Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I said Romney could never win the GOP primary ...

Five years Romney was running for President. Back then I wrote:

Gordon's Notes: Romney: not possible

In order to win the GOP primaries Mitt Romney has to convince Christian conservatives that he's reversed many of his longstanding opinions. He also, incidentally, has to publicly renounce his religion and be born again as a Baptist ....

I wrote my post around Kenneth Woodward's 2007 NYT OpEd.  Woodward walked through the theological gulf between Christian fundamentalisms and Mormonism -- and he didn't even touch on the more exotic portions of traditional Mormon belief. I didn't believe a former Mormon bishop could win the GOP primary. Perhaps he could win the presidential election -- but not the GOP primary.

It took five years, but it seems I was not exactly right.

I'd like to know how he did it, and how evangelicals crossed that divide. In the meantime, I think some credit goes to GOP voters. Maybe quite a bit of credit -- depending on what they were thinking.

So how exceptional is Romney's religion? Is Mormonism technically Christian? I tried two sources, both were a bit evasive ...

Encyclopedia of Religion and Social Science

... In its Christian primitivism and antinomianism, it was akin to many other "restorationist" movements, such as the Campbellites, which emerged at about the same time in the "burned over district" ...

... in the 1840s, Joseph Smith and his successor prophets began to promulgate a series of new revelations and doctrines that moved Mormonism in a sharply heterodox direction relative to the Protestant heritage from which it had emerged. Since then, mainstream Protestantism, especially the more evangelical and fundamentalist varieties, has generally been unwilling to consider Mormons as part of the Christian family, despite the continuing Mormon claims to being the one, true, authentic church of Jesus Christ, restored to usher in a new dispensation of the fullness of the Gospel.... 


Mormon (religion) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia

Mormon beliefs are in some ways similar to those of orthodox Christian churches but also diverge markedly...

.. Mormons regard Christian churches as apostate for lacking revelation and an authoritative priesthood, although they are thought to be positive institutions in other respects. Smith, they believe, came to restore the institutions of the early Christian church. Although calling people to repent, Smith’s creed reflected contemporary American optimism in its emphasis on humanity’s inherent goodness and limitless potential for progress.

Perhaps it's a bit of a sensitive question. I'd go with technically Christian-related but not Protestant; probably closer to Christianity than Unitarianism or Judaism. Obviously there's a bit of irony if the Obama-is-a-muslim slice of the GOP ends up electing an arguably non-Christian President. (Maybe that's why Romney encourages Trump; it keeps the Birther whackos busy. Left alone they might go in another direction.)

If Romney does win he'll be expanding the religious range of the American presidency ...

Religious affiliations of Presidents of the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  • John Adams
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Millard Fillmore
  • William Howard Taft

No denominational affiliation

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Ulysses Grant
  • Rutherford Hayes
  • Barack Obama (previously United Church of Christ)

However, since the list includes four Unitarians (we go there - they evidently take agnostics) the historical record already stretches a good bit beyond "mainstream" Christianity. So President Romney would be unusual, but, theologically speaking, not entirely unprecedented.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Apple's quality problem is a complexity problem too

Marco Arment, builder of a respected OS X app, writes
Three Things That Should Trouble Apple –
... Apple’s software quality is declining.
I’m not just talking about the most recent releases of everything, or the last couple of months — I’ve noticed this trend for about 2–3 years. As Apple’s software has grown to address larger feature sets, hard-to-solve problems such as sync and online services, shorter release cycles, increasingly strong competition, and Apple’s own immense scale, quality has slipped...
I've noticed it for at least that long, but OS X Lion is a particular disappointment.

Siri is a recent example. After a promising start Siri died. I'll pin this one on Cook. Jobs had his flops, but he usually turned off the marketing until the bodies were buried or the problems were fixed.

The bigger quality problem though - that one came from Jobs. Some of it had to be the talent distraction of iOS development, but Lion is full of bad choices. Whoever decided to change how files were saved instead of focusing on quality and reliability should find another job.

Then there's the MobileMe to iCloud migration. Was there really no way to incrementally fix and extend MobileMe?

It is true that the endless malware race forces developers into disruptive and often imperfectly tested software updates. Microsoft faces this problem too however, and I think they're doing better with it. Apple chose to inflict much of the combinatorial complexity of interactions between iOS and OS X devices, synchronization across disparate data models -- not to mention the crazed, DRM-driven metastatic Apple ID Hell family/payer/owner identity and authentication problem. Apple chose to focus on marketing rather than customer value when they created their Aperture/iPhoto mess - and Apple continues to market Aperture as a smooth upgrade for iPhoto despite that mess. Rather like Siri, come to think of it.

Apple's quality problems are far from under control, and I don't think Cooks's executive compensation plans are helping.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Periodic Table of the US Navy?

My son brought home a Periodic Table from his school science class. It's also an ad for "America's Navy", "A GLOBAL FORCE FOR GOOD (tm)".

I don't suppose we can get equal time for other navies?

I didn't think so.

Why coupons? Price concealment information and memetic archeology in the pre-web world

Emily and I were wondering what business purpose coupons serve. They make brand price comparison labor intensive and hence unaffordable for most of us; this presumably allows both price discrimination (selling things at different prices to different markets), but it also enables companies to hide their prices from one another.

I couldn't find a good recent overview; the best I could do was a 1984 article by MC Narasimhan (A Price Discrimination Theory of Coupons).  A modern paper would want to include comparisons to Amazon's experiments with dynamic pricing, price hiding in pharmaceutical distribution, the regulatory and strategic concealment of physician office fees all in the context of game theory, information asymmetry (Akerlof, 1970s), and behavioral economics.

I can't find anything like this. So either we have a Google fail or yet another failure of modern economic academia (or perhaps a success of journal publisher information concealment, which is probably somehow related to coupon clipping).

Update: I gave this another 30 minutes of thought and realized there's a much more interesting explanation for this meme absentia.

This is pre-web economics; work done in the 1970s and 1980s. Discussions of affinity discounts, coupon clipping, frequent flyer mile economics and the like are the province of undergraduate textbooks. I shouldn't be looking in, I should be checking out DeLong and Krugman's posts, tumblrs, and tweets.

Except, of course in the 1970s Brad and Paul were high school students. Google's Usenet (1980s blog posts) archives start in 1981, and email lists aren't much older. The memetic gulf stream [1] that swept ideas from academia to geekdom didn't exist.

So this isn't really a Google or Academia fail, it's a need for new innovations in memetic archeology [2] within the pre-web world (early singularity: 1820-1995).

[1] As of 5/28/2012 Google has no results on "memetic gulf stream". Try it now.
[2] Seven real hits today. Try it now

PS. Emily points out that the OpenStax nonprofit textbook movement will expose many of these memes to the Google filter feeder. (Meme phracking?). Incidentally, I found that reference through my pinboard/wordpress microblog/memory management infrastructure now integrated into my personal google custom search.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A millennia of European history in six bullet points

A thousand years of European History - special needs history version ...

  • 1000 Middle Ages. Lots of small Kingdoms and local rulers. Church very powerful. Terrible Black Plague wipes out much of Europe. 
  • 1500 Renaissance and Protestant Reformation. Knowledge from ancient Greece and Rome and from China and India and the Middle East comes to Europe. New World “discovered” by Europeans. Catholic church loses control of power during Protestant Reformation. 
  • 1600 Scientific Revolution Late in the Renaissance Europe invented the idea of Science. That changed the way people thought about the world and how they made things. 
  • 1700 The Enlightenment Machines and ideas traveled around the world and caused Revolutions. 
  • 1800 The Industrial Age The steam engine and other machines meant that animals and human muscles weren’t as important. The world population started to grow very quickly. Energy was important. 
  • 1950 The Modern Age Today machines are starting to replace or extend the human brain. We don’t know what to call this age.

I'll update the PDF later today. When it's done I'll do an ePub version too.

See also:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Euthenasia will come to America within the next twenty years

Thirty years ago I was distressed by the NIH's relative disinterest in demential research. Anyone who could do arithmetic knew what was coming; the time for major action was 1982.

Now we have an "urgent" NIH program focusing on dementia [1] -- but it's 25 years too late. Post-boomers will face a deluge of former-people whose bodies outlast their brains. You'd call us Zombies, except that there will be a cure of sorts ...

Parent Health Care and Modern Medicine’s Obsession With Longevity -- Michael Wolff - New York Magazine

... after due consideration, I decided on my own that I plainly would never want what LTC insurance buys, and, too, that this would be a bad deal. My bet is that, even in America, even as screwed up as our health care is, we baby-boomers watching our parents’ long and agonizing deaths won’t do this to ourselves. We will surely, we must surely, find a better, cheaper, quicker, kinder way out.

Meanwhile, since, like my mother, I can’t count on someone putting a pillow over my head, I’ll be trying to work out the timing and details of a do-it-yourself exit strategy. As should we all.

Things that can't go on don't. One way or another, America will figure out how to shorten the duration of Boomer dementia. My own plan is to buy a cottage by a cliff with no railings.

[1] "Better treatments by 2025", a meaningless goal that is sure to be met. Funded with $50 million, or what modern CEOs make every four months. Wake me up when it's funded with $50 billion.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Entanglement and the emergence of time

There's an international competition underway to create the first secure quantum cryptographic channel to an orbital satellite. Today's record is 150 kilometers.

I can't judge the security significance of this competition; it probably depends on how good quantum computers will be at factoring. Perhaps a quantum communications channel will be the only practical defense against quantum computing decryption, though my trusted expert is somewhat skeptical.

I can say, however, that humans are remarkably blase about how insanely weird it is to have technologies based on magic.

Magic, or something indistinguishable from it. This stuff is all powered by "entanglement", the modest little word that means measurement of entangled states at opposite "ends" of the universe will be "instantaneously" "correlated". [1][2]

It's been said physicists deal with this by not talking about it. I am certain, however, that many physicists think about it quite a bit. I imagine I see these thoughts around the edges of blog posts on nature of time.

Since I'm very much not a smart enough to be a physicist, I can speculate freely about what I think they're thinking. I think they think that entanglement is telling us that time is not fundamental; that in a sense everything and nothing happens all at once. When correlation can happen outside of a light cone, then time isn't what we thought it was.

I'm on the lookout now for physicists starting to mutter these thoughts aloud.

[1] Words really fail at this. I'm trying to avoid words like "cause". Also "instantaneous" is almost certainly wrong or right.
[2] We're told that there's no way to communicate information through this correlation; though something I read recently made me wonder if physicists were finding a way to cheat this rule (I can't find the link).

See also:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Post-singularity life is burning a lot of neurons

In 3 days I've tackled three monster Apple bugs.

One is with Apple ID infrastructure, one with Image Capture in Snow Leopard, and a third probably arose in an iTunes server during an iOS tunes purchase.

Two of these bugs defeated Apple 2nd tier support. All of them are likely rare; I will probably never see these particular bugs again. Unfortunately, there are a lot of these bugs arising from interactions of Cloud and software and data.

One bug I've definitely solved -- it was bizarre. I have a good theory and a test case for another. The third might be fixed but needs more testing.

It's mildly satisfying to figure these things out, but it's an insane waste of time and neurons. I could have been learned options trading [1] in the time I've wasted.

Note that only one of these was OS X specific. Two of them are Apple Cloud bugs. The ones I understand best appear to be complexity problems -- too many moving parts, too many edge cases, too many ways for things to break.

Post-singularity life does not scale.

[1] Yeah, there are no good investments any more.

Update: This Stross essay is pertinent.
SF, big ideas, ideology: what is to be done? - Charlie's Diary 
... We're living in the frickin' 21st century. Killer robot drones are assassinating people in the hills of Afghanistan. Our civilisation has been invaded and conquered by the hive intelligences of multinational corporations, directed by the new aristocracy of the 0.1%. There are space probes in orbit around Saturn and en route to Pluto. Surgeons are carrying out face transplants. I have more computing power and data storage in my office than probably the entire world had in 1980... 
... to the extent that mainstream literary fiction is about the perfect microscopic anatomization of everyday mundane life, a true and accurate mainstream literary novel today ought to read like a masterpiece of cyberpunk dystopian SF...
 Even dystopian science fiction didn't predict we'd spend all our time keeping our whizzy tools working.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Who were the crazy genius scientists?

Which famous scientists and/or mathematicians were also "crazy" (e.g. - far outside behavioral "norms") during their adult productive lives (excluding those, like Pauling, who became eccentric at an age where dementia is common)?

My current list is ...
  1. Newton: Perhaps autism spectrum, but he was so brilliant, and so bizarre, that he's untypable. He's outside of the human range. He may have hard mercury poisoning late in life, or perhaps a late-onset schizophrenia-like psychosis.
  2. John Nash: paranoid schizophrenic, though somewhat late-onset. His recovery is remarkable, as was Newton's -- but he was psychotic for a longer time period.
  3. Kurt Godel: schizotypal, later in life delusional beliefs with paranoid features.
  4. Nikolai Tesla: OCD, Autism spectrum?
  5. Henry Cavendish: social phobia, anxiety disorder.
  6. Boltzmann: bipolar disorder (classic)
Our classifications of mental illness are pretty weak even in normal IQ adults; this group is probably unclassifiable. Who else should be on the list?

Update: Philip K Dick wasn't quite in this group, but his late-onset pyschosis experience resembles Tesla's. Matt suggested Godel and Boltzmann. The pattern of schizotypal personality disorder behaviors with late-onset deterioration or psychosis might apply to Tesla, Newton and Godel. Botlzmann and Nash had more classic neurospychiatric disorders.

These are most extraordinary minds. It would not be surprising if they had extraordinary dysfunctions.

Update 6/7/2012: An academic opinion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Canada vs US: What happened in the 90s?

I was playing around with Google's astounding Google Data Visualization tool [1] and I compared GDP per capital between Canada (my birthplace) and the US over the past forty years in US dollars.


That's one huge gap in the 90s. I assume it has to do with some exchange rate divergence and a purchasing power parity gap ...

Whatever the cause, the divergence starts @1990, but shortly after 2001 (9/11?) Canada US$ GDP/Capita skyrockets. The crash of 2008 by this measure is huge in the US, but immense in Canada. Now they're converging again even as Canada's currency seems to be ?overpriced ...

I don't see how to graph PPP adjusted GDP/person over this period, but that would be really neat.

Be neat to have an economist comment on this. For me it's mostly fun to play with this amazing tool. I suspect that some people made a lot of money based on those wild PPP fluctuations - whether directly by currency trading or indirectly through other measures. They don't seem to reflect fundamental changes in the US and Canadian economies.

PS. Incidentally, according to this tool, Bermuda is part of North America, but Mexico is not.

Minnesota 2012: Emotional health?

I tend to think bad driving is contagious. Not contagious as in passed from parent to child, but contagious as in a short-lived virus passed from driver to driver. When conditions are right, perhaps in bad weather or after tax filing, one bad driver angers another who angers another ...

So when I'm in my car and I see two people driving badly, I give everyone extra space. The virus is short-lived, typically things are back to normal within a few hours. [1]

Lately, however, it seems as though Minnesota drivers are persistently distracted, irritable, maybe angry. I see it when I'm driving, but especially when I'm walking or bicycling. It's not a mobile device problem; if anything I see less mobile use while driving. It could be demographics; Minnesotans are getting older (certainly I am), and old drivers are not happy drivers.

It's not just drivers though. I watch faces, and pedestrians too seem unhappy and distracted. That would be normal in February, but it's odd in a mild Minnesota spring.

On the other hand, a recent Gallup poll suggests a stable US emotional health index (The difference between 78.3 and 79.8 seems small, but US presidential elections are decided by less margin than that):
... Gallup's U.S. Emotional Health Index score was 79.9 last month, slightly above the previous high of 79.8 recorded in March 2008 and May 2010. Americans' emotional health has generally been improving since September, when it dropped to its lowest level in more than three years (78.3)...
So no conclusions for now, but I do wonder if Americans are starting to weary of economic stress, uncertainty, and increasing inequality. I'll be tracking this meme.

[1] I used to think there were similar epidemics of murder, perhaps with non-linear or chaotic peaks, but so far that theory hasn't held up.

Monday, May 14, 2012

JP Morgan debacle - it's all Krugman's fault

Felix Salmon pins the JP Morgan debacle on the CEO - Jamie Dimon.

Dimon supported Ina Drew's transformation of corporate "checking accounts" into big bets against Europe and the Euro. They turned a risk management fund into a trading operation. It's 2009 all over again.

Dimon's luck with his timing though. The GOP Congress will ensure there are no consequences this election year, and he can put his billions towards a Romney win.

Even better, Dimon can pin the whole thing on the guy traders hate - Paul Krugman. After all, it was Krugman who predicted that Greece would have to drop out of the Euro unless Germany accepted major reforms. 

As it happened Europe made partial reforms, pushing the date of Euro collapse into 2012 and ruining Dimon's week.

Of course Krugman has not really been disproved, but doesn't he make a great scapegoat for Dimon?

In the end, Krugman humbled JP Morgan after all. Just not the way we thought he would.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Facebook and financing a new Vikings stadium: it's a messy world

My Facebook stream has been telling me what my friends read and the movies they watch. 

So far, nothing too surprising.  I'm tempted to click on some of them.

Some of them are click-safe. Others are wee traps. By clicking on them I'm authorizing the apps to share some of the things I read or watch. Robert Wright at The Atlantic has the details.

Take a friend's whale video for example. His post doesn't look like an "app post". There's no "hide this app" option for it. Alas, those cues are so 2011. Apps are more covert now. When I click on the link I get this this dialog from ""

Screen shot 2012 05 12 at 12 56 36 PM

Note the blue button doesn't say "run this app". It says "Okay, Watch Video". 

If I did click it however ...

  • Everything I watch from Chill going forward would be Public on my timeline. (I periodically run the FB app that sets all my posts to friends-only; that's what I want. FB has ways to work around that.)
  • Chill would get my private email address and my profile info
  • Chill will post all videos I watch, all that I react to, "and more" -- on all my friends feeds. From their privacy policy "When you use our Service, all of the information that you submit, which may include name, email address, photographs and comments, will be publicly available to third parties and we may not have control over what they do with it. By using our Service, you consent to such disclosure. "

Chill isn't breaking any rules. It's "How Apps Work Now" - frictionless "Social Running".

Facebook, like Google+, is incorrigible. There will be a bit of an upset about this, but not as much as with their last 50 violations.

So why do I stick with Facebook when most of my geek friends have left it?

Because it's still where the non-geeks are. The kids on my son's baseball team don't all have email (or don't use it). They don't all have mobile phones with text plans (and besides, mass texting is a pain). They do all, however, use Facebook. So to communicate them I put up a Facebook Page for the team. Same thing with our inline skating club and our special hockey team.

I put Facebook in the same bucket as the state gambling operations we're using to fund a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings (just in time for the twilight of American football). State lotteries and the like are a tax on people who are bad at math -- or who just need a bit of hope. We'd never get stadium funding by taxing income or real estate, but voters are willing to tax the poor. Facebook is just another annoying part of the imperfect world we make the best of.

The Wart Blog

This is my 7420th published post since July 16, 2003.

Of all 7,420, the comments and hits on one whimsical post about duct tape treatment for warts far exceed all other comments put together.

That post is my legacy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oldest web news portal - refreshed

For about 340 web years (@ 17 human) Emily and I have used the same web news portal. It's a basic HTML 2.x table based layout link page. The links change very slowly - the BBC World link may be original. It may be older than the Yahoo news page.

I did the first version in a text editor, perhaps BBEdit. Then FrontPage 95, 98, 2000, 2002 ... and back to FrontPage 98. FrontPage 98 lives in an old XP VM on my iMac; I start it up every few months to update the page (my old web site is archived). There's still nothing like FrontPage that will run on a Mac, so perhaps I'll go back to BBEdit next.

I've updated the page again - Yahoo and Salon broke some links and I finally replaced my defunct iframe embedded Google Reader Shared Posts. Instead of the GR Shares there's a somewhat awkward embedded Pinboard Mobile page (my microblog/GR Share replacement).

Feel free to bookmark it if you're looking for a simple news links page -- the URL hasn't changed in over 250 web years. It will probably last as long as me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Understanding the Middle East: Iran's 16th century Safavid Dynasty (IOT)

Around the time Spain and Portugal were swarming over the Americas and the European Renaissance was firing up, a semi-divine Sufi Ruler [2] created modern Shiism and reshaped Iran and its neighbors.

This was the time of the Safavid Dynasty (and empire).

I had no idea - until I listened to this excellent In Our Time podcast [1]:
BBC - BBC Radio 4 Programmes - In Our Time, The Safavid Dynasty 
... In 1501 Shah Ismail, a boy of fifteen, declared himself ruler of Azerbaijan. Within a year he had expanded his territory to include most of Persia, and founded a ruling dynasty which was to last for more than two hundred years. At the peak of their success the Safavids ruled over a vast territory which included all of modern-day Iran. They converted their subjects to Shi'a Islam, and so created the religious identity of modern Iran - although they were also often ruthless in their suppression of Sunni practices. They thrived on international trade, and their capital Isfahan, rebuilt by the visionary Shah Abbas, became one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Under Safavid rule Persia became a cultural centre, producing many great artists and thinkers...
The role of Armenian Christians in the dynasty puts the infamous Turkish genocide in a historical perspective. The Ottamans and Safavids were great rivals, and the Christian Armenians seem forever caught in the crossfire.

This history, and the myths that arose from it, explain a lot about modern Iran and the great Shia-Sunni struggles of the 21st century.

[1] This link is to the almost impossible to find archived podcast. Despite the BBC's stated podcast policy these are no longer discoverable from the primary In Our Time episode archives. You can find them on on the hidden BBC IOT Podcast archive. You may be able to also extract them from the iTunes archive or the BCC IOT Podcast feed. I blame it on Cameron.
[2] The last of the Iranian Shahs, prior to the latest revolution, was accused of favoring Zoroastrian ideas, including divine rule. The God-King is a worldwide tradition. (Aside, I met one on his sons when I was at Williams College in @ 1979/80.)

Sympathy for the federal reserve: Bubble 2.0

In the 90s we excoriated Greenspan for presiding over the dot-com bubble. Why didn't he include bubble management in price stabilization?

We never did recover from the crash of '99; but our real estate bubble made us feel better for a while. Then, of course, came the Lesser Depression.

Now, in the 10s, Krugman beats up on Bernanke for allowing systemic depression to persist and for failing to apply the counter-intuitive hydraulics of Keynes. My other economists stake out varying positions on the structural vs. systemic unemployment spectrum -- with most seeing a mixture of both with systemic causes persisting and structural causes, including technological, growing [1]. My team, generally speaking, favors both fiscal and monetary stimulus until we return to around 6% unemployment and "normal" economic growth. At that point Keynes says it's time to dial the inflow down (alas, that doesn't seem to happen very much. See dot-com bubble, above.)

The GOP, and especially GOP voters, mean that fiscal stimulus such as infrastructure development or government employment isn't a viable option. That leaves macroeconomic policy. Since low interest rates have run up against the famous zero bound, that leaves options like inflation targets.

But what should Bernstein do when, in the midst of the lowest labor force participation since 1984 (amongst white males the lowest since 1939) we see Bubble 2.0?

Mr. Bernstein has my sympathy.

[1] Sadly for my ego, nobody seems interested in whitewater/discontinuity disequilibria theories.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Where did Apple's Aperture 1.0 come from?

I've editing a summary post on my challenging iPhoto to Aperture migration. That's made me wonder, again, where Aperture 1.0 came from.

Aperture still doesn't use the native OS X tools for file browsing. It is the most un-Mac like product I've ever used.

The image framework was originally based on OS X Core Image, which was, I assume, a descendant of the NeXT imaging engine. So did Aperture start out as a NeXT photo management tool?

Unfortunately I can't find anything on the net about NeXT photo management software -- perhaps because NeXT died when the web was young, and also because "NeXT" is a useless search term (modern search engines are not case-sensitive).

Perhaps Aperture 1.0 was an acquisition, but I don't see any likely suspects on Wikipedia's Apple mergers and acquisitions list. Perhaps it was designed to be sold on Windows as well as Mac OS; but then why not emulate iTunes?

It's a puzzle. If I had to bet, I suspect it has roots in NeXT. I don't think it's de novo OS X development.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

How to buy happiness

If you're a reasonably healthy middle-class American adult you too can buy happiness. Here's how ...
Coding Horror: Buying Happiness 
1. Buy experiences instead of things
2. Help others instead of yourself
3. Buy many small pleasures instead of few big ones
4. Buy less insurance
5. Pay now and consume later
6. Think about what you're not thinking about
7. Beware of comparison shopping
8. Follow the herd instead of your head 
Number two was probably the hardest one for me -- pre-kids. Now 'helping others' is most of what I do. Obviously, there are other ways to do that.

The list and explanations fit my own experience. It's the best guide I've seen.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

My personal salon - the feeds I read completely

RSS is history. We know that. It's been replaced by ... by .... 

Right. Whatever is going to replace Feeds (RSS/Atom) hasn't quite arrived. So, while we wait, we read. In my case, I read using on my iPhone, Reeder for Mac on my main machine, and Google Reader elsewhere.

Recently, I did a reorg and cleanup of my subscriptions. I deleted perhaps 30 -- some hadn't been updated since 2006. A few were quite good, but ended abruptly a few years ago. Perhaps the author will return, maybe something happened to them. Google abandoned many blogs when they went G+, I deleted most of them. They're not very interesting any more anyway.

I was left with 363. I've long organized them by source and topic, such as "NYT" or "Science". This works pretty well, but there's a subset of blogs that are special. These blogs may not publish very often, but I read almost every article. They deserved more attention.

I've put these into a folder I call "Core", and I've shared them in a Google Reader Bundle called "Core" [1]. You can subscribe to them through the "bundle" (assuming it still works) and delete the ones you don't want. Or you can google the names on this list (I left out Gordon's Notes and Gordon's Tech because I'm just that kind of guy): 

All That's Interesting - pictures mostly
Blood & Treasure - China from a UK view
Charlie Stross - thinker and writer
Coates - intellectual.  Aka TNC, Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Coding Horror - geek and thinker
Cosmic Variance - physics
Daring Fireball - often annoying, almost always interesting. Mac
DeLong - an old favorite, though we read too much of the same stuff.
Ezra Klein - politics
Fallows - aviation, the world
Follow Me Here... - psychiatrist. A lot like me.
Gail Collins - NYT
Gwynne Dyer (NZH) - rabble rouser. Almost always right.
Hawks on Anthropology - like it says
I, Cringely - sometimes a bit eccentric. I worry about him. Almost always very interesting
Joel on Software
Leonard - economics
MN Bike Navig - local fave
Oatmeal - web comic
Paul Krugman - you know
Pphysics arXiv - best short science
Roger Ebert - intellectual, scholar, humanist
Salmon - business, news, journalist, economics
Shtetl-Optimized - computational physics
Talking Points - cutting edge politics
The Economist: Obituary - almost the only good part of a long dead journal
The Economist: SciTech - the other good part of a long dead journal
The Wirecutter - tech products, only the best
Top 25 - NYT Top 25
Whatever - Scalzi - science fiction - unbelievably good

They mostly don't know me, but they are my salon. I'm a quiet sort of host. One or two are MN centric. I have Emily's Calendar feed in 'Core' too so I know when she adds events, but obviously there's no need to share that.

Many of my Pinboard/Twitter/Archive shares come from this set.

[1] Yes, Bundles still exist. Surprisingly. The view resermbles the old Reader Share view. There is some bugginess though; the widget for viewing the feed list is broken. I wonder if Google has forgotten this exists.