Linky Friday #21


[H1] The story of how we realized that it might not be a good idea to put Radium in everything.

[H2] The case against appeals to Paleofantasy.

[H3] Even before the science came out, I’ve been convinced that sleep deprivation is a significant factor in weight gain. According to a new study, it can start in a couple of days.

[H4] Advances in IVF.

[H5] Corporate Wellness programs don’t really save money. Should we file this one away with the “savings” of preventative medicine?


[C1] Jmanga, which sold digital Japanese comics, shut down and everybody lost the collections they purchased. Amazon’s biggest weapon in the ebook wars is that they are the ones we have a pretty good idea aren’t going anywhere.

[C2] I had somehow missed the whole Tacitus-Malaysia scandal. paidContent has a story on how demand for content leads to such corruption.

[C3] The dark underbelly of Miss USA.


[N1] Bringing the dormant Six Flags New Orleans back to life… with animated GIFs.

[N2] Coolest sandcastle ever.

[N3] Pi is a cool number. Here are seven other cool numbers.


[S1] Can we close the black-white IQ gap through M&M’s?

[S2] Will the world calendar ever be reset, as it was with BC/AD? I can only really imagine that when or if we inhabit more than one planet.

[S3] Sex in space could be dangerous.

[S4] Will human instrumentality become a reality?


[Te1] In the age of smartphones, what’s a GPS maker to do? Also, the history of Google Street View. One of the really neat things about using Google Maps on my phone is that when I get there, it’ll use Street View to show me what the building I am looking for looks like.

[Te2] The fascinating story of a call center dude who was fired for his job (with a government in Canada) for making a computer game (that those who fired him never bothered to actually play).

[Te3] Are we returning to the big, bad days of the AT&T monopoly? Whether that aspect of it is true or not (and the article isn’t really about AT&T), I don’t think nationwide WiFi is the solution. Meanwhile, Georgia rejected a bill aimed at banning municipal fiber networks.


[W1] Europe even has classy robots.

[W2] I remain baffled to the extent that people who believe that Global Warming will end civilization as we know it nonetheless oppose nuclear energy. So, credit to those with an open mind. Japan may be coming back around.


[E1] If you aren’t an expert, fake it. People prefer it that way. They also prefer charisma, which maybe isn’t innate.

[E2] Here is what you need to know about coffee at work.

[E3] Matthew Yglesias looks at our long-term unemployment problem. Peter Cappelli adds more context on my takeaway, which is that a lot of it comes down to a refusal to train.

[E4] What if bankers really do earn their bonuses? That’s an oddly depressing thought.


[Tr1] I miss the designs of some of the older cars, but the utilitarian in me appreciates that the convergence of automobile design is largely a product of all the makers having found the best way to make a car and going with it.

[Tr2] Jeremy Stahl critiques Alfred Twu’s map of what a truly national high-speed rail network might look like for the US and adds a number of insights.


[P1] I’ve been thinking about this lately, but perhaps the biggest way that Republicans can reach out to minorities has little or nothing to do with the party itself and more to do with its constituent networks. Evangelicals, for instance, and the NRA.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. S2: It’s worth noting that the Hebrew or Jewish calendar did not “reset”; it is currently in year 5773.

  2. Going all crazy on Rev. Wright is not the way to reach out to evangelicals…
    World calendar has already been reset. Don’t you remember Y2K?

  3. P1- well step one might actually be to avoid trying to make the boston marathon bombers ( at least the suspects we have now) be poster children for stopping immigration reform. Because a few of the usual suspects in con. circles are already saying that.

    E3- i’ve read about how its so hard to get hired if you have been out of work for a long time. That just baffles me. I guess i understand what the “rational is, but it still doesn’t make sense to me. It’s almost like the world is trying to screw some people over.

    H2- yeah some of the pro-paleo people take their ideas way to far. In facts a lot people want to imprint their own views on our distant cousins. ( see modern Druids, Celts)

    • P1 – If the current story is true, and if Mother Jones’s connection with the YouTube videos is accurate, one of the frustrating things is that it “vindicates” the “we need to repatriate the Muslims” attitude of someone I know. I think it would still be a dodged bullet in the greater scheme of things (I don’t think we’ll find a non-unilateral connection to AQ, they’re not Arab, they’re not white conservative, like the DC sniper they don’t really fit easily into a stereotype) but the ramifications for attitudes towards Islam and immigration (and especially the two together) will not be fun.

      • If the rough outlines of the story don’t change ( a big if) making hay of this in terms of ImRef will only hurt R’s. Latino’s will not be pleased by being pushed down or tarred by a couple of knuckle heads from Chechnya.

      • Curiously, I wonder what the conservative feelings on immigrants from that part of the world was before these events. The Eastern European immigrants I’ve known, even those from the Muslim world, often typify the “ideal immigrant”. They come here legally, see America as a land of opportunity, tend to practice a “tamer” form of Islam, and are generally apt to assimilate. A week ago, some would be inclined to hold these brothers up as just the sort of Muslim/immigrant we should be looking for … “They were on the wrestling team!” “They wore jeans!” “They went to college!”

        Now? Not so much…

        • I think the “Muslim” distinction is going to be critical in how they will mentally approach the issue, ultimately. “They” being the more nativist-minded*, I mean. That Muslim’s can’t be truly westernized, even if they’re wearing jeans.

          * – I actually have some sympathy for nativism, or at least more than probably any contributor here. I just approach it very differently and by-and-large see Eastern European immigrants – indeed, Muslim immigrants in the overall regardless of where they’re from – the way that you describe. I also believe in the power of western civilization and reject the notion that anyone can’t be westernized.

          • Any discussion of these kids backgrounds needs to take into the particularly visions and violent history of their part of the world. Civil war, communism, ethnic violence, religious tension.

          • Sure, though that can lead to indictment of the asylum principle more generally, if we’re not careful. One of the things I run up against when talking with anti-immigration folks is that people from other cultures will bring their cultures’ baggage with them.

          • I want to add that I didn’t mean the “sure” perfunctorily. Abstractly, I sort of thing of these kids as Chechens first, and Muslims second. I don’t honestly know whether that’s right or actually its own force of discrimination (They don’t fit my internal profile of a Muslim, so I think of them as something else.). But it’s how my mind has incorporated the data.

          • There is a parent in my school who grew up in war torn Bosnia. The women clearly carries a lot of baggage from her childhood, which she’ll talk about rather openly with those she knows. This has real effects on her day-to-day life, including raising her daughters in a certain climate of fear. However, she has also used her early life experiences to soar to new heights, recently receiving a doctorate in international educational policy (or something thereabouts) from Columbia University. She credits what she experienced as a child AND the help she received from outsiders to escape it and become educated as reasons for pursuing that particular route.

            So, baggage comes in many forms, with many outcomes. Our country is a better place because this woman is here.

          • “…They don’t fit my internal profile of a Muslim, so I think of them as something else…”

            This is an important statement and I think, per your comment above, is going to cause some people to shift their “internal profiles” of Muslims, though in a way that I know I will be uncomfortable.

            “See? You can’t even trust the white ones!”

          • Though it might also lead to a further refinement of who exactly qualifies as “white”.

          • That thought had crossed my mind, too. Honestly, looking at them, I think “Armenian” (which is a group I am mildly more familiar with than Chechens). Which is white, but a particular kind of white. Part of a larger bucket I internally think of as “ethnic whites” (Greeks, Armenians, sometimes Persians and Italians).

            Which is, of course, a throwback to how it has historically been. Irish Need Not Apply and all that. Ethnicity, rather than just race, having been more central historically than it is now.

          • “…They don’t fit my internal profile of a Muslim, so I think of them as something else…”

            Well that is the problem with how we categorize people. If we are unaware, and often even if we are, the categories are all about us instead of the people we are looking at. Religion, ethnicity and region all mix together and are inseparable.

            There have been Muslims in Europe for hundred of years. “White” is an almost entirely meaningless term as are most of the terms we use for race. People from the mid east are Caucasian/white.

          • Far from meaningless, I’d say. It may be a social construct, but it’s a social construct used on a daily basis. Not just in how we measure others, but how we measure ourselves.

          • I’d say its meaningless partly because it has no basis in science. It is also totally a projection of what the speaker wants it to mean without much of a shared meaning. At my previous job ethnicity was a big issue so i’d always talk with people about how they defined themselves. People inevitably used Caucasian and white as synonyms without knowing what or where the term Caucasian comes from. White tends to mean american or american of euro decent which is unmoored from where the definitions comes from. White tends to mean “us” in America.

          • “ethnic whites” ???? that is an …ummm…..interesting term.

          • I realize that it’s not without its problems. It was a phrase I used when asked by the police about a B&E I witnessed. Basically “a white guy of non-western European (or German or Scandinavian) exttlraction. I do recognize that Anglo is an ethnicity as well, in this context.

          • A good friend of mine is Armenian. Once, while on a security line at Giants Stadium just after 9/11, some drunk yokel objected to being searched, pointed at my friend, and said, “Search the Taliban guy right there.” He was not particularly “white” at that moment.

            Another story…

            At BC, the term AHANA was used to avoid the potential diminutive nature of the term “minority”… the acronym stood for African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American, and Native American. After 9/11, when Middle Eastern-Americans and Arab-Americans began experience new forms of discrimination with greater frequency and intensity (including on campus), there was a big conversation about whether they ought to fall under the AHANA umbrella, as they previously were not considered to be a part of it because most of them were “white”. I don’t remember the outcome of that particular discussion.

            All of this is to say that, as I’m sure we all know, this is a really complex topic. And I do think it will have a real impact on immigration reform, or at least the conversations that surround it.

            Regardless of what we might call people or what people might identify as, I think it is increasingly clear that there are “degrees” of whiteness if you will. Or perhaps more accurately, degrees of the privilege that different individuals and groups might derive from their fairer skin tone.

          • I think Kazzy’s and Trum’s stories about “white” show why i think the term is meaningless. Well it is has a meaning, just one that is personal, idiosyncratic and not related to any particular physical category. Maybe saying it is useless is better. Greeks are often dark skinned but are white. Well so are people from the mid-east. In fact i could put a line up of greeks and turks and other people from the mid-east and nobody would be able to tell the difference. White in america means “us” or “the right kind of american.”

          • “White in america means “us” or “the right kind of american.””

            Which is why it is far from meaningless in terms of the actual power it wields.

          • Except the definition keeps changing, not just over time but between people and groups. Jews are Caucasian and most people consider them White, but that hasn’t always been the way it is. If there isn’t some sort of shared meaning of a word, it isn’t really useful. I don’t think “white” clarifies anything much, it more leads to miscommunication since people don’t often know what the other person really means.

          • Greg, I would argue that even if the meaning is “white like me” that in itself is meaning. And is important, if we view things that way. Getting rid of terminology doesn’t help what we see and how we see things.

            And I think there is some truth to your definition. I think white still does generally have a more general definition than that – one that includes some Chechens and Armenians as well as some Arabs and others) – insofar as there is a consensus that these people are identifiable from those people.

            Sure, there are gray areas and “not sure” areas. And areas of confusion. But the imperfection of the definitions doesn’t make the definitions moot. We can pretend all day long that there is no difference between an Anglo and an Indian, but as long as we perceive those differences, they exist and have meaning. To suggest otherwise is to suggest colorblindness, which may be ideal but is not the world in which we live.

          • “…colorblindness, which may be ideal…”

            Not the ideal, FWIW.

          • I think ethnicity is important to understand for ourselves and in others. I dislike vague terms that sow more confusion and that also don’t have any shared meaning. It always surprised me when i asked people who said they were “white” what that meant or where their ancestors came from before being, you know, “white” that many people didn’t know. As an immigrant nation we are all still the product of the forces and backgrounds of the “Old Country.” Many of us are mutts with all that brings ( my grandparents immigrated here in the 1920’s from greece and poland). There is a odd admixture of heritages there. You don’t find that many greek orthodox/ jewish hybrids, at least where i grew up. Maybe talking about what “white” means is the start of a conversation and that is the best use of the word.

          • colorblindness is neither possible nor ideal. White is the mixture of all colors so using the word white to describe anything is actually colorblind. ( pats self on back for twisting words in a pointless way). But anyway, we need to understand where we came from, which means understanding our histories.

          • Not the ideal, FWIW.

            Well, it’s definitely good that we can tell red apart from green. Kidding!

            I go back and forth on it, myself. I think assuming colorblindness where it doesn’t exist is highly problematic. But if we could actually get there? I think I see more upsides than downsides, given the history of humanity.

          • White does describe a lot of things, and usage is inconsistent from one person to the next as well as over time. But I think most social concepts are inherently vague. But I consider them important for communication. I think the vagueness might render them less useful, because when I say “white” and when you hear “white” we may not be thinking of the exact same thing, but I would still consider it useful in terms of identification. When someone defines themselves as white, I may not know if they are Anglo, Greek, or whatnot. But I know that they are not dark-skinned

          • Abstractly, I sort of thing of these kids as Chechens first, and Muslims second.

            You may have already seen this, but the suspects are actually from Kyrgystan, which is not particularly near Chechnya. They are Chechen in the sense that their family a few generations back was among those expelled from Chechnya by Stalin, but in general they lived in Kyrgystan as kids and moved to the US when they were 8 and 15. So their being ‘Chechen’ doesn’t seem overly salient, in context; they didn’t experience any of the region’s conflicts.

          • Colorblindness is problematic because it denies a key portion of people’s identities, often against their will.

            Imagine, if you will, that I had a female guest in my house who needed to use the bathroom to urinate. I point her towards a room with a urinal. “That won’t do,” she says, “I’m a woman!” “Oh… I’m gender blind… I don’t see you as a woman.”

            Now, gender is not race. There are certainly circumstances where colorblindness or something approach it is preferred. But overall, in the work that I’ve done, “color conscious” is now seen as the ideal, wherein we are cognizant of folks different races and the way in which race has informed their experiences and perspectives and, when appropriate, take that into account.

            My theory is that colorblindness was a necessary step for our society to take. For a long time, we were color conscious but in a highly negative way. We saw color and used it in negative ways. To go from that to seeing color and using it in positive ways was too big a jump. Colorblindness was a transitional phase needed to break some very old, bad habits.

          • Kazzy, well for “true colorblindness” (as opposed to “assumed colorblindness”) to occur, I take it for granted that it would be voluntary. Otherwise, I don’t see how it would work. As long as we view ourselves based on A and they view themselves based on B by the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the shape of our lips and eyes, etc, then it’s not really colorblindness. to the extent that we stop viewing ourselves that way, it ceases to be that we have sacrificed ourselves.

            No, I don’t view such a thing as possible. But I lean towards thinking it a better world if it were.

            A comparison I would make is to nationhood. I think it would be a better world if we didn’t have national borders. I think it’s troublesome to pretend like we don’t. But if we could get there…

          • But I still think it only works if we can assume everyone’s experiences are the same… or more accurately, are different for reasons having nothing to do with their skin color. Which would be ideal, I suppose, but is not the reality either.

            For example, early in my career, I remember watching kids on the climber and remarking to them that they were like a bunch of little monkeys. And I met this in a complimentary way! For kids who pride themselves on their climbing skills, being compared to a monkey is a true honor. And then one day, I almost said it to a black child. And I stopped short, realizing that regardless of my intention, there was a very difficult context to calling a black child a monkey as a white child. And this wasn’t political correctness or fear dictating my decision, simply a realization that my use of the word was largely unimportant (there are a host of other ways I could describe their prowess) and the potential for how it was received was very important. I’ve largely scrubbed the term from my vocabulary, but on occasion I have used it in reference to a white child but never a black child.

            In a “colorblind” world, that would not be the case. And I think that’s wrong.

          • I think we may be talking past each other a bit, because I don’t disagree with you that using the word would be inappropriate. In a colorblind world, there’d be nothing wrong with you using that word. It’s only in a world of feigned (or assumed) colorblindness, where you can pretend to be being colorblind but they nonetheless bear the consequences for both non-colorblindness and and your pretending to be so, that such is a problem.

          • You confused me a bit with your pronouns there, but tell me if I’m picking up what you’re laying down… A “colorblind world” is one wherein ALL effects of skin color are eliminated… Where using the term “monkey” in relation to a black child would be no more or less offensive than using it with a white child because the contexts and historical baggages would be identical.

            Do I have that right?

            If so, I’d concur. And while we can’t wholly erase our history, I do think we can move far enough away from it (not just temporally, but actually by addressing and correcting for past sins going forward) where that might be the case. But it is going to take a whole hell of a lot of work.

          • Except the definition keeps changing, not just over time but between people and groups.

            Yep. They don’t come much whiter than the Irish, who were definitely “them” at certain times and places in the US.

    • E3 – It’s one of those things that’s rational on an individual level (like college degrees, you save HR departments some time by culling the applications), and there are other logistical problems (training). From a society standpoint, though, it’s toxic. McArdle has put out a couple interesting ideas (tax incentives to hire the LTU, for instance) that make sense to me.

      As someone who hasn’t had a full-time job in his field for a time now, this has been an issue of concern to me.

      • Since i don’t work in a techy field its sort of beyond my comprehension for someone to suggest their skills are out of date if they haven’t had a job in a year.

        • it suggests that you aren’t hungry, that you’re a lazy layabout (or a saver, even worse! someone who’s not willing to take the mandatory 20% paycut to get a new job).

      • (tax incentives to hire the LTU, for instance)

        Hey, man, Louisiana Tech University graduates don’t need anybody’s charity! Unless we’re talking about a tax incentive to get them into the American Athletic Conference.

      • Pay is another one. There’s a pretty simple “You’re not filling positions because you’re not offering enough money” issue as well.

        Maybe not true of all fields, but a sizeable number of them are lowballing salaries and benefits. I’ve had a few offers myself that boiled down to me asking “Why should I quit my current job and come work for you for basically the same money?” where they simply didn’t have an answer.

        They needed my skills, but weren’t willing to offer me (or the other various versions of me that could fill the job) enough cash to jump ship. At least one of them is a company I’ve seen quoted as whining about there not being enough visas for skilled workers…

        Another issue I’ve seen is kind of training related, but it’s more…intellectual laziness? I’ve seen job postings with…really specific requirements. Not “X years in field” or even “Y years with [software language/software/toolset/etc]” — but what appears to be basically either someone’s resume (A laundry list of skills, all rounded (up!) to the nearest five years, that don’t represent a job so much as a person since no job needs all of that) or basically someone rattling off all the possible things the new hire MIGHT be assigned to do (again rounded UP to the nearest five years, even if the thing in question is three years old) and then absolutely zero flexibility.

        “Why no, I don’t have 15 years of C# experience — I lack the ability to time travel, and I assure you if I could time travel I’d be rich and not applying for this job. I do have 15 years OOP experience in C++, a few years in Java, and about 5 doing C# work. I’ve led design teams and basically anything I’m missing in C# I can pick up in weeks. Oh? I’m not being hired because I didn’t spend 15 years using JUST C# (while also using Ada and doing neural networks? WTF sort of jobs are you doing?) and then travel back in time, and also I’ve never used [insert some ridiculously specific versioning or modelling software that could be picked up in a few weeks]? Maybe you should have paid your former time-travelling employee who could do all that more?”

        Software engineering is particularly bad about it, but I’ve chemical, mechanical, and aerospace engineering friends who’ve all reported headhunters who seem desperate to fill slots but whose salary + benefits packages work out to, at best, what they’ve got now.

        • I check Monster every once in a while just to see what sort of job requirements they post for IT jobs.

          My favorite, by far, was 5+ years of experience with:

          * Active Directory
          * Exchange
          * MySQL
          * Apache
          * Cisco IOS
          * Oracle
          * ASP.NET
          * Java


          Willing to perform helpdesk duties


          Paying about 2/3rd of what anybody with any *two* of the above would charge as a base salary if they were any damn good at their job. And there is no way they would do helpdesk tickets, no sir.

          I laughed for about five minutes straight. “My friends, you deserve the person you hire… because they’re either lying their ass off, or they’ve been ‘doing’ those things for five plus years in the loosest possible definition of the word ‘doing’.”

          • I think that the assumption is that everybody is lying on their resume and so the company has to lie about job requirements to keep up.

          • I once got a job offer for a position where I knew next to nothing about roughly half of the job description’s bullet points. Bullet points that included phrases matched by the regular expression “(extensive|strong) (knowledge|experience).” Turned out all they really wanted was a strong generalist capable of learning.

          • I tend to take the bullets very liberally. Like, they want two years of experience doing X, but I did some of X for some (say six months) of my tenure at such-and-such company. Well, my tenure at such-and-such was two years, so I’m just going to pretend that I was doing that the whole two years…

            I’ve been pretty ruthlessly exposed at a couple interviews. On the other hand, I once almost got a job that I could tell during the interview process that I was completely unqualified and unprepared for.

          • Turned out all they really wanted was a strong generalist capable of learning.

            Smart employers; an awful lot of them don’t know that’s what they really want.

  4. Bankers really do earn their bonuses? ROFL. Important points lost in the analysis:
    1) These are wage slaves. The quickest ticket out of a job with these companies is to not spend.
    2) It ignores the number of people being fired per year, for failure to perform. Yes, it is easy to show “look they made money” … but how many of them keep their job for 10 years?

  5. [N3] What’s even cooler is that five of the cool numbers are related in a very simple way:

    e^(pi*i) + 1 = 0

    • All 5 of those are also known as “the only numeric answers to any college calculus exam question”.

  6. I just want to say I like these linky Friday posts. I know I usually don’t comment on them, but there’s almost always at least one or two links that are quite interesting and that I never would have found without them.

    By the way, I found another link that some here might find interesting. I found it on the site that talked about sex in space (don’t judge me…I was curious).

    I don’t usually watch Jimmy Kimmel, but I thought the embedded clip at this link was funny:

  7. Further signs that Boston isn’t being manned by the Keystone Kops:
    They’re keeping the Dunkin’ Donuts open.

  8. [S2] It will probably reset around 2018 when President Gingrich establishes our first moon base. I’m thinking AG, after the world historical figure who made it happen.

  9. H2: This is pretty weak:
    There are human examples, as well, such as “lactase persistence” (the ability in adults to digest the sugar in cow’s milk), a trait possessed by about 35 percent of the world’s population — and growing, since the gene determining it is dominant. Geneticists estimate that this ability emerged anywhere from 2200 to 20,000 years ago, but since the habit of drinking cow’s milk presumably arose after cattle were domesticated around 7000 years ago, the more recent dates are the most likely. In a similar, if nondietary, example, “Blue eyes were virtually unknown as little as 6000 to 10,000 years ago,” while now they are quite common. A lot can change in 10,000 years.

    How quickly you can evolve a trait depends largely on the genetic material you have to work with. Lactase persistence is easy because all humans carry the gene needed to produce lactase. Lactase persistence only requires a change to the genes that regulate expression of lactase. In fact, most of the genes controlling lactase mutations are dominant SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms), which means that only a single base pair needed to be copied incorrectly to produce the mutation.

    Blue eyes, conversely, are the result of a mutation that reduces the expression of a gene found in all humans, namely melanin. Blue eyes don’t actually contain blue pigment, by the way. The blue appearance is the result of the Tyndall effect, the same light-scattering effect that causes the sky to appear blue. Again, the downregulation of melanin production can result from an SNP.

    However, the ability to tolerate a novel food, such as wheat, may require the evolution of novel proteins. It’s not just a matter of upregulating or downregulating the expression of a gene we already have, but rather of engineering a new one, which requires much more complicated mutations and takes much longer.

  10. H2 is a fascinating article. I hadn’t even been aware of that debate.

    The thing about more and more people being able to digest lactose seemed odd, though, given that increasing numbers of people have been finding they’re lactose intolerant (and gluten intolerant) recently. It could, of course, be attributable to people just not noticing lactose intolerance earlier history due to having so many other ailments that some level of generalized ill-health was considered normal.

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