The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Zoning Policies Leading to US Housing Crisis

From the start some notable differences ultimately lead to German neighborhoods to be a lot more walkable livable and lively. American neighborhoods to be nearly completely dependent on cars…

An interesting take on a major cause of the current US housing affordability crisis.

As an American travelling to Europe, you notice this immediately. Every neighborhood just seems to be more integrated and self suficient. And you can get to just about anywhere by walking or bicycling. More importantly its is safe to walk and bicycle in European cities.

In the US, zoning rules segregate people by economic capability. Just drive around any suburb in the US and this becomes obvious.

Vaccine Confidence Falls

From the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania:

Americans have less confidence in vaccines to address a variety of illnesses than they did just a year or two ago, and more people accept misinformation about vaccines and Covid-19, according to the latest health survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania.

The survey conducted October 5-12, 2023, with a panel of over 1,500 U.S. adults, finds that the number of Americans who think vaccines approved for use in the United States are safe dropped to 71% from 77% in April 2021. The percentage of adults who don’t think vaccines approved in the U.S. are safe grew to 16% from 9% over that same two-and-a-half-year period.

Despite concerted efforts by news organizations, public health officials, scientists, and fact-checkers (including APPC’s project to counter viral misinformation about vaccination and Covid-19, the survey finds that some false or unproven claims about them are more widely accepted today than two to three years ago. Although the proportion of the American public that holds these beliefs is, in some cases, still relatively small, the survey finds growth in misinformation acceptance across many questions touching on vaccination.

American refusal of science and their refusal to follow common sense will bring about another COVID-19 emergency if thing keep going in this direction.

Finished Software

Jose M. Gilgado writing on the beauty of finished software:

Our expectations for software are different from other products we use in our daily lives.

When we buy a physical product, we accept that it won’t change in its lifetime. We’ll use it until it wears off, and we replace it. We can rely on that product not evolving; the gas pedal in my car will always be in the same place.

However, when it comes to software, we usually have the ingrained expectations of perpetual updates. We believe that if software doesn’t evolve it’ll be boring, old and unusable. If we see an app with no updates in the last year, we think the creator might be dead.

This one of software’s advantages and also its curse. Good software will evolve at the pace the users demand - the important thing is that the interface stays consistent and honest to the use case.

I'm Much Happier Living in Copenhagen

Ilana Buhl, 30, is an American living in a luxury, 2-bedroom apartment in Copenhagen, Denmark with her husband and son. The couple pays $2,100 a month in rent. Ilana is a primary school teacher and shares snippets of her life abroad on social media.

It’s amazing when you minimized stress over healthcare, gun violence, employment, and have access to public transit. Everyone of those things is non existant for most people in the US. Just the amount of anxiety and stress leads to so many mental and physical health problems in the US.

The US is rapidly falling behind on every aspect of quality of life.

EVs Are Getting Harder to Sell

ev vs hybrid

Alexa St. John and Nora Naughton reporting in the Insider:

… almost all current EV product is going for under sticker price these days, and on top of that, some EVs are seeing manufacturer’s incentives of nearly 10%.

That’s as inventory builds up at dealerships, much to the chagrin of dealers. While car buyers are in luck if they’re looking for a deal on a plug-in vehicle, executives are finding even significant markdowns and discounts aren’t enough. These cars are taking dealers longer to sell compared with their gas counterparts as the next wave of buyers focus on cost, infrastructure challenges, and lifestyle barriers to adopting.

Just a few months after dealers started coming forward to warn of slowing EV demand, manufacturers appear to be catching up to that reality. Ford was the first to fold, after dealers started turning away Mach-E allocations. In July, the company extended its self-imposed deadline to hit annual electric vehicle production of 600,000 by a year, and abandoned a 2026 target to build 2 million EVs.

In scrapping plans with GM to co-develop sub-$30,000 EVs, Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe said the shifting EV environment was difficult to gauge.

The average price of electric cars (sedans, small hatchbacks, sport models, etc.) in the US is close to $76,000. Electric vehicle (EV) driving range and electric car mileage per charge varies, but typically drivers can expect an average of 250 miles in a single charge. Keep in mind there are factors that can affect an EV’s range, including weather, battery size, and more. Compare this to a mid size hybrid selling between $25,000 and $35,000 with 600 mile range.

EVs as they are currently marketed are luxury items. Sure they are fuel efficient and have low maintenance compared to combustion engines but they are expensive. Those with the disposal income to afford EVs have for the most part bought them. For the rest of the market the EVs just don’t justify the price tags.

The problem is not with EVs as a technology. The real problem is the auto makers have not built cars that the average consumer can purchase. That means $25,000 to $35,000 price point.

The Youth Give Me Hope

This is young man asks a an intelliget question far beyond his age - whats even more surprising is his response to Dr. Tyson’s answer:

Thank you and I’m going to have to research half the words of that explanation.

The youth of today give me hope….

We're McKinsey.

We’re capable of anything, and culpable for nothing. It’s true. They can’t touch us.

Ridiculously comical. Completely accurate.

Its Safe to Drink the Water - Maybe

raindrop water

50 countries that you can drink the tap water in - maybe:

The graph uses data from Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which rates water quality based on the number of disability-adjusted life-years lost per 100,000 persons — the so-called DALY rate — due to unsafe drinking water. On the graph, countries with an EPI score of 100 have the cleanest water and are in the top 5th percentile. However, the lower the number, the worse the DALY rate due to dirty tap water.

The closer to the center of the droplet, the cleaner your tap water, and vice versa.

Ten countries at the center of the droplet have a perfect score. All are from Europe. In other parts of the continent, the EPI score drops off precipitously. Saudi Arabia, which is colored blue on the map based on CDC data, does not do so well on this map (score: 51). The bottom 24 countries on the list are all in Africa. If you’re thirsty in Liberia (9.5), Lesotho (7.2), or Nigeria (4.3), don’t use the tap. Go buy a bottle of something. It’s what Americans are doing, despite being in the blue club.

As usual - the United States ranks lower than its peers. Unsurprisingly the happiest Nordic countries (Norway, Finaland, Sweden, Iceland) all have 100% scores. Actually, I think the US is ranked generously given the recent issues with the tap water in Flint, Michigan and as the AP is reporting half of the US faucets likely contains “forever chemicals”.

The solution is to monitor your local public utilities dinking water reports and see how your locality is on clean tap water standards. Please do not buy water bottles. They cause unbelievable amount of damage to our environment. Besides, bottled water can be up to 3,750 times more expensive than tap water. You can purify your own drinking water using a purifying pitcher or better yet have an under sink purification system installed. I use the Aquasana 3-Stage Max Flow Claryum Under Sink Water Filter System myself and highly recommend it.

Apple CPU Architectures


One of the most underated technical capabilities of Apple is its ability to transition its user base entirely new architectures seamlessly. Over the years, Apple has transitioned from - in order:

  • MOS 6502
  • Motorola 68000
  • Motorola PowerPC
  • Intel X86
  • Apple Silicon

This chameleon like capability has allowed Apple to stay on the leading edge of the computer industry for nearly half a century. Thats right, Apple has been on the bleeding edge of computing for an astonishing 48 years. In that time we have seen the rise and fall of Commodore, Atari, Sun, IBM just to name a few. Each advance in CPU architecture has been a death nail to countless industry giants.

Apple remains, and thrives through each of these transitions. Apple is now building its own CPU architecture - Apple Silicon - and will be taking its future in its own hands. So far, they are winning the new CPU wars.

Jacob Bartlett has written an excellent article on the Apple CPU architecture migration through the ages.

Profits in the American Health-care System

middle men

The Economist identifying the true profiteers in the obscene American health care system:

Pharmaceutical firms and hospitals attract much of the public ire for the inflated costs. Much less attention is paid to a small number of middlemen who extract far bigger rents from the system’s complexity.

Over the past decade these firms have quietly increased their presence in America’s vast health-care industry (see chart ). They do not make drugs and have not, until recently, treated patients. They are the intermediaries—insurers, chemists, drug distributors and pharmacy-benefit managers (pbms)—sitting between patients and their treatments. In 2022 the combined revenue of the nine biggest middlemen—call them big health—equated to nearly 45% of America’s health-care bill, up from 25% in 2013. Big health accounts for eight of the top 25 companies by revenue in the s&p 500 index of America’s leading stocks, compared with four for big tech and none for big pharma.


The Affordable Care Act of 2010 limited the profits of health insurers to between 15% and 20% of collected premiums, depending on the size of the health plan. But it imposed no restrictions on what physicians or other intermediaries can earn. The law created an incentive for insurers to buy clinics, pharmacies and the like, and to steer customers to them rather than rival providers. The strategy channels revenue from the profit-capped insurance business to uncapped subsidiaries, which in theory could let insurers keep more of the premiums paid by patients.

The only cure is to remove the bloat and go to a single payer system.

Bill Maher - Don't Go to College

It’s colleges. Elite colleges. The mouth of the River from which this and all manner of radical left illiberal, yes illiberal, nonsense flows.


Elite schools should no longer be called elite - just say expensive. Which maybe why they breed a particular brand of detestable graduate. A personality type that does not emerge from Chico State.

Couldn’t agree more with Maher. Expensive colleges today are a four year resort - where you learn to think like the crowd and con the masses.

If you aren’t majoring in the hard sciences, engineering, or medicine - do yourself a favor. Don’t go to these four year colleges - get a library card and join the “real world.” You’ll avoid the crippling debt and learn a lot more - and you’ll be a nicer person.

Health Insurance Permiums Jumped to $24,000 This Year

Tami Luhby reporting for CNN:

The annual cost of family health insurance coverage at work soared to an average of nearly $24,000 this year, according to KFF’s Employer Health Benefits Survey, released Wednesday. That’s up 7% from last year.

Employees are shelling out an average of $6,575 for their share of the premium, up almost $500, or close to 8%, from last year, the annual survey found. Their companies are footing the rest of the bill.

The American health care system is obscene. Why on earth is health care tied to work? These increases that are paid by the employers are a tax credit for employers anyways, so lets just cut out the middle man here.

We need to get to single payer universal health care.

Ikea Scaffolding

ikea scaffolding

Ben Terrett on the new Ikea store in London:

The old Top Shop on Oxford St will soon be an Ikea. While they are carrying out the refurbishments they’ve made the front of the building look like a massive Ikea blue bag. I love this.

It’s a simple idea, maybe the most obvious idea, and all the better for that. Nothing else needed.

This is brilliant.

The Great Eye

The great eye

Illustrator Pablo Carlos Budassi, this is a circular map of the universe.

The solar system is located in the center. Towards the edges, the scale is progressively reduced to show in detail the most distant and biggest structures of the observable universe sphere.

I Am Willing to Go to Jail

… but what they don’t understand is that I am willing to go to jail if that’s what it takes for our country to win and become a democracy again.

Okay. What are we waiting for?


Black Success, White Backlash

black success white backlash

Elijah Anderson writing on white backlash in The Atlantic:

For the past 16 years, I have been on the faculty of the sociology department at Yale, and in 2018 I was granted a Sterling Professorship, the highest academic rank the university bestows. I say this not to boast, but to illustrate that I have made my way from the bottom of American society to the top, from a sharecropper’s cabin to the pinnacle of the ivory tower. One might think that, as a decorated professor at an Ivy League university, I would have escaped the various indignities that being Black in traditionally white spaces exposes you to. And to be sure, I enjoy many of the privileges my white professional-class peers do.


But sometimes these signifiers of professional status and educated-class propriety are not enough. This can be true even in the most rarefied spaces. When I was hired at Yale, the chair of the sociology department invited me for dinner at the Yale Club of New York City. Clad in a blue blazer, I got to the club early and decided to go up to the fourth-floor library to read The New York Times. When the elevator arrived, a crush of people was waiting to get on it, so I entered and moved to the back to make room for others. Everyone except me was white.

As the car filled up, I politely asked a man of about 35, standing by the controls, to push the button for the library floor. He looked at me and—emboldened, I have to imagine, by drinks in the bar downstairs—said, “You can read?” The car fell silent. After a few tense moments, another man, seeking to defuse the tension, blurted, “I’ve never met a Yalie who couldn’t read.” All eyes turned to me. The car reached the fourth floor. I stepped off, held the door open, and turned back to the people in the elevator. “I’m not a Yalie,” I said. “I’m a new Yale professor.” And I went into the library to read the paper.

Fewer Black Americans and minorities are poorer than 50 years ago, and more than twice as many are rich. Substantial numbers now attend the best schools, pursue professions of their choosing, and occupy positions of power and prestige. Add the democratic shifts to the mix and its easy to see how white America feels threatened.

A Japanese Neighborhood Izakaya

A 15-minute video about a tiny izakaya (13 seats!) in Tokyo owned and operated by a woman called “Mama” by her regulars.

When Mama is busy, regulars at this izakaya will serve themselves, get their own beers, get their “bottle-keep” and make their own drinks. They’ll also help out Mama-san by serving other customers as well. […] Bottle keep is when a customer buys a bottle and the shop holds on to it for them. Then the next time they visit they can drink from that bottle again.

This is what I miss most about Japan - the neighborhood culture.

Yes, He Did That

Steve Urkle

Ernie Smith writing on Tedium about Jaleel White and the 1990s cultural goal post that he created as Steve Urkel:

Jaleel White, as Steve Urkel, successfully did this. But unlike the actors listed above, White successfully pulled this off, with the comic timing of a pro, when he was just 12 years old.

Now, to be clear, kids can have amazing comic timing in their own right—Nickelodeon has numerous comic franchises over its four-decade history that prove it, most notably You Can’t Do That On Television and All That—but White’s creation, a famously annoying kid with a high-pitched voice and a distinctive appearance that you can see from a mile away, felt much more fully-formed than similar comedy creations inhabited by kids.

And that is perhaps why White became an indelible part of 1990s culture.

Ozempic Can’t Fix What Our Culture Has Broken

ozempic solve

Tressie McMillan Cottom’s opinion piece on Ozempic:

Solving for obesity will require more than drugs. It will require solving for a culture that makes being fat a woman’s burden, a means test for dignity, work, social status, and moral citizenry.