Passover thoughts on slavery in Egypt

From lectures that I’ve heard by scholars of Ancient Egypt, U.S.-style plantation slavery was not common in that society. A person referred to as a “slave” in Ancient Egypt may simply have been subject to paying a 20 percent income tax, for example, that “free” citizens were not subject to.

As noted in Wikipedia, there is minimal support for the historical truth of the Exodus story in the (otherwise excellent) written records of Ancient Egypt.

Suppose that Jews were indeed once “slaves” in Egypt, i.e., subject to higher-than-usual taxes. How would they be doing in modern times? PwC says that Egypt has a personal income tax rate that tops out at 22.5 percent. Compare to Israel at 50 percent and the U.S. at potentially over 50 percent (broken up into 37 percent federal and 13.3 California state income tax, for example).

Is this sort of like the founding myth of the U.S.? We tell K-12 children in our government-run schools that we started at war against Great Britain because of cruel and high taxation yet now the UK has lower taxes than the U.S. in a lot of areas, e.g., for entrepreneurs whose total tax bill of 10 percent in the UK will be lower than their state tax bill alone in California.

Oh yes, as long as we’re talking about Britain and Passover, as the Labour Party would say… “Happy Passover to readers who are practicing Jewcraft!”

[Separately, what about creating a Shmura Cheez-It Matzah cracker? Everyone likes Cheez-Its, right? And they’re not all that bread-like.]

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Supercharged ionized alkaline water too pure to be tested by pH strips

The only thing that our neighbors love more than spending $250,000/resident-learner on a new school building is expressing contempt for stupid Republicans and their “anti-Science” attitudes.

What is the beverage of choice for these folks who consider themselves highly intelligent and experts on science? As evidenced by what sells well enough at the town supermarket to merit endcap marketing:

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Scientists identifying as women are held back by men, but won’t gather in their own institute

“‘I Want What My Male Colleague Has, and That Will Cost a Few Million Dollars’; Women at the Salk Institute say they faced a culture of marginalization and hostility. The numbers from other elite scientific institutions suggest they’re not alone.” (New York Times) is about three elderly biologists who are suing their employer for gender discrimination after they were replaced with younger employees, purportedly due to their failure to raise sufficient grant money.

Life is great if you’re a scientist identifying as a man:

Some current and former Salk employees identified Wylie Vale, Ron Evans, Stephen Heinemann and Rusty Gage as the men who, along with Verma, seemed to enjoy extraordinary resources and status (though only Verma was mentioned in the lawsuits). These men, titans in their fields, spoke often at faculty retreats, and on milestone birthdays would reign over symposia in their honor.

If anyone typified the male “rock star” scientists said to have held sway over the Salk, it was Verma. As of 2015, he was the Institute’s highest-paid scientist

The Institute’s 2015 Form 990 shows that the purported superstar male scientist, Inder Verma, raked in total comp of about $437,000, i.e., about half of what a dermatologist running a cosmetic laser clinic in the neighborhood might earn. (The article also shows that Verma’s career was ended by accusations of sexual harassment, something that would have required a lot more work to achieve to inflict on a dermatologist running his or her own clinic.)

The article definitely shows the superiority of medicine as a career to science (see “Women in Science” for more on this topic), for humans of all gender IDs. By getting their jobs at Salk Institute, these women were among the most successful scientists of their generation. Yet their earnings were much lower than what a medical specialist could obtain, their years of earning were cut short involuntarily, and they had limited choices regarding where in the U.S. to live and work.

From my comment on the article:

There are great biology research institutions all around the world, at least some of which are run by people who currently identify as women. If there are great scientists who identify as women who are being held back at male-run places, why wouldn’t they simply move to the female-run places and accomplish their world-changing research there? The NYT informs us that women can be hired for 70 percent of the cost of equally qualified men. So the female-run and female-staffed science labs should have a huge edge over competitors. (One part of the article that rings true is that success in academic science is all about the Benjamins!)

[Response from a virtuous reader: “Sigh. I am weary. … Some humans who identify as men will never get it.” Yet if men are so generally clueless, how is it that at least a few have been credited with some scientific discoveries? Nearly all of those who “get it” are women, but a handful of outlier males “got it” and were sufficiently observant to function in science? Or behind every credited man there is the woman from whom he stole everything? (see Katherine Clerk Maxwell, for example, the likely true developer of Maxwell’s Equations, or Rosalind Franklin, to whom all credit for DNA structure should go)]

There should be no shortage of female-identifying labor. The article says “the biological sciences are one of the only scientific fields in which women earn more than half the doctoral degrees.” (but maybe a lot of them change their gender ID to male after graduation in order to soak up the privileges that are reserved to male scientists?)

Readers: In a world that funds science more lavishly than at any time in history and in which changing institutions is as easy as getting on an Airbus, why wouldn’t the brilliant female scientists gather in their own institute and crank out the Nobel prizes?

[Top-rated comment by NYT readers:

How many diseases have gone uncured, how many scientific discoveries not made, because men’s priority is their own power, and do anything and everything to hold on to that power and keep women down? They will never give us equality voluntarily.

Isn’t this a great argument for a women-only research?]


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Dorco Shaving Test: 7 blades good; 4 blades bad

Having determined that Dorco razors are superior to Gillette, the question of “which Dorco” remains live.

Dorco makes life difficult by ignoring every principle of modern marketing. Instead of changing their name to “Shave Supreme” and putting all of their advertising effort into convincing consumers that one particular system is a must-have, the company offers almost every conceivable variation and dumps the problem of picking the best one onto consumers. But what man wants to think for himself? Isn’t it easier to have a razor company say “This system is awesome; the one we sold you last year is garbage”? Or a soft drink company say “Your life will be awesome if you guzzle Diet Coke”?

For consumers who identify as “men,” Dorco offers 1-blade, 2-blade, 3-blade, 4-blade, 5-blade, 6-blade, and 7-blade systems and gives them all more or less equal prominence on its web site.

I did a quick test of Pace 4 versus Pace 7. Conclusion: Pace 7 feels substantially smoother. From the Dorco site, the list prices for these are $1.51 and $2.22, though the Pace 4 was on sale at 76 cents/cartridge last I checked.

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What was learned from the Mueller Report?

Today was the big exciting day for the Mueller Report. I don’t have the patience to read 400 pages. The nytimes coverage of the report fails to distinguish between stuff that was previously known and stuff (if any) that was newly uncovered by this crack team of investigators working for two years.

From the NYT:

While the report does not find that the president or his campaign aides had committed any crimes in their contacts with Russians, it lays bare how Mr. Trump was elected with the help of a foreign power.

What did the Russians do? Reveal to Americans that Hillary Clinton was secretly planning to raise taxes and government spending?

[The same newspaper previously attributed Hillary’s failure to defeat a political amateur to “misogyny” among the unwashed masses of Republican voters. So maybe the Russians revealed to the American people that Hillary, contrary to outward appearances, identified as a woman?]

Also from the article:

At the very least, in the face of repeated Russian efforts to make contact with Mr. Trump’s advisers, none of them thought to contact the F.B.I.

Are they talking about during the campaign? So they’re surprised that the Republican candidate wouldn’t want to call up a government agency controlled by an incumbent Democrat? Or are these Russian contacts that happened after Trump’s election?

And the NYT is also trumpeting that Donald Trump tried to thwart an investigation whose primary purpose was to find criminal fault with either him or his close associates? Wasn’t that previously reported?

Readers: Please help me and others out! What was in this eagerly-awaited (at least among my Facebook friends!) report that wasn’t previously known and/or obvious?


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Asylum-seekers’ stories point to a labor shortage in Central America?

A core feature of the tales told by many asylum-seekers is that criminal gangs tried to force them to join. The sought-after gang member thus fled from Honduras, for example, and couldn’t find safety in Guatemala, Belize, or Mexico (since the gangs are multinational and sufficiently organized to hunt down potential labor across borders?). Thus the former Honduran finds him or herself, along with some children, living in Texas (maybe soon in San Francisco or Oakland?), collecting welfare, and going through a multi-year asylum process.

I wonder if this shows that there is a labor shortage in Honduras. The population has grown from 1.5 million in 1950 to over 9 million today (Wikipedia). Yet criminal gangs cannot find volunteers to join in the activities and share in the profits. They are forced to recruit new members, whom they will be responsible for paying enough to afford housing, food, clothing, etc., at gunpoint. American criminal enterprises, on the other hand, get their employees by voluntary processes.

It seems reasonable to assume that a gang seeks only the minimum number of required members for its criminal goals (just as non-criminal employers try to avoid hiring surplus staff). A $1 million profit from dealing drugs, for example, isn’t so exciting if it has to be split among 1,000 members.

Can we infer from the above stories and assumptions that there is an acute labor shortage in Honduras compared to the U.S.? If not, why would gangs recruit members by force?

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Income and virginity among Japanese men

“About 1 in 4 Japanese adults in their 20s and 30s are virgins, says study” (CNN) started a bit of discussion among some of my (married high-income guy) friends. They highlighted

‘Money talks’
The report found that a higher percentage of men on lower incomes remained sexually inexperienced compared to women.
“Although the discussion around cause and effect becomes very complex when considering who becomes sexually experienced and who remains a virgin, we show that heterosexual inexperience is at least partly a socioeconomic issue for men. Simply put, money talks,” said Cyrus Ghaznavi, the lead author of the study.


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Aircraft types that I have flown

I was asked to fill out a form showing the aircraft that I have flown and it turned out to be a longer list than expected…

  1. 8KAB (Decathlon)
  2. AA5 (Grumman Tiger)
  3. AC95 (Twin Commander 1000 turboprop)
  4. B200 (King Air 200 turboprop)
  5. B206
  6. B505 (new Jet Ranger)
  7. BE36
  8. BE55
  9. BE58
  10. BE103 (Beriev twin-engine seaplane!)
  11. C172
  12. C182
  13. C210 (in southern Africa)
  14. C310 (crazy noisy!)
  15. C510 (Cessna Mustang jet)
  16. CJ3
  17. CL65 (Canadair Regional Jet)
  18. COL4 (Columbia 400/Cessna 400)
  19. DA20 (Diamond Katana)
  20. DA40 (Diamond Star)
  21. EMB-500 (Phenom 100 jet)
  22. Evolution (experimental turboprop)
  23. Gamebird GB1
  24. HK36 (motor glider)
  25. M20T (turbocharged Mooney)
  26. PA12 (Piper Super Cruiser… on floats!)
  27. PA28
  28. PA32
  29. PA34
  30. PA38 (with a very slender student!)
  31. PA44
  32. PA46 (Malibu; the dream family airplane as long as one can get a letter from God promising that the engine won’t quit)
  33. PC12
  34. R22
  35. R44
  36. R66
  37. SGS 2-32 (glider)
  38. SGS 2-33 (glider)
  39. SR20
  40. SR22
  41. TBM850

Adding to this blog so that the information doesn’t get lost. I was thinking that it would be good to put the favorites in bold, but I realized that at least half of the above aircraft would need to be marked. Most of them have at least some great characteristics.

The list would be a bit longer if I included variants, e.g., the turboprop versions of the PA46, the retractable version of the PA28, or the turbocharged version of the SR22.

Despite FAA English proficiency requirements for certificate holders, I am having some trouble understanding this new copilot. I think that he is complaining about the lack of A/C in the Cirrus:

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No statute of limitations for accused academics

David Marchant, still a geologist, but no longer a Boston University employee, has learned what my friend who teaches at University of California explained: “I can be fired for any reason… except incompetence.” (Science Mag)

The alleged unkind words and actions toward three people occurred in the late 1990s (2017 Science Mag article), but no complaints were made until October 2016 (at least 17 years after the alleged facts).

Had these aggrieved individuals wanted to sue former Professor Marchant, they would generally have had to do so within three years (Massachusetts law) of the events.

(Separately, the accused geologist seems to be a bit of a skeptic regarding climate change catastrophe. He is co-author of a paper telling people not to worry about the East Antarctic Ice Sheet melting and leading to a 60 meter rise in sea level. The Ice Sheet has been around for 14 million years, the paper says, and thus has survived some very warm periods indeed.)

Even if we assume that we can establish 20-year-old facts to perfect accuracy, should there be a statute of limitations for this kind of situation? We could say that what Dr. Marchant (his Ph.D. hasn’t been rescinded yet!) allegedly did was like murder and it can’t be forgiven so we need to punish him even though he might have changed completely during the intervening years. Or we could say that people do evolve over a period of two decades so we want to consider only accusations regarding reasonably recent behavior.

What if, for example, Dr. Marchant had changed gender ID between 1999 and 2019? Would it still make sense to get rid of her on the theory that her presence made it difficult for women?


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Malthus was right in rural America too?

In we looked at data from cities around the world. “Housing’s hidden crisis: Rural Americans struggle to pay rent” (CBS) says that a lot of Americans can’t afford housing even in thinly populated areas of the U.S.

Since there is plenty of land in rural areas, I’m wondering if high costs can be partly explained by high materials prices due to demand from a growing economy worldwide. The 25th percentile American worker can’t afford cement for a home foundation because a 75th percentile worker in China or Mexico has purchased the cement instead.


  • “Bay Area Housing Struggles Extend To Farm-Rich Salinas”: “Salinas families earn a median income of $69,000, while the region’s 90,000 farmworkers bring in far less. They face a median home price of nearly $550,000 and two-bedroom apartments costing roughly $1,800 a month, according to Zillow.”
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