Donna Dubinsky struggled to get individual health insurance (NYTimes)

The new health care reform legislation is not perfect. Nothing that complex could be. But I have no doubt that the system is broken and reform is absolutely essential. If we are not going to have universal coverage but are going to rely on employer plans, then we must offer individuals, self-employed people and small businesses a place to purchase insurance at a reasonable price.

via Money Won’t Buy You Health Insurance –

This is ultimately my big problem with the healthcare situation in the US. I’m sorry that poor people don’t have access to healthcare, but they don’t have access to healthcare in much of the world. The fact that successful, wealthy people don’t have access to affordable healthcare is ridiculous and unusual.

Eat More Lard!

By any estimation, lard is a healthier fat than butter. Gram for gram, it contains 20% less saturated fat, and it’s higher in the monounsaturated fats which seem to lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and raise HDL (the “good”). It’s one of nature’s best sources of vitamin D. Unlike shortening it contains no trans fats, probably the most dangerous fats of all.

via Consider lard | Life and style |

Looking for a present for your Valentine?

This item is one of the more disturbing objects in Henry Wellcome’s collection. A ‘Scold’s bridle’ is a fearsome looking mask which fits tightly on to the head. A scold was defined as a “rude, clamorous woman”. The bridle was used as a punishment for women considered to be spending too much time gossiping or quarrelling. Time spent in the bridle was normally allocated as a punishment by a local magistrate. The custom developed in Britain in the 1500s, and spread to some other European countries, including Germany. When wearing the mask it was impossible to speak. This example has a bell on top to draw even more attention to the wearer, increasing their humiliation. It was used until the early 1800s as a punishment in workhouses.

via Scold’s bridle, Germany, 1550-1800.

A Modest Proposal regarding littering and the homeless

In SFist I read that Scott Weiner, my district supervisor wants to give our San Francisco homeless brethren food stamps instead of cash when they bring bottles and cans in for recycling. I think he’s thinking about it all wrong. What we should do is deputize all of our homeless so that they can issue littering fines. Pay them a small percentage of the fine as a bounty. Give them cheap video recorders to collect the evidence. It would solve our littering enforcement problem and help address the poverty of some of the poorest members of our society.

The Julie Project – moving story of a mother, drug addict and AIDS sufferer

I first met Julie on February 28, 1993. Julie, 18, stood in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel, barefoot, pants unzipped, and an 8 day-old infant in her arms. She lived in San Francisco’s SRO district, a neighborhood of soup kitchens and cheap rooms. Her room was piled with clothes, overfull ashtrays and trash. She lived with Jack, father of her first baby Rachael, and who had given her AIDS. She left him months later to stop using drugs.

via Darcy Padilla | The Julie Project.

Cracking scratch lottery with statistics

“People often assume that I must be some extremely moral person because I didn’t take advantage of the lottery,” he says. “I can assure you that that’s not the case. I’d simply done the math and concluded that beating the game wasn’t worth my time.”

via Cracking the Scratch Lottery Code | Magazine.

A really interesting story about the mathematical weaknesses of common scratch lottery tickets.

How easy is it to get guns without a background check?

Gunshow Undercover – Arizona.

New York City investigators found it easy to replicate the arsenal of Jared Loughner at a gun show in Arizona. It’s not really a surprise to me that they were able to, but it’s interesting that New York City is examining other jurisdictions’ gun policies and enforcement as part of their domestic crime prevention policy.

My own URL shortener

So I guess the modern equivalent of the vanity email address is the vanity URL shortener. I registered because it was available and cheapish and because’s links keep getting longer and longer.

I tried both Google’s and’s BYO domain shorteners and didn’t like them at all. Google forces you to use a subdomain and uses the same namespace for all shortening domains, so all it really offered was vanity, not improved shortness.

After a couple of wisely aborted efforts to write my own I just installed YOURLS, a simple, straight-forward, extensible URL shortener. Like all useful internet software it’s all PHP and MySQL so it took virtually no time to deploy – unzip, create database, edit config file, reload.

There’s a pretty good WordPress plugin that shortens a link and then posts to twitter that I’m experimenting with as a way to encourage myself to make longer than 140 character posts. Let’s see how that goes.