Thursday, August 30, 2012

Herman Cain on The Daily Show Last Night

The extended web interview is where all the magic happens:

What Killed the Linux Desktop?

Miguel de Icaza wrote What Killed the Linux Desktop and I find it hilarious that it's dated just yesterday. These two paragraphs appear near the end, separated by just two other paragraphs:

"Many hackers moved to OSX. It was a good looking Unix, with working audio, PDF viewers, working video drivers, codecs for watching movies and at the end of the day, a very pleasant system to use. Many exchanged absolute configurability of their system for a stable system."

"So Linux was left with idealists that wanted to design the best possible system without having to worry about boring details like support and backwards compatibility."

I really can't understand how "the best possible system" could not have working audio, video or PDF viewers. The next paragraph also gets something fundamental wrong:

"Meanwhile, you can still run the 2001 Photoshop that came when XP was launched on Windows 8. And you can still run your old OSX apps on Mountain Lion."

Turns out that's not so true. See in this timeframe Apple moved macs from PPC to Intel chips, a huge change. They included a binary compatibility layer that made the transition fairly seamless. In Lion, they removed that layer. Old PPC code doesn't run on Lion or Mountain Lion. Some things broke, probably most famously Quicken, but still Apple moved on (and Quicken ultimately got repaired).

Destruction from 'Just a Cat 1' Storm

Scientific American discusses Hurricane Isaac's impact, Destruction from 'Just a Cat 1' Storm "Along with wind speed, the sheer size of a storm, how quickly it is moving and the angle at which it's approaching land also influence its potential to wreak havoc. Isaac possessed some of the most menacing of these qualities"

Kubrick: One Point Perspective

Kubrick // One-Point Perspective from kogonada on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just Think No

It's rare that I agrre with Maureen Dowd but I really liked this column from a week ago, Just Think No about Todd Akin.

Republican National Convention: The one graph you need to see before watching

Ezra Klein Republican National Convention: The one graph you need to see before watching.

"On the Republican convention stage tonight, you’re going to see a really large clock. But the clock isn’t for keeping time. The idea isn’t to stop speakers from going over their allotted time, or the convention from running late. It’s a debt clock. And the idea is to blame President Obama and the Democrats for the national debt. But in doing so, the Republicans will end up blaming Obama for the policies they pushed in the Bush years, and the recession that began on a Republican president’s watch, and a continuation of tax cuts that they supported. They’ll have to. Because if they took all that off the debt clock, there wouldn’t be much debt there to blame him for at all."

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The Obama Administration Has Cut Taxes

The Obama administration has cut taxes

"As Dylan Matthews has written, the Obama administration has passed three major bills affecting the taxes people paid over the last four years. The stimulus, which included $289.6 billion in tax cuts; the 2010 tax deal, which included more than $800 billion in tax cuts; and the payroll tax deal, which extended the payroll tax cut and a handful of other policies through 2012. They also passed the Affordable Care Act, which included lots of tax cuts to help poorer people buy insurance and lots of tax increases to help pay for the tax cuts, but those changes don’t really take effect for a few years yet."

"Now, it’s true that Obama wants to raise taxes on rich people in the future. But that hasn’t happened yet. So far, it’s been tax cuts, just like it was in the Bush era. If tax cuts were enough to assure growth, we should have seen a rocketing economy over the last decade. To put things delicately, we did not. Conversely, the Clinton era, which started with a big tax increase, featured a boom."

Polls Agree, Obama Ahead by 1-2%

Nate Silver reports on a A Moment of Polling Clarity.

"Over the past several days, there have been 15 national polls released. It looks like everybody has been trying to get numbers out as a baseline before the party conventions. And they tell a pretty consistent story.

Nine of the 15 polls have President Obama ahead by either one or two percentage points. Three have Mr. Obama ahead by a slightly larger margin, between four and six percentage points. Another three have Mr. Romney ahead, each by a single percentage point.

On average between the 15 surveys, Mr. Obama leads by 1.6 percentage points. While there are some modest differences between them, pretty much every poll is within the margin of error of the others."

Texas Election Maps Blocked

SCOTUSblog reports Texas election maps blocked. "Finding that the Texas state legislature tried to make it look as if it were not drawing new election districts to cut down on minority voters’ strength at the polls, but actually did just that, a three-judge U.S. District Court in Washington on Tuesday refused to give legal clearance to new maps for electing the state’s thirty-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives and both houses of its state legislative body."

There's an update: "Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he will take “immediate steps” to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court."

TiVo Stream Makes Me Want to Upgrade to a TiVo Premiere

TiVo Stream Gets Viewers Off the Couch

"The $130 box, available Sept. 6 from and in Best Buy soon after that, streams content from your TiVo to up to four mobile devices in your home at high-definition quality. That lets me watch prerecorded shows while doing other things, like cooking or getting ready for work.

Stream also turns mobile devices into TVs of their own: You can scan the channel guide, select a show and watch it live. It also lets people wirelessly download content to their mobile devices for watching anytime, like on planes or during road trips.

TiVo Stream works with the iPad, iPhone and newer iPod touch models. A TiVo spokesman said an Android-compatible app is in the works."

Republican Retreads from Tampa covers the first day of the Republican Convention Republican Retreads from Tampa.

"On the first day of the Republican convention — marked by a delegate vote making former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the party’s official nominee for president — we’re already hearing a lot of exaggerated, misleading or downright false claims that we’ve heard before.

The theme of the day centered on repeated misrepresentations of a quote from President Obama. From the various speakers we also heard:

A misleading statistic about women’s job losses that has grown so stale it is now wholly false.
More bogus claims about ‘raiding’ Medicare and the doctor-patient relationship under Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
A completely false claim that more than half of the younger generation is unemployed. (Actually, 86 percent who want work have it.)
More false claims that Obama blocked the Keystone XL Pipeline. Construction has already begun on the southern leg of the project, and the company says it expects approval for the Canada-to-U.S. leg early next year."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The New Romney Campaign

Ezra Klein on The new Romney campaign "Chris Matthews and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had a … tense exchange on Morning Joe [yesterday] regarding the racial dimensions of Mitt Romney’s  birther joke and welfare ads."

"This isn’t where the Romney campaign hoped it would be in August. Recall that Team Romney began with three premises for how to win this election. The first was to make this a referendum, not a choice. The second was to keep it focused on the economy. The third was to bow to Obama’s essential likability by treating him as a decent guy who is simply in over his head.

In recent weeks, the Romney campaign has jettisoned every single one of those premises. In Paul Ryan, Romney found perhaps the only vice presidential candidate whose selection would immediately make the election a choice rather than a referendum. In focusing on Medicare cuts and changes to the welfare program, he’s taken the campaign almost entirely off the economy. And in moving toward ”a more combative footing,” he’s abandoned his effort to try to avoid alienating voters who basically like the president.

Perhaps each and every one of these moves is a genius strategic decision. But the Romney campaign presumably had good reasons for adopting those premises in the first place. That they’re changing strategy so rapidly and noticeably at this late point in the campaign does not suggest they’re particularly confident about where they stand. And as you can see in the Matthews clip, and this Tom Edsall column, and the general furor over Romney’s “birther” joke, this new strategy comes with significant risks for blowback."

Ed Kilgore adds Romney’s Big Pivot "So the Romney campaign has been pulled in its current direction by a distrustful party ‘base’ as much as it’s been pushed by whatever they’re seeing in the numbers and the focus groups. They’re beginning to run precisely the kind of campaign that the activist base thought John McCain should have run against Obama in 2008, but which McCain personally refused to carry out.

What’s different between the McCain and Romney campaigns is that the latter does not exhibit the sort of morally based friction against questionably ethical tactics that the former occasionally fell prey to, infuriating the Palin Wing of the party that wanted holy war 24-7. When the Romney campaign decides to change direction, it’s capable of doing so instantly, with no time wasted on scruples.

So it’s possible we’ll see future pivots by Team Mitt between now and November 6. But now that ‘the base’ has gotten its first taste of bloody red meat from the Romney campaign, it’s doubtful they’ll be happy with anything less. "

Arctic sea ice just hit a record low. Here’s why it matters.

Arctic sea ice just hit a record low. Here’s why it matters.

"The Arctic Ocean’s vast, frozen expanse of ice is rapidly vanishing. On Monday, scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that the extent of sea ice in the Arctic had reached its lowest level since satellite measurements began, breaking the previous record in 2007. That’s particularly striking because the summer melting season still has about two more weeks to go.

It’s clear that Arctic sea ice is now shriveling more quickly each year. And scientists say the melt has been driven by both global warming and other pollutants that humans have put into the atmosphere. So why does the disappearing sea ice actually matter? Partly it’s a sign of how quickly we’re heating the planet. Yet the vanishing sea ice can also have its own side effects, from warming up the Arctic further to unlocking once-frozen areas of the north for oil and gas exploration. Below is a rundown of what we know about Arctic sea ice and why it’s worth watching."

The Internet map

The Internet map "Every site is a circle on the map, and its size is determined by website traffic, the larger the amount of traffic, the bigger the circle. Users’ switching between websites forms links, and the stronger the link, the closer the websites tend to arrange themselves to each other."

I think when they say "Internet" they really mean "World Wide Web" but it's still kinda interesting

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Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012

In Focus remembers Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012. "This weekend, the world lost a true pioneer and reluctant hero, Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon. At the age of 82, Armstrong passed away due to complications resulting from a heart procedure. He earned his flight certificate at age 15, before he could even drive, and went on to study aerospace engineering. By age 20, he was a U.S. Navy Aviator, flying missions during the Korean War, and shortly afterward, he became an experimental research test pilot. Selected for the U.S. astronaut program, he first orbited the Earth in 1965, commanding NASA's Gemini 8 mission. Armstrong was later chosen to not only command the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, but to be the first person out the hatch, placing the first human footprints on lunar soil. It was his last mission to space -- on returning to Earth, after months of goodwill tours and interviews, Armstrong returned to a private life in his home state of Ohio. Here is a farewell to Neil Armstrong, who spent 82 years on this planet, and a few precious, historic moments on another world. [38 photos]"

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And here's something to keep in mind when looking at photos of Neil Armstrong on the moon, Keep in mind as you put together your Neil Armstrong packages tonight…

Friday, August 24, 2012

China Bridge Collapse Raises Infrastructure Concerns

China Bridge Collapse Raises Infrastructure Concerns.

"One of the longest bridges in northern China collapsed on Friday just nine months after it opened...A nearly 330-foot-long section of a ramp of the eight-lane Yangmingtan Bridge in the city of Harbin dropped 100 feet to the ground. Four trucks plummeted with it, resulting in three deaths and five injuries."

"According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Yangmingtan Bridge was the sixth major bridge in China to collapse since July 2011. Chinese officials have tended to blame the collapses on overloaded trucks, and did so again on Friday."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Niall Ferguson Finally Renders Me Speechless

Kevin Drum writes Niall Ferguson Finally Renders Me Speechless. Ferguson and Krugman apparently debate in the lastest issue of Newsweek and Ferguson says the opposite of the truth, Krugman calls him on it and Ferguson says no he's technically right.

"Seriously? That's it? By accounting only for the costs of ACA — that would be the insurance provisions — and not for any of the savings, Ferguson concludes that ACA increases the deficit? And then uses the CBO to back up his claim?

I'm speechless. How do you even react to something like this? Ferguson is like some clever middle schooler who thinks he's made a terrifically shrewd point by inserting 'insurance coverage provisions' into his sentence so that he can later argue that it's technically correct if anyone calls him on it. You can almost hear the adolescent tittering in the background.

For the rest of us, the facts are simple: Covering 30 million people does indeed cost money, and Obamacare includes a number of offsetting savings to pay for that. This is what Obama promised to do: to pay for ACA. And CBO says he did. 'Altogether,' says their report, the various provisions of PPACA are 'estimated to increase direct spending by $604 billion and to increase revenues by $813 billion over the 2012–2021 period.' That's a net deficit reduction of $210 billion."

Ezra Klein has more, The worst case against the Obama administration. " I actually can’t recall running into a piece in which the argument is so carefully written as to mislead the reader without, in most cases, being entirely untrue."

He goes on to point out that Ferguson has made a number of wrong predictions in the last few years, that interest rates will go up, inflation will go up, the chinese will stop buy US debt.

"If Ferguson’s theory had passed its previous tests and we had evidence that the debt is what’s holding back our economy, perhaps that would be a reasonable prediction. But Ferguson’s theory failed its previous tests, and there’s no evidence that debt is what’s holding back our economy right now. Which is one more thing Ferguson never tells you.

And this is really a rather important point about the current crisis. There is a strain of thinking that argued, from the beginning, that Obama’s policies would fail because the required borrowing would send interest rates soaring. Ferguson was a member of this club, but so was the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which warned, back in May 2009, that the bond vigilantes “appear to be returning with a vengeance now that Congress and the Federal Reserve have flooded the world with dollars to beat the recession.”

It is no surprise that most of the folks who bought into this theory were early and enthusiastic backers of Paul Ryan. After all, he bought into this theory, too, and his initial budgets included deep, quick cuts. More so than any other politician, he translated this theory into legislation. But the theory’s primary predictions proved wrong. That has not, however, had any reputational impact on the people who believed those predictions, and their champion is now on the GOP’s presidential ticket, but neither he nor his backers appear to have rethought any element of their critique or of their program."

So how could Newsweek publish such falsehoods (okay, lies)? Well they don't have fact checkers. "Krugman is correct — the magazine, like many others, does not have a fact-checking department. "We, like other news organisations today, rely on our writers to submit factually accurate material," Newsweek spokesman Andrew Kirk told POLITICO."

Ta-Nehisi Coates points out The Atlantic does extensive fact-checking (though I'm not so sure on Megan McArdle). "When I arrived at The Atlantic in 2008, I was subjected to arguably the most thorough fact-checking procedure in all of popular publishing. That meant submitting an annotated version of the story with all sources cited, turning over all my notes, transcripts or audio, and the names and numbers of each of my sources, all of whom were called to confirm the veracity of my quotes. When I freelanced for The New Yorker, it was pretty much the same deal and the same level of scrutiny. (I think The New Yorker actually pioneered this particular version of fact-check.)"

And Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic provides A Full Fact-Check of Niall Ferguson's Very Bad Argument Against Obama.

And Krugman comments on being wrong and on the NY Times fact-checking policies in Kinds Of Wrong.

Flawed Arguments

James Fallow wrote As a Harvard Alum, I Apologize.

"It's by the irrepressible Niall Ferguson, it is headlined 'Obama's Gotta Go,' and its case rests on logic of this sort:

Certainly, the stock market is well up (by 74 percent) relative to the close on Inauguration Day 2009. But the total number of private-sector jobs is still 4.3 million below the January 2008 peak.

Hmmm, what might possibly be the flaw in this comparison? Apart from the fact that Obama did not take office until January 2009 and that private sector jobs have recovered better in his first three-plus years than they did under George W. Bush. As The Atlantic's Derek Thompson recently pointed out:"


I'll add, I wish public sector job growth looked this good, but no, the right says we have to shrink government because that's what's preventing growth.

The Paul Ryan Pick

I've been traveling a bit and am a little behind on my political newsfeeds. Here are some articles from a week ago that I bookmarked and that still seem relevant.

Politico wrote GOP pros fret over Paul Ryan.

"In more than three dozen interviews with Republican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation conservatives alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election."

"They’re worried about inviting Medicare — usually death for Republicans — into the campaign. They’re worried it sidetracks the jobs issue. They’re worried he’ll expose the fact that Romney doesn’t have a budget plan. Most of all, they’re worried that Romney was on track to lose anyway — and now that feels all but certain."

"Another strategist emailed midway through Romney and Ryan’s first joint event Saturday: “The good news is that this ticket now has a vision. The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular.”"

Kevin Drum adds Smart Republicans Not Happy About Going Down With the Paul Ryan Ship. "Democrats are dancing in the corridors both privately and publicly. As well they should be: conservatives might like to talk a big game about cutting entitlements, but actions speak louder than words. In 2010, when they had a chance to win an election by running a scorched-earth campaign against President Obama's cuts to Medicare, they tossed their conservative principles firmly under the bus because they knew perfectly well that entitlement cuts are a big political loser."

Ed Kilgore adds The GOP Pros Agree: Ryan a Bad Idea. "We’re already hearing a lot from Republicans about Romney’s “courage” in choosing Ryan and the “tough choices” the ticket is willing to ask the American people to make. In Washington-speak, “courage” often means “folly,” and “tough choices” means advocating something voters don’t like. There is no inherent virtue in that; plenty of unpopular policy proposals are also stupid and evil, and in fact lots of them are contained in the Ryan Budget. But it’s worth remembering the code when you hear GOP insider talk about the ticket going forward."

And for good measure, Reagan's Director of the OMB wrote about Paul Ryan's Fairy-Tale Budget Plan. "PAUL D. RYAN is the most articulate and intellectually imposing Republican of the moment, but that doesn’t alter the fact that this earnest congressman from Wisconsin is preaching the same empty conservative sermon. Thirty years of Republican apostasy — a once grand party’s embrace of the welfare state, the warfare state and the Wall Street-coddling bailout state — have crippled the engines of capitalism and buried us in debt. Mr. Ryan’s sonorous campaign rhetoric about shrinking Big Government and giving tax cuts to “job creators” (read: the top 2 percent) will do nothing to reverse the nation’s economic decline and arrest its fiscal collapse."

"In short, Mr. Ryan’s plan is devoid of credible math or hard policy choices. And it couldn’t pass even if Republicans were to take the presidency and both houses of Congress. Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan have no plan to take on Wall Street, the Fed, the military-industrial complex, social insurance or the nation’s fiscal calamity and no plan to revive capitalist prosperity — just empty sermons."

Lightning Strikes

In Focus on Lightning Strikes. "Worldwide, lightning strikes around 50 times every second (more than 4 million times every day). Electrical imbalances generated by turbulent skies are suddenly balanced by a spectacular discharge tracing across a darkened sky -- a display that is both frightening and awe-inspiring. Collected below are recent images of lightning around the world, including a rare image of an upper atmosphere 'red sprite' flash captured by NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station. [24 photos]"

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Candidate's Comments on Rape Draw Criticism

The New York Times wrote Candidate's Comments on Rape Draw Criticism "Comments by Representative Todd Akin, a Republican running against Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, are drawing condemnation after he asserted that victims of ‘a legitimate rape’ have biological mechanisms to prevent pregnancy. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Mr. Akin told KTVI-TV of St. Louis in an interview that was broadcast on Sunday."

Nate Silver explains how this could be another 'macaca moment'. Akin Comments Could Swing Missouri Senate Race. "Mr. Long identified 21 cases in which the controversy surrounded a public statement the candidate had made. He found that, on average, these candidates received about 5 percent less of the vote than they otherwise would have on Election Day, controlling for other factors. Since most Senate races are two-way contests, losing five percentage points also implies that the opponent gains five percentage points, meaning that the net swing is equal to 10 points. If Mr. Akin lost a net of 10 points in the polls to Ms. McCaskill because of the remark, he would be trailing her by five points in surveys rather than leading her by about that margin."

Mother Jones connects it to Paul Ryan, "This isn't the first time Akin has expressed fringe views about rape in the context of the abortion debate. Last year, Akin, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and most of the House GOP co-sponsored a bill that would have narrowed the already-narrow exceptions to the laws banning federal funding for abortion—from all cases of rape to cases of 'forcible rape.'"

But I think my favorite comment so far is by Roger Ebert, "'You can't get pregnant from a legitimate rape.' Who said that? A Democrat or a Republican?"

Friday, August 17, 2012

Executive Excess 2012: The CEO Hands in Uncle Sam's Pocket

The Institute for Policy Studies put out a report, Executive Excess 2012: The CEO Hands in Uncle Sam's Pocket

"In this latest Institute for Policy Studies Executive Excess annual report, our 19th consecutive, we take a close look at the most lucrative tax incentives and subsidies behind bloated CEO pay and highlight those executives who have reaped the highest rewards from tax code provisions that actively encourage outrageously disproportionate executive pay. We also identify the top executives who have benefited the most from what have become known as ‘the Bush tax cuts’—the reductions in federal income tax rates on top-bracket, capital gains, and dividend income enacted in 2001 and 2003."

This is tweeted fact that got me to look at it: "Of last year’s 100 highest-paid U.S. corporate chief executives, 26 took home more in CEO pay than their companies paid in federal income taxes, up from the 25 we noted in last year’s analysis. Seven firms made the list in both 2011 and 2010."

It's a 50 page report that I've just skimmed so far, but there's some interesting stuff there.

Cockblock the Vote

Jon Stewart last night did a nice opening segment on Republican efforts in PA and OH to reform voting (that is to prevent enough Democrats from voting to let Romney win their state). Apparently the OH Secretary of State has caved. Still this is classic Stewart, informative and funny.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Curiosity and Mars Recon Orbiter send more postcards home

Ars Technica had a great post the other day of what Curiosity is up to. Wish you were here: Curiosity and Mars Recon Orbiter send more postcards home.

Boston T-Time

Stonebrown Design in Boston T-Time tries to reimagine the T Map to show travel times and discusses the limitations.

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Winners of the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012

In Focus show the Winners of the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012 "The winners of the 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest have just been announced, with a group of ten photos coming out on top, plus one Viewer's Choice winner. These eleven images were chosen from more than 12,000 entries submitted by 6,615 photographers from 152 countries. National Geographic was kind enough to allow me to share the winning photographs with you here, from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Also, be sure to see the earlier entry featuring 40 images from the submissions to this year's contest.. [11 photos]"

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Raise Money to Buy Nikola Tesla's Old Laboratory to Build a Museum

The Oatmeal is trying to raise money to buy Nikola Tesla's old laboratory to build a museum. That's a good cause. If you need a refresher on who Nikola Tesla was read, Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived.

Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy

I liked the first three Bourne movies. I didn't care for all the shaky cam with all the crazy fast cuts and during the Manhattan car chase in the third I kept wondering where the traffic was, but still I liked them. They had good action scenes, a plot, reasonable acting, all good.

I was looking forward to the fourth in the series. I really liked the cast and while the early reviews were mixed, many of the things I saw described as weaknesses, sounded like improvements to me. Turns out, not so much.

I like Jeremy Renner, I just which directors would let him act in his films. He's actually good at it. Think, The Town, The Hurt Locker and Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol. Yeah MI:4 had a more interesting character. I like Rachel Weiss a lot too, but again she only gets to be a real character in a scene or two.

Oddly this film takes place concurrently with the third film. While Treadstone (Bourne's program) is being exposed and shutdown, Edward Norton scrambles to shutdown another related program before it is exposed. Guess which program Renner is in? So Norton talks in a lot of different scenes to a bunch of different higher ups, but in the end it doesn't add anything to the story. It's just motivation, they're after Renner. Either just setup the motivation and don't waste time or add something interesting to that element of the story.

It's a Bourne film, so there should be good action sequences. There are only three and really only the middle one is good. I'll talk about them below but first a comment about the shaky cam. It wasn't too bad in this film and while there were a couple of really great shots, there was a lot of counter-productive moving camera.

A moving camera is supposed to make a scene more exciting. Visually there's more going on so that adds to the excitement of the scene. If there's a scene of boring talking heads, swinging the camera around them isn't going to help. It's still just boring talking. If the point is to actually be boring talking, that is the point is to show something mundane before a big action scene, then moving the camera around just defeats the purpose. Guess what happens in this film?

There's a lot of that in this film, defeating the purpose. At one point, Renner is confronted by three standard security guards. It's just a quick throw away scene, you know he's going to take them out quickly. The point is to show he's really out their league and to move the plot along a little showing they have some time pressure. So he takes them all out in a couple of seconds. It's shown with a couple dozen ridiculously short shots of a fist moving, something spinning, something else happening, etc.. Basically, it's a blur and then Renner is the only one standing. It's a waste. We knew the outcome, wouldn't it have been fun to actually see a choreographed fight showing how he took them out?

Spoilers below.

The whole opening setup with Renner is him on training mission in Alaska. Gorgeous scenery and I guess it gets across that he can take care of himself in the middle of nowhere. And when wolves attack. Then he meets up with another agent and it's not clear what their relationship is. Will they help or kill each other? At one point it looks like he's throwing Renner out and then in the next scene they're just hanging out together, and then the story just jumps someplace else. Why couldn't Renner have been on a real mission at the beginning?

The middle action scene at a large old house was pretty good. There was one really great camera move. Renner comes out of a basement, scales the outside of a building and goes in through a second story window. The camera follows behind him in a single shot going up and into the building. It's not too close so you just see the back of his head, it's far enough away you can see him scale the building for real. It's really nice. I wish the rest of the film was this good.

The chase in Manilla at the end is ridiculous. Renner is on a motorcycle weaving through cars stuck in traffic. The cars aren't moving yet he's being chased by a car that somehow is keeping up with him. It's not clear where the car is or how it manages to move since it's all closeups with quick cuts. A shot of a fender, the driver, a swerving camera blur. There's a crash and then he's next to the motorcycle, which is moving so he must be moving too, but that can't be. It makes absolutely no sense. Then they move him to a motorcycle which he should have been on in the first place, but then the motorcycles start doing ridiculous stuff. It was really disappointing.

During this scene I remember wishing Stanley Kubrick had filmed a car chase so that every other director could have an example of how to do it. As it stands they should all just refer to John Frankenheimer's Ronin.

The closing shot while the final credits role, was really pretty.

My New Desktop

Bad Astronomy wrote Curiosity’s looking a little blue.

"As I’ve pointed out before, most of Mars is covered in basalt, a blue-gray rock. When you hear about sand on Mars, it’s usually coarse-grained stuff made up of eroded basalt. However, there’s also much finer-grained dust which is high in iron oxide – rust – and it’s that which gives Mars its characteristic ruddy color.

That fine dust covers everything, making the planet red/orange/ochre. But there’s wind on Mars, and it can blow the dust around, revealing the grayer basalt underneath (like the dust devils do). And if there’s no natural wind, why, the thrusters from the rockets of a sky crane hovering over the surface as it lowers a one-ton rover to the ground will do just fine.

That part is actually pretty obvious in the picture. The thrusters blew around the dust, revealing the rock underneath, giving the landing site a bluer cast in the image (remember, it’s color enhanced)."


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Progressive Insurance Feels the Wrath of the Internet

Making the rounds of the Internet today, Matt Fisher wrote My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her....

"One indication that the case was pretty open-and-shut was that the other guy’s insurance company looked at the situation and settled with my sister’s estate basically immediately. Now, because the other driver was underinsured, that payment didn’t amount to much, but my sister carried a policy with Progressive against the possibility of an accident with an underinsured driver. So Progressive was now on the hook for the difference between the other guy’s insurance and the value of Katie’s policy."

Insurance companies are regulated by states and not the federal government. So each state is different. "In Maryland, you may not sue an insurance company when they refuse to fork over your money. Instead, what they had to do was sue the guy who killed my sister, establish his negligence in court, and then leverage that decision to force Progressive to pay the policy...At the trial, the guy who killed my sister was defended by Progressive’s legal team."

Gawker has a little more on the followup.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Republican Voter Suppression Efforts in Ohio

The Raw Story reports on a Rachel Maddow report, Republican voter suppression efforts are deadly serious "‘Each county’s election board in Ohio’s 88 counties is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats,’ Maddow explained. ‘In counties that tend to vote for the Republican candidate, like Warren and Butler counties, where John McCain won in ’08 by big margins — in those counties, Republicans and Democrats on the elections boards are voting together to allow early voting on nights and weekends. So that means more voting in Republican counties.

‘But in the counties that tend to go Democratic, like Cuyahoga and Franklin and Summit, where Barack Obama won by huge margins in 2008, the Republicans on those election boards are voting against early voting on nights and weekends. And guess who gets the break for the tie votes in those counties?’ None other than [Ohio's Republican Secretary of State] Jon Husted."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lies Are the New Truth

Paul Waldman wrote Lies Are the New Truth:

"I've been paying very, very close attention to political ads for a long time. In my former career as an academic I did a lot of research on political ads. I've watched literally every single presidential general election campaign ad ever aired since the first ones in 1952. I've seen ads that were more inflammatory than this one, and ads that were in various ways more reprehensible than this one (not many, but some). But I cannot recall a single presidential campaign ad in the history of American politics that lied more blatantly than this one.

You can get the details on those lies here or here, but it's something quite rare in politics. Usually candidates deceive voters by taking something their opponent says out of context, or giving a tendentious reading to facts, or distorting the effects of policies. But in this case, Romney and his people looked at a policy of the Obama administration to allow states to pursue alternative means of placing welfare recipients in jobs, and said, 'Well, how about if we just say that they're eliminating all work requirements and just sending people checks?' I have no idea if someone in the room said, 'We could say that, but it's not even remotely true,' and then someone else said, 'Who gives a crap?', or if nobody ever suggested in the first place that this might be problematic. But either way, they decided that they don't even have to pretend to be telling the truth anymore.

To get back to Newt, here's what happens when someone is questioned about it. Newt's argument is—and I'm not exaggerating here—that although the Romney ad makes false claims, that's OK because Barack Obama and those who work for him are, in Newt's opinion, the kind of people who would gut work requirements if they could, so therefore it's OK to say that they are actually doing it, even though they aren't."

Kevin Drum commented: "This is what's so striking about Romney's campaign. As Paul says, it's common to twist and distort and cherry pick. But Romney has flatly claimed that Obama said something that, in fact, a John McCain aide said. He's snipped out sentences from an Obama speech and spliced the two halves back together so nobody could tell what he did. Then he did it again to another Obama speech. And he unequivocally said that Obama plans to drop work requirements for welfare even though he's done nothing of the sort...But this is different. This is a presidential candidate just baldly making stuff up on the assumption that nobody will ever know."

Ryan Cooper followed up: "I half-disagree...It’s a slap in the face whose arrogant contempt couldn’t be more obvious. Romney is saying to the press, “You’re stupid, and gullible, and I dare you to call a spade a spade.” Now, someone betting on journalistic integrity in this country would lose a lot of money. But a lot of people watch Anderson Cooper. Even Brian Williams couldn’t stomach the ad which edited out the part where Obama was quoting a McCain staffer. Seems to me that we have a decent shot of getting these lies covered for what they are. Worth a shot, anyway."

Paul Krugman in Culture of Fraud. "The big story of the week among the dismal science set is the Romney campaign’s white paper on economic policy, which represents a concerted effort by three economists — Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, and John Taylor — to destroy their own reputations. (Yes, there was a fourth author, Kevin Hassett. But the co-author of “Dow 36,000″ doesn’t exactly have a reputation to destroy).

And when I talk about destroying reputations, I don’t just mean saying things I disagree with. I mean flat-out, undeniable professional malpractice. It’s one thing to make shaky or even demonstrably wrong arguments. It’s something else to cite the work of other economists, claiming that it supports your position, when it does no such thing — and don’t take my word for it, listen to the protests of the cited economists."

"Simon Wren-Lewis wonders what could have possessed Mankiw and Taylor to sell their souls this way. I won’t pretend to have a full answer. But surely part of it is simply that they have been caught up in the vortex of the broader Romney campaign — a campaign that has made fraudulence part of its standard operating procedure. Remember, Romney spent months castigating President Obama because he “apologizes for America” — something Obama has never, in fact, actually done. Then he spent weeks declaring that Obama has denigrated small business by claiming that businessmen didn’t actually build their own firms — all based on a remark that was clearly about infrastructure."

Declassified Photos Reveal CIA's Deep-Sea Rescue of a Spy Satellite

Danger Room writes Declassified Photos Reveal CIA's Deep-Sea Rescue of a Spy Satellite "Only July 10, 1971, America's newest photo reconnaissance satellite, the KH-9 Hexagon, dropped a capsule loaded with film toward the Earth. The re-entry vehicle was supposed to open its parachute; an American aircraft would snatch it out of the sky in mid-descent. But the chute was never unfurled. The re-entry vehicle hit the Pacific Ocean with a force of approximately 2,600 G's. And then it sunk down into the deep, before settling at 16,000 feet.

Shortly thereafter, officials from the U.S. Navy and the Central Intelligence Agency decided to go after the Hexagon capsule, using America's most advanced deep-sea exploration vehicle, the Trieste II. There were just two problems with the mission, an internal CIA memo noted: 'No object of this size had been actively searched for and located by sonar.' And 'the Trieste II had not gone below 10,000 feet.'

While the incident has been discussed publicly before, many details of what happened next have been locked in government archives for 40 years. On Wednesday, the CIA declassified documents and photographs showing how it went after the Hexagon capsule. Here's what they showed."

Humorist, 'This American Life' contributor David Rakoff dies at 47

This is sad. Humorist, 'This American Life' contributor David Rakoff dies at 47. That obituary includes this Daily Show appearance he made recently.

I remember watching this interview but I knew him because I had seen his recent Oscar winning Live Action Short, The New Tenants. Rakoff starred in and co-wrote it. You can see it on YouTube, below in two parts (sadly with squished faces). Fuck Cancer.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

People Believe Baskerville

Filmmaker Errol Morris ran a surreptitious test in the New York Times to determine "Could the mere selection of a font influence us to believe one thing rather than another?" He concludes "But is there a font that promotes, engenders a belief that a sentence is true? Or at least nudges us in that direction? And indeed there is. It is Baskerville."

Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth (Part One) is a fun (long) read.

I've changed my iPad's Instaper font from Georgia (second place) to Baskerville, so now I'll really believe all the articles I read.

90 Days, 90 Reasons

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Introducing 90 Days, 90 Reasons.:

"And until a few weeks ago, we were more or less in this camp, too. We had attended no rallies, donated no funds. No one we knew had. Everyone—no matter how inspired they were in 2008—was watching from the sidelines. Then we had a revelation, which sounds less like a revelation and more like a plainly obvious reality: if this doesn’t become an all-hands-on-deck movement to re-elect President Obama, he will lose. And Mitt Romney, who has campaigned as the most conservative Republican candidate in history, will become president."

"President Obama inherited all this. And he’s done a very good job of trying to get us out of the hole Republican leadership put us in. The economy is in better shape now than it was in 2008—that is beyond debate. He ended the war in Iraq and he’s nearly finished our role in Afghanistan. And he accomplished what Bush’s two wars were meant to do: he removed the threat of Osama bin Laden. He has made great strides in access to healthcare and higher education, in protecting the environment, in gay rights and women’s rights… The list goes on. And this list is the purpose of 90 Days, 90 Reasons. This initiative will provide daily reasons—concrete, factual, plain—to re-elect Barack Obama, and will also provide likely outcomes of a Romney presidency."


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Economists to Romney campaign: That’s not what our research says

Economists to Romney campaign: That’s not what our research says.

"On Tuesday, the Romney campaign responded to the fire it’s taking from economic analysts by unleashing some artillery of their own. They released a paper by four decorated economists associated with the campaign — Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, John Taylor, and Kevin Hassett — that tried to lend some empirical backing to “The Romney Program for Economic Recovery, Growth, and Jobs.”"

"Each of these sections include supporting documents from independent economists. And so I contacted some of the named economists to ask what they thought of the Romney campaign’s interpretation of their research. In every case, they responded with a polite version of Marshall McLuhan’s famous riposte. The Romney campaign, they said, knows little of their work. Or of their policy proposals."

"So even the studies that the Romney campaign’s economists handpicked to bolster their case don’t prove what the Romney campaign says they prove. And some of the key policy recommendations that flow from those studies are anathema to the Romney campaign. And in perhaps the key policy area highlighted by these studies, the Romney campaign doesn’t have a formal policy. If this is the best they can do in support of their economic plan, well, it’s not likely to quiet the critics."

Romney's campaign just keeps lying, I'm waiting for the Obama ad that points them all out and actually uses the word lie.

Mars Photos from Earth

"Irony: The first real flying saucer is from Earth. And it landed on Mars."


You can see the processed images from Curiosity here and the raw images here (I prefer for the former).

The Romney campaign says stimulus doesn’t work. Here are the studies they left out.

The Romney campaign says stimulus doesn’t work. Here are the studies they left out.

"As the descriptions above make clear, none of the studies are flawless. But while the optimistic studies do, in fact, support the conclusion that the stimulus worked, there is some reason to doubt that the pessimistic studies support the conclusion that it failed. Conley and Dupor found a negative effect on employment and output but, as they concede and critics of the study have emphasized, their results are not statistically significant. Taylor found that the stimulus did not increase government purchases significantly but, as Noah Smith argued, this result could be consistent with the stimulus increasing employment and output. Oh and Reis found a small multiplier for tax transfers of the kind found in the stimulus package, but, as they concede, their model produces estimates for key figures that are empirically implausible. Using more plausible figures produces a significantly larger multiplier, meaning the package was more effective than the model initially suggested. Due to these issues, I’m inclined to believe that the preponderance of evidence indicates the stimulus worked."

Romney tax plan on table. Debt collapses table.

Following up on my earlier post Romney Tax Plan, here's Ezra Klein's take, Romney tax plan on table. Debt collapses table.

"The truth is that Romney is afraid to put his plan on the table. He has promised to reduce the deficit, but refused to identify the spending he would cut. He has promised to reform the tax code, but refused to identify the deductions and loopholes he would eliminate. The only thing he has put on the table is dessert: a promise to cut marginal tax rates by 20 percent across the board and to do so without raising the deficit or reducing the taxes paid by the top 1 percent."

He then goes through the analysis by the Tax Policy Center and the Romney Campaign (weak) rebuttal.

"I can describe Mitt Romney’s tax policy promises in two words: mathematically impossible."

Could GPS Spoofing Cause Another Flash Crash?

The Big Picture writes Could GPS Spoofing Cause Another Flash Crash?. Many financial systems use GPS to get accurate timestamps (GPS works by putting atomic clocks in satellites and broadcasting timestamps, your GPS clock is the most accurate you have). It turns out civilian GPS is easy to spoof, just fly a drone and broadcast fake timestamps. Apparently the major exchanges protect against this (not sure how, maybe they have their own atomic clocks) but high frequency traders (who really demand nanosecond accuracy) who are co-located to exchanges (to keep wires short) may be vulnerable.

The Movie Math Quiz by Spiked Math

The Movie Math Quiz by Spiked Math is really really hard. Most of the films are reasonably well known but others are quite obscure. There's a lot of math I used to know.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Mark Twain Filmed by Thomas Edison in 1909

It's a really boring film. Someone should make a modern day action movie trailer out of this. (via The Atlantic)

2012 London Olympics

Amazing Olympic photos from In Focus and The Big Picture.

Half of US Counties Now Considered Disaster Areas

Half of US counties now considered disaster areas "The U.S. Department of Agriculture's addition of the 218 counties means that more than half of all U.S. counties — 1,584 in 32 states — have been designated primary disaster areas this growing season, the vast majority of them mired in a drought that's considered the worst in decades."

"The USDA uses the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor to help decide which counties to deem disaster areas, which makes farmers and ranchers eligible for federal aid, including low-interest emergency loans. To help ease the burden on the nation's farms, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday opened up 3.8 million acres of conservation land for ranchers to use for haying and grazing. Under that conservation program, farmers have been paid to take land out of production to ward against erosion and create wildlife habitat."

"As of this week, nearly half of the nation's corn crop was rated poor to very poor, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. About 37 percent of the U.S. soybeans were lumped into that category, while nearly three-quarters of U.S. cattle acreage is in drought-affected areas, the survey showed."

Monday, August 06, 2012

Curiosity Costs

I wanted to explore this a little more, "In case you missed it earlier - Curiosity cost $2.5B. Americans spend $7B on potato chips annually. To say we can't afford this is nonsense".

NASA Budget: Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) project says "The current life cycle cost is estimated at $2,476.3 million." But you have to realize, the program started in 2003 and while operations are expect to run just more than a year, there's another 4 years of research after that. That's 14 years. So Curiosity is costing on average $177 million a year.

"NASA spokesman Guy Webster said the rover, named Curiosity, is currently supporting about 700 people, but has supported 7,000 jobs at various times over the last eight years...He said there are currently up to 400 NASA employees working on the project, in addition to 300 scientists outsourced by the government agency."

The potato chip number was harder to track down. It seemed to start in 2010. John Doerr said it was more than $5 billion. Science News said we spend $7 billion. Robert Lehrman said $8 billion. Back in 2008 the BBC quoted former FEC chairman Michael Toner as saying we spent $3 billion on potato chips the prior year.

I think it got most coverage from George Will who in an Oct 17, 2010 article said it was $7.1 billion. What's fun is that almost exactly two years prior, Mr. Will said it was $6.3 billion.

NPR had a report Feb 18, 2011 about campaign spending. "Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay made the case on C-SPAN a few years ago: "There's not enough money in politics. You know, Americans spend more on potato chips than they do on elections?" [Historian Robert] Mutch says people have been using arguments like that for a long time: "Back in the '30s, it was Wrigley's gum." But the argument may need updating again. The American Snack Food Association says potato chip sales are somewhere north of $3.5 billion."

I couldn't find an American Snack Food Association but there is a SFA which is "an international trade association" which I think just means lobbying group as they're based just outside of DC. They do publish a State of the Snack Food Industry Report, but I'm not paying $300 for it.

Curiosity Landed on Mars


There are two craft flying around Mars. I hadn't realized that the Curiosity landing was timed so that it could be photographed by them. I believe there is a video still to come but here's a photo of Curiosity with its supersonic parachute deployed as taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter:


"The simple and sheer amazingness of this picture cannot be overstated. Here we have a picture taken by a camera on board a space probe that’s been orbiting Mars for six years, reset and re-aimed by programmers hundreds of millions of kilometers away using math and science pioneered centuries ago, so that it could catch the fleeting view of another machine we humans flung across space, traveling hundreds of million of kilometers to another world at mind-bending speeds, only to gently – and perfectly – touch down on the surface mere minutes later."

To add more to that, MRO is orbiting Mars at about 2 miles per second, the camera that took this, HiRISE, is actually a 20 inch diameter telescope, at the time Curiosity was moving between 200 and 900 miles per hour.

@MarsCuriosity if the official twitter account. It has a sense of humor:

10:31PM: "I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!! #MSL"

which is referencing a Wil Wheaton standard joke. and...

10:47PM No photo or it didn't happen? Well lookee here, I'm casting a shadow on the ground in Mars' Gale crater #MSL

Some other tweets I found amusing:@timhwang: "A+++++ WOULD LAND AGAIN GREAT SHIPPING PRODUCT EXACTLY AS DESCRIBED"

@rsingel: "Curiousity would send more photos, but man, do you know what AT&T charges for planetary data roaming?"

@loweringthebar: "Putting a robot on Mars: $2.5 billion. TSA budget 2012: $7.85 billion. And the robot works."

@Prospectus: "NBC paid $1.3 Billion for Olympics rights. Queen’s diamond jubilee cost £3 Billion. Curiosity cost $2.5 Billion."

@NicklnNC: "In case you missed it earlier - Curiosity cost $2.5B. Americans spend $7B on potato chips annually. To say we can't afford this is nonsense."

@somebadideas: "Fuck it let's start a kickstarter for NASA (in all seriousness low orbit is now domain of entrepreneurship almost wholly)"

I hope this response gets more play:

@cthulhucore: "Lots of people harping on about "crowd funding" NASA. Know what the original crowd funding is? Taxation. Give NASA more tax $$$"

And this one:

@misterjayem: "Reminder: Government programs can't ever accomplish anything ever. #NASA #FTW"

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Curiosity Landing on Mars Tonight

The new Mars rover, Curiosity lands on Mars tonight at about 1:30am eastern time. I'll be watch. The Atlantic has "A cheat-sheet guide to the dramatic descent of the Little Rover That Could" Curiosity Lands on Mars: Know What You're Watching When You're Watching '7 Minutes of Terror' which is really well done and includes links of where to watch it.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Romney Tax Plan

So the problem with Romney's tax plan is that he really hasn't specified enough to call it a plan. He said he'd cut some taxes for the wealthy and he'd keep things revenue neutral, but he didn't say what spending reductions there would be (because no one wants to talk about that in an election, particularly when your math doesn't work). So the Tax Policy Center issued a report, trying to make some assumptions. They concluded that Romeny will have to significantly raise taxes on the middle class to make up the difference. I didn't give it much notice as it's obviously based on assumptions. But here are a few very good points about the TPC report.

Krugman on the TPC report about the effects of Romney's tax plans, Dooh Nibor. "The question one might ask is, did TPC – which is actually painstakingly and painfully nonpartisan – make questionable assumptions to get its results, so that some other set of assumptions might portray Romneynomics in a more favorable light? And the answer is no: TPC actually bent over backwards to literally give Romney every possible benefit of the doubt.

Here’s what they did. They took Romney at his word that he plans to offset his cuts in income tax rates by broadening the base, that is, limiting exemptions and other loopholes. They also assumed, however, that Romney would not be willing to tax dividends and capital gains as ordinary income, since he has made it clear that he opposes any rise in taxes on investment income. As they point out, this leaves a relatively small pool of loopholes to close – big enough that the Romney tax cuts could, in principle, be paid for by base broadening, but not with a lot of room to spare.

So which loopholes are closed? TPC made the most Romney-friendly assumption they could – namely, that base broadening is concentrated on top incomes as much as possible. First you eliminate all deductions that benefit those with more than $1 million in income; then all that benefit those with between $500,000 and $1 million; and so on.

The key point is then that even if you do this, the tax cuts Romney gives high-income Americans are bigger than the loopholes he could conceivably close"

Brad DeLong goes into a little more detail: "Romney says he wants to make up the $360 billion/year of reduced revenue by closing "loopholes"--but he has not said which "loopholes": he has only said that the mortgage interest deduction, the savings-program 401(k) deduction, and like provisions are not "loopholes".

By Brown et al.'s count--which looks right to me--Romney has left only $550 billion/year of "loopholes" on the table: . Of those, some $165 billion/year flow to those reporting incomes of more than $200,000/year. That means that even if--even if: it ain't going to happen because he ain't going to push Congress to do it--Romney eliminates all of his on-the-table "loopholes" as they apply to America's upper class, he will have in the long run redistributed some $85 billion/year to America's upper class--and raised taxes in the long run by $85 billion/year on the middle and working classes if he is going to keep the long-run budget deficit from growing."

He points out that Romney's people (Kevin Hassett) say his tax cuts for the wealthy will boost the economy but DeLong does the math and even if it does (which it won't, it didn't under Bush) it's still not enough to cover the difference. He also takes Hassett to task for his previous Dow 3600 prediction.

And really this is all about if you want to believe in voodoo economics. If tax cuts for the rich really do boost the economy for everyone else then you're willing to believe this wil work, but all the evidence says it doesn't work. Still it's the difference between the Democrats and Republicans. Republicans also think this:

Capitalismworksbest650w copy

Daily Chart Olympics: The Global Games

The Economist posts The Global Games: The shifting pattern of national participation in the modern Olympics.

"The timeline below, the first in our series of Olympic daily charts, shows how these numbers have changed since the days of the first modern games."

I didn't realize that it took until 1988 until there was near universal participation among nations.

London 2012 Olympics Pictures

The Big Picture shows us the London 2012 Olympics "The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad (and known informally as London 2012) are in full swing in London, United Kingdom. Around 10,500 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees (the group responsible for organizing their people's participation in the games) will compete. Thousands and thousands of images will be made in London of the athletes and the spectators; the venues and the celebrations; the pomp and the circumstance. A search of current images in a wire database reveals images coming into the system at a rate of over 1,000 an hour during the hours of competition, resulting in a major picture editing challenge. A small sampling follows."

Curiosity Just Days Away From Mars

In Focus writes Curiosity Just Days Away From Mars "More than eight months ago, on November 26, 2011, NASA launched its newest rover named Curiosity from Florida's Cape Canaveral, headed to the planet Mars. Now, after traveling hundreds of millions of kilometers, the landing is scheduled to take place at 1:31 am Eastern Time on Monday, August 6 (10:31 pm August 5, Pacific Time). The capsule containing the rover will experience 'seven minutes of terror', decelerating through the Martian atmosphere, as a series of entry events quickly take place, ending with a rocket-powered sky crane lowering the rover gently to the surface. Curiosity is a beast of a rover, weighing one ton, measuring ten feet long by seven feet tall (at the top of the mast), and powered by a plutonium-238 fueled electrical generator. The rover carries ten instruments, including several high-resolution cameras, and a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument called ChemCam that can vaporize tiny amounts of minerals and analyze their components. If all goes according to plan, Curiosity is scheduled for a stay on Mars of about 668 Martian sols, or nearly two Earth years, starting in Gale crater. Researchers hope to use the tools on Curiosity to study whether the area in Gale crater has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed. (Most of these photos were featured in a November, 2011 entry, when Curiosity was launched). [36 photos]"

Playing to Win in Badminton

Playing to Win in Badminton "It's an embarrassing time for Olympic badminton. But not because some players lost on purpose—because someone created horrificly bad tournament rules and then tried to blame the competitors for playing to win."

For another view, I heard an NPR piece about someone that had a similar experience in high school sports. His teammates were discussing throwing a match to change the brackets. Their coach overheard and gave them a speech that stuck with him for the rest of his life. He said that when you decide to do such a thing you believe you can beat one team and can't beat another. That's arrogance for the first and cowardice for the second and both defeat the point of competition.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

I have to appreciate this post on Coding Horror, But You Did Not Persuade Me. It references The Last King of Scotland which I really liked and Google's penchant to test 41 shades of blue (which I do not like).

It got me to read something I've known of but never read, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

"I re-read Letter from a Birmingham Jail every year because I believe it is the single best persuasive essay I've ever read. It is remarkably persuasive without ever resorting to anger, incivility, or invective. Read it now."

I agree, it's really amazing. I'm not sure how I managed to graduate high school without reading it.

Mitt Romney’s Search for Simple Answers

Jared Diamond on Mitt Romney’s Search for Simple Answers.

"It is not true that my book ‘Guns, Germs and Steel,’ as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, ‘basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth.’ That is so different from what my book actually says that I have to doubt whether Mr. Romney read it."

"Mitt Romney may become our next president. Will he continue to espouse one-factor explanations for multicausal problems, and fail to understand history and the modern world? If so, he will preside over a declining nation squandering its advantages of location and history."

Update: More here.


Pretty fun and creepy short film which was made as a graduatino project, (via jwz):

Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Washington Union Station Master Plan: Why It Costs $7 Billion

Washington Union Station Master Plan: Why It Costs $7 Billion "So that is how you get a mega-project. The issue isn’t that Akridge’s development requires a $7 billion overhaul of Union Station. But if Akridge’s development goes through, there’ll be no more opportunity to overhaul the tracks. And Amtrak, MARC, and VRE want to overhaul the tracks to increase platform width. And once you’re mucking with the tracks, you have to remove the garage. The garage is a key revenue center for the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation so they’ll want to put it someplace else. And once you’re building a cavern, the logic of putting a bunch of stuff in it looks compelling."

Romney Praises Health Care In Israel

It seems all the reporting on Romney's trip to Europe and the middle east are about his gaffes. There seem to be a lot of them (here's one and some more about it.) but I'm sure it won't amount to much come November (other than a missed opportunity).

Still I always find things like this interesting. Here's Romney praising another health care system even though it seems to be everything he hates about Obamacare.

Romney praises health care in Israel, where research says ‘strong government influence’ has driven down costs

"Romney’s point about Israel’s success in controlling health care costs is spot on: Its health care system has seen health care costs grow much slower than other industrialized nations.

How it has gotten there, however, may not be to the Republican candidate’s liking: Israel regulates its health care system aggressively, requiring all residents to carry insurance and capping revenue for various parts of the country’s health care system.

Israel created a national health care system in 1995, largely funded through payroll and general tax revenue. The government provides all citizens with health insurance: They get to pick from one of four competing, nonprofit plans. Those insurance plans have to accept all customers—including people with pre-existing conditions—and provide residents with a broad set of government-mandated benefits."

New Air Force Toys

Danger Room had a few interesting articles, How to Defeat the Air Force's Powerful Stealth Fighter.

"In mid-June, 150 German airmen and eight twin-engine, non-stealthy Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s in basic fighter maneuvers meant to simulate a close-range dogfight.

The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. ‘We were evenly matched,’ Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. ‘They didn’t expect us to turn so aggressively.’

Gruene said the Raptor excels at fighting from beyond visual range with its high speed and altitude, sophisticated radar and long-range AMRAAM missiles. But in a slower, close-range tangle — which pilots call a ‘merge’ — the bigger and heavier F-22 is at a disadvantage. ‘As soon as you get to the merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,’ Gruene said."

Also, Killer-Drone Showdown Set as Lockheed Unveils Jet-Powered 'Bot.

"Sometime in the next few years the world’s most sophisticated drone prototypes will likely face off in what could be a multi-billion-dollar competition to shape the future of air warfare. And now we finally know what all four contestants look like.

On Friday, number-one defense contractor Lockheed Martin released the first official teaser image of its Sea Ghost jet-powered killer drone. Along with previously disclosed unmanned aerial vehicle designs from rivals Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, the Sea Ghost will go head-to-head for a Navy contract to put fast, stealthy, missile- and bomb-armed drones on the decks of aircraft carriers by 2018."

Here are some pics and info about Northrop's entry, the X-47B.

So my first thought for the F-22 issue was when will there be Babylon-5 ftyle small drones flying around it to handle fighters that get to close?

Lessons in website security anti-patterns by Tesco

Troy Hunt: Lessons in website security anti-patterns by Tesco is pretty entertaining. It starts from this tweet: "Passwords are stored in a secure way. THey're only copied into plain text when pasted automatically into a password reminder mail."

There's a lot of irony in the article so if you're not particularly knowledgable on the topic you might miss some of the snark. If passwords are really stored securely they wouldn't be able to email them to you when you forget them, instead they would create a new (one use) temporary password and send that to you and then make you create a new one as soon as you login.

When is Mars Closer Than London?

I don't have that many complaints about NBC's olympic coverage, but I loved this tweet: "This weekend @NASA will land a rover on Mars & it will be televised with less delay than the Olympics."

The Mars Curiosity Rover landing system is crazy. More details here.