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friday linked list: the woman's card, workers income, lead is bad [May. 20th, 2016|03:05 pm]
Greg
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]

- Trump Plays the Man’s Card - Trump accusing Hillary of playing the "woman's card" is just so dumb. It's so dumb, you guys!

- Workers Are Getting a Bit More of the Economic Pie (and Shareholders Less) - unexpected hooray!

- More Evidence for Lead Poisoning as Key Crime Driver - Lead is bad, and there's growing evidence banning lead in gasoline, etc. causes the big drop in crime in the 1990s. According to the study, "cities that used lead pipes had between 14 and 36 percent higher homicide rates than cities that did not", which is a pretty huge result! For more depressing facts about lead and why it took the US until the 1970s to ban it, see The Nightly Show's Super Depressing Deep Dive.

- Millennials' Political Views Don't Make Any Sense - some of this is unfair (58% of Millennials want to cut taxes overall, but 66% want to raise taxes on the wealthy: there's no contradiction there!), but there are definitely some confusing results in there.

- The day we discovered our parents were Russian spies - crazy!

- Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet - bodies are complicated. (thanks David!)

- Simulating Instant Runoff Flips Most Donald Trump Primary Victories - related to what I mentioned last month, it does in fact look like doing Instant Runoff voting in Georgia would have let Rubio win instead of Trump.

- Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares - as the article says, "Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts", and even (or especially?) in the wealthiest classrooms black and Hispanic children are behind white children. Siiiigh.

- When Elite Parents Dominate Volunteers, Children Lose - a kind of sad look at when parents forget that not everyone can afford what they can. (thanks Christi!)

- Cops can ignore Black Lives Matter protesters. They can’t ignore their insurers. - interesting!

- The Failed Promise of Legal Pot - an interesting look at why people still sell marijuana illegally in Colorado.
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The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith review [May. 15th, 2016|09:15 pm]
Greg
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The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian FaithThe Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great book! It's short and (mostly) to the point. The author looks at the parable of the Prodigal Son. While the younger brother is wrong for turning his back on his family, the elder brother is just as wrong for failing to welcome the younger son back into the family upon his return.

Dr. Keller points out that in modern times, most people focus on the younger brother because it's easier to understand why what he did was wrong. But he points out that there many churches that are filled with "elder brothers" in that they are looking to judge other people for what they've done. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you obey God, therefore you deserve salvation, and other people don't deserve it as much. But the truth is that Christianity says that we are all saved through grace - and if we weren't, no one could "deserve" it on their own! This way of thinking is particularly dangerous because the more good you do, the more you fall into this prideful trap.

Anyway, I'd highly recommend it if you're at all interested in Christianity.

View all my reviews
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Why Uber makes me uneasy [May. 8th, 2016|03:04 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

Editors note: I've been sitting on this post for a while, and then when the Prop 1 vote was getting near, I thought it would be perfect to post this along with why I'm against Prop 1. And then the actual election snuck up on me and I missed it, but Prop 1 failed anyway, so hooray!

Let me start by saying: I have used Uber a few times (when I was traveling), and it's pretty convenient. The technology generally works well, and it's a pretty good idea and a definite improvement over calling a taxi.

But I have some serious concerns with Uber in particular, and I'm not sure about this whole gig-economy thing.

Firstly - Uber as a company has done some pretty shady things led by their CEO.

But the only reason the gig economy works is that companies pretend that their workers are contractors instead of full employees. Under US law, this means that companies don't have to pay overtime and there's no minimum wage, among other things. (this is probably also why Uber and Lyft call themselves "ridesharing" companies, which in practice is just not true) But, for example, Uber sets the rates that drivers charge, which is not what I think of when I think of an "independent contractor". (they also tend to show up in a city with high rates for drivers to attract them, and then lower them over time so it's hard to make a living) Uber can also effectively fire drivers if their ratings aren't high enough, which again is pretty questionable. Here's a good post that talks about some of this.

If someone wants to be an entrepreneur and start her own business, that's great - she's taking a big risk, but she can decide how to run the business and she has the possibility of a big payday. But if she instead decides to be a driver for Uber she's taking on a lot of the same risks (with some added risks that Uber will lower her rates) with very limited upside. It doesn't seem fair to me. (luckily in some cities Uber drivers are fighting back with some success)

Plus, call me old-fashioned (or call me crotchety!), but I think a full-time stable job is better for most people. If more real jobs get converted into these gig economy ones that makes me pretty nervous that this is going to increase income inequality even more. (in what I hope is a trend, Gawker's new contract with their unionized workers has some protections for freelancers)

Now, a common argument I hear is that taxi companies aren't great for drivers either, especially in cities where taxi medallions are expensive. And this is true! But I wish the answer wasn't a race to the bottom.

(also, re Prop 1 - the city passed a law saying Uber and Lyft had to be regulated like taxi companies, which seems fair to me)
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friday linked list: Hillary Clinton, Minecraft, universal basic income [Apr. 29th, 2016|04:52 pm]
Greg
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |busybusy]

- Is Hillary Clinton Dishonest? - lots of people think so, but that seems unfair, especially given the many, many years of scrutiny she's gotten from the media.

- The Minecraft Generation: How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching millions of children to master the digital world - Pretty cool stuff! I'm glad there's an easy way for kids to play with programming, even if it's in a weird form.

- What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money? - yeah, another Universal Basic Income article. The concept still fascinates me, though!

- 4 Men with 4 Very Different Incomes Open Up About the Lives They Can Afford - it blows my mind that the guy making $1 million a year worries about money once a week. (thanks David!)

- My Worst Nightmare — What If I Accidentally Raise The Bully? - I've been reading more parenting articles (for some reason!), and I worry about raising a good kid, and this article gives me hope that you can step in and make a difference.

- Can Metascores Predict Box Office Performance? Yes, they can (for major releases) - it affects opening weekend, but it affects subsequent weekends more, which makes sense as people hear that a movie is great/terrible (*cough* Batman v Superman) from their friends. I'm happy that there is some relationship here! (although: what is the deal with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2? Got good reviews but it sank like a stone its second weekend...)

- VW Presentation in '06 Showed How to Foil Emissions Tests - in case you weren't convinced that whole emissions thing wasn't totally intentional by Volkswagen.

- Exactly how male gamers react when they are forced to play female characters - interesting idea!

- Everyone Files Their Taxes At The Last Minute - I love the spike in mid-April _and_ mid-October...

- 1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion - the 7 minute workout taken to an extreme!

- 22 Incredible Facts About The Life and Career Of Sir Christopher Lee - clickbait title, but wow! "The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare" sounds amazing.

- How Facebook Could Tilt the 2016 Election - another clickbait title (this is just a thought experiment, there's no indication Facebook would do this), but an interesting and kind of scary idea...

- The Curious Link Between the Fly-By Anomaly and the “Impossible” EmDrive Thruster - I keep reading about the EmDrive off and on - is it possible it's real?

- Debugging memory corruption: who the hell writes “2” into my stack?! - a fun debugging story

- Secret Thermal Camera Footage Allegedly Shows Seven Pro Cyclists Using Illegal Motors In Bikes - yikes, that is devious

- Hilariously bad phone number web forms - hah!

- On Ed Balls Day, Britain Comes Together for an Unofficial Holiday - oh Britain, you just keep being you :-)
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movie review: Midnight Special (go see it!) [spoiler-free] [Apr. 28th, 2016|08:58 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |happyhappy]

I don't usually do this, but: go see Midnight Special! I went in not knowing what exactly to expect (although I had seen the trailer) other than it was a "hard sci-fi" movie. I've had bad experiences with these before (I really didn't care for Under the Skin, although apparently everyone else loved it), but this is a great movie. It's minimalistic but comprehensible, and fascinating to watch.

My favorite kind of sci-fi is built around an idea - what if the world is the way it is, except for X, where X=sentient robots! or X=jetpacks! You get one big idea and then tell me a story about how people would react and deal with it. The movie does this really well. It feels very real!

It does a great job of setting a mood, and the ending is satisfying without being too cryptic or too conclusive.

Anyway, I may have to go seek out more Jeff Nichols movies. But go see this one!
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Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble review [Apr. 19th, 2016|10:45 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |happyhappy]

Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up BubbleDisrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble by Dan Lyons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is about what it's like for a 50-year old former writer for Newsweek to join a tech startup. Dan Lyons wrote the Fake Steve Jobs blog, among other things, and he writes a pretty entertaining book.

The main thesis is something like "this company/industry is craaaaazy". While I mostly agree, there were a few times where I thought he was in the wrong:
- He mocks the relentlessly positive emails (mocking is fine, but actually sending them seems a bit much)
- He can't understand why his boss wants him to set up a calendar invite to go out to lunch. As someone who works at a place with shared calendars, the reason is so no one else schedules a lunch meeting at that time!
- He talks a few times about what grizzled journalists would do if they were forced to do a stupid activity like a personality test - mock the whole exercise and everyone involved, and make some very NSFW suggestions. Regardless of the merits of the activity, that wouldn't fly at any modern workplace, I think?
- He's amazed that people come to work on Halloween dressed up in costumes. I've only worked at two places, but people did this at both of them, so I'm not sure what his deal is?

But for the most part, HubSpot sounds like a pretty crazy place to work, and not in a good way. At one point he gets an idea approved by the CEO, but the people who are supposed to work on it don't want to, so...nothing happens. Also there is pretty blatant ageism but sadly that doesn't surprise me based on what I've read :-/

Anyway, it's a good read, and while I admit I see a few echoes of some of the things he complains about at my company, it makes me glad I work at a sane place!

View all my reviews
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saturday linked list: movie dialogue by gender, Silicon Valley sexism, boooo turbotax [Apr. 16th, 2016|10:34 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |tiredtired]

- The Largest Ever Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender: 2,000 scripts, 25,000 actors, 4 million lines - wow, a lot of work went into this! And the results are: so depressing. Obviously this isn't a perfect way of looking at how major female characters are, but it definitely says a lot. (somehow 75% of the words in Mulan are spoken by men?) And it just makes me appreciate Inside Out more! (thanks Christi!)

- “I had so many advantages, and I barely made it”: Pinterest engineer on Silicon Valley sexism - gaaaaaaaaaah!

- Why I'm boycotting TurboTax this year - somehow I didn't know until this year that Intuit did this. Boo! Related: Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill to make filing taxes much easier. Maybe we can beat Intuit?

- Rand Paul on what America’s been doing all wrong since 1835 - (it's the national debt) Again, the federal government isn't like a family - having debt isn't necessary bad, although of course if it gets too high then that's bad. But based on interest rates, no one thinks it's too high!

- The 1996 Article Every Millennial Should Read: Remembering America’s Most Controversial First Lady - (spoiler alert: it's Hillary!) It is certainly valid to disagree with Hillary's policies (or to like Bernie's policies more), but if you have a general dislike or uneasiness about her, consider the fact that she's been relentlessly attacked for the past twenty years or so. (corollary: if you see general election polls that show Bernie doing better than Hillary, consider what will happen if Bernie gets the nomination and actually starts getting attacked by Republicans...)

- Call A Random Swede? We Tried It Out - such a weird and great idea!

- Some Relationship Advice From Pope Francis - I'll admit I haven't read "Amoris Laetitia", but it sounds intriguing.

- A guide to the 6 biggest revelations from the Panama Papers (so far) - it's hard to keep up!

- The Weird, Wonderful Job of Being a Tour Guide in the Age of Google - interesting because the guy they interview is a tour guide in Hawaii!

- The Art of Reading Russian Obituaries - homophobia in Russia runs pretty deep these days, sadly.

- Gun Violence Spiked — And Arrests Declined — In Chicago Right After The Laquan McDonald Video Release - well, that's bad.
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friday linked list: most and least tolerant states, primary turnout versus general election turnout [Apr. 8th, 2016|03:58 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |busybusy]

- Most anti-gay city? What Twitter shows about tolerance in America - interesting results, as I wouldn't have expected Wyoming and Montana to be the most tolerant states. But there's probably some bias based on who from those states is on Twitter. Also, those states may be more homogeneous than most, and I think there's some evidence that you're less likely to say racist comments if (for example) you don't often see African-Americans around. (thanks Stephen!)

- Pandemic Legacy is the best board game ever—but is it "fun?" - yes, it is fun. Sheesh! (thanks David!)

- When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 6 - pretty depressing that "a black applicant with a clean criminal record did no better than a white applicant who was said to have just been released from 18 months in prison."

- Primary Turnout Means Nothing For The General Election - pretty surprising to me, but apparently true!

- Donald Trump Hates Women - not a huge surprise he's 70% of women don't like him either...

- Is There a Better Way to Vote, Post-Trump? - I'm surprised that I haven't read more articles about how part of Trump's rise is due to the fact that we have a simple "first choice" voting system. If there are 17 candidates running, and one of them has fervent support from 30% of the people, that candidate will win even if the other 70% of the people hate him. Some form of instant runoff voting would help, but as the article points out there are problems with that, too. Sigh.

- Barney Frank Is Not Impressed by Bernie Sanders - yikes, some sick burns in there. But I generally agree - saying "everyone is corrupt" is perhaps true on some level, but if you want to get things done you have to be willing to work with people you disagree with.

- Randall Munroe, XKCD creator, is having some of his drawings included in high school textbooks and this is just great for everyone involved. Good job, everyone!

- How to Hack an Election - wow, this guy claims to have rigged a bunch of elections in Latin America. (not "rigged" like manipulated vote totals, "rigged" like Nixonian dirty tricks)

- Life in Technicolor — One month wearing EnChroma’s color blindness-fixing glasses - it amazes me that this actually works! (thanks David!)

- How a former lobbyist became the broadband industry’s worst nightmare - yeah, I remember being skeptical of him when he was appointed. But good for him for avoiding regulatory capture! (thanks David!)
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India-Bangladesh cricket match: recap and pictures [Apr. 3rd, 2016|09:17 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |happyhappy]

A friend at work got me a ticket to the India-Bangaldesh cricket match, and I was excited to go!
- Outside the stadium India fans were singing a song which I swear was vaguely to the tune of Achy Breaky Heart. I didn't catch the words except for one which was very clear: "Pakistan" :-)
- In true stadium tradition, prices for food and drink were outrageously high. Of course, what with the exchange rate, this meant that a glass of Pepsi was 75 cents...
- India batted first, and after a little while the crowd started chanting "We want 6!" (a 6 is the equivalent of a home run). And lo and behold, the batter hit a 6 on the very next ball!
- Asking the crowd to yell as loud as they can is a pretty standard practice. But the announcer at this game kept telling people to _whistle_ as loud as they can, which was downright annoying.
- One thing I didn't get a good sense for on TV is how much positioning of the fielders matters. The "power play" lasts for the first 6 overs, and there can only be two fielders in the outfield, while usually there are 5 or so. The fielders also often got repositioned, especially when the batsmen switched.
- Our ticket came with a snack box, which was basically a boxed dinner.
- I didn't 100% understand what was going on, but every time a particular Indian fielder looked in our general direction people cheered.
- The way T20 cricket works is one team bats until they're done (either because they're out of overs or everyone is out), and then the other team gets to bat. This means that it can be tough to tell who's ahead. Handily, the scoreboard shows the Duckworth-Lewis method of the batting team's target, so you can always have an idea of how they're doing.
- Whenever the wicket gets hit, it blinks bright red. This is helpful for the umpire determining whether the wicket got hit before the batsman ran back behind the line, but it also makes for a striking visual contrast when an out happens.
- The game was crazy exciting! India scored 146 runs, which is OK but not great. The Indian bowlers did a good job of not letting the Bangladesh hitters run away with things, but for most of the game they were ahead of the D/L score, or right on track. By the last over, they only needed 11 runs from 6 balls. India had already taken 6 wickets, so Bangladesh was down to their less-good hitters, but 11 runs from 6 balls is not that hard to do. (case in point: today the West Indies got 24 runs from 4 balls to finish the game) It's a higher run rate than usual, but in the last over you can throw caution to the wind and swing for the fences. It also means that all they needed was one 6 and the rest singles, which seemed very possible.
For the full effect, watch this video of the last over!
On the first ball, Bangladesh got a single, so they now needed 10 runs from 5 balls.
Next ball they hit a 4, so they needed 6 runs from 4 balls.
Next ball they hit _another_ 4, so they only needed 2 runs from 3 balls. At this point, we got up to leave, because 2 runs from 3 balls is ridiculously easy. The stadium was quiet except for the Bangladeshi fans cheering.
Next ball the batter hit it in the air, but not far enough and it was caught! But Bangladesh still only needed 2 runs from 2 balls. But we did stop on our way out to watch the end.
Next ball the batter hit it in the air again, and an Indian fielder made a running catch! It was a nice defensive play, and now Bangladesh needed 2 runs from 1 ball. (if they scored only one run then it would go to an extra over)
So now the stadium was rocking waiting for the last ball. The Indian bowler threw a nice pitch and the batter missed the ball, but the runner was already running from the other wicket. The Indian catcher got the ball and raced toward the wicket and hit it as the runner crossed the line. So there was an instant replay and the stadium was extremely loud!
It looked to me like the runner was safe, but the whole Indian team crowded around the umpire as the instant replay happened. Then they all started cheering and celebrating, so we did too! The "Out" decision followed shortly on the scoreboard. What a game!
<- Brightly-colored India fans :-)
<- India batting. The Bangladesh bowler is about to release the ball!
<- My ticket. The punchline is that seats on row M only go up to number 195. So...yeah.
<- The crowd celebrates an India 6!
<- At the innings break, out comes what I dubbed the "cricket Zamboni"! It has two steamrollers on it for double awesomeness!
<- India celebrates a catch! I like how everyone comes over to participate - they have time because a new batsman has to come out.
<- During an instant replay, the fields mill around and the screen says "Decision Pending" and makes heartbeat sounds. It's intense!
<- We celebrate India's nail-biting win!
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India trip: pictures and notes [Apr. 3rd, 2016|08:09 pm]
Greg
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[Current Mood |happyhappy]

<- click for full album
Note that you can "View Slideshow" to get a Facebook-like browsing experience!

Since this was my third trip to India, I decided to more of the "write down random notes" instead of the "exhaustively recap my days" approach.
notes and picturesCollapse )
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