A brief gallivant about the marketplace of ideas.

Category: Reference

Sunglasses (for health, not fashion)

  1. The most important health feature of sunglasses appears to be protection against ultraviolet (UV) light [1,2]. Not all sunglasses offer this protection.
    1. Many articles distinguish UVA and UVB [1,2,3,4] and mention that protection against both is important.
    2. Wearing sunglasses without UV protection causes your pupils to dilate, allowing more light (and hence UV light) to enter your eye [3,4,5].
  2. Polarization does not offer additional protection from UV light [6]. Polarization’s main function appears to be to reduce glare, i.e. to sharpen vision. (Fun fact: Polarized lenses were created by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory! [7])
  3. For UV protection, one article claims that “lens color and darkness don’t matter” [5], another claims that “[d]ark tinted glasses block more light than regular sunglasses” [8], and the American Cancer Society claims that it “depends on the type of tinting” [9]. Reddit features a post on their “askscience” channel that claims “[v]irtually all plastics cut off [UV light] hard below 300nm” [10]. However, it appears that being simply plastic does not guarantee UV protection.
  4. Certification of UV-blocking ability appears to be poorly regulated [1,3,5]. An article from 2016 recommends looking for “[h]ard numbers”, like “99% UV absorption”, on sunglasses, claiming that these are the only claims that the US Food and Drug Administration requires to be true [5].
  5. A bonus sciency article [11].

Gun violence


  1. Guns in the US: The statistics behind the violence” (BBC News). See the chart on homicide rate.
  2. What explains U.S. mass shootings? International comparisons suggest an answer“, by Max Fisher & Josh Keller (NY Times, 2017-11-07).
  3. Gun control: What can America learn from Britain?“, by Patrick Worrall (Channel 4, 2013-01-16). A reminder that statistics are summaries; dig to know what goes into them.
  4. America’s gun culture in 10 charts” (BBC News, 2018-03-21).

Read — 2018/02/11

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Tim Harford’s guide to statistics in a misleading age“, by Tim Harford (Financial Times).
  2. The book every programmer should read“, by Vinicius Brasil (Hacker Noon). Spoiler alert: The book is “Clean code“, by Robert C. Martin.
  3. How does Tor *really* work?“, by Brandon Skerritt (Hacker Noon). Even if someone else reads the white paper, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Though it also doesn’t mean you can’t be appreciative when they do.

Super Bowl LII : Football primer

A selection of references explaining American football:

  1. A beginner’s guide to American football” (NFL). A 1:18 YouTube video explaining the basic objectives.
  2. Rule book: A beginner’s guide to football” (NFL). A dry explanation of the rules.
  3. Super Bowl 51: A beginner’s guide to American football” (BBC). Written for last year’s Super Bowl, this article makes the cut because it uses words like “pitch” (for “field”) and “defence” (for “defense”).

Read — 2017/12/22

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. The SEC’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies is about to get serious, former chairman says“, by Michael Sheetz (CNBC).

And a recipe for the holidays (I tried these, and attest that they are delightful!):

  1. Chewy ginger molasses cookies“, by Ali (Gimme Some Oven).

NYC Marathon (2017-11-05)

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. USA’s Shalane Flanagan, Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor, and Switzerland’s Marcel Hug and Manuela Schä win 2017 TCS New York City Marathon” (NYRR). Congratulations Shalane!
  2. New York City Marathon: elevation profile” (TCS NYC Marathon).
  3. Apple varieties of New York state” (NY Apple Country).

How to contact political representatives

Suggestions on how to (effectively!) contact political representatives:

  1. What calling Congress achieves“, by Kathryn Schulz (The New Yorker).
  2. How to write your Congressman“, by A Manly Guest Contributor (Art of Manliness). Based on the other articles here, I would advise against a hand-written letter, as other sources suggest they are quarantined.
  3. Here’s how to make sure Congress hears you“, by Jenna Amatulli (Huffington Post). Presents a series of tweets by former district-office staffer Emily Ellsworth.
  4. The best ways to contact your Congresspeople, from a former staffer“, by Eric Ravenscraft (Life Hacker). Draws from the same series of tweets by Emily Ellsworth.

Shed construction

References on shed construction (many specific to Harris County, Houston, Texas):

  1. Suncast University” (Suncast).
  2. How to get a building permit for a shed“, by bdeitsch (Backyard Buildings).
  3. Harris County Permits Division : Frequently asked questions” (Harris County Engineering Department).
  4. Residential development permits” (Harris County Engineering Department).
  5. Residential development guide: garage, carport, or other accessory structures” (Houston Permitting Center).
  6. Houston flood zones” (ArcGIS).
  7. Storage sheds“, by Tim Carter (Ask the Builder). “It is a good idea to use Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ) treated lumber. This lumber is rot resistant, and wood-destroying insects avoid it like the plague.”
  8. Do I need a vapor barrier for my tool shed?” (Do It Yourself). Forum discussion.
  9. Ground moisture barrier underlayment for shed” (Garage Journal). Forum discussion. Especially to the point is the post by jklingel on 2010-08-30: “Wood right against plastic is a rot waiting to happen. You are going to get water between the two no matter what. I would never put wood directly on plastic. Gravel is the way to go, IMO, about 4 to 6″ deep. Either that or bricks, etc, but use something that will drain and breathe.”

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)


  1. Trump administration ends DACA program for immigrants“, by Laura Meckler (Wall Street Journal).
  2. 9 facts that explain DACA, the immigration program that Trump is threatening to end“, by Dara Lind (Vox).
  3. Who qualifies for Deferred Action as an Immigrant Student or Graduate (DACA)“, by Ilona Bray, J.D. (Nolo).
  4. Is ending DACA the worst decision Trump has made?“, by William Finnegan.
  5. What the repeal of DACA means — and how you can fight back“, by Kaitlin Menza (Vogue).
  6. The economic and fiscal impacts of DACA and DAPA in Minnesota“, by Katherine Fennelly (Understanding Immigration).
  7. 6 remarkable pros and cons of amnesty for illegal immigrants” (ConnectUS).
  8. Deferred action — pros and cons” (Skagit Immigrant Rights Council).
  9. Applying for DACA? Here are the pros and cons” (Dyan Williams Law).
  10. What attorneys should tell DACA clients as uneasiness lingers“, by Allissa Wickham (Law 360).

Read — 2017/08/27

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Tesla’s push to build a self-driving car sparked dissent among its engineers“, by Ianthe Jeanne Dugan & Mike Spector (Wall Street Journal). My takeaway from this article: Elon Musk is a visionary who is not afraid to wring people dry, loose talent, and over-sell his product. Not my preferred business practices. But Tesla seems to have built huge industry leads.
  2. How student internships saved a Chicago school“, by Chris Berdik (The Atlantic).
  3. The startup behind these sneakers is skyrocketing in popularity — and it’s easy to understand why after trying them“, by Amir Ismael (Insider Picks).
  4. In a polarized America, can a middle party rise from the ashes?“, by Daniel Malloy (OZY). A (viable) third-party in American politics?
  5. Electric cars are not necessarily clean“, by David Biello (Scientific American).

    [E]lectric cars are only as good [read: clean] as the electricity that charges them.

  6. Gasoline vs electric — who wins on lifetime global warming emissions? We found out“, by Rachael Nealer (Union of Concerned Scientists).

    [E]xcess manufacturing emissions [associated with battery electric vehicles] are offset within 6 to 16 months of driving.