h/t Scott for the link.
April 9, 2015
April 7, 2015
Utility scale electricity storage and generation from a train and a box of rocks. What a great idea. Engineers are pretty clever.
March 28, 2015
“Forging new habits has become an obsession among technology companies. In an age when commercial competition is only a click away, the new mandate is to make products and services that generate compulsive behavior: in essence, to get users hooked on a squirt of dopamine to the brain’s reward center to ensure that they’ll come back…
It starts with a trigger, a prod that propels users into a four-step loop. Think of the e-mail notification you get when a friend tags you in a photo on Facebook. The trigger prompts you to take an action—say, to log in to Facebook. That leads to a reward: viewing the photo and reading the comments left by others. In the fourth step, you inject a personal stake by making an investment: say, leaving your own comment in the thread. This pattern, Eyal says, kicks off a cycle that lodges behaviors in the basal ganglia, the part of the brain where automatic behaviors are stored and where, according to neuroscientists, they last a lifetime….
“I’m not an advocate for creating addiction,” he says. “Addiction has a specific definition: it always hurts the user. I talk about the pathways for addiction because the same things that occur in the brain help us do something that can be good.”””
I guess that depends on who gets to define “good”.
March 23, 2015
Infants in College: “Safe spaces are an expression of the conviction, increasingly prevalent among college students, that their schools should keep them from being ‘bombarded’ by discomfiting or distressing viewpoints. Think of the safe space as the live-action version of the better-known trigger warning, a notice put on top of a syllabus or an assigned reading to alert students to the presence of potentially disturbing material. . . .
the notion that ticklish conversations must be scrubbed clean of controversy has a way of leaking out and spreading. Once you designate some spaces as safe, you imply that the rest are unsafe. It follows that they should be made safer. . . .
while keeping college-level discussions ‘safe’ may feel good to the hypersensitive, it’s bad for them and for everyone else. People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled. What will they do when they hear opinions they’ve learned to shrink from? If they want to change the world, how will they learn to persuade people to join them?
Or, put another way, how will they grow up?”
When this gets written in the New York Times, of all places, you know there’s truly a problem.
February 18, 2015
A great summation of positive and negative externalities as they pertain to the ACA. Yes, it’s actually rather more interesting than that stunning sentence would indicate.
February 12, 2015
“Jon Stewart’s genius — ‘and for once that overused word is appropriate,’ Aucoin of the Globe insists — is that he provides intellectually lazy people with an excuse for forgoing the hard work of informing themselves at anything but the most superficial level about political events. Human beings being what they are, there will always be an acute need for humor in our political discourse; Stewart’s contribution has been to substitute humor — and an easy, vapid, shallow species of humor at that — for the discourse itself, through what Jim Treacher deftly described as his ‘clown nose on, clown nose off’ approach to commentary: When it comes to Obamacare, the minimum wage, or the national debt, you don’t have to get the economics as long as you get the joke.”
Stewart has always had an uncanny behavioral resemblance to a certain class clown during my high school days. Able to be sincere and intelligent when the circumstances called for it, he nonetheless opted to play the buffoon and go for the easy laugh. Smart guy who ended up looking pathetic and adolescent at my 10th reunion. He was still reliving the high school glory days while the rest of us had moved on.
If Stewart truly represents the Genius that his admirers are lauding, if his leaving the daily show is “akin to the Beatles breaking up”, then that says quite a bit about his average viewer, and what it says shouldn’t make them feel too comfortable.
February 6, 2015
“I may not speak for many other upper-middle-class types, but I’ll tell you what: I’m happy to have the government spend less on me if I know it’s spending less altogether and is directing what money it does spend to people who need it more than I do. But if you’re simply talking about raising taxes in order to maintain the bloated status quo plus a bunch of new programs, count me out. That’s not because I’m selfish. It’s because I’m not stupid.”
Exactly. Let’s take care of those who need it. Let’s not waste money on programs designed to harvest votes and perpetuate bureaucracies. But for some reason stating it just that clearly still gets you labeled as a Poor Hater.
February 5, 2015
Brian Williams: Big, Fat Liar | Ricochet: “NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted Wednesday he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years…
The admission came after crew members on the 159th Aviation Regiment’s Chinook that was hit by two rockets and small arms fire told Stars and Stripes that the NBC anchor was nowhere near that aircraft or two other Chinooks flying in the formation that took fire. Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three had made an emergency landing, the crew members said.
‘I would not have chosen to make this mistake,’ Williams said. ‘I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another.’”
No sir. It’s not a “mistake”. A mistake is getting the tail number of the aircraft wrong. A lie is saying you were onboard it an hour earlier when it crashed as a restult of rocket fire, then repeating that same statement for over a decade.
Kind of makes you wonder what else he’s “mistaking” about.
February 4, 2015
Over 300 businesses now whitelisted on AdBlock Plus, 10% pay to play | Ars Technica: “Since 2011, AdBlock Plus, a popular browser plugin that blocks online ads, has kept a ‘whitelist’ of websites that are allowed to serve ads despite the presence of the AdBlock Plus plugin. In an e-mail to Ars, AdBlock Plus Communications Manager Ben Williams wrote that currently, the browser extension has granted a pass to ‘over 300 sites/entities’ out of ‘over 1,500 applicants’ to the company’s whitelist. That’s up from October 2013, when AdBlock Plus allowed the ads of 78 sites or entities out of 777 applicants.”
If I had the resource I would introduce a $5/year “real” adblock that nuked ALL ads. Then retire a rich man.
Students with autism learn social skills with R2-D2: “AUSTIN — Fifth-grade students at Blazier Elementary School in Southeast Austin are learning social skills through technology.
The students are part of the school’s SCORES program, which stands for Social Communication and Resource services, for children with autism. Over the past few months, they created a fully operational R2-D2 replica robot thanks to their teacher, Caleb Zammit.
‘The main focus was just learning to work as a group, and how to get along and use their manners when working on a big project all together,’ said Zammit.
They are also learning about motors, batteries, measurements, power tools and metal.
‘The best part of my day is having fun with my friends and building R2-D2,’ said Mathew Fan, a student at Blazier Elementary.”
That’s pretty fantastic. One of the things I’m looking forward to the most about finishing R2 is being able to take him to a local children’s hospital (or the like). That’ll be really rewarding.
“To the casual observer it appears that Virginia is run by violent psychopaths. That’s the takeaway from the recent report of an anti-poker SWAT team raid in Fairfax County, in which eight assault rifle-sporting police officers moved against ten card-playing civilians. The police possibly seized more than $200,000 from the game, of which 40 percent they eventually kept.
There was no indication that any of the players was armed. As a matter of fact, it appears that a gambler is more likely to be shot without provocation by the Fairfax Police than the other way around. The heavy firepower at the Fairfax raid was apparently motivated by the fact that ‘at times, illegal weapons are present’ at such poker games, and that ‘Asian gangs’ have allegedly targeted such events in the past. This is, then, a novel approach to law enforcement: as a matter of policy, Fairfax police now attempt to rob and steal from people before street gangs get around to doing it.
It is a mystery why we put up with this obscene police behavior. Gambling itself is not illegal in Virginia; it is simply controlled by the state. So the Fairfax police department did not bust these hapless poker players with guns drawn for doing something truly immoral and fully outlawed, merely for doing something in a way not approved by the state legislature. Were gambling actually forbidden in Virginia, then a crackdown could at least be understood, if not condoned in so paramilitary a fashion. Yet Virginia’s stance on the matter is not to treat gambling as malum in se, but rather as an instrumentum regni: our government prefers to funnel gambling money into its own coffers for its own ends, outlaw the same thing when it’s done outside of the state’s jurisdiction, and then steal the money of the poor fellows who happen to get caught….
…Governments control gambling not to legitimize and sanitize the practice, but to extract as much money from the citizenry as they possibly can. In the state’s eyes, the fault of the poker players in Fairfax lay not in betting money on a card game, but in not pouring money into the state’s bank account while they were doing so.”
Because Public Safety.
January 30, 2015
The dome arrived! It’s actually 2 domes (the inner dome is still in the box). Little R2 is still a long, long, long way from completion but he’s graduated from feeling like a box of random aluminum scraps and circuit boards to something more like a robot. Really enjoying this process.
January 26, 2015
Welcome To The Maker-Industrial Revolution: “To the executives at GE, Cprek’s hack came as a wakeup call. The idea for a bar-code-scanning oven had come up in internal ideas sessions before, and they knew it had great potential. In retirement communities or urban food deserts, such an appliance could help people eat healthier meals without requiring much time or expertise. And yet, the concept had never left the brainstorm stage at GE. That’s because, for giant manufacturing companies, putting something into a production run is a giant gamble. Navigating the obstacle course of requisite departments (R&D, design, prototyping, market research, manufacturing) can take years, and tooling a factory line can cost tens of millions of dollars. That the executives were now staring at a working prototype of an idea they already liked—and it hadn’t come from them—made them wonder how much innovation they were letting slide by. Why couldn’t they build a more nimble product-development pipeline? For that matter, why couldn’t smart hackers like Cprek have an ongoing role?”
January 23, 2015
This surprised me: “Given that nine in ten African-American women voted for Democrats in 2014, it may be no surprise that a focus group of urban, female, African-Americans had mostly contempt for all things ‘Republican’ or ‘conservative.’ But what was shocking is that this group also, unprompted, uniformly opposed both extended unemployment benefits and a minimum wage increase, and volunteered conservative economic and moral arguments about their potentially destructive impact on job creation, costs, and conduct.
The focus group, done by the Polling Company on behalf of Independent Women’s Voice in the lead up to the Louisiana runoff U.S. Senate election, confirmed what we already know about the GOP’s brand: These women see the GOP as a clique of rich, white people seeking to consolidate wealth and power, indifferent to and uncaring about people like themselves. Characterizing something (a policy) or someone (a politician) as ‘Republican’ or ‘conservative’ immediately poisoned the well, even when it was a fellow African-American making the case. At best, the participants would consider any ‘Republican policy’ with skepticism.
Yet their discussions of policies apart from political labels revealed more fundamental conservative instincts than the initial conversation—or conventional voter behavior—would ever suggest.”
The rest of the article is very revealing: a lack of support for extending unemployment benefits, a disagreement with raising the minimum wage, etc, from the very constituency we are told is demanding this. In their own words:
Ashley, a thirty-one-year-old, never married mother of four, said, of raising the minimum wage, “It will raise the cost of everything else more than it’ll increase what I get paid… We will end up even further behind.” Another participant pointed out that it would do nothing to help the unemployed get a job, and might even make it harder. Still another seemed to speak for many when she said that giving more money to someone who doesn’t have the skills to handle it is a waste. These women saw a higher minimum wage as leading to even less employment opportunity in their communities.
It’s very opposite of what the conventional wisdom expects.
I wonder what is causing their antipathy toward the parties that espouse the things they themselves agree with?
“A report by the AP has revealed that Healthcare.gov, the Government’s affordable care portal, shares some of your personal data with a whole raft of marketing agencies. The action has been independently verified by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has found that a person’s location, annual income and smoking habits are all being freely distributed.
The foundation has also discovered that enabling Do Not Track doesn’t protect users against the surveillance, since the data is being shared in the site’s referrer header. In essence, the referrer header is a fundamental part of how the internet works, and can’t be anonymized.”
January 20, 2015
Major R2D2 delivery today (well, last Friday but nobody was home, then thanks to the holiday, I finally got them today). My R2D2 skins are here! They’re one of the few parts that I had to order as opposed to making and folks, are they beautiful. Up until now I’ve had nothing more than a pile of aluminum plate, some waterjet parts, a lazy susan, and a bunch of unsoldered circuit boards, plus a binder of blueprints and a whole lot of hope (and fear) that one day I’ll finish this crazy project.
Now that I can see these four beautiful aluminum skins it’s starting to feel a lot more real.
Note: Screen-accurate R2’s skin actually consists of a double layer of aluminum, front and back. So there are four skins total. This is to create the shadow lines when doors open and close and to have a lip behind each of the doors so that it’s 100% accurate.
January 15, 2015
More waterjetting of the frame. I’ve taken a break from chart writing this week at night (usually starting around 6pm) and gone in to TechShop to cut some more frame parts. I managed to cut JAG 3, JAG 16, JAG 13 (2x), and JAG 11 (4x). I’m getting much more relaxed running the water jet since the various violent noises it makes are starting to seem normal to me. It’s always a little stressful running that machine since it’s the only TechShop machine that starts the billing clock when you hit the PUMP ON button. The trick is to cut for a whole 30 minutes as I did tonight. Then you just get inured to it, I guess.
Anyway, tonight I cut the curved JAG11 parts that serve as the frame for R2’s utility arms. There are four of them under the skin. I also cut the thin .125″ aluminum locking plates for his legs. I opted to leave off the 4 holes that would let R2 stand in two foot mode since I won’t ever do that (I hope).
Speaking of skins, I managed to slip in under the wire and order a set of R2 skins from a club up north. They’re one of the few parts that I won’t take the time to make myself. I could easily cut them from styrene but this is an all aluminum driod. Cutting them from aluminum sheeting is a very complex and expensive process that would take several trial and error tries to get right (each one taking up to 4 largeish sheets of aluminum). Plus they’d be really expensive to cut on the FlowJet since I don’t have access to a high powered laser. The price the club was asking, combined with the fact that they’ll be here in just a few days, made this one of the (hopefully very) few parts that I’ll have to purchase if I want to accomplish the goal of keeping R2 aluminum throughout.
In the meantime, here’s a picture from a couple nights ago of the current parts precariously balanced in position (thanks, Sean for the pic). Not pictured are the curved front pieces I cut tonight or the leg plates (they don’t have anything to sit on anyway since the large side mounts – the intimidating JAG04 parts – aren’t made yet.
It’s so cool to see my little robot coming together.
January 14, 2015
“Ortiz pitched the Colonel a plan as if he were pitching a commercial to Heinz or Coca-Cola. The Colonel stroked his chin. Espejo liked the code idea, because he knew that many soldiers — especially in the communications departments — were taught Morse code in their basic training. Furthermore, Espejo reasoned, ‘The FARC were peasants from the fields, they wouldn’t know [Morse].’ It was a longshot, but if the team could disguise the telltale dot-dot-dash signals in a song, there was a chance the soldiers would hear the message.”
What a feeling of accomplishment to have been in on this.