Posts Tagged ‘government’

What's in a pint?

Posted in Beer on March 19th, 2015 by Nathan – Be the first to comment
Clearly marked pint lines on one of my favorite glasses: Great British Beer Festival 2013

Clearly marked pint, half-pint, and third-pint lines on one of my favorite glasses: Great British Beer Festival 2013

In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to sell a pint of beer with less than 568mL of liquid. This corresponds to 20 imperial ounces, which is about 19.2 US ounces. Similarly, "half pints" must contain no less than 284mL, and "third pints" no less than 189.3mL. To enforce this law, pubs in the UK serve beers in marked glasses, with clear lines that show at what point a pint has been reached. There are inspections. There are regulators. There are customers who politely ask for a "top up" when this line isn't met. And as a result, this line is met. Customers who expect a pint receive an imperial pint at a minimum.

The United States Treasury, through powers granted by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, defined, in 1832, a gallon as 231 cubic inches. As part of the US Code obligations, every state has, on behalf of the Secretary of Commerce, a complete set of "weights and measures," that include a gallon and divisions thereof: half gallons, quarts, pints, half pints, and gills. Thus, a pint, according to US law, is 28.875 cubic inches, or precisely 16 US ounces (473mL).

And yet, when you buy a pint of beer in this country, there is no guarantee that you will get those 16 ounces. In fact the opposite is true: thanks to under-pouring and misleading glassware, you are likely to get much less.

The "standard American shaker pint" glass, the kind you probably think of as a pint glass, holds exactly 16 ounces. Exactly. No room for spillage, and in fact, pour a tall boy of beer into one and you'll note a "reverse miniscus" of liquid, as surface tension keeps the liquid from pouring over the side. But when was the last time you were served, at a bar, a nearly-overflowing glass of beer? When standard shaker pints are used, you're much more likely to receive around fourteen ounces of beer, accounting for head and empty space to prevent (or caused by) spillage.

And yet the problem compounds further: bantam-weight shaker pints, which have thicker walls, a much thicker floor, and are commonly used with a stainless steel Boston shaker to shake cocktails, hold a maximum of 14 ounces of liquid. Again, this is exact. Any more than 14 ounces, and that surface tension will break, sending liquid spilling over the side. And today, many bars have switched from the already questionable American shaker pint to that bantam-weight shaker pint, meaning that once you account for head and spillage, you're likely receiving only around 12 ounces when you ask for a pint. A 25% discount in liquid that surely is not represented in the price.

As it happens, the State of Texas actually does have a law that deals with this, but the Department of Agriculture, responsible for its enforcement, apparently focuses entirely on its application to fuel pumps. The relevant section that should be applied to bars and restaurants that under-serve is Section 13.035(b)(2): "A person violates this chapter if the person represents the price or the quantity of a commodity, item, or service sold or offered or exposed for sale in a manner intended or tending to mislead or deceive an actual or prospective customer."

I think it's time for this state, and any other state that has similar laws, to begin enforcement of this. The law provides for a fine for every infraction, and I think it's time that those fines be levied. States that don't have similar laws ought to legislate thusly. The customer is being cheated, lied to, and this is a disgrace. I'd like to see marked pint glasses that clearly and correctly show where liquid reaches 16 ounces. I'd like to see the demise of both the American shaker pint and its even more devious bantam-weight cousin as serving vessels. And I'd like to see establishments stop cheating customers, be it through good conscience or through proper application of consumer protection laws.

But it also requires action from the customers. Demand a full pint. Demand top-ups to get to 16 ounces when American shaker pints are used, and stop patronizing establishments that cheat you out of volume. Order cans or 12-ounce bottles and ask for a pint glass, to demonstrate the embarrassing pour that occurs when bantam-weight shaker pints are used. This cheating needs to end, but it'll take a lot of work for us to get our full pour.

The American Zionism

Posted in Opinion on January 29th, 2013 by Nathan – 1 Comment

Over the past week I’ve spewed forth opinions on Israel that I had not before really put in words. This has been useful for me and hopefully interesting to others, but it’s all gradually headed toward a two-part conclusion. This is part one.

The burden

I want to start by saying this is in fact a burden for me. Having grown up an ardent supporter of Zionism and Israel, having served in various leadership positions to that effect, having spent summers there, and finally having lived there for a year, it would be foolish to suggest I have no emotional connection to the country. Of course I do. Thus the difficulty at having to turn my back, turn my heart, on something that meant so much to me, because it was not the country I thought it was or the dream I thought it could be.

The dream

Zionism, for me, is the idea that there be a democratic nation where Jews, among their neighbors, are safe and at home. I do not believe this means that such a nation should be majority Jewish, nor should it necessarily not be. It must be democratic though, as all people must be equal. This is not just a tenet of Zionism for me, it is a tenet of Judaism as a whole. Ideas of humans being created in the image of God, or the idea of loving the strangers among you are strong in Jewish tradition. That should be no different when Jews are in charge.

The realization

Growing up in America, I was frequently asked by Jewish adults, “are you a Jewish American or an American Jew?” For a while I had an answer. Slowly that answer shifted toward the other side. And then while in Israel, the true answer occurred to me: “America never asks me to choose.” Throughout history, the Jew has been the outsider in society. Always trying to be the insider, and sometimes coming close enough that it looks like the Jew is the insider. But never actually.

That changed with the birth of America though. From day one, the Jew was the insider, financing the revolution, fighting the British, and earning a seat at the table. George Washington wrote a detailed and letter to a synagogue in Rhode Island in 1790 that had served the revolution immensely. And though some discrimination occurred from people, the US government was one built on equality of religious thought, and that included Jews from the very beginning.

At no point has anti-Semitism, despite what right-wing Israel advocacy groups such as AIPAC would have older Jews believe, been as common in America as at any point in Europe. In fact, polls and research has showed that Jews are more favorably received in America than Muslims, Mormons, or even Catholics. Jews have served in high governmental positions. Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Jews have led businesses, led organizations, served the people, themselves, and each other.

The Jewish renaissance that Herzl dreamed of for Zionism has occurred, right here in the US. A quick glance at the breakfast aisle will show the number of non-Jews excited about bagels. Listening to the Black Eyed Peas will assault your ears with a “Mazel Tov” and “L’Chaim,” and for that matter, the same is true for Jay-Z, the Fugees, Lil’ Wayne, Drake (a Jew himself), and many others in mainstream culture. Michael Chabon continues to write stories with a Yiddish influence and get praise and awards. Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google, and Mark Zuckerberg Facebook. A growing percentage of American libertarians have Ayn Rand to thank for their beliefs, and no architect hasn’t been changed by the works of Pritzker prize winner Frank Gehry. The Supreme Court is 33% Jewish, and Congress is 7%. This could go on, but there’s no need.

To be continued…

I did not get to vote yesterday

Posted in America on August 1st, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Yesterday, thanks to a consolidation of polling locations (at least six in one location, from what I heard from others who were there, but it seems like eight to ten is probably more realistic), I was unable to vote in the primary runoff in a reasonable amount of time. Here's the letter I sent to the county clerk after:

Yesterday my wife and I attempted to vote but were unable to do so. Normally, we vote at Randall’s in midtown, but yesterday our polling location, along with many other polling locations, it seems, was moved to West Gray and Dunlavy. This consolidation of polling locations prevented us from voting.

We arrived at 6:30 pm, which is not unreasonable for working professionals, and spent the next ten minutes trying to find a place to park. Finally we parked about a quarter mile away in a parking lot for a business nearby. At this point, I had been standing in line, holding a spot for my wife who was parking the car.

By the time seven pm rolled around, we had yet to even enter the building, still standing in the sweltering heat outside, in a line that seemed to go on forever. By 7:15 we had entered the building but it quickly became clear that this line was too long, that the polling location was unready for the number of people, and that we would likely not be able to vote, as eventually we would have to go home.

At 7:40, when it became obvious that though we had been there for over an hour, we would have at least another hour of waiting, we had to leave. This is completely unreasonable and unacceptable.

To say that this was poorly planned would be an understatement. There was no way that the consolidated polling location could handle this demand, so much so that we were told by friends they later saw us on the news, standing in line, in a segment showing how there was no reasonable organization of voting.

I was extremely upset that I was denied my right to vote by a lack of proper planning on the part of your office. This needs to not happen again. There truly is no better way to discourage young people from voting than by making it a hellish experience. Shame on your office and shame on this consolidation. I sincerely hope that next time, I will be able to vote in a reasonable fashion, as in the past.

The county clerk responded promptly, shifting the blame to the parties:

In this instance, the political parties are responsible for the conduct of the Primary Elections and the Primary Runoff Elections. The parties determine the number of Election Day Polling locations and where the polls are situated.

Any questions pertaining to the Election Day polling locations for Democratic and Republican Primary’s Runoff Elections should be addressed to the Chairman of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

I responded with surprise and simultaneously forwarded my complaint on to the party chairman. I have not heard back.

“Let My People Go!” Week 2012: Day Two

Posted in Ridiculum on April 11th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Winter makes the list for the third year in a row. I hate winter.The last two years I've done this feature, Day Two has been the ten plagues from the past twelve months. Here goes, as usual in no order:

  1. The "Cupid Shuffle" – This song sucks so much and I feel like I've actually heard it more since writing the post against it than before.
  2. Whales. They are jerks.
  3. Confusing rules about dialing phone numbers – Do I need the area code or not? Do I need a one or not? Why not connect me anyway if I add the numbers when they aren't necessary?
  4. "Fun size" candy. There is nothing fun about this.
  5. Restaurants leaving the tails on shrimp when they are covered in sauce and therefore difficult to remove.
  6. Odd numbers of bread at restaurants for even numbers of people at the table. Went to Monica Pope's t'afia recently; delicious and I highly recommend, except for the five pieces of bread for two people.
  7. Political extremism trying to control an internet filled with bloggers whose insipidity is increasing.
  8. Winter.
  9. Foods that don't taste as good as they smell – You know who you are, Nuts4Nuts. Disgraceful.
  10. Social media's self-congratulatory atmosphere and the increased number of masturbatory tweets on the subject.

Well there you go. Re-reading some of those posts (especially number seven) have reinvigorated both my irritation at these 'plagues' and my hope for an improving world. Let's clean this place up, guys. And let's start by giving the "Cupid Shuffle" less airtime and "Racks on Racks" more in its stead.

In defense of the penny II: Canada

Posted in America on April 6th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

A maple leaf? Really? And on the obverse is the Queen. Maybe they just couldn't settle for a reasonable redesign.About seven months ago, I posted a treatise in defense of the penny. I outlined some reasons why the US should not abandon the penny, that copper coin of joy, if not value, and I concluded by stating: "I can’t imagine an America without it, and frankly, I don’t want to." Today, I believe this even more strongly than seven months ago.

Because today (or, specifically, last week), our neighbors to the North have done the unspeakable: abandoned their penny. Starting this fall, Canada will no longer produce pennies. Their reasons why are startlingly similar to the reasons discussed for the American penny: The Canadian cent costs CAD 0.016 to make, or 60% more than its face value; it costs vendors and retailers more to process pennies than the penny is worth; there are environmental impacts associated with not manufacturing these coins.

Interestingly, Canada, though abolishing the penny, will continue to use the one-cent denomination in checks (or as they say, cheques) and electronic payments such as credit cards or bank transfers. Essentially, only cash payments will require rounding to the nearest nickel.

Canada briefly mentioned the charity impact of this decision, noting that Canadians will likely donate their pennies to charities now that the coin is soon-to-be-worthless. But they do not mention the fact that Canadians likely have been doing so already, or that once the penny ceases to exist, revenues for charities will drop, even if there is a short-term rise.

They also fail to address the economic value of money, the fact that a penny is worth more than 1.6 cents because of its circulation. They fail to address the impact to the impoverished, for whom every cent counts.

They mention the mechanism for rounding that will be in place, and mention that there is a loss/gain that will be associated with every transaction, but only on the order of two cents, not allowing for any possibility of corruption, price-fixing to ensure constant gain, or possible scams associated with this loss/gain.

This is a tragedy. Canada isn't exactly the greatest country on earth, but it is a neighbor of that country, and peer pressure can be great, even when we're talking about countries. This means that the anti-penny lobby of America will be strengthened, sadly, and the day when the sun may set on Abraham Lincoln is closer. And that scares me.

I once again speak out in favor of the penny, hoping that the day will never come when we turn our backs on the smallest, but certainly not least significant, measure of our currency.

The bonus tax is unreasonable

Posted in America on January 25th, 2012 by Nathan – 3 Comments

Every year, millions of Americans receive holiday bonuses, incentive compensation, or other performance-related pay. And every year, these checks are much lighter than expected, as the federal government, and in many cases state governments, take a large chunk off the top.

The federal supplemental income tax rate is 25%. After FICA is taken off, that means that this year's crop of bonus recipients lost 31% just to the federal government. Many states also take even more off of this, to the point that Delaware residents only receive 53% of their promised bonus. This, in my opinion, is heinous and ridiculous.

The 25% ignores your other income, and does not take into account your normal tax bracket. The majority of the working class in America pays 10-15% for their taxes, yet their bonuses are taxed at a higher rate.

In essence, this policy disincentivizes hard work. Since bonuses are rewards, in theory, for high performance, the tax policy basically encourages people to work "just hard enough not to get fired." Working harder does not generate income at the same rate as not doing so, as more of that income is taxed.

Interestingly, the tax withholding on lottery winnings is 28%, but since this is not treated as income, there is no FICA withholding. Thus, lottery is taxed less than bonuses. This is completely insane. Bonuses should be taxed at the same rate as normal income. This will encourage workers to produce more, in order to increase their income at an expected rate. If a worker is already in the 25% tax bracket, then that's fine: they expected their tax burden to be such. But for the majority of Americans who fit into a lower bracket, it is completely ridiculous that Uncle Sam punishes these workers for good work.

Stop SOPA and PIPA

Posted in America on January 18th, 2012 by Nathan – Be the first to comment

Back in November, I wrote about the ongoing threats to the internet going through our government now. I very briefly mentioned the major threats, in the form of SOPA and PIPA, that would seek to control the flow of information, bring a "guilty before proven innocent" mentality to online copyright enforcement, and basically break the internet.

There is a problem with the current intellectual property structure. It is clearly broken. And there is a problem with the content industry. (RIAA, MPAA, etc.) It is also clearly broken. The internet, however, is not broken, and it is foolish to blow up the one system that works to try to fix those that don't. More importantly, it's foolish to blow up any system, working or not, to give crutches to one that clearly needs to change instead.

Allowing government censorship (and do not be fooled, this is exactly what SOPA and PIPA amount to: allowing unilateral "blocking" of websites by the US government) is not only a threat to the workings of the internet, but the civil liberties guaranteed by the US Constitution.

SOPA and PIPA would throw away our rights in order to prop up a failing content industry, an industry that has done everything they can to avoid adaptation, to fight change, and to fail to adapt to a new world. While piracy is clearly a problem, it is a problem the content industry has not tried too hard to curb through any effort other than suing their customers and, now, seeking legislation against them.

I am not alone in noting that these bills are dangerous and wrong. Google is encouraging action by censoring their logo, noting that rejecting SOPA and PIPA is not the same as condoning piracy: it is possible to fight piracy without fighting freedom. Wikipedia has blacked out for the day, encouraging users to contact their legislators.

I encourage you to read more at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and to take action. Talk to your government, educate others about these threats, and do whatever else you can to ensure that we do not see a bill that would abridge freedom become a law.