Monday, December 29, 2014

Walmart Douchebags

Here’s an image of a Walmart douchebag:

This douchebag cost me $10.08 at my local Walmart. I’m not sure what it does.

I did my best to follow the instructions, but some steps don’t make a whole lot of sense. The package said it was supposed to leave me feeling fresh, but it only left me feeling awkward and confused (and a wee bit excited).


Here’s another image of Walmart douchebags:

These are just some of the Walton family, heirs of the $171 billion Walmart fortune. This year these douchebags were handed $3.16 billion in dividends. Meanwhile, the average Walmart worker with children lives below the poverty line.

As far as I can tell, the only work the Walton family does, to earn their $3.16 billion paycheck, is to show up at a meeting once a year to veto shareholder proposals that would pay their workers a living wage.


I don’t understand what any of these Walmart douchebags--the hygiene product or the family heirs--are good for. Both types of Walmart douchebags seem kind of fishy. And both leave a bad taste in my mouth.


I’ve read (here) that Walmart could give each of it’s employees a $5,000 raise, bringing most of their employees above the poverty line, without hurting the Walton family a bit; in fact it might even help the Walmart bottom line. But I say that’s too good for those Walmart douchebags.

You know what you call someone who doesn’t work and just lives off handouts? A freeloader. The Walton family are a bunch of freeloader douchebags and I’d personally like to see all the money go to the hardworking employees. Those freeloading Walton douchebags should have to go out and work for a living.

To be fair, it can be hard to get a job without training or job experience. Their Waltony hands are too soft for manual labor, having never been calloused by the hard work of doing anything except counting money, and buying fine art, yachts, and fancy cars.

But the Waltons do have experience at doing one thing: they’re experienced at being douchebags. There are a lot of people out there whose orifices are not as fresh smelling as a field of daisies after a light rain. So let’s get those Walton’s to work doing what they know: being douchebags, using their so-soft hands to service our American holes. That’s the kind of Walmart family shareholder I want to see.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Our Dublin Vacation

We recently fulfilled our long-time dream of taking a vacation to Dublin. (Boy oh boy, did we need a vacation!) Dublin was everything we had hoped for, and more. Take a look:


As you can see, Dubliners take a lot of pride in keeping their streets clean, safe, and friendly.

And they feel it’s important to support the local street artists.


The Dublin food is wonderful. The people are always ready to help. And they’re so friendly!

Here we are enjoying a local brew and a bite to eat at one of their many fine restaurants and pubs. (I admit, we may have enjoyed a little too much of the food and drink--but what are vacations for).


The plazas in Dublin are their centers of commerce, social interaction, entertainment, dining, and nightlife. Here is Amy in one of the Dublin plazas.

BTW, I believe the local term for such a plaza is “strip mall”.


Our hotel accomodations were top notch, complete with television (with many English language channels) and breakfast in the lobby with other travellers.

This is our room:

and the view out our window, overlooking the plaza:


But, alas, no vacation can go on forever. So we had to bid Dublin adiós and adiue.

Here you can see Amy reluctantly headed toward the subway platform, for our trip back home to Oakland, a few Bart stops away from Dublin.


Farewell, Dublin, and your lovely green rolling hills, your wonderful food and drink, your inspiring arts, and your friendly people. We will always be there in our hearts, even if we can’t always be there physically (at least not until we rustle up another $4.25 in Bart fare).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Peak Lavender? Pppfft!!!

The Doomsayers were wrong 100 years ago, and they’re wrong now.
Editorial, Wall Street Journal
Sept 16, 2124

It was 100 years ago, today, that scientists first unlocked the secrets of Heavy Lavender, the almost-limitless power source that has fueled mankind’s last century of unprecedented prosperity and growth. Rather than mark this anniversary as a time for celebration, the doomsday, eco-alarmist Cassandras at WEDF are at it again, predicting “ecological disaster of unprecedented proportions” in today’s sensationalist report titled “Peak Lavender: Return of Limits.”

We’ve heard this song many times before--Thomas Malthus first crooned its dissonant melody over 300 years ago. The song goes on and on, my friends, and though it never seems to end the song of the scaremongers is always and forever wrong.

A little bit of historical knowledge is all we need to thoroughly debunk WEDF’s latest fact-free claims. Very few of us today were alive on April 3, 2019, when some portion of an alien spacecraft crashed into a ski resort in what was then Gstaad, Switzerland. It would be 2 years before the innermost compartment of that spacecraft would be breeched to find that it was full of a substance that looked, more than anything, like seeds of a lavender shrub. Within one year the world’s scientific community had determined that each “seed”, termed “Heavy Lavender” or just “Lavender”, was a form of phenomenally dense sodium and germanium behaving as a single inert element. Our greatest minds soon confirmed that when the GeNa bond was broken each seed was capable of instantly releasing as much energy as the world of 100 years ago then consumed in decades. There were many false starts in harnessing that energy (the world greatly mourned the loss of the Large Hadron Collider along with a third of what was then Switzerland and portions of France), but on September 16, 2024 the first successful Lavender Station went online.

Since that event, 100 years ago, nothing has been the same. Nothing, that is, except the rhetoric of the chattering, so-called environmentalists.

100 years ago, the eco-alarmists warned of “Peak Oil” as if the world would soon run out. How ironic that sounds today, given that Germany’s Lavender Stations produce more hydrocarbons every week (because those liquid fuels are the most effective way to transport energy for the world’s myriad uses) than ever existed in known natural reserves. In light of this Peak Oil history, using the term “Peak Lavender” simply highlights the ignorance of the WEDF.

100 years ago the greatest eco-alarmist threat was something they called “global warming”, the notion being that atmospheric Carbon accumulations would heat the Earth out of control, bringing with it global heating, uncontrolled sea-rises, and general environmental catastrophe. How wrong-headed those notions seem today as Lavender Stations draw the carbon in their hydrocarbons directly from the atmosphere, giving us precise control of these “dangerous greenhouse gases”. As for sea rises, wrong again! By pumping and freezing water across the Antarctic continent we have not only lowered sea levels and greatly increased the Earth’s habitable land, but have also created the third most popular tourist destination in the South Pole’s numerous theme parks and shopping malls.

100 years ago they warned of mass starvation and out-of-control population growth--this in a world of only 7 billion people. 7 billion! Listen… what’s that sound you hear? That’s the sound of today’s 60 billion residents of planet Earth, healthy and well fed, laughing at those old population concerns. Human ingenuity used Lavender energy to quickly bring about a second green revolution: now we’re able to pump water wherever it is needed, extract fertilizer nutrients directly from the air and the oceans, generate artificial sunlight in multi-level skyscraper farms, level mountains into furrows, and turn the newly-exposed ocean floors into boundless farmland. There is plenty of food and water for everybody. (Yes, there remain an estimated 3 billion people suffering chronic undernourishment in areas of political instability--primarily parts of France and the Middle East where relations with Germany remain strained, and as a result of the terrible Verderbnislücke riots within Germany itself--but in historical terms to have just 1 in 20 people starving is nothing short of a humanitarian miracle.)

100 years ago they were predicting massive unemployment and economic unrest as machines took over our jobs; those worries initially worsened as Lavender’s cheap energy made the cost of running those machines virtually free. Those predictions could not have been more wrong, because what they did not consider (they never do) is how many new employment opportunities would be created by the new technology. For example, with ubiquitous and cheap air travel it is not unusual now for workers to commute up to 1000 miles to their jobs--that 1000-mile job-search radius has greatly increased the job market opportunities for every employee. More importantly, entire job titles exist now that never existed before, such as:
  • in-flight personal trainer - between commuting, retiring, conferences, and vacations, the middle class now spend about 1/5 of their adult life flying, which would be bad for health if not for our in-flight fitness gyms (offering cross-training, bowling alleys, weight-lifting, etc…).
  • ensemblier - a century ago it was common to wear the same outfit all day long. In a time when fashions changed only seasonally, this made some sense (although it was highly unsanitary by modern standards). Now that fashions change daily--sometimes hourly--ensembliers, who choose, purchase and deliver one’s morning, afternoon, and evening attire, make up 8% of the workforce; that’s 4 billion new jobs in a category that didn’t even used to exist. [It was common in olden times to use items more than once--it was called “reuse”. Reusable clothing was just one example of the old mindset that proved both unhygienic and bad for the economy. There were countless examples of product reuse, some of them quite horrifying, including toothbrushes, keyboards, plates, glasses, cutlery, soap, toilet seats, bed sheets, pillows, phones, and currency.]
  • quarantine trooper - in a world that is 60-billion strong, diseases could spread very quickly if each city block did not have an ever-vigilant quarantine patrol at the ready
  • gravity counselor - space is a favorite weekend getaway, but who would have known that so many space tourists would have so much difficulty getting mentally readjusted to gravity
  • energy release artist - most nights we literally have more energy than we know what to do with; without these artists and their brilliant night-time displays whole cities would literally explode
  • sommeli-aire - “are we dining this evening on Canard à l'Orange? May I recommend pairing that with bottled air from Lourdes, or perhaps Bilbao if you’re feeling adventurous”

100 years ago they said the ongoing mass extinction was a precursor of humanity’s own doom. If that was our doom, nobody seems to have noticed. Turns out, nobody really misses a few smelly pandas, pelicans, penguins, or porpoises. And bee drones are a lot more efficient than their organic, stinging predecessors.

Today’s WEDF “Peak Lavender” report barely acknowledges the tremendous gains from Lavender energy, never admitting that in every way we’re better off than people of 100 years ago. Instead, the WEDF touts scaremongering estimates that we’ve already used more than half of our Heavy Lavender, even as yearly use increases, and that in less than a century there will be no more Lavender. In language more fitting to a bad movie screenplay than a scientific report, they write “and then, just as quickly as Lavender arrived it will be gone. In just a few generations we will have squandered this one-time resource of incredible energy, leaving nothing for our children. Without the miracle fuel to sustain our way of life, most of the Earth’s 90 billion inhabitants will soon perish in the wars, pestilence and famines sure to follow.”

Whew! Heady stuff. Put that in a QMAX movie sphere and sell me popcorn!

Look. Germany, who has tightly controlled the Lavender supply ever since they annexed Switzerland in 2028, denies the WEDF’s figures. But even if, for sake of argument, we were to accept the WEDF estimate that over 50% of Lavender is gone, it does not logically follow that disaster is impending. Disaster is not at our door. They are just plain wrong.

Why are they so wrong? Why was Malthus so wrong 300 years ago? Why were the zero-population-growthers so wrong 150 years ago, and the climate alarmists so wrong 100 years ago? Because all their claims are based on the belief that Man is restrained by natural, physical limits (and when nature doesn’t prove their point, by golly, they always want government to impose unnatural limits for them).

But what the Malthuses and the Ehrlichs and the Gores and the McKibbens and the WEDFs don’t understand is that Man is not controlled by limits. There are no limits to human ingenuity in an untethered marketplace.

Human ingenuity is an unlimited resource in a free market.

Why are the doomsayers always wrong? Because they never understand the role of the economy and unlimited human ingenuity in overcoming any challenge society encounters.

When petroleum was discovered, brilliant scientist learned to harness its energy. When more food was needed, brilliant scientists brought us the first and second green revolutions. When Heavy Lavender was discovered, it took brilliant scientists only a few years to learn to harness that resource. Do they really believe that in next 100 years our brilliants scientist will make no progress in any of these areas?
  • inventing more efficient paths to Lavender energy extraction
  • discovering more Lavender deposits through exploratory drilling and planetary exploration (it’s only reasonable to assume there have been other alien crashes in our solar system’s 6 billion years history)
  • we have no doubt that someday, as it’s secrets are better understood, Humanity will be able to produce its own Lavender - when that happens, today’s era of prosperity will look like the dark ages by comparison

Looked at historically, today’s WEDF report simply continues a long tradition of pessimistic worrywarts warning the rest of us to amend our wicked ways before it’s too late. The rest of us would be wise to continue our long tradition of blissfully ignoring them.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Introduction to Gender Inequality in American Healthcare

“Welcome to the first session of this course: Introduction to Gender Inequality in American Healthcare.

“First off I want to show you a slide which speaks volumes about how much remains to be done to achieve healthcare equality in this county.

“As this graphic makes starkly clear, a woman born in this country in 1980 can expect to die about 6 years sooner than if she’d been born a man. That is to say: women in America enjoy 6 fewer years of life itself. It’s a tragedy and an outrage, and one that our male-centric medical establishment barely even acknowledges

“Could you imagine if the tables were turned and men, instead, were dying six years younger than women? It would make headlines in every paper, and be the top of the news every evening. Congress and the big pharmaceutical industry would be funding men’s longevity research faster than you could say ‘someone give me another blue pill’! There would be fundraising telethons, and marathons, and walks for men’s health.

“It’s unconscionable that in this day and age our society is still so paterna… uh, yes, there in back, you have a question?"

“Yes, professor. Um… I’m not sure you’re reading that chart correctly. I think those lines might be mislabeled. Yeah, um, it looks like someone scratched out the proper labels and switched ‘Males’ with ‘Females’. Rather crudely, too. They didn’t even correctly spell ‘males’.”

“What? You’re saying that it’s the other way around? That females are outliving males?”

“Yes, professor, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“Oh my… you may have something there…  OK. You’re right. Never mind. Class dismissed."

Next week: Introduction to Gender Inequality in the American Penal System: Why are women five times as likely to be incarcerated as men, and why is nothing being done to protect these women’s rights?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thinking about Brownian Motion, Air Molecules, and Airplane Wings

In 1827, botanist Robert Brown peered into a microscope and observed the jittery motion of pollen particles in a fluid. This then-unexplained (therefore magical) jitteriness has since been known as Brownian Motion.

In 2012, pedestrian Brent Noorda peered out a window and observed the non-falling motion of an airplane up in the sky. This then-unexplaned (therefore magical) suspension has since been known as Airplane Aerodynamics.

(In 1738 Daniel Bernoulli published some book about fluid dynamics, including Bernoulli’s principle, but we’re going to ignore him.)

In 2014, this blog post attempted to connect these two phenomena. Can the reason that particles jiggle in Brownian Motion be the same reason that airplanes don’t fall from the sky?

Brownian Motion

Brownian Motion (Wikipedia article) is often observed by dirty daydreamers with nothing better to do than to watch dust motes float around in the sunlight (see dust-mote video), and by smoking chemists watching particles of soot through a microscope (see soot video).

It wasn’t clear what caused the random jostlings of Brownian Motion until Albert Einstein published his “Theory of Brownian Motion” in 1905 (known as Einstein’s “miracle year” because in that one year he released this and 3 other groundbreaking papers in physics, and still found time to record both Electric Ladyland and Sergeant Pepper). Einstein’s paper used the behavior of these microscopically visible particles to provide convincing evidence of the existence of atoms, too small to see in then-existing microscopes, and even to accurately count those invisible atoms.

What’s causing the Brownian Motion of visible soot particles in the air are their frequent and random-like collisions with very numerous, very small (even compared to soot particles), and very fast air molecules. If you could see the air molecules you’d be amazed at how many of those little things there were zipping about and bouncing against the relatively-giant bits of soot.

Interactive web page at

You MUST now play with this interactive web page explaining Brownian Motion at I mean it. You are not allow to read further on this blog until you use that interactive web site. INTERACT NOW!

At the page, if you are tracing paths of the big balls you’ll see their erratic Brownian Motion looking something like this:

If you adjust the “Drag to see what’s actually going on” slider to make the invisible air molecules visible, you’ll see that there’s a lot more going on there:

Upward-Only Brownian Motion (ignoring collisions from above)

I hope you played with that interactive web page at long enough to really understand it, and to notice that those big colored dots are randomly bouncing all over the screen, and to understand why. Because now we’re going to change the rules a little bit.

I’ve altered that interactive page to create a new page showing Brownian Motion (with upward-only-option). This adds the option “Ignore Falling Air”, changing the rules so that collisions only have an effect if they are from below. In other words, tiny air particles coming from above are ignored (they pass right through), while air particles from below are the same old collisions (they continue to bounce off).

When you play Brownian Motion (with upward-only-option), which I sincerely hope you do, you’ll notice a decidedly different pattern of paths, e.g.:

There’s still a little bit of erratic behavior, but clearly, when collisions from above are ignored, these colored balls just want to rise.

The Upward-Only Brownian-Motion Wing

As we’ve seen, if an object could receive collisions only with air particles moving up, but was invisible to air particles falling down, then that object would rise, as if pushed from below (because it is being pushed from below). Such a magical device would be able to stay aloft in air.

We’ll now attempt to invent such a magical device, and we’ll call it a “Brownian Motion Wing” or just “wing”.

Imagine this “wing” object, having a right- triangular cross-sectional shape, moving from right to left at (oh... let’s just pull a number out of the air) 570 miles per hour. This wing is traveling through a sky full of very many super-tiny air molecules, a few of which are represented in this drawing. Those air molecules are moving very very quickly in random directions, with an average velocity of (oh…) twice the speed of the wing, so that relative to the wing the slowest ones at any instant are running away from the wing at about 500mph and the fastest ones are coming toward the plane at about 1500mph. Here is what I hope you’re imagining:

Notice first the level bottom of the wing compared to the sloped top. There are air molecules bouncing off the wing bottom, but no air molecules bouncing off of the top. This is because the front of the wing is pushing away most of the molecules whose trajectory would have hit the top of the wing. In a sense, the top of the wing is in the random-air-molecule-trajectory shadow of that front edge.

We have our magic wing!

Air molecules are now bouncing against the bottom but not against the top; in other words, there is force on the bottom of the wing pushing up, but no force on the top pushing down. That wing wants to fly!

Notice also that if the wing were not moving, but were stationary relative to the air, the front edge would not be preventing air molecules from hitting the top of the wing, and so there would be just as much downward force of air molecules bouncing against the top of the wing as there is against the bottom. So if this wing is not moving, it won’t fly.

This fast-moving “wing” is what we wanted. It is an object that collides only with air molecules moving up, but not with air molecules moving down. Success!!!!

Wing force-per-square-meter of Upward-Only Brownian Motion

Having invented this “wing” device, which is effected by the upward-pushing air molecules but not the downward-pushing ones, let’s calculate how much force is pushing up on the bottom of our wing.

Force per-square-meter of upward-only air molecules

First lets determine the force of a single air molecule bouncing off the bottom of our wing. To make this calculation easy, we’ll make the following reasonable assumptions:
  • the average air molecule weighs about 1e-25 lbs
  • the average air molecule is traveling at about 1100 miles/hour (in some random direction)
  • the wing weighs much (much much) more than an air molecule
Note about assumptions and estimates: These, and all of the rest of the numbers in this post, are reasonable but inexact estimates, but still reasonable enough to suggest whether further calculations are warranted.

I won’t show all my math, but here are things calculated along the way:
  • for air molecules moving in any non-downward direction (i.e. Vy>0) the upward component of velocity averages 635 mph (Vy=sqrt((V^2)/3), or about 284 meters/second
  • the change in momentum for each upward collision averages about 284e-25 (lb m/s)
  • there are about 2.69e+25 air molecules per cubic meter (at sea level, so we’ll assume plane is flying low)
  • in one second about 3.82e+27 collisions will happen between air molecules and the bottom of the wing (that’s half of all the molecules in a 284 meter tall column of air, or 1/2 * 284 x 2.69e+25, if assumptions about elasticity are made)
  • in each second, the change in momentum is 108,420 lb m/s (2.69e+25 * 284e-25) or 49179 kg m/s
Therefore, the upward force on a square meter of our magic wing is 49179 N/m^2 (where N is a Newton, which is 1 kg m/s^2).

How big must our magic wing be to support the weight of a 747?

A Boeing 747-400’s mass is 396,890 kg (875,000 lb), and gravity near earth is about 9.81 m/s^2. So the downward force on a 747 is up to 3893491 N (396,890 x 9.81).

To counteract this force of gravity, and keep the 747 in the air, our magic wing’s bottom surface area must be (3893491 / 49129 =) 79 m^2.

Boeing reports the 747 wing area as 525 m^2, which is 6.6 times larger than what is required by our estimate for what is required. That is much closer than I expected to be when I started this theory. Still, why are we off by 6.6X? Bad estimates? Whacky assumptions? Turbulance is a bitch? Boeing over-engineers?

The shape of our right-trangle wing?

In the previous right-triangle cross section drawing of our wing, I just guessed at the dimensions, especially the height relative to the width. So let’s get a better guess for our 747 magic wing.

The 747 cruises at about 913 km/h (567 mph) = 254 m/s. If we want the front edge to block our average downward air molecules (with average downward velocity of 284m/s) at that speed, the height/width ratio should be 284/254, making the cross-section of our triangle wing look like this:

That’s a HORRIBLE looking wing. Horrible, in a lot of ways, but the worst is all those air molecules that are pushing up against the gigantic front of the wing. How are the plane engines expecting to provide enough force to push all those molecules off the front?!

Even if each front-hitting particle would just magically “go away” after it hit the front, how much pressure is that?

Quick Calculation: Taking our wing bottom area to be 79 m^2, the wing front would be about 88 (79x284/254) m^2.  Each second, this would be colliding against 6e+29 (254*88x2.69e+25) air molecules each averaging 538 (284+254) m/s relative to the wing and so each changing momentum by 244e-25 kg m/s. The final force is therefore about 1.46e+7 N.

So to collide against all this air, our engines have to provide about 1.46e+7 N thrust. The combined engines on a 747 generate about 1.1e+6 N, which is about 13 times too little for our wing. The engines to push this thing through the air would have to be massive!

We could start modifying the front of the wing to be more aerodynamic, being angled to push more air down and out of the way. If we deflect the incoming air up we are getting pushed down, and if we deflect the air down there is some benefit, but that is offset by pushing away many of the upward-rising molecules we need to bounce against the underside of the plane.

In the end, this idea of bouncing away all downward molecules is requiring way more energy than current engines supply.

Conclusion: This wing idea doesn’t fly!

This upward-only browning wing is a failure. So the traditional explanation is correct, right?

The traditional explanation for what makes a wing fly is something like this: "The path around a wing is longer above the wing than it is below the wing; therefore the molecules above the wing must travel faster to keep up with the molecules below the wing; therefore, Bernoulli (who we almost got away with not mentioning) says the air pressure above the wing is lower than that below, so the wing is pushed up."

The problem with this traditional example is the idea that for some reason the molecules above the wing go faster than those below the wing. That’s just silly. It’s as if runners around a race track will run faster at the curved ends of the track than they do during the straight sections, just because something about curvature makes a person run faster.

If you want to know what really makes a plane fly, see this superbly excellent article: A Physical Description of Flight; Revisited, then watch some water wrap around a glass under the sink, especially if you can find a wing-shaped glass, and say to yourself “Oh, now I get it!” (But then again, maybe that article and the water-under-glass example are improperly crediting the Coandă effect, and so maybe you still don't get it at all, and neither do I.)

So, does air flight have anything to do with randomly-moving air molecules?

Yes, the flow of air around a wing is completely governed by those random air molecules bouncing around. From a macro level, watching smoke wrap around a wing, or streamline paths in our drawings, it can seem like air is a fluid macro thing. But air is really mostly empty space, if you look at it closely enough, with lots of tiny tiny balls of air molecules bouncing and colliding. It is their collective behavior that gives the characteristics of a fluid.

Take, for instance, the idea “low pressure” that often comes up when describing air flow, streamlines, and “lift”, and especially the extreme of low pressure  of a “vacuum”, which is an area of no pressure.  Lower pressure simply means there are fewer particles bouncing around (or slower particles); while a vacuum means there are no particles.

Nature doesn’t care about a vacuum

You’ll often hear that “nature abhors a vacuum”. But that isn’t at all true. Vacuums are fine, they just don’t tend to last for very long. This isn’t because the surrounding area abhors (or even notices) a vacuum, or is being sucked in by the vacuum, but simply because the vacuum is a place where randomly-moving particles that happen to be headed that way or not going to meet with any other particles to keep them away.

To demonstrate why vacuums don’t last very long, even thought they don’t express any force themselves, I’ve modified the interactive web page one more time, creating Push air molecules around, so it will only show the air molecules, and to allow you to push those molecules around.  If you’re quick about it you can create a vacuum region like this one:

But the vacuum region won’t stick around very long.

Go ahead, play with Push air molecules around. It’s fun, and it’s all I’ve got left.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tech immigrants are big failures

Consider this data:
Mathematicalish conclusions:
  • immigrants fail 180% as often as the rest of us
  • a quarter of tech startup failures are caused by immigrants
However you look at it, tech immigrants are big failures.

Monday, June 16, 2014

It’s Nice to $hare

Don’t miss this next big investment opportunity in the sharing economy!

If all you know about the “sharing economy” are the words “sharing” and “economy” then you have no idea what’s going on. As we have learned from the poster children for this new phenomenon, AirBnb and Uber, “sharing economy” really means “enabling amateurs to replace professionals, at a lower cost, by using an app that helps those amateurs and their customers bypass the regulations, laws, protections, unionization, training, licensing, and employment that previously provided living wages to those now-disrupted professionals.”

Most importantly, AirBnb (valuation $10 billion) and Uber (valuation $18 billion), show that the sharing economy is a great way to make a whole lot of money… for those who were are smart enough to have invested in them early.

It’s too late to get in on AirBnb and Uber, but if you invest now with our new BNB ShareFund, you can get in on the ground floor for these next big sharing economy blockbusters:
  • UberRX – Prescriptions, but without the overhead and regulatory “tax” of licensed pharmacologists.
  • FaceLyft – Why give your money to expensive surgeons, when our part-time independent operators can make you “look like a million” for a mere $10/hour? (note, during bikini season prices may fluctuate due to our surgeon surge pricing)
  • AirDnC – Abortions, right in your own home (or the back alley behind your home). Finally, reproductive rights at the right price!
  • InstaCarPart – Need a car part fast? Our app helps local entrepreneurs locate that part for you, fast and cheap, from a similar car right in your own neighborhood.
  • UberLaw – Just because someone has gone to a fancy law school and passed the bar doesn’t make them better than our UberLawyers, who have each correctly filled out our stringent online application.
  • UbertyLove – Young lovers. User-rated. Unregulated by anti-libertarian laws that stifle innovation (such as those prohibiting child-labor and prostitution).
  • FlaskRabbit – Bringing you liquor, any time any place any age.
  • HomeworkJoy – Nerds will do your homework if you promise not to beat them up.
  • AirPort – Don’t pay huge fees to land your plane in a city-owned, city-regulated airport. With this app you can find people with long, low-cost driveways.
  • PosteriorMates – Why wipe your own ass when a desperately poor undocumented worker can be summoned in an instant to wipe it for you. Our app assures you never have to speak with or even look at your wiper. No tipping.
  • UberBnb – Why pay those high dual costs of Uber rides + AirBnb rooms? With UberBnb you can sleep right in our drivers’ cars.
This is only a sampling of the current investments for this fund. New “it’s like the Uber of ___” are being created every day. This investment round is open for only a short time. Call now. Our operators are standing by.

Disclaimer: We can’t guarantee that every one of these ideas will be billion-dollar businesses (our legal advisers made us say that, but, seriously, how can any of these miss, and who knows if these legal advisers even know what they’re talking about, since we just paid them $12 on UberLaw).

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In praise of Andrew Kortina

Today we at BNB honor Andrew Kortina.

We praise Andrew not for his role in creating a successful mobile payment app, Venmo (although that is kinda cool), but for understanding the value of college.

The reason a lot of people think they go to college is so they'll earn more money after college. But Kortina was pretty sure he'd be doing computer software after college [and we all know you don't need college to learn to write software] and so, as he writes in a recent essay:
...I developed a hypothesis that I would maximize the value of tuition costs by studying the least practical subjects possible, the things I would not get to do after graduation ... like reading and discussing great books with a group of incredibly smart students and professor...
Having started out as a computer science major, he ended up majoring in Philosphy and Creative Writing.

So here's to you, Andrew Kortina. May you inspire others to go to college not for a higher salary, but for a higher education.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Richard Branson & Elon Musk versus Elon Musk & Richard Branson (or The Cognitive Dissonance of the Entrepreneurial Mind)

What do Richard Branson and Elon Musk have in common (pick one)?
  1. They’re both environmentalists; passionately fighting for reduction in use of fossil fuels
  2. They’re both creating space-travel businesses based on rockets that burn more fossil-fuel-per-customer than any other type of commercial vehicle ever devised
  3. They both want to colonize mars because Earth may be doomed
  4. They both have bumped uglies with Cameron Diaz
  5. All of the above (except D, maybe)
The answer is…. E.  Yes, I know E sounds impossible, because how can a person of obvious intelligence think of himself as an environmentalist while at the same time be building businesses based on burning huge amounts of fossil fuels?

Holding two contradictory beliefs at the same time is known as cognitive dissonance.

In most people cognitive dissonance causes severe mental stress. What is special about these brilliant entrepreneurial minds that let’s them hold such diametrically opposing views without breaking?

Richard Branson

Richard Branson cares a lot about the environment of our planet. As an environmentalist, he created the $25million earth challenge for greenhouse gas removal. As an environmentalist, he launched a green energy plan for the Caribbean. As an environmentalist, he has pledged billions to fight global warming.

But there’s another Richard Branson: Richard Branson the anti-environmentalist. As an anti-environmentalist, he has built airlines (Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, and Virgin Australia) that burn about 1/4 of a billion gallons of fuel every year. As an anti-environmentalist, he has built Virgin Galactic, with the goal of giving rich douchebags two hours in space at a monetary cost of $200,000 per person, and an environmental cost of 5 tons of CO2 per passenger (this is to be followed by space hotels, and eventually flights to colonize Mars at an environmental cost of a jabillion gallons of fuel per trip). As an anti-environmentalist, he owns his own island on which he entertains politicians, business tycoons, and celebrities who he flies in on private jets for fun-filled cerebral meetings at which they discuss plans for a sustainable world.

How do these two Richard Branson’s live peacefully in the same body among such cognitive dissonance? How does he not wake up every night screaming to himself “My God, I’m such a fucking hypocrite?”

By many accounts, Richard Branson is just bat-shit crazy, and so his secret may be simple insanity. That’s the only way I can understand the cognitive dissonance of Richard Branson: that he’s just crazy.

Elon Musk

I have a harder time simply calling Elon Musk crazy. He’s too much of a personal hero to be dismissed so easily. And yet Musk also supports two diametrically opposing goals: On the one hand he sincerely wants to make a car that can be sustainably fueled; on the other hand he sincerely wants to make passenger space travel cheaper and to even fly people to colonize Mars.

How does Elon Musk reconcile this cognitive dissonance? By creating two separate companies. One Elon Musk runs Tesla, working hard to transport humanity across the land without burning non-renewable fuel. The other Elon Musk runs SpaceX, working just as hard to make it easier for more people to burn more fuel more frequently to travel into space.

The only way these two Elon Musks can get along, without constant bickering and self-hatred, is by working at separate companies where the two Elons never meet, never work together, and never have to talk to one another. It’s a very clever solution to a nearly-intractable problem, as you’d expect from a very clever man.

Can the virtues of Tesla offset the sins of SpaceX?

I wonder… Given the stupendous amount of energy use to launch a passenger for a ride in a SpaceX rocket, can even the most efficient Tesla car save enough fuel to compensate for that one SpaceX ride?

It takes a huge amount of energy to launch stuff into space, huge amounts–remember, you’ve got to push a weight, along with the weight of its fuel (which, for the shuttles, was 240 times the weight of the object itself), to 25,000 mph against gravity and with nothing to push against except Newton’s second law. Back when I was a young physics student I could have worked out some numbers quickly but now I just do web searches and find other’s estimates, which, in summary, come down to “huge mind-blowing amounts of energy”.

Using just a few optimistic numbers from Musk and SpaceX (who are trying to greatly reduce costs) we see that their Falcon 98 launch uses 30,000 gallons of kerosene and 40,000 gallons of liquid oxygen. That’s a huge amount of fuel. (How much fuel does it take to make 40,000 gallons of liquid oxygen? I don’t know, but I wager it’s a huge amount.)

SpaceX launch costs are currently at $1,862/lb (which I assume are mostly energy costs). Musk has said he wants to get that down to $500/lb. He’s a real smart guy, so maybe he can figure out how to achieve that, but even so that represents a huge amount of energy just to achieve orbit (that’s equivalent to the energy of something like 25,000 gallons of gas to put a single 200 lb person into orbit—start dieting guys!).

Compare: UPS will fly stuff around the world for about $10/lb (I’ve seen estimates for a few dollars per pound). A cargo ship can float stuff around the world for pennies per pound. Or we can push stuff to space for $500/lb (hopefully, someday, if they’re right about being able to bring costs down).

Question: If I replace my gas-driven car with a Tesla to save fuel, how long before I have saved enough fuel to make up for pushing my 190 pounds into space just one time?

Answer: Using Elon Musk’s most optimistic numbers, you’ll have to drive a Tesla for about 120 years to save up enough fuel for one spot on a SpaceX launch.

On saving humanity by going to Mars

Branson says he’s “determined to start a population on Mars”. Musk, who is also determined to start a Martian colony and to put a man on mars in 10 to 20 years, says (I don’t want to put words in his mouth, so I’ll let his sister do it for me) “With all the environmental problems on Earth, the next step is to move to a planet that we can live on”.

Sorry to break it to you, guys, but the humans on Mars will be made of the same stuff as the humans on Earth. If we can’t make it without fucking up our original home, then we’re not going to make it on Mars, either, and we don’t deserve to.

Here’s a very short science fiction story for y’all:

A conversation between parent and child, on Mars, sometime in the future:

Parent: See that little blue dot in the night sky? That’s Earth.

Child: What is Earth?

Parent: Earth was the planet of our ancestors, before people came to Mars.

Child: Who lives on Earth now?

Parent: Nobody. It’s a dead planet. The actions of rich, selfish people destroyed it.

Child: How did the rich, selfish people destroy Earth?

Parent: They burned it up as fuel, getting to Mars.

A final, private message for Richard Branson and Elon Musk

Everybody except for Richard and Elon, you can go away now. This last part is only for the two of them. So, bye bye, everybody else.

Dear Richard and Elon,

If you really care about the environment, then please stay on the ground. Please accept the limitations of known physics and chemistry, and understand that we are a long long way from any breakthroughs that will lead to a sustainable way to fling people into space. Sorry, but it’s true: there is no current way to be both an environmentalist and a space traveler. You’re just going to have to redirect your rocket-science level of brilliance to improving the planet we’re on.

Elon, you can go away now. This last part is only for Richard. So, bye bye, Elon.

Richard, now that we’re alone, I know what you’re thinking: “We'll offset the carbon footprint of our rocket launches by creating a new business, Virgin Forest, to plant trees on the moon.” No, Richard, that’s just stupid.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Animinimalianism: the practice of minimizing, although not abstaining from, the consumption of meat – red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal – by favoring a small part of a large animal over a large part of a small animal, out of respect for the equal worthiness of all sentient life.

a teaching moment from a sad plate o’ shrimp

My transcending moment of dietary enlightenment struck while I was staring down a surprisingly large plate of surprisingly small shrimp. “There must be two hundred shrimp there,” I thought. “Two hundred shrimp have given their lives for this meal.” I suddenly felt very sad.

I was about to discover animinimalianism.

the path from omnivore, to vegetarian, to pescetarian

Eating meat is kind of disturbing, if you stop to think about it. I did not stop to think about it for the first 20 years of my life. I just ate in ignorant bliss. Nom nom nom nom nom.

Then I did think about it, and I came to the realization that meat was murder, pain, suffering, and so on. I became a vegetarian.

As a vegetarian, my conscience felt better, but after a few years I realized that my body did not “feel better”. I simply felt better when I ate some animal protein and animal fat.

So I tried pescetarianism, where I wouldn’t eat fish except for fish. And later on I added some chicken because of the whole “it doesn’t have a face” thing.

egotistical dietary ethics

But staring at that plate of shrimpimagining little shrimp faces on those little shrimp bodiesit struck me as ridiculous to base the value, joy, and pain of a life or death on how much a creature’s face happens to look like mine, or whether it happens to lactate like my species, or how far away it is on the evolutionary tree. To think that I could say which life was more recipe-worthy than another seemed, if not racist, at least speciesist, or phylumist, or something-ist.

As the great philosopher, Horton the Elephant, once nearly said, “a life is a life, no matter how small.”

If you’re going to be a vegetarian and eat no meat, then good on you. But if you are going to accept that you’re an omnivore, don’t be so egotistic as to believe that an animal’s worthiness depends on how close it is to you in appearance or sentience.


So here’s my new thing: I’m not ready to eat no meat at all, but I do want to minimize the number of lives sacrificed to feed me. So I have become an animinimalian (from the root words “animal” and “minimal”): a practicer of animinimalianism.

As an animinimalian I try to minimize the number of animals that die to make my meal. That plate of shrimp, for example, sacrificed two hundred lives; a trout might be 1 life; but a quarter pounder takes only about 1/6000th of a cow’s life; so I order the quarter pounder.

A chicken plate might take 1/4th of  a life; but a blue-whale patty kills only 1/400,000th of a blue whale; so go with the whale. (Another reason to eat blue whales: they feed on krill, millions of them daily, and so blue whales are terrible animinimalians and so just might deserve to be eaten.)

final ethical dietary warning

I realize that while the above rationale for everyone practicing animinimalianism makes 100% absolute perfect rational logical sense, there are some blasphemers who might twist this logic into saying that it’s OK to eat people.

Let me make this clear: It is NOT OK to eat people. Not even fat people. Cannibaminimalianism is NOT OK!!!

Bon appétit.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Who does more housework in a marriage, men or women? We have the answer (hint: it’s both)

The war between the sexes is not over, not by a long shot, based on the two most common complaints we hear around the BNB water-cooler. From women who live with men it’s “I work all day at BNB, then go home to do all the housework because he’s too lazy to get his butt off the couch.” From the men it’s “I’m always doing chores and being nagged to do more chores but it’s never enough for that woman”.

So a year ago when two of our interns, Jane and John, became engaged we saw an opportunity to study gender inequalities as it relates to sharing of household chores. For the six months before the wedding we would interview and observe both interns, who each lived alone, about their housework activities. Then we’d do the same for the first six months they lived together.

Jane and John, each living alone

One of the first things that struck us about both Jane and John, each living alone, was how clean were both of their respective kitchens. On our first visit, Jane had a dishwasher-full of items that she promptly put away.  John was nearly as clean, with just a couple of items in the sink and one pan on the stove. Over time, though, we learned their ways of maintaining kitchen cleanliness were radically different. Immediately after preparing and eating every meal Jane would wipe down the counter, rinse her just-used dishes, pots, & pans and put them in the dishwasher. Every couple of days the dishwasher was full and she would run a cycle and then put the clean dishes away. John, on the other hand, would re-use those same few dishes we always saw in the sink, rinsing them first only if they were especially dirty.  Usually John made a plain sandwich or microwaved leftovers or ordered pizza, but on the rare occasion that John would cook something, he reused that one pan that was always on the stove. Sometimes he would eat directly over the sink and bypass dishes and utensils altogether. 
Average time/week for kitchen: Jane: 4 hours, John: 20 minutes.

We’ve already alluded to the difference in time spent preparing food every week. There are also big differences in shopping for food. Jane visits the grocery store ever few days, making lists and reading labels. John gets to the store a couple of times a month, and generally only visits the beer, meat, bread, and snack/condiment aisles.
Time on food purchase and preparation per week: Jane: 6 hours, John: 40 minutes.

Regarding clothing, we were struck by a big pile of clothes John had next to his bed (which we noticed was never made). John said “every day I take clean clothes out of the closet, and throw them in that pile when they’re dirty. When there aren’t any more clean clothes then I take everything to the laundry and wash it all at once”. Through observation we learned it wasn’t quite so simple; we observed John many times pulling an item from the pile, sniffing it, and then putting it on to be worn another day. In the six months of living-alone observation John washed that pile of clothes twice; once he included his bed sheets.  Jane’s clothing habits were quite different. She put on fresh clothes every morning, and sometimes changed for the evening when she would go out with John or other friends. Once-worn clothes went into a laundry bin. Jane would wash a load, on average, every couple of days. Many of the items were ironed after washing (something we never observed John doing). Every couple of weeks Jane would also buy something new to wear, which John never seemed to do.
Average time/week on clothing: Jane: 7 hours, John: 20 minutes.

For general apartment cleanliness, John said “I like a clean apartment, so I clean up immediately whenever things get too dirty.” In practice, this meant that John vacuumed three times during the six months, cleaned his sink once, and his toilet/windows/refrigerator/etc… never.  Jane’s policy was to clean everything each weekend (“spring-cleaning is a state of mind”), even if it was just a light dusting. In practice that meant that about twice a month her apartment had a thorough going-over.
Average time/week general cleaning: Jane: 3 hours, John: 5 minutes.

Jane and John, living together

It didn’t take Jane and John, after they’d moved in together in wedded bliss, to fall into a pattern of managing household work.

Kitchen & Food: Jane and John’s fresh young love is still very much blooming, which we saw nowhere more than in the kitchen where they like to cook together.  Mary says “It takes twice as long to cook anything now, because John is clueless in the kitchen, but it’s worth it.” John says, “I spend a lot of time in the kitchen now, but food’s good, you know?” In practice, we observed that it’s not as equal as they proclaim, with Jane often starting dinner an hour before John even thinks about food, and usually finishing by the time John gets hungry and says “Hey, you want I should order a pizza or something?” John has learned to use new plates and silverware for each dinner, and to use the dishwasher after the meal, although he still hasn’t figured out how to empty it, saying “why don’t we use the plates right out of the dishwasher—they’re clean!” John does a lot more grocery shopping than he used to, going out about once a week to pick up the items on a list Jane has prepared for him, but somehow Jane manages to get to the store a couple of times per week, too, because now she goes through a lot more food than she used to.
Time/week on food chores (grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning): Jane: 14 hours. John: 4 hours.

Clothing: John continued his habit each day to take clean clothing from the closet and to put used clothing in a pile beside the bed. Jane continued her habits too, except that when she washed her clothing she would also pick up John’s used pile and wash that along with whatever was in her bin, so that Jane was washing at least as often as she used to but now was washing more clothing. After a few months of this we asked John about washing clothes and he said “same as always, I wait until I run out of clean cloths then wash the used pile… huh, come to think of it, since I’ve been married I never seem to run out of clean clothes any more and the dirty pile is always small. That’s weird, huh?” We said “so you spend less time on clothes now that you’re married”. “No,” he replied with a grunt, “Jane is always complaining that I need to help more with laundry and so I’m always helping her fold clothes, like, every day. Why in God’s sake would anyone ever want to fold clothes?”
Average time/week on clothing: Jane: 10 hours, John: 1.5 hours.

Everything else: Jane continued her policy of trying to at least dust and straighten everything every weekend. John continued his policy of not cleaning things until they got dirty, “which they never do because Jane has OCD or something and says ‘spring cleaning state of mind’ every weekend.” “And you never clean anything on your own,” she said. “That’s because nothing’s ever dirty,” he said. “Everything you touch is dirty, my God, have you seen the toilet seat!” “That only happened once because you were in such a rush to get me out of the bathroom so you could wax your vagina or some other womany bathroom thing–talk about time-consuming chores—geez those things take a lot of work!” This continued to escalate and degrade for quite a while.
Average time/week general cleaning (not including the time arguing over the issue): Jane: 4 hours, John: 1 hour.

Summary of what we learned from studying Jane and John’s housework:

Time spent on housework when they were living alone:
  • Jane: 20 hours/week
  • John: 85 minutes/week

Time spent on housework after moving in together as a couple:
  • Jane: 28 hours/week
  • John: 6.5 hours/week

Relative times spent on housework:
  • As a married couple, Jane does 81% of the housework, John does 19%
  • After getting married, Jane’s chore workload has increased by 40%
  • After getting married, John’s chore workload has increased by 324%

Jane and John’s typical self-assessment:
Jane: "John won’t do any chores."
John: "I do chores all the time."
Jane: "Only if I remind you a hundred times."
John: "Why always with the nagging?"
Jane: "Do NOT use the N-word on me!"

But, alas, all is not lost. There is some harmony between the sexes. Both Jane and John can agree on two things:
  1. They agree that Jane does too much housework (although they do not agree that John does too little)
  2. They agree, emphatically, that same-sex marriage might not be such a bad thing