Category Archives: Miscellanea

Spider webs

I very rarely manage to capture webs when I try to photograph them, but these turned out pretty well.#SFWApro.

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A random shot of my bookshelves

Well, one specific bookshelf. Just because I felt like it. I believe in some quarters of the Internet these are now called “shelfies.”

And what the heck, here’s another.#SFWApro.

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Mostly depressing stuff about global warming, plus other science links

“At its worst, net zero by 2050 is a device for shunting responsibility across both time and space. Those in power today seek to pass their liabilities to those in power tomorrow. Every industry seeks to pass the buck to another industry. ” — a Guardian columnist on how our current goals for fighting global warming fall short.

As the world heats up, air conditioning becomes more vital, but it also makes the problems worse. What are the alternatives?

Air-travel contributes to global warming too. Here are the big problems they need to solve.

Global warming and other factors have put the Komodo dragon on the endangered list. There are dangers for vanilla and avocado crops, too.

The world’s largest carbon-capture machine has gone live.

Floating wind turbines could be a great clean energy source, but there are obstacles to overcome first.

“Black cemeteries are now at a disproportionate risk of being lost, some before they have even been officially found.”

The U.S. Army is looking to a cyborg future and worried movies will bias us against cyborgs.

To tighten its grip on the people, the Russian government is deploying its own internet.

Millionaire Julia Davies is helping acres of British farmland go back to nature.

How a rare New Zealand parrot may have removed harmful mutations from its gene pool.

Environmental activism around the world leads to activists being murdered.

“You do pi because everyone else has been doing pi.” — an article on whether there’s any point to calculating pi out to the trillions of digits.

Dogs are amazing — even as covid detectors. I’m sure Plushie could handle it.

What we’re still learning about the asteroid that ended the dinosaur age.

The technical and ethical challenges to resurrecting the woolly mammoth.

The California condor population has gone from 22 to more than 500.

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Mike Sekowsky, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Links about UFOs, nature and science

A physicist argues we shouldn’t try to contact alien life — who knows what the reaction will be (see, for example, Battleship)? And if some astrophysicist or amateur scientist makes contact, what’s to stop them presenting themselves as speaking for the human race?

A journalist argues that we should accept UFOs are real, physical things (as opposed to “real but just a trick of the light”), though not necessarily spaceships.

Here’s a lost of America’s more prominent UFO sightings. And some naval aviators say they see them every day. A fair number of officials in DC are believers, or at least interested enough to push for investigations. But a recent documentary claims the evidence for UFOs is just a government psy-op. A federal report comes to no definite conclusions about UFOs, but does suggest they are physical  objects. But both skeptics and believers agree that talking about it openly is a good thing.

Some scientists say the art of creating crop circles is worthy of serious study, but the UFO association makes that hard.

Are conflicts over “trash fish” surrogates for conflicts over Native American rights?

Speaking of right, here’s how race, oyster fishing and pollution intersect.

Argentinian developers turned wetlands into an upscale gated community. The capybara are fighting back.

The power of seaweed to fight global warming.

Dubai promised to plan one million trees. The reality is less impressive.

Is it sustainable farming if nobody can afford the food?

San Francisco International Airport is saving a snake from extinction.

Beavers have returned to Scotland.

I’ve written before about the problems of relying on algorithms to make judgment calls (also see here). The AP says ShotSpotter software, designed to identify and locate gunshots, is another example: not always accurate, the company won’t let anyone analyze its programs and the techs are willing to rewrite reports if police say the gunshot happened somewhere else.

Well, that’s just the best new (he said sarcastically). The first responders of 9/11 may be slipping into dementia at a much accelerated rate due to the chemicals they were exposed to. But until there’s hard confirmation via research, the responders’ health fund won’t cover it.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gene Colan (t) and Curt Swan (b). All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

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Little things make a difference, especially if they’re slightly larger

So I got a new phone last weekend.

My old iPhone’s battery was no longer strong enough to withstand a day’s heavy use without recharging. It’s memory was so full, it couldn’t even hold all my apps, and I don’t have that many. As I’m on TYG’s phone plan, we hoped we could upgrade to a slightly better model (mine’s around a 5 or 6) as I don’t need top of the line like she does. As it turned out, they didn’t have the next step up any more, so TYG upgraded me to an 11 (she’s awesome).

I know have all my apps — Goodreads, WordPress for this blog, Slack for Atomic Junkshop communications and a couple more. Still nowhere near full.

Another benefit is that it’s significantly larger, but not so large as to be impractical for carrying around. Much better for watching videos (I downloaded the YouTube app), reading comics (using my library’s Hoopla digital link) and it’s pleasantly surprising to see almost all my Safari bookmarks on the screen without having to scroll down. When we took the dogs to doggie rehab this week, I was free to read stuff without worrying I’d wind up with my phone shutting down.

Mastering the new controls is, as usual, an adjustment, but not a huge one. My biggest objection is that I can’t apparently run the stopwatch app without unlocking the phone — as I use that for exercise and such, it’s much simpler if I don’t have to type in my passcode. And a couple of times I turned it off while trying to take a photograph because the off button is in the “wrong” place.

At TYG’s suggestion I dispensed with the protective case. She says phones are pretty tough (she’s very protective of hers so I’m sure she knows what she’s talking about) and I don’t drop it very often, so I’ll see how it goes without it. Does make  me a little nervous when I pull it out of my pocket, but so far it’s been smooth sailing. Of course, it’s only been a week.

The biggest problem was, ironically, that the AT&T store had poor WiFi so after an hour waiting for my old phone to transfer its data, we headed home and had it done ASAP.

I don’t have a photo of my phone so for eye candy here’s a full-page ad from a 1962 issue of Batman. It makes me want to rush out to 1962 and buy both issues.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder.

 

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Ooops!

I was so sure that I’d scheduled a book review post for today, but obviously I didn’t. And now that I realize my error, I don’t have time to post, so here’s a cover by Joe Maneely to make up for it.And here’s a striking anti-segregation poster by Elton Clay Fax, a black artist and comics artist discussed in the book Invisible Men, which I’d meant to review today.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder.

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Links about science and tech, plus some paperback covers

When coming up with new ideas or solutions we think of adding features and increasing complexity — not enough about simplifying.

The wheelie suitcase is such a great idea, but gender stereotypes — men don’t need no stinking wheels and women will always have a man handy to do the lifting — meant it took decades to become a thing.

I’ve never seen Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser, but it’s still startling to realize global warming could destroy it this century.

Last month I reviewed Weapons of Math Destruction, about how relying on AIs doesn’t make us rise above human failings. Here’s one example, how reliance on AI to parcel out funding for the sick took away needed care. This article, however, argues that broader fears of AI taking over are wildly incorrect.

In a related topic, companies and government officials say electronic visit-verification apps prevent fraud and waste in government funded homecare programs. Instead they just make it harder to get paid.

Microbes could produce 10 times the food as plants, at little environmental cost.

Anti-vxxers are continuing to spread anti-science.

Social science: why are competitors on The Price is Right game show worse than the last century’s players?

“There’s a bias in our culture towards assuming that the written word is by definition enduring. We quote remarks made centuries ago often because someone wrote them down – and kept the copies safe. But in digital form, the written word is little more than a projection of light onto a screen.” — the BBC on the problem of lost digital information.

Hospital are making increasing use of medical chatbots. The article looks at what they can and can’t do.

Anthony Bourdain wasn’t alive to participate in a new documentary about him. Bourdain’s wife isn’t happy the director’s solutin was to deepfake his voice.

As the sixth great extinction continues, a UN plan proposes to cut the extinction rate by a factor of 10.

#SFWApro. Covers top to bottom by Charles Binger, Robert Abbett, Ed Veligursky and Earle Bergey. All rights to images remain with current holder.

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Einstein’s brain (and some science links)

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” — Stephen Jay Gould. I don’t have anything to add to that quote, but I thought it was a good start to another post of science-related links and SF covers

Vox suggests robots taking our jobs are less of a problem than robots and AI making work worse.Plans to help the bison by building the world’s longest wildlife bridge.

The fossil fuels industry allegedly saw the problems of global warming and rising waters years ago — and lied about it.Dogs protecting penguins. I know it’s not exactly science, but it’s so cute.Jungle cities of ancient cultures were more successful than we think.

#SFWApro. Covers by Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Kane again and Roy Krenkel

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Links of luck and chance

Vox says “acknowledging luck is profoundly threatening to the lucky.” Lots of people, as Texas Governor Ann Richards once said of George W. Bush, are born on third base and think they hit a triple. Being reminded they’re not all-star material upsets them no end

Trump, of course, was profoundly lucky. Born to a millionaire. Won the presidency partly on luck — if not for factors such as the FBI’s Comey announcing a last minute investigation into Clinton (who already had decades of right-wing propaganda painting her as the devil incarnate), he’d have missed his shot. Of course he also has the advantage that when you’re rich and well-connected you don’t need luck. “One of many undeniable truths about the American elite is that once you’re in it, you can get away with nearly anything providing you have the right friends.”  Trump, of course, ignores all of that and believes that he’s some kind of superman.

Another advantage is that Trump’s a sociopath who doesn’t give a crap about the law. As Above the Law says, the system only works, to the extent it does, because “most people, most of the time, follow the law, for no reason other than it happens to be the law. We don’t run red lights even when nobody is around, we don’t piss in the elevator, we don’t maliciously defame our enemies, we don’t solicit prostitution, we don’t leave the restaurant without paying our bill, we don’t cosh random black people in London.” The system isn’t good at dealing with people who do whatever they damn well please and will sue you if refuse to cooperate

Not everyone is that lucky or secure. And even if we are, “when considering whether we should endorse a proposed law or policy, we can ask: if I did not know if this would affect me or not, would I still support it?”

What does the Bible teach about wealth and poverty? That fortune and misfortune are often just a matter of dumb luck. Merit, blessing, cursing, reward and punishment don’t enter into it, “but time and chance happen to them all.””

Some things aren’t luck though: the failure of complex systems is inevitable. Some things aren’t inevitable: contrary to libertarian dictum, the “tragedy of the commons” is a myth. More here.

But what about Jew-hating preacher Rick Wiles, who declared the vaccines were Satanic and now has the Trump Virus? Obviously if you catch a pandemic you’re not protecting yourself from, that’s not luck. Or more precisely, there’s still an element of chance but the odds are going to shift against you. Or I suppose we could take a leaf out of the “God sent that hurricane to punish us for abortion!” school of Christian thought and assume this is God warning anti-vaxxers to stop that shit.

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Filed under economics, Miscellanea, Politics

Science and tech links

Some of these are old, but they’re still interesting (I hope)

The Washington Post discovers Apple’s new AirTags make it easy to find things. Slipped into a car seat or a purse, they can also make it easy to stalk you.

What bacteria might be thawing out in the Arctic and how dangerous are they?

The U.S. Army is looking to a cyborg future and worried movies will bias us against cyborgs.

To tighten its grip on the people, the Russian government is deploying its own internet.

In the 1940s, city architecture decided cities should be built as if the default resident was a six-foot tall man. Female designers of the 1980s, pointed out that was bullshit.

The UK recognizes animals as sentient beings.

Remember the days of the 19th century when Baptist priests built experimental airships inspired by the Bible?

Naughty, naughty Facebook — a new lawsuit attacks the social media over censorship of anti-vaxxers.

Electric books, classes by radio and other tech that would supposedly transform education. And then there’s the dream of 50 or 60 years ago that by now Americans would be working 30 hours a week, or less.

The challenges of beating ransomware.

“Trump’s blog shows none of the technical sophistication his team would need to build a new social media site. The blog does not save one’s progress or previously read messages, and asks viewers every time they open the page whether they want alerts to their email and phone, regardless of whether they’ve already signed up.” — a look at Trump’s efforts to stay important online.

#SFWApro. Cover by Rafael De Latorre, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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