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Topics - TheDrake

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General Comments / Another one bites the Dust
« on: March 13, 2018, 11:29:12 AM »
Tillerson traded for Pompeo.

I have mixed feelings about this move. On the one hand, I think Pompeo is far more qualified. He's been a member of the house, he's probably pretty knowledgeable about the international scene - at least more so than an oil executive. He's not as deeply connected to Russia and has been critical of them.

On the other hand, he seems more likely to view other nations as adversaries rather than partners or potential partners. He's on record wanting to get rid of Kim Jong Un, not just denuclearize. He loves black sites and torture.

He's a Trump man, through and through. America first by any means necessary. Not exactly the makeup for the top American diplomat, in my opinion.

General Comments / insider trading scandal coming
« on: March 01, 2018, 03:39:24 PM »
Trump's highly targeted tariffs (washing machines, steel, aluminium) are ripe for conflict with widespread business interests of him, his family, and associates. All it will take is for someone to have bought or sold a related stock somewhere near the announcement. It could be innocent and completely random, and it will still look horrible. This is why divesting business interests is such a good idea and a demonstration of the complications of running the federal government while retaining a business empire. No matter how good your intentions.

General Comments / Government 5G
« on: January 29, 2018, 10:00:14 AM »

Is it more fake news? A "false flag" from a deep state operative to scare people about government intrusion? A job creation initiative? Currently I would classify this report about 5G as "low confidence" but it is intriguing.

It comes out of AXIOS, whatever that is, and unconfirmed by major news outlets, but happily rebroadcast by CNN, CNBC - Reuters picked it up later. They do have the purported raw slide deck on the website.

5G is likely to become the primary channel of personal communication, including in-home wifi. I wouldn't be at all comfortable with the government owning the infrastructure for that. Anyone advocating it would clearly be interested in using this for surveillance domestically. The reported window dressing is to prevent Chinese hacking because they manufacture the equipment?

General Comments / Going nuts for nutella
« on: January 26, 2018, 09:31:56 AM »
Intermarché supermarkets offered a 70% discount on Nutella, bringing the price down from €4.50 (£3.90) to €1.40.

But police were called when people began fighting and pushing one another.

"They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand," one customer told French media.

First, incidents like this really make me wonder about the model of the rational consumer. For about $12-$24 bucks if you grab an armload, you are willing to race to the store, push and shove fellow human beings, and possibly get injured.

Second, the marketing guys at Intermarche are either geniuses or idiots, I'm not sure which.

"Some customers came the night before the promotions to stash the Nutella pots in other places, and thus prevent others from taking them," Jean-Marie Daragon from the Intermarché in Montbrison, central France.

Seriously? I mean, I like Nutella also, but damn.

Reading some of the French reaction, I came across someone making the argument that it was because the French worker is in such a precarious position that they are fighting to afford Nutella.  ::)

General Comments / Tall order
« on: January 25, 2018, 11:13:42 AM »
From the Producer's Guild guidelines on sexual harassment:

Unwelcome verbal, physical or visual conduct that is severe or pervasive, and which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment or interferes with work performance. You may experience such sexual harassment even if the offensive conduct was not directed towards you.

Examples: Making sexually explicit or derogatory comments or jokes, either out loud or via email; inappropriate touching or groping; visual conduct includes making sexually suggestive gestures or publicly displaying sexually suggestive or explicit images.

So.... does that include the script? :D

General Comments / self blaming cars
« on: January 24, 2018, 12:17:47 PM »
Culver City's fire service said the Tesla had "ploughed into the rear" of one of its fire engines parked at the scene of an accident on Monday.

The car's owner subsequently claimed it had been in Autopilot mode at the time.

Sure it was....

It will be interesting to see how many people will claim "it wasn't me" and are later proven liars by the telemetry.

General Comments / Trump won't make Clinton's mistake
« on: January 23, 2018, 05:00:52 PM »
Clinton was a lawyer. Clinton tried to walk a careful fine line with his "meaning of the word is" sophistry.

Trump regularly coughs up statements contrary to established fact - whether you believe it is intentional or not, or how serious it is, or whether it matters at all. You can argue that he is often mistaken or engaging in hyperbole.

I very much doubt there is any scenario where he has a discussion under oath or otherwise. The odds that he can come up with a statement that could be disproven - whether as a partisan twisting of his intent or as a bold denial (like Clinton's), simply suggests there would be nothing in it for him. I don't believe he can be compelled.

Of course, we can't really know what he will do, since he seems to wax and wane on whether he is "100%" willing to talk under oath, or "we'll see what happens", or "it seems unlikely".

General Comments / Release the memo
« on: January 23, 2018, 09:11:46 AM »
If it should be released, I have two predictions.

Republicans will feel that massive corruption has been exposed and that we should finally lock her up.

Democrats will feel totally vindicated and that a massive witch hunt has been exposed.

It really doesn't matter what is in it, does it? If Democrats can't take the above position, then it will surely be that items in the memo are unproven accusations.

My take? Republicans are only now realizing that the FISA system they helped to create is a sloppy rubber stamp, and that National Security Letters are even more ripe for dozens of kinds of abuse? Not to mention renewing the FISA program, which still allows the FBI to query the database of collected information to look for Americans swept up in foreign surveillance. Only a handful of libertarian leaning Republican senators joined about half of the Democrat senators in opposition.

General Comments / Will wages rise with the economy?
« on: December 26, 2017, 02:10:54 PM »
The inertia behind wages is complex and varied, these are some of the reasons why I think median wages will rise slowly, if at all, as a result of increased cash flow or after-tax profit.

1. Larger companies have carefully calibrated wage schedules.

Every job description has an acceptable wage range associated with it. Hiring mangers have two choices to raise wages - push people up the range or re-classify them at a higher level. In highly skilled jobs, managers are given wide discretion. In less skilled jobs, there is little room for movement.

2. Small business owners are notoriously frugal.

When you look at the <50 employees small businesses (think restaurant, bar, mom&pop retail), these sole proprietors (or LLC) are pretty grim when it comes to sharing the wealth or thinking about top line expansion. Likely, they won't make more money by reinvesting into their one storefront, and they don't really have the mentality or enough extra cash to think about expansion. Even if they do expand, they will probably employ more people - not pay each individual more. If they run short of help, they are likely to absorb high turnover or run shorthanded than to share back another dime. Many small business owners are happy if they are maintaining a threshold that keeps them in their current lifestyle, and they are risk-averse as a general rule. We're talking about the people who don't want to pay a $2 credit card fee and won't let people have free soda refills.

3. Union contracts

Union contracts tend not to reflect general market trends with any great accuracy. Contracts up for negotiation are anchored at historic levels, and so companies know they might be saddling themselves with future headaches if they gave up ground, and I'm not sure the unions have had the power recently (if ever) to cite "higher profit" as a reason to get better pay for the workers they represent.

4. Margins are margins

The street pays very close attention to margin. Gross margin is often dominated by workers wages. Net margin is often dominated by SG&A or R&D expenses - which may or may not be dominated by compensation. On the face of it, it would make sense that lowered costs in the bottom line would make room for higher unit cost. But companies usually use Gross margin as a metric, and would be seen as losing margin even while increasing profit. They are more likely to re-invest in R&D or SG&A (more ads, new product development, more sales people, more executives) than they are in worker expansion (even assuming the workforce is domestic).

5. Productivity gain may be better realized through something other than wage growth.

You find yourself with a shortage of available labor. You can pay people more to fill the positions, or you can find a way for 3 people to do the work of 4. You might be much better off investing your new found capital in efficiency improvements. Maybe you put in a new pos or inventory system to reduce manual labor. Maybe you farm out cleaning to an outside contract company. Some companies certainly will pay a premium to get the best and most reliable workers, but there are a lot more Walmarts than Costcos.


None of this stops higher-end wages from rising. Those making $60k and up might well see jumps in their compensation (wage, profit share, bonus, equity), and they might be high enough to see a rise in average wages. But those in the mid and lower quintiles are unlikely to move, in my opinion. So we'll see a lot of "rich get richer" type reactions as the gaps between growth at these different income levels accelerates.

General Comments / They are coming for our drones
« on: December 18, 2017, 07:08:34 PM »
Well, mandatory drone registration is back on again. Clearly this is the first step on the road to drone confiscation.

You probably remember how the FAA finalized its mandatory drone registration rules just in time for the holiday season in 2015. Any drone that weighed more than 0.55 pounds was required to be registered before being flown outdoors, a process that involved providing your complete name, physical address, mailing address, email address, and a credit card that was charged a one-time fee of US $5. In exchange, you got a unique registration number that had to be visible on all of your drones.

Lots of people were not fans of this, in particular model aircraft enthusiasts, who have been flying drones (that look much more like airplanes) for decades without having to tell the government about them. They took the FAA to court, and last May, mandatory drone registration was ruled unlawful and the FAA started giving everyone their $5 back. It’s not like this changed the FAA’s mind about whether drone registration was a good thing or not, so they did what the government does, and sneaked that mandate into the $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act, signed yesterday.

General Comments / Utah isn't federal
« on: December 04, 2017, 09:49:17 AM »
I'm with Trump on the rollback of Bears Ears. These are over a million acres of rocks and scrub. They didn't need protecting. Remember that this was only done by Obama 2-3 years ago. Proponents talk about "looting" of archaeological sites. We already have mechanisms other than national monuments to deal with protection of true archaeological sites.

Not every piece of graffiti needs to be preserved in perpetuity.

Naturists decry the destruction of the "wilderness" by mining. And yet, as of three years prior, nobody was mining in the area and it is pretty unlikely. If there had been viable mineral rights, I'd expect they'd have been exploited long ago. Oil and gas leases have been sought, but I tend to think those are long term especially with the price of petroleum depressed.

I just don't see this as an appropriate federal oversight. If Utah wants to restrict it, Utah can do that. I think it inappropriately disadvantages western states - nobody is trying to take a million acres out of New York or Michigan to preserve anything.

General Comments / Must be nice
« on: November 06, 2017, 07:37:41 PM »
At a hearing in Washington, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she won't make a decision on both defendants' bail until she receives more information on their financial situation. Once that information is filed, she proposed that pair remain under GPS monitoring, but be allowed to travel in their local area -- the Washington area for Manafort and Richmond, Virginia, for Gates.
Additionally, she proposed they will be prohibited from being near airports and train stations, and will have evening curfews.

I don't quite understand this. At all. These people could easily still have the means to flee. They clearly have international connections of whatever flavor. They get house arrest, but can have the run of the city? Show me the poor black guy allowed to wander all over town for his house arrest. Usually, you get to go to work, school, and very limited other locations as I understand it.

Not to mention that Manafort is trying to buy a get out of house arrest card with $12M.

What am I missing here? I'm not saying that they have to be held without bail in a county jail, but this seems wholly inadequate.

General Comments / Anti-boycott bill
« on: October 20, 2017, 03:17:39 PM »
How is this a thing?

A Texas city has required residents who are seeking government disaster relief funds in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to pledge not to boycott Israel.
The city of Dickinson, about 30 miles (48km) south of Houston, posted grant applications for anyone seeking money for repairs after the category 4 storm.
Local officials say the pro-Israel clause is required under a Texas state law enacted earlier this year.
The application has drawn a strong rebuke from free-speech activists.
In the four-page, recovery aid application posted on the city's website, a section reads: "By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement."
The provision stems from a law barring the state from entering a contract with any business unless it "does not boycott Israel".
Boycotting Israel includes any action intended to "to penalise, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations specifically with Israel", according to the law.

General Comments / Independence Catalan Style
« on: September 29, 2017, 03:09:25 PM »
How did I not hear about this? Catalonia is trying to have a referendum, and their parliament is empowered to declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of the vote.

Spain is feverishly hunting down the ballot boxes, which they declared illegal. They are seizing website domains. They have thousands of police on ships in Barcelona to disrupt voting. Quite the contrast to the vote in Scotland.

A non-binding vote went down 80/20 with under 50% turnout.

General Comments / Jones Act
« on: September 28, 2017, 09:31:26 AM »
Critics say the Jones Act costs American jobs by encouraging residents in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Hawaii to buy foreign-made goods that are shipped on foreign flagged vessels, rather than goods made in America.
That's what happens when it comes to gasoline and other fuels, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Service.
"Puerto Rico typically gets most of its gas from foreign sources -- Canada and Europe," he said. "Jones Act ships are so expensive that it doesn't make sense to buy gasoline from U.S. refineries." So, Kloza said, a waiver of the Jones act won't bring much more fuel to the island since Puerto Rico gets what it needs from other countries.
But plenty of other things are much more expensive in Puerto Rico because of the Jones Act. Cars, for example, cost about 40% more in Puerto Rico than on U.S. mainland, partly because of the law. It also affects other necessities.


Trump has waived it in the face of recent disasters on a limited basis.

I didn't know it existed, but now that I do, I want it repealed entirely. We're making goods more expensive between US ports, and as a result, Puerto Rico is buying all its fuel from overseas instead of from US producers. This is a blatant case of robbing consumers and producers to line the wallets of one industry - American companies that own ships.

I have to wonder also if this means that shipping between mainland ports might be giving way to overland shipping.

The report shows that industries across the nation could save millions of dollars if the Jones Act problem were fixed, including the water sector ($1.5 billion), chemicals ($103 million), air transportation ($91 million), steel ($50 million) and lumber ($32 million).

The Jones Act may soon drive the price of gasoline higher because of proposed changes by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Previously, many oil firms had an exemption from the Jones Act for certain operations, but now U.S. Customs and Border Protection has proposed removing the exemptions. This imposition of the Jones Act could cost the oil industry $4.3 billion, and cause a loss of 30,000 jobs in 2017, according to a study by the American Petroleum Institute (API).


McCain has been trying to repeal the Jones Act since at least 2010. He gets no love from the supposedly "free-market" republicans, and even less support from democrats.

General Comments / How to defend yourself against a pointed stick
« on: September 20, 2017, 09:22:00 AM »
Oklahoma City police say a man holding a stick was shot and killed by an officer on the city’s southeast side.

Police Capt. Bo Mathews says officers were responding to a report of a hit-and-run around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday when they found a vehicle that matched the description of the one in the crash.

Mathews says two officers confronted a man holding a stick near the vehicle. One officer fired a Taser and the other shot the suspect with a firearm.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Names of the suspect and the two officers have not been released. He didn’t say why the officer opened fire.

General Comments / Poll on race
« on: September 16, 2017, 01:28:40 PM »
Some eye popping numbers in here, at least for me.

There are only 80% of people strongly agree that all races should be treated equally. Fewer, 70% strongly agree that all races are equal.
So that 10% think the races aren't equal, but we should go through the motions?

4% strongly disagree that races are equal.

Maybe the more interesting spot is the people who neither agree nor disagree. It's harder for me to imagine not having a side than being an avowed racist.

race poll

General Comments / clickbait
« on: September 16, 2017, 01:16:05 PM »
I'm fascinated by the titles of clickbait articles, and how they are crafted.

3 "Death Foods" that you should avoid
After Losing 220lbs Precious is Gorgeous Now
Chilling Last Known Photos of Legendary Celebrities
<your location>: This Brilliant company is disrupting a $200 Billion...
Why Clint Eastwood Never Mentions his Army Service
Bride Left Speechless by Husband's unexpected....
Feel Years Younger by Boosting Your Stem Cells at Home

Like most advertising, some comes straight out of Maslow, but there's a different flavor to the bait.

The use of numbers is interesting. Why is "3 death foods" more likely to be clicked on than just "death foods"?
This person was fat and unattractive, but now she's beautiful. I'm fat and unattractive, I want to be beautiful. <click>
The random use of <your location> is ridiculous. There are no brilliant companies in the suburb that I live in.
I admire the speechless bride. You literally have to click if you want the rest of the headline.
And the nonsensical boosting of your own stem cell fountain of youth? The mind boggles.

General Comments / Trump's Florida properties could be in Irma's path
« on: September 06, 2017, 12:11:04 PM »
Really, CNN? It has come to this?

Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach: Palm Beach County officials do not have specific updates on the “Winter White House." The Palm Beach Daily News reports that the property has walls that are three feet thick and has withstood many devastating hurricanes since its 1937 completion.

Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter: Members of Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter have not yet received any official communications from the club about the impending storm.

Other Trump properties: Trump Hollywood in Hollywood Beach, Trump Plaza in West Palm Beach and Trump National Doral in Doral all sit along Florida's east coast.

I'm picturing a "hurricane room" with live feeds from each of Trump's properties. In-depth discussions of whether relief funds are motivated by his business interests. Criticism if an employee gets injured.

On the other hand, would you be surprised if his disaster visit was to one of his own properties? He's just politically foolish enough to do it.

General Comments / Counterfeiting
« on: August 28, 2017, 03:54:40 PM »
Been reading a little bit lately about the ongoing exchange of one pound coins in the UK.

As many as 1 in 30 coins in the old design were counterfeit, according to the Royal bank.

It seems there were large scale counterfeiters behind this.

It makes me wonder if the US had a higher value coin, would this be more prevalent?

Also, does this suggest a move to fully electronic currency in the future? It would certainly curb criminal enterprise and tax evasion, but also raises questions of privacy. It could even have an impact on the hiring of illegal labor, either people not authorized to work in the US or people operating outside of labor rules, like overtime. What would happen to people who rely on tips for their income, suddenly they would get hit with a much higher tax bill.

This would happen gradually over time, and we're seeing it in places like India. In the US, proposals have been made to eliminate the $100 bill.

General Comments / pardon me
« on: August 26, 2017, 11:18:37 AM »
Well, he actually went and did it. This is a clear message pardon, as he could have waited to let things die down. Arapio wasn't scheduled to be sentenced until October. There's a good chance he might not have been given jail time, and he was only facing six months in jail.

It's a huge middle finger to the federal courts, to the citizens in Arizona that had their rights violated, and to anyone concerned about the rights of non-whites.

It's a huge thumbs up to law enforcement that wants to profile, defy other federal protections, and racists.

He wants to stoke the fires, but for what purpose?

General Comments / consumer protection
« on: August 14, 2017, 12:35:59 PM »
Came across a random description of a lawsuit involving a company selling "my pillow".

The company allegedly Posted a buy one get one offer, where the net price for two pillows was pretty much the same as the price before the offer.

Original: $49 per pillow
New: $99 dollars for a pillow, get one free

Regardless of the specificsof this particular case, I'm actually torn about the need for this consumer protection and similar fake sale tags, markdowns, and other price shenanigans.

On the one hand, I loathe the practices on a moral level. On the other, I blame and ridicule the people who just see the word "sale" and automatically assume they are saving money.

I remember that Sears department store many years ago attempted a campaign of "everyday low prices" - removing cyclical sale pricing. It was an utter disaster. People want to see that "here's your bargain" tag, regardless of the actual value of the item.

I wonder if there's a real net benefit to anyone but the class action lawyers in these cases.

General Comments / LOLcat
« on: August 12, 2017, 01:22:44 PM »
Almost half of all original YouTube videos are of people's pets, and around 26 billion views are just for cats, making them the single most popular category.[/quote]

Assistant Professor Jessica Gall Myrick from Indiana University, America, asked 7,000 people how they felt before and after watching videos of cats.
The results found that people felt happier after watching videos of cats, and that they felt less anxious or sad.

Can't we harness this power to make the world a better place? How angry would people be if there weren't any cats on the internet?

General Comments / Diversity programs discussion
« on: August 10, 2017, 03:26:33 PM »
Argument against existing diversity programs

This HBR article makes a lot of the points homebody communicated poorly and is worth its own independent discussion. It is behind a timed paywall, so I'm quoting more than usual.

U.S. companies spend millions annually on diversity programs and policies. Mission statements and recruitment materials touting companies’ commitment to diversity are ubiquitous. And many managers are tasked with the complex goal of “managing diversity” – which can mean anything from ensuring equal employment opportunity compliance, to instituting cultural sensitivity training programs, to focusing on the recruitment and retention of minorities and women.

Are all of these efforts working? In terms of increasing demographic diversity, the answer appears to be not really. The most commonly used diversity programs do little to increase representation of minorities and women. A longitudinal study of over 700 U.S. companies found that implementing diversity training programs has little positive effect and may even decrease representation of black women.

We put young white men through a hiring simulation for an entry-level job at a fictional technology firm. For half of the “applicants,” the firm’s recruitment materials briefly mentioned its pro-diversity values. For the other half, the materials did not mention diversity. In all other ways, the firm was described identically. All of the applicants then underwent a standardized job interview while we videotaped their performance and measured their cardiovascular stress responses.

Compared to white men interviewing at the company that did not mention diversity, white men interviewing for the pro-diversity company expected more unfair treatment and discrimination against whites. They also performed more poorly in the job interview, as judged by independent raters. And their cardiovascular responses during the interview revealed that they were more stressed.

General Comments / Trump & NoKo
« on: August 09, 2017, 08:42:26 AM »
I've been pretty critical of Trump on a number of fronts. With respect to North Korea, I agree with matching Pyongyangs bombastic threats with some of our own. Kim needs to be reminded that no matter what he's cooked up, the US arsenal is a deterrent to their own action. I think it undermines the President to have US lawmakers making public comments that reduces the impact of those threats, especially suggesting that Trump is not prepared to back them up.

I 100% believe that Trump would launch an overwhelming response to military action by North Korea. I don't think he'd have any qualms about authorizing any force whatsoever if the US or US allies were attacked, or if mobilization prior to an attack occured.

It reminds me somewhat of Khrushchev's bluster on a number of occasions, and who knows? That just might have kept us out of a nuclear war by creating a credible threat and reducing the likelihood that Kennedy would choose a military option in Cuba.

General Comments / Presidents can't kid around
« on: August 01, 2017, 05:39:12 PM »
I'm steering clear of anything specifically Trump, while obviously this is inspired by his "I was kidding" response to several incidents.

It came as Mr Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio broadcast on Saturday. During a test to adjust the microphones for voice level, Mr Reagan intoned: ‘My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I have signed legislation to outlaw Russia for ever. We begin bombing in five minutes.’

This was, quite obviously, not a policy directive. It was not an order. It was said during a sound check. It still had some repercussions. Apparently the Soviets went on alert for 30 minutes, according to some reports. When you're President, I think probably you should leave improv comedy behind. A President's words can tank financial markets, increase diplomatic tension, create violence, or many other possible outcomes.

Reagan bombing Russia - just kidding!

I'm reminded of a personal situation where our CEO came around the breakroom while we were blowing off some steam. He made an offhanded remark that our projects must be on schedule. We disappeared from that room instantly. Heard later that he was completely just trying to joke around with us, and intended to be funny. I think that's probably good advice for anyone in a powerful position.

General Comments / The new chief of staff
« on: July 31, 2017, 02:10:09 PM »
Amazing amount of turnover in a six month old administration.

Priebus out, which isn't surprising as Trump roots out who he perceives as foes, may have been foes, and anyone who generally identifies with "the establishment". Or "the Republicans" that Trump is increasingly treating as a group independent and separate from him.

The new guy, John Kelly, is once again an untraditional choice for Chief of Staff - who is normally a relatively politically connected individual who coordinates the various moving parts in building coalitions and setting an agenda.

Is this a move based on finding "loyalists" and in particular finding a chief of staff that has the skills and tenacity to find and punish "the leakers"?

Still, the little I've read suggests Kelly is respected in the role he played in the military and beyond. I haven't learned enough to say whether he will be a good pick or a bad one as yet.

I read into the preference of Trump to hire military and relatives for key positions is that he wants people who will carry out his orders rather than people who will offer other points of view or challenge his opinions. This belief (not fact) is partly based on an understanding of how Trump is described to have run his businesses, and his various public comments both prior to and following his election.

This, in and of itself, is not necessarily a terrible quality overall. Steve Jobs had many of the same characteristics in leadership. But there's a big difference between corporate life and public political life.

General Comments / Dubai, the robotic future of policing
« on: July 26, 2017, 12:33:34 PM »
The next batch of robots will be used to tackle crime and misdemeanours. There are plans over the next two years for the world’s largest robot, which can run at 80kph.

The 3-metre tall robot will carry heavy equipment and will be manoeuvred by a police officer seated in a cabin inside.

An egg-shaped robot will be used in parking areas to issue warning about traffic violations, and self-driving motorcycles could also be sent out.

Sporting a name tag reading "Dubai Police Robot", the lieutenant with one star on its shoulder strap was the star attraction on day one of conference. People crowded around, asking questions and taking selfies.

Press release

This technology is super scary in a cross with the Middle East. Saudi robotic virtue & vice patrols? It can smell alcohol at a distance of 30m, use infrared cameras to locate homosexual activity, and spot dress code violations in the briefest span of time.

General Comments / Eclipse!
« on: July 12, 2017, 03:48:02 PM »
Anybody in the path, or traveling to it? I might meet up with my friends in SLC and drive up to Idaho for the event. No chance to stay within a 90 minute drive, $60 motels are running $500 and up at best.

General Comments / Unsung inventions
« on: July 10, 2017, 09:19:54 AM »
I was just mopping up a spill with a paper towel, and wondered how long it had been around. Scott introduced these glorious towels in 1931. Not only are they more sanitary than reusable towels, but they can be used for things like patting meat dry before cooking. Can you imagine trying to clean a window or a mirror thoroughly without paper towels? I can't.

Got any simple unsung inventions of your own?

General Comments / Taking all bets...
« on: July 06, 2017, 05:27:58 PM »
Trump will be appointing a director of the Office of Government Ethics, now that Shaub has given his two week notice. Oh my, the fun! Who will it be? Will he pardon Rod Blagojevich and appoint him? Will it be one of his relatives? Or another executive? I think it is a safe bet he's not going to just appoint someone already working in the OGE. Ooh, what about a lobbyist?

General Comments / Fake Science
« on: June 28, 2017, 12:46:56 PM »
Here's one way:

In April courts approved a new policy calling for stiff prison sentences for researchers who fabricate data in studies that lead to drug approvals. If the misconduct ends up harming people, then the punishment on the table even includes the death penalty.

execute them!

In general, I stumbled across which is very interesting in the volume of citations.

Should there be sanctions against researchers who commit fraud?

General Comments / Corrrupt News Network
« on: June 27, 2017, 12:39:32 PM »
Publishing a story declaring Scaramucci was under investigation? Really guys?

Guess what. They used a single anonymous source. And that's why whenever anything gets published now citing "anonymous source", I ignore it.

No word on whether the anonymous source was just an intern speaking in an unnaturally high pitched voice.

General Comments / Pelosi Unhinged
« on: June 26, 2017, 05:03:05 PM »
House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi told CBS This Morning on Monday: "We do know that many more people - millions, hundreds of thousands - of people will die if this bill passes."

This statement is Trump-like in the category of made up numbers. Let's start with the fact that only about 6 million people were covered after ACA according to CBO. are we expecting high percentages of them to die? Wouldn't they have died back in 2010 when they also weren't covered?

My argument is about magnitude. I'm not going to make a claim that not one more person would die. I'm not going to put a number on it. But to claim millions? How soon? Is she totalling numbers over the next 10 years? Even the poorly applied study on the matter puts the figures in the tens of thousands.

Or did she mean that they'd start killing people if it passed?

General Comments / The fundamental problem with health care?
« on: June 22, 2017, 12:43:13 PM »
So the Senate bill is out. But I suggest that it can't address the fundamental problems, regardless of who gets covered and who gets a subsidy. The fundamental problem is that there is unlimited demand for healthcare, especially life saving or quality of life improving. If someone held a pill out to you, and you would die without it, wouldn't you be willing to pay all the money you have and all you could borrow to get it? Most would. So when we talk about free markets for health care, they can't possibly work, unless you accept that anyone with a serious illness will become bankrupt or not have access to the treatment.

General Comments / Maybe the Saudis should embargo the US
« on: June 19, 2017, 09:19:51 AM »
From 2012 (and an old thread of mine):

The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.

No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.

But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.


More recently, the approval to sell them a dozen F-15s. What's the worst that could happen?

General Comments / Oregon fines traffic light critic
« on: June 13, 2017, 12:32:55 PM »
Woe to anyone calling themselves an engineer without a license, even if you're not doing actual work and just voicing an opinion!

Mats Jarlstrom, 56, was fined $500 after identifying himself as an engineer in emails he sent to Beaverton officials challenging Oregon’s timing of yellow traffic lights as too short. The Jarlstrom, who has a bachelor of science degree in engineering, has joined the Institute for Justice to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against members of the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying.

traffic light critic fined

Way to crack down, Oregon!

In depth

General Comments / Your moment of Trump Zen
« on: June 09, 2017, 01:11:59 PM »
"Trump is continuing to talk to all partners in the Middle East to de-escalate tensions."

whaaaa? Love him or hate him, the one thing that pretty much everyone could agree on is that Trump doesn't de-escalate tension.

General Comments / The Big Little parties of the UK
« on: June 09, 2017, 12:41:38 PM »
Okay, I'm already out of my depth, but I found some news reports interesting about the UK elections.

First, the DUP. They are expected to join the Conservatives to govern. DUP is in favor of Northern Ireland remaining in the UK (and presumably having the rest of Ireland rejoin). They are dedicated pro-Brexit.

Then you have the diametrically opposed Sinn Fein. They still refuse to take their seats in Parliament as a protest against British colonial control of Northern Ireland, as this would require an oath of loyalty to the Queen of England.

I have no grand conclusion, just thought it was interesting.

General Comments / Lawn care
« on: June 02, 2017, 08:57:17 AM »
Just listened to a podcast on lawn care. Got me thinking a lot about the process, the amount of water used, and our general obsession with grass.

Especially roadside grass that has to be mowed. Like in a cloverleaf. What is the point?

I have a terrible lawn, and I maintain it poorly. I lived almost all of my life without a lawn, by being in apartments and high-rise developments. So maybe I just don't get the obsession.

The piece also goes into the value of replacing lawns with gardens. This seems like a great idea. One that is prohibited in many suburban developments.

Do you love your lawn? Are you one of the kindred, like my uncle?

How Stupid Is Our Obsession With Lawns?

General Comments / Lock him up!
« on: May 26, 2017, 09:12:26 AM »
Gianforte has physically assaulted a reporter. He also won his election. Where are the calls to lock him up?

He faces six months in jail for his actions. Now, I presume he's not getting a pardon from the governor (D). So, will it be jury nullification? A plea bargain where he pays a fine and/or probation? Does he do community service and turn it into media events?

General Comments / Airline fails
« on: April 22, 2017, 02:35:58 PM »
Two incidents very recent, one dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight (United) and one woman having a baby carriage forcibly removed from her and eventually kicked off the plane.

Several things come to mind here. Certainly mishandled by the airlines. But the individuals in question were not entirely reasonable either. In both cases, it is baffling how anything ever got to the on-board stage. Gate agents let too many people on the plane, creating a situation that caused someone to be removed. Gate agents allowed the carriage down the gate and on-board. These discussions should have been happening in the terminal.

Also, are such things happening regularly, but we are only seeing the ones where there is video posted to social media? Would the public have the same reaction if they didn't actually see the guy being dragged off, or the belligerent flight attendant encouraging someone to fight him?

Finally, has cost cutting become so rampant in the airline industry that it makes people angry in the extreme and likely to do things they normally would not - both passengers and employees?

General Comments / Trump 2.0
« on: March 01, 2017, 11:30:20 AM »
Who managed to reign Trump in last night? Even the NYT had nice things to say about him? Sure, there's still a lot of Trump 1.0 in there, he couldn't be completely refactored. Is this just a UI change, or did some of his fundamental code get rewritten?

General Comments / Mooninites
« on: February 28, 2017, 11:50:18 AM »
SpaceX is talking about sending a couple of tourists around the moon. Musk doesn't fool around, but is this a PR stunt or an attainable goal? And why wouldn't there be at least one technical specialist aboard? Is it because there are basically no real manual overrides, so there's not much point? Talk about a driverless car!

General Comments / Media Headlines, Agenda, and Trust
« on: February 23, 2017, 11:39:20 AM »
BBC: Iraqi forces seize Mosul airport from IS
NPR: Fight for Mosul Moves Westward
CNN: Coming to your town: Anger
ABC: Town halls showcase organizing on the left and concerns in both parties
NBC: Trump Takes Over CPAC - But Will He Own the Conservative Movement Too?
RT: Putin says sending Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier group to Syria’s shores was his own idea
CBS: Poll reveals top problem for Trump and Congress
NYTimes: Trump Rescinds Protections for Transgender Students
WaPo: State Department sidelined in first month of Trump presidency
LATimes: Trump's promise to ramp up deportations spreads fear among California businesses
Breitbart: O’Keefe CNNLeaks: Editors Claim ‘No Debate’ On Climate Change, Call Fox News ‘Unbearable’
Telegraph: Storm Doris - Woman killed as 'weather bomb' batters Britain with 100mph gusts and blizzard-like snow

Some obvious regional influence here, but CNN, Breitbart, and Huffington stand out as the most biased and unhinged. RT is no surprise. The TV outlets may be influenced on what has better visual appeal. People shouting at a town hall is a little more gripping than watching people walk in or out of a restroom.

The HuffPost was particularly odd, so I had a look at it in depth. Their premise is:

1. A Tweet was sent from Trump's account during Jan 28 raid.
2. Huff states clearly that there is no way to know if Trump or an aide sent the Tweet.
3. They report the tweet was sent via iPhone, and go on to say that these are usually sent by staff.

I've never seen an article debunk itself quite so thoroughly in one page. They go on to quote people hostile to Trump speculating quite a bit and mostly expressing that they didn't think Obama would have done it the same way, while also acknowledging that sometimes he did it differently also.

General Comments / Facebook's wonder machine
« on: February 07, 2017, 09:18:00 PM »
Facebook deleted some of the posts, but lawyers for Mr Modamani claimed that it had still appeared widely.
They argued that Facebook could have done more to prevent people from sharing the selfie.
The image has been used in posts about attacks in Brussels and on a Christmas market in Berlin.
Facebook lawyer Martin Munz countered that, with billions of postings each day, the company would need to employ "a sort of wonder machine" to detect each misuse, according to Bloomberg.
It also argued that it had removed all images reported by Mr Modamani...

Facebook in court over refugee selfie fake news stories

Ah.... except that Facebook has demonstrated that it can recognize faces quite well, I think. And, it can easily do a graph search to find whether the poster knows or might know him. As well, it can match quite closely when you consider that it is a specific photo of him and not all photos of him from all angles.

I'm not saying that they have a responsibility to do this, but it seems quite within their technical capability. If it can carve up and identify target ad groups ad nauseum, it seems quite possible to highlight those posts - even if it is just to suggest to the searcher that they might want to report these posts.

This is the same kind of technology that allows bots to find copyrighted material and flag it.

From another article:

Jun also rejected the argument that there are just too many posts to keep track of.
"If it’s about breasts or child pornography, Facebook is very well able to detect all pictures."

General Comments / Techlash
« on: January 31, 2017, 11:03:32 AM »
Now you've done it, Trump. Between Google, Netflix, Amazon, and a dozen other companies, you are in big trouble. These guys play rough, and they have every tweet, email, and dick pic that you and all your cronies have ever sent. More importantly, a war chest that makes your net worth look tinier than your hands.

The technology sector has become the clearest corporate opponent to the ban announced last week. The industry depends on talent from around the world, and companies have been considering the best way to muster their resources, with efforts so far including statements condemning the move and financial support for organizations backing immigrants, such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Silicon Valley Bosses Are Huddling Tuesday to Devise a Response to the Immigration Ban

General Comments / Ham-handed rollout, or masterful?
« on: January 30, 2017, 11:10:43 AM »
So, the execution of Trump's immigration plan clearly leaves a lot to be desired no matter how you feel about the substance and policy. It reminds me a lot of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Trump's administration left it very unclear who was supposed to be affected, especially permanent residents. They could easily have had the order take effect 24 hours after signing, and not strand a bunch of travelers. They could have just stopped issuing new Visas. They could have read flight manifests and fast-tracked the individuals that clearly should not have been stopped.

Are these all carefully calculated? Did Trump let it hit everyone hard, so he could back off and seem more reasonable? This is a tactic of anchoring in negotiation. Adjusting the framing of the discussion to a starting point of your choosing. Was the chaos and protest reaction desired for some reason? To portray the opposition as unruly? To make America First as visible as possible, making the hard choices to make America safe again? To undermine Republicans like John McCain and reduce their political clout?

General Comments / somebody pulled a funny?
« on: January 27, 2017, 01:05:39 PM »
The EEOB bookshelf as you enter now only has Trump books. It isn't clear what used to be there. Did somebody pull a practical joke for fun, try to portray the administration as having ordered the change, or try to curry favor with the new boss? No real objective way to know for sure that it was like this longer than it took to snap the photo. I presume we'd have lots more pictures if it had stayed that way. It does look pretty dark and deserted in the background, FWIW.

General Comments / Trump - armchair analysis
« on: January 19, 2017, 10:57:20 AM »
Coming off another thread, there was a comment that Trump is a psychopath. Thought it would be interesting to look up the DSM definitions.

The basis is antisocial personality disorder, defined as having three or more of these traits, and I'll append my armchair assessment with respect to Trump:

Regularly breaks or flouts the law - NOT REALLY
Constantly lies and deceives others - MAYBE
Is impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead - YES
Can be prone to fighting and aggressiveness - YES
Has little regard for the safety of others - NO
Irresponsible, can’t meet financial obligations - NO
Doesn’t feel remorse or guilt - YES

I decree he's got that one.

As to whether he is a psychopath, I'd probably come up short on that one. Researchers think that is genetic. They tend to be more careful planners, and highly intelligent.

Sociopaths, on the other hand, tend to be more impulsive and erratic. They have little regard for risk or consequence. They are angered easily.

Then I think we also have to put Bipolar disorder on the list. Certainly there's a lot that is manic about Trump. Three or more of:

1.   Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity

2.   Decreased need for sleep (e.g. feels rested after only three hours of sleep)

3.   More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

4.   Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing

5.   Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)

6.   Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation

7.   Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g. engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

1 is obvious. 3, 4, 5.

The problem here is - are there depressive mood swings? Doesn't appear so.

I am fully aware that this isn't how psychology works, but it would be interesting how a trained professional might diagnose Trump if they had access to work with him. Plus its good fodder for discussion.

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