Thursday, June 22, 2017

The tragedy of FireWire: Collaborative tech torpedoed by corporations

Ars Technica tells the story of the betamax of cables: The tragedy of FireWire: Collaborative tech torpedoed by corporations. Today Apple seems happy to keep it's lightening connectors to itself. I'm not sure about Thunderbolt 3. I confuse it with USB-C (which is just the connector and different from USB 3.1 which is the interface and more comparable). My 2012 iMac has 2 Thunderbolt 1 connectors and I've never used them because the USB 3.0 versions of hard drives have always been much cheaper.

Fantastic Words and Where Not To Find Them

I really enjoy Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Last night she had a great segment on "Trump's bastardization of words and language". [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Bnevx7vco&w=560&h=315] On the less funny side, Trevor Noah last night had a heart felt segment on what the Philando Castil case means. Warning, this clip include the video of the shooting, you can skip to 1m30s to avoid it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Trevor Noah on Being Stopped While Black

Salon pointed me at this Trevor Noah claims he’s been stopped by cops 8 to 10 times in 6 years. Here's 5.5 minute video of what I assume his talking to the audience between segments of the The Daily Show. It's fascinating. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aufMdURbitU&w=560&h=315]

Scott Forstall breaks silence to talk about the iPhone’s creation

The Verge writes Scott Forstall breaks silence to talk about the iPhone’s creation. The video is embedded on that page and it's connected to Facebook and I can't easily embed it here, but I found it very interesting. It's two hours but Forstall's segment is just the second hour. Lots of good stories about Apple and Steve Jobs, well worth the hour to listen.

FBI Says Shooting At GOP Baseball Practice Seems To Have Been Spontaneous

So the FBI has released some information about James Hodgkinson, the man who fired at the GOP baseball practice. Here's NPR's story: Shooting At GOP Baseball Practice Seems To Have Been Spontaneous, FBI Says. Basically it looks like a guy that was going through hard times, living out of his car, talking about going back to his wife and not happy with politics. But there's no evidence that he planned anything or even knew about the baseball practice. It looks like a spontaneous decision. And if we look at gun violence in the US a lot of it works that way. Most gun deaths are suicides and most homicides are domestic violence. And if guns weren't available to the shooters there's good evidence that the violence wouldn't happen, it's not just that they'd find alternate weapons to use. The first research into gun deaths started to reveal that and gun rights activists got nervous and banned federal funding of additional research, but that's what we understand. Oh and Hodgkinson has some history of domestic violence, that's probably the strongest indicator of gun violence. Meanwhile the NY Times story on this FBI announcement has a completely indefensible headline: Gunman in Lawmaker Shooting Had Photographed Washington Landmarks, F.B.I. Says. If you lead with that, I think you're implying something. Maybe he was going to do something (like shoot) at those landmarks. Except, then you realize that if you've ever been to DC you "Photographed Washington Landmarks" too. If you read the first paragraph of their story you'll find: > The 66-year-old gunman who opened fire one week ago on members of Congress at a Northern Virginia ball field had photographed Washington landmarks including the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court and the Capitol, the F.B.I. said Wednesday, but the agency did not believe those sites were targets. So the FBI doesn't believe they were targets what's the newsworthiness of his photos? Did he also have cat photos? Certainly what's the reason to put them in the headline?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

State of Climate Change

The Verge writes It’s so hot in Phoenix, planes are physically unable to fly. I have friends that live in Phoenix and they've told me previously that the airport shuts down at 120° As Natasha Geiling points out Extreme heat is one of the clearest and more defining characteristics of global warming. > But as Arizona-based meteorologist Eric Holthaus noted on Twitter, Arizona has seen a marked jump in the average number of days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in recent years — in Tucson for instance, the number of extremely hot days has increased 55 percent in the last 30 years. > Extreme heat is one of the clearest and more defining characteristics of global warming, according to more than 20 different scientific studies that looked at the connection between climate change and extreme heat events. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaii found that nearly a third of the world’s population is currently exposed to dangerous heatwaves for 20 or more days per year because of global warming. And, the researchers warn, that number could climb even higher — to almost half of the world’s population by 2100 — if carbon emissions are not dramatically reduced. Meanwhile, Rick Perry says carbon dioxide is not a primary driver of climate change. A quick reading of that headline makes it sound worse than it is, but the GOP messaging on this topic is frightening muddled and dangerous. > In an interview with CNBC on Monday, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that carbon dioxide emissions from human activities aren't the primary driver of climate change. Instead, the former Texas governor responded that "most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in." > It’s unclear how Perry envisions this “control knob” and how it works; a generous analysis of his answer would be that he misunderstood the question. Ocean waters absorb carbon dioxide and are changing, much like climate, because of it. And the oceans have short-term cycles that influence equally short-term temperature trends. But those cycles can't drive the ever-upward trend in temperature. > Oddly, Perry continued by affirming that climate change is happening and that we have to do something about it. The secretary told CNBC, “The fact is, this shouldn't be a debate about 'Is the climate changing? Is man having an effect on it?' Yeah, we are. The question should be just how much, and what are the policy changes that we need to make to effect that?" And shockingly, it seems Exxon, Shell, and BP support a Republican plan to do something about climate change. Again, a quick reading of this headline would make you think that Republicans want a carbon tax, but it's of course not true. > A group of major businesses, including Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, and fossil fuel giants ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell, announced Tuesday they have joined a Republican-led council that proposes to put a $40 tax on carbon emissions. > The companies, along with a list of high profile business people and two environmental groups, are part of the Climate Leadership Council, whose platform was written by former cabinet members James Baker and George Shultz. So it's a group that includes former Republican leaders who now have no effect on the party. > Representatives from the council met with the White House in February, but there have been no signs from the administration that a carbon tax is on the table. To the contrary, President Trump has moved significantly away from climate action. His EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has rolled back a number of rules intended to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and the president himself announced that the United States would leave the historic Paris climate agreement, a 2015 pact to limit warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F).

Friday, June 16, 2017

Healthcare Now Fully Politicized

Vox asked 8 Senate Republicans to explain what their health bill is trying to do and the answers are all political. Basically they're trying to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare but they don't have any agreement (or seemingly knowledge of) the specifics of the healthcare issues that Americans are facing and what policies might actually improve them. When I hear Trump talk on some policy it's obvious to me that he has no understanding of any details of the issue. The replies by these Senators sounds almost as ignorant. The party's goal is to pass *something*, it doesn't really matter what, they can't agree because individually their members want different things, there's little if any shared knowledge no the specifics of the problems or the possible solutions. They know premiums are high but don't understand why or what would lower them, and they know that some counties have lost all insurers though it's not clear they know just how many or what would bring insurers back. Sarah Cliff is a bit more blunt, I’ve covered Obamacare since day one. I’ve never seen lying and obstruction like this.. Now I know Democrats understand the issues more fully. They know that some young and healthy people have chosen to not buy insurance and that getting them into the pool will lower premiums on average. There are ways to do that, raise the tax fee for not having insurance (that is enforcing the individual mandate) would accomplish that. They know that insurers have found that people are sicker than expected and with the threat of repeal and Trumps cut back on signup advertising there are fewer enrollees so insurers are dropping out of the markets. Stopping the repeal talk, advertising, and enforcing the individual mandate would help stabilize the markets. A public option would ensure an insurer and provide competition to lower premiums. A reinsurance program would help insurers deal with more expensive enrollees. A big portion of the premium expense is prescription drugs which all Obamacare plans must include. There are legislative options to lower drug costs (allow Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate prices) and perhaps they could offer plans to young people that don't include drugs to lower their costs. Sadly, rather than being loud and clear and on their plans, Democrats are playing politics too. The Atlantic explains How Democrats Would Fix Obamacare. > Exactly how Democrats would change the bill they enacted seven years ago is less clear. Lawmakers have floated a range of options, from tackling the cost of prescription drugs, to setting up a reinsurance program to shore up Obamacare’s flagging exchanges, to reviving the idea of a “public option” that would compete with private carriers and drive down prices. > But party leaders have chosen not to endorse a specific set of reforms, in part because Republicans have shown little interest in considering their ideas and in part to avoid distracting from their more urgent imperative to save Obamacare from destruction. “We’re not in the majority right now, and our whole focus right now is to keep them from sending us back to a time when insurance companies could sell plans that provided nothing and people found themselves just in a terrible bind,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, a member of the Democratic leadership, said in an interview.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wibbly-wobbly magnetic fusion stuff: The return of the stellarator

Are Technica describes a new kind of fusion reactor that's coming online. Wibbly-wobbly magnetic fusion stuff: The return of the stellarator "The heliac, the stellarator, and the tokamak are all trying to achieve the same thing: confine a plasma tightly in a magnetic bottle, tightly enough to push protons in close to each other. They all use a more-or-less donut shape, but that more-or-less involves some really important differences. That difference makes the stellarator a pretty special science and engineering challenge." Here's one of the magnets built to hold the field's shape: W7x spule 1440x1920 500

Game of Thrones: 15 Things You Must Know For Season 7

Game of Thrones returns next month. CBR has a nice reminder article, Game of Thrones: 15 Things You Must Know For Season 7.

#c0ffee is the color

On the web colors are identified as 3 numbers usually written as 3 or 6 hexadecimal digits. Turns out, some words are 3 or 6 letters long and can be spelled with hex digits, particularly in 'leet' script. And someone made a page of them: #c0ffee is the color

Alexandria Shooting

Five people were shot this morning at a GOP Congressional baseball practice in Alexandria. Illinois' Belleville News-Democrat has a pretty good profile on the shooter, Belleville suspect killed in congressional shootout wanted to ‘terminate the Republican Party’. The NY Times has some more, Virginia Shooting Suspect Was Distraught Over Trump’s Election, Brother Says. I didn't know much about the GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The NY Times has some background on him, Steve Scalise, Congressman Wounded in Shooting, Is Known as a Low-key Lover of Baseball. The shooter volunteered on Bernie Sanders' campaign. Bernie spoke on the Senate floor about finding out about this, Sanders sickened by 'despicable' shooting. > I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice this morning is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values. Not to politicize this but one year ago Sen Rand Paul (R-KY) (who was at the shooting today) tweeted this: And last August after a similar comment by candidate Trump, Raw Story reminded us that Trump’s threat is nothing new — Republicans have called for ‘Second Amendment remedies’ for years. Maybe after yet another incident we can have a call for reasonableness. Meanwhile today there were also shootings in San Francisco and Brooklyn

Monday, June 12, 2017

Secrete Senate GOP Healthcare Plan

There was an episode of The West Wing where Josh was filling in for CJ and did such a horrible job that he said "the president had a secret plan to fight inflation".

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_3kELe0M8A&w=560&h=315]

Well, now the for-real Senate has a secret plan to reform healthcare in America. Senate GOP won't release draft health care bill.

Senate Republicans are on track to finish writing their draft health care bill this evening, but have no plans to publicly release the bill, according to two senior Senate GOP aides.

"We aren't stupid," said one of the aides. One issue is that Senate Republicans plan to keep talking about it after the draft is done: "We are still in discussions about what will be in the final product so it is premature to release any draft absent further member conversations and consensus."

So the plan is to give the CBO two weeks to score it, that will be about June 26, and then vote by July 4th, and I assume their recess starts June 30 (certainly by July 3rd but I assume they'll take the weekend off). So that's a business week, where they might release their plan to the public and debate it before voting on something that affects one sixth of the US economy. Great job Republicans.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

What to Watch: The Hidden Gems of Netflix, Amazon, and Filmstruck

People often ask me what movies or tv shows to watch and then say they only have Netflix streaming and I have no idea what they have available (usually nothing I think to recommend). Film School Rejects fixes that with the following lists: What to Watch: The Hidden Gems of Netflix, Amazon, and Filmstruck.

Any list that starts with In The Loop is a good list. If you haven't seen it, fix that. It's hilarious. Fruitvale Station, The Way Back, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World are all solid picks.

The Expanse is by far the best sci-fi show currently on TV. Their description of Eye in the Sky is dead on.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

An Iceberg Flipped Over, and Its Underside Is Breathtaking

Smithsonian Magazine reports An Iceberg Flipped Over, and Its Underside Is Breathtaking. "In the case of this jewel-like iceberg, the ice is probably very old. In glaciers, years of compression force out air pockets and gradually make the ice denser, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "When glacier ice becomes extremely dense, the ice absorbs a small amount of red light, leaving a bluish tint in the reflected light, which is what we see.” In addition, minerals and organic matter may have seeped into the underwater part of the iceberg over time, creating its vivid green-blue color."

Alex cornell antarctica 3

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Best of Cassini—13 Years in Orbit Around Saturn - The Atlantic

The Atlantic shows The Best of Cassini—13 Years in Orbit Around Saturn

This September, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will take its final measurements and images as it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere at 77,000 miles per hour, burning up high above the cloud tops. Launched in 1997, Cassini traveled 2.2 billion miles in seven years to reach Saturn and enter orbit. Over the past 13 years, Cassini’s instruments have returned countless priceless scientific observations and hundreds of thousands of images of the Saturnian system—its atmosphere, its 60+ moons, its vast rings, and much more. Gathered here are 40 of the most amazing images sent to us from Cassini, as we prepare for this epic mission to come to an end in just a few months.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quiet

I know I haven't been as active here as in the past, there's just too much news to follow. But I'm not going to be doing even as well as I have been lately for the next couple of weeks. I'm going on vacation, see you in June. There should still be updates to @HowardLikedThis the latest two posts are shown on the right. Enjoy.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Oscar Winning Movies & Biggest Box Office Hits From Your Birthday Year

Thrillist lists Oscar Winning Movies & Biggest Box Office Hits From Your Birthday Year. I've seen almost all the movies mentioned and while I can quibble a little bit, this is a list of very good movies. It's often hard to decide between the most fun or best movie, whatever that may mean. This list gets past that pretty well by listing the biggest box office, the best picture winner and someone's idea of best movie for each year.

My birth year was 1966, not a great year for movies. The Bible was the biggest hit and ... we'll... meh. I love A Man for All Seasons which won 6 the Oscars. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is filled with virtuoso performance and two hours of yelling and won only 5 Oscars with 13 nominations. I'll add that I think the most fun movie of that year was The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

history of the entire world, i guess

Entertaining 20 min video of the history of the world. It starts a little slow (with the beginning of space and time) but once it gets to society it's really fun tracking all the civilizations of the world. Saying I learned a lot is going a bit far, but I watched as he described a fair number of things I didn't know. I think this would be fun for kids except for the swearing.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

Vox wrote A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising.

A few years ago, he set out to pull together the careful coverage of solutions that had so long been lacking. With the help of a little funding, he and a team of several dozen research fellows set out to ‘map, measure, and model’ the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change, using only peer-reviewed research. The result, released last month, is called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

It is fascinating, a powerful reminder of how narrow a set of solutions dominates the public’s attention. Alternatives range from farmland irrigation to heat pumps to ride-sharing. The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).

They follow with an interesting interview.

See the list here.

Donald Trump: Inside the White House With the President

Time has a profile Donald Trump: Inside the White House With the President. IMHO he comes off as deranged.

To cope with this new reality, the President says he is trying a mindfulness trick: he has tried to tune out the bad news about himself. “I’ve been able to do something that I never thought I had the ability to do. I’ve been able not to watch or read things that aren’t pleasant,” he will say later in the night, listing off the networks he tries to tune out and the newspapers he struggles to skim. Of course, as his public outbursts indicate, he does not always succeed, but he says he no longer feels a need to know everything said about him. “In terms of your own self, it’s a very, very good thing,” he says. “The equilibrium is much better.”

I'm also saddened that Trump and I have something in common, a love of TiVo.

Trump says he used his own money to pay for the enormous crystal chandelier that now hangs from the ceiling. “I made a contribution to the White House,” he jokes. But the thing he wants to show is on the opposite wall, above the fireplace, a new 60-plus-inch flat-screen television that he has cued up with clips from the day’s Senate hearing on Russia. Since at least as far back as Richard Nixon, Presidents have kept televisions in this room, usually small ones, no larger than a bread box, tucked away on a sideboard shelf. That’s not the Trump way.

A clutch of aides follow him, including McMaster, Pence and press secretary Sean Spicer. The President raises a remote and flicks on the screen, sorting through old recordings of cable news shows, until he comes to what he is after: a clip from the Senate hearing earlier in the day, as broadcast on Fox News. The first clip he shows is of South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaking to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Graham asks if Clapper stands by his statement that he knows of no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump waits quietly, until Clapper admits that nothing has changed. Trump pantomimes a sort of victory.

“Yes. He was choking on that,” the President chortles. “Is there any record at all of collusion? He was the head of the whole thing. He said no. That’s a big statement.” Trump leaves unmentioned the fact that there is an ongoing FBI counter intelligence investigation into possible collusion, which has not yet reached any conclusions. Nor does he note that Clapper, out of government for nearly four months, could not possibly know everything the FBI has learned, and likely would have not known all even when he was in office. Trump also leaves unmentioned that he had a meeting that day with his new Deputy Attorney General about firing Comey, the director of that investigation.

But for now, Trump is focused on his TV. He watches the screen like a coach going over game tape, studying the opposition, plotting next week’s plays. “This is one of the great inventions of all time—TiVo,” he says as he fast-forwards through the hearing.

The next clip starts to play, this time showing Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asking Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates if they ever requested that the names of Trump, his associates or members of Congress be identified by name, or unmasked, in a legal intelligence intercept. “Watch them start to choke like dogs,” Trump says, having fun. “Watch what happens. They are desperate for breath.”

Clapper, on the screen, pauses several beats to search his memory. “Ah, he’s choking. Ah, look,” the President says. After a delay, Clapper finally answers, admitting that he had requested an unmasking, which would have been a routine occurrence in his former job. The running Trump commentary continues. “See the people in the back, people are gasping,” he says, though it’s unclear who he is referring to on the screen. He also mentions the sound of photographers’ cameras clicking on the television.

Moments later, the President watches as both Clapper and Yates testify that they had reviewed intercepts containing the unmasked identities of Trump, his associates and members of Congress. This, to Trump, is yet another victory, the lead-lined proof of his still unproven claim that Obama surveilled him before he was sworn in. “So they surveilled me,” he says. “You guys don’t write that—wiretapped in quotes. They surveilled me.”

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias has a good take on this interview (and the Economist's), The latest Trump interview once again reveals appalling ignorance and dishonesty

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sci-Fi Book Humble Bundle: Super Nebula Author Showcase

FYI, the Humble Book Bundle: Super Nebula Author Showcase presented by SFWA has a nice collection of science fiction for dirt cheap (no DRM, multi-format).

Latest Craziness is Crazy

It's completely absurd what's happened in the last 24-48 hours:

Inception Interpretation

I don't know how I've never come across this theory about Inception before. Hal Phillips, back in 2010 postulated that "It’s all a dream.  Ariadne (Ellen Page) is leading an inception on Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio).  The entire film is that inception, and we never see reality." He goes into good detail and I'll have to watch it again (I haven't seen it yet this year).

Rodney King Who?

Professor Ed wrote at Gin and Tacos All Right, All Right, All Right about how kids today don't know who Rodney King was.

"So he was OK?"

"He was beaten up pretty badly, but, ultimately he was. He died a few years ago from unrelated causes (note: in 2012)."

"It's kind of weird that everybody rioted over that. I mean, there's way worse videos." General murmurs of agreement.

This is a generation of kids so numb to seeing videos of police beating, tasering, shooting, and otherwise applying the power of the state to unarmed and almost inevitably black or Hispanic men that they legitimately could not understand why a video of cops beating up a black guy (who didn't even die for pete's sake!) was shocking enough to cause a widespread breakdown of public order. Now we get a new video every week – sometimes every few days – to the point that the name of the person on the receiving end is forgotten almost immediately.

Rare Clips from Hitchcock’s Unmade Found-Footage Project KALEIDOSCOPE

Witney Seibold writes in Blumhouse about a lost Hitchock project I didn't know about Rare Clips from Hitchcock’s Unmade Found-Footage Project KALEIDOSCOPE

KALEIDOSCOPE was, to put it in modern language, meant to be perhaps the very first ‘found footage’ or ‘mockumentary’ film. With photographer Arthur Schatz, Hitchcock staged some nudity-laced, crime-scene-like photos of the film’s potential victims — which, having seen them, may have indeed been too edgy for modern American audiences. Additionally, they shot some handheld motion picture scenes, wherein women were stalked.

It was even proposed that there was to be no sound in the film; the actors were to be unknowns, and the performers seen in the test footage are still unknowns to this day.

KALEIDOSCOPE was meant to be one of the darker, edgiest horror films ever made — it was, essentially, made to have the same sort of raw, fleshy terror as something like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but with a classier and more experienced art director at the helm. It was meant to look like it was discovered after the fact, having been filmed by an unnamed voyeur who somehow had access to the dark sexual murders depicted."

There are short video clips embedded in the article.