Friday, February 28, 2020

Middle management ...

Metropolis, the Fritz Lang masterpiece, depicts a futuristic urban dystopia and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city master, and Maria, a saintly figure to the workers, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes in their city and bring the workers together with Joh Fredersen, the city master. Fast forward from 1927 to 2020 and a new, automated dystopia looms in an excellent The Verge essay titled How Hard Will Robots Make Us Work?

To whit ...

The robots are watching over hotel housekeepers, telling them which room to clean and tracking how quickly they do it. They’re managing software developers, monitoring their clicks and scrolls and docking their pay if they work too slowly. They’re listening to call center workers, telling them what to say, how to say it, and keeping them constantly, maximally busy. While we’ve been watching the horizon for the self-driving trucks, perpetually five years away, the robots arrived in the form of the supervisor, the foreman, the middle manager.

These automated systems can detect inefficiencies that a human manager never would — a moment’s downtime between calls, a habit of lingering at the coffee machine after finishing a task, a new route that, if all goes perfectly, could get a few more packages delivered in a day. But for workers, what look like inefficiencies to an algorithm were their last reserves of respite and autonomy, and as these little breaks and minor freedoms get optimized out, their jobs are becoming more intense, stressful, and dangerous. Over the last several months, I’ve spoken with more than 20 workers in six countries. For many of them, their greatest fear isn’t that robots might come for their jobs: it’s that robots have already become their boss.

It gets better.

The worker who used Cogito, for instance, had only a minute to fill out insurance forms between calls and only 30 minutes per month for bathroom breaks and personal time, so she handled call after call from people dealing with terminal illnesses, dying relatives, miscarriages, and other traumatic events, each of which she was supposed to complete in fewer than 12 minutes, for 10 hours a day. “It makes you feel numb,” she said. Other workers spoke of chronic anxiety and insomnia, the result of days spent having emotionally raw conversations while, in the words of one worker, “your computer is standing over your shoulder and arbitrarily deciding whether you get to keep your job or not.” This form of burnout has become so common the industry has a name for it: “empathy fatigue.” Cogito, in an ebook explaining the reason for its AI, likens call center workers to trauma nurses desensitized over the course of their shift, noting that the quality of representatives’ work declines after 25 calls. The solution, the company writes, is to use AI to deliver “empathy at scale.”

Read the essay in its entirety to see why Metropolis was prescient to a fault.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

NYC Alligators rule :)

They're everywhere, particularly in the sewers of NYC, a myth that's kinda true as seen in an amazing and amusing NYTimes piece about these denizens lurking in the darkness. Read on if you dare. :)

It gets better. :)

The seminal New York City sewer-gator event came on Feb. 9, 1935, when some East Harlem teens spied an alligator down a storm drain and then lassoed and hauled it up with a clothesline. After the reptile — roughly eight feet long and 125 pounds — snapped at them, they killed it with their shovels.

“Alligator Found in Uptown Sewer,” read the headline in the The Times. The article speculated that it had escaped from a passing steamer in the East River and had swum into a sewer outflow pipe.

Even better. still :)

Yours truly owned one and got it via snail mail for, you guessed it, $1.50. Albert lived about 6 months and got to be almost 3 ft in length whereupon he died a peaceful death after eating hamburger that disagreed with his delicate digestive tract. :)

And so it goes. K. Vonnegut

Monday, February 24, 2020

Traversing the far side ... of the moon.

Another gem from NASA. This time showing what the endangered Apollo 13 astronauts saw when going around the far side of the moon prior to successfully returning home on a mission fraught with danger due to just how damaged their spacecraft truly was. Amazing ingenuity on the part of everyone involved in getting these guys home safe and sound back in the year of our lord 1970.

This video uses data gathered from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft to recreate some of the stunning views of the Moon that the Apollo 13 astronauts saw on their perilous journey around the farside in 1970. These visualizations, in 4K resolution, depict many different views of the lunar surface, starting with earthset and sunrise and concluding with the time Apollo 13 reestablished radio contact with Mission Control. Also depicted is the path of the free return trajectory around the Moon, and a continuous view of the Moon throughout that path. All views have been sped up for timing purposes — they are not shown in "real-time."

Data Visualization by: Ernie Wright (USRA)
Video Produced & Edited by: David Ladd (USRA)
Music provided by Universal Production Music: "Visions of Grandeur" - Frederick Wiedmann

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at:

Stellar to the max. :)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

In Realtime ...

It takes 3 ...

Flying for real ...

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The oldest companies ...

Thru the Looking Glass - Fragile vs. Robust ... A tiny sample :)

Through the Looking Glass - Fragile vs Robust

A tiny sample :)

Nature: Small periodic fires, started by lightning, clears away dead brush to permit new growth. Robust
Man: By trying to prevent fires of any kind insures the build-up of dead brush to biblical proportions, thus generating the distinct possibility of creating fires unable to be controlled. Channel CA in 2019. Fragile  

To assume is to err. Fragile

Monoculture farming vs 3 sisters.
Monoculture farming depletes soil and encourages insect pests. If a virus hits a monoculture garden, catastrophe ensues. Monsanto and its Bt gene fortified corn, designed to ward off the corn borer beetle, has failed as the beetle adapted. What does Monsanto do now besides enforcing patents on an increasingly compromised product? Fragile

The 3 sisters garden 
By the time European settlers arrived in America in the early 1600s, the Iroquois had been growing the “three sisters” for over three centuries. The vegetable trio sustained the Native Americans both physically and spiritually. In legend, the plants were a gift from the gods, always to be grown together, eaten together, and celebrated together. As older sisters often do, the corn offers the beans needed support. The beans, the giving sister, pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three. As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together. The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds. The prickly squash leaves also keep away raccoons and other pests, which don’t like to step on them. Together, the three sisters provide both sustainable soil fertility as well as a healthy diet. Perfection! Robust

The net, a chaotic, voluntary system based on open standards and redundancy, works. Robust

But there’s a problem. Like a road network, the Internet has its own highways and intersections that consist of cables and routers. The navigation system that manages the flow of data around the network is called the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). When you visit a website, BGP determines the best path through which the site’s data are to be transmitted to your device thanks to the redundancy of the web. It’s the shortest route solution It works well but ... BGP was designed only to be a temporary fix, a “good enough” solution when the Internet was rapidly growing in the late 1980s. If BGP is compromised, the web stops. i.e., Denial Of Services (DOS) Denial of service is typically accomplished by flooding the targeted machine or resource with superfluous requests in an attempt to overload systems and prevent some or all legitimate requests from being fulfilled.[1] Man in the middle (MITM) In cryptography and computer security, a man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) is an attack where the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communications between two parties who believe that they are directly communicating with each other. Black holing In networking, black holes refer to places in the network where incoming or outgoing traffic is silently discarded (or “dropped”), without informing the source that the data did not reach its intended recipient. The black holes themselves are invisible, and can only be detected by monitoring the lost traffic.  Fragile

The supply chain driving the inherently complex production and distribution of smartphones must overcome numerous events able to disrupt the system in a myriad of ways including War, revolution, disease, weather, material shortages, manufacturing issues, truck breakdowns, traffic accidents, container ship mishaps, piracy, etc, etc, etc. Fragile.

Scientific experiments are inherently fragile in order to parse out the inner workings of nature. Discovering the constituent colors in light/Newton, The double-slit experiment/Young and Michelson & Morley accurately determining the speed of light. 

Keeping a teeter-totter perfectly balanced is hard as we all know. Fragile 

When a currency never varies, a slight change makes people crazy. Fragile 

Voltaire - Political systems equipped with periodic assassination gives rise to systems that renew themselves. Robust

Think the ossified 2 party system in the US as it’s always the same two parties without term limits. The system is paralyzed in its inability to improve. This ties in with lobbyists, the MIC, HC, Education and the continued subsidies given to big oil, big pharma & banks too big to fail. Dems over-regulate, the Repugs, under-regulate Fragile

The Athenians selected assemblies by lot. Robust

Top-down political systems are also not robust. Think dictators. Heavy-handed control gives rise to possible rebellion as said systems cannot adapt to the vagaries of society or reality in the long term unless you have the occasional assassination.  The French Revolution happened because the royals couldn’t meet the needs of the bourgeois. Fragile

Extreme and needless complexity defines the medical industry. Ditto government bureaucracy. Fragile

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished and ... she always finds a way. Robust

Computer tech, requiring power to run, is incredibly complex and ... its data, stored as magnetic 0s & 1s on hard drives and SSDs (Solid State Memory), digitally decays within 30 years.  If one bit is wrong, the program won’t work. Fragile

Acid-free fine paper, requiring no power to run, lasts over a thousand years. Think illuminated manuscripts. Robust

Religion, a system designed to be obeyed. Fragile Science, a system designed to be disproved. Robust

Forecasting of any kind is a guesstimate at best. Think Microsoft regarding the rise of the net. Fragile

Modern civilization, due to its extreme complexity, is fragile to the max.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Pequot Library Blues

Mark Naftalin & Friends aka Marco Naftalini e amici make the scene at the Pequot Midwinter Library Book Sale playing acoustic blues the right way. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Founding Fathers, Live! :)

American Pie has a new meaning for us all. Thanks Richard for turning me onto this gem. :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


Snowstorms like the one depicted in this clip are ephemeral. They last but a day as wind blows off the heavy dusting in just a matter of hours. As per this kind of storm, full moons also last but a day. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

65+ Knots Video

65+ Knots was the wind speed on CT's Fairfield Beach on 2/7/20, a velocity almost knocking yours truly down while taping this short clip. Enjoy the noise, the water and of course the sky as nature shows, in no uncertain terms, who's boss on planet earth. :)

Friday, February 07, 2020

In the pursuit of "perfection".

You know we're under surveillance 24/7, right? After reading Snowden and Binney, it takes a fool to not realize this is so, especially after reading how "perfect" government surveillance truly is using GPS data purloined from the smartphone residing in your pocket.

To whit ...

Remember, it's all about the money. Always has been, always will be. - Robert E.

60+ Knots ...

60+ pix 1

60+ Pano

60+ pix 2

60+ pix 3/feeding frenzy

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Passing Thru/Passing By ...

Using a smartphone as the camera of choice, casual trips taken by train & car show just how interesting cityscapes and countryside can be. Enjoy.

No excuse :)

Powerpoint users violate this Dilbert in ways that boggle the mind :)

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

A candle in the dark ...

Along the lines of This sentence is false BRT's take on the limits of knowledge and the dumbing down of America is Carl Sagan's Demon-Haunted World a prescient depiction of a hallowed out nation, stripped of manufacturing prowess and controlled by a tech elite hell-bent on maintaining power no matter what the cost may be.

When reading this piece, one comes away with the fact facts don't matter. Emoji do, where fake news takes precedence over actual news, particularly if the real news doesn't jibe with the world view of the person reading it. 

Thanks D for sending me this gem. :)

A dark truth :)

This immortal picture of Slim Pickins riding the nuke to kick off Armgheddon in Strangelove depicts the dark truth of nuclear deterrence in a tells all piece in the New Yorker titled ALMOST EVERYTHING IN “DR. STRANGELOVE” WAS TRUE.

To whit ...

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

The thermokarst is thawing ...

This previously hidden entity is thawing at rates researchers never thought possible until now.

It's getting serious ...

14 common features ...

Umberto Eco, a great writer. knows what fascism was like as he grew up under Mussolini as a young man. With this said, his take on fascism is apt as Trump is using these tenets to become a demagogue we can be truly proud of.

To whit ...

While Eco is firm in claiming “There was only one Nazism," he says, “the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change.” Eco reduces the qualities of what he calls “Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism” down to 14 “typical” features. “These features," writes the novelist and semiotician, "cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.”

  1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”
  2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
  3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
  4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
  5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
  6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
  7. The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”
  8. The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
  10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
  12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
  13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
  14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”
Sounds about right, doesn't it. Thanks, Cat for turning me onto this.

What if ...

all the oceans were drained from planet earth? Interesting concept eh? :)

These days the concern may be more about what Earth would look like if all the ice melted – but this look at what we'd see if all the oceans drained away is seriously fascinating.

Now of course, all the oceans can't exactly drain away – where would they go? We have a specific amount of water on the planet, it just moves around in different phases to different places. But it used to be that there was less water in the oceans, back when it was locked up in ice on the land.

In 2008, NASA physicist and animator Horace Mitchell created a video showing what the planet would look like if all the oceans slinked away. More recently, former NASA planetary scientist James O'Donoghue gave the video an update. He tweaked the speed a bit and added depth tracking to show levels.

Cool without question.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Vitriol 101 ...

Vitriol 101 ratchets up into prime time now that Agent Orange escaped impeachment thanks to Mitch McConnell and the complicit repugs in the senate. With that being said, Trump, now unleashed and ready for battle, indicated in no uncertain terms, that the vindictive sh*t show is about to begin.

Emerson was right ...

But the real star of this magnificent sham is the Turtle, Mitch McConnell, the totally corrupt but extremely competent Senate Majority leader from Kentucky.

Yes indeed.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Toons yet again :)

Witness protection program

The enabler

Having your ass handed to you

The fast & the furious - not.

The electric kool aid acid test :)

All is dry, for now ...

Feb 2, 2020, all is dry for SB LIV but 20 years from now, not so much as seen by this pix below of Hard Rock Stadium, the location of this year's edition.

Fast forward a few years and ...

So enjoy it while you can as all is dry, for now. :)

Frame Dragging


Well, Einstein's right again. Massive objects warp space-time, something never actually seen until now.

One of the predictions of Einstein's general theory of relativity is that any spinning body drags the very fabric of space-time in its vicinity around with it. This is known as "frame-dragging".

In everyday life, frame-dragging is both undetectable and inconsequential, as the effect is so ridiculously tiny. Detecting the frame-dragging caused by the entire Earth's spin requires satellites such as the US$750 million Gravity Probe B, and the detection of angular changes in gyroscopes equivalent to just one degree every 100,000 years or so.

Luckily for us, the Universe contains many naturally occurring gravitational laboratories where physicists can observe Einstein's predictions at work in exquisite detail.

Our team's research, published today in Science, reveals evidence of frame-dragging on a much more noticeable scale, using a radio telescope and a unique pair of compact stars whizzing around each other at dizzying speeds.

The motion of these stars would have perplexed astronomers in Newton's time, as they clearly move in a warped space-time, and require Einstein's general theory of relativity to explain their trajectories.

Frame Dragging explained.

Science never disappoints when done right. :)