Sunday, June 30, 2013

How a 30-year-old lawyer exposed NSA mass surveillance of Americans—in 1975

How a 30-year-old lawyer exposed NSA mass surveillance of Americans—in 1975 | Ars Technica "Snider's story is striking for just how modern it sounds. The NSA, drowning in 'big data?' Check, both then and now. The NSA, having great difficulty pulling tiny needles from massive haystacks? Check, both then and now. An agency which is so difficult to penetrate that even 'insiders' know only part of the story? Check, then and now. Communications companies doing their 'patriotic duty' but worried about a backlash? Check, both then and now.

As security and crypto guru Bruce Schneier put it back in 2005, 'A lot of people are trying to say that it's a different world today, and that eavesdropping on a massive scale is not covered under the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] statute, because it just wasn't possible or anticipated back then. That's a lie. Project SHAMROCK began in the 1950s and ran for about 20 years. It too had a massive program to eavesdrop on all international telegram communications, including communications to and from American citizens. It too was to counter a terrorist threat inside the United States. It too was secret and illegal. It is exactly, by name, the sort of program that the FISA process was supposed to get under control.'

One thing that is different about today's leaks is the relative lack of official outrage from top members of Congress. Consider Senator Church's amazing remarks from 1975, for instance, as noted by NSA historian and investigator James Bamford in a 2005 article. 'That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people,' Church said. 'And no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide... I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.'"

Cortex 3D-printed cast for fractured bones

Cortex 3D-printed cast for fractured bones "3D-printed casts for fractured bones could replace the usual bulky, itchy and smelly plaster or fibreglass ones in this conceptual project by Victoria University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill."

Dezeen Cortex 3D printed cast for broken bones by Jake Evill 2 500

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Salinas v. Texas

I think Salinas v. Texas is the oddest case of the term, from SCOTUSblog:

"The question before the Court in this case was whether this protection of silence applies before a suspect is actually arrested.  The defendant in this case, Genevevo Salinas, voluntarily went to the police station, where officers interviewed him about a pair of 1992 murders.  When asked whether a shotgun given to police by his father would match shell casings found at the crime scene, Salinas did not answer.  At his trial for the murders, prosecutors used Salinas’s silence as evidence of his guilt; Salinas was convicted and sentenced to twenty years in prison."

"The Court’s decision was fractured. Justice Alito wrote for a plurality of the Justices (himself, Chief Justice Roberts, and Justice Kennedy), setting forth the rule that the right to remain silent must be expressly invoked. Justices Thomas (joined by Justice Scalia) concurred only in the result, arguing that even if Salinas had invoked his right to remain silent, he still would have lost because the prosecutor’s comments regarding his silence did not compel him to give self-incriminating testimony. These five votes, together, added up to a loss for Salinas, and the rule in Justice Alito’s opinion is the controlling rule going forward. Justice Breyer, joined by the remaining three Justices, dissented, arguing that a defendant need not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination."

More details here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

New Breed of Banking Malware Hijacks Text Messages

So now two-factor authentication using your cell phone might not be enough to protect you.

New Breed of Banking Malware Hijacks Text Messages "But RSA's Anti-Fraud Command Center on Monday found and reported on a Trojan called Bugat that has been updated to hijack out-of-band authentication codes sent to bank customers via SMS. This doesn't mean out-of-band authentication via text messaging is useless, but it can be compromised using a dated, unsophisticated piece of malware."

First some standard malware installed via the usual means.

"When the customer logs into his online banking account from the infected machine, the Trojan will pop up a screen created via web injection. One created by the Bugat Trojan will tell the victim he needs to install security for his phone to protect his mobile banking transactions. It will ask him for his phone number and the type of mobile platform he uses (Android, iOS, BlackBerry, etc.) The customer is then provided with a link to download the security application on a third-party site."

So this doesn't work on iPhones since you can only install stuff from the App Store. On Android the default is to only allow installs from Google Play store but you can change that to allow 3rd party installs. So once you install the software, it asks for ams permissions, looks for bank messages, etc.

"The Bugat Trojan is private malware developed by Russian-speaking developers for a closed gang, Kessem says. It's been in operation since 2010, but the nature of the attacks it's used for has changed and the SMS component is new."

Hard drive-wiping malware part of new wave of threats targeting South Korea

Hard drive-wiping malware part of new wave of threats targeting South Korea "Trojan.Korhigh, as the new wiper program is called by security firm Symantec, contains the same kind of functionality that simultaneously shut down the networks of a half-dozen banks and broadcasters in March. Like the earlier Jojka malware, Korhigh can permanently destroy stored data and overwrite a hard drive's master boot record, which contains information required for computers to reboot."


It's Not About The Nail

It’s All Elementary: Decades of Insights from Nobel Laureates in Chemistry

Scientific American writes It’s All Elementary: Decades of Insights from Nobel Laureates in Chemistry "Such insights have been celebrated for more than a century, as evidenced by the long record of Nobel Prizes for advances in chemistry. This summer past winners of the prize are joining up-and-coming scientists in Lindau, Germany, to discuss previous breakthroughs and future prospects. In honor of the event—the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting—Scientific American is publishing excerpts from articles authored by Nobel Laureates in chemistry over the years, beginning on page 70. Many of the snippets resonate with researchers' priorities today."

There's Some Good News About the Future of Affirmative Action

Kevin Drum says There's Some Good News About the Future of Affirmative Action "So if race-based affirmative action gets struck down in the near future, what's next? One alternative that liberals should probably embrace more enthusiastically is class-based affirmative action."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

‘Mad Men’ should make you feel better about politics today

This from the start of the Mad Men season that just finished, ‘Mad Men’ should make you feel better about politics today "That was America, 1968. By comparison, the America of 2013 is downright quiescent. ‘No one is burning down cities,’ says author Rick Perlstein, whose ‘Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America’ is a history of the political convulsions of the earlier time. ‘The national guard isn’t shooting anyone. You don’t have thousands of people on college campuses pledging themselves to sedition against the United States. You don’t have civil rights activists being murdered or churches being bombed. You don’t have draft resistance. You don’t have a string of political assassinations. In that sense, what’s happening now doesn’t compare to the 1960s.’"

"The volatility of the 1960s is worth keeping in mind as we consider polarization today. America in 2013 is not more divided than it has ever been — just the parties are. And that’s a very different, and preferable, problem."

How the Air Force and SpaceX Saved Dragon from Doom

This is also from April, How the Air Force and SpaceX Saved Dragon from Doom.

"Right after spacecraft separation in low Earth orbit , a sudden and unexpected failure of the Dragon’s critical thrust pods had prevented three out of four from initializing and firing. The oxidizer pressure was low in three tanks. And the propulsion system is required to orient the craft for two way communication and to propel the Dragon to the orbiting lab complex."

"“The problem was a very tiny change to the check valves that serve the oxidizer tanks on Dragon.” Musk told Universe Today"

"“What we did was we were able to write some new software in real time and upload that to Dragon to build pressure upstream of the check valves and then released that pressure- to give it a kind of a kick,” Musk told me at a NASA media briefing."

"“But we had difficulty communicating with the spacecraft because it was in free drift in orbit...So we worked closely with the Air Force to get higher intensity, more powerful dishes to communicate with the spacecraft and upload the software to do the Heimlich pressure maneuver.”

“I was an iPad skeptic”

I'm going through old bookmarks and found “I was an iPad skeptic” from Ars Technica in April on the iPad's 3 year birthday.

They followed it up with From touch displays to the Surface: A brief history of touchscreen technology.

What's the most intellectual joke you know?

Reddit asks What's the most intellectual joke you know? and gets some funny answers and even funnier commentary.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Constitutional Choreography?

Neil Siegel points out in Constitutional Choreography? today no one is talking about the big decision in the Voting Rights Act yesterday. "If the Court had wanted to manipulate public opinion, it could not have ordered the opinions any more skillfully."

The Unlikely Evolution Of The @ Symbol

The Unlikely Evolution Of The @ Symbol.

"Ever since the 1500s, and for hundreds of years after, the only people who used @ were bookkeepers, who used it as a shorthand to show how much they were selling or buying goods for: for example, '3 bottles of wine @ $10 each.'

Since these bookkeepers used @ to deal with money, a certain degree of whimsical fondness for the character developed over time. In Danish, the symbol is known as an ‘elephant’s trunk a’; the French call it an escargot. It’s a streudel in German, a monkey’s tail in Dutch, and a rose in Istanbul. In Italian, it’s named after a huge amphora of wine, a liquid some Italian bookkeepers have been known to show a fondness for."

Obama on Climate Change

Earlier this week Obama gave a big speech on Climate Change. I missed it and haven't had time to catch up with this. The video and text is here, Obama: 'We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society'.

What moron scheduled this speech for last week of Supreme Court decisions, when all the big ones are released. From what I understand he's going to do what he can via the executive branch and ignore Congress. Maybe it was deliberate so that people wouldn't notice, in which case, why give a speech?

Justice Scalia Hates Judicial Review, Except When He Doesn't

I'm reading the DOMA decision now but I'm looking forward to this, Justice Scalia Hates Judicial Review, Except When He Doesn't. "Earlier today, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a scathing dissent to the decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, saying 'we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation.' So why was it okay to take apart the democratically adopted Voting Rights Act just one day earlier?"

Frank Rich: Gay Marriage Wins, Roberts Be Damned

Frank Rich: Gay Marriage Wins, Roberts Be Damned is pretty entertaining.

Wendy Davis’ Texas flibuster puts the U.S. Senate to shame

Wendy Davis’ Texas flibuster puts the U.S. Senate to shame — MSNBC "Texan State Senator Wendy Davis was so determined to stop the passage of a bill that would have ended access to safe abortions in Texas Tuesday, that she set out to complete a 13-hour filibuster, without assistance or interruption. This was a real filibuster, not the pale shadow of the one currently practiced in the United States Senate. It was an extraordinary measure, reflected in the physical hurdles which Davis was forced to confront."

I watched the end of it last night. Pretty amazing to watch democracy in action, even if in a very strange form. Even more amazing that none of the 24 cable news channels (or any other channel) covered it live. At one point 180,000 were watching the live stream on YouTube. CNN ran a rerun of Piers Morgan Live (sic) talking about muffins.

Hullabaloo covered it The Texas abortion bill has FAILED, thanks to American hero Wendy Davis and WonkBlog answers Who is Wendy Davis? and MSNBC explained why yesterday's VRA ruling means she probably won't get reelected.

Opinions recap: Giant step for gay marriage

The best thing to read about today's gay marriage rulings is of course SCOTUSblog, Opinions recap: Giant step for gay marriage "Giving tens of thousands of already married same-sex couples in a growing list of states fully equal access to all benefits that the federal  government provides for those who are wed, a closely divided Supreme Court struck down a 1996 law on the theory that it was aggressively anti-gay.  And, by a different combination of Justices, the Court came close to assuring that millions of still-single gays and lesbians in California will very soon be able to legally marry.

Even while the Court firmly insisted that it was not saying anything about the authority of states to deny marital rights to same-sex partners — as thirty states still do — the obvious practical and political impact of two five-to-four decisions was to advance the cause of equality for homosexuals everywhere in the country, perhaps further than it had ever gone in more than four decades of gay activism."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts

Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts "The Globe mapped all the Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts in the United States — more than 11,100 Starbucks and 7,200 Dunkins — and asked three business analysts to tell us what the maps say about the competition between Starbucks and Dunkins...Dunkin' Donuts are the orange dots. Starbucks are the green dots."

It's got some funky HTML5 scrolling.

Plants Avoid Starvation at Night By Doing Basic Math

Plants Avoid Starvation at Night By Doing Basic Math "Researchers from the John Innes Centre have shown that plants are capable of doing basic division — a calculation that helps them consume their starch reserves at a steady pace during nighttime."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Supermoon 2013

The Big Picture shows Supermoon 2013 "Photographers around the world looked up to the sky this past weekend to capture the 'supermoon.' This is the phenomenon when the moon makes its closest approach to Earth, appearing 30 percent brighter and about 14 percent larger than a typical full moon. It occurs about once every 14 months and is technically called a perigee full moon. At 221,823 miles from Earth, the supermoon was a feast for the eyes.-Leanne Burden Seidel (24 photos total)"

Bp4 500

In Focus adds more with The Solstice and the Supermoon "This was a weekend of the Sun and Moon -- a coincidence of the summer solstice and the 'Supermoon'. Friday was the summer solstice (in the northern hemisphere), welcomed by humans for thousands of years as the longest day of the year. In ancient times, people celebrated this day as the center point of summer. Some still observe the solstice with ceremonies and prayers, gathering on mountaintops or at spiritual landmarks. Over the weekend, skywatchers around the world were also treated to views of the so-called Supermoon, the largest full moon of the year. On Sunday, the moon approached within 357,000 km (222,000 mi) of Earth, in what is called a perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system (perigee: closest point of an elliptical orbit; syzygy: straight line made of three bodies in a gravitational system). Photographers across the globe set out to capture both events, and collected here are 24 images of our two most-visible celestial neighbors. [24 photos]"

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Roots of the Next Financial Crisis—How Wall Street Undermines Reform

Lawrence Lessig wrote The Roots of the Next Financial Crisis—How Wall Street Undermines Reform It's pretty short and makes a few important points (deregulation is crazy and the root of our problems is in corruption in the financing of elections).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Daily Show host Jon Stewart appears as 'captured foreign spy' on Egyptian TV

Daily Show host Jon Stewart appears as 'captured foreign spy' on Egyptian TV

Part 2 of the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

In Focus show sue Part 2 of the 2013 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest "The time to enter the 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is running short -- entries will be accepted for another few days, until June 30, 2013. The 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 later entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. Also, be sure to see Part 1, earlier on In Focus. [46 photos]"

Just go look at them all.

Friday, June 21, 2013

To Understand Terrorism and Threat Assessment, Look to Aum

L'Hôte: to understand terrorism and threat assessment, look to Aum "Just as important was what the Japanese government and people did not do. They didn't panic. They didn't make sweeping changes to their way of life. They didn't implement a vast system of domestic surveillance. They didn't suspend basic civil rights. They didn't begin to capture, torture, and kill without due process. They didn't, in other words, allow themselves to be terrorized. Instead, they addressed the threat. They investigated and arrested the cult's leadership. They tried them in civilian courts and earned convictions through due process. They buried their dead. They mourned. And they moved on. In every sense, it was a rational, adult, mature response to a terrible terrorist act, one that remained largely in keeping with liberal democratic ideals."

25,000 Bees Discovered Dead in Oregon Parking Lot

25,000 Bees Discovered Dead in Oregon Parking Lot "National Pollinator Week kicked off with a dark twist of irony Monday, when tens of thousands of bumblebees, honeybees, ladybugs and other insects were found dead or dying in a Target parking lot in Oregon. Now, early signs strongly suggest insecticides may be to blame."

"“They were literally falling out of the trees," said Hatfield, in reference to the European linden trees under which the bees were found to be clustered. "To our knowledge this is one of the largest documented bumblebee deaths in the Western U.S. It was heartbreaking to watch.”"

"The Xerces Society immediately contacted the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), which launched an investigation into the death of the bees. It has since come to light that the linden trees were sprayed Saturday with an insecticide called "Safari" (marketed by Valent as "the fastest broad spectrum insecticide on the market") that may have been improperly applied. “They made a huge mistake, but unfortunately this is not that uncommon,” said Xerces Executive Director Scott Hoffman Black in an interview with Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Evidently they didn’t follow the label instructions. This should not have been applied to the trees while they’re in bloom.”"

So lots of bees died and it was probably pesticides, but it doesn't explain Colony Collapse Disorder at all.

New Jersey Cultural Map

New Jersey Cultural Map "In December, 2011, 22 year old Rutgers graduate, Joe Steinfeld from Westfield, published this color coded map of New Jersey which went viral on the web. Most people thought it was funny with titles like 'rednecks, hippies and misguided tourists', but mayors in areas with titles like 'Sad black people and corruption', 'Worse than Detroit' or 'Russians, Polacks and Toxic Fumes' were not very happy. In a Star Ledger poll 9% said they were offended."


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Apple Devices

I've had a few people ask me lately about buying Apple gear and I figured I'd write up my current thoughts.

First is to know when to buy. Apple doesn't announce schedules and there are probably more rumors for upcoming Apple products than for any other company. Most of them are wrong too. Still, check the Mac Buyer's Guide before buying anything. They track all releases and estimate new releases based on average times between previous releases. If it says "Don't Buy, New Updates Soon" hold off if you can.


This is probably the device I use least (I'll always prefer a bigger screen) but it is the one device I assume I'll always have with me. As such, it's where my music and podcasts are (other than my Mac). I do download a lot of apps, but that's now mostly on my iPad. 16GB was a little tight on my last phone so I went with 32GB this time and now I don't have to think about space.

I've had the 3G, the 4 and now have the 5. I upgrade every two years as that's how long my contract is and that seems about right based on compelling new features. For the iPhone 5 these were LTE which is really fast, Siri which I use a fair amount, and a camera upgrade (it's the only camera I use).

I don't use a case but did get a protective film installed all around the iPhone from a kiosk vendor outside the Apple Store. The only problem I had with my iPhone 4 was I got a small scratch on the screen when I accidentally put it in a pocket with my keys. This will prevent that. Installing these films is a little tricky to get all the air bubbles out. It's the kind of thing that takes some practice to do well and doing it once every two years isn't enough. Like sharpening kitchen knives, I'm happy to occasionally pay a professional to do it.


I had a rule that I don't buy the first generation of new Apple hardware. The second release usually includes a big feature or two and better battery life and performance. It worked well for me on the iPhone and it's worked well with my iPad 2.

I use the iPad at home a lot. It's what I use in the living room, to read in bed, and even a bit in the kitchen. And yes, I use it in the bathroom to read, often finishing an article I started on the Mac (iCloud tabs with Safari are great). It's also the device I take when traveling (along with my iPhone) and it's fine for checking email, reading news, off loading and showing photos, watching a movie on a plane, playing games, etc. Another rule I have is I'm wiling to type a sentence on an iPhone and about a paragraph on the iPad, anything longer and I want a real keyboard. I take it occasionally to lectures or other things where I want to take notes and it works fine for that.

One surprising thing about the iPad, it might be the device I keep longest. I'll probably keep updating my phone every 2 years and I hope to get 3 years out of a computer (though I got 5 out of my last laptop). With the iPad new features have come out and I don't find them compelling. The new retina display is nice, but I don't see that big a difference, and it's warmer, heavier and I think has less battery life. I would like Siri on my iPad as I've gotten used to it on the iPhone, but it's not a big deal. I don't use it as a camera except for video chats, so it's fine for that. I can't really think of a new feature that would compel me to upgrade soon (though I'll be glad to be surprised).

At some point the battery will not keep a charge as long, but Apple uses better batteries than most other manufactures with higher recharge cycle counts (it's one of many little reasons they can get away with charging more money). I've not yet heard of an iPad needing a battery replacement (they do them for $100 I think but I've never heard of anyone needing one yet)

As for options, I maxed out the iPad 2. I got the 3G model (on AT&T) and have used it occasionally. The fact that I can easily subscribe for a month or not makes it handy. I probably use it about the half the time, but it's been 6 months since I've used the 3G. I could now use my iPhone as a wifi hotspot. Since it's Verizon, it's nice knowing I can have data coverage with one or the other service. My iPad is pretty full, but I download a lot of apps (usually when they're on sale which I track with AppZap Pro and AppsGoneFree. I'd list the upgrades in order of importance as get 32GB, then 3G, then 64GB. I do have music on it but feel I could remove it and just use my phone for that. I don't have much video on it but if you want that, it does use a lot of space (consider what you'll watch on a round trip flight).

I got the smart cover with the iPad and think it's brilliant. I have a Ristretto for iPad bag from Tom Bihn and I've been happy with it (though I have the original version and they have a new version now with a zipper in the smaller compartment). It's the only bag I found at the time that was sized for an iPad (I found my laptop bag was way too huge) and yet was big enough to hold a water bottle. It's now my extra carry-on bag on a plane and holds all my chargers and accessories.

There's now a choice of a full sized iPad or an iPad mini. For me, I'll stick with full sized. I'm not commuting with it or carrying it all day so I don't need the portability of an iPad Mini. I have an iPhone if I can't take my iPad somewhere.

The iPad and iPad Mini are the same except for price, size, weight and screen resolution (retina). The full size one does have a faster chip, but that's mostly to drive the screen and I doubt I'd ever notice that difference (The Mini has the same chip as my iPad 2). The mini-uses a smaller SIM card for cellular but I doubt I'd ever change it unless I travel overseas and buy a SIM card to use there. The networking, cameras, cellular services, memory options, Siri, everything else is the same.

Shortly after it came out there were a lot of reviews that people loved the size of the mini. Given my use, I'm not interested in the extra portability. It's easier to type in portrait on the mini but harder to type in landscape. I'm a touch typist so I really want a big keyboard and use landscape as much as I can. I'm happy with a full sized iPad and an iPhone for portability. In fact I'd like a slightly bigger iPad for two reasons. Now it's just a little smaller than standard comics and it would be great to have a full sized page rendered on it in actual size (magazines too) and yeah a retina display would be nice for this. Second, if it was a little taller then a full sized keyboard could fit on the screen or on the cover. The Microsoft Surface Touch Cover is very clever, but it's still not a full sized keyboard so I'm still willing to just type a paragraph on it (I've tried it briefly in a store).

So given that I have an iPhone, I like pairing it with a full sized iPad and I expect to keep it for a while. The only new feature I'd really like is a slightly larger model which could show a full comic page at readable size and have a full sized keyboard onscreen or on a cover. In addition I have a Kindle.

I do think a Mini is great for kids. Also, it's cheaper than a full sized iPad. Apple still sells my iPad, the iPad 2 though only the 16GB version. It's only $100 less than the retina one, and I think Siri might be worth it. You also get a better camera but I don't take photos with the iPad (maybe I would with a better camera but I think the iPhone is much easier to hold).

As for other tablets, I'll say that every non-geek I know that got an android device (or a Kindle Fire) has eventually replaced it with an iPad and has been happier.

Update: I might modify my thought that I'll keep the iPad 2 for a while. Now that I've installed iOS 7 I could see upgrading to the iPad 5 or 6. A faster processor would be nice and the graphics in iOS 7 would certainly look better on a retina display. Probably not related to iOS 7 but to my continued use of the iPhone 5, I'd like Siri on my iPad too. I'm still relatively new to iOS 7 but I'm finding battery life to be less on my iPhone 5 and Ars says it's the same for the iPad 2, so a bigger battery would be nice as well. I'm hoping the iPad 5 is back to the weight of an iPad 2 or less. I'm not running out to upgrade, but I'm also no longer expecting to hold onto the iPad for a really long time.


My Kindle 4 is about an inch shorter and half an inch narrower than an iPad Mini. It also weighs about half as much and cost under $100, compared to $329-$659 for a mini. The battery lasts a month and more importantly it's readable in the sunlight. I take it to the beach, where I wouldn't take an iPad (though I do take my iPhone). I will also take it to a coffee shop or around town to have a book (or several) to read. I could use the Kindle app on the iPhone but find the app renders text poorly (there's no reason for it not be as pretty as Instapaper) and I prefer reading on the bigger Kindle screen.


I used to say that for most people a laptop provided all the power you need and the portability was really nice. The big exception was for gamers who often need better graphic cards. I had a laptop and connected to it an external monitor and keyboard when at home. Worked great. Then I wanted to play some games (specifically Diablo III) and I got an iPad which handles all my portable needs. I had my laptop for five years and it's 200GB hard drive got filled up. My music collection didn't grow so much and I didn't start taking many more pictures and I didn't get into video. A big addition was syncing my iPad and iPhone and all the space that apps took up (70GB now). I also started using reading glasses and I really appreciate a big screen.

In April I bought a 27" iMac and I've been very happy with it. I kept using my old wired keyboard and ordered the iMac with a wireless keyboard. I've connected it to my iPad and it worked in testing though I haven't had a real need for yet it. I did get a sleeve for it and it lives in my Ristretto.

I was going to get an external Thunderbolt drive for Time Machine backups but they're a bit expensive. Instead I got a LaCie 2TB USB 3.0 drive and have been happy with it.

Shortly after getting the iMac I realized another difference between it and a laptop one night, there's no battery. Obvious huh, but when I had a brief power fail, my iMac crashed. So I learned about UPS's, uninterruptible power supplies. I knew they were power adaptors with a battery in them, I didn't realize they had USB ports and connected to the computer so that the computer could know when it's on battery and could do an orderly shutdown. That's all I wanted, I didn't need to run the computer on battery for any length of time (I wouldn't have the Internet anyway), I just didn't want the disk damaged in a crash (and I don't know if fusion drives behave any differently in such circumstances).

I also learned that most cheap (under $100) UPSs output square waves for their a/c power. This is fine except when it's not. Stereo equipment can output a hum with poor power. Also it turns out that new eco-friendly power supplies in computers really want clean sine waves for their power. When looking at APC UPSs (the leading manufacturer) that jumped the price to $300-400. Instead I went with one from CyberPower for $170. I got the 1350VA one because it had 2 extra USB ports on the front and I thought I could power my iPhone and iPad off them. I was now giving up an extra USB port in the back of the iMac. Turns out those don't seem to work on my unit and I'm deciding if I should return it. They don't have enough power for an iPad anyway, and I'm doing ok using the two ports on the wired keyboard. I might get a USB hub and be done with it.

The iMac comes with 8GB of RAM and to upgrade it to 32GB Apple charges $600. On the other hand, 32GB from Crucial is just $250 and I had planned to do that, but so far 8GB has been fine. That might change if I start programming with Xcode.


Apple's extended warranty policy is known as AppleCare. You can get it for macs and iOS devices and the cost varies.

For a Mac AppleCare extends the warranty from 1 year to 3 and phone support from 90 days to 3 years. For my iMac it was $169 and I think it's great deal (particularly when combined with the easy access to a genius bar in a nearby Apple Store). In the past they've replaced my Time Capsule, given me new laptop batteries and helped me work through a few issues.

For an iPhone it's $99 and ups the warranty from 1 year to 2 and phone support from 90 days to 2 years. It also adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a $49 service fee. My sense is, for a device I plan to replace every 2 years, I'll risk it. I've been careful with my phones and haven't had a problem.

The prices and coverage for the iPad is the same as the iPhone. I haven't gotten AppleCare for my iPad but I think it's a toss up.

Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover

JPL reports Billion-Pixel View of Mars Comes From Curiosity Rover "The first NASA-produced view from the surface of Mars larger than one billion pixels stitches together nearly 900 exposures taken by cameras onboard Curiosity and shows details of the landscape along the rover's route.

The 1.3-billion-pixel image is available for perusal with pan and zoom tools at: and a scaled down version (~159MB) is available for direct download here: ."

Wall Street falls after Fed's stimulus wind-down outline

Wall Street falls after Fed's stimulus wind-down outline. Not really a biggie but it should be a note for Congress. Remember when the GOP wanted to use the Dow as a measure of the economy (and as a rating for Obama). Well if Wall Street falls when the Fed stops stimulus, imagine how high it would climb if Congress started stimulus.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Russell Brand Brilliantly Eviscerates Inane Morning Show Hosts

Badass Digest commands we WATCH: Russell Brand Brilliantly Eviscerate Inane Morning Show Hosts "The setup: Brand's appearing to promote his Messiah Complex comedy tour, and for the first four minutes of the clip he gets progressively more exasperated as the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe (I don't know who these clowns are, can't be bothered to look up their names) treat him much in the way you'd treat a trained monkey at a child's 8th birthday party. They claim they can't understand his accent, speak about him in the third person despite the fact that he's sitting at the same table, and at one point one of them even appears to start referring to him by the wrong name.

Around the 4:45 mark Brand seems to decide he's had about enough of this foolishness, and what follows may well be the most hilarious and deserved assault upon an idiotic 'journalist' since Geraldo Rivera got his face pushed in with a chair. It's all the more glorious in that none of the hosts seem to realize how savage this trouncing they've just received really is. At one point, Brand literally takes the show away from them and instantly does a better job."

Bill Maher: House of Lards

I haven't been that interested in Bill Maher lately, but whenever I'm ready to stop he does something good, like this:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Decommissioning Nuclear Power Plants

The Economist writes Nuclear power: Difference Engine: Too hot to handle.

Ancient Roman Concrete Is About to Revolutionize Modern Architecture

Businessweek says Ancient Roman Concrete Is About to Revolutionize Modern Architecture "After 2,000 years, a long-lost secret behind the creation of one of the world’s most durable man-made creations ever—Roman concrete—has finally been discovered by an international team of scientists, and it may have a significant impact on how we build cities of the future."

"The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique. As the researchers explain in a press release outlining their findings, 'The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated—incorporating water molecules into its structure—and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.'"

Cracks in the Periodic Table

Scientific American discusses Cracks in the Periodic Table "The discovery of element 117 filled the last remaining gap in the periodic table as we know it. But even as it is being completed, the table may be losing its power"

The headline really just refers to the superheavy elements but the article gives nice examples and discusses the blurring of physics and chemistry. Turns out, as elements get bigger there are relativistic effects on the inner electron orbits that change the chemistry of the element.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

These Photos Of NYC's Subway Project Are Astonishing

These Photos Of NYC's Subway Project Are Astonishing "New York City is doing some serious work on the Second Avenue Subway, the first new line built under the city since 1932. The $4.5 billion project aims to decrease commuter congestion for east Manhattan. Check out these pictures. They are incredible."

Wonkbook: The facts have changed. Have the policies?

Wonkbook: The facts have changed. Have the policies? "The D.C. version is, when the facts change, you should change your policies. As a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress points out, the budget and economic facts have changed rather dramatically over the last few years. But the policies haven’t."

"Here are some of the facts that have changed since deficit-mania swept the town in 2010: We’ve enacted $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction. Health-care costs have slowed beyond our wildest hopes. Interest rates and inflation have remained low despite widespread predictions that deficits and aggressive monetary policy would drive them high. The economy has remained weak. Sequestration has taken effect. That’s a lot of change. Has anyone changed their policies since 2010? Even a little bit?"

"So with some of the urgency gone, did [Paul] Ryan ease up on the cuts to programs like Medicaid and food stamps? Of course not. He just got his budget to balance in 10 years instead of 30."

"The Obama administration hasn’t accepted discretion to make the sequester’s cuts less onerous. Democrats haven’t offered an alternative package of spending cuts they’re happier living with. In public, they’ve kept pursuing the exact kind of budget deals that led to sequestration in the first place, and in private, they’ve simply resigned themselves to a reality they once swore they’d never permit."

New England Mobile Book Fair’s Ultimate Suspense Story

The Boston Globe writes about New England Mobile Book Fair’s ultimate suspense story. If you've ever visited and we went to a giant book store, it was this one.

"When longtime customer Tom Lyons purchased the Newton Highlands literary landmark in November 2011, he faced three challenges: bringing order to a million-plus books bewilderingly arranged by publisher or, in the case of remainders, seemingly by whim; compiling a computer inventory of the collection; and defying Internet giants that have been stamping out independents and chains alike.

Lyons says he is well on his way to achieving his first two goals, and brimming with ideas for the third. But the suspense builds: Will the red ink recede in time for what one veteran employee calls Mobile Book Fair 2.0 to emerge in its full glory? And can Lyons and his staff generate the buzz needed to pull in enough new customers to keep the business afloat?"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lawsuit Filed To Prove Happy Birthday Is In The Public Domain

Techdirt explains, Lawsuit Filed To Prove Happy Birthday Is In The Public Domain; Demands Warner Pay Back Millions Of License Fees.

"Happy Birthday remains the most profitable song ever. Every year, it is the song that earns the highest royalty rates, sent to Warner/Chappell Music (which makes millions per year from 'licensing' the song). However, as we've been pointing out for years, the song is almost certainly in the public domain. Robert Brauneis did some fantastic work a few years ago laying out why the song's copyright clearly expired many years ago, even as Warner/Chappell pretends otherwise. You can read all the background, but there are a large number of problems with the copyright, including that the sisters who 'wrote' the song, appear to have written neither the music, nor the lyrics. At best, they may have written a similar song called 'Good Morning to All' in 1893, with the same basic melody, but there's evidence to suggest the melody itself predated the sisters. But, more importantly, the owner of the copyright (already questionable) failed to properly renew it in 1962, which would further establish that it's in the public domain.

The issue, as we've noted, is that it's just not cost effective for anyone to actually stand up and challenge Warner Music, who has strong financial incentive to pretend the copyright is still valid. Well, apparently, someone is pissed off enough to try. The creatively named Good Morning to You Productions, a documentary film company planning a film about the song Happy Birthday, has now filed a lawsuit concerning the copyright of Happy Birthday and are seeking to force Warner/Chappell to return the millions of dollars it has collected over the years. That's going to make this an interesting case."

Dry Ice Moves on Mars

I thought this was a really good explanation in a short video. Dry ice surfing on sand? Who knew?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ricky Jay

I saw the documentary Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay the other week and while it was pretty good, I learned a lot more about him from this 1993 New Yorker piece, Secrets of the Magus.


Film Crit Hulk writes some good stuff, I just wish he wouldn't do it in all caps (and no I'm not going to fix it here). Here's two good recent articles. I really agree with the first one.





I liked HULK VS. SPOILERS AND THE 4 LEVELS OF HOW WE CONSUME ART too. For me spoiler warnings are simple matter of politeness and there isn't a expiration. Everyone should be able to experience Citizen Kane the first time and not that doesn't mean you can't ever write about it. I do know a few people that I think take spoilers too far, but that's there choice and I try to accommodate.

Walls and the End of the Road

The Chicago Sun-Times made some headlines by firing all their photojournalists and teaching reporters (that is writers) to take pictures with their iPhones. This is what they're giving up.

The Big Picture gives us a view of Walls "They keep things out or enclose them within. They're symbols of power, and a means of control. They're canvases for art, backdrops for street theater, and placards for political messages. They're just waiting for when nobody's looking to receive graffiti. Walls of all kinds demarcate our lives. -- Lane Turner (41 photos total)."

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Then again, In Focus shows what can be done using the internet to collect photos. The Ends of the Road "Inspired in part by the great geography game GeoGuessr, I spent some time recently in Google Maps, finding the edges of their Street View image coverage. I've always been drawn to the end of the road, to the edges of where one might be allowed to travel, whether blocked by geographic features, international borders, or simply the lack of any further road. Gathered below is a virtual visit to a few of these road ends around the world -- borders, shorelines, dead ends and overlooks from New Zealand to Svalbard, from Alaska to South Africa. [26 photos]"

I really like that they included a link to a Google Map of the location.

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Improving Photo Search: A Step Across the Semantic Gap

Improving Photo Search: A Step Across the Semantic Gap "Last month at Google I/O, we showed a major upgrade to the photos experience: you can now easily search your own photos without having to manually label each and every one of them. This is powered by computer vision and machine learning technology, which uses the visual content of an image to generate searchable tags for photos combined with other sources like text tags and EXIF metadata to enable search across thousands of concepts like a flower, food, car, jet ski, or turtle."

Freaking magic.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

More on Mad Men

I missed this Emily Nussbaum article on “Mad Men” ’s Don Draper problem. It's worth a read.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has been thinking about it and now thinks Mad Men Has Become a Bad Comic Book. "We grant comic books that license because they are arched over decades, forged by different writers and editors. Some writers emphasize one aspect of backstory more than others, and whole events are often retconned into oblivion. Either way I don't think backstory is so much the problem, as the belief that backstory has more explanatory power than it actually does."

I definitely agree with them that the characters other than Don have lost the depth that made them interesting. And for all the focus on Don, I have not been captivated. I suspect the finale will have some big reveal but it won't make up for the whole season.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mad Style: Favors

Mad Style: Favors is some crazy deep analysis of this season's Mad Men fashion (and some other things).

What Are Lagrange Points?

I thought this was a really nice explanation. (via Universe Today)

“Temporal cloak” used to hide data transmitted at 12.7 Gbps

Ars Technica explains “Temporal cloak” used to hide data transmitted at 12.7 Gbps "In the past few years, there has been a regular series of announcements about devices that cloak something in space. These typically bend light around the cloak so that it comes out behind the object looking as if it had never shifted at all. In contrast, there's just been a single description of a temporal cloaking device, something that hides an event in time. The device works because in some media different frequencies of light move at different speeds. With the right combination of frequency shifts, it's possible to create and then re-seal a break in a light beam."

The Daily Show on the NSA Scandal

Last night's Daily Show proved that John Oliver will do just fine filling in for Jon Stewart this summer.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Apple's WWDC 2013 Keynote

I watched the live stream of the keynote at Apple's developer conference yesterday. They announced updates to the Mac and iOS operating systems and some new hardware.

On the hardware side, the MacBook Air got an update. It seems that Intel's new Hazwell processors really do work at preserving battery life. The 11" Air will run for 9 hours (up from 5) and the 13" will run for 12 hours (up from 7). Those are big differences as if the numbers are right (and Apples battery life numbers usually aren't exaggerated) they now qualify as running for all day. I think the prices are all $100 less than previous models and the storage, which is all flashed-based doubled which is also a big deal. The Air's previously had very limited storage and now you can get with 256GB which is what the laptop I just replaced had. They also announced support for 802.11ac a new faster wifi standard and that came with new AirPort routers that support it. Nice but not something I'm going to need anytime soon.

They also showed a sneak peak at the new Mac Pro. They usually don't do this but it's the right audience and the obsolescence of the current Mac Pro is practically a joke. I'm sure they would have liked to have released it for this event but I guess it's just not ready yet. It's a completely new design and radical enough that it now seems obvious. Even the website is pretty gorgeous. The new machine is a black 10 inch tall and 6.6 inch diameter cylinder. It uses Xeon processors, PCIe flash storage, very fast RAM and has two FirePro GPUs. It will support up to three 4K displays. All of that is assembled around a triangular cooling core with a single fan that pulls the heat out and up. This thing will probably heat a room, but quietly. It has six of the new Thunderbolt 2 (and six USB 3) connectors and and all the expandability is through them. That keeps expansion external but allows it to be fast (and expensive). They said it will be available later this year and didn't announce pricing, but I'm sure it will be very expensive.

In describing it Phil Schiller said "Can't innovate anymore my ass." It was one of several snarky comments. Craig Federighi had a few in describing the new looks of OS X and iOS.

  • "No virtual cows were harmed in the making of this app".
  • "Even without the stitching, the app still sticks to the screen."
  • "We completely ran out of green felt. And wood, as well—this has gotta be good for the environment"
  • at one point he called Firefox's performance "just sad" and that went a little too far for me.

Apple's best name for OS X 10.9 was Sea Lion but they weren't happy with it. So the cat names theme has been replaced with a California theme, starting with Mavericks. Okay. They have made a number of internal improvements that mostly seem to be concentrated around reducing power consumption. Instead of paging to disk (which I guess is usually flash now) they compress memory and store it in RAM. They say it's faster, more power efficient, and works well with multiple cores. They now coalesce system timers so they go off together, allowing the CPU to handle more of them at once and idle for longer. They claim this gives up to 72% cpu performance improvements. Finally apps that aren't visible can now be throttled and given lower priority. We'll see how well this works.

The Finder now has tabs, not sure I'll ever use that. They also added tags to files which is something I'll try but not sure it will do a lot for me over folders. For those with multiple displays (like users of the new Mac Pro) they improved support for them with menus and docks and Spaces and Mission Control. I don't really use them but maybe they finally work well.

Safari got some performance improvements and apparently uses less power which will help the most common use of a laptop. There's a new home page with top sites and an improved sidebar which incorporates links from twitter feeds and other social media accounts. Cute but not that interesting. Notification center now supports push notifications and some syncing across devices as well as some controls to allow actions directly from the notification.

The keychain gets more iCloud support making it a 1Password competitor. The Calendar removes the leatherette and finally does more with locations, including allowing for travel times based on current traffic. There's also a new Maps app that looks nice and syncs bookmarks and directions well with the iPhone. I think I'll actually use that. And also moving things from iOS there's now an iBooks app for the Mac that looks very useful for textbooks.

iOS got the biggest changes with a whole new look and some fixes for long standing complaints. Swiping up brings up Control Center with one button access to various settings (bluetooth, brightness, a flashlight, music controls, etc.). Swiping down brings up a more featured Notification Center. Swiping from the left edge of the screen to the right seems to be a back button for many apps. Hopefully it's less confusing than I understand Android's back button to be. The app switching UI changed and now includes screen shots of the apps. Under the hood, there are some performance improvements and new features to allow apps to do more in the background without killing the battery.

There was a lot about Jonny Ive's new design for iOS. It makes some sense and many of the apps are vastly improved (particularly Calendar) but the icons are weak and I'm a bit nervous about the use of translucent layers. I thought that proved to be a failure with the OS X menu bar (and now turn it off immediately). Share sheets seem more useful, with more places to share and easier sharing and AirDrop support. I would have used that a couple of weekend ago.

Safari is more full screen and the tab UI looks more like an infinite rolodex. The camera adds filters and now does four things (photos, video, square photos (why?) and panoramics). Photos now automatically organizes photos by "moments" and "collections" based on locations and dates. There's some overlap with iPhoto's events but it seems to be an improvement. The Music app nows shows not just your music on the device but also your iTunes in the Cloud songs. And there's iTunes Radio which seems to be a Pandora killer. Every other Apple app seems to have changed from Calendar, Reminders, Weather, Calculator to the phone and messages apps.

Siri is supposed smarter and at least now can toggle bluetooth settings. Oddly the default web search has been switched from Google to Bing. Seems like Apple has done a 180 on the lessor of two evils. Coming in 2014 there will be cars with Siri integration in the dashboard display. Looks like I'll be holding off on a new car for another year.

The App Store will now know where you are (and how old you are) and be able to make recommendations based on that. Also apps will update automatically in the background which I think I'll like.

There are a bunch more features, here are 27 new iOS 7 features Apple didn't talk about. Tim Cook just did the company wide stuff (citing big numbers like 93% of apps have at least one download a month) but he made two points about iOS over Android that I've always considered significant. From satisfaction surveys iOS users are much happier with their devices than Android users. And second, virtually all iOS users are using the latest version of the OS rather than an older one (which probably influences those survey results). Apple does the OS updates, not the phone companies which is the opposite of how it works for Android. Phone companies have less incentive to upgrade you for free.

There were a number of things not mentioned which seems a shame. A lot of people want a way to designate a new default app for different features and there still is none. If you make a web browser, links in other apps will still open in Safari. Also there's no way to replace the keyboard with something different (and potentially better).

There were some iCloud updates announced as well, but oddly it mostly seemed to be a demo of iWork now running completely inside a browser from It looks like they did a very impressive job, but I can't see myself wanting to use this. It does seems useful if you want to collaborate on documents with PC users as it also works in IE and Chrome.

So that was it. Lots of new stuff, but some things were missing. It was less a developer event then a general Apple event. I was surprised to see no new MacBook Pros. I guess they'll come out in August (for back to school) or Sep/Oct (for the holiday season). I wasn't expecting an iLife or iWork update but they're needed too. I'm sure iWork in the Cloud and the iOS versions are hard to do, but iWork '09 is a bit long in the tooth. I wonder if they'll be a retina desktop display. I don't think I'd want a Mac Pro, but if they used that design to make a Mac (between the Pro and the Mini) with a single good graphics card and an external display I think they'd have a real winner. Maybe in 2014 or 2015.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Dialect Survey Results

Thanks to Dialect Survey Results we now know the answer to "What is your generic term for a sweetened carbonated beverage" and over a hundred other questions. With graphs.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Yes, Europe really is in the throes of austerity

Yes, Europe really is in the throes of austerity

Apparently Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has had a change of heart. She used to be pro-austerity and now not so much.

"The CBO’s latest projections and the Reinhart-Rogoff debacle, she argued, ‘make it clearer than ever that now we need to focus above all else on our fragile economic recovery, and that the case for austerity in a time of economic weakness is simply wrong.’

To bolster the point, she had on hand former Treasury secretary and Harvard economics professor Larry Summers, as well as MIT economist and former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson. ‘International comparisons tend to confirm the view that excessively rapid fiscal consolidation has adverse impacts on economic performance,’ Summers wrote in prepared testimony. Johnson concurred, writing, ‘Immediate spending cuts would, by themselves, likely slow the economy.’

Countering them was Salim Furth, an economist at the Heritage Foundation. Furth argued that (a) tax increases harm the economy (b) spending cuts help economic growth and (c) permanent spending reform permanently increases growth. So far, so conservative. But the most interesting part of his testimony was Furth’s claim that most of Europe isn’t experiencing austerity at all."

This has been a myth from the right for a while and it's nice to see people call them out for it. And by people I mean Sen Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who in his statement taught be a new word, "meretricious" meaning "apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity".

Krugman adds "false, misleading data and analysis — that’s SOP at Heritage".

Revealed: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Americans daily

The Guardian reports Revealed: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Americans daily "The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an 'ongoing, daily basis' to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered."

This helicopter is being controlled by a human brain

This helicopter is being controlled by a human brain

"First, there’s the order of complexity to consider. This quadcopter has to be navigated across three different dimensions. To make it work, engineers at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering fitted a cap with 64 electrodes. Participants were then asked to imagine using their right hand, left hand, and both hands together in order to instruct the quadrotor to turn right, left, lift, and fall, respectively. The flying device was configured with a pre-set forward moving velocity to make it manageable.

The users sat in front of a screen which showed images of the quadrotor’s flight in realtime as it was being recorded by its onboard camera. The brain signals were recorded by the cap and transmitted to the copter via WiFi."

Flooding in Europe

The Big Picture shows Flooding in Europe "The Danube River reached its highest level in 500 years. The Elbe, Rhine, and other rivers and tributaries are cresting high as well as swathes of central Europe lie inundated by floodwaters that have killed 12 and displaced tens of thousands. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic have been severely affected, as Hungary prepares for the swell of water. Gathered here are images of the flooding and people affected in the last several days. -- Lane Turner (40 photos total)"

Japan's radiation disaster toll: none dead, none sick

Here's a different take on a disaster we read so much about.

Japan's radiation disaster toll: none dead, none sick "The accident competed for media space with the deaths of nearly 20,000 people in the magnitude 9.0 quake – 1000 times worse than the Christchurch quake – and tsunami, which wholly or partly destroyed more than a million buildings.

The nuclear workers were the living dead, we were told; hundreds of thousands would die if the plant exploded; even if that didn't happen, affected areas would be uninhabitable and residents' health would suffer for generations.

Advertisement Instead, two independent international reports conclude that radiative material released from Fukushima's four damaged reactors, three of which melted down, has had negligible health impacts.

In February, the World Health Organisation reported there would be no noticeable increases in cancer rates for the overall population. A third of emergency workers were at some increased risk."

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

DARPA’s Using Smartphone Guts To Build Cheaper, Smarter Drones Faster

DARPA’s Using Smartphone Guts To Build Cheaper, Smarter Drones Faster "In other words, drones are getting iPhone brains and instead it taking six or seven years for the technology to go to market, it will only take a handful of months. So much for scaling back."

The shocking truth about Obamacare’s rate shock

This is a followup to this previous post, California Obamacare Premiums Lower Than Expected.

Ezra Klein explains The shocking truth about Obamacare’s rate shock

"Last week, California released early information on the rates insurers intend to charge on the new insurance marketplaces — known as ‘exchanges’ — that the state is setting up under Obamacare. They were far lower than anyone expected. Where analysts had anticipated average premiums of $400 to $500, insurers were actually charging $200 to $300. ‘This is a home run for consumers in every region of California,’ crowed Peter Lee, director of the state’s exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act’s critics saw it differently. Avik Roy, a conservative health writer at Forbes, said Lee was being ‘misleading’ and that ‘Obamacare, in fact, will increase individual-market premiums in California by as much as 146 percent.’ Obamacare, he said, would trigger ‘rate shock,’ the jolt people feel when they see higher rates. That doesn’t sound like a home run at all.

Who’s right? In typical columnist fashion, I’m not going to tell you just yet. But stick with me, and you’ll be able to parse the next year of confused and confusing Obamacare arguments with ease."

"Some people will find the new rules make insurance more expensive. That’s in part because their health insurance was made cheap by turning away sick people. The new rules also won’t allow for as much discrimination based on age or gender. The flip side of that, of course, is that many will suddenly find their health insurance is much cheaper, or they will find that, for the first time, they’re not turned away when they try to buy health insurance.

That’s why the law is expected to insure almost 25 million people in the first decade: It makes health insurance affordable and accessible to millions who couldn’t get it before. To judge it from a baseline that leaves them out — a baseline that asks only what the wealthy and healthy will pay and ignores the benefits to the poor, the sick, the old, and women — well, that is a bit shocking."

The Internet Cocktail Database

How did I not know there's an Internet Cocktail Database. "We differ from other cocktail web sites in numerous ways, but mainly, all of the recipes in CocktailDB have been authenticated in print. This cuts out all the sophomoric, never-once-ordered recipes clogging many other drink sites. We already have the largest collection of verified drink recipes on the Internet or in any book, and this collection will continue to grow."

The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki

How did I not know there's an The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki.

Niall Ferguson's Bad Track Record On Economics

Joe Weisenthal describes Niall Ferguson's Bad Track Record On Economics. Consider this before reading his new book The Great Degeneration, or better yet, don't read it.

This Is How to Leak to the Press

Nicholas Weaver describes This Is How to Leak to the Press anonymously. I'm sure no warranties apply.

Recurring Developments

Recurring Developments is an interactive visualization of running jokes in Arrest Development.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Bell Labs Invents Lensless Camera

MIT's Technology Review reports Bell Labs Invents Lensless Camera "Today, this revolution gains pace because Gang Huang and pals from Bell Labs in New Jersey say they’ve used compressive sensing to build a camera that needs no lens and uses only a single sensing pixel to take photographs. What’s more, the images from this camera are never out of focus."

Back to Morimoto's

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Way back in the first year of this blog I wrote about a trip to Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant in Philadelphia. Last I week I went back with some friends. We did the $80 Omakase. I was good about taking pictures of each dish but it was harder taking notes on the descriptions (turns out that's easier with a pen and notebook then with an iPhone).

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It's a pretty place. All the blue you see, slowly changes color throughout the evening. My friends father did the electrical work in the restaurant.

1 Tuna tartare with scallop flakes

Our first dish was the same as last time. The Tuna Tartare with scallop flakes in a soy mirin sauce. It's fabulous. You put a little wasabi on your spoon and then get some tartare and sauce with each bit and it all melds together perfectly.

2 Hot oil carpaccio Suzuki striped bass

Second was Hot oil carpaccio of Suzuki striped bass. We all thought these first two dishes were the best.

3 Tuna Sashimi Salad with Mixed Greens

They called this course Tuna Sashimi Salad but I think it's described on their menu as Mixed Greens Tuna Tataki in a Shoyu dressing. Also very tasty.

4 Violet soda palate cleanser

The Fourth course was a palate cleanser and I'm not sure a palate cleanser should count as a course. This was violet soda and it did its job.

5 Seared Scallop in a Red Miso glaze

Fifth was a seared scallop in a red miso glaze with marinated vegetables. I'm not a huge scallop fan but this was good, particularly if you could manage to get all the parts together in one bite (not easy with chopsticks).

6 Roast duck with pineapple sauce

Sixth was a roast duck with a pineapple glaze. The two small squares are pineapple and I'm not sure if they were grilled or roasted. This was really good duck, not very fatty.

7 Sushi tuna yellowtail fluke flying fish squid

Seventh was sushi. From left to right starting at the top: tuna, yellowtail, fluke, flying fish, squid. The squid had a little texture to it but wasn't chewy, the others all melted in your mouth. I think the flying fish was my favorite.

8 Bavarian chocolate

I'm not sure what this desert was. All I got in my notes was bavarian chocolate. It had some layers, the green sauce was green tea and there were chocolate bits next to the square. Tasty, not amazing.