Archive for the ‘Other’ Category.

Bring Back Concubinage!

Until they were purged by the Medieval Catholic Church, many western cultures had marriage alternatives -- legal, contractual, long-term relationships within which children could be reared but which were not until-death-do-us-part marriage.  Ironically, Church father Augustine had a child in just such a relationship.**  Reading articles like this one, it strikes me that it is time for some modern innovation here.

We are in a position where we have just two alternatives -- marriage, which is a full-blown legal merger of two people into one for what is theoretically life -- and nothing.  Given the rise of childbearing in these no-long-term-commitment-whatsoever relationships, the state has taken a few halting actions to bridge the gap, but most of these have been ham-fisted and fraught with problems (our efforts to impose financial responsibility on fathers is one example).

If this were a market, I would say that there is clearly a consumer demand for an alternative product that fits between marriage and nothing, and allows two people to make long-term commitments to child rearing without necessarily commingling assets or making lifetime sexual monogamy vows.

 

** At the time, such concubinage relationships were often to satisfy class issues -- people of certain classes simply were not allowed to marry each other.  In Augustine's case, it allowed him to pursue a 15-year relationship with a woman who was not wealthy but left him available to marry when a rich woman later came along.  In short, it was used for reasons that are mostly irrelevant today.  But that doesn't mean we can't invent marriage alternatives of our own for our own modern reasons.

Awesome Homemade Donuts, Gluten Free Too

After dissing the Food Babe in the last post, I guess I need to recover some karma.  The whole gluten-free thing has been justly skewered (e.g. here) because the vast majority of people who want to live gluten-free have no biological justification for doing so.    That being said, there are people who are legitimately gluten-intolerant, like my mother-in-law.

When she visited, I knew nothing about gluten-free stuff.  But I bought this home-made gluten-free donut mix and a donut baking pan from Amazon based on the reviews.  Well, screw the gluten-free part, these things were awesome.  And really easy to make.  No vats of oil, they are just baked.  Recommended even for us wheat-eaters.

This is Strangely Awesome

My Contributions to Social Science

It occurred to me that I have reached important insights into human behavior that it would be negligent of me to withhold from the world, so here they are:

The Cheerleader Effect:  The cheerleader effect describes a human perception issue where pictures of any woman in a group are often considered more attractive than a picture of that woman alone (this may apply to men as well, but I have always heard it referred to women).  Apparently women exploit this effect by posting pictures on dating sites that show them in groups of their friends rather than alone.  Anyway, I have developed two corollaries:

  • Polo Shirt Effect:  Polo shirts in a store appear more desirable when grouped with other similar shirts in an array of colors than when presented alone.  This effect is strong enough to trump the paradox of choice, where offering consumers more choices can tend to flummox them and cause them to buy less.  I believe arrays of multi-hued polo shirts presented together increase purchases of these shirts.
  • Christmas Tree Effect:  We almost never buy ornaments for our tree.  95% are individually ugly, but meaningful, constructions by our kids over the years.  The rest are what remain after breakage of some commercial ornaments we bought 20 years ago on deep discount in the after-Christmas sales.  But a tree constructed of these ornaments is beautiful.  So ornaments look far better when massed on a tree than they look individually.

Towards A Theory of Pedestrian Behavior:  One of the things I enjoy is urban running -- ie running through the streets of cities.  When we travel, this is one of my favorite ways to see cities, and it also helps me run further because I do not get bored.  But trying to run through sometimes crowded pedestrian areas can be frustrating, since one is trying to move faster than the crowd and the crowd typically does not expect a runner coming up behind them on the sidewalk.  As a result of many such runs, I have developed two laws of pedestrian behavior:

  1. Groups of pedestrians will expand to fill the width of the space allotted.  If the width changes, groups of pedestrians will respond very quickly and expand their group spacing to fill that width.  While this behavior is almost certainly natural, it is almost impossible to distinguish a group walking naturally from one purposefully trying to block passage by a faster pedestrian.  Corollary:  Groups too small to fill the width of a passage or sidewalk will weave.
  2. Groups of pedestrians, everything else being equal, will choose to pause and congregate at the bottleneck in any sidewalk, thus constricting an already narrow passage.  DisneyWorld is a great location for spotting this behavior.  Corollary:  A disproportionate number of people will choose to stop right at the exit door from an jetway when exiting an aircraft.

 

I Wonder...

I wonder if American tattoos with Asian characters look like this to the Asians.

When the Giant Alien Ship Arrives to Find Out What Happened to the Dolphins Who Were Marooned on this Planet Millennia Ago, This Guy May Have Saved the Human Race

Picking A Lock with a Hairpin

Now I know what I am going to be doing all weekend.

Lost Joy

When I was in high school, there was a dating ritual in which the guy (ie me) went to pick up the girl at the girl's house.  The girl was never ready, so the guy was forced into an awkward (particularly on the first date) conversation with the girl's dad.

Apparently, this sort of dating ritual is gone, at least at our school and in my family.  As my daughter gets closer and closer to leaving high school, it finally struck me last night that I may never get to enjoy the payback of being the "dad" in this ritual.  And I was all ready, too.  I never use my shotgun any more but I keep it around solely in the hope of having it out on the table for cleaning when my daughter's date comes over.  Now I fear I will be denied this small joy.

(Of course, the fact that I have communicated my fantasy of cleaning my shotgun on my kitchen table when my daughter's dates come over may have something to do with my daughter structuring her social life such that boys never come over.  Corollary to Heisenberg:  You cannot discuss a fantasy without disturbing it).

Greatest Thing Since Duct Tape

Don't let Amazon's placement of it in the "craft" section fool you.  E-6000 is the best all-purpose, stick-any-two-arbitrary-things-together adhesive I have ever found.

I made my daughter a Christmas present which was a reproduction of the painting in the Disney Haunted Mansion where the man in the picture slowly turns to a skeleton.  I will post a build report at some time, but I had to anchor a heavy computer monitor to a wood box and an Ikea plastic frame, and E-6000 welded the whole thing together.  I also have used it recently to glue studs to a concrete floor to support a cabinet and to put a rubber weir under my garage door.  It takes a day to cure, and will not go on thin and sometime can be messy, but it makes an awesome bond.   I almost never touch epoxy or  Liquid Nails any more.

Update:  I know Gorilla Glue has its adherents.  The problem is that it expands so much (it kind of foams), it is really hard to control and get good results, at least in my opinion.  Neither of these replace ACC when you need to bond something fast or when you want your fingers stuck together all day.

So Much For the Patrimony

Would a visiting alien look at these photos and assume men were in charge?

Sentence Planning

One of the transitions English speakers have to make in Romance languages, and I have found particularly in Italian, is that the object of the sentence that we so often put at the end ends up at the beginning of sentences.  For example, in Italian, when translating the phrase "I can show it to you", the "to you" and "it" end up as the first two syllables ahead of everything else.

I was working on this just yesterday in my Italian lesson so I got a laugh out of XKCD

You absolute-fucking-... shit.

My Idea of Luxury

If I had a stupid amount of money to spend on a home, I would not go in for the French Chateau style mansion.  This is the house I would want.  The garage has a better view than any house I expect to own.

A Brief Rant -- Believe it or Not -- On Table Legs

Last night I was at a wonderful dinner in Sedona (report to follow in a later post).  However, at this very nice restaurant, the table wobbled, as tables so often do in restaurants.

Here is my question:  Why do restaurants still buy tables with four legs?? I understand in the old style table, where legs were at each corner of the table, four legs facilitates having 1-4 guests at a table without the legs getting in the way.  But most restaurants nowadays use tables that have a single pedestal in the middle, that then sits on -- and this is my problem -- four legs.   Here is an example:

mccoy_pedestal_table

Why not three legs?  Three legs are inherently stable, and in the pedestal design don't have to be any more obtrusive than four.  Even if the ground is uneven flagstone, a table with three legs still will not wobble.  A table with four legs almost always will.

Stop the madness.

Subjunctive in English -- Are There Examples Other than "Were"?

The other day I joked that most of my memories of Spanish in high school were of trying to learn and conjugate the subjunctive, an activity for which English speakers are not well-prepared.

In fact, the only example of a unique subjunctive verb conjugation I can think of in English is "were".  For example in "if I were a rich man,..."

I am sure there must be others.  I could Google it, but does anyone know any off hand?

Update:  We already have an awesome answer in the comments.  Though I am unclear how anyone that proficient in grammar can stand to regularly read this blog.  Makes me even more self-conscious about proof-reading better, which I actually have been attempting, even if the results are not obvious.

You Know You are A Geek When...

... the first thing you think of with this video is the Wrath of Khan

Jealousy

The Internet is full of examples of the humble brag.  You know the type of thing -- "I am such an idiot, I cannot find the fusebox on my Bentley" or "I must be a real loser, Kate Upton ditched me after only sleeping with me twice."  So I am not going to be coy, and am going to straight out brag about this new bad boy I acquired -- A Tetris light.  Each piece has a light inside, but only turn on when stacked with the others (the blue one is the one that plugs in and acts as the based, which is why it is on in the first picture).

photo (12)

standing

Obviously they can be stacked in about any manner, and my family spent most of yesterday rearranging it over and over.  The metal rails on the edges act as the conductors, which is why they light when stacked.  No way to change the bulbs that I can see, but they are all LED so hopefully they will last.

I got it here but they sell them a bit cheaper on Amazon now.

 

All It Needs Is A Big Red Self-Destruct Button

I kind of like having a window in my office, but otherwise this is a pretty cool office / lair.

Remember Richard Jewell

My wife and I were discussing the Atlanta bombing last night and it struck me that, with all the false reports out of Boston, it would be useful to remind folks of the fate of Richard Jewell, a man whose life was essentially destroyed by our collective need for quick answers about a tragedy.  But Patrick at Popehat has already done the heavy lifting, so I will turn it over to him.

By the way, in an odd local angle on the story, for some reason Fox decided to interview Joe Arpaio as an "expert" after the blast.  Joe is an expert -- at getting himself media attention.  But I am trying to remember the last terrorist incident we had here in Phoenix.

Damn April Fools! I Wanted This to be Real

Got Skills

Why Yes, I Am Confident in My Masculinity

This weekend I will be running (with my daughter) in the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando.

Last weekend she and I went to the fabric store, bought a bunch of tulle (new word for me) and made her a tutu to run in.  Tested it out running 6 miles.  I think she found it liberating to run all around town in a tutu and a tiara.  Got lots of honks from cars that passed.

I will post a picture when I have one.  I will run in costume too, but don't expect too much.  I am a person who cuts off the end of my shoelaces when running distances to reduce weight, so my costume is not elaborate.

Update: Got my hair cut today. Another ounce shaved off

2012 Drought in Perspective

I don't know if this is a result of the severity of the drought being overblown or of the continued improvement of farming technology, or a bit of both.   Here is the recent data on 2012:

"As anticipated, lower projected production for both corn and soybeans was reported this month," said AFBF economist Todd Davis. "It will be some time before the long-term effects of the 2012 drought are fully played out. But it appears likely that continued strong worldwide demand for corn and soybeans will lead to higher projected prices."

USDA forecast corn production at 10.7 billion bushels. The average yield for corn was forecast at 122.8 bushels per acre this year, down slightly from the August prediction. Once harvest is complete, if the average corn yield comes in at 122.8 bushels per acre, it would be the smallest average yield since 2003.

I am glad I don't deal day to day with grain yield numbers, because every source I checked seems to be 3-5% off the other sources for historic numbers.  There must be some definitional issues I don't understand with acres vs. net acres.  But taking 2012 equal to to 2003, which is the worst-case way to interpret the above statement, we get this chart:

So, down 15-20% from the last several years, which is not good, but a number that still would be nearly an all-time high until about 2000.  Even at this lower number, US yields will be more than twice the corn yield per acre in the rest of the world.   Disasters are relative, I suppose, but this is a long way from the 1930's.

Bad Week Next Week

Why?  Alimentary, my dear Watson.  I have a dentist appointment at the beginning of the week and a colonoscopy at the end.  Awesome.  I will say that the colonoscopy seems the perfect way to celebrate two weeks of political conventions.  It is a sort of physical analog to how I feel listening to politicians speak.

LA Traffic Bleg

OK, I have to drive on Thursday from San Diego to make a meeting around 10AM just north of LA off I-5.  I am willing to believe that there is no good way across town this time of day, and the only reasonable approach is to leave early and bring emergency rations.  However, if anyone has any advice as to the best way to thread my way south to north through LA during morning rush hour, leave a comment.

Update:  Thanks everyone.  I actually have to be in Ventura County via Santa Clarita so I will probably take the 15 and go around.  I also decided to take my (teenage) kids along to get the carpool lane.  Going to ditch them at Magic Mountain (not a bad fate) as I pass by.  I have my iPad charged with traffic, and will just get up early.

Unintended Consequences

These women's weight gain ads seem funny because they are so out of step with most women's concerns today.  But what changed?  My guess is that the whole weight-gain thing really was about larger breasts.  If you wanted more cleavage, you had to gain weight.  But breast implants changed that.  Now one can have an improbable rack while still starving.  So while breast implants are a positive in terms of empowering women to have control over their body, they have eliminated an important counter-balance to this crazy pressure on skinny-ness.

Disclosure:  On a scale from 1=Kate Moss to 10=Rubens paintings, my preferences definitely are in the higher numbers, so I am not without bias.  I also have a daughter who wastes way too much of her life worrying whether her body properly meets societal expectations for fat content.