Sunday, June 18, 2023

Google Album Archive is shutting down

In case you missed the email from Google about Album Archive:

Download your content from the Google Album Archive

After July 19, 2023, the Google Album Archive won’t be available. Until then, you can use Takeout to download a copy of your Album Archive data.

So, I wanted to see what happens if I upload a new image now.

[Update] No warning messages or anything.  It's a little unclear from the above whether images that have been uploaded through Blogger for posting on a blog are going to vanish.  I don't think so, but I'm going to download them all anyway, and then see what happens on July 20.

(original source)

Saturday, June 17, 2023

PSA: missing images on this blog

Most of the images on this blog were once hosted by Photobucket, from back in the day when they offered a free tier for hosting.  They no longer do, so you're not going to see a lot of what used to be here.

Sorry about that.  It just didn't seem worth paying for a service to continue serving up images that likely have not been viewed in years. 

I do have all of those images archived locally, so if there's something you want to see, please send me an email, or @ me on Twitter or Facebook, with the URL of the post in question.  I will be more than happy to update the post asap.


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Wow. A company I never heard of owns everything I ever have.

Skimming some compsec headlines offered by Troy Hunt and ... whoa! It's almost not hyperbolic to say that a company (that apparently suffered a serious breach, recently) that I never heard of owns everything I ever have.

So much for brand loyalty, in other words:

Luxottica is the world’s largest eyewear company, glasses, and prescription frames maker, and the owner of popular brands like Ray-Ban, Oakley, Chanel, Prada, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Michael Kors, and many other. The company also operates Eyemed, a vision insurance company in the US.

Double-checking with Wikipedia:

Luxottica Group S.p.A. is an Italian eyewear conglomerate and the world's largest company in the eyewear industry.[3][4] It is based in Milan, Italy.[5] Its best known brands are Costa, Ray-Ban, Persol, Oliver Peoples and Oakley.

Luxottica is a vertically integrated company which has been described as a monopoly. It designs, manufactures, distributes, and retails its eyewear brands through companies that it owns such as LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, Apex by Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Target Optical, and It also owns EyeMed, one of the largest vision health insurance providers. Luxottica's market power has allowed it to charge price markups of 1000%.

Luxottica also makes sunglasses and prescription frames for designer brands such as Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Michael Kors, Coach, Miu Miu and Tory Burch.[6][7][8][5]

I am fortunate enough not to have to rely on sunglasses to get through the day. I have a pair of no-namers in my car, just in case. If memory serves, I bought them on a whim, from a stand on Venice Beach, because they reminded me of the shades worn by one of the stars in a favorite movie that I had just seen. [T2 image here] [or link] So, I'm not exactly plugged.

However, knowing humans as I do, I can't help but wonder if people get as tribalistic about the logo on their sunglasses as they do, about, say, Adidas vs Nike, or Ram vs F-150, or Makita vs DeWalt. Or which airline is the worst.

Friday, July 23, 2021

A surprisingly good talk ...

... on the Mandelbrot set (the poster child of fractals), aimed at the interested layperson. A vague memory of high school math will easily suffice.

I say "surprisingly" because this is a talk given by an out loud and proud fundie. It's a pity that he's such a god-botherer, because in the parts where he's not proselytizing, it's as good as any that I've seen on this topic. I actually learned a few things myself.

So, recommendation: skip the first few moments, and then watch up till ~22:00.

I watched a little beyond the recommended end point. I had to laugh at how this guy believes in atoms and Kepler's laws for describing planetary motion, not to mention his innate faith in the output of his computer, but nonetheless insists that "the planets were created on day 4," and that all of the amazing math he had earlier been talking about was "waiting for us to discover it for 6000 years."

I gave up at ~41:00, when it seemed clear that the downward trend had become monotonic. The True Believer's arrogance of certainty always grates. And when he started sniping about the theory of evolution, I found it about as impressive as what you'd find from the supporters in the comments section under a Ray Comfort/Kirk Cameron banana video.

In conclusion: Yes, there are things that amaze and astound us, in and about the world and the universe in which we live. I completely agree that we do not know how to explain many of these things. However, that is no reason not to try. Just throwing up your hands and saying "god did it" is nothing more than an argument from incredulity. [1] It is no different from the claim that volcanoes erupt because we haven't thrown enough young women into them.

(x-posted on the FB)


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Pretty dumb that you can't do this on a smartphone

I would think, as a newbie owner of a smartphone, that it would be straightforward to assign one ringtone to everyone on my Contacts list, and a different one to every other incoming call.

Apparently, though, this is not possible. You can assign a ringtone to one person on your Contact list, and then to another, and then to another ... but that seems tedious. Granted, it's likely that I'd only need to do this for a small fraction of my Contacts list, for all practical purposes, but still, how is this not something that a smartphone can do, right out of the box? I mean, when I get an incoming call from a friend, it takes no discernable time for the phone to display that person's name and avatar, as obtained by a look-up from the Contacts list, so why can't this info be used to play a different sound file, as well?

And given that an incoming call from someone not on my Contacts list is at least 99% likely to be a scam, why wouldn't phone programmers jump all over this opportunity to make our devices safer, and then indulge in a big splash of self-congratulations? Not to be all cynical or anything.

If I'm wrong about this, please do not hesitate to correct me.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Deep thought: An instruction I have never followed. And will never follow.

"Rinse rice thoroughly before cooking."

If being submerged for thirty-five minutes in boiling water ain't gonna do it, ten seconds of cold water beforehand sure ain't, either.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Geezer Alert! (Memories on a Tuesday afternoon)

DEC PDP-8 computer next to Blutarsky from Animal House, with pencils up his nose

I don't remember my first experience of programming computers. Close to the beginning, though, for sure, was a course I took in my junior year of high school (c. 1976), where we learned how to write BASIC programs that ran on a DEC PDP-8, I think it was. There was one terminal, which displayed both what you were typing and your program's output on yellow paper, a giant roll of which lived in a cardboard box, below the terminal.

I do vividly remember the first time I made money programming. It was right around that time, probably a school break six months later, when I was asked by my friend's father to put together something that would display bar charts and stuff like that. In this case, I was using his Apple computer (model number long since vanished from memory), which hooked into the TV and used a cassette tape recorder to store programs. He paid me $10 for four hours' work, which was a considerable bump from what I had ever made before that; e.g., about a $1/hr for a paper route, babysitting, and lawn-mowing, maybe $1.50/hr for caddying.

The money was nice, but it wasn't the most important thing. Computers were just ... pretty cool, and the thought that it was not inconceivable that I could someday get paid for playing with them? Well, as I said, still a vivid memory.

Fast forward to the time that they became magical.

After having been excused from further attendance after my sophomore year in college ("Mr. Blutarsky: 0.0"), I still hung around with my erstwhile classmates over the next few years. Mostly in bars, admittedly. But for some reason, one night, I went with one of them to a class, which was an introduction to Lotus 1-2-3. Looking at the Wikipedia article, I now realize that this must have been very near the initial release, well before it became the proverbial killer app. Anyway ...


To be able to put a number in one cell, and then a formula in another cell that referred to the contents of the first cell, and displayed the result in place, and then instantaneously updated when you changed the first cell? That was when I got hooked.

I said magical, but it was something else, too. It felt like I was privy to a sorcerer's secrets. I could make something happen that looked magical, but it was, behind the curtain, absolutely, 100%, purely logical.

What brought about these memories?

A fascinating article by Amy Peniston, posted just a week ago, in which she describes her observation of ...

... a radical shift in data analysis methodologies. Excel-based models, which had seemed top-of-the-line suddenly were too slow and too rigid; Integration with 3rd party data sources, which was once a luxury, became the norm; And analysts began to utilize scripts to accomplish many labor-intensive tasks typically performed by hand or in spreadsheets.

Enabling this change is a suite of accessible Python-powered tools.

I apologize if that punchline didn't knock you off your couch, or home barstool, or ergonomically correct desk chair, or what have you. So let me tell you that there's more! She observed these changes while working in ... wait for it ... the reinsurance industry.

Wait, what? Still not sold?

Ah, well. Such is the lot of the nerd. But thanks for reading all the way through.

(h/t: PyCoder's Weekly)

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A 10-minute recipe, described in ... less than half an hour!

(This post is aimed at my co-workers. There will be insider-ism.
Apologies. Feel free to ask for clarification.)

Gave the recipe on page 2 of the current flyer a shot.

TL;DR? It was easy and delicious. Recommended as a Try At Least Once, minimum.

I hate buying pre-made food, as many of you already know, but this seemed like one of those times where I had to let reality and rationality rear their ugly heads: I am not likely to make chicken soup from scratch anytime soon, so, okay, pay for two tubs of the Kettle Cooked Chicken Soup (Flyer item, in the Fresh section), be glad about the 20% discount, and let's move on.

Pro tip. Open the tubs of soup in your kitchen sink. Well, remove the outer lid wherever, but immediately after that, put the tubs DIRECTLY into the sink. Do not try to remove the inner liner thing on the counter, or at a table, or in your hands, free-standing anywhere. The plastic film is about as easy to remove as BoJo at ten minutes past nine, and whether you are able to use the pull tab (I was one for two on this) or have to deploy your boxcutter at home, you will be glad you did put the tubs in the sink: spatter is inevitable, in both cases. This is supposed to be a ten-minute meal. You don't want to double that time with the thankless task of mopping up a slightly fatty liquid.

Okay, tubs are open.

Yes, I opened them in the sink, wiseass. I have, occasionally, learned from experience, and this is one of those times I was able to apply it.

Dump them into ... whoa. Not sure what kind of kitchen the people who wrote this recipe live in, but forget the "medium." You want a LARGE saucepan. We're talking three pints of liquid, just from the soup tubs alone ...

... and you know that the gnocchi is going to swell, at least a little bit ...

... and then there's the cream. (This is, per the recipe, a box of the shelf-stable heavy cream. If you are, like me, no longer buying much from the dairy section, but still occasionally interested in creaming up a sauce, so to speak, this definitely seems like a pantry item worth adding to your mental bookmarks.)

And also, there will be stirring.

The directions did not say whether to cover the saucepan or not. I chose not to. I am paranoid (this will shock approximately none of you) about cooking anything with cream, so I wanted to be able to see what was going on. And what does "heat to a simmer" mean, anyway? To me, "simmering" means just a hint of bubbles, even after stirring. So, I was a little poised.

Once it got to where it looked like this ...

... I turned the heat down to way low. Tasting it at this point told me that the temperature was already there, so I didn't think the recipe's direction of ten more minutes of heating was in order; I thought, maybe a couple more minutes of slow heat would help things thicken or coalesce or whatever the right word is.

Pro tip #2/note to self: there is something about heating liquids involving cream that make them waaay hotter than, say, anything cooked in just plain boiling water, like rice or pasta or vegetables. Do your tasting with care, here.

Turned off the heat, covered it, will let it sit for a couple of minutes. Real cooks will very often tell you to let things rest for a bit before serving. (Also, mouth still a little sensitive from last tasting.)

And now, we have ... a bowl of soup! Dinner time!

P.S. About the pairing: My habit, when wine-shopping, is to get a few of the old reliables, and to get a few that I haven't tried. In the latter area, I am always looking for something cheap, that I've never heard of, in the hopes of discovering that next Great Buy. What's in the glass pictured above has nailed that from Day 1, and continues to do so, and the real beauty of it is that despite my massive influencer clout, the price has remained unchanged from the first time I bought it. It's a Cabernet Sauvignon, from Casas Patronales, in Chile, and you can get it for $12/bottle. At Station Liquors, across from the Mamaroneck Train Station, at least. It's not fall down fainting from amazement good, but it is whoa, I'm really happy to pay this price for a bottle of plonk that more than boosts a quick dinner after work good.

Also, great logo.

P.P.S. The recipe says "serves 4-6." I can attest that you will have 4-6 more or less average bowlfuls on hand. Whether that will actually serve 4-6 discrete *people* is ... an open question, to put it politely. I am on my third bowl, as we speak. This most definitely speaks to the goodness of the output of the recipe, but does leave me wondering, again, about the TJ kitchen, where, it now seems, not only are the saucepans massive, but the stomachs are tiny.

P.P.P.S. About the garnish mentioned in the flyer recipe: ain't nobody got thyme for that.

P.P.P.P.S. (Translation: Forgot to buy.)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Minor weirdness

One guy convicted of stealing $300K, gets 1-3 years. Another guy convicted of stealing $250K, gets 8-24. Both were convicted of several felonies.

Here is a little more backstory on the guy who got the longer sentence. One suspicion: he got the book thrown at him for rejecting a plea deal and insisting on a trial. (The plea deal was, comparatively speaking, nothing -- five years of probation and community service.)

At any rate, thanks to our state controller and associates for nailing a couple more fraudsters.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Remember "Gilligan's Island?"

From yesterday's Nextdraft newsletter (link):

3 men rescued from Pacific island after writing SOS in sand. (Wait, that actually worked!!?)

I have many memories of that show, and one of the most vivid (why, I have no idea) was a time when they somehow knew an orbiting spacecraft was going to be flying overhead, so they made a huge SOS sign out of logs and set them on fire.  Only, Gilligan tripped over the last letter, so the people flying above thought it said SOL and ignored it.

(Just now realized the irony of what the message morphed into, but I don't think that back then anyone used SOL to mean "Shit Outta Luck.")

[Update 2020-08-05 13:35] I never thought to check, but thanks to a DMer on Twitter, here are more deets.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

No Goings On

Most times, when I read The New Yorker, I skip, or at best, skim, the opening section, Goings On About Town. I feel mildly guilty about this, as though I'm a boor who waves off all of the culture available to me, just a short train ride away, not to mention a spoiled brat who ignores the work that went into reporting on it all.

Sometimes, I take comfort in the existence of this section, thinking that if I have had the foresight to bring an issue of The New Yorker with me to a place where I'm going to have to wait, and I have read all of the articles in it, and my waiting time is still not up, then I'll always have Goings On About Town to fall back on.

Yesterday, around 1pm, I called my regular place to ask if I could bring my car in for a while-I-wait oil change. Ralph, the owner, said, "Uh, I'm actually not there. I forwarded the phone to my cell. I sent my guys home and closed up at noon. I only sold sixty-eight gallons of gas all morning."

Turned out he was fine with my coming by this morning, so I did, and even though I had to be there at the ungodly hour of 9am, I had had just enough coffee to remember to bring the latest (Mar. 23, 2020), as yet unread, issue of The New Yorker. Got to the station, handed over my car key, settled in to wait. Opened the mag ...

screenshot saying 'As a result of the coronavirus crisis and the closing of New York City venues, Goings On About Town will not appear this week.'

Okay, not to worry. How long could an oil change take, when I was the only customer in the place? The Talk Of The Town was good. Thoroughly enjoyed the first of the long articles, by Jill LePore, on the census, But Who's Counting?, and the second, by James Somers, on the study of avalanches, Cold War. Had just started the third, Emily Nussbaum on Fiona Apple, Skin In The Game, when Ralph came into the waiting area. Oil change was all done. HOWever. I did need an air filter. And a new belt. And a brake job. I asked if they could do it now. He said, sure, and that it would take about two hours.

As is usual with this fine place, he offered to give me a ride home and then come pick me up when the job was done. A small part of me felt like social distancing ought to apply (why be in an enclosed car with someone else, if you don't have to be), and a large part of me did not want to take him up on his usual generosity: since there was a skeleton crew in place, just Ralph and one mechanic, I thought it might stress him out to have to be away, even for ten minutes. So, I said, "No, thanks. Appreciate it. But I don't mind waiting." I went outside for a cigarette to go with the complimentary cup of coffee and contemplated time spent reading so far, approximate number of pages left, odds that I was going to like any of the rest of the articles, having totally scored on two already, thought about the missing Goings On About Town, and tried to remember if I had seen anything else to read in the waiting area. Aside from signs on the wall and hanging bags of snacks, I could not think of anything. Not even a tube of toothpaste [1]. I suppose anxiety would be putting it a bit strongly.

In the end, all the work was done before I got to the end of the magazine, and it only cost me $700 for an oil change! #winning

P.S. Weird thing when I got home and checked the snail mail. When I opened my box, I saw a new issue of The New Yorker. Dateline? Mar. 16, 2020. Well, it is the Styles Issue. I suppose it's appropriate that it's fashionably late.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

A long but thought-provoking read

I found the title a bit click-baity/misleading and I don't agree with everything the author, Scott Alexander, says, but I thought some of you might enjoy a look at this: "New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed."

I think Alexander missed at least one key point, if we stipulate that "New Atheism" is on the wane or at least less in the spotlight: I know for myself -- and if there's one thing two decades of life online has taught me, it's that I have essentially no unusual thoughts -- that I became less inclined to participate in anything to do with atheism not because of disenchantment or frustration or evolution of the movement or any of the other reasons Alexander discusses, but simply because of this: I felt done.  That is, I read Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, Myers, Dennett, Coyne, et al, in large part because they were so good at articulating what I had previously felt but had not been able to say.  Once I soaked up their clarity of thoughts, I felt as though I had completed a course, was enriched, and could move onto other things.

Three other notes, again speaking personally:

1. I do agree with Alexander that, over time, it felt less and less worth rehashing the same arguments with people inclined to disagree.

2. Finding and sharing examples of religious loonies saying loony things -- here, more often with people already inclined to agree -- started feeling like a joke getting stale.

3. I do continue to worry about the continuing problem of religion's clout in the political world, particularly in the US, and I sometimes think I should be doing more about this, but, as with all things political these days, I've largely stepped away, both to preserve my own stomach lining, and because I can't think of anything to do that would give me a sense of making a measurable contribution.

Finally, as far as the assertion of Alexander's title goes, I think it's a bit early to say (at least compared to Sparta!), but it does seem to me that it's at best an exaggeration to say "New Atheism" failed. At minimum, it seems to me, a lot of consciousness was raised. Also, I strongly suspect a large amount of credit is due to the "New Atheists" for the non-trivial recent increase (that Alexander does show) in people in the US self-identifying as having no religious affiliation. Further, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence out there concerning people who once felt trapped in some overly religious community, who were helped to break free by the "New Atheist" movement. So, again, I think it's a little early to publish an obituary: profound social change usually proceeds in fits and starts, in flare-ups and dormancy. Let's talk again in another generation.

(h/t: Scott Aaronson ← a link worth visiting for other reasons, too)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

It's hard to imagine a four-word phrase that would perk me up more than this*

xkcd filter on matplotlib

This isn't the first time the streams have crossed between two of my favorite areas of interest, btw.**

I came across that delightful phrase in section eight of a wonderful article, "Ten Simple Rules for Better Figures." You should read this, for sure, if you ever have to make charts | graphs | plots. You should read it if you ever have to critically view this kind of work by others. You should read it if you're at all interested in clearer communication. You should read it. You should also check out some of the many fine links in the article, including (and how's this for a great name?) Kaiser Fung's Junk Charts.

I came across the link to the article in the Preface to a book I've just started reading. The author, Nicolas P. Rougier, has very generously made this book, Python & OpenGL for Scientific Visualization, freely available online.

(* Resists temptation to start typing You shoulds ... again *).

Admittedly, this is not gonna be primo beach reading for some of you. But all of the above is so in my wheelhouse that I just had to pass it along.

This concludes your my early Sunday*** morning geekout.

(h/t: PyCoder's Weekly for 2019-10-29)

* That you would be willing to say in polite company, I mean.

** You do know about import antigravity, right?

*** My weekend, these days, is Tuesday, Wednesday, and I work nights. The carpenters remodeling the apartment next door evidently do not share my schedule.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Round Up. Help Out!

I am part of the ConEd Advisory Community, which probably sounds more important than it is. It's basically being signed up to participate in surveys. It's not terrible -- I like the feeling that my input, in a tiny way, might help make things slightly better, for us customers of the giant utility monopoly here in the New York area.

Today, I was sent a link to view the results of a recent survey, on some thoughts ConEd is having about changing its bill layout. At the end of the report was this:

ConEd statement about plans to improve communication with delinquent customers

This moved me to post the following comment (a link you probably can't visit unless you're a member).

I like the "Moving Forward" part. I have no idea what options are currently available for customers falling behind on utility bill payments, but it made me think of how fortunate I am, now that paying those bills is no longer a hardship, and that made me wonder if there would be some way for ConEd to set up a program so that would enable a voluntary contribution to a fund that would help those who are struggling to make ends meet. For example, check a box to round your payment up to the next dollar. An average of fifty cents times how many million ConEd customers are there? This could easily become a fund of at least a few hundred thousand dollars per month to help others keep the heat and lights on.

Granted, I don't know how you'd sort out the truly hurting from the slackers who could easily be paying their bills, but just aren't being responsible, not to mention the freeriders who would look to game a program like this, but I'd like to see this idea given some consideration. Even if a few scammers snuck in through the cracks, it'd be worth it to me if I felt like I was keeping some truly deserving families from shivering in the dark.

It seems to me that it would not take more than a few lines of code on ConEd's end to implement this, nor would the administrative costs be especially prohibitive.

Also, in thinking about the slacker/freerider problem, it seems to me that ConEd is probably already pretty good, through decades of experience at collecting on delinquent accounts, at distinguishing those who are truly hurting from the rest, so maybe there's something there. It also occurred to me that there could be some sort of lottery system set up, and/or some limit on the amount of times you could apply for the benefits, which ought to further limit the assistance going to those who don't actually need it. And if a few undeserving slobs do get a free month? So what. This seems like a classic situation of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

What do you think? RUHO? RUHO!

If this seems plausible to you, please tell ConEd. Or your own local utility company.


Saturday, August 24, 2019

Sign of the day: 2019-03-18

Just found this on my phone, from last spring break:

Friday, March 01, 2019

How's this for an opening graf? (From someone who doesn't even work in retail!)

A non-refundable $45 fee on a bank statement whose existence cannot be explained by anyone; Raytheon’s Twitter account responding to a jape from Lockheed Martin’s Twitter account with a GIF of a grimacing Steve Carell from an episode of The Office; a show on The Learning Channel that is just goateed men dropping bricks on each other from increasingly great heights; the broader vibe and actual experience of Netflix; a meme on a relative’s Facebook page in which a Minion is dressed like a police officer for reasons that are not immediately clear. All strong competitors, to be sure, but for my money the most patently and potently of-this-moment experience currently available is that of being talked down to by an extremely rich person who is obviously dumber than you.

The rest, from David Roth, is also as good. It's about the current state of affairs in Major League Baseball, but it doesn't take much effort to see how it extends.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Putting a price tag on My Good Name(?)

It's nice to fantasize about for a moment or two (baby big brother needs a new pair of sandals laptop ... well, one of these years, anyway) but, uh, I don't really believe it. As far as I know, all of my doppelgängers have a different middle initial.

But hey, if you're someone new out there online, with nine benjamins burning a hole in your pocket, please get in touch! I may not be easy, but I'm comparatively cheap!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Twenty years ago (musings at a stoplight or two)

While running some errands a short while ago, I got to thinking about the Internet, back in the day.

Three things came to mind:

There was no Google. Searching basically sucked. I still want to punch you if you say "Ask Jeeves."

Netscape Navigator was the hot new thing. When my coworker and best friend, ddw, took the initiative to download the latest release and install it for use on our office LAN, he reported it as "this behemoth." He was not being hyperbolic. The file size was just over 3 MB. We had a T1 line at work, which almost certainly cost the company many hundreds of dollars per month. If memory serves, the download speeds were about the same as the cheapest DSL plans available now six years ago, which go went for about 1/1000th the price. (Is DSL even still a thing?)

I bought a new car in 1999. I got a car loan by clicking on a sidebar ad while checking my Yahoo email. I gave this company that I had never heard of my social security number. Everything worked fine. I'm not sure what's more scary these days: online ads or using Yahoo email.

Win some, lose some.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Line of the Day: 2018-12-29

I'm going to give it without context, because, really, it just applies.

I mean, this is like if some asshole starts tearing up your house and, as you're pitching him out the door, he starts naming conditions under which he'd be willing to leave quietly.
     -- Roy Edroso

(h/t: #jonswift2018)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I don't even have a bluff answer

Wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a screenshot of this tweet before I clicked the link, which said "Translate this tweet." In any case, this is the result of clicking that link:

I have no idea which machine-learning system (?) thinks any of that tweet needed translating (not counting from English to something else, of course), much less from Portuguese.

And granted I'm running Windows, but why is Microsoft handling trying to perform translation services on Twitter, being viewed through Firefox?

See, this is how conspiracy theories get started.

Also, cattle mutilations are up.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Way cool, Wikipedia

You know how the pronunciation guide used on Wikipedia, among other sites, is not the one you grew up with (if you're of a certain age)? It features many more characters and some different conventions. It's hard for me to make the effort to learn this new language, as it were, and so I am, from time to time, frustrated when I want to know how to pronounce something.

However, help is here!

I don't know how long this feature has been around on Wikipedia, but I just noticed it today: you can hover over an individual character in the phonetic spelling of a given word or name, and a tooltip will pop up, showing you what that particular character means!

Here's an example screenshot:

My life just got measurably better. Shoutout and many thanks to the Wikipedians who made this happen.

Evidently, the money is being put to good use! ;)

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Deep Thought

It has long fascinated me that our mouths are simulataneously one of the most horrible sources of infection and about the most rapidly healing part of the body I can name.

Pro tip: just because you blow once or twice on a hunk of potato you just boiled and repeat that for a ladelful of a reheating stew [1] that seemed to need a little extra starch doesn't mean you aren't going to burn the roof of your mouth.

You'd almost think I'd've figured that out by now.

Anyway, let the healing begin! (Dousing with rioja [2] seems to be helping.)

[1] Spiced Chickpea Stew With Coconut and Turmeric

[2] Spanish wine with a South Asian-ish dish? Yeah. I'm a savage. Or a multiculturalist. One of those.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Finally, I am Internet-famous!

Bumped into my neighbor a short while ago, and he referred me to the Google Maps street view of our mutual address. Screenshot below. Click it to big it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Ur data mining needz moar werk

I often fret about how much the machines know about us. And then I get something like this, a "job for you" from LinkedIn.

Job description

We are a multi-media, global entertainment brand that inspires young men to lead their most stylish and culturally relevant lives by covering news and trends in fashion, sneakers, music, art and entertainment. Reaching 10+ million men each month, Highsnobiety is both an influential AND fast growing, award winning media company.

Short of adding a requirement that prospective candidates should enjoy long-distance running, can you think of a job for which I'd be less suited?

I do like the company name, though.

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.


[Update 2019-12-25 18:02] Some more thoughts on the matter, from me, in comments under this Facebook post.

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."


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 dĂ©but 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?