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Housing inequality

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.03.15

If it wasn't for housing inequality, my dream house would have giant walk-in closets. I've been sorting lots of clothes lately, and lusting after giant walk-in, spacious closets. I think that's my number one housing resignation in life. (By the way, I hate the hashtag firstworldproblems, so let's just have a superficial thread about dream houses without any come-uppance.)


 

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Rognlie

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.03.15

If you love Piketty so much, why don't you marry him? And move to a house? Probably because of housing inequality.


 

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ATM: Refinance school loans?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.02.15

A president writes in: I'm a few years out of grad school, and I have a good chunk of student loans - my salary is enough that it's not objectively problematic, but it feels like a big bite every month. All federal, 10-year payment plan.

I've been made aware of a private company that refinances on very favorable terms, such that I could lower both my monthly payment and my lifetime payments. They're new, but seem reputable enough, at least as financial companies go; writeups like here. Their deal is that they only finance loans for people with professional degrees from a set list of schools; originally just MBAs, now extending to my degree. Elitist, but I'm okay deriving benefit from it.

Other things I checked that seem good: no origination fees, no penalty for early repayment of any amount, ability to switch payment terms. Their customer service is very good, and per the friend who recommended them to me, it stays good following signup.

The big tradeoff is that I would lose the various backstops applicable to federal student loans: no income-based repayment if I needed it (like if I were long-term unemployed), no public service forgiveness. One advice site calls it a "golden rule" not to swap federal for private loans for this reason. But in my particular case, I think my career prospects are fairly bright, and I would have other backstops if necessary: I'd probably be getting a 10-year but paying enough each month to retire the debt in 7, so first I could move down to the monthly minimum; next, I could switch to 20-year repayment terms; and at worst my parents are there. I don't expect to benefit from the public service forgiveness program.

So, is there something big I'm missing in weighing whether to do this?

Heebie's take: I don't think so! This sounds well-reasoned to me! Note: I have no expertise.


 

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Scammers

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.02.15

Why Nigerian Scammers Say They're From Nigeria. This is great.

The question many people have asked themselves after receiving an email like this is: Who would fall for this crap? The persistence of the scam also raises another question: Can't people come up with better worded, more creative forms of attack? Why, given the scam is relatively well known these days, would a scammer still purport from Nigeria or from another West African nation given the association of advance free fraud with the region?
In retrospect the answer to this question is obvious. According to Cormac Herley, principal researcher at Microsoft Research's Machine Learning Department, it's because scammers aren't necessarily interested in seeming believable: They are looking for the most gullible victims they can find, to maximise return on their effort.

The simplicity of the tactic has its charm. (Aside from the poor gullible people who are getting massively defrauded.)

Via J.O., elsewhere


 

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Smoke

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.02.15

What percent of your social circle smoke cigarettes? We've got what feels like a surprisingly high number of social smokers for 2015 - maybe half of our group of friends? In grad school, I think barely anyone smoked. In undergrad, almost everyone smoked at first, because I was put on a smoking hall. (Smoking halls still existed in 1995!) But most of them quit over the next few years. (That group is still cohesive - we take vacations with them - and I don't think any of them smoke now.)

I find the smoking in my current group annoying because they're all very big on hiding it from their kids, which means they're constantly sneaking off and returning, and as a non-smoker you're sort of not invited because that would draw attention to the fact that the adults are vanishing. Whereas if there was a social smoking area outside, with chairs and ashtrays, then it wouldn't annoy me in the same way.


 

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The future

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.01.15

1. I saw a student with one of these convertible laptops, and the hinge mechanism is so clever. She was slouched in a couch, typing comfortably with the screen just where you'd want it. And it folds flat like a tablet or like a closed laptop.

2. Via Jammies, these are little buttons that you put around your house, and you push the button when you want to order some more of it. It seems very futuristic to push the button on your washing machine when you want to order more detergent, or push the button that says "Diet Coke" in your pantry and they'll send you some of that. Not that it's terribly hard to sit down and use the buttons on your computer, but this seems so Jetsons.

Technology! So am I five years behind, or what.


 

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Gross

Posted by Ogged
on 04.01.15

Please bring back the "god damn America" scandals and not this tawdry shit. There's a dishonest right-wing attack machine dedicated to ruining the Clintons, but the Clintons are, or sure love to hang out with, the dregs of the American ruling class. The same attack machine has been focused on Obama for almost a decade and there's been not one single personal scandal.


 

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More ebay

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.01.15

Going back to the topic of eBay, I find something a little confusing - if I have a specific brand and item in mind, in my size, it might pull up say ten items for sale. Some reasonably small number. And these are available to the entire world. And eBay ought to be close to a perfect Econ 101 marketplace - it's very mainstream, the world is big, a huge population has equal access, and so on.

The difference between eBay and, say, the GAP website is that on eBay I can see how long one specific item sits there. I can put it on my watchlist, and they'll tell me if it was relisted because no one bought it, and so on. So: I find myself genuinely wondering the punchline to the joke, "If that were really 5 dollars, someone would have bought it by now." How can reasonable bargains sit there, unpurchased, with such a gigantic population? There are certainly super-popular items that get snatched up, but there are a lot of items that just sit there. Saturated market, I suppose.

This seemed like a better post idea two paragraphs ago, but aren't you glad I didn't link Slate again?


 

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Jon New-wart.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.31.15

People have strong opinions about Trevor Noah. I do not yet, but I think everyone is being dumb. First off, I'm willing to let someone live down some very stupid tweets from three years ago. Second, it's not like all the writers are leaving along with Jon Stewart. Let's see if he can deliver the news and jokes. Third, I linked to Slate twice today. Sorry?


 

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Lobbying

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.31.15

Education companies lobby a lot. Which we knew, but still depressing.


 

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On Bodies

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.31.15

Men: do you have chest hair, or do you groom it away? I am perennially annoyed that the hairless trend has gone on for so many decades, and am perennially in favor of a return to body hair.

Diets: we've discussed here how they don't work, but I thought this paragraph is interesting:

Why do doctors keep prescribing treatments that don't work for a condition that's often benign? I suspect one reason lies in the fanaticism that often seems to drive the public debate around weight. Last January, for instance, when Flegal's meta-analysis showing a low risk of death for overweight people hit the news, one of its most vocal critics was Walter Willett, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. He told a reporter from NPR, "This study is really a pile of rubbish, and no one should waste their time reading it." A month later, Willett organized a symposium at Harvard just to attack Flegal's findings.

The following two paragraphs at the link briefly discuss financial conflicts of interest and cultural biases that prevent many doctors from reconsidering their paradigm on dieting.

One passing thought on dieting: I've actually never managed to yo-yo diet. I've basically had no success ever losing weight through intentional restriction. Between pregnancies, at times, I've lost ~1 lb/month with great effort. Or zero lbs/month, with the same effort. I don't know what to make of that, but I'm fairly resigned to my new normal at this point.


 

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Viet Cong

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.30.15

I would like this article better if it wasn't in Cracked's too-cute-by-half signature grumpiness, but still good: 8 Things Vietnam War Movies Leave Out. It's not groundbreaking, but it's written by a former Viet Cong guerrilla, which is a nice perspective. (Cracked's branded grumpy tone is extra-obnoxious here because it stretches credulity that a former Viet Cong guerrilla would talk in the first person that way.)


 

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Guest Post - Asilomar, zinc-fingers, etc

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.30.15

Lw writes:Germline editing of the genome in human embryos has very recently become technically feasible.

Monkeys have been born from CRISPR-edited embryos, but at least half of the 10 pregnancies in the monkey experiments ended in miscarriage. In the monkeys that were born, not all cells carried the desired changes, so attempts to eliminate a disease gene might not work. The editing can also damage off-target sites in the genome.
Those uncertainties, together with existing regulations, are sufficient to prevent responsible scientists from attempting any genetically altered babies, says George Church, a molecular geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

This is a pretty big innovation.

Heebie's take: I know nothing! I did think the lede to the article was nice, though:

Asilomar. The word conjures up not only stunning California coastline but also vexing questions posed by new, potentially world-changing technologies.

 

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