Friday, May 24, 2013

What Really Happens On A Teen Girl's iPhone

What Really Happens On A Teen Girl's iPhone is pretty frightening. Here's just one tidbit.

"Not having an iPhone can be social suicide, notes Casey. One of her friends found herself effectively exiled from their circle for six months because her parents dawdled in upgrading her to an iPhone. Without it, she had no access to the iMessage group chat, where it seemed all their shared plans were being made. 'She wasn’t in the group chat, so we stopped being friends with her,’ Casey says. ‘Not because we didn’t like her, but we just weren’t in contact with her.’"

The Daily Show

The Daily Show was particularly good last night. First was a segment that talked about the DOJ investigating journalists and what else they're concentrating on and what they aren't.

Then Jason Jones talks with Wayne Allyn Root about being profiled. Mostly I don't care for these segments but sometimes they just nail how to public shame someone right to their face. And sometimes they're too stupid to realize it.

Hardwood Escher tesselated interlocking lizard tiles

Boing Boing points out you can buyHardwood Escher tesselated interlocking lizard tiles "The Spanish firm Arbore offered these custom Escher-inspired floor tiles back in 2011; from the looks of things, they're still available. "


California Obamacare Premiums Lower Than Expected

Sarah Kliff wrote California Obamacare premiums: No ‘rate shock’ here. "These premium rates, released Thursday, help answer one of the biggest questions about Obamacare: How much health insurance will cost...Multiple projections expected premiums to be relatively high...Now we have California’s rates, and they appear to be significantly less expensive than what forecasters expected."

Ezra Kline summed up, "The California exchange will have 13 insurance options, and the heavy competition appears to be driving down prices."

Krugman on Japan

Krugman on Japan the Model

"In a sense, the really remarkable thing about ‘Abenomics’ — the sharp turn toward monetary and fiscal stimulus adopted by the government of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe — is that nobody else in the advanced world is trying anything similar. In fact, the Western world seems overtaken by economic defeatism.

In America, for example, there are still more than four times as many long-term unemployed workers as there were before the economic crisis, but Republicans only seem to want to talk about fake scandals. And, to be fair, it has also been a long time since President Obama said anything forceful publicly about job creation.

Still, at least we’re growing. Europe’s economy is back in recession, and it has actually grown a bit less over the past six years than it did between 1929 and 1935; meanwhile, it keeps hitting new highs for unemployment. Yet there is no hint of a major change in policy. At best, we may be looking at a slight relaxation of the savage austerity programs Brussels and Berlin are imposing on debtor nations."

Amazing Latte Art

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Iran Has Hacked US Energy Companies

Iran Has Hacked US Energy Companies "According to the WSJ, Iran has hacked US oil, gas and power companies. The hackers were able to gain access to control-system software 'that could allow them to manipulate oil or gas pipelines'. Basically, the hackers are far enough inside that people are starting to get worried."

That sounds bad. Are control systems on the Internet or is this a Stuxnet-like USB stick attack?

NYT dumps a copyright snowfall on startup referencing its work

Sometimes lawyers just go too far. NYT dumps a copyright snowfall on startup referencing its work.

The Senate Is Threatening Fillibuster Reform

Apparently Sarah Binder is one of the best Congressional researchers. She wrote, Is nuclear winter coming to the Senate this summer?.

"It seems the Senate could have a really hot summer.  Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has reportedly threatened to ‘go nuclear’ this July—meaning that Senate Democrats would move by majority vote to ban filibusters of executive and judicial branch nominees.  According to these reports, if Senate Republicans block three key nominations (Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Thomas Perez at Labor, and Gina McCarthy at EPA), Reid will call on the Democrats to invoke the nuclear option as a means of eliminating filibusters over nominees."

She gets into some MAD logic. "Reid isn’t the only actor with a threat: given Republicans’ aggressive use of Rule 22, Republicans can credibly threaten to retaliate procedurally if the Democrats go nuclear. And that might be a far more credible threat than Reid’s. We know from the report on Reid’s nuclear thinking that “senior Democratic Senators have privately expressed worry to the Majority Leader that revisiting the rules could imperil the immigration push, and have asked him to delay it until after immigration reform is done (or is killed).” That tidbit suggests that Democrats consider the GOP threat to retaliate as a near certainty. In other words, if Republicans decide not to block all three nominees and Democrats don’t go nuclear, we might reasonably conclude that the minority’s threat to retaliate was pivotal to the outcome. As Steve Smith, Tony Madonna and I argued some time ago, the nuclear option might be technically feasible but not necessarily politically feasible."

Jonathan Bernstein followed this up, What Happens If Harry Reid Goes Nuclear? He makes two points.

"The first is that a lot of liberals will read dismiss it, claiming that Republicans are already maximizing obstruction. That is incorrect. Only one judicial nomination has been defeated by filibuster during the current Congress; there are also a handful of other judicial and executive branch nominations which probably have not been brought to the floor because Reid doesn’t have 60. On the other hand, there’s a long list of nominations that the Senate has confirmed so far this year. There’s also one judicial selection who withdrew after “blue slip” obstruction, but that speaks to Sarah’s point: Republicans could make more trouble in other ways than they currently do."

"I’m very hesitant to disagree with Sarah, but I really don’t think much of the retaliation threat. It makes sense to threaten to shut down the Senate, but after majority-imposed reform is imposed, does it makes sense to carry out that threat? I don’t think so — because if it was in the GOP’s interest to shut down the Senate, they would be doing it now. In other words, I don’t think Republican Senators hold off on more extreme obstruction now because they’re nice; I think they do it because they believe it’s in their interest. And once they’re faced with a new status quo, it would turn out that more less the same incentives apply."

Ars Technica on asm.js

I've never written JavaScript code (aside from some tiny bookmarklets) so I appreciated Ars Technica's summary of the state of JavaScript in it's description of asm.js. Surprise! Mozilla can produce near-native performance on the Web.

Seven thrilling facts about carbon taxes from the CBO

Seven thrilling facts about carbon taxes from the CBO "But the details are always thorny: How big should the tax be? Should the revenue be rebated to the public? How do you avoid putting a heavy burden on the most vulnerable? The newest analysis from the CBO delves into all of those questions and more."

Meanwhile China reveals details of first carbon trading scheme. "The world’s biggest carbon emitter, China is planning to experiment with carbon trading schemes during the next three years as it seeks to cut emissions. Beijing is targeting a 40 per cent reduction in emissions relative to economic output by 2020, from 2005 levels, but hasn’t identified what means it will use to reach that goal."

(FT wants me to use their tools to share, but they didn't have a blogging option and I didn't copy the whole article just the summary opening paragraph with a link to their site. That should be fine fair use, as I'm directing people to them.)

Have U.S. states figured out a way to avoid a global race to the bottom on taxes?

Apple's testimony the other day on it's corporate taxes brings up the question of what to do about them. It's a world wide problem and how do you avoid a race to the bottom (I just kept thinking that Ireland was the Delaware (in terms of incorporating) of the world). It turns out there has been a recent good idea for how states can deal with corporate taxes. Have U.S. states figured out a way to avoid a global race to the bottom on taxes?

"So a number of states have come up with a simple way to calculate what firms owe them in taxes: If a company sells its product or services in a given state, it pays a tax proportionate to the sales in that state.

Here’s how it would work. Let’s say a company earns 20 percent of its sales in California. The company would pay 20 percent of its worldwide sales to California at the state’s corporate tax rate. No need to worry about where the firm has offices or where its employees work — and no chance of the firms shifting their income to other states using elaborate, hard-to-trace methods."

Another model is getting rid of corporate taxes all together. I'm not so convinced.

Wonkbook: Bernanke lashes Congress

Wonkbook sums up Bernanke's testimony to Congress that no one paid any attention to. Bernanke lashes Congress

"The result, as Neil Irwin writes, was an unusually blunt testimony from the central bank chief. He basically walked up to Congress and said, ‘You’re the reason the economy isn’t taking off more.

’This is why people need to stop celebrating our rapidly falling deficits. Our deficits aren’t dropping because we’re doing something right. They’re dropping because we’re doing everything wrong. We’re cutting deficits much too quickly in the next few years — that’s what Bernanke’s testimony is about. We’re letting them rise (albeit modestly) between 2016 and 2023. We’re doing basically nothing about long-term deficits, which is where the problem actually lies. And we’re using policies, like sequestration, that most everyone agrees are bad policy — so we’re cutting spending by cutting the wrong kind of spending.

No wonder Bernanke’s irked."

How To Make a Titanium Ring With LED-Illuminated Jewels

KdN - Kokes dot Net "The final idea was to embed a LED and copper coil assembly inside the titanium ring, illuminating it from under the stones when it was in close proximity to an induced alternating magnetic field (henceforth called 'the transmitter'). Autodesk Inventor helped me develop all of the dimensions and constraints for the design. Having some help, I was able to obtain her ring size and the rest of the measurements were based from there."


Lots of nice challenges overcome in the design and building process.

Chuck Grassley Doesn't Understand What ‘Packing The Court' Means

Sorry, Chuck Grassley. Obama isn’t ‘packing the court.’

Apparently the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) thinks 'packing the court' means 'nominate'. Thankfully Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) corrected him.

The Act of Killing Trailer

There's now a trailer for The Act of Killing at iTunes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Humble a Wing Nut - Ask For an Explanation

Bloomberg reports on How to Humble a Wing Nut.

"For a positive answer, consider an intriguing study by Philip Fernbach, a University of Colorado business school professor, and his colleagues. Their central finding is that if you ask people to explain exactly why they think as they do, they discover how much they don’t know -- and they become more humble and therefore more moderate."

"The results were stunning. On every issue, the result of requesting an explanation was to persuade people to give a lower rating of their own understanding -- and to offer a more moderate view on each issue. In a follow-up experiment, Fernbach and his co-authors found that after being asked to explain their views, people were less likely to want to give a bonus payment to a relevant advocacy group.

Interestingly, Fernbach and his co-authors found no increase in moderation when they asked people not to “describe all the details you know” about the likely effects of the various proposals, but simply to say why they believe what they do. If you ask people to give reasons for their beliefs, they tend to act as their own lawyers or public relations managers, and they don’t move toward greater moderation. The lesson is subtle: What produces an increase in humility, and hence moderation, is a request for an explanation of the causal mechanisms that underlie people’s beliefs."

How One Heroic Mom Single-Handedly Stopped the London Terror Attack

The next time someone repeats "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun" remember this amazing story. How One Heroic Mom Single-Handedly Stopped the London Terror Attack

"Speaking with the Daily Telegraph, Loyau-Kennett described jumping off a bus in order to attend to the soldier's wounds.

'And then when I went up there was this black guy with a revolver and a kitchen knife, he had what looked like butcher’s tools and he had a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives and he said 'move off the body,' she said. 'So I thought 'OK, I don’t know what is going on here’ and he was covered with blood. I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else. I thought these people usually have a message so I said 'what do you want?''

Loyau-Kennett says the man confessed to the soldier's slaying, and then declared, 'I killed him because he killed Muslims.'

Despite earlier reports that the men were possibly drunk or on drugs, Loyau-Kennett says the man she spoke with was neither. 'He was in full control of his decisions and ready to everything he wanted to do,' she told the Telegraph.

'We want to start a war in London tonight,' Loyau-Kennett recalled one of the men saying.

She kept both of them talking by trying to persuade them to hand over their weapons, and distracting them from the fact that they were slowly being surrounded by police.

The two were subsequently shot and taken into custody."

Andrew Sullivan Now Find A Flat Tax Irrelevant

The Current Irrelevance Of A Flat Tax

"Given the extremes of inequality we are now facing – and likely to intensify as technology cuts yet another swathe through entire industries that sustain a middle class – I have to say I am pragmatically against such a tax now, even though I have consistently supported one in the past. I’m only flip-flopping, I hope, in the best way. A flat tax remains theoretically and symbolically deeply attractive to me. I still believe that penalizing people for succeeding in our economy is unjust to those individuals. But in our current contingency of accelerating inequality, a flat tax would be socially destructive.

And a true conservative seeks to avoid social destruction more than he enshrines ideological purity (which is why I really have no love, and a lot of distaste, for the current GOP). Nonetheless, we clearly, desperately need simpler taxation. And surely that is one area of potential compromise for both the GOP and the president, if the GOP hangs on in the House."

So Andrew Sullivan is now opposed to a flat tax and still calls himself a conservative. And because he does both of these, he thinks there's clearly a compromise between the GOP and President. Suuuuurre.

Hmmm, he also supports same-sex marriage, non-privatized social security, and is opposed to torture and supports a two-state solution in Israel. He calls himself a conservative why? He likes limited government. Maybe once he realizes that no one likes waste, he'll call himself a liberal.

Holder: We Droned 3 of 4 Americans By Accident. Oops.

Danger Room writes Holder: We Droned 3 of 4 Americans By Accident. Oops..

"In an extraordinary admission, Attorney General Eric Holder has told Congress that U.S. drone strikes since 2009 have killed four Americans — three of whom were ‘not specifically targeted.’

For all the effort that the Obama administration has gone to in asserting that its drones only kill the people that the administration intends to kill, Holder wrote in a letter today to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that Samir Khan, 16-year old Abdulrahman Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammad were ‘not specifically targeted by the United States.’ The fourth American to die in a drone strike since 2009 was Abdulrahman’s father Anwar Awlaki, a radical propagandist whom the U.S. killed in Yemen in 2011.

The five page letter, obtained and published by Charlie Savage of The New York Times, does not explain the circumstances that led to the unintentional killings of Khan, Mohammad and the younger Awlaki. Holder does not apologize for the killings, nor explain whether their deaths resulted from errant targeting, mistaken identity or another circumstance."

It's not really the drones I mind, it's the extra-judicial use. If a cop accidentally a civilian there's an investigation. That's the case if they do it as an accident while chasing a suspect or if they do it as cold blooded murder. The investigation is how we figure out which it was. Clearly being on a battlefield during a war is different, but we do investigate when US soldiers are accused of killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and we certainly would if they were accused of killing a US citizen. Using a drone should be no different than "using" a soldier and there needs to be due process to target a US citizen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

America's Heroes Return - Operation Enduring Wait

I'm guessing there are huge differences between the VA's system and the campaign systems, but Jon Stewart made a really good point last night.

Beth Israel Deaconess trauma nurses treated bombing suspect like any other patient — almost

The Boston Globe write Beth Israel Deaconess trauma nurses treated bombing suspect like any other patient — almost.

"As she raced to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, that possibility unfolded in her mind. She replayed a conversation she had had with her husband earlier in the week. She wasn’t sure she could nurse a terrorist, she had told him. ‘You have to do it,’’ she recalled him saying. ‘You have to do it so we can get answers.’'"

"All of the nurses asked by supervisors to care for Tsarnaev agreed, the hospital said. The Globe interviewed seven of them, and all said that the ethical bedrock of their profession requires them to treat patients regardless of their personal history. They are sometimes called upon to nurse drunk drivers, prisoners, gang members, but this assignment was the ultimate test of Florence Nightingale’s founding ideals."

Apple’s Web of Tax Shelters Saved It Billions

Apple's CEO Tim Cook is going to testify before Congress today about corporate taxes. The prepared remarks have already been released and members of Congress have already been talking about it.

The NY Times writes Apple’s Web of Tax Shelters Saved It Billions, Panel Finds "Even as Apple became the nation’s most profitable technology company, it avoided billions in taxes in the United States and around the world through a web of subsidiaries so complex it spanned continents and went beyond anything most experts had ever seen, Congressional investigators disclosed on Monday."

There's a little interactive feature detailing the structure and WonkBlog has some more How to make $30 billion and pay no corporate income tax, the Apple way.

I don't think this is the Double Irish arrangement we heard about a year ago but it's similar in that it uses Ireland to avoid taxes (maybe it's a Single Irish :).

In the prepared testimony (pdf) Apple says "Apple supports comprehensive reform of the US corporate tax system. The Company supports a dramatic simplification of the corporate tax system that is revenue neutral, eliminates all tax expenditures, lowers tax rates and implements a reasonable tax on foreign earnings that allows free movement of capital back to the US. Apple believes such comprehensive reform would stimulate economic growth. Apple supports this plan even though it would likely result in Apple paying more US corporate tax."

Now where have I heard something like that before? Remarks by the President in State of Union Address in 2011. "For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change. So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years –- without adding to our deficit. It can be done."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Holy crap the inside of this meteorite is gorgeous


Holy crap the inside of this meteorite is gorgeous "The space rock pictured above is a chunk of the Alvord Meteorite, discovered in Iowa in 1976. The criss-crossing, internal structure seen here is known as the Widmanstätten Pattern. Commonly found in iron meteorites, the distinctive design is formed as the liquid metal at the core of a newly formed meteorite (comprising mostly nickel and iron) cools very slowly over the course of millions of years. (One estimate puts the cooling rate of these molten-core meteorites at 1°C every thousand years.) The result is a lattice of nickel-iron crystals unlike anything seen here on Earth. (For a more detailed account of this cooling process, see here.)"

The Mythical 70s

Krugman corrects some recent mistaken thoughts on The Mythical 70s

"What we did have was a wage-price spiral: workers demanding large wage increases (those were the days when workers actually could make demands) because they expected lots of inflation, firms raising prices because of rising costs, all exacerbated by big oil shocks. It was mainly a case of self-fulfilling expectations, and the problem was to break the cycle.

So why did we need a terrible recession? Not to pay for our past sins, but simply as a way to cool the action. Someone — I’m pretty sure it was Martin Baily — described the inflation problem as being like what happens when everyone at a football game stands up to see the action better, and the result is that everyone is uncomfortable but nobody actually gets a better view. And the recession was, in effect, stopping the game until everyone was seated again.

The difference, of course, was that this timeout destroyed millions of jobs and wasted trillions of dollars.

Was there a better way? Ideally, we should have been able to get all the relevant parties in a room and say, look, this inflation has to stop; you workers, reduce your wage demands, you businesses, cancel your price increases, and for our part, we agree to stop printing money so the whole thing is over. That way, you’d get price stability without the recession. And in some small, cohesive countries that is more or less what happened. (Check out the Israeli stabilization of 1985)."

What the Wind Can Do

In Focus on A Week of Tornadoes "Over the past week, dozens of tornadoes have touched down in the plains states, from Texas to Illinois, and more turbulent weather is expected. Late last week, 16 twisters tore through parts of north Texas, killing at least six people. Over the weekend, more tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa caused damage, injuries and another two deaths. The National Weather Service forecasts extreme weather throughout the same areas today, bringing hail, lightning, and still further extreme weather. [25 photos]"

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Today brings more Horrific videos, images of Oklahoma, Kansas tornadoes.

And while I'm not proud of it, I did look up How the House voted on Hurricane Sandy aid in January.

  • KANSAS - 4 Republican Representatives:
    • Tim Huelskamp: No
    • Lynn Jenkins: No
    • Mike Pompeo: No
    • Kevin Yoder: No

  • OKLAHOMA - 5 Republican Representatives:

    • Jim Bridenstine: No
    • Tom Cole: Yes
    • James Lankford: No
    • Frank Lucas: Yes
    • Markwayne Mullin: No

FiOS Seems to be Fixed

So I waited for the network to crash at 2:30pm on Sat and it didn't. Nor did it on Sun or Monday. I did get a new router and installed it today. All went smoothly. I had to change some default passwords and get the bedroom TiVo connected but most everything else was using the 802.11n network run by my Time Capsule which connects via Ethernet cable so that all just worked. This is on my new iMac connected to the N network.

Bill Maher Put Scandals Into Perspective

HBO's site doesn't make it easy to link to but I really liked Bill Maher's New Rules this week. HBO: Real Time with Bill Maher: Ep. 283, May 17, 2013: New Rules.

"And, finally, New Rule: There are scandals and then there are scandals. And perspective is important. Yes, to explain Benghazi, Susan Rice used talking points. But, at least she didn't have to read them off her hand! [slide of Sarah Palin consulting her note-covered palm]

Now, this week, someone was taken off a cross-country flight in handcuffs for singing "I Will Always Love You" for three straight hours. And that's still fewer times than Lindsey Graham has said, "Benghazi."

[Slide of Fox News commentator] I've seen this woman say "Benghazi" on my TV so many times, I don't know if it's a problem with the set, or I'm in an Asian horror movie and there's a monster named "Benghazi."

Congressman and friend of 'Real Time,' Darrell Issa is the chairman of the Oversight Committee. And as most Californians know, he made his fortune in car alarms. And now, ironically, has become a loud, repetitive but ultimately pointless device that you wish to God someone would shut off so you could get some sleep.

But, here's the difference between Darrell Issa and a car alarm. Sometimes when a car alarm goes off, there's an actual crime.

I keep looking for the crime here. I feel like Reese Witherspoon arguing with the cop. "Why are you arresting me?" "Susan Rice said 'mob' instead of 'Al Qaeda'? Obama said 'act of terror' instead of 'terrorist act'?

Republicans are constantly coming up with these never-before-stated, secret rules that they only tell you about once you've broken them.

"You don't make important speeches from a teleprompter!"...Okay.

"No golfing until we have a budget!"

"Thou Shalt Not Criticize the President when he's on foreign soil. Unless he's a Democrat, of course then it's okay."

Congressman Peter King thundered that the president was almost four minutes into his first Benghazi statement before he mentioned an act of terror. Oh, yes, the "Four Minute" rule. F**k, how could I forget?

Excuse me. Nixon ran a burglary ring out of the Oval Office! Reagan traded arms WITH terrorists. Bush ginned up a war where thousands died by sending Colin Powell to lie to the U.N. with props! Remember that?!

He turned an American hero into "General Carrot Top!"

But, I let it go. I said, "This is the business we've chosen." But, please don't tell me that freedom died because Susan Rice broke the sacred bond between citizens and talk shows.

In a poll this week, four in ten Republicans said Benghazi is the worst scandal in American history. Second worst: Kanye West snatching the mic from Taylor Swift.

If you think Benghazi is worse than slavery, the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment, Tuskegee, purposefully injecting Guatemalan mental patients with syphilis, lying about WMDs, and the fact that banks today are still foreclosing on mortgages they don't own...then your hard-on for Obama has lasted more than four hours, and you need to call a doctor.

And while the press has been occupied with scandal, the biggest scandal and the most important story of the century so far happened last week. Scientists reported that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed the long-feared milestone of 400 parts per million. And unless you're a chimney sweep, that's bad news.

Because humans have never lived through it. You think Susan Rice gave bogus talking points about Benghazi? What about the bullsh*t talking points the entire Republican Party has been spewing on climate change since the nineties?

I want to see the emails to find out who came up with the talking points that global warming is just a theory and that it needs more study, and climate change is a hoax.

The Obama Administration isn't dirty. The air is."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Europa Report Trailer

I still haven't Star Trek Into Darkness. Based on the reviews I'm guessing I'm not going to like it and I'm starting to consider if I'm going to vote with my wallet (sadly I don't think it will make a difference). On the other hand, here's a trailer for a film coming out this summer that seems to take science seriously.

Friday, May 17, 2013

2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest "The 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is under way, and entries will be accepted for another six weeks, until June 30, 2013. First prize winner will receive a 10-day Galapagos expedition for two. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the early entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. [42 photos]"

Every one of these pics is amazing.

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Fun With FiOS

So yesterday afternoon I was on the phone with a friend an the call got cut off. I assumed it was their cell phone as I was on my home landline. But my Internet also went down. My cable TV (also through FiOS) was fine. The phone came back quickly but the Internet stayed down for a bit. I called FiOS.

They had me reboot the router (my original, now 8 year-old Actiontec MI424WR) and that didn't help. They remotely ran some tests and rebooted the Network Terminal (the box on the house) and after a few failed attempts, it worked.

Today, again at 2:30, my Internet went down. Phone line was dead too (the wired landline had no dial tone). After a few minutes the phone service came back but the Internet didn't (and the TV remained unaffected). I called FiOS. They ran some tests had me reboot the router and rebooted the Network Terminal and nothing, still no Internet.

He was placing an order to have someone come visit and all of a sudden the network came back. He confirmed he wasn't doing anything and no idea what happened or why. But two days in a row, at the same time, two of my three services went down and came back. Seems very strange to me.

They're sending me a new router.

FiOS Support has been okay. They're friendly enough. The voice menu isn't too bad though yesterday once I got a human he had me confirm a few too many things (I confirmed my number, name and address, but I had to tell him my cell phone number and email address in case they needed another way to contact me). Also they needed to tell me about the online services to resolve issues and survey I'll get later. The second guy did that process a little smoother. Yesterday when I got the separate survey call it disconnected.

Still they say there's stuff at to offer support and there's an agent I can run to fix some things. Of course without Internet you can't get to this and last I looked the agent was Windows only, no Mac support. Yes I pointed this out to them.

The second guy today was in the process of setting up a service visit, I asked if I there was an order number I'd need if I had to call back to change it, he said it would come in my email. I said I wouldn't know because my internet is down. He laughed and said that was funny. I suppose it might be but they sounded like this had never occurred to them before. (Yes I could check my email via my phone over LTE but still). Also they said the window for the visit tomorrow (a Saturday) was 8am-5pm. I told him that an 11 hour window for a service call has been the butt of late night jokes for over decade now.

I expect it to happen again tomorrow afternoon.

North Carolina needed 6,500 farm workers. Only 7 Americans stuck it out.

Dylan Matthews in WonkBlog wrote North Carolina needed 6,500 farm workers. Only 7 Americans stuck it out.

"Every year from 1998 to 2012, at least 130,000 North Carolinians were unemployed. Of those, the number who asked to be referred to NCGA was never above 268 (and that number was only reached in 2011, when 489,095 North Carolinians were unemployed). The share of unemployed asking for referrals never breached 0.09 percent.

When native unemployed people are referred to NCGA, they’re almost without exception hired; between 1998 and 2011, 97 percent of referred applicants were hired. But they don’t tend to last. In 2011, 245 people were hired out of 268 referred, but only 163 (66.5 percent) of the hired applicants actually showed up to the first day of work. Worse, only seven lasted to the end of the growing season"

Open data executive order is the best thing Obama’s done this month

Slate reports Open data executive order is the best thing Obama’s done this month "Last week, the White House released an executive order that makes ‘open and machine readable’ the new default for the release of government information. Although people who care about open data were generally quite excited, the news barely made an impression on the general public. But it should: This is perhaps the biggest step forward to date in making government data—that information your tax dollars pay for—accessible for citizens, entrepreneurs, politicians, and others."

  • Mandating that when an agency procures a new computer or system that collects data, those data must be exportable. That won't address digitizing existing government documents and data but will create a default setting going forward.
  • Planning to relaunch in a format compatible with dozens of other open-data platforms around the world.
  • Requiring agencies to catalog what data they have. Understanding what you have is fundamental to managing information as an asset, although an open data policy that requires creating and maintaining an enterprise data inventory won't be without cost. Creating a public list of agency data assets based upon audits is one of the most important aspects of the new open data policy.

The Cocktail Chart of Film & Literature

Pop Chart Lab — The Cocktail Chart of Film & Literature "A catalog of 49 drinks culled from great works of film and literature, depicting everything from Philip Marlowe's Gin Gimlet to Fredo Corleone's Banana Daiquiri to the simple yet effective Buttermaker Boilermaker."


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hotel Keycards Being Hacked Since Last Summer

I had missed this, but apparently it's still going on. Lock Firm Onity Starts To Shell Out For Security Fixes To Hotels' Hackable Locks. "After four months, countless hacking embarrassments and a string of hotel burglaries, the maker of one of the world’s most common hotel keycard locks is finally owning up to the cost of an epic–and expensive–security mess."

Star Trek movies and TV series: Which are the best? Why?

Matthew Yglesias has a nice article in Slate, Star Trek movies and TV series: Which are the best? Why?

"So I hope the success of Abrams’ movies paves the way for the triumphant televisual return that Trek richly deserves. And I hope that this time they do it right: Put it on cable, where niche entertainment can thrive, and give us sustained plot arcs that stretch across short cable seasons. The highest-rated Mad Men episode ever, the Season 5 premiere, drew 3.5 million viewers—a mark that even the failed Enterprise series beat in the majority of its episodes. It’s a scandal that the golden age of niche television is passing us by without any representation from the franchise that practically invented niche television."

Daily Show on Republican Compassion

I really liked Jessica White's segment from last night's Daily Show. "A former Utah state legislator questions his own conservative beliefs, so Jessica Williams steps in and helps him return to his dogmatic roots."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Away Mission T-shirt by Paige Carpenter | Society6

The Away Mission T-shirt by Paige Carpenter is a nice design.

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In AP surveillance case, the real scandal is what’s legal

In AP surveillance case, the real scandal is what’s legal

"The key here is a legal principle known as the “third party doctrine,” which says that users don’t have Fourth Amendment rights protecting information they voluntarily turn over to someone else. Courts have said that when you dial a phone number, you are voluntarily providing information to your phone company, which is then free to share it with the government."

"Merely adding more safeguards for journalists’ call records won’t fix the underlying problem. As more and more information about us is held by third parties, the court’s cramped interpretation of the Fourth Amendment leaves ordinary Americans with less and less privacy. People may or may not have expected the numbers they dialed to be private in 1979. But they certainly consider the contents of their Gmail accounts and the locations of the cell phones to be private information today."

Infographic: Is Your State's Highest-Paid Employee A Coach? (Probably)

Infographic: Is Your State's Highest-Paid Employee A Coach? (Probably) "You may have heard that the highest-paid employee in each state is usually the football coach at the largest state school. This is actually a gross mischaracterization: Sometimes it is the basketball coach."

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Math Puts the Milky Way over LA

Phil Plait describes the math used to make the Milky Way over LA.

"The problem is the Earth spins, so the Milky Way and the stars in the sky move. Normally you could just shift all the pictures to line them up, but in this case, though, Kiely used a wide-angle 11mm lens, so the pictures are distorted. That makes a simple shift much harder to do. So instead, he used some math to make a model of how the stars moved across the frame of the picture over time. This created a series of curved lines, all different depending on where they were in the frame. That is essentially a map, a grid, showing where a star would be given its position and the time the picture was taken. He then used that model to warp each image, placing them all on a common frame, and added them together."


Real Scandals

I still don't care about Benghazi, though that term is now loaded since Hilary's testimony is being taken out of context. I think the fact that the security of the embassy was not sufficient is a big problem that needs to be corrected. I think the issue about "talking points" is stupid. But there are two other "scandals" floating around that seem more significant to me.

First the IRS using extra scrutiny for tea party groups seeking 501©(4) recognition. Chris Hayes last night had the best coverage I've seen of this.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I wonder what the tea partiers think of the ACLU supporting their outrage over this?

Second, the NY Times reports U.S. Secretly Obtains Two Months of A.P. Phone Records "The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news."

"The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States."

"Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual."

But for both of these the point is, there's something that needs to be investigated to find out what happened and why and if there was wrong-doing (which seems likely) some penalties must be enacted and policies changed. Republicans talking about Impeachment over the weekend (I forget if it was about Benghazi or the IRS) are going way overboard.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Most Expensive Music Video Ever

This is awesome.

Update: Maybe not

Two Map Infographics

Geography of Hate "The data behind this map is based on every geocoded tweet in the United States from June 2012 - April 2013 containing one of the 'hate words'. This equated to over 150,000 tweets and was drawn from the DOLLY project based at the University of Kentucky. Because algorithmic sentiment analysis would automatically classify any tweet containing 'hate words' as "negative," this project relied upon the HSU students to read the entirety of tweet and classify it as positive, neutral or negative based on a predefined rubric. Only those tweets that were identified by human readers as negative were used in this analysis.

To produce the map all tweets containing each 'hate word' were aggregated to the county level and normalized by the total twitter traffic in each county. Counties were reduced to their centroids and assigned a weight derived from this normalization process. This was used to generate a heat map that demonstrates the variability in the frequency of hateful tweets relative to all tweets over space. Where there is a larger proportion of negative tweets referencing a particular 'hate word' the region appears red on the map, where the proportion is moderate, the word was used less (although still more than the national average) and appears a pale blue on the map. Areas without shading indicate places that have a lower proportion of negative tweets relative to the national average."

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Google Earth Engine "Google Earth Engine brings together the world's satellite imagery — trillions of scientific measurements dating back almost 40 years — and makes it available online with tools for scientists, independent researchers, and nations to mine this massive warehouse of data to detect changes, map trends and quantify differences on the Earth's surface. Applications include: detecting deforestation, classifying land cover, estimating forest biomass and carbon, and mapping the world’s roadless areas."

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The World's Most Powerful Computer Network Is Being Wasted on Bitcoin

The World's Most Powerful Computer Network Is Being Wasted on Bitcoin "Bitcoin mining machines are insane powerhouses, and they're only getting crazier. How much power is getting sunk into the digital cryptocurrency? More than the world's top 500 supercomputers combined. What a waste."

This Is the Most Detailed Picture of the Internet Ever (and Making it Was Very Illegal)

This Is the Most Detailed Picture of the Internet Ever (and Making it Was Very Illegal) | Motherboard "An anonymous researcher with a lot of time on his hands apparently shares the sentiment. In a newly published research paper, this unnamed data junkie explains how he used some stupid simple hacking techniques to build a 420,000-node botnet that helped him draw the most detailed map of the Internet known to man. Not only does it show where people are logging in, it also shows changes in traffic patterns over time with an impressive amount of precision. This is all possible, of course, because the researcher hacked into nearly half a million computers so that he could ping each one, charting the resulting paths in order to make such a complex and detailed map. Along those lines, the project has as much to do with hacking as it does with mapping."


How Half a Second of High Frequency Stock Trading Looks Like

How Half a Second of High Frequency Stock Trading Looks Like

"The movie shown below, developed by a real-time trading software developer Nanex, shows the stock trading activity in Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) as it occurred during a particular half a second on May 2, 2013.

Each colored box represents one unique exchange. The whote box at the bottom of the screens shows the National Best Bid/Offer, which often drastically changes in a fraction of a second. The moving shapes represent quote changes which are the result of a change to the top of the book at each exchange. The time at the bottom of the screen is Eastern Time HH:MM:SS:mmm, which is slowed down to be able to better observe what goes on at the millisecond level (1/1000th of a second)."

I'm still not sold on the value of HFT.

Amazing Photos from Saturday’s Emergency Spacewalk

Amazing Photos from Saturday’s Emergency Spacewalk "How ’bout a picturesque view? We’ve got that too! See a collection of great images from the EVA, which — for the moment — appears to have been a success in fixing the leaking ammonia coolant system."

and More Incredible Images from the Space Station ‘Emergency’ EVA

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Freak Ice Tsunami Crunches Homes In Canada

Freak Ice Tsunami Crunches Homes In Canada "The whole thing only took 15 minutes, but by the time it stopped over two-dozen homes and cottages were either seriously damaged or completely destroyed. An arctic wind blowing across Duphin Lake near Winnipeg, Manitoba, created this bizarre phenomenon in which rapidly forming ice moved inland along Ochre Beach."

Also happening in Minnesota.

Sichuan Earthquake: Five Years Later

In Focus on the Sichuan Earthquake: Five Years Later "Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, a magnitude 8.0 quake which struck a mountainous region in southwestern China, destroying several villages, killing more than 70,000, and leaving another 18,000 still listed as missing. In the hard-hit town of Beichuan, dozens of massive buildings toppled or collapsed. Chinese authorities decided to stabilize the remaining buildings after the earthquake, preserving the entire town as a memorial to the tremendous loss. Collected here are photographs of Beichuan as it stands today, mourners paying their respects, a newly-opened museum, and some of the rebuilding taking place in the region. [26 photos]"

I really like the design of this memorial. Similar to the Vietnam Memorial in DC but very relevant.

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xkcd: Birds and Dinosaurs

I really liked xicd today, Birds and Dinosaurs


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3 *Spoilers*

This review is full of Spoilers

I seem to have a minority opinion of Iron Man 3, but it just didn't work for me. I liked some of the ideas and character development but I thought the action sequences didn't make much sense and the villain's scheme was at the level of the Underpants Gnomes business plan. Writers have to remember that was a joke and not duplicate it in a non-comedy.

I did like what they did with Tony Stark. I like the idea of PTSD after the events of The Avengers. It's a good substitute for the classic alcoholism stories in the comics and it connects it to the other Marvel films while still allowing this to be a film about just one character. It should also be relevant to the nation today, but I think it doesn't treat it seriously enough to get much credit for that. I've seen a number of documentaries about the issue and a lot of people in the country are dealing with the effects of PTSD (directly or indirectly) and I think Iron Man 3 just treats it as a plot excuse. Also, I think it's not at all resolved at the end of the film. The final battle, where he thinks he loses Pepper for a while should keep him dealing with such issues for a long time. Update: Here's everything you ever wanted to know about Iron Man and PTSD.

Robert Downey Jr. is of course a great Tony Stark. The script gives him lots of banter, a few different emotions (instead of just arrogance) and lots of time both with and without the armor. I've seen complaints that there was too little Iron Man in this film but I don't think that's the case. While I did laugh a number of times, I thought the banter was too forgettable (I can't remember any line that made me laugh). There's a stretch where he works with a young boy and while the boy was fine, I think Tony's snarkiness when directed at a child, came off as offensive rather than entertaining (e.g, "Dads leave. No need to be such a pussy about it.").

As for the other characters, well there are lot of them so I felt they all got too little screen time. The repartee between Tony and Pepper is always a highlight of Iron Man (even in The Avengers) but there wasn't a lot of it. There are five different villains that have enough time that they're differentiable. Most of their time though is spent setting up their plot twist. I do give them lots of credit for stunt casting Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin only to have it be a fake out. Once he revealed himself to be an actor, I kept waiting for him to reveal himself as the real mastermind. It kept me interested.

I'm surprised but I found the terrorism stuff a bit disturbing. Maybe it's because of the recent Boston Marathon bombing, but ok, terrorism is supposed to be disturbing. At least my theater didn't do anything stupid like this one in Missouri.

What was the villain trying to do? He said he'd have the world's most powerful leader and terrorist in his hands and be able to play one off the other. Huh? The Mandarin was a sham, so who exactly did he have there? Maybe it was just to sell tons of weapons to the US government to fight a sham, but AIM was already selling lots of weapons to the government. Why did he need to go through all those crazy machinations to achieve his goals? He apparently bribed the Vice President with a promise to grow back his daughter's leg, but I guess just having the VP in his pocket isn't enough, so he needed to kill the president and make the VP become president. So with a superpower like turning into molten whatever, he has to... make the president call him during an on-air hostage situation (which seemed completely pointless), blow up Air Force One, but first secretly kidnap the President to put him in the Iron Patriot suit hung over a dock to have him killed while no one is watching (cause then wouldn't SHIELD just show up and rescue him)?

My biggest problem was with the action sequences. Maybe I've seen too much Mythbusters, but too often they just didn't make sense. I don't see how Happy survived the explosion given where he was and that he was hiding behind a cart that was blown away. I didn't buy everyone falling in slow motion and dealing with the house falling apart how it did or how his glove flew off and pulled him out of underwater wreckage (with jets facing the wrong way). In Miami he's waiting for his armor to fly from Tennessee and a glove and boot make it, but the rest is trapped in the locked barn. So how did the two pieces get out and why couldn't the others? And why couldn't the rest break through a window or wall? (And why couldn't he fly one of the other 41 suits to him like he did later).

My favorite fight was the one with Tony in Tennessee against the two underlings. I wish it was shot a little slower but it worked, and Tony used his brain. Contrast that to the rest of the Iron Man scenes.

Twelve people fall from a plane, I'll accept comic book physics to say they're fine until impact, but Jarvis says Tony can only carry four of them. Tony somehow manages to carry all twelve by having them hold hands and electrocuting their hands (not them). Because I'm sure the issue about only carrying four was nothing to do with weight but more to do with grasping.

And then for shock value Iron Man is hit by a truck and the armor falls apart (it doesn't do that when hit by the Hulk) and it turns out Tony was controlling it remotely, just to make you go wow. Maybe they do it to explain how Tony has advanced the technology, but we saw even more automatic control back in the house. And if he can control it remotely, why ever fly in it?

Then there's the big finale. While it wasn't shaky cam, it was constant quick cuts and the action didn't make much sense. First there's the idea. Having 42 suits of armor fly in and attack is kinda cool, and there are nods for comics fans to various suits, but they're all treated generically. So now we have fully autonomous suits and I suppose that's to be expected in the age of drones and with the capabilities of Jarvis that's always been in these films, but if that's the case just why does Tony need to be Iron Man? Maybe it's because Jarvis is not a strategist. You have Pepper and the President as hostages, so the suits just go in, attack and blow things up around them. I'm sure that's going to help. In fact the suits just ignore the hostages so that Rhodey and Tony need to do the rescuing. And then they're not good at it. Rhodey's rescue of the president is accidental at best. Tony doesn't rescue Pepper and doesn't defeat the bad guy (Pepper does both). Tony evens seems to put Rhodey at extra risk by not giving him a suit. He says it's only keyed to him (which I believe because in the beginning we see him give himself injections) but we see him give one to Pepper (twice) and then one to Killian!

There's one shot that sums up what I hate about the fight scenes and how they make no sense. In one shot, the Killian turns his arm into a sword (I think) and slices an Iron Man suit in two. The slice is from top to bottom and both halves fall away to the sides. He went through the whole suit. And yet, Tony was in it and is uncut, just suspended in the mid air as the suit falls away (until I think he falls into another suit). How did he cut through the front and the back, with one sword and not cut Tony in half?

Tony Stark won the final battle in Iron Man I because he outthought his opponent ("How did you solve the icing problem?") I don't even think he won the final battle here, Pepper did, with fighting skills that came from nowhere.

The closing credits are in the style of the credits of a 70s TV show (Charlies Angels, Swat). Why? Iron Man was created in the 60s and the movie treats 1999 as the distant past. In spite of the fact that there are some trappings of deep themes, too much of this film just made no sense.

Science Fiction Novels for Economists

Noah Smith lists 13 Science fiction novels for economists. Sadly I've only read two (The Dispossessed and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress). I own two others (A Deepness in the Sky, Reamde). I should get reading.

Paul Krugman adds to it, More Science Fiction for Economists. I've read the Foundation trilogy and The Diamond Age and Anathem. I don't think I've read any Charlie Stross or Iain Banks.

David Sedaris on The Daily Show

If these two did an hour long show everyday, I'd watch it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Did 'Vertigo' Introduce Computer Graphics to Cinema?

Did 'Vertigo' Introduce Computer Graphics to Cinema?

"For the title sequence to Vertigo, Hitchcock had an additional, often unnoted, collaborator: John Whitney. A pioneer of computer animation who worked in television in the 50s and 60s and in the 70s created some of the first digital art, Whitney was hired to complete the seemingly impossible task of turning Bass’s complicated designs for Vertigo into moving pictures. A mechanism was needed that could plot the shapes that Bass wanted, which were based on graphs of parametric equations by 19th mathematician Jules Lissajous; plotting them precisely, as opposed to drawing them freehand, required that the motion of a pendulum be linked to motion of an animation stand, but no animation stand at the time could modulate continuous motion without its interior wiring becoming tangled.

To solve this problem, Whitney made use of an enormous, obsolete military computer called the M5 gun director. The M5 was used during World War II to aim anti-aircraft cannons at moving targets. It took five men to operate it on the battlefield, each inputting one variable, such as the altitude of the incoming plane, its velocity, etc."

Pretty crazy descriptions follow and some nice photographs.

Friday, May 10, 2013

London in 1927 in Color

London in 1927 from Tim Sparke on Vimeo.

"Incredible colour footage of 1920s London shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Frisse-Greene, who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William - a noted cinematographer - was experimenting with. It's like a beautifully dusty old postcard you'd find in a junk store, but moving."

Who's Sorry Now

Linda Greenhouse wrote Who's Sorry Now "So now it turns out that the retired justice, just past her 83rd birthday, does have second thoughts about Bush v. Gore and, more to the point, is willing to express them. She told the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune last week that she thinks the court made a mistake by intervening in the disputed Florida election in the first place. ‘Maybe the court should have said, ‘We’re not going to take it, goodbye,’ ’ she said, as quoted by The Tribune. While Florida’s election officials had ‘kind of messed it up,’ she said, ‘probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.’"

She gives a nice little history of other justices who've admitted changing their mind on a decision. I didn't know about Minersville School District v. Gobitis.

"The question was whether school children with religious objections to pledging allegiance to the flag could be required to do so, on pain of expulsion from school. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for whom saluting the flag is unacceptable, challenged the requirement as a violation of the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion."

In 1940, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that kids could be expelled for not pledging allegiance. "The reaction by a country caught up in wartime patriotic fervor appalled the justices. Taking the Supreme Court’s decision as proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses were not good citizens, mobs attacked and burned the Witnesses’ places of worship. Members of the faith were fired from their jobs and some 2,000 Jehovah’s Witness children were expelled from school. When another case reached the court after only three years, three justices who had been in the earlier majority changed their votes."

Why Doesn’t America Have Liberal Hack Economists?

Jonathan Bernstein wonders Why Doesn’t America Have Liberal Hack Economists? (Obamacare Edition) "There are plenty of liberal hack pundits; there’s nothing about being a liberal that prevents people from embracing convenient arguments, even if they’re barely plausible. And there are conservative hack economists, so there’s nothing about being an economist that prevents lame spin. But for whatever reason, there aren’t any liberal economists who function as party apologists. That doesn’t mean that liberal economists are always right about everything; it also doesn’t mean that there’s no biases involved in their work (more, perhaps, in choice of projects, for example). It just means that, as far as I can see, they tend strongly to call them as they see them, rather than adapting their analysis and talking points to whatever the Democratic Party happens to need at the time."

The Myth of Presidential Leadership

Norm Ornstein debunks The Myth of Presidential Leadership

"But the issue goes beyond that, to a willful ignorance of history. No one schmoozed more or better with legislators in both parties than Clinton. How many Republican votes did it get him on his signature initial priority, an economic plan? Zero in both houses. And it took eight months to get enough Democrats to limp over the finish line. How did things work out on his health care plan? How about his impeachment in the House?

No one knew Congress, or the buttons to push with every key lawmaker, better than LBJ. It worked like a charm in his famous 89th, Great Society Congress, largely because he had overwhelming majorities of his own party in both houses. But after the awful midterms in 1966, when those swollen majorities receded, LBJ’s mastery of Congress didn’t mean squat.

No one defined the agenda or negotiated more brilliantly than Reagan. Did he ‘work his will’? On almost every major issue, he had to make major compromises with Democrats, including five straight years with significant tax increases. But he was able to do it—as he was able to achieve a breakthrough on tax reform—because he had key Democrats willing to work with him and find those compromises."

"All this is not to say that leadership is meaningless and the situation hopeless. Obama has failed to use the bully pulpit as effectively as he could, not to change votes but to help define the agenda, while his adversaries have often—on health care, the economy, stimulus, and other issues—defined it instead. Shaping the agenda can give your allies traction and legitimize your policy choices and put your opponents on defense. And any of us could quibble with some of the strategic choices and timing emanating from the White House. But it is past time to abandon selective history and wishful thinking, and realize the inherent limits of presidential power, and the very different tribal politics that Obama faces compared with his predecessors."

This Diagram is Better than 183,487 Images

This Diagram is Better than 183,487 Images

Galaxy distribution

"So what does the diagram tell us? Evidently, there are two peaks: one near the bluish end on the left, one near the reddish end on the right. That indicates two distinct types of galaxies. Galaxies of the first kind are, on average, of a bluish-white color, with some specimens a little more and some a little less blue (which is why the peak is a little broad). Galaxies of the other kind are, on average, much redder."

"The existence of two distinct classes of galaxies — star-forming vs. “red and dead” — is a driving force behind current research on galaxy evolution in much the same way the HR diagram was for stellar evolution. Why are there two distinct kinds? What makes the bluish galaxies produce stars, and what prevents the reddish ones? Do galaxies move from one camp to the other over time? And if yes, how and in which direction? When you read an article like this about the care and feeding of teenage galaxies, or this one about galaxies recycling their gas, it’s all about astronomers trying to find pieces of the puzzle of why there are these two populations."

Game of Thrones: Death, Destruction and a Whole Load of Relationships Visualised

The Guardian points to Game of Thrones: death, destruction and a whole load of relationships visualised.

"Anyone that has picked up one of the books or watched an episode, knows that Game of Thrones features a lot of death, destruction and some rather complex relationships. Data visualisation designer Jérôme Cukier has attempted to visualise the events in every one of the popular fantasy books. To avoid a spoiler you can restrict the interactive to only show events in specific books. You can then hit the play button and watch the events unfold. Each link represents a kill and illustrates just how intertwining the plots are in George R.R Martin's novels. Each circle represents a character - sized according to appearances and most importantly, the colours show how they are faring."

It's pretty amazing and can be as spoilerful or spoilerfree as you want.

Boehner Accidentally Explains Why His Deficit Position Is Phony

Josh Barro puts the Republican positions in really clear terms Boehner Accidentally Explains Why His Deficit Position Is Phony

"Yesterday, in an interview with Bloomberg Television, House Speaker John Boehner warned that the U.S. government must balance its budget. After all, he said:

We have spent more than what we have brought into this government for 55 of the last 60 years. There’s no business in America that could survive like this. No household in America that could do this. And this government can’t do this.

It’s hard to think of better evidence for the sustainability of budget deficits than the fact that we have run them for 55 of the last 60 years"

"Of course, budget deficits work because the government is different from a household. A government does not have a life cycle, does not ever expect to stop generating income to support itself, and, therefore, does not ever have to retire its debt. It must keep its debts at a manageable size relative to the economy, which the U.S. has done over that 60 year period. If the economy is growing over the long term, that means the government can run a deficit and grow the debt every year -- sustainably."

"Boehner doesn’t really care about the public debt, as he made clear when he repeatedly supported debt-expanding measures under a Republican president. What Boehner and House Republicans really want are excuses to cut federal spending, particularly on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that support low-income Americans. But those cuts are unpopular, so Republicans frame fiscal debate to make such cuts appear necessary to avoid disaster. If you can’t borrow or tax more, and can’t cut old-age entitlements or the military, which command the majority of federal spending, you’re not left with many options but to soak the poor."

Gravity Trailer is Gorgeous

ISS Crew Plans Emergency Spacewalk to Fix 'Very Serious' Ammonia Leak

ISS Crew Plans Emergency Spacewalk to Fix 'Very Serious' Ammonia Leak "On late Thursday, 'a very steady stream of flakes' was spotted drifting away from the space station — an apparent ammonia leak. The crew isn't in any danger, but an emergency spacewalk is being planned to inspect and fix it."

A (Very) Brief Benghazi Timeline Recap

I didn't pay any attention to the Benghazi hearings the other day but Kevin Drum has A (Very) Brief Benghazi Timeline Recap and I feel it tells me all I need to know.

"I don't want to spend too much time diving down the Benghazi rabbit hole again—seriously, I think I'd rather have my big toe cut off—but I do think it's worthwhile to very briefly recap the three basic phases of Benghazi and what questions we have about them."

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Venture Bros Season 1-4 Recap in 8 Minutes

I watched the first couple of seasons of The Venture Brothers and then kinda lost track. This recap makes me want to catch up.

I really hope I don't sound like that when talking about The Wire or The Act of Killing.

Two months breaking ice (in under five minutes)

"Marine scientist Cassandra Brooks narrates a time lapse video of her two-month journey on an Antarctic icebreaker. High points: the ice ramming at 2:35 and the fishing penguins at the end." (via Kottke)

Gun control and nullification: The matter with Kansas

The Economist talks Gun control and nullification: The matter with Kansas "That’s right: it is now a crime for a federal officer to enforce federal law in Kansas. How can the trapezoidal midwestern state do this? Well, it can’t, and Attorney-General Eric Holder has the unenviable job of explaining why."

Keivn Drum thinks Kansas Gun Law Looks Like a Trojan Horse for a Commerce Clause Challenge. "Most of the commentary I've read assumes that this is basically a gun issue, a Second Amendment issue, and a nullification issue. But I don't think so. It sounds, rather, like a test case for the Commerce Clause, the same thing that was at issue in last year's Supreme Court Obamacare ruling. Basically, Kansas is saying that the federal government can't regulate something that's made, sold, and used entirely within the confines of Kansas, because that's not interstate commerce. However, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise long ago in the case of Wickard vs. Filburn, which you probably all got sick of reading about last year. In that case, the court ruled that Congress could regulate even the purely local production of wheat "if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as 'direct' or 'indirect.'" So it sounds to me like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Secretary of State Kris Kobach are hoping to make this a test case that will rein in the scope of Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce."

Plausible but in an update he says there's several year history of challenging gun laws in this way.

Any Reasonable Conservatives?

Brad DeLong in Who Are the Right-Wing Republicans Whom Clive Crook Thinks Are "Thoughtful [and] Public-Spirited… [with] Vews… Worthy of Respect" starts of debunking some stupidity but ends up with a nice list of conservative commentators worth listening too.

Seven Myths about Keynesian Economics

Mark Thoma briefly tackles Seven Myths about Keynesian Economics. It would be great if conservatives would read it, but I doubt they will.

19 Emotions For Which English Has No Words

Co Design shows an info graphic for 19 Emotions For Which English Has No Words "‘My inspiration came from the experience of studying in the UK as a foreign student and having to have conversations with both friends who do not understand Chinese (my mother tongue) and those who do,’ Lin tells Co.Design. ‘So often our conversations will involve looking for a right word to say in either English or Chinese, and unable to find its equivalent in the other language.’

At the core of Lin’s graphic is Parrot’s Emotion Classification, which contains a seemingly nuanced look at over 100 emotions (in English). Not only does Parrot’s list include words like ‘cheerfulness,’ but it also maps their more specific permutations, like ‘bliss’ or ‘gladness.’ So, you know, it seems pretty good--that is, until you read the foreign alternatives that Lin has highlighted in red bubbles. How about the word ‘Gezelligheid,’ which is Dutch for ‘comfort and coziness of being at home, with friends, with loved ones or general togetherness’? Or maybe you’ll like ‘hygge,’ which is Danish for a similar idea but specific to events of food and drink."

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The History of Typography

This animated short is one of the most useful explanations of typography I've seen. When I look through font lists on the computer I know the difference between proportional and monospaced fonts and serifs and sans serifs but now I understand the differences between old style, transitional and modern faces.

Why facial recognition tech failed in the Boston bombing manhunt

Ars Technica explains Why facial recognition tech failed in the Boston bombing manhunt

"In the last decade, the US government has made a big investment in facial recognition technology. The Department of Homeland Security paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to state and local governments to build facial recognition databases—pulling photos from drivers' licenses and other identification to create a massive library of residents, all in the name of anti-terrorism. In New York, the Port Authority is installing a 'defense grade' computer-driven surveillance system around the World Trade Center site to automatically catch potential terrorists through a network of hundreds of digital eyes.

But then an act of terror happened in Boston on April 15. Alleged perpetrators Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were both in the database. Despite having an array of photos of the suspects, the system couldn't come up with a match. Or at least it didn't come up with one before the Tsarnaev brothers had been identified by other means.

For people who understand how facial recognition works, this comes as no surprise. Despite advances in the technology, systems are only as good as the data they're given to work with. Real life isn't like anything you may have seen on NCIS or Hawaii Five-0. Simply put, facial recognition isn't an instantaneous, magical process. Video from a gas station surveillance camera or a police CCTV camera on some lamppost cannot suddenly be turned into a high-resolution image of a suspect's face that can then be thrown against a drivers' license photo database to spit out an instant match."

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Jon Stewart on The Mortgage Electronic Registration System

Stewart last night was really good on the wrongful foreclosure issue.

Wildfires in California

The Big Picture shows the Wildfires in California "California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. yesterday declared this week as 'Wildfire Awareness Week' in recognition of last week's devastating fires northwest of Los Angeles. His proclamation noted, 'In an average year, wildfires burn 900,000 acres of California's timber and grasslands.' Rains that moved into the area on Monday helped extinguish the fires that started last Thursday along US Route 101 near Camarillo Springs and Thousand Oaks, endangering some 4,000 homes. -- Lloyd Young ( 31 photos total)"

Bp30 500

This slide is the best thing you’ll read on the budget debate

Ezra Klein: This slide is the best thing you’ll read on the budget debate


"One note: ‘Current law’ includes sequestration. That means that it includes deep cuts to both defense and domestic spending. As such, the spending cuts in the Senate Democratic plan are deeper than I think this slide would lead you to believe."

That aside, this single slide cuts through a lot of Washington’s nonsense in the budget debate. The Republican budget is usually criticized for voucherizing Medicare, but that proposal doesn’t take effect for 10 years — if it ever takes effect at all. In the next decade, their budget is based on truly massive cuts to everything except Social Security, Medicare and defense. The Democratic budget achieves less total deficit reduction but stabilizes and reduces the debt by modestly increasing taxes and modestly cutting spending."

Interview with The Great Escape producer Walter Mirisch

Interview with The Great Escape producer Walter Mirisch "The Great Escape is coming to Blu-ray for the first time ever in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Tribute had the chance to speak with legendary Hollywood producer Walter Mirisch to celebrate the release. He started the Mirisch Corporation with his brothers, Harold and Marvin, in 1957, and produced not only The Great Escape but many other classic films, including In the Heat of the Night, Some Like it Hot, The Magnificent Seven, The Apartment, and the original The Pink Panther. Walter Mirisch was also the President of the Producers Guild of America three times and the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1973-1977. Here's our interview with the brilliant and legendary producer."

Walter is my mom's first cousin. We visited him during a family vacation to California when I was 8. He was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the time and the next year we watched him on the Oscars. I haven't missed an Oscars since.

Here's another BH Interview: 'Great Escape' Producer Hails Bravery of Real-Life Escapees, Steve McQueen's Essential Cool

and another Exclusive Interview: Walter Mirisch on The Great Escape