June 5, 2016

Looking at Longs Peak
(and the hot air balloon that rose from the ground as I walked)

Is it art, or is it vandalism?

That’s for the courts to decide…

Not sure if you can call footprints left in wet cement by little critters vandalism, so I’ll go with art.

Click images to embiggen


This Day In History: June 5, 1968

The United States in 1968 was a country torn by violence and divided by a political chasm so wide and bitter that any positive, unifying force seemed unimaginable. Then an infectiously optimistic young Senator galvanized even the most disenfranchised among us with his vision of what America should, could, and would be under his leadership.

But in less time than it took to type this, events were irrevocably altered and the possibility of that visionary leadership vanished, and history took the path we’re now familiar with.

President Johnson had decided not to seek a second term as president by 1968. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and the former U.S. Attorney General, threw his hat into the ring, re-igniting the passion and hope of those who had abandoned both when Jack Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. …

The Problem With Calling Out Judges for Their Race

Donald Trump has no legal justification for questioning Gonzalo Curiel.

There’s a U.S. Second Circuit judge, Denny Chin, who might be able to set Donald Trump straight on his allegations against the district judge Gonzalo Curiel—but so could any second-year law student who has remained awake during professional-responsibility class.

Zero plus zero equals zero.

Most lawyers would call the 1998 case this lesson comes from, Macdraw Inc. v. CIT Equipment Financing, an “ordinary case”—one company agreed to help another finance a large sale of industrial equipment. The deal went south, the buyer went bankrupt, and the borrower sold the collateral. The lender, Macdraw, sued for its claimed share, and the case had dragged on for six years in a New York federal district court by the time Chin had to school Macdraw’s lawyers on legal ethics and judicial impartiality. …

Voting Rights at the Crossroads

A constitutional lawyer dissects two competing trends in voting rights—and explains why automatic voting registration is the “biggest, immediate” solution for voting reform.

The November election will be the first presidential contest to take place since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strip some of the major protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required states with a history of voter discrimination to get federal clearance before changing their voting laws. Seventeen states will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time. Among them, Wisconsin, Texas, and North Carolina have tightened their photo ID requirements; Kansas now requires proof of citizenship to cast a ballot; and Arizona has made it a felony for people to collect ballots from others and take them to the polls.

Some people—mostly Democrats—say these laws disenfranchise poor and minority voters. But others—mostly Republicans—defend the stringent requirements as part of an effort to prevent voter fraud (an occurrence scholars largely consider to be a myth, and in some states, is more rare than a lightning strike).

But just as some states are making it more difficult to vote, others are passing legislation to make it easier. …

10 Interesting Facts About Slavery In Ancient Rome

From our perspective, slavery is one of the most controversial institutions of the past. We see slavery as an inhumane, immoral, and intolerable business, an unacceptable human flesh for cash type of business that none of us could tolerate. For the ancients, however, slavery was part of the everyday landscape, a completely recognized social institution smoothly integrated into the overall social fabric.

What follows is a list of 10 interesting facts about slavery in ancient Rome, including several firsthand accounts so we can hear the voices and views of the ancients on this controversial matter.

10. Slave Population

Ancient Roman society had a high proportion of slave population. Some have estimated that 90 percent of the free population living in Italy by the end of the first century BC had ancestors who had been slaves (McKeown 2013: 115).

The proportion of slaves was so significant that some Romans left written accounts on the dangers of this situation: “It was once proposed in the Senate that slaves should be distinguished from free people by their dress, but then it was realized how great a danger this would be, if our slaves began to count us” [Seneca, On Mercy: 1.24]. …

Sweden leads the race to become cashless society

Swedes are blazing a trail in Europe, with banks, buses, street vendors and even churches expecting plastic or virtual payment

In 1661, Stockholms Banco, the precursor to the Swedish central bank, issued Europe’s first banknotes, on thick watermarked paper bearing the bank’s seal and eight handwritten signatures.

Last year – as Britain did last week – Sweden launched a new series of notes, cheery affairs featuring 20th-century Swedish cultural giants such as Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking, Greta Garbo and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. But like its Nordic neighbours Norway, Denmark and Finland, Sweden is fast becoming an almost entirely cashless society.

“I don’t use cash any more, for anything,” said Louise Henriksson, 26, a teaching assistant. “You just don’t need it. Shops don’t want it; lots of banks don’t even have it. Even for a candy bar or a paper, you use a card or phone.” …

Norway becomes first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation

‘This is an important victory in the fight to protect the rainforest’

Norway has become the first country in the world to commit to zero deforestation.

The Norwegian parliament pledged the government’s public procurement policy will become deforestation-free after a committee of MPs recommended imposing regulations to ensure the state did “not contribute to deforestation of the rainforest”.

Norway funds forest conservation projects worldwide and also supports human rights programmes for forest communities. …

10 Reasons Leonardo Da Vinci Is Overrated

You know the name. When it comes the Renaissance, his is probably the first one that comes to mind, conjuring up a sense of ingenuity and enigmatic, creative prowess. For most people, Leo might as well be the only guy who did anything during the Renaissance. But when you examine the evidence, the story of Leonardo da Vinci as an historical icon is bunk in practically every aspect of his legend.

The man had lots of ideas, including some interesting ones. But the truth is a bit of a letdown. Though he was surely more talented than most of us, there were far superior practitioners in every single field Leonardo dabbled in. The era was so crowded with geniuses that if you walked down any street in 16th-century Italy, you would were bound to brush past one or two that accomplished feats of more lasting significance than he did. When you compare his legacy to other enlightened minds of his era, his work does not stack up very well.

10. His Painting Skills Were Surprisingly Dodgy

Even if you accept that the Mona Lisa is the greatest painting of all time because that is what we have always been told, it is pretty much like every other run-of-the-mill portrait commissioned back then, except that her eyebrows wore off.

Most of Leonardo’s paintings are standard portraits and religious scenes, not exactly earth-shattering, and they are so boring that you could not pick out any of them out of a line-up. In a few decades, men like Titian and Raphael would produce works easily beyond Leonardo. And nobody who looks at the work of Caravaggio, who painted many of the same biblical themes and subjects and worked within a century of da Vinci, could disagree that he makes Leonardo’s best pieces look hopelessly antiquated and conventional.

Composition-wise, The Last Supper isn’t anything special either, and regardless of style, there is actually a major flaw hidden within the work that most people do not even know about. Any master artist can tell you that The Last Supper is a technical disaster. …

Switzerland’s ‘Money for Nothing’ Proposal

Voters rejected Sunday a measure calling for universal basic income for Swiss citizens whether they worked or not.

Swiss voters rejected a proposal Sunday that would have guaranteed every adult citizen in the country a minimum monthly income no matter how much or whether they worked, according to projections.

About 78 percent of voters opposed the measure and 22 percent voted in favor, according to Swiss polling company gfs.bern. The proposal had called for unconditional pay regardless of employment that supporters said would cover people’s basic needs in the wealthy nation. It received a referendum under a federal system that allows citizens to suggest changes to the national constitution and opens for a public vote those that garner 100,000 signatures.

The proposal suggested paying Swiss adults a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs, or $2,560, and giving 625 Swiss francs, or $640, to each child. Salaried workers who earned more than that would not have been eligible. …

Q&A: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton’s Breakfast With Anthony Bourdain

In the most recent episode of globetrotting chef Anthony Bourdain’s travel-food show Parts Unknown on CNN, you hear a strong, female voice saying, “lakh, lakh.”

To many in the NPR audience, it may be a familiar voice.

The plummy tones belong to Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, our West Africa correspondent, who’s from Ghana and is based in Dakar, Senegal. When Bourdain came to that country to explore its culture — and of course, its food — she met him for breakfast at the open-air market known as Marche Kermel in Dakar.

Bourdain was clearly smitten with the nation. He called Senegal “enchanting.” And he noted that the country has managed to avoid the coups, civil wars and dictatorships that have occurred with many of its neighbors. And that even though Senegal is a majority Muslim nation, its people elected a Catholic as its first president after independence from France in 1960. He said Senegal is one of those places that “leads you to believe maybe there is hope in the world.”

Quist-Arcton is equally enchanted. …


This Day In History: June 5, 1963

John Dennis Profumo was appointed Secretary of War by British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in 1960. He had a good job with room for advancement, was married to retired actress Valerie Hobson, and together they were at the center of the fledgling Swinging ‘60s in-crowd. Life was good.

One night at Lord “Bill” Astor’s Cliveden estate, Profumo was introduced to a guest of Dr. Stephen Ward’s, Christine Keeler. Within weeks, the two were embroiled in an intense affair, but it was over before the year was out.

The world may never have known about Profumo’s indiscretion if a drug dealer hadn’t shot up the outside of Dr. Stephen Ward’s London flat in early 1963 when Christine Keeler, his ex-lover, locked him out. The incident and subsequent trial garnered a lot of press coverage, and rumors about Keeler and Profumo soon started making the rounds. …

Flatland Is A New Nature Live Wallpaper That Goes Oddly Well With Material Design

I’m not much of a live wallpaper guy these days, but Maxelus is one of the more popular LWP developers out there, and their newest creation Flatland really does it for me. Flatland has three nature themes: savannah, forest, and flamingos, with 15 preset color palettes that can be applied to each theme. You can also completely customize the colors to match things like your icon set, which is nice.

The animations are simple enough not to be distracting, and as the name implies, the “flatness” of the worlds blends in quite well with Google’s current material design language in Android. …

Virtual Reality Arachnophobia Therapy Is A Definite Nope

Virtual reality experience Arachnophobia is an application aimed at helping people overcome “irrational fears” of extremely venomous and aggressive spiders. After playing for five minutes, I’ve decided to hang on to my fear a bit longer.

I am not fond of spiders. As I’ve explained previously, this is partly because spiders are the bite-sized living embodiment of evil. Coupled with my large frame, which increases the amount of spiders that could be hiding on my person at any time (SHC—Spider Hosting Capacity), anything fuzzier than a daddy long-legs pretty much paralyzes me with fear.

Arachnophobia, released on Steam earlier this week by IgnisVR, wants to help me overcome my fear. …

12 Honest Answers To Questions Google Keeps Asking

Have you ever paid attention to Google’s autocomplete feature? If you have, you’ve probably noticed how fond it is of feeding you maniac queries that seem less like valid suggestions and more like something a coked-up True Detective character might scream at the unforgiving skies. Surely no one ever searches for “I accidentally slept with my mom” or “Wolves are taking all our women,” but that doesn’t stop Google from dropping such serial-killery lines on its users like there’s no tomorrow. It’s time we stop taking this lying down and go on offense. Come, friends — let’s see what questions this autocomplete creature thinks we want to ask … and find ourselves some goddamned answers.

#12. “Does it help w …?”

See, this is exactly what I’m talking about. In the middle of perfectly valid queries about medication and its effects, autocomplete busts out an alternative approach and innocently suggests that people look into treating open wounds by eschewing disinfectants and Band-Aids. Instead, why not jam your hound all up in that wound? Heh, that joke would be better if those words rhymed. Stupid English.

“Yo, Rusty! Come here, boy; it’s hygiene time!”

To be fair, dogs do lick their own wounds and will totally lick yours if you let them. I’m generously choosing to assume this is because they want to help, instead of surreptitiously trying to find out what your interiors taste like. But while dog saliva does have certain antibacterial properties, and some people totally let dogs lick their wounds because of this, I’d like to offer a counterpoint: Holy screaming shitnozzles, please don’t ever do that. Your dog was also just licking his crusty sack. …

Scientists discover magma buildup under New Zealand town

A drawing looking south along the Taupo Volcanic Zone showing the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the North Island of New Zealand. Uplift of the surface measured by satellite radar and GPS suggests the presence of a magmatic body beneath the Bay of Plenty coast at a depth of 9.5 km.

Scientists say they’ve discovered a magma buildup near a New Zealand town that explains a spate of recent earthquakes and could signal the beginnings of a new volcano—although they’re not expecting an eruption anytime soon.

Geophysicist Ian Hamling said that since 1950, enough magma to fill 80,000 Olympic-size swimming pools has squeezed up beneath the surface near the coastal town of Matata, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Auckland.

A paper published Saturday in the online journal Science Advances outlines the findings. Hamling, the paper’s lead author, said that while other parts of New Zealand have active volcanoes, there have been none near Matata for at least 400,000 years. …

Computer scientists quantify just how hard Super Mario Bros. is

Solving an arbitrary level belongs to a class of problems called PSPACE.

Calling a game “hard” would seem to be a matter of personal judgement. Not so, according to an international team of computer scientists. For the past several years, the scientists have been analyzing Super Mario Bros. as if it were a math problem and beating a particular level is the solution. Now, they’ve extended their analysis to cover any possible arbitrary level, and they’ve shown that Super Mario Bros. belongs to a class of problems called PSPACE-complete.

The team’s work benefits from how much we already know about how Super Mario Bros. operates. For example, every time the game needs a random number, its number generator isn’t actually random. Mario’s number generator starts with a fixed seed that’s updated deterministically each time a scene is calculated. It’s only when a player helps create a particular scene that the scene becomes effectively random—something that’s not at issue when a computer is solving a level.

There are also well-described cases in which, as the authors put it, “the implementation of Super Mario Bros. is counter to the intuitive Mario physics with which most players are familiar.” These include the ability to pop Mario through a wall or to jump through a brick ceiling, provided there’s a monster on top. And, while the game tracks objects that move slightly offscreen, the game forgets about bad guys who wander too far off the edges. …

10 Ancient Recipes You Can Try Today

Food has evolved a lot. It’s easy to take the complexity of the recipes and technology we enjoy today for granted—but it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when things weren’t so sophisticated and took quite a lot longer.

If you’ve ever wondered what food tasted like back then, you’re in luck. We have the answer. We’ve managed to preserve and recover recipes from the time of Richard II all the way back to the Sumerian empire, and you can still try them today.

10. The Forme Of Cury ~ AD 1390

The Forme of Cury is England’s oldest surviving cookbook. When you serve one of the recipes you can find in it, you’re tasting the same food somebody ate in the 14th century. What’s more, you’re tasting the same food King Richard II ate.

The book was compiled by King Richard II’s personal chefs, and it’s full of dishes that were served to the king of England himself. There are over 190 recipes compiled in there altogether, ranging from the simple to the exotic. Some recipes are as simple as throwing peeled garlic in a pot of water and oil and then sprinkling saffron on top, while others call for porpoise or whale meat. …

‘Wifi Whisperer’ Siphons Your Data in the Creepiest Way Possible

If you’re connected to a wireless network, odds are high that little bits of data are trickling out of your device like water from a leaky faucet. “Our phones leak data in a bunch of different ways,” says artist Kyle McDonald. “Sometimes it’s really insidious or unexpected.”

Recently at Moogfest, a music and technology festival in Durham, N.C., McDonald with the help of fellow artist Surya Mattu created an installation called WiFi Whisperer that called attention to all that data your phone is giving away for free. As festivalgoers walked past the installation, the artwork grabbed insecure data and display it on monitors, while a hidden speaker whispered the stream of data—what networks you’ve recently connected to and websites you’ve visited, for example—like a creepy, demon-voiced Big Brother. “It’s sort of like looking over someone’s shoulder,” says McDonald, “except you’re doing it without actually looking over their shoulder.”

The artists built sniffers made from eight Raspberry Pis and wireless antennas, tuned to the different frequencies of open wireless channels. “We know where the data is in the air,” McDonald explains. “Normally these packets are getting sent from one device to another, but there’s no reason you can’t just stand nearby and listen to that same data as though you were the device it was intended for.” …

Researchers want a ‘big red button’ for shutting down a rogue artificial intelligence

“I’m sorry, Elon Musk. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

If artificial intelligence goes off the rails, which many philosophers and tech entrepreneurs seem to think is likely, it could result in rampant activity beyond human control. So some researchers think it’s important to develop systems to “interrupt” AI programs, and to ensure the AI can’t develop a way to prevent those interruptions. A study, conducted in 2014 by Google-owned AI lab DeepMind and the University of Oxford, sought to create a framework for handing control of AI programs over to human beings. In other words, a “big red button” to keep the software in check.

“If such an agent is operating in real-time under human supervision, now and then it may be necessary for a human operator to press the big red button to prevent the agent from continuing a harmful sequence of actions — harmful either for the agent or for the environment — and lead the agent into a safer situation,” reads the team’s paper, titled “Safely Interruptible Agents” and published online with the Machine Intelligence Research Institute. A common case here could be a factory robot that needs to be overridden to prevent human injury or damage to the machine. …


Mondagiriaksita asks: I was told a scumbag was originally a condom. Is this really where the word came from?

“Scum” originated in the early 14th century from the Middle Dutch word “schume” meaning foam or froth. There was also a similar word in old French – escume. For about two hundreds years, the word evolved to mean a “thin layer atop of liquid,” then it became “a layer of dirt,” and then, just simply, dirt.

In 1586, the phrase “scum of Africa” showed up in the Christopher Marlowe play Tamburlaine, this marked the first known time scum was used as an insult, though that trend would be frequently repeated elsewhere after this: “These are the cruell pirates of Argeire, That damned traine, the scum of Affrica.” …

Video Goodnesses
(and not-so-goodnesses)

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.