Shopping for a mattress

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Jan 192018

Recently started mattress shopping, and it’s tough.  The mattress industry is a peculiar and isolated throwback with a rich history of chicanery and outright fraud since the early 1900’s, when the product was not-infrequently stuffed with foul vermin-infested rags (which incidentally is why they now have those imposing tags full of legalese). It’s uniquely difficult for the consumer to navigate, and makes the used-car market seem straightforward and transparent by comparison.

The best objective information resource I’ve found is  The “Beducation” series on YouTube (by Jeff Sheuer of Mattress-To-Go in Michigan) is honest, informative, and a definite must-watch.  Here’s a few things I’ve learned:

  • There’s practically no such thing as “overstock” in this industry.  Factories don’t make 10,000 units and then go scrambling to sell that last 1,000.
  • “Scratch-and-Dent” is a myth.  If a mattress arrives at a retailer with minor damage, it’s shipped back to the factory, repaired, and sold as new.
  • Used mattresses are more common than you’d expect.  Those that are warranty-returned due to defects or returned during a 90-day trial period get cleaned-up and resold as “remanufactured”, “secondary”, “scratch-and-dent”, etc.  Though many online companies that make and sell foam mattresses (“bed in a box”) do donate returned units to homeless shelters.
  • The “law tag” should show the date of manufacture as well as the name of the store in which it’s being sold.  If it lists another store or has a date that’s not relatively new, it’s probably used.  Legally, any mattress that includes any pre-used material should have a second tag sewn-in that states it contains pre-used materials, but fraud is not uncommon.
  • Beware of reviews.  Many companies, most notoriously the new generation of “bed-in-a-box” online foam mattress manufacturers  dedicate serious resources to maintaining a social media presence, and there are lots of paid shills out there, or customers encouraged or incentivized to write reviews after only owning a bed a few months or less.  Many low-quality foams can start dipping and compressing after a year or so, and anyway most people moving from an old worn-out mattress to a new one will sleep better and be happy with the purchase for the first 6 months regardless of quality or durability.  The important thing to focus on is the materials themselves and how they’re assembled.
  • Be aware that many of the bed-in-a-box online “manufacturers” are actually resellers (though they won’t state this on their website).  Neither Casper nor Tuft & Needle make anything themselves.
  • If looking for a foam (or any non-innerspring mattress), look for one that has separate support and comfort layers that can be swapped-out.  Often the top layer wears-out before the firmer, underlying “support” layer, and you can save money down the road by simply replacing the “topper”.  You can also swap-out the topper if you need something with a different firmness or you’re sleeping hot and want to replace the top layer with a more breathable one made of latex, etc.


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Jun 212017

A wonderful manga.  Gorgeous, kickass, touching, & heartbreaking.  Then kickass again, then all the other things again.  The premise sounds ridiculous, but it’s understated and well-done.  Spoiler that’s not-a-real-spoiler: the aliens appear only on a few pages in the first issue, never to return.  What follows is a nuanced story of good versus evil, with an unconventional hero.

Inuyashiki (Crunchyroll)

Recommended listening for this is Keaton Henson (see below).  And Meat Loaf.  FYI, I know this is unintuitive, but Meat Loaf goes well with tons of manga.

Opting-out of junk mail and phone calls

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May 192016

FYI there are a few excellent websites where you can vastly reduce the amount of unsolicited junk mail and phone calls you receive.  You can read more about them at this FTC site:


Do Not Call Registry:

  • This is the simplest, most essential thing everyone should do: removes your phone number from almost all telemarketer and robocall lists.  There are some exceptions like surveys (after all, no politician’s going to let you opt-out of polling).

Direct Marketing Association’s MPS:

  • Another biggie: DMA’s Mail Preference Service can greatly reduce mail circulars, etc for 5 years.  You can also opt-out of a lot of spam email here.

Insurance and credit-card offers:

  • Does what it says: most of this stuff comes to you courtesy of data sold by the big credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, etc).  Opt-out 5 years via web form, or permanently if you mail something in.

The Linguistics of Writing an Email Like a Boss

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Sep 222015

Insidious and awesome. Statistical analysis of 500,000 emails focusing on how subordinates talk to their supervisors and vice-versa. Makes me wonder if you can improve your chances of becoming a boss by talking like a boss.
Gilbert, Eric. Phrases That Signal Workplace Hierarchy. CSCW’12, February 11–15, 2012.
From this reddit thread

The Safety’s in Your Head

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Aug 042015

Gun Gripes is a series of short videos about firearm types, operation, safety, and miscellanea. It’s like Andy Rooney if he worked in a gun shop (and wasn’t lame). Lots of good information too.

Favorite quote (concerning the Glock 19):

“This gun has no manual safety. You don’t need a safety on a gun anyway because the safety’s in your head.”

That might sound simplistic in a hillbilly gun-nut sort of way – it’s not. Experienced Gun People don’t think of safety in terms of buttons and switches to protect novices from themselves. Right Thinking is focused on habit.

The Glock has no “external” safety switch – if there’s a bullet in the chamber and the trigger is pulled, it fires. But if you’re using it properly, there are multiple redundant safeties, each of which multiplicatively reduces the chances of injury until it’s astronomically low. Unintentional firing his unlikely because you keep your finger outside the trigger guard. If you do accidentally pull the trigger, you had it pointed downrange anyway, or else at the ground. Even then it’s probably unloaded, because when it was handed to you the first thing you did was eject the magazine and rack the chamber back, locked, to ensure it was empty.

You might be thinking, what if someone wasn’t that careful? Well in that case, a safety switch wasn’t going to help anyway, and they had no business handling a firearm. It’s got nothing to do with natural skill or aptitude, just attitude. If you have respect for what you’re handling and what it can do, you’ll practice discipline, and habit will eventually take-over. And when that one-in-a-thousand moment happens where you’re not paying proper attention, habit will save your ass. It’s no different from driving a car: if you check your blind-spot every time no matter what, then with practice you’ll wind-up checking your blind-spot every time no matter what. This is Right Thinking.

Sweet Science Karma: Mayweather-Ortiz headbutt and KO

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Jul 182015

The link starts at 6:54, about 10 seconds before things get real interesting. After a vicious headbutt from Ortiz the referee has them touch gloves, and then at the exact instant at which it’s legal and fair to start fighting again, Mayweather unloads on him and catches him completely off-guard. Ortiz comes-off like an undisciplined thug, and Mayweather a professional. And the difference between professionals and amateurs, regardless of the field, is that professionals are always ready.

Adidas GSG9 shoes

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Jul 042015

William Gibson’s Spook Country features a young Cuban exile named Tito, family-trained in Russian Systema and KGB tradecraft, who incidentally picked-up Parkour and an esoteric mix of Carribean Voodoo spiritualism. He’s pretty-much the most competent street agent imaginable, a “snake on ice”.

For one of his jobs, he’s given a pair of GSG9 Adidas running shoes, which is apparently a thing. GSG-9 is Germany’s premier counter-terrorism and special operations unit, the kind of people you send to retake a commercial airliner held hostage on the tarmac. And apparently they commissioned custom footwear, which you, the consumer, can now enjoy.

Incidentally, I just watched Avengers: Age of Ultron (watchable in a popcorn way), and in a scene where Hawkeye is gearing-up, I was amused to notice that after he carefully selects various high-tech arrowheads, he reaches for a pair of Adidas sneakers. Clearly he has good taste.
Update: They’re surprisingly comfortable, and the tread must be seen to be believed.