July 2010

In the near future, I will be spending some time in New York City. I have been there twice before and already seen many of the obvious sites (Times Square, most of the museums, the Staten Island Ferry, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, etc). Is there anything less obvious that people would recommend? I […]


In order to get free shipping from Amazon.ca, I always order three books at a time. Combine that with work, my Economist subscription, and other demands upon my time and the consequence is that I have several dozen books either ongoing or not yet started. Indeed, stacks of books now occupy my entire kitchen table. […]


After the collapse of communism, many in the West assumed that democracy and free market capitalism would triumph in the former Soviet Union. Instead, it seems the chaos in the post-communist period permitted the emergence of economically powerful oligarchs, as well as massive growth in the wealth and power of organized crime groups. Now, former […]


Lately, I have been feeling like it would be excellent to work for an organization that is both highly competent and structured to help people reach their potential: somewhere where management was good at identifying what each person was capable of doing, putting them to it, and then coordinating those efforts into the achievement of […]


I have written before about the apparent contradiction between free will and materialism (the idea that the universe is exclusively comprised of particles that obey physical laws). The problem is easy enough to state: if every particle in the universe behaves in a manner governed by a combination of random chance and predictable laws, how […]


Apparently, it might be possible to make efficient two-stroke engines that are less polluting than their predecessors. Improving the efficiency of gasoline and diesel engines is an important undertaking, both because it will be a while before electric vehicles are ready for near-universal urban deployment and because there will be rural vehicles running on fossil […]


Photographic lenses are expensive things, especially professional grade ones. For example, Canon’s 24-70 f/2.8L costs $1600. Their 70-200 f/4L costs $1480, with image stabilization. And yet, the 24-70 can be rented for a weekend for just $25, and the 70-200 is $30. Renting makes even more sense with esoteric lenses which are useful for certain […]


Writing for Grist, Randy Rieland has come up with a summary of arguments about why cap-and-trade is dead in the United States for now. He is right to say that the blame lies primarily with Congress, rather than with the Obama administration. Congress is the most powerful branch of government, and has been highly effective […]


I wonder whether there is a time in life by which our aesthetic and political preferences have been essentially locked in, after which we are no longer fully capable of integrating new ideas. It certainly seems plausible that this could be true. It could also help to explain the broader pattern of social change in […]


This past weekend, I saw the film Inception. To a large extent, it felt like an updated version of The Matrix with dreams in the place of computers and less automatic weapon fire. It was also a pretty well constructed jewel heist type movie. It included some neat things conceptually and visually, and didn’t contain […]