Is it me, or does this guy look kind of like the geeky brother from Numb3rs?

Category: Elsewhere

SpaceWithoutTheSpaceTo the right: What an interplanetary Pangaea might look like.

James Fallows chats with a space entrepreneur about colonizing Mars. James McGirk says we should look at floating cities above Venus.

If we do decide to colonize Mars, we may have figured out how to do space farms. {More}

Mental Floss asks “When did Americans lose their British accents?” Relatedly, I don’t like superfluous ‘u’s, but it sure would be simpler if we’d never deviated from British spelling.

A police officer in Houston was pulled over and noticed something funny about the ticket he was given. A scam and a scandal was unraveled.

The Internet filter of a school district in Connecticut decided to start blocking conservative websites. Obviously, this is an issue of funding and if we gave the Internet filterers more of it, they would not have to gang up only on conservative websites…

I’m pretty bummed about what it’s looking like the government is about to do to Voice of America.

China is conglomerating a city that will have a population of 130,000,000 people.

Embarrassing (and funny) of comments the Chinese have made unaware that the person they are talking to speaks Chinese.

Antarctica inhabits an odd place in the nation-state dynamic, perhaps making us rethink sovereignty. More on Antarctica.

Fanisha Fazal and Ryan Griffiths ask why secession is becoming so popular. Open Democracy attributes it to increasing internationalism.

Another ineffective weight-loss strategy: “Eat more fruits and vegetables.”

Nick Hanauer argued that wealth inequality was going to lead to pitchforks on the richers front lawns. John Aziz says that our institutions aren’t sufficiently corrupt.

When I did my Links Across America thing on July Fourth, I really should have had an entry for Denmark. Also, a 1988 TNR piece on the international reaction to the American Revolution.

Perhaps touching the Ark of the Covenant got Uzzah electrocuted.

Category: Newsroom

TruliaPrivatePublicSchool_Map_Aug2014.0Finally! The map I have long wanted to see: Which states send kids to private schools in large numbers.

It’s one of those obvious statistics that should have been easily accessible, but I’ve never had luck in finding it. I found the results corresponded with my biases pretty, though with some exceptions:

  • I’m not surprised that it’s most prevalent in the northeast (broadly defined), though I would have expected it to go further east into Massachusetts and Connecticut and wouldn’t have figured that it would count Ohio. I suppose with Massachusetts having one of the best school systems in the country, it’s not particularly necessary. Perhaps also, Massachusetts sending many of its best and brightest to public schools may help keep it on the top of public schooling lists. Then again, Maryland has good schools and still a lot of people going to private schools.
  • Less common in the South, excepting Louisiana. The Pelican State has a robust Catholic schools. I didn’t particularly expect Mississippi and Alabama to be outliers, and if guessing would have guessed that they’d have lower numbers than Dixie’s eastern seaboard.
  • I would have been surprised by Wisconsin, though that came up during the recall elections and whatnot, that private schools were more common there. I’m not sure why.
  • By far, the most surprising state was Nebraska. Really, I would have figured that the central column of states would be relatively similar. Instead Texas and the Dakotas are low, but the others are high. While Nebraska is the biggest surprise, I wouldn’t have expected Kansas or Missouri, either.
  • It’s interesting, if not surprising, that both Utah and Idaho have such low rates. One can imagine an alternate history where the LDS has its own school system the way that Catholics have theirs. Instead, with the degree of social domination they have over Utah and eastern idaho, I suppose they had their Mormon schools in the public school system and having private Mormon schools would have been a duplication of effort.
  • Hawaii. Huh. I’m not surprised, because I wouldn’t have hazarded a guess. But it does kind of stand out.
  • There is less variation between the states than I would have guessed. You have some below the 8% cutoff so they could have next to none. There aren’t many at the higher end, though, and that surprised me a little bit. Off the deep end, though, it’s just Louisiana, Delaware, and Hawaii.
  • Since Catholicism likely affects the rates, I am including a map with that data point to compare and contrast. Obviously, this is likely to be more pertinent in some places than others. For example, the higher rates in California are due no doubt to the higher Hispanic population, which may not track with private school attendance the same way that it would in Louisiana. It does a good job of explaining Louisiana, for example, and Rhode Island. Less so for the Hispanic states, and you would think that it would lead to higher rates than Massachusetts.

Category: School

As Hit Coffee readers know, I am famously against nail polish. And yet, I have recently run across a type of nail polish that I approve of:

It’s a nail polish that doubles as a way to thwart sexual assault – and it’s being developed at N.C. State University: Undercover Colors.

The chemistry startup, developed by undergrads, is creating a nail polish that, when exposed to date rape drugs, changes color.

The nail polish is a scientific attempt to thwart a nationwide problem. A recent Washington Post analysis showed more than 3,900 allegations of forcible sex offenses on college campuses nationwide in 2012, a statistic that rose 50 percent in three years. Fourteen such offenses were reported at N.C. State between 2010 and 2012. During that same time period, 30 were alleged at Duke University and 52 at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Maybe, better yet, they can have one that’s clear that only colorizes when exposed to the chemicals! But even subtracting that, it’s a pretty great idea. Even if Mark Cuban also thinks so.

Charles Hill points out that it doesn’t work with other drugs, like strawberry daiquiries.

Category: Market

oceanaT-Mobile has historically been one of the few “good guys” in the cell carrier world, but they’re losing that reputation.

Employee loyalty isn’t just unrewarded, it’s actively penalized.

In a world where computers are better drivers and legal scholars than people, at what point do people become economically useless?

Tom Chiarella decided that he wanted to to, at age forty-six, take up smoking. Not liking it, he nonetheless persisted.

First they came for the Redskins. Then, the Cougars! Back when I was in middle school, another middle school opened up and the kids overwhelmingly wanted “Cobras” to be their mascot. It was shot down because admin assumed that it must be a gang thing.

Titan has a mysterious object on it, and an atmosphere older than Saturn’s.

Roy Peter Clark takes an aggressive stand for the passive voice. Like the double-negative, this is one of those things I was taught was wrong that was only wrong in certain (though common) circumstances.

Japan is building roads in poor countries, hoping to bolster their own economy by helping get economies around them moving.

How Japan is rebuilding old Tokyo, away from crowded density and towards higher density.

In Iceland, you can’t name your daughter Harriet (or any other name that’s not on a list). Though I am against such things, for reasons freedom-loving and logistical, when I was substitute teaching there were times when I wished parents had less freedom and a list from which to choose.

America’s fastest growing metro has no crime, kids, or cars.

Over twenty years later, Batman The Animated Series remains an animation marvel and will doubtlessly be remembered long after its successors The Batman and Beware the Batman.

Alexis Madrigal takes aim at sitcoms’ doofus dads. This is one of the areas that both sides feel put upon. Men because they believe it makes them look bad, women because they believe it increases their sphere of responsibility.

Jim Russell declares The Death of Urbanization in the United States. He over-states his case as domestic migration is only part of the picture. Even so, it quite pointedly challenges “The Great Inversion” narrative and perhaps suggests a different fate for rural America than we might assume.

Mauricio Estrella used computer passwords to change his life.

In 1995, Eugene Volokh (of Conspiracy fame) made a number of predictions about the media and technology, much of which turned out to be on the money. More good predictions.

Category: Newsroom

Jeff Banks and his wife went to Duke, and their dream of owning a home were dashed:

The house passed inspection, so we thought we were on our way to owning our first home. But then came time to get our mortgage. Since we were putting down less than 20 percent, we had to apply for a loan through the Federal Housing Administration. We didn’t suspect there would be any issues, given that we had been pre-approved.

But that’s when we made rookie mistake number two: believing that a pre-approval for a mortgage guaranteed we’d actually get a mortgage.

Apparently, the underwriters determined that our debt-to-income ratio was too high to get approved. While we knew we still had a lot of student loans to pay back, it hadn’t raised any red flags before, so we weren’t sure what was different now.

Then our loan officer explained: Because I was a contractor, they weren’t counting my income, which made it seem like our household income was about half of what it actually was. On top of that, they calculated Kelly’s monthly loan payment as if she were on a standard repayment plan, rather than on an income-based one.

That made her payments appear closer to $1,200 — more than twice the $500 she was actually paying. We were told that banks often did that to account for the possibility that payments under an income-based repayment plan could shoot up every year, which could hurt a borrower’s ability to pay the mortgage or be approved for future financing.

I am quite sympathetic, though not for the reason in the title of the article (“How a degree from Duke University dashed my dreams of buying a home“) Previously, I might have harped on that to the exclusion of everything else. Going to Duke and racking up that kind of debt is a choice. It’s fair to point out if they were told “attend the best schools [they] possibly can,” though a lot of us were never told that, at least in application to private schools. North Carolina has at least two fantastic public schools, and some really good ones on top of that*. To be fair, some of this is having a chip on my shoulder about (my perception of) how the people who go to a school like Duke look at people who go to schools like the one I went to, which may not entirely be fair but may not be entirely unfair, either. Ultimately, though, this goes to the bad advice they were given, rather than their accepting of the conventional wisdom (for which I will give them a pass).

It also provides a great reason, though, not to perpetuate the advice. Which is another bit of a chip on my shoulder. People complaining about doing “what they were told to do” and yet perpetuating the advice they were given, and expressing no regrets about the path they took. Banks says that he wishes his education had not been so expensive. It’s convenient for me that he and his wife went to Duke, however, because at least there isn’t an automatic recorded response to this about how states no longer support state schools anymore. Duke isn’t one of those. There is a lesson here, that price matters, and if you don’t think that spending a lot on college or the right college won’t limit future options, you’re sorely mistaken. At least when it comes to private schools (and very likely research institutions and more), that mistake is one of the factors allowing costs to rise.

skyfortBut I said I wasn’t going to fixate on that, and I won’t. Because I am sympathetic. Partially because of a recognition of the shape that the economy is in for young people. But in good part because my wife and I are in the process of buying a home, and it’s utterly nerve-wracking. My wife just signed an employment contract where her annual salary will be approximately the size of the loan that we’re asking for (we’re making a large down payment), but the bank doesn’t care due to the specific formula they use. We’ve had to account for some strange debt collection dating back five years that the collection agency never even bothered to call us about. They wanted reference letters from each of our landlords over the previous two years**. We’re about as safe a bet as you can get, conservative to a fault, and we’re still waiting on pins and needles.

The bank’s interest in the non-low-income payment requirements on the student loan actually sounds good and proper to me, since that is the obligation. The part about his income not counting, while understandable from the bank’s point of view, does suck. In the same sense that it sucks that our bank seems mostly interested in her employment contract that is expiring in two weeks and uninterested in the one that picks up after that. In addition to sympathy over the nerve-wracking experience***, I am also sympathetic to having decided on a house and yet not being able to get it. We still face that possibility on the house that we’re wanting now.

But life does go on, and I do very much respect Banks’s outlook on it. Regardless of how they got where they are, they do seem to be doing all of the right things going forward. With that, it seems like the chances of them getting a good house are pretty good. It’s unfortunate that some miscalculations and the banks’ formula didn’t work out for them with this house.

* – I don’t know if they’re from North Carolina. Even if not, UNC and NCSU cost less. And chances are, there are some good – if not equally good – public schools in their own state.

** – We negotiated it down to a year. Mostly because I didn’t want them contacting these people, though I didn’t frame it that way.

*** – As well as their “rookie mistake” on not having a contingency clause on the inspection. We fortunately had a real estate agent who helped us prevent that. That came in very handy when we got a home inspection report that was 95 pages long. It wasn’t 95 pages of the word “very” in repetition in between “is in” and “good shape.”

Category: Elsewhere

The original TMNT movie does not hold up particularly well. While some of these criticisms are off-base (it was not uncommon for small – portable – TVs to have batteries, back in the day), there are some really goofy things going on.

Incidentally, I was watching Drew Carey Show the other day. There was a scene where you could pretty clearly see a dude standing in Drew’s bedroom in a scene where there very much would not be some dude in Drew Carey’s bedroom. Oops.

Category: Theater

FireplaneI’m not a big fan of the cameos in Atlas Shrugged. I guess commercially it’s good for publicity, but like having Bill O’Reilly in Iron Man, it’s a bit jarring. It would be kind of cool if they were playing people that weren’t themselves (like Hannity appearing as a defender of the latest government initiative).

Depending on how the courts decide on the subsidies, declining to set up state exchanges may have been the smart move.

If being wrong feels so good, you don’t wanna be right.

The drought situation, in maps and images.

The attempts to shoehorn a local (American) angle here notwithstanding, this story about India’s trash situation is quite interesting.

The effects of gambling (and casinos) on the poor is abysmal. These are the sorts of issues that really test my libertarian self (and kind of kick his ass, actually).

Richard Florida gloats about 19 of 51 cities where the cities are growing faster than their suburbs. That sounds impessive, until you remember the base points. By the same numbers, suburbs are actually gaining more people.

Our next housing crisis may be in the rental market.

Americans not only don’t get government-mandated vacation time. We fail to take advantage of the vacation time we’re offered.

The more maddening I find a paywall, the more likely that the paywall is having some success. I find Financial Times’ paywall to be very maddening.

Utah’s non-Mormon paper looks like it might be eaten up by its Mormon paper.

There is a myth that it’s bad for children under four to spend the night with their (separated) father, and it’s persisting despite a lack of scientific basis.

Let’s take something with all of the downsides of cohabitation, and validate and formalize it! I’d say “If you’re not sure, then cohabitate.” Except that cohabitation’s track record isn’t particular good. Instead, if you’re not sure, focus on “Why am I not?” and go from there.

The chief problem with global warming, unlike many things it is compared to, it’s an international problem with greatly differing costs among the needed participants, however hopeful some may be about India.

The laws surrounding child pornography are problematically broad. “Possessing child porn in digital form is against a law that isn’t realistic in the digital world.”

Fewer young people are using sunscreen! Bad news! Or is it? According to a scientist in Seattle, sunscreen is bad for you.

Category: Newsroom

One year ago today, I did not smoke a cigarette.

And I haven’t smoked one since.

Category: Elsewhere

-{This post involves race and politics, so obviously partisan and racial commentary is okay. Do comment with care, however.}-

The Hollywood Reporter has a lot of interesting background stuff on Saturday Night Live in recent years. The most interesting part to me, naturally, is the show’s political balance. James Downey, a writer on the show, commented with regard to their treatment of Barack Obama:

If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, “Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10.” It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled. There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these “handles,” so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that’s the way I wrote him.

ObamaToastThis strikes me as pretty wrong, on its face. I knew even way back then the tact I would take: aloof, arrogant, and self-interested. Now, I don’t know the extent to which he actually is these things, but he did actually come off that way just a bit from early on. Enough to be able to pounce on. But SNL didn’t and said, even back then, that Obama was just so hard to make fun of.

It’s tempting to chalk this up to politics, but Downey isn’t very liberal, had some serious issues with Obama, and did go after him in another way (specifically, the media’s treatment of him). It’s honestly hard not to attribute this mostly to race. Specifically, the fear of being racist.

It isn’t the worst thing in the world, of course, that it’s harder to make fun of black candidates and presidents without getting a social wrist-slap. I’d argue that it’s actually generally a good thing. I do think that there was the fear of either being considered racist – even if white candidates do get that treatment. I think there was the fear of giving the racists’ cover (and I have no trepidation in saying that a lot of Obama’s critics are racist or use racism as a spiked hammer in their attacks). Which is actually quite understandable, but very much to the detriment of the show itself.

This actually speaks a bit to the odd place that Obama puts us in. Both in the sense that his critics have used his race to attack him, and in the sense that his supporters have attempted to link race with the vast majority of attacks against him. Unless it’s Obama eating a watermelon or something to do with Kenya, there are very few Obama criticisms that are so clearly and incontrovertibly about race that you can attribute it to such. Think back to the criticisms of previous presidents and how they might be perceived if applied to Obama:

He’s is a womanizer… that’s a fear of black male sexuality.
He’s is a smooth talker… ditto.
He’s is stupid… are you saying black people are stupid?
He talks funny… uhhhh?
He is a wimp… said only due to racist stereotypes of black masculinity.

So we’re left to where a race angle can be provided to just about anything. But it’s too easy to say that we shouldn’t consider race unless it’s a cross burning on a front lawn. One of the things Game Change that was pretty clear was that Hillary Clinton’s and John McCain’s people (over the alleged objections of the candidate) were using race, even when there was plausible deniability. And Obama’s people were using charges of racism even when they didn’t think that racism was actually a factor.

I said when Obama first clinched the Democratic nomination that it would be a race between the two parties. The Republicans would try to make race an issue as much as they could without getting called on it. The Democrats would try to take as many criticisms off the table by calling it racist. I should have figured this would apply to candidates as well.

Category: Statehouse, Theater


Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.

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