Friday, April 27, 2012

This is Awesome

"Channel 4 has painstakingly recreated the set of Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining, complete with look-a-likes of the crew and cast members including Shelley Duvall, for a TV ad to promote a More 4 season of the director's films."

The Guardian explains, "The promo, filmed as a single tracking shot with a cast of 55 actors, was meticulously researched to "remain as faithful as possible to the period in which it was shot and the culture of the British studio in the late 1970s"...Most of the equipment that appears in the promotional clip was actually used in the filming of The Shining."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dissecting The Fight Over Student Loans

I know this is how politics works, but all the machinations described in Dissecting The Fight Over Student Loans is the reason I'm so burnt out on politics lately. I mean, I'm naturally interested in this stuff (obviously) and have some strong opinions (also obviously) but this is just going on and on and it's only April.

Small Donor Spin

Small donor spin debunks some flap about a Romney press release. " The press release highlighted that '84% Of All Donations Received Through The End Of March Were $250 Or Less,' which seems to suggest a groundswell of grassroots support for the former governor."

"What the "84 percent" figure really means is that roughly 8 out of 10 checks received by the Romney campaign were $250 or less, not that 84% of the campaign's total fundraising came from checks of that size."

Fine, whatever. The article links to the CFI table Aggregated Individual Contributions by Donors to 2012 Presidential Candidates Cumulative through March 31, 2012 and that has more interesting data.

Obama has more donors, 167,597 than all Republican candidates combined, 164,199. While Romney had the most donors of any Republican, it was only 56,665.

If you want to look at amounts donated, 44% of Obama's donations were $200 or less while only 9% of Romney's were (and only 25% of all Republicans were). Only 16% of Obama's donators maxed out at $2,500 while 64% of Romney's were (and 40% of all Republican donations).

I guess it's obvious that the GOP is the party of the wealthy but I was happy to see that there are more people giving Obama money. I'd guess that if you're giving to the campaign, even a little, and assuming you're not giving to both sides (which I guess would be unlikely at $200 or under), you're going to vote for the candidate you've given to. It's even more striking realizing that through March Obama wasn't really campaigning there was no primary and the Republicans were going all out trying to pick a nominee. Maybe I'm wrong, but I found this all very encouraging.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Design of a Signage Typeface

The design of a signage typeface. "I was unable to fully answer those questions, but felt that I must find the answers, no matter what the cost. Back in Europe I began studying the typefaces on road signs just about everywhere the Latin script is used. But looking at photos or signage specifications doesn’t reveal much about the actual performance of those typefaces. So I set off, driving thousands of miles across Europe to explore the legibility of these signs and typefaces, first hand. Once I even ended up in a holding cell at the border crossing to Norway, because the customs officers just wouldn’t accept that someone would drive all over Europe simply to take photographs of traffic signs."

Blood Flow Fingered In Ice Cream Headaches

Blood Flow Fingered In Ice Cream Headaches.

"The researchers saw that the anterior cerebral artery widened just before the subjects got the headache, and it contracted just as the pain started to pass. This artery was likely bringing extra blood to the brain in an effort to keep it warm. Which means that pressure from the extra fluid inside the skull could be to blame for the passing pain."

Will medical wonders ever cease?

Bill Plympton Couch Gag

The other week Bill Plympton did one of the best Simpson's Couch Gag's ever...

Meet Lotte and Vince

Frans Hofmeester filmed his kids (12 and 9 year-old) every week from birth to now. All you other so-called geek dads bow down before him. I wonder how long until Facebook does this automatically for everyone?

Lotte Time Lapse: Birth to 12 years in 2 min. 45. from Frans Hofmeester on Vimeo.

Vince Time Lapse: Birth to 9 years in 2 min. from Frans Hofmeester on Vimeo.

Jets’ Trevor Pryce Is Retired, and Getting Tired of It

Jets’ Trevor Pryce Is Retired, and Getting Tired of It.

"The N.F.L. isn’t a street gang. We’re mercenaries willing to work for the highest bidder and willing to get along with whomever we need to in order to keep working. I know why I haven’t heard from any of my former teammates. But it’s not as if I’m looking for them, either. What would we talk about? What do we have in common now? Not much. Once you’re out of the circle, you’re out. So besides my family and a couple of my high school buddies, I don’t have many friends.

‘Early retirement’ sounds wonderful. It certainly did that cold night in Pittsburgh. I was going to use my time to conquer the world.

Boy, was I wrong. Now I find myself in music chat rooms arguing the validity of Frank Zappa versus the Mars Volta. (If the others only knew Walkingpnumonia was the screen name for a former All-Pro football player and not some Oberlin College student trying to find his place in the world.) I wrote a book. I set sail on the picturesque and calming waters of Bodymore, Murdaland. And when I’m in dire straits, I do what any 8-year-old does; I kick a soccer ball against the garage hoping somebody feels sorry and says, ‘Hey, want to play?’"

Watch Frontline Money, Power and Wall Street

This week's Frontline, Money, Power and Wall Street was a fantastic overview of the financial crisis. Maybe other news organizations have forgotten about the story, but Frontline continued to research the history and puts more into perspective. I did learn quite a few things. My only issue was that there were too many generic shots of city skylines, bank plaques and trading floors while Will Lyman narrated. I think some graphs and infographics might have helped to explain how money and risked were transferred and who all the players were and how they related.

The first hour was about the technical aspects, what CDO's and CDS's are, how the housing bubble was involved. They found the originators of these products from the early 90s and walked through their original purpose and how things got tangled over time. The second hour was about the governments reaction to Bear and Lehman. I learned about the details of the meeting that McCain called (remember when he "suspended his campaign"?) and how Obama was far more on top of things. They raised really good questions like why the Fed did no planning during the summer of 2008 when they knew things were going bad.

Check your listings and see when it's on and watch. I think it should be required viewing by all members of Congress. Well and also by anyone who is still against regulation of derivatives and thinks we shouldn't have done the bailouts at all (certainly we could have done them better). There are also two more parts (hours) that premiere next week. Surprisingly, I'm really looking forward to them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Robot Writers

A week ago I wrote about an article, Can the Computers Replace Paid Writers? That was in The Atlantic and I'm not sure which came first, that or this article in this month's Wired, Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter? I think the Wired article by Steven Levy makes a more compelling case.

"And the subject matter keeps getting more diverse. Narrative Science was hired by a fast-food company to write a monthly report for its franchise operators that analyzes sales figures, compares them to regional peers, and suggests particular menu items to push. What’s more, the low cost of transforming data into stories makes it practical to write even for an audience of one. Narrative Science is looking into producing personalized 401(k) financial reports and synopses of World of Warcraft sessions—players could get a recap after a big raid that would read as if an embedded journalist had accompanied their guild. “The Internet generates more numbers than anything that we’ve ever seen. And this is a company that turns numbers into words,” says former DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt, who sits on Narrative Science’s board. “Narrative Science needs to exist. The journalism might be only the sizzle—the steak might be management reports.”"

"But even if Narrative Science never does learn to produce Pulitzer-level scoops with the icy linguistic precision of Joan Didion, it will still capitalize on the fact that more and more of our lives and our world is being converted into data. For example, over the past few years, Major League Baseball has spent millions of dollars to install an elaborate system of hi-res cameras and powerful sensors to measure nearly every event that’s occurring on its fields: the velocities and trajectories of pitches, tracked to fractions of inches. Where the fielders stand at any given moment. How far the shortstop moves to dive for a ground ball. Sometimes the real story of the game may lie within that data. Maybe the manager failed to detect that a pitcher was showing signs of exhaustion several batters before an opponent’s game-winning hit. Maybe a shortstop’s extended reach prevented six hits. This is stuff that even an experienced beat writer might miss. But not an algorithm."

Tor Books Goes Completely DRM-Free

Cory Doctorow wrote Tor Books goes completely DRM-free. "Now that there is a major publisher that has gone completely DRM-free (with more to follow, I'm sure; I've had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers), there is suddenly a market for tools that automate the conversion and loading of ebooks from multiple formats and vendors.

For example, I'd expect someone to make a browser plugin that draws a 'Buy this book at' button on Amazon pages (and vice-versa), which then facilitates auto-conversion between the formats. I'd also expect to produce a 'switch' toolkit for Kindle owners who want to go Nook (and vice-versa)."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Understanding Muslim Anger at America

University of Maryland professor Steven Kull writes about a study, Understanding Muslim Anger at America.

"Radical Islamist anti-American groups that use violence, such as al Qaeda, are not broadly popular. Terrorist attacks on civilians — including American civilians — are overwhelmingly rejected. However, America is perceived as a greater threat than these groups and their defiance of America is lauded even if their terrorist methods are seen as morally reprehensible. This creates an environment within which such groups are tolerated and are able to thrive. Significant minorities say they would consider giving them financial support or would approve if a family member were to join them.

Equally significant, substantial majorities resonate with and readily express the central narrative of radical Islamists: that America is oppressing the Muslim world. This is a narrative that blends into a long-standing narrative of Western oppression going back to the Crusades. This narrative is usually expressed angrily, with the United States portrayed as self-seeking and using its superior military power in an exploitive fashion.

However, in focus groups another, more subtle narrative also emerged. According to this narrative, America has important values, including respect for international law, acceptance of constraints on military power, religious tolerance, and democratic values. But America is also seen as having violated these same liberal principles that it promotes, generating a deeply felt sense of betrayal. In the focus groups people often spoke in a beseeching tone, as if they still had hopes that America would rediscover its better angels."

It's definitely a bubble

I can argue with a lot of things that Dave Winer writes, but It's definitely a bubble sounds about right to me, particularly:

"2. We're bundling young people into things called startups, and selling them to investors for ever-increasing amounts of money. 
3. In an effort to bring more suckers in, they just passed a law that makes it legal to pimp these startups to people who don't know anything."

Facebook paid $1 billion for a company not without profits, but without revenues.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Innovation Isn’t Easy When it Comes to Medicaid

Aaron Carroll explains why Innovation Isn’t Easy When it Comes to Medicaid. This is important to remember as Paul Ryan's budget (which Romney endorses) makes significant cuts to Medicaid.

"It’s important to remember who is covered by Medicaid. By law, the program must now cover poor children (from families whose income is 100%-133% of the poverty line, based on age). It must cover poor pregnant women (up to 133% of the poverty line). It must cover parents to a point often well below the poverty line. And it must cover the very poor elderly and the disabled. That’s all. Notice who is left out? Adults without children. That’s because in most states, an individual who doesn’t have kids can’t get Medicaid, no matter how poor that person is. It’s not much better for parents. For example, a married couple in Texas who have 1 child and earn only $4818 a year is too ‘rich’ for Medicaid."


When Republicans talk in terms of freeloaders finding jobs and getting them off Medicaid, think children, pregnant women, disabled, blind and very poor elderly.

Earth Visualizations

Wind Map is a visualization of the wind in the US.

NASA made this visualization of the oceans:

Cops Take School Kids' DNA in Murder Case

Cops Take School Kids' DNA in Murder Case "Samples of DNA were collected without parental consent from students at a Sacramento, Calif., middle school in connection with the murder of an 8th grade student who was found stabbed, strangled and beaten to death near the dugout of a local park."

This doesn't seem quite right.

Pentagon Wants Spy Troops Posing as Businessmen

Spencer Ackerman reports Pentagon Wants Spy Troops Posing as Businessmen.

"If the Pentagon gets its way, the gentleman doodling on his notepad as your next overseas business trip goes on endlessly could be a soldier, sailor, airman or marine in disguise. This extraordinary redefinition of the U.S. military’s authorities for clandestine action overseas is officially part of a Pentagon wish list for revisions to its legal authorities recently sent to Congress."

"This is why medical aid workers had such a negative reaction to the CIA’s use of a Pakistani doctor to collect DNA in the town where Osama bin Laden was hiding under the cover of a vaccination program. If civilian activities become tied up with military activities, then the civilians who perform them will be seen as military targets, even if they have nothing to do with the military themselves."

McConnell to House: Don't shut down the government

Ezra Klein on Friday, Wonkbook: McConnell to House: Don't shut down the government.

"But then a funny thing happened in the Senate. Daniel Inouye, the Democratic Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, tried to get his committee to agree on spending levels for fiscal year 2013. Tried, and succeeded. The vote, which was in essence a vote to abide by the caps in the BCA, passed his committee 27-2. Even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted for it. 'His support now, together with [Lamar] Alexander, allows the process to move forward and seems to put to rest fears that he would obstruct out of loyalty to the House leadership,' reported David Rogers.

This doesn't mean we'll have an agreement. The House could simply refuse to play ball. Key Senate Republicans could come under Tea Party pressure and change their minds. But, for now, the fact that Senate Republicans have signed off on the BCA makes it more difficult for House Republicans to shut the government down over it."

Bank of America Sues Itself In Unusual Foreclosure Case

The Huffington Post reports Bank Of America Sues Itself In Unusual Foreclosure Case.

"In the March 29 filing, Bank of America is seeking to foreclose on a condominium and names the condo owner and Bank of America as defendants in the suit. The company is literally seeking damages from itself in order to foreclose on the condo owner.

'We are servicing the first mortgage on behalf of an investor and we own the second mortgage,' Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens told HuffPost. 'Naming the second-lien holder in the suit is necessary to eliminate the junior interest,' Bauwens said."

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever

Wired had an interesting article, The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever. It's about new discoveries in how memory works.

"This new model of memory isn’t just a theory—neuroscientists actually have a molecular explanation of how and why memories change. In fact, their definition of memory has broadened to encompass not only the cliché cinematic scenes from childhood but also the persisting mental loops of illnesses like PTSD and addiction—and even pain disorders like neuropathy. Unlike most brain research, the field of memory has actually developed simpler explanations. Whenever the brain wants to retain something, it relies on just a handful of chemicals. Even more startling, an equally small family of compounds could turn out to be a universal eraser of history, a pill that we could take whenever we wanted to forget anything. And researchers have found one of these compounds."

"The disappearance of the fear memory suggested that every time we think about the past we are delicately transforming its cellular representation in the brain, changing its underlying neural circuitry. It was a stunning discovery: Memories are not formed and then pristinely maintained, as neuroscientists thought; they are formed and then rebuilt every time they’re accessed. “The brain isn’t interested in having a perfect set of memories about the past,” LeDoux says. “Instead, memory comes with a natural updating mechanism, which is how we make sure that the information taking up valuable space inside our head is still useful. That might make our memories less accurate, but it probably also makes them more relevant to the future.”"

"And this returns us to critical incident stress debriefing. When we experience a traumatic event, it gets remembered in two separate ways. The first memory is the event itself, that cinematic scene we can replay at will. The second memory, however, consists entirely of the emotion, the negative feelings triggered by what happened. Every memory is actually kept in many different parts of the brain. Memories of negative emotions, for instance, are stored in the amygdala, an almond-shaped area in the center of the brain. (Patients who have suffered damage to the amygdala are incapable of remembering fear.) By contrast, all the relevant details that comprise the scene are kept in various sensory areas—visual elements in the visual cortex, auditory elements in the auditory cortex, and so on. That filing system means that different aspects can be influenced independently by reconsolidation. The larger lesson is that because our memories are formed by the act of remembering them, controlling the conditions under which they are recalled can actually change their content."

Movie Reviews

21 Jump Street - I watched some of the original TV show but don't have any particular memories of it. The remake did it as a comedy, fully aware that it's a remake of an old TV show. But they did it as an unlikely buddy film and a way to relive their high school years. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum (kinda) knew each other in high school. One the nerd and one the dumb jock. They didn't get along in high school but meet up in the police academy where they help each other out on the exams and the physical tests. So they become cops, bad ones, so they get sent to Jump Street. Back in high school, they switch roles. It's reasonably fun and there are some fun surprises, but it goes on a little too long. If you have any interest, it's fine to catch on cable or even to rent.

John Carter - I caught this in the theater, even in 3D. Andrew Stanton made Finding Nemo and WALL-E and this is his first live action film. It was a huge bomb in the domestic box office but did ok overseas. I mostly enjoyed it. The main character is too moody but I liked the rest of the world. There were a surprising number of different factions in the story and a lot of different story threads came together very well in the end. The princess is more than just a damsel to be rescued and the dog-like thing was cute but not too much so. It's not great and I've mostly forgotten it, but it in no way deserves to be the biggest box office bomb of the year and it's a lot better than any Transformers film.

The Raid: Redemption - is an Indonesian action film that's gotten rave reviews. A SWAT team storms a drug lords building and lots of martial arts and gun fights ensue. I saw it with a group of six and we were decidedly mixed. Some loved it and some were bored. I thought the premise was ok but it quickly got lost. It switched back and forth between we have to go up and we have to go down and it didn't make much sense. There were a couple of very impressive fight scenes but it didn't add up to a whole movie for me. Easy to skip.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi - is a documentary of an 85 year-old sushi chef considered to be the best in the world. He's worked at becoming a better chef virtually every day since he was 9. Several current and past employees, including his two sons describe how hard he is on himself (and them). The clearest anecdote is that after working for him 10 years he lets you try to make the omelette for Tamago. An employee describes how over several months he made 200 omelets and none were acceptable, but then he finally made a good one and it was one of his proudest moments. While there were some shots of sushi that looked very good, there wasn't much to describe why his sushi was is much better than anyone else's. Yes we learn that he (has staff) massage octopus for 50 minutes instead of 30 and he has a set of fish sellers that sell him the best fish, but as a diner I'm not sure what I'd get for a meal that starts at
30,000¥ (about $300).

The Cabin in the Woods - is a horror movie made by Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy) and Drew Goddard (Buffy, Alias, Lost). They co-wrote it and this is Goddard's first time directing. Whedon produced it. There's been a lot of praise and a lot of people saying to avoid all reviews for fear of spoilers. I went in knowing nothing other than the above. It's so far my favorite film of the year. It's more of a comedy than a horror movie. Perhaps the closest comparison is to Shaun of the Dead. My horror movie fans were unhappy that it wasn't horror movie enough but that was kind of a bonus for me. I'm not sure the secrecy is so important but I won't give anything more away. I'm looking forward to seeing it again at home so I can pause some things.

Indie Game: The Movie - This is a documentary about the development of independent video games. It's currently on Tour and I think is getting a limited release in June. It's made by just two filmmakers and tells the story of basically four developers. They started following about 20 games and narrowed the film down to three. These are one or two person teams developing games by themselves over several years. It's a lot of work and sacrifice and there are lots of periods of self doubt. Jonathan Blow wrote Braid and that's basically the story of a very successful game. Phil Fish is developing Fez, for many years and through many tough times and lots of fans yelling at him to ship already. Edmund and Tommy are working together to create Meat Boy which will hopefully be their first big hit. It's easy to root for them and it's easy to dislike Fish while also feeling sorry for him. The film packs a lot of story and information in. At times it was slow but it liked it a lot. These games were all developed for Xbox Live Arcade and I hadn't heard of them. They survey a few other classic video games and I'd only heard of a few. Braid has been ported to the mac and it's now on sale in the Mac App Store for $4, so I've picked up a copy.

I caught the following two on cable recently:

Attack the Block - is a genre mix of London street thugs fighting of an alien attack. It's from the producers of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so that shouldn't be much of a surprise. It got good reviews and after seeing it I understand why. It's a good low-budget action thriller with some social commentary.

Green Lantern got horrible reviews and now I understand why. I think there's a lot of story potential here but too much of this film is off. Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan as the cocky asshole test pilot which has become popular in the comics, but I prefer the real hero type. They do an ok job introducing the alien lanterns and getting a few of the characterization right, but they screw up the Guardians of the Galaxy (their bosses) as aloof and conniving (well that's also accurate to the comics). The real problem is the action scenes. His ring can create anything Jordan can imagine but if a helicopter was crashing into an outdoor party would you imagine a truck to catch it and a huge ramp for the truck to drive through? For 10 minutes? There's also too much going on with too many villains and too much back and forth between Earth and Oa. There's really no need for anyone to see this film.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How Big Was Monday’s Solar's Flare?

How Big Was Monday’s CME? "The image above was obtained by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA 304 imaging instrument on Monday during the height of the event. I rotated the disk of the Sun 90 degrees to get a landscape look over the eastern limb, cropped it down and then added an Earth image to scale — just to show how fantastically huge our home star really is."

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Imaging the ISS

Shane Murphy describes how to take photos of the International Space Station, Imaging the ISS.

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Judge Janice Rogers Brown wants to return to the libertarian legal notions of the 1930s

Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, Judge Janice Rogers Brown wants to return to the libertarian legal notions of the 1930s. Her point isn't as much about the opinion, but the tone of it, that it's really injecting politics into a judicial opinion.

"There’s one other point worth making, before we leave Judge Brown to her open-mic libertarian musings. She is, beyond any doubt, apt to appear on any short list for Mitt Romney’s choice to replace any of the four Supreme Court Justices who are currently in their 70s, some of whom will be 80 by the 2016 elections. In that light, this concurrence looks less like a judicial opinion than a job application. I have written before how ironic it is that a liberal jurist can be disqualified from a judicial confirmation hearing for expressing a single progressive idea in a law review article, whereas when it comes to conservative judicial nominees extreme and full-throated ideological exhortations are usually an added bonus. For Brown, the choice to write an opinion eviscerating New Deal worker and health protections at precisely the moment these issues are burning up cable television and Tea Party rallies is just smart politics. It’s hard to imagine a liberal shortlister attempting the same and surviving a Supreme Court confirmation bid. Or a confirmation bid of any sort, really."

"Liberals who don’t think of the courts as a political issue should read Judge Brown’s concurrence closely, not merely as an example of the ways partisan politics are bleeding into the federal courts, but as a warning about how radically the federal courts are poised to reshape our politics.   " Kevin Drum wrote about this and then updated himself with feedback from his comments: "I've gotten some pushback on this from various quarters, most of it fair. First, everyone in comments is right that Brown is 62, much too old to be a serious contender for a Supreme Court appointment these days. Second, she was kinda sorta under consideration for the Supreme Court in 2005, but was considered too outspoken to get the job. Third, liberal judges have made similar comments in the past — though I think these comments haven't been quite as broad or radical as Rogers'. So, yeah, most likely Brown knows she's too old for a promotion, which means she's free to say whatever she damn well pleases. That's not necessarily praiseworthy, but it's probably not a job application either."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eschaton: The Final Countdown

Atrios made a list of the top ten wankers of the decade, about really bad political writers. Here's 10-9, The Final Countdown and of course the winner, The One True Wanker of the Decade, was Tom Friedman. Each one gets a screed that isn't as fun as anything Matt Taibbi writes but if you need help keeping the names straight of people who aren't worth reading, it's a fine place to start.

Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?

Off the Charts Blog of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities had a couple of good charts:


There's also a post with the Top Ten Federal Tax Charts.

Corporations That Spent The Most On Lobbying Saw Tax Rates Decline

Corporations That Spent The Most On Lobbying Saw Tax Rates Decline. Shocker.

"The top eight companies that spent the most on federal lobbying from 2007 to 2009 all saw their reported tax rates decrease from 2007 to 2010, according to a new analysis released Monday by the Sunlight Foundation. The report notes that these top eight firms spent $540 million on lobbying from 2007 to 2009. They filed 332 lobbying reports that mentioned taxes and named 491 different tax bills in those reports."

How to build a Dyson sphere in five (relatively) easy steps

io9 wrote How to build a Dyson sphere in five (relatively) easy steps.

"We are closer to being able to build a Dyson Sphere than we think. By enveloping the sun in a massive sphere of artificial habitats and solar panels, a Dyson Sphere would provide us with more energy than we would ever know what to do with while dramatically increasing our living space. Implausible you say? Something for our distant descendants to consider? Think again. We could conceivably get going on the project in about 25 to 50 years, with completion of the first phase requiring only a few decades."

"For the purposes of this discussion, I'm going to propose that we build a Dyson swarm (sometimes referred to as a type I Dyson sphere), which will consist of a large number of independent constructs orbiting in a dense formation around the sun. The advantage of this approach is that such a structure could be built incrementally. Moreover, various forms of wireless energy transfer could be used to transmit energy between its components and the Earth."

Not going to happen, but an entertaining read.

The Significance of Citigroup's Shareholder Revolt

Robert Reich on The Significance of Citigroup's Shareholder Revolt "The shareholders of Wall Street giant Citigroup are out to prove that corporate democracy isn’t an oxymoron. They’ve said no to the exorbitant $15 million pay package of Citi’s CEO Vikram Pandit, as well as to the giant pay packages of Citi’s four other top executives.

The vote, at Citigroup’s annual meeting in Dallas Tuesday, isn’t binding on Citigroup. But it’s a warning shot across the bow of every corporate boardroom in America."

Google Opens Up About Its Network

Google Opens Up About Its Network "Company representatives appeared at a computer networking conference in Santa Clara, Calif., on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss some of Google’s data center network workings. It has disclosed that its data centers have moved over to an advanced system dominated by software, instead of traditional hardware of custom switches and routers. The industry calls it a software defined network or S.D.N."

The article goes on for a bit more but wasn't more detailed.

American visualisation maps every recorded sighting of Bigfoot

The Guardian posted American visualisation maps every recorded sighting of Bigfoot "Where is Bigfoot hiding? This interactive map, made by Ryan Robitalle, shows every recorded sighting of the mythical creature in the United States. The map was created using data from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organisation, whose website contains detailed logs of Sasquatch sightings across the world. You can interact with the visualisation to explore the information in more detail. Click on a marker to see further details on that sighting, or browse reports by year or season."

He certainly gets around.

Space Shuttle Discovery's Final Flight

In Focus on Space Shuttle Discovery's Final Flight. "Having last traveled to low Earth orbit in March 2011, NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery took to the skies one last time yesterday, piggybacking on a modified Boeing 747. The shuttle left Florida and landed just outside of Washington, D.C., where it will join the collection at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. Discovery, the fleet leader of NASA's orbiters, flew 39 successful missions over 27 years, accumulating 365 total days in space. Tomorrow, a welcome ceremony is planned at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Gathered here are images from Discovery's last flight. [30 photos]"

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How The Titanic Story Broke

Iconic Photos on the Titanic | How The Story Broke "In next day in London, one of the most iconic images of the disaster was made. Ned Parfett, who was 15 in the photograph, was selling the Evening News outside the White Star Line offices at Oceanic House. Before the decade was out, he too would be dead; initially too young to come when the war came, he enlisted in 1916; on October 29th 1918, less than two weeks before the Armistice, he was killed in a German bombardment."

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Jon Stewart on the GOP Filibustering the Buffet Rule

I'll just quote TPM: "Jon Stewart on Tuesday turned to the so-called Buffett Rule, the proposal that Americans making more than $1 million a year should pay their fair share in taxes. To the Senate floor! Stewart said, where the rule was up for a vote on Monday.

Republicans predictably filibustered, claiming that the estimated $47 billion it will raise in the next decade is a drop in the bucket. “That wouldn’t pay for half a day’s work on the secret reanimate Ronald Reagan project,” Stewart mocked.

But point taken, he added. Then again, didn’t Republicans say $300 million was an awful lot to spend on Planned Parenthood? “Let me get this straight,” Stewart said. “$47 billion in millionaires’ money is less than $300 million in mammograms and birth control.”"

Stewart is one of the few in the media who actually remembers what politicians say a few weeks or months before. I wish the average newspaper article would do so. James Fallows is happy that some of them can manage to report on a filibuster properly. Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman remember stuff. It's one of the reasons I like reading them. Rachel Maddow goes perhaps too far, where she mike cover a story every night in a week and each night has a recap of the past 4 years. But I'm surprised the PBS NewsHour isn't better at it.

2012 TIME 100: The Most Influential People in the World

2012 TIME 100: The Most Influential People in the World. I barely skimmed the list and it seems like a list of names that have been in the news rather than people who actually influenced something. I accept Salmon Kahn, but Christian Marclay or E.L. James?

Cannibalize the Future

I thought Paul Krugman's Cannibalize the Future, mostly on Chris Christie canceling a tunnel project, was one of his clearer explanations.

"The crucial point about both of these explanations is that they stand Mr. Christie’s narrative about himself on its head. The governor poses as a man willing to make hard choices for the future, but what he actually did was sacrifice the future for the sake of personal political advantage. He catered to national Republican prejudices that are completely at odds with New Jersey’s needs; he cared more about avoiding embarrassment over a misguided campaign pledge than about serving an urgent public need."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

101 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories

I haven't gone through this yet, but it looks promising. 101 Spectacular Nonfiction Stories. "Each year, I keep a running list of the most exceptional nonfiction that I encounter while publishing my twice-weekly newsletter The Best of Journalism. Along with my curating work for Byliner, this hoovering of great stories affords me the opportunity to read as many impressive narratives as any single person possibly can. The annual result is my Best of Journalism List, now in its fourth year. I could not, of course, read every worthy piece published during the year. But everything that follows deserves wider attention."

The Greatest TV Drama of the Past 25 Years, the Finals: The Wire vs. The Sopranos

So apparently Vulture did the March Madness thing with TV dramas. The final contenders may not be a surprise but it was a fun read, that I agreed with. The Greatest TV Drama of the Past 25 Years, the Finals: The Wire vs. The Sopranos. A little warning, I then spent a great deal of time reading all the other rounds in the full 16 show bracket. Good stuff. I have to watch The Shield.

Visualizing Ocean Shipping

Sapping Attention: Visualizing Ocean Shipping has two cute videos showing (some) shipping events from the mid 1700s to the mid 1800s.

Paul Krugman at Harvard May 7th

The Harvard Square Bookstore is doing an event Paul Krugman for his new book End This Depression Now!. It's at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square on May 7th. $5 Tickets are on sale now.

How The Universe Works (According To Larry Niven)

How The Universe Works (According To Larry Niven) was cute.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Pulitzer Prizes

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners have been announced.

Let the Nanotargeting Begin

The NY Times wrote Let the Nanotargeting Begin. "Perhaps most interesting, the findings emerging out of advances in microtechnology are a window into the striking differences in the tastes and interests of liberal and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. Among other things, Democrats and Republicans differ in the entertainment they prefer, the restaurants they go to, the drinks they chose and the Web sites they visit."

They have some charts that are interesting to glance at.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hubble Reveals Curious Auroras on Uranus

Hubble Reveals Curious Auroras on Uranus "Astronomers have finally succeeded in capturing the first Earth-based images of the curious and fleeting auroras of Uranus using the Hubble Space Telescope, careful planning… and no small amount of luck."

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Joe Eszterhas' Letter to Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson commissioned Joe Eszterhas to write a screenplay for The Maccabees. If that sounds like a bad idea to you, it's even crazier than that. I guess it fell through but Eszterhas loves his script so much that he wants it back so that he can shop it around to another producer. Fair enough, but he apparently wrote a letter to Gibson asking for it and he described crazy and anti-semitic behavior by Gibson that Exzterhas claims to have observed. Here's Joe Eszterhas' Letter to Mel Gibson. I have no idea if any of this stuff is true, but I know this; if I wanted to ask a favor of someone, I wouldn't spend eight pages describing how crazy I thought they were before asking the favor.

Can the Computers Replace Paid Writers?

The Atlantic wrote Can the Computers at Narrative Science Replace Paid Writers?. "Now computers have proven competence—no, fluency—in yet another aspect of human life: writing. Narrative Science, a Chicago-based startup, has developed an innovative platform that writes reported articles in eerily humanlike cadence. Their early work focused on niche markets, clients with repetitive storylines and loads of numeric data—sports stories, say, or financial reports. But the underlying logic that drives the process—scan a data set, detect significance, and tell a story based on facts—is powerful and vastly applicable. Wherever there is data, Narrative Science founders say, their software can generate a prose analysis that's robust, reliable, and readable."

I'm a bit doubtful.

This reminded me of the unsummarize hack from ADHOC 2004: "Lastly, winning the first ADHOC Showcase was Jorg Brown's Unsummarize, a clever bit of code that takes a short sentence or phrase and "expands" it in the reverse of the way Apple's Summarize service works (select text in a Services-aware application then choose Services > Summarize from the application menu). Unsummarize works (perhaps with some smoke and mirrors for the demo) by performing a Web search using the selected text and using the search results as the expansion. Jorg got the idea for Unsummarize from a joke David Pogue made during the ADHOC keynote about how Summarize was cool, but he'd really like something that went the other direction so the Mac could write his articles for him."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Could autism be reversed with a pill? writes Could autism be reversed with a pill? "A growing body of research in mice and a handful of people is finding that autism is not a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, but a changeable condition, like, say, epilepsy that can potentially be controlled."

Texts from Hillary

It took me until today to visit Texts from Hillary. Cute. My favorite:

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Caine's Arcade

"A 9 year old boy - who built an elaborate cardboard arcade inside his dad's used auto part store - is about to have the best day of his life." This 11 minute short is so far my favorite film of 2012.

Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

Matt Groening Reveals the Location of the Real Springfield

Smithsonian Magazine has an interview with Simpson's creator Matt Groening. Matt Groening Reveals the Location of the Real Springfield.

I've seen that headline reported but he just says it was named after Springfield OR where he grew up. I think we knew that and it doesn't mean the Simpsons live in OR. Though there's this "UPDATE: According to Entertainment Weekly, 'The Simpsons' will make a reference to Springfield's origins in the opening credits of this Sunday's episode. Stay tuned."

Android or Condom

I don't follow Android phones much but this is hilarious:

Android or Condom copy

Facebook Apps and Permissions

Selling You on Facebook. "The Wall Street Journal analyzed 100 of the most used applications that connect to Facebook’s social-networking platform to see what data they sought from people. The Journal also tested its own Facebook app, WSJ Social. Below, the apps tested by the Journal, along with the permissions they ask users to grant them."

The Shard Of Glass

Silent UK illegally climbed The Shard Of Glass, an under construction London skyscrapper. Amazing photos.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Friday, April 06, 2012

Why Did the Unemployment Rate Drop?

The WSJ asks and answers Why Did the Unemployment Rate Drop? "The key to the drop in the broader unemployment rate was due to a 447,000 drop in the number of people employed part time but who would prefer full-time work, that comes on top of big drops in that category over the past year. That number could decline for negative reasons, such as workers completely dropping out of the labor force, but it also could be a positive reflection of people having their hours increased or part-time workers moving on to full time work."

Jared Bernstein doesn't know what to think yet. March Jobs Report, First Impressions and Jobs Report, Take #2

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Remembering Project Gemini

In Focus Remembers Project Gemini. "Fifty years ago, NASA began a program called Project Gemini, developing deep space travel techniques and equipment to prepare for the upcoming Apollo program. Two unmanned and ten manned missions were flown, and astronauts and engineers accomplished hundreds of goals, including the first American spacewalk, a 14-day endurance test in orbit, space docking, and the highest-ever manned orbit at 1,369 km (850 mi). After the project ended in 1966, many Gemini astronauts brought their experiences with them as they went on to fly Apollo missions to the Moon. Collected here are remarkable images of Project Gemini half a century ago -- some beautiful, some technical, and a few surprisingly intimate. [41 photos]"

No Room for Moderates

Nathan Fletcher, a veteran marine and state legislator is now a candidate for mayor of San Diego. He announced he is leaving the Republican party.

Mark Thoma wrote No Room for Moderates. "We need two rational, competitive political parties. If this, and similar action from other moderates can help to bring Republicans back to sanity, that would be good for all of us."

David Brooks wrote, "Fletcher is the decided underdog in the June 5 voting. But he represents a nationally important test case. Can the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who were trained to be ruthlessly pragmatic, find a home in either political party? Can center-right moderates find a home in the G.O.P., even in coastal California? As the two parties become more insular, is it possible to mount an independent alternative?"

Demand, Not Supply, Is Restraining The Economy

Mark Thoma in moneywatch Demand, not supply, is restraining the economy.

"The latest McKinsey global survey supports Bernanke's position that lack of demand is the most important factor holding back the economy. The survey -- which is of corporate managers from around the world, not just those in the U.S. -- finds that 'the single greatest fear among executives everywhere is weak consumer demand for their companies' products and services.'

One of the key indicators of structural problems is the inability to match workers to available jobs. But 'access to talent' scored very low in the survey, ranking No. 14 out of a list of 18 factors that could inhibit economic growth over the next 12 months. Government regulation does score fairly high on this list, but, again, this is an international survey. When similar surveys are conducted for the U.S., lack of demand, not regulation, is the most commonly cited problem by some margin."

Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible

From last week, Global Warming Close to Becoming Irreversible: Scientific American "The world is close to reaching tipping points that will make it irreversibly hotter, making this decade critical in efforts to contain global warming, scientists warned on Monday."

Obama vs. Boehner - Who Killed the Debt Deal?

Matt Bai's piece in the Sunday Times Magazine section, Obama vs. Boehner - Who Killed the Debt Deal? was really good. Well worth a read. I have a little more respect for Boehner.

Stuck at Zero

Jared Berstein wrote Stuck at Zero. He's given up asking for more stimulus but cites some recent evidence for the cause.

Some of the evidence comes from Goldman Sachs research. I wonder, if Goldman Sachs controls so much of the government's economic thought, and they think stimulus will help the economy (and the headlines I saw this week were that markets were down because of the nearing end of stimulus programs), why can't they convince the government to continue it?

The Full-Employment Congress -

Sunday Times editorial from a couple of weeks ago, The Full-Employment Congress. "But a new report detailing how the families of more than half of all House members similarly benefited financially from their ties with a lawmaker makes for particularly interesting reading when politicians all over are promising voters: jobs, jobs, jobs.

Eighty-two lawmakers paid family members through their office payrolls, campaign committees and political-action funds, according to the 346-page report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, an independent watchdog group in Washington. Forty-four had relatives who lobbied or worked in government affairs. Twenty members dipped into their campaign coffers to help a relative who ran for office, and 14 made sure they charged interest when they were reimbursed for personal loans that they advanced to their own campaign committees."

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Being Elmo on Independent Lens

The PBS show Independent Lens is showing Being Elmo this week. Here in Boston, it's on channel 2 Thursday night at 9pm. It's well worth seeing.

The DVD was finally released this week too and it's available for streaming from Netflix.

The Peabody Awards

The Peabody Awards Winners were announced. I've only seen a few of the winners.

The Colbert Report – Super PAC Segments won and I think that's well deserved. It was funny and serious satire and performance art. is great, but I haven't watched in a while. I think they over-saturated their brand (and I can't believe I just wrote that).

I get that Treme won a Peabody and maybe even Game of Thrones. I don't get how Homeland, Portlandia and Parks and Recreation did.

Measuring The Universe

Bad Astronomy wrote a short article The Universe is expanding at 74.2 km/sec/Mpc. I thought it was nice introduction to how we measure distances in the universe. The comments are also interesting and entertaining.

Obamacare Is On Trial. So Is the Supreme Court.

I thought Jonathan Cohn made some very good points in Obamacare Is On Trial. So Is the Supreme Court.

"Rarely in American history has the Court struck down laws in decisions that would have such quick, widespread impact. In the modern era, only two cases come to mind: Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. Both were acts of ambitious, even audacious judicial activism. But, in two key repsects, they were different from a potential ruling against the Affordable Care Act. Brown was a unanimous, nine-to-zero decision. Roe was a lopsided seven-to-two."

"But in this case, nobody has said they want to stop government from providing universal access to health care. On the contrary, the plaintiffs have stated that a program like Medicare, in which the government provides citizens with insurance directly, would be clearly constitutional. They’ve also stated that a scheme of compulsory private insurance would be constitutional if somehow the government could make people buy it when they show up at the hospital—suggesting, as Elena Kagan stated, that the only problem with the Affordable Care Act is temporal.

Most amazing of all: The plaintiffs have conceded that a universal health insurance program would be constitutional if, instead of penalizing people who decline to get insurance, the government enacted a tax and refunded the money to people who had insurance. As Sonia Sotomayor noted, functionally such a scheme would be exactly the same as the Affordable Care Act. Both the plaintiffs and some of the skeptical justices have also indicated that the Affordable Care Act would be constitutional if the law's architects had simply used the word "tax" to describe the penalty."

Kevin Drum followed up in Obamacare and the Fate of the Supreme Court.

Obama takes Bush’s secrecy games one step further

Glenn Greenwald wrote Obama takes Bush’s secrecy games one step further. "The ACLU is suing the Obama administration under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking to force disclosure of the guidelines used by Obama officials to select which human beings (both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals) will have their lives ended by the CIA’s drone attacks (‘In particular,’ the group explains, the FOIA request ‘seeks to find out when, where and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how the United States ensures compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killing’). The Obama administration has not only refused to provide any of that information, but worse, the CIA is insisting to federal courts that it cannot even confirm or deny the existence of a drone program at all without seriously damaging national security."

The Daily Show Yesterday

I really liked the opening segment last night

The John Oliver piece that immediately followed was pretty good too.

In the next segment he covered the Supreme Court, on the healthcare case and a decision from Monday allowing prisons to strip search anyone, even when arrested on minor (or even wrong) offenses.

The guest was Tom Goldstein, the publisher of one of my favorite sites, SCOTUSblog. He also happened to have argued Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington, the strip search case that was decided Monday.

The (Totally) Phantom Menace

I saw someone share this on Facebook.

So I wanted to post it here and say while this was funny, I was depressed about it because I think the lightsaber fight in The Phantom Menace is the best in the series. Fortunately I saw this on my iPad and I couldn't easily send a link to myself to it so at my mac I had to search YouTube and this came up:

I feel much better now.

Where Ryan’s and Obama's budgets (mostly) agree

Ezra Klein says Wonkbook: Where Ryan’s and Obama's budgets (mostly) agree. He says neither changes Social Security and both cap Medicare growth at GDP+0.5%.

"Today, the difference in the two party's visions is really in their plans for everything else: Ryan's budget increases defense spending, cuts taxes on the rich, and pays for all that -- and for his deficit reduction -- with deep cuts to programs for the poor and to the basic services the federal government carries out. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 62 percent of Ryan's cuts are to programs for the poor. (Graph.)

Obama's budget, meanwhile, features large tax increases on the rich, some cuts to the defense budget, some cuts to government services, and relatively few cuts to programs for the poor. Consequently, his budget has somewhat less deficit reduction than Ryan does over the next 10 years.

Obama said much of this in his speech. He accurately explained where Ryan's cuts fall. He admitted that he intends to raise taxes on wealthier Americans. He clearly believes the voters will prefer his approach. And Ryan didn't contest any of it. He didn't say his budget doesn't focus its cuts on programs for the poor, or non-defense discretionary spending. His statement, which you can read in full here, lamented Obama's 'empty promises' and efforts to 'divide Americans.' But it didn't argue that the president got Ryan's numbers wrong. And that's because he didn't: The numbers are there for everyone to see. The same goes for Obama's budget, which Republicans have often blasted for raising taxes on the rich and doing too little on the deficit."

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Movie Review: Hunger Games

Last weekend I saw The Hunger Games. I had finished the (first) book the week before and enjoyed it. It's a quick read and I found the main character interesting. I was impressed how the last sentence of each chapter, and often the last word, was some kind of twist or surprise and compelled me to turn the (in my case, virtual) page to the next chapter. I won't bother talking about the plot as there are plenty of places that do that. I liked the film and thought it worked well whether you had read the book or not. I saw it with people who had and hadn't read the books and everyone liked it.

My biggest complaint about the film was that there was way too much shaky-cam. It didn't help that I saw it from the third row, but it really was kind of pointless. Yes the book is a first person narrator and perhaps in some later battle scenes it can be used to convey to the viewer a sense of disorientation (or to make a scene less gory), but even the opening scenes of Katniss wandering through her home town were needlessly disorientating. In particular in the last fight, there are three people involved (on top of the cornucopia) and there's uncharacteristically a long shot from a helicopter that lets you see all three people and where they are in relationship to each other. It only lasted a second (or less) but after two hours I found it to be a breath of fresh air. I've heard a lot of other people have this one complaint with the film and I hope that sequel takes it to heart and tones it down a bit (or a lot). I caught a Battlestar Galactica rerun last week and while there's a lot of camera movement, it's all handheld but not shaky. There's a way to do this right. Gary Ross, the director previously made Pleasantville and Seabiscuit and neither of those had the problem. Tom Stern, the Cinematographer worked on a bunch of Clint Eastwood's movies so this was hopefully just a (failed) experiment in shaky.

The movie was a faithful and good adaptation. The book has first person narrator and the film reasonably left that out. Jennifer Lawrence made a fine Katniss, though without the narration I thought there was a little less to the character. They did do a good job of adding a few scenes during the games, not from Katniss's perspective, to help explain what's going on. For example, instead of a narrator explaining how gifts worked, a quick shot of Haymitch schmoozing with sponsors said all that was needed. A classic show don't tell solution. The film really sticks to the first book though there is one quick scene of a riot in District 11 which readers don't find out about until the second volume. That does nicely, even if only slightly, add to the depth of this film. If you're really interested, io9 provides Everything The Hunger Games Movie Left Out.

A faithful film adaptation raises the question of what is the point, particularly for such a popular book. Certainly a lot of tickets were sold ($253 million grossed in 11 days) so a lot of people wanted to see it, but the film is basically just the plot points and knowing the plot meant there weren't surprises. Without the narration Katniss's self doubts don't come through nearly as clearly. Tasha Robinson And Scott Tobias talk on A.V. Club about What makes a good book-to-film adaptation? I mostly agree with what they say. My example of a bad pointless adaptation is Watchmen. The least interesting thing about the film is the plot. They should have tried to push the boundaries of what film can do as the comic did that with its medium. I'd list The Firm as a good adaptation. It did change the ending, but since everyone had read the page turning book, it brought back the surprise to the experience. It helped that it was a good ending and that the setup was all the same so it fulfilled its faithfulness requirements. I don't think The Hunger Games should have changed the plot (particularly given the fact that there will be sequels). It's more like the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings experience. The books are deeper and the films are more entertainment. There's nothing wrong with that, particularly if it results in conversations of what makes a good book vs what makes a good movie.

Finally, an odd criticism of the film has come up, it seems Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed because three of the main supporting characters are black. "When it came to the casting of Rue, Thresh, and Cinna, many audience members did not understand why there were black actors playing those parts." The book doesn't describe Cinna's skin, but Rue and Thresh are both described as having "dark skin". Hunger Games Tweets is a tumblr documenting racist tweets. E.g, "why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie" indicating the person is not only a racist but has weak reading comprehension.

Documents show cops making up the rules on mobile surveillance

ars reports Documents show cops making up the rules on mobile surveillance.

"The legal standards used for cell phone tracking requests vary widely by police department. Some law enforcement agencies do not track cell phones, or have concluded that the Fourth Amendment requires them to obtain a warrant in order to track user locations. But many more reported obtaining location information with a simple subpeona—which is available without meeting the Fourth Amendment's 'probable cause' standard. The ACLU says that 'a number of law enforcement agencies report relying on cell phone providers to tell them what legal process is necessary to obtain location records.'

A New York Times report on the documents says that many departments keep their use of cell phone tracking capabilities secret, fearing the backlash that could be generated if the public learned how often they are used. For example, a document published by the Iowa City police department admonishes police officers not to "mention to the public or media the use of cell phone technology or equipment used to locate the targeted subject." Officers are advised not to include "details of the methods and equipment used to locate the subject" in police reports."

Time-Lapse Single-Shot Reworking of 'Rear Window'

The Playlist reports Watch: Phenomenal Time-Lapse Single-Shot Reworking Of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' "it's a phenomenal reworking of one of the director's very best films, 'Rear Window.' Installation artist Jeff Desom has used Adobe After Effects to extract all the footage from the Jimmy Stewart/Grace Kelly thriller, rearranged it into a single tableau, and then plays it out in timelapse. It's extremely clever, and a fascinating new angle on a true cinema classic. Watch below, and find out more at Desow's site."

Rear Window Timelapse from Jeff Desom on Vimeo.

Jon Stewart on Romney Endorsements

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Democrats’ devious plan to compromise with the Republicans

Ezra Klein, REVEALED: The Democrats’ devious plan to compromise with the Republicans.

"And so what did Democrats get for their troubles? Well, the individual mandate is the least popular element of the health-care law. The entire Republican Party decided the individual mandate was an unconstitutional assault on freedom. And today, even relatively moderate Republicans like Douthat present the mandate as some kind of underhanded trick.

That’s politics, I guess. But ask yourself: If Obamacare is overturned, and Obama is defeated, who will win the Democratic Party’s next fight over health care? Probably not the folks counseling compromise. Too many Democrats have seen how that goes. How much easier to propose a bill that expands Medicaid eligibility to 300 percent of the poverty line, covers every child through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and makes Medicare availability to every American over age 50. Add in some high-risk pools, pay for the bill by slapping a surtax on rich Americans — indisputably constitutional, as even Randy Barnett will tell you — and you’ve covered most of the country’s uninsured. Oh, and you can pass the whole thing through the budget reconciliation process."

Kevin Drum adds: "Ezra has them dead to rights on this. It's one thing to always push for the most conservative feasible policy — that's what I'd do if I were a conservative — but it's quite another to actively lobby for that policy and then, when you get it, immediately turn around and insist that the whole thing is just a slimy piece of political graft that deserves to be blown up by a politicized Supreme Court using a brand new constitutional distinction that no one had ever heard of before last year. Maybe all's fair in love and politics, but the eventual result of this kind of duplicity isn't likely to be either the most conservative possible healthcare plan or the most liberal possible plan. It's likely to be the crappiest possible plan."

Mac Flashback trojan exploits unpatched Java vulnerability

Mac Flashback trojan exploits unpatched Java vulnerability, no password needed "Developers behind the Flashback trojan for the Mac have updated it to exploit a vulnerability in the Java software framework that has yet to be patched for machines running Mac OS X, an antivirus firm warned on Monday."

F-Secure has recently joined others in counseling Mac users to disable Java on machines that don't regularly use it. The antivirus provider also has provided instructions for checking if your Mac is infected.

Those instructions offer some technical description but boil down to open Terminal and run these two commands:

defaults read /Applications/ LSEnvironment
defaults read ~/.MacOSX/environment DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES

For both you should get a result of "The domain/default pair of (...STUFF...) does not exist", if you don't check the page for details.

Tungurahua Erupts

Astronomy Picture of the Day shows us Volcano Tungurahua "Explanation: Volcano Tungurahua sometimes erupts spectacularly. Pictured above, molten rock so hot it glows visibly pours down the sides of the 5,000-meter high Tungurahua, while a cloud of dark ash is seen being ejected toward the left. Wispy white clouds flow around the lava-lit peak, while a star-lit sky shines in the distance. The above image was captured in 2006 as ash fell around the adventurous photographer. Located in Ecuador, Tungurahua has become active roughly every 90 years since for the last 1,300 years."

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