Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The World Can Fit in Texas

If the entire population of Earth, almost 7 billion people, lived in the same population density as New York City, they could fit inside of the state of Texas. And yet Texas is still trying to keep people out.

Of course that's not counting the farmland required to feed them, but still, pretty cool.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Emptying the Bottle: Late-August '11 Links

Here is a list of the worthwhile links I've Bookmarked recently:
As always, feel free to email me anything interesting you come across.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why Many Ignore Ron Paul

I've been an open supporter and voter for Ron Paul (here, here, and here), who recently placed second in the Iowa straw poll. Yet, you may not have heard about it. Jon Stewart explains it as only he can:

Here's Tim Stanley from the Telegraph with a pretty good explanation why:
Sometimes the media ignores Ron Paul out of ignorance or spite. Sometimes it’s because they’ve done the math and convinced themselves that he can’t win. Other times, I suspect that they take a look at the people chanting his name in the bleachers and they don’t like what they see. The Paulites are good folk worried about the direction of their country, but their exclusion from the mainstream makes them come off like the vanguard of a Hicksville revolution. Television is a cool medium. Ron Paul and his angry army are too hot for it.
Update: But Ron Paul's not frustrated. From Dr. Paul:
it’s not like I’m just trying to win and get elected. I’m trying to change the course of history.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Europe/Africa Trip in Pictures

In late June my wife and I put all our belongings in storage and set off to visit family in Europe and North Africa. Like last year's trip to NYC, I'll just give the highlights:

The Transatlantic Flight

My new rule in flying is never assume anything. Since our first honeymoon flight together my wife and I have created a bad habit of running in airports. Apparently in Boston Logan, no gate number doesn't mean to wait, it means it's an international flight (which is on the other side of the airport).

Madrid-Barajas Airport
My favorite airport of the trip was easily Madrid. It was one of our longest layovers, which shouldn't be underestimated. One of the things I noticed on the flight over is that I had a very hard time telling who was an American and who was not. It seems the entire West looks American to me.

Granada, Spain

We came to this medium sized city in Southern Spain to visit Traci's brother, his wife, and their adorable son.

Better than any picture I took
 We saw the Granada Cathedral (above) and the once-Muslim-later-Catholic palace The Alhambra (below).

It's interesting to be in a city that was once devout Catholic, then taken over by the Moors (Muslims), then taken back over back Catholics, only to be ruled by the fascist dictator Francisco Franco during WWII. It's created a nation of people who seem to be done with religion and done with work. Though not entirely.

This was one of the most fascinating people we met. He's the owner of a small but successful olive oil shop. He reminded me how important personality is for entrepreneurship.

Every American city needs one of these!

Spain was a wealthy Western European nation that seemed in most ways similar to the US. The main difference seemed to be the difference between rural and city culture more than American and European culture. Unlike our next destination.

Tangier, Morocco

We came to this large Muslim city in North Africa to visit another of Traci's brother, his wife, and their two equally adorable children.

View from their porch
With a larger language, cultural, and fashion barrier than Spain, we spent more time indoors.

Playing cards.

Reading The Boxcar Children (did you know they get out of the Boxcar?).

And playing musical chairs.

I'm not afraid to win
Amsterdam, Netherlands

The last leg of our trip was spent to visit my sister and her new husband.

As you can see the weather in Amsterdam is quite colder, even in July. Every imaginable mode of transportation exists here. Cars, mopeds, trams, and...

Boats! And...


Cologne, Germany and Bree, Belgium

While in the Netherlands we took a day trip to Cologne and Bree. Here's my favorite thing we saw all trip.

The Cologne Cathedral

Like something out of a fairy tale.

We walked all the way to the top!

Madrid, Spain

Twice on our 3 1/2 week trip we had an overnight connection in Madrid. What started as a costly annoyance turned out to be one of my favorite cities. Not only was Madrid clean and safe, it was extremely easy to get around. For 1 Euro you can get anywhere in the city on the subway.

Despite a 7 1/2 layover in Tangier and getting called an asshole by a old Dutch woman, the trip went off without a hitch. The whole experience helped me better understand European and Arab culture. How similar (cultural religion isn't just a thing of the American South) and how different (like how old women and children are on the streets in Spain at 2am) people can be. Thanks again to all the family and friends who showed us around!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Worthwhile Sentences on Feelings

From Justin Landwehr: "The evil twins of humility are narcissism and shyness."

From Larry Summers: "I think you have to decide whether achievement is the route to self-esteem or whether self-esteem is the route to achievement."

From Dan Ariely's blog: "Being given the option to determine the time of our own death can transform patients from powerless victims of their illness to willing survivors of it."

From Maya Angelou: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

From James Geary: "When in doubt, remain in doubt." (via Justin Wehr).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Great Television Shows Make You Smarter

Whether it's LOST, The Wire, or my recent European trip find Mad Men, complex TV series' may be more than just entertaining. In a recent post Jonah Lehrer shows how the Flynn Effect, the measurable increase in IQ from generation to generation, is not just because of improvements in education and diet. If the top 5%, who have had access to plenty of food and education for decades,  has also increased, then there must be some other "environmental stimulation”:
One frequently cited factor is the increasing complexity of entertainment, which might enhance abstract problem solving skills. (As Flynn himself noted, “The very fact that children are better and better at IQ test problems logically entails that they have learned at least that kind of problem-solving skill better, and it must have been learned somewhere.”) This suggests that, because people are now forced to make sense of Lost or the Harry Potter series or World of Warcraft, they’re also better able to handle hard logic puzzles. (The effect is probably indirect, with the difficult forms of culture enhancing working memory and the allocation of attention.) As Steven Johnson argued, everything bad is good for us, especially when the bad stuff has lots of minor characters and subplots.
In the name of self improvement, is there any other "homework" I should be watching?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Emptying the Bottle: Early-August '11 Links

Here is a list of the worthwhile sites I've Bookmarked recently:
As always, feel free to email me anything interesting you come across.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Greenville, My New Home

I'm officially back in the country, less homeless, and ready to get back on the blogging train. There's no where better to start than NPR's recent spotlight on the success of my new home Greenville, SC. Here's the intro:
During the worst of the recession, new development ground to a halt and small businesses closed their doors on many Main Streets throughout the country.

That wasn't the case in Greenville, S.C. And while it seems improbable that a city would thrive during the recession, Greenville's mayor credits a mix of good luck and good fundamentals.