Europeans who don’t want to go back to Europe because it is “violent”

At a recent barbecue I talked to a couple of Europeans, one from France and one from Romania. They’re living in Massachusetts now. Would they want to return to live in Europe? “No,” said the Romanian. “It is too violent.” The French woman agreed.

How was that possible? Doesn’t the U.S. have a near-monopoly on violence, at least if we are to believe our media? The answer was “no.” They both thought that their countries were ripe for essentially a civil war between the native Christian population (of which they had been part) and the immigrant Muslim population. They thought that large parts of their respective countries were already unsafe for non-Muslims and that the problems would become dramatically worse in the near future.

They also appreciated America’s service-oriented economy in which the customers usually is a priority. “You think that the French hate Americans because of the way you get treated in shops,” said the former Parisienne, “but they treat us the same.”

They considered the cost of living in Europe to be dramatically higher than the U.S., even more than could be explained by the VAT (consumption tax). “I have a friend who is a nurse and her husband is an architect,” said the French woman. “They live just above what we would consider the poverty line.”

What was good about Europe? “The vacations, the ability to relax and enjoy life, the social contacts.”


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Would it make sense for cities to hire homeless relocation concierges?

From the Los Angeles Times, “Councilmen weigh legal action, saying other cities are pushing homeless into L.A.”:

Councilmen Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino called Wednesday for City Atty. Mike Feuer to explore “legal steps” that L.A. could use to compel those cities to comply with a federal court decision on homelessness and sidewalk camping in Boise, Idaho. The proposal, they said, would stop nearby cities from pushing homeless people into L.A. city boundaries.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that homeless individuals may not be held criminally responsible for sleeping on government property when no alternative shelter is available.

Bonin, whose council district touches Santa Monica, Culver City and El Segundo, said he believes many cities in the region are not complying with that decision.

“Instead of allowing people to sleep on their sidewalks, they are encouraging people, or compelling people, to move to the city of Los Angeles to do that,” he said.

I’ve occasionally wondered in these pages why people who are homeless in a place with a cold and/or wet climate, e.g., Seattle, do not relocate to Santa Monica. Readers have put forward various theories about the challenges faced by the homeless. The LA Times article shows that at least some cities are eager to see homeless residents move to other places (but they also want to provide sanctuary to undocumented low-skill immigrants?).

Would it make sense for cities to hire concierges for their homeless populations? The concierge El Segundo, for example, would organize luxury bus tours of nearby California cities, would know the best places to camp out and receive services in each of those places, etc. Instead of an arms race of hostility, seeing which city can make life miserable for the homeless, try to facilitate their moves.

[The article also contains a comparison of homeless to trash that, had Donald Trump made it, would have been newsworthy:

Councilman Jose Huizar and several colleagues called for increased enforcement, fines and rewards, along with the expansion of a program that allows homeless and formerly homeless individuals to work on cleanup crews.

“I have long said that downtown Los Angeles needs an emergency, triage-like response when it comes to addressing homelessness,” Huizar said in a statement. “But that is also true for the amount of trash that is illegally dumped on our streets.”


Readers: What do you think? Cities already provide a lot of services to the homeless. Why not a concierge to help with moving?

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Schick razor blades: too sharp?

Happy Father’s Day!

This seems like a good time to wrap up the razor blade test inspired by Gillette’s Toxic Masculinity ad.

Side-by-side testing with multiple subjects and some female perspectives revealed that the Dorco Pace 7 is superior to Gillette’s latest and greatest 5-blade cartridges.

What about Schick? The present company is the result of a merger with Wilkinson Sword, the inventors of the modern razor blade. So they should know more about making blades per se than anyone else.

After testing the Schick cartridges that are compatible with Gillette handles and the Schick Xtreme 5 Pivot Ball system, my conclusion is that Dorco Pace 7 remains superior. The Schick blades may actually be sharper and possibly therefore better for certain skin types. At first it seems that the razor isn’t working because, unlike with Dorco and Gillette, there is no feeling of tugging. However, stubble is removed from one’s face so plainly the blades are working. I ended up preferring the Dorco and finding it easier to control.


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Solar panels failing after six years

Why let the amateurs at the power company generate and deliver power in exchange for a monthly subscription fee when you can go into the power generation business yourself?

A local friend (and MIT PhD in EECS!) put solar panels on his roof six years ago, responding to the massive government handouts on offer at the time (thanks, fellow Massachusetts taxpayers!). Roughly half of the panels have now failed, casualties of squirrels, UV light, etc.

Given the rising cost of labor (a bundle of wages and health care expenses), will it turn out that America’s big rooftop solar experiment was a colossal failure from a total lifecycle cost perspective?

Already it seems to me that single-family homes are unaffordable for a typical family because the cost and challenge of bringing contractors in to maintain all of the systems has been growing every year. Adding an electricity generation plant on the roof makes this problem worse.


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Why don’t all government contractors identify as women?

From “Should You Get Certified As A Woman-Owned Small Business?”:

Generally-speaking, if you’re thinking about working with the government in any way, then getting it’s worth at least looking into getting certified as a women-owned small business (WOSB). You can do this through the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce or another approved third-party certifier. The benefits of getting certified as a WOSB include being able to pursue public sector work and any “set-asides” the government has. Every year, the U.S. government aims to award at least five percent of its contract funds to women-owned small business.

A question for Pride Month: If a person currently identifying as a “man” owns and operates a small company (“small” for the Defense Department is fewer than 500 employees) that does business with the government, why not switch to identifying as a “woman” so that the company qualifies for favorable treatment as a Women-Owned Small Business?

The Federal set-asides for “women” were set up under a different conception of the term. With $17+ billion at stake, why not a trip to the DMV to ask for a change from male to female?


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Government agriculture bureaucrats object to living anywhere near a farm

From CNN: “Employees turn their back on Agriculture secretary over being relocated to Kansas City”

Apparently one thing that they learned at the USDA is that one should try to avoid living in an agricultural region of the U.S.!

(Kansas is awesome for general aviation enthusiasts. A $200,000 (used) Piper Malibu with the extended tanks STC can reach anywhere in the Lower 48 nonstop from Kansas.)


  • before agreeing to any move across state lines, a wise American will check the respective family law regimes that apply: Missouri versus D.C., Maryland, or Virginia. (Child support profits are more likely to be capped in Missouri compared to the winner-take-all jurisdictions in the D.C. metro area; a Missouri court is also more likely to award 50/50 parenting time to children, thus resulting in a huge reduction in child support cashflow if both parents work)
  • before picking a house in the Kansas City area, it would also be worth checking Kansas family law, which is dramatically different than Missouri’s (i.e., the definitions of “justice” and “best interest of a child” are completely different on either side of the state line)
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Climate change has made Guatemala unlivable…

… which is why 20 times as many people now live there compared to 1900 when the Earth hadn’t been trashed (estimated 17.5 million today versus 885,000 before CO2 poisoned everything).

A 1960s-style famine article from the New York Times: “‘Food Doesn’t Grow Here Anymore. That’s Why I Would Send My Son North.’ A stark choice for some Guatemalans: watch crops wither, and maybe die with them, or migrate”:

I have heard from innumerable Guatemalans that the most fundamental driver of emigration is desperation — and, to an extent that most Americans don’t appreciate, this desperation often reflects drought and severe weather linked to climate change. … climate change is aggravating the desperation.

So the paradox is that American carbon emissions are partly responsible for wretchedness in Guatemala that drives emigration, yet when those desperate Guatemalans arrive at the U.S. border they are treated as invaders.

Get ready to welcome your new neighbors:

“The great majority of these kids will migrate,” Luis Armando Jiménez, principal of a rural middle school, told me as he pointed to his students in the courtyard. “There is not enough rain, so their only option is to migrate.”

The author who says that humans cannot thrive in Guatemala, Nicholas Kristof, was born in 1959. Wikipedia says that that the number of humans living in this unlivable country has more than tripled since then.

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New Englanders: Father’s Day weekend at the tank museum

New England’s latest museum to open is the American Heritage Museum in Hudson/Stow, Massachusetts. It is run by the long-established Collings Foundation, which owns priceless warbirds and classic cars, but shows off a new collection of armored vehicles.

It is a great museum any time (passionate and knowledgeable volunteer guides bring the machines alive), but especially great this coming weekend when they’re having the “Tanks, Wings, and Wheels” event.

[It is currently not simple to buy a membership at the front desk, so if you want to get an annual membership, sign up via the web site.]

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Lifting body airliner

One of the topics that we cover in the Aerodynamics lecture within our MIT Private Pilot Ground School (link to all of the slides and videos) is the industry inertia that results in all airliners looking more or less the same: tube plus wings.

It turns out that this is not an efficient way to build an airplane. The most fuel-efficient approach is a “lifting body” in which the fuselage is optimized to produce lift. With aluminum-and-rivet construction these probably haven’t made sense commercially, but now that airliners (e.g., Airbus A350 and Boeing 787) are made from composites, the complex shapes of a lifting body airliner might not be dramatically more expensive to fabricate.

Who is crazy enough to try to turn the academic dream into a commercial reality? KLM:

The Dutch national airline announced that it is helping fund the development of the Flying-V, a lifting-body-esque flying wing aircraft designed by Delft University of Technology student Justus Benad.

The designers say the Flying-V will use 20% less fuel than an Airbus A350 while carrying about the same number of passengers, 314. Roelof Vos, project leader at TU Delft, highlights the Flying-V’s efficiency as an important component of an industry eventually headed toward electric propulsion. According to CNN, Vos claims that ”aviation is contributing about 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, and the industry is still growing, so we really need to look at more sustainable airplanes. We cannot simply electrify the whole fleet, as electrified airplanes become way too heavy and you can’t fly people across the Atlantic on electric airplanes—not now, not in 30 years. So we have to come up with new technologies that reduce fuel burn in a different way.”

These folks are taking the long view:

A flying prototype is promised by October 2019, but the design isn’t expected to enter service until 2040.

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Trump Hotel in D.C. is rated #1 in TripAdvisor

While doing a bit of research for an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., I found the following in TripAdvisor:

Bad (but fake?) news for folks, such as the attorney general of Maryland, who are suing the Donald over the emoluments clause of the Constitution:

  • The Trump International Hotel is #1 out of 147 hotels!
  • Travelers’ Choice
  • Certificate of Excellent!

Why is this bad? From AP:

Frosh and Racine, both Democrats, say hotels in Maryland and Washington have been harmed because foreign and state government officials are more likely to stay at Trump’s hotel in an attempt to curry favor with the Republican president.

Trump can argue that people are staying there simply because the hotel is ranked #1 by guests.

[As a virtuous citizen of Massachusetts, I plan to boycott this establishment, leased in 2012 and opened in 2016, and stay in a $200/night hotel instead.]

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