Monday, April 25, 2011

Links Roundup for 4/25/2011

Another batch of fascinating/irritating/brilliant links from around the web.

1) A great video illustration of why people who are vociferously anti-vaccination are total morons. (NSFW language in video at link.)

2) Empire Strikes Back retold in icons.

3) The story of how two random Celtics fans became busom buddies with Kendrick Perkins. Odd.

4) A counterintuitive discourse on password security.

5) Dueling pricing algorithms drive fly genetics book price through roof on Amazon.

6) A thought experiment on running supermarkets like we run public education.

7) Applying the economic way of thinking to analyze the Imperial strategy embodied in the Death Star.

8) This story makes California labor law sound even more screwed up than I thought it was.

9) A brilliant set of GIFs. Seriously, you need to see these.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Economic Nonsense

While listening to the radio yesterday, I heard that the local city bus corporation is installing wind turbines at its administrative HQ. From the story:
A $2.18 million federal grant to the Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corp., which does business as CityBus, is funding the project. The money is part of a federal program aimed at reducing emissions from public transit providers.

Once fully operational, Sennett expects the turbines will cut electrical costs by $30,000 to $40,000 per year.

In addition, up to $250,000 in revenue could come from selling tax credits associated with the project, Sennett said.
According to the local NPR affiliate, the money is some form of federal stimulus funds. Let us assume that these numbers are correct.
  1. Under the most optimistic of all possible assumptions: the turbines save $40K per year, and the $250K is realized immediately upon completion (essentially lowering the overall investment to $1.93 million). The annual return on investment is 2.07%.
  2. Under a more realistic set of assumptions: the $250K is meaningless, as selling tax credits is not a truly value-producing activity; the power generated saves $30K per year. The annual return on investment is 1.38%.
You can get better rates of return off a 5-year CD at the local bank. Add in the fact that these calculations assume that (a) the turbines require no maintenance, and (b) last forever, and you begin to see how idiotic this is. If one factored in capital depreciation (as the turbines deteriorate over time just like a car) it would become even clearer that this is an asinine endeavor. This is what our tax money is paying for? I want a refund.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

But the Fifth One...

I just started watching Babylon 5 (via Netflix streaming), which I remember fondly from my childhood (I was 10 or so when it started). I couldn't help but notice an amusing parallel. Read this description of the Babylon project:
The Babylon Project began in 2248 after the resolution of the Earth-Minbari War, the war itself and it's start being inspiration for the projects foundations. The Babylon 1 was the first of the Babylon Stations, and was being constructed by the Earth Alliance when it's infrastructure collapsed due to sabotage. Babylon 2 began shortly after, and was also destroyed during construction when it exploded due to sabotage. A third attempt at the Babylon Project, Babylon 3 had also been sabotaged, and exploded during construction as Babylons 1 and 2. Finally, Babylon 4 was constructed and brought online in 2254 when it disappeared a mere twenty four hours later. The last of the Babylon Stations, Babylon 5 was constructed and placed into orbit of Epsilon III, thanks to the substantial assistance from the Centauri Republic and the Minbari Federation. Babylon 5 came online in 2257 and ultimately served it's purpose, being decomissioned in 2281, effectively ending the Babylon Project; there was never another Babylon Station.
Then watch this:

Coincidence? I think not!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Via Shamus, I have discovered a hilarious website that combs through your Twitter Feed and mashes it up to form new tweets: That Can Be My Next Tweet! Some samples of what it thinks my next tweet should be:
Fondant isn't a warm fuzzy: Crap.


Awesome hashtag of those at the Katanas: Time to do something detrimental to learn the riskiness of Erik?

My wife and poor education are intimately tied up with FedEx.

Did the time. GAH!

Drug-sniffing dogs: not quite performing the Econtalk podcast. Good grief I'm hoping to learn the chaos?
And my personal favorite pair:
I need a tensorial compliance matrix in NY.
RE cats: I need a culinary abomination.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Links Roundup for 4/4/2011

It's been a while since I did a links roundup, but my browser may crash if I don't offload a few soon.

1) Computational Complexity profiles a bizarre voting scheme, and asks (and answers) the question:
Which of the following is true?
  1. This is a real scheme that was really used.
  2. This scheme was part of a BREAKTHROUGH!!!! result.
  3. This scheme is a counterexample to a conjecture about voting schemes.
  4. This scheme (with parameters) is an example of a voting scheme that is NP-hard to manipulate.
The answer is fascinating.

2) I kind of want one of these cutting boards. Is that a bad thing?

3) Using (and/or abusing) the "special request" box when ordering Domino's online. (via The Consumerist)

4) CBS News runs a segment on modern board gaming. It's all kind of old hat to me, but as a somewhat avid board gamer, I'm glad to see the hobby getting some additional exposure. (One question, though - whence the GenCon footage? GenCon is in early August, so have they really been sitting on this segment for nine months?)

5) Gang fight with a gimmick - to tell would be to spoil it. (via Borepatch)