Linky Friday #66

Will Truman

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

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69 Responses

  1. Vikram Bath says:

    M1: I’m the only person on my street who doesn’t either own a snowblower or get the driveway professionally plowed. Mrs. Bath and I are also the only non-whites on the street. I’ve been resistant to the idea of getting a snowblower because it seems like such an unnecessary expense. I have to admit that I do wonder a bit what the neighbors think of it. Is shoveling your own driveway in a nice neighborhood the equivalent of having a fused out car up on blocks in the front yard?

    I have to admit that I hate just having to even consider the question seriously.Report

    • Mo in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I have a snow blower because I don’t want to keel over and die.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Mo says:

        People keep saying that, but this is one of those cases where I say scientific consensus be damned. I have my doubts that the people who die while shoveling would have otherwise lived normal-length lives had they not been shoveling. If you have heart problems, then it makes sense that they will surface while you are doing something strenuous. That doesn’t mean that if you had avoided doing anything strenuous that your heart problems would somehow just go away.

        I’ve yet to read anything that provides a mechanism by which shoveling actually creates a problem rather than simply uncovers one. Given this, I find the idea of avoiding anything strenuous because it might someday trigger my death, which would have otherwise have happened later that week or month silly. So, yes, you can pry my shovel from my cold, frozen dead hands.Report

      • Mo in reply to Mo says:

        Heavy breathing of cold air constricts coronary arteries, plus a spike in activity that stresses on the cardiovascular system is a bad combo. So it’s not just the strenuous activity. It’s the very strenuous activity combined with very cold air.Report

      • Vikram Bath in reply to Mo says:

        Yes, temperature matters, but again I’m still not aware of instances where otherwise healthy people are dying who wouldn’t have had the same problem eventually anyway.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mo says:

        But snow doesn’t fall (much) when it’s really cold out. and breathing through your nose is always a good idea. Ditto not sweating. Shovel slowly.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Mo says:

        One of the lesser reasons for my (a) many thousands of miles on the bicycle over the decades, (b) thousands of miles of walking, (c) always taking the stairs unless it’s more than three flights, and sometimes even if it is, and (d) current twice-weekly 90-minute fencing sessions is so that, now that I’m of a certain age, I don’t have to think about whether I’m going to keel over while I’m shoveling snow. Also what Kim said — if you’re huffing and puffing, you’re shoveling too much, too fast.

        One of the other things I claim about regular mild cardio exercise is that you get used to “listening” to your body; you know how it feels when you’re working too hard and can slow down.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I have a snowblower because I have a huge driveway. I had to clear about a food and a half of (thankfully) fluffy snow this past winter by hand because the blower was broken. Rewarding work but backbreaking.

      Also, Glanville’s story is particularly interesting to me because he grew up in my hometown (Teaneck, NJ) and his mother taught at my high school (though I never had her).Report

    • Dude – I’m with you on this. Up to and including my fear of what the neighbors think of it. I almost broke down this winter because of the sheer number of times I found myself shoveling, but as long as that doesn’t happen again anytime soon, I just don’t see it being worth the expense. The affordable snowblowers seem to not be of much use once you get over about 10 inches of snow, and below that amount the amount of time saved for a couple of snowfalls a year just isn’t worth the money. To be worthwhile, there’d need to be an affordable snowblower that would be of service in blizzards.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Yea, I was lucky that my dad — a former landscaper — had connections for a commercial grade, two-stage blower that he has been able to lend me. I believe it costs upward of $1000.

        I don’t have much of a walk way to shovel and we never use it anyway. Plus we don’t have sidewalks. The cars are in the garage so it’s just the driveway (probably 150 feet long with some additional parking and turn around space). If we didn’t have the blower, I’d probably pay to have it plowed. I usually have the day off after a big snow, but Zazzy needs to be out there door by 7am so if it happens overnight, I’d need to be out there by 4am. The blower makes quick work of it… less than 30 minutes if a single pass is needed. Sustained storms usually require going out mid-storm to keep it manageable. These past few winters… it has been invaluable.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        Two-stage blower! Hey! I might get to be the quasi-gear-head and explain what that means for once!

        A two-stage blower has separate mechanisms for movement and snow churning. So you can move the machine without blowing snow OR keep the machine stationary while chewing through a tough section. It also allows for it to be variable speed, allowing you to go faster or slower depending on what you need. It’s a heavy duty piece of machinery.Report

      • Kazzy, you are pointing toward my other problem. The single-stage snowblowers just throw a little bit of snow a little ways. You might as well shovel. Two-stage snowblowers are expensive and have gas engines that need to be annoyingly maintained.

        That said, if my wife had to leave by 7 AM, we’d be contracting someone to come by and plow the whole thing. (But even that is overrated because they don’t do your sidewalk, and a lot of the snow just gets pushed up into your garage, so you are still stuck doing some work.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      I’ve never even considered buying a snowblower.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Chris says:

        When my kids were kids, we took a few summer vacations at a guest ranch here in Colorado. The main building and cabins were at about 7200 feet, and everything was uphill from there. One year during the week before Fathers Day a front blew through and we got a couple inches of snow overnight. Made the whole vacation for the three families from Florida, none of whose kids had ever had a chance to make a snowman or have a snowball fight.Report

  2. zic says:

    Sc2 — On GMO’s

    Yes, it’s true, there’s not research that shows GMO’s are unsafe that I’m aware of.


    There’s research showing Glyphosate is unsafe. It’s been linked to numbers of health problems, including Celiac’s Disease and gluten intolerance. And “GMO”, as applied to Monsanto, is often used as shorthand for cereal crops genetically modified to be “Roundup Ready.”

    Roundup is a broad-leaf herbicide; it also has some uses as a pesticide; and much of the GMO product coming out of Monsanto is engineered to be resist Roundup; the farmer can spray the field to kill the weeds and not kill the crop. But weeds are weeds, the adapt; and the weeds that manage to survive resist the roundup. So farmer’s are using more and more, recent studies show residues that are several times in excess of Monsanto’s ‘extreme’ levels. Glyphosate is in the food stream; in our cattle feed, in wheat used for bread, in soy used for just about everything, in corn, our primary sweetener.

    That link above examines increased risks of cancer, changes in gut bacteria, CYP enzyme production (liver function), several mineral deficiencies and associated health problems, including thyroid and kidney function, and reproductive issues.

    So it’s not the GMO’s that are the problem, it’s what the GMO’s allow farmer’s to apply to the crop that’s a problem.

    I guess I don’t have much issue with using GMO as shorthand here; sure, the language could be clearer. But the underlying problem should be a concern; a contaminated food supply that makes people seriously ill is a problem.Report

  3. zic says:

    R2 — I dislike the framing:

    To estimate whether providing no-cost contraception is associated with the number of sexual partners and frequency of intercourse over time.

    and you call it ‘less careful over time.’

    There is a judgement implied that women opting to have sex is a bad thing.Report

  4. Dan Miller says:

    M2–I think you’ve got a typo (the atheists had a convention over Easter, not the Mormons, correct?). Also, thanks–I appreciate you taking the time to put this together and kill my Friday morning productivityReport

  5. j r says:

    From L3:

    “The idea that the median American has so much more income than the middle class in all other parts of the world is not true these days,” said Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist who is not associated with LIS. “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.”

    That is no longer the case, Professor Katz added.

    I read that and I see a situation where, at the end of WW2, Europe was in shambles and the rest of the world in poverty, which gave the American economy a huge advantage and a head start. The rest of the world is catching up. That’s a huge increase in global welfare and a huge decrease in global poverty.

    Why exactly is this something to lament?

    Also, the article talks about the changes in after-tax income, but never mentions the increase of the tax burden on the median American. That ought to be a part of the narrative, right? Unless, of course, you already have a narrative in mind.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to j r says:

      Has the median income tax burden increased since the sixties?Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to Will Truman says:

        Has the median income tax burden increased since the sixties relative to Canada?Report

      • j r in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yes. The top federal marginal rates have come way down, but there have been increases in local taxes and payroll taxes (ie the most regressive parts of the income tax).Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        Actual statistics
        show that effective Federal tax rates are down across the board since 1979:

        Yes, that’s all Federal taxes. Yes, including employer share of payroll taxes.

        I doubt that state taxes have increased enough to offset this.Report

      • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        @will-truman I don’t think so.

        Some of the gap @brandon-berg describes has been replaced with fees which tend to be regressive, so have a greater impact on your tax rate as your income declines.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        “Social Security! Regressive!” is used far too often as a substitute for actual math.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        Which fees?Report

      • Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’m all in favor of taxing the rich more and the middle class less. More money in pockets that will spend the money, not save it.Report

      • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        Lord help us.

        “Social Security! Regressive!” is used far too often as a substitute for actual math.

        The change in your tax burden, the change in mine is a measurable thing. This conversation is buttressed by data points, and you did an excellent joy bringing one up, @brandon-berg ; congratulations. I was proud of you for that.

        But the change in fees people have to pay are also measurable data points, as as a part of what we need to pay to conduct our business under the rule of law that government provides, fees tend to take a bigger portion of household income than progressive taxes do. This is math, Brandon. All I was suggesting is that with a median household income that is also a data point, in calculating the cost to median families over time, the regressive nature of fees should be included.

        Your derision deserves derision.Report

      • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        which fees

        all government fees that are not funded by taxes. The fee for your driver’s license, the building permit fee, the inspection fee, the licensing fee, the ID fee, the fee for your kid to play soccer. The required insurance, too.Report

      • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        even the insurance premium or fee.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        That was in reference to jr’s comment (and many others I’ve seen elsewhere), not yours, which you submitted while I was writing mine. My only response to you was “which fees?” I can’t think of any fees which one might pay to the government on the order of an average 5-10% of income.Report

      • j r in reply to Will Truman says:

        Those actual statistics show tax rates, which are not the same thing as taxes paid. Employee payroll tax rates trended upwards until the gov’t cut them in the wake of the Great Recession. And besides rates, the income levels that triggered a rate bump did not rise very quickly, so the burden of payroll taxes increased.

        There are quite a few sources that demonstrate my point. Here’s one from Kevin Drum, which should ward off any claims that I’m cherry-picking from libertarian/right-wing outlets:

      • zic in reply to Will Truman says:

        @brandon-berg I apologize.

        @j-r that’s an interesting piece; I’d like to see that broken down by income quintiles and know if it includes fees or taxes only.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Will Truman says:

        Actually, “the middle class is overtaxed” is a left-wing talking point used to justify jacking up taxes on the rich, so Drum’s lefty creds don’t give him any extra credibility here, but the sources are legit, and hens honest about their limitations.

        It looks like you’re correct–taxes on the middle class are up since 1960, but down since 1980. This doesn’t explain the convergence in median incomes, though, because that happened recently, while middle-class taxes were falling. Also, IIRC, payroll taxes have not increased since 1986.

        The table I linked shows total effective tax rates, i.e. taxes paid divided by income. I think it’s the same data Drum used, but only going back to 1979.Report

    • kenB in reply to j r says:

      Also see Salam’s response re the impact of the US housing crash on these numbers.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    R1- This might explain one reason why short men have problems with the dating market. If successful flirting for men involves signs of social dominance than this is something a lot of short men can’t really do. When a short guy attempts to pull off these signs of social dominance, he ends up looking at least like a bit of jerk rather than a dominant guy at best. At worse, you get accusations of Napoleon Complex.Report

    • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

      One thing that short men can do is to approach women away from groups of other men. If you’re short and in a bar, it’s going to be difficult to stand out when there’s lots of other taller men to catch a woman’s eye. If you started talking to the same woman in the supermarket, she’s going to be making fewer comparisons other men.

      Of course, starting up a conversation in the supermarket necessitates a more friendly vibe as opposed to making an overt come on.Report

    • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Meh. Get a guitar, or a puppy. Girls like puppies. Take a walk in the park.

      And the tips on how to play “hard to get” work for everyone, not just ladies.Report

  7. Glyph says:

    As a child of the 80’s, the call letters on that NASA vehicle make me happy.Report

  8. Saul DeGraw says:

    M2: If this is the same conference, they had a problem with sexist art that has become an internet conversation about the convergence of MRAs and atheists. Linked to story has a potential NSFW link in it. It seems that the art featured fully clothed portraits of men and lots of naked women.

    I am going to be snobby and just say that all the art is really bad. Someone at LGM called it Mall Art and this is not incorrect. This is the atheist version of a Thomas Kinkade painting or an airbrushed portrait of Al Pacino as Scarface.

    L5: The Baby Boomers need to retire eventually meme has been used to assuage current law school grads who are in despair of never having a legal job and always having lots of debt and being permanent temps. The problem is that there are still plenty of Gen Xers in their mid 30s or 40s who will step up. Also many baby boomers are unable and/or unwilling to retire.

    I like the theories of Peter Cappelli who argues that the skills mismatch is largely because of HR and executives and not because of employees lacking skills. I noted this in my off-the-cuff this week but no one wants to invest in training anymore. They want someone who knows their stuff to come in and be able to work with minimal supervision and training. Many of the law wants ads I see are hyper-specific.

    There is also the problem that we seem to be shifting away from employment to contigent labor and independent contracting. Independent contracting is fine for people with highly desirable skills and specialized educations, it is not so good for people doing stuff like delivery and other service jobs. There was an article in Huff Post yesterday about how Amazon Prime is shifting to delivery companies that use contingent labor instead of employees because it is cheaper. The employees paid for their own gas, equipment, etc. This is not so great for them. One guy estimated that he could make 60,000 a year if he worked 80 hours a week. I’ve heard a lot of people say that temp and freelance employment allows companies to try people out but I just see them as being able to hire for specific projects and let people go after. What incentives to companies have to turn people into full-time, long-term workers?

    R4: Eh that article was not so interesting because it largely covered the usual suspects. I would like to see more research done into the just unlucky basically guys like Steve Carrell’s character from the 40-year old Virgin. I’m not as bad as Steve Carrel’s character but my girlfriend is often shocked that I made it to being in my 30s before really having a girlfriend*. Noah Bertlasky wrote an article once about how his then girlfriend (now wife) reacted with shock when he said he was a virgin. I think he said she looked at him like he had three heads.

    *Previous romantic experience involved lots of dates from internet sites, usually lasting 1-4 dates before being given the typical send-off line of “I think you are really sweet but am not feeling any chemistry” or any variant thereof.Report

  9. kenB says:

    If you don’t mind my dropping a new link (I was actually thinking of sending this to you but it promptly slipped my mind, which is a shame because it would’ve fit in the Relationships category), Reihan Salam has a post in Slate on a topic that came up here awhile back: Is it racist to date only people of your own race? His short answer: Yes.Report

  10. Michael Cain says:

    E3: Over the next decade, in the US, I think coal’s biggest problem is ash. A billion-gallon spill from an ash pond makes big headlines. The federal EPA is now under a consent decree that requires it to issue draft regulations for coal ash disposal by December 2014. The cost to retrofit ponds and landfill sites to meet probable requirements looks to run to at least tens of billions of dollars, perhaps hundreds of billions, and will likely come with a pretty short schedule. Combine that with the courts eventually approving some form of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule that requires eastern coal-fired power plants to meet much tougher rules on emissions of particulates and sulfur- and nitrogen-oxides and coal is going to get more expensive even without a carbon tax.

    If someone handed me a billion dollars to invest in research on exactly one outside-the-box energy technology, I’d put it into solid-carbon fuel cells. Since it seems likely that someone is going to burn the world’s coal supplies, I’d really like to have a technology that’s twice as efficient as combustion, and that produces an output stream of almost pure CO2 (eliminating the first expensive step in sequestration). They’re laboratory-scale things today; a billion dollars buys a lot of engineering practice.Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Michael Cain says:

      For those interested in what Michael is talking about:

      Direct Carbon Fuel Cell


      Question: Can we do anything useful with coal ash? I mean, is there a un-/under-realized market for the stuff?Report

      • zic in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Is this a big-sister technology to the ancient art of making charcoal out of wood?Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Crap, fudged the link, sorry.

        Can someone fix?Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Thank you!Report

      • You can do a variety of things — and firms do — with some of the ash. Some fly ash (the fine stuff filtered out of the exhaust gases) can be used in cement. Some bottom ash/clinkers can be used as construction filler (eg, in roadbeds) or ground up for use as an abrasive. About 35% of ash gets used. The limiting factor is usually heavy metals content (barium, vanadium, uranium, etc). The unusable ash has enough heavy metals in it to be considered unsuitable for the above, but too little to make it worth extracting. The unusable stuff adds up to ~100M tons per year in the US.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        One of my former employees who I keep in touch with just won an award for an investment idea that might be useful here. Her team wants to get people to invest in the growing of hybrid poplar trees on contaminated sites, since the trees can draw-up & fix the contaminates, and then be harvested a few years later for fuel or lumber.Report

      • I hope the poplar idea works. Heavy metals are particularly nasty, since you can’t really get rid of them, you can only move them about. And the darnedest things will concentrate them, given a chance.

        I live about a dozen miles from a former plutonium handling facility (Rocky Flats). One of the unplanned-for difficulties with converting the site to a wilderness area is that some specific invasive weed species have been observed that are capable of picking up plutonium from the soil several feet down (where it’s pretty much harmless) and concentrating it in their leaves and stems, and after those dry up and decay in the winter, deposit the plutonium in the top layer of dirt and dust. Which gets picked up and carried when the 75 mph straight-line winds the area is known for kick up in the fall and spring.

        In keeping with some of the discussion over on the Cliven Bundy article about western distrust, the feds have declared the site “clean” but refuse to let the State of Colorado have independent testing done to verify that.Report

      • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


        So what someone should be doing is running a harvester over the area every fall, then storing the harvested plants + plutonium until enough mass has been accumulated that it’s worth extracting the plutonium.Report

    • To tack on a follow-up, the Supreme Court today reversed the DC Circuit Court’s objections to the Cross State rule. Coal-fired electricity in the East just got somewhat more expensive…Report

  11. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Sp1 – A sci-fi staple for many years, and more than technically feasible, except for the protesters. I remember when Cassini was set to go up, and the brouhaha over a 33kg nuclear power source was just ridiculous. I can not imagine 250kg going up. Once again Americans hamper their own advancements because they are bad at math & assessing risk.

    Sp6 – Good!Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    Sm4: We prefer the term “people of substance”.Report

  13. Kim says:
    Disingenuous at best.
    Can’t start with Recession Level Productivity (always high,as you’ve gotten rid of the worse people, and the other ones are working harder), and make decent comparisons.Report

  14. George Brasseur says:

    Soon human beings will no longer be doomed to be stuck on this rock throughout their entire lifespan.

  15. dragonfrog says:

    [L1] <bitter>UPS could considerably increase their efficiency if they would actually deliver things, so they didn’t have to keep dropping them off at the depot, handling three or four phone calls it apparently requires them to agree to try again, picking them up from the depot, failing to deliver them again, taking them back to the depot…</bitter>Report

    • Will Truman in reply to dragonfrog says:

      It really frustrated me that neither UPS nor FedEx really got a handle on what to do about the fact that people aren’t home during the day. I think they now have smartphone apps and accounts that you can do online, but I remember those days when I would worry all day that somebody was going to take a package from the porch, or that I would have to wait an extra three days for them to have three delivery attempts.Report