Photo of the day

From a Telegraph gallery of California wildfires.  Fires at night sure do make for the most awesome photos:

The Fire as it approaches the shore of Bass Lake

Wildfires across drought-hit California have forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes as 800 acres of forest, neighbourhoods and a lakeside resort were burnt to cinders by two out-of-control blazesPicture: AP Photo/Darvin Atkeson

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Mega quick hits (part II)

1) The case for delayed adulthood.  Given what we now know about brain maturation, there’s something to be said for this.

2) Joe Nocera on the absurdity of how cavalier credit card companies and retailers are with our data.  And a great example of why we often need government to get involved:

For years, the banks and the retail industry have spent more time accusing each other of causing the problem than seeking a solution. By October 2015, the United States is supposed to move to a more secure card system, using a chip and P.I.N. instead of a magnetic stripe, as Europe did years ago. But even that won’t put an end to data breaches. It will make it harder and more expensive for criminals to crack, but not impossible.

Which is why the federal government needs to get involved. With the banks and retailers at loggerheads, only the government has the ability to force a solution — or at least make it painful enough for companies with lax security to improve.

3) People without kids fare better on all sorts of measures, except one.

4) Arizona voters passed a referendum to take the politics out of redistricting.  Sadly, the Arizona Republican Party is suing to put politics back in.

5) Fun facts about the original Star Trek.

6) Nice essay from a science-oriented mom of a child with autism on the vaccine-autism non-link.

7) Didn’t know anything about Arkansas Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton before reading this profile.  Found it utterly fascinating.  And scary.

8) Cool experiment showing your brain actually making decisions while you sleep.

9) There’s not really any good reason at all for conservatives to oppose federal loans for students at community colleges.  Of course, they oppose this anyway.

10) We need to publish more replication research and studies with null results.

11) Thanks to Derek for sharing this thought-provoking piece on visiting a cattle feedlot written by a vegan nutritionist:

And, I have to say it.  If my experience at Magnum is representative of other cattle farms, all those accounts of the dismal, depressing, disastrous cattle conditions seem to be exaggerated.

No, I’m not going to start eating meat again.

However, if I did eat meat, my visit to Magnum would have made me feel great about eating non-organic, non-grass-fed beef.   Seriously.  I can’t imagine the quality of meat would be substantially better with organic and grass-fed.  Nor can I imagine the living conditions would be substantially better for the cattle.

12) Perhaps the best piece I’ve read on the current Ebola crisis.   And Vox points out that pretty much no disease ever has gone from body-fluid transmission to airborne so there’s really no reason to think Ebola will.

13) Enjoyed this Wonkblog piece on how restaurants are cutting back the size of their menus, but it didn’t quite have me convinced on the reasons why.  Drum, convinved me, though:

Hmmm. Let me say, based on precisely no evidence, that I find this unlikely. Have American tastes really gotten more refined since 2008? Color me skeptical. And even if American palates are more discriminating, are we seriously suggesting that this has affected the menu length at IHOP, Tony Roma’s, and Olive Garden—the three examples cited in the article? I hope this isn’t just my inner elitist showing, but I don’t normally associate those fine establishments with a “growing appetite for exotic foods and a willingness to seek out specialized cuisines.”

So, anyway, put me down firmly in the cost-cutting camp. Long menus got too expensive to support, and when the Great Recession hit, casual dining chains needed to cut costs. They did this by lopping off dishes that were either expensive to prep or not very popular or both. Occam’s Razor, my friends, Occam’s Razor.

Yeah, Occam’s Razor!  Which, I actually explaned to my 8-year old yesterday.

14) There’s been a bit of a “nerdwar” of late with election prediction.  Wonderful rejoinder to the whole thing from Hans Noel:

So we can’t learn very much about the models from Election Day. We learn a little, but only as much as we learn from any one election, which is not much. But I guarantee you someone will claim otherwise. Which is why I’m not interested in predicting the future. It leads people to say the least interesting things.

15) A number of high profile reports this week on the fact that Chimpanzees regularly murder their own species.  This is not news!  I remember learning about this in college 20+ years ago.  Yes, there has been some scientific debate about the issue, but based on the headlines I’ve seen this week you would think scientists had somehow just discovered this behavior.

16) The latest college arms race?  Who can build a better water park for their students.  Seriously.  The winner?  Texas Tech.  This place makes me wish I was still there!

17) So, this is really cool.  One of my good friends from middle and high school was permanently disabled (paraplegic) in a car accident when we were 16.  His wife is a writer and just had her essay about their life together in the NYT (the main point is that she’s the more disabled one–oh, and she really likes writing about sex).

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