Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Night Trivia

For the first time in three months:

Name the three pairs of countries for which the names of both countries (in English) are exactly the same except for one letter.

To clarify: If "Frick" and "Frack" were names of countries, they would be the fourth pair.

  • Hint #1: For all three pairs, both countries are on the same continent. (At least in the cultural/political sense. When you consider continental plates, it gets more complicated.)

  • Hint #2: To make this work, you have to ignore the "The" in the name of one of the countries.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Why State Tax Policy Was Not a Major Factor in LeBron's Move to Miami

I had been working on a lengthy post titled "Of NBA Free Agency and State Income Taxes" in which I responded to this Weekly Standard column. But some of my key points were not well supported and writing it was taking way too long, so I decided not to finish it. Instead, I'll just give you the part of that post in which I refute the meme that the lack of a state income tax in Florida was a major factor in LeBron James's decision to sign with the Miami Heat. I don't buy this argument for three reasons:

  • The amount of money that LeBron will save in state income taxes is less than the amount he gave up when he decided to leave Cleveland, especially for a team that has to pay two other top-level salaries. (The NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement allows a player's current team to offer him a larger contract than his other suitors.)

  • LeBron wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and had been planning to do so for at least two years. Miami was the only team with enough cap space and flexibility to sign all three.

  • If playing in a state without an income tax were a major draw for NBA free agents, Memphis would attract a lot more high-profile free agents. The Grizz have signed exactly one notable free agent since moving to the Volunteer State: Rudy Gay, whom they signed to a five-year, $82 million contract this summer. Gay is a fantastic young player, and many in the media were surprised that Memphis signed him so quickly, but a) Gay was already in Memphis, b) he was a restricted free agent, and c) at the time of his signing the T-Wolves were the only other team to have expressed interest (though I'm sure that the Knicks, Nets, and Clippers would have been interested after they failed to land LeBron, Wade, and Bosh).

At any rate, if Florida's tax policy played any role in LeBron's decision it was far less a factor than playing with Wade and Bosh on a team with the cap space to sign all three, having a good opportunity to win multiple championships in the near future, Pat Riley, Miami weather, and Miami nightlife.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ideas Worth Ignoring Podcast—Epidsode 8, "Freestyle, Stationary Dancing"

Now available in the iTunes Music Store.

I used to subscribe to the philosophy, "If you ain't moving your feet, you ain't dancing." Then I came up with Freestyle, Stationary Dancing: a fascinating art form that does wonders for the abs.

Click here to subscribe or download individual episodes or make your way into the podcast department of the iTunes Music Store and search for "Scrambies."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let's Stop and Think About Why We Have Reusable Shopping Bags in the First Place

I have long been an advocate of reusable grocery bags. In addition to reducing waste and toxins from plastic manufacturing, reusable bags have the benefits of being inexpensive, durable, versatile, and convenient. Before today, I couldn't come up with a single reason not to use them. But this morning I learned that cloth bags are bacteria traps (if one doesn't wash them).

According to a University of Arizona and Loma Linda University survey, 97% of shoppers do not wash their reusable bags, thus creating "the potential for cross-contamination of foods." In particular uncooked meats leave behind bacteria, including E-coli, that can befoul other foods.

The obvious solution to the bacteria problem is to wash one's shopping bags. But doing extra loads of laundry uses a lot of water and power and introduces detergents into the water supply. So if you use more than a dozen cloth bags each time you go to the grocery store, and if you faithfully wash these bags after each trip, you're really just trading one environmentally questionable practice for another.

The obvious eco-friendly solution, then, would be to designate one or two bag(s) the meat bag(s) and one or two bag(s) the fresh veggie bag(s) and wash these bags regularly while washing the other bags infrequently. Two or three bags could squeeze into existing loads of laundry without requiring one to use additional water, power, or detergent. Problem solved, more or less.

As I was researching the bacteria-in-bags problem, I came across this post from Pocket Change's Be Green blog. (Pocket Change, from what I can gather, is a network of websites devoted to shopping.) It suggests two things: First, it recommends washing all one's shopping bags weekly with a powerful detergent. Again, I think this undoes a lot of the good that comes from using cloth bags in the first place, especially since Be Green uses this suggestion to promote regular All detergents instead of recommending eco-friendly alternatives. Second, it recommends anti-bacterial wipes. The disposable kind. The kind that you use once and throw away. Be Green doesn't even make the effort to recommend biodegradable wipes.

I fear that, for the Be Green blogger (and many, many others out there, possibly including myself), going green is more about trends and appearances than about conservation or making sacrifices in the interest of preserving the natural world (including the air we breathe and the water we drink). Two years ago, at its General Conference, The United Methodist Church voted to fight global warming through a campaign that includes "printing and mailings." In other words, my denomination decided to save the environment by wasting paper. But I don't mean to pick on Be Green or the UMC. As a culture, we're becoming a society of greenwashers. We buy products and join campaigns that make us feel green, but too often don't consider the actual environmental impact of our purchases and actions.

Preserving the natural world isn't about following trends. It's about what we use and what we waste, what we do and how we do it.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Twitter and ESPN tell me that LeBron James likely will announce later today that he'll be signing with the Miami Heat, where he'll join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. After signing three top-tier free agents to max (or close-to-the-max) contracts, Miami won't have much money left to sign many of its remaining 10 free agents or to sign other veteran free agents from other teams. The Heat will have to surround the Big Three with rookies, Mario Chalmers, Michael Beasley, and journeymen who are willing to play for the league minimum.

With that in mind, I have an announcement to make: I am interested in signing with the Miami Heat and playing for the league minimum. Pat Riley, if you have reservations about making this happen, consider the following:

  • If you sign LeBron, are you really going to have enough money left over to sign anyone better than me? (Don't answer that.)

  • I once hit 81 consecutive free throws during my lunch break. You might as well sign me just to have someone to take technical foul shots.

  • I was the sixth man on a six-man team that won the C-league intramural title at the University of Evansville in 1999. So I know what it takes to win championships.

I've decided to be #33, in honor of Larry Bird.

Technical Difficulties With the "Ideas Worth Ignoring" Podcast

I'm having some technical problems with my podcast feed. It isn't playing well with iTunes right now. But I am aware of the problem and am working to fix it. In the meantime, you can directly download the latest podcast—"Clock Reform, Part II"—by clicking here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Ideas Worth Ignoring Podcast—Epidsode 7, "Clock Reform, Part II: Metric Time"

Now available in the iTunes Music Store.

The second of two podcasts on clock reform, this episode looks at the bizarre way in which we count the hours of the day (starting over at noon, sticking on 12 for another hour after we start over, and so forth) and proposes an alternative.

Click here to subscribe or download individual episodes or make your way into the podcast department of the iTunes Music Store and search for "Scrambies."