4.16.2014

Snow and the City

When April Snow Showers Blanket Spring Flowers | FiveThirtyEight

"It’s the middle of April — and it’s snowing as I write this in New York City. This isn’t quite as unusual as you might have gathered from the reaction on Twitter.…"

I've thought for many years the Bears should do this

Let the audience decide your fate in new Twitch-backed game

"Choice Chamber takes the idea of the audience deciding what happens onscreen to a new level and injects Twitch chat into the game's DNA; here, the peanut gallery has a direct impact on the player's progression. "

Seriously, what harm could it do? My idea is, let the fans submit plays, put all the plays into a big bowl, and draw one at random for each series of downs. They could even announce credits:

“The following play was submitted by Joe Novotny…"

And if one actually works, well, something has to eventually, doesn’t it?

Raise your hand if you can spell "fat chance."

So this means no more potholes, right? | Shawn Stoller's Blog

Able was I…

Chocolate Chip Mint: Palindromatic

"Getting back to normal . . ."

Landlubbing in style

Here's the Benson Ford shiphouse in Put-In Bay, Ohio. It's the front end of a Great Lakes ore carrier once owned by the Ford Motor Company.

 Read more about it (and see a lot more pictures) here.

(H/T Charlie from Wisconsin)

A block and a half from here

Despite Rise in Spills, Hazardous Cargo Rides Rails in Secret - NYTimes.com

"American railroads have long operated under federal laws that shield them from local or state oversight and provide a blanket of secrecy over much of their operations.…

Local and state officials complain that they receive very little information about when hazardous materials are shipped through their communities or how railroads pick their routes. "

Oh yes it did


4.15.2014

Oh wait, we thought it was all NSA's fault

Google kept Heartbleed bug hidden from the government — RT USA

"American Civil Liberties Union technologist Chris Soghoian said that American cyber firms are likely hesitant to share information with the NSA after it became clear in the wake of the first Snowden leaks that the agency will risk undermining the security of the entire internet if it means it can use an exploit to hone in on a high-value intelligence target."

Well then, that explains that.

On coming attractions

Ted Cruz Is Beating Rand Paul in the Tea Party Primary - Molly Ball - The Atlantic

"'I like Rand Paul, I agree with a lot of what he says, but as far as charismatic leadership, I've got to go with Ted Cruz,' Robin Parkhurst, a state-government worker from Newbury, New Hampshire"

Well, yeah, that

Snowden And His Accomplices Have Enabled al Qaeda, Others To Avoid Detection, Surveillance | Fortuna's Corner

"‘The public justification given by Mr. Snowden for his actions was, ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sorts of things,’ — surveillance of its citizens — ‘I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.’ So where does he choose to go? Russia. In a bizarre and perverse video statement in October, he said of America’s intelligence techniques: ‘They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative; to have relationships and to associate freely.’ This from a man who is snuggled up with Mr, Putin’s [sic] henchmen.’"

If the end of the world happens and you can't see it, does it still count?

Full lunar eclipse delights Americas, 1st of year - Yahoo News

"CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Sky-gazers in North and South America were treated to a full lunar eclipse — at least those fortunate enough to have clear skies."

Right. No chance of clear skies here so if the world does end, we won’t know. Or maybe it will be on the TV. We’d hate to miss it. 

This is what trains were all about

Huge Big Boy steam locomotive coming back to life - Yahoo News

"'Something that's so large and powerful and magnificent, we didn't think any of them would ever come back,' he said."

Back in the 1940’s when I was a pretty little guy we lived in a Chicago suburb (Downers Grove) and my Dad commuted to his job in Cicero on a train, the old Burlington line, and the train was pulled by a steam engine. It was not nearly as big as this one but for a little guy it was efreakingnormous and astoundingly, gloriously loud. I used to love going to the station with my Mom to meet Dad. 

It was also dirty, this engine, because it made a lot of smoke (which was where the choo-choo came from). In the days before air conditioning the passengers would open the windows in the cars and the people who had window seats would often rest elbows on the sills. I could tell if my Dad had had a window seat because if he had, one elbow of his white shirt would be black. 

A decade or so later I traveled on a train from northern Minnesota to southern California and back and the big steam engines that hauled us over the mountains made the commuter-train engines look like dwarfs. Possibly one of those engines was this very Big Boy. But on the flat, relatively easy pull across, say, Nebraska, we traveled behind a diesel. Diesel engines were OK—quieter, cleaner, faster— but they didn’t look like real engines. Only the steam engines looked like real engines. Still do.

4.14.2014

Apparently everything worth writing about has already been writ

How Do We Know the Earth Orbits the Sun? | Science Blogs | WIRED

"Sure, the textbooks all say that the solar system is heliocentric. But how do we know that? More importantly, how can YOU tell which is the better model?"

Or nothing

Is Tuesday's 'blood moon' eclipse the end of the world?

"Tuesday's first of four lunar 'blood moon' eclipses will mark a major earth-shattering event, depending on your viewpoint — either the possible start of the end of the world or Tax Day."

Fortunately not often…

…but once in a while, very once, I do something so spectacularly boneheaded on my computer that it takes me the rest of the day to put things back together, plus a restless night of waking up every 12.7 minutes thinking of yet another thing to check, verify, or tweak. Yesterday was such a day, just after noon. If I could have a USB port installed in my head I could fix these things pretty quickly (it’s all up there), but in reality I have to recover manually which, in this case, meant restoring from a backup and losing about five hours in the process. And they had been pretty busy hours. So a lot of stuff had to be redone. Even now, some 23 hours later, I’m sure there are still a few potholes to be encountered, no doubt at exquisitely inconvenient moments.

But at least I’m now good to go for a nap.

Suddenly there's a war shortage

In New Officers’ Careers, Peace Is No Dividend - NYTimes.com

"For the first time in 13 years, the best and the brightest of West Point’s graduating class will leave this peaceful Hudson River campus bound for what are likely to be equally peaceful tours of duty in the United States Army."

BTW it's National Library Week

How could we miss this?

Entertainment & Sports Figures | Library Quotes

"'I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book.'

–Groucho Marx (1890-1977)"

4.13.2014

Who woulda guessed?

Stephen Colbert Is Popular on the Internet | FiveThirtyEight

I do not want to hear about this so please shut up

Rockies, Midwest bracing for wintry blast, lower temps

"Up to two feet of snow is forecast for parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska by Sunday night, while several Midwestern states and the south central U.S. will receive a cold blast that could drive temperatures in some regions to record April lows."

We have some rain in the picture for next week, and some chilly nights, but the days look at least livably warm—50º or 60º, say. Montana can have all the snow it wants but keep that stuff away from here.

And anyway we're not worried; we can always buy our information from China (like everything else)

Report: NSA Exploited Heartbleed to Siphon Passwords for Two Years | Threat Level | WIRED

"Update: The NSA has issued a statement denying any knowledge of Heartbleed prior to its public disclosure this week."

4.11.2014

This art business is starting to look pretty good

In China, jar of fresh French air sells for $860

"How much is fresh air worth in smog-choked China?

A jar of air from Provence, France, sold last month for $860.

The jar was part of a conceptual art project by Beijing artist Liang Kegang…"

Who's your Mama now?

South Carolina Is Trying To Expand Its 'Stand Your Ground' Law To Include Fetuses | ThinkProgress

"On Thursday, a Senate committee in South Carolina voted to expand the state’s so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law to approve the use of deadly force to protect a fetus. The proposal would grant pregnant women protection from prosecution if they were defending their ‘unborn children,’ defined as ‘the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.’"

Or maybe it was just fashion advice (but probably not)

Shoe Thrown At Hillary Clinton During Speech

"'Is that somebody throwing something at me?' Clinton said after the object flew past her on the stage at the Mandalay Bay resort. 'Is that part of Cirque de Soleil?'

"

Duck

Florida’s Zombie Apocalypse Gun Bill - The Daily Beast

"This is crazy, even by Florida standards."

Somebody was either coming or going underneath that bed

Yeah, I know, it’s an old, old, and not so funny joke. Sorry. But it’s true.

Jellyfish Variation #1
iPhone art: Phil Compton

The way things are

Comcast Swallows Time Warner, With Democrats for Dessert | The American Conservative

"Comcast will come out of this merger one of the most powerful telecommunications providers in the country, with the weight to make even otherwise big content providers like Netflix bend their knee. They have the money to play the Washington game and turn the tables in their favor."

FYI, here's another Heartbleed checker

LastPass - LastPass Heartbleed checker

The link we mentioned yesterday is still quite good but this one does a more thorough job of explaining its results.

Ah, the memories

In Mongolia, a Gift Horse for Hagel - NYTimes.com

"Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel, the minister of defense, spoke warmly about the strength of the American-Mongolian bond. ‘Mongolia is a peace-loving country,’ he said of a land that still reveres its native hero, Genghis Khan. "

Maybe a rainy day

It was 46º this morning. I'd forgotten it ever got that warm. And it might be even warmer by this afternoon. Also, maybe, rainy. 

Rain, curiously, would be a good thing. I need to do some cleaning around here before I dare the windows open. Also, I dust under my bed in years that end with 4. So there’s that. With the weather we’ve been having lately—sunny, warmy—it’s been tempting to be outdoors. Maybe if it rains enough I’ll stay in and get some stuff done. Or take a nap.

4.10.2014

Want to know what it's like to be really, really old?

More responsible corporate action in a security breach: “Subsidiary of Experian Plc exposes some 200 million social security numbers” | Shawn Stoller's Blog

I’m so old I remember the government’s saying Don’t worry, nobody will ever know your Social Security number but the Social Security Administration and you

Imagine.

Things looking up


Makes my head hurt…

…reading about the now-famous Heartbleed Bug (click on the link for a techie but not too techie discussion). There are all manner of non-technical discussions available, not all in agreement but all, pretty much, right. Nobody really knows. The general advice is to change all your passwords (I know, I know), but it is probably not a good idea to do this until you are made aware by your various servers that their software has been patched. 

And, before you do change your passwords it would be a good idea to review this advice from US-CERT.

ADD: Here’s a handy Heartbleed test page for checking servers you use.