Death Therapy

Often when I hear of someone given multiple life sentances as punishment for a crime, I ask my self what the difference is between one life sentence and five life sentences.  I understand there is symbolism in the additional senctences; and in some cases people with a “life sentance” may be released early.In any case, I ask myself is whether there would actually be a way for multiple life sentences to be carried out.  Perhaps the sentence could mandate killing the criminal and then resuscitating them again, only to kill them again and then resuscitate them.  The process could be repeated enough times that the criminal could serve 5 life sentences in the course of a month.  (No, I’m not a lawyer.)

A new book by a doctor who specializes in resuscitation suggests that there is a common experience of dying that is consistent across cultures.  To be considered “dead”, one’s heart has to stop beating.  This stops brain activity, but it does not mean the the brain cells have died.  In fact, it is possible for a body to be chilled, and the person to be resuscitated several hours later.


Upon regaining consciousness, many patients have no memory; but others report seeing a bright light and feeling a very loving presence.  They recall having their life reviewed with them and feeling pain as they recall times when they caused others pain.  Some patients report being inspired to try to do better with their new lives.

So perhaps instead of giving our prisoners a lethal injection, we could give them “death thearapy”.

I can imagine that were this resuscitation perfected, so that the risk that patients stay dead is reduced, many wealthy people would pay for such an experience.

The Temptation of Jesus, Mercedes edition

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the Desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell the stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God, he said. “throw yourself down.  For it is written:

“He will comand his angles concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Then the devil showed him the new Mercedes CLA, and all the fame and glamour that it would bring, saying, “Sign your soul away to me and all this is yours.”

As Jesus was carefully considering the devil’s offer, he saw the CLA’s price of only $29,900 and said, “Thanks, I think I got this.”


Resolution for 2013: avoid the endless flow of the web

This is the time of the year when sites around the web compile “best of” lists, as a way of reflecting on the past year.  It’s one of the few times we reflect on which of the many messages we’ve been drowning in will have lasting significance — what messages are more than just noise.

In 2010, Robin Sloan wrote an article that provides a useful vocabulary for thinking about creating and consuming content in a world with 24/7 news, endless facebook updates, and twitter.

Robin introduces the terms “stock” and “flow”:

There are two kinds of quantities in the world. Stock is a static value: money in the bank, or trees in the forest. Flow is a rate of change: fifteen dollars an hour, or three thousand toothpicks a day..

I actually think stock and flow is the master metaphor for media today. Here’s what I mean:

  • Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist.
  • Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
Havasu Falls

I feel like flow is ascendant these days, for obvious reasons—but we neglect stock at our own peril. I mean that both in terms of the health of an audience and, like, the health of a soul. Flow is a treadmill, and you can’t spend all of your time running on the treadmill. Well, you can. But then one day you’ll get off and look around and go: Oh man. I’ve got nothing here.

So what are the ways that I can increase my ratio of stock to flow?

Zucherburg’s Law

Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook believes that every year people will share twice as much information as they did the previous year, so they’ve developed tools to help their users cope.

You can choose to subscribe only to what is most important and you can filter out messages from people you know less well.  It would be nice if there were a service I could subscribe to which could dial back the level of flow and receive a greater quantity of stock on the web. Monthly magazines are supposed to serve this function.  Or I can just go to the library and find some classic books.

So for 2013, my resolution is to increase the quality of what I read — more stock and less flow.

Financial Reform Videos

I’ve been reading a lot about financial reform.  Here are a few videos on the subject:

1) Inside Job

Katie Couric interviews Charles Fergueson, creator of “Inside Job”

2) The Warning: PBS Frontline Documentary

Long before the meltdown, one woman tried to warn about a threat to the financial system

Watch The Warning on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.


How would Frank Luntz frame Warren Buffett’s Tax Debate?

The Secretary-Billionaire Tax Equality Principle

Warren Buffett wrote an op-ed recently that suggested that the top 0.3% of yearly earners were paying too little in taxes.
One of his favorite illustrations of this point is that his secretary pays a much higher tax rate that he does.

His prescription is:

  • undefined cuts to entitlement programs
  • higher taxes on the top 0.3%

The Power of Framing

The idea that a secretary should not pay a higher tax rate than their billionaire boss
is hard to argue with and shows the power of “framing”.

Here’s an other tax framing idea:

It is often said that we don’t want to push the burden of current spending onto future generations.

Reihan Salam: During the Bush years, it was often said that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts represented redistribution from future taxpayers to current taxpayers.

You might reframe this as:

Those older Americans, who can afford it, should not get a better deal their grandchildren’s generation

But how would Frank Luntz say it?


Multi-resolution blog template

In late 2006, A List Apart had an article about “Adaptive Layout“,
which they described as an improvement over liquid CSS layouts because it is optimized for multiple screen resolutions and adjusts automatically.

I was intrigued, so I decided to experiment with an adaptive blog template that automatically adjusts itself to different screen resolutions, from an iPhone to a 1920×1200 monitor.

Blog Layout: Multiple Resolutions

The result isn’t very “polished”, but I finally got around to posting my own “adaptive blog layout”, which uses javascript to tell the browser to use a different body css class, depending upon the reader’s screen resolution.

Future Improvements

The template could be improved by paying better attention to the most common browser resolutions and developing grid-based versions tailored to specific resolutions. I did the opposite — I started with the content and defined CSS rules to fit my text and images.


License: Creative Commons

Creative Commons License

Better metric: Gallons per 10K Miles

Last year the New York times had a short article proposing that instead of thinking about fuel economy in “miles per gallon”, we should think about “gallons per mile“.

The reasoning behind this poposals is that stating fuel economy in MPG “leads consumers to significantly underestimate the gains in fuel efficiency that can be achieved by trading in very low m.p.g. vehicles — even for one that gets only a few more miles per gallon.”

Larrick emphasizes that his long-term goal is to get everyone into the most fuel-efficient vehicles that exist. But right now, he says, “as a national-policy question, the urgency is getting people out of the 14-m.p.g. vehicles.” And m.p.g. ratings aren’t the most useful prod, largely because the real significance of differences in m.p.g. is often counterintuitive. The jump from 10 to 20 m.p.g., for example, saves more gas than the one from 20 to 40 m.p.g. The move from 10 to 11 m.p.g. can save nearly as much as the leap from 33 to 50 m.p.g.

People often scoff at the idea of hybrid trucks or SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade that only improve MGP from 14 to 20. But if you do the math, over 10,000 miles, this decreases the number of gallons used from 714 gallons to 500 gallons. This is a savings of 214 gallons,

By comparison improving a Toyota Prius’s mileage from 46MPG to 70MG only saves 75 gallons over 10,000 miles.

Here is the comparison of “miles per gallon” (MPG) and “gallons per 10,000 miles” (GP10K):

Vehicle MPG GP10K
Cadillac Escallade AWD 14 714
Cadillac Escallade Hybrid 20 500
Toyota Prius 46 217
Hypothetical Hybrid 70 143

To illustrate the point further, I put together a spreadsheet
using actual fuel economy figures for some current models, along with some extreme cases.