Minor Thoughts from me to you

Reading Idea: Children of Earth and Sky

Children of Earth and Sky

$13.99 on Kindle

I've enjoyed reading Guy Gavriel Kay ever since I read The Lions of Al-Rassan. After that, I read and loved both the Sarantine Mosaic duology (Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors) and the Under Heaven duology (Under Heaven and River of Stars). When Goodreads told me that he had a new novel coming out, I preordered it right away.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world...

This entry was tagged. Reading Ideas

The Sector General Series

Zak Zyz, writing at Tor.com, clues me in to a science-fiction series that I was previously unaware of. I'm a sucker for Golden Age SF. This sounds right up my alley.

The series takes place in Sector 12 General Hospital, a sprawling 384-floor hospital space station built in order to cement a lasting peace after humanity’s disastrous first interstellar war. A notable departure from the militaristic space operas of the time, the story of Sector General is explicitly pacifistic, eschewing conquest and combat in favor of the struggle of doctors to understand and heal their alien patients.

It has diverse alien species and environments.

The Sector General series is often commended for its depiction of extraterrestrials that are more than just humans with cosmetic differences. White’s aliens are physiologically far outside of the human experience, with asymmetrical bodies, unusual metabolisms, and strange and often monstrous appearances. Critically, they are also psychologically different. Empathic Cinrusskin aliens are aggressively agreeable peacemakers as they find negative emotional radiation physically painful. Predatory Chalder become too bored to eat when given food they don’t have to chase down and devour alive. White’s aliens are bemused by the human nudity taboo, described as unique to the species.

Designed to treat patients from all the intelligent races in the galaxy, Sector General has wards that replicate living conditions for a vast array of life forms. There are murky undersea wards for the forty-foot long, armored, crocodile-like Chalder, poisonous sections for the chlorine-breathing kelplike Illensans, sub-zero wards for the crystalline methane-breathing Vosans and superheated wards near the hospital’s reactor for radiation-eating Telfi hive-mind beetles.

​And it has the tape learning, so common to the stories of the era.

Facing this incredible menagerie of patients, no doctor could be expected to know how to treat them all. On Sector General, physicians overcome this impossibility by using “educator tapes,” the stored experience of famous alien specialists which the doctors download directly into their brains. The genius psyche temporarily shares space with the doctor’s own persona and advises them as they aid patients. The process is described as intensely jarring, since the educator tapes contain not only the expertise, but the entire personality of its donor. Inexperienced doctors find themselves struggling to eat food that the taped personality disliked, suddenly enamored with members of the expert’s species to whom they wouldn’t normally be attracted, and in some cases they must struggle to maintain control of their own bodies in the face of a personality stronger than their own.

Most doctors hurriedly have their educator tapes “erased” when the emergency at hand has run its course, but some working closely with patients from another species will retain tapes for long periods. The highest ranked medical staff in the hospital are the lordly diagnosticians—senior physicians capable of permanently retaining as many as ten educator tapes in a sort of intentional multiple personality disorder.

​Most importantly:

The Sector General novels are available in omnibus editions from Tor Books.

I looked up the stories. Apparently, I can get all but two in Kindle editions.

Federal reclassification of marijuana could have major impact on medical uses →

This is good news.

Federal authorities have announced that they are reviewing the possibility of loosening the classification of marijuana, and if this happens, it could have a far-reaching impact on how the substance is used in medical settings, experts said.

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is listed alongside heroin and LSD as among the "most dangerous drugs" and has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."

The Drug Enforcement Agency announced last week that it is reviewing the possibility of reclassifying it as a Schedule II drug, which would put it in the same category as Ritalin, Adderal and oxycodone.

This matters because we don't even know the full medical benefits of marijuana.

We know that medical marijuana has good evidence for treatment for a handful of medical conditions," Hill said. "There are thousands of people who are using medical marijuana for a whole host of medical conditions," where the efficacy has yet to be thoroughly studied.

By changing the classification of the drug, Hill said researchers and doctors could find out how effective marijuana is in other conditions.

"We could move toward a more evidence-based use of medical marijuana," Hill said.

​This was promoted by political pressure from U.S. Senators, proving that Congress has occasional uses.

The DEA along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Office of National Drug Control Policy announced they would review marijuana's classification after multiple letters from senators last year, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Sen.Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.

"For too long schedule I status for marijuana has been a barrier for necessary research, and as a result countless Americans can't get access to medicine they desperately need," Gillibrand said in a statement last week. "It's past due for the DEA to reconsider marijuana's status. I am hopeful that antiquated ideology won't continue to stand in the way of science and that the DEA will reschedule marijuana to schedule II."

​​I think it's likely that the DEA will “review” the issue and decide that they've been correct for the past 60 years. They'll then refuse to make any changes and use that decision as a club to beat critics for the next 60 years. I'm hoping that I'm wrong though.

Defending the Mismatch Theory of Racial Preferences

About five months ago, Ramesh Ponnuru quoted Justice Clarence Thomas, on the theory of academic mismatch.

Here’s Thomas in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003):

The Law School is not looking for those students who, despite a lower LSAT score or undergraduate grade point average, will succeed in the study of law. The Law School seeks only a facade–it is sufficient that the class looks right, even if it does not perform right.

The Law School tantalizes unprepared students with the promise of a University of Michigan degree and all of the opportunities that it offers. These overmatched students take the bait, only to find that they cannot succeed in the cauldron of competition. And this mismatch crisis is not restricted to elite institutions. See T. Sowell, Race and Culture 176—177 (1994) (“Even if most minority students are able to meet the normal standards at the ‘average’ range of colleges and universities, the systematic mismatching of minority students begun at the top can mean that such students are generally overmatched throughout all levels of higher education”). Indeed, to cover the tracks of the aestheticists, this cruel farce of racial discrimination must continue–in selection for the Michigan Law Review, see University of Michigan Law School Student Handbook 2002—2003, pp. 39—40 (noting the presence of a “diversity plan” for admission to the review), and in hiring at law firms and for judicial clerkships–until the “beneficiaries” are no longer tolerated. While these students may graduate with law degrees, there is no evidence that they have received a qualitatively better legal education (or become better lawyers) than if they had gone to a less “elite” law school for which they were better prepared.

Justice Thomas was wrote about academic mismatch with minority students and racial preferences. I hadn't heard about academic mismatch theory until recently, but I've seen that it makes a lot of people very angry, many of them claiming that academic mismatch theory is just another smokescreen for justifying racial discrimination.

I went to the University of Pittsburgh for an Information Sciences degree. I went because I liked Pitt's marketing materials and Pitt's campus. I also went because I felt like Pitt was the best match between my abilities (or the actual work effort that I was prepared to give to college studies) and the degree's rigorousness and requirements.

I didn't even bother to apply to Carnegie Mellon University or MIT. For the sake of argument, let's say that a program existed that would have given me a much easier admission into CMU or MIT and that I'd taken it. I'm convinced that I would have done far worse, academically, at either of those schools. I would have struggled to have mastered the material and I would have had poor grades. Knowing what I know about my employer and their hiring criteria, I doubt I would have gotten the job that I have now.

Whether going to Pitt or CMU or MIT, I'm the exact same student with the same abilities, talents, and skills. One school was appropriately matched to me and gave me a good education and prepared me for a great start to my career. The others would have been a mismatch for me and would probably have given me a worse education (in that I would have understood and mastered less of the class material) and wouldn't have launched my career in the same way.

I, myself, am as white as can be and am blessed with a full menu of "privileges". And I think going to the wrong school, one where I was overmatched, would have been a bad thing. I'm definitely sympathetic to the argument that enticing students into schools that they're not prepared for is a bad thing.

A Nerd's Review of the Tesla Model S →

iOS developer David Smith recently wrote about his own experiences owning a car from Tesla.

I’m going to draw on my own background as a lifelong nerd and technology enthusiast to discuss what makes it so compelling to me.

​On charging:

The thought of instead needing to remember to plug in my car each and every night was admittedly a bit daunting. In the end it has really been a rather boring non-event.

It is now just a simple habit that I am used to. I park the car, get out, walk around to open the door for my kids and on the way almost absentmindedly pull the charger from the wall and plug it in. It’s so unconscious now that I occasionally have moments of puzzlement trying to remember if I did it or not.

What surprised me most around charging was not what it was like to keep a car charged but instead how much it drew my attention to how awful gas stations are. We still have another car that requires increasingly less frequent trips to the gas station. The smell was oppressive and the experience decidedly gross.

Also surprising, was how nice it is to essentially always leave your house with a full ‘tank’. No more rushing out of the house, late for an appointment, only to discover that I have to stop for gas along the way. I had worried that I’d have a constant sense of anxiety about having enough charge, instead I find I think about keeping my vehicle fueled less than I did before.

​On the self-driving autopilot feature:

Tesla’s autopilot system is a far reach from truly autonomous driving but also tantalizingly close. It is very competent at typical and routine highway driving. It can hold its speed, adapting to changing traffic conditions. It can keep itself perfectly centered in a lane and on command perform neat, clean lane changes. Closer to home it can park itself with a precision I doubt I’ll ever match.

​And:

As with everything Tesla does, autopilot seems to be getting better each and every software update (which as a side note is amazing…my car is better now than when I bought it, which is quite a thing).

While now I find I rely on autopilot mostly just situationally when having the extra help is useful, I imagine the days where my skill exceeds my car’s will be short-lived. Sadly I don’t get software updates, my driving is probably about as good as it will ever be. It is bound to catch up.

​It sounds like fun. I'd like to get a Tesla, but I want it for the nerd fun, not for phantom dreams of clean energy. My Wisconsin electricity comes from a coal plant, so gasoline may well be cleaner than an "electric" car.

This entry was tagged. Cars Review

The TextExpander Goodbye

Dear Smile Software,

I've been a customer of yours for 5 years. I bought TextExpander for iOS (version 1.1) in 2011 and TextExpander for Mac (version 3.4) in 2012. I've purchased each successive version of the application. TextExpander 6 is the first version that I won't upgrade to.

I won't be upgrading because you've priced me out of your customer base. In the time that I've been a customer, I purchased the Mac app and two upgrades for it (one was a family pack upgrade). I've purchased two versions of the iOS app. I've spent a total of $90 on TextExpander, over the past 5 years.

With the release of TextExpander 6, you've moved TextExpander from a purchased application to a subscription application. With the existing customer discount, I can expect to pay about $24 for my first year of using TextExpander and about $50 for each subsequent year. That comes to a total five year cost of about $224. For me, TextExpander just became almost 3x more expensive.

I agree with what TJ Luoma wrote.

I don’t see anything that I really need in TextExpander version 6. I’m not using it with a “team” and my family members probably have no interest in sharing a group of text snippets with me. Yes, I realize that Smile made their own syncing service, but I have used iCloud, Dropbox, and BitTorrent Sync, and they work fine for TextExpander. Creating their own syncing service was solving a problem that I didn’t have.

I also agree with what Jordan Merrick wrote.

When it comes to TextExpander, however, the reason for a subscription isn't compelling, nor does it make sense for individuals. Even in the follow-up, Smile were awkwardly attempting to explain how their own syncing service could be of benefit to individuals:

Everyone can benefit from sharing. People who work alone have peers, or belong to civic, volunteer, hobbyist, or church groups. Before now, none of them could share snippets with each other. Now, they can. And we’re doing our best to ensure they will.

Either Smile are going for the hard sell or they don't know the majority of their individual users at all.

​For me, that's definitely true. I'm a casual user of TextExpander. I maintain snippets mostly to simplify writing names, addresses, email addresses, and basic journal entry templates. I don't use it to earn an income. I don't need to share anything with any churches, civic groups, gaming groups, or other organizations. I don't anticipate subscribing to Markdown shortcuts from Brett Terpstra or snippets from anyone else.

I'm not opposed to software subscriptions. I currently subscribe to Instapaper Premium, I'm a patron for Overcast, I pay for Feedbin, and for Pinboard archiving. I also have a subscription to Club MacStories. My wife subscribes to Adobe's "Photography" plan for Photoshop. We jointly subscribe to Office 365 and we just signed up for a subscription to 1Password for Families. I like paying for things that I value, as long as the cost is in line with the value that I get.

I do get value out of TextExpander but it's in the $25 / year range not the $50 / year range. That goes triple for the fact that my TextExpander 5 license and my iOS apps are usable by anyone in my family, whereas TextExpander 6+ would cost me $50 / year for each person in my family. That's far too expensive for my modest needs. The fact is that TextExpander would be more expensive than Instapaper, Overcast, Feedbin, or Pinboard, the same price as 1Password for Families, and half the price of Photoshop or Office 365.

Try as I might, I can't convince myself that TextExpander is worth half of what Photoshop is worth or half of what the entire Microsoft Office suite is worth. And I know that I don't use it nearly as much as I use Instapaper, Overcast, and Feedbin, all of which cost me less than TextExpander 6 would.

Entice Me Back

I can see two ways that I'd be interested in being a customer again. The first is simple: lower the price. I have modest needs, give me a modestly priced option that matches my usage of the software. I'd be willing to pay $20–30 a year for the service, just not $60 a year.

I'd also come back if I felt I was getting more for my $60 a year. For instance, TextExpander for iOS used to have a way for every iOS application that embedded TextExpander to instantly update snippets without any user intervenion. Apple closed off your ability to do that and now I need to manually update my library of snippets in each application. That's a real pain.

I'd be happy to see you work it out so that the embedded version of TextExpander can use the new syncing service to keep all of my iOS applications constantly updated without any user intervenion. That would give me a concrete reason to upgrade to the latest version of TextExpander and to use your syncing service. It'd make me much more willing to pay a higher subscription fee, as the service would be more valuable to me. In all honesty, I'm still not sure that I'd spring for a $60 / year service, but it'd be a much more tempting proposition than the current service is.

This entry was tagged. Software

My 2016 Primary Results

I voted Tuesday, with most of the rest of the state of Wisconsin. I live in the People's Democratic Republic of Dane County, so I take great pride in having a losing record in each local election that I vote in. This year was no different, as I went 1 for 5 in local elections. I did have an odd feeling of satisfaction, as I went 2 for 2 in statewide voting. I finished with a 3–7 record overall. (My vote is in italics; the winning vote is bolded.)

President of the United States --- Republican

  • Donald Trump, 35%
  • John Kasich, 14%
  • Ted Cruz, 48%

Justice of the Supreme Court

  • JoAnne Kloppenburg, 48%
  • Rebecca Bradley, 52%

Oregon Village Trustee (choose 3)

  • Doug Brethauer, 22.7%
  • Jeff Boudreau, 24.5%
  • Philip Harms, 21.2%
  • Jerry Bollig, 31.3%
  • Write-in ("No TIFs"), 0.3%

Oregon School District Board Member --- Area 1 (choose 2)

  • Dan Krause, 30%
  • Krista Flanagan, 46%
  • Uriah Carpenter, 24%
  • Write-in ("No drug dogs"), 0.5%

Exercise Is Not the Path to Strong Bones →

I've heard, from multiple sources, that weight training can increase bone density and strength. According to Gina Kolata, at The New York Times, that's not actually true.

The answer came a little more than a decade ago when scientists did rigorous studies, asking if weight bearing exercise increased bone density in adults. They used DEXA machines, which measure bone density by hitting bones with X-rays. Those studies failed to find anything more than a minuscule exercise effect — on the order of 1 percent or less, which is too small to be clinically significant. As expected, DEXA found bone loss in people who were bedridden and in astronauts. But there was no evidence that bone was gained when people walked or ran.

Scientists have continued to investigate as tests for bone density grow ever more sensitive. More recently, using new and very expensive machines that scan bone and are able to show its structure at a microscopic scale, they reported a tiny exercise effect in one part of the bone’s architecture known as the trabecula, little branches inside bone that link to each other. The cortical shell — the outer layer of bone — also seems to be slightly thicker with weight bearing exercise. But these are minute changes, noted Dr. Clifford Rosen, a bone researcher at the Maine Medical Research Institute. There is no evidence that they make bone stronger or protect it from osteoporosis, he said.

80% of Americans Support Mandatory Labels on Food Containing DNA →

Ilya Somin writes at the Foundation for Economic Education:

A survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics finds that over 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” about the same number as support mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.” Oklahoma State economist Jayson Lusk has some additional details on the survey.

If the government does impose mandatory labeling on foods containing DNA, perhaps the label might look something like this:

WARNING: This product contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The Surgeon General has determined that DNA is linked to a variety of diseases in both animals and humans. In some configurations, it is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease. Pregnant women are at very high risk of passing on DNA to their children.

The Oklahoma State survey result is probably an example of the intersection between scientific ignorance and political ignorance, both of which are widespread. The most obvious explanation for the data is that most of these people don’t really understand what DNA is and don’t realize that it is contained in almost all food.

When they read that a strange substance called “DNA” might be included in their food, they might suspect that this is some dangerous chemical inserted by greedy corporations for their own nefarious purposes.

Let me be perfectly clear. Those who want mandatory GMO labels on food are only slightly less foolish than those who want mandatory DNA labels on food. In both cases, the labels are born out of a fear driven by ignorance and superstition.

This entry was tagged. Food Regulation

Voting Third Party Isn’t Just *a* Serious Choice, It’s *the* Serious Choice →

I don't think I disagree with anything that J. D. Tuccille wrote for reason.com.

This year, the likely presidential candidates of the major political parties are two of the less savory individuals ever to run for office in a country whose Wikipedia entry doesn't feature periods of military rule. The Republicans seem poised to give us a crony capitalist who admires authoritarian foreign governments, views constitutional safeguards with contempt, and encourages his followers to stomp opponents. The Democrats are ready to coronate an authoritarian former secretary of state who fairly reeks of influence-peddling and is the subject of an FBI probe into the mishandling of classified information that passed through a private email server she set up to avoid freedom of information inquiries.

​And:

Whether the Republican Party–and possibly the Democratic Party—are in the process of transforming or collapsing, looking elsewhere for political options just makes good sense. At least until the wreckage has settled.

And it's not as if there are no credible options even as far up the ballot as the presidential line.

​And:

During past election cycles, most Americans accepted that aversion and let themselves be shamed out of voting for a "spoiler" who could only throw the election to the more awful major party candidate.

​Finally:

But there's no actual obligation to play into that horrible choice. The major political parties have outlived their sell-by dates and grown corrupt, unresponsive, and complacent. They've turned into hollowed-out vehicles to be hijacked by populist demagogues when not being ridden to office by sticky-fingered functionaries. The Republicans are in worse shape than the Democrats, but only in relative terms.

Which is to say, until they reform or die, the major parties are no longer serious choices. Their train-wreck presidential nomination races offer clear evidence to anybody who hasn't drunk the major party Kool-Aid that it's time to look elsewhere for real ideas and credible candidates for political office.

It's time to admit that, in 2016, so-called third parties are the serious choices in politics.

Group Backing Ted Cruz Accuses Marco Rubio of ‘Cronyism’ →

Seeking to drive Senator Marco Rubio from the presidential race, a “super PAC” supporting Senator Ted Cruz is spending heavily against Mr. Rubio in Florida, his home state. The five new ads that the group, Keep the Promise I, have released attack Mr. Rubio’s attendance record in the Senate, his stand on immigration, his tax plan and his relationship with Florida’s sugar producers.

Fact Check

Mr. Rubio supports the federal sugar program, defending it as necessary to protect domestic sugar producers from comparable government subsidies in competing countries. “Otherwise, Brazil will wipe out our agriculture, and it’s not just sugar,” he said recently. Mr. Rubio has also received campaign contributions from sugar producers, most notably Jose Fanjul, who along with his brother owns Domino and other sugar companies.

​This is one of my two biggest reasons for disliking Marco Rubio. It may be true that he can't get elected in Florida without the support of the sugar producers. But if he'll compromise his supposed conservative principles on corporate subsidies for political gain, what else might he compromise for political gain.

Poor Sleep Gives You the Munchies, Study Says →

Courtesy of Jonah Bromwich, at the New York Times:

A study published on Tuesday in the journal SLEEP suggested that the brain receptors that can lead the sleep-deprived to crave unnecessary food were the same as those activated by marijuana. Essentially, not sleeping can give you a ferocious case of the munchies.

The study took a close look at receptors affected by endocannabinoids — so named for cannabis, the marijuana plant — which it found were closely involved in the food cravings that come from sleep deprivation. Sleep restriction in the study’s subjects led to amplified endocannabinoid levels in the blood, leading to hunger pangs, which generally intensify in the early afternoon, to increase further.

Subjects who were deprived of sleep said that they felt hungrier, and had more trouble controlling themselves when faced with the snacks. They ended up consuming nearly twice as much fat and protein as the control group. (There was not a significant difference between the calories consumed by each group during regular meals.) Previous studies have shown that the sleep-deprived are particularly vulnerable to foods that are high in fat and carbohydrates.

I can confirm these results from my own anecdotal evidence.

This entry was tagged. Food Research Science

More on the Kindle Editions of Horatio Hornblower

On Tuesday, I was happy to discover that I can buy most of the Horatio Hornblower novels for Kindle. Because I'm stubborn, I've spent the past three days trying to find out why Beat to Quarters and Ship of the Line aren't available on Kindle. I've figured it out.

All of the current Kindle editions are published by eNet Press. I'd never heard of them before seeing that Amazon listed them as the publisher. Their site tells me that they "specialize in publishing ebooks from the works of classic best selling authors of the 20th century".

I searched their site and they have a listing for Beat to Quarters.

Due to Copyright issues, this book is not available as a separate volume. However it is available in our three volume omnibus Captain Horatio Hornblower.

The omnibus includes Beat to Quarters, Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours. I can buy the omnibus directly from eNet Press, but I'd prefer to buy it from Amazon. It's not listed on Amazon's site. I asked eNet Press about that. They told me that it's their policy to only sell some of their books on Amazon. The omnibuses are deliberately being held back as direct sale exclusives.

I'm happy to learn that I can buy books 1–5 and 9–11 as single volumes and that I can buy 6–8, even if only as an omnibus.

I like the convenience of having all of my books directly in my Kindle library, so I'm disappointed that I can't buy Captain Horatio Hornblower through Amazon. I'll buy it directly from eNet Press, when I'm ready to read it. If they ever do decide to sell it on Amazon, I may buy it again, for the convenience of having everything in one place.

I had some feedback for eNet Press. I'm skeptical about their strategy of having direct sale exclusives. Over the past couple of years, I've done multiple Google searches for variations of "hornblower kindle edition" or "hornblower ebook" and their collection of Hornblower books has never once come up in my search results.

I didn't find them until after I first found their books on Amazon. Then I realized that I should check who published the books, to see if I could get more information directly from them. I think it's quite possible that they're losing sales by keeping things hidden away on their own site. It may be that they're making more per copy by selling it directly (since they don't have to pay fees to Amazon), but they may be losing money overall by selling fewer copies.

This entry was tagged. Reading Ideas

Time to Buy Horatio Hornblower for my Kindle

I read C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series many, many years ago, when I was but a lad. I loved them. I was captivated by the descriptions of life at sea, of the Napoleonic era, of Hornblower's mannerisms and insecurities, and by the action itself. They fired my imagination for a long time and I still have a fascination with old sailing ships, that's rooted in those books. (Sadly, I don't have the stomach for actual sailing.)

I've wanted to reread these books for the past several years. Since I seem to be incapable of reading paper books anymore, I've been looking for Kindle copies of the books. Surprisingly, the Kindle editions that existed were only available for sale in the U.K. or in Australia. Neither option did me a bit of good.

Last night, I did another check of Amazon and was happily surprised to see that most of the Horatio Hornblower series is now available on Kindle. I can buy everything that's currently out for $70. Somehow, that seems like a really good use of my money right. Now.

  1. Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, $7.99
  2. Lieutenant Hornblower, $7.99
  3. Hornblower and the Hotspur, $8.99
  4. Hornblower During the Crisis, $4.99
  5. Hornblower and the Atropos, $7.99
  6. Beat to Quarters
  7. Ship of the Line
  8. Flying Colours, $7.99
  9. Commodore Hornblower, $7.99
  10. Lord Hornblower, $7.99
  11. Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies, $7.99

I don't know what's up with Beat to Quarters and Ship of the Line. Beat to Quarters doesn't have a Kindle version at all. Ship of the Line has a Kindle version, but it's not available in the U.S. I hope that gets resolved post-haste.

This entry was tagged. Reading Ideas

Walking to Better Health

You may have heard that you should walk at least 10,000 steps per day, for your health. How good is that advice? The software developers at cardiogram have developed an app that tracks your heart rate, using your Apple Watch. They decided to combine the data from the Apple Watch's heart beat sensor with the data from the iPhone's step counter, to see how walking distance affects your resting heart rate.

I'm not sure how scientifically rigorous these results are, but they did come up with some interesting correlations.

Graph of step count versus heart rate

In cardiovascular terms, the drop in heart rate from 1000 steps/day to 2000 steps/day is significant: a full 3 bpm decrease. And as step count increases, resting heart rate steadily drops—until you reach about 5000 steps per day. After that—6000, 7000, even up to 10,000 steps—the curve flattens.

Graph of exercise intensity versus heart rate

Even if you get 10,000 steps per day, if your heart rate doesn’t go over 130 bpm, there’s not much impact on your resting heart rate. In contrast, even 4000 steps / day of high intensity exercise delivers a benefit: about a 4 bpm absolute drop in resting bpm, which doubles to 8 bpm at 10,000 steps / day.

Graph of minutes of high intensity exercise versus heart rate

Even 45 minutes per week of high intensity activity (heart rate >= 150bpm) placed participants in the lowest tier of resting heart rate.

I like this kind of analysis because it's actionable. I've been making some, small, effort to walk each day. I have a goal of 5,000 steps per day. But I've been skeptical of whether or not it actually matters, if it's just a few steps here and there. According to these numbers, it doesn't. I'm just fooling myself.

I can use these numbers to make a new goal. I want to start taking high-intensity walks 2-3 times a week. I've already been monitoring my heart rate. It stays around 90 beats per minute, most days. My initial goal is to lower that to 80 bpm. If that happens, I'll set a new goal.

A Brief Defense of Man Caves

Carrie Lukas, writing at Acculturated, presents her argument against man caves. She thinks they're a symptom of men who are self-focused children in men's bodies, using their isolation to avoid their responsibilities.

At the basest level, she argues that man caves represent a withdrawal from the shared spaces of the family into an exclusive space for self.

the man cave by its very name announces that it is for me. Whatever happens in the room is merely an artifact of my desires and my personality.

The implication is that the rest of the house—the joint bedroom and the nice kitchen and the kids’ messy quarters and the other TV room—cannot adequately serve me and my precious individuality. (Women, apparently, are not such fragile snowflakes that they need their own room to express themselves. After all, she has the kitchen, right?)

She implies that the entire house is a shared space, reflecting the entire family, and that men aren't satisfied with that. I disagree.

I argue that the entire house is an expression of the woman's aesthetic and interests. The woman puts her mark on the entire house, leaving the man no space to express his own aesthetic and interests. Far from the woman having just the kitchen as her space, you can see her influence throughout the house, including the other TV room, the kids' rooms, and the shared bedroom.

If you don't believe me, ask yourself a few questions. Who chose the color scheme in each of the rooms? Who chose the furniture? Who chose the fittings for the bathrooms and kitchen? Who selected the artwork for the walls? Who decided what is—and isn't—appropriate for each room?

More importantly, who holds the veto over design decisions? Does a man's "I don't think like that" carry the day or is it just an ignorant opinion to be ignored? Conversely, does a man get his choices in spite of the woman's "I don't like that" or does her dislike carry the day?

In my experience, each room of a house expresses the woman's personality and sense of style. Men retreat to man caves because that's the only way they can express their own personalities and see a tangible sign of their own presence in the family.

This entry was tagged. Women

No, Iran is Not a Democracy →

Before you get too excited about "moderates" winning Iranian elections, you might want to remember how one becomes a candidate in an Iranian election.

Elections in Iran are rigged even when they aren’t rigged.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hand-picks everybody who runs for president. Moderates are rejected routinely. Only the less-moderate of the moderates—the ones who won’t give Khamenei excessive heartburn if they win—are allowed to run at all. Liberal and leftist candidates are rejected categorically.

Imagine Dick Cheney as the overlord of America allowing us to choose which one of his friends will be in the co-pilot’s seat. That’s not democracy. That’s not even a fake democracy.

​What about the elections for the Assembly of Experts? Doesn't that give moderate reformers a chance to gain power?

Everyone who gets to run in the election for the Assembly of Expert will be hand-picked by the Supreme Leader. And every single one of them will be an Islamic theologian. That’s what the Assembly of Experts is. A theocratic institution of Islamic theologians.

None of the “experts” are atheists. None of them are secularists. None of them are agnostic. None of them are liberals under any conceivable definition of the word liberal. Certainly none of them are Christians, Jews or Baha’is. They’re all Islamic theologians or they wouldn’t even be in the Assembly of Experts.

​Iran is a theocratic dictatorship, wearing the trappings of democracy. Under the current system of government, there will be no moderate leaders. There cannot be.

How the Microwave Was Invented by Accident →

What a great story, from Popular Mechanics.

The microwave is beloved for its speed and ease of use. But what you might not know about your indispensable kitchen appliance is that it was invented utterly by accident one fateful day 70 years ago, when a Raytheon engineer named Percy Spencer was testing a military-grade magnetron and suddenly realized his snack had melted.

​> …

Spencer earned several patents while working on more efficient and effective ways to mass-produce radar magnetrons. A radar magnetron is a sort of electric whistle that instead of creating vibrating sound creates vibrating electromagnetic waves. According to Michalak, at the time Spencer was trying to improve the power level of the magnetron tubes to be used in radar sets. On that fateful day in 1946, Spencer was testing one of his magnetrons when he stuck his hand in his pocket, preparing for the lunch break, when he made a shocking discovery: The peanut cluster bar had melted. Says Spencer, "It was a gooey, sticky mess."

​> Understandably curious just what the heck had happened, Spencer ran another test with the magnetron. This time he put an egg underneath the tube. Moments later, it exploded, covering his face in egg. "I always thought that this was the origin of the expression 'egg in your face'," Rod Spencer laughs. The following day, Percy Spencer brought in corn kernels, popped them with his new invention, and shared some popcorn with the entire office. The microwave oven was born.

The Senate Could Bork Obama's Nominee

I've been seeing a lot of left wing people celebrating the Supreme Court vacancy and calling for President Obama to nominate a replacement post haste. Furthermore, they state that such a staunch originalist as Scalia shouldn't argue for the President to wait or for the Senate to refuse to vote. They argue that the Constitution gives the President the authority to appoint a justice and he should do just that—and the Senate should support him.

It's not that I don't see some level of irony here, but I don't think it's as stark as my friends on the left do. Two points.

  1. The Constitution doesn't specify a time frame for appointing a replacement. "He shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... judges of the Supreme Court". It's not going against the original text to say that the President should wait. He doesn't have to, but neither is he required to rush into things.

  2. He can nominate, but the Senate has a duty to advise him and the nomination only turns into an appointment with the Senate's consent. I think the Senate (any Senate, of any party) is well within their rights to refuse to consent to nominees that they don't like.

In fact, the Senate's refusal to consent to the nomination of Judge Robert Bork is the reason why everyone got to celebrate Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Obergefell instead of cursing Justice Bork's majority opinion in the same.

(Note that it was a Democrat Senate that refused to consent to a very conservative Reagan nominee that led to the nomination and confirmation of the much more moderate Justice Kennedy.)

Scott Feschuk's guide to Super Bowl Sunday →

I didn't see this until after the game had started, but it was too good not to post.

I’m not saying a roll of Mentos could provide better analysis than Phil Simms of CBS. I’m not saying it—however, I am typing it in a magazine and placing it on a long banner pulled by a biplane. Listen for yourself: When someone makes a great play, Simms will say: “Whoa, that’s a great play!” He is the perfect analyst for football viewers who can’t figure out how to face their television screen. (To be fair, that does account for roughly 40 per cent of Cleveland Browns fans.)

The play-by-play duties will be handled by Jim Nantz, whose affection for Manning is so firmly established that, well, prepare yourself for this: “And here’s The Sheriff once again not accidentally coming out to play in his street clothes. PEYTON MANNING: WHAT A PRO!”

Yep. That about sums the experience of listening to Phil Simms.

Carolina’s Cam Newton is impossibly athletic and congenitally jubilant. He is known for celebratory dancing and for presenting the football to an adorable child after each touchdown. Naturally, sports pundits hate his guts. They bellyache about his “showboating” ways. This is yet another reason for Sportsnet executives to green-light my proposed reality show: Let’s Lock Some Sports Pundits in a Basement!

“Naturally, sports pundits hate his guts.” Naturally. I've never understood the Cam Newton hate. I love him and his enthusiasm for the game. Ask any kid playing backyard football, backyard baseball, or blacktop basketball—the showboating is an integral element of exuberant play.

This entry was tagged. NFL