Monday, September 04, 2017

The Value of Sand

You may notice when a storm destroys a beach, the beach is "back" by the next summer.  The sand may just be dredged from the ocean, but still it's a big operation: everything has to come from somewhere.

Now, the BBC reports on some notable effects of sourcing construction sand:
The sand used for construction comes mainly from riverbeds and oceans. Desert sand, it turns out, is too smooth for the mix. Huge projects quickly exhausted Dubai's marine sand supply, so, despite being a city built on sand, it now imports the material from Australia. The irony: sand has become such a precious commodity it is literally being sold to the Arabs.
The Financial Times recently reported on the plan to create higher ground in the Netherlands with sand dunes: "Can Netherlands’ ground-shifting plan prevent flooding?"

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lubuntu Saved My Netbook

I have a netbook from 2009 (Dell Mini 10): a smaller, lighter, lower-specification laptop that was sold before tablets became all the rage.  Running Windows XP, it was great for domestic and international travel.  About half the size and weight of my current laptop, it came along to Europe that same year.

Eventually, as the Internet and operating system bloated, performance dropped to such an extent that I only kept it around for emergencies.  (Such as trying to figure out why my normal computer wasn't working right.)  Uninstalling features and using the various cleanup utilities made little difference.

Then, last January, I came across a new old idea: Linux. Specifically, Lubuntu:
Lubuntu is a fast and lightweight operating system. The core of the system is based on Linux and Ubuntu. Lubuntu uses the minimal desktop LXDE, and a selection of light applications. We focus on speed and energy-efficiency. Because of this, Lubuntu has very low hardware requirements.
The netbook is useful again.  The interface is (obviously) different than Windows, but fairly intuitive.  The only major issues were addressed by Googling the problems (e.g., connecting to a wired network to get wireless to work).  It allows me to travel with a computer when I don't want to bring my regular laptop or be stuck with the diminutive interface of a smart phone.  And it was free.

Thank you, Lubuntu folks.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Planned for Hitler, a Fate Worse Than Death?

I recently came across a Business Insider article about an October 1943 report for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) on Adolf Hitler by a psychologist, Dr. Henry Murray. The current reporting on this has centered around Hitler's life and mental state, but what I found somewhat amusing was to picture Murray's suggestion for post-war Hitler, if they could keep him from killing himself or otherwise seeking martyrdom.

The suggestions included, following the trial and execution of the other Nazi leaders:
"Commit Hitler to an insane asylum (such as St. Elizabeth's, Washington, D.C.) and house him in a comfortable dwelling specially built for his occupancy. Let the world know that he is being well treated." (p. 34)
He would be spared from death because it would lessen his "legend" to become a mental patient. This was to be accomplished by convincing him he could live out his life like Napoleon on St. Helena when in fact he would have been studied, monitored, and displayed until he was no longer interesting:
If taken in a routine, scientific and undramatic manner the pictures will become quite tiresome after a while and the people will get bored with Hitler in a year or so.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Regarding the eventual replacement of the great Justice Scalia, we have two conflicting but both literally correct statements from Senate leaders.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Reuters):
"It would be unprecedented in recent history for the Supreme Court to go a year with a vacant seat," he said in a statement.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (The Washington Times)
"The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year," he said.

The vacancy itself is unprecedented. Senate confirmation has not been an issue simply because a similar vacancy has never happened "in recent history." The Senate has not left an election year vacancy vacant in the last 80 years because an election year vacancy has not occurred since 1932, 84 years ago.

To borrow a phrase from President Obama, the Senate majority might start saying "elections have consequences."

Saturday, February 13, 2016

High Minimum Wage Stunts Job Growth

From Generation Opportunity:
According to Investor’s Business Daily, when Washington D.C., Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago started paying low-skilled workers more, job creation dropped to its slowest in the last five years in the leisure and hospitality sector. Many minimum wage jobs fall within this field, which includes restaurants and hotels.
And this isn't just a quarter-to-quarter slowdown. The cities deviate from other parts of their states over the same time period:
When San Francisco and Oakland bumped their minimum wages to $12.25, the highest in the country, employment rates for the fourth quarter dropped from 4.7 percent to 2.5 percent. And yet in the rest of California where minimum wage was around $3.25 less, employment grew by 4.8 percent last year.
And from the Investor's Business Daily article:
Job gains at Seattle-area restaurants rose just 1.8% from a year ago, down from 4.6% growth a year earlier, in their worst year for employment since 2009. Meanwhile, in the rest of the Washington state, restaurant employment gains accelerated to 6.3%.

Monday, February 08, 2016

On Campaign Music

A frequently under-reported point about music for political campaign events: musicians can complain, but this is because of free speech, not because they actually control their music. From the Politico:
As long as the campaign or the venue has bought a “blanket license,” which is standard practice, it can use any song from the music library of the organization granting the license. (Use of music for campaign commercials is more complicated and typically requires an artist’s permission.) It’s not the law that stops politicians from using certain songs; it’s the embarrassment factor, which has been significant.