Friday, September 26, 2014

Quiet

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)"

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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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The most important chart about the American economy you'll see this year

Matthew Yglesias writes about The most important chart about the American economy you'll see this year "Pavlina Tcherneva's chart showing the distribution of income gains during periods of economic expansion is burning up the economics internet over the past 24 hours and for good reason. The trend it depicts is shocking:"

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Wonkblog points out The pay gap between CEOs and workers is much worse than you realize

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The Department of Homeland Security Is Not Prepared for a Pandemic

The Atlantic reports The Department of Homeland Security Is Not Prepared for a Pandemic "Of course, money only helps if it isn't squandered. Take the extra $47 million dollars that Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security in 2006 to prepare for a pandemic. As a recent Inspector General report explains in depressing detail, a lot of that money was wasted. And one darkly hilarious passage in the audit reveals what may be the most galling example of security theater ever."

'Space bubbles' may have led to deadly battle in Afghanistan

'Space bubbles' may have led to deadly battle in Afghanistan "Their research, published online this month in Space Weather, suggests that turbulent pockets of ionized gas may have deflected the military satellite radio signals enough to cause temporary communications blackouts in the region."

"Although it’s impossible to conclude that the plasma bubble definitely caused the radio blackout, Kelly’s research has confirmed that the bubble was there at just the right time, Makela says. ‘I think this paper does a good job of showing that [plasma bubbles] can have impacts on operations.’"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bug in Bash shell creates big security hole on anything with *nix in it

Ars Technica reports Bug in Bash shell creates big security hole on anything with *nix in it. "The bug, discovered by Stephane Schazelas, is related to how Bash processes environmental variables passed by the operating system or by a program calling a Bash-based script. If Bash has been configured as the default system shell, it can be used by network–based attackers against servers and other Unix and Linux devices via Web requests, secure shell, telnet sessions, or other programs that use Bash to execute scripts."

"The vulnerability affects versions 1.14 through 4.3 of GNU Bash."

As Errata Security explains, Bash bug as big as Heartbleed. "Unlike Heartbleed, which only affected a specific version of OpenSSL, this bash bug has been around for a long, long time. That means there are lots of old devices on the network vulnerable to this bug. The number of systems needing to be patched, but which won't be, is much larger than Heartbleed."

Update: Troy Hunt: Everything you need to know about the Shellshock Bash bug

ALEC sees more losses as Facebook and Yelp jump ship, too

ALEC is the conservative organization that drafts legislation for states to adopt like Stand Your Ground laws, weaken labor unions, protecting fossil fuel interests, etc. The Washington Post reports ALEC sees more losses as Facebook and Yelp jump ship, too. That's added to Google and Microsoft who left recently too. Google chairman Eric Schmidt even said "they're just literally lying" about climate change.

It's not really clear Why Did Google Support ALEC in the first place. These four companies were all members of the Communications and Technology Task Force. "Areas of focus for the Task Force include: 1) broadband deployment and adoption; 2) protecting consumer choice in privacy; 3) promoting new forms of e-commerce; and 4) growing the high-tech sector of the economy. Additionally, the Task Force has established five subcommittees to thoroughly investigate topics of interest to the states. These subcommittees are: Broadband; E-Commerce; Information Technology; Innovation; and Consumer Protection, Critical Infrastructure, and Security Technologies." I wonder what parts of the sample legislation they were working on?

In conservative media, Obamacare is a disaster. In the real world, it’s working.

Ezra Kline explains, In conservative media, Obamacare is a disaster. In the real world, it’s working. "This is the problem in the debate about Obamacare. The two sides live in different informational universes."

It's easy to give people a skewed impression of Obamacare without ever running a false story. The Affordable Care Act is a huge law, and at any given moment, there are some good things happening in it and some bad things happening in it. If you run multiple articles every day on the problems and nothing on the broader trends, it's easy to mislead your audience.

Recently, one of the major insurers pulled out of the Minnesota exchange. The news received huge play in the conservative media. The story is real — and it's bad news for Minnesotans. It's just not representative of the overall trend towards increased exchange participation. But a lot of conservative readers don't know that. The Daily Caller, for instance, hit the Minnesota story hard. But on Tuesday, they managed to report on Burwell's remarks without even mentioning the new data she presented on rising insurer participation.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Retiring

Justice Ginsburg was recently asked about retiring while Obama is still in office. Her answer was:

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they're misguided.

Ezra Kline says Ruth Bader Ginsburg gets a lot of things right, but this isn’t one of them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Steven Soderbergh Wants You To Learn From Steven Spielberg

Steven Soderbergh examines the staging in Raiders.

"So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit)."

I watched the famous opening scene. He's right, "THIS LOOKS AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE". This scene also works without dialog (even the final bit in the plane, you make out he's yelling "I hate snakes" and the pilot is not making a big deal of it). Here's what I got out of the staging.

For the most part, the sets are shallow but there are almost always characters (or something significant) in the foreground and background of a shot. The exteriors were shot in Hawaii but I'm not sure how deep the jungle is. Notice on the shots of them hiking, the camera is either low, with sky behind the foliage (not more foliage) or it's high and you're seeing a patch of ground their walking across. If there is depth, the characters are walking to or from the camera. It's like there were limited angles to use and they made use of them. Also they kept Indy and the assistants in different planes. Indy is in the lead and they are keeping up. There are multiple characters in the shot until the one where you see Indy's face, and in that one there's (conveniently) a beautiful waterfall behind him.

This foreground and background stuff continues into the cave. Think about it, when exploring a dark cave, why is the guy with the torch in the back? Because the lighting effect looks cool :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gravity wave evidence disappears into dust

Ars Technica reports Gravity wave evidence disappears into dust

"Earlier this year, researchers who used a telescope based at the South Pole called BICEP announced that they obtained evidence for gravity waves caused by the Big Bang itself. The results would provide direct evidence that a model of the Universe's origin called inflation had left its mark on the present-day Universe.

But in reporting on the results, our own Matthew Francis suggested that the discovery was not as definitive as it might be, writing 'the story of BICEP2, inflation, and primordial gravitational radiation is just beginning.' And since then, it became clear that there was a complicating factor—dusty material in our own galaxy—and that the BICEP team's way of controlling for it left a little something to be desired (it involved using processed data obtained from a PDF used in a conference presentation).

Yesterday, the team that put the PDF together in the first place released its own analysis. And they've determined that BICEP was probably staring at dust, rather than the earliest moments of the Universe."

Apple Updates Downloading Slowly

The last few days I (and many others) have been downloading updates to Apple products. Both iOS 8 and OS X 10.9.5 came out. Apple does some hand-holding to make this seamless, which works fine when it works. I did the iOS updates via iTunes and I've been trying the OS X update via App Store.app. I managed to get my iMac and iPhone updated thought the downloads took a few hours and (and a couple of attempts). I've been trying to update my old MacBook Pro since Saturday and only have 60MB downloaded so far (out of 149MB).

I saw something online saying FiOS was throttling Apple's CDN the same way they were allegedly doing with Netflix a few months ago. I have 50Mbps service (up and down) and can get those actual speeds with speedtest.net. By having the apps do the download I didn't know a simple way to know the dns names or ip addresses I was having issues reaching to do a traceroute. Even still I knew if I called Verizon they would just say that since I can reach other sites it's probably Apple's fault.

People tried from home and couldn't get sufficient speeds but if they went through a VPN they were fine. I don't have a VPN I can try. So I called AppleCare. I figured it's either a problem with their servers (which if it were I probably would have seen more reports of issues) or they should know Verizon (or someone) is screwing them over and Apple would probably have enough clout to do something about it.

First I asked Siri for AppleCare's number and she didn't know, she just did a web search. I called Apple and explained what I was reporting. The tech of course wanted me to try with an ethernet cable. I explained that wasn't going to help (I can get good speeds from (every) either sites, it's not my wifi connection). I said it would help to know the dns name or IP address of the servers App Store.app was trying to connect to. He went off and came back to send me email with a list of ports of that Apple services use. I asked how he wanted me to use this information and he was unclear.

While he was searching I googled and found this Apple support document, OS X: Server addresses used by Software Update and ran traceroute on the first two. The first got from Verizon to alternet quickly but then delayed for several seconds before getting to level 3. The second had similar issues and never connected.

That apple document also led me to support.apple.com/downloads/ where I could download a .dmg of OS X 10.9.5. I downloaded that 275 MB file in a couple of seconds. I mentioned this to the Apple tech. I don't know what the issue is with reaching the App Store servers, but this is at least a nice work around.

This Is Katie F-​-​-ing Ledecky: A Thesis About Kicking Ass

Grantland writes about Katie Ledecky, This Is Katie F-​-​-ing Ledecky: A Thesis About Kicking Ass

"Katie Ledecky swims freestyle in a way that produces the following sentences; think of them as the splashes she makes on her turns. She’s never lost in an international final. She’s owned an Olympic gold medal for more than two years. (Again: She’s 17.) This summer, wearing slow swimsuits,1 and without really being in major-competition shape, she broke every world record in her discipline, long-distance freestyle, over the course of a month and a half. Then she was like, ha! just kidding, so she broke a couple of them again."

"She also broke the 400-meter freestyle world record this summer. Twice. And the 1,500-meter freestyle world record. Also twice. The second time, at the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia this August, she took almost six seconds off the world-record pace she had set in June. If, by some catastrophic barrel-fish-eludes-bullet mishap, I have not persuaded you of the basic thesis of this article, please read that sentence again. Or this one: She has personally lowered the world record in the 1,500 by 14 seconds since the summer of 2013. Or this one: She finished the Pan Pac final a slim 27 seconds ahead of the second-place swimmer. Or this one: Her time in the Pan Pac final would have been good for a top-20 finish at the U.S. National Championships … on the men’s side."

Quantum Computers Animated

Here's a nice short explanation of Quantum computing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Maybe This Bacon Thing Has Gone Too Far

I did not attend the IgNobels this year, but Ars Technica reports on all the awards in an article entitled, 2014 Ig Nobel awards honor nasal tampons made of bacon. Here's their description of the titular medicine award.

"Medicine: Sonal Saraiya of Michigan State University and her colleagues won the Ig Nobel prize in medicine for developing nasal tampons made from bacon. The tampons were designed specifically for Glanzmann Thrombasthenia, a blood disorder which could lead to 'uncontrollable nosebleeds.' Their results went down in the annals—literally, the Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology."

I'm also a little concerned about the Psychology award.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

After 9 Months, Federal Probe of GWB Closure Finds No Link to Christie, Federal Sources Say

NBC New York reports After 9 Months, Federal Probe of GWB Closure Finds No Link to Christie, Federal Sources Say "Federal officials caution that the investigation begun nine months ago is ongoing and that no final determination has been made, but say that after nine months authorities have uncovered no information Christie either knew in advance or ordered the closure of traffic lanes. "

Senators opposing net neutrality rake in more campaign cash

Ars Technica reports Senators opposing net neutrality rake in more campaign cash "Of the nine senators—all Republicans—opposing net neutrality as of Tuesday, they averaged $140,255 in contributions from both categories, the data shows. Of the 15 senators who favor net neutrality, they averaged nearly $100,000 in contributions. Thirteen of the senators are Democrats and the two others are independent."

This is interesting to me. Since it's divided down partisan lines is this saying money isn't the issue? If money was the root of the issue, wouldn't the ISPs just give more money to the Democrats and Independents and "win" their votes? Is a difference of $140K vs $100K (on average) enough to swing a vote? Seems like the party platforms, for or against big business regulation, is the real deciding factor here. Maybe as big businesses the ISPs more generally favor Republicans and they know that with the filibuster they don't need the support of any Democrats to block new legislation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Obama! A Modern U.S. President (musical spoof)

I'm not sure how I missed this from four years ago.

New Programming Jargon

Jeff Atwood lists New Programming Jargon "I've collected the top 30 Stack Overflow New Programming Jargon entries below, as judged by the Stack Overflow community. Enjoy."

  • I like the term Yoda Conditions
  • Pokémon Exception Handling is a wonderful term for something not wonderful
  • Egyptian Brackets is a cute term for K&R style
  • Heisenbug I've heard of before (maybe even used)
  • Fear Driven Development is a great term for bad management
  • Ninja Comments might be my favorite
  • Rubber Ducking I've definitely done

MacArthur Foundation names 21 new 'geniuses'

MacArthur Foundation names 21 new 'geniuses'. The only two names I know are cartoonist Alison Bechdel (her book Fun Home is amazing) and Joshua Oppenheimer who made the extraordinary documentary The Act of Killing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Y Combinator Releases Its Curriculum as a Stanford Class — And Online

Y Combinator Releases Its Curriculum as a Stanford Class — And Online "The 1,000-minute course will also be made available online and will include appearances by well-known investors and entrepreneurs. Peter Thiel will give a lecture on monopoly theory, and Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway along with Ben Silbermann of Pinterest will talk about how to raise money. These are based on talks that the same speakers have made at Y Combinator class dinners over the years in Mountain View, Calif. They’ll be posted on Altman’s personal website as well as on iTunes and YouTube, rather than in one of the existing ‘MOOC’ online education platforms."

The Eruptions of Iceland's Bardarbunga Volcano

In Focus shows The Eruptions of Iceland's Bardarbunga Volcano "In southeast Iceland, the Bardarbunga volcano system, located under Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajoekull, has been rocked by hundreds of tremors daily since mid-August, prompting fears the volcano could erupt explosively, wreaking havoc on air traffic once again. An eruption of Bardarbunga, the largest volcanic system in Iceland, has the potential to be even more disruptive than the 2010 eruption of nearby Eyjafjallajokull. Scientists are closely monitoring the site, as lava continues to spew from fissures, earthquakes rumble underfoot, and nearby glacial ice appears to be melting, possibly signaling explosive interaction between lava and meltwater. [14 photos]"

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Schizophrenia Is Actually Eight Distinct Genetic Disorders

Schizophrenia Is Actually Eight Distinct Genetic Disorders "New research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that schizophrenia is not a single disease, but rather a group of eight genetically distinct disorders, each of them with its own set of symptoms. The finding could result in improved diagnosis and treatment, while also shedding light on how genes work together to cause complex disorders."

Hear Tracks From the Original Score for '2001: A Space Odyssey' That Kubrick Replaced at the Last Minute

Hear Tracks From the Original Score for '2001: A Space Odyssey' That Kubrick Replaced at the Last Minute "Film buffs are familiar with the story surrounding 2001’s iconic score. For those who aren’t privy, the story goes that Kubrick hired North, who he had collaborated with twice prior to the release of 2001, to compose the score. However, as he began editing using the classical backdrop that is now inseparable from the film, he found himself unable to part ways with the guide. To make matters worse, North was kept in the dark about the issue, and attended the premiere expecting to hear his hard work set to Kubrick’s masterful vision—sitting through all 161 minutes, only to learn that his score was abandoned in full, must have been demoralizing to say the least. Mondo Creative Director, Justin Ishmael sheds some light on the importance of the release, 'Alex North's Music For 2001: A Space Odyssey is beyond just an important piece of musical history, it is one of the best 'what ifs' in cinema history."

The site has some clips. The second one is for the space station docking sequence. It's interesting but I think Kubrick's choice is better, juxtaposing something old and something new made space travel more relatable. Still that could just be my bias for something that's now very familiar.

Tesla prevails in top Massachusetts court over direct sales

Reuters reports Tesla prevails in top Massachusetts court over direct sales "Massachusetts' highest court on Monday threw out a lawsuit seeking to block Tesla Motors Inc from selling its luxury electric cars directly to consumers in the state, enabling it to bypass traditional dealerships."

"The law "was intended and understood only to prohibit manufacturer-owned dealerships when, unlike Tesla, the manufacturer already had an affiliated dealer or dealers in Massachusetts," [Justice Margot Botsford] wrote."

Having just bought a car, I really don't understand how the dealer model is still valuable.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Google is Hurrying the Web to Kill SHA-1

Why Google is Hurrying the Web to Kill SHA-1 "There is a larger issue here: there's no reason that fixing security issues should be so aggravating. A big reason why websites and Certificate Authorities are dragging their feet on updating to SHA-2 is because it means reissuing certificates, and everyone hates replacing SSL certificates."

"A SHA-1 push like this should have started years ago. Any annoyance at Google for amping up the pressure should be channeled towards the Certificate Authorities instead, for allowing nothing to happen for so long."

Charlie Rose Interviews Tim Cook

Tim Cook was on Charlie Rose Friday. Cult of Mac describes 14 things we learned from Tim Cook’s revealing interview with Charlie Rose. Part two of the interview airs tonight.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Bombing People Isn't Like Casual Sex

The Intercept says Bombing People Isn't Like Casual Sex

"In the Obama administration’s first air attack in Yemen, for example, nearly a half dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles packed with cluster munitions and launched from a U.S. war ship slammed into a Bedouin village. While a Yemeni government inquiry determined that 14 suspected al Qaeda members died in the attack, 41 innocent people were also killed, including nine women and 21 children. The highest levels of the U.S. and Yemeni governments then collaborated to keep the details of the strike from the public by lying and saying the strike was carried out by Yemeni forces. Since that time, the Obama administration has launched more than 60 strikes in Yemen and killed dozens more civilians. The most recent attack came Thursday, just hours after the White House announced its new war on ISIS."

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

The Intercept writes Double Standard: After Going Easy on Ray Rice, Prosecutor Torments Single Mom

"From time to time, the American public gets a glaring reminder that the elite play by their own set of rules. A county prosecutor in New Jersey, James McClain, is offering up a prime example: After going easy on NFL player Ray Rice for violently attacking his girlfriend, he’s throwing the book at a single mother of two for having the wrong paperwork on her gun.

The mother, Shaneen Allen, spent 40 days in jail and faces a minimum three-and-a-half year prison sentence. The 28-year-old was arrested last October for not knowing that her legal gun permit in Pennsylvania is not recognized in New Jersey. Allen was pulled over for a traffic stop and could have never mentioned the gun. But Allen was forthright in telling the officer about her weapon. Allen figured she had nothing to hide. She had no criminal record and only purchased the gun to protect her family after being robbed twice in the past."

"So despite punching and dragging his wife on camera, and despite being generally inappropriate for a diversion program under the advice of state law, Rice was allowed to avoid jail time, aside from being booked and released the same night. And despite being charged with a non-violent offense and being especially appropriate for diversion under state law, Allen spent more than five weeks behind bars and faces felony charges."

This is really ridiculous.

Has Expanded Replay Worked Well In Baseball?

FiveThirtyEight examines Has Expanded Replay Worked Well In Baseball?. "As of Sept. 7, there had been 1,130 challenges. Of these, 529 (or 47 percent) resulted in a call being overturned. Managers initiated 83 percent of the challenges, umpires 17 percent."

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I'm most surprised that 19 Hit by pitch calls have been overturned. How does that work?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ashkenazi Jews Linked To Group Of Just 330 People From Middle Ages

Ashkenazi Jews Linked To Group Of Just 330 People From Middle Ages "A genetic analysis shows that all of the Ashkenazi Jews alive today — of which there are more than 10 million — can trace their roots to a group of just 330 people who lived 600 to 800 years ago."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Woman of 24 found to have no cerebellum in her brain

New Scientist reports Woman of 24 found to have no cerebellum in her brain

"The discovery was made when the woman was admitted to the Chinese PLA General Hospital of Jinan Military Area Command in Shandong Province complaining of dizziness and nausea. She told doctors she'd had problems walking steadily for most of her life, and her mother reported that she hadn't walked until she was 7 and that her speech only became intelligible at the age of 6."

"The cerebellum's main job is to control voluntary movements and balance, and it is also thought to be involved in our ability to learn specific motor actions and speak. Problems in the cerebellum can lead to severe mental impairment, movement disorders, epilepsy or a potentially fatal build-up of fluid in the brain. However, in this woman, the missing cerebellum resulted in only mild to moderate motor deficiency, and mild speech problems such as slightly slurred pronunciation. Her doctors describe these effects as "less than would be expected", and say her case highlights the remarkable plasticity of the brain."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gut bugs 'help prevent allergies'

The BBC reports Gut bugs 'help prevent allergies' "Bacteria that naturally live inside our digestive system can help prevent allergies and may become a source of treatment, say US researchers."

The research group performed experiments on mice brought up in perfectly sterile environments and had no bacteria in their gut.

These animals had a strong immune response to peanut - an allergy that can be deadly in some people.

The team then investigated whether adding different bacteria to the digestive tract of the animals had any effect.

Only the Clostridia group of bacteria - which includes some disease causing species such as C. difficile - could prevent the allergic reaction.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

DNA Evidence Reveals Jack the Ripper was Suspect Aaron Kosminski

Britain's The Mail reports Jack the Ripper unmasked by amateur sleuth as Aaron Kosminski

DNA evidence has now  shown beyond reasonable doubt which one of six key suspects commonly cited in connection with the Ripper’s reign of terror was the actual killer – and we reveal his identity.

A shawl found by the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper’s victims, has been analysed and found to contain DNA from her blood as well as DNA from the killer.

The landmark discovery was made after businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl at auction and enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a world-renowned expert in analysing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes.

Using cutting-edge techniques, Dr Louhelainen was able to extract 126-year-old DNA from the material and compare it to DNA from descendants of Eddowes and the suspect, with both proving a perfect match.

NFL Fandom Map

Sports on Facebook post the NFL Fandom Map for 2014 . "Today we’re releasing a map that shows where football fans live based on which NFL team they “Like” on Facebook. Each county is color-coded based on which official NFL team page has the most Facebook “Likes" by people who live in that county."

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Finding the Real Patsey of 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave premiered on HBO last night. I watched it for a second time and it certainly holds up. I still think Chiwetel Ejiofor deserved the Best Actor Oscar.

Vanity Fair had an article Finding the Real Patsey of 12 Years a Slave "With 12 Years a Slave putting Solomon Northup’s story in the spotlight, Katie Calautti attempts to discover the fate of Patsey—and learns just how impossible it can be to find one woman when that woman was a slave."

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Uncomfortable

Katerina Kamprani 's The Uncomfortable are "deliberately bad designs".

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List of Common Misconceptions

Wikipedia has an interesting List of common misconceptions. Here are a few

  • While average life expectancy in the middle ages was low, the average was brought down by infant mortality. "A 21-year-old man in medieval England, for example, could by one estimate expect to live to the age of 64."
  • "There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets."
  • " Durum wheat, and thus pasta as it is known today, was introduced by Arabs from Libya, during their conquest of Sicily in the late 7th century" not by Marco Polo bringing it from China.
  • "George Washington did not have wooden teeth. His dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth),[27] and probably human teeth from slaves."
  • "Napoleon Bonaparte was not short; rather he was slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his time. After his death in 1821, the French emperor’s height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet, which is 5 feet 7 inches (1.69 m)"
  • "Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics in school."
  • "It is rarely necessary to wait 24 hours before filing a missing person's report"
  • "Waking sleepwalkers does not harm them."
  • "People do not use only ten percent of their brains."

The Coffee Genome Has Been Sequenced. Here's What That Means For You.

io9 writes The Coffee Genome Has Been Sequenced. Here's What That Means For You. "It's safe to wager, then, that coffee would not be so popular were it not for its caffeine content. And that's what makes the publication of the C. canephora genome so exciting. The researchers, it turns out, have done more than identified over 25,000 protein-making genes in the robusta coffee genome. By examining which families of genes expanded in the course of coffee's evolution, and comparing its genome to those of other plant species, researchers co-led by University of Buffalo genome scientist Victor Albert, were able to, in his words, 'learn about coffee's independent pathway in evolution, including — excitingly — the story of caffeine.'"

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Justice Department's Wall Street Settlement Deals Are Shameful

I really liked Dean Starkman's piece in the New Republic, The Justice Department's Wall Street Settlement Deals Are Shameful. "It bears saying one more time: It’s a disgrace that the Justice Department has failed to bring a single criminal charge against any Wall Street or mortgage executive of consequence for their roles in wrecking the economy, despite having managed to make arrests in the comparatively piddling schemes of Enron and the Savings & Loan flimflam. (The latter resulted in more than 800 convictions, including those of many top executives.) These settlements are wan consolation. The sums being surrendered, for starters, are large only until compared with the $13 trillion or so the public lost in the financial crash—or, for that matter, with the banks’ own coffers. (Citi’s pure profit in the two years before the wipeout was more than triple its penalty.) Not to mention that the money won’t be paid by any parties actually responsible, but by the banks’ current shareholders, who pretty much had nothing to do with the misdeeds in question. And the bulk of the settlements will be tax deductible. For destroying trillions in wealth and thousands of jobs, banks will get a write-off."

But he points out, the real problem is that the DOJ is settling without issuing complaints. Unlike the DOJ, New York’s Department of Financial Services brought a civil action against BNP Paribas and named names.

In announcing the BNP penalty, New York’s superintendent of financial services, Benjamin M. Lawsky, made the following observation: ‘In order to deter future offenses, it is important to remember that banks do not commit misconduct—bankers do.’ Many of his predecessors in white-collar law enforcement also understood the corrective power of publicity. Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken became household names in the 1980s because of the riveting civil complaints brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), an agency that evoked a fear on Wall Street that is hard to imagine today. Robert M. Morgenthau, the legendary Manhattan district attorney, is legendary partly for actually sending bankers to prison, but he also pursued devastating civil suits against wayward financiers. The sweeping white-collar civil complaints that Eliot Spitzer filed as New York’s attorney general read like detective novels; his blockbuster settlement with American International Group was preceded by a lawsuit that explicitly targeted the titan Maurice R. ‘Hank’ Greenberg, to Greenberg’s everlasting fury.

Detailed airing of past wrongdoing doesn’t just put would-be malefactors on notice. It does more than bolster public confidence in the legal system. It can also force structural change. In 1933, the Pecora hearings hauled banking chieftains (including those who ran the predecessors of J.P. Morgan and Citi) before the Senate banking committee to scrutinize their actions before the 1929 crash. These hearings led to the Glass-Steagall reforms and the Securities Exchange acts, the foundations of U.S. financial stability for half a century. Later in the century, the Savings & Loan prosecutions led to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 that, among other things, effectively disposed of failed thrifts. The Enron debacle was followed by the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting and governance reforms of 2002. Spitzer’s suit against Wall Street banks produced a global pact to reform bogus stock research, and so on. But in the current cases, in which institutions are accused of systematic wrongdoing with historic consequences, the government is letting banks discreetly settle out of court, as if the facts at issue were some kind of fender bender."

I feel the same way about Obama's handling of the rationale for the war in Iraq and torture scandals. Sweaping the past under the rug does nothing good. Nelson Mandela's Truth and Reconciliation Commission should have proved that.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Complete Feynman Lectures on Physics Now Online

This is pretty amazing. The Feynman Lectures on Physics "Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website are pleased to present this online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Now, anyone with internet access and a web browser can enjoy reading a high quality up-to-date copy of Feynman's legendary lectures."

What Eric Cantor Will Really Do on Wall Street

New York magazine talked with Dannis Kelleher about What Eric Cantor Will Really Do on Wall Street.

"'Let’s look at Cantor’s résumé. Let’s look at all his investment-banking experience. Let’s look at his capital-markets experience. He has none. He has no experience or skills that would qualify him to be even an intern at a fifth-tier firm in the financial industry. I mean, come on! I love the spin. They’re pushing back this morning. They’re saying, 'This is really different! This isn’t like everybody else.'

'But Wall Street always goes with the sure bet and the well-worn path. They’re paying him a guaranteed — you’ve got to love Wall Street, you guarantee money because you can’t fail on Wall Street — they’re guaranteeing him $3.8 million. You don’t guarantee someone $3.8 million because you’re training him to be an investment banker.

'Wall Street is after what it’s always buying in Washington: access, influence, and unfair advantage. And Cantor is a big catch for anybody who wants access. Look, if you’re in congressional leadership for X number of years, you know plenty that’s worth a lot of money. If you’re the majority leader, who’s in charge of the agenda and vote counting? One of your jobs is to make sure you’re doling out favors to people. There are dozens and dozens of House members indebted to Eric Cantor for the things he’s done for them. You’re worth a lot."

Mysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls

Popular Science reports Mysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls

To show what the CryptoPhone can do that less expensive competitors cannot, he points me to a map that he and his customers have created, indicating 17 different phony cell towers known as ‘interceptors,’ detected by the CryptoPhone 500 around the United States during the month of July alone. (The map below is from August.)  Interceptors look to a typical phone like an ordinary tower. Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of ‘over-the-air’ attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device.

‘Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,’ Goldsmith says.  ‘One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip.  We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.’

Who is running these interceptors and what are they doing with the calls?  Goldsmith says we can’t be sure, but he has his suspicions.

New Technology in NFL For Fans and Teams

NFL 2014 season: New technology in NFL for fans and teams "As the National Football League returns to regular-season play, the view from the sidelines may look a little different, with several new technologies coming in for fans, fantasy and football coaches."

Coaches and players will now use Microsoft Surface tablets and Bose headphones. Also,

"Zebra equipped 17 stadiums with its real-time location system (RTLS), which communicates via RFID with a chip in players' shoulder pads...The system will capture player location, motion data and other vital statistics to better measure how players are performing on the field. That data can be viewed in real-time not just by players, coaches and scouts but also by fans and fantasy football enthusiasts."

And stadiums are getting more interesting...

"Kraft said his team, the Patriots, has found success with its game day app, giving fans everything from a custom Patriot Player alarm clock, to traffic alerts on the way to the stadium, to tools to monitor bathroom lines and order food. The stadium has also added a lot of new ribbon board, and instead of using the space for advertising, it's using it for information about the game, and for people tweeting using a specific hashtag."

Surviving an ISIS Massacre

The NY Times has a fascinating story Video Feature: Surviving an ISIS Massacre. They warn about graphic images, I warn about auto-playing video.

Scalia's Example For Death Penalty Released as Innocent After 30 Years

Steve Benen writes DNA evidence clears inmate on death row "For Scalia, McCollum was the perfect example – a murderer whose actions were so heinous that his crimes stood as a testament to the merit of capital punishment itself. Yesterday, a judge ordered McCollum’s release. Scalia’s model example was innocent all along."