Monday, December 31, 2012

A comet so bright it can be seen in daylight

In December 2013 a comet will pass near Earth, astronomers are saying it has the potential to be the brightest in hundreds of years - brighter than a full moon!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Today I learned patent infringement is more serious crime than laundering terrorist money

A patent lawsuit wipes out over a year of profits at a tech company. HSBC launders terrorist money and losses 2 weeks of profits. No way has this infringement done more harm to people and to the incentives for companies to "play fair." Ridiculous (this class is ridiculous)

Update: Maybe I could patent a money laundering scheme and sue HSBC for infringing on that patent.

Quite the year for Chicago politics

I did not fully appreciate how eventful of a year this has been Chicago

1. Given the extreme lack of credibility / common sense in the Republican party right now I was glad to see Obama reelected. Plus he's probably further to the right than most would care to admit.

2. The teachers strike really put Chicago front and center in the national debate on pensions and public sector employees. Many people forget that despite a relatively light tax burden at the national level people in high-tax locales such as Chicago, New York and California face overall tax burdens comparable to many European countries. In these cities the non-federal taxes often exceed federal taxes.

3. I was pretty shocked when Jesse Jackson was reelected but I am glad he choose to resign. If he is truly not fit for work then it would be a huge disservice to his constituency to stay in Congress.

4. The pension crisis is one of the biggest reasons I'm hesitant to buy a condo, even if they double property taxes there's still a hole in the state and local pensions. Now the scary part I did a quick back of the envelope calculation suggests that if they double property taxes Chicago home prices will drop by ~20%. Admittedly it wouldn't be an instant drop but rather an "under-performing inflation" type of stagnation. In any case I'd rather not have my money tied up in a Chicago condo right now.

5. Its so strange how for me Chicago feels like a very safe city, but for thousands and thousands of others its not. The murder stats suggest that being in a Chicago gang is more dangerous than being a US soldier in Afghanistan. Crazy. And the worst part is I don't see any solutions, sometimes all we can do is try to make the best of a bad situation.

6. I'm pretty shocked Walsh got as many votes as he did. Demographics alone will end the Republican party as it currently stands. The question is can we last long enough?

7. With their new majority it'll be interesting to see what the Illinois Democrats come up with as solutions to the state's problems. And also what impact those solutions will have on my desire to stay in Chicago.

8. I remember the huge show of police force during the NATO summit, dozens of police officers lining the bridges over the river, it was a very vivid reminder of the tradeoff between safety and freedom.

9. Kirk is one of the few Republicans in Congress who I respect, being from Illinois he is (or at least has to be) liberal on many issues. I voted for him hoping the GOP would move in his direction rather than in the direction of the Tea Party. Perhaps if he and other like-minded (i.e. reasonable) members of the GOP left they could win the support of many independents and centrist Democrats who have left the GOP because of its craziness. I was very sad to hear about his stroke but after a long recovery he appears ready to return to Congress.

10. Blagojevich, good riddance.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Failure #1

Yesterday I got an early start on my year of failure. My garbage disposal has been broken for nearly 2 months and has resisted all my half-assed repair attempts. It was time for a whole-assed attempt. I bust out my working gloves, my screwdrivers and my wrenches - I am determined not to let some 2 horsepower motor get the better of me. I unscrew the pipes, clear the clog and get the disposal running again. Its time to reassemble. First pipe, no problem. Second pipe, won't fit. I push a little harder. Crack, the second pipe breaks, it was too corroded to handle the pressure. There I am sitting on my kitchen floor, staring at the broken shards of pipe. What a cruel twist of fate, I've fixed the disposal but I cannot use it because the drain pipe is broken.

Music by Cities

Great maps from the Atlantic showing the geographic distribution of billboards top 100 tracks and pitchfork's top 100 songs from 2012. The biggest surprise is just how many of billboard's songs are "from" Nashville.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Doppelgangers / The Cooler Me

A couple of weeks ago I discovered my doppelganger, his name is Guillaume. He's a freelance photographer living in Paris, he rides a Japanese motorcycle and was recently in Prague taking pictures. Needless to say I am quite jealous. So when I saw this article come up in my google reader it got me thinking about Guillaume again.

I've never really been one for grand dreams or ambitions. I periodically try to come up with life goals (usually around new years) but I can never come up with something that gets me really fired up. So this year rather than trying to accomplish something I'm going to try to fail at things, at a lot of things, a lot of different things. Here's to 2013, a year of failure, a spectacular failure.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How Couples Meet

With the rise of the online dating for the first time there is tons of easily accessible data on how people look for and choose their partners. A few interesting findings in this paper:

  • The internet has done a lot for gays and lesbians meet but has mostly displaced other forms of socializing for heterosexuals.
  • Relationships formed online tend to last as long as other relationships.
  • Despite the internet, the partnership rate for heterosexuals has remained roughly constant.
Good read through (fun with statistics!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Worst Case Scenarios

Whenever an article references the Stoics I already know that I'm going to like it.

The author suggests that instead of thinking about the best case scenario we ought to think about the worst case scenario. If the worst case scenario is manageable then we ought to proceed with our action. If we think about the best case scenario then more often then not we're going to be disappointed. Thought provoking read throughout.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Life in your 20's

Brilliant article:

Let's see how I've done by their standards.

1. If anything I sometimes take too long to respond to people.

2. My attitude is generally that I'm not owed anything by anyone. So I guess this one is a failure.

3. "Never turn down an open bar" - life's motto here.

4. I struggle with this, I'm always afraid that I'll be changing just for the sake of change. It takes me a long time to identify what specifically is making me unhappy.

5. To the fullest.

6. I have no problem when older more successful people pick up the check.

7. Volleyball.

8. Done.

9. Work in progress.

10. Yup.

11. I keep swearing off 4 am bars yet I keep going back to them :)

12. Paris Club was my "weeping puddle of regret"

13. YES!

14. Viva Barcelona!

15. Meh, probably the worst suggestion on here.

16. Since I know a few people who went last year and it made me lose all desire to go.

17. Done.

18. Uhmmm - probably not applicable, unless I decide to start cross dressing.

19. I like the spirit of the idea but I'm not a fan of road trips.

20. Hahahahahaha, so perfect!

21. Probably the most depressing line of the article. I hope its not true.

Brilliant all around, loved it!