Linky Friday #28


“We show, and the NSA confirms, there are no nuclear devices on the Canadian border. There are no nuclear devices in Albania. Albania has no nuclear capacity. Our spy satellites show no secret training camps in the Albanian hinterlands. The Border Patrol, the FBI, the RCMP report no – repeat: no – untoward activity along our picturesque Canadian border. The Albanian government is screaming its defense. The world is listening. There is no war.” – CIA Agent Mr. Young


[G1] A whole lot of our atmospheric water vapor comes from plant transpiration, which could be important as we look for other worlds to someday inhabit.

[G2] io9 explores why in the world aliens would want to invade us, anyway? And why are we inviting them?

[G3] Scientists have released a 3D map of the universe. 43,000 galaxies!


[Ci1] A slideshow of million dollar houses across the country.

[Ci2] Can, or should, police assist in urban design?

[Ci3] Rapid urbanization is making us more vulnerable to natural disasters. LeeEsq mentioned something to the effect that in a world with superheroes, ruralia would start to look a lot more attractive.

[Ci4] For once, I side with the big bad federal government (and Britain!) over local communities: Down with the apostrophe! Okay, maybe not entirely. I’d still support it in contexts where Matt Malady is ready to let it go.


[P1] It’s not just the pencilnecks. Jocks, too, are subject to stereotype and discrimination.

[P2] The world is becoming a more addictive place.

[P3] Did we really need scientists to tell us that we can decipher dog emotions? That part about dog people being less adept at it than not-dog-people is pretty interesting, though.

[P4] Lousy sleep sucks.


[H1] The practical considerations of de-extinction. De-extinction could lead to a new era of hybrids.

[H2] An anthropological look at garbage men.

[H3] Birds evolving to avoid cars.

[H4] Australia is one of those places I really want to learn more about the history of. Here’s a start. Also, Mayans!


[Ed1] A lot of politicians are advocating longer school days. The Economist presents a contrary view. I’m less concerned about the hours in a day than the huge gap in between school getting out and school starting back up again.

[Ed2] An interesting look at learning differences between the sexes. Among the findings, the sex differences in math are insignificant at the bottom but wider at the top. The differences in reading, though, are insignificant at the top but significant at the bottom.

[Ed3] It should come as no surprise that I agree with this piece on how we should make fixing things cool.

[Ed4] I’m coming around to the idea that advertising may be bad for youngsters.


[Em1] The top five regrets of dying. Shockingly, none of them involve spending more time at the office.

[Em2] When robots and humans work together, we often think of it in terms of humans directing the robots to complete repetitive tasks. What if the future is the other way around. Maybe we’ll even become friends.

[Em3] Confessions of serial job hoppers. My own job history is pretty long and winding, though not for the reasons discussed. I have actually been burned more than once for not job hopping. Loyalty, as they say, is not always a two-way street.

[Em4] Seventeen really stupid office rules, that companies allegedly actually enforce.

[Em5] On the one hand, I am sympathetic to this piece from Linkedin, which says that we should move away from “work hours” as a metric of work and towards being paid for actual work done.. On the other hand, I tend to view unfavorably what I see as an abuse of overtime-exempt (salary) employment.


[T1] Before the Internet was supposed to be the next big thing, virtual reality was supposed to be the next big thing. George Dvorsky looks at why that didn’t pan out.

[T2] I don’t understand why Samsung’s latest phone has a better resolution than its latest tablet.

[T3] Sabotage Times looks at driverless cars. Greg Beato looks at the potential for driverless cars, but doesn’t like what he sees.

[T4] Ellis Hamburger thinks that the proliferation of messaging platforms will leave us disconnected. I am somewhat skeptical because at some point people will successfully Trillian it, and we may have more in-points and out-points, but the latter will all be in a singular place.


[Cu1] Next time I fail to win the family bowl challenge (where we bet on all the bowl games) and I lose, I’m just going to point out that gambling success has nothing to do with actual knowledge.

[Cu2] Winnie Cooper was pretty amazing. It says something odd about myself that I sympathized more with Becky Slater.

[Cu3] Jim Edwards has a piece on the cartel-like behavior of broadcast TV. I think it’s overlooking some things, but more importantly I am not sure why I should care. I kind of want the networks to have money so that they can make things with big budgets.

[Cu4] For entrepreneurship to rise, the big boys must fall.

[Ci5] The case for canned beer.


[W1] Cell phones in prison are a persistent problem. But they’ve got dogs on the trail.

[W2] National Journal looks at New Orleans’s rebound.

[W3] Phillip Levind and Melissa Kearney argue that our focus on contraception and abstinence don’t work. Instead, we need to focus on economic opportunity.

[W4] By some metrics, Alaska is one of the happiest states in the country. It’s interesting that Greenland would be so miserable.

[W5] When I read about China’s copycat architecture, it makes me think of Las Vegas. I actually think the concept is neat. I mean, it has to look like something, right? Why not something cool? Speaking of China, rapid construction, and cool, this looks kinda cool.

[W6] Albania has a lot of war bunkers and no idea what to do with them.

Will Truman

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


  1. Em1: I wish I had discovered the cure for [whatever I’m dying from].

  2. W4: Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming are roughly tied for first in terms of suicide rates. Also, Greenland’s population is mostly Inuit. Inuit people have high rates of suicide in Alaska and Canada as well.

    My crazy, totally unproven conjecture is that it’s related to vitamin D deficiency resulting from the adoption of a western-type diet. Having moderately dark skin, they likely have impaired ability to obtain vitamin D from the limited sunlight available in the far north. Traditionally they would have obtained vitamin D from a diet high in animal fat, but a westernized diet is low in vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression and suicide.

    My main reservation is that they’re not really that dark, so it’s not clear that white people living in Alaska are getting that much more vitamin D from sun exposure. It’s possible that white Alaskans tend to be distributed farther south, and concentrated in urban centers which are warmer due to heat island effects. They may get more supplementary vitamin D as well. From milk, maybe; most Inuit are lactose-intolerant.

    • Was just about to chime in on this too. My Uncle is does mental health work in rural Alaska. the picture he paints of the suicide situation there mirrors that in the Greenland Article:

      Incredibly high rate compared to other areas. Most prevalent among young men, especially Eskimo men. Usually performed with guns. Worse the further north you get.

      That said, I’m not buying Brandon’s argument re: westernized diets and Vitamin D. Meat seems to be pretty prevalent in the diet of my Uncle and Cousins at least. And I don’t get the impression that they’re atypical.

      • Alan – but are they eating leaner meats (beef/pork etc.) rather than fattier traditional blubber-heavy meats (seal and whale)?

        Also, my assumption would be more tied to the high rates of alcoholism seen in most indigenous North American populations (no doubt largely due to cultural/historical factors, but also IIRC there is some indication there may be genetic susceptibilities).

        • Though alcoholism runs both ways…you drink because you are depressed, and alcoholism and its fruits also MAKE you depressed.

          Gah, I am no prohibitionist, and I enjoyed a bourbon the other night, but alcohol really is a pernicious, sneaky-ass drug.

        • Lots of Alaska Natives living in rural areas still eat a lot of game; either moose, caribou, fish, seals or whale. Certainly not as much as 60 years ago but still a considerable amount. Bringing in beef, pork, etc is expensive although they do it. Alcoholism is the key which, in those places, is associated with cultural destruction and lack of jobs. Things are getting better slowly in many places since they are recovering their cultures and teaching their languages. However there was a giant lost generation or two that was devastated by booze, abuse, crime and the effects of racism that still leaves a huge hole in the communities.

        • So just to be clear, my uncle lives in inland Alaska. No seal and whale to be had.

          But it’s all meat from hunting and fishing. There’s an “Alaska recipies” section of the family cookbook that my parents, aunts, and uncles published a few years back. It contains recipies for: Caribou, Moose, Halibut, Bear, Rainbow Trout, Salmon, Musk Ox, Duck, Ptarmigan, and Muskrat.

          That said, wild game is often lean. Moreso, I think, on the tundra, where food can be scarce. But these are presumably the same animals that the Yupic natives were eating before white people showed up.

  3. T2: Full retail price for the tablet looks like it will be in the $200-220 range. FRP for the Galaxy S4 phone is $600-650. Cell-phone electronics costs maybe $50. $350 buys you a lot more resolution, four processor cores instead of two, etc.

    Ed1: When we first moved to Colorado, the population had been growing faster than the school district could build new schools. They ran a schedule so that each child was in school for three months, then off for a month. During any one month, only three-quarters of the school-aged kids were in school. Teachers remarked that, getting the kids back after only a month off, the relative amount of time spent reviewing previous material went down a lot. Everyone hated it for non-academic reasons, of course: teachers didn’t get three months in a row off (because the district’s pay schedule rewarded advanced degrees, a fair number of teachers spent the summer months at college); fewer kids were available for some of the traditional summer jobs they filled, like lifeguard at the pool; some parents had trouble scheduling their vacation time to coincide with the summer month their kid had off.

  4. W4: Hitting Google, I observe that most of the lists that include Alaska as one of the happiest states also put Wyoming and North Dakota near the top. I won’t claim causality, but state governments in those three are, relatively speaking, rolling in money. Even more distinctive, those revenues didn’t require them to tax their own citizens at a high rate; lots of money coming in from severance taxes (or equivalent payments for fossil fuel production on federal lands) that are paid by people living elsewhere. Texas has gotten too big population-wise for the severance taxes to keep up — compare increased spending on higher ed in Wyoming and North Dakota to the cuts Texas has made lately.

    Amazingly, I have spent most of my life living in states that are consistently in the top ten of these lists. Childhood in Iowa, high school and undergraduate college in Nebraska, and the last 25 years here in Colorado. Colorado is a magnet for laid-back well-educated people. It is often said that chances are good the person serving you that wonderful meal up in one of the mountain resort towns has a higher college degree than you do.

    • Well, rolling in money can definitely help with the happiness aspect. NMLA money can be very helpful, in that regard! My guess, though, is that for middle and western states has more to do with relative homogeneity and some interpersonal distance. On the other hand, I think the relative homogeneity also boosts suicide rates (it’s worse being on the outs when there is such a clearly defined in-group). That doesn’t really explain Alaska, though, or Hawaii.

      • All I know about living in Hawaii (as opposed to visiting) comes from my sister, who lived there for 18 months while her husband was installing command-and-control software for the Navy. She says you have to be laid back and cheerful to live there. After nine months, the locals accept you — there’s a completely different set of unmarked lower prices in the neighborhood grocery, for example, once you’re accepted. She figured she’d gone native when she started thinking that asking her kids (and herself) “What swimsuits/trunks should we wear today?” became a perfectly normal thing to do every morning. That’s probably about the same time that she sent me a “formal” Hawaiian shirt, suitable (so she said) for events such as weddings, as long as I was careful about picking a not-too-gaudy set of trunks to go with it.

  5. Ci1: The NYTimes runs a weekly feature on-line called what you can get for X and they pick three properties around the nation. They are always very nice and tastefully done but they tried to pick a wide range of numbers from the affordable to the really expensive. They also show pictures of the insides and property.

    I find a lot of the large square footage to be unnecessary. The houses I was drawn to the most were the ones like my childhood like the Pelham, New York one (inner-ring suburb of New York plus I love Colonials) or the modern ones in cities like Seattle. I don’t need to live in a palace in Kentucky or Florida or Minnesota.

    • Does this make me snobby because I am choosing location over size?

      • no. i mean if you were like “omg, those peasants in kentucky can go suck it i’m off to the opera” then maybe. but location is important. and so is trying new things, or so i keep telling myself.

      • Not at all. What kind of square footage would you find ideal? Our last place had 2300sqft plus a basement with an additional 800 or so (the basement was unfinished – concrete and whatnot – though it was fine for a little cave and storage area), which was honestly too much. Our current place is a bit on the small side at 1500sqft.

        Obviously, though, the calculation changes with kids. We’ll probably want to land in something like our old house again. But that’s a matter of personal preference.

        Anyway, what jumps out at me when I see these sorts of comparisons is not “I must have that large house” but rather “If a million dollars will buy that house, imagine how much I could get for $400k!” or some other figure more in keeping with our family needs.

        • As you said it depends on kids or not.

          Right now my apartment is fine for just me. If I had a live-in girlfriend, an 800-1000 square foot place would be nice. If I ever have a house with kids in the suburbs: 2500-3000 square feet is fine. Possibly too much. Maybe on a property that is around a half-acre or so.

          The best houses were the one in Pelham and the one in Seattle

  6. IMHO, when it comes to links, I feel that less is more. Too many stifles discussion.

    Ci4: The thing about apostrophes is that some computers handle them very poorly. More than one O’Malley is OMalley to the DMV. Also many blogs can’t handle them.

    Ed1: The biggest obstacles to longer school days and longer school years are the NEA and the AFT. Also, in some parts of the country, schools can get away with no air conditioning their buildings. A longer school year would make that almost mandatory. As for longer school days, that would destory high school sports, which is the only reason many kids attend school in the first place.

    Cu2: Did you know that Winnie Cooper and Becky Slater were real-life sisters?

    • IMHO, when it comes to links, I feel that less is more.

      I’ve thought of that. The thing is that I never know which items will garner interest. So I don’t expect people to read all of them. I just give them a larger buffet to read and discuss. And I organize it for them, to a degree.

      I’ve thought about maybe picking five or so a week (my personal favorites) and adding a “RECOMMENDED” because sometimes people do glide over the ones I find most interesting.

      Ci4: Yeah, Hit Coffee was never the same after Web switched servers a while back.

      Ed1: Yeah, there may be a post on this in the future. Lack of AC is an awful reason for seasoned school years. The NEA and AFT are bigger deals, though. One of the less generous reasons I support charters is that it sidesteps some of this. I could support parallel systems. One with the nice, pensioned, unionized teachers who expect their summers off and a shorter official workday. Then one with longer hours, but a different set of teachers. Let parents pick between them.

      Cu2: I did! Becky originally auditioned to be Winnie.

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