birthday linked list: understanding how addiction works, taxes, walking

People are dying because we misunderstand how those with addiction think – I found this to be helpful, as this is me:

Most of us have been trained to use more forgiving language when talking about addiction. We call it a disease. We say that people with addiction should be helped, not blamed. But deep down, many of us still have trouble avoiding the thought that they could stop using if they just tried harder.

This article is a helpful counterpoint, and a reminder that “just say no” is not a very helpful piece of advice. (thanks David!)

100 years of tax brackets, in one chart – this is both a rebuttal to “taxes are so complicated because of all of the brackets” and a really cool chart! (thanks David!)

How Bill Russell stopped Charles Barkley from complaining about taxes – I honestly like Charles Barkley a lot.

Citigroup CEO explains why tax cuts outweigh Trump tweets – the GOP tax bill was a huge giveaway to large companies, and they know it 😦

The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant – I hesitate to even share stuff like this because I doubt looking at facts will change anyone’s mind. But for the record, here are some facts!

Those 2-Minute Walk Breaks? They Add Up – walk walk walk!

The best parts of Comey’s book have nothing to do with Trump – lawyers get a bad rap, sometimes deservedly so, but they’ve been very important in restraining the executive branch of government. (thanks David!)

Be careful what you copy: Invisibly inserting usernames into text with Zero-Width Characters – clever, but daaaaang this is why we can’t have nice things. (it even works if you copy/paste to Notepad and then copy from there :-/ )

Obamacare’s Very Stable Genius – maybe Obamacare will be OK after all… (thanks David!)

“The Clock Is Ticking”: Inside the Worst U.S. Maritime Disaster in Decades – nicely researched look at the El Faro disaster. As a morbid fan of airplane crash investigations, part of it reminded me of this airplane crash in which time lag on weather reports was also a factor. (as in most of these situations, there’s a whole chain of events so it’s hard to say which was the one “cause”…)

An animated “music video” of similar satellite imagery – this is neat and oddly hypnotic. (and short!)

tuesday linked list: why making guns harder to get will save lives, not publishing hacked emails, big sugar

I would have been a school shooter if I could’ve gotten a gun – a few things:
  – What a brave thing to write this!
  – This is an excellent counterargument to “If a person wants a gun, they’ll find a way to get one”. This is a pretty true statement, but shootings can happen in the heat of the moment where if the perpetrator didn’t have access to a gun there would be time for people to cool off. Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides – surely some of these people would reconsider if it were harder to get a gun!

The case for not publishing hacked emails – this is a good case but it’s hard to see something like this happening.

Big Sugar Versus Your Body – yeah, sugar is bad. I’ve had some luck cutting down my soda intake, but I’m still bad about snacking. See also Why the British soda tax might work better than any of the soda taxes that came before which is encouraging companies to reduce the amount of sugar in their drinks!

Facebook Container Extension: Take control of how you’re being tracked – hey, this is cool! I think I already get a lot of this from Privacy Badger, but I installed it just the same.

Scott Kelly’s medical monitoring has spawned some horrific press coverage – indeed, I fell for this.

How We Reverse Engineered the Cuban “Sonic Weapon” Attack – neat!

– If you’re in the mood to read about early video games, check out The Game of Everything, Part 1: Making Civilization and MicroProse’s Simulation-Industrial Complex (or, The Ballad of Sid and Wild Bill). I found this part interesting:

On the heels of this, MicroProse’s first real exposure outside the Baltimore area, Stealey took to calling computer stores all over the country, posing as a customer looking for Hellcat Ace. When they said they didn’t carry it, he would berate them in no uncertain terms and announce that he’d be taking his business to a competitor who did carry the game. After doing this a few times to a single store, he’d call again as himself: “Hello, this is John Stealey. I’m from MicroProse. I’d like to sell you Hellcat Ace.” The hapless proprietor on the other end of the line would breathe a sign of relief, saying how “we’ve been getting all kinds of phone calls for that game.” And just like that, MicroProse would be in another shop.

I’ve seen stories like this around lots of tech startups these days – they’ll create “fake” users to make their site not look like a ghost town, etc. This sure seems unethical to me…

– Also video game-related, see Valley Forged: How One Man Made the Indie Video Game Sensation Stardew Valley. I haven’t played but some people seem really into it…

Spending Bill Protects Tipped Workers From Sharing With The Boss – yay!

This City Just Passed the First Bitcoin Mining Ban in the US – hey, my grandparents used to live in Plattsburgh! I didn’t realize it had such cheap power…

Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet – good long article from the New Yorker.

Reporter’s Notebook: The Tale Of Theranos And The Mysterious Fire Alarm – hah! It sounds like a conspiracy theory…but also likely true.

Every decision my kids made me make in one day – this is my future! (for me, one of the consequences of being tired is that I find it very hard to make decisions…)

friday linked list: DIY factchecking, being the casino, electricity demand in the US is flat!

It Can Take As Little As Thirty Seconds, Seriously – these days we should do some very simple fact-checking on stuff we’re sharing. Also related:

Be the casino: rules for winning at finance in an uncertain world – this is really good advice from Britton, a friend of mine who runs Seaborn Financial. If you’re looking for a financial advisor, check him out!

After rising for 100 years, electricity demand is flat. Utilities are freaking out. – wow, great news! From squinting at the graph it looks like demand has been relatively flat since 2010 even as GDP has been increasing.

State Lawmakers Want to Block Pornography at the Expense of Your Free Speech, Privacy, and Hard-Earned Cash – yikes, what? Very clever to title the bill the “Human Trafficking Prevention Act”…

We need new ways of treating depression – an interesting longish read about depression (thanks David!)

A Political Dispute Puts A Wrinkle In Time, Slowing Millions Of European Clocks – um, weird!

My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy. – aaaaa gender roles

Experts Say Electronic Voting Machines Aren’t Secure. So Travis County Is Designing Its Own. – hey, that’s my county! And my CS prof from Rice!

A Quiet Exodus: Why Blacks Are Leaving White Evangelical Churches – yikes :-/

China’s Censors Ban Winnie the Pooh and the Letter ‘N’ After Xi’s Power Grab – ugh, this whole thing is not good

How Inmates Play Tabletop RPGs in Prisons Where Dice Are Contraband – interesting! Lots of ingenuity there…

– The article here is fine but it has a correction at the bottom to end all corrections 🙂

new house monday linked list: 17776 revisited, “Get Out of Jail Free” cards, Larry Nassar

We moved into the new house, and between that and Vanessa being sick the last few weeks have been craaaaazy. So here’s a bunch of links!

– I went back and re-read/re-experienced 17776 and it is still amazing. If you haven’t read/experienced it, I’d encourage you to give it a shot! Its subtitle is “What football will look like in the future”, but if you like sci-fi at all you’ll probably like it. (it’s set in the year 17776)

I had re-read it a month or so after it was published and was a little disappointed, but some time away (and remembering it less well) helped me appreciate it more.

If you liked it, you should check out more of Jon Bois’s stuff. He mostly does videos, like Jeff Francoeur, my favorite worst baseball player and Randall Cunningham Seizes the Means of Production. There’s also a 17776: questions and answers post, and if you want more weird stuff here’s What the heck is a catch in the NFL, anyway? An explainer

“Get Out of Jail Free” Cards – this is real? Why is this a thing?

In Larry Nassar’s Case, a Single Voice Eventually Raised an Army – very brave of her to be the first non-anonymous person to speak out about Larry Nassar! See also her Op-Ed.

Exclusive: Inside the Corrosive Workplace Culture of the Dallas Mavericks – glad this is getting rooted out. Also, from the article:

While sources referred to the Mavericks office as a “locker room culture,” the team’s actual locker room was a refuge. Says one female former senior staffer: “I dealt with players all the time. I had hundreds of interactions with players and never once had an issue…they always knew how to treat people. Then I’d go to the office and it was this zoo, this complete shitshow. My anxiety would go down dealing with players; it would go up when I got to my desk.”


How to Maintain Friendships – this is good advice. I’m bad at a lot of these and I’m going to try to do better.

It’s Time to End the Scam of Flying Pets – sigh. Like the article says, there are definitely people that need this, but other people have ruined it.

In Baltimore, Brazen Officers Took Every Chance to Rob and Cheat – yiiikes

Here’s Why Texans Can’t Use That Google Selfie App To Find Their Fine Art Facsimile – wow, Texas is surprisingly forward-thinking about this!

Preventive Care Saves Money? Sorry, It’s Too Good to Be True – surprising, but it still improves quality of life, which is worth it!

The Teens Will Save Us – this is inspiring!

Trump and Russia Both Seek to Exacerbate the Same Political Divisions – ugh, this is depressing.

Americans Are Rising to This Historic Moment – …but maybe things will be OK?

Why I don’t use my real photo when messaging with customers on my website – because people are terrible, is why.

A Carnival cruise in the South Pacific descended into violent anarchy – um, yikes!

The Follower Factory – interesting look at bots on Twitter.

friday linked list: driving as a series of moral choices, fighting the attention crisis on your phone, lobbyists

How Would Jesus Drive? – A reminder that we make a ton of tiny moral decisions every day.

Take control of your phone (from Time Well Spent) – this is an interesting set of recommendations. I haven’t followed a lot of these but I’m trying to follow the spirit of them by being more thoughtful about jumping into my phone. One positive change that I’ve made is using Gmail’s Inbox app for my mail. I only get a notification on my phone if an email is deemed “important”, which is mostly emails from people I know (and about house stuff, these days…), and it automatically bundles low priority for me. It makes it easier for me to keep my inbox low and lowers my stress level because I’m not looking at notifications for emails I don’t care about all day. (thanks for the recommendation, Mary!)

I was a lobbyist for more than 6 years. I quit. My conscience couldn’t take it anymore. – so, this sounds pretty bad. But politicians of both parties begging for money, while unfortunate, is not hypocrisy; it’s a necessary part of getting elected to Congress. You can support campaign finance reform of some sort, but that doesn’t mean you have to unilaterally disarm to be moral!

A Radical New Scheme to Prevent Catastrophic Sea-Level Rise – I am seriously all for geoengineering projects like this. Technology got us into this climate change mess, technology can get us out of it!

What Putin Really Wants – very good (and long) Atlantic article.

What Serena Williams’s scary childbirth story says about medical treatment of black women – nothing good! In her case it was clearly an issue that she wasn’t taken seriously because she’s a woman and black. (since she’s both rich and famous…)

Physicians who refuse to accept Medicaid patients breach their contract with society – food for thought.

Uber’s Secret Tool for Keeping the Cops in the Dark – Uber doing something unethical? *drops monocle out of shock*

The diabolical genius of the baby advice industry – yeah, I didn’t even read that many baby books but there was still plenty of conflicting advice…

Why Mickey Mouse’s 1998 copyright extension probably won’t happen again – cool!

Sarah Silverman’s response to a sexist tweet is a much-needed ray of hope – wait, it’s not what you think! I mean, I don’t know what you think, so it’s possible it’s what you think. But probably not!

Guess Who’s Coming to ‘Peanuts’ – neat! This is something I’ve talked with David about for a while – if you go back and look at old “Will and Grace” episodes, for example, I’d imagine the gay characters look pretty stereotyped today. But for its time, having a gay character as the star of a primetime network show was a very big deal! (see Joe Biden on gay marriage: ‘Will and Grace’ helped educate America) So you do have to judge things in context.

The Strange Brands in Your Instagram Feed – this is…weird. Not sure how much value these people are adding?

Happy 2018! linked list: Meltdown/Spectre, age discrimination, Swedish robots

– Another widespread security issue, but this one’s in hardware! (as always, make sure you’re automatically installing updates for your OS and web browser) For more information about Meltdown/Spectre, you can start at the top of the list and stop when things get too technical for you:
  – xkcd
  – Ars Technica summary
  – Meltdown and Spectre – the “official homepage” of the vulnerabilities, because that is a thing now
  – Detailed Google Project Zero report – I got about a third of the way through, got the gist of it, and stopped reading…

A few comments:
  – The list of companies that have released security advisories is truly a thing to behold.
  – Is this worse than Heartbleed, my previous candidate for worst security problem ever? Meltdown/Spectre don’t allow for attacks from remote systems, but given that the problem is in the processor itself and that people have been working on patches for this for months now, I would say yes.
  – Many kudos to Google for funding Project Zero, whose researchers found these vulnerabilities! (although some academic researchers also discovered them around the same time)
  – These sorts of vulnerabilities are kinda weird. It seems pretty unlikely that anyone would have discovered this before the “good guys” did (although it’s been around for like ten years in one form or another), and since working around the issue was tricky enough it took months for people to do, in one sense the world was safer because the researchers discovered it. But of course, someone would have discovered it eventually…

T-Mobile, Amazon, and other companies are accused of using Facebook ads to exclude older Americans from jobs – discriminating based on age is illegal, but targeting job ads to (say) younger people by buying ads in magazines that young people tend to read is OK. This seems on the illegal side since older people will never see the ad on Facebook. (thanks David!)

Christians Need a New Right-to-Life Movement – amen!

The Robots Are Coming, and Sweden Is Fine – a good safety net and strong unions sounds pretty amazing!

The Man Who Tried to Kill Math in America – interesting! He meant well but really discouraged teaching kids any sort of advanced math. From the article:

When the United States entered WWII, the military reportedly had to offer enlisted men and officers in all military branches remedial math classes so they could fulfill their duties; many were struggling with tasks as basic as bookkeeping.


How Drug-Free School Zones Backfired – a policy that sounds good (and is good if used in moderation!), but…yeah.

Trump puts the world’s worst crooks and killers on notice – somewhat surprisingly, the Trump administration is enforcing the Global Magnitsky Act effectively. Hooray!

Why the debate over the budget deficit is so confusing and frustrating – economics is complicated, and countries aren’t households.

It’s been one year since N.J. ditched cash bail. Here’s how it’s going – it’s going pretty well! Bail is a weird idea that really boils down to your ability to pay.

Porgs given reason to exist, besides the fact that they are cool and good – Porgs are actual puffins altered with CGI! This is amazing!

The Navy’s Tradition of the New Year’s Day Deck Log – neat little tidbit 🙂 (thanks Emily!)

Chess’s New Best Player Is A Fearless, Swashbuckling Algorithm – another look at AlphaZero.

Social Security Will Be Solvent for the Rest of the Century – yay, probably!

Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6 – support browser diversity; use Firefox!

linked list wednesday: Pence’s “never dine alone with a woman” rule, don’t buy an Amazon Echo!

Vice President Pence’s “never dine alone with a woman” rule isn’t honorable. It’s probably illegal. – legality aside, the rule is clearly discriminatory unless you do the same for men. (also that Iowa dentist case from the article is bonkers! What the heck, Iowa?)

Don’t Buy Anyone an Echo – this was written as a part of Grinch week, so take it with a grain of salt, but I’m pretty surprised how popular the Echo (and Google Home, I guess) have become. Are people really not bothered by a listening device in their home? And you can trust big tech companies if you want, but they’re going to get hacked or be buggy. (like at least one Google Home unit was)

Yeah, it’s cool to be able to talk to a computer like on Star Trek. But at what cost?

What makes people nostalgic for a past worse than the present? – interesting survey results! (thanks David!)

My $200,000 bitcoin odyssey – for some reason I really enjoy reading these “aaaa I might lose thousands of dollars in bitcoins” stories. Just a reminder that while cryptocurrency solves some problems, it creates a bunch of new ones too. Also, I wonder how many bitcoins are lost forever because of mishaps like this? Since there’s a fixed supply of bitcoins, seems like this could be a problem at some point?

Cards Against Humanity Redistributes Your Wealth – this is very cool! (see the whole series at Cards Against Humanity Saves America)

Google’s AlphaZero Destroys Stockfish In 100-Game Match – so AlphaZero just used reinforcement learning for four hours and beat the highest-rated chess engine in the world? This seems like a huge deal.

Why Trying New Things Is So Hard to Do – it is!

Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance – man, the debt collection “business” is really really shady.

“An orgy of serious policy discussion” with Paul Krugman – wonky but very readable and interesting!

In Raising the World’s I.Q., the Secret’s in the Salt – neat look at Kazakhstan’s efforts to iodize salt! (although the article is ten years old, FYI)

The Story Behind the Music of The Muppet Christmas Carol – Merry Christmas everyone! (thanks Jessica!)