Sunday, May 31, 2015

Game of Thrones episode chapter coverage

Game of Thrones episode chapter coverage is a neat graphic showing which book chapters the TV episodes cover. The first season and book line up pretty well, but the fourth and fifth season are pulling from lots of different places.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Worldwide Elderly Crime Rates Increase

Bloomberg reported Worldwide Elderly Crime Rates Increase "Young men still commit a disproportionate share of crimes in most countries. But crime rates among the elderly are rising in Britain and other European and Asian nations, adding a worrisome new dimension to the problem of aging populations."

The "Opa Bande" ("Grandpa Gang"), three German men in their sixties and seventies who were convicted in 2005 of robbing more than €1 million ($1.09 million) from 12 banks, testified at their trial that they were trying to top up their pension benefits. One defendant, Wilfried Ackermann, said he used his share to buy a farm where he could live because he was afraid of being put in a retirement home.

The perpetrators of the London jewel heist, though, were neither isolated nor impoverished. Prosecutors say the thieves disabled an elevator and climbed down the shaft, then used a high-powered drill to cut into the vault. Once inside, they removed valuables from 72 safe deposit boxes, hauling them away in bags and bins and loading them into a waiting van. Although their faces were obscured by hardhats and other headgear, the tabloids gave each thief a nickname based on distinctive characteristics seen on camera. Two of them, dubbed Tall Man and Old Man, "struggle to move a bin before they drag it outside," the Mirror newspaper reported in its analysis of the security footage. "The Old Man leans on the bin, struggling for breath."

Most of the nine men charged in the case appeared to be ordinary blokes. The hard-of-hearing 74-year-old was described by his London neighbors as an affable retiree who loves dogs; the 59-year-old with a limp was said to be a former truck driver. Another defendant runs a plumbing business in the London suburbs. All nine are being held in custody on charges of conspiracy to commit burglary; they haven't yet entered pleas.

Pentagon accidentally sent live anthrax samples to labs via FedEx

We learned this week that the Pentagon accidentally sent live anthrax samples to labs via FedEx.

The Pentagon this week said that it accidentally sent live anthrax samples to government and private laboratories in at least nine states, and to a US military base in South Korea. As the Associated Press reports, the samples originated from a Department of Defense lab in Utah, which was supposed to send out killed samples. The labs were not equipped to handle the live spores they received instead, though military officials say there is no indication that the potentially fatal bacteria poses a broader health risk, and exposed workers are undergoing treatment.

Does this count as one of the biggest terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11? (I'm only half joking).

Is the US Getting More Liberal?

Vox has recently had a few articles pointing out that US sensibilities are getting more liberal.

For the first time, social liberals are as common as social conservatives.

Gallup social liberal conservative

This is mostly due to a change of heart — or at least a change of identification — among Democrats, who are much more likely to describe themselves as liberal than they used to be. It probably also reflects significant, fast-moving shifts of public opinion on social issues like same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization.

Americans are shifting left on almost every social issue you can think of


Just about the only things Americans are less likely to accept since 2001? The death penalty and animal testing. While the trend is shifting in a libertarian direction, the rising influence of "cultural liberal" values seem to move along with more libertine views about sex and a growing compassion toward convicted criminals and non-human animals.

More Americans now consider themselves pro-choice than pro-life


Much of the shift looks to be happening among middle-age Americans. Support for abortion rights among people between the ages of 35 and 55 grew from 40 percent in 2012 to 52 percent this year.

I don't find any of this surprising. The whole definition of liberal and conservative is how quickly they accept new things. To me the acceptance is inevitable, it's just the rate that's different. Gays rights has moved more quickly than I would have guessed, but now I'm not surprised by it. I remember when test tube babies were controversial and now IVF is common. The world that Mad Men showed seemed completely alien to me.

Of all these social issues the conflict I get the most is abortion. One side thinks they're protecting defenseless babies, that's not ignoble. But it's been pretty constant that if you ask the question differently you get about 70% think there are some cases where abortion should be legal, e.g., to protect the life of the mother. The Texas law that Roe v. Wade overturned allowed that as the only exception to the ban and the issue was to include the health of the mother. Now most people support that case as well. As I understand it some states allow exceptions for the mental health of the mother which is easy to extend to anytime and people get uncomfortable with that notion. Even many pro-choice people don't support it in order to choose the sex of their baby.

So next up we have climate change. With Texas under water and California wishing they were, I suspect those notions will change too. I haven't heard anyone blame the gays for either of these yet so that's already an improvement. With a slight decline in evangelicals and an increase in unaffiliated, maybe the hard right's war on science will come to an end.


Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote’

The New York Times reported

Supreme Court Agrees to Settle Meaning of ‘One Person One Vote'

The Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear a case that will answer a long-contested question about a bedrock principle of the American political system: the meaning of ‘one person one vote.'

The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.

In the process, though, several judges have acknowledged that the Supreme Court’s decisions provide support for both approaches. The federal appeals court in New Orleans said the issue “presents a close question,” partly because the Supreme Court had been “somewhat evasive in regard to which population must be equalized.”

Even if counting only adult citizens is the correct approach, there are practical obstacles. “A constitutional rule requiring equal numbers of citizens would necessitate a different kind of census than the one currently conducted,” Nathaniel Persily, a law professor at Stanford, wrote in 2011 in the Cardozo Law Review.

FiveThirtyEight looked at the Census’s American Community Survey to try to determine the effect of changing to counting voters.

Most legal scholars are skeptical that this case will change the way House seats and Electoral College votes are apportioned to states every 10 years; after all, the Constitution pretty clearly references the role of the Census’s population count in this process.

But let’s lay out a hypothetical for a minute. What would happen if counts of voters rather than people were used for both reapportionment (allotting seats among the states) and redistricting (drawing boundaries within states)? States with large Latino populations would be penalized. Based on the 2013 ACS data, California would lose six House seats, Texas would lose four and New York one, while a smattering of other states would each gain one seat.

Next, the partisan implications: Which party would gain or lose those seats? To arrive at an estimate, we calculated the percentage of eligible voters currently living in districts represented by Democrats and Republicans in each state and applied that percentage to the “new” seat total. For example, Republicans currently represent 25 of Texas’s 36 districts (69 percent), but an even higher share (73 percent) of Texas’s eligible voters. If Texas lost four seats and only adult citizens were counted, the GOP seat edge might expand to 24-8.

If we repeat this calculation across all states, a redistribution of representation based on eligible voters could result in a net gain of roughly eight seats for House Republicans, who are already sitting on a historically large majority of 245 seats.

What’s interesting, however, is that the possible shift would affect only the closest of presidential elections. If you were to replay the 2012 election under the new lines, President Obama would win 331 electoral votes, only one fewer than he actually did.

In Praise of Chairs

Every Frame a Painting explains things so well, even mundane things like chairs...

In Praise of Chairs from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

If I understand the history correctly…

Orin Kerr in The Volokh Conspiracy, If I understand the history correctly….

If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

And the guy that lied about the reasons to start a war... nothing.

Did your favorite TV show get canceled? Here are 7 reasons it might have.

Todd VanDerWerff in Vox writes Did your favorite TV show get canceled? Here are 7 reasons it might have. It's basically a primer on how network shows are funded. E.g., number three is "It struggled in the ratings and wasn't owned by the same corporation that owns the network". Shows are produced by one company and broadcast by another. Sometimes those companies are in the same family.

"For a good example of this, look no further than ABC's Marvel shows. Neither Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. nor Agent Carter is a ratings powerhouse, but both help out ABC Studios and fellow corporate sibling Marvel. That money eventually comes back to Disney, the parent corporation of the network, the studio, and Marvel."

But then they give the example of The Mindy Project. NBC owns Mindy but it was broadcast on Fox. The ratings on Fox were low and since any syndication would go to NBC not Fox, Fox had little incentive to let it go on.

On Social Ideology, the Left Catches Up to the Right

Gallop reports On Social Ideology, the Left Catches Up to the Right "Thirty-one percent of Americans describe their views on social issues as generally liberal, matching the percentage who identify as social conservatives for the first time in Gallup records dating back to 1999."


Lots more graphs in the post.

Kevin Drum comments, "What's interesting about this is that the change is due almost entirely to Democrats and Democratic leaners. Since 1999, that group has gone from 35 percent socially liberal to 53 percent, and from 20 percent socially conservative to 14 percent conservative. Republicans and Republican leaners, by contrast, have barely budged."

How to End Gerrymandering

Anne Kim wrote in Ten Miles Square, How to End Gerrymandering

"For the last three Congresses, [Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN)] has sponsored bipartisan legislation that would reform the way state legislatures draw their Congressional districts. One proposal he’s sponsoring this Congress would require states to appoint ‘independent redistricting commissions’ to take over the task of drawing district boundaries. A second proposal would make the redistricting process more transparent and allow public comment on proposed district maps.

A handful of states have already adopted independent commissions of the type proposed in Cooper’s bill. However, these commissions are also under challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. In particular, the court is examining the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, created by a voter referendum in 2000. The Court’s ruling could have far-reaching implication for the handful of other states that have opted independent redistricting, such as California and Idaho.

Redistricting reform, Cooper says, is the only way to break the gridlock that he sees too often paralyzing Washington."

Jon Stewart, Iraq War Critic, Runs a Program That Helps Veterans Enter TV

The NY Times reports Jon Stewart, Iraq War Critic, Runs a Program That Helps Veterans Enter TV "Instead, the staff of ‘The Daily Show’ developed an intense five-week immersion program to give veterans a crash course in their business, with behind-the-scenes looks at areas including talent booking and editing...He added that the veterans he had hired had been assets and “way less whiny” than most of his hires."

I don't understand why they felt the need to point out (in the headline no less) that Stewart was an Iraq War critic. First, everyone knows that, second, that has nothing to do with supporting veterans. I know people have difficulty separating supporting the war and supporting the troops, but it never made sense to me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

My blogging client of choice, MarsEdit can no longer connect to blogspot. Despite being given lots of warning that google deprecated and then removed the old authentication API, Reminder: ClientLogin Shutdown scheduled for April 20, 2015, they didn't switch over and now have to do it in a fire drill. Hopefully it will be back up soon.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Science of Persuasion

From, Influence at Work "This animated video describes the six universal Principles of Persuasion that have been scientifically proven to make you most effective based on the research in Dr. Cialdini’s groundbreaking book, Influence. This video is narrated by Dr. Robert Cialdini and Steve Martin, CMCT."

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Liking
  6. Consensus

Friday, May 22, 2015

TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir

TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir a free online course this summer (June and July) diving into Film Noir.

4 Ways Elevators Will Get Totally Insane In 2016

CoDesign describes 4 Ways Elevators Will Get Totally Insane In 2016 "The elevators of the future will be like something straight of Star Trek or Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, traveling up or down, sideways, or diagonally without ropes. And this isn't just some futuristic fantasy: the technology's proven, and ThyssenKrup will finish building the first fully functioning MULTI elevator system in Rottweil, Germany, by the end of 2016."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Why The Good Wife Writing Team is One of Tv's Sharpest

I think The Good Wife is the best show on network television. The last two seasons have been a bit uneven but I always enjoy the court cases and have always been impressed with timeliness and accuracy of their technical cases. The Guardian writes, 'We're all news junkies': why The Good Wife writing team is one of TV's sharpest "From bitcoin to Homan Square, senior writer Ted Humphrey explains how the hit CBS show spots topical stories before they hit the headlines"

Old NYC - Grid

Old NYC lays out historical photos of NYC from the New York Public Library on a Google Map. Very cool.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Did We Invade Iraq?

James Fallows writes The Right and Wrong Questions About the Iraq War. He opposes asking the question, “Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?” for a few good reasons. One, it's too easy and two it doesn't tell you anything because leaders don't get to make decisions with hindsight. I disagree a little on the second point. With hindsight you get to evaluate your decisions and learn from mistakes. Fallows basically gets to this point too, but my pet peeve is the politicians who say “I don’t answer hypotheticals”. My response to them is "Then how do you learn?".

Fallows continues with a good history lesson for the lead up to the Iraq war. We decided to invade Iraq a couple of days after 9/11.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Republicans are dying at a faster rate than Democrats

Vox writes Republicans are dying at a faster rate than Democrats "Daniel McGraw for Politico becomes the first person I've seen to try to precisely run the numbers of this, projecting that the shift in population will give Democrats about 453,000 more votes nationally even if nobody changes their mind"

"A couple of caveats. On the one hand, African Americans on average die younger than white people, which tends to tilt this calculus toward Republicans. But on the other hand, women tend to live longer than men, which should have an impact in the opposite direction. Consequently, don't bet your life on this 453,000 figure being exactly correct. But it's a decent ballpark estimate. Obama beat Romney in 2012 by about 5 million votes, so a death differential on the order of 10 percent of that margin isn't trivial."

Apple Updates

I'm pretty underwhelmed by the mac updates announced today. The Retina iMac updates are ok, Apple gives Retina 5K iMacs a $200 price cut, intros low-end $1,999 model. The price cut is nice though the low end model isn't quite appealing enough for it's price.

The MacBook Pro updates are disappointing, Apple announces new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Force Touch and other upgrades. So the MBP gets ForceTouch but not the new keyboard and not the smaller case. Also, no new CPU and it costs $100 more. There is a faster bus which is nice and if you go for the high end, there's a better GPU, but meh. Apparently the space savings of the ForceTouch was put to adding slightly more battery which isn't a bad thing for a Pro model but makes me impatient for the inevitable chassis refresh.

I'm still quite happy with my iMac and don't particularly miss a retina display on it. I do occasionally miss the laptop. I still have my old one but it's only got 4GB RAM and is a bit slow, particularly as I rarely use it; so when I do it's got to update lots of things. If the new MacBook came in a 14" version I'd be very interested.

The Apple announcement I'm most interested in today is the new iPhone Lightning Dock. At $39 it seems a little pricy, but I expect I'll have one by the fall.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A History of Crash and Bang, From ‘The French Connection’ to ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

Grantland has a great piece, Anatomy of the Car Chase: A History of Crash and Bang, From ‘The French Connection’ to ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

6 Reasons Modern Movie CGI Looks Surprisingly Crappy

Cracked has a good rant, 6 Reasons Modern Movie CGI Looks Surprisingly Crappy. It has lots of good examples (mostly using the upcoming Jurassic World as a negative one) and makes some good points, like "#6. Lack Of Visual Restraint Makes Gravity Act Like A Cartoon" and "#5. Color Grading Makes Everything Look Like A Fantasy".

Lost a bit in the rant is the generalization of this point: "Color grading was made popular by the Coen brothers after CGI became the go-to special effect, when they decided to use color grading to make O Brother, Where Art Thou? look like an old sepia-toned photograph. But their point was to detract realism from the finished product, whereas Jurassic Park was (originally) about creating larger-than-life creatures in a real-world setting."

The point of stunts and CGI is to serve story, not just provide action. It's one of the things Mad Max: Fury Road gets so right. The story maybe thin, but there's enough there to make us care about what happens to the characters.

The Economic Effects of Self-Driving Trucks

Medium has an interesting article, Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck

"According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs.'"

"One further important detail to consider is that truck drivers are well-paid. They provide a middle class income of about $40,000 per year. That’s a higher income than just about half (46%) of all tax filers, including those of married households. They are also greatly comprised by those without college educations. Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree."

"The technology already exists to enable trucks to drive themselves. Google shocked the world when it announced its self-driving car it had already driven over 100,000 miles without accident. These cars have since driven over 1.7 million miles and have only been involved in 11 accidents, all caused by humans and not the computers. And this is mostly within metropolitan areas."

"The removal of truckers from freeways will have an effect on today’s towns similar to the effects the freeways themselves had on towns decades ago that had sprung up around bypassed stretches of early highways. When the construction of the interstate highway system replaced Route 66, things changed as drivers drove right on past these once thriving towns. The result was ghost towns like Glenrio, Texas." And of course, Norman Bates. ;)

I don't buy into the notion that the great recession is some structural change in the economy, but this might be a big one coming in the next 10-20 years.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pill that quashes tobacco urge found in plain sight

Pill that quashes tobacco urge found in plain sight

Rick Stewart didn’t know about the laburnum trees growing in Bulgaria — and their potential to produce a drug for quitting smoking — back when he was the chief executive of the pharmaceutical company Amarin.

Now, with the help of the National Institutes of Health, Stewart is trying to introduce the laburnum-derived drug to the U.S. market. The pill works by interrupting tobacco cravings, much like Pfizer’s top-selling Chantix, but possibly without that drug’s high-profile side effects and at a much lower price. A recent run of positive studies have buoyed the pill’s prospects. Today, researchers are excited about what could be the first new treatment for smoking cessation to emerge in years."

Cuba Has A Lung Cancer Vaccine, And Now It Could Be Coming To The USA

Cuba Has A Lung Cancer Vaccine, And Now It Could Be Coming To The USA "Cuba launched the world's first lung cancer vaccine, Cimavax, to the public back in 2011. Each shot costs about $1, but the Cuban government has made the vaccine available to the public for free. Now it's 2015, and other countries are starting to get curious and want to get their hands on it too."

The vaccine contains a protein called epidermal growth factor (EGF). EGF, which stimulates the growth of cells, is found naturally in the body, but cancerous tumors can stimulate the body into producing too much of this protein. This causes the tumor to multiply and grow uncontrollably.

When vaccinated, EGF, among other compounds, enters the bloodstream of the patient and encourages the immune system to produce antibodies that suppress the effects of EGF. This prevents tumors from getting bigger, but doesn't directly attack them.

This vaccine is given to people who already have lung cancer. It isn't like a measles vaccine that is given to an infant who can then expect never to suffer from the disease. Known as a therapeutic vaccine, it is given to patients who already have cancerous tumors in their lungs. Cimavax inhibits their growth and stops them from spreading, or metastasizing, to other parts of the body, which makes treatment significantly more difficult.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Scientists Are Still Trying To Crack The Dress Case. Here's What's New

Scientists Are Still Trying To Crack The Dress Case. Here's What's New.

  1. Age and sex might matter
  2. Viewers fall along a spectrum, not two camps
  3. Blue is special

‘The Simpsons’ Fires Mr. Burns: Harry Shearer Claims He’s Been Kicked Out of Springfield

The Daily Beast reports ‘The Simpsons’ Fires Mr. Burns: Harry Shearer Claims He’s Been Kicked Out of Springfield.

Back in 2011, Shearer led a group of Simpsons cast members in a lengthy and public salary negotiation. The actors ended up taking pay cuts, and won none of the backend merchandising and licensing profits that Shearer lobbied passionately for in a guest article for The Daily Beast.

“As a member of the Simpsons cast for 23 years, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve had a great run and no one should feel sorry for any of us,” Shearer wrote. “But given how much joy the show has given so many people over the years—and given how many billions of dollars in profits News Corp. has earned and will earn from it—I find it hard to believe that this is Fox’s final word on the subject.”

“At least I certainly hope it isn’t, because the alternative is to cancel the show or fire me for having the gall to try to save the show by helping Fox with its new business model. Neither would be a fair result—either to those of us who have committed so many years to the show or to its loyal fans who make our effort worthwhile.”

I hope they can come to some agreement.

Update: The Verge says The Simpsons will recast Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and other Harry Shearer characters

Update: Apparently it's Shearer who's being greedy. 'Simpsons' Mr. Burns walking away from $14 million deal. "The actor was offered a guaranteed $14 million for two years of work, according to someone with direct knowledge of the matter. The proposed deal also allowed for him to do other projects if he wished."

How To Keep NSA Computers From Turning Your Phone Conversations Into Searchable Text

Dan Froomkin explains in The Intercept, How To Keep NSA Computers From Turning Your Phone Conversations Into Searchable Text. He recommends using products from Open Whisper Systems. I must be out of it because I hadn't heard of them but they've been endorsed by Edward Snowden, so there's that. Does anyone else use Signal on iOS?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top Democratic Senator Blasts Obama's TPP Secrecy

I could possibly support the TPP. I've seen a few articles from Economists and they claim it isn't that big a deal. There's likely less an impact on employment than we think and yes something will happen without us and it's better to be in it than not. I'm most concerned about the judicial issues with transnational companies.

But then I read shit like this this Intercept report, "You Can Read My Notes? Not on Your Life!": Top Democratic Senator Blasts Obama's TPP Secrecy.

“They said, well, it’s very transparent. Go down and look at it,” said Boxer on the floor of the Senate. “Let me tell you what you have to do to read this agreement. Follow this: you can only take a few of your staffers who happen to have a security clearance — because, God knows why, this is secure, this is classified. It has nothing to do with defense. It has nothing to do with going after ISIS.”

“The guard says, ‘you can’t take notes.’ I said, ‘I can’t take notes?’” Boxer recalled. “‘Well, you can take notes, but have to give them back to me, and I’ll put them in a file.’ So I said: ‘Wait a minute. I’m going to take notes and then you’re going to take my notes away from me and then you’re going to have them in a file, and you can read my notes? Not on your life.’”

Sorry, I can't support anything that I'm not allowed to read and my representatives can't meaningfully evaluate. I'm sorry that transparency makes negoations more difficult, but that's what you have to live with and it's a reason that government is not like businesses. They have to be accountable to all the people and just because it's more difficult doesn't mean you can impose secret laws on us.

Monday, May 11, 2015

400: Another CO2 record high.

Phil Plait wrote 400: Another CO2 record high. "In May 2013, humans reached a new dark record: The daily level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as measured at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, reached a value of 400 parts per million. That was the highest value recorded in human history...In April 2015, humans reached a new dark record: The monthly level of CO2 reached the 400 ppm mark. That’s no fluke, no brief spike. Its actually part of a very obvious long trend of an increase in the greenhouse gas in our atmosphere."

Scientists seem to suck at marketing. Skeptical Science wrote, Monthly global carbon dioxide tops 400ppm for first time. In that article, there's a section "Scientifically important or symbolic?" with six quotes all saying essentially: "Reaching 400 ppm doesn't mean much in itself, but the steady increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases should serve as a stark reminder of the task facing politicians as they sit down in Paris later this year."

Even Plait can only do as well as: "Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and the science on this is very basic, as basic as knowing a rock will fall when you drop it from your hand. At first blush 400 ppm may not sound like much, but it means we're significantly accelerating planetary heating. And warming the Earth doesn’t just mean we’ll be able to grow pineapples in Canada. It means huge changes to global weather patterns, changes we’re already seeing." and so he's going to.... VOTE!

That's all well and good and I'm all for voting, but this kind of language isn't going to convince anyone of anything. John Oliver should get on this and find the equivalent of "Can the NSA see my dick pics" to push this point.

How Do I Know If I Should Take A Job At A Startup?

TechCrunch posted How Do I Know If I Should Take A Job At A Startup?. It's 9 good points to think about in evaluating a startup that would not be obvious to someone who hadn't been through the process before.

North Korea test-launches “Polaris-1” ballistic missile from submarine

Ars Technica reports North Korea test-launches “Polaris-1” ballistic missile from submarine "On May 9, a Korean People's Army Naval Force submarine test-launched a ballistic missile off the eastern coast of North Korea. The test launch, reported by North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper, only traveled about 150 meters, according to South Korean defense officials. But it demonstrated that North Korea had developed the capability of performing submerged launches of missiles well ahead of previous intelligence estimates. Based on the launch, South Korean officials now believe that North Korea could have a limited submarine-launched missile capability deployed to its fleet of submarines within the next five years."

Fracking Activity Is Probably Causing Earthquakes in Texas

Now Fracking Activity Is Probably Causing Earthquakes in Texas, but I learned an important detail. "It’s not the fracking itself that’s driving North Texas’s quake spike, but the wastewater injection wells. That’s when oil and gas companies shove brine and other fracking byproducts back into the ground, irritating faults."

Last July, io9 explained, Can We Please Stop Blaming Fracking For Every Induced Earthquake?

I'm seeing a lot of stories covering the link between injection wells and induced earthquakes in Oklahoma, but most of them make the same error: this study had nothing to do with fracking. The injection wells in Oklahoma causing the swarms of small-magnitude earthquakes are used to dispose of wastewater from dewatering operations. These particular wells are still part of oil and gas production, but don't fracture the surrounding rocks. Instead, extraction wells suck up water already in the formation. After yanking out the oil and gas, the leftover wastewater is injected back into the ground. The change in water pressure distribution induces the earthquakes, some quite far away from the actual wells.

This isn't to say that fracking is safe and harmless. Fracking probably does induce earthquakes, maybe even some of the earthquakes in Oklahoma. On top of that, the fluids have a nasty habit of sneaking into the groundwater. But fracking is not dewatering, and the particular story making the rounds in the news circuit isn't about fracking.

Redesigning Overcast’s Apple Watch app

Marco Arment has a nice article, Redesigning Overcast’s Apple Watch app. Turns out the Apple Watch is a new kind of device with it's own interface needs. Just copying the way an iPhone app works probably isn't the right thing to do.

The White House Names Dr. Ed Felten as Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer

The White House Names Dr. Ed Felten as Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer. It's not often I've ever heard of the people appointed to such positions, but I've been following his blog Freedom to Tinker for a long time. Seems like a good pick to me.

Update: The Switch has a nice article on Felton, The White House just snagged one of the most valuable players in the tech policy world

The many problems with Seymour Hersh's Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory

Vox explains The many problems with Seymour Hersh's Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory "Hersh's story is amazing to read, alleging a vast American-Pakistani conspiracy to stage the raid and even to fake high-level diplomatic incidents as a sort of cover. But his allegations are largely supported only by two sources, neither of whom has direct knowledge of what happened, both of whom are retired, and one of whom is anonymous. The story is riven with internal contradictions and inconsistencies."

So I'm not going to bother reading Hersh's story.

Friday, May 08, 2015

How to win any popular game, according to data scientists

Wonkblog explains How to win any popular game, according to data scientists "Here are 20 data visualizations that offer lots of insight into the most popular games in America, including chess, Connect Four, Monopoly, Pac-Man, 'Wheel of Fortune' and much more."

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Processor cooling innovation may eliminate computer fans and save billions

Processor cooling innovation may eliminate computer fans and save billions

"Today's processors have an acceptable range of 50 to 90 degrees Celsius (122 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit). Nguyen's experiments showed that the FC-72 maintained a processor temperature of 56 degrees Celsius (133 degrees Fahrenheit). Nguyen then explained why a passive system is a big deal, 'When we remove the cooling fan, it saves material costs, but it also eliminates the noise, vibration, and dust contamination of fan cooling.' Another advantage of passive-liquid cooling systems: they allow engineers to locate the heat exchanger away from the processor, creating space and design options."

How the “The Good Wife” Went Bad

Sonia Saraiya explains in Salon How the “The Good Wife” went bad and I completely agree. They also replaced interesting cases of the week (and opportunities for good guest stars) with long annoying arcs (Cary in jail and Alicia running for office).

NSA's Bulk Collection of Phone Records Is Illegal, Appeals Court Says

The Intercept reports NSA's Bulk Collection of Phone Records Is Illegal, Appeals Court Says "A federal appeals court panel ruled on Thursday that the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata of phone calls to and from Americans is not authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, throwing out the government’s legal justification for the surveillance program exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden nearly two years ago."

The government has pointed to no affirmative evidence, whether “clear and convincing” or “fairly discernible,” that suggests that Congress intended to preclude judicial review. Indeed, the government’s argument from secrecy suggests that Congress did not contemplate a situation in which targets of § 215 orders would become aware of those orders on anything resembling the scale that they now have. That revelation, of course, came to pass only because of an unprecedented leak of classified information.

This is a big deal. Good job by the ACLU in bringing the case. Now the government can't hide behind secrecy claims or ridiculous arguments like it's just metadata or it's not a human just a machine looking. A Patriot Act reauthorization is coming up June 1st, hopefully some Congresspeople start talking loudly about this and we now have presidential candidates who should be asked about it. And the media should be getting Obama's opinion on this and ask when he's going to cancel this and similar programs or get authorization from Congress for some replacement. IMHO Obama's biggest failing (ok, one of them) has been in allowing the US to become a secret surveillance state.

Here's the 97 page pdf opinion.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer

I haven't watched Amy Schumer's show, though I did see an HBO special. This week's show was this genius 12 Angry Men spoof. It's got a great cast too.

How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text

Tuesday The Intercept explained How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text "Top-secret documents from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency can now automatically recognize the content within phone calls by creating rough transcripts and phonetic representations that can be easily searched and stored. The documents show NSA analysts celebrating the development of what they called “Google for Voice” nearly a decade ago."

So it's probably ok (at least to us) that they do this for foreign phone calls. It's debatable if it's between a US citizen and a foreigner but we know under current guidelines the NSA would say that's fair game. The problem is, they're doing this not just for traditional phone calls but also for voice over the Internet, for example, Skype and probably most other popular VOIP systems. So once you accept that they do that (which makes sense because traditional phone use is declining) I'm sure they start to argue that it's difficult to intercept voice communication knowing that it's not purely domestic, so they collect it all and only scan what they need. Or maybe they have a computer scan everything and only report calls that have at least one foreign endpoint, unless they're really suspicious or something. So now you have to assume they're collecting every "voice call on the Internet". Are you ok with that? Are you okay with that program being authorized in secret, with no serious oversight?

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Berlin in July 1945 in Color

Amazing color footage of Berlin just after the war. It ends with a stunning aerial shot.

Monday, May 04, 2015

David Brooks and the Federal Government's $14,000 Per Year Per Poor Person

On Friday, Beat the Press took David Brooks to task, David Brooks and the Federal Government's $14,000 Per Year Per Poor Person

Today, David Brooks does the welfare queen routine in his NYT column, telling readers:

"Since 1980 federal antipoverty spending has exploded. As Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post has pointed out, in 2013 the federal government spent nearly $14,000 per poor person. If you simply took that money and handed it to the poor, a family of four would have a household income roughly twice the poverty rate."

Of course if NYT columnists were expected to be accurate when they talked about government programs, Brooks would have been forced to tell readers that around 40 percent of these payments are Medicaid payments that go directly to doctors and other health care providers. We pay twice as much per person for our health care as people in other wealthy countries, with little to show in the way of outcomes. We can think of these high health care costs as a generous payment to the poor, but what this actually means is that every time David Brooks' cardiologist neighbor raises his fees, David Brooks will complain about how we are being too generous to the poor.

The other point that an honest columnist would be forced to make is that the vast majority of these payments do not go to people who are below the poverty line and therefore don't count in the denominator for his "poor person" calculation. The cutoff for Medicaid is well above the poverty level in most states. The same is true for food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and most of the other programs that make up Brooks' $14,000 per person figure. In other words, he has taken the spending that goes to a much larger population and divided it by the number of people who are classified as poor.

If Brooks actually wants to tell readers what we spend on poor people, it's not hard to find the data. The average family of three on TANF gets less than $500 a month.  The average food stamp benefit is $133 per person. If low income people are working, they can get around $5,000 a year from the EITC for a single person with two children at the poverty level. (They would get less at lower income levels.)

These programs account for the vast majority of federal government payments to poor people. It won't get you anywhere near David Brooks' $14,000 per person per year, but why spoil a good story with facts?"

Two ex-Christie administration officals indicted, another pleads guilty in Bridgegate

So it looks like Bridgegate was in fact real (no surprise), Two ex-Christie administration officals indicted, another pleads guilty in Bridgegate. "Wildstein's guilty plea and Fishman's charges match the most common theory — that the aides were trying to get back at Mayor Mark Sokolich because he refused to endorse Gov. Chris Christie's reelection campaign. "Wildstein admitted that he, Baroni, and Kelley executed a plan to suddenly and without warning ... reduce access lanes to the bridge," Fishman said at Friday's press conference. "Baroni, Kelly, and Wildstein agreed to this plan in August 2013, when Kelly confirmed that Mayor Sokolich was not endorsing Governor Christie." That's when Kelly's infamous "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email was sent, and when Wildstein responded, "got it.""

FiveThirtyEight says Chris Christie’s Access Lanes To The GOP Nomination Are Closed "Whether or not Christie is ever charged, his position in the presidential race is already even worse than we thought it was at the beginning of the year. In January, I found that, given his name recognition, Christie’s net favorability rating1 was 25 percentage points below what would be expected of a future nominee, based upon past nominees at this point in the cycle."