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India trip: recap, all the posts/pictures [Apr. 5th, 2015|04:32 pm]
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[Current Mood |pensivepensive]

Here they are!

India, week 1
India, week 2: wanderings, temples, and waterfalls
India, week 3: Delhi, a wedding, home

So, what went well and what didn't go well, so I can remind myself next time I go?

- Meals went well, partially because the hotel restaurants were better than last time, and partially because I got out and walked to dinner places more in the evenings. I also had Indian food most days for lunch instead of pizza, which I think is a net positive because the pizza tastes different than American pizza, and it weirded my stomach out.

- Getting out of the hotel more was good, but I didn't do great here. It's tough since I often got back to the hotel late and I would be tired and not want to go out. What I should have done is walked in the mornings more (since there's a beautiful park two minutes away), or gone to the gym in the evenings, or...something!

- I was lazy about setting up weekend plans with people, which almost totally backfired on me. I need to learn to be comfortable being more aggressive about such things.

- Instead of getting international service through AT&T, I need to just get a local SIM card, which is much cheaper and means I can leave my phone on so people can call me. Again, this came down to laziness. Bad!
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India, week 3: Delhi, a wedding, home [Apr. 5th, 2015|04:19 pm]
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[Current Mood |tiredtired]

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pre-Austin links: unregulated aggression, metro areas with gay populations, andre the giant [Apr. 2nd, 2015|03:49 pm]
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[Current Mood |contentcontent]

I'm leaving for Austin tomorrow! Here are some links!

- How Arizona State Reinvented Free-Throw Distraction - The Curtain of Distraction sounds pretty awesome! (and it works!)

- Argument Cultures and Unregulated Aggression - I catch myself doing this occasionally...something to work on. (thanks Adam!)

- Zombie Operating Systems and ASP.NET MVC - backwards compatibility is a harsh master! And 36 years is a long time...

- How to Stop the Stadium Wars - I have no problem with cities helping to build stadiums, but yeah, sports franchises don't need another way to avoid taxes. (remember, the NFL is a nonprofit organization!)

- The Metro Areas With the Largest, and Smallest, Gay Populations - honestly I'm a little surprised that Austin is so high on the list. But, yay Austin!

- Being Andre the Giant - sounds like he was a legitimately nice guy.

- Democrats Had A Sweet Response For Republicans Who Celebrated Texas' Gay Marriage Ban
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On the Indiana (and Arkansas) "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" [Apr. 1st, 2015|11:33 pm]
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[Current Mood |surprisedsurprised]

What an eventful week! To recap, Indiana passed a "Religious Freedom Restoration Act", then a bunch of people spoke out against it/boycotted the state, and now the governor says he wants it to be "clarified" that, in his words:
I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that his law does not give business a right to deny services to anyone.
Meanwhile, the governor of Arkansas changed course and said he would not sign a similar bill in Arkansas without changes. (Actually, I read somewhere the text of the bill is exactly the same as Indiana's)

I've read some commentary wondering what the big deal is, since there's a federal law passed in 1993 with the same name. I've also read a number of articles (at The Atlantic and The New York Times) saying it's different. So I decided to look at the text of the bill to try to figure it out.

And, um, it turns out bills are hard to read. Here, you try! I think the key point is in Sec 7:
As used in this chapter, "person" includes the following: (1) An individual. (2) An organization, a religious society, a church, a body of communicants, or a group organized and operated primarily for religious purposes. (3) A partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.
(bolding is mine) and the meat of the bill is in Sec 8:
a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability. (b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

So, the government can't burden a company's (or even an individual in a company's?) exercise of religion, even if the law is written in a religion-neutral way, unless there's a compelling government interest.

The tricky part is - what does that mean? If David and I walk into a hotel and the clerk doesn't want to give us a room together, is forcing him to do so a compelling governmental interest? (note that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title II outlaws this scenario for "race, color, religion, or national origin") I don't know, and I'm not sure how you could settle this and thousands of other scenarios without court cases.

It also seems pretty clear that the Indiana governor is wrong - the law certainly could be used as a defense for businesses who don't want to serve certain people, and why would this law exist if not?

(I'm deliberately avoiding the "forcing vendors to be involved in same-sex weddings" topic - as I've said before that's a trickier case and I'm not sure how I feel about it. But these laws are very broadly written. If the authors had wanted to limit the scope of the law to weddings they certainly could have...)

--

I know the libertarian response to laws like this is "just allow businesses to do whatever, and let the free market sort it out". Certainly in some cases government regulation can go too far, but if we're talking about common sense and decency at a limited cost I think the tradeoff is worth it to have a better society. It's like why we have health inspectors for restaurants - sure, we could let the free market figure out where people are getting sick after eating, but...why would you want that?

--

Finally, I'm very impressed that public opinion has managed to make something happen in Indiana and Arkansas. Thanks, allies!
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India, week 2: wanderings, temples, and waterfalls [Mar. 29th, 2015|06:46 pm]
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India, week 1 [Mar. 21st, 2015|11:33 am]
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[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]

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Just like last time I was in India, I'm going to try posting pictures/entries as I go. So far so good!

click for pictures! and words!Collapse )
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pre-India links: Monty Hall, privilege, pandhandling [Mar. 12th, 2015|05:17 pm]
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[Current Mood |calmcalm]

I leave tomorrow! In my absence, here are some links to chew on:

- The Time Everyone “Corrected” the World’s Smartest Woman - if you haven't read the saga of Marilyn vos Savant and the Monty Hall Problem, it's good stuff. Also a good reminder to not be a jerk if you're correcting someone, because you might be wrong, and then you'll look like twice the jerk!

- Straight Talk for White Men - Privilege is a real thing, and while that doesn't mean you can't have opinions about things, it's a good idea to a) recognize that you do have privilege b) be aware that you have unconscious biases and try to work against them.

- States Weigh Legislation to Let Businesses Refuse to Serve Gay Couples - ugh. Although it seems like these sorts of bills aren't likely to pass in more than a few states (looking at you, Alabama, on general principles!)

- The Millionaire Panhandler: Separating the Facts from the Myths Surrounding Panhandling - spoiler alert: they're not millionaires.

- Meet the man who could own Aviva France - the short version is: allowing people to buy stock at last week's price is a crazy, crazy idea.

- Interviews with Oscar voters reveal they are kind of awful, vaguely racist - well, that was disillusioning. Here's a link to the whole collection of interviews if you'd like to maximize your disillusionment. (stop voting in categories when you haven't seen all the movies, people!)

- Microwave Oven Diagnostics with Indian Snack Food - clever!
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Going back to India [Mar. 2nd, 2015|03:02 am]
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[Current Mood |awake]

Well, I'm going back to India in less than two weeks. Last time I was there for two weeks, this time I'll be there for three weeks.

It's been two years since I traveled there, and a lot of things have changed for me at work, which are combining to make me pretty nervous about going. Also, three weeks is a long time (longer, even, than two weeks!) so I'm going to have to stay vigilant and keep busy and not just hole up in the hotel room all the time, lest I get cabin fever.

On the plus side, the Cricket World Cup will still be going on while I'm there!
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Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time review [Feb. 20th, 2015|08:35 pm]
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[Current Mood |relaxedrelaxed]

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the TimeScrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My philosophy on books tends to be something like: if you can get something useful out of it, then do so, even if you have to wade through less good parts. I got some useful things from this book about the philosophy of Scrum and how it should work. The less good parts are the hyperbolic claims about how Scrum is going to change the world. I like Scrum, but I don't think I buy all the hype. (also, the author rated his own book 5 stars on Goodreads, which I think says something...)

View all my reviews
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link friday: US schools, making the New York Times, baseball [Feb. 20th, 2015|03:42 pm]
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[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]

- You've heard that US schools are only like 30th best in the world, right? Well, it turns out if you exclude schools that have a lot of poor kids our schools rank way better. The root of the problem seems to be poverty. (thanks David!)

- How The New York Times Works - pretty interesting series of vignettes about the people that make the New York Times.

- Frame Jobs - an article about baseball statistics _and_ it praises Brad Ausmus! Short version: catchers really can make their pitchers better.

- In defense of boredom: Why your phone is killing your creativity - yeah, I'm not very good at this...something to work on, I guess.

- Top 10 Lifehacker Posts of All Time - pretty useful stuff!

- Do Gays Unsettle You? Same-Sex Marriage, Republican Scorn and Unfinished Work - yeah, the laws are changing so fast but attitudes change more slowly.

- Nobody Understands Debt - a country being in debt is not like a household being in debt!

- Napping reverses health effects of poor sleep - hooray for naps!

- If you like logic puzzles and/or/math, here's a neat puzzle about, well, information theory.

- The Man Who Destroyed America’s Ego - interesting story about one of the people who punctured the "self-esteem bubble".

- Why Walmart Raised Its Wages - yay! The market works! (today, anyway)
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