siegel’s situation, then at least for what some people face when dealing with student loans. It’s an image his opening anecdote evokes for me:

ONE late summer afternoon when I was 17, I went with my mother to the local bank, a long-defunct institution whose name I cannot remember, to apply for my first student loan. My mother co-signed. When we finished, the banker, a balding man in his late 50s, congratulated us, as if I had just won some kind of award rather than signed away my young life. [link omitted by GC]

By the end of my sophomore year at a small private liberal arts college, my mother and I had taken out a second loan, my father had declared bankruptcy and my parents had divorced. My mother could no longer afford the tuition that the student loans weren’t covering. I transferred to a state college in New Jersey, closer to home.

Here’s the image that snippet evokes for me. It’s the image of an 17- or 18-year old and his parents, who seem to not have had much or any experience with college or with how to play the loan game. Perhaps they all assumed that college was a guarantee of success in life, or perhaps they had met people with college degrees who had money and authority and whom they perhaps had to answer to at their jobs

They, I imagine, had talked to a recruiter for the small liberal arts college at which he found himself. Or perhaps they read the glossy pamphlets that such institutions send out, perhaps with bucolic scenes of campus life, photographs of attractive young students and older but good-looking professors with charismatic faces, and quotations from famous alumni about the value of a small liberal arts college education. Perhaps the recruiter or pamphlet offered some impressive statistics that showed a large number of students obtaining a BA (instead of dropping out) and going on to high-paying jobs or to professional or graduate degrees.

There’s something not quite right with that image ( and I admit I’m reading much into this that Mr. Siegel doesn’t offer). There seems to be something exploitative about it, and I might at a later date write how I believe it is exploitative. But it’s not clear to me what the solution is.

To make matters more difficult, we don’t need to assume bad faith on the part of anybody when the loan was taken out and when Mr. Siegel first matriculated. He and his mother probably really intended to pay back the tuition. The loan officer and the bank he worked for probably really believed that going to college was a good thing and that the loan would help Mr. Siegel. The program of government guarantees for loans was designed to help people like Mr. Siegel to expand their opportunities. The impressive statistics the small liberal arts college offered probably were accurate. And for all I know, maybe that particular college was responsible–expensive, but mindful of costs and really making an effort to give its students real value for their tuition dollars.

Category: School

Ed note: This post was published with an earlier draft. I’ve updated it to include more information.

Foose asks the following:

Hi there. I read your blog almost daily and always enjoy your posts, especially your baby and the dog.

I notice you like Lenovo Thinkpads and post on them. I am hoping you can give me some advice. The lid on my 2006 R60 is twisting off the hinges and screws, and the computer technician I consulted says it can’t be fixed. Do you have any recommendations for a good replacement from the current models?

I really just use my laptop to email, write, surf the Web and, most importantly, log in my company’s virtual desktop so I can work from home. I know you had a bad experience with a recent Thinkpad and of course there was the scandal about bloatware earlier this year. I really liked my Thinkpad, so I would love to get another one but maybe it’s not a good option anymore.

Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.

If you really want something top of the line, then I have no advice for you. I am personally going to keep getting T520/W520 until I hear that Lenovo has gotten the new iteration right.

I do not have any recommendations among the current models, alas. I did have that 540p for about a week last year (or maybe it was the year before) and I was really disappointed with the direction that they took and the iffy execution of it (specifically relating to the right/left click buttons. There were some things that were kind of cool about it (mostly aesthetic, but if you like a numpad it actually has you covered). This is not uncommon when they change things up. The first iteration of a new design is almost never its best, but by #2 or #3 they’ve actually improved it.

Along those lines, the best conservative bet would be getting a used T420, T520, or W520, depending on the size of monitor you want. Getting a x30 (T530 etc) instead of a x20 is fine also. You’d be on iffier ground by getting a x10 (T510 etc) and you should absolutely not get a x00 (T500 etc) because… first iteration. Your existing power cables would even work with these models. I would not skimp, however, when it comes to the model you get when you get used. You want an i7 processor, 6-8gm or RAM or more, and I would make sure that your resolution is 1600×900 or better. If it seems sluggish, you may want to get an SSD hard drive, but I would wait and see on that.

If you’re really hot to trot to get the latest model, my advice is somewhat more limited. I haven’t heard a whole lot about the x50 models. In terms of performance, a higher-end (i7) T520 has more in common with the latest and greatest than it does with your T60. Most importantly, you can upgrade RAM as needed. But some people want the new machine and the new warranty. In which case, I would get the T550 and hope for the best.

Category: Server Room

The first song starts at about 1:19, or click here.

A rockin’ song about living the reckless life:

A somber song about loves lost:

A song about moving on:

One more:

And another video:

Category: Theater