Friday, December 12, 2014

Anthropologists are better than we think

MR posted the question: Are anthropologists better than you think? Apparently at least the US government thinks so.

Many independent scholars are critical of what they see as the US government's efforts to militarise social science in the service of war. In May 2008, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) wrote to the US government noting that the Pentagon lacks "the kind of infrastructure for evaluating anthropological [and other social science] research" in a way that involves "rigorous, balanced and objective peer review", ... 
Citing a summary critique of the programme sent to HTS directors by a former employee, Price reported that the HTS training scenarios "adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq" to domestic situations "in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order." 
One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to "identify those who were 'problem-solvers' and those who were 'problem-causers,' and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the 'desired end-state' of the military's strategy."
This is from the Guardian.

Is it time to return to print ads

There is something about print ads that isn't captured by electronic screens. Even more so now that it is entirely possible that:
Robot fraudsters account for nearly a quarter of “people” watching online video ads and more than one in 10 display ads, according to the largest investigation to date into the digital advertising industry.
Bot fraudsters infect unsuspecting computer users with malware – malicious software. Sophisticated botnets mimic the behaviour of online consumers, pausing at ads, watching videos, switching websites and even putting items in shopping carts. This fake traffic is often bought by publishers who are unaware their audience is fake.

Despite all the advances that the Internet has brought us - the business model remains selling ads - and this is the domain of the great technology giant of our time - Google whose ads are about as eye-catching as ... er, well nothing. It is also the domain of the same technology behemoth's video ads via You Tube which are as good as, er, TV ads?

So should businesses continue to advertise online via Google or any kind of broad ad generating system such as Amazon? Or should they focus on narrow channels as is already happening - via Facebook, Hulu, etc.? Does this spell the beginning of the end for Google's business model?

Things I never knew

Authorities warned of minor flooding along the Sacramento River in Tehama County and Cache Creek in Yolo County.
From the Pineapple Express. After all, YOLO.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Android + Java = ?

Java is so riddled with security flaws that I am not sure why Google decided not to offer an alternative language when it decided to release Android Studio. As far as I can tell this is just a switch from Eclipse to InteliJ. Even worse is the the fact that Java is still being used for new development.

It's time to kill Java but Google and its ilk are continuing to promote a language that is riddled with security problems thereby prolonging its useless life. Schools still teach the language without any discussion to about its security flaws.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I hate the switch back to standard time

It gets dark too early.
More time for nefarious elements of society to roam and search for prey.

As it is we already spend most of the year in DST.
Why not just make it permanent.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Remotely from Penang

I saw on NomadList the best places to live and work remotely (HT: MR) and was surprised that Penang was in the Top 20. The Telegraph also reproduced the list.

The Internet experience I had when I was there last year was disappointing to say the least. Wifi was spotty in our residence - the signal kept getting dropped. Okay - it might have been an equipment issue. When it worked however, there was a significant slowdown in Internet speeds around 5 pm and after. I'm not sure if it was due to the pipe in our neighborhood or not but I suspect that people got home from work and went on the Internet and overwhelmed the network.

We're going again and perhaps we'll experience something different this time - hopefully.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Teksi sapu meets the 21st century

Teksi sapu + Internet = UberX

I had been looking forward to this service coming to Malaysia especially Penang since public transportation there is virtually non-existent if you live in the Green Lane area. Even worse is the traffic which is comparable to being on the DC Beltway at rush hour except that in Penang it is everywhere during rush hour.

Unfortunately, like some jurisdictions in the US this is seen more as a threat to taxi companies than a way to alleviate congestion and perhaps even decrease pollution.

From the above link:
The Maryland Public Service Commission has labeled Uber a common carrier. It’s a move the company says could make it impossible for them to operate here in Maryland.
And from Malaysia:
Private vehicles offering a taxi-like service through the Uber mobile app are doing so illegally. 
They would face the full brunt of the law during a nationwide crackdown by the autho­rities from Oct 1, Road Transport Department (JPJ) director-general Datuk Seri Ismail Ahmad said yesterday. 
He said the service was akin to teksi sapu or kereta sapu as the vehicles were not licensed to carry fare-paying passengers.

Monday, October 13, 2014

On misreading "mending wall"

Possibly, the most famous line in the poem is "good fences make good neighbors".

How should it be interpreted or more generally is there a wrong interpretation? When trying to interpret a poem is there even a wrong interpretation? According to Andrew Sullivan, yes. In his post, Sullivan quotes a comment from one of his links:
The narrator of the poem is annoyed by his neighbor’s insistence that there has to be a fence between them. If only his neighbor would get beyond his father’s beliefs –originating in an old proverb –and reconsider his thinking.
Reading the poem, I actually don't detect any annoyance - puzzlement, perhaps, and even some mischievous questioning of why "good fences make good neighbors". Yet the speaker in the poem continues to participate in the annual ritual of rebuilding the wall.

An even more over the top critique of the positive interpretation of the phrase that good fences indeed make good neighbors is from Eleanor Barkhorn who appears not to have read the poem at all. She writes:
"Mending Wall" is a polemic against building walls that separate us from our neighbors—the poem opens with the line,"Something there is that doesn't love a wall" and goes on to describe the narrator's attempts to talk his neighbor out of putting one up.
Polemic? Hardly. Clever, yes. And the speaker never really tries to talk his neighbor out of rebuilding it. However barkborn has pointed out another often quoted line: "Something there that doesn't love a wall". Every year, the wall falls down - why? The cold New England winters and the frost buildup between the cracks as well as the expansion and contraction due to temperature changes is the something that doesn't love a wall. Yes, the speaker does seem to indicate that the natural state of the wall is for it to fall. There is a sense that the rebuilding of the wall is an annual ritual that he participates in despite his concerns - perhaps an acknowledgment that the wall is necessary - necessary for what?

Possibly this is the only time he sees his neighbor so the wall allows them to get together to rebuild it every year.  Possibly the wall delineates not only their property lines but also delineates each other's responsibility toward each other and the act of rebuilding the wall is one that reestablishes the unwritten responsibilities and rules.

There is no wrong way to interpret a poem although I don't really see Sullivan and Barkhorn arguing persuasively that good fences do not make good neighbors. Another comment comes from a defender of the humanities who says parenthetically:
In a like manner, how often has Frost’s “The Mending Wall” been quoted out of context in debates about immigration reform? “Good fences make good neighbors,” indeed.
His disdain for the line good fences make good neighbors is clear - yet he does not argue against it since that is not the point of his article. His argues why Dead Poets Society is such a bad movie because the students do not take part in careful reading or analysis of the texts that are in the movie. He writes:
In a hackneyed speech about resisting conformity that he seems to have delivered many times before, Keating invokes that oft-invoked but rarely understood chestnut, “The Road Not Taken”: “Robert Frost said, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood and I / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.’” 
Wha—? Has Keating actually read the poem from which he so blithely samples? For Robert Frost said no such thing: a character in his poem says it. And we’re meant to learn, over the course of that poem, that he’s wrong—that he’s both congratulating and kidding himself. He chooses his road ostensibly because “it was grassy and wanted wear”; but this description is contradicted in the very next lines—“Though as for that, the passing there / Had worn them really about the same,” and—more incredibly still—“both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black.” He wants to claim to have taken the exceptional road, if not the spiritual high road; but he knows on some level that it’s a hollow boast. 
Keating hasn’t actually read “The Road Not Taken” in any meaningful sense; rather, he’s adopted it, adapted it, made it his own—made it say what he wants it to say. His use of those closing lines, wrenched from their context, isn’t just wrong—it’s completely wrong, and Keating uses them to point a moral entirely different from that of Frost’s poem. (In a like manner, how often has Frost’s “The Mending Wall” been quoted out of context in debates about immigration reform? “Good fences make good neighbors,” indeed.)
As a student of poetry should know - sometimes there can be multiple interpretations of a poem each just as valid as he shows in his analysis of The Road Not Taken. Yes, Keating was wrong in that Frost didn't literally mean what he said. On the point that while the speaker of the poem may not have said something - it doesn't mean that the poet isn't the speaker of the poem - nor is the poem always about what it seems to say it is about.

In the end the all article really ends up showing is that the author decided to interpret it one way:  "He wants to claim to have taken the exceptional road, if not the spiritual high road; but he knows on some level that it’s a hollow boast." Although there are different interpretations as well:
"So the point of the poem is that everyone wants to look back and think that their choices matter. But in reality, s--t just happens the way that it happens, and it doesn’t matter."
In the end, both the author and Dead Poets Society are about equal in their defense of the humanities.

Friday, April 11, 2014

So much for open source, crowd source, and all other sources

The programming mistake that resulted in Heartbleed:
“I was working on improving OpenSSL and submitted numerous bug fixes and added new features…In one of the new features, unfortunately, I missed validating a variable containing a length.”
After he submitted the code, a reviewer “apparently also didn’t notice the missing validation,”  Seggelmann said, “so the error made its way from the development branch into the released version.”
Dr Seggelmann said the error he introduced was “quite trivial,” but acknowledged that its impact was “severe.”
The model relies on crowds except when crowds are sparse (oxymoron?) and quick reaction. This model applies to Wikipedia and financial markets as well. It relies even more strongly on so-called "self-correcting" mechanisms since crowds can also act like herds.

Apparently, mistakes such as Seggelmann’s aren’t rare. Programmers on Reddit sympathized with him and swapped stories of their own coding errors.
“Really, the only reason that most of us haven’t caused such a massive f—up is that we’ve never been given the opportunity,” one wrote.
So if errors like these are easy to make and have potentially disastrous consequences, why isn’t something being done?
“It would be better if more people helped improving [OpenSSL],” Seggelmann told Mashable via e-mail. “The more people look at it, the less likely errors like this occur.”

Apparently not a conspiracy either:

Seggelmann, who lives in M√ľnster, Germany, told the Herald he didn’t insert the error on purpose, as some conspiracy theorists have suggested.
“It was a simple programming error in a new feature, which unfortunately occurred in a security relevant area,” he said. ”It was not intended at all, especially since I have previously fixed OpenSSL bugs myself, and was trying to contribute to the project.”

But what if some agency hypnotized him to make the mistake? Conspiracies can never die - they just take on a different form.


Headline in WaPo:

Harvard journal says “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” is ancient, not a modern forgery

So does this mean it's an ancient forgery?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Guess the missing word

Woolley believes this is because the iPod material made______ more effective teachers. They had professional videos illustrating their lessons, and language support. “You’re not substituting the technology for face to face conversations,” he said. “You’re using technology as an adjunct, to better make a point.” Woolley felt that the technology, instead of distracting _______, inspired them. “It gave them more enthusiasm,” he said, “because it had more success and they were having more fun.”
The word is: missionaries.

Or perhaps more aptly, this is what colleges and MOOCs can learn from the the CoLDS.