Here is a “Greatest Hits” of Huckabee that was produced in 2007:
Here is Huckabee commenting on the emerging situation in the Ukraine:
Is it me, or has his accent significantly dimished? Between that and his physical changes (aging and weight gain) he’s not all that instantly recognizable.
For the record, I don’t care if he has tried to minimize his accent so that he can be better understood, is taken more seriously, or will be a more viable presidential candidate than he otherwise would be. My own accent, or lack thereof, is variable. I just find it interesting, if I’m not imagining it.
Third-hand smoke exposure is just as deadly as smoking! Ack! Except that it’s not, of course, and eventually making everything as dangerous as smoking makes smoking actually look less dangerous (if anyone actually believed it).
Science, health and the human mind are funny things. The power of placebo.
Ack! Some crocodiles can climb trees!
NIMBYism is trying to kill housing in Evanston, Illinois, due to fear of transient academics.
A builder in Portland found it easier to build affordable housing without public funding (other than some waivers) than with the strings attached to public funding.
Maybe in the future, houses will be built in 24 hours by 3D printers.
Is your job in another state? Click here to find out!
You might be able to find a job in a lot of places (or a job that goes a lot of places), if you’re a clown, because there’s a shortage.
While raising the minimum wage will hurt McDonald’s, it’ll just be replaced by something else. The shift towards upscale has its own concerns, though.
Ryan Noonan, formerly of Ordinary Times, co-wrote an interesting paper on manufacturing wages.
According to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, extended unemployment benefits boosted our jobless numbers.
The dumb rubes in the working class aren’t the ones driving our political polarization. It’s folks who have education and income.
We think of The Big Sort as ideology determining geology. But what if it’s the other way around? I actually notice a tendency among optimistic ideologues who believe that people who relocate will absorb the politics of where they move to but then argue that the ideology of the places will shift as people move to it. There’s some truth to both of these things, but not in a predictable sort of way that justifies ideological optimism.
Last October we were expecting to hear a round of regulations that would determine the brave new frontier of vaping, but nothing game. It’s expected that it will come soon. Ordinarily, I’d fear the silence. In this case, though, I wonder if longer isn’t a little bit better. It all depends. At this point I believe the facts are on the side of less regulation and more thought out regulations will be more measured, though it seems a bit like the anti-vaping crusaders are gaining some traction.
Megan McArdle wrote a reasonably good piece on ecigarettes. In which she speaks to the fear:
As nothing but a replacement product for existing smokers, e-cigarettes seem like a public-health win. Widespread adoption by current smokers “could potentially reduce smoking deaths by more than 90 percent,” says Joel Nitzkin, a public-health physician who is a senior fellow at free-market think tank R Street in Washington.
But what if current smokers aren’t the only people who use them? What if e-cigarettes lure back people who used to smoke or attract new smokers? What if people who otherwise would have quit keep using nicotine? And perhaps the No. 1 argument: What if e-cigarettes make smoking normal again in public places, with the attendant annoyance of a neighbor or officemate blowing nicotine-laced steam everywhere?
What is really frustrating is that we don’t know. As important as anything, we don’t even know if there will be much wrong with people choosing to vape. Almost all of the anti-vaping sentiment is based on potential and hypothetical dangers. Well, it’s hard to argue with potential and hypothetical. It’s hard to argue with the notion that vaping may be dangerous, because it’s hard to prove a negative. Tests on propylene glycol, one of the chief ingredients of the eliquid, have been performed because that’s what they use for theatrical fog, and it was found to be safe. They have tested this stuff on animals saturated 24/7 for extended periods of time (eighteen months) and they found minimal consequences (reversible dehydration of the nasal and ocular areas). The head of the FDA himself has said that nicotine addicts you and tar kills you. Ecigarettes do not have tar.
I have previously expressed some skepticism of the health consequences of these things, taking the middle ground that while they’re not nearly as dangerous as the critics claim they’re probably not as safe as the advocates say. The more I’ve read, though, the more confident I am that the health threat is likely very minor to non-existent. The advocates’ claims are based on study after study after study, while the opponents claims are based on hypotheticals. Not even hypothetical models, but vague statements about what we don’t know.
Which brings us to the next argument, which is that it will prevent people from quitting smoking or quitting nicotine. In the case of the latter, if the health risks are so marginal, should we really care? In the case of the former, that could be bad, save that there is no real reason for it to be true. According to a UK study (STS140122) on cigarette, ecigarette, and NRT (nicotine replacement therapy – the gum or patch), “There is no evidence that electronic cigarettes are undermining motivation to quit or reduction in smoking prevalence.”
It goes on to say: “Use of e-cigarettes by never smokers or long-term ex-smokers is extremely rare.”
It does not provide any data on people starting with ecigarettes and moving to the regular kind, which is another concern (supported by hypotheticals). Speaking from a personal perspective, once you’re using ecigarettes and get the regular cigarettes out of your system, the latter becomes superfluous. I can quite honestly say that I have no desire to pick up a real cigarette at all. What I’m doing now isn’t just healthy, it’s more enjoyable. Vaping offers advantages that smoking can’t match. Including, I should add, the very flavoring that the anti-vaping advocates want to ban. Not to mention the ability to do it in more places, though right or wrong anti-smoking crusaders are going after that, too.
In other words, due to their anti-smoking zeal, they are methodically trying to reduce incentives to take advantage of an amazing new tool to help people quit. Even if they don’t quit the vaping, they’re still ahead. Arguments otherwise assume that if they can’t vape they will quit For Real. They remind me of my father who, on finding out that I had indeed quit smoking entirely and was now vaping, wondered if I could just quit without vaping. The last eight years of my life indicate otherwise. Strongly.
And on a more personal level, by god I have found something that works for me. Not just because I don’t smoke anymore, but because it allows me the ability to continue to do the things that drew me to smoking in the first place. I may quit the ecigarettes or I may not. But I have finally found myself not having to obsess over this question. Do you know how amazing that is? A world has been lifted from my shoulders. The monkey that has been on my back for years and years is gone. At worse, replaced by something by all measures benign by comparison. It makes me want to kiss the skies. And it makes me furious at those who see this as some nefarious new threat to the public health.
Right now I am just waiting to find out how bad it’s going to be. Whether the thing that right now costs me twenty-five cents a milliliter will shoot up to seventy-five cents (a very real possibility). Whether the people I get my supply from will be allowed to remain in business. Whether I am going to have to throw everything out and start all over with an FDA-approved device. I’m concerned about the number of people out there who could take the same path as I did to recovery, but as much as anything I just want to keep doing the thing that has put more distance between me and cigarettes than I have had in over ten years. Or whether it will be made more complicated and disrupted with right-now unthinkable consequences. In the name of public health. In the name of my own well-being.
A few weeks ago I was listening to Robert Ludlum’s book Trevayne, which was originally published under a pseudonym because the conventional wisdom at the time was that people wouldn’t accept more than one novel a year by an individual.
Ludlum is dead now, and now, as with James Patterson and Tom Clancy, they’re putting his name on books that he didn’t write.
The notion that not only should we have to wait a year for each novel by a particular author but that this is a good thing has fallen by the wayside.
And why not? There is something to be said for novels franchising out and producing as much content and as many variations as the market will bear. Combine this with the Patterson model and there are tremendous opportunities.
It also has artistic advantages. As future installments can be planned in advance, it’s easier for storytellers to play the long game with storylines and ideas. Even better, it can add a degree of reassurance to the reader that the story will, in fact, end. Combine this with franchising and it opens up worlds of possibilities.
My creative project has me looking into our solar system and terraforming. Along the way, to help me visualize things, I have run across multiple animations of our solar system at work as well as found some interesting resources on terraforming.
The first one is from Dynamic Diagrams and is by far the most interesting (warning, if you’re at work turn off your speakers before going there). It’s by far the best done visually insofar as it looks pretty cool. Lain absolutely loves it. She’s transfixed by the planets spinning round and round. She likes to point at the moon on the lower left hand part. She’s also used to tablets where she can make things move with her fingers, so she tries to “catch” the planets to manipulate them. It has very limited options. You can either watch the planets go around the sun or use the old Earth-as-the-center model and watch the planets (and the sun) go around us. You can also speed up or slow down (or reverse) the process.
The second one, Solar System Scope, was actually more useful for my purposes because it showed the dwarf planets and their orbits that deviate from the elliptical plane. It also gives a better idea of the sorts of distances between planets we’re talking about. Though less pretty, it actually gave me more of the visualization that I needed. There are a lot of options. You can zoom in and out, change perspective, make the planets large or realistically proportioned, and add and remove orbits, object names, and so on. You can also, like the other one, speed things up and slow them down. You can also click on a planet and get more.
The third one, Solar System Visualizer, is the only one that includes Pluto as a planet. Either because it’s outdated or because they are conscientious objectors. The options are limited here to zooming in and out. For my interest in the non-planetary items it was pretty good. Specifically around the asteroid belt which the Scope more or less ignores.
The story I am drafting up in my mind involves the Solar System being terraformed by oddly benign aliens. They’re refugees from intergalactic wars and mostly want to settle on some place really far out of the way. Having had their own planets decimated, they actually (as far as we know) have little in the way of designs on us. They basically set up shop and start terraforming everything in site. This was supposed to be an oh-by-the-way aspect of the story, but it turns out there is a lot of information out there about terraforming and a lot of things to consider.
This is the most direct source with descriptions of the possibilities and what would be required in English that I can understand. I’m also using Wikipedia’s entry on rounded orbital objects to help me figure out where to look (since there are planets with 60+ moons, I can’t just up “moons”). Wikipedia’s entry on terraforming itself was interesting.
A number of conservatives and anti-immigration sorts have made some hay over Switzerland’s decision to restrict immigration. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the immigrants they are restricting are more of our H1B variety (except European, if that matters) than the immigrants they spend the most time complaining about here.
How Swedish tax policy lead to Abba’s flamboyant outfits. (via Vikram Bath)
Wikipedia: Lottery mathematics
As the fiscal outlook of states improves, states are trying to figure out what to do with the money.
According to The Nation, feminism is undergoing some toxic Twitter wars.
If gun control advocates want people to believe that gun registration will not lead to gun confiscation, they should take care that gun registration doesn’t lead to gun confiscation.
Pentecostalism is spreading among the immigrants. This sort of thing could, ultimately, be how the GOP improves its share of the Hispanic vote (over time). Hispanic protestants tend more towards the GOP than Hispanic Catholics.
South Korea is building a 364-foot statue of Voltar the Invincible to go in their Robot Land theme park because why now?
What a neat idea: using remote controlled robots to let people look at museum art after hours.
Robots saved Pittsburgh.
Will Doc Shock become a thing? People don’t like narrow networks, but they could be a crucial to cost control. Truly, the enemy of true health care reform is us.
There is just tons and tons of information in this New York Times article about action movie actors. Heck, just in these two paragraphs alone:
Once upon a time, a movie poster needed to have only two words on it: the star’s last name and the title. Stallone: Rambo. Schwarzenegger: Terminator. In the new action-hero economy, though, actors rarely carry the franchise; more often, the franchise carries the actor. Chris Hemsworth was little known before “Thor,” and no one outside the industry was too familiar with Henry Cavill before “Man of Steel.” Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who produced “Transformers” and this winter’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” told me that studios were gambling on unproven actors for economic reasons. “These movies cost a lot to mount. Adding on the big movie star’s salary is the thing that makes you go, ‘Boy, I don’t know if I can afford it.’ ” Perhaps no movie typifies this model better than the 2006 mega-hit “300,” an adaptation of Frank Miller’s popular comic-book series, which featured inexpensive and little-known actors like Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender and then catapulted them to stardom. This week, the film’s producers are trying to replicate that success with a sequel, “300: Rise of an Empire,” which is anchored by the unheralded Sullivan Stapleton and 299 other equally fit, anonymous men in leather skirts.
There are now more indistinguishable, barrel-chested, eight-packed aspiring stars than ever, and they’re all hoping to become the next Hemsworth or Cavill. Nikki Finke, the former editor of Deadline.com, describes the modern casting process as a “bake-off.” “They’re looking at seven actors. You’ve heard of two of them. . . . They all have names like Joe and Josh. It’s impossible to keep them straight.” The longtime action-movie producer Avi Lerner said: “Every day I get phone calls from two or three agents in big Hollywood agencies. They’re always telling me about some new client that is going to be the next Tom Cruise. One in a hundred becomes a movie star.” And the competition is only getting tougher. “There’s going to be an implosion,” Steven Spielberg warned last spring at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, “where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.” By the summer, that crash already seemed to be happening: “R.I.P.D.” and “Turbo” bombed, joining other megabudget flops like “After Earth,” “White House Down” and “Pacific Rim.” “The Lone Ranger,” for which Disney paid an estimated $375 million, made less than $261 million worldwide. “Eight years ago, there were roughly 150 wide-release movies,” says Mark Gill, the president of Millennium Films. “Last year, there were 115. My prediction is that it will be down to 50 in the next couple years. And there will be fewer tent poles.”
I remember when they were searching for the next Superman, a couple of aborted Superman attempts ago, that I thought to myself that a Superman movie can make a star out of anybody good. Why waste money buying someone who is already a star?
Casting is actually across the board with stars and relative unknowns becoming the big heroes. The next Batman is Ben Affleck, after all, starring alongside the previously anonymous Cavill. Each case is different, though you would actually sort of expect there to be a pattern of some sort. The juxtoposition of Affleck and Cavill, playing two of the most well-known of superheroes, pretty much says it all. Then second-tier heroes like Thor are also given unknowns like Hemsworth next to Edward Norton as the Hulk. It seems to me the smartest casting goes on the basis “The bigger the character, the smaller the actor.” You might need Downey to sell Iron Man, but you don’t need Affleck (or even Bale) to sell Batman.
I would suggest that this works beyond superheroes, too. The cited Conan failure was a miscalculation, in my view, of the value of the Conan property. Ahnold was the star there and not the character and they needed a bigger star to play that role. That doesn’t mean that recasting or taking a chance on an unknown is a bad idea, but expectations (and overall budgets) should be adjusted accordingly. The article mentions rebooting Transporter without Jason Statham. It was Statham that made the series, but if the plan is basically for a Redbox release, that’s probably not a bad idea. Fast & Furious survived Vin Diesel’s (temporary, it turned out) exit, so you never know. Just don’t bet the farm on it.
The overall picture presented of the movie industry is somewhat depressing. Predictable, but depressing. I like my superhero movies and movies based on properties I am interested in, though there is such a thing as excessive caution and I Hollywood seems to be reaching that point. Actors fees themselves have played a role, as the more a movie spends the more cautious they need to be. The movie industry is facing more competition than ever, from everything ranging from television to piracy to (it seems to me) more movies than ever being made. That seems likely to perpetuate the “Go big or go pretty small” model I have been predicting (though hasn’t come to fruition… yet).
 It seems odd to me when they surround an actor with bigger stars. A nobody playing Superman, but recognizable actors below the headline. Bale playing Batman, but Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. I suppose that does make some economic sense because getting Freeman to play a smaller part does put the movie on some radars. I suppose I just haven’t gotten used to it yet.
 I would consider the replacing of actors to be a more positive development if it were used differently. I think they ought to make some of these superhero movies with ten films in mind. I’d always assumed the hold-up was the increasing cost of actors and an unwillingness to replace them (it was a big deal when Keaton was replaced, for example). Marvel gets this and has been working towards it, though DC hasn’t. With actors being less of an issue, I wonder if it’s not directors that are the issue. Each one wanting to get a fresh take on the character.
There are, and have been, a pretty crazy number of indoor football leagues over the years. Here’s Wikipedia’s list.
Some people like to be able to say that they listen to music that nobody else does. Here’s a tool to help you with that.
Next week the NCAA will (likely) vote on The Saban Rule, which in true college fashion will call a “delay of game” penalty on teams that move the ball too quickly. Michael Reagan and Robert Charette think it’s a stupid idea. To be fair, anything that makes Alabama vulnerable must be unfair, right?
Nuclear power seems to operate in a real sour spot, the anti-Goldilocks. It’s considered more expensive than coal and less environmentally friendly than solar rather than more green than coal and cheaper than solar.
Queen Elizabeth is running out of money? Woah.
In the face of (religious?) cartels and crime, Mexico is turning to sponsored vigilantism.
A London court is putting the LDS Church on trial. With our First Amendment protections, the concept seems alien to us. Even over there, their legal experts are surprised.
Hyperbole has its place, but one should be careful not to sound factual when trying to engage in hyperbole, because it can leave you making statements you don’t want to make.
If you say that X is just as bad as Z, then you are in essence saying that Z is no worse than X. This sounds relatively simple and straightforward, but people seem not to remember it.
I could use drunk driving as an example, or various legal terms, but since it relates to something else I am working on, I will focus on tobacco and smoking. It’s here I see this a lot.
Due to a recent study, a bunch of articles have come out pointing out the alleged dangers of “thirdhand smoke” which is the residue left over on clothes and surfaces due to smoking. Whether this actually represents a significant danger to health is still up for debate. We enter an entirely different ballpark with headlines like “Third-Hand Smoke Just as Deadly as First-Hand Smoke” or “Third-Hand Smoke Just as Lethal as First-Hand Smoke.”
Are we really prepared to say “Smoking is no more dangerous than contact with clothes with smoke residue”? Because if you’re not, saying “Third-hand smoke is just as deadly as first-hand smoke” is at best grossly misleading.
This was an issue when I was younger. The dangers of second-hand smoke were just coming out. It just didn’t seem to be enough to say “Second-hand smoke is dangerous” but it had to be a level of danger comparable to first-hand smoke, which it just isn’t. This was obvious to my fifth grade self. It doesn’t pass the laugh test. The difference between breathing something in directly compared to breathing something that is in a room? That’s just not comparable. And having been a smoker, and having lived with a smoker while not being one myself, I can tell you with absolute certainty that is true.
And the people making the claims know it. Nobody would ever tell someone “If your husband smokes, you might as well smoke to” which is the obvious implication of equivalent danger. Nor would anybody say “Hey, Father of Two, you might as well smoke inside because they’re getting poisoned anyway.”
About the closest the statement comes to being true is saying “If you’re a smoker, you’re still putting yourself at greater risk because you’re compounding first-hand and second-hand and third-hand smoke. And if you’re willing to argue that the actual act of smoking is only 1/3 of the danger, have at it. But nobody really believes that.
This sort of hyperbole matters a great deal. Yes, it can be useful when it comes to trying to pass smoking bans. The more dangerous second-hand smoke is presented as being, the more justified such rules are. But they also come at a cost, if you think to follow them to their logical conclusion. If third-hand smoke really is that dangerous, it’s a justification to revoke child custody. Because if a five year old living with a smoker is the equivalent of a five year old smoking, why not?
One open debate is whether or not level of consumption matters. One would think that reduced consumption would be beneficial, but I’ve seen anti-smoking advocates say that it doesn’t. So if you smoke a half a pack, should you just go ahead and smoke two packs? If reduction doesn’t matter, then neither do increases. Are we prepared to state that? The science on this is actually mixed, insofar as it may not actually make a difference if you have been smoking a lot for long enough, but are we prepared to say to a smoker “If you can’t quit, don’t bother trying to reducing intake because it won’t help.”
Absolutism has served the anti-smoking movement well for the most part. The argument, over and over again that “There is no smoking that is okay” has had an effect. It also has the benefit of being true, insofar as you’re not saying “All smoking is equally dangerous” as the argument has sometimes turned on. Smoking lights is just as dangerous as smoking reds. Or it’s just as dangerous because you’ll smoke more of the lights. But smoking less isn’t actually any safer than smoking more. We’re just not prepared to say anything is less likely to kill you, even if we might say that something is more likely to kill you.
All of this turns to ecigarettes, which I will be posting about again next week. Suffice it to say, arguments are being made that vaping is “just as dangerous as smoking.” Unfortunately I think “zero social tolerance” has extended a bridge too far in this case, but a quick gut-check to anyone making that statement is “How would you respond to a tobacco company saying that as far as we know, smoking is no more hazardous to your health than vaping.”?
The army built a fake city:
The US army has built a fake city designed to be used during combat training exercises.
The 300 acre ‘town’ includes a five story embassy, a bank, a school, an underground subway and train station, a mosque, a football stadium, and a helicopter landing zone.
Located in Virginia, the realistic subway station comes complete with subway carriages and the train station has real train carriages.
We have a vacant lot across the street. You can see it the Hit Coffee background and many of the recent header images. It looks like it was a storage facility of sorts for cargo coming off the nearby train tracks.
The layout is above and we’re one of the houses south.
Local fire departments love to use it for drills and such, which is what made the Army’s Fake City remind me of it. At first I found myself worrying why they were over there. But as it kept happening, I figured out what was going on. They even bring in bails of hay to light on fire to I guess simulate the real thing. Other than that, I’ve seen the parking lot used as a staging ground for a parade and as a dump site for mountains of snow.
The lot is supposed to be torn down soon. There’s a sign for the office complex they’re going to be putting there. It seems like a sub-optimal place for an office park because we’re not exactly in the best part of town. We are pretty centrally located, though, and I guess that counts for something.