moldybluecheesecurds 2

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Social security - it IS security

66 percent — 66 percent — of Social Security beneficiaries 65 and older derive more than half their income from the program. A third of beneficiaries derive 90 percent or more of their income from the program.

Toss the Q-tip

The latest research says trying to remove excess ear wax only causes more problems.  The best move?  Leave it alone.
"The conclusion is that the mere presence of ear wax does not require anything," Roland said. If the ears are functioning, and there is no problem, most people should do nothing. And that includes resisting the urge to use a cotton-tipped swab to clean out the ear, he said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Obama's economic message

It's not pithy or succinct, but it's insightful as only a longer essay can be:  Obamanomics.  Obama also shares that he really loves the following quote from Robert F. Kennedy, about the true measure of economic prosperity.
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

Beijing Olympics: a resounding success for everything but democracy

Thank you, Jay, for being one of a few Olympic journalists to actually scrutinize the Games in the context of the real world.  This short story notes that the Games were a huge success for host country China, but a real failure in pressuring the Chinese to open their political system and allow basic political freedoms.
Around the sports, there were promises broken. The major Catch-22 was the so-called protest zones. Those alone are not unusual. At the U.S. political conventions in Denver and St. Paul, similar zones for demonstrations have been set aside. They were established in Athens and Sydney, too, for previous Games.

But here, it's been reported in the Western media, if a Chinese citizen applied for a protest permit, they instead were arrested. (emphasis mine)

...As for Darfur and Tibet, they were distant shouts amid the festive din. The only news was that visas were denied to Darfur advocates. It's too bad there was such a news blackout.
Hard to believe that before the Games began, there were a number of highly respected journalists and democracy advocates calling these the Genocide Olympics.  All I heard about was Michael Phelps.

P.S. Though he was awesome.

Overcoming butterfly ballots

Election officials are gearing up for a predicted massive turnout for the 2008 presidential election, trying to ensure an adequate supply of ballots, voting machines, and election judges (I'm one!).

One of the big hang-ups in obtaining a smooth and accurate tally is actually the ballot itself, which can be designed more carefully to make it easier for voters to register their true intent.  Check out this interactive feature on ballot design.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Second personalities in video games

One of the classic highbrow defenses of videogames is that they allow you to experience new personalities -- to, in the words of Sherry Turkle, create a "second self." This is considered supremely healthy, because self-exploration is generally a good thing.

But what happens if the second self you create inside videogames turns out to be a total dick?
Click through for an insightful look at how video games allow us to try on different personalities and sometimes unlease the inner douchebag.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Charting health care

Paul Krugman provides an illustration of the presidential candidates' health care plans versus "busienss as usual."  While no one covers everyone, Obama's plan is the only one that shrinks the number of uninsured.

Stop the phone books

Via Lifehacker -

Finally, a way to stop receiving phone books.  Are they good for anything anymore?  At my house, they've gone straight from doorstep to recycling bin for years.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Autographed copy of Plato's Republic

From the Best of Craigslist
Date: 2008-07-09, 11:00AM CDT

1st edition of The Republic signed by its author. There is of course a reasonable amount of wear and tear, (light highlighting and underlining, dog-eared pages, back cover missing, etc.), but it is in overall good condition considering its age.

First come first serve

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sans email

C'mon, Google...

Stopping the stupid in energy policy

Two NY Times columnists have illustrated the stupidity of American energy proposals in the last week.  And sadly, they both recognize that we have a serious lack of political will to meet the energy challenge.

Last week, Paul Krugman noted that the GOP is making a name for itself as the "know nothing" party - proposing simplistic and naive "solutions" for energy problems and calling detractors terrorists or French. 
What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”
But it's not just Republicans that are selling America short.  Friedman tours the Scandinavian countries and marvels at their commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Hotel hallways have lights on sensors in Greenland.  Half of Copenhagen commuters ride bikes and 20% of their electricity comes from wind turbines (in the U.S., it's 1%).   

The Danes responded to the 1973 Oil crisis with a commitment to being free from foreign oil addictions.  They made gasoline cost $10 a gallon and juiced their economy by lowering income and other personal taxes. 
In 1973, said [climate and energy minister] Hedegaard, “we got 99 percent of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero.”
Back home, both presidential candidates are proposing to add to offshore drilling and even tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to give addicted Americans another hit on the oil bong.  Where's the vision?  Even the previously-staid Al Gore has a better offer - getting 100 percent of our electricity from renewable, domestic resources in 10 years

Now that's worth voting for.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Obama's Energy Speech

From Time Magazine

The short term:
  • Offshore drilling, requiring oil companies to use existing leases first
  • Tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (boo!)
  • Grants and loans to help automakers retool for fuel efficient cars

The longer term:
  • $150 billion over 10 years to get
    • 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2014
    • $7000 tax credit per car
    • 4% increase in mileage standards each year
    • Better battery technology
    • 10% of energy from renewables by 2012
    • Extend renewable tax credits for 5 years
    • 6 billion gallons from next generation biofuels by 2022 (actually less than the current goal, as far as I can tell)
    • Reduce electricity demand by 15% by 2020
    • New buildings 50% more efficient by 2012
The not-insignificant individual contribution: inflate your tires properly.  If everyone in the U.S. had properly inflated tires, we'd save 4% of our oil consumption, more than we'll ever get from offshore drilling.   Mocking this means you love giving terrorists our oil money.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Lane ends, 200 feet. Do you merge?

A fascinating essay on the ethics of merging from this weekend's NY Times Magazine.  Are you a rule-following "lineupper" or a "sidezoomer"?

Although the personal stories of anger and frustration are a treat themselves, the most interesting is the traffic theorists who note that a "zipper merge" at the point of lane closure is the most efficient outcome.  (And clever exits and re-entries are perfectly legitimate, as well). 

A year or two ago, I was traveling on I-35 and the traffic signage specifically asked motorists to use both lanes and to alternate entering the remaining lane.  Like the unified checkout at the retail store, it should only be a matter of time before we implement the zipper merge. 

Costly gasoline hurts exurban house prices

The big lot and spacious house doesn't seem so great when you have to drive your 12 mpg Denali 45 miles each way to work.  The Washington Post has some great graphics showing how housing prices in the core of DC have increased while the housing crisis is gutting exurban prices by 26% in the past year.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Smart: the Obama that was

Obama has come out in favor of releasing some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help reduce gas prices.  This is a bad idea because it's 1) short-term "fix"; 2) a political and not strategic use of the reserve; 3) counter to the principle of conservation and energy independence. 

There's an even better reason not to discuss it:
“We're arguing over a gimmick that would save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say they did something,” said Obama. 
That was his comment about a federal gas tax holiday for the summer.  It's true here, too.