Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interior Design Websites

I'm removing these from my Google Reader, but wanted to keep the links for when we move to our next place:

Design Sponge
Apartment Therapy LA

Most Dangerous People in Your World

Post by John Goekler on Counterpunch
All statistics are in deaths per year in the US, based on statistics available in 2009
  1. Yourself - between half a million and a million deaths due to "lifestyle disease" (smoking, lousy diets, lack of exercise, etc.)
  2. A doctor - ~200,000 deaths due to medical errors
  3. A coworker with an infection - ~75,000 deaths from diseases like flu or pneumonia
  4. "Toxic agents" - ~55,000 deaths due to asbestos, lead, pesticides, household chemicals
  5. Other drivers - ~42,000 deaths
The list continues, but notice that terrorists, lightning strikes, sharks, spiders, and other common fears are not on this list.

Found via Bruce Schneir's Crypto-Gram

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Power of a Sketch

Dan Roam describes the napkin sketch that inspired supply-side economics

Wikipedia article on the Laffer curve. One key sentence: Many economists have questioned the utility of the Laffer Curve in public discourse.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sprint Commercial - The Now Network

As much as I normally dislike commercials and feel that their impact should be minimized (by not watching cable or broadcast TV, using some level of ad-blocking, using a RSS reader instead of browing the Web), I'll stay go out of my while to highlight interesting and well-made ads such as this one.

Doing the "Impossible"

Post at

People react to being told “it’s not possible” in a variety of ways, and not all those ways are productive. To get around the brick walls which large corporations, bureaucracies and other social organisms put in our way, it is important to:
  1. Calm down, smile and remain polite to maintain any chance of success
  2. Become a human being rather than a faceless number
  3. Be persistent to grind away the brick wall
  4. Be prepared to lose, to expand your freedom of thought and action
  5. Be clear about your objective so you can be flexible about how to achieve it
  6. Find who can, since often the first person you speak to cannot help
  7. Take an active part in making things happen more efficiently
  8. Make the other person feel good about helping you so that they are more likely to help you
  9. Don’t relax this stance until it’s over, it’s easy to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
I am particularly struck by the first suggestion:

You cannot win this kind of battle through anger. The very first thing to do is to observe that you are angry, and calm yourself down. Acknowledge your anger, and put it aside for later. There’ll be plenty of time for cursing the system that put these problems in your way later, after you’ve removed these obstacles. The surest way to guarantee that you won’t get your way is to get angry. Angry people are always wrong, and they’re rarely worth helping or cooperating with.

And the eighth:

It is much more effective to present the situation in such a way that the person who can help you will feel that they are doing something Good by helping you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Prevent Selection for Resistance By Targeting Post-Reproductive Individuals

The article at ScienceDaily describes an "evolution-proof" insecticide, targeting malaria. The idea works in this case because it is the older mosquitos that transmit malaria, AND they have already reproduced. Therefore, any insecticide that kills them does not apply selective pressure and the spread of resistance is significantly slowed, or even stopped.

Link to the actual paper at PLoS Biology

I particularly like this quote:
Consequently, there is now a concerted effort to identify new insecticidal compounds for use in malaria control [36,39]. On the face of it, this is desirable, but novel chemistry does not, in itself, provide a sustainable answer. All existing insecticides were “new” at some point, and there is the very real danger that, as with the antimalarial drug treadmill [40], the search for products can become open ended as the efficacy of successful new compounds is, in turn, eroded by the evolution of resistance.
If you're stuck in an evolutionary arms race, the best way to win is to get out of the race with a revolutionary strategy.

The article mentions several other diseases that might benefit from this approach:
... it may be applicable to others with extrinsic incubation periods that approach the life spans of their vectors. Such diseases may include dengue, filariasis, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, onchocercaisis, and Chagas disease.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Anti-carpal tunnel exercises

Video is by a professional percussionist, but applies to desk jockeys as well.

Better Board Games - German? article, "Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre

Germans, it turns out, are absolutely nuts about board games. More are sold per capita in Germany than anywhere else on earth. Any game aficionado will tell you that the best-designed titles in the world come from this country. In fact, the phrase German-style game is now shorthand for a breed of tight, well-designed games that resemble Monopoly the way a Porsche 911 resembles a Chevy Cobalt.

Since its introduction, The Settlers of Catan has become a worldwide phenomenon. It has been translated into 30 languages and sold a staggering 15 million copies (even the megahit videogame Halo 3 has sold only a little more than half that).

Yet in the US, only a few types of games have really taken off. There are so-called lifestyle games, like Scrabble and chess, intellectual skill-based games whose devotees are interested in playing little else; party games like Trivial Pursuit and Jenga; and traditional strategy games like Risk and Monopoly, which are generally seen as child's play or possibly something to do while trapped in a snowstorm without power—just before you eat your own foot.

Monopoly, in fact, is a classic example of what economists call a zero-sum game. For me to gain $100, you have to lose $100. For me to win, you have to be bankrupt. Gouging and exploiting may be perfect for humiliating your siblings, but they're not so great for relaxing with friends.

Monopoly also fails with many adults because it requires almost no strategy. The only meaningful question in the game is: To buy or not to buy? Most of its interminable three- to four-hour average playing time (length being another maddening trait) is spent waiting for other players to roll the dice, move their pieces, build hotels, and collect rent. Board game enthusiasts disparagingly call this a "roll your dice, move your mice" format.

Instead of direct conflict, German-style games tend to let players win without having to undercut or destroy their friends. This keeps the game fun, even for those who eventually fall behind. Designed with busy parents in mind, German games also tend to be fast, requiring anywhere from 15 minutes to a little more than an hour to complete. They are balanced, preventing one person from running away with the game while the others painfully play out their eventual defeat. And the best ones stay fresh and interesting game after game.

The games that stand the test of time have just a few rules and practically unlimited possibilities, making them easy to learn and difficult to master.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Military Sci-Fi

Post at io9

Read already
Plan to read

Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein
Cobra Trilogy, Timothy Zahn
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Old Man's War, John Scalzi
Armor, John Steakley
Broken Angels, Richard K. Morgan
Wess'Har Wars, Karen Traviss
Vatta's War Cycle, Elizabeth Moon
Probability Moon, Nancy Kress

Recommended by commenters
Lost Fleet series, Jack Campbell
Hammer's Slammers, David Drake
Dorsai!, Gordon Dickson
Bolo series, Keith Laumer
Honor Harrington, David Weber
Sten, Allan Cole and Chris Bunch