Six Years!

Frankly CuriousToday is the sixth anniversary of Frankly Curious. On this day back in 2009, I published Everything Interesting for Everyone Interesting. It was a little 500 word essay to explain what the site was supposed to be about: interesting material for interesting people. And I think it has lived up to that mission. I can’t honestly say how interesting the material is, but the website is frequented by a large group of interesting people. We now get several hundred unique visitors per day, but I’m more impressed by the statistic that we get over a hundred people per day who come directly to the home page to check in to see what we are up to.

That’s probably the biggest change from last year. There is more of a sense of community now than there was even then. I’ve long been jealous of other blogs who don’t get nearly the traffic that Frankly Curious does, but that still had more regular visitors. It’s kind of like a bar. There are neighborhood bars where everyone knows each other. And there are bars in the mall that do a lot of business but are impersonal. I’m glad to be turning into more of a neighborhood bar.

I also had one huge article this year, The Shocking True Story of Twin Chickens. When that story came out, it went crazy — for a week or more. That was nice because it was an article I worked on a lot and ended up being really pleased with. It also answered a question that I had long wondered about. But it didn’t cause the blog to grow. The vast majority of the people came, read the article, and left. Frankly Curious is, after all, not about chickens or farming or anything related to that. That’s not to say that we didn’t pick up some regular readers because of it. But most people didn’t even click from the article to the home page to see what the blog was about.

Another big source of traffic was an article from over a year ago, College of Architecture and Planning Sign Is a Joke. That’s one of those articles that prove just how lazy most people are. There are huge arguments about the sign, but no one is willing to do even the smallest amount of research. So they came to that page. And that made me write another article, Update on the Ball State College of Architecture and Planning Sign — It’s Still a Joke. But again, these visitors did not stick around.

Another change this last year was the implementation of a strict publishing schedule. That sounds like it would make managing the site harder, but it was the opposite. It allowed me to work ahead of time and manage things better. We were doing six articles per day. I brought that down to four now, which works a lot better. It gives me time to do other things. And it is not overwhelming for those people who think they ought to read everything. And four articles per day is more than enough for a blog that is done by just one person.

Regardless, it is amazing that this site has been around for six years. Even more amazing is that it seems to be running better than it ever has been. For so many years, we were just limping along. Now it seems more like a machine. And other than, you know, writing the articles, it all pretty much takes care of itself. But I keep adding to it — trying to make it a bit more interesting. As you have probably noticed over the past couple of days, there is now the “Recycled Genius” post at the top of the home page. And by the time you read this, I expect to have up a comments page. If you have any requests, let me know.

But thanks to everyone who makes this site interesting. I’d mention you all by name, but I’m sure I would leave some people out. But you know who you are.


Because of my varied freelance work, I’ve been forced to because a business. So I’ve just started to set up Frankly Curious Media. There isn’t going to be much there — just business stuff: clients, work examples, prices. But if you know people who need work done, you can send them over there where it will be more professional than our freewheeling stuff here.

Denmark’s Food Is Awful So Sanders Is Wrong

Michael BoothI love the spectacle of icons of upper middle class “liberals” putting a foot down and not allowing any more of what most people would consider liberal. We see it a lot in The New York Times. And these days it usually has to do with attacks on Bernie Sanders. It’s also been fun to watch conservative outlets say nice things about Sanders. It’s two sides of the same impulse. The “liberals” don’t want to see Sanders win the primary because they think he will lose the general election. And the conservatives want Sanders to win the primary because they to think he will lose the general election.

There is a difference, of course. The conservatives are pure in not wanting to see Sanders win the general election. The “liberals” claim that they would be fine if Sanders won the general election; they just don’t think he can. But they are as freaked out about Sanders winning the general as the conservatives are. In other worlds, the “liberals” aren’t actually liberals; they are moderates — and when it comes to economic issues, they are conservatives. I wish that the would just admit to it and stop pretending.

The most recent attack comes from Ana Swanson at The Washington Post, Why Denmark Isn’t the Utopian Fantasy Bernie Sanders Describes. In it, she says, “For whatever reason, Scandinavia countries just seem to do it better — an idea that supporters and critics label ‘Nordic exceptionalism.'” That’s curious because I’ve never heard of these countries referred to as utopias and I’ve never heard the term “Nordic exceptionalism.” Sanders uses the example of Denmark primarily to show that the word “socialism” isn’t scary and it doesn’t indicate the Soviet Union or China. He does, however, point out that they do some things better than we do.

So basically Swanson makes up an idea that no one is talking about and then goes about beating it down. The point — just like Clinton’s argument that Denmark isn’t the US and oh so many conservatives who claim that it is easy for Norway to do well when they don’t have a bunch of underachieving minorities — is just that America is exceptional and that we don’t have anything to learn from any other country. Since Norway has its own problems, we can’t learn anything from the way that it does things right. This is the most lame form of apologetics — and one designed to do what our press seems always determined to do: allow America to continue to stagnate.

Most of the article is an interview with travel writer (!) Michael Booth. And it is an attack on the Nordic economy, because this is The Washington Post, after all, and so everything is about the budget. Dean Baker took all that apart, Socialism in Denmark May Push Employment Rates Down to US Levels, in 25 Years. Booth made the point that the employment rate in Denmark is going down (because of the budget deficit, of course). And indeed, for people between the ages of 25 and 54, the employment rate dropped 5 percentage points as a result of the 2008 economic crisis. Of course, the exact same thing happened in the US.

Currently in Denmark, 82% of people between the age of 25 and 54 are employed. In the United States, 77% of people between the age of 25 and 54 are employed. So the Denmark is closing the gap — very slowly getting as bad as the US. And that is due to Denmark changing to act more like the United States. What Sanders is saying is that we ought to do some things more like Denmark is doing. But The Washington Post is more interested in vilifying the whole country so that we continue to be a country of the oligarchs, by the oligarchs, for the oligarchs.

But there is some useful information in the article. Here is what it really comes down to for Booth:

the weather is appalling, the taxes are the highest in the world, the cost of living is similarly ridiculous, the languages are impenetrable, the food is (still) awful for the most part and, increasingly, these countries are making it very clear they would prefer foreigners to stay away.[1]

So if we provide universal access to healthcare and a fairer tax system, we will get an impenetrable language and awful food. How the causation works, I can’t say. Maybe we shouldn’t listen to travel writers when it comes to economic policy.

[1] He’s wrong about a number of things. The taxes in Denmark are not the highest in the world, or even in the EU. If the cost of living is high, it must be because people want to live there. And if they are chasing foreigners away, it can’t be that people are staying away from this hellhole.

Morning Music: Farewell to Nova Scotia

The Parting Glass - Jesse FergusonI can’t believe how much I’m enjoying listening to Jesse Ferguson this week. Part of it is just that I’m in the mood for that British Isles kind of folk music. Or I guess, in his case, it is Canadian. But it is all very similar to my American ear. Regardless, he does have an absolutely fabulous voice.

Today, we listen to a live version of “Farewell to Nova Scotia” off his 2011 album, The Parting Glass. It is a traditional Nova Scotian song, which he is performing on St Ann’s Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. He wrote, “It’s a shame I didn’t have the camera set up earlier since a bald eagle swooped over my head shortly before I hit record.” No big deal. I’ve had bald eagles swoop over my head. The music is a greater treat.

Anniversary Post: Cult of Reason

Temple of Reason - Cult of ReasonOn this day in 1793, the Cult of Reason was proclaimed by the French National Convention. The idea was to get rid of the Catholic Church and replace it with the idea of perfecting humanity through the use of human reason. I applaud that goal. But this was the idea at the very being of the Reign of Terror. So all this business of being driven by reason and the search for truth and liberty didn’t work out that well.

I don’t bring this up to put down reason. I love reason. But reason is just as likely to turn into dogma as religion is. Far too many atheists think that if we just got rid of religion, then the world would be peaceful. This is even more fantastic a notion than that when we die we go to heaven where we live in paradise until the end of time.

The biggest problem with people who fetishize reason (and many people do just that) is that they think that other people aren’t being rational in their own way. I discussed this in an article earlier this year, Pascal’s Wager in Modern America. Religious people think they are being rational. I find their thinking simplistic, but I also find most atheists’ thinking simplistic.

Being “guided by reason and evidence” is a sham. People don’t do that. They are deluded. I’m not saying that the Reign of Terror was caused by the Cult of Reason. I’m just saying that they weren’t inconsistent. When people tell me they are guided only by evidence and reason, I always think of people who claim that they aren’t racists and that they treat everyone the same. Such people are either ignorant or lying. The most dangerous thing in the world is to believe that you possess the truth. Both Evangelicals because of their belief in the One True God™ and Sam Harris who believes in Reason and Evidence™ both conclude that we should torture Muslims.

Rationality is a tool that can be helpful in creating a more humane and just society. But it can also be used to create the Reign of Terror or the Third Reich. It isn’t something that automatically leads to utopia.