Monday, June 26, 2006

Boys are doing better too

According to a large study reported in the Washington Post, boys' test scores are getting better--just not improving as quickly as girls'.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

New rules for etiquette

How does etiquette evolve to accommodate new situations, like instant messaging, transgender couples, multi-income relationships?
The Urban Etiquette Handbook -- New York Magazine puts together some advice:

Can you reject a Friendster, Facebook, or MySpace friend request from someone you know?
No. It’s not as though adding someone to your online social network costs anything: The only potential damage is to the perceived quality of your accumulated friends. And if you know someone who judges you based on your Friendster network, then, well, like Mom said, he’s not your real Internet friend anyway.

When can you send a thank-you via e-mail?
A mass e-mail is actually preferable when thanking people who combined to put together a work project or totally rockin’ party, as it emphasizes the communal nature of the achievement and offers the opportunity for public praise. Everything else (e.g., weddings, gifts, anniversaries, job promotions or interviews, etc.) still goes on nice, high-fiber stationery or a store-bought card.
See the article for more helpful advice on things like when you need to unplug your iPod (when you see somebody you know), which officemates to invite to a wedding (people who can fire you), how do you turn down a playdate for a kid you don't like (compliment the other kid).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Not descended from Genghis Khan after all

I mentioned last week that this news about being related to Genghis Khan is less interesting than it appears, now the NYTimes reports that the accountant in Florida is not a direct descendent after all. A second, more detailed test, by rival firm Family Tree DNA of Houston, showed that the first test was a fluke.

I've been skeptical of these tests because I'm not sure what kinds of quality controls exist for these companies, and I suspect that you might get different results depending on who does the test and when.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Go ahead and melt the North Pole

Patrick J. Michaels seems like a mainstream climate expert, with plenty of credentials (including aPhD in climatology from U-Wisconsin). He thinks people are mispresenting global warming.

One thing he says, which I can't refute and now seems obvious: If all the ice at the North Pole were to melt, it wouldn't affect the world's sea levels at all. The North Pole is ocean, frozen over with ice. Just like how if you melt an ice cube in a glass of water, the level of water won't change, global warming that melted the entire North Pole wouldn't change the world's sea levels.

Of course, that level of warming would melt plenty of land-bound ice that would find its way to the ocean, raising sea levels. But I assume the scientists who calculate all this stuff have taken the North Pole's ocean-locked status into account?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Home values drop 4% when a sex offender moves nearby

According to a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper titled "There Goes the Neighborhood", your home value drops 4% when a registered sex offender moves within one-tenth of a mile from you.

[via Freakonomics blog]

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

One True Media Home

One True Media Home is a Kleiner-Perkins-backed startup with an interesting idea: let people edit their videos on line. This is one of those potentially good ideas where everything is about execution. If they make it easy and useful, then it could be very successful; if it’s just another upload-and-wait site, then who cares. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve added it to my watchlist.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Economist this week

Here are the articles I found most interesting in my weekly read of the Economist June 8th, 2006:

More on Amazon's Mechanical Turk

Men are better than woman at spotting angry faces, according to Mark Williams and Jason Mattingley, Univ of Melbourne. Published in Current Biology.

Medis Technologies will soon begin sales of disposable fuel cells based on sodium borohydride. Retail price is about $15 for something that will run an iPod for 60 hours.

Studies by California's Air Resources Board confirm that generating the electricity to power cars in pure-electric mode produces only about half of the greenhouse gases of typical petrol vehicles.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Nobody starts out wanting a 30,000 square foot home

VANITY FAIR has a feature article about property values in my wife's home town:

On average, the price paid for a house in Greenwich last year was $2.5 million, up 40 percent in just two years. (Of all the houses sold in 2005, only seven fetched less than $500,000.) If houses worth more than $10 million used to be big news, they're not these days. The number that sold for $10 million or more in Greenwich has climbed more than fivefold in two years, from 3 houses in 2003 to 16 in 2005, according to a search of the town's Multiple Listing Service.

The average sized new home is 15,000 square feet, compared to the U.S. average of 2,400. The population of Greenwich is 63,000.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Weekend at Ft. Worden

My son and I are part of the Mercer Island Y-Guides program, in a nice group of boys from West Mercer called the "Screaming Wolves". We spent last weekend at Fort Worden, not far from Port Townsend on the Olympic Penninsula.

Watch the video:

Fathers of boys and girls from kindergarten through third grade are encouraged to join the Y-guides, and for some reason Mercer Island has one of the highest participation rates in the country (I'm told that the girls' group has the highest). Back in Neillsville when I was a boy, we had cub scouts, but I don't see much scouting activity here. Hopefully that changes with older kids.