Tuesday, August 07, 2018

New comic: Laws and Sausages

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Laws and Sausages

Greg Weiner and Zach Weinersmith (author of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) have teamed up to present, in comic form, a series of lessons on American history, civics and how the US government works (or is supposed to work).

The lessons posted so far are:

  1. Separation of Powers, part 1
  2. Separation of Powers, part 2
  3. Impeachment
  4. Practical Info #1: Writing to Congress
It's a fast read and very educational for those who haven't learned about this in the past (which I suspect is a lot of people) and a good humorous refresher for those who already know the material.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Heraclitean River: No, February 29th is NOT "Bissextile Day"

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No, February 29th is NOT "Bissextile Day"
February 28, 2016, by Heraclitus

A new use of an old obscure word has emerged in recent years.  With leap day approaching, we will undoubtedly hear a number of sources wishing a “Happy Bissextile Day!” for February 29th.

The problem is that the term bissextile day does not refer to February 29th, and it never did.  I assume some folks get this mistaken impression due to old dictionaries that state the definition of bissextile day as something like “the day added to leap years.”  That definition is correct, but the problem is such definitions were written back when educated people would have understood that “the day added to leap years” was February 24th, not February 29th.

“Huh?” you say.  “What do you mean, February 24th is added in leap years?  That makes no sense.”  Well, it doesn’t make sense in modern calendars, but that is in fact when the bissextile day happens in leap years.  Thus, if you want to use that fancy word, don’t use it for the 29th.  Let me explain.

I just discovered (thanks to a reader who pointed it out to me) that the Heraclitean River blog no longer exists. I don't know exactly when it went down, but it's currently occupied by a domain squatter. According to the Wayback Machine, the site seems to have been down in March 2018 (the last capture) and the last valid capture of the home page was in October 2017. So we can assume that it went down some time between those two dates.

I don't know why the site went away, but as a part of my discovering this, I read the last article posted and since it is very interesting, I'm sharing it with you. Please read the full article and share it with your friends - it's a fascinating read.

Friday, April 27, 2018

AppleInsider: Paid as a brand ambassador by Huawei, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot tweets from iPhone

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Paid as a brand ambassador by Huawei, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot tweets from iPhone
By Daniel Eran Dilger, Thursday, April 26, 2018, 05:49 am PT (08:49 am ET)

Huawei paid Gal Gadot to tweet out her affection for its Mate 10 Pro smartphone, but the Wonder Woman star sent it via her iPhone, the latest in a long line of celebrity endorsements for Android that revealed they were really iOS users.

It appears that celebrities love Apple products so much that they use them for broadcasting endorsements for competing products.

Read the whole article for many more amusing examples

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Disneyworld vacation - the food

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Part 3 of 3

This article describes all the great stuff we had to eat on our vacation. If you haven't gone to Disney World with a dining plan, you might be unaware of the fact that they have incredibly great restaurants all over the place. They're probably too expensive to go to if you're traveling on a budget, but I think they make the overall vacation experience so much better.

This article is a quick review of all the places we dined at on our vacation.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Verge: Your nose isn’t really as big as it looks in selfies

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Your nose isn’t really as big as it looks in selfies
By Rachel Becker | @RA_Becks |

Noses in selfies may be smaller than they appear

Your nose isn’t actually as big as it looks in selfies, says facial plastic surgeon Boris Paskhover. So maybe hold off on that nose job — at least, until you’ve seen a decent portrait photo of yourself.

Last year, more than half of plastic surgeons were approached by patients who wanted to look better in selfies, according to a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. But selfies don’t actually reflect what people look like in the flesh, says Paskhover, who works at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “They take out their phone and they say, ‘Look at this picture, look how big my nose looks,’” he says. “I went out to prove why selfies don’t look like the real person, why they’re distorted.”
Most smartphone cameras have wide-angle lenses, says The Verge’s creative director James Bareham, and close-ups with wide-angle lenses cause distortion that makes objects closer to the camera — like, say, a nose — look larger. “It’s kind of one of the basics of photography: don’t shoot portraits on a wide-angle lens because you will look terrible,” Bareham says

Seems pretty obvious now, but I'm sure I'm not the only non-photographer who was unaware of this fact.

I think phone manufacturers should take this into consideration. It's probably not best to use a wide-angle lens for the front ("selfie") camera, the way you do for the normal (back of the phone) camera. On the other hand, if you're holding at arm's length (or less) for taking a selfie or for video-chatting, a portrait lens might not be able to capture you're entire head.

I wonder if the advanced image processing software of a modern smart phone could correct these wide-angle lens effects. Given that there are already software packages for other kinds of lens corrections, this might be a viable option.

Is anyone at Apple or Google reading this? If you are, please take this article as a feature request on my part.

Friday, February 23, 2018

My Disneyworld vacation - the parks

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Part 2 of 3.

This article describes the things my wife and I did at the parks in Disney World.

This was not our first trip. It was my sixth (since the early 80's) and my wife's third trip. As such, there was no compelling desire to rush through and see everything as quickly as possible. We were both familiar with the main attractions and as such were able to focus on recent additions and our favorites.

With that in mind, here are the highlights of what we saw at each of the four parks.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

My Disneyworld vacation - overview

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Part 1 of 3

My wife and I just returned from a week vacation to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was a great trip. A lot of fun, but unfortunately not without its share of headaches as well.

This article is the first of three, describing our trip. This one is an overview of the trip, discussing the planning, dining plans and travel. Subsequent articles will discuss what we did there and about the restaurants we ate at.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Washington Free Beacon: MSNBC Shows Error-Ridden Graphic on Trump’s Approval Rating

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MSNBC Shows Error-Ridden Graphic on Trump’s Approval Rating
BY: Katelyn Caralle,

Host Katy Tur said she usually does not like to "rely too heavily on numbers" but wanted to discuss this poll in particular.

But the graphic that appeared on screen, showing seven states and their corresponding approval and disapproval ratings for the president, was laden with errors.

According to the graphic, only two percent of Pennsylvanians approve of Trump's job performance, while 53 percent disapprove. The actual poll shows that 42 percent of Pennsylvania residents approve of the president.

Furthermore, five of the seven states' names on the MSNBC graphic were paired with the wrong image of a U.S. state.

Very embarrassing, especially given the fact that the previous day, MSNBC slammed the Republicans for a typo on invitations to the State Of The Union address.

You know what they say about people in glass houses...

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Nine (and a fraction) short movie reviews

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I recently had to take a business trip to Singapore. This is a very long trip from Virginia (about 24 hours each way, including a connection), and since I can never sleep much on a plane, I had the opportunity to watch a lot of movies. I ended up watching nine and drifted in and out of sleep watching a tenth.

Because I'm crazy enough to think others might want my opinion, here's the list of films, complete with trailers and my comments. No plot-summaries (you can follow the IMDB links and watch the trailers for that), just my random comments and opinions.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

GM to offer fully autonomous ride-sharing in 2019

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No pedal to the metal in GM's planned self-driving Cruise AV car
Nick Carey, Paul Lienert, Reuters, January 12, 2018 / 1:07 PM

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N) is seeking U.S. government approval for a fully autonomous car - one without a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal - to enter the automaker’s first commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019, executives said.
GM is part of a growing throng of vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and tech startups seeking to develop so-called robo-taxis over the next three years in North America, Europe and Asia. Most of those companies have one or more partners.
GM wants to control its own self-driving fleet partly because of the tremendous revenue potential it sees in selling related services, from e-commerce to infotainment, to consumers riding in those vehicles.

At a Nov. 30 briefing in San Francisco, GM’s Ammann told investors the lifetime revenue generation of one of its self-driving cars could eventually be “several hundred thousands of dollars.” That compares with the $30,000 on average that GM collects today for one of its vehicles, mostly derived from the initial sale.

GM’s Cruise AV is equipped with the automaker’s fourth-generation self-driving software and hardware, including 21 radars, 16 cameras and five lidars - sensing devices that use laser light to help autonomous cars “see” nearby objects and obstacles.

This is amazing. Two years from now, we will be seeing true driverless cars on the road, at least in some cities in the US. It may be a while before the tech matures enough to let us have this capability for ourselves - to own one and use it everywhere we currently drive, but this is still an incredible next step.