Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I pretty much never watch videos anymore, and this one sums up why

While scrolling through Deadspin or Gizmodo, I saw a link to a post, titled "Discover the Secrets of the Tape Measure," on one of their sister sites, Lifehacker, that made me pause for a moment. I was pretty sure there wasn't going to be any new information for me -- I've been using tape measures for going on half a century, professionally, even, for many years -- but I thought, eh, don't be a closed-minded old guy, maybe you'll learn something new.

Clicked the link and *sigh*, yep, it was a video. Didn't click play. I like to read. Watching, like a drooling couch potato, makes me antsy as all hell. It never goes fast enough, there's no equivalent to skimming, it always feels like three more minutes of life tossed out the window.

A couple of days later, I thought, okay, one quick look. And all of my gripes about videos were confirmed.

I mean, even going in, I was thinking, this could (should!) have been a text post, that would have taken about a twentieth of the time to read as it did to watch. And worse, 98% of the useful information conveyed was? Yes. Nothing. But. Text. Streamed over video. With each sentence displaying on screen for an excruciatingly long time.

And further, in this age of oligopolistic telecommunications giants, how about the bandwidth considerations? Even if you thought the post would need some visuals, a few line drawings would have done just fine. Say, four PNGs, at about 50Kb each. Instead, who knows how many Mb were spent.

And don't even get me started about the pre-roll ads.

You want an idea for a killer AI app? Make something that "watches" video, distills it down to its essence, and delivers the result in text, the way God intended.

Grumble.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Tomorrow: Hang on to your phone! (Tightly.)

[Update 2018-09-20 12:13] The test has been postponed until 3 October 2018. (via)

Original post appears below.




(h/t: Tom McKay)

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Compare and contrast (attn: @edroso)

Megan McArdle:

Nike bet that politics would sell. Looks like it was wrong.

Everyone else.

Monday, September 03, 2018

I love little details like this

Here's a simple and clever authentication mechanism that's new to me:

Authorities watched as the truck arrived at about 1:55pm on October 23 to 3055 Dulles Drive in Mira Loma, California, a location near the airport in Ontario, California.

"This location is less than a mile away from where KARAC had received duffle bags containing cocaine form CHS1 a few months earlier," Monroe wrote.

She watched as Ignjatov and Hristovski got out of the truck to meet an "unknown man." Hristovski handed the man "an item, which looked like neither paper or money."

"I know, based on my training, experience, and knowledge of this investigation, that drug traffickers often use serial numbers on dollar bills as a method of identification when conducting drug transactions," Monroe added. "Accordingly, I believe that the item HRISTOVSKI handed to the unknown man may have been a dollar bill so that the unknown man could confirm the identity of IGNJATOV and HRISTOVSKI by the serial number on the bill."

(source)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Inspirational! But ... it's complicated.

My first thought upon reading this was: Wow! Gotta pass that along!

De la Pava himself can seem like an avenging angel, at least for those with a certain view of what ails contemporary American literature. He exists off the literary grid, which is to say that he lives in the real world and has a real job—as a public defender in the criminal courts of Manhattan. He has no M.F.A., no teaching post. The academy hasn’t laid a finger on him. He self-published his first novel, “A Naked Singularity,” in 2008, after eighty-eight agents turned it down. Against all odds, it found a literary audience, and when the University of Chicago Press republished it, in 2012, it received the PEN/Bingham Prize as the best début fiction of the year.

My second thoughts, however ... How many other aspiring novelists have been rejected time and time again, simply because their novels weren't any good? Is passing the above along akin to rejoicing because someone won the lottery, while neglecting to reflect upon the millions of people who, week after week, blow tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars, seeking that lucky ticket?

I don't mean to disparage Sergio De la Pava at all -- the review in which the above appeared certainly makes me want to read all three of his books. Just ... it's complicated.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Deep thought

Why is an actor in a movie but on a tv show?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Exactly right, @MadBastardsAll

Chris Thompson nails it:

The Cardinal Way isn’t playing the right way, it’s making a big fucking deal out of playing the right way ...

Way back, when I was a kid and dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I loved me some Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, to the point where my maternal grandfather banished me from the house during the 1967 World Series.

Not sure when it began, but I did at some point, some years later, start becoming sick of the sanctimony of the St. Louis Cardinals. Or, at least, clowns like Joe Buck (of Fox Sports, of course) intoning about them.

And then, one day, Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols were prominently on display at a Glenn Beck rally. (This is back when that slob was big -- kind of the Donald Trump of his day.) I've never forgiven either for that, and will not, until they publicly apologize.

I do, however, love me some Yadier Molina. So, since they're apparently rebuilding ...

First step, IMNSHO? Make Dexter Fowler happy.

However, the keeper who left the door unlocked?

Valerio will not be permanently put to sleep as he "was doing what jaguars do."

Good call, whoever decided.

Yeah, yeah. I clicked on a "Twitter Moment" link.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Line of the Day: 2018-07-14

If Trump has one single accomplishment as President, it is how thoroughly he’s revealed extremely rich people as being not somehow braver or smarter or more disciplined than the rest of us but somehow exactly the opposite—consumed by pettiness, enslaved by vanity, and perfectly willing to fuck important things up in order to make some point to themselves and their rancid peers.
    -- David Roth

(via an ongoing story that has me OD'ing on schadenfreude)

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Ponder this

While refreshing my memory of what a Schwarzschild radius is, I came across this rather startling claim:

... the average density of a supermassive black hole can be less than the density of water.

Thanks for the link, John Timmer!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Line of the Day: 2018-06-27

You’ll miss out on 80 percent of life if you’re afraid to get messy, or look dumb, or get sweaty.
-- Drew Magary

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Something old, something new

Found at the bottom of a box that was being repacked for shipping, yet another spare pair:

You have to love the amount of black tape.

Also:

Shiny!

I'll be sending out details when my new Internet connection is established.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Packrat excavations

I'm now deep in the bowels of my layers of old boxes -- pruning, in preparation from moving from a place with practically infinite storage space to a place where I assume there will be none -- and among the gobs of stuff I've found are about thirteen DSL modems. Or forty-seven. I've lost count.

I'm responsibly bringing them to the town's e-waste disposal center, so don't worry about that. But, sheesh, I am starting to wonder how many phone companies have me on some obsolete shitlist for never returning their once-precious gear.

(And fantasizing about how annoying it would be to them, were I actually now to return these things, as once COMMANDED, in the accompanying paperwork, received lo those many years ago.)

Monday, November 06, 2017

Interesting license plate

From someone in a position to know, one presumes.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Now, here's a line I didn't expect to see during these four years

Who makes these rules and enforces them is its own debate in the US, too, with the Trump administration largely calling for a continuation of the Obama administration's "light regulatory touch" philosophy ...

From a pretty interesting article: "Should drunk drivers be charged with DUI in fully autonomous cars?"

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dealing with the Equifax security breach [UPDATE] [UPDATE 2] [UPDATE 3]

As you probably heard, the credit reporting company Equifax suffered a massive security breach a couple of months ago, and only brought this to the public's attention last week.

The data exposed in the hack includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some cases, driver license numbers. The hackers also accessed credit card numbers for 209,000 US consumers and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 US people. Limited personal information for an unknown number of Canadian and UK residents was also exposed. Equifax—which also provides credit monitoring services for people whose personal information is exposed—said the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July. Equifax officials discovered the hack on July 29.

Yes, it's as bad as you can imagine.

This is going to take forever to get sorted out. In the meantime, I thought I'd pass along this post on Lifehacker, which has some sound advice.

I'll add a minor suggestion to the above. It occurs to me that many banks and credit card companies now offer free FICO scores to their customers. Two of mine do, and they are both updated monthly, using different methodologies. In my experience, these numbers are sensitive to recent activity; e.g., one big car repair bill that I paid with a credit card knocked my score down quite a bit, even though I paid it in full that same billing cycle, because one of the factors affecting your FICO score is the amount of unsecured credit you're using at the moment the calculation is run. The point here is that keeping an eye on these numbers is easy to do, and they could provide an early signal to you that something to do with your credit history is worth more in-depth investigation.

Please share other ideas in the comments. Thanks.

[Added] I decided to check Equifax's TrustedID site, as mentioned in the Lifehacker article. It indicated that my info had likely been compromised. I then decided to sign up for Equifax's TrustedID Premier service. This, according to Equifax, is intended "To help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. TrustedID Premier includes five separate offerings, all complimentary." Details (not the sign-up page) here.

I got this after completing the form:


I did not have to give any credit card info. I haven't gotten the confirmation email yet. I'll let you know how it goes.

[Update 2017-09-21 11:34] Still haven't heard from Equifax. Meanwhile, here's some advice on how to write a letter to a bank or credit reporting agency, if you notice a problem on one of your credit reports.

[Update2 2017-09-22 12:58] Finally got an email from Equifax, with instructions about completing enrollment in TrustedID Premier. Followed the link in the email, got to a page asking me my date of birth, which I entered. Clicked "Continue." After a long wait, looking at the spinner, nothing happened. Clicked "Continue" again. Got a new page launched in a new tab, which was nothing but blank for a long while. Finally got a message from my browser that the page was not secure. Clicked the button to try again. Same failure. Closed that tab, went back to the previous one, clicked "Continue" again. This time, got a new page in a new tab that said, more or less, "Our records indicate that you have already enrolled. Click here to login." Did that, got same untrusted connection message. After reloading, eventually got to a login prompt. Which is hilarious, because there never was a point during the sign-up process where I chose a password. Clicked "forgot password." After several minutes, got an email with a link to follow to "reset" password. Again with the insecure page error, repeated reloads. Finally got to submit a new password, success, and was asked to login. Again with the insecure page errors. Finally got logged in, got a series of challenge questions involving my credit history and other personal info, answered those, clicked "continue," and ... stop me if you've heard this one before, got another untrusted page error. Eventually got a properly loading page, which said I was confirmed as me, and I was invited to login to my "product." Still looking at a fresh untrusted page error. It is now 25 minutes since I began this process.

[Update3 2017-09-22 13:30] Finally got logged in, after many untrusted page warnings. Message on screen:

Status: Enrollment processing

Please allow up to 48 hours to process your enrollment, at which time you will have the ability to lock or unlock your Equifax credit file.

I was, however, able to access my Equifax credit report. However, the "Print your report" link does not work. (I was able to use the browser's print function, though. Even though just a single page displays on the screen, the full report got printed.)

By the way, here are a couple more links (link1, link2) to articles suggesting how to deal with this breach. Both of them advise freezing your credit immediately, and provide some other useful thoughts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

From a single strand

About three weeks ago, I noticed a vine-like thing growing up along one of the support cables for the telephone pole in front of 79H. It looked like it had lost track -- it had stayed on the cable up to about six feet high, and then fallen off, dangling its last couple of feet straight down.

I wound that last bit around the cable. A couple of weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised. When it lasted a few days, I took a few snaps.

Click 'em to big 'em.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Family portrait


Right before a trip to the town's e-waste center.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

And now here it is, your moment of cute

Little boy running around the store, brandishing a big rubber snake, shouting, "Rattle, rattle!"

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Regifting. Or recycling. Or something.

Consecutive emails in today's Inbox:

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

#BlackVotesMatter. Or do they?

We're well into the 21st century. I cannot believe this shit is still happening.

On Friday, a headline on AL.com in Alabama blared: “Poll shows Clinton leading in Georgia: Is Alabama next?” It’s a question worth pondering in a state where 27 percent of the registered voters are black, according to a January Pew Research Center report. But it should be noted that Alabama is doing its very best to disenfranchise as many of those voters as possible.

As John Archibald pointed out on AL.com in the fall: “Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of nonwhite registered voters.” He pointed out that the state “opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them.” As he put it: “Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting.” Furthermore, “Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.”

Welcome to the South, folks. And thank you very much, Chief Justice John Roberts, for your opinion in the disastrous Shelby County vs. Holder case. How did you put it: In the South, “Things have changed dramatically.” Yeah, right.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Your bot needs a dope slap, @nytimes

CONTEXT IS KING


For what seems like forever, the NY Times has had the annoying habit of hyperlinking various words in their (online) articles. These hyperlinks point to something like "topics.nytimes.com/[blah blah]." They evidently are added by some sort of automated process, the development of which appears to have been defunded sometime during the previous Clinton Administration. They are useful ... let's be generous and say ... one out of a hundred times.

Sometimes they are worth it for the comedy, though.


Always bee hovering.

Original article here.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Deep thought

If you think half an inch doesn't make a difference, try going down a familiar set of stairs wearing only one shoe.

Prepositional Pet Peeve

Ngram only returns book results, and only through 2008. If the corpus was all published material through 2016, I bet the red line would cross the blue line.


Yes, yes, living language and all that. But enamored with grates almost as much as singular they.

P.S. Enamored by? No. Not budging on this. That's just wrong.

Friday, April 15, 2016

If you're running Windows, you should uninstall Quicktime now

Apple is no longer updating Quicktime for Windows, and at least two security vulnerabilities are known to exist in the latest version. These will not be fixed.

Removing Quicktime is straightforward.

This does not apply to Quicktime on the Mac.

If you still have .MOV files on your system, you can view them using other programs. I've been using Irfanview for years, and I'm perfectly happy with it. Apparently, Windows Media Player will play .MOV files, too.

[Added] Unknown points out, in Comments, that VLC is also quite capable.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Deep Thought

When you find something ancient and obscure on the first shot, do you think:

  1. Wow, Google is amazing.
  2. Wow, I'm really good at constructing search queries.

Come on. Be honest.

Yesterday, in history

Nineteen years and several hours ago:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sad plutocrats are sad

This country does not believe in rule by strongmen or cult personality figures.

Which sounds good, until you learn that this was said by Randy Kendrick, "a leading Koch donor," who is "'extremely disappointed about the Koch network being off the playing field'," concerning the looming nomination of Donald Trump.

And it still almost sounds good, until we remember that what the Kochs and cronies do in fact prefer rule by strongmen -- themselves. Sure, they don't like "cult personality figures." When they're buying, they prefer toadies.

On a related note, a recent piece by the great Jane Mayer bears a read. It's about the Koch brothers' attempts at rebranding themselves. (My runner-up choice for the title was Compassionate Conservatism II.) It would be comical if it weren't so horrifying.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Bleg: The Stereotypical American ... ?

Get a brain, morans!

I've been asked to give some suggestions for an academic project, and I thought I'd ask you to help brainstorm, especially if you were born in another country, or lived for a while in another country, or are closely connected to people meeting either of those two criteria. The question is this: what are some of the characteristics that people outside of the United States believe the stereotypical American possesses? (Apart from thinking only people who live in the US are called Americans, I mean.)

You can respond in the comments below, or via email, Facebook, Twitter, text message, etc. Your name will not be passed along, nor will any offense be taken. (Since I already know I live in the greatest country in the world! ;))

Thanks in advance.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Deep thought

Snow underfoot:

crunch + squeak
--------------- = creak
       2

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