Consensus Changes on Salt

CDC says Americans still consume too much, but studies show no benefit in reducing salt

Richard Feynman said that one of the advantages of the scientific method has over religion is that science has the freedom to be wrong. Religious institutions are reluctant to ever admit error. The scientific method lets experiments and new data supercede previous ideas.

That works well when science is an ivory tower institution. The problem comes when bad science is applied to real world problems or used to set public policy. By the time science corrects itself the damage has been done, or how long it will take the new science to replace the old.

Posted in Science | 3 Comments

I had wondered what was going on in the peak oil world

Oil and gas production in North America is booming and we’re past the usual estimates for peak oil. Now it turns out that one of the peak oil advocacy sites is shutting down.

Posted in Environment | Tagged | Comments Off

DNA May Solve Boston Strangler Case Once and For All

Mysteries without closure bug me, so I’m glad to see this: Mass. DA: DNA links DeSalvo to Strangler victim.

Posted in True Crime | Comments Off

Update on the Crispy Fried DeLorean

Joey-Paul Gowdy writes:

Howdy, a friend sent me the link to your article:

I purchased that car in Sept. of 2009

Did a lot of work to it… current progress:

It’s a mighty good restoration of a burned car.

Posted in Nifty | Comments Off

Double Edged Safety Razors – The Blades

Double Edged Safety Razor Cartridges

For various reasons, I’ve decided to try shaving with an old-fashioned, double-edged safety razor. One part of the appeal is price. Most plastic cartridges razors cost around $2/cartridge, or $1 at the Dollar Shave Club.

At local grocery stores, plain old razor blades were 10 for $15, which is nuts. I bought a 120 pack of blades on Amazon for $19, so about 16 cents per blade. Can’t beat that.

Breda asked if I also bought Band-Aids in bulk. I didn’t (smartypants), but after shaving with one of these blades I walked straight to the kitchen and wrote styptic pencils on the grocery list.

But what a close shave. Here’s hoping that over time I’ll either get much better at shaving with a DE, or slowly, bloodily carve my face into a shape that’s better for DE shaving.

Posted in Home Life | Tagged | 4 Comments

New Industry Standard for IS/VR Lens Performance

Canon offers IS and Nikon offers VR – technologies that reduce picture blur when handholding a camera. There’s always been some debate about how well those systems worked, and the companies keep coming out with new versions that area supposed to be more effective, but there’s never been a standard for measuring effectiveness until now.

Nikon has published the results of their CIPA testing. Results range from a low of 2.5 stops to a high of 4.5 stops. 4.5 stops means that the image-stabilizing technology is as effective as increasing shutter speed by 4.5 stops. So a photo taken with VR at 1/60th of a second would be equivalent in sharpness to a photo taken without VR at 1/1500th of a second.

VR (and Canon IS) mean you can get a sharp picture using shutter speeds that are slow enough to get a good exposure in a broad range of lighting conditions. They also mean you can get the shutter speed down in the range where you can use a flash at full FP sync – typically 1/200 to 1/250th of a second.

P.S. VR/IS lenses are also great for handheld video. You shoot video at a shutterspeed of 1 over twice the frame rate – so 1/60th of a second for 30 fps video -  so you can’t get sharp images by using a quick shutter speed.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , | Comments Off

Former East German Stasi Head on NSA Surveillance

“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used. This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
Wolfgang Schmidt

Posted in Political Survival Kit, Quotes | 2 Comments

Go Visit, and a Different Theory About Easter Island

Too busy to blog much right now, so go visit Lots of good seminars there on a variety of topics. The videos are subscriber-only, but the summaries are good and you can listen to the MP3 version under the Downloads tab.

I found it by way of an article about Richard Feynman’s involvement in Thinking Machines Corporation. (If you don’t know who Richard Feynman is, eat 10 packs of Ramen without the flavor clod, then find a copy or Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman or What Do You Care What Other People Think? He’s turning out to be one of the more relevant figures in 20th century science culture.

I liked the seminar on Easter Island. The traditional Easter Island narrative is an ecological morality play:

  • The stupid Maori people spent all their time building statues in a fit of vanity.
  • The stupid Maori cut down their forests for the logs needed to move the statues.
  • The stupid Maori spent the rest of their time and resources in intra-island warfare.
  • Stupid Maori were stupid.

Anthropologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo’s talk presents a different view:

  • There’s no archaeological evidence of inter-Maori warfare prior to European exploration. No fortifications. No battle-related injuries on skeletal remains. Their primitive stone implements had the blunt tips of tools instead of the pointed tips you would expect of weapons.
  • The Maori moved the statues with ropes, not logs, so deforestation had nothing to do with the statues. Their experiments seem to support this. Besides, how many freakin’ logs do you need to move some statues? Not enough to deforest an island. (Wikipedia notes that some suggest the Little Ice Age of 1650 to 1850 contributed to the decline of native trees.)
  • Based on carbon dating, Hunt and Lipo propose that Easter Island was colonized around 1200 AD, rather than other estimates which put the date as early as 300 AD.
  • They posit that the deforestation was caused by the introduction of rats from European ships – the rats ate the trees’ nuts. From a study quoted on Wikipedia: “Rat teeth marks can be observed in 99% of the nuts found preserved in caves or excavated in different sites, indicating that the Polynesian rat impeded the palm’s reproduction.”
  • The depopulation was largely a result of the resulting deforestation combined with diseases introduced by European explorers such as tuberculosis and smallpox, combined with later slaving raids from Peru on the island’s reduced population.
  • The apocryphal overpopulation to 30,000 inhabitants never happened. That makes sense – indigenous populations are unlikely to exceed their historical resources. It isn’t like they can ask their central bank to print money to buy food from another country.

True or fales, since Easter Island makes such a pat simple ecological ghost story I expect the old narrative to be defended to the last man standing.

Posted in Environment, Science, Social Media | Comments Off

Why I Ignore Emails from People Who Promise to Improve My Google Position

Any time someone offers to improve my Google position I ignore them. It’s a waste of time talking to them. The email you received was canned. The SEO they offer is canned, likely hasn’t worked in five years, and may get you banned from Google’s index. Their money back guarantees are worthless (most of them are overseas – good luck pursuing remedies in court).

Google’s Matt Cutts gives the world’s best example of why you should ignore them. Funny SEO Emails Part 6:

Folks at Google get cold-call emails out of the blue just like everybody else. Here’s an email that a colleague of mine got recently:

I was on your website and wanted to shoot you a quick note. I think I can make a few changes (aesthetically and/or SEO – wise) to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to get it placed higher in the organic search results, for a few of the select terms.

So this person is offering help to convert Google visitors into leads. Or, you know, to improve Google’s rankings in organic search results. Sigh.

Here’s my rule of thumb: if someone sends you an email with an SEO offer out of the blue, be skeptical. For example, check out some other fun SEO emails that I’ve gotten in the past.

Posted in Ecommerce | Tagged | Comments Off

About Craigslist Free Stuff

I love Craigslist. Good place to buy and sell locally. But I decided to shy away from ever giving anything away anything on Craigslist after reading this:

Family Loses Everything After Craigslist Post Gone Terribly, Horribly Wrong

Facing foreclosure on their home of 20 years, Pam Hobbs and her son lost even more when a yard sale posting on Craigslist gave people the impression that it wasn’t just the furniture in the driveway they were giving away for free. Folks were welcome to come into their home and take anything — and everything — they could get their hands on. Total. Chaos.

Terrible story. Even short of that, free stuff attracts people who can’t even afford the five dollar cover charge. A safer bet is to drop the stuff off at the nearest Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity.

Posted in Social Media | Tagged | 2 Comments

Compare and Contrast – Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door”

Here’s something I like to do. Listen to different artists perform the same song. That side by side listening always reveals new things about the song and the artists. Seth Roberts likes to talk about the Willat Effect, where side by side comparisons help to make you a connoisseur.

(YiouTube links – open in new tabs)

Pete Townshend’s Original Version – For reference. The farty synthesizer is a little dated, but otherwise it holds up pretty well.

Pearl Jam Live Electric and Eddie Vedder Solo Acoustic – I’ve always liked Pearl Jam, even though I haven’t thought of myself as a fan the way I did with Nirvana, but Eddie Vedder is growing tremendously as an artist. This ain’t the same guy who used to stand in front of the mic with his arms wrapped around himself. He’s learned to play guitar and he’s confident as hell. His soundtrack for “Into the Wild” is what finally made me a fan.

Michael Cavanaugh – Piano heavy.

Amateur – Linsey Moon on Ukelele – My secret girlfriend, Linsey Moon. Sigh.

Amateur – Karmarin Natures A Capella – For guys who are more into gals with low self esteem.

Amatuer – Anargha Gunawan on Ukelele – Better than Linsey’s, but he isn’t a darling English girl.

And Pete gets the final word:

Pete Townshend Live Solo Version

Posted in A&E | Tagged , | 1 Comment


I’m all the time needing to paste text sans formatting. I’ve been using tricks like pasting into the browser’s search box and then copying and pasting that, or pasting into Notepad to clear the formatting.

Turns out you can use Control-Shift-V to paste text without formatting. I probably should have known that a long time ago, but better late than never.

Discovered (where else?) in a Cracked article. Their motto should be “Cracked – It’s like Wikipedia, but with even more penis jokes.”

Posted in Tech | 1 Comment

DSLR Video – Punk Rockers Prove Anyone Can Do It

I’ve watched Beck’s video for Loser dozens of times. In terms of production you can point to a dozen ways it’s a crappy video. (Color grading? What’s that?!) The whole thing was edited on an Amiga Video Toaster and shot on what looks like a budget of ten bucks.(*)

This is one of those videos I look at and think, sheeeit, I could do that. All you need is thriftstore clothes, a stray dog, fake blood, lots of lighter fluid, a homeless guy, and a cheerleader in a graveyard dancing with her friend who peed in her pants. I’d skip the mimes and the kung fu dude in the trailer park. The only challenges would be scoring a casket and not getting arrested.

And I’m not even criticizing the video. I like it. It’s inspirational – it shows me that something I like that’s within my grasp. In the digital age all of this creative stuff is way easier and way cheaper.

* Correction: It was a budget of 300 bucks.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Word of the Day – Bliss Point

From Word Spy:

n. The specific concentration of salt, sugar, or fat that makes a food maximally tasty.

Cool word.

Previous WOTDKeytar

Posted in Word of the Day | 1 Comment

Word of the Day – Keytar

While reading Cracked, the only news source anyone needs, I ran across this:

The 1980s were a strange time for established rock musicians. For a while there, it seemed like any band that didn’t employ a keytar player was destined to fail.

What’s weird is that I had never heard of a keytar, but I instantly knew what they were talking about. I won’t spoil it, so check Wikipedia.

Previous WOTDThe McGurk Effect

Posted in Word of the Day | 1 Comment