Friday Links

More experience and equipment are required to create a cup of Cometeer coffee than any other halfway plausible cup of coffee, literally ever. (You can tell the MIT, Apple, and Tesla scientists and Princeton-educated coffee-masters did a good job of brewing your coffee with proprietary machinery in Gloucester, Mass., flash-freezing it in liquid nitrogen, packing it in dry ice, and shipping it to your home for you to store in your freezer, because it tastes like you spent five minutes making it yourself using techniques that predate the advent of antibiotics.)

The famous legal phrase caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) entered common law because of a 17th century dispute over a magic bezoar stone.

There’s a lot of creepy consumerism here. Beyond the details that come out in McMillan Cottom’s description, the online tour of the house reveals stylized décor that romanticizes a simpler time when one could easily travel to distant vacation destinations with children. The kids’ room includes a climbing rope so homeowners will be well-prepared to exercise their children the next time public parks close and kids without backyards or indoor climbing equipment are again relegated to streets and sidewalks and parking lots for their outdoor recreation. These houses are clearly marketed to people who have the means (or hope for the means) to get as much of their skin out of the future pandemic game as possible.

It is hard to know who to sympathize less with: the person who claimed to be a certified psychic who could remove an ex-girlfriend curse (among the most powerful curses known to man) for just $5,100, or the person who claims he believed that person and gave her money to uncurse him. Ideally, no one would win this case. Unfortunately (unless it settles), someone probably will.

If such a high rate of resignations were occurring at a time when jobs were plentiful, it might be seen as a sign of a booming economy where workers have their pick of offers. But the same labor report showed that job openings have also declined, suggesting that something else is going on. A new Harris Poll of people with employment found that more than half of workers want to leave their jobs. Many cite uncaring employers and a lack of scheduling flexibility as reasons for wanting to quit. In other words, millions of American workers have simply had enough.

Friday Links

Nicknamed LANtenna, Guri's technique is an academic proof of concept and not a fully fledged attack that could be deployed today. Nonetheless, the research shows that poorly shielded cables have the potential to leak information which sysadmins may have believed were secure or otherwise air-gapped from the outside world.

Sometimes, it makes sense to move first and wait for laws and policies to catch up. Facial recognition is not one of those times. And, to make matters worse, policymakers have barely gotten started in many jurisdictions. We are accelerating toward catastrophe and Clearview is leading the way.

Users will be prompted with a dialog inviting them to "allow suggestions" before the feature is enabled. The dialog is an example of a dark pattern, with three options, one highlighted to encourage a reflex click, one in discouraging grey for customising settings, and sneaked in at top right, a small "Not now" link.

Firefox and the work of Mozilla is important to the web community since it is an independent browser with its own engine, unlike most others which use the Google-sponsored Chromium engine. These sponsored links sit uncomfortably with Mozilla's claim to be privacy advocates – yet like many other open-source companies, Mozilla is in the position where it cannot charge directly for its products so looks for other means of monetising them. Much of its income comes from Google, which pays to be the default search engine in Firefox.

But the truth is more complicated than that. In reality, herd immunity is really a local phenomenon. If the level of immunity in your local social group is very high, transmission rates within that group are very low. It’s not perfect, of course – we live in an interconnected world, but embracing the idea of local herd immunity may help us more appropriately figure out where life can return to normal most quickly.

Now, there is a fairly glaring limitation in this analysis – one that I was shocked to see was not addressed in the paper, which is otherwise really nicely analyzed. How do we know the non-immunized family member is really non-immunized? The authors define immunization based on vaccination or a positive PCR test for COVID, but I have to imagine that some family members may have been infected but not tested – either because they were asymptomatic or because it was obvious what they had. That prior infection could certainly protect them from future infection – so maybe what we’re seeing here is just misclassification of susceptibles.

Millions of unfilled job openings, workers quitting en masse, soaring wages (at least in some sectors)—wild time in the job market. Here are some graphs to make the point.

Facebook’s products are more than just a social network for hundreds of millions of people globally. Beyond being communication tools, the company’s platforms are e-commerce resources, storefronts, and health and emergency aids. In some regions, Facebook is the internet. Seven users from around the world described the impact of the seven-hour shortage to Rest of World, and a user from Nigeria said, “It’s painful.” 

Facebook’s reach and dominance in much of the world is largely by design. As part of its strategy for exponential growth, the company has made internet access in the Global South — through the use of Facebook products — a priority.

In 2015, the company launched Free Basics, which gave users access to Facebook products for free or reduced their cost through partnerships with telecommunications companies. The program expanded and, in 2020, went on to include Discover, which allows users to access a text-only version of Facebook.

One problem with figuring out what symptoms are seen in COVID, is that most studies look at people who test positive for COVID, and most people get tested when they have symptoms. This means certain symptoms might become an almost self-fulfilling prophecy. The only way around this is to do random, population-based screening for COVID, and that is exactly what this paper, appearing in PLOS Medicine does.

Sounds like they're really pushing for it to stay a restaurant. Encouraging.

The bidding process will score proposals based on eight categories worth 15 points each, with points awarded based on how "advantageous" the proposal is in that area. For example, under the opening "Use of Diner" category, four points or less will go toward proposals with "any private use." Publicly accessible uses not tied to a diner would be worth five to nine points, and only those proposing an actual diner or other restaurant use would land between 10 and 15 points. Another category awards five to nine points for anything within 10 miles of Salem and the highest allotment of points if the diner is "located within Salem, MA city limits.""Ideally, we'd like to have the diner remain in Salem. Ideally, we'd like it to be an operating eatery," Collucci said. "We know people really have an affinity for the diner and so many great memories."

In the 1940s, Ikeler writes, many sales clerks received extensive training to provide personalized service, sometimes in formal schools such as the New York University School of Retailing. While employees were closely monitored, they could choose how to engage customers and try to make a sale.

Friday Links

“A rooster sits on the apex of a barn roof. The roof pitches at an angle of 43 degrees above the horizontal and is made of wood painted red. On the northern side of the roof, there is a large tree which casts a shadow over most of the roof. On the southern side, there is a duck pond. There is a very light rain shower falling, and the wind speed is 20 km/h from the Southwest. It is 10:47am on the 19th of August and the current temperature is 14 degrees celsius. The rooster lays an egg. Which way does it roll?”

The correct answer to this puzzle is usually given as: “Roosters don’t lay eggs.”

I take offense at this for several reasons....

The scores showed only 39% of all students were proficient or advanced in English and that 40% were proficient or advanced in math. Only 20.7% of voucher students were proficient or advanced in English and just 17.8% were proficient or advanced in math.

It’s time for pi! This elusive irrational number has been chased by many mathematicians throughout history, but few were as successful as Zu Chongzhi, an astronomer and mathematician of southern China. Zu Chongzhi, by the way, was one of many inventors to re-create the south-pointing chariot and he also invented the “thousand league boat,” the Chinese foot-powered paddle boat. But his greatest legacy was his calculations for pi.

Three months after Nasrudin married his new wife, she gave birth to a baby girl.

“Now, I’m no expert or anything,” said Nasrudin, “and please don’t take this the wrong way-but tell me this: Doesn’t it take nine months for a woman to go from child conception to childbirth?”

“You men are all alike,” she replied, “so ignorant of womanly matters. Tell me something: how long have I been married to you?”

“Three months,” replied Nasrudin.

“And how long have you been married to me?” she asked.

“Three months,” replied Nasrudin.

“And how long have I been pregnant?” she inquired.

“Three months,” replied Nasrudin.

“So,” she explained, “three plus three plus three equals nine. Are you satisfied now?”

“Yes,” replied Nasrudin, “please forgive me for bringing up the matter.”

Friday Links

Early childhood education and care is widely regarded as helping children’s academic, cognitive and social development. Our study, published in the journal Behavior Genetics, looked into whether attending preschool or childcare influences later academic achievement.

We found no statistically significant difference between the literacy and numeracy scores of school children who had attended preschool or childcare and children who didn’t. Nor did the duration of preschool or childcare attendance have an impact on later literacy and numeracy scores.

We did not look at the relations between social and emotional skills, and early childhood education and care.

Core rope memory was used for the Apollo Guidance Computer, the computer that ran all the navigation and controlled the spacecraft itself. For such a crucial function you needed as much reliability as possible. Because space (inside) was extremely limited, it needed to be extremely compact. And you really really did not want to accidentally wipe or overwrite it.

To meet all these criteria, the software for the guidance computer was literally hand-woven into it. The memory looked rope-like, hence the name, but really it consisted of clusters of wires (“ropes”) wrapped around magnetic cores. In contrast to normal computer memory, it wasn’t the cores but the configuration of the wires that carried all the information.

The bidders: Titus Flavius Claudius Sulpicianus, Pertinax’s father-in-law; Didius Julianus, the proconsul of North Africa. Sulpicianus was inside the Praetorian camp at the time and Julianus was not, so the advantage was his. He offered the enormous sum of 20,000 sesterces to each guard member. Guards at this time would have been paid about 2,500 sesterces a year, so you can imagine the size of this bid. But Julianus, immediately outside the encampment, shouted his bid: 25,000 sesterces each, ten years’ wages, if they would appoint him emperor instead. So they did.

Note that I keep saying viral RNA, not virus. We do not know if these kids were shedding live virus that was actively capable of infecting others. The authors did not do viral cultures or other infectivity assays. So the errors in the headline? The word contagious. Higher viral load does not necessarily mean more contagious.

Friday Links

With a background in indexing, I like to compare the index of a book with the taxonomy-enhanced search capabilities of a website, whereas the table of contents of a book is like the navigation scheme. A table of contents or navigation scheme is a higher-level, pre-defined structure of content, that guides users to the general organization of content and tasks. It helps users understand the scope of the content available, provides guidance on where and what content to find, and aids in exploration. An index or search feature, including faceted search, on the other hand, enables to user to find specific information or content items of interest. A taxonomy, regardless of its display type, serves the function of an index, not the table of contents.

The people we see are, by definition, those who are outdoors and thus who are disproportionately likely to be breaching the lockdown. What Mr Hannan isn’t seeing are the countless thousands of us staying indoors and observing the lockdown.

The social sciences are, as Jon Elster said, fundamentally a collection of mechanisms. But many of these are unseen. It is the role of social science to expose these mechanisms, and to show us that what we see is not all there is. As Marx said: "If there were no difference between essence and appearance, there would be no need for science."

On June 20, 1917, Lucy Burns, co-founder of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), and Dora Lewis gathered with other suffragists in front of the White House. They held a banner criticizing President Wilson’s opposition to women’s suffrage: “We, the Women of America, tell you that America is not a democracy…. President Wilson is the chief opponent of their national enfranchisement.”

Friday Links

With several universities now coming to grips with the fact that they will still be online in the Summer (and most likely the Fall), several are turning to how to quickly train their entire faculty in online teaching in a hurry.

Out of all the different ways to approach learning theory, I like focus on power dynamics first when it comes to designing a course. So think about the overall power dynamic you want to see happening in your course. This can change from week to week, but in general most courses stick to one for the most part. The question is: who determines what learners will learn in your course, and who directs how it is learned?

This is such a strange and necessary time to talk about education technology, to take a class about education technology, to get a degree in education technology because what, in the past, was so often framed as optional or aspirational is now compulsory — and compulsory under some of the worst possible circumstances

One of the reasons that I am less than sanguine about most education technology is because I don't consider it this autonomous, context-free entity. Ed-tech is not a tool that exists only in the service of improving teaching and learning, although that's very much how it gets talked about. There's much more to think about than the pedagogy too, than whether ed-tech makes that better or worse or about the same just more expensive. Pedagogy doesn't occur in a vacuum. It has an institutional history; pedagogies have politics. Tools have politics. They have histories. They're developed and funded and adopted and rejected for a variety of reasons other than "what works." Even the notion of "what works" should prompt us to ask all sorts of questions about "for whom," "in what way," and "why."

Surveillance is not prevalent simply because that's the technology that's being sold to schools. Rather, in many ways, surveillance reflects the values we have prioritized: control, compulsion, efficiency.

Independent learning is a skill, and like most skills, you need to start slowly and carefully. Suddenly being thrown into ten courses online is not the best way to go. Many will sink, although some will certainly swim. However, experience tells us that graduate, older and lifelong learners all do much better in online learning than undergraduates. Blended learning – a mix of face-to-face and online – though is a very good way to ease gently into online learning. Introducing online or digital learning gradually in first year, supported by face-to-face classes, is a much better strategy.

As the author of a book on opportunity cost, I might be expected to be enthusiastic about the idea that trade-offs are always important in economic and policy choices. This idea is summed up in the acryonymic slogan TANSTAAFL (There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). In fact, however, a crucial section of Economics in Two Lessons is devoted to showing that There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch. It is only when all free lunches have been taken off the table that we reach a position described, in the standard jargon, as Pareto-optimal.

To me, this is an example (and there are many right now) of the extent to which the fairness of the legal system may turn less on the words we use in a law than on the discretion of those who have the power to enforce it.

This evolved into an entire subcultural practice, called Grangerization. Hobbyists used printed books as the basis for a multidimensional media project. They pasted prints, as well as pages of text from other books, into the original volume, making connections between related topics.

In some cases, the resulting work smacked of obsessive fandom. One collector expanded a copy of an 1828 biography of Lord Byron from two volumes to five, rebinding the pages to accommodate 184 illustrations and 14 letters and autographs. Another turned a three-volume 1872 biography of Charles Dickens into nine oversized books packed with broadsides for performances, actor portraits, letters, and images taken from illustrated editions of the author’s books.

Grangerization reached its height of popularity in the first half of the nineteenth century. But not everyone saw it as an innovative, creative hobby. The idea of removing pages from one book to create something new infuriated some critics. One called Grangerization a “monstrous practice” of “hungry and rapacious book-collectors.” Another diagnosed its practitioners with “a vehement passion, a furious perturbation to be closely observed and radically treated wherever it appears, for it is a contagious and delirious mania.”

One advantage of today’s digital media is that we can freely copy material without tearing up precious original work. Of course, today’s Grangerizers have their own ethical questions, like plagiarism, to consider.

"The variation being meant as an evident one, accordingly as presenting in pure intuition the possibilities themselves as possibilities, its correlate is an intuitive and apodictic consciousness of something universal. The eidos itself is a beheld or beholdable universal, one that is pure, 'unconditioned,' that is to say according to its own intuition sense, a universal not conditioned by any fact."

A little-known Democratic senator from Missouri rides the public anger, consequently emerging as a national leader. “Their greed knows no limit,” said Harry Truman in February 1942 in talking about military contractors accused of gouging the government at such a critical time.

The public agreed. A Gallup Poll noted that 69 percent of Americans wanted the government to exert controls on the profits earned by contractors during the war.

Private sector partnership in the face of community need is nothing new, and has long been integral in national response and rebuilding. Take, for example, the case of the Waffle House Index.

Waffle Houses are what they sound like: homey diners that dominate the southern part of the United States, serving up staple favorites like pies and iced tea. With that in mind, the index sounds like a whimsical measurement, but it actually refers to a serious, though informal, measurement of a crisis’s severity. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses the restaurant chain to gauge how badly an area is affected. As a former FEMA official told NPR, “If the Waffle House is open, everything’s good.”

About Me

Developer at Brown University Library specializing in instructional design and technology, Python-based data science, and XML-driven web development.

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