Rick Perry’s latest absurd idea

At this point, Rick Perry is virtually irrelevant and simply flailing around with crazy ideas, hoping something will stick and get him some attention.  His proposal to turn Congress into an amateur legislation, alas, is not doing it for him.  Given Perry’s current status, it hardly seems worth detailing why this is such a bad idea, but Matt Yglesias has already brought the political science to bear in doing so, so I shall pass it along as it actually worthwhile stuff to know:

…it’s obvious that the basic concept has a lot of appeal to voters. Unfortunately, it’s also a terrible idea. The basic problem is that under modern conditions, de-professionalizing a legislature tends to make it more corrupt and less responsive to either the views or objective interests of the public.

You can see this along a number of dimensions. One is that if members of Congress need to work second jobs, their business relationships will involve conflicts of interest. A second is that to the extent that earning extra income takes up more of members of Congress’ time, they’ll become more dependent on lobbyists and special interest groups for information and assistance with their projects. A third is that lower pay tends to induce legislators to retire sooner, and less-senior legislators are more dependent on lobbyists and special interest groups for information and assistance with their projects. A fourth is that to the extent you cut legislators’ pay, a larger share of the real compensation for doing legislative work is the opportunity to “cash in” after you leave office. A fifth and related consideration is that to the extent you cut legislators’ pay, a larger share of the real compensation for doing legislative work is the ability to raise PAC and campaign funds that you spend on yourself. Last, but by no means least, to the extent that you reduce the desirability of winning re-election, you encourage members of the legislature to ignore their constituents in favor of pleasing others.

My new password: drug monkey yellow baby

What?  Well, I started with a short post from Ezra and ended up at this cool site that explains why it is actually really effective to just use 3-4 common English language words.  Here’s the key charts:

As you’ll notice, the 6 random characters is basically secure for life, but the site argues that it’s just too hard to remember.  Not so, if they only seem random.  Reminded me a great Farhad Manjoo piece from a couple years ago about how to create very secure and  very memorable passwords.  The gist:

I found a foolproof technique to create passwords that are near-impossible to crack yet easy to remember. Even better, it’ll take just five minutes of your time. Ready?

Start with an original but memorable phrase. For this exercise, let’s use these two sentences: I like to eat bagels at the airport and My first Cadillac was a real lemon so I bought a Toyota. The phrase can have something to do with your life or it can be a random collection of words—just make sure it’s something you can remember. That’s the key: Because a mnemonic is easy to remember, you don’t have to write it down anywhere. (If you can’t remember it without writing it down, it’s not a good mnemonic.) This reduces the chance that someone will guess it if he gets into your computer or your e-mail. What’s more, a relatively simple mnemonic can be turned into a fanatically difficult password.

Which brings us to Step 2: Turn your phrase into an acronym. Be sure to use some numbers and symbols and capital letters, too. I like to eat bagels at the airport becomesIlteb@ta, and My first Cadillac was a real lemon so I bought a Toyota is M1stCwarlsIbaT.

That’s it—you’re done. These mnemonic passwords are hard to forget, but they contain no guessable English words.

I’m actually currently using a seemingly random series of numbers and letters that are closely related to something non-random for me.  Pretty happy with it.  Of course, as all these places point out, your password is only as secure as the least secure place you use it.

Aren’t you glad you have a daughter to…

As heard by my wife Kim:

Get manis and pedis with?  (heard this the first time from the ultrasonographer who told us Sarah was a girl)

To Shop for?

To dress up?

She actually started a guest blog post, but gave up.  But, here’s as far as she got:

Nearly everyone comments on my daughter’s appearance, her outfits, her hairbows.  Babies are cute and I don’t mind people saying my daughter is pretty.  I do enjoy dressing her up – but people are taken aback when I say I also enjoyed dressing my baby boys in cute outfits.  My discomfort comes from the fact that all the comments about are about her appearance.  She is 11 months old and already facing pressure to be pretty, dress cute, and make sure she has a bow in that hair.  .

These comments wouldn’t bother me so much if they were tempered by comments about my daughter’s personality.  I have never heard…..

Don’t you hope she’s smart like you?

Don’t you hope she’s happy and has good friends?

Don’t you hope she’s good at music?

Do you think she’ll give up too early on promising blog posts like her mom?  Kidding!  Great stuff from my wife.  Not sure that I have all that much to add.  As someone who actually studies gender issues professionally, it is pretty amazing to see them first-hand in raising a daughter.   As Kim also pointed out to me, everything that’s not about Sarah’s appearance is about materialism.  Are you going to buy this for her?  That for her?  Bet you cannot wait to go shopping together, etc.?  Maybe Kim is looking forward to kicking a soccer ball with her.  You get the point.  And short of breaking her future pre-schooler heart at some point, no princess-wear!

Photo of the Day

This collection of 45 photos submitted to the National Geographic photo contest is pretty much the coolest collection of photos I’ve ever seen.  Seriously.  Click the link and look at these.  Really!  This one was my favorite: 

The captions reads:

“An unexpected side-effect of the 2010 flooding in parts of Sindh, Pakistan, was that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters; because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water took so long to recede, many trees became cocooned in spiders webs. People in the area had never seen this phenomenon before, but they also reported that there were less mosquitos than they would have expected, given the amount of standing water that was left. Not being bitten by mosquitoes was one small blessing for people that had lost everything in the floods. (© Russell Watkins) #

Where I part ways with the Obama administration

From the Post:

The Obama administration’s push to limit the starchy vegetables and tomato paste served to millions of children at school each day was derailed by lawmakers this week, in effect enabling school cafeterias to continue offering pizza and french fries.

For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been crafting a proposal aimed at providing more nutritious school lunches that include an array of fruits and vegetables. But the food industry and its allies in Congress have pushed back on the details, saying the proposal would be costly, partly because of vegetable prices.

Pizza and potatoes got caught in the cross fire.

The USDA proposal, based on recommendations from the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, would put a one-cup-per-week limit on the amount of white potatoes and other starchy vegetables served to schoolchildren.

The proposal also would have nixed the favorable treatment granted to tomato paste. Currently, an eighth of a cup of tomato paste is credited with as much nutritional value as half a cup of vegetables and thus counts as one vegetable serving. That enables foodmakers to better market their pizzas to schools.

Alright, I’ll give them the french fries, but I’m tired of pizza being considered unhealthy.  I lost 20 pounds recently while eating pizza for lunch most work days.  Not to mention, I cannot imagine High School without pizza.  I had it every day for lunch, except steak sub friday.

On a political science note, this is a really nice example of policy at work.  Congress gives an agency, here the USDA, broad guidelines.  The agency interprets those guidelines into very specific policies, i.e., no pizza for school lunch.  Then Congress can simply come back and be more specific, i.e., you damn well better keep pizza in school lunch.

Cain the amateur

So, I was thinking about Cain’s barely having any idea of what’s going on in Libya (or foreign affairs, in general) and really, he is basically approaching this campaign as the amateur he is.  One could certainly argue that this is a desirable trait and a breath of fresh air when someone if running for president.  Of course you’d be wrong.   When it comes to dealing with important issues in foreign affairs (not to mention domestic crises), there’s no room for amateurism.  There’s been other people background as a politician who have nonetheless taken the process seriously enough to actually know what they’re talking about.

Earlier this week, I received a robo-call with the recorded voice of Herman Cain.  Thus, not only is the candidate amateurish, his entire campaign operation apparently is.  How in the world does a Republican campaign waste its resources calling someone who is on public record of voting in every NC Democratic primary since 2002?!  This ain’t rocket science.  That’s a 20th century campaign (though, surely many campaigns had figured this out by the 1990’s) a decade into the 21st century.  It’s pretty clear that Cain is falling back to earth and his returning to his rightful place as little more than a campaign curiosity.  Most every aspect of his campaign suggests that’s where he belongs.

Internet and Apple Fail

Bad combinations: Alex is completely addicted to the Ipad now.  Carries it with him all the time.  Alex had a stomach bug on Sunday.  That’s right, vomit on the Ipad.  Amazingly, Apple does not have any instructions for disinfecting the Ipad.  Cleaning, sure, but there are clearly certain circumstances where killing germs is quite warranted.  Searching all over the internet, there’s no clear answer for what to do.  And this is certainly a real problem for many in hospital settings or weakened immune systems.  Anyway, turns out that one of my favorite health care bloggers, Austin Frakt, quite recently ran into the same problem:

Oh internet, how you’ve failed me. There I was, entertaining my sick four-year-old at home by letting her play her favorite games on my iPad. Not to get too graphic about it, let’s just say that lots of stuff flowed and/or was ejected at high velocity from her face. A good deal of it landed on my iPad screen, and then was smeared around by her cute little fingers. She didn’t care. I sure did.

No problem, I thought. I’m sure there is a way to disinfect the screen. Why, I’ll just ask the internet. As she played, I whipped out my Droid and searched for the wisdom from the collective.

Turns out, nobody seems to agree on how to disinfect a touchscreen device. Oh sure, everyone can tell you how to “clean” it. Just wipe it with a lint-free cloth, maybe with a dab of water. No big deal.

But ask the hive mind how to disinfect a touchscreen and you’ll get a load of snark. Why do you want to disinfect it? Are you some kind of germ-a-phobe? Don’t you know the germs came from your hand anyway? Just wash your hands you moron!

Well, no. Turns out touchscreens are everywhere, including hospitals and doctors’ offices. Plus, if your device is a phone, you put it to your face. Maybe you lend it to people, like four-year-olds who think snot is a suitable finger lubricant. I would not rub my four-year-old’s snot on my face, not without a really good reason anyway. I’d rather do a bit more than just smear my daughter’s effluence around the screen. I don’t think adding water and mixing is sufficient.

Like Frakt, I went and ahead and risked the vaunted Oleophobic coating with rubbing alcohol.   Still, these days it’s pretty surprising when the internet seems to provide so little help.  I love how the Ipad screen looks without a protective cover, but one of the reasons I’ve definitely decided to put a cover on is so that I can actually disinfect the screen without fear of damaging it.   [Just for the record, this is a replacement Ipad for the previous one which had water damage and I purchased with a screen cover.   I’ve held off on a cover for the replacement, in part, because I love the crystal clear uncovered screen.]

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