Thursday, February 28, 2008
New research from a recent survery of 12,000 17 year-olds would indicate that we are getting dumber as a society, at least when it comes to history and literature.
Not sure how to remedy this, because I don't think children will be increasing the amount of time they spend reading any time soon. Teachers are trying, and parents can try to step it up more, but I think it may be hard to convince the new generation that history and literature are worthwhile to learn, when they could go play Guitar Hero for hours on their PS3.
Speaking of dumb, check out this link to a "stupid criminal" tidbit that Jay Leno likes to run on his "Headlines" segments on Monday nights.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Also, a new study demonstrates that illegal immigrants actually commit FEWER crimes than U.S. born citizens. Probably because the illegals are too busy working, doing the jobs that many Americans don't want to do.
Here's the scoop. McCain was holding a campaign rally. Prior to his arrival, a few repubs were warming up the crowd. One of them was local conservative radio host, Bill Cunningham. He repeatedly bashed Obama and kept referring to his by using middle name (Hussein).
McCain profusely apologized afterwards. It is refreshing to see that he is not stooping to low levels as to try to conflate Barack Obama and the evil, and now dead, former dictator from Iraq.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
1. Prayers for coffee- I can't really understand why the owners would use this as their business model, but a parish-run cafe allows people to "pay" for their coffee by saying a prayer aloud. I understand they want people to be religious, but I don't think bribery should be used to make people more spiritual...do you? How can a quick recitiation of the Lord's Prayer while waiting to drink your steaming hot coffee be honest and sincere prayer? I think the owners are kidding themselves.
2. Get your ZZZZZZZs- a new study from Finland finds that people who sleep less, on average, are more likely to die (studied via 15 years of follow-up).
3. Smartest TV shows- Mensa has released its list of the 10 smartest TV shows of all time. I agree with most of the choices...check out the list and see if you agree. The two choices I would have to disagree with are "Boston Legal" and "House". Boston Legal was very weird and, as for House, the show is just so wrong medically, that I can't include it on the list. Dr. House routinely orders tests and performs procedures on patients that are completely outlandish. Much more realistic medical shows were "Chicago Hope" and even "ER" (most of the time).
Two shows that should be on the list are "Seinfeld" and the "Simpsons". Both shows had amazing writing that exploited the absurdity of everyday human life in a way few other shows did. Both shows had references to current events, pop culture, or human psychology that required one to be current and knowledgeable to understand the joke.
4. Memory like an elephant- Read this story about this man who has amazing memory. He must have the opposite gene of Alberto "I don't recall" Gonzales.
5. Indecent exposure- "Is that a paint brush in your pocket or are you happy to see me"- check out this artist who uses a 'strange' tool as his brush.
6. Say "chesse" Roger!- evidence, perjury, jail. The gig is up Mr. Clemens.
7. Photo- wondering what the photo was? That's right...cooked dog paws, a Chinese delicacy. That's disgusting and cruel.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The best blog on the internet is called "Stuff White People Like". It is so insightful and hilarious.
Don't spend too much time over there....come back to this blog soon, but this blog is a GREAT blog....check it out:
#62 Knowing what's best for poor people
#59 Natural medicine
#54 Kitchen gadgets
#51 Living by the water
#45 Asian fusion food
Who am I kidding...I'm going to stop listing these because they are all very funny. Read it and laugh. I'm including the link permanently on this site so you can keep abreast of the latest favs of white people.
Are we getting dumber (as a society)? And, if we are getting dumber, is it because of technology?
It sounds ridiculous at first, because we collectively know so much more about the world, about science, about medicine, about outer space because of all the tech advances in the past half century. But, are people (and most importantly children) smarter now then 50 years ago? For example, Google allows us to have so much information at our fingertips, but doesn't that ability obviate the need to learn things and retain the knowledge? In the past, people had to read books and encyclopedias to keep up on topics. People who read more and remembered more were called "smart". However, now, we are always two clicks away from finding info on the number one export of Kazakhstan, so, why bother learning about culture, geography, history, etc? (BTW, from what I remember from Borat's movie, Kazakhstan was the number one exporter of potassium, my favorite cation).
As another example, the current medical residents rely heavily upon their palm pilots or the web program "Uptodate" at the multitude of computers around the hospital. The incentive to learn and committ things to memory and understand them has largely vanished because of the complete ease of information that can be obtained via the internet. Finally, you must admit that the proliferation of the super high-definition video games provides a huge distraction for children for learning and doing homework.
Other questions to ponder:
1. Are children in the near future going to have terrible handwriting because they type so much and barely write?
2. In 10 years, we will ever need to rent a movie from Blockbuster or Netflix (won't they all be online)?
3. How much are kids cheating in school via smart phones or even text-messaging each other during exams?
4. How much are kids plagiarizing papers off of the internet?
All of this brings me to my FAVORITE Youtube video of the past year...Miss Teen South Carolina. I'm sure all of you have seen it, but please watch it again for a good laugh. And then cry, because this may be representative of the knowledge level of the next generation (and because she ended up coming in third in the contest despite her pathetic answer).
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Watch this amazing exchange between Chris Matthews and Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson. Watson came on MSNBC as an Obama supporter, but watch what happens when Matthews asked him to name one significant legislative accomplishment that Obama has had. Mr. Watson was absolutely dumb-founded. Matthews asked him again, and still the man had no answer.
At the end, Olbermann had the best quip, when he asked Matthews, "Can you name one significant accomplisment by the US Senate in the last 7 years?"
Sorry for the quality of the video...I video taped my TV screen with my camera.
2. This is an unbelievable story about a man who cut off his own arm to save his life as he got his hand stuck in a corn-shucker.
3. Stop wasting your money- Glucosamine doesn't work...
Monday, February 18, 2008
Sorry for the delay folks.
1. Obamamania- Hillary leads Obama 49-43% in the Wisconsin poll (primary is tomorrow). Note, Wisconsin allows same day registration, so the poll may be unpredictable. Remember, Wisconsin sits next to the state (Minnesota) that also has same day voter registration...a state that elected none other than "Jesse the Body" Ventura as their governor a few years back.
Also, the latest CNN Poll has Obama and Hillary neck-in-neck in Texas (50-48%). It's going to be a very interesting primary.
2. Good Ol' Boy- George HW Bush officially endorsed John McCain today and took a jab at the right wing media that has been denigrating Mr. McCain.
Speaking of that topic, one that I have touched on a few times previously in this blog, there are many recent articles about the battle between McCain and the right-wing conservatives.
3. Bite your tongue- Fareed Zacharia (who has written one of my favorite books of all time, "Future of Freedom"), has a very interesting piece in Newsweek about the "End of Conservatism". A lot of the readers of this blog will not be happy with that title or premise, but read the piece, it is excellent.
1. Doctors, wash your hands- This has been a long-time coming. Starting in October, Medicare will no longer re-imburse hospitals for preventable errors and "iatrogenic" complications. This is a great free-market move to get hospitals to improve quality of care. Why should hospitals make MORE money when someone gets an infection while in the hospital? Or, get reimbursed for complications from surgery, such as forgetting to remove sponges from the body cavity or if the patient gets bed sores? It is estimated that this new policy will save the government about $190 million over 5 years.
2. Dirty lemons- Those yummy lemon wedges you get with your drink at the restaurant are loaded with bacteria, including fecal bacteria. Watch this video for the full story. Kind of gross, but the good thing to remember is that despite the bacteria, it doesn't seem that these lemon wedges have caused significant disease.
(make sure to include both == after the URL...I've never seen that before, but it brings you to the video)
3. Where's the beef?- Remember that video I posted about the cows being treated poorly? (http://cocanuts.blogspot.com/2008/01/food-sampler.html) Well, it turns out that it was that video that was the impetus behind the recall of 143 million pounds of beef.
4. Health care fraud- more dispicable behavior by the insurance companies. Check this out...who got screwed? The patients, of course. We need to change this system.
5. Deadly drug- A drug to stop bleeding after cardiac surgery, called Trasylol, has been removed from the market by the FDA. The drug increased the risk of kidney failure and death after surgery. Interestingly, it was the most commonly used drug to stop bleeding after cardiac surgery, even though 2 drugs that are much cheaper are just as effective and do not increase the risk of kidney failure or death (trasylol costs > $1000, the other two about $50).
Check out the article and video from "60 Minutes" last night. This demonstrates more subversive behavior by pharmaceutical companies that are NOT in the best interest of the patients (it all comes down to money, again).
1. Vindication- This just in...Pakistani's have overwhelmingly voted against President Musharaff's party, by electing a prime minister and several parliamentary seats from opposition parties.
2. GWB (no, not George W. Bush)- What nation is the "happiest" in the world? Denmark, of course. Check out the story from "60 Minutes" last night. It seems they certainly have a good quality of life, despite of a 50% marginal tax rate. The drive for money is less, but at least according to the 4 Danes they interviewed, they still have ambition and drive to be successful. Although, their definition of success is probably different from that of most Americans.
I sometimes wonder if the Europeans really have got "living" down to a science. There was a great article in the Economist about 1 year ago that stated that countries should be compared on a parameter other than GDP (gross domestic product) and instead should be compared on GWB ("General Well Being"). It sounds corny, but I tend to agree.
"Just describe for me the qualities that a successful person would have in
this country," Safer asked.
"Well, in order to see myself as a success I would
want to be happy and have a lot of time with my family. I think that's very
important to me. And the money is not that important," he replied.
While we're talking about it, yhy don't you take this "Happiness Test"...
1. Steroidgate- Andy Pettite had a press conference today, apologizing for his use of performance-enhancing drugs. He said little about Clemens, except to say that their relationship was "strained" and that they have not spoken since Clemens pathetic performance on the Capitol Hill last week. Pettite is a good guy and is obviously telling the truth. Clemens should stop lying and just admit it. He is looking worse and worse as the days pass.
2. Spygate- Belichick is denying that he taped the Rams practice before the 2002 Super Bowl. I still don't understand why the NFL destroyed all of the tapes. Why would they destroy the evidence? I need to do more research on this, but it all sounds fishy.
3. Stop Crying Bostonians- For all of the New England Patriots fans, there is one place on earth when they are considered undefeated at 19-0. In Nicaragua, they are the "Super Bowl Champion" New England Patriots.
1. The Maestro- This was an uplifting and inspiring story shown on "60 Minutes" last night. It chronicles the supersonic rise of Venezuelan-born Gustavo Dudamel. He is only 26 years old, and was recently selected as the new director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His energy is frenetic and limitless. Best part about Gustavo? He still goes back to Barquisimeto, Venezuela to conduct the Simon Bolivar National Youth Orchestra, a group composed of young talents all less than 25 years old. And, he plans on starting a music program for poor and impoverished students in L.A.
This does remind me of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes when Elaine was dating the maestro (the guy who played the school teacher in the Twisted Sister video "I Wanna Rock"). He taught Kramer and George's dad the secret to keeping dress slacks wrinkle free...don't sit down in them. So, George's mom walks in on pantless Kramer, Mr. Contanza, and the Maestro playing pool (using the Maestro's conducting baton as their pool cue because the room was too small)...all in their boxer shorts. Very funny television.
2. Writer's strike- Thank goodness the writer's strike is over. I can't take any more reality TV on the networks. Unfortunately, it is too late for my favorite show to return to the air this season. That's right, "24" will not return until 2009, because Fox does not want to air the highly popular and critically acclaimed thriller show during the summer, when ratings are lower. So, we will have to wait to see Jack Bauer and crew until Jan 2009. So, Keifer has time to get drunk and get caught drunk-driving again, go to jail, and get out again in time for the next season of "24".
As for me, I will have to continue to subsist on a steady diet of my favorite non-network shows...Fast Money, Mad Money, Man vs. Wild, Mythbusters, Survivorman, The Daily Show, and Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Whew...that's all for now.
Friday, February 15, 2008
But, in fact, human beings are all irrational and emotional in economic matters as they are in most other aspects of their lives. Like our primate cousins (see previous post for more on primates), humans so dislike the feeling of regret that we’ll pay to avoid it.
I, for one, voted that I would rather be Mr. A. For me, the regret of missing the opportunity to be the 1 millionth customer and get $850 more dollars would outweigh the fact that Mr. B got $50 more than Mr. A. Being Mr. A, you are the only winner. There was no potential to gain more by having acting differently (except for going to the other theatre that was paying more for the millionth...but for the sake of this quiz, we assume Mr. A did not even know about the other theater that Mr. B attended).
To me, it all comes out to the theory that 'you can't miss what you never had'. In Mr. B's scenario, I could've had a lot more money if I had just left my house 20 seconds sooner, or driven there just a little faster, or made it through one of the yellow lights on the way. Ugghhh, that would drive me crazy. However, being Mr. A, I would be happy that I had $100 more than I expected when I left the house. Rationally, I know that $150 is better than $100 straight up, but I cannot eliminate emotionality out of my reasoning (but apparently 2/3rd of the voters in our poll can do so).
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
1. Back Pain- A study published in JAMA yesterday reveals that despite a 65% inflation-adjusted increase in spending on back pain and medications, to $86 billion, the percentage of people with back and neck pain that limited function increased from 21 to 26% between 1997 to 2005.
Most of the expenditures were on pain killers like Oxycontin. I guess the solution would be more preventive care and less "reactive care" (waiting until disease to treat symptoms). However, check out #2...
2. Is Preventive Care bunk? An analysis published today in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that "preventive care" actually may not be that cost-effective. In fact, it found that preventive measures and treatments actually cost about the same amount. Initially, I found this report troubling because the great hope of public health policy experts and Democrats in congress was that altering the health care system to a more preventive type would improve outcomes and would save money. Although, if it costs about the same, isn't it better to prevent disease than to treat an established disease?
3. Don't live near an airport- a study of nearly 5,000 people found that an increase in night time airplane noise of 10 decibels increased the risk of high blood pressure by 14 percent in both men and women.
4. Diet soda? That's not healthy either. A new study reveals that the risk of developing metabolic syndrome was 34 percent higher among those who drank one can of diet soda a day compared with those who drank none. Eating more meat and fried foods was also associated with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the precusor to diabetes. It is a syndrome that involves abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol (mostly triglycerides), and slightly elevated blood glucose. It is not clear why this was the case. It may be a chemical in the diet sodas. One would guess also that people who are heavy with high blood pressure to start would drink more diet soda, but the authors tried to adjust for this in their analysis.
That is a very good looking dog. Congratulations Snoopy!
Voters who said they listened to conservative talk radio were more likely to vote for Huckabee, while non-listeners tended to support McCain. The more often people listened to conservative talk radio, the less likely they were to vote for McCain.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Clemens bid for the Hall of Fame is toast.
Coleman's wife played down their height gap.''That doesn't really matter to me,'' she said. ''He was 10 feet tall to me because he was sweet and I really liked his personality.''
As the 100,000th customer of a movie theatre, Mr. A wins a prize of $100. Meanwhile, down the block, Mr. B is standing just behind another theatre’s one-millionth customer. That lucky patron wins $1,000, while Mr. B collects a consolation prize of $150. Would you rather be Mr. A or Mr. B? (please vote in upper right corner of page...please no gender jokes. If you are female, pretend it is Ms. A and Ms. B that you are trying to decide between)
Check out this video of this "Freezing Time" prank at Grand Central Station. It's pretty funny.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
The reasons they hate McCain are ridiculous. I’ve pointed out the reasons before in a previous post (http://cocanuts.blogspot.com/2008/02/super-tuesday-eve.html). Let me add one thing to McCain's seemingly anti-conservative, "anti-Reagan" (as they claim) stances. While these radio folk LOVE to extol the conservative virtues of Reagan and criticize McCain for his positions on immigration, taxes, campaign finace reform, let us remember a few things. Reagan signed an “amnesty bill” for illegals in 1983, raised taxes 11 times after his big initial cut of the top marginal rate from 70 to 28% in 1982, and he was the president at a time when the budget deficit ballooned to a record 153 billion from 73 billion. Furthermore, the number of workers on the federal payroll rose by 61,000 under Reagan (the number fell by 373,000 under Clinton).
The big topic this morning on the Sunday morning political shows was whether the conservative radio crew would now support McCain since he is well on his way to capturing the nomination. Some said they would have to support him now, but others pointed to an interesting conspiracy theory. They felt that the talk show people (Rush, etc) would NOT support McCain and would rather have a democrat win the nomination because, at the very least, these people on the radio will have more fun and get higher ratings when they have someone in the White House that they can continually “bash”. Raging against the machine provides better entertainment than “Nice job Dubya”.
The S&P 500 was down 6% in January and is down 9.3% for 2008. That's a terrible start to the year. European and emerging markets were down > 10%. In fact, this article states that, in aggregate absolute terms, the world stockmarkets lost 5.2 TRILLION dollars in January.
My question to everybody out there is, where does that money go? How can there be a net loss of money? Doesn't the money go somewhere? For every trade, isn't there a buyer and seller? Did hedge funds that were "shorting" the market MAKE 5.2 trillion?
Also, although the market was bad last month, check out this chart from the greatest stock market crash of all-time from the Great Depression in the 1930s. I cannot even imagine the pain people must have been feeling, both from the terrible economy (no jobs or low wages), and all of the losses in the market (from 9/3/29 to 7/8/32, the market was down 89.2%).
But, folks, don't be down about this downturn. Remember that the average bear market only lasts around 6 months, and the average recession lasts about 10 months. Plus, look at this article in the following link. The market was actually increased in 5 of the last 9 recessions. And, look at the column in Table 1 demonstrating the 3 and 10 year returns from the start of the recession. All are significantly higher.
Bottom line, is that these next few weeks to months will actually be a great time to buy equities "on sale", and if you can stomach it and wait it out, your diligence and patience will pay off.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
This Sunday (Feb 10th), 60 Minutes will air on piece on the fate of the penny.
Should we abolish the penny? There are plenty good arguments to do so. First, the government loses about $900 million per year minting pennies (zinc, which makes up 97.5% of pennies, is very expensive). Second, it takes time to dig out pennies. Third, studies suggest replacing paper $1 bills with more durable $1 coins could save $500 million a year. Fourth, the penny is virtually worthless. Due to inflation, as of 2007, a nickel is worth approximately what a penny was worth in 1972.
What would happen if the penny is eliminated? All transactions would be rounded to the nearest nickel. I think we should do it. They are a waste of space, and handling them during transactions is not worth the time that is used up to get back exact change.
Let's put it to the vote meter to see how you all feel.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
The extreme failure of the United States to contain medical costs results primarily from our unique, pervasive commercialization. The dominance of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies, a new wave of investor-owned specialty hospitals, and profit-maximizing behavior even by nonprofit players raise costs and distort resource allocation. Profits, billing, marketing, and the gratuitous costs of private bureaucracies siphon off $400 billion to $500 billion of the $2.1 trillion spent, but the more serious and less appreciated syndrome is the set of perverse incentives produced by commercial dominance of the system.
It turns out that Dr. Jarvick is not a cardiologist, is not licensed to practice medicine, and does not even row and it not an outdoorsman! They used a body double for the rowing scenes.
“He’s about as much an outdoorsman as Woody Allen” said a longtime collaborator, Dr. O. H. Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute. “He can’t row.”
This was is not amenable to military tactics. It is not "trench warfare" of WWI or "jungle warfare" of Vietnam. This is like fighting thousands of crazy tazmanian devils that keep multiplying the more you fight against them. I don't know what it will mean "to win this war" or when we will ever get out of there. Their hatred for Americans, for other Muslims, and for humanity is too great.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I hope everybody who was eligible went out and voted today for their candidate of choice.
As of 11:57 PM, it appears that McCain is the big winner on the Republican side, by winning at least 7 primaries, and garnering the majority of delegates. Huckabee has had a decent showing, especially in the southern states. It is a very disappointing night for Willard (Mitt) Romney.
On the Democratic side, Obama has won 11 states, and Hillary has won 8, and is leading in California (55-32%) and overall in the delegate count (170-126). Hopefully, this race will come down to the convention, and deals will need to be brokered at the convention.
McCain wins the nomination and selects Mike Huckabee as his VP (to help him carry the Evangelical South).
Hillary and Obama battle it out over the next several weeks in the remaining primaries. Neither gains the required number of delegates to win outright by the time of the convention, and the House of Representatives has to select a nominee. Clinton probably wins the nomination and selects either Gov. Bill Richarson or Sen. Evan Baye as her running mate. If Obama can keep up the momentum (he has gained in the polls over the past few weeks and did win a significant amount of states tonight), he may sneak out a victory, and he selects someone "out of the box" for his running mate...like Chuck Hagel (a Repub), Bloomberg (Independent), or Wesley Clark (Dem).
It appears that our readership will pocket most of the money (for the 60% that don't earn enough and thus, will receive a check). A total of 65% of you will put the money in the bank or pay off your credit cards. A few will donate to charity. Only 24% will spend the money on goods and services, which supports my hypothesis that this stimulus package will largely be a failure at boosting the economy (see "Stimulus Shimulus" post below).
Please vote on the new poll on the best lies of the year (see post below for the link with the full text of all of the lies).
Check out this list of the best lies of the year. This is a fascinating list, and shows how much politicians spin the truth to try to gain favor in the public eye.
I think the "Best of the Rest" quotes are actually better and more memorable than the top 5. But, let's put it up to the vote meter and make it the next poll. See the poll in the upper right corner to vote for your favorite lies of the year. You can vote for more than one.
This is amazing. Mississippi wants to ban fat people from eating in public restaurants! In general, I do support government-imposed public health restrictions on bad behavior, such as the smoking ban in several cities and states across the U.S. I support the ban on "trans fats". I also was somewhat intrigued by the concept of the "fat tax" that was entertained a few years back (unhealthy fatty foods would have higher taxes than healthy foods).
However, I think they may have crossed the sensitivity line by banning all people with BMI over 30 from eating in restaurants. People still have to eat. Check out the story. They even include the actual verbage of the bill that was proposed.