A brief gallivant about the marketplace of ideas.

Month: August, 2018

Read — 2018-08-16

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. For online daters, women peak at 18 while men peak at 50, study finds. Oy.“, by Maya Salam (NY Times, 2018-08-15). Thin on insight. Here’s a thought: Leaving aside issues of legality and social pressure to mate for life, what other species cares about absolute age, compared to the apparent age potential mates act or think or look?
  2. Heatwave reveals hidden archaeological sites across Britain’s countryside” (Independent, ????). Cool photos.
  3. SEC sends subpoena to Tesla in probe over Musk tweets“, by Emily Glazer & Dave Michaels (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-15). Remember the report days ago that several members of Tesla’s board of directors had “secured” (too soon?) their own legal advisors.
  4. A look at the shocking student loan debt statistics for 2018” (Student Loan Hero, 2018-05-01). Note that the hosting site is a for-profit player in student-loan refinancing.
  5. Back to school cyber security tips“, by Leah Bachmann (LastPass, 2018-08-14).

Read — 2018-08-15

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Finding it hard to focus? Maybe it’s not your fault“, by Casey Schwartz (NY Times, 2018-08-14). Then again, maybe it is your fault. Don’t you control the power switch? The article does raise a distinction between “bottom-up” (involuntary) and “top-down” (voluntary) attention.
  2. ‘Tenants on our own land’: New Zealand bans sale of homes to foreign buyers“, by Eleanor Ainge Roy (The Guardian, 2018-08-15). Practical, prudent, protectionist, or xenophobic?
  3. $100 million was once big money for a start-up. Now, it’s common.“, by Erin Griffith (NY Times, 2018-08-14). Deluged with money from private investment firms and sovereign wealth funds, start-ups that decline risk being steamrolled by those that accept, and start-ups that accept risk doing too much, too soon.
  4. Elon Musk tweets send Tesla board into damage control mode“, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jessical Silver-Greenberg, Kate Kelly, & Neal E. Boudette (NY Times, 2018-08-14).
  5. Cryptocurrency market plumbs new depths in 2018“, by Steven Russolillo, Paul Vigna, & Akane Otani (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-14).
  6. Review: ‘Crazy rich Asians’ is a party with a first-rate guest list“, by A.O. Scott (NY Times, 2018-08-14).
  7. Calving season: Coming of age on a Montana cattle ranch“, by Nathan Reich (NY Times, 2018-08-14). Documentary film (16:38).

    What struck me most was the intimacy and comfortable relationship each child had with the life and death of the animals.

  8. Pranked by Sacha Baron Cohen, he was as shocked as the rest of us“, by Sopan Deb (NY Times, 2018-08-13). In some ways, on multiple levels, this reminds me of the Milgram experiment from the 1960s. Mr. Roberts’s responses in the interview strike me as impressively sincere. The cynic inside me hopes the NY Times did not run this article in an attempt to sway subsequent legal proceedings. (“What right is there to legal proceedings?” you may demand. Would you want the media to do this to you? “I wouldn’t be so gullible and tractible!” you demand. See, again, the Milgram experiment from the 1960s.)

Read — 2018-08-14

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. An underappreciated key to college success: sleep“, by Jane E. Brody (NY Times, 2018-08-13). Healthy sleep habits are a critical component to academic success. Few students enter college with healthy sleep habits, and universities do little to educate about and encourage them. (In fact, universities may inadvertently encourage just the opposite, via policies like 24-hour libraries, perhaps meant to cater to all sleep schedules, but having the effect of prodding students not to sleep at all — especially if they see a steady pack of their peers, whom they don’t want to fall behind, studying at all hours.)
  2. How bosses waste their employees’ time“, by Robert I. Sutton (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-12).

    [T]he best employees for promoting organizational learning are often those who never leave well enough alone, pointing out mistakes and flawed practices. But those who management rates as top performers are often those who silently do what they’re told and what has always been done — and don’t annoy their superiors with complaints and questions about flawed practices.

  3. Microsoft’s Cortana mistake: relying on Windows“, by Jay Greene (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-14).
  4. What to do if they don’t like you back“, by Kris Gage (Medium, 2018-08-10). Half-baked. The author makes a few interesting and important observations (e.g., if you truly love someone, you want what’s best for them, even if it’s not what’s best for you; one-sided love is often not love but worship of an imaginary construct), forcing these observations through the filter of her own bias and pulling them out of the oven of cogitation too soon. That said, kudos to her for having the moxie to write something on the subject. Someday I’ll do the same, and the author can return the favor of a critical review.
  5. Is Omarosa out-Trumping Trump?“, by Sean Braswell (OZY, 2018-08-14). I hesitate to include this article in the list, because I hate how politics has become (always was?) like reality TV. But for posterity…this is American politics in 2018. Miserere nobis.

Read — 2018-08-13

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Dangerous discussions: voice and power in my classroom“, by Ursula Wolfe-Rocca (Medium, 2018-08-05). An honest appraisal. That “helpful discussion” you initiate can become a soapbox for the majority, the more powerful, the more eloquent. In conclusion, the author urges each of us to “deliberately design models of discourse that make [marginalized and underrepresented] voices impossible to ignore”.
  2. Amazon analysts are about to be wrong again“, by Michael Henage (Seeking Alpha, 2018-08-12).
  3. Responsible disclosure in the era of cryptocurrencies“, by Cory Fields (Medium, 2018-08-09).
  4. China’s state media defends Xingjiang Muslim crackdown” (Al Jazeera, 2018-08-13). “[P]eace and stability must come above all else”, the Party declares. According to Gay McDougall of the UN,

    More than one million Uighur Muslims are estimated to be in detention in “counter-extremism centres” in China’s far western region…

  5. An 11-year-old changed the results of Florida’s presidential vote at a hacker convention. Discuss.“, by Kevin Collier (BuzzFeed, 2018-08-11). Ironic that BuzzFeed uses the very title that a top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security cites as misleading.
  6. Uber drivers take riders the long way — at Uber’s expense“, by Greg Bensinger (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-13). Passengers are charged up front based on the “ideal” route, so Uber foots the larger bill. (Though an economist would be quick to point out that that larger bill will be passed onto consumers down the road, e.g., in the form of higher rates.) Uber estimates that this practice of “longhauling” “occurs on less than 1% of trips in the U.S.”
  7. Some notes on ‘asshat’” (Merriam-Webster). Etymology of asshead’s up-and-coming cousin, and a cautionary tale of hyphens and spacing.

Read — 2018-08-11

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. ‘We’re a people destroyed’: why Uighur Muslims across China are living in fear“, by Gene A. Bunin (The Guardian, 2018-08-07).
  2. Teaching to get fired“, by Abe Moore (Medium, 2018-06-02). Some aspects of this article are concerning: trusting faculty (re)hiring decisions to an equally weighted majority vote including all students (prediction: from teach to the test, to teach to be liked); references to Survivor (sorry, fans, not sorry). Some aspects of this article are intriguing: its bold proclamation of acting on your convictions, regardless of its impact on your (current) employment status (that said, perhaps this is easier for people of some independent wealth, or in countries with generous welfare programs? which is not to say that the author falls into either of these categories); enacting policies that allow and foster student agency in their own learning (yes! yes! yes!).
  3. Teachers’ anger goes deeper than money“, by Amy Hempe (Medium, 2018-05-04). The author (a former teacher) raises a plaint heard across industries in America (and elsewhere) today: It’s not about the money, it’s about being respected, and doing meaningful work. “[T]eachers also want to be taken seriously”.
  4. The man who solved bitcoin’s most notorious heist“, by Justin Scheck & Bradley Hope (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-10).
  5. What is PWA?“, by Mahesh Haldar (Bits and Pieces, 2018-08-01). Answer: Progressive web applications. Goal: Delightful user experience across a range of platforms (e.g., computer, mobile, tablet, etc.).
  6. The beginning of the end of WPA-2 — Cracking WPA-2 just got a whole lot easier“, by Bill Buchanan (Medium, 2018-08-07).
  7. Why blue light is so bad: the science — and some solutions“, by Amber Case (Medium, 2018-07-24).
  8. One man’s suffering exposed Monsanto’s secrets to the world“, by Casey Gillam (The Guardian, 2018-08-11). As mentioned in the article, the disgusting abuse of power of mid-20th-century tabacco companies, reprised. Certain corporations have failed. And certain governments have failed.
  9. 20 years of wisdom from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos“, by Brian Stoffel (The Motley Fool, 2018-08-04). For a deeper, less curated stroll, peruse Amazon’s repository of letters to shareholders.

Read — 2018-08-09

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Argentina rejects bill to legalise abortion“, by Uki Goñi (The Guardian, 2018-08-09).
  2. New York plans to cap Uber and Lyft“, by Paul Berger & Greg Bensinger (NY Times, 2018-08-08). Another case study of the interplay of politics, economics, and technology. In Act 2, self-driving cars enter stage left.
  3. The iGen shift: colleges are changing to reach the next generation“, by Laura Pappano (NY Times, 2018-08-02). I’m incredibly biased, so read for yourself. The article focuses heavily on amenities, lightly on education. What is the role of a university? This article also focuses heavily on the schools and their administrators. I’d love to read an article on how iGen students feel they approach college. The article claims that iGen students are “more cautious when it comes to academics [and] fear failure”. That is probably not good.

Cat litter : Do(-doo)s and don’ts


What follows are generally recommended practices. What works best will depend on the specifics of your cat(s).

  • If you have n cats, then have n + 1 litter boxes [3,4], distributed throughout the living space.
  • Clean the litter box by scooping out urine and feces at least every other day [1,2,3,4].
  • 3 cm (2 in) of litter is sufficient [3]. Beyond this, the cat may kick excess litter onto the floor [4].
  • Completely empty and clean (with mild detergent [3] or baking soda [4]) the litter box anywhere from once a week [4] to a few times a year [1] (and everything in between [2,3]).
  • Replace plastic litter boxes once a year [2], or when they look worn [4].

Feline Urethral Obstruction

For a discussion of FUO, read this post [6].


  1. How often do I really need to clean my cat’s litter box?“, by Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM (Pet Health Network, 2015-04-21).
  2. Cleaning the litter box: how often is best?“, by Dr. Stephanie Janeczko, DVM (Pet Finder, ????).
  3. Preventing litter box problems” (Humane Society, ????).
  4. How often should I change my cat’s litter?“, by Ameera Mills (Animal Wised, 2018-06-03).
  5. What are the dangers of a dirty cat litter box?“, by Laura Agadoni (The Nest, ????).
  6. Help…my cat can’t pee! Feline urethral obstruction : be aware“, by Dr. Jason Nicholas, DVM (2012-01-12).

Read — 2018-08-07

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. China has outspent the US by $24 billion in 5G technology since 2015, study shows“, by Arjun Kharpal (CNBC, 2018-08-07).
  2. Trump’s approach to Iran: driving US policy in circles“, by John McLaughlin (OZY, 2018-07-30).
  3. Facebook to banks: Give us your data, we’ll give you our users“, by Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman, & AnnaMaria Andriotis (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-06).
  4. Bluetooth hacking: cheating in elliptic curve billiards“, by Tal Be’ery (Hacker Noon, 2018-07-30). Accessible exposition of a story that pairs mathematics with cyber security.
  5. Is capitalism rigged in favour of elites?” (The Economist, 2018-08). Here is The Economist’s explanation of the Oxford-style debate, on which the format of this online forum is based.

News on Tesla:

  1. Tesla confirms intention to go private, sending stock up 11%“, by Claudia Assis (Market Watch, 2018-08-07).
  2. What Elon Musk’s latest tweets mean for the future of Tesla” (Bloomberg Video, 2018-08-07). 6-minute video discussing the merits and import of Musk’s tweet and subsequent company e-mail about taking Tesla private.

Two articles on gender and racial bias in mathematics education:

  1. The whiteness of math education will never be changed without teaching math history — properly“, by Sunil Singh (QED, 2018-07-25).
  2. Math was never neutral“, by Jose Vilson (QED, 2017-10-29).

Read — 2018-08-06

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Hiroshima remembers atomic bombing on 73rd anniversary“, by Mari Yamaguchi (Associated Press, 2018-08-06).
  2. Japan’s habits of overwork are hard to change” (The Economist, 2018-08-02). Japan’s labor habits are perhaps most strikingly revealed by the fact that Japan has the world’s most generous paternity leave laws, but only 5% of men avail themselves of the benefits, and those that do typically use only a few days.
  3. Old-money billionaires are chasing new tech riches“, by Anupreeta Das & Juliet Chung (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-03).
  4. Traders are talking up cryptocurrencies, then dumping them, costing others millions“, by Shane Shifflett & Paul Vigna (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-05). The authors should be more up front that this is old, old news. What the article does contribute, perhaps, are methodical and documented methods of measuring such “pump-and-dumps”, and (thanks to the WSJ’s readership) a raised awareness of such scams, both in crypto and in other markets.
  5. Roth IRA” (Investopedia). Roth IRAs explained, especially vis-à-vis regular IRAs.
  6. Disney’s streaming service starts to come into focus“, by Brooks Barnes (New York Times, 2018-08-05).
  7. Why a trade truce could add almost $2 trillion to the stock market“, by Peter Eavis (NY Times, 2018-08-03).
  8. The blockchain begins finding its way in the enterprise“, by Ron Miller (Tech Crunch, 2018-07-22).
  9. ‘The beginning of a wave’: A.I. tiptoes into the workplace“, by Steve Lohr (NY Times, 2018-08-05).
  10. The way we read now“, by Adam Kirsch (Wall Street Journal, 2018-08-03). In general, Americans care about the story and the world it creates — not how the story is conveyed. Which is how books like Crime and punishment come to share top accolades with books like Harry Potter.
  11. What are capitalists thinking?“, by Michael Tomasky (NY Times, 2018-08-05). The author, Michael Tomasky, is a special correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. The article alleges that the widening wealth gap promoted by recent American capitalism is in turn promoting a rise in socialist sympathies, especially among younger Americans.

Political letters : Voting Rights


Dear Senator —, Senator —, and Representative —:

Please carefully consider the Voting Rights Advancement Act (S. 1419; H.R. 2978), introduced by Senator Leahy and Representative Sewell. If you cannot support this act or an amended version thereof, I ask that you bring your own version to the floor. I will carefully review your actions on this matter prior to subsequent elections.

As you know, in the court case Shelby County v Holder (2013), the Supreme Court ruled Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) and its subsequent amendments to be unconstitutional, because its coverage formula is based on now-antiquated data from the 1960s and 1970s. Without Section 4(b), the safeguards contained in Section 5 of the VRA against discriminatory voting practices are inapplicable.

I am sympathetic to the view of the majority opinion of the Shelby case that “The [Fifteenth] Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future.” However, I am also acutely aware that past actions are often good predictors of future actions, and that clearly stated consequences for misdeeds can dissuade people from attempting the misdeeds in the first place.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Safeguarding the right of citizens to fully participate in government is vital to the health and welfare of our democracy and of our country. This is as true today as it was in 1965 and 1870.

It is your job to see that the protections in the Fifteenth Amendment are enforced by appropriate legislation. Please do your job.



  1. H.R.2978 : Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2017 (Congress). Introduced 2017-06-21; latest action 2017-07-17 (!).
  2. Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder” (Wikipedia).
  3. U.S. Supreme Court Case No. 08-322 : Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Eric H. Holder, Jr. (2009) (Supreme Court).
  4. Shelby County v. Holder” (Wikipedia).
  5. U.S. Supreme Court Case No. 12-96 : Shelby County, Alabama v. Eric H. Holder, Jr. (2013) (Supreme Court).
  6. Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution” (Wikipedia).
  7. Voting Rights Act of 1965” (Wikipedia).
  8. How to contact U.S. senators” (U.S. Senate).
  9. Find your representative” (U.S. House of Representatives)