Recent Articles

Pentagon waste should be a top headline every day

| March 8, 2014 | 1 Reply

Everyone knows that a lot of money is wasted by the Pentagon, but the amount of this waste is staggering, making most of the fraud reported by the media paltry by comparison. Scot Paltrow puts things in perspective:

The DOD has amassed a backlog of more than $500 billion in unaudited contracts with outside vendors. How much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn’t known.
Over the past 10 years the DOD has signed contracts for provisions of more than $3 trillion in goods and services. How much of that money is wasted in overpayments to contractors, or was never spent and never remitted to the Treasury is a mystery.
The Pentagon uses a standard operating procedure to enter false numbers, or “plugs,” to cover lost or missing information in their accounting in order to submit a balanced budget to the Treasury. In 2012, the Pentagon reported $9.22 billion in these reconciling amounts. That was up from $7.41 billion the year before.

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New work by Erik Johannson

| March 8, 2014 | Reply

Photographer Erik Johansson has another incredible photo up on his site. Technically precise magic . . .

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Snake eats crocodile. No, really.

| March 3, 2014 | 1 Reply

The BBC has the photos. It’s gruesome and amazing. A snake ate an entire crocodile.

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On being forced to bake erotic cakes

| March 2, 2014 | 1 Reply

Michael Morris at Funmentionables bursts right out of the gate on his most recent commentary on religion:

Evidently some conservative Christians have completely run out of actual things to fear.

Judson Phillips, the president of Tea Party Nation, worries that without the ability to discriminate against gays, Christians may become “slaves” who could be “required to create a cake for a homosexual wedding that has a giant phallic symbol on it.”

You would have to be the world’s worst slave owner, or the most profligate anyway, to use the slaves at your disposal just to create erotic wedding cakes—as if people do that for weddings! I don’t want to know what else Phillips thinks goes on at gay weddings.

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The importance of picking one’s partner carefully

| March 2, 2014 | Reply

Huffpo quantifies the meaning of a romantic relationship:

When you choose a life partner, you’re choosing a lot of things, including your parenting partner and someone who will deeply influence your children, your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about 100 vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you’ll hear about 18,000 times.

Intense shit.

So given that this is by far the most important thing in life to get right, how is it possible that so many good, smart, otherwise-logical people end up choosing a life partnership that leaves them dissatisfied and unhappy?

Instead of doing serious research, most of us do our search haphazardly, falling prey to the availability heuristic:

In a study on what governs our dating choices more, our preferences or our current opportunities, opportunities wins hands down — our dating choices are “98 percent a response… to market conditions and just 2 percent immutable desires. Proposals to date tall, short, fat, thin, professional, clerical, educated, uneducated people are all more than nine-tenths governed by what’s on offer that night.”

In other words, people end up picking from whatever pool of options they have, no matter how poorly matched they might to be to those candidates. The obvious conclusion to draw here is that outside of serious socialites, everyone looking for a life partner should be doing a lot of online dating, speed dating, and other systems created to broaden the candidate pool in an intelligent way.

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Mid-life lessons

| March 2, 2014 | Reply

At the NYT, Pamela Druckerman tells us some of the lessons we finally pick up in mid-life. Many of these are easier to state than to put into practice, but it’s a worthy list.

If you worry less about what people think of you, you can pick up an astonishing amount of information about them. You no longer leave conversations wondering what just happened. Other people’s minds and motives are finally revealed.

• People are constantly trying to shape how you view them. In certain extreme cases, they seem to be transmitting a personal motto, such as “I have a relaxed parenting style!”; “I earn in the low six figures!”; “I’m authentic and don’t try to project an image!”

• Eight hours of continuous, unmedicated sleep is one of life’s great pleasures. Actually, scratch “unmedicated.”

I posted this at Facebook, and a friend posted an article titled, “What you Learn when You’re 60.” It contains a lot more good advice, including the following:

Death is not distant, it’s inevitable, and ever-closer.

No one knows anything. Confidence is a front. Everybody is insecure.

No one cares about your SAT scores unless they aced the test.

We’re all lonely looking to be connected. . . .

You’re never going to recover from some physical ills, aches and pains are part of the process of dying, and that’s what you’re doing, every day.

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We’re in the Age of the Anthropocene

| February 28, 2014 | Reply

People are now in charge of the Earth and we are destroying it. Robert Krulwich writes that Planet Earth is Under New Management. We are no longer in the age of the Holocene.

Earth is being dramatically changed, and the changer, this time, is us: humankind (“anthro” in the Greek). “We are no longer in the Holocene,” he told the group. “We are in the Anthropocene.” It’s a coinage he may have borrowed from biologist Eugene Stoermer, but here’s the logic: The Earth is no longer being shaped mainly by natural forces, forces that operate on their own with a logic of their own. Our little blue dot is now, increasingly, sculpted by one of its inhabitants. This is our planet now. We’ve taken over.

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Frustration with snake handlers

| February 28, 2014 | Reply

Michael Morris is at it again at Funmentionables. This time he’s frustrated with snake handlers. Here’s an excerpt:

So let’s make a new First Commandment, even before “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor etc.” and it’s this: “First and foremost, use your brain.” Period. I don’t want to read any more news stories of snake handlers dying in my name.

The article contains an interview with Jesus H. Christ, who corrects some errors in the Bible.

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How Google hires.

| February 28, 2014 | Reply

Excellent points made in this article describing how Google hires. The title is, “Why Google doesn’t care about hiring top college graduates.” These approaches dovetail well with Paul Tough’s book, “How Children Succeed.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Google looks for the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better. “It’s ‘intellectual humility.’ Without humility, you are unable to learn,” Bock says. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”

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