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January 6th, 2013:

Weekend link dump for January 6

Does joking about writing the wrong year on checks mark one as irredeemably old?

“A spider that builds elaborate, fake spiders and hangs them in its web has been discovered in the Peruvian Amazon.” Arachnophobes the world over shudder in horror at the thought.

Gingerbread Downton Abbey. You’re welcome.

Airline fees impede price comparisons.

The Jon Swift Memorial Roundup for 2012.

Hillary-hating season is about to begin again.

Mazel tov, gentlemen.

Tech trends from a fifteen-year-old perspective. Don’t laugh.

Restaurants could do with an upgrade of their technology.

So long, 75 watt incandescent light bulbs. You won’t be missed.

IPhone theft is a crime wave unto itself, in New York at least.

Harnessing the power of tornadoes sounds like the sort of thing a supervillain would think up.

“Is there anything more Canadian than a line of customers who kept paying forward an act of goodwill for three hours at a Tim Hortons in Winnipeg? Probably not.”

“Time is a feminist issue because we don’t actually want women to have to birth babies in cyborg wombs if they’re going to hold their own in society.

Avis has bought Zipcar. This will probably not end well for Zipcar.

Your home alarm probably has a duress code on it, which is set by default but not documented. If you have ADT, you should investigate this.

Happy Perihelion!

The thing about fanfiction is that it’s still writing, and the way to improve as a writer is to write. Or so I’ve been told.

Who needs the Violence Against Women Act, anyway?

I often wish President Obama could act like Captain Liberal, too, but that’s not realistic.

“A number of folks in the media seem to get that there’s something reckless about the Default Caucus of the GOP, but since they strive so hard for balance, they have to attack Obama for something too, and so they usually point to his lack of spending cuts.”

Kevin Drum’s article on the connection of lead exposure to crime is an absolute must-read.

How much did the 112th Congress suck? Think Progress counts the ways.

If the Tea Party wasn’t such an utter clown show, John Boehner might have actually had to worry about retaining his Speakership.

I for one welcome our heavy metal robot overlords. Rock on, uh, dudes.

SCOTUS has not taken up the Texas redistricting lawsuit yet

Texas Redistricting:

No decision announced [Friday at the Supreme Court about whether the court will hear the Texas redistricting case.

The court, however, could issue additional orders on Monday.

The Justices haven’t had these briefs for long, so it’s not surprising they haven’t taken action yet. They have conferences on January 11 and 18, and on February 15 and 22, so we’ll know soon enough what they intend to do. As noted previously by Texas Redistricting, the Justices can summarily affirm the decision of the district court, dismiss the appeal for not being a question they need to take up, or they could set the case for oral argument before the full court, which would probably happen in March or April. That’s also the order of the outcomes from best to worst, from a Democratic perspective. We’ll see if the Supremes have something to tell us next Friday.

Horse’s head sold separately

Shorter John Cornyn: “Unless President Obama gives us Republicans everything we want – and we insist that he be the one to come up with the list of things that we want, so we can attack him for it in the next campaign – we are going to destroy the global economy, because it’s the responsible thing to do.”

The dog that hasn’t barked yet

The most dispensible member of the Harris County legislative caucus hasn’t done what she normally does yet.

Riddle me this, Batman

Camping out in the Texas Capitol to ensure a prime designation for your legislation on illegal immigration? That’s so 2011.

State Rep. Debbie Riddle braved a cold, creepy-noise-filled Capitol two years ago in part to obtain a priority bill number for her measure to create the offense of “criminal trespass by alien,” filed second only to her voter ID bill.

She also filed bills last session to require school districts to determine whether students were citizens upon enrollment, crack down on so-called sanctuary cities, nudge state agencies to tally the costs of serving people not legally in Texas and impose criminal penalties on businesses employing workers who were illegally in the country – except for maids and gardeners.

This year, the Tomball Republican has yet to file an immigration bill, although she hasn’t ruled it out.


Riddle also has encountered the march of events, received feedback from her constituents and done a bit more research.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of Arizona’s get-tough bill on illegal immigration, and Riddle said she’s looking at what might still be allowed in the wake of that ruling.

The bill requiring state agencies to tally the cost of services to immigrants here illegally? Riddle said agencies already keep tabs on that, which she didn’t know before filing the measure last time.

As for criminal sanctions for businesses, Riddle said local employers wanted to do the right thing but that they could get in trouble for mistakenly firing someone they believe is here illegally.

Likewise, her local school superintendents said it would be a logistical nightmare to try to track students’ citizenship. Besides, she said, a test was done in one large district that found most children were born here.

There’s little point in trying to understand the motivations of someone like Debbie Riddle, who is an awful person that – to put it gently – would have difficulty on “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” Author Peggy Fikac doesn’t say in her column, but it would not surprise me if a bit of arm-twisting had been applied to Riddle behind the scenes by the likes of the Texas Association of Business and Rick Perry. If so, I can only assume such threats would have had to do with the prospects of any other legislation she might file or care about, since there’s no reason to take any kind of electoral threat over the immigration issue from TAB seriously. The next time they go after a Republican for being an immigration apostate will be the first time they do so. I have no evidence to back my speculation here so I certainly could be wrong, it’s just that I have a hard time believing someone like Riddle would ever be swayed by silly things like objective evidence. Whatever the case, the less Riddle in 2013, the better.

Curbside composting

Way to go, Austin.

City officials are asking Austinites in 7,900 households in five parts of the city to separate their banana peels, egg shells, meat, chicken bones, milk cartons, leaves and any other organic material from their household trash and put the material into a new rolling garbage cart.

The one-year trial run will cost the city $485,000. That includes new green 96-gallon composting carts — the same size as the blue recycling bins that now dot the city. Residents also get indoor 2.4-gallon food scrap receptacles, the contents of which can be dumped into the green carts, and educational and promotional materials.

To combat the yuck factor, officials are distributing information about the reasons for composting, a natural process that breaks down organic materials into a nutrient-rich, soil-like material.

As usable as compost is, nearly half of the materials that end up in landfills can be composted. With a city goal to send no waste to landfills by 2040, compost collection is a natural next step, said Richard McHale, a manager at Austin Resource Recovery.

The city is not adding any equipment or staff for the program, McHale said.

Sanitation workers will pick up the compostable material weekly. But instead of hauling the stuff to the landfill, it will be taken to a private composting company just east of Texas 130.


A roughly yearlong restaurant composting pilot at 14 establishments wrapped up in the fall. At least 40 percent of landfill waste was diverted, and in some cases nearly 80 percent was, according to a presentation to the Zero Waste Advisory Commission in November by Resource Recovery waste diversion planner Woody Raine.

McHale said he hopes to expand the compost curbside program citywide within three years. He had no cost estimate for a citywide program. For now, city officials also won’t answer questions about how a citywide composting program would affect monthly utility bills.

“As we are able to determine participation and diversion amounts through the early phases of this initiative, we will be better able to determine any fiscal impacts the program will have when the program is fully implemented throughout the city,” Resource Recovery spokeswoman Lauren Hammond said. The department anticipates “that organics diverted from the landfill will help offset expenses related to curbside collection programs.”

The city of San Antonio has also done a pilot program for curbside compost collection, though I don’t know where that now stands. Austin has done some other things in recent years to encourage composting. I’ll be very interested to see how this goes. Houston does have separate collection for yard waste, but you have to use compostable bags that are not cheap and not terribly sturdy. Austin’s program is in the right direction, and it’s likely the way we’ll all have to go eventually. It will take awhile for people to get used to it, and I daresay some kind of fee structure that strongly incentivizes properly separating one’s trash will help spur that along. We compost at home, and really, it’s not that big a deal. I hope to see something like this in Houston in the near future.