Monthly Archives: July 2014

Tuesday Pop Quiz

Who said this?

 Corporations, “separate and apart from” the human beings who own, run, and are employed by them, cannot do anything at all. [….]

While it is certainly true that a central objective of for profit corporations is to make money, modern corporate law does not require for-profit corporations to pursue profit at the expense of everything else, and many do not do so. For-profit corporations, with ownership approval, support a wide variety of charitable causes, and it is not at all uncommon for such corporations to further humanitarian and other altruistic objectives.

a. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods
b. Elizabeth Warren
c. Samuel Alito
d. Pope Francis
e. Steve Jobs

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Filed under Law, Nerdiness

For Sale:

As seen on Facebook:

For sale: 51% of a major New England grocery chain. Currently warehouse and delivery drivers are on strike and stores on slowdown. Majority of stores are also refusing deliveries by temporary drivers. The majority of customers are boycotting all stores. The chain has seen more than a 91% drop on sales in one week with equivalent reduction in income. 49% of the chain is held by Arthur T. Demoulas, et al, whom employees, management, and customers demand be restored to the CEO position before normal operation and sales can commence. Arthur T. Demoulas has offered to purchase the 51% at above FMV. His offer must be exceeded. Do I hear any bids?

Without getting into the details of corporate fiduciary duty, it would be hard to imagine a good reason to sell the chain to any other bidder, unless said bidder were delusional.

For readers who are thinking, “I don’t get the joke, but my New England friends keep posting pictures of some guy and ‘Our Boss. Our Only Boss,'” google Market Basket, Artie T., non-union strike, or even Team Artie T.


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Elite Universities: The Good, the Bad, and the Pathological

The Internet is all abuzz with a post about elite universities from The New Republic. (Find commentary here and here.) There are some issues with the article, namely, going from a legitimate gripe about the insane admissions process to assuming that “kids these days” are shallow, self-absorbed twits, or that “real learning” doesn’t happen at good schools.

I’m the first to say that the modern elite college admissions process is best ignored in favour of having a life and doing things that interest you. But the value of being at such a university is not just in the connections or the professors; it is one’s fellow students.

Back in high school, I found plenty of smart, motivated students in the honours and AP courses, but it wasn’t that challenging of an experience.  (I seem to recall spending five minutes a day on my AP chem homework.) That all changed once I hit university and found that I was one of five thousand people who had all been among the best students at their high schools.  My engineering and science professors often graded us on a B-/C+ curve, and when you looked around the room to wonder who would get the Cs, you often looked at yourself. Once my ego got over being whacked, it was a great experience: I worked harder than I ever would have before, for professors who demanded more out of me than any teacher had before, alongside students who were very smart, motivated, and intellectually curious.

It also showed me how very big the world is and how very many talented people are in it.  You can tell a teenager that there are four million high school seniors graduating with her and an awful lot of them are ridiculously brilliant, but it’s just an abstraction until she starts to meet hundreds or thousands of those people at a time.  It was an unnerving experience, but a valuable one: adults should understand that the world is full of talented people.

The problem that everyone from TNR to Stacy McCain has with super-elite universities is that people focus on admission and alumni connections, as if what actually happens at college is irrelevant. But that is a problem that is best solved by individual students and their parents, not by elite thinkers and planners.

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Filed under Academia

The wrong kind of irony

A young Dutch man named Cor Pan, likely a passenger on the Malaysian airplane that was shot down over Russia, tweeted out a photo of the plane and commented, “If it should disappear, this is what it looks like.” (Story here.)

That’s just the wrong kind of irony – that which would ordinarily be a bit funny, but is downright macabre when the plane actually disappears.

Not that I’m judging. Six years ago, one of my friends told me to call when I landed in California to let him know that I arrived safely. I told him that if there were a problem, he would hear about it on the news. Forty-eight hours later, he heard in the news that a huge earthquake hit the area I was in.

Too bad words don’t taste like chocolate; they would be so much easier to eat.

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Psychic Sea Pets Live up to Statistics, Not Hype

The famous Vampire Squid predicted that Brazil would win the World Cup this year, which is kind of awkward, seeing as Germany won. Paul the octopus was much better at predicting winners.  Here’s Paul:

Vampire Squid

But as I told you here, you need a lot of wanna-be psychic sea pets in order to make a good psychic sea pet.  It’s also easier to have a psychic sea pet when you can narrow its choices to the two that are in existence (e.g. Argentina versus Germany in the finals), not any options that previous events have eliminated (e.g. Brazil in the finals). Alternatively, you could try an animal with only six arms, like Henry the Hexapus, instead of one with eight arms or a lot of ink.



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I’m a dessert aficionado, not a business analyst

But I still called it on the failure of Crumbs Bakery. agrees with me on a few points, but I think that the real issue is low quality, high overhead, and the wrong product (or rather, too much product) for the business model (i.e. walk in, buy cupcake, eat cupcake while standing up).

As I wrote over a year ago, cupcake stores that thrive might lack seating, but their desserts are small enough to eat in a few bites.  They also have delicious cupcakes: fresh, gooey, and loaded with flavour.  Crumbs compensated for those things in size, generic sweetness (as opposed to actual, nuanced taste), and artificial food colouring.  I’m an engineer and a lawyer, not a business analyst, but if Crumbs is going to reopen under new ownership, I would be happy to consult on a better product for the business model.

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Filed under Economics, Food

Navigational Aids

Last night, as Mr. Velociraptor was driving down Route 9, I asked him if he was near where the Friendly’s used to be. Then, as we were talking back to my house from JP Licks, I said something about the Brigham’s that used to be near me. Aside from the fact that navigating by where things once were is such an old person thing, it amused my beloved that my major landmarks involve sweets.

“Hon, ice cream is a subset of your internal map,” says he. “It is all part of the overarching Chocolate Navigational System,” as if I would ever develop a mental map based on chocolate, ice cream, and coffee.

Perish the thought.

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Filed under Food

Science and Religion, not Science v. Religion

Jonathan Adler refutes the idea that Hobby Lobby is basing its opposition to four forms of birth control on “bad science.” (Hat tip.) Prof. Adler’s thesis is that religion isn’t rational, so we shouldn’t expect religious opposition to fit within scientific parameters, and the idea that life begins at conception (not implantation or some other point) is a religious idea.

With all due respect to the professor, I think he gets it wrong, at least as applied to this particular set of facts.  There is no doubt within the scientific community that life begins at conception, and it is within the realm of science to define “life” and to learn where that life starts. What science cannot tell us is the value of that human life, or whether its life is just as valuable at conception as at age thirty. Ethics, including religion, inform our understanding of the value of human life at its earliest stages, and that – the worth of a tiny human being – is the fundamental issue in the Hobby Lobby case.

Consider that science tells us that you, dear reader, need oxygen to survive.  What science cannot determine is whether you have a natural or a legal right to oxygen, if those who deprive you of oxygen should be deterred by force from doing so or punished if they succeed, or if it is worthwhile to provide you with oxygen. Those are matters about which science is ill-suited to address, but fall squarely within the realm of ethics, religion, and morality.  This is, of course, analogous to the issue that the Green and Hahn families have with providing Plan B and IUDs to their employees.

I will also point out that the opponents of Hobby Lobby’s religion play semantics and then complain that the other side doesn’t live up to the resulting foolishness.  The Green family opposes some forms of birth control that work by ending a preexisting human life.  They are unconcerned as to whether that methodology is to remove a baby that is attached to the uterine wall or to prevent it from attaching in the first place: either way, that is the deliberate ending of a human life. Prof. Adler inadvertently gets into this trap when he mentions that scientific authority defines “pregnancy” as commencing with implantation, as if the Greens give a damn about pregnancy, per se. Prof. Adler’s statement is akin to saying that the Greens should have no problem paying for people to strangle infants shortly after they exit the birth canal, for that is not “ending a pregnancy” or “an abortion.” That twists the pro-life ethic, as the Greens disapprove of anything that deliberately ends a human life, abortion- or pregnancy- related or not.


Filed under Bioethics, Religion, Science & Engineering

Cognitive Dissonance

Sixteen years ago, I became a vegetarian.  It was for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which was that I didn’t want all the crap that went into animals (e.g. antibiotics and hormones) going into my body when I ate meat.  These days, I mostly buy organic milk, ice cream, and eggs: if I eat the products of mistreated, hormone-ridden animals, it’s just not going to  be good for my body.

Yet when I try to explain to “feminists” why I refuse to pump my body full of artificial hormones every single day for twenty years straight, they go crazy. Stacy McCain explains how the same thing happened to Holly Grigg-Spall, who had the temerity to criticise the Pill.

Permit me to go all chemical-engineer on you for a moment: “mass in equals mass out.” If you take “the Pill,” which is artificial female hormones, you are putting artificial female hormones into your body.  The fact that this particular pharmaceutical allegedly ‘sticks it to the patriarchy’ is of no consequence to your body.

If you’re one of those earthy-crunchy hippie people who wants to decrease the amount of artificial hormones in our water supply and the hormones in your body, you are far better off chowing down on factory-farm meat and not being on the Pill than you are as a vegan who takes the Pill.  Consider that our opposition to said pharmaceutical has nothing to do with being good little slaves of the patriarchy and everything to do with wanting to do right by our bodies.

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Filed under Science & Engineering

Love Your Body

Stacy McCain, who has an eye for crazy, found an internet exchange between Adam Richman, the former star of Man v. Food, and self-proclaimed fat activist Amber Sarah.  Long story short: Richman lost seventy pounds and showed off his new (and very hot) body in Cosmo; he tweeted it out and used the hashtag “thinspiration,” which is apparently some pro-anorexia (no, not making this up) thing; and fur flew. Here’s Richman in Cosmo:

Adam Richman

Anyway, fat activist Amber Sarah jumped into the fray, and Richman lost his show. So readers can get the human interest side of this story, McCain helpfully links to Amber’s blog, wherein Amber Sarah promotes fat acceptance and loving your body as it is (except when she doesn’t).

I’m all for loving your body, but love comes with responsibility.  I love my cat, which is why I feed him Taste of the Wild instead of Friskies, keep his litter box clean, and pet him and play with him. People who actually love their bodies will try to have something resembling a good diet (which is completely different than being on a diet), see a doctor every so often and make a passing effort at following the advice given at the appointment, and get some exercise. When you love something or someone, whether it be your car, your kid, or your body, you take care of it.

Screaming about discrimination isn’t cardio and carrying around grievances isn’t weight training.  Amber Sarah and I both agree that people should love their bodies, but she’s referring to an emotion, and I’m referring to actions.


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