So today Scotland is expected to vote against independence, though polling is more uncertain on the sorts of elections irregularly held.

Prime Minister David Cameron and the government appears to be willing to promise the sun and the moon to get them to stay. They were, apparently, not expecting this vote to be as close as it looks like it might be.

Meanwhile, Spain is under increasing pressure to allow a vote in Catalonia. Catalons are tying themselves to the referendum. It’s no wonder that Spain, looking at what is happening to Cameron and the UK, is particularly keen not to let that happen.

As independent statehood becomes more popular, due ironically to increasing globalization, it touches on one thing that the global community hasn’t figured out: We have no generally recognized method for legitimate secession. Leaving it to constituent nations can be problematic.

Here in the United States, of course, we have particular reasons to be suspicious of it, though I think we would be hard-pressed to refuse a request on the part of Hawaii to secede. For example. And I think the international pressure on this sort of thing will increase with time, depending in big part on the reasons for the secession.

I tend to agree with Steven Taylor that the bar set for Scotland is awfully low. It’s hard to say what the appropriate bar is, though it seems to me that counting non-voters as “no” votes might be appropriate. That’s a very high bar, but secession is a very radical and complicated step.

Category: Newsroom

On the wall of his office, my father has a Mensa certificate. Which I have always found kind of odd. Not because he is smart enough to be Mensa, but because he never struck me as the kind of guy to actively seek certification for such.

I was talking to my mother, and she actually answered my curiosity. My father’s oldest sister was struggling to make her way as a woman in a time when it was not easy for women to establish themselves. One of the things she tried was getting Mensa certification.

And once she had it, Dad couldn’t not get it. That does make sense. It speaks to the particular way he is a proud person, while just going out and getting Mensa certification didn’t.

Category: Home

If you’ve never watched ABC’s TV show, Scandal, I can’t honestly recommend it too hardily. It weaves together drama and politics, so it’s right up my alley in that respect, though three seasons in it has become too exasperating to care about.

One of the great things, about it, though, is how much it helps me appreciate the political leaders we have. Obama, Romney, McCain? I would vote for any one of them over any of the candidates in Scandalverse’s last election. The guy I would have voted for, Governor Samuel Reston (D-Md), was guilty of killing a man and letting his wife go to prison for it… and yet he was still preferable to President Fitz Grant (R-CA) and Vice President Sally Langston (R/I-GA).

fitzgrantWhile my reasons for not liking Sally Langston are manifest, Grant is a bit tougher because on paper he should be the perfect Moderate Republican style candidate for me. His biggest problem, though, is that he has the emotional maturity of a thirteen year old boy. Reston might bomb Ulaanbaator because it will improve his re-election odds, Langston because Jesus speaks to her and told her to… but Fitz would bomb Ulaanbaator because he’s sad and he doesn’t want to be president anymore and he’s sad.

In a different timeline, Mark Sanford could have been president. He was the exact sort of candidate that the very conservative voters were lacking. Conservative, ambitious, well-informed, and with a modicum of the credibility Newt Gingrich lacked. Then, of course, he went hiking down the Appalachian Trail.

MarkSanfordYou don’t get to be president after something like that. But initially, my thought was along the lines of a guy who otherwise might have been okay as president who might have simply gotten caught up in something that disqualified him. And even though I never thought he should have been elected back to congress, with the damage done I did kind of wish him the best on his new marriage and his second chance at happiness.

Pretty much everything that has happened since has convinced me that he is the real life Fitz Grant, minus the moderation and good looks. While I can understand the frustrations of dealing with an angry ex-wife and custody arguments, there are certain things you don’t do even if your spouse is in the wrong (I’m not saying she is – I’m just saying that it doesn’t matter if she is).

At the very least, he seems to have some pretty significant impulse control problems, and a tendency to over-indulge his emotions. Which makes me glad that he was denied the opportunity to run for president, regardless of the Trail Hike.

Category: Elsewhere


Robert O’Connell writes an ode to Just Shoot Me and mediocre sitcoms. Relatedly, Jason Lynch wonders why TV shows peak around Season 3.

The Google Glass is merely the latest entrance into wearable tech that began with… the pocket watch.

Old Urbanist Charlie Gardner writes about mobile homes and the role they can play in increasing density (because anti-density regulations tend to be looser for mobile homes than regular ones).

It takes a village to self-publish.

Laws against texting and driving still don’t work.

Two things I did not know: The Iroquois invented lacrosse… and are a current superpower in the sport.

It’s commonly said that Israel is going to have to play nicely with the Palestinians because of the demographic timebomb. What if that simply isn’t true?

Crime may or may not pay. Low-skill crime increasingly doesn’t.

Ray Fisman says that Sweden’s freefall in the international education testing ratings is proof that school choice is a bad idea. Andrew Coulson begs to differ. A report released by the University of Arkansas gave charter schools great points on cost-effectiveness.

Foreign countries are apparently really frustrated with the American government’s demands at access to bank accounts.

Adam Ozimek takes issue with Mark Bittman’s piece on the “true cost of hamburgers.” Negative externalities is quickly becoming one of the economic terms I am seeing used with increasing sloppiness.

Why do iPhones suddenly start feeling more slow when a new one comes out? (Curiously, it doesn’t happen with Samsung, so it’s not the most obvious answer.)

Annie Murphy Paul says that ed tech promoters are generalizing too much from how they learn. I think this is true, but is also true of the education establishment as well.

Allastair Bonnett has written a book about ghost cities and secret cities that sounds quite interesting.

Bigger cities taking on more aggressive housing expansion policies would be good for the national economy.

On the horizon… self-repairing plastic?

Maureen O’Connor writes about the ethical minefield of “ethnic plastic surgery.”

Meanwhile, in Calgary, the only local fertility clinic refused to allow multi-ethnic inseminations on the grounds of it constituted “designer babies.” Razib Khan response.

Norton A Schwartz and John K Hurley write of the juggernaut that is the American economy.

Most Americans now sufficiently ashamed of drinking soft drinks so as to claiming they try to avoid it.

How Teddy Roosevelt saved football.

Suburban homebuilders are encroaching on urban development.

Should baseball change the rules to account for defensive innovations stiffling offenses?

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry explains the appeal of Ayn Rand.

Category: Newsroom

Anna North thinks it’s time to ban middle school:

But separating middle schoolers out may actually be counterproductive. Mr. West said his research couldn’t pinpoint the exact reasons for the cliff, but the most likely explanation was that “there’s something about concentrating early adolescents in the same environment without the presence of students of different ages that creates challenges for education.” Essentially, throwing a bunch of 12- to 14-year-olds together with nobody else to mitigate their 12-to-14-ness might be a bad idea.

“It seems that there are benefits to students in early adolescence of the presence of much younger students,” he explained. “Perhaps that provides opportunities to be a leader, to be involved in mentoring relationships that are beneficial to students as they make the transition into adolescence.”

Middle schools may have some benefits for districts, Mr. West noted, like creating a diverse environment by drawing from multiple elementary schools. And until we know why middle school is bad for kids’ achievement, we can’t necessarily be sure getting rid of it will fix the problem. But, said Mr. West, “our research and that of others makes a strong case that districts should seriously consider alternatives to stand-alone middle schools.”

The logic makes sense to me. To me, one of the nuts I have yet to crack is a need for school, combined with the dangers of social norms being developed by youngers in large part due to their interactions with other youngsters. Having those awkward 12-14 year olds all together could exacerbate it.

Middle school is as close to hell as some people will ever see. This is known.

One of the big surprises, when I was doing the substitute teaching thing, was how much I liked middle school. It was probably my favorite assignment. If you’d have told me that before I started, I would have laughed.

The grade school kids are fun, no doubt, and it’s always an adventure. The high schoolers are more developed, and you can communicate with them in more of an adult fashion. But it’s a bit hard to connect with grade schoolers, and by the time they get to high school, the light in their eyes has dimmed. Grade schoolers have an enthusiasm for school and often for learning. By the time they get to high school, they’re in the holding tank. Middle school is that happy middle ground between the two. Happy for me, though probably as unhappy for them as it was for me when I was their age.

I don’t have strong opinions on whether or not middle school is something that should be done away with. My experience is that middle school was a very different environment from grade school because of the whole “switching classes” thing and the measure of independence that came with it. Independence which I consider to be a good thing.

My own middle school was grades 6-8. In arapaho, it was 7 and 8. I know in some places it is 7-9. Sixth graders were, in my view, too old to be in grade school, and too old to have the structure that goes with it. I actually think the same is true of fifth graders. If you were to collapse K-8, I’d prefer to see it done in a way that mitigates that. The problem is that having a bunch of students wandering the halls in between classes requires a degree of segregation that I am not sure doesn’t negate the alleged benefits presented for doing away with middle schools.

On the other hand, the data says what it says, and maybe delaying the autonomy is outweighed by other benefits?

Category: School

Today was spent mostly in transit, as we take our annual family trip to the beach.

Lain has officially kissed a boy, for the first time. I didn’t see it because Clancy and I had split up duties and I had parked the car and was walking to the gate. But evidently she made a friend. Lain has learned to kiss I guess by watching Clancy and I, and had taken to trying to kiss us. Well, she kissed the boy, who was a little under a year old.

The other thing, which is slightly less interesting but was more fun for her, was that she got to sit in the deck of a fighter plane (of sorts). They had one at the airport of our final destination. She seemed to enjoy pulling on the nobs and levers. My primary observation – independent of her enjoyment – is that it’s a good thing I never had designs on being a naval or air force pilot, because I would never fit in one of those things.



I was operating on less than five hours of sleep, and felt it every bit of the day.

I find that I have completely lost the ability to sleep on planes, no matter how tired I am. If I couldn’t do it today, where I was so sleepy I was almost in pain, I simply can’t do it.

Lain didn’t sleep on either leg of the flight plan. She did nap a bit on the drive from the airport, but that was about it. She’s really excited to see her grandma and grandpa.

Taking a vacation in the middle of a move is both great and terrible. It’s great because you need the break. It’s terrible because trips involve packing, and packing is best done when you know where everything is.

Because we got here so late, we didn’t get a chance to go out on the beach. Which is just as well, because last week a couple of friends shared the following two images:


Those would be stingrays. Stingrays are a thing where we are. I’ve never seen them in that number, but at least in that number you know to stay the heck away. But now I’ve got stingrays on my mind.

Category: Road

I love basements. The temperature-moderation effect. The lack of sunlight. We’ve had proper basements in two of our various homes. We technically have a basement in our new house, though since it has windows and a walk-out front door I don’t really count it as one.

The problem with basements is that they typically aren’t made for people as tall as I am. The “basement” of our current house gives me just enough clearance to be able to walk under the vents, but I have to be careful how high I step. At the house we’re moving from, it’s not even that tall. Hitting my head was a regular occurrence.

Hurts like heck, but until this week I’d never drawn blood. This time I hit a corner at just the wrong angle and the result was not only pain, but quite a bit of blood. We felt it was fitting that this happen during the final week of our living there. A final F*U from the house that we never got quite comfortable in.

It’s been healing nicely enough. I’m at the point now where it itches and I scratch it and that causes some pain.

We don’t quite have our new house set up to the point that it’s amenable to showering, so I haven’t in a couple of days (a couple of physically intensive, hot days). Which wouldn’t be good under most circumstances, but is particularly not-good now.

Category: Home

A little while ago a friend shared this video, which is of a construction worker in Houston stuck on a balcony of an apartment building on fire. It’s pretty gripping.

Moreso than the people who were incinerated on impact, and even those in the planes who knew what was going to happen, are those that were stuck in the inferno. Who started the day going to work, and ended the day choosing between being burned alive or jumping. Of all of the 9/11 images, it’s the jumpers that hits me the hardest.

This video has a happy ending. I wouldn’t be sharing it if it didn’t. But when I saw it, I thought of today.

Category: Theater


Hypocrites! People who say that they’re concerned about climate change use more electricity than those who aren’t! Ha! Actually, that’s mostly a function of confounding factors, but even controlling for them there doesn’t seem to be all that much difference.

It’s pretty convenient for both sides to ignore rural poverty. Republicans don’t like to admit that some of their home turf is disproportionately poor. Democrats like to consider the poor “theirs.”

The AEI is on board with my Kansas City Plan!

The government may be moving forward to modernize sunscreen.

To “de-tilt” the political inclinations of the art and entertainment landscape, conservatives need to work harder at making better art and entertainment.

An author wrote a book on (consumerist) signalling, and perhaps made his point too well.

The case for a land value tax.

Eek. A vasectomy-cancer link?

Is Britain undergoing a baby boom?

driveinsWhat’s interesting to me about this map of remaining drive-in theaters is how many of them are in places that I’d think would be kind of cold for it.

A 260-foot crater has appeared in Siberia.

Mexican bazillionaire Carlos Slim has some interesting ideas on labor, suggesting that we should work longer hours (11 a day), shorter weeks (3 days per), over more years (9 more years). The main question I have about it is whether the 11 hour days would cause a decrease in productivity.

A reporter wanted to take some pictures of ugly buildings (at least he thinks they’re ugly, I think brutalism is pretty cool) but is harassed by law enforcements. As I’ve said, rights informally ignored are worse than rights formally denied.

University of Liverpool is threatening staff pay when online students drop out.

Category: Newsroom

It’s a scene you’ve seen in movies or television. Some dude or woman is sitting on a chair, waiting for hellfire to descend. A bunch of people are going to race in the door and blow his head off. Maybe there’s a bomb that’s going to go off. He or she knows it’s going to happen. He or she may have a gun in his hand, but there is no doubt that the inevitable may only be stalled ever so slightly, if that. Maybe there’s a cigarette, for a last moment of peace.

I felt that way on Thursday morning when the movers were coming over. The whole house was about to experience an earthquake as they descended upon the house, put everything in boxes, and left us with nothing but a place that needed to be cleaned at that house and a bunch of boxes at the new one.

That was what I was expecting, anyway. What I got was altogether different. There was, apparently, a series of miscommunications.

I thought that when they said that they would pack, for example, that they would take just about everything and put it in a box. That’s what the previous movers did. There are some jokes that movies will individually wrap cigarette butts, if they’re paid by the hour.

Instead, what appeared to be the case was that they would not pick anything up off the floor. Now, some of this may be our fault. We had no idea how much stuff was hiding behind and under the sofa. So even though we had cleared the floors, when they moved the sofa there was more on the floor. Which they wouldn’t pick up and put in boxes, no matter how obviously it wasn’t trash. More to the point, though, they wouldn’t pick up anything they dropped onto the floor. So the bicycle helmet that was on the hat rack fell on the floor and was left there. But even more to the point, they wouldn’t pick up things off the floor that they left there. So they don’t transport light bulbs, so they take off the lampshade, put it on the floor to disassemble the light, and then when they eventually leave we have ten lampshades sitting on the floor.

They also won’t pack anything that they don’t have appropriate packing material for. When they said early on that they were light on packing material, I thought that it meant that they would need to get more. There might be a delay. Or worst-case, they would come tomorrow and pack the rest. Instead, they meant that when they ran out of packing material, they were done. We could pack the rest ourselves and they would ship it, but wouldn’t be responsible for the packing (if plates broke).

They ran out of kitchen packing material when they were a little over halfway done. They ran out of wardrobe packing material when they had taken care of one of the three wardrobe closets. They also couldn’t take pictures off the wall, so those were left.

Another miscommunication was the “We don’t take liquids” rule. I thought that meant “We don’t take liquids.” In fact, it meant, “We don’t take liquids, we won’t move liquids in order to take the shelves the liquids are on, and we won’t take anything sitting on shelves with liquids on them.” Or, in cases like the bathroom, where there are just too many liquids, they decided not to take anything.

In fact, despite packing being advertised as a part of the deal, they actually did a remarkable job of avoiding packing much of anything. A whole lot of stuff was already boxed up because we’d never unboxed them from our previous move. They took that (though they didn’t label which room it came from, even though we supplied a 1:1 mapping of which room in the old house went to which room in the new house). They didn’t disassemble much of anything, which was fine with us because our last movers – however good they look in hindsight – tore apart an irreplaceable workbench instead of properly disassembling it, so that didn’t go in boxes.

Which is just as well, because they didn’t have enough boxes anyway.

We complained. Management defended some of it (the floors), gave excuses for some of it (packaging material), lodged a few complaints of his own (the layout of our driveway), and offered to send the crew back at a later point to finish the job. Clancy initially wanted them to do it, while I was fine with moving the rest ourselves. Eventually we decided on the latter course, mostly because we felt like once we had everything in such a state that they would pack everything, we would practically be packed outselves.

In a way, it sort of worked out. They were paid hourly, so the overall bill was significantly less than we had expected and on the estimate. They also cleared enough so that we could more easily take care of the rest. The “clutter” that was the reason the manager gave for most everything was a product of too much stuff and not enough house, which is why we are moving to begin with. The big inconvenience here was simply that we were not expecting to spend three days moving everything after the movers had left.

I was going to include some pictures of what they left behind, but as a product of the fact that we’re further behind on our move than I had planned, I only have the one I uploaded to Twitter.


You may notice a laptop sitting on the kitchen cabinet. That was originally in the living room on the TV stand (it has a broken monitor, so serves as a media PC on the television). They actually put that there because they weren’t comfortable moving it. Other items, such as the pan, were in the cabinets when they arrived but were moved to be packed before they ran out of material.

Category: Home


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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