Bruce Momjian

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Government Country Names

Friday, February 23, 2024

There are 193 countries in the world. You would think it would be easy for countries to pick distinct names, but that does not seem to be the case. The most extreme example is this set of countries:

But these are not the only ones. Gabon and Gambia are similar. Nigeria and Niger are also similar, but at least they are next to each other.

 


Games Why Video Games Are Fun

Monday, February 19, 2024

This article explains that video games offer puzzles, challenges, and autonomy that are often unavailable in the real world.

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Flight Flight Diversion

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

On December 11, 2016, I flew my one and only diverted flight, and I was involved in the diversion.

My son Matthew and I were flying home from an Asian trip. Several hours into the Seoul to Dallas flight, flight crew made an announcement asking if there were any doctors on board. I didn't see any activity, and Matthew hadn't heard the announcement because he was using headphones, so I told him about it and asked him to check with the flight crew. Within several minutes, a team of three medical professionals was formed: Matthew, an emt at the time, an oncologist, and an Army medic.

Someone had passed out in the airplane lavatory, and the team got to work figuring out the cause and possible treatment. The patient was an elderly Korean man who spoke little English, and it was determined that he had had a stroke. While airplanes carry a large amount of medical supplies, partly for use on passengers after abnormal landings, they do not carry the medicine required to treat stroke victims. The medicine must be administered within several hours of a stroke, so waiting until we arrived in Dallas was not an option. The medical staff studied the flight route on the airplane monitors and coordinated with the captain to land in Anchorage, Alaska. The sick patient and his wife were moved to the front of the plane, and once we landed, ambulance staff boarded the plane and took them off to a nearby hospital. We then continued our flight to Dallas.

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Flight The Airline Industry's Problem with Absolutely Ancient IT

Monday, February 12, 2024

With steady improvement of airplane technology, you would think that technological improvement would extend to all parts of the airline. However, this video explains that the information technology supporting many airline processes are decades old, hampering smooth flight operation, especially when airline interoperability and rare events occur.

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Electronics Led Over Brightness

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

When the Macintosh was released, it was first computer to offer a wide selection of fonts. This prompted many people to use too many fonts in their documents, leading to the ransom note effect. New technology often gets overused at first, and I have seen this recently with led lights. Manufacturers can inexpensively add very bright led lights to products, and some products have added overly-bright led lights. To correct this problem, I have used electrical tape to disable the light, and black marker on the led bulbs to reduce their brightness. For non-permanent adjustments, I have used black marker to darken clear plastic tape that I then place over the bulbs. I just bought a ThinkPad X1 Gen11 and used the dark tape method to reduce the brightness of the power led. Though the leds can be turned off programatically, I still want to see them lit.

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Economics The 9.9 Percent Is the New American Aristocracy

Thursday, February 1, 2024

This article, and the book upon it was based, argues that, while the top 0.1% and bottom 90% of the US economic population are well understood, the middle 9.9% are not, even by their own group. While priding themselves on their meritocratic membership, the article argues that many forces and barriers in place make membership self-selecting. Using graphs and a measurement of "intergenerational earnings elasticity," the article explains how people in the 9.9% strive to stay there, as well as their offspring. In summary, the article asks those in the 9.9% to be honest about their privilege and open to allow for a more egalitarian outcome.

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Economics Socialism Always Fails

Monday, January 29, 2024

There have been many socialist experiments over the past centuries, and many large ones in the previous century. They all failed, but it is not clear that there has ever been a clear reckoning on why they failed. The common explanation is that the "right" leaders were not in charge, but my previous blog entry explained that there were many different leaders and many different approaches to communism, and they all failed. Ultimately, it was the assumption that human nature was perfectable that prevented communism from working, though this is rarely explored. Liberal thought assumes human nature is malleable and ultimately good and perfectible with the right environment.

Conservative thought assumes human nature is fixed and corrupt, independent of its environment. In fact, I already blogged that not only are people imperfectable and corrupt, but governments also have corrupting influences on society.

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Economics Loan Sharks Come to Governments

Friday, January 26, 2024

Loan sharks and predatory loans capitalize on people who want money for purchases and don't consider the long-term cost of paying the loans back. Many governments have laws limiting the availability of such loans. However, what happens when governments are the people who want money? We have found out from China's massive loans to struggling governments. Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Sri Lanka, Laos and Mongolia are having difficulty paying back loans from China.

Sometimes the governments didn't consider the difficulty of paying back the loans, and sometimes the government leaders who approved the loans used the money to enrich themselves and left office before the loans became due. There are no extra-governmental regulations that control such loans, so they will likely continue to occur, with the same negative consequences.

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Economics Illegal Immigration as Outsourcing

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The United States has a pattern of outsourcing as much as possible to save costs. Decades ago, the US started outsourcing information technology jobs to India, and call center jobs to many Asian countries. Also several decades ago, the US started outsourcing manufacturing to China.

One job segment that cannot be easily outsourced is local services. Illegal immigration has now filled the need for inexpensive local service workers. Unfortunately, all of these activities have reduced the wages of domestic workers in these fields. If these negative wage forces affected more wealthy or highly-skilled individuals, there would probably be political efforts to reduce it, but because it doesn't, it is mostly ignored.

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Economics Predatory Pricing and Venture Capital

Monday, January 22, 2024

Ever since the Internet streamlined the ability of businesses to scale and innovate, people have been given new ways to consume products and services, and often at atypically low prices. Many of these new Internet-based companies have operated at a loss for years, hoping to eventually attain a large enough market share to be profitable. However, this article says that economists believe that such money-losing behavior is irrational since recoupment is unlikely:

Their head-spinning argument goes like this: Predators have a larger market share to begin with, so if they cut prices, they stand to lose much more money than their competitors. Meanwhile their prey can simply flee the market and return later, like protomammals sneaking back to the jungle after the velociraptors leave. Predatory companies could never recoup their losses, which meant predatory behaviors are irrational.

If the behavior is irrational, why is it so common? The article argues that it is irrational only if you consider the entire life of the company. If you are a venture capital firm who is only concerned about the monetization of the company for a short time, it is rational:

"Will Uber ever recoup the losses from its sustained predation?" Wansley and Weinstein write. "We do not know. Our point is that, from the perspective of the VCs who funded the predation, it does not matter. All that matters is that investors were willing to buy the VCs' shares at a high price."

The article argues that it is the late-term investors who have to deal with recoupment, and often unsuccessfully.

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Community Social Status

Friday, January 19, 2024

This article argues that social status is a major motivator of human behavior.

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Community Victimhood

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The behavioral aspects of victimhood are rarely discussed. There is often legitimate trauma that causes a victimhood mentality, and discussing victimhood often seems like blaming the victim. However, the trauma is often decades in the past, so addressing the aspects of victimhood is something that should be considered helpful, rather than allowing people to continue to suffer from past trauma. This checklist is helpful in identifying victimhood.

As an Armenian, I met relatives who had experienced trauma from the Armenian Genocide, and they often had victim mentality behaviors. From this I learned that even groups can have victim mentality behaviors, and Armenians are certainly not alone in experiencing past trauma. Hopefully this topic can be discussed more often so people can experience healing.

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Government Foreign Incarceration Developments

Monday, January 15, 2024

Two years ago, I wrote about the incarceration of foreigners, specifically the arbitrary enforcement of local laws used by host countries to gain leverage against foreign governments. The problem has gotten worse since then, so here is an updated blog entry.

A month after my blog entry, Brittney Griner was arrested after illegally bringing hash oil into the country. This high-profile arrest brought arbitrary enforcement into the spotlight. She was a celebrity and checked too many protected class boxes for the U.S. government to leave her in prison, unlike the existing incarcerated U.S. citizens. She was freed via a prisoner exchange with the USA, along with Trevor Reed, who had already been in prison for three years. Unfortunately, U.S. citizen Paul Whelan remains in prison.

This has led to a lot of soul searching about how to free what are effectively hostages held by foreign governments. While prisoner exchange has freed some hostages, it clearly fuels further hostage taking. One counter-weight to this is a new U.S. state department designation of countries that use arbitrary enforcement of local laws to imprison U.S. citizens. These designations will clearly reduce tourism and business travel to such countries, so time will tell if such negatives are more powerful than the value of hostages, but the USA is clearly taking this problem more seriously. Even the United Nations is getting involved. Additional U.S. citizens continue to be arrested, and China is now also using arbitrary enforcement. The current country list is:

  • China
  • Iran
  • Myanmar
  • North Korea
  • Russia
  • Venezuela

This paper goes into many of the details of state hostage-taking.

Update: a new person incarcerated in Russia 2024-02-20

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Community Hamas's Antisemitic Influence Is Even Bigger than the Nazis

Friday, January 12, 2024

It is a bold statement to say that someone today is creating more antisemitism than the Nazis, but this article states it, and I think it is accurate. The Nazis' antisemitism was mostly restricted to Germany and the territories they occupied. Thanks to today's increased communication, and the inferior position of the Palestinians compared to the Israeli's, which garners sympathy, antisemitism has exploded around the world.

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Community It's Time to Drop the 'LGBT' From 'LGBTQ'

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

This powerful article explains that trying to list individual sexual orientation groups into the label used for non-traditional sexual orientation undermines the goal of rights for all non-traditional sexual orientation groups. This paragraph states it well:

Once activists started listing identities and groups, they realized that anyone not specifically included might feel specifically excluded. Their solution has been to keep expanding the list. But no matter how many letters are added, one group is still pointedly excluded: the cisgender heterosexuals who make up the vast majority of the U.S. population. Not surprisingly, many members of that group resent civil-rights claims that are presented as a succession of carve-outs for minorities, to the benefit of everyone except themselves. Imagine if the religious-liberty movement instead styled itself the CJMHBSBA+ (Catholic-Jewish-Muslim-Hindu-Buddhist-Sikh-Baha'i-Animist-plus) movement. The symbolism ceases to be about equality for all Americans and becomes instead about naming particularistic claimants. And the very act of asking ordinary Americans to drag themselves through a list of initials is redolent of special rights, not equal rights.

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Community The Woke War Against African Americans

Monday, January 8, 2024

I previously wrote that policing policy changes, nominally to improve the lives of African Americans, have done the opposite. This article argues that this trend is continuing in other policy areas as well.

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Arts Sinatra's Homes

Friday, January 5, 2024

Frank Sinatra was always larger than life. Since it has been 25 years since his death, I wondered if there was new information about him, particularly his homes. These articles (1, 2) explore the many houses Sinatra lived in during his lifetime. There are also some good detailed articles about individual houses:

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Arts Ikiru

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Akira Kurosawa was one of the great movie directors. Seven Samurai, his most famous film, spawned several new movie genres.

A less popular but similarly powerful movie of his is Ikiru. Released in 1952, the movie follows the life of a civil servant who finds the meaning of life only after being diagnosed with a fatal illness. The most iconic image from the movie is Ikiru (the protagonist) on a swing set in the snow. A more powerful scene is Ikiru singing a sentimental song at a night club; you can view the scene at the bottom of this web page. The heart-felt nature of the song is palpable. There are also some good video commentaries about the movie (1, 2, 3, 4).

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