Monday, September 26, 2005

"Nerd, Geek, or Dork?" Test Result

Outcast Genius
52 % Nerd, 56% Geek, 52% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in all three, earning you the title of: Outcast Genius.

Outcast geniuses usually are bright enough to understand what society wants of them, and they just don't care! They are highly intelligent and passionate about the things they know are *truly* important in the world. Typically, this does not include sports, cars or make-up, but it can on occassion (and if it does then they know more than all of their friends combined in that subject).

Outcast geniuses can be very lonely, due to their being outcast from most normal groups and too smart for the room among many other types of dorks and geeks, but they can also be the types to eventually rule the world, ala Bill Gates, the prototypical Outcast Genius.

Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test

Saturday, September 24, 2005

O'Reilly, Gas, and Milk Prices

Bill O'Reilly is getting a lot of well deserved flack for having said this on the air about gas prices and "gouging":
One thing struck me: after all the experts we've talked with, after all the research we've done, we still can't find out who exactly sets the price of a gallon of gasoline. Which human being in America does that?

Every time I ask who sets the price I get "the market", "the Merc", "OPEC", and on and on. Well it's all B.S. Somebody tells your local gas station owner exactly what to charge. Somebody does that.
There's a great point-by-point response here:
No, Bill. Nobody does that. Really. The owners of gasoline stations each price their product individually and independently. There is no single person who sets the price of gasoline. There are thousands and thousands of gas station owners who each do the job for their own station.

Have you noticed that different grocery stores charge different prices for a gallon of milk? Do you think it's more likely that there's a powerful and secretive Milk Pricing Czar telling each individual store what its price should must be, or more likely that the stores are setting their prices on their own?

If you can believe it for milk, isn't it plausible for gasoline?

Let me ask it another way, Bill. Exactly what sort of punishment is meted out to those who defy the Gasoline Pricing Czar? How exactly does the Czar maintain control over all those gas stations?
That seems like a great argument, doesn't it? Intuitively, it just makes sense. How could somebody not find it convincing?

There's only one teensy little problem, which is that there actually is a powerful and secretive Milk Pricing Czar telling stores what their milk price must be. Here in California we have a statewide "milk marketing program" that explicitly sets the wholesale price for a wide variety of dairy products and prohibits retailers from "selling below cost". Thus, every retail location in california has a legal minimum price they must charge for milk. They can charge more if they like, but they can't charge less. This is why whenever stores offer general promotional discounts you'll see "except dairy products" somewhere in the fine print. This is also why you find "day-old bread" sold at a discount but milk that approaches its expiration date has to be sold at the full price or poured down the drain - it never goes on sale.

Given that the range of legal milk prices is restricted by a specific organization, I don't find it all that surprising that somebody would believe gas prices must be too.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sweetwater Diet, part IV

Seth Roberts is guest-blogging at the Freakonomics blog here. Apparently his list of weight-loss aids now includes - in addition to sugar water - "a few tablespoons of olive oil between meals" and the occasional raw egg. He still claims these are evidence that one can break a pavlovian mental connection between taste and food.

I have a simpler explanation.

I think Seth has rediscovered the notion that one can alleviate hunger better with many small meals than a with few big ones. There is a lag between the body getting enough calories and the hunger sensor getting switched off. If you eat slowly enough or in small enough chunks you are less likely to "overshoot" and eat more than the bare minimum required to turn off that sensor. Some people succeed at losing weight by this method.

Ah, but how to snack safely? People who start eating a few potato chips can find it hard to stop. Mr. Robert's solution: snacks that are monotonous, tasteless, maybe even a little nauseating. His snacks relieve hunger because they contain calories, but don't encourage more eating because they are unappetizing.

Rice cakes would probably work just about as well as the other three items.

UPDATE: "Seth's friend Tim" (who lost 100 pounds) provides some detail on his experience with what he calls "taste celibacy" in a comment.

List of stories about FEMA blocking relief efforts

is here.

Quote of the Day

So let's just recap briefly, shall we? We've got a million or so human beings living in a low-lying area created in the first place by government engineers. The local government of New Orleans, apprised of an approaching storm, summarily orders everybody out of the city about 36 hours too late without lifting a finger to provide the means to do so. At the last minute it occurs to somebody to herd those left behind into a large government-built structure, the Superdome; no supplies are on hand for its inhabitants, and the structure itself is rendered--according to the government's assessment--permanently useless. Even though the storm misses the city, government-built levees fail in unforeseen and catastrophic ways. Many of the New Orleans cops opportunistically quit their jobs, many more simply fail to show up for work, others take the lead in looting supplies from storm-stricken neighbourhoods, and just a few have the notable good grace to shoot themselves in the head. The federal government announces that assistance is on its way, sometime; local and state authorities--who have the clear-cut burden of "first response" under federal guidelines nobody seems to have read--beg for the feds to hurry up while (a) engaging in bureaucratic pissing-matches behind the scenes and (b) making life difficult for the private agencies who are beating the feds to the scene. Eventually the federal government shows up with the National Guard, and to the uniform indignation and surprise of those who have been screaming for it, the Guard turns out to have a troubling tendency to point weapons in the general direction of civilians and reporters. I'm not real clear on who starts doing what around mid-week, but the various hydra-heads of government start developing amusing hobbies; confiscating guns from civilians, demanding that photographers stop documenting the aftermath of America's worst natural disaster in a century, enforcing this demand by seizing cameras at gunpoint, shutting down low-power broadcasting stations in shelters, and stealing supplies from relief agencies and private citizens. In the wake of all this, there is probably no single provision of the U.S. Constitution left untrampled, the Posse Comitatus Act appears destined for a necktie party, and the 49% of Americans who have been complaining for five years about George W. Bush being a dictator are now vexed to the point of utter incoherence because for the last fortnight he has failed to do a sufficiently convincing impression of a dictator.

It's been said that Hurricane Katrina has confirmed pretty much everybody in his pre-existing political beliefs. I can't say the record gives me any reason to change mine. But if I can't have a libertarian paradise where state power defers to social power, or use recent events to urge others to the wisdom of such a state of affairs, I'm willing to propose a second-best for America: replace the three branches of republican government with permanent joint rule by Wal-Mart and the Salvation Army. Go on, tell me you could honestly do worse.

Colby Cosh, on the supposed downfall
of limited government in Katrina’s wake

(ht: catallarchy)

The Videogame workout!

You can now get a decent workout at home or in the arcade by playing videogames. The intersection of videogames and exercise keeps getting more interesting and there's enough material already that it deserves its own blog. So I started one here:

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Experiencing technical difficulties

Since I switched to and republished in Blogger, the main page works but all the specific post pages don't show up properly in Firefox 1.06/Mac OSX. They show up as a bunch of CSS/HTML, not as content.

Wierdly, subsidiary pages look fine in Safari and IE. Email me if you know how to fix this -- raphael (at) pobox (dot) com .

UPDATE: It looks like all the old pages weren't being titled with ".html" on the end. Browsers other than Firefox are clever enough to figure out what they are without it. If I edit a page, it now shows up correctly thereafter. So I've republished all my pages individually, and it looks okay now.

Electric cars need replaceable batteries

People often say (as in this Peak Oil article) "we’re not going to run the interstate highway system on electricity alone". Why not? We currently have a gasoline-based infrastructure because it's cheap and convenient, but if it got much more expensive it shouldn't be THAT hard to switch over to an electric infrastructure. To deal with the range and recharge-time issues we just need modular replaceable batteries.

Imagine you have a battery-powered car with, say, a 100 mile range. Normally you charge it each night at home and possibly "top off" while at work, but this weekend you want to drive 400 miles straight. So you pull into a "Duracell" station several times along the way and swap out your mostly-used batteries for some freshly charged ones. The battery keeps track of how many times it's been charged and how long it holds a charge; the station charges you a little extra if they give you a newer battery, credits you a little if they give you an older one, and dings you for the cost of the power and physical space it takes to fill a battery pack, however long that takes. They dock your used battery in a charger and swap it with somebody else 12 hours later when it's full.

Tah dah! Electric cars now have unlimited range. The batteries get charged at the station via solar and nuclear; gas is no longer involved.

[I originally posted this in a comment thread at the Mises Blog; some seemed to think it was an exciting and original idea rather than - as I would have expected - a boring and obvious one. A little more googling found this electric bus system doing something similar:
The discharged zinc-air module removed from the vehicle is "refueled" or mechanically recharged by exchanging spent "cassettes" with fresh cassettes. This is accomplished by a refueling machine that returns the zinc-air modules to service.

We're now Blogjack.NET

I lost the domain. Due to poor planning and a cheapskate impossible-to-contact DNS reseller I let it pass the initial expiration date. I could have grabbed it back by paying eNom the $200 ransom fee but figured I'd just wait and buy it up again when it expired. I mean, who else would want it, right? But no...somebody grabbed it before I could. So for the moment we're officially "".

That is all.