Friday, March 25, 2011

Odds and Ends

An excellent editorial on Earth Hour in the Vancouver Sun. From it:
The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity. People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.
Read the whole thing.

And two good primers on radiation, see in particular the charts: xkcd Ellen's page

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Banks and Systemic Risk

A lot of good points are made in this WSJ interview.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Good Site to Follow Nuclear Events in Japan

I'm still reading through the site, but from what I've seen so far, I'd recommend it for getting solid info on what's happening in Japan. This post is a good starting point.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Looking at Social Security

This article presents some interesting facts about Social Security, including:
Similarly, Congress has repeatedly altered benefits. From 1950 to 1972, it increased them nine times, including a doubling in the early 1950s. In 1972, it indexed benefits to inflation. People didn't complain when benefits rose, but possible cuts now trigger howls that a "contract" is being broken. Not so. In a 1960 decision (Flemming v. Nestor), the Supreme Court expressly rejected the argument that people have a contractual right to Social Security. It cited the 1935 Social Security Act: "The right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision of this Act is hereby reserved to Congress." Congress can change the program whenever it wants.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Adapting to Blindness

Men's Journal just ran a fascinating feature on echo-locator Daniel Kish. What he (and others) are able to do is mind-boggling, but so is one of the impediments they face:
He's regarded by some in the blind community with deep veneration. Others, like a commenter on the National Federation of the Blind’s listserv, consider him “disgraceful” for promoting behavior such as tongue clicking that could be seen as off-putting and abnormal.
Kish is thankful that his parents raised him "with almost no dispensation for his blindness. “My upbringing was all about total self-reliance,”" As an illustration of the difference between his upbringing and most other (blind) children's:
Kish can hardly remember a time when he didn’t click. He came to it on his own, intuitively, at age two, about a year after his second eye was removed. Many blind children make noises in order to get feedback — foot stomping, finger snapping, hand clapping, tongue clicking. These behaviors are the beginnings of echolocation, but they’re almost invariably deemed asocial by parents or caretakers and swiftly extinguished. Kish was fortunate that his mother never tried to dissuade him from clicking. “That tongue click was everything to me,” he says.

He has a vivid recollection of sneaking out his bedroom window in the middle of the night, at age two and a half, and climbing over a fence into his neighbor’s yard. “I was in the habit of exploring whatever I sensed around me,” he writes in his journal. He soon wondered what was in the yard of the next house. And the one after that. “I was on the other side of the block before someone discovered me prowling around their backyard and had the police return me home to completely flummoxed parents.”