Saturday, October 31, 2009

Health care reform and marginal tax rates

President Obama has said he wants to raise marginal tax rates on high-income taxpayers. Yet under his policies, the largest increases in marginal tax rates may well apply not to the rich but to millions of middle-class families. These increases would not show up explicitly in the tax code but, rather, implicitly as part of health care reform. ...

A family of four with an income, say, of $54,000 would pay $9,900 for health care. That covers only about half the actual cost. Uncle Sam would pick up the rest.

Now suppose that the same family earns an additional $12,000 by, for example, having the primary earner work overtime or sending a secondary worker into the labor force. In that case, the federal subsidy shrinks, so the family’s cost of health care rises to $12,700.

In other words, $2,800 of the $12,000 of extra income, or 23 percent, would be effectively taxed away by the government’s new health care system.

That implicit marginal tax rate of 23 percent is a significant disincentive. And it comes on top of the explicit marginal tax rate the family already faces from income and payroll taxes. Altogether, many families would face marginal rates at or above the 50 percent level that animated the Reagan supply-side revolution. ...

None of this necessarily means that health reform is not worth doing. ... But we should not forget the cost of translating that noble aspiration into practical policy. ... Future generations of Americans may find health insurance more affordable, but they will also find hard work less financially rewarding.
--Greg Mankiw, NYT, on how subsidies that phase out with income are implicit marginal tax rate hikes

Laboring in obscurity



Perhaps not surprisingly, I knew all the answers. HT: Greg Mankiw

Your professor's next girlfriend

Jessica Simpson is tired of dating jocks and musicians - she's ready for an academic. ...

And Simpson has revealed why she is still single - she gets bored easily and craves intellectual stimulation.

She tells Extra, "I don't want to get bored. I can bore out pretty easily, so I love intellectual men - people that will always keep me intrigued."
--SFGate.com on the appeal of the professoriate

Public option yikes

After Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992 some Floridians were having difficulty purchasing homeowners’ insurance. (The reason: rates are regulated, and at the regulated rates some properties are too great a risk.) So, the state government formed Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is owned and operated by the State of Florida. ...

Today about 30% of homeowners’ policies are written by Citizens, which is the largest property insurer in the state. It’s about to get bigger too. The largest private insurer, State Farm, had a rate request rejected last year, and now is pulling out of the state altogether (for property insurance; they’ll still insure your car). ...

Everybody in Florida knows Citizens is a fiscal time bomb. Already, every Florida insurance policy (on homes, boats, cars, etc.) pays a surcharge that goes to Citizens, but Citizens still doesn’t have sufficient reserves to weather a major hurricane. When one comes, Florida taxpayers will be on the hook for the bill. ...

In Florida, the public option has meant a substantial socialization of insurance, subsidization of the public option by those who take a private option, and the creation of a fiscally-unsound public insurance company despite the subsidy. Now, we have an opportunity to do the same thing at the national level with health insurance. The results have not been good in Florida, and everyone in Florida knows it. Why would it be any different at the national level?
--Randall Holcombe, The Beacon, on public insurance in Florida. HT: Marginal Revolution

Thursday, October 29, 2009

An economist gets it right

Thirty years ago, the [University of Michigan] began going through the convulsions other public universities are now experiencing. Today, it is largely protected from Michigan’s plummeting economy. Only 7 percent of its budget is provided by the state.

The transformation of the University of Michigan’s finances began with Harold T. Shapiro. In the mid-1970s, Mr. Shapiro, then a professor of economics and public policy at the university, studied Michigan’s economy and predicted that the state would lose tax income compared with the rest of the country in coming decades. He was right.

While the state trimmed a third of its support for the university in the 1980s, Mr. Shapiro, as the university’s president, worked to build a more secure budget base. Michigan increased private fund-raising and developed a tuition structure that took advantage of a growing number of out-of-state students, who now pay $36,163 a year in tuition and fees — about the same as Princeton.
--Paul Fain, NYT, on one economist's prescience

Legal systems

Whereas in England all is permitted that is not expressly prohibited, it has been said that in Germany all is prohibited unless expressly permitted and in France all is permitted that is expressly prohibited.
--English judge Robert Megarry on the scope of law

Why cubicles?

Robert Oppenheimer agonized over building the A-bomb. Alfred Nobel got queasy about creating dynamite. Robert Propst invented nothing so destructive. Yet before he died in 2000, he lamented his unwitting contribution to what he called "monolithic insanity."

Propst is the father of the cubicle. ...

Another critical factor in the cubicle's rapid ascent was Uncle Sam. During the 1960s, to stimulate business spending, the Treasury created new rules for depreciating assets. The changes specified clearer ranges for depreciation and established a shorter life for furniture and equipment, vs. longer ranges assigned to buildings or leasehold improvements. (Today companies can depreciate office furniture in seven years, whereas permanent structures--that is, offices with walls--are assigned a 39.5-year rate.)

The upshot: A company could recover its costs quicker if it purchased cubes. When clients told Herman Miller of that unexpected benefit, it became a new selling point for the Action Office. After only two years on the market, sales soared. Competitors took notice.

That's when Propst's original vision began to fade. "They kept shrinking the Action Office until it became a cubicle," says [Joe] Schwartz, now 80. As Steelcase, Knoll, and Haworth brought their versions to market, they figured out that what businesses wanted wasn't to give employees a holistic experience. The customers wanted a cheap way to pack workers in.

Propst's workstations were designed to be flexible, but in practice they were seldom altered or moved at all. Lined up in identical rows, they became the dystopian world that three academics described as "bright satanic offices" in a 1998 book, Workplaces of the Future.
--Julie Schlosser, Fortune, on how tax laws abetted the rise of the cubicle. HT: Freakonomics

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Born to run

Most mammals can sprint faster than humans — having four legs gives them the advantage. But when it comes to long distances, humans can outrun almost any animal. Because we cool by sweating rather than panting, we can stay cool at speeds and distances that would overheat other animals. On a hot day, the two scientists wrote, a human could even outrun a horse in a 26.2-mile marathon. ...

Other research suggests that before the development of slingshots or bows, early hunters engaged in persistence hunting, chasing an animal for hours until it overheated, making it easy to kill at close range. A 2006 report in the journal Current Anthropology documents persistence hunting among modern hunter-gatherers, including the Bushmen in Africa.
--Tara Parker-Pope, NYT, on heating up your food

Monday, October 26, 2009

More on the migrant mother

Perhaps because she felt rushed that mizzly afternoon in Nipomo, [Dorothea] Lange was uncharacteristically remiss in ascertaining information about her subject. The little she did record was largely misleading and factually incorrect, including the date of the photos, which her notes alternately report as both February and March of 1936.

Through her negligence, in effect, Lange perpetrated a case of historic deception on the American public.

The person most angry and, indeed, most bitter about Lange’s portrayal was the "migrant mother" herself, Florence Owens Thompson. The Lange photo stamped a permanent Grapes of Wrath stereotype on Thompson’s life–a life that was far more complex and complicated than Lange, or the American public for that matter, might have ever imagined. ...

In the field notes that she filed with her Nipomo photographs, Lange included the following description: "Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp … because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food."

[Troy] Owens scoffed at the description. "There’s no way we sold our tires, because we didn’t have any to sell," he told this writer. "The only ones we had were on the Hudson and we drove off in them. I don’t believe Dorothea Lange was lying, I just think she had one story mixed up with another. Or she was borrowing to fill in what she didn’t have."

"Mother always said that Lange never asked her name or any questions, so what she [Lange] wrote she must have got from the older kids or other people in the camp," speculates daughter Katherine McIntosh, who appears in the Migrant Mother photo with her head turned away behind her mother’s right shoulder. "She also told mother the negatives would never be published–that she was only going to use the photos to help out the people in the camp."
--Geoffrey Dunn, New Times, on the truth getting in the way of a great photograph

Evolutionary girly-men

Since the Industrial Revolution, modern humans have grown taller and stronger, so it's easy to assume that evolution is making humans fitter. But according to anthropologist Peter McAllister, author of Manthropology: the Science of Inadequate Modern Man, the contemporary male has evolved, at least physically, into "the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet." Thanks to genetic differences, an average Neanderthal woman, McAllister notes, could have whupped Arnold Schwarzenegger at his muscular peak in an arm-wrestling match. And prehistoric Australian Aborigines, who typically built up great strength in their joints and muscles through childhood and adolescence, could have easily beat Usain Bolt in a 100-m dash.
--Eben Harrell, Time, on the physical degeneration of humanity

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The story behind the migrant mother



In the Nipomo camp, [Dorothea] Lange met Florence Thompson, 32, the mother of 11 children, five born out of wedlock. The family was in desperate straits, living off stolen vegetables from the fields. Lange took a half-dozen photos, putting Thompson and her children in different poses. She took the photos from just outside their tent, even moving a pile of soiled laundry aside, so as not to embarrass the subjects by noting their squalid living conditions. (Though Gordon doesn’t mention it, Lange may have decided to use only three of the children to avoid the public perception of “Okies” as irresponsible “white trash.”) For the key photo, she “made the unusual decision to ask the two youngsters leaning on their mother to turn their faces away from the camera,” Gordon writes.
--David Oshinsky, NYT, on the artifice of the documentary photograph

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Einstein didn't watch videos

Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those ”Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses.

They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect. ...

According to a 2003 study, a third of all American babies from 6 months to 2 years old had at least one “Baby Einstein” video.

Despite their ubiquity, and the fact that many babies are transfixed by the videos, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under 2.
--Tamar Lewin, NYT, on why your kid isn't a theoretical physicist

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The low marathon bar

Purists believe that running a marathon should be just that — running the entire course at a relatively fast clip. They point out that a six-hour marathoner is simply participating in the event, not racing in it. Slow runners have disrespected the distance, they say, and have ruined the marathon’s mystique. ...

In 1980, the median finishing time for male runners in United States marathons was 3 hours 32 minutes 17 seconds, a pace of about eight minutes per mile. In 2008, the median finishing time was 4:16, a pace of 9:46. For women, that time in 1980 was 4:03:39. Last year, it was 4:43:32. ...

Last year, 44 percent of the field for [the Honolulu Marathon] finished in more than six hours — with some marathoners stopping for lunch along the course.
--Juliet Macur, NYT, on "running" the marathon

Tony Jaa over the top

Just to be clear, Ong Bak 2, takes place 500 years before Ong Bak 1 and it starts with Jaa slapping an elephant in the brain so hard that an entire herd of them bow down before his might. That's the kind of awesome he's selling. By the time we hit the half-hour mark he's fought a samurai, wrestled a crocodile, and killed a vampire. Also: elephant surfing. ...

Jaa shot the majority of this movie himself, and it's staggering to see just how much crazy is inside his head. ... The action, however, will cause the scales to fall from your eyes. Nourished on anemic action sequences full of shaky-cams, rapid-fire editing, and quick cutaways, American audiences are not prepared for Jaa's 20-minute essays on human bodies causing massive trauma, filmed in long shots and long takes that rule out camera trickery. ...

While many actors get a stunt double, Jaa is the only actor I know to have a smiling double, Natdanai Kongthong, who plays the young Jaa for a few brief, refreshing minutes.
--Grady Hendrix, Slate, on turning the action dial to 11

Motivational poster for economists


--Despair.com inspiring us all. HT: Donald Marron

Monday, October 19, 2009

Realpolitik, 431 B.C.

Modern readers are often shocked to learn that the Athenians—citizens of a free city who defeated the Persians when they invaded Greece, built the Parthenon, and staged the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles—also massacred the citizens not of an enemy state but of a neutral power. ...

The drama is riveting. In 431 BC a conflict now called the Peloponnesian War had erupted between two sets of cities, one led by Athens and one by Sparta. It had raged for 15 years when the Athenians demanded the allegiance of the heretofore neutral Melians, whose city traced its origin to Sparta. The Melians balked, and at their request, the leaders of the two sides held a private conference.

The Athenians spoke first. With breathtaking frankness they dismissed considerations of justice as irrelevant. Justice could obtain only between equals. "For ourselves," the Athenians said, "we shall not trouble you with specious pretences … since you know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

The Melians claimed the right to hope that they could resist the Athenians' overwhelming power and that the gods might support them. The Athenians responded with contemptuous clarity: "Of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by a necessary law of their nature they rule wherever they can." When the Melians refused to submit, the Athenians, helped by local traitors, besieged and captured the city. They executed all adult males, sold the women and children into slavery, and sent out colonists of their own to repopulate the island.
--Anthony Grafton, Slate, on Thucydides' understanding of a Hobbesian world

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Quantum mechanical jinx

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world’s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang.

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. ... A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather. ...

This malign influence from the future, [Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya] argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”
--Dennis Overbye, NYT, on killer Higgs bosons from the future. Also a commentary on what it takes to overcome the sunk cost fallacy: an anti-miracle.

Insert U2 song lyric here

[Bono] told a funny tale of how his wife was grilled at one [New York City private] school about their "family philosophy" and how a son was interrogated as to any "special skills" he possessed; prompting the boy to apparently get up from a chair and humorously hop on one leg and bang his head with a hand. According to Bono, they were rejected at this school which, says its website, charges about $32,000 a year and aims to produce "global ethical leaders."
--James Warren, Atlantic Monthly, on cutthroat NYC admissions

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The case for blackmail

It’s perfectly legal for [Robert Joel] Halderman to write, or threaten to write, a screenplay (or an e-mail to TMZ) exposing the fact that David Letterman had flings with “Late Show” employees. It’s also legal for Halderman to ask Letterman for money as part of a business transaction. So why are the two things illegal when you put them together? In other words, [law professor James] Lindgren said, “Why is it illegal to threaten to do what you can do legally anyway?”
--Lizzie Widdicombe, New Yorker, on the puzzling illegality of blackmail

Not Marco?

Do not think of mentioning the popular belief that Marco Polo had a role in the history of pasta. “Ma no,” [Italian food historian Oretta Zanini de Vita] said in a jovial paroxysm of outrage. “When Marco Polo came back they had been eating pasta in Italy for 200 years!”

Instead, she notes in her encyclopedia, dried pasta made with durum wheat was found in Italy starting around A.D. 800. It was spread by the Muslim conquerors of Sicily, and by the 12th century the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa marketed dried pasta.

“Documents exist to prove this, should there be anyone left — and it appears that there is — who still believes that Marco Polo introduced noodles into Italy in 1296 on his return to Venice from China,” she writes.
--Rachel Donadio, NYT, on pasta's long history in Italy


The familiar legend of Marco Polo importing pasta from China originated with the Macaroni Journal, published by an association of food industries with the goal of promoting the use of pasta in the United States.
--Wikipedia on the myth's origin

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another unnecessary fitness ritual

The cool-down is enshrined in training lore. It’s in physiology textbooks, personal trainers often insist on it, fitness magazines tell you that you must do it — and some exercise equipment at gyms automatically include it. ...

The problem, says Hirofumi Tanaka, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas, Austin, is that there is pretty much no science behind the cool-down advice.

The idea of the cool-down seems to have originated with a popular theory — now known to be wrong — that muscles become sore after exercise because they accumulate lactic acid. ... The lactic acid theory led to the notion that by slowly reducing the intensity of your workout you can give lactic acid a chance to dissipate. ...

As far as muscle soreness goes, cooling down doesn’t do anything to alleviate it, Dr. Tanaka said. And there is no physiological reason why it should.
--Gina Kolata, NYT, on those five minutes at the end of a workout that I always skip

Monday, October 12, 2009

Elinor who?

If you had done a poll of academic economists yesterday and asked who Elinor Ostrom was, or what she worked on, I doubt that more than one in five economists could have given you an answer. I personally would have failed the test. I had to look her up on Wikipedia, and even after reading the entry, I have no recollection of ever seeing or hearing her name mentioned by an economist. She is a political scientist, both by training and her career — one of the most decorated political scientists around. ...

This award demonstrates, in a way that no previous prize has, that the prize is moving toward a Nobel in Social Science, not a Nobel in economics.
--Steve Levitt, Freakonomics, on the latest economics Nobel laureate

The power of no

Politely saying no can free up astonishing amounts of time. I'm still trying to learn how.
--Curtis Sittenfeld on getting things done

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zero tolerance gone amok

[Six-year-old] Zachary’s offense? Taking a Cub Scout utensil that can serve as a knife, fork and spoon to school. He was so excited about joining the Scouts that he wanted to use it at lunch. School officials concluded that he had violated their zero-tolerance policy on weapons, and Zachary now faces 45 days in the district’s reform school. ...

Based on the code of conduct for the Christina School District, where Zachary is a first grader, school officials had no choice. They had to suspend him because, “regardless of possessor’s intent,” knives are banned. ...

For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”

The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.

In Zachary’s case, the state’s new law did not help because it mentions only expulsion and does not explicitly address suspensions. A revised law is being drafted to include suspensions.
--Ian Urbina, NYT, on the difficulty of micromanaging via legislation

More sci-fi plot holes

8. Back to the Future: Marty’s parents’ bad memory - Even though Marty is only in 1955 for a week, he plays a pretty pivotal role in his future parents’ lives. It stands to reason, then, that they would remember him pretty well, don’t you think? Now, I’m not George McFly, but most men would probably have a few questions if one of their children grew up to look exactly like a friend from high school that their wife dated briefly.

...

2. The Empire Strikes Back: Time dilation - Luke and R2D2 leave Hoth to go to Dagobah at the same time Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO leave to go… well, they never really say what their initial destination is. Anyway, on Dagobah, Luke embarks on an intensive Jedi training course with Yoda — it’s never stated, but it’s heavily implied that this takes a long time... So, at the same time that Luke finishes this months-long training and runs off to Cloud City, his friends have clearly just gotten there a short time before. Yet all they did on the way was flee from a Star Destroyer and fly down the gullet of a giant space worm. That must have taken hours, not months. So was the Millennium Falcon flying at close to the speed of light (but not at light speed) for a while and thus experiencing time dilation? Yeah, that’s the ticket.
--Matt Blum, Wired, on temporal problems in sci-fi

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fact and fiction blurring

Maybe it was because I saw the headline early this morning not on the N.Y. Times’s website or the Wall Street Journal’s, but rather on Google News. I instantly assumed that the Onion had successfully landed a story on the home page of that fine aggregator. “Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize,” the headline said. I chuckled, silently congratulated the Onion on its clever idea, and clicked the link.
--Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics, on an unexpected Nobel laureate

Star Trek plot holes

Inside the mega-enormous Romulan battlecruiser are open areas with thousand-foot drops. Cavernous spaces seem improbable aboard starships; in vessel design, space is always at a premium. At any rate, the open areas with thousand-foot drops are crossed by narrow footbridges that lack guardrails. If for some reason your mega-enormous starship really needed internal areas with places where you could fall to your death, why would you span them with footbridges that lack guardrails? The Romulans who designed the ship wouldn't want to fall off their own footbridges -- which needless to say is what happens to the Romulan bad guy who fights New Improved Kirk. For years, TMQ has inveighed against the puzzling absence of guard rails in science fiction, especially in the Star Wars saga.
--Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN.com, on the need for OSHA in the future


At the end of the previous Trek movie, when another Romulan mega-enormous starship was also preparing to destroy Earth, what did the Enterprise do? Beamed over two guys, Picard and Data, bearing small arms. Why not beam a nuclear bomb onto these suddenly numerous Romulan mega-ships? That anyone possessing teleportation technology would skip the whole heroic-assault business and just beam bombs onto enemy vessels has never been dealt with in Star Trek scriptwriting.
--Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN.com, as 23rd century military tactician

Like father, like son

That reminds me, my daughter is one of the most outgoing kids on the planet. She is completely unafraid of any situation, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. But two weeks ago in a playacting class in preschool, she got shy and wouldn't do her fake scene. So why did she get shy? Turns out there was a new boy in her class that she really liked -- according to her, "He has curly hair, and I like how he dresses" -- and she was so smitten that she was afraid to playact in front of him. Who was the kid, you ask. The young son of Slash, the Guns N' Roses guitarist.
--Bill Simmons, ESPN.com, on early warning signs that your daughter will become a groupie

The uniquness of Ahh-nuld

Was Arnold Schwarzenegger the only celebrity who reinvented himself twice as a success?

In the '70s, Ahh-nuld moved to America and became the greatest and most famous bodybuilder ever. Then, he became the single biggest action star of the '80s and early '90s, trumping anything he did as a bodybuilder. THEN, for his third act, he was elected governor of California, only the most populous state in the United States. (Important note: I'm calling the election itself a success, not the aftermath, which I can report firsthand has NOT been a success since I'm paying enough in state taxes this year that the Sports Gal and I recently had our first serious "Is it time to end this goofy California charade and move back home to Boston?" conversation.) Now, John Madden nailed three different genres (coaching, announcing, video games), but all of them were related to football in some way. Ahh-nuld hitting three home runs in three totally unrelated genres? No way that happens again. And maybe that's for the best.
--Bill Simmons, ESPN.com, on the embodiment of the American Dream

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Picking the fastest supermarket line

The express lane isn't faster. The [supermarket] manager backed me up on this one. You attract more people holding fewer total items, but as the data [checkout scanner data from a six-hour shift] shows above, when you add one person to the line, you're adding 48 extra seconds to the line length (that's "tender time" added to "other time") without even considering the items in her cart. Meanwhile, an extra item only costs you an extra 2.8 seconds. Therefore, you'd rather add 17 more items to the line than one extra person! I can't believe I'm dropping exclamation points in an essay on grocery shopping but that's how this stuff makes me feel.
--Dan Meyer, dy/dan, on fixed versus marginal costs of supermarket checkout. HT: Lifehacker

The great sea, part 2

saw your last blog post. we're finding that it hasn't changed much when you're moving goods in africa. i think it costs about as much to get our stuff from rwanda to the ocean (about 700 miles) as it does to get it from the east side of africa to oakland, ca.
--JSY, cardsfromafrica.com

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The great sea

In 1816, it cost as much to move goods 32 miles over land as to ship across the Atlantic.
--Ed Glaeser, NYT, on the great transport advantage of the sea

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crack away

Donald Unger, an allergist in Thousand Oaks, California, earned the [Ig Nobel] medicine prize for addressing another timeless question: does cracking knuckles really cause arthritis, as his mother warned him it would? As a child, he naturally thought his mother omniscient, but as a teenager he learned about science and started questioning received wisdom of this kind.

To resolve the issue Unger embarked on a long-term controlled experiment, and began cracking the knuckles on his left hand twice a day, but not those on his right (Arthritis and Rheumatism, vol 41, p 949). He has done so for more than 60 years, and never suffered arthritis in either hand.
--Jeff Hecht, New Scientist, on one data point decades in the making. HT: Chris Blattman

iPhone dropped call rates in NY

Giz reader Manoj took his iPhone to the Genius Bar to have it looked at because it was dropping calls left and right, and AT&T swore stuff was totally kosher on their end, so he thought something was wrong with his phone. After doing a stat dump, the Genius showed Manoj that his iPhone had actually dropped 22 percent of calls.

The jawdropper: The Genius told Manoj that's actually excellent compared to most people in the New York area, where a 30 percent dropped call rate is the average. There was nothing Apple could do for Manoj. His phone was totally fine. Which means there's nothing Apple can do for rest of us.
--Matt Buchanan, Gizmodo, on the official AT&T crappiness stats. My Verizon Blackberry drops a call maybe once a month.