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28 March 2014

This Blog Has Moved

Blogger no longer suites my needs so I've switched services and am now at loganreed.com

10 November 2013

Sunday Reading

A nuclear power plant near the epicenter of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami survived because an engineer insisted the seawall be built five times as high as was recommended. (Oregon Live)

The average American family makes less, in real terms, than it did in 1989. (Washington Post)

Kurt Vonnegut, life advice to some students who wrote him. (Letters of Note)

Hunter S. Thompson gives life advice to a friend at 20 years old. Just read the actual letter and skip the commentary. (Brain Pickings)

The real reason Van Halen had the no brown M&M's clause in their rider; it was a tip-off for quality. (Tim Ferriss)

I'm more convinced than ever that the internet has fundamentally altered our perception of what does and does not qualify for compensation. Anyways, a New York Times write explains the changes in his industry. (NYT)

Autonomous cars - safer, smoother, more fuel efficient. (MIT Tech Review)

40% of adults 24-35 years old will spend at least a year making 1.5 times the poverty line or less. By age 35 25% of them will have lived for at least a year below the poverty line. (The Atlantic)

It's official. Internet service in America is terrible and overpriced. (Dailydot)

Gaming in general has been on the rise, but I was unaware the PC gaming is huge and growing.

03 November 2013

Sunday Reading

How the iPad made tablets mainstream. (Wired)

How Chris McCandless (of Into the Wild fame) actually died. (The New Yorker)

The total diet replacement Soylent continues its interesting climb to prominence. (Wired)

A National Geographic photographer's experience with leopard seals. (Imgur)

A large percentage of young people in Japan aren't interested in sex. (The Guardian) An interesting take on why this is happening. (reddit/r/bestof)

Sleep flushes away proteins that cause Alzheimer's. (Washington Post)

Target stops asking potential hires if they're ever been convicted of a felony. (New York Times)

New home sizes in square feet from around the world. There are certainly confounding variables such as percentage of the population that lives in apartments, number of people inhabiting home, etc., but it's none the less interesting to see the great variance in something that we typically see as a norm. (Source)

Werner Herzog on the Colbert Report:
I want the audience with me in wild fantasies. In something that illuminates them. You see, if I were only fact based, you see the book of books in literature then would be the Manhattan phone directory. 4 million entries, everything correct, but it dusts out of my ears and I do not know; do they dream at night? Does Mr. Jonathan Smith cry in his pillow at night? We do not know anything when we check all the correct entries in the phone directory. I am not this kind of a film maker.
To which Colbert says "Sir, if I may? I want to party with you, cowboy."

29 September 2013

Special Tool Engineering

This is my friends families' machine shop on the southwest side of Chicago. It was started by his grandfather; not surprisingly German. They have an absurd amount of really large heavy machines that can make just about anything you can dream up - to absurd tolerances.


This is the coolant leaving the surface grinder.

Large plate bender.

Painting area.


Large CNC mill.

More large CNC's.

Bridgeport endmill.

Surface grinder. It magnetizes the rotating bottom disk and uses a very large abrasive wheel to grind the face of the part flat.


Sunday Morning Reading

Photos of San Francisco's new eastern span of the Bay Bridge. (Wired)

Photovoltaics continue their march to prominence. (NYT)

First mechanical gear found inside living creature. It also happens to be a new variety of gear. (Popular Mechanics)

A beautiful video of Tesla's factory and talk with one of its directors. (Wired) Bonus, their Model S achieved the highest safety rating of a car ever. (Tesla Motors)

Police wearing cameras all the time seems to improve outcomes for everyone. Less force is used and less complaints are filed against the police. (NYT)

Remarkable photos of Hong Kong's high rises. (Wired)

US food desert map that's well visualized. (Wired)

A few tips/tests to improve your graphic design layouts. I particularly like the upside down test. When shooting medium format film cameras the image is reversed and in large format also upside down. It forces you to study the composition before releasing the shutter - same concept. (Tree House Blog)

NASA is running out of Plutonium-238 (the stuff they use to power all unmanned missions) and it seems to be largely due to a lack of political will. Damnit government - start loving science, and not just the kind that kills people. (Wired)

59% of jobs added in the last year were part time. (John Lott)

The typical American family makes less money (in real terms) than it did in 1989. (Washington Post)

The new pope continues to be level headed and overall seem like a fairly swell guy. Help the poor and love one another. As an outsider, it seems like a positive shift in mission framing. (NYT)

A well done and non-facile explanation of why US healthcare is expensive and not all that great. It's worth your eight minutes.

Werner Herzog narrates Where's Waldo? Hilarious.

His  last answer is brilliant.

11 September 2013

How to Cut Employees Pay Without Them Noticing

The reason I bring this up is that I see it happen in my industry, architecture/AEC, on a continual basis. When I bring it up it's often viewed as an opinion when in reality it's econ 101 material, so here goes.

Most people hold a bias known as money illusion. The gist of it is that people tend to focus on the nominal cost (literally the number after the dollar sign) of something as opposed to the real cost (the purchasing power of our earnings). But to understand why not receiving an annual raise is the exact equivalent of getting a pay cut it helps to understand a related phenomenon known as sticky prices/wages.

Sticky prices is the idea is that the price of a good/wage moves easily in one direction but not the other. For example, say you're a gas station owner and you order a tanker of gasoline at a certain price. The next day gasoline prices go up ten cents. You raise the price accordingly since it's now worth more. The next day the price of gas drops twenty cents making it ten cents cheaper than where you bought it at. You most likely won't drop the price you charge below that of what you paid until you sell all your inventory. This is a sticky good.

Workers are much the same way. Raises are readily accepted whereas pay cuts are not. Most workers would either leave their job or prefer that some of their coworkers were fired as opposed to take any significant cut in pay. This is known as downward nominal wage rigidity (if that fascinates you here you go), but I think sticky wages has a better ring to it.

So say you're an employer and in a down economy you can't afford to give your employees raises. What do you do? Nothing. One year goes by. Then two. If you stopped giving employees raises in 2008 how much would their earning power be at the start of 2013?

Roughly $0.92 (source). And that's not too bad. Inflation has been really low in the last few years1. Anyways, that's how you cut employees salaries without them noticing. Inflation and ignorance.

1 - 2008 - 0.1%, 2009 - 2.7%, 2010 - 1.5%, 2011 - 3.0%, 2012 - 1.7%. Source.
2 - The Social Security Administration uses these same numbers.
3 - Krugman has some nice graphs showing how this has happened over recent years in the US.

06 September 2013

What Reddit Has to Offer

Over the last year I've been on reddit a lot, and because of its instant feedback I've gotten better at conveying ideas. It takes a while to figure out how to interact with the hive mind but I think it's a worthwhile endeavor, especially as an increasing amount of our interactions happen digitally and in venues that are open to a large number of people. Here's some rough guidelines:
  • Being snarky or mean rarely works to your advantage. Along those same lines, swearing, unless done in the appropriate context, often makes you look less intelligent.
  • People are far more interested in craft and the process of building than I assumed.
  • Being defensive, dispassionate, humorless, and overly analytical - generally at the same time - is not a way to win hearts and minds.
  • If you make it even slightly difficult to view photos or find information you will lose viewers, and they better be hosted to Imgur.com. Losing viewers is not linear either, its logarithmic. Lose three of your first ten viewers and your post might get ten up votes instead of a thousand.
  • Timing is everything. Posting a thread or commenting on a thread at the right time is the difference between no exposure and hitting the front page (a lot of people reading what you submitted).
  • Bad grammar isn't tolerated well.
  • Trying to promote yourself or a product on reddit is nearly impossible unless you are completely genuine. Redditors have about the greatest bullshit detectors out there. Become one of them, then share things you're passionate about. It's the only way.
So what's the point? Allow me to digress.

When I played paintball there was a format change. Tournaments went from a 7v7 single game to a sort of 5v5 in rounds. It changed the dynamic of play greatly, but more or less the same people who were "famous" before stayed famous afterwards. The new format favored some players styles and soon there were new superstars. Players who otherwise would not have been famous. That's what's happening now with internet communities. There are companies and individuals creating their own niche and credibility through communities like this.

The part that's fascinating is that, through various mechanisms of the community, only people who really genuinely care get promoted. Do something interesting that you're passionate about and they'll promote you. Otherwise, get ignored.

05 September 2013

Morning Links

20-somethings are unemployed and losing hope. The whole situation reminds me of a chapter from Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart that says "the problems of the elderly are often serious and seldom interesting", which to some extent explains why my parents generation cannot comprehend what's happening to anyone under 30 who's just trying to start a life. (policymic)

A hole in the wall noodle shop in Hong Kong that serves $1.50 dishes got a Michelin Star. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Whole Foods is opening a store in Englewood (one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago). (Chicago Sun Times)

Video games can help older people regain cognitive function. (NYT)

Public.resource.org has been publicizing trade association books and building codes, which are law, on it's site for the last few years. Those of us in the design world often have to continually buy $100+ books of these codes. Well ASTM, ASHRAE, et. al. finally decided to sue the website, so the outcome of this court decision will decide if parts of the law can only be viewed after being bought from a book. (Washington Post)

Classical music competitions apparently place more importance on visual cues than auditory. Anecdotally, when I played paintball my team and I could tell how good someone was just by watching their body language; even very briefly. What's interesting to me is the shock from professional classical musicians saying that their auditory expertise, at least in this case, is comprimised. (Harvard Gazette)

29 July 2013

Ronan Interview by BUILD

An interview with Chicago architect John Ronan, designer of the Poetry Foundation among others, by BUILD - one of my favorite Pacific Northwest firms. There's quite a few gems in there.
You only have a certain amount of energy, and you have to be selective about what you expend it on. It has to be worthwhile, in the end.
Poets employ words that everybody understands, but they use them in new ways that make language unfamiliar. 
 It’s a na├»ve notion that architecture is the answer to social problems. Sometimes I see these architectural “ideas” competitions and wonder, is more architecture the answer? 
The goal of the process is to almost make it look like it wasn’t designed; we should arrive at a point where the “design” is invisible and not constantly referring back to the author. At the same time, the design should look so natural that people might think, why would you do anything else? The goal is to get to that point where the design feels intuitively “correct.”
I had Ronan as a professor during my final semester at IIT. It turned out to be one of the best classes I've ever attended, and this interview reminds me of his succinct yet slightly acerbic manner of speaking. If confidence were water Ronan would be Lake Michigan.

28 July 2013

Weekend Reading

Prostitution, porneia in Greek, was both much more rampant, accepted, and common in pre-christian Western societies. This whole post and any comment by /u/BBlasdel is worth reading. (Reddit AskHistorians)

Germany has the largest number of solar panels of any country and it's destabilizing their power companies. Watch and learn America. (Slate)

A Google engineer gets an award from the NSA, accepts it, then says they should be abolished. Then he shows up on Reddit and promptly does a fantastic AMA (ask me anything). (Tikkun.org)

The Greeks had MMA but it was even more brutal and was known as Pankration. It was the only sport not reinstated at the 1896 Olympics. (Wikipedia)

Scientists supposedly found out what's killing the bees in North America. Fungicides make them more susceptible to nosema. (Quartz)

Why homes are less advanced than cars. (GreenBuildingAdvisor)

Psychopaths, I think they mean those afflicted with antisocial personality disorder, can in fact engage in empathy. They just have to be asked to do so. (BBC Science)

The relationship between McDonald's prices and calories. Discussion. (Reddit DataisBeautiful)

There used to be a plant know as silphium that acted as birth control that grew around the Mediterranean. As with so many human endeavors, it went extinct as it proved too useful. (Wikipedia)

Who knew so many people were on food stamps? Roughly one in seven Americans is on food stamps. The average benefit is about $4/day. I found it pretty hard to eat for $5/day. (Washington Post)

For architects here's some longer reads: Energy Efficient Building Enclosures and Sound Transmission Through Gypsum Board Walls.

27 July 2013

Beautiful Objects

A while ago my dad gave my brother and I pocket watches that had belonged to various now deceased relatives. The one I received is from my grandfather - father's father.

He was a PT boat commander in WWII and supposedly used this to time patrols.

I did a bit of research googling and found some info on it:

Turn up the volume.

This video elegantly breaks down the complex workings of a mechanical watch to show how the mechanisms work together to measure time.

12 July 2013

Reddit AMA - Postmortem

Well damn. That was a bigger response than I expected. I responded to several hundred people and I still have about 250 to go. Unfortunately I did it on the same day John Malkovich was doing his AMA. By the way, it was very good.
It also must be said that the vast majority of [people] in the world live with nothing and with the hope of nothing their entire lives. I was lucky, as I've been my entire life.
Well stated. I always wondered if some of the truly fortunate know this of the world. As a healthy white male who is well educated and born to a loving family in America I try to acknowledge my extreme luck whenever possible. Anyways, data:

According to Google Analytics I received about 34,000 page visits in the span of about 12 hours while Blogger tells me I got about 21,000. Not sure why the discrepancy (Kevin?). Regardless that's about 40% of the visits I have ever received up until that point.

I learned a lot about what people are interested in and concerned about as well as what information more or less everyone is ignorant of. It's very easy to succumb to curse of knowledge bias by thinking that others know the basics of what you think is common knowledge.

I've started to compile a list of the most common questions from the AMA. I hope to turn this into a visual graphic that shows what areas of sustainable design people are interested in. More to come.