Linky Friday #24

Flash Gordon


[F2] A green building that eats smog.

[F3] Glenn Reynolds wants to know who has the mineral rites… on an asteroid?

[F4] Science fiction notoriously gets it wrong much of the time, so it’s noteworthy when science fiction gets it right.

[F5] How driverless cars will affect our cities. The first one – increased expansion and sprawl – was not what I expect from such articles.


[P1] Atheists and their relationship with god.

[P2] Being alone is, apparently, bad for your health. Even if you’re a loner.


[E1] An inside look at fracking.

[E2] How much damage did Fukushima do to efforts to combat climate change?

[E3] One of the few reservations I personally have about nuclear power is the amount of time it takes to get a unit up and running. Maybe small reactors will help with that?

[E4] Diana Lind gushes over the possibility of cities without highways. Though I think the “induced demand” argument is not as solid as its proponents suggest, I actually do think that urban highways should be re-evaluated. Highways to get into and around town are good, but once in town, maybe there is a better way.


[M1] CNet gives you a rundown how to get rid of The Soap Opera Effect. My father’s TV has that. It takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it with how nicely the non-HD stuff comes across on his Samsung compared to my Vizio.

[M2] Is the fourth-wall breakdown in sitcoms a product of – and emblematic of – artistic laziness?

[M3] Somehow, I’m not surprised that the best live-action Wonder Woman outfit is from porn.

[M3] The rationale behind child pornography being illegal is pretty rock-solid, though it’s possible the passive consumers of child pornography are not as dangerous as we thought.. Laws against pixie porn, on the other hand, is harder to justify.


[C1] A look at the folks who have dropped out of the job market.

[C2] When we talk about how much physicians are paid, we also need to talk about the costs they incur.

[C3] A great joke: If we really want to dismantle Al-Qaeda, we need only arrange for Yahoo to buy it. I was reminded of that joke when I read this.

[C4] Google Fiber is causing traditional ISP’s to step up their game. Vermont has a plan. Though I have to say, of all the states for the federal government to throw stimulus money at for this project, Vermont does not strike me as the most worthwhile.


[A1] Trailer parks could save us all, or at least solve the retiring baby boomer problem. It takes a lot to overcome the stigma, though, which creates detrimental cycles of ownership.

[A2] Amy Sullivan of the National Journal writes of the downsizing of the American Dream. James Fallows on why we should believe the illusion anyway.

[A3] I’ve mentioned niche online dating before. Apparently, Alex Jones is getting into the act. I’d love to know what the gender balance on that looks like.

[A4] What do spies read for fun?

[A5] If actual public opinion had its way, instead of interest groups, we would not have more legal immigration. People versus the Powerful, as it were.

[A6] Congressman Steve Pearce thinks congress should be allowed to telecommute. A part of me wonders if we shouldn’t just make’em telecommute. Or, of course, move the capital to Nebraska, and then they’ll want to.


[W1] Thirty-three beautiful places… abandoned.

[W2] Christopher Caldwell takes a look at abortion, national identity, and Ireland.

Will Truman

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


  1. P2- This doesn’t surprise me that much. I’m a bit of loner and introvert so i have thought about this. Humans are social creatures. We evolved in groups, fwiw and 99.99999 of humans have lived in social groups. We are made to be part of families and , at least, small tribes. Even for us introverts who are comfortable alone, being with other has advantages. We benefit from others opinions and caring. It is far to easy to lose perspective and get lost in your misconceptions and mind traps when you are by yourself to much. There really isn’t a replacement for laughing with others or having a friend smile at you. Its nice that many of us can choose to be by ourselves when we think we need to be. I’ve certainly noted that there are times though when my instinct is it to be alone but being with others is a far better and healthier idea.

  2. [P1] doesn’t surprise me over-much. I would wager that most adult atheists are, like me, refugees from the standard indoctrination into a religious belief as a youth. That sort of brainwashing early childhood education is, to some degree, practically permanent at a deep emotional level.

    • There’s also a cultural awareness involved with that — atheists, you know, understand the notion of God. They don’t think one exists, but they’re aware of what the concept represents.

      It’d be interesting to tease out how much of those statements might come down to basic human psychology — the concept that openly stating a bad end or disliked outcome helps bring it about.

      As an atheist myself, I can honestly state most of those statements would make me uncomfortable. I do not consider myself superstitious to any extent, but that feels kinda like…daring the universe, you know? Rationally I realize making that statement is entirely unconnected to any bad events that may or may not happen that mimic that statement.

      But the culture I was raised in? You don’t tempt fate, you know? Even though it doesn’t exist.

      • they need a control group of natural born non-religious types. or maybe they should have tried with, like, zeus or someone with no connection to the culture.

        • Or run a parallel track with basic superstitions, even silly ones.

          Or better yet — run it against some of those ridiculous teenage games they make horror films on. You know, the ones where you chant names in the mirror or whatnot.

    • F1 got lost in the ether. Which is tragic, because it was so brilliant I bumped the previous F1 to F5 so that it would be on top.

      • You should have said it was meta, i.e. it was so futuristic that it couldn’t be posted yet.

  3. P1: I have a fifth reason there might have been a heightened emotional response: We’re primed for it. Our first learning experiences is as an extremely dependent baby, where all needs require some outside other to be met. We may grow beyond that dependence, but it is our first experience. The impulse to reach out to that ‘other’ exists in even atheist in a crisis, and I suspect, the aversion to daring is so rooted, also.

    At least that’s my theory.

    • I bet the priming is definitely part of it. Deeply socialized behavior doesn’t go away just because we consciously decide we don’t like it anymore.

      Also re P1, since about the mid-90s, there has been a renewed interest in the scientific study of religious psychology within cognitive and social psychology, as well as cognitive anthropology (specifically Scot Atran). For most of that time, they’ve been studying religion and theism specifically, but all of the sudden, over the last couple years (perhaps inspired by the popularity of new atheism about 5 or 6 years ago?), atheism has become a topic of much of this research. It’s really kind of fascinating.

    • Sure. And whether you believe in the supernatural or not, we live in a culture that has religion, in particular the Christian religion and its monotheistic assumptions and explanations for a wide variety of phenomena, inextricably intertwined into things like morality, language, sex, identity, and social structures.

      • Exactly. And all those things reinforce that primal, beginning need for another to magically meet your needs.

  4. “small reactors” have been so much more hype than substance over the last decade, it’s going to take a lot to get me convinced of any particular model’s viability.

    • Small, large… there’s no nuclear renaissance without addressing the spent-fuel disposal problem. Current statute outlaws reprocessing of civilian waste and limits study of long-term storage sites to Yucca Mountain alone. Other potential sites were systematically eliminated, many more by political action in Congress than by science. Nevada doesn’t want it and the current administration has been unwilling to push them on it. I suspect that the behinds-the-scene conversation had Nevada saying something like, “The current SCOTUS has been more willing to rule that there are things the federal government can’t force on the states. We like our chances that they’ll agree that the perceived risks of transporting and storing thousands of tons of other states’ high-level nuclear waste is one of those things.”

      The vast majority of the commercial nuclear reactors in the US are east of 100 degrees west longitude. TTBOMK, all of the proposed new reactors that have reached the NRC licensing phase are east of that line. It would seem that any storage or reprocessing site should also be east of that line. I wouldn’t bet that way, though. If it happens, I bet that such a site gets jammed down the throat of an unwilling western state.

      • Nu. nobody’s at fukushima levels yet, are they? I don’t see why we can’t just keep it on site.

        Oh, right. Holy &*&^ Nuns!

  5. [F4] Stand on Zanzibar is a good book, and probably the first adult SF novel I ever owned (courtesy of the SFBC), but its point is that overpopulation has driven mankind crazy, leading to ubiquitous terrorism, riots, and muggers. Given that the world is less violent than in 1968,when the book was written, his main prediction failed.

  6. E4- As a one time resident of the DC Metro area, a city without highways is TURRBULL.

    M3- I’ve seen studies that demonstrate that current efforts to curb child pornography actually lead to an increase in the victims of it. The studies found that as digital watermarking and other techniques took existing forms out of circulation, the need did not subside and therefore more/new pornography was made and, with it, a new wave of victims. I don’t know what the answer is, but it is an interesting look at good policies possibly gone wrong.

    I can also say that now that I work in a school with teenagers, I’ve learned that there exist a lot of “child pornography” that is created by the children themselves, in the forming of “sexting” and the like. Apparently kids make and distribute pictures and videos which find themselves online, sometimes posted by the “subjects” themselves and, even when not so, often done by other children. It makes prosecution much more difficult and the whole mess a whole lot trickier.

    The idea of pedophiles luring kids with candy into vans and then forcing them to pose naked and/or engaged in sexual acts is no longer up to date (though I’m sure still describes some segment of the “industry”).

  7. I’d like the piece on atheists a lot more if they weren’t using GSR.

    Everyone who instinctively believed this article? You don’t instinctively believe a polygraph, do you? I would assume, given the legal inclinations of this bunch, that you’ve read about the problems with a polygraph…

    • Kimsie, what do you think the skin response data in that paper might be showing that’s different from what the authors interpret it to be showing?

      • From what I remember reading (and it’s been a while), GSR has basic methodological issues that aren’t nearly as prominent or pronounced with other methods.
        Also there’s the matter of basic confounds: the basic confound with pupillometry is “total light entering the eye” — which can be normalized relatively easily (all stimuli and the null stimulus have the same DC offset). With GSR, you’re looking at temperature and humidity…

        So it’s not that it might be showing something different (though I might could argue that), but that I think GSR is substantially less reliable than other methods. [as a sidenote: I’d like to see pupillometry in particular, as that isn’t sympathetic at all.]

        • As someone who’s used GSR, I’m fairly certain that the researchers understand its confounds, and attempt to minimize them, as well as accounting for them with randomized designs. I haven’t read the paper closely (I skimmed it earlier), but my default assumption is that they know what they’re doing.

  8. [E4] The Weekly Standard piece on traffic congestion and induced demand is pretty flimsy for something of such length. The red state-blue state snideful asides don’t really give it much credence, either. At best, Last’s argument displays that the effects of induced demand won’t be the same everywhere (which the prominent study he derides openly admits!), and there might be some benefit to freeways in cities.

    Diana Lind seems to have the much stronger argument. Freeways really do carve up cities much more than boulevards or other large roadways do. She notes the problems that St. Louis has with the freeway keeping downtown segregated from the waterfront. A few years ago, Timothy Lee really examined this, noting how it partitions off neighbourhoods and turns the streets adjacent to the freeway in to ghost-towns. Few shops. Few pedestrians. Pedestrians tend to stay on one side of the freeway or the other. (I commented on what has happened to some Ottawa neighbourhoods in a similar way.)

    Last disdain for urban, mix-use development and living is palpable. And that’s fine, so far as it goes. But he’s just dismissing a lot research – and a lot of anecdotes equal in merit to his Phoenix example – in order to take a stab at people he sees as political/cultural rivals.

    • The Phoenix anecdote also ignores something else. The construction ended in 2007. I could have sworn something happened in that market right after that that would have significantly reduced any possible induced demand.

      • True.

        And he doesn’t really give any data on traffic rates there. It’s been six years. Induced demand takes a while to happen. Do they still have no congestion? Some? Which way is it trending?

        • Even if traffic rates haven’t been sufficiently induced, the highways were finished at the peak of a housing boom that has since collapsed, hard. Nearly 16% of the housing in Phoenix is currently vacant, so there’s a lot of slack in the system still.

    • I admit some sympathy to both views. I think it’s unquestionable that interstates within the city create enormous divisions. I went to a university near an interstate. It creates an inherent barrier. Which is why I am sympathetic to Lind’s perspective.

      But on induced demand, I think its effects are overstated and overlook the alternatives. Back in Colosse, expanding a road did mean easing traffic congestion. In some cases, a lasting easing. But more to the point, it allowed a population expansion that otherwise might have been more difficult and that I believe was ultimately good for the city as a whole.

      I’ve lived in cities that have had extensive freeway infrastructure investment, and I’ve lived in cities that didn’t (mostly due to geographic limitations, mountains and water, or settlement patterns). The result of the latter was truly miserable. Drives in sprawling Colosse often took very long, but there was less traffic. (Not just because of larger freeways, but more of them going in different directions.

      I do understand the way in which inner-city freeways cause problems. But I also think it’s a mistake to tie it too much to the notion of induced traffic. I think the latter is often a reverse form of what you accuse last of: a disdain for the alternative to urban, mix-use development and living.

  9. M3 – I wonder how mainstream media companies feel about the porn “parodies” of their work. It has to be kind of frustrating not to be able to sue for copyright or trademark infringement because of the pardoy excpetion to copyright. At the same time, none of the porn “parodies” are really parodies in the strict sense and copyright holder might be able to prevail in court.

    • da fuq you talking about man?
      Lucas done buried his porn parodies so deep you’ll never find ’em!
      Shame too, they were funny… or so I hear…

      Someone on the Simpsons flipped (not literally) over porn, so they buried that character…

      • There are a lot of porn companies that create “parody” versions of popular shows and characters. Parody in this case means dressing up a porn star in custom like the Black Widow from the Avengers and then doing what porn does. Somehow, I don’t think this is what was meant by the parody exception to copyright and I’m wondering why fewer companies sue over this. American media corporations are known for vigorous protection of their copyrights and trademarks against everybody from pornographers to kindergartens in Indonesia. I think they could sue and win against the porn companies that produce these “parodies” in court and I’m wondering why they don’t.

        • They’d be giving publicity to a product that tarnishes their product’s image.

          • And doing so for no monetary gain – it’s not as though they are losing money or customers to the porn companies…someone who wants to see the new “X-men” movie generally doesn’t accidentally instead see the “XXX-Men” movie, due to the fairly-solid bifurcation of non-pornographic and pornographic media channels.

            They are more likely to go after non-porn infringers that stand a more reasonable chance of deceiving the public as to the genuineness of the product (thereby diverting revenue away from them).

          • And for no marketing gain either. Cheap knockoffs of, say, The Muppets could tarnish the brand, but no potential consumers have their perceptions affected by “Deep Pig” or “Behind the Green Frog.”

    • I strongly agree that the porn parody costume in link M3 made the one in the real movie look like a cheap off-the-rack costume from a Halloween rental place.

      • But the one in the comments with the armor-skirt and sandals, which I appears to be a digital mockup, kicks the pants off of both.

        I do not understand why I keep seeing WonderWoman in a bikini or skintight pants. But then, I’m gayer than a box of unicorns, so…

  10. [A1] Hmm. I live, like 20 minutes away from the Pismo Dunes. My grandparents and great aunt live about 5 minutes away. (Though they chose the classic strategy of “buy a house before every rich person and their brother decides to build a vacation mansion in the same neighborhood and that house you bought for pennies is suddenly worth a million dollars for the land it’s sitting on)

    Contrawise, my other set of Grandparents lived in a mobile home. It wasn’t in a mobile home park, or anything. It was in the middle of nowhere, in the woods. Everyone else in the area had a normally build house. I’m not even sure if that sort of thing is legal any more.

    • We’re looking at mobile homes out east where we will be moving. We thought about it out here, though the problem is that most mobile homes are in mobile home parks. those that aren’t interest us, at least as a short-term solution.

      • Did you know that ‘mobile homes,’ (most often a double-wide, industry calls it ‘manufactured housing,’) is often safer then stick-built homes? (At least here in northern NE.)

        That’s because they must build to some pretty strict codes that often don’t always apply to houses built on the spot. Older housing often didn’t have any sort of building-code requirements, and here in ME at least, there’s no code applied to owner-built housing at all.

        Manufactured housing is older then folk realize, too. The house next door to me is a 2-story Craftsman (art-deco era) built from a kit purchased from Sears.

        • Oh, I in no way mean to imply it’s less safe. Just that, safety or no, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s rarely allowed.

        • I have a bit of infatuation with prefab homes. I’m not sure why single-wide mobile homes shouldn’t be the norm for non-apartment, modest income housing, and double-wides for modest family housing. And prefab for midrange. The main drawback out here is the terrain, and the lack of basement.

          But I think Alan is right. Matthew Yglesias wrote a piece a while back on the various measures local governments take to prevent mobile homes.

          • That’s so strange to me; here, they’re common. Very common; though I suspect in the ‘wealthy’ communities over on the coast there might be towns with town-wide restrictions, I’ve never heard of such. Subdivisions do sometimes have such rules; and they’re definitely class-based; separating the wealthy from the not-so wealthy.

            Single wides are not as common as they used to be; and I know many folk who’ve put prefabbed double-wides on foundations with basements instead of pads. In our climate, a basement helps with heating; a sort of passive geothermal, if you will, taking advantage of the 45-degree temperature below frost line.

            There’s a great tradition of owner-built housing in Maine; often quite whimsical, because of the lack of building codes. Often, there’s a single-wide at the heart of these homes; and I look for them; a game I play with myself called ‘Find the Trailor.’ I’ve lived in my present home for nearly 20 years; know the roads hereabouts very well. And I still have epiphany moments of finding the trailer at the heart of a home I’ve driven by hundreds of times.

            A few years ago, someone pointed out one of the hallmarks of rural poverty: 11 people living in a trailer. But even if you’re not ‘poor,’ a $20,000 piece of land and $70,000 for a prefab can put you in a home of your own for under $100,000. I’ve only seen a few homes on the market under that recently, and they’re definitely handy-man specials.

            In this cold climate, the piece of land may matter more then the home on it. That determines your water supply (unless you’re on town water, which isn’t that common), drainage, how cool you’ll be in the summer, how warm in the winter, if you’re driveway will turn mud in mud season, how severe the black flies might be in the month of May and June, and the likelihood of mold/mildew problems — another reason why a basement is a good thing here.

          • 1 One of the problems with mobile homes is they depreciate in value and generally fall apart. Homes, while needing up keep, gain in value.
            2 In the south and southwest lots of elderly live in giant well kept mobile homes parks. They make sense in that situation and are clearly fine with the community.

          • Up until you put “severe” and “black flies” in the same sentence, you were doing a fantastic job on selling me on us looking for doctorly work in Maine when/if we leave Queenland.

          • But on the bright side a billions of cicada’s won’t be coming for another 17 years.

          • The seasons in Maine:

            1) ski/snowmobile season
            2) maple-sugar season
            3) mud season
            4) Black fly/planting season
            5) Summer tourist season
            6) Foliage Season
            7) Hunting Season
            8) Holiday Season

            Except for ski/snowmobile season, none lasts long.

          • Black fly/planting season

            Why not plant something else instead?

          • Because it wouldn’t be tradition; it would be something folks from away do.

        • otoh, ‘older’ housing (as defined by being pre-ww2) has already (mostly) fallen apart if it wasn’t up to snuff (at least in my area)

          We also have a bit of Craftsman housing which fetches a good premium here too, but still, houses built from a kit on the spot are of a different cache* then a building one tows to the lot. (see also, McMansions)

          *and of a different era, when labor was cheap but stuff was expensive.

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