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Topics - LetterRip

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1
Someone on facebook had posted a meme claiming that a man had a ".00321%" chance of being falsely accused of rape.

So I figured I'd do some back of the envelope estimates.

Lower bound estimate is 2% of rape reports are false allegations, most credible studies are in the 10-20% range, and there are 100,000 criminal allegations per year. 10- 20% * 100,000 = 10,000 to 20,000 false allegations per year - and if you use lifetime risk (say age 16-66 a 50 year span) 50 years * (10-20,000) = 500,000 to 1,000,000 men falsely accused in their lifetime.  And US adult male population in that age range is about 100 million, that is about a .5-1% lifetime risk of a false allegation.

That is only criminal allegations - false accusations are far more likely in the unreported allegations.

2
This is really impressive, the AI makes a phone call, sets an appointment answers questions about relevant details, offers alternatives, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKVppdt_-B4

Here is a more complete video that shows a second example (at 3 minutes) with lots of unexpected replies and someone with a poor master of english from a restaurant owner and it handles it gracefully.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5VN56jQMWM

While it is a narrow domain, this seems essentially passing the turing test.

3
Russian government hackers (same group that targeted Podestra) posed as ISIS threatening military wives and their familes.

Quote
"Dear Angela!" the Facebook message read. "Bloody Valentine's Day!"

"We know everything about you, your husband and your children," the message continued, claiming that the hackers operating under the flag of Islamic State militants had penetrated her computer and her phone. "We're much closer than you can even imagine."

Ricketts was one of five military wives who received death threats from the self-styled CyberCaliphate on the morning of Feb. 10, 2015. The warnings led to days of anguished media coverage of Islamic State militants' online reach.

Except it wasn't IS.

The Associated Press has found evidence that the women were targeted not by jihadists but by the same Russian hacking group that intervened in the American election and exposed the emails of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.

https://www.stripes.com/news/us/russians-posed-as-isis-hackers-threatened-us-military-wives-1.525869

4
General Comments / OSC is on Quora
« on: April 22, 2018, 10:53:57 AM »
Looks like he has been here for a number of months now.  Browsing his answers - mostly one off paragraphs without much substance but the occassional interesting answer.

https://www.quora.com/profile/Orson-Scott-Card-1

5

Quote
Cohen abandoned the suits late Wednesday as he continues to fight to recover documents and electronic files seized from his home, office and hotel room last week by federal authorities as part of what appears to be a broad criminal investigation into his conduct.

"The decision to voluntarily discontinue these cases was a difficult one," Cohen's attorney David Schwartz said. "We believe the defendants defamed my client, and vindicating Mr. Cohen’s rights was — and still remains — important. But given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits."

https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/04/19/michael-cohen-drops-buzzfeed-fusion-lawsuit-537327

If the documents seized prove that he did go to Prague, what would be the consequences had he continued the suits?

6
I really like this, when a news article is linked at reddit,

They have  bot that gives a list of other links to articles by other news outlets about the same story (so you can see how the headlines are reporting the same story differently, etc.)

https://www.reddit.com/r/starbucks/comments/8d1kx0/starbucks_closing_nationwide_on_may_29th/

7
General Comments / Justice and murder by the mentally ill
« on: April 18, 2018, 02:22:19 PM »
On facebook, a relative posted a story that a woman who killed her child and then attempted suicide is being sentenced to life (someone apparently the various people commenting had known).  There were a number of comments by people that they were glad that 'justice' had occurred for the child.

To me the word justice in this context seems entirely wrong.

8
General Comments / Racism or rational response to trespassing
« on: April 15, 2018, 09:26:31 PM »
Two African-American men were arrested for trespassing after they were asked to either order something or to leave and refused to do either.  Then when the police show up, they also refused to leave and were arrested.

Starbucks has a district by district policy on loitering and trespassing.

Quote
So in my district we have a new directive from our DM where the shifts are supposed to go around the lobby every few hours and kick out people who are loitering (basically, everyone who hangs out for a few hours studying or working in the lobby) or those who are relaxing in-store but who haven't bought anything. I can see why corporate doesn't want non-paying people using the store's resources, but I feel like this is a really bad look for Starbucks and the "welcoming" brand image that we are supposedly about.

https://www.reddit.com/r/starbucks/comments/6yhtu0/kicking_out_the_noncustomers

Quote
Thursday. A store manager had asked the two men to leave after they attempted to use the bathroom but had not made any purchases, police said. The men said they were waiting for a friend, their attorney later said. The manager then called 911 for assistance, the company said.

Quote
“They’re not free to leave. We’re done with that,” an officer replies. “We asked them to leave the first time.” The two men stand up to be cuffed. They do not appear to resist.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/04/15/two-black-men-were-arrested-waiting-at-a-starbucks-now-the-company-police-are-on-the-defensive/?utm_term=.70a5efc4ea0b

Also another discussion at reddit on the recent arrest - a few (white) people have mentioned that they have been asked to leave if they haven't ordered anything as well.

https://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/8cg50j/video_cops_arrest_two_black_men_sitting_in/

So it isn't clear to me that racism was a motivating factor, it seems the manager was simply enforcing a recently enacted corporate policy against loitering, and the gentlemen refused to comply, so the manager called the police - something typical in this sort of situation.  Then they refused to obey the police when asked to leave, and so were arrested for trespassing.

So what do you think?  Was racism a likely factor?  What should a manager do if individuals loitering refuse to order or leave?  What should police do when individuals refuse to leave after being asked by the police?

9
General Comments / Sinclair group propoganda video
« on: April 02, 2018, 01:20:23 PM »
Wow, this is creepy.  Sinclair Group instructed all of the 'news' stations they own to make the same statement, and they were put together into a single video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cabD_0h5mcA

It is the ultimate in irony.

10
General Comments / Uber self-driving car hits and kills pedestrian
« on: March 19, 2018, 02:25:03 PM »
There was a safety driver, so it might have been unavoidable (such as a person running out from between vehicles).  Uber has suspended their self-driving cars from all public testing for now.


https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/technology/uber-driverless-fatality.html


https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-suspends-driverless-car-program-after-pedestrian-is-struck-and-killed-1521480386

11
Apparently Trump has required administration employees (White House staffers) to sign NDA's - can they have any legal force?  I would think they would be null and void.

Quote
President Donald Trump required senior White House staff members to sign nondisclosure agreements that not only threatened stiff financial penalties for violations, but extended far beyond Trump's time in office, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus reported on Sunday.

According to a draft agreement Marcus said she viewed, violators could face $10 million penalties for each unauthorized release of "confidential information," though it's possible the final NDAs reduced the penalty amount. The agreement applied not only to staffers' White House tenures but "all times thereafter."

http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-nondisclosure-agreements-white-house-staffers-penalties-2018-3

12
General Comments / Are in person prison visitations a right?
« on: December 12, 2017, 06:05:26 PM »
Apparently some prisons are ending in person visits and requiring instead that all contact is via a skype equivalent, etc.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/09/skype-for-jailed-video-calls-prisons-replace-in-person-visits

Do you think this is legal, and if so do you think it should be allowed?

13
General Comments / Arrests and political speech
« on: November 20, 2017, 02:31:00 PM »
Karen Fonseca, a woman in Texas, had "*censored* Trump and *censored* you for voting for him" as a laminate on the rear window of her truck in Texas.  The local sheriff took offense, and posted a partial photo to track the truck down.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/11/16/texas-sheriff-is-on-the-hunt-for-driver-with-profane-anti-trump-window-sticker/

She was then arrested "on an outstanding fraud warrant issued from a nearby town".

http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/11/17/25571694/texas-woman-arrested-after-*censored*-trump-decal-debacle

Since it was clear from his facebook posting that his intent was to retaliate for political speech - what implication does that have, even though the arrest is for a valid outstanding warrant?

14
General Comments / Georgia special election shenanigans
« on: October 26, 2017, 06:34:58 PM »
Quote
A server and its backups, believed to be key to a pending federal lawsuit filed against Georgia election officials, was thoroughly deleted according to e-mails recently released under a public records request.

Georgia previously came under heavy scrutiny after a researcher discovered significant problems with his home state’s voting system. A lawsuit soon followed in state court, asking the court to annul the results of the June 20 special election for Congress and to prevent Georgia’s existing computer-based voting system from being used again. The case, Curling v. Kemp, was filed in Fulton County Superior Court on July 3.

As the Associated Press reported Thursday, the data was initially destroyed on July 7 by the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, the entity tasked with running the Peach State’s elections.

The new e-mails, which were sent by the Coalition for Good Governance to Ars, show that Chris Dehner, one of the Information Security staffers, e-mailed his boss, Stephen Gay, to say that the two backup servers had been "degaussed three times."

No one from Kennesaw State University, including Dehner or Gay, immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment as to who ordered the servers to be wiped and why it was done.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/10/days-after-activists-sued-georgias-election-server-was-wiped-clean/

Apparently the FBI 'should' have a backup.

15
Quote
One woman told investigators that she overheard Adam Lanza threaten his mother. She said that he "had an assault weapon and that she was scared of him." She said she overheard Lanza say that he "planned to kill his mother and children at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut."

According to investigators' interview notes, she said she called Newtown police and Sandy Hook and told them about the threats, but police said Lanza's mother owned the firearms and there was nothing they could do; they were told to call state police.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sandy-hook-shooting-investigation-fbi-documents/

16
General Comments / Supreme Court Gerrymandering
« on: October 04, 2017, 03:10:22 PM »
Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse have filed a 'friend of the court brief' regarding the gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court.  Well worth reading

Friend of the court brief

17
General Comments / A well qualified nominee for USPTO
« on: August 28, 2017, 03:33:49 PM »
While I think there is a strong chance his enforcement and policies will contrary to what I think are best/correct, he seems like a highly qualified and competent individual,

Quote
ncu has been a partner at Irell & Manella since 2004 and was an associate at the firm for five years earlier.

His most notable work in the tech sector is likely his representation of TiVo Corp. in its long-running patent battles with companies like EchoStar, Motorola, Microsoft, Verizon, and Cisco. TiVo ultimately succeeded in compelling those defendants to pay up for its pioneering DVR patents, and payments to TiVo ultimately totaled more than $1.6 billion, according to Iancu's biography page.

Iancu also had a hand in Immersion Corp's $82 million jury verdict against Sony Computer Entertainment in which a jury found that Immersion's patent claims on tactile feedback technology were valid and infringed.

Those big wins aside, most of Iancu's work has been on the defense side. He has represented eBay in a case against Acacia Research Corp., a large publicly traded non-practicing entity, and he worked for Hewlett-Packard when it defended against Xerox patent claims.

He has also worked in the medical device area, enforcing patents for St Jude Medical on vascular closure devices.

Iancu represented Ariosa Diagnostics in a case against Sequenom and succeeded in invalidating a genetic testing patent. The Sequenom decision was not popular among biotech companies and the lawyers who represent them.

[...]

ancu earned his JD, along with an MS in mechanical engineering and a BS in aerospace engineering, from UCLA. He worked as an engineer at Hughes Aircraft before attending law school.

Handling the business of a large and successful law firm like Irell & Manella means that Iancu is no slouch when it comes to management skills.


https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/08/ip-lawyer-who-represented-tivo-is-trumps-pick-as-uspto-chief/

18
Quote
The American Civil Liberties Union, taking a tougher stance on armed protests, will no longer defend hate groups seeking to march with firearms, the group’s executive director said.

Following clashes over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va., the civil-rights group also will screen clients more closely for the potential of violence at their rallies, said Anthony Romero, who has been the ACLU’s executive director since 2001.

The ACLU’s Virginia branch defended the right of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other groups under the banner “Unite the Right” to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.

[...]

“If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else,” Mr. Romero said, adding that the decision was in keeping with a 2015 policy adopted by the ACLU’s national board in support  of “reasonable” firearm regulation.

Mr. Romero said the ACLU would continue to deal with requests by white-supremacist groups and others for legal help on a case-by-case basis. “It’s neither a blanket no or a blanket yes,” he said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/aclu-changes-policy-on-defending-hate-groups-protesting-with-firearms-1503010167

19
General Comments / Uber v Waymo
« on: August 16, 2017, 03:30:06 PM »
Looks like the smoking gun has been found,

Quote
Today, Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven said that his team learned only on June 28 that Epiq, a litigation support firm that works for Uber and its law firm Morrison Foerster, had "a complete copy of the image of Levandowski's devices."

"We’ve been trying to get these documents since the outset of this case, and we still don’t have them," Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven told US District Judge William Alsup.

Uber attorney Arturo Gonzalez protested that Waymo's explanation was misleading. It's true that a digital forensics firm, Stroz Friedberg, imaged Levandowski's devices as part of Uber's acquisition. But only a "tiny sliver" of those images came into Morrison Foerster's offices, where they were reviewed by a single associate.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/08/waymo-to-judge-uber-should-be-held-in-contempt-for-withholding-documents/

So Uber has been denying from the outset that they had Google's documents.  The fact that MoFo had hard drive images all along likely containing the documents and failed to disclose this - wow.

This seems extremely bad for MoFo - can the lawyers here comment?  This seems extremely damaging.

20
General Comments / Yanez shooting of Castile verdict
« on: June 22, 2017, 06:29:08 PM »
Do you think the verdict was 'right'?

Personally there was a lot of errors by both Yanez and Castile.

Yanez suspected him of being a robber and thus should have done a high risk stop procedure.

Yanez orders could have been much clearer.

Castile should have realized that reaching for his wallet that was in the same proximity as his gun would have been interpreted as reaching for his gun.

Castile should have followed standard procedure for being stopped with concealed carry.


My interpretation of events is that Yanez saw the gun before Castile declared that he had it - we see Yanez reach for his gun before Castille gets to the word firearm.  I think Castile was reaching for his wallet in his rear pocket and was somewhat high and not realizing that his actions were being interpreted as reaching for his gun.

While Castile says "i'm not reaching for it" - anyone familiar with police shootings will realize that people reaching for their gun ALSO say they aren't reaching for it.  So that isn't something that could or should have been considered by Yanez.

I've heard people say that with the girlfriend and child in the car that obviously even if Castile had been the robber, he wouldn't reach for his gun since that could endanger them.  Unfortunately that isn't the case - people who do robberies usually have no compunction about putting familiy in danger if they think it can benefit them.  So while Castile wasn't the robber, again the presence of the girlfriend and child would not be a deterrent if he had been the robber, and again not something that Yanez should have weighed in his decision.

21
Quote
Top Secret NSA analyst's report published by The Intercept suggests that, in August 2016, the Russian General Main Staff Intelligence Directorate (GRU) hacked into an election-related hardware and software vendor in the US. The GRU then used data from the company for at least two "spear phishing" campaigns against local government officials associated with elections—including one attack close to the election that appeared to target officials dealing with absentee ballots.

[...]

The first was a wave of e-mails on October 31 and November 1 sent to 122 local election officials whose e-mail addresses may have been harvested from a compromised vendor e-mail account. The e-mails delivered otherwise legitimate Microsoft Word documents from the company that gave instructions on how to use software to check a voter's registration status. The files had been "Trojanized" with Visual Basic for Applications code that accessed a malicious website and may have installed espionage malware on the targets' computers.

[...]

Whether or not the attacks actually compromised the computers of election officials and any other voting data has not been determined. The dates do not match up with previously reported attacks on state election officials.

https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/06/leaked-nsa-report-says-russians-tried-to-hack-state-election-officials/

22
A new book out by Representative Ken Buck,

essentially he asserts that to hold chairs and seats on committees require the politician to raise certain amounts of funds, and also for congressman that fail to raise funds will have their opponents funded.

Here is an excerpt,

Quote
As it is, some members of Congress spend at least half their time fundraising to keep their dues paid and campaign coffers full. If you become the chair of a B committee—congratulations—you’re now expected to raise $875,000 a year for the NRCC. Chairing an A committee means you must raise $1.2 million. The higher your role in the House leadership, the higher the price tag:

Deputy Whip   $2.5 million
Conference Chair   $5 million
Whip   $5 million
Majority Leader   $10 million
Speaker   $20 million

When representatives don’t pay their “dues” or fall behind, they are pressured to pay up—or else. It’s happened to me, and I’ve heard similar stories from countless others.

Candidates’ ability to raise cash is largely influenced by how well they play the game with leadership, and if you don’t pay your dues, you can’t use the NRCC call suites (or other benefits like the NRCC recording studios) to raise money.

To make matters worse, the NRCC got caught using those pay-to-play funds to support a recount effort against a conservative candidate in a Republican primary in 2016. When Andy Biggs ran to replace the retiring Matt Salmon in Arizona’s Fifth District, he narrowly defeated the moderate opponent in the primary, former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones.

The NRCC has a longstanding policy to not meddle in primary elections, a promise affirmed to me in person by leadership. Yet the NRCC paid more than $300,000 in legal fees to fund Jones’s recount effort. After Biggs won the recount by twenty-seven votes and won again in the general election, the NRCC offered to lower his dues and write a check to his campaign for the same amount that they gave his opponent.

I felt the same sting from my own party in 2010 when the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) gave my opponent $500,000 in the primary race. She used that money to label me as anti-woman, a theme my Democratic opponent was only too happy to capitalize on in the general election.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/04/10/exclusive-excerpt-congressman-ken-bucks-drain-the-swamp-how-washington-corruption-is-worse-than-you-think/

Should this be legal?  Is it legal?

23
General Comments / The real motivation for ACA repeal
« on: April 21, 2017, 06:02:16 PM »
Apparently the parliamentary rules require that a permanent tax cut (as opposed to a tax cut with a sunset provision) must be revenue neutral over a 10 year horizon.  So by cutting ACA and medicare they can make a permanent tax cut at the same time.

https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Paul-Ryan-want-to-push-health-care-as-the-first-major-legislative-initiative-of-2017/answer/Marc-Bodnick

24
To what extent should private organizations be able to create their own police forces and what authority should they have?  Schools? Churches? Businesses?

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/11/alabama-church-police-force-senate-vote

25
General Comments / Iran dropping the dollar as reserve currency
« on: February 03, 2017, 06:10:30 PM »
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-stop-using-us-dollar-currency-donald-trump-muslim-ban-immigration-refugee-iraq-syria-libya-a7556846.html

One of my predictions of a Trump Presidency was that the US dollar could lose its status as reserve currency status.

China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia all have the potential for ending the dollars reserve status.

http://www.manilatimes.net/americas-dim-mak-point-3-dollar-vulnerability/307684/

Under Trump - Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China all have motivation to do so.

If that happens, the purchasing power of the dollar will likely plummet.


26
Going through silly amounts of courses at online learning sites this past couple of weeks.  Found out Lynda was free through my local library; Udemy had a Christmas sale for a few courses I was interested in; and skillshare has a 'first 3 months for .99$" deal.

My impressions are

Udemy - the courses I've tried are generally well worth the discounted price (10$).  Generally professionally put together.  There is a truly excellent guitar teaching course.

Skillshare - enormous variety of quality; some absolute dreck and some superb content; a large number of Udemy folks have put their same courses on skillshare (though often cut up into more 'classes').  There isn't a good way to navigate the material to separate the wheat from the chaff - the truly awful stuff so far has been in music production; graphic design, t-shirt design and manufacture, and publishing have had excellent content; and some excellent content in music learning.

Lynda - everything seems 'reasonable' quality - nothing amazing and nothing horrible that I've watched so far - though admittedly I've focused my attention on skillshare for the most part.  It also is horrible to find what you want except for their guided paths.  Their guided paths seem to have major holes suggesting a lack of knowledge of the instructors (no mention of Scrivener for their writing and publishing courses??).

Coursera - generally excellent quality, with a focus on wide range of academic topics (though very little artistic and creative type content).  Usually professional quality recording.

Udacity - generally excellent quality, with a focus on programming related topics.  Usually professional quality recording.

27
General Comments / AI can now beat the best players in the world at HUNL
« on: January 31, 2017, 05:19:48 PM »
Librautus won by 1.7 million against 4 of the top Heads Up No Limit players in the word, so another of the AI challenges has fallen.  I figure Starcraft will fall this year or next year. Fortunately we will still have calvinball!

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/01/robot-knows-when-to-hold-em-wins-huge-in-poker-tournament/

https://xkcd.com/1002/

28
General Comments / Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning sentence
« on: January 17, 2017, 07:16:34 PM »
I was a bit pleasantly surprised at this,

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/17/politics/chelsea-manning-sentence-commuted/

I do wish he had done the same for Snowden, but can understand the reasoning behind not doing so.

29
Quote
A Charleston, South Carolina, judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a white South Carolina police officer on trial for the video-taped shooting of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man. The video was secretly taken last year by a passerby, and it has been viewed online millions of times. This week, after four days of deliberations, the 12-member jury announced it was hopelessly deadlocked.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/12/mistrial-declared-in-murder-trial-of-cop-filmed-shooting-fleeing-suspect/

30
General Comments / The result of flipping 1 voter per 100
« on: November 10, 2016, 12:18:40 PM »
Interesting point by 538,

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-a-difference-2-percentage-points-makes/

Essentially the results and narrative change dramatically if just 1 in 100 voters voted differently in the election.


31
General Comments / Election Humor
« on: November 09, 2016, 10:36:41 AM »
So there were some humous quotes in the other thread, but thought would be 'fun' to have one dedicated to them.

Saw this on facebook

"IF TRUMP REPLACES OBAMA DOES THAT MEAN ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK?"

32
General Comments / What if Trump withdraws from the election?
« on: October 08, 2016, 03:08:47 PM »
There is apparently pressure on Trump to 'step down'.  If that happens (though given his personality I think it unlikely), who is the Republican nominee?  How would that be decided?

If he withdraws do you think that will significantly hurt Clinton's chances or improve them?

Quote
As pressure mounts for Donald Trump to step aside, the Republican presidential nominee told the Washington Post on Saturday that he would "never withdraw."

“I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life,” Trump told the Post Saturday.. “No, I’m not quitting this race. I have tremendous support.”

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/donald-trump-i-d-never-withdraw

33
General Comments / October Surprises
« on: October 07, 2016, 09:51:36 PM »
So we have the sexist video of Trump and his tax return

And for Clinton we have the release of o batch (2000+ out of over 50,000 apparently to come) of the Podestra emails (Clinton's campaign manager) - allegedly containing one or more of her speeches; and dirty tricks directed at Sanders.


34
General Comments / PSVR vs Oculus vs HTC Vive vs MS Hololens vs
« on: September 29, 2016, 08:54:52 PM »
Looks like the local best buy will have the Oculus demo set up by the start of next week, and the PSVR sales person comes by regularly so I'll get to try them both out soon.  Gamestop and Micro Center have HTC Vives.

Anyone tried out all three?

From online opinions of the PSVR the 'PS Move' controls are horrid, so it is really only good for games that only use the controller.  The visual quality is definitely inferior to the other two systems, but once immersed in game isn't really noticeable.

From the reviews as arstechnica, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both seem excellent with the Rift having superior headset design, and the Vive having better controller design.

HoloLens is augmented reality rather than virtual reality - it doesn't seem nearly as far along as the other three at this time and the cost seems likely to sink it.  'Select Microsoft stores' will have hololens demos, but it isn't clear when/where etc.

35
Fascinating post on Quora by a physics/chemistry teacher in a low income school, and the perverse incentives students have to do poorly so they can attend summer school.

Quote
There is research on both sides of this issue, but I can relate my personal experience:

When I started teaching, I gave homework pretty much every day. I taught chemistry and physics, and these were upper level classes. That’s just what you did.

At first, homework worked exactly how it was supposed to: Students did the work, I graded it, students who did poorly got targeted for extra help, the world kept turning.

And then everything changed.

Like most teachers, I had a grading policy that included a certain percentage allocated to homework. In other words, homework was perhaps 25% of the grade. Two interesting things started happening:

Students just stopped doing homework
Students started cheating far more aggressively than they had in the past.
The first problem was more widespread than you might think. I had whole classrooms of students who simply refused to do their homework. Their grades plummeted, but they didn’t seem to care. Failures soared, but they didn’t seem to care. I was baffled. More on this in a minute.

The second problem was also more widespread than even I thought. I found out exactly how widespread it was in March of 2006. My second child was born, and I took several days off. I gave my AP Chemistry students daily homework to keep them on their toes while I was gone. When I returned, every assignment was identical - and many problems were identically wrong. What did it for me was an equation that everyone had solved for “L” rather than for “K”. I thought perhaps there was a typo, but no, the problem said “K”. What happened? ONE student had written “K” but her pen had died a bit making the K, so it looked like an “L”.

Every other student in the classroom copied that assignment - 2 separate class periods, no less!

The cheating was facilitated by the smart phone. When I called my kids out on their cheating, they fessed up to having photos of that homework assignment and spreading them around.

I never assigned another standard homework assignment again.

Starting the next year, I switched to an oral defense strategy. It works like this: You assign homework, just like before, and students turn it in, just like before. But it isn’t graded. In order for students to earn the points, you call them up one at a time and have them answer questions about the homework. “So, explain to me how you got your answer to #4…” That sort of thing. I had the “Two Um” rule. If you said “Um” twice, you had to sit down and wait for your next turn.

Grades soared. I got instant feedback on which students knew their stuff and which didn’t. It was great!

Until it wasn’t.

Remember that first problem I mentioned? The students who simply refused to do any homework? That became a growing problem. I couldn’t figure out why so many students would be willing to fail outright. I begged them to just turn something in, and I got nothing. It got so bad that I got a lower evaluation as a result of too many students failing.

I conducted a little research to try to figure out what was happening. The culprit really surprised me: summer school.

Students were purposely failing classes so they could attend summer school. This might seem crazy, but many students owned up to what they were doing. One kid flat out told me “Mr. C., don’t get upset about it. I’m never going to do any of this work. I’m already signed up for summer school for next year.”

So what is the allure of summer school?

I’m not entirely sure, but here are my thoughts:

It’s far easier to get a passing grade in summer school than in regular school.
Most of the students involved already have very low GPAs, so getting into college is low on their list of priorities.
Parents view summer school as inexpensive child care combined with additional education: Why take chemistry for 9 months when you can take it for 11 or 12?
I’m not making this one up: Dating. Students are using summer school as an opportunity to see their boyfriends / girlfriends. Many students don’t have cars or licenses, so summer school gets them up close and personal with their special someone without the hassle of having a car.
I’m not making this one up, either: Free WiFi. Truancy is a major problem in my school, but the ironic part is that the kids are in the school, just not in class. What are they doing? Instagram and SnapChat, mostly. Hiding in bathrooms, under stairwells, in the nooks and crannies of hallways, using the free WiFi. Most students don’t have data plans, or the plans are quite limited, so free WiFi is a big deal.
So what do I do now? I’ve stopped giving homework altogether. It’s not a good option, but it reflects the reality of where my students are and what they are willing to do. All work is now classwork, and what doesn’t get finished is homework. But in all honesty, it’s a mess. Students learn far less, and they still fail in large numbers.

So what’s the answer? The answer is that the question is flawed. Homework or no homework implies the idea that students are in some way motivated to pass a class. The minute that stops being true, as it often is in very low performing schools like mine, the whole paradigm has to get thrown out. This has taken me nearly 2 decades to accept - I had the hardest time wrapping my brain around the idea that failing out of high school was not only acceptable but desirable. But that’s my reality, and that’s how I’ve had to modify my teaching.

The solution, to me, is to close the 5 loopholes listed above. Make summer school exceedingly undesirable, and grades would probably increase for some students. But others would simply fail. The easiest way to do that is to increase the cost significantly. It’s all fun and games until mom and dad are on the hook for thousands of dollars because Jr. didn’t turn in his or her homework.

So why don’t we do it?

Money.

Schools earn a fair bit off of summer school, but it’s more than that. If we made summer school prohibitive, our failure rate would rise, and the state would take over the school. Administrators, teachers, para-pros - everyone would lose their jobs.

So should you assign homework or shouldn’t you? It depends on your student body and your school’s proximity to intervention. If your students don’t pass at high rates and the state is licking its chops to take you over (because to do so will save them millions of dollars, by the way), then my advice is this: Find another way. I’ve seen great teachers terminated because their failure rates were too high…because they assigned homework. I’ve seen whole school districts dissolved and their employees thrown to the wind…because they didn’t find another way to elevate graduation rates.

It’s insidious, and borderline unethical, but it’s the modern reality of public schools in low-performing areas.

https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-research-doesnt-support-the-idea-that-homework-improves-student-performance/answer/Dave-Consiglio


36
General Comments / Educational problems in the Middle East
« on: August 10, 2016, 09:10:00 PM »
Interesting article called 'Why Arabs lose Wars',

one insight was on education and the impact of the cultural focus on status

Quote
Training tends to be unimaginative, cut and dried, and not challenging. Because the Arab educational system is predicated on rote memorization, officers have a phenomenal ability to commit vast amounts of knowledge to memory. The learning system tends to consist of on-high lectures, with students taking voluminous notes and being examined on what they were told. (It also has interesting implications for foreign instructors; for example, his credibility is diminished if he must resort to a book.) The emphasis on memorization has a price, and that is in diminished ability to reason or engage in analysis based upon general principles. Thinking outside the box is not encouraged; doing so in public can damage a career. Instructors are not challenged and neither, in the end, are students.

Head-to-head competition among individuals is generally avoided, at least openly, for it means that someone wins and someone else loses, with the loser humiliated. This taboo has particular import when a class contains mixed ranks. Education is in good part sought as a matter of personal prestige, so Arabs in U.S. military schools take pains to ensure that the ranking member, according to military position or social class, scores the highest marks in the class. Often this leads to "sharing answers" in class—often in a rather overt manner or junior officers concealing scores higher than their superior's.

American military instructors dealing with Middle Eastern students learn to ensure that, before directing any question to a student in a classroom situation, particularly if he is an officer, the student does possess the correct answer. If this is not assured, the officer will feel he has been set up for public humiliation. Furthermore, in the often-paranoid environment of Arab political culture, he will believe this setup to have been purposeful. This student will then become an enemy of the instructor and his classmates will become apprehensive about their also being singled out for humiliation—and learning becomes impossible.

http://www.meforum.org/441/why-arabs-lose-wars

37
Just read a extremely disturbing account by a Jewish member of the US Military describing the US Military's religious behavior, especially evangelizing and treatment of non Christian religions.

Quote

It’s a given, that as a non-Christian, I will be subjected to sermons by the chaplain. I will be pressured into going to church on Sundays. I will be pressured into a baptism — maybe even have someone try to trick me into getting “saved” (happened to me by a Marine friend).

[...]

According to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation:

Quote
The Officers' Christian Fellowship, an organization of more than 15,000 officers and operating on virtually every U.S. military installation worldwide, which has frequently stated its mission to "create a spiritually transformed U.S. military, with ambassadors for Christ in uniform, empowered by the Holy Spirit," has partnered with Military Ministry."Responsibilities include working with chaplains and military personnel to bring lost soldiers closer to Christ, build them in their faith and send them out into the world as government-paid missionaries."

I did not sign up to serve in the “ambassadors for Christ in uniform” brigade. I joined to serve the military, not Jesus.

Again — this ONLY occurs with Christianity in the U.S. military. No other religion enjoys this deep level of institutional support, tolerance and public display — probably because followers of these religions aren’t proselytizing.

It is intentional and targeted brainwashing as well — according to a retired general who now leads these efforts on behalf of his ministry.

Quote
"Young recruits are under great pressure as they enter the military at their initial training gateways. The demands of drill instructors push recruits and new cadets to the edge. This is why they are most open to the 'good news.' We target specific locations, like Lackland AFB and Fort Jackson [in South Carolina], where large numbers of military members transition early in their career. These sites are excellent locations to pursue our strategic goals."

[...]

Or maybe, you pay using taxpayer funds, for born-again Christian missionaries to convert Afghans to Christianity, using Dari-written bibles…. WHILE ON ARMED PATROLS WITH U.S. TROOPS. Literally converting souls at the barrel of an M4.


https://www.quora.com/Is-it-difficult-to-be-a-Christian-in-the-U-S-military/answer/Dan-Rosenthal-6

It is really worth reading the entire thing.  This really needs a lawsuit and to be smacked down hard.

38
General Comments / Should the FBI record interviews?
« on: July 09, 2016, 12:24:14 AM »
Apparently it has had a policy since 2006 of not doing so.

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/20070402_FBI_Memo.pdf

I really can't think of a legitimate reason to not do so.

39
My view on both of these shootings have changed significantly since I first learned of them.

The second video of Alton Sterling clearly shows he is on his back with his right arm reaching for his pocket where he had a gun.  Also he was apparently tased twice.  The initial reports mentioned nothing of his tasing, said he was on stomach with his arms immobilized.

The initial reports on Philando Castille said he was licensed to concealed carry, had been pulled over for a broken tail light, and his gun was holstered.  Now it appears he was a robbery suspect that exactly matches the video from the robbery.  The gun was unholstered in his lap, and he didn't have a CCW permit.  He was stopped because the officer recognized him from the BOLO and called in that he was stopping him for that reason.

If the more recent information is accurate it certainly differs dramatically in the reasonable interpretation of what went on.

41
Not terribly surprising, but somewhat surprising.

A number of talking heads have stated that her 'extreme carelessness' was 'gross negligence' - but they seem to be using the informal usage of the meaning of gross negligence rather than the legal definition.

42
It seems utterly implausible that neither she nor President Clinton would be unaware of how unseemly this appears.  Even if they only chatted amicabily about innocous things, it is significant enough that she should recuse herself from the determination of whether to prosecute on this case.

If I were Obama I would ask her to step down.

Is there anyone who thinks this is in any way defensible on either of their parts?

43
To me it is clearly a political ploy to attract votes and is in no way sincere.  The fact that Christian leadership is willing to play along has made me lose a lot of respect.  The fact that Christians might actually fall for this is extremely depressing.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/us/politics/a-born-again-donald-trump-believe-it-evangelical-leader-says.html

44
General Comments / Social Just and words
« on: June 26, 2016, 04:47:03 PM »
Interesting discussion on Social Justice and usage of words.

Discusses the idea of the 'bailey and the motte' or as he puts it better strategic equivocation,

Quote
By this metaphor, statements like “God is an extremely powerful supernatural being who punishes my enemies” or “The Sky Ox theory and the nuclear furnace theory are equally legitimate” or “Men should not be allowed to participate in discussions about gender” are the bailey – not defensible at all, but if you can manage to hold them you’ve got it made.

Statements like “God is just the order and love in the universe” and “No one perceives reality perfectly directly” and “Men should not interject into safe spaces for women” are the motte – extremely defensible, but useless.

As long as nobody’s challenging you, you spend time in the bailey reaping the rewards of occupying such useful territory. As soon as someone challenges you, you retreat to the impregnable motte and glare at them until they get annoyed and go away. Then you go back to the bailey.

This is a metaphor that only historians of medieval warfare could love, so maybe we can just call the whole thing “strategic equivocation”, which is perfectly clear without the digression into feudal fortifications.

[...]

Quote
There are as many totally innocuous and unobjectionable definitions of “privilege” as there are people in the social justice movement, but they generally share something in common – take them at face value, and the possibility of women sometimes showing privilege toward men is so obvious as to not be worth mentioning.

Yet if anyone mentions it in real life, they are likely to have earned themselves a link to an Explanatory Article. Maybe 18 Reasons Why The Concept Of Female Privilege Is Insane. Or An Open Letter To The Sexists Who Think Female Privilege Is A Thing. Or The Idea Of Female Privilege – It Isn’t Just Wrong, It’s Dangerous. Or the one on how there is no female privilege, just benevolent sexism. Or That Thing You Call Female Privilege Is Actually Just Whiny Male Syndrome. Or Female Privilege Is Victim Blaming, which helpfully points out that people who talk about female privilege “should die in a fire” and begins “we need to talk, and no, not just about the fact that you wear fedoras and have a neck beard.”

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/07/social-justice-and-words-words-words/

45
General Comments / OAN makes Fox News look 'fair and balanced'
« on: June 25, 2016, 10:49:23 PM »
Visiting my family, and my father regularly watches a new cable news network called OAN - One American News, it is impressive in its detachment from reality.

46
General Comments / A thoughtful defense of voting for trump
« on: June 24, 2016, 08:37:58 PM »
Interesting interview with a Trump supporter and a thoughtful response by the interviewer as to why he supports Senator Clinton (you'll need to read the article, since it takes a wider context that would be allowed for fair use, but certainly worth it, here is an excerpt).

Quote
For me personally, it's resistance against what San Francisco has been, and what I see the country becoming, in the form of ultra-PC culture. That’s where it's almost impossible to have polite or constructive political discussion.  Disagreement gets you labeled fascist, racist, bigoted, etc. It can provoke a reaction so intense that you’re suddenly an unperson to an acquaintance or friend. There is no saying “Hey, I disagree with you,” it's just instant shunning. Say things online, and they'll try to find out who you are and potentially even get you fired for it. Being anti-PC is not about saying “I want you to agree with me on these issues.” It's about saying, “Hey, I want to have a discussion and not get shouted down because I don't agree with what is considered to be politically correct.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/a-dialogue-with-a-22-year-old-donald-trump-supporter/484232/


47
Would or should a threat of harm if a victim reports a rape change the statute of limitations for a civil suit by the victim regarding the rape?

48
Quote
Documents recently obtained by the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch show that in December 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff were having difficulty communicating with State Department officials by e-mail because spam filters were blocking their messages. To fix the problem, State Department IT turned the filters off—potentially exposing State's employees to phishing attacks and other malicious e-mails.
The mail problems prompted Clinton Chief of Staff Huma Abedin to suggest to Clinton, "We should talk about putting you on State e-mail or releasing your e-mail address to the department so you are not going to spam." Clinton replied, "Let's get [a] separate address or device but I don't want any risk of the personal [e-mail] being accessible."

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/06/clintons-private-e-mail-was-blocked-by-spam-filters-so-state-it-turned-them-off/

Does her admission open her up to any charges?  Does proof that she lied about the reason for the private server have any political fallout even though everyone knew it was the 'real' reason?

49
General Comments / I may have to vote for Trump
« on: April 08, 2016, 06:03:15 PM »
I never believed it possible, but the coordinated lies and distortion media campaign against Sanders is pissing me off enough that I'd rather Trump win than vote for Hillary.  The man absolutely disgusts me and is almost everything I stand against, and yet, he is beginning to seem the morally superior alternative to Clinton.

50
General Comments / Living in the future
« on: April 07, 2016, 02:57:13 PM »
It is strange that many of the milestones for 'the future' are finally coming to pass.

Self driving cars, true at home virtual reality, machine learning approaching HAL level capabilities (Watson + Deep Learning object recognition + Siri and Deep Learning speech recognition), wide spread and rapid adoption of robotics, humanoid robotics with basic capabilities, curing diseases by manipulating the individuals genetics directly, useful cyborg implants, universal communication devices.


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