The Big Think

December 16, 2013


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:05 pm

Judge: NSA phone program likely unconstitutional:

“A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the information had helped to head off terrorist attacks.

Acting on a lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Leon issued a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from collecting so-called metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients. However, the judge stayed the order to allow for an appeal.”

This is a subject that both the Left and the Right have been agreeing and acting on lately. Strange bedfellows indeed.


Filed under: Current Reading,Quoth — jasony @ 3:44 pm

“It wasn’t just hand-made, it was custom-made, especially for the Princess. Probably a gift from my grandfather. Imagine the fellow, not just a worker but an artist, selecting the leather, piecing and stitching and carving. I picture him hand-rubbing in the oil, thinkin of his work used by his Countess, envied and admired by her friends, being pert of this- this whole work of art that was her life.” His finger traced the leaves around the initial.
Her guess of its value kept ratcheting up in time to his words. “For heaven’s sake get it appraised first!”
“Why? To loan to a museum? To sell to some collector to hoard like money? Let him hoard money, that’s all that sort wants anyway. The only collector who’d be worthy of it would be someone who was personally obsessed with the Princess-and-Countess, one of those men who fall hopelessly in love across time. No. I owe to the its maker to put it to its proper use, the use he intended.”

Miles Vorkosigan, A Civil Campaign

Man of 100 Styles

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 1:21 pm

THAT THING YOU DREW • Posts Tagged ‘Mikenesses’: “”

Cartoonist draws himself and his cat in the style of 100 different artists. As someone who can barely draw a convincing smiley face or stick figure, this sort of thing is astounding to me.

December 15, 2013

What Pain To Gain?

Filed under: Business,Disclosure,Education — jasony @ 2:47 pm

The Most Important Question You Can Ask Yourself Today:

“So I ask you, ‘How are you willing to suffer?’

Because you have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns.

Choose how you are willing to suffer.

Because that’s the hard question that matters. Pleasure is an easy question. And pretty much all of us have the same answer.

The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain?

Because that answer will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change your life.”

Why I Try Not to Write Bad Reviews

Filed under: Business,Disclosure — jasony @ 10:18 am

Why I Try Not to Write Bad Reviews – Bloomberg:

“To my regret, I am, as my family and friends will testify, neither nice nor sweet. And I have certainly delivered my share of scathing takedowns and over-the-top denunciations. But I’m not particularly proud of it, and as I backpack into middle age, I’ve been trying to cut down on the snark, along with late nights, red wine and almost everything else I enjoyed in my 30s.

If not because I am nice, then why? Out of pity for my victims? Oh, sure, that’s a factor. When I used to write mean reviews of people’s books, I thought of them as big, powerful people who deserved to have their work torn down. Then I started running into those people, and to my shock, they had read — and remembered — even reviews I’d written for obscure outlets. They were people who had spent years of their lives working on something — something they thought was really important — and I had spent perhaps two or three hours composing a sarcasm-filled denunciation. They were hurt, just like I’d be. This is both sobering and socially awkward.

But that’s not actually the main reason I avoid it. The main reason I avoid the joys of snarky takedowns is that it’s not very good for you. Snark is immense, immense fun; the only thing more enjoyable than chortling to yourself over a particularly well-turned insult is having your friends and acquaintances e-mail to tell you how awesome it was. But if you’re basically pretty good at snotty putdowns — and most bloggers have at least an apprentice-level facility with this art — it’s almost too much fun. It’s too easy. It’s the writing equivalent of skiing the bunny slope.

I have written some epic snark, and I have written a book, and let me just tell you, there is no comparison. Books are hard. Reported features are hard. Sarcasm and outrage are easy, which is why they tend to peak in adolescence, unlike, say, mastery of nuclear physics.”

What I do for a living is help guide young students, most of whom have never had any experience, through the difficult process of managing a giant, months-long project from conception to completion. At the end it is put before 12,000+ ticket-buying people for public consumption. While the applause is always loud and enthusiastic (the audience is, after all, made of of many supportive competitors who are also in the show), I’ve lost track of the number of people who think that buying a ticket to the show gives them license to publicly tear down the creators. Mind you, this isn’t the sort of constructive criticism that enables the performers/creators to improve the following year. It usually takes the form of witty, snarky, and even cruel evaluations of everything from how good someone looks in their costume (which is particularly mean if a performer doesn’t fit body norms) to just how well the particular group is liked. The really bad critics seem like they’ve never left high school.

Criticism has a place– but that place must be earned. I have a fortune cookie scrap I carry around with me nearly everywhere I go. It says “If your criticism isn’t true your praise means nothing.” Wisdom! It is very hard to create an atmosphere of safety where you can venture the truly stupid ideas (99% of which never work, but oh that 1%!) without feeling like an idiot. But creating that atmosphere, and creating within that atmosphere, is a rare and rewarding thing. I like to think that the people I work with get to create within this environment. It’s healthy, creative, and fun. It is gratifying to know that once they’ve run that sort of creativity gauntlet they will likely never criticize unthinkingly or cruelly again. Most people, like the writer of the article I linked to, start to see the subject of their criticism as a person, not just an opportunity to build themselves up.

Knowing that the Snarky Ones are out there just waiting to take their potshots and build themselves up at the expense of those who actually did the work is frustrating and disheartening. But teaching others to overcome those kinds of unthinking and immature critics is to know that you’re helping to train healthy and successful people- regardless of what they go on to create.

I have very, very little patience for snark. It’s cheap. It’s mean. And it betrays a shallow person who would rather tear other people, and their creations, down into smoking rubble than take the effort and risk of building something themselves. Those that have grown past this stage are the ones who go on to create worlds.

December 14, 2013


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:17 am

“Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it…

…Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney. It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.”


Speaking as a member of the Creative Class, health insurance has always been a massive pain in the backside (same with navigating the hundreds of pages of rules regarding income taxes). Those of us who are not shielded from governmental regulations by an employer or HR department see first hand just how out of control and hyper-regulated the interface between the health care industry and the individual is. It’s no wonder there’s a simmering frustration. You don’t see it in a normal job, but cast out on your own and boy howdy. Prepare to spend hours and hours every year making sure you’ve appeased the bureaucratic gods lest ye be struck down. Live in fear.

Straw-man-creating opponents of health care deregulation (the ones who said the ACA/Obamacare would be so wonderful) argue that if you’re opposed to Obamacare then you want people to be uninsured/die in the street/not get care/etc. The reality is that the new system has resulted in more economic distress and dislocation than the old one ever did, and has many more people without insurance to boot.

Reportedly, the creative class representatives noted above are the proverbial canary in the health care coal mine. Within the next year we’ll see the tendency of people to lose their plans creep from the disorganized ranks of musicians, artists, and sole proprietors, up into the lower echelons of small businesses (where workers have already been cut from 40 hours/week to 29), and eventually into big businesses who don’t have enough political juice to receive waivers.

Coming soon to a job near you. Very near.

December 13, 2013


Filed under: Business,Maker,Music — jasony @ 10:10 am

ACMS Gift Boutique:

“ACMS Gift Boutique Still looking for that perfect stocking stuffer? Or maybe a special way to commemorate that perfect performance? Stop by our brand new gift boutique and see what magic catches your eye! Handmade by a local Austin artist specifically for the Armstrong Community Music School, these items feature genuine Czech crystal, laser engravings, and birch wood. All proceeds benefit ACMS programs.”

Erin and I have been working on these items for her work for a couple of months and are proud to finally introduce them! They’ve been a big hit at her school.

December 12, 2013

Another Reason for the Oxford Comma

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 4:19 pm

Omit at your peril: “”

December 11, 2013


Filed under: Games — jasony @ 5:39 pm

Tolkien’s Rivendell comes to life with 200,000 LEGO bricks: “”


Adverse Selection

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:25 am

Only 29% of uninsured young people now say they plan to sign up for Obamacare,” warns an email we received today from one Mark Crain:

“This could become a gigantic problem, because the only way we can afford to cover all the people with pre-existing conditions is if younger, healthier people enroll as well. If only sick people sign up, our entire health insurance system falls apart.”

Those unattainable Invincibles.

In market economies, people respond to adverse stimuli by avoiding it. On one side is unaffordable and un-needed coverage (maternity for men, mandatory pediatric dental for, well, everybody) and opt instead to pay the modest fine. If you can’t get denied insurance for a preexisting condition then why pay when you don’t need it? Sign up when you’re sick.

Our government has created a system where that of their customers will avoid. This neither solves the problems it originally set out to solve nor is remotely helpful in the long run.

See related:

Euphoria of Obamacare becomes nightmare of higher premiums and deductibles:

But on signing day 2010, it was all cheering. As the audience applauded, Obama promised the new law would “lower costs for families and for businesses.” He cited the case of Natoma Canfield, an Ohio woman whose story he often told during the health care fight. Canfield, divorced and 50 years old, had had cancer but was still able to find what she called “costly, but affordable” coverage on the individual market. Then her insurance company abruptly raised her premium.

“Natoma had to give up her health coverage after her rates were jacked up by more than 40 percent,” Obama said.

Now, because of Obamacare, millions of Americans in the individual market, most of whom have not had a major health crisis, are facing abrupt increases of more than 40 percent in their health insurance premiums. On top of that, they are finding deductibles rising far beyond those that troubled Canfield. (In a 2009 letter to the president, Canfield complained of having a $2,500 deductible; on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that under Obamacare “the average individual deductible for what is called a bronze plan on the exchange — the lowest-priced coverage — is $5,081 a year.”)

At this point it’s bad economics to continue to band-aid and shore up a failing, flailing system. Let’s not fall victim of the sunk-cost fallacy, especially when millions of people are suffering (a greater number under the new plan than under the old, “broken”, system).

December 9, 2013

A Catastrophe That Cannot Be Fixed

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:50 pm

charles hugh smith-Obamacare is a Catastrophe That Cannot Be Fixed: “The real unsubsidized cost of Obamacare for two healthy adults exceeds the cost of rent or a mortgage for the vast majority of Americans. Please ponder this for a moment: buying healthcare insurance under Obamacare costs as much or more as buying a house. “

An in-depth look at the ACA’s effect on the ground-level customer complete with charts and graphs with a Paragraph on the back of each one.


Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 1:41 pm




Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 12:00 am

United Airlines blows it. American (naturally) picks up the slack.

WWII Vet en route to Pearl Harbor ceremony booted from United flight.

December 8, 2013

Burger Wars

Filed under: Foodie — jasony @ 11:29 am

PJ Lifestyle » In-N-Out Burger Joins Five Guys, Battles Local Favorites in Austin’s Rapidly Escalating Burger War: “Begun, the Austin burger wars have.”

December 6, 2013

Christian Musician: which one is the modifier?

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 10:38 am

Why Switchfoot won’t sing Christian songs

December 5, 2013

Those Who Can’t, Govern

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:25 am

Those Who Can’t, Govern:

“To say there is less private-sector experience in the Obama administration than in any other of the last century hardly begins to convey the particular pool of smarts on which this president has drawn. Nearly 60 percent of Eisenhower’s cabinet appointments had private-sector experience; Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes scored well over 50; FDR and Truman smack on 50/50; in Obama’s cabinet, fewer than 10 percent have real-world business experience. None of Obamacare’s begetters have ever created anything — certainly not a dime of real wealth.

Instead, we have government by people who read Thomas L. Friedman and use words like ‘interconnectedness’ and give commencement addresses where they rave about how our world is changing so fast — and assume that just being glibly au courant is a substitute for being able to do, make, build.”

All style and no substance. We’re witnessing (and being inflicted with) the results of that kind of shortsightedness now.

Read the whole thing.

December 3, 2013

Daily Kos: TIME Magazine’s U.S. & World Covers This Week Offer Stunning Contrast

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 2:32 pm

Daily Kos: TIME Magazine’s U.S. & World Covers This Week Offer Stunning Contrast:

“viewing contrasting covers such as those found this week, a question must be asked: do these moments of marketing (through a choice in covers) reveal more about Americans, or about the state of American journalism?

Mainstream journalists should fear the answer.”

Fix the media and you fix the country.

Will Work… Unless You Don’t Let Me

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:00 am

Oregon girl told she can’t sell mistletoe, but can beg for money: “Oregon girl told she can’t sell mistletoe, but can beg for money”


December 2, 2013

America’s Crisis of Trust

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:06 am

America’s Crisis of Trust – Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell: “

The perceived need for a third party has reached new highs. A whopping 60 percent of Americans say that the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job of representing their interests that a major third party is needed. This is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10 years it has been asking this question.

As Gerry Seib argues in the Wall Street Journal, there is a growing, radicalized center in the country that is searching for a third party or independent force to be a pragmatic problem solver and an oppositional force to dysfunctional Washington. This is where the future of American politics is headed.

As a result, no one or no institution has credibility in America today. The dip in the president’s honesty rating is not a blip, but part of long-term decline in confidence in government and institutions that represents and unraveling of a system where nobody is trusted at all.”

(Via .)

December 1, 2013

The Stars, My Destination

Filed under: Space — jasony @ 1:46 pm

Plotting the Destinations of 4 Interstellar Probes: “”

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