The Big Think

February 28, 2014


Filed under: Education — jasony @ 3:19 pm

Building a Practical College Degree for the New Economy: “”

Related: The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age (h/t Sean for the link)

“Many of my colleagues believe that if we just explain our plight clearly enough, legislators will come to their senses and give us enough money to save us from painful restructuring. I’ve never seen anyone explain why this argument will be persuasive, and we are nearing the 40th year in which similar pleas have failed, but “Someday the government will give us lots of money” remains in circulation, largely because contemplating our future without that faith is so bleak. If we can’t keep raising costs for students (we can’t) and if no one is coming to save us (they aren’t), then the only remaining way to help these students is to make a cheaper version of higher education for the new student majority.”

What can’t go on forever, won’t. Promises that can’t be kept, won’t be. Prepare accordingly.

February 27, 2014

About Time

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 11:30 am

8 Surprising Historical Facts That Will Change Your Concept Of Time Forever: “4. The Pyramids of Giza were built in the time of wooly mammoths.”

Read them all. Pretty fun.

February 25, 2014

Ira Glass on the Creative Process

Filed under: Business,Music — jasony @ 3:15 pm

February 24, 2014

Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 11:26 am

Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience – The Daily Beast:

“a significant portion of what Whole Foods sells is based on simple pseudoscience. And sometimes that can spill over into outright anti-science (think What Doctors Don’t Tell You, or Whole Foods’ overblown GMO campaign, which could merit its own article). If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health?…

…Bringing sound data into political conversations and consumer decisions is a huge, ongoing challenge. It’s not limited to one side of the public debate. The moral is not that we should all boycott Whole Foods. It’s that whenever we talk about science and society, it helps to keep two rather humbling premises in mind: very few of us are anywhere near rational. And pretty much all of us are hypocrites.”

Read the Whole thing.

February 23, 2014

Sultan Knish

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:32 am

Sultan Knish on the current political mess in Egypt:

When a political system becomes polarized between the forces of freedom and the forces of totalitarianism, then the forces of freedom have to win every single election. Meanwhile the totalitarians only have to win one election and then spend the rest of time reconstructing civic institutions, mobilizing thugs and making it structurally impossible for the other side to compete.

Even if the other side occasionally wins elections, the totalitarian process continues chugging along because the totalitarian side follows no rules while holding its opponents to above and beyond the letter of the law. The law constrains the ability of the law-abiding party to undo the work of the totalitarian party, but not the ability of the totalitarian party to pursue its agenda and undo the work of its opponents.

When one side is on a long march through the institutions while the other seeks consensus, the long marchers will win.

A democratic political system in which a leading political faction is totalitarian cannot endure.

Hope they’re able to pull through over there.

February 22, 2014

The 13 Most Important Numbers in the Universe

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 3:25 pm

The 13 Most Important Numbers in the Universe – James D. Stein’s Cosmic Numbers: “‘If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

Fascinating thoughts.

February 21, 2014

Color Between the Lines

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 10:08 am

Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail:

“The other day, after one of my talks, a 10th-grade girl came up and shyly asked if I had a minute. I always have a minute to talk to shy high school sophomores, having been one myself. And this is what she asked me: ‘I understand what you’re saying about trying new things, and hard things, but I’m in an International Baccalaureate program and only about five percent of us will get 4.0, so how can I try a subject where I might not get an A?’ I was floored. All I could think as I talked to this poor girl is ‘America, you’re doing it wrong.’ I was 15 in 10th grade. If you can’t try something new in 10th grade, when can you? If you can’t afford to risk anything less than perfection at the age of 15, then for heaven’s sake, when is going to be the right time? When you’re ready to splash out on an edgy assisted-living facility? Now is when this kid should be learning to dream big dreams and dare greatly. Now is when she should be making mistakes and figuring out how to recover from them. Instead, we’re telling one of our best and brightest to focus all her talent on coloring within the lines. This is not the first time I’ve heard this from kids and teachers and parents. But I’ve never heard it phrased quite so starkly.”

February 19, 2014

After 400 years, mathematicians find a new class of shapes

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 3:23 pm

After 400 years, mathematicians find a new class of shapes | Ars Technica: “The works of the Greek polymath Plato have kept people busy for millennia. Mathematicians have long pondered Platonic solids, a collection of geometric forms that are highly regular and are frequently found in nature. Platonic solids are generically termed equilateral convex polyhedra. In the millennia since Plato’s time, only two other collections of equilateral convex polyhedra have been found: Archimedean solids (including the truncated icosahedron) and Kepler solids (including rhombic polyhedra). Nearly 400 years after the last class was described, mathematicians claim that they may have now identified a new, fourth class, which they call Goldberg polyhedra. In the process of making this discovery, they think they’ve demonstrated that an infinite number of these solids could exist.”

February 16, 2014

Big Boom

Filed under: Music,Technology — jasony @ 11:24 am

Meet The Sound System So Loud, It Can Kill You: “Housed in the ESTEC Test centre, a bunker in the Netherlands, the enormous contraption shoots nitrogen through its enormous horn speaker and produces enough noise to permanently deafen anyone foolish enough to hear it. The ESA also claims that no human can survive listening to the sound produced when Leaf is turned up to its maximum volume.”

(Via .)

February 14, 2014


Filed under: Politics,Quoth — jasony @ 2:55 pm


“The biggest problem in our nation is not the Democrats, or the Republicans; it is not the Obama Administration, just as it wasn’t the Bush Administration, and it won’t be the Clinton or Warren Administrations. Our biggest problem is that the press has voluntarily surrendered its freedoms for the sake of idols and ideologies.”

February 12, 2014

Book Blog

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 5:40 pm

This is The Name of The Wind. Buy it.:

“The Name of The Wind is my book suggestion of the year. I read it about six months ago and I’m still thinking about it. It is the best book I have read in years, fantasy or otherwise.

The Name of The Wind needs to be the next book you read. And the next book after that, I can guarantee, will be the second in the Kingkiller Chronicles ‘The Wise Man’s Fear.’

I am a Harry Potter fan, you probably are a Harry Potter fan as well. But, in the years since you read Harry Potter, you’ve grown up a bit. This is the book that Harry Potter fans have been looking for. It’s not a book for Harry Potter fans…it’s just a book that I think people who loved Harry Potter and are now in their 20s or 30s would REALLY REALLY ENJOY.

I bought this book because I was in the book store and I tweeted ‘BOOK SUGGESTIONS PLEASE’ and about 12 people suggested it. I am so thankful to those 12 people.

The world is so deep, the stakes are so high, the characters so real, the mysteries so magical, the magic so mysterious, the plot so twisty…every day you haven’t read it is a day in your life that could be better.

I do not take this review lightly…buy this book. Buy it now.”

100% agree. It’s a phenomenal book.

Legitimate Responses

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:32 am

A law is enacted. It is done so by a slim but legal majority of the people’s representatives. This law is just as legitimate, and enacted under the same rules and considerations, as every other law of the land. You might not like it, but there it is.

You are a business owner with employees. The new law says you must do X if you have a certain number of employees. Because doing X would damage or maybe even destroy your business, you decide to avoid doing X by laying off people until you are under the threshold. (It’s obvious where I’m going here, but stay with me). Using this method to get below the threshold is totally with the law’s established legal framework. There is nothing preventing you from doing so. As economists would say, your reaction is a reasonable response to the incentives of the legal environment. The original law does not disallow your behavior–nor under most circumstances in our legal system would any law disallow your behavior. As long as you are not doing anything illegal like deciding on the basis of sex or marital status (or a few other established things), trimming employees in response to a changing business climate is one of the fundamental tools of business owners.

So far so good. The law was created and enacted with clear stipulations, voted into being by duly elected representatives, and responded to legally within established historical and legal frameworks.

Now the law is having trouble. This trouble is due, in part, by this exact response of the market to the “perverse incentives”. Don’t want to pay for X? Shrink your workforce to be below the threshold. However, the success of the law depends greatly on other businesses not following your lead and cutting employees. It depends on these businesses voluntarily keeping above the threshold, paying into the system, and helping the new law– a law that is strongly tied to a certain political philosophy– succeed. But the law is the law (as established in my first paragraph). To make matters worse, when companies lay off people (legally) to get below the threshold so that they don’t have to do X (legally), they tend to publicly express their dissatisfaction (also legally) and thus cause somewhat of a chain reaction as other companies look on and say you know, that’s not such a bad idea… Totally legal, but it makes the law, and the law’s supporters, look bad. It also puts at grave risk the ultimate success of the law, and by extension, that law’s proponents.

So now comes this:

“…officials made clear in a press briefing that firms would not be allowed to lay off workers to get into the preferred class of those businesses with 50 to 99 employees. How will the feds know what employers were thinking when hiring and firing? Simple. Firms will be required to certify to the IRS – under penalty of perjury – that [the law] was not a motivating factor in their staffing decisions. To avoid [the law’s] costs you must swear that you are not trying to avoid it. You can duck the law, but only if you promise not to say so.

Company officials will be trapped in a catch-22. They can lay off as many people as they want because of Obamacare. But because they’ll have to swear to the IRS that their decisions had nothing to do with Obamacare, they can’t speak publicly about what’s happening. What a great way to silence the people who are on the front lines of dealing with Obamacare’s horrific effects.”

Nowhere was the original law- the settled, codified, duly-voted-upon law– sent back to our representatives for reconsideration. And nowhere within that original law was the power to change the law to such an extent allowed or given to any entity. And if such a power can be read within the small print of the law, centuries of legal precedent would declare that power unenforceable and void. You can tweak “around the edges”, as they say, but the massive changes and counter responses to the legal reactions of the market that we have seen have stepped far outside of what can be considered reasonable. The courts are beginning to push back on this. If the law is not working the way it was written, the Executive branch cannot fundamentally change it without resubmitting it to Congress for a vote. In our system Congress makes the laws, the Executive enforces them.

This beautifully illustrates the problem that small government Conservatives and Libertarians have with our current system.

Related (and hilarious)

February 11, 2014

Gotta Love the Onion

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Politics — jasony @ 9:39 pm

Conservative Acquaintance Annoyingly Not Racist | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source:

“BROOKLYN, NY—Acknowledging that the man’s right-wing views are more nuanced than one might expect, 36-year-old liberal Diana Hardwick confided to reporters Tuesday that her conservative acquaintance Brady Daniels is, quite frustratingly, not racist. ‘We got to talking about immigration, and I really wanted him to undermine his argument for stricter border controls by saying something disparaging of Latinos, but apparently his opinions are based entirely on national security issues instead of race—which is super irritating,’ Hardwick said of Daniels, who reportedly describes himself as a ‘strong conservative’ on fiscal issues but, annoyingly, exhibits no racial biases. ‘It would be so much easier if I could just write him off as a bigot, but as far as I can tell he harbors no resentment or disdain toward people of color. For God’s sake, we argued every issue from states’ rights to income disparity but nope, he didn’t say anything even tacitly racist. Not once.’ Hardwick later concluded that her acquaintance’s opposition to most of President Obama’s policies meant he was probably ‘close enough’ to count as a racist.”

Big Weather

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 8:21 pm

Say what you will about our current weather, at least it’s not Condition 1. Wowsers.

It’s All In Your Head

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 8:14 pm

13 Things Not To Say To Someone With A Migraine

It’s been a while since I had a bad one, but when they come, look out. The world pretty much stops for a while. Always feel like I’ve been hit by a truck when they’re over.

500 Billion Here, 500 Billion There

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 6:43 am

Congressional Investigation: Treasury, IRS, HHS Conspired To Create An Unauthorized, Half-Trillion Dollar Entitlement:

“Last week, two congressional committees issued a little-noticed report detailing how Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, and Health and Human Services officials conspired to create a massive new entitlement not authorized anywhere in federal law.

In the summer of 2012, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight & Government Reform and Committee on Ways & Means launched an investigation to determine ‘whether IRS and Treasury conducted an adequate review of the statute and legislative history prior to coming to [the] conclusion that [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s] premium subsidies would be allowed in federal exchanges.’ Over the next 18 months, the committees held numerous hearings with senior Treasury and IRS officials, while investigative staff conducted interviews with key agency attorneys responsible for developing the regulations in question. Investigators also reviewed what few documents Treasury and IRS officials allowed them to see…..

The proposed rule met instant condemnation in the media, from members of Congress, and from individual citizens during the rule’s public-comment period. Critics noted the IRS was planning to do the exact opposite of what the statute permits the agency to do.”

Read the whole sordid story at the link.

Ho Hum, nothing to see here.


“Earlier Monday, Obama’s team announced “that it would give midsized employers until 2016 to provide health insurance for their workers, delaying another key provision of the Affordable Care Act,” per Washington Examiner reporter Brian Hughes.

Holder struggled to identify the basis for President Obama’s authority to flout Obamacare’s implementation schedule when Lee pressed him on the subject during a recent Senate hearing.

“I’ve not had a chance to look at, you know, for some time, exactly what the analysis was there, so I’m not sure that I would be able to put it in what category,” Holder told Lee on Jan. 29 when asked to ground the original delay of the employer law in a standard three-part test for such unilateral actions by the executive branch.

Lee asked Holder to write him an explanation of the legal analysis that the Justice Department used to justify delaying the employer mandate, which was originally supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The attorney general has not yet done so.

The Utah Republican said Obama is acting on the weakest of constitutional grounds. “The law says x, and he is trying to do not x, but y,” Lee told the Examiner.

As of today there is no party line on this, simply a refusal by the Attorney General- The Attorney General of the United States– to justify or explain the legal basis for this move.

Taken as a single instance this should disturb everyone. Taken in context with other Executive actions, this should be more than disturbing. Hello? Voice in the wilderness here? What happened to the people who were upset about the abuse of power during Bush?

Look, I realize that I’ve gone all political of late (okay, “late” being a generous term), and I do keep in mind the admonition of friends to not go off the deep end, but these posts are there to illustrate, and build an ongoing body of evidence, that our system isn’t working. And it’s broken in a very dangerous and unprecedented way.

To everyone who says but the last guy did it! I’ll answer yes, and it was wrong then too… that doesn’t excuse the current administration and it’s a dangerous precedent that we need to stop. Our republic was not designed to operate under these conditions.

To my friends on the other side of the political aisle, a simple question: would you be supportive of a Republican president that did everything the current one has done? If not, why would you be in opposition to those actions?

Why aren’t you now?

Shirley Temple, R.I.P.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 6:26 am

Shirley Temple, iconic child star, dies at 85 – Yahoo News: “Shirley Temple, the dimpled, curly-haired child star who sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of Depression-era moviegoers, has died, according to publicist Cheryl Kagan. She was 85.”

(Via .)

February 10, 2014


Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 2:33 pm

Oh man, I want one of these. If only I could figure out a way to soundproof it. Excellent.

Gold Medal in Spending

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:02 am

The Sochi Olympics are more costly than every other Winter Olympics in modern history combined. “…corruption isn’t a side effect of the Russian Olympics, the Olympics are a side effect of the corruption”.

Sochi Winter Olympics: $51,000,000,000
Salt Lake City Winter Olympics: $2,000,000,000

February 9, 2014

Fast Times at Eighth Avenue High

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:28 pm

Fast Times at Eighth Avenue High:

“High school is an apt metaphor for the shenanigans inside the Times’ $850 million skyscraper at the corner of Fortieth Street and Eighth Avenue. The Times portrayed in Kurson’s article is not the established, serious, and competent institution of the liberal imagination. It is the Beverly Hills High School in Clueless, a cliquey and catty war of all against all, where the self-importance of the occupants masks deep insecurities. The next time our reporters and producers and anchors and bloggers affect an air of moral or social superiority, the next time they pretend to know the answers to every political and economic and cultural question, remember this: They are basically teenagers.”

Most of us got away from needing the approval of the Cool Kids back in high school.

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