Saturday, October 18, 2014

It's time to push the panic button on the global economy

Matthew Yglesias says It's time to push the panic button on the global economy. "One month's worth of bad data shouldn't necessarily cause a panic, but in light of all the other trends it's alarming. In particular, one would want to see that consumers who are spending less on gasoline and other energy products are pouring at least some of their savings into buying other stuff. Instead, the September report appears to show consumers pulling back across the board — even as demand from abroad is clearly falling apart. Just when it looked like hiring was poised to take off, demand for goods and services is slumping instead. A very troubling sign for an economy that, despite recent good news, is still on the weak side."

538 describes When To Pay Attention To The Stock Market (And When To Ignore It)

I'm not concerned about the stock market this last week, and the Yglesias article seems right to me. We still haven't addressed the real weaknesses in the economy so it's going to continue to putter along. The recent hopeful good news, well now it's pulling back, shocker.

Working: Stephen Colbert

SlateRadio talks with Stephen Colbert about his work process. It's about a half hour long and pretty interesting.

Breakthrough That Could Cut Costs on Solar Energy by 25%

io9 reports on A Single Breakthrough That Could Cut Costs on Solar Energy by 25% "A group of chemists at Ohio State University has invented a solar panel that stores energy without an external battery. The self-contained tuner/capacitor panels are already being licensed to industry."

"The invention also solves a longstanding problem in solar energy efficiency, by eliminating the loss of electricity that normally occurs when electrons have to travel between a solar cell and an external battery. Typically, only 80 percent of electrons emerging from a solar cell make it into a battery. With this new design, light is converted to electrons inside the battery, so nearly 100 percent of the electrons are saved."

The FBI Director's Evidence Against Encryption Is Pathetic

The Intercept reports The FBI Director's Evidence Against Encryption Is Pathetic.

"FBI Director James Comey gave a speech Thursday about how cell-phone encryption could lead law enforcement to a ‘very dark place’ where it ‘misses out’ on crucial evidence to nail criminals. To make his case, he cited four real-life examples — examples that would be laughable if they weren’t so tragic. In the three cases The Intercept was able to examine, cell-phone evidence had nothing to do with the identification or capture of the culprits, and encryption would not remotely have been a factor."

"Hadn’t Comey found anything better since then? In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Comey both denied trying to use scare stories to make his point – and admitted that he had launched a nationwide search for better ones, to no avail."

"Facing the huge preponderance of evidence that encryption makes us safer, not less safe, Comey realizes he needs some solid evidence to support his side of the argument. But there’s a reason he hasn’t found it yet."

Supreme Court Allows Texas to Use Voter ID Law

The New York Times reports Supreme Court Allows Texas to Use Voter ID Law

"The Supreme Court on Saturday allowed Texas to use its strict voter identification law in the November election. The court’s order, issued just after 5 a.m., was unsigned and contained no reasoning.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action ‘risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.’ Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent.

The law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport."

Here's the part that should convince you this is all to reduce voting by those more likely to vote for Democrats: "Texas has required some form of identification to vote at the polls since 2003. In the decade after, before the new law imposed even stricter requirements, some 20 million votes were cast, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the justices, while 'only two cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud were prosecuted to conviction.'"

Friday, October 17, 2014

Crayon The Grids – Maps Of Street Layouts Colored By Orientation

Crayon The Grids – Maps Of Street Layouts Colored By Orientation

"That’s every public street, colored by the predominant orientation of itself and its neighbors, thickened where the layout is most “grid-like” – to use an old-school woodworking metaphor, it’s as if we brushed some digital lacquer over the raw geographic transportation network data to make the grain pop.

For the detail-oriented, these are 100%-algorithmic images generated from MapZen’s Migurski-inspired October 2014 OpenStreetMap Metro Extracts as follows. First, we assign each linear street segment a compass-heading-based tone from a modified sinebow, where a 90 degree directional difference corresponds to a full color revolution, so that roads at right angles to each other have the same hue. Then, to render each point on the map, we use Proximatic, my custom high-performance k-NN engine, to calculate the length-weighted average of the colors assigned to the nearest 500 meters of street, keying render weight to the local degree of parallelism/orthogonality (derived in a similar mod-90° vector space), with rolloffs for outlying roads and territory."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Silence of the Lambs - Who Wins the Scene?

I love this series. Here's a three minute class in how (good) films can convey important and subtle information in the ways it frames characters in each shot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lockheed Martin claims “technological breakthrough” in compact fusion

Ars reports about Lockheed Martin claims “technological breakthrough” in compact fusion

"Reuters is reporting that defense contractor Lockheed Martin claims it has made a technological breakthrough that places us on the doorstep of affordable fusion energy. Supposedly, the breakthrough will result in compact fusion reactors before a decade is out.

But the Lockheed Martin press release that coincides with the coverage says little of the sort. There, the company simply states that after initial work in the area, it expects to be able to build a prototype in five years. If everything goes well, the design could 'be developed and deployed in as little as ten years.' The 'if' in the last sentence, however, is a big one."

How Ebola Compares To Other Infectious Diseases

Visualised: how Ebola compares to other infectious diseases "To give a universal metric for infectiousness, we’ve used the average ‘basic reproduction number’ (also ratio or rate). It’s a statistical measure of how likely and widespread an infectious disease outbreak might be - if nothing is done to control the situation."

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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Real Christopher Columbus

Howard Zinn describes The Real Christopher Columbus "There was no heroic adventure, only bloodshed. Columbus Day should not be a celebration."

​NTU develops ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years

​NTU develops ultra-fast charging batteries that last 20 years "Scientists at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70 per cent in only two minutes. The new generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years, more than 10 times compared to existing lithium-ion batteries."

"In the new NTU-developed battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries is replaced with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide...Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging. "

This could be a really big deal and they say could hit the market in the next two years.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fall Foliage Map & Peak Leaf Forecast

"The 2014 Fall Foliage Map is the ultimate visual planning guide to the annual progressive changing of the leaves. This tool is meant to help travelers better time their trips to have the best opportunity of catching peak color each year."

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The Empire Strikes Back Uncut

The Empire Strikes Back Uncut. "With more than 480 fan-made segments culled from over 1,500 submissions, The Empire Strikes Back Uncut (also known as ESB Uncut) features a stunning mash-up of styles and filmmaking techniques, including live action, animation, and stop-motion. The project launched in 2013, with fans claiming 15-second scenes to reimagine as they saw fit – resulting in sequences created with everything from action figures to cardboard props to stunning visual effects. Helmed by Casey Pugh, who oversaw 2010’s Emmy-winning Star Wars Uncut, the new film has a wonderful homemade charm, stands as an affectionate tribute to The Empire Strikes Back, and is a testament to the talent, imagination, and dedication of Star Wars fans. "

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Facebook Recent Stories

If you don't like Facebook's efforts to filter your News Feed into what they consider Top Stories and which it would remember the Most Recent setting, then bookmark this URL for Facebook to always take you to Most Recent:

David Fincher - And the Other Way is Wrong

David Fincher - And the Other Way is Wrong from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

More fun here, David Fincher’s Misdirections: The Movies Inside His Movies

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

John Oliver on Civil Asset Forfeiture

Here's another good John Oliver story, this one on Civil Forfeiture. I don't think I've blogged about it (maybe in the twitter feed) but a friend mentioned it to me last year. The first big stories I saw about it were from August 2013. Sarah Stilman's Taken in The New Yorker (and related 20 min podcast Out Loud: Highway Robbery) and ProPublica's Law to Clean Up ‘Nuisances’ Costs Innocent People Their Homes. The ACLU has a page on Civil Asset Forfeiture.

But John Oliver is funnier:

John Oliver on Drones

I'm back and catching up. HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is my favorite of the comedy news shows. By being weekly he's not playing catch up with the news of the day and tends to cover a topic in some depth and often one that doesn't get a lot of coverage. Here's a perfect example.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Northern Lights in the Skies Above Norway

In Focus shows the Northern Lights in the Skies Above Norway "Visible displays of the Northern Lights have been spectacular recently, for those in the far north, away from city lights. Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis recently took a trip to northern Norway, joining others making the journey to admire and try to capture the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis in photographs. Below is a collection of these images, looking to the skies above Troms County, Norway, last week. [18 photos]"


Friday, September 26, 2014


Expect the blog to be pretty quiet next week. Though there should be stuff appearing in the Twitter feed to the right (HowardLikedThis).

Ayn Rand's Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Ayn Rand's Buffy The Vampire Slayer is hilarious.

Khorasan, explained: why the US is bombing an al-Qaeda group you’ve never heard of

Vox provides Khorasan, explained: why the US is bombing an al-Qaeda group you’ve never heard of

The Natural World: September

The Big Picture shows The Natural World: September "The Natural World is a monthly post that showcases photography depicting animals (sometimes in man-made habitats) and environments across the planet. --Leanne Burden Seidel (32 photos total)"


Watch: This woman risked her life to show you what it’s like to live under ISIS

Vox reports Watch: This woman risked her life to show you what it’s like to live under ISIS "Earlier this week, the French television station France 24 aired two minutes of footage documenting daily life in the Syrian city of Raqqa, where ISIS has made its headquarters. The footage was captured secretly by an unidentified female Syrian student, reports France 24, who hid the camera underneath her niqab, a full-body covering that drapes the entire body leaving only a small opening for the wearer's eyes."

Followup: After Going Easy on Ray Rice, Prosecutor Torments Single Mom

As a followup to Double Standard: After Going Easy on Ray Rice, Prosecutor Torments Single Mom it seems the NJ attorney general came to Ms Allen's rescue, Single Mom Thwarts the New Jersey Prosecutor Who Went Easy on Ray Rice.

"But Wednesday afternoon, New Jersey acting attorney general John Hoffman delivered a letter to county prosecutors in his state, clarifying that state weapons laws should allow defendants like Allen access to those intervention programs. McClain subsequently said Allen would be admitted into the pretrial intervention program."

The Daily Show on The Way We War

Jon Stewart last night was in great form. Talking about The Way We War he goes after members of Congress for whining about ISIS but doing nothing until after elections and after the media for spending time on lattegate. At the end he pummels Fox News.