So Thin You Have To Thicken It

I end up reading a lot of reviews for new smartphones because I am a geek and that is the sort of thing that interests me despite the fact that I am not really in the market for a new one.

The constant emphasis in the smartphone world is on the thickness or slenderness of the device. Almost uniformly, slender is considered better. Which is great, up to a point. I have to confess that when I hold some of my earlier smartphones, I am taken aback by how thick they are. I wonder how it didn’t bother me.

Here is the problem: The increased thinness has come at the expense of sturdiness. Which is a tradeoff without normative value. Except when it reaches the point where the phones are so fragile that you have to put them in a case. At that point, it really sort of defeats the purpose of it being thin to begin with, doesn’t it?

I remember a review of phones that on the one hand talk about how nice and slim the phones are. They also talk about how nice or not-nice the exterior of the device is. And yet then also talks about how “of course you will want a case”… presumably to protect the phone which is to slim to reliably survive being dropped. And certainly covering the exterior they were complementing.

I cannot tell you how many times I dropped my Samsung Stratosphere and the HTC Touch Pro 2 I had before it and the HTC Fuze I had before that and the HTC TyTn I had before that. None of them broke after repeated drops. They got chipped around the edges, and the battery and/or stylus would eject, and sometimes the latter would get lost, but that would be about the extent of it.

I dropped my Samsung Galaxy S3 once and only once without its protective coating, and it has a crack all along its front. For a while I had it in a protective case, which made it sturdier but defeated the purpose of the phone being so thin. I am willing to bet that if the S3 had a keyboard, the screen wouldn’t have cracked just as the screen from the Strat never cracked. Or even without a keyboard, a little more thickness in the device might obviate the need for an even thicker case.

I suppose this will cease to be an issue once we have the sapphire or Gorilla-Glass screens, or something similar, which will make the devices more droppable. It’s still an odd disconnect, though, in my view.

Genocide, Warfare, and Protection

Dave Schuler makes the following observation about violent crime in Chicago:

What there is is more like internecine warfare. I know that some believe that the underlying problem is the War on Drugs but my own view is that the WoD is actually just a small part of a much larger problem which I would summarize as the rule of law does not extend into the black community here in Chicago at least in part because people have lost confidence in the Chicago Police. The homicides that are occurring on a weekly basis are the result of gang initiations and turf battles between rival gangs. The gangs themselves exist to provide protection, support, and something to do under conditions of social and economic disintegration.

My reservation is the extent to which the drug trade throws economics into the mix. That the thing that they are protecting people from, and the importance of their commercial real estate, and the means with which they do the protecting, ties mostly into drugs. Or maybe not! I confess a degree of ignorance. Regardless, it has given me something to think about for my hopefully-someday post on disaffection, crime, education, and inequality.

Unassailability: Meta Analysis

Did Rush Limbaugh really tell his caller, “Tony from Tampa,” to not watch FOX? No, he told his caller not to watch a particular panel of “liberals” on FOX Business Channel. As Mr. Limbaugh was very quick to point out: “I did not tell anybody to stop watching Fox. I said stop listening to these people that make you so mad. What else am I going to say? … I will be on Fox again, I will be urging people to watch Fox, Fox is the most watched news network in the country … Fox and I are on the same team.”

Remarkable, isn’t it? Continue Reading

Monday Trivia, No. 121 [Mark Thompson wins!]

The table below depicts a ratio, sorted from lowest to highest. All data was taken from the United States Census Bureau.

For each entry, the numerator is the present estimated population of each state as of July 1, 2012.

The denominator is current as of July 1, 2007 but is unlikely to have changed appreciably in the past five years. What is it?

South Dakota 1,172.09   Louisiana 1,804.66   Massachusetts 2,791.32
Vermont 1,225.07   North Carolina 1,833.44   Delaware 2,839.29
Mississippi 1,252.59   New Hampshire 1,865.42   Pennsylvania 2,849.00
Alabama 1,317.49   Missouri 1,888.36   Colorado 2,909.47
Maine 1,391.82   Wisconsin 2,030.64   Illinois 2,950.33
North Dakota 1,399.26   New Mexico 2,038.65   Alaska 3,022.52
Wyoming 1,416.25   Kansas 2,046.74   Washington 3,133.58
Iowa 1,468.09   Minnesota 2,072.09   New Jersey 3,142.36
West Virginia 1,557.86   Virginia 2,131.74   Utah 3,158.50
Nebraska 1,620.55   Idaho 2,168.11   Maryland 3,281.96
Montana 1,647.77   Texas 2,225.00   Oregon 3,459.94
Arkansas 1,650.33   Indiana 2,289.78   New York 3,489.08
South Carolina 1,669.16   Michigan 2,363.87   Nevada 3,532.56
Tennessee 1,676.95   Ohio 2,644.73   Arizona 3,632.62
Georgia 1,698.33   Rhode Island 2,706.94   California 4,337.18
Oklahoma 1,774.33   Connecticut 2,742.82   Hawaii 4,520.50
Kentucky 1,774.88   Florida 2,752.18   District of Columbia 8,004.09
UPDATE: I added the commas in the table.

Your Solutions to Inequality are Laughably Inadequate

There is a question as to whether inequality matters or not. We’re not dealing with that here. Let’s go ahead and assume for the purposes of this post that it does, action is justified, and we are in charge of fixing the world.

I have yet to hear anyone suggest a solution to inequality that isn’t some form of using resources from high-income (or wealthy) households to fund direct payments to or additional services for low- or no-income (or poor) households.

The societies we live in do this now, but not as much as many would like. A lot of folks in the United States, for example, would like to see us adopt policies closer to Sweden’s. #OWS

From everything I hear Sweden is a nice place, but it unfortunately seems possible to be unhappy enough to engage in extended mass riots there.

Perhaps it is my confirmation bias talking, but the most convincing explanation for the Stockholm riots in the linked article came not from the politicians interviewed, but from this guy:

Among a large group gathered on an overhead walkway was Mohammed Abdu, 27, whose family came to Sweden from Eritrea when he was aged three, and who now works as a security guard. While he condemned the violence as “hooliganism”, he claimed that many Husby residents still suffered from discrimination from the police and employers. Besides, he added, living in such a prosperous, advanced country offered no real satisfaction for those so conspicuously at the bottom of the heap.

“It’s true that the welfare system here is an example to the rest of the world, so if you fall here you do not fall all the way to the bottom,” he said. “But people don’t like being dependent on social welfare, and there is hidden racism.”

Mr. Abdu’s model suggests that tweaking economic inequality does little to solve other problems that are responsible for a lot of the dissatisfaction among some disaffected groups.

Even if all wealth were to be redistributed equally with the unemployed enjoying the same economic position as the CEO, the CEO will enjoy a far more exalted position within society than the permanently unemployed guy. In fact, the CEO might encounter even greater reverence given the number of people his pre-tax income supports.

In contrast, the unemployed man will feel dissociated from the society that supports him. Sure, one will write the next Harry Potter, but most will just be deeply unhappy. Check Chris Dillow:

[M]arket rewards are linked to the esteem in which we hold ourselves and others; there’s a reason why wages are called “earnings.” The rich get respect from others and a sense of self-worth and arrogance, whilst those reliant upon “hand-outs” feel despised; this is why the unemployed are so unhappy, even controlling for (pdf) their low incomes.

Contra Paul Krugman, a check is not a substitute for a job. Chris brings this point home with:

Mere monetary redistribution doesn’t solve this problem. Indeed, it might even exacerbate it, by making the rich feel that they are being deprived of their entitlements in order to support “scroungers”.

One of the functions of inequality in our society is to tell us who is of value. The consumption choices of the wealthy identify them as targets for the respect, reverence, and envy. I suspect that if we took that away from them, the hierarchy would reassert itself in other ways. It always has.

Reallocating everyone’s income would solve the narrow problem of income inequality. It’s just that that won’t be enough to fix the bajillion social problems that people have laid at the feet of inequality alone:

I Like My Cocktails Like I Like My Women

  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 2 oz. squeezed grapefruit juice (pref. ruby red)
  • 2 oz. tonic water (or club soda with a bit of simple syrup)
  • dash of bitters
  • ice, ice baby

Serve in highball glass. Garnish, if so inclined, with peel from grapefruit.

One full grapefruit should yield six to eight ounces of juice, depending on how heavy it is with juice and how thoroughly you squeeze it.

Fresh-squeezed juice is so much better than the stuff from a bottle or concentrate, isn’t it? If that’s all you can get at any particular time of year, you make do. But summer means ripe grapefruit and damn do I love grapefruit.

I’d have taken a picture but… I drank it all before the thought occurred to me. Sorry.

Linky Friday #31


[P1] Neuroscientific manipulation may be able to cure you of whatever thoughts society thinks ails you. Psychatric treatments may change personalities.

[P2] Android is a good operating system on phones and tablets, but I think its limitations would start becoming a lot more apparent when you put it on a computer.

[P3] Anna Weaver thinks we need to embrace Spam. Ted Genoways disagrees.

Jobs & Joblessness:

[J1] Too many heroes become dead heroes. In some situations, more would-be heroes are dying than those killed initially.

[J2] Joblessness kills. Which is why, if we ever reach a post-employment future, it can’t actually become a post-employment future. (Yes, they did control for the usual suspects.)

Energy & Environment:

[EE1] James Pethokoukis has some good ideas on how to reconcile climate change intervention with conservatism.

[EE2] The US Energy Secretary wants to find ways to capture carbon dioxide on the cheap. If anything will save us, it’ll be this.

[EE3] Gas prices might be lowered by molecule-sorting material.

[EE4] The natural gas boom has frustrated, somewhat, those that believe that we need to be focusing 100% on renewables. I have to confess, upon hearing that it’s undermining the nuclear renaissance, I felt a similar thing. Related: According to Tim Worstall, Fukushima killed no one.


[T1] The car-buying flow chart. It suggested a Ford C-Max to me.

[T2] Should we reconsider the laws against helmetless bike riding?

[T3] Jim Henry looks at the relationship between Hyundai and Kia and attempts to keep the identities different. The badging of identical cars is one of those things that, while I understand on one level, I will never really understand.

[T4] Google Street View catches the end of a relationship.

Entertainment & Culture:

[EC1] Apparently, used video games allow publishers to charge more for new ones.

[EC2] We may be able to watch sporting events in hologram. It’s an interesting concept, though I have mixed feelings on how fun that would be in practice.

[EC3] How superhero storytelling has infected movies and other entertainment. And not for the better.

[EC4] Mara Wilson has an insider’s prospective on why child stars go off the deep end.


[W1] Jon Last looks at nations worldwide and their attempts to boost birthrates.

[W2] The Christian Science Monitor on South Korea’s ascent.

[W3] The suburbanization of British Jews and Indians.

[W4] An interesting look at why China’s filmmakers hate Japan, and why it matters. Over 200 anti-Japanese films come out of China a year.

[W5] Hashima Island was once one of the most densely populated places on earth. Now, it’s abandoned. But Google has it covered.

World Education:

[WE1] Swedish college is free, but their students get out with almost as much student debt as our students do.

[WE2] Germany is exporting its dual-education system. I’d thought I’d read somewhere that they were moving away from that. Glad to hear that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Earth & Beyond:

[EB1] What happens when galaxies collide.

[EB2] A cool algorishm finds face-like structures on Earth’s surface.

[EB3] Here is what Pangea may have looked like, with modern national borders.

[EB4] Water from a Canadian mine appears to be over a billion years old.

A Redskin Dilemma

Redskins-TallAs y’all know, we’re headed east. Not to say where in the east, other than “Queenland” (not to be confused with Real-life Queensland, Australia), but I am roughly equidistant from Washington DC and another major metropolitan area. Due to the particulars, we’re going to be more closely “tied” to DC. As far as DMA’s are concerned, we’re DC. The DC airport is closer. We know people in DC, and so on.

I tend to root for the home team, though for DC that’s going to be a problem. For baseball, I am not a big fan of the “Nationals” name and the whole don’t-call-us-the-Senators thing. But whatever, I’ll get over that.

What I am finding is that I am going to have a lot of difficulty rooting for a team called the Redskins. I don’t think I’ll be able to, to be honest.

I’m not 100% dead-set against tribal mascots. I consider it rather context-dependent. And, to be honest, one of the things I get on my soapbox about is the situation in North Dakota and the NCAA’s mishandling of the tribal name situation.

For those who don’t know, the NCAA announced a while back that it was going to start penalizing teams with “offensive” mascots. I was actually somewhat supportive of the move at the time. In the broad strokes, I still am. However, what I thought was going to be a more cooperative “Let’s not be offensive” instead became “Unless you’re Florida State, call yourself the RedHawks (or something like that) going forward.”

Instead of the exception, Florida State should have been the roadmap. The Florida State Seminoles dealt with some early objections by incorporating genuine, rather than goofy misconception – tribal aesthetics and rituals into their theme. If it weren’t for Florida State’s importance, I’m relatively convinced that none of the schools would have gotten a pass. The NCAA wanted to take a really hard line on this, but also didn’t want to go to against Florida State and so the rules were tailored and interpreted to allow Florida State to keep their mascot. (They were also tailored so that it didn’t apply to the Fighting Irish or various Spartan and Trojan teams out there.)

But instead of learning from the Florida State example of cooperation, the NCAA made the road to redemption a lot more difficult than it needed to be. North Dakota, home of the Fighting Sioux, became a case-and-point. There are two dominant Sioux Tribes in North Dakota. One approved, one objected. In my mind, the goal all along should have been to try to get cooperation to prevent mascots from going off the offensive deepend (by, for instance, going by the “Redskins”). Instead, you have Sioux suing the NCAA so that the university can keep the name and the NCAA saying “No, no, it’s offensive. Trust us. Now go away.”

The whole thing cost UND quite dearly. While North Dakota State, South Dakota, and South Dakota State all received invitations to the geographically appropriate Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference, North Dakota’s limbo (the coming sanctions hanging over their head) forced them over to the competitive, but geographically inappropriate, Big Sky Conference. They’ve had lawsuit after lawsuit, legislation passed and then rescinded by later legislation, and they still haven’t come up with a name yet.

I tend to view it as a trademark issue more than anything else. Which is to say that unless a university has the cooperation of a tribe going by a particular name, it’s somewhat dubious of them to go by the name of people who have a moral right to that name. UND had the approval of one of the Sioux tribe, so they should have been able to “license” that right from the tribe. And if they get offensive with what they’re doing, the tribe could then rescind that license. Fostering a cooperative relaitonship. And so on. It would be an opportunity for these schools to provide scholarships, honor traditions (on more than just their say-so), and be a learning experience.

But despite the NCAA’s mishandling of that issue… Redskins? Yeesh. And I’m not sure if it’s right to feel this way when there are at least some polls saying that tribal members themselves don’t object. But… Redskins? Even if some Indians are really unbothered by it, I just have a hard time getting comfortable with it.

Unless they change their mascot from the Indian dude to a potato. If they had a potato mascot, I’d buy their apparel.

A Persuasive Argument

Many times in the past when I’ve written of the Declaration of Independence, I’ve emphasized that it is not law. The Constitution is law, but not the Declaration, which is a political document. This causes a lot of anxiety in people looking to cite the Declaration as though it were some kind of a trump card in an argument, and a wee bit of confusion.

After all, the Declaration was written by lawyers. The Continental Congress appointed lawyers from its ranks — from the initial motion by Richard Henry Lee to the committee of John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin (the only member of the committee who was not a lawyer, to my knowledge), Robert R. Livingston, and its principal draftsman, Thomas Jefferson.

It’s a political document, albeit one written by lawyers. Just as culture is a foundation of law without being law itself, so too is the Declaration. John Adams wrote that the Revolution had already begun and was well underway by July 4, 1776, and the Crown had recognized the “open and avowed rebellion” before that date as well.

If it were anything like a legal document, it would be much more akin to a brief, a document of advocacy rather than adjudication. And what politics and law have in common is that they are about persuasion. And for that reason, it deserves study, for it exemplifies the manner of persuasion that prevails in courts to this day, on both sides of the Pond. Continue Reading