formerdrughouse

On Facebook, a subject came up that had me looking into the demographics of where I lived in Estacado. It was the most predominantly black neighborhood I have ever lived in, and fit the stereotypes in many respects. (Including the positive ones. I miss the food.) One thing lead to another and I found myself getting on Google Earth and looking at the old neighborhood.

We were at the spearhead of what we figured would be a torrent of gentrification and development. Much to my surprise, very little development seems to have occurred. The vacant lot next to our house appears to still be vacant. The same is true for the lot across the way.

The big exception is the drug house. It was catercorner from us on an adjacent street. It wasn’t hard to see what was going on. Someone would walk up to the front door, talk, and then go around back where there a couple of folks always there. I saw the DEA there once.

Apparently, between now and then, the place was torn down and replaced by two reasonably nice looking little houses.


Category: Home

InkhorseRabbits: Cute, furry, and ready to be weaponized.

One of my favorite videos is a primer on how to pick up chicks. It shows an ugly guy walking up to a woman and asking her what her sign is and says that is the wrong way to do it. The right way to do it is a hunk walking up to a woman and asking her what her sign is. Apparently, this by-the-seat wisdom is wrong, and here’s how to flirt.

Children bring with the more positive and more negative emotions for the parents.

New research suggests that cohabitation is not a predictor of divorce so much as when couples cohabitate. Here’s a somewhat old primer on the downsides to cohabitation.

Here’s a job we need to automate: Umpiring. They not only get it wrong, but they do so with systemic bias.

Bob Weber explains why we should wear productivity sensors on the job, and what they’re telling us.

The story behind the scariest wardrobe malfunction in NASA history.

Removing tobacco branding may not do anything to stop people from smoking. I have no real opinion on this.

The New York Times discusses an issue of interest to me: Smoking and economic class. I’m glad that Clay County discovered vaping and wish the guy at the end all the luck on saving money for a down payment on a house.

Reports that free contraception makes women less careful appear to be misguided. My own view is that in a vacuum it could make a difference, but we’re not in a vacuum and any effect is has is overwhelmed by cultural influence.


Category: Newsroom

-{So yeah, this is a post about immigration. Feel free to voice opinions on the immigration topic. It’s a relatively wide – but not unlimited – berth here.}-

Bryan Caplan reluctantly points out a possible solution to unauthorized immigrant labor enforcement:

Still, there is a way to make Unz’s proposal even more diabolical. I hesitate to reveal it, but I seriously doubt the nativists will listen. The heart of darkness: Give a green card to any illegal immigrant who testifies against his employer for labor law violations. You solve for the tragic equilibrium.

This may sound familiar, as it’s something I have proposed before. To clarify, my “proposal” being less of something we should do, but something that we can do if we ever want to get serious about it. The response I have historically gotten is that it’s something conservatives would never sign on with because they want it to be all about the immigrants and not the employers. Which I actually find to be a misunderstanding of the border hawks by the border doves. Border hawks strongly dislike employers who illegally hire people who aren’t here legally.

The “green card” aspect may be a tougher sell. But not nearly as tough a sell as it is to the people who say that there is just nothing we can do to stem the tide.

Ultimately, the big problem with illegal immigration (or at least the workforce component) is that it’s a win-win situation for those most involved in the situation. Employers get cheap labor. Immigrants get jobs. Those that are (at least theoretically) being hurt are not in sufficient proximity to the situation to do anything about it.

The key, then, is to turn employer and employee against one another. Sew mistrust. Make the employers scared of the employees, who will have the ability to get above the table simply by diming out the employer. You might not even have to, but if you threaten to deport everyone else who works for the company, you turn the employees against one another, too. It would make it much, much more difficult to keep these arrangements going.

There are some downsides. It would, likely, result in some anti-Hispanic and anti-Asian discrimination (including against those here legally). Just as any effort to come down on employers would. Verification schemes tend to penalize everybody equally. With this, employers would simply be more wary of demographic profiles that are perceived to be disproportionately likely to be here illegally. On the other hand, if an employer has a degree of indemnity by following verification protocols, it could work. You could possibly mitigate the racism problem by offering indemnity only in the event that you verify everybody’s identification.

The other downside, though, is just that. The result would probably be at least a mild uptick in identity theft as getting paperwork in order becomes more important. The result of this could be green cards for assisting in the prosecution of those assisting in the identity theft. Or tighter identity monitoring more generally, though that’s obviously going to have its opponents.

This would primarily affect those who come here to work. It would do little for border-hoppers who are explicitly here to further criminal enterprises. However, I suspect that if we didn’t have so many people trying to cross over to work, it would be considerably easier to work on those who come over here for other reasons. Right now, the weeds can hide in some pretty tall grass. The less border enforcement focused on migrant workers, the more that can be focused on drugs.

I strongly believe that after all this, the need for migrant workers likely would become more apparent. At that point we would be able to talk more about how many migrants we need rather than how many can find their way across. Others, of course, will disagree with this strongly.

Ultimately, of course, this problem does have a self-regulating aspect. Illegal immigration has never been a priority issue of mine, though a combination of factors lead me to start asking the question “What would work?” And I started taking a turn against illegal immigration when the economy hit the skids. But that’s when the self-regulation did start to kick in and the pace abated. I know that I have a higher tolerance for immigration than the readers at Hit Coffee, and a lower tolerance than those at Ordinary Times, so there’s at least something in here for everyone to believe that I am an inhuman monster or an unpatriotic American.

Back in the land of reality, though, as nice as it might be to have control over our borders (regardless of how many people we let through them), there are some significant problems. It’s not simply a matter of opportunistic Democrats seeing future voters or weak Republicans shuddering in fear of being called racist or permanently losing the Hispanic vote. It’s mostly that the nation as a whole seems to feel about immigration as I do about other issues. The steps and laws required to enforce the prohibition are further than a lot of people are willing to go. Polling tends to vary, but as immigrants are loaded onto buses en masse the optics would shift points of view that are already tepid on the matter. Leaning heavily on employers is extremely popular, but it was one of the hallmarks of Romney’s “Self-deportation” plan that went over like a lead balloon.

Or put another way, the biggest problem in all of this is an inability of the American people to decide what we actually want.


Category: Statehouse

problem-cigarettes

Some time ago, the FDA announced that they were going to ban tobacco-makers from using the word “Light” on their light product lines. The rationale was that people are smoking these things under the false impression (an impression encouraged by tobacco companies) that they were a healthier alternative to full flavor cigarettes. Whether they are indeed less destructive than real cigarettes depends on how you look at it, but in practice people who smoke lights tend to smoke more and the compensatory behavior undoes any health benefits that might exist.

It strikes me as fair to object to the term “light” and “ultra-light” in this context. As always, the tobacco companies do themselves no favors when it comes to advertising.

The end result is that tobacco companies swapped out the “light” and “ultra-light” labels with various color designations. Some tobacco control experts argue that this is a circumvention:

Manufacturers substituted “Gold” for “Light” and “Silver” for “Ultra-light” in the names of Marlboro sub-brands, and “Blue”, “Gold”, and “Silver” for banned descriptors in sub-brand names. Percent filter ventilation levels, used to generate the smoke yield ranges associated with “Lights” categories, appear to have been reassigned to the new colour brand name descriptors. Following the ban, 92% of smokers reported they could easily identify their usual brands, and 68% correctly named the package colour associated with their usual brand, while sales for “Lights” cigarettes remained unchanged.

Another word for what they did is “compliance.”

The products were not pulled off the shelf. They are not necessarily more dangerous than regular cigarettes. The problem was in the marketing. That they changed the marketing and people still found their level of choice is ultimately neither here nor there. At worst, it means that people have internalized the alleged health benefits. Just as likely, it’s because they failed to understand the cause and effect.

I rarely smoked lights. Quite the opposite: I went for the meanest, dirtiest tasting cigarettes that I could find. I never wanted smooth, I wanted rough. I don’t know if this is because of my diminished tastebuds or because I didn’t inhale. But the people I know who do or did smoke lights didn’t compensate in volume because they thought it was healthier, none of them have ever cited health benefits which have long been exposed as questionable, but they tended to smoke lights precisely because it allowed them to smoke more or more intensely. The body tires of them less quickly. You don’t feel quite as bad the next morning. If your smoking time lends itself to smoking two packs a day, and/or if you like to take harder puffs, then irrespective of health claims, smoking lights makes that more doable.

To be fair, if asked n a poll they might answer that it’s about health, but smokers are notoriously unreliable when being polled by strangers. Or perhaps they have internalized the claims, but smokers are creatures of habit and that isn’t going to be done so easily. The next generation may be duly confused as to what tar level they’re buying. So there’s that.

If more cigarettes or greater puffs were the problem that was meant to be addressed, then you need to go and ban the lighter stuff, pure and simple. I’m not sure if that would be beneficial to smokers’ health or harmful, but I simply don’t know what in the world gave them the impression that relabeling them would have any effect. The people behind the counter know where to direct them. Of course the smokers would seek out their favored products. They’re their favored product. I suppose it’s too much to ask anti-smoking advocates to know any smokers, but the assumptions that lead them to believe that there would be any conclusion other than this one suggests that they need to learn how smokers actually operate instead of making assumptions based on whatever they’re presently basing their assumptions on.

I personally think it’s a failure to appreciate that, whatever our faults, we are actually thinking, autonomous individuals and not actually living statistics of tobacco company marketing. Whatever the case, they wanted the marketing changed and the marketing was changed. That’s compliance. People didn’t care because it wasn’t strictly about the marketing. If there is a compliance failure, it is ours.

-{Regarding my precise verbiage, I do still refer to myself as a smoker. Not because of the vaping, and not because I’ve picked the smoking habit back up again, but because I still do not feel completely out of the woods yet and won’t for some time.}-


Category: Market

From Jonathan V Last’s What To Expect When No One’s Expecting:

In 1976 only 26.8 percent of the counties in America went for either Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford by a margin of 20 points of more. That’s a pretty remarkable statistic. The 1976 election was an incredibly polarized moment with the country shaken by Watergate and Nixon’s resignation. Carter won 50 percent to 48 percent, and in three out of every four counties, the vote was reasonably close, which meant that Republicans and Democrats were, for the most part, evenly intersparsed at the local level, even if, in the aggregate, their states tilted one way or the other.

But after 1976, something happened. As people began graduating from college at higher rates they became increasingly mobile and willing to put down roots far away from where they were raised. And they began to cluster around other like-minded people. So much so that in 2000, America had one of the closest presidential elections in the nation’s history: George W. Bush won the race despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore, 47.9% to 48.4%. Yet in nearly half the counties in America (45.3 of them) the vote wasn’t close at all: Either Gore or Bush won by more than 20 points. In 2004 – another very close election – the percentage of what Bushop and Cushing refer to as “landslide” counties increased to 48.3%. The end result is fewer neighborhoods that are ideologically mixed and more places that look like Old Town [Alexandria] (or its Republican doppelananger). Bishop and Cushing’s conclusion is inescapable: We are sorting ourselves into communities of the saved.

I’d argue, that in addition to sorting, politics is more than ever defined by cultural issues, cultural signalling, and so on. The sort and signalling issues may be related. As a town becomes more Republican or more Democrat, the peer influence for undecideds, cluelesses, and wafflers intensifies.


Category: Statehouse

Men on a construction site acting out of accordance with cultural norms.


Category: Theater

JaguarBoy

James Fallows collects anecdotes about electronic medical records.

Robert Pearl talks about what it’s like being a doctor.

Because women prefer to be pat down by women, female TSA agents are disproportionately put on pat-down duty which aside from the unpleasantness is detrimental to their careers.

The US’s manufacturing surge is apparently a product of the fracking boom. So, gulp, what happens at the end of the fracking boom?

Experts think that renewables are the best solution to climage change, Charles Mann reports that renewables aren’t enough and that we need to look at cleaning coal.

According to Geoffrey Heptonstall, the rightward drift of Britain over the last few decades has transcended politics.

How Slovakia became one of Europe’s successes after the Czechoslovakian split.

How the Internet is driving outrage.

Chris Mooney write about the biology and psychology of partisanship. Shankar Vedantam discusses the social component to ideological formation.

Shipping containers can be used to make pretty awesome homes.


Category: Elsewhere

Apple booster Daniel Eran Dilger wrote a long screed about how Apple rules and Google drools. He makes some good points (it’s hard to argue with Apple’s business acumen, while Google’s is genuinely more puzzling), though relies heavily on “they all said” when, in fact, I heard nobody say that. I’m sure somebody, somewhere said that Symbian would knock Apple off its pedestal, but I was pretty late to acknowledge Symbian’s utter collapse, it seemed like pretty much everybody was saying differently, and even I wasn’t saying that Symbian was going to eat Apple’s lunch. I just thought they would survive, and I was more optimistic than most people seemed at the time.

It coincides to some extent with what has become one of the overwhelming themes of the smartphone wars. Actually, not the wars, but the wars between boosters. A huge sense of defensiveness. It hasn’t exactly been symmetrical. Early on it was much more the Android fans that were defensive and were, in retrospect, by far the more hyper participants in arguments about which ecosphere was superior. Apple fans were less defensive and mostly dismissive. Dilger rallies a degree of defensiveness in the other direction.

Ultimately, the truths seem quite clear. Apple isn’t the only game in town, or the biggest in terms of marketshare, but its business model is amazingly profitable and that’s what matters. Both to Apple, and to an extent to its fans as it gives them something to point to. To Android fans, marketshare does matter and Android’s dominance there is the most important thing. Not as a bragging point, though it’s used as that, but mostly as a solidified alternative to Apple’s extremely limited range of smartphones.

Looking back at my own animosity towards Apple, I suspect that a lot of it was rooted in the fear that there actually wouldn’t be an alternative. Especially once Microsoft made clear that it was going much closer to the iPhone route (in terms of a restricted, closed OS), I was worried that Apple’s model was so effective that the Windows Mobile model actually wouldn’t have a successor.

But Android persevered, and I’m mostly past worrying about that. Even if Android were to falter, or be displaced by Tizen or something else, it’s been demonstrated that there is a huge market for alternatives to the iPhone. That the “fractured market” isn’t prohibitive and isn’t exclusive to a sufficiently intuitive, functional device that suits my needs (a flexible power device), the needs of my wife (a device with a keyboard that’s easy to use), and the needs of my family (a sufficient, inexpensive device).

If Google quits, someone else will step up. I am free to have device preferences that Apple doesn’t want to deliver on. Which, ultimately, is the primary problem I ever had with them. It wasn’t that their devices weren’t good. It was simply that they weren’t what I wanted. If it is what you want, you should absolutely get one. That, more than anything, has lead to a live-and-let-live attitude. For the most part. For the past year, excluding when Apple was trying to take my phone off the market, I have tried to take this to heart:

Nobody cares what kind of smartphone you believe in. It’s not a religion. It’s not your local sports team even. Stop being a soldier. You are not a soldier. You are just wrong. Shut up. You there, with the blog, in the comments, in the pages of the newspaper or the magazine or on Twitter or Facebook. Whatever your opinion is, as soon as you employ it in partisan fashion, it’s deeply and profoundly wrong. Just by sharing it, you are wrong. And nobody cares. Except for the people who do. And they are wrong too. Myself included.

“But, but, but,” I hear you stammering like some sort of horrible person who has mistaken a code base for a system of moral beliefs, “the screen is too big and not big enough.” No. You’re wrong. It’s just right. It’s just right for whoever is holding it, unless it’s not, in which case they’ll decide that it is wrong on their own and get a different one. And then they’ll be right, while you’ll still be wrong.

And I don’t care if Apple is brilliant, or stupid. I don’t care that they have no desire to produce the sort of phone I want to use. I don’t care if their screens aren’t as big as I would prefer. I don’t care if they have no keyboard, no external card, no removable battery. I don’t care if they block the sort of apps I want to use. None of that matters. Nor should it matter to Applytes that my phone sometimes crashes. Nor should they care if Google’s experiment with Motorola failed. Nor should they care if OS updates are less frequent. Nor should they care if I have to deal with bloatware that they don’t. Unless you’re considering buying one, it really doesn’t matter.

They’ve got their phone. I’ve got mine. There is indeed plenty of room for both.


Category: Market

When I was a kid, we had an Atari 2600. By today’s standards, of course, the games were incredibly crude. Frogger and the like.

One of the more complex games was called Adventure. Adventure actually had a plot, of sorts. Your job was to get a chalice from a castle. To get the chalice, you had to get a key. There was also a sword and a couple of dragons that you had to avoid. And a maze. You can play the game here.

There were three levels, though the story was the same. To make things more complicated, one of the rooms in Level 1 was a half-visible maze with another castle tucked away. The dragons were faster. There was another maze inside a castle. But the biggest thing was that there was a bat. The bat would fly around and steal stuff, placing whatever it previously had at the spot where it took its next item. So unlike with Level 1, you never knew exactly where things were on Level 2.

I was reminded a bit of the bat in Adventure recently because my real life has begun to emulate the game in a similar respect. Which is to say, I don’t know where a lot of things are because there is a little bat coming and going and picking things up and putting them down somewhere else. The bat’s name is, of course Lain.

So as with the sword and the chalice and the key, things sort of enter and exit the periphery at random. The other day, Lain produced the tape measure, which had been missing forever. Then, the next day, it was missing again. Batbaby had swooped in and taken it to parts unknown. As with Adventure, there is a limited range of places it could have gone. But in the main area, there are more things she could have hidden it behind and such. So it may be a while before it resurfaces again.

Thankfully, there are no dragons involved.


Category: Theater

So we did get our taxes in this year, on schedule.

We’re slated to get a refund on the basis of the high withholdings in Arapaho that assumed more annual income than we actually had. Along the way we found out that our withholdings here are practically nil. Literally nil for one of the paychecks. Due to Clancy’s unique position, she gets paychecks from two sources, the state and the physician’s group. The state wasn’t withholding anything and the group was withholding less than 10%. We’re going to get that fixed, but it seems unlikely that we will be getting a refund next year and will owe money.

This is actually the first time we’ve had to pay state income taxes to two states. Our past relocations have either involved states without an income tax or no overlapping taxes.

It turns out that you can really get screwed by moving across state lines. If you work eleven months in South Dakota and then move to Idaho, Idaho will tax all of your earnings in South Dakota. If you move from Montana (which, unlike SD, has an income tax) to Idaho, same deal except that you do get some credit for the taxes you paid to Montana. The law in Queenland is actually more forgiving and is probably the fairest system there is. Basically, they determine the brackets based on total income but only tax you for what you made in Queenland.

We only managed to get a refund from Queenland because of a nice deduction for moving expenses. While the feds didn’t deduct anything (except FICA, of course), the state did. Though not enough. Another thing to get fixed.

It has been suggested that elections should take place right after tax filings. Usually suggested by conservatives because they think that will make people more tax-conscious. For me, though, it’s historically been a reminder that the tax rates aren’t actually as high as the withholdings. Probably the worst time of year to get me to vote Republican.


Category: Home

Queenland

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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