Bad: let’s start off with a few choice items on the TPP, including the full text… HA! Made you look!

And she can sing: Ariana tells it how she sees it.

Frozen 2: Now that’s not exactly a Disney Princess.

Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Spying On Americans: NSA isn’t going away, just going quiet.

Inequality: The media has us pointing fingers at one another about race, and we’re overlooking economics.

The Accidental Experiment: UHF and Sesame Street.

And finally: Tigers on surfboards.

Hard Habit to Break

Today I’m actually using the official prompt:

Have you ever tried to break a habit and failed? What made it so difficult to break?

Ok, this is a weird one. I’m still not quite over this habit: I have a hard time passing up things that are cheap or free.

I’ve got dozens of books on my Kindle that I don’t know when I’ll have time to read them, but they were free! I’ve got canned food in my pantry that I only have because it was on sale — and theoretically I’ll use it eventually. I’ve been known to buy clothes that fit but aren’t really my style because they were so inexpensive.

Why is this a hard habit to break? Well, because it’s easy to think I’m being thrifty. In the case of free ebooks, it doesn’t actually cost me anything. In the case of food, well, I guess I’m well prepared for an emergency. In short, one person’s bad habit is another’s good habit.

Oh hey, and just the other day I got this free ebook on how to break bad habits!

In Closing: the case of the blonde MIT student; Ha Ha Harvard; not entirely sure how one solves problems without strong reading and math skills; crime, security, and privacy; and the intellectual heirs of MacHack.

It’s time for Things I Learned This Semester!

That’s right, another semester is over! If you’re curious about things I’ve learned in the past, please enjoy some links to other posts. So let’s get going with the latest revelations:


  • Eventually, the staff in charge of cleaning bathrooms will notice the graffiti on the back of the bathroom stall door.
  • The kind of high school student who takes college classes is motivated to succeed.
  • An alarming number of undergraduates don’t even know there’s a difference between viruses and bacteria. Come on people, take the whole run of antibiotics and never take somebody else’s meds.
  • Parking on campus gets easier after midterms.

Child Psych:

  • Because of a quirk of how children learn language, most children can relate to Ramona Beasley or Amelia Bedelia misunderstanding what they are told.
  • We adults might not like to think about it, but children are aware of sexual issues much earlier than puberty. Put CCSD’s issues in context.
  • The most messed up thing I have ever read for a class — any class — is the story of David Reimer.


  • I knew that “You can’t out-train a bad diet”. I didn’t know this was mathematically provable. Go ahead and plug some numbers into a calorie calculator and an activity calculator. You can eat a lot more calories than you can possibly burn in a day!
  • The Food Pyramid is gone, and good riddance. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, and don’t worry too much about grains.
  • You don’t have to pay Carl Daikeler to put together a workout and diet plan for you, but it’s better than what many people would put together for themselves.
  • A lot of people apparently take Nutrition as an easy class.


  • In a college Spanish class, there are likely to be one or two people who speak Spanish ok but want to learn better grammar and spelling.
  • A Spanish professor from Spain and a Spanish professor from Central America have some fundamentally different ways of doing things.
  • Public speaking is more difficult in a foreign language.
  • Spanish doesn’t actually have a “past tense.” Instead, they have a “preterite” that serves the same function.
  • Don’t be afraid of the Hispanic grocery store. Odds are very good that the employees you’re likely to encounter are bilingual.


  • Fun and danger in a chemistry lab often go together. It’s important to have a good lab partner and follow directions.
  • The chemical reactions that let antacids work often create gas. If you know how to do the math, you can figure out exactly how much acid you’re neutralizing and exactly how much gas you’ve burped.
  • Some guy actually built a periodic table.
  • Even though the pH scale familiar to swimming pool owners goes from 0 to 14, a pH of less than 0 is possible. This guy won a Nobel Prize for it.

That’s it for today. I’m skipping the closing bits. Have a great weekend!

What I Learned This Semester

The fall semester is over and grades are filed. Let me fill you in on just a few new discoveries! Maybe it will help you impress a friend while watching Jeopardy someday. Ok, probably not.


  • You can always find a place to park on campus for an 8 AM class. The bad news is that it’s still an 8 AM class. 
  • It’s a little shocking how many people will simply stop showing up to class without bothering to drop.
  • Equally amazing is the number of people who plan on taking a hard class twice to get a better grade.
  • Online coursework takes discipline that many people simply don’t possess. “Oh, I don’t have to worry about those 3 assignments until December!” Right. That’s the same December when you have all those finals, remember.
  • You can’t expect people to know how to pronounce words in a language they don’t speak.
  • It seems like every new textbook comes with a DVD or passcode to a website of “helpful” study materials. Most of these are not quite as “helpful” as advertised.


  • I had mistakenly thought the old Lincoln Highway followed the route of US 30 west to Oregon. Turns out it changes route numbers and goes through Northern Nevada.
  • If you tried to turn the events surrounding the Cal Neva in the late 50s and early 60s into a novel, nobody would believe it.
  • It turns out that Nevada voters in 2014 get to decide on a change to our State Constitution to allow greater taxation of the mining industry.
  • Most people don’t think to use hyperlinks in lieu of citations.


  • In a Spanish class, nobody expects you to know Japanese.
  • Flashcards are still important for learning a foreign language.
  • “Textbook/Workbook” is a nice way for a publisher to make everybody buy new books.

Anatomy and Physiology:

  • Reticular connective tissue looks a little like a cherry tree in blossom.
  • There’s an area of your brain that handles a reflex to turn your head and look before you even form the question “What was that streak of orange and roaring noise?” Of course in Vegas it’s a coin flip whether that particular combination is a tiger or a sports car. Likewise about which would be more dangerous to encounter while walking about.
  • Fancy color pictures of cadavers aren’t as useful as you’d think for learning anatomy.
  • Weight training does not produce more muscle cells, just muscle cells with more stuff in them.
  • Beta blockers are great for recovering heart attack patients, but lousy for anybody trying to improve their blood pressure through diet and exercise.

Ok, here’s the In Closing bits: you know I wouldn’t deprive you of a bunch of NSA, privacy, and Edward Snowden links, right?; on wages, fair wages, poverty, homelessness, and related issues; loopholePalestinians; the next big fight in CONgress; worst CEOs; and just in time for Christmas, bad gifts.

Financial Illiteracy

Dollars and Sense: How Wise Are We With Money?

Many thanks to Cara Delany for this terrific infographic.

Way back when I went to high school, I was required to take a trimester long class called Personal Finance. Among the topics were how to write a check and balance a checkbook, how to put together a family budget (this lesson might as well have been called “Don’t get pregnant unless you like poverty”), what color cars were safest, how to calculate cost per unit (with the bizarre aside that a longer cassette tape was cheaper per minute than a shorter one of the same cost, the quality of the music being irrelevant), and Why Capitalism Is Better Than Communism (it was during the Reagan Administration, I even remember the propaganda filmstrips). I think we might have spent a day or two on different kinds of insurance. Topics that in retrospect I would have liked to have seen but didn’t include how to decipher utility bills, how interest works, credit cards and other short term debt (pay it off ASAP!), secured debt such as car notes and mortgages, and basic investment vehicles (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc).

Have a great weekend, folks!



Taken in my back yard with a “potato”*. At least one lantana is starting to bloom, which means the hummingbird and butterfly buffet will soon be in full swing.

In Closing: Why doesn’t Johnny just go to broadway and get it over with?; Save Our Post Office; Wingnut screaming about how if we had Russian wiretap laws we could have prevented Boston in 3…2…1…; there just has to be a middle ground between “college for all” (value of a degree for none) and “you are clearly doomed to menial labor because of your race/ethnicity/gender”; the monolithic “left“; dumbass; Compare and Contrast.

* Derogatory term for certain cell phone cameras.

5150 Shorties Way

Let’s clean up some tabs here…. It’s supposed to be cold in Vegas tonight. First person to say that disproves global warning gets smacked upside the head.

It’s called “math”:  Someone notices that rent can be more than a mortgage these days. Funny thing, your landlord is entitled to a profit over paying his own mortgage!

Go ahead, opt out. They dare you: The TSA. And be sure you have an ID with your age on it if you look young.

Drink Up: Red wine seemingly increases testosterone, and reduces the amount peed away.

Musique Concrete: How Dr. Who changed music.

That leaves 1-3 hours for eating, pooping, demanding attention, and running around like a fuzzy maniac: Cats spend the rest of the time sleeping and grooming.

Defused: The latest school shooting rampage was not stopped by “a good guy with a gun.” It was stopped by a teacher talking him into laying down the weapon. Hmm.

Free Gift!: You can now play CDs you bought from Amazon from the cloud in many cases. Even if you bought them 15 years ago. Surprise!

Dave Johnson: He tends to be a bit long winded, but he’s correct.

Too Big To Fail must be Too Big To Exist: Robert Reich.

Didn’t anybody else think the headline didn’t make sense?: It turns out there was a lot more to the story of the woman fired for being too attractive.

And now back to their usual silliness: The American Academy of Pediatrics thinks it would be wonderful to have a doctor in every school. Well sure it would, particularly since I’m sure they would want that doctor to be one of their members! I’m not sure where they think these doctors are going to come from, since there is a shortage which will only get worse as Baby Boomers retire. And I’m certainly not sure where they think school districts will come up with the money. After all, average (median?) pay for a pediatrician is $156,000, and that’s one of the low salary specialties. That kind of money could pay for at least 3 teachers. Which do you think will give the district the most bang for the buck in this age of budget cuts?

Last but not least: The best time to buy almost anything.

Diet Research? It must be January.

Yes indeed, it’s the first week of the year, and that means millions of Americans are trying to shed between 5 and 500 pounds. Some scientists were even willing to stick their necks out there and say fructose is a culprit in weight gain (a culprit not the culprit). Check the archives and you will find me many times saying that every weight loss diet that works requires drastically reducing if not altogether eliminating added sugars.

So Loyola University wants to help you out. They’ve got what they think are the top 4 reasons diets fail. Let me save you some reading:

  1. Underestimating calorie intake (e.g. eating too damn much)
  2. Overestimating activity and calories burned (e.g. imagining that an amble around the mall is just like a 5 mile run)
  3. Poor timing of meals (the dreaded “starvation mode“)
  4. Inadequate sleep (having a job and other responsibilities)

Really? I’m on board with reasons 1 and 2, although I see them as two sides of one coin. But do they really think that sleep is a bigger issue than unrealistic expectations in the first place, or diet plans that are for whatever reason unsustainable? Do they think that eating at the wrong time is truly a bigger issue than unsupportive friends and family who –subtly or openly — undermine the dieter’s efforts?

Want to lose weight without torturing yourself? Try eating reasonable portions of real food: plenty of veggies; adequate protein; no sweets, no crap that comes out of a box, no food-like chemistry sets. Hey, it’s no dumber than the other diets you’ve tried over the years.

In Closing: free classes; Downtown Vegas and F15; maybe now somebody will ask banks to follow the law pretty please?; Onnabugeisha; ha!; conform or be called a terrorist; Malala; why oh why did Texas give him a second term?; more employment data than you probably want; somebody inform Scalia that 24 is not a documentary; the estate tax is not a wealth tax, it’s a wealth moving into the hands of someone who didn’t actually earn it tax; it turns out you need facts before you can figure out what to think about them; well that’s gonna have conservative panties in a wad; the Romney Loophole; is anybody surprised by this?; and I think Brent may have been playing Black Ops 2.