The Big Think

January 31, 2014

CNN’s Jake Tapper: Don’t Just Trust the Government, Demand Proof

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:36 am

The Atlantic:

“There have been many benefits to Snowden’s leaks. It is conceivable that they’ve imposed significant costs on America too, but asserting that to be so is insufficient. Evidence is needed, because that’s how a reality-driven society works, and also because of the many instances that the government has wildly exaggerated the harm done by that which embarrasses the people in charge of running it…

Recall that the Pentagon Papers, the Abu Ghraib photos, the waterboarding revelations, the reports about warrantees wiretapping in the Bush years, and the WikiLeaks trove of documents were all alleged to have done grave damage to America. The harms were overblown in every case. If the U.S. government ever deserved the benefit of the doubt from its citizens, it long ago squandered that privilege. Like the boy who cried wolf, it now needs to offer proof. “

I predict this New Journalistic Ideal will become common practice around January 17, 2017 at the very earliest.

Somebody Else’s Fault

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:53 am

Pelosi acts as if she is powerless on ‘Daily Show’:

“Judging from her interview on ‘The Daily Show’ Thursday, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Nancy Pelosi is one of the most powerful figures in Washington.

Throughout her discussion with Jon Stewart, the House minority leader passed the buck for the government’s failures and acted as if she is completely removed from any position of responsibility.

‘I don’t know,’ Pelosi said when asked by Stewart why it was so hard for the government to ‘get a company to execute’ something like building HealthCare.Gov ‘competently?’

‘Well, let me get the House minority leader here, I can ask her, hold on,’ Stewart said through laughter, mocking her answer. ‘Wait. What do you mean you don’t know? How do you not know?’

‘It’s not my responsibility,’ Pelosi said.

Pressed on bureaucratic problems at the Veterans Administration, Pelosi said the failures were ‘horrible.’

‘Seems insane,’ Stewart retorted.

‘It’s stunning but do something about it,’ Pelosi said, as if she was powerless in the matter.

‘I was going to say that to you. I was actually going to say that to you,’ Stewart responded, seemingly suggesting that the House minority leader might have some power to ‘do something about it’ herself.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t her party have an unassailable majority of the Govt. a few years ago? Doesn’t it have 2/3rds now?

If they can’t show that their agenda is viable when in near-total (or total) control, then maybe that says something about their agenda, right?

Come With Me and You’ll Be in a World of…. Nevermind

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 8:49 am

Child-Safety Experts Call For Restrictions On Childhood Imagination:

“‘Defuse the ticking time-bomb known as your child’s imagination before it explodes and destroys her completely,’ said child-safety expert Kenneth McMillan, who advised the HHS in composing the guidelines. ‘New data shows a disturbing correlation between serious accidents and the ability of children to envision a world full of exciting possibility.’

The guidelines, titled ‘Boundless Imagination, Boundless Hazards: Ways To Keep Your Kids Safe From A World Of Wonder,’ are posted on the HHS website, and will also be available in brochure form in pediatricians’ offices across the country.

According to McMillan, children can suffer broken bones, head trauma, and even fatal injuries from unsupervised exposure to childlike awe. ‘If your children are allowed to unlock their imaginations, anything from a backyard swing set to a child’s own bedroom can be transformed into a dangerous undersea castle or dragon’s lair,’ McMillan said. ‘But by encouraging your kids to think linearly and literally, and constantly reminding them they can never be anything but human children with no extraordinary characteristics, you can better ensure that they will lead prolonged lives.'”

January 30, 2014

Going Places

Filed under: Travel — jasony @ 6:45 pm

22 Unbelievable Places that are Hard to Believe Really Exist

January 27, 2014

Ephebiophobic

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:13 am

Works and Days: ”

‘It is popular now to talk of race, class, and gender oppression. But left out of this focus on supposed victim groups is the one truly targeted cohort — the young. Despite the Obama-era hype, we are not suffering new outbreaks of racism. Wendy Davis is not the poster girl for a resurgent misogyny. There is no epidemic of homophobia. Instead, if this administration’s policies are any guide, we are witnessing a pandemic of ephebiphobia — an utter disregard for young people. . . . In truth, no administration in recent memory has done more to harm young people.

The war against those under 30 — and the unborn — is multifaceted. No one believes that the present payroll deductions leveled on working youth will result in the same levels of support upon their retirements that is now extended to the retiring baby-boom generation. Instead, the probable solutions of raising the retirement age, cutting back the rate of payouts, hiking taxes on benefits, and raising payroll rates are discussed in an environment of après moi le déluge — to come into effect after the boomers are well pensioned off.

The success of Obamacare hinges on taxing a youthful cohort for a service it will rarely use in order to subsidize those better off who will use it a lot.

This administration has added so far about $8 trillion to the national debt. By the end of its two terms, the national debt will have doubled in less than eight years. After the tax hikes and sequester, we may nonchalantly talk of deficits stabilizing at over $600-800 billion, forgetting that such annual red ink will in aggregate add trillions to the soon to be $18 trillion in aggregate debt. The tab can only be serviced by continuing virtually non-existent interest rates. For the present generation of toddlers, it is likely that the debt will only continue to grow and the eventual cost of servicing will soar. Interest rates will rise, and those who ran up the tab will be retired — while those who were not responsible for the profligacy will pay if off.

We can easily caricature today’s youth — the prolonged adolescence in the garage or basement, the tattoos and piercings, the sorta, kinda going to school or part-time working that so often eats up one’s twenties and early thirties — but the fault is more so their parents’ generation who strangled and bankrupted the economy.

There was an interesting Oxford-style debate last night on NPR. The thesis of the debate was “Obamacare is beyond saving” (a surprising way to phrase it, given NPR and all). According to the statistics, at the beginning of the debate 52% of the audience disagreed with this statement while 16% agreed. So it was a natural assumption (given NPR’s typical audience) that the “disagree” portion would triumph.

However, after a full hour of honest, reasoned, impassioned and (most importantly), organized debating— with no interruptions, name calling, or tangents allowed— the audience re-voted. The result? More people had been convinced of the truth of the statement “Obamacare is beyond saving” than the reverse (the “pro” side had increased its percentage to a higher degree).

It needs to be said that, though philosophical disagreements abound about the nature and responsibilities — and proper size — for government, once the fiscal facts about the ACA are presented in a cool and logical fashion, it becomes very, very hard to say that it is not doing the current and future generation great harm. That the effects and consequences of the ACA are coming home to many in a very personal way also makes it hard to obfuscate or distract from the consequences. As the man says, who are you going to be believe, me or your lying eyes?

The same can absolutely be said about the national debt, entitlements, and a host of other giant fiscal commitments. It’s not all about knee-jerk partisan disagreements. Many of us just want to see a sustainable and sane level of spending. Even if we don’t agree with what the money is being spent on, we’d like to know that we’re not just spending today’s money, and tomorrow’s, and next century’s, on bread and circuses.

January 24, 2014

Poll

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 1:52 pm

Via Insty:

ObamaCare Support Hits Record Low. “The new poll finds 59 percent of voters oppose the health care law, up from 55 percent who opposed it six months ago (June 2013). The increase in opposition comes from both independents and Democrats. Nearly a third of Democrats — 30 percent — oppose the law, up from 22 percent in June. Opposition among independents went from 53 percent to 64 percent today.”

The legislation was as error-filled and acrimoniously passed with way too many quasi-legal, post-facto kludge attempts to repair it. Is it any wonder that it’s a stinker?

Even folks on the left are starting to realize it needs to be meet the same fate as Prohibition. There’s no shame in admitting error and trying again. There’s much shame in continuing down a fool’s path and trying to perpetuate something that is so obviously a train wreck.

Related: Where Have All the Uninsured Gone?

“Somewhere between 65 percent to 90 percent of the 2.2 million folks who bought insurance on the exchanges through late December seem to be people who already had insurance….. There may be something seriously wrong with our understanding of who the uninsured are, and what they are willing and able to buy in the way of insurance. I don’t know exactly what the fault may be in our understanding. But if the numbers stay this low, I’d say we need to reassess the state of our knowledge about the uninsured — and the vast program we created to cover them.

Probably should have had that discussion before the vast programs were created.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Filed under: Business,Computing — jasony @ 1:28 pm

Mac, Then and Now.png

When I was in college I got a job as a photographer to save up the $2500 to buy the computer on the left. A few years ago I plunked down a little less than that to buy the one on the right. How very far we’ve come.

January 23, 2014

Brunnhilde in the Wings

Filed under: Music — jasony @ 11:35 am

Classical music sales decline: Is classical on death’s door?:

“Classical music has been circling the drain for years, of course. There’s little doubt as to the causes: the fingernail grip of old music in a culture that venerates the new; new classical music that, in the words of Kingsley Amis, has about as much chance of public acceptance as pedophilia; formats like opera that are extraordinarily expensive to stage; and an audience that remains overwhelmingly old and white in an America that’s increasingly neither. Don’t forget the attacks on arts education, the Internet-driven democratization of cultural opinion, and the classical trappings—fancy clothes, incomprehensible program notes, an omerta-caliber code of audience silence—that never sit quite right in the homeland of popular culture.”

January 22, 2014

Knowledge is Power

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 12:02 pm

Knowledge is Power:

“The power to search all our communications – or all our third-party records – is a power too great to repose in the government’s hands. Unlike private business like Verizon or Google, those in government have a strong incentive and desire to suppress dissent – along with their political rivals – and need only the means to do so. Unlike private companies, they have the power to incarcerate anyone on their enemies targeting list should their searches turn up anything incriminating. Yahoo and Sprint have neither the motive nor the means to restrict our liberties.

Cato’s Jim Harper and I have contended that all these bulk data seizure programs are both illegal under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. But set aside such arguments. Whether legal or illegal, constitutional or unconstitutional, knowledge is power. And this is too much power to give any agency of government.”

I’m pretty disappointed that members of left-leaning organizations have been relatively quiet about these issues compared to the fierce moral urgency of change they spoke of during the last administration. By their behavior you would think that all of the demonstrations were just pretense for getting their guy into power, not actually arguing on the basis of principle. Now that it’s their side with their hands on the levers? Not such a big deal any longer.

January 21, 2014

Model, Man

Filed under: Maker — jasony @ 9:21 pm

Here’s the World’s Best Paper Plane Maker | Wired Design | Wired.com: “Boeing can build a 777 in 50 days. Luca Iaconi-Stewart can build one too—in five years. True, Iaconi- Stewart made his 1:60-scale jetliner out of manila folders and dabs of glue, but it’s almost as complicated as the real deal, down to the retractable landing gear.”

morw pics at the flikr set here.

1984

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:06 pm

Belgium on Verge of OK to Killing Sick Children: “Belgian legislation to legalize child euthanasia took another step forward.”

A Judiciary Committee has rejected calls for extra hearings before sending Belgium’s Child Euthanasia Bill for a final parliamentary vote. The decision clears the way for it to be passed to the lower house for consideration and a vote sometime before May…

Unlike the Netherlands which allows euthanasia for children over 12, Belgium is set to become the first nation in the world to lift all age restrictions.

Click This

Filed under: Computing,Technology — jasony @ 10:34 am

Click this: All about mechanical keyboards and why you need one | PCWorld: “Keyboards are of two kinds: (1) the cheapo, no-name slabs that are bundled by the millions with PCs, and (2) the ones that are actually worth using—and in most cases, that’s a mechanical keyboard. Stalwart friend to gamers and power typists alike, the mechanical keyboard’s physical operation and durability make it the gold standard for computer use. It’s not the only option out there—good alternatives abound for wireless, ergonomic, and other purposes—but if nothing else, ditching that freebie is something everyone should do. Read on to learn more about why a mechanical keyboard should be in your future.”

Considering a replacement mechanical keyboard for when this old Mac white one gives up the ghost. It’s still going very strong but it’s diiiiirty, and I don’t want to take it apart to clean it lest I break something.

Erin’s new iMac has one of the thin profile keyboards and she likes it, but I’m stuck on this white clicky one. I can really move fast using it, and when you spend 10+ hours a day on a tool, getting one you really like, and that gets out of your way, is important. One of the reasons I still rock the Kensington Turbo Mouse Pro trackball. Love that thing. They’re out of production and replacements go for over $100 on ebay. Worth. It.

Yum

Filed under: Foodie — jasony @ 8:51 am

100 of the Best Restaurant Copycat Recipes: “”

January 20, 2014

On Learning

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 3:45 pm

Thank God I wasn’t college material | The Matt Walsh Blog:

“whatever society says, and whatever direction the schools push our kids, one fact has always remained: if you want to be successful at something, you must do it and do it well. That’s what I’ll tell my kids when they’re old enough. That’s what I’d like to tell all of my fellow young people. It’s not enough anymore, and I’m not sure it ever was enough, to simply follow the well-traveled roads, accumulate your grades and your degrees and then emerge into the world, waiting for wealth and prosperity to rain down upon you from heaven.

You have to put some skin in the game. You have to find your niche and master it. You have to be the best. Conquer it, whatever it is that you want to do. Be better than everyone. Be a visionary while everybody else is checking the handbook. Take risks while everybody else stays cozy and comfortable. Be good at something. Then, once you’re good, become great.”

A really good short essay on the continuing self-implosion of our higher education system. I’m completely in agreement* (especially with his postscript where he says he’s not anti-learning, just anti-current-busted-system-that-indentures-people).

I have friends who have proudly never cracked a book since college that I do not understand. I spent five years in college (5 1/2 actually), and if I haven’t learned at least as much in the ensuing 20 years since then I am not living up to my potential. Read. Read everything. Then think. About everything. Find connections. Explore new areas. See where disparate fields connect. Life is way way way too short to spend it all in mental stagnation.

*obviously this doesn’t include fields that really do require a degree, like doctor, pharmacist, engineer, etc. There’s an argument for the importance of a liberal arts college degree for general well-roundedness, but the people that espouse this unconditionally have a hard time defending it when it comes at an ever increasing cost. Should you pay a million dollars for “well-rounded?” Well, of course not! Ten thousand? Yes! Somewhere in the middle that “yes” starts to become hard to defend.

The future of education is rushing at us at the speed of, well, the future. Interesting times…

January 19, 2014

Is the American School System Damaging Our Kids?

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 2:33 pm

Is the American School System Damaging Our Kids?:

“As a society, we tend to shrug off such findings. We’re not surprised that kids are unhappy in school. Some people even believe that the very unpleasantness of school is good for children, so they will learn to tolerate unpleasantness as preparation for real life. But there are plenty of opportunities to learn to tolerate unpleasantness without adding unpleasant schooling to the mix. Research has shown that people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing answers to questions that reflect their personal interests and achieving goals that they’ve set for themselves. Under such conditions, learning is usually joyful.”

January 15, 2014

To The Moon, Richard.

Filed under: Space,Technology — jasony @ 8:06 pm

Branson’s space plane hits new heights | euronews, space: “Virgin Galactic’s re-usable spacecraft SpaceShipTwo has broken its own personal record for altitude in a third supersonic test flight over the Mojave Desert in the western USA. The craft was released from its carrier and soared up to an altitude of 21,641 metres and a speed of Mach 1.4, or 1224 km/h.”

Video at the link.

Inside the Fort

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 3:55 pm

I Spent Two Hours Talking With the NSA’s Bigwigs. Here’s What Has Them Mad:

“They really hate Snowden. The NSA is clearly, madly, deeply furious at the man whose actions triggered the biggest crisis in its history. Even while contending they welcome the debate that now engages the nation, they say that they hate the way it was triggered. The NSA has an admittedly insular culture — the officials described it as almost like a family. Morale suffers when friends and neighbors think that NSA employees are sitting around reading grandma’s email. Also, the agency believes that the Snowden leaks have seriously hurt national security (though others dispute this). NSA officials are infuriated that all this havoc was caused by some random contractor. They suggest that had Snowden been familiar with the culture and the ethos of the agency, understood the level of training undergone by its employees, seen the level of regulations and oversight, he would have been less likely to abscond with all those documents. (Snowden’s interviews indicate otherwise.)”

Tell that to this guy who, by the way, has an excellent interview here (podcast may be time limited, get it soon).

Turing

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 11:11 am

If a Time Traveller Saw a Smartphone:

“A well-educated time traveller from 1914 enters a room divided in half by a curtain. A scientist tells him that his task is to ascertain the intelligence of whoever is on the other side of the curtain by asking whatever questions he pleases.

The traveller’s queries are answered by a voice with an accent that he does not recognize (twenty-first-century American English). The woman on the other side of the curtain has an extraordinary memory. She can, without much delay, recite any passage from the Bible or Shakespeare. Her arithmetic skills are astonishing—difficult problems are solved in seconds. She is also able to speak many foreign languages, though her pronunciation is odd. Most impressive, perhaps, is her ability to describe almost any part of the Earth in great detail, as though she is viewing it from the sky. She is also proficient at connecting seemingly random concepts, and when the traveller asks her a question like ‘How can God be both good and omnipotent?’ she can provide complex theoretical answers.

Based on this modified Turing test, our time traveller would conclude that, in the past century, the human race achieved a new level of superintelligence. Using lingo unavailable in 1914, (it was coined later by John von Neumann) he might conclude that the human race had reached a ‘singularity’—a point where it had gained an intelligence beyond the understanding of the 1914 mind.”

January 14, 2014

It’s a Google World

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 11:09 pm

1949.jpg

Feathering the Nest

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 1:28 pm

Google buys Nest Labs for $3.2 billion: “The search giant announced Monday that it’s buying connected device maker Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in cash.

Nest, led by former Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) designer Tony Fadell, develops ‘smart’ home appliances like thermostats and smoke detectors that can program themselves and communicate with smartphones. “

Great Scott. 3.2 BILLION dollars. $3,200,000,000.00

Somebody made bank on this deal. BANK.

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