When a man carries a gun all the time, the respect he thinks he’s gettin’ might really be fear. So I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they would respect me.

— Andy Taylor, The Andy Griffith Show (TV Series), TV or Not TV (1965)

NIH director: Budget cuts put U.S. science at risk

Budget pressures now force the National Institutes of Health to reject half of worthwhile research proposals, putting scientific progress at risk and leading bright U.S. minds to consider relocating.

The NIH budget peaked in fiscal year 2010 at $31.2 billion, falling to $30.15 billion for fiscal year 2014.

Due to inflation, the NIH budget has lost 25% of its purchasing power over the last decade, Collins says.

Source: NIH director: Budget cuts put U.S. science at risk

What Happened with LEGO – Reality Prose

“What happened with Legos? They used to be simple. Oh come on, I know you know what I’m talking about. Legos were simple. Something happened out here while I was inside. Harry Potter Legos, Star Wars Legos, complicated kits, tiny little blocks. I mean I’m not saying it’s bad, I just wanna know what happened.” — Prof. Cane – Community

Let’s take a look at the history of LEGO pricing and try to figure out what is going on.

If all the signs lead to the price of LEGO not increasing overtime, then why is there a common belief that it has? I have couple hypotheses:

  1. Children who were bought LEGO as gifts are now old enough to buy it for themselves and for others as gifts and they are surprised by the price.
  2. The advent of collectible LEGO sets and the internet has driven the secondary market of LEGO through the roof

Source: What Happened with LEGO – Reality Prose

Q&A Interview with Dan Greer – The Washington Post

Trust, what’s the definition of trust? You know I have a sort of personal definition of privacy and a personal definition of security. For me, trust is the availability of effective recourse. I don’t guard myself if I have effective recourse

Man, what is public these days? If I can read your newspaper from orbit, what is public? If I can tell where you are in your house by imaging through the wall, what is public? On and on and on. … Just because it’s observable without crossing the boundaries of your property, does that mean it’s public? I think if we don’t do something, that’s where it’s going. … What is the public domain? That’s really the question. Technology is changing what is public by changing what is observable, and that’s what I’m getting at. And I don’t know the answer, but I do know that if we don’t answer it, things will continue.

Source: Why one of cybersecurity’s thought leaders uses a pager instead of a smart phone – The Washington Post

Is Every Speed Limit Too Low?

Americans nearly universally speed, and excess speed is a factor in many accidents. But what if higher speed limits made roads safer?

The answer lies in realizing that the speed limit really is just a number on a sign, and it has very little influence on how fast people drive.

a minority of drivers do follow the speed limit. … This is important because, as noted in a U.S. Department of Transportation report, “the potential for being involved in an accident is highest when traveling at speed much lower or much higher than the majority of motorists.” … Traffic engineers believe that the 85th percentile speed is the ideal speed limit because it leads to the least variability between driving speeds and therefore safer roads.

In its 1992 report, the U.S. Department of Transportation cautioned, “Arbitrary, unrealistic and nonuniform speed limits have created a socially acceptable disregard for speed limits.”

Source: Is Every Speed Limit Too Low?

Why weird congressional districts can be good congressional districts – The Washington Post

To make it, they used what they call the shortest splitline algorithm. Basically, they used the shortest possible line to cut a state into two halves with roughly equal populations. Then they did so again, and again, and again, until they had the proper number of overall districts.

Source: This is what America would look like without gerrymandering – Vox

 

To put it more bluntly, pretty little districts could actually be pretty terrible. That is, they could be terrible at doing what districts are supposed to do: engender good representation.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t entertain reforms to the redistricting process, such as having more independent commissions, and fewer incumbent legislators, draw the lines. But whoever draws the lines, there’s no reason to draw straight ones. Representation is about people, not polygons.

Source: Why weird congressional districts can be good congressional districts – The Washington Post by John Sides

When It’s Bad to Have Good Choices – The New Yorker

Why are well-fed people in affluent countries often unhappy and anxious?

The choices between those objects that they valued most highly were both the most positive and the most anxiety-filled. The more choices they had—the study was repeated with up to six items per choice—the more anxious they felt.

What changes as we move from the scarcity of wartime Warsaw to the abundance of the First World isn’t the nature of the anxiety, it’s just the nature and significance of the choice itself. In one case, it seems heart-wrenching; in the other, trivial. Our brains, though, don’t make those kinds of value judgments: to them, a difficult choice is a difficult choice. And difficult choices mean anxiety.

Source: When It’s Bad to Have Good Choices – The New Yorker

 

Having good choices might foster critical thinking, self-reliance, etc. But that doesn’t stop it the experience from being stressful or making you anxious, possibly even for a long time after you’ve made the decision, which IMHO was the takeaway from the article — that the more impactful and closer a choice is, the harder it is and the more anxious that makes people. Needing to pick between job offers in your home town, or far away in the big city can still make you anxious, but it is still good to have that choice. And nowhere in the article do I see support for the state/government to step in to artificially reduce choice.

How many people agonize over where to go to college, what to major in, or whether or not to get engaged/married to their current significant other, or regret such decisions years or decades later *because they changed their mind about being able to do better*? IMHO, they aren’t upset that they made an objectively bad choice (although I’m sure that happens too), but that they feel they made a relatively bad choice given that they now know all the details and specifics of their actual choice and only know the highlights of the foregone choice.