Thursday, August 06, 2020

New York City: It will cost you $10,000 to visit our city

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NYC Mayor de Blasio sets up COVID-19 quarantine checkpoints at city's bridges and tunnels, threatens violators with $10,000 fines
Chris Field, The Blaze. August 05, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be seriously cracking down on anyone coming from the nearly three dozen states that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has placed on a must-quarantine list.

The mayor's crackdown includes randomized checks at bridges and tunnels into the city as well as fines of up to $10,000 for failing to follow quarantine orders.

The mayor declared during a press briefing Wednesday that New York would be immediately instituting a number of checkpoints at major city entry points, WINS-AM reported. The goal is to make sure that people traveling into the city from Cuomo's travel advisory list understand that they must quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Does anyone else think that this is the first step on the road permanently sealing off New York City from the rest of the world a-la that dumb 80's movie, Escape From new York?

Monday, August 03, 2020

IEEE Spectrum: High Performance Ornithopter Drone Is Quiet, Efficient, and Safe

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High Performance Ornithopter Drone Is Quiet, Efficient, and Safe
By Evan Ackerman. Posted 03 Aug 2020 | 19:50 GMT

In Science Robotics last week, a group of roboticists from Singapore, Australia, China, and Taiwan described a new design for a flapping-wing robot that offers enough thrust and control authority to make stable transitions between aggressive flight modes—like flipping and diving—while also being able to efficiently glide and gently land. While still more complex than a quadrotor in both hardware and software, this ornithopter’s advantages might make it worthwhile.

With the ability to take off, hover, glide, land softly, maneuver acrobatically, fly quietly, and interact with its environment in a way that’s not (immediately) catastrophic, flapping-wing drones easily offer enough advantages to keep them interesting. Now that ornithopters been shown to be even more efficient than rotorcraft, the researchers plan to focus on autonomy with the goal of moving their robot toward real-world usefulness.

The flight patterns of this ornithopter remind me a bit of what some pilots have described during UFO sightings. Which makes me wonder if the Air Force was experimenting with them back in the 50's and 60's.

Friday, July 31, 2020

IEEE Spectrum: Video Game Approved as Prescription Medicine

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Video Game Approved as Prescription Medicine
By Mark Anderson. 31 Jul 2020 | 15:00 GMT

U.S. Drug safety agency says EndeavorRx has proven therapeutic effect

On 15 June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of a first-person racing game called EndeavorRx. Boston-based Akili Interactive Labs, maker of the game, says its racer was originally licensed from the lab of Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. The company touts four peer-reviewed studies (in PLOS One, The Lancet Digital Health, The Journal of Autism, and Developmental Disorders) as well as one paper in process as support for its claims that EndeavorRx significantly improves clinical markers of attention in patients with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

“EndeavorRx looks and feels like a traditional game, but it’s very different,” says Matt Omernick, Akili cofounder and the company’s chief creative officer. “EndeavorRx uses a video-game experience to present specific sensory stimuli and simultaneous motor challenges designed to target and activate the prefrontal cortex of the brain.... As a child progresses in game play, the technology is continuously measuring their performance and using adaptive algorithms to adjust the difficulty and personalize the treatment experience for each individual.”

But is it a fun game? And can you get it without a prescription?

I'm reminded of the early days of Sesame Street. The show was originally invented for the purpose of providing remedial education for those students that couldn't keep up in school. An unexpected bonus was that it also improved the education of students that were not having problems in school.

I wonder if this could end up being similar. While designed to help people with ADHD, I wonder if it could improve various mental/cognitive skills in people without ADHD. And if it's a fun game, then there's really no downside.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

CBS News: Vote-by-mail experiment reveals potential problems within postal voting system ahead of November election

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Vote-by-mail experiment reveals potential problems within postal voting system ahead of November election
CBS News. July 24, 2020, 8:58 AM

Many Americans are expected to vote by mail for the first time in November 2020 because of coronavirus concerns, so "CBS This Morning" sent out 100 mock ballots, simulating 100 voters in locations across Philadelphia, in an experiment to see how long one should give themselves to make sure their vote counts.
For the experiment, a P.O. box was set up to represent a local election office. A few days after the initial ballots were mailed, 100 more were sent.

The mock ballots used the same size envelope and same class of mail as real ballots, and even had mock votes folded in to approximate the weight. The biggest difference: real mail-in ballots have a logo that is meant to expedite them. "CBS This Morning" was unable to include [it in] the trial.

A week after initial ballots were sent, most ballots appeared to be missing from the P.O. box.
Out of the initial batch mailed a week earlier, 97 out of 100 votes had arrived. Three simulated persons, or 3% of voters, were effectively disenfranchised by mail by giving their ballots a week to arrive. In a close election, 3% could be pivotal.

Four days after mailing the second batch of mock ballots, 21% of the votes hadn't arrived.

Needless to say, I am not surprised by this. And neither are the Philadelphia residents CBS interviewed. In the video, everybody interviewed said that they wouldn't trust the post office with something as important as their vote. Election officials work very hard to make sure they count every vote they receive by the deadline, but they have no way to make sure the ballots are delivered to them on time.

I, myself, have had critical mail go missing. Not a vote, but one of my estimated tax payments went missing last year. I had to have my bank issue a stop-payment on the cheque and mail another. I'm just glad the government didn't force me to pay a penalty after that screw-up.

My advice to you:

  • If you have to mail something important, send it two weeks before it needs to arrive. Consider paying for a return receipt (as proof that it was delivered) and/or sending it priority mail in order to increase the odds of on-time delivery.
  • Vote in person. I know everybody is worried about getting the coronavirus, but unless you're in a high-risk category, the risk is going to be very low. Especially if you keep your distance from others. I don't know about all locations, but where I live, polling places enforce social distancing. It's less risky than going to the grocery store. If you're OK with going out shopping, then you should be OK with going to vote.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Red State: The 1619 Project’s Creator Admits It’s Not Really History

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The 1619 Project’s Creator Admits It’s Not Really History
Posted at 11:45 am on July 27, 2020 by Joe Cunningham

The 1619 Project, an ideologically-driven revisionist history of the United States, has been getting a lot of attention over the last several days as Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton threatened legislation to defund any school that uses any curriculum based on it.
Nikole Hannah-Jones took to Twitter Monday morning to walk back the assertion that the 1619 Project was “a history,” insisting that it was a project of journalism:

"I’ve always said that the 1619 Project is not a history. It is a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative and, therefore, the national memory. The project has always been as much about the present as it is the past."

That tweets here are part of a larger thread where Hannah-Jones tries to clarify the purpose of the project. However, the treatment of the 1619 Project has been pushed by her, the New York Times, and supporters as THE definitive history of the United States, arguing that the “true” history of the nation stemmed from the arrival of the first slave ship in 1619, rather than from the actual Declaration of Independence from Great Britain and the subject structuring of the United States Constitution.

Now that the author herself admits that this entire "project" is nothing but revisionist history propaganda, can we stop mandating that the public schools teach it our children?

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Red State: Mike Rowe Answers a Fan Letter About COVID-19 — It Probably Wasn’t the Answer They Expected

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Mike Rowe Answers a Fan Letter About COVID-19 — It Probably Wasn’t the Answer They Expected
by Becca Lower. 10:00 am on July 24, 2020

[A] fan asked Mike a question about the Wuhan coronavirus… and I’m not too sure she got the answer she expected.

She wrote:

“Mike. In a recent post, you said you’ve been to Tennessee and Georgia, giving speeches and filming for your new show. Before that, you were on the road shooting for Dirty Jobs. Is it really so important to film a television show in the midst of pandemic? Is it responsible of you to encourage this kind of behavior when infection rates are spiking? Don’t you watch the news? More and more cases every day – aren’t you concerned?

The answer is far too long to re-post here, but please go and read the entire article to see Mike's wonderfully well thought-out answer. You may not want to change anything you're doing after reading it, but hopefully it will help you replace media-hyped fear with facts and reasoned analysis.

Fox Business: FBI warns US companies about Chinese tax software embedded with hidden malware

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FBI warns US companies about Chinese tax software embedded with hidden malware
By Michael Ruiz. July 24, 2020

Weeks after a cybersecurity firm uncovered backdoor malware embedded in mandatory Chinese tax software, the FBI is reportedly warning U.S. companies doing business in China.

The software imposes a major security risk on victim companies – requiring them to use one of only two approved programs to pay their taxes – both of which have been found embedded with vulnerabilities, according to Trustwave, the cybersecurity firm.

Due to the comprimised security issues, the FBI sent out a warning Thursday to companies in the health care, chemical and finance industries, the technology news outlet ZDNet reported.

Quck summary. In order to do business in China, you are legally required to run certain specific software programs in order to pay Chinese taxes. This software is infected with malware, which installs backdoors into the computer, granting access to all of its files and all of its network connections. The data is being sent to unknown servers in China.

Tell me again, why companies continue to think it's a good idea to conduct business in China? You get cheap labor and the potential for Chinese sales in excahge for what? The Chinese government stealing all of your confidential data, including your trade secrets and financial information. Can anyone honestly claim that this is an acceptable cost?

Friday, July 24, 2020

IEEE Spectrum: How to Look People in the Eye While Videoconferencing

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How to Look People in the Eye While Videoconferencing
By David Schneider. 24 Jul 2020 | 19:00 GMT

Many of us are spending more time videoconferencing than we’ve ever done before. And that situation probably won’t be changing anytime soon.

One thing that’s become painfully obvious to me during the past few months is that some people are more conscientious than others about how they present themselves. The worst offenders position themselves in front of a window, forcing others to view them in silhouette and making me wonder whether I’m in a business meeting or watching “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

I try to avoid such obvious videoconferencing faux pas. But there’s one fundamental awkwardness that no amount of strategic laptop positioning can solve: not being able to make eye contact with other participants because they, like me, are looking at their screens rather than their Web cameras. Everyone appears to be casting their gaze downward, as if bored or perhaps telling a lie. It’s nearly impossible to avoid that annoying tendency—not without some drastic action.

The action in my case was to construct something I’d seen featured on Hackaday, a gizmo designed by a video blogger that makes clever use of a semitransparent mirror—basically the same strategy used for teleprompters but at a fraction of the cost and with materials I could easily scavenge or order. With such a mirror, you can view the screen straight on while also looking directly at an external webcam. This contraption, which I’ve taken to calling my Zoom Box, allows me to look other people right in the eye while in a Zoom or Webex meeting with them.

Awesome bit of geekery. A must-have device for anyone that regularly uses video conferencing.

The Federalist: Segregated Denver Yoga Chain Shut Down For Insufficient Wokeness

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Segregated Denver Yoga Chain Shut Down For Insufficient Wokeness
By Tristan Justice. July 24, 2020

If one still needed more proof that there’s no pleasing our new woke overlords, look no further than the story of an exhaustively woke Denver-based yoga chain that just wasn’t woke enough despite its business being the wokest of the woke.

Last month, “Kindness Yoga,” which held person-of-color and LGBTQ-only nights where “white friends and allies” were not invited, was forced to shut down its nine studios and lay off 160 employees following online outrage from now-former teachers charging the franchise with “performative activism” and “tokenization of Black and brown bodies.”

Once again, reality proves that you can't win by surrendering to the mob. Eventually, the mob will chew you up and spit you out, leaving you to wonder how it is possible, since you gave in to all their demands.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Big League Politics: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler SHAMED By Leftist Mob After Appearing at Protest

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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler SHAMED By Leftist Mob After Appearing at Protest
By Richard Moorhead.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler made an appearance at one of the city’s nightly left-wing protests, which frequently devolve into violent riots, on Wednesday. It didn’t go well, with the crowd of leftists berating Wheeler, surrounding the Democratic mayor, cursing him out, and at one point dumping a bag of metal objects in front of him.

Let this be a lesson to elected leaders everywhere. Giving in to an anarchist mob will not work. They will hate you no matter what you do.