Categories
Everyday Things Government SOI Blog

Find a lost wallet? Drop it in a mailbox.

I’ve seen the “Honesty Test” in the past, but Mark Rober runs a pretty good one in his video below. Chock one up for “I didn’t know that,” Mark says if you find a wallet with an address in it, just drop it in any USPS mailbox and it will be delivered back to the owner for free. I could not find a definitive statement toward this on the USPS website, but found a few other discussions of it on the web. One, on the Art of Manliness blog, says that a better response would be to call the person right away if possible. That would save them the trouble of canceling all those credit cards and other IDs. At least you could give them a call and then drop it in a mailbox.

Categories
Books Government History Podcasts SOI Blog

The Nazi Saboteurs in America

Several years ago I came across this amazing story on the This American Life program about a bungled Nazi plot of sabotage only six months after Pearl Harbor. When this program first aired, it drew comparisons to present day efforts to try Islamic terrorists in military tribunals. The legal precedent they were siting was the case of these Nazi saboteurs. It’s a great story and well worth a listen. It shows how legal justice is a very complicated thing and is often manipulated to fulfill agendas.
Recently another podcast, Retropod, brought this story up again. A mysterious stone memorial was found in 2006 in Washington, D.C. on government property, a memorial to these Nazi spies.

This American Life story

Retropod story

Michael Dobbs’s excellent book, Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America

CSPAN Book TV interview with Michael Dobbs

Categories
Humanities Language Media Podcasts

Are you using “steep learning curve” wrong?

Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics podcast episode pointed out that using the term “steep learning curve” to describe something that is difficult to master is incorrect. I’ve been guilty of this and now notice I’m not the only one. Within a day or so, I heard another person on a different podcast use the term incorrectly.

From the transcript:

Stephen Dubner is interviewing Scott Lilienfeld, a professor of psychology at Emory University.

DUBNER: And the last one we’ll do right now is “steep learning curve.”

LILIENFELD: A lot of people will say, “Oh, I started on a new job where I was having to do something new. And this job has a really steep learning curve.” In fact they’re getting it backward. A steep learning curve is easy. Because a steep learning curve means —

DUBNER: You learn a lot in a hurry, right?

LILIENFELD: Not slowly.

DUBNER: When I read that in your paper I thought, “Oh my goodness, that’s really interesting that we’ve all got it backwards.” But then I quickly rationalized and said, “Well, I guess what I always assumed was that the steepness was on the axis referring to difficulty somehow,” right? And that if a task is particularly difficult, then that’s the steepness, and that’s the curve I’m on. So really, when we encounter something that’s really difficult, and we’re having a hard time mastering it, we should say we’re on a very shallow —

LILIENFELD: A very shallow learning curve, that’s right. I think when people say, “This task has a steep learning curve,” what they mean is, “Man, I feel like I’m going up like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill and going up a very steep mountain!” But in fact if something has a steep learning curve, that means that it’s acquired very quickly.

Listen to the episode here.

Categories
Everyday Things Technology Vehicles

Don’t Top Off Your Gas Tank!

My new go to Youtube mechanic is Scotty Kilmer! Here Scotty gives some advice on filling up. He recommends you NOT fill your gas tank until it can take no more, and why.

In the old days before paying for gas with a credit card became common, you would try to make the dollar amount come to the nearest dollar or fifty cents to save on loose change. But these days, I rarely pay for gas with cash, so following Scotty’s advice is much easier.

Categories
Entertainment Media SOI Blog

Star Wars Viewing Order

aitoff / Pixabay
I’ve always been a Star Wars fan, but not necessarily a hard core fanatic (i.e. I don’t keep up with everything Star Wars, mainly just the theatrical releases). I have the benefit of having experienced it from the beginning from the first theatrical release in 1977 when I was 11. I enjoy the new films and generally look forward to what Disney has in store for the franchise.

Now with eight episodes (currently early 2018) and a ancillary story (“Rogue One,” with soon to be “Solo”), there seems to be some debate as to what order the theatrical films should be viewed. I found this article on Star Wars Day regarding this.

Granted, as I stated above, I am not a “hard core” SW fan, and would probably lose any argument against said hard core fan, but found the idea intriguing none the less. I liked The Machete Order most of all with the one adjustment by the article’s author (as he calls it The New Order). He adds the ancillary film, Rouge One to the top of the list to start which I thought has a great idea.

Which is this:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

If you’re not up on this debate, you’ll notice that Episode One was completely dropped. I was not really overwhelmed by Episode One when it first came out and my very first remark after the film to the people I went to see it with was, “I’m glad George Lucas doesn’t take himself too seriously.” While I was glad to see the franchise being renewed (at least for film), I found it to be a bit campy to say the least. I didn’t even see the next two episodes in the theater, waiting instead to watch it on DVD. So, I found the reasoning behind dropping this one altogether compelling.

At any rate, you’ll have to read the article to see all the reasons behind this order. I also found another article by definite hard core fans that had other interesting takes. It even had some good reasons not to skip Episode One, but didn’t really convince me. It also goes into the whole discussion of the “enhanced” versions, which I’ve written about on this blog here.

Categories
Humanities SOI Blog

Stand Up To Prevent Drowning

geralt / Pixabay
In episode one of the Undisclosed podcast about the case of State v. Pamela Lanier, drowning expert John Fletemeyer states that in 40 to 50 percent of open water drownings the water is not over the victims head. Fletemeyer advises rescue workers to yell at drowning victims to just “stand up!”

Another interesting statistic from this website, is that 80% of drowning victims in the United States are male.

Categories
Everyday Things Government Media SOI Blog

Highway Sign Font

As I was working on a video project showing highway signs, I discovered the font used on highway and interstate signage is called “Highway Gothic.” You can download it for your own use here.

I also discovered the use of an new font called “Clearview.” It was thought to be a replacement for the tried an true Highway Gothic. After some promising research results on better readability it looked like it would be the new default. Interestingly, after reviewing the research, it appears that the better results on readability seemed to be caused by the fact that the signs using the Clearview font were newer compared to the older faded signs using Highway Gothic. In other words, they were not comparing apples to apples. So according to the Wikipedia article, Highway Gothic will remain the standard for the time being.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highway_Gothic

Categories
Everyday Things History Technology

Inventor of the Keurig Coffee Maker Sold His Interest for only $50k

John Sylvan invented the single serve Keurig coffee maker in early 1990s. Before the end of the decade, he sold out to investors for a mere $50,000. The company now has annual revenues in the billions of dollars.

Interestingly, the original concept and first machines were intended for offices where employees could create a fresh cup of coffee instead of relying on a full pot coffee maker which often got stale. When they finally developed a less expensive home version, sales really took off.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keurig

Categories
Everyday Things Podcasts SOI Blog

How One Man Ruined Fast Food French Fries

Back in the 90s I noticed that all the Fast Food chains started to change their french fries. They seemed to go to this new, tasteless, batter coated version of their former fries. Most noticeably to me, Burger King then Wendys. I could not understand the reason and suspected it had something to do with trying to make them healthier. Well, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his podcast, it all came about from one man’s misguided crusade. The worst thing about it, is now that some of the ideas behind the change have been debunked, no one seems to be in a rush to bring back the tastier version.

Revisionist History Podcast

Categories
Government History Science SOI Blog Technology

Did cloud seeding make a hurricane hit the US in 1947?

One little tidbit of info in the latest 99% Invisible podcast episode was about the military’s attempt to weaken a hurricane.

Project Cirrus

Project Cirrus was the first attempt to modify a hurricane. It was a collaboration of the General Electric Corporation, the US Army Signal Corps, the Office of Naval Research, and the US Air Force. After several preparations, and initial skepticism by government scientists,[6] the first attempt to modify a hurricane began on October 13, 1947 on a hurricane that was heading west to east and out to sea.

An airplane flew along the rainbands of the hurricane, and dropped nearly 180 pounds (82 kilograms) of crushed dry ice into the clouds. The crew reported “Pronounced modification of the cloud deck seeded”. It is not known if that was due to the seeding. Next, the hurricane changed direction and made landfall near Savannah, Georgia. The public blamed the seeding, and Irving Langmuir claimed that the reversal had been caused by human intervention.[6] Cirrus was canceled, and lawsuits were threatened. Only the fact that a system in 1906 had taken a similar path, as well as evidence showing that the storm had already begun to turn when seeding began, ended the litigation. This disaster set back the cause of seeding hurricanes for eleven years.

At first the seeding was officially denied and it took years before the government admitted it. According to the Sept. 12, 1965 edition of the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, in 1947 a hurricane “went whacky” and “Twelve years later it was admitted the storm had in fact been seeded.”

Read more here,
Wikipedia page on Project Stormfury

From 99pi
“In 1947, Irving Langmuir’s research team at GE tried to break up a hurricane by dumping a lot of dry ice into it to see if it would collapse. But instead the hurricane changed trajectory, became stronger, and hit the Georgia coast. ”

99% Invisible “Making It Rain”