Tuesday, September 27, 2016

NEW “Will & Grace” scene about 2016 Election

Pretty funny, particularly if you were a fan of the show.

Last Night's Debate

So I watched and I've read lots of articles today and watched lots of pundits last night and this morning and basically everyone agrees. The debates started fairly evenly. Trump was at his best on trade and his NAFTA attacks were what worked best against Hillary. But it all went downhill for him, mostly because she was so well prepared and he was so easy to bait. And she did, from early on saying he only managed to succeed in business because of an initial $14 million loan from his dad. She continued to be calm, offer policy details for her own plans, not give in to his attacks and to respond with little jibes to get his unhinged. The last half hour he was at his worst, making little sense, interrupting, repeating himself, and looking unpresidential next to her. It culminated in his attacking her temperament while demonstrating that he didn't have it.

She was good, and had to dance a fine line as the first woman candidate. The facial expressions said a lot during the entire debate. He was was looking annoyed in a way that far exceeded Al Gore's sighs. She to me looked like every woman that had to deal with sexism in the workplace. She kept her demeanor while allowing just a little bit of "oh not this again" into her face. Vox had a number of good articles on the debate, these two in particular on this point:

That said, was her performance good enough? I don't really think so. She got a few good zingers in and will get some commercials out of them, but nothing that's going to be remembered in a few days. She was never going to convert the Trump faithful, that wasn't the goal. Her own faithful will remain so. For those in-between, sure she looked presidential and he less so, hopefully it's obvious to everyone but if you're still undecided I think last night would just nudge you a little. I think she definitely looked more appealing than him to any woman or African American based on the relevant issues, but that's been the case the whole time. For those that hate Trump and also find her dishonest, I don't think she managed to convince them to trust her. So she won the round, but there was no knock-out and no decision yet. Two more to go.

I did think near the end, after he said something (I'm not sure what), that she should have turned to him and just said "You're deranged."

Update: Ezra Klein makes a particularly good point, The press thought Trump’s first 30 minutes were his best. They were his worst.

Friday, September 23, 2016

A member of Congress said Charlotte protesters “hate white people”

Vox reported A member of Congress said Charlotte protesters “hate white people” "US Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina said during an interview with BBC News on Thursday that the protesters who demonstrated in Charlotte this week 'hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not,' the Charlotte News & Observer reported."

Sure he kind of apologized without saying the statement was untrue afterwards, but does anyone believe that? It just astonishes me that people, particularly elected officials can be so dumb. Here's another example from Vox today, Congress members casually compare abortion to slavery, black genocide, and killing puppies. Read that, particularly where the woman being questioned, Kierra Johnson, had some fantastic answers to idiots like Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Look, some of these issues are complicated and you can have reasoned debates about policy changes to address them, but too often one side (and I'll say it, the Republican side) is incapable of doing so and reveals their positions are based on ignorance or blind beliefs (rooted in racism, religion, or party ideology).

Religion And Education Explain The White Vote

FiveThirtyEight takes a dive into voter demographics, Religion And Education Explain The White Vote

Let’s start with the wrong answer: income. Despite the myth that Trump’s base is poor whites, income is the least predictive3 of white voter support among the seven demographic variables tracked by the poll.

Instead, the two most predictive variables are religious attendance and education. Crucially, these two variables are still more explanatory when considered together. Roughly speaking, a white voter will lean left if she is ‘more college than church’ and will lean right if she is ‘more church than college.’4"


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Can Probably Do More Push-ups Than You

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Can Probably Do More Push-ups Than You "When ABC’s Dan Abrams asked Ginsburg about her workout routine, she revealed that she can do 20 push-ups: ‘I do 10, and then I breathe, and then I do 10 more.’ She can also hold a plank for 30 seconds, which, let’s be honest, is probably longer than you can hold a plank."

Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis: Hillary Clinton

If you like Zach Galifianakis' humor, this interview with Hillary Clinton is pretty good.

MacArthur Foundation Class of 2016

The MacArthur Foundation has announced this year's Genius Award winners (though they hate that term). Here's the Class of 2016. The only one I've heard of is graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NH Foliage Tracker

It must be fall, the New Hampshire Foliage Tracker

99.6% of Paul Ryan's Tax Plan Benefits Top 1%

Steven Benen wrote Wealthy would reap a windfall under Paul Ryan's plan:

Ryan’s tax plan is crafted in such a way as to give 99.6% of the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy by 2025. The other 0.4% would be divided up across the other 99% of us.

This is a feature, not a bug, of the House Speaker’s approach to economic policy. Ryan genuinely believes that massive tax breaks for those at the very top will spur economic growth that would, in time, benefit everyone. For the Wisconsin congressman, trickle-down policy, its track record notwithstanding, remains the most responsible course to broad national prosperity.

If that means designing a tax plan that’s ridiculously tilted towards the rich, so be it. Anyone who questions the wisdom of such a proposal will face accusations of ‘class warfare’ – a phrase intended to end all conversations – as if Ryan isn’t trying to redistribute wealth from the bottom up.

In March, asked about tax reform, the House Speaker told CNBC, ‘I do not like the idea of buying into these distributional tables.’ In other words, Ryan doesn’t like any kind of analysis that shows who benefits most (and least) from his economic plans."

Saving Private Ryan: How Spielberg Constructs A Battle Scene

(via kottke)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Images From Offworld

Images From Offworld are just stunning, go look at them all.

Robotic probes launched by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and others are gathering information all across the solar system. We currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, a comet, Jupiter, and Saturn; two operational rovers on Mars; and a recent close flyby of Pluto. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are still performing experiments in low Earth orbit and sending back amazing photos. With all these eyes in the sky, I’d once again like to put together a recent photo album of our solar system—a set of family portraits—as seen by our astronauts and mechanical emissaries. This time, we have a photo of a long-lost lander found on the surface of a comet, new images of Jupiter’s polar regions, color photos from the surface of Mars, a double eclipse of the Sun, and, of course, lovely images of our home, planet Earth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

Bruce Schneier says Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet:

Recently, some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them. Moreover, they have seen a certain profile of attacks. These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they're used to seeing. They last longer. They're more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.

The attacks are also configured in such a way as to see what the company's total defenses are. There are many different ways to launch a DDoS attacks. The more attack vectors you employ simultaneously, the more different defenses the defender has to counter with. These companies are seeing more attacks using three or four different vectors. This means that the companies have to use everything they've got to defend themselves. They can't hold anything back. They're forced to demonstrate their defense capabilities for the attacker.

(Via Schneier on Security)

Monday, September 12, 2016

xkcd: Earth Temperature Timeline

Go checkout xkcd: Earth Temperature Timeline.

Movie Review: Sully

In Sully Tom Hanks plays Captain Sully Sullenberger who piloted the plane in the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson" controlled water landing (it wasn't a crash) saving all 155 lives on board.

The actual flight lasted just 208 seconds and the rescue took 24 minutes and yet the film is an hour and half. When they recreate the flight and landing the movie is good. The rescue as well. Factual or not, seeing everyone, including ferry captains just see the flight and immediate turn to help is stirring. Nothing wrong with the definition of "feel good".

How to fill the extra time? Well it turns out there's a good little-told story in here as well and as a psychologist friend pointed out, "of course they had PTSD". Sully had doubts afterwards and nightmares and wasn't really comfortable with the spotlight he was trust into. That's a good story and an easy way to fill out a movie.

The other problem is how to tell this story. If everyone knows the outcome and the recreation is your big showcase, then it doesn't make sense to lead with it. The solution director Clint Eastwood came up with I found a little annoying. They cut between the event and aftermath back and forth, ultimately showing the event three times. That was fine and surprisingly not really repetitive, but they use the structure to throw in dream sequences that I found unnecessary and which weren't obviously dreams to the viewer at first. That felt like cheap manipulation.

Worse, they felt the need to create a villain. As with all such events there was an investigation and I'm sure Sully and co-pilot Skiles found it stressful, but the movie portrays it as antagonistic and the investigative board as, frankly, assholes. Even not knowing what actually happened when watching the movie it felt false. Afterwards I found this New York Times article confirming my thoughts, ‘Sully’ Is Latest Historical Film to Prompt Off-Screen Drama. I much preferred the approach in The Martian, where there was no villain, just everyone working to solve the problem, some wanting to make different risk tradeoffs than others.

It's still a fine movie. The stirring parts are really stirring and it shows the important parts factually and they didn't stretch it to epic length. I don't expect it to be nominated for many Oscars but it's possible. Certainly worth a rental.

The Marvel Symphonic Universe

Yet another wonderful Every Frame a Painting...

The Marvel Symphonic Universe from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

UPDATE: Dan Golding has a response video that even Tony Zhou loves.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol

I'll save you trouble of searching. This came up because a Trump son tweeted a meme with this frog cartoon in it and journalists went nuts and I had no idea what it was. How Pepe the Frog Became a Nazi Trump Supporter and Alt-Right Symbol.

Also, I knew 88 meant "Heil Hitler", I didn't know 14 meant “we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”. Sigh.

First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops, Thanks to a Lobbyist

The Daily Beast reports First State Legalizes Taser Drones for Cops, Thanks to a Lobbyist.

It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.

With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with ‘less than lethal’ weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it."

The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones.

Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Bugs on Screen

Science published a paper that's pretty amazing. Bugs on Screen: "Scientists film bacteria’s maneuvers as they become impervious to drugs".

A time-lapsed video reveals how bacteria develop resistance to increasingly higher doses of antibiotics in a matter of days.

In a creative stroke inspired by Hollywood wizardry, scientists from Harvard Medical School and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have designed a simple way to observe how bacteria move as they become impervious to drugs.

The experiments, described in the Sept. 9 issue of Science, are thought to provide the first large-scale glimpse of the maneuvers of bacteria as they encounter increasingly higher doses of antibiotics and adapt to survive—and thrive—in them.

The Evolution of Bacteria on a "Mega-Plate" Petri Dish from Harvard Medical School on Vimeo.

And, an obligatory movie connection:

Senior study investigator Roy Kishony, of HMS and Technion, had seen a digital billboard advertising the 2011 film Contagion, a grim narrative about a deadly viral pandemic. The marketing tool was built using a giant lab dish to show hordes of painted, glowing microbes creeping slowly across a dark backdrop to spell out the title of the movie.

“This project was fun and joyful throughout,” Kishony said. “Seeing the bacteria spread for the first time was a thrill. Our MEGA-plate takes complex, often obscure, concepts in evolution, such as mutation selection, lineages, parallel evolution and clonal interference, and provides a visual seeing-is-believing demonstration of these otherwise vague ideas. It’s also a powerful illustration of how easy it is for bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.”

Apple Stuff

So Apple had their big event on Wed. They announced new iPhones and Apple Watches both of which were pretty expected evolutions. The biggest surprises were that Nintendo is bringing a Mario game to the iPhone and that Pokemon Go is coming to the Watch. Also iWork adds some real-time collaboration to be more competitive with Google Docs. None of those really interests me.

The iPhone 7 is getting a lot of flak for eliminating the 3.5mm audio jack, even though it was widely rumored. I heard a number of news outlets yesterday mistakenly report that they're requiring you to buy their new wireless AirBuds for $159 which just isn't true. Just like all previous iPhones, the 7 will come with wired EarBuds bundled, it's just that these plug into the lightning port and not into a analog port. And of course there's an adaptor thingy if you need to plugin in your existing headphones and unexpectedly Apple is including one with every iPhone and charging just $9 for additional ones. Usually they charge $29 for adaptors. People keep talking about losing them but I don't get it. Just keep the adaptor connected to your headphones and then you're just as likely to loose it as you are your headphones. And learn not to lose things. People are also just whining about this going away but Apple is doing good things with the change. The phone is more water resistant (up to 30 mins in a meter of water) and I'm sure will continue to get moreso. It also has longer batter life then the old model. An extra 2 hours on average for the 7 vs the 6S and 1 hour on average for the 7+ vs the 6S+. All whiners about battery life should be happy. Oh and they finally increased the minimum storage size from a measly 16GB to a reasonable 32GB, plenty of people should now be able to save $100 not having to upgrade to 128GB.

Otherwise the updates are pretty conventional. Better camera (the 7+ has two cameras and some special software to let the two work together to take better pictures), faster processor, better sound, etc. I don't think I need to update from my 6 (it will be two years in Dec for me), but if my phone broke, I'd be happy getting the 7. The biggest complaints I've heard from people at the event who played with them is that the new taptic feedback home button feels weird. Ars seems to have a good article, Hands on with the iPhone 7: A brief peek at the wireless future.

I've been holding out on getting an Apple Watch on the "never buy the first version of Apple hardware" theory. watchOS 3 promises to fix a lot of annoyances people had. The new hardware I'm not sure about. The 50m WR is definitely an improvement, but I don't swim that often (and when I do most of my watches are 200m WR). I'm sure some will appreciate the built in GPS, but I'm not a runner and almost always have my phone with me anyway. The new watch is also 0.9mm thicker and the sport is 4.2g heavier (not sure about the stainless steel). At 11.4mm it's thinner than many of my watches, but it's the wrong direction for this product to move in, especially with no increase in battery life. The big advantage for me for the series 2 seems to be that the screen is twice as bright. That should definitely help daytime use.

I'm still not sure what model I'd get. Definitely the 42mm. I like the stainless look and think the sapphire crystal is a good upgrade since it's far less likely to scratch and I've been known to scratch watch crystals. But that's a big price difference from say a series 1 (with upgraded chip) at $300 to an aluminum series 2 at $400 to stainless steel one starting at $600. And I don't love the sport bands. For an aluminum series 1 it only comes with a sport band so I'd probably get a nylon for $50 more, for a total of $350. That's cheap and I won't feel too bad about upgrading in a year or two. The aluminum series 2 I can get it with nylon and perhaps buy a leather one for $150, totaling $550. If I go stainless it doesn't come in nylon so I'd buy a watch with a leather band for $700 and perhaps add a nylon one for $50. $750 is enough I won't want to upgrade for a while. Though of course future upgrades will probably support the same bands I have so I'd just have to pay for the watch (with a sport band).

Decisions, decisions.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Happy Birthday Star Trek

Today is the 50th birthday of Star Trek. I've certainly devoted more hours of my life to this series/universe than any other. If you're not like me, Vox offers, Star Trek, explained for non-Trekkies.

I realized I hadn't watched any Star Trek episodes in a long time because they're not rerun on any stations. I know they're available on Netflix but it's not something I'd seek out that way (there's already too much in my Netflix queue and stored on my TiVo). But I found that BBCAmerica shows reruns and has been showing a lot lately. So I've watched a bunch of TNG episodes. It's easy to skip the bad ones and the good ones bring back lots of memories. I usually list Tapestry as my favorite, but I think the finale, All Good Things the better. I also think it's the best sci-fi finale of all-time and perhaps the best TV show finale. I'll expand on that in another post.

This is my favorite Star Trek story today: Things Bones McCoy Is Not, Ranked.

In researching Sequels recently I tried ranking all the Star Trek films, there's surprisingly little agreement doing so (Entertainment Weekly has particularly odd thoughts on the matter). I think I settle out as follows.

  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
  • Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  • Star Trek Beyond (2016)
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
  • Star Trek Generations (1994)
  • Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

I'm not a huge fan of the reboots. I like the characters (though Kirk is far too one-note) and am fine with the idea of rebooting the original cast, but I didn't like how JJ Abrams filmed them (lens flares) and how the stories were weak and un-Trek-like. For the record, the IMDb ratings are as follows:

  • 8.0 Star Trek (2009)
  • 7.8 Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
  • 7.7 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • 7.6 Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  • 7.5 Star Trek Beyond (2016)
  • 7.3 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
  • 7.2 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  • 6.6 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
  • 6.6 Star Trek Generations (1994)
  • 6.4 Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • 6.4 Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
  • 6.4 Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
  • 5.4 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)


Here are a few recent political stories that I found explained things in more depth than usual:

A Tale Of Two Foundations

While the reporting on the Clinton Foundation focuses on these kind of “conflicts,” there has been no evidence of actual misconduct. Charity watchdog groups rate the Clinton Foundation highly.

Meanwhile, on September 1, news broke that the Trump Foundation “violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida’s attorney general.” It was required to pay a $2500 fine to the IRS.

The details of the case are even more unseemly. Florida’s Attorney General was considering opening an investigation into Trump University, which is accused of defrauding students. Bondi herself contacted Trump and asked for a political contribution. After a political committee associated with her campaign received the illegal $25,000 contribution, she decided not to pursue it.

The story has something that none of the Clinton Foundation stories have: Actual evidence of illegal conduct. In this case, not only is there concrete evidence that the Trump Foundation broke the law, but a formal finding of wrongdoing by the IRS.

In May digby wrote GOP suffering from Koch withdrawl.

Yesterday the world found out why when the National Review published a blockbuster scoop revealing that the Kochs have decided to withdraw from national politics. The 900 million dollars they'd planned to spend in this election cycle has been reduced to around 40 million on "educational" campaigns. They will continue their work at the state and local level (which is significant) but they are no longer much interested in electoral campaigns on the federal level.

Charles Koch provided a window into his own thinking in an interview last month with ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

“When you look back over the years, over the last several cycles, hundreds of millions of dollars in electoral politics, what have you gotten for that?” Karl asked. “What’s been the return on that investment?”

“Well, I’ve gotten a lot of abuse out of it,” Koch said. “What have we gotten for it? Well, I think there have been some good things, particularly at the state and local level.”

“At the federal level,” he added, shaking his head, “we haven’t in any way changed the trajectory of the country.”

Karl suggested it hasn’t been a very good investment. “No, no it hasn’t,” Koch replied. “It’s been disappointing.”

In June Vox explained, Paul Ryan's "why don't you get a job" approach to poverty is doomed to fail

He's right on one thing: It does appear that work requirements like the ones he's proposing get people to work more, increase their earnings, and reduce their reliance on government programs. But America's experience with welfare reform has taught us that this comes at a significant cost. While requirements boost work somewhat, they're not enough to get a job at a living wage for everyone who can work, and they do nothing for the elderly or disabled who can't work at all. The result is enduring poverty among those who can't work or can't find work.

Sarah Kliff says It sure looks like Aetna quit Obamacare because Obama opposed their merger

When one financial analyst asked Bertolini about it on the company’s last earnings call, he responded that the merger was a “separate conversation from our evaluation of how we think about the exchanges going forward.” But the July 5 letter paints an entirely different picture, one where Bertolini says that participating in the marketplaces would be too difficult and costly for the company if it also were in litigation over its merger proposal.

There will almost certainly be different interpretations of why Aetna tied together its marketplace participation and its merger approval. In this letter, Bertolini says it’s all about finances: that the company was losing money on the marketplaces and needed a financial boost from the marketplaces in order to continue to sustain those losses. And it certainly is true that Aetna has lost more than $400 million on the marketplaces since they launched in 2014.

I didn't find any of this surprising but apparently some do, What a liberal sociologist learned from spending five years in Trump's America.

The result is Hochschild’s new book Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right — the result of five years and hundreds of in-depth interviews. The book fixates on a paradox: Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana, where she spends much of her time, is one of the most polluted regions of the country, ravaged by the oil and petrochemical industries. Residents mourned the loss of the pristine bayous of their youth, of their favorite fishing and hunting spots. Yet to her surprise, they remained deeply hostile to the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental regulation. Why was that?

There was no one simple explanation. Some of the people she met were worried about regulations killing jobs. Others saw toxic pollution and environmental disasters as the sort of risk essential to a vibrant economy, something to be stoically endured. Still others had become disillusioned with corrupt and ineffective local regulators.

As Hochschild probed deeper, what she found most common was a "deep story" the conservative white residents were telling themselves. They felt left behind or even kept down by a federal government that no longer looked out for them — that was against their interests at every turn. When Donald Trump enters the scene midway through the story, she’s none too shocked that he finds fertile territory here.

In the interview Hochschild says:

So the deep story I felt operating in Louisiana was this: Think of people waiting in a long line that stretches up a hill. And at the top of that is the American dream. And the people waiting in line felt like they’d worked extremely hard, sacrificed a lot, tried their best, and were waiting for something they deserved. And this line is increasingly not moving, or moving more slowly [i.e., as the economy stalls].

Then they see people cutting ahead of them in line. Immigrants, blacks, women, refugees, public sector workers. And even an oil-drenched brown pelican getting priority. In their view, people are cutting ahead unfairly. And then in this narrative, there is Barack Obama, to the side, the line supervisor who seems to be waving these people (and the pelican) ahead. So the government seemed to be on the side of the people who were cutting in line and pushing the people in line back.

I went back with this story to a lot of the people that I’d talked to. I asked, is this the way you feel? And they said, "Yeah, you read my mind!" or, "Yeah, I live your narrative!" And this all becomes more acute as their place in line feels more vulnerable. There’s the offshoring of American jobs, automation that is now making even skilled jobs feel vulnerable. So when you add a cultural and demographic sense of loss and decline to a real economic threat, it becomes alarming. And the government doesn’t seem like it’s heard your distress call.

Vox explains, The US paid Iran $1.3 billion in secret. It’s not a scandal.

Step by Step: How Elon Musk Built His Empire

This Visual Capitalist piece from April is pretty fun, Step by Step: How Elon Musk Built His Empire (by Anna Vital).

The stuff we really need is getting more expensive. Other stuff is getting cheaper.

Wonkblog wrote a few weeks ago: The stuff we really need is getting more expensive. Other stuff is getting cheaper.


The adjective word order we all follow without realizing it 

Kottke points out, The adjective word order we all follow without realizing it

From Mark Forsyth's The Elements of Eloquence, a reminder of the rules of adjective order that fluent English speakers follow without quite knowing why.

...adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you'll sound like a maniac. It's an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.

Did anyone learn this in school? I sure didn't. How do we all know then?

The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age

The Guardian reported The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age "Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to epoch defined by nuclear tests, plastic pollution and domesticated chicken"

The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken were now under consideration.

The current epoch, the Holocene, is the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age during which all human civilisation developed. But the striking acceleration since the mid-20th century of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the global mass extinction of species, and the transformation of land by deforestation and development mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the Anthropocene.

I also really liked this graphic. I can never remember these epochs and eras, that Jurassic and Mesozoic are two different categories.

Screen Shot 2016 09 08 at 1 38 05 PM

To define a new geological epoch, a signal must be found that occurs globally and will be incorporated into deposits in the future geological record. For example, the extinction of the dinosaurs 66m years ago at the end of the Cretaceous epoch is defined by a “golden spike” in sediments around the world of the metal iridium, which was dispersed from the meteorite that collided with Earth to end the dinosaur age.

For the Anthropocene, the best candidate for such a golden spike are radioactive elements from nuclear bomb tests, which were blown into the stratosphere before settling down to Earth. “The radionuclides are probably the sharpest – they really come on with a bang,” said Zalasiewicz. “But we are spoiled for choice. There are so many signals.”

Other spikes being considered as evidence of the onset of the Anthropocene include the tough, unburned carbon spheres emitted by power stations. “The Earth has been smoked, with signals very clearly around the world in the mid-20th century,” said Zalasiewicz.

Other candidates include plastic pollution, aluminium and concrete particles, and high levels of nitrogen and phosphate in soils, derived from artificial fertilisers. Although the world is currently seeing only the sixth mass extinction of species in the 700m-year history of complex life on Earth, this is unlikely to provide a useful golden spike as the animals are by definition very rare and rarely dispersed worldwide.

In contrast, some species have with human help spread rapidly across the world. The domestic chicken is a serious contender to be a fossil that defines the Anthropocene for future geologists. “Since the mid-20th century, it has become the world’s most common bird. It has been fossilised in thousands of landfill sites and on street corners around the world,” said Zalasiewicz. “It is is also a much bigger bird with a different skeleton than its prewar ancestor.”

First look at Jupiter’s north pole—bluer and “hardly recognizable”

Ars Technica reported First look at Jupiter’s north pole—bluer and “hardly recognizable”

This week, scientists got their first look at images and data from the Juno spacecraft's initial flyby of Jupiter's polar regions, and they were thrilled to find an entirely different world than the familiar one which exists around the equator.

'It looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before,' said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 'It's bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms. There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to—this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We're seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features.'


Forget Software—Now Hackers Are Exploiting Physics

Wired had a good article explain a new class of hacks, Forget Software—Now Hackers Are Exploiting Physics "Both of those new attacks use a technique Google researchers first demonstrated last March called ‘Rowhammer.’ The trick works by running a program on the target computer, which repeatedly overwrites a certain row of transistors in its DRAM flash memory, ‘hammering’ it until a rare glitch occurs: Electric charge leaks from the hammered row of transistors into an adjacent row. The leaked charge then causes a certain bit in that adjacent row of the computer’s memory to flip from one to zero or vice versa. That bit flip gives you access to a privileged level of the computer’s operating system. It’s messy. And mind-bending. And it works."

Rowhammer is far from the only new hacking technique that exploits computers’ physical properties. Proof-of-concept malware shown off by Israeli researchers over the summer, for instance, uses the sound of computers’ cooling fans or hard drive motors to transmit stolen data as audio. Another group of Israelis showed last year they could use just $300 of handheld equipment to extract encryption keys from a computer by monitoring the radio emissions leaked by its processor’s power use.

Friday, September 02, 2016

These charts clearly show how some Olympic swimmers may have gotten an unfair advantage

The Washington Post says These charts clearly show how some Olympic swimmers may have gotten an unfair advantage. Really interesting and lots of really pretty charts.

Voters Sure Are Pissed Off This Year

Kevin Drum says Voters Sure Are Pissed Off This Year or not.

In 2014 four incumbents lost their primary contests. This year five have lost. Behold the fury of the American electorate. Truly this year represents the long-awaited revolt of the voters against the entrenched interests that bailed out Wall Street and sent all our jobs overseas."

Thursday, September 01, 2016

KFC recipe revealed?

I evidently missed this story from a couple of weeks ago. KFC recipe revealed? Tribune shown family scrapbook with 11 herbs and spices - Chicago Tribune

Ledington continues to leaf through the family scrapbook, pausing here and there to share a memory or an anecdote about his uncle. At the back of the album is an official-looking document, its pages stapled together: the last will and testament of his Aunt Claudia, he tells me. She died on New Year's Eve 1996 at age 94.

'I can show you what every family member got,' he says, poring over the papers. 'This was my dad, Robert Ledington. He was the first one. He got $209,888.'

But what I'm really interested in is the handwritten note on the back of the document. At the top of the page, in blue ink, it reads, '11 Spices — Mix With 2 Cups White Fl.' That's followed by an enumerated list of herbs and spices. Eleven herbs and spices. And the measurements for each."

Sicario: 1 Brilliant Moment of Tension

CineFix posted this 9 min analysis of the border sequence of last year's Sicario. I suppose it's all spoiler but it's about an action sequence and not really about plot.

So if you've seen Sicario I'm interested in your thoughts. I read great reviews and found it just meh (and I'd mostly forgotten about it).

So the sequence above, sure there was some tension, but I didn't find the final moments so tense, mostly because I didn't think a car full of 4 drug dealers with handguns would be able to do anything to Delta Force who prepared for this kind of situation and seemed to have it well it hand. The "real threat" of the police guy at end then, was more a jump scare and he was on screen for so short a moment I didn't realize he was police or disguised as police until this video said so. I also don't believe that 8 special forces people getting out of their cars allowed someone to walk up behind them. Finally, I just don't get how after the shooting the cars in their lane are magically gone (not just moved over to other lanes) so they can just drive on. I also would have liked a little something about the civilians in the cars around this incident.

Spoilers for rest of movie

Overall I found the film a bit annoying and I'm pretty sure it's deliberate. It's definitely from Kate's point of view as she doesn't know what she's gotten herself into and we don't either. It's not just the bad guys that are keeping secrets from her, it's also all the good guys, the ones supposedly on her team, and it's throughout the mission she's (supposedly) a part of. It's remarkably frustrating and I found this frustration dissipated some of the tension described above.

I've read some reviews saying the point was to show it from a woman's point of view, one that is being discriminated against or abused (in this case both professionally and sexually). The frustration I felt is the frustration Kate felt and it's representative of what a lot of women go through. I do agree this was deliberate in the film and a major theme, but it feels a little too shoehorned in. It's not at all what I was expecting from trailers or reviews, fair enough. It's also not really what I was expecting from early in the film, where she's shown to be really competent and the "abuse" could have been purely professional. We see stories all the time with men where "the feds" come in to take over jurisdiction and others where "special forces hotshots" show disdain for everyday soldiers/agents/cops. But also the action climax is taken away from her and is given to Benicio Del Toro and even that concludes a thematic arc about the cycle of violence in the drug war. Kate's story is left as a coda. Maybe that emphasizes how her story was taken away from and that works towards the discrimination story too well. It really frustrated me, and while that may be the point, and it may have been delivered really well, it's still a movie that frustrated me and I didn't love. It popped up on cable recently, I might give it another shot.