Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GPS Prevents You From Learning

I've had this thought about GPS (and know I've told people about it), and it's nice to see it validated by a real study.  If you use GPS navigation to get from point A to point B there's a really good chance that you will have no idea how you got there.  If, however, you look at a map (even mapped directions) and figure out where you are going.  You will then have to pay attention on the trip and will have a much better idea of where you are, how you got there, how to get back, and even how to get around problem spots that may occur.

I think GPS is great for navigation if you are someplace you are not likely to return (say on vacation, or a road trip), but it is a much better idea to get around without it as much as possible in the place you live.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Information Everyone Should Know

Considering that everyone (i.e. all the very serious people) know that high taxes hurt job growth...it should come as no surprise that they are wrong and high taxes don't hurt job growth.  They may actually help create more jobs as is now being seen in CA.  A couple paragraphs I like (in part because I've made similar points here 4 years ago):
Neumark said he asks his students, “Does raising income tax rates reduce hiring?”
“The answer is no. What firms care about when deciding how many workers to hire is the marginal product of workers and the marginal cost of those workers. So if you are an employer and your personal income tax rate is increased, that does not raise the marginal cost of your workers, but it may encourage you to work a little less hard,” Neumark noted, applying standard economic theory.
Some research into tax rates indicates that high rates have the opposite effect: People may work harder, trying to make more money to achieve a desired after-tax income and may slough off if tax rates are lowered.
Hmm...On the one hand I'd like to gloat about being right.  On the other it is so frustrating that the people who are constantly and so badly wrong have so much influence, that I can't really feel good about it.

Also in that article and following a recent discussion regarding high taxes driving people away and low taxes attracting them:
The empirical evidence also shows that the best-paying jobs tend to be clustered in states (and countries) with high taxes. The same tends to be true of wealth creators, including the most money-motivated among scientists, and existing wealth holders not actively engaged in business.
Manhattan, home to the highest taxes in America, is also home to many centimillionaires and billionaires drawn by the proximity of other dealmakers, as well as taxpayer-supported amenities such as museums and performing arts halls. [emphasis mine]
If you want to live in a really nice place that place being really nice costs something and that something is tax dollars.  So nicer places to live have to be higher taxed. Looking back on the first thing I bolded, you see this seems to be true even among people who have the freedom to live wherever they want: "those not actively engaged in business"--i.e. the retired and/or people who have inherited their wealth--should be most tax sensitive...they choose to live in high tax areas.

I understand that in government there is waste (less than people think) and abuse (ditto) and money spent on "things you don't like" (say, the military), but tough.  In the end, if you vote for and/or support tax cuts you are championing a shittier country/state/municipality than you currently live in.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Things I Wouldn't Know About If Not For the Internet

Giant Flemish Rabbit.  As tiny Elvis would say: "Woah, look at that thing.  Man that sucker's huge."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Always Good to Laugh When You're Down

Weird Al tends to provide that.  Plus, I can certainly be tacky too.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Goodbye Zoé

In January 2003 a cute and playful little puppy suckered me into bringing her home.  She was 3 months old at the time, playful, gregarious, and cute as they come, and she pooped in my car in the 2 miles from the shelter to my house...seriously pooped, like she must have weighed half as much when she was done pooped, and while she was small she wasn't tiny:
In the first year she managed to be very cute while destroying the carpeting in my apartment...and my recliners...and my boots...and my wallet...and my PDA (remember those?  Mine was a Sony!)...and the moldings...and the vertical blinds...and the feed line for the toilet (flooding the bathroom)...and the bathroom wall, removing insulation behind it...and eating a pound of the 50% off chocolate I picked up after easter--it didn't seem to do anything but give her colorful foil poop for a day or two.

But still, she was cute, so she managed to get away with all that...it was particularly cute that she did these things when I was gone because she missed me (everyone: "Awww!").  She was the devil, but that was ok.  Eventually she got through that phase, and no one who has met her since believes she was ever capable of such wanton destruction. 

In fact, pretty much everyone agreed she was the best dog in the world, including her...
She loved going for walks particularly at Wissahickon...
She managed to get herself invited onto stranger's beds...
She even put up with us when we would make her pose for silly pictures like this...
 And this...
And we couldn't just leave her sleep when she was being this cute...
She'd like you to think she was indifferent toward the cats
But we knew the truth...they were conspiring together...
At the young age of 9 she developed an animosity toward dead tree limbs that lasted through her final years...
And to anyone who doesn't think she was the best dog ever...she's got something to say to you...
In July 2013 she was diagnosed with lymphoma.  One round of chemo and a very short remission took her to January 2014, when the vets gave her 2-3 months (3 months with further treatment).  Because the chemo had been rough on her we decided to forego.  She decided that she should be around longer than that.  At least long enough to see us get married (remotely):

Zoé passed away on July 14 2014 after nearly twelve years on earth, eleven and a half with me, and a bit over four years with Debbie.  She will be missed, but really, now, it's...

Time for her to go exploring...

We love you Zoé.

Infused Water

I like cucumber water (generally with some lime juice), but most infusions don't do much for me because low temp extraction is just not very good: you use a lot of fruit for a pretty small effect.  Cucumber is an exception (watermelon works pretty well too), and cucumber seeds in particular.  In fact, splitting a cucumber (or two) and scooping the seeds out for cucumber water still leaves the rest of the cucumber for salad/salsa/whatever so you get the best of both worlds.  Maybe I should try the stringy goop around the seeds of a cantaloupe.

As for other things: muddled mint does ok but if you really want to get all the flavor out you have to cook that (hard, i.e. boil not steep), at which point you're maybe technically drinking infused water but most people would call it "tea", and other fruits certainly taste good infused, but in almost all cases, you get better flavor for less fruit by mashing and/or cooking them down and adding as a concentrate/juice/syrup.  Now if you are planning on eating the fruit out of your water, then go for it.

...also, alcohol does well for extraction so infusing a vodka or gin is useful, though its too bad cucumber infusions doesn't last long.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Are You Stupid? "Included for Free" Addition

First off, the answer is probably "yes" because we all are, and anyone who thinks they aren't is just being stupid.  Still, there are some varieties of stupid that are particularly egregious (see Justice Alito's recent opinion).  Try this fictional example...

Ferrari sells you a particular model of vehicle with every option "included for free" at $250k.

Porsche sells you a car with a base price of $130k and $120k in optional upgrades that bring it to about the same point as the Ferrari (yes, enthusiasts for one or the other will disagree but that's not the point here).

The question: Do you complain to the Porsche dealer that Ferrari includes their options for free?
The answer: Only if you are stupid.

This doesn't mean that one isn't better than the other at one thing or another, or that you wouldn't be better served by one or the other, but if you think the Ferrari options are "free" you are monumentally stupid.

"Included for free" means that the price is already factored into the base price of whatever you are getting.  Unless you are someone who needs all the included items, you are probably paying for things you don't need so that someone else who does can get them at a slight discount.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Bad Decision, Interesting Take

This sounds more hopeful than expectant, but about as good as one can do to try and feel better about the rather horrible Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby.  Essentially: the made up religious liberties of a business/corporation trump the civil liberties of its employees.

There really isn't any logical way to back the majority's decision.  One can hope that future cases will show what a horrid bit of legalese they've released upon the world and it will be overturned, but I have a hard time seeing that happening in my lifetime.  While our country and its people have become much more accepting in the last couple decades, it seems that our institutions are stuck at the turn of the [last] century.  It's no wonder people's confidence in all parts of government (and corporations) is in the toilet.