70 thoughts on “Hey! Check This Out (2018-)

  1. I’m not sure if you guys will like the following Atlantic articles, but I think both are important for the well-being and viability of our country going forward. They touch on racism and white anxiety and anger, which I think pose an existential threat to the nation, at least if we don’t deal with them very well.

    The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The Nationalist’s Delusion by Adam Serwer

  2. From WaPo: Here’s What Went Wrong with that Hawai’i Missile Alert, FCC Says

    This is not good:

    The Hawaii employee who sent out a false alarm warning of an incoming missile attack earlier this month said he misunderstood that a drill was underway and believed that a ballistic missile had actually been fired at the state, authorities said Tuesday.

    Officials also revealed that the errant Jan. 13 alert, which sent waves of panic across the Hawaiian islands, was not the first such mix-up for the employee. At least twice before the false alarm, he “has confused real life events and drills,” a state investigation concluded, part of a troubled work history that had “been a source of concern . . . for over 10 years” to his co-workers.

    Letting a bad employee continue to work is totally believable to me, but I would think, that with a job so critical, things would be different. To win back my confidence, I feel like the State has to reassure me that they have a reviewed the job performance of employees, and that they can and will remove employees that are not capable of doing the job. I’m not sure how that can prove to me that they’ll do this, but it’s something the better at least think about.

  3. The Goal of Disinformation

  4. This is the Hardest Video Game I’ve Seen

    Especially of the old school variety. I’ve never seen this game, never played it, but I agree with the comment.

    I laughed out loud several times while watching this.

  5. I’m guessing the game doesn’t exist. The video is just a joke right? I mean I’m sure you can play it, but it’s not a “real” game. Either way, you are right it was sort of funny.

    1. Not sure what you mean by “real” game. Do you mean a game that people could buy and play on their game consoles, a game that was coin operated? I think you could/can purchase it. I’ve seen some youtube videos of people trying to play it.

      In any event, watching the game is interesting because it dramatically reduces safe spots and the time you can take to decide or make a maneuver. It makes you realize how many of these spots there are in the typical video game–which is wholly appropriate, especially if you had to pay to play. If this where a coin operated game, there’s no way people would play it, unless you started off with fifty lives or something like that.

  6. Are we currently living in a Matrix-like simulation?

    This just seems like a modern update of the Zhuangzi anecdote about how, after dreaming about being a buttefuly, he wondered if he was a actually a butterfly dreaming it was a human.

    The video mentions religion, and I think that the simulation idea is not a bad simile representing the metaphysics relating to God and humanity. If God is the absolute upon which reality is built–that is, everything that exists depends on God. Thinking of reality as a simulation might be one model to help us understand this.

    Of course, for atheists, some intelligent life form that existed thousands if not millions of years before us would replace God. This intelligent civilization created simulation of the universe, which created other simulations, and we’re just one of them.

    What I don’t get is why Musk believes we’re doomed if civilization stops advancing. Any thoughts on that?

  7. The Geeks Who Put a Stop to Pennsylvania’s Partisan Gerrymandering is a pretty neat (somewhat accessible) explanation of how computer models of hypothetical maps prove that the contested Pennsylvania Congressional district map is gerrymandered. It’s pretty cool stuff, and I think if I could start my college education over, this is the kind of thing I would really be drawn to.

    If I could, I would ask one of the analysts about appying his metric to a geographically strange place like Hawaii, which is divided by islands, and those islands’ regions are divided by strange and differing geographic features. This guy basic tests a district for its compactness and simplicity, which makes a lot of sense in areas that are pretty flat.

    My favorite quote from the piece: ““Metrics are just evidence,” says Jacobson. “It’s always helpful to have more evidence not less.”

    This is Tim Kurkjian’s argument about advanced metrics in baseball. More evidence is better than less evidence. Kurkjian is pretty much a moderate in the baseball world when it comes to the science-vs-religion tug-o-war, but he’s careful to say more evidence comes in different forms.

    Now I’m itching to look at Hawaii’s local maps. We only have two seats in the national House of Representatives, so that districting almost doesn’t matter, and I kind of think what we have makes sense, which is basically Honolulu in one district and the rest of the state in the other.

  8. From The Atlantic, What I Saw Treating the Victims from Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns. The author is a radiologist who shares the difference between wounds from an AR-15 on other guns. The difference is dramatic and horrific. One of the big takeaways: AR-15 wounds are way more lethal that wounds from handguns–you’re chances of survival are far less with the former, which seems like a good reason to ban or highly regulate the weapon. Also, it’s crazy that Congress prohibits the CDC from studying gun deaths.

  9. The Onion Becoming Superfluous

    (I’m pretty sure the corked broom was a joke, although apropos of the post title, it’s hard to tell these days!)

  10. This graphic is pretty cool. How Biased is Your Primary News Source?. I like where the NYT and Wall Street Journal line up against each other. I favor the Washington Post but that’s because for some reason I feel more connected to Washington than to NY; however, I do consider the NYT the newspaper of the United States.

    Then again, I also am in a comment-opinion-analysis avoidance phase, trying to stick to news and allowing some amount of commentary every couple of days or so. I was surprised to see Reid cite the Washington Times, which I consider a bit too far on the opinion side of the fact-opinion axis, but this study puts it right at the level of CNN, which I consider to be a reasonable amount of opinion vs. fact. On the other hand, I only read a tiny handful of pieces on CNN, maybe one or two per week, depending on how interesting I find whatever Chris Cillizza is doing. What I’m trying to say is I don’t find the news part of CNN as valuable to me as the news part of NYT or WaPo, which could explain my personal avoidance of the Washington Times.

    Kind of a cool thing. I want to read the original publication for its methodology.

  11. I’m not comfortable with what sounds like a fact-opinion dichotomy, where “fact” is more trustworthy and reliable, and “opinion” is almost the opposite. To be clear, I’m not sure you’re saying this, but if you are, I don’t really agree with this framework. To me, the issue isn’t whether articles have more fact or opinion, but the quality of thinking and the degree to which the articles are reasonable–and yes, fact-based. Opinions like this are good, not bad in my opinion. And I tend to think that extreme avoidance of opinions can hurt journalism.

    I agree with you, though–looking at the methodology would be interesting.

  12. It’s not a dichotomy, it’s an amount of space dedicated to each. In the news business, they talk about ratios all the time: editorial (that is, content) vs advertising. opinion vs. fact. The axis measure the amount of one vs. the amount of the other. I’m actually surprised the WaPo isn’t further down in the opinion direction, since I feel like I’m ducking their commentary all the time.

  13. Okay, but you understand that there’s a difference between a news piece and an opinion-editorial-analysis piece, right? That’s what the thing is measuring. The number (or the amount of space) for one type and the number for the other type.

  14. OK, I guess I’m reading the first graph wrong. Doesn’t the X-axis go from liberal to conservative?

    By the way, I didn’t really understand the tyranny-freedom axis. What do they mean by that?

    Also, why is RT and Sputnik on there? Speaking of which, I forgot to mention that some other specific criteria: How often are publications factually accurate in their reporting? To what degree to publications operate in good faith, versus intentionally make up stories or situations where a political agenda supersedes journalism (e.g., propaganda). I think publications should be judged on these sort of thing more than their political perspectives and whether they have more opinions versus facts.

  15. The x-axis is liberal to conservative, yes. The y-axis is amount of news vs. amount of opinion-editorial-analysis.

    That tyranny graph was published by InfoWars in response to the original graph. You didn’t read the article, did you?

  16. I did read it, but I guess I didn’t read it carefully enough….OK I just went to look at the page. I’m looking at the descriptors on the Y-Axis, which I didn’t read the first time, mainly because they were really tiny….The scale is weird. So original fact reporting is superior to complex analysis? I sort of see those as equally important; same with fair persuasion.

  17. I don’t think anyone’s saying original news reporting is superior to complex analysis. On the graphic you’re looking at, that would be like saying being slightly conservative is better than being slightly liberal. Just because it’s “up” on the chart doesn’t mean news is better.

    But if we’re talking about biased media, opinion is more biased than fact, just as far left and far right are more biased than moderate. So the least biased would be the channels near the middle of the x-axis and higher on the y-axis, right?

    Back to news vs. opinion: I know you yearn for all kinds of context and analysis, and I respect that. However, there’s a reason news has traditionally been saved for the front section and opinion for further back in the (physical) newspaper. Journalists consider news far more important. And if people get their news primarily from sources that skew heavily in favor of (even complex) analysis, how good is their news? Maybe they have deeper understanding about fewer topics, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Side note: When I wrote for my college paper, I got paid at a lower rate (about 20% lower) than staff reporters, even though I was an editor. My work was all opinion and analysis, while theirs was reporting the news. Far more valuable to us as a publication, at least as we saw our purpose.

  18. Just because it’s “up” on the chart doesn’t mean news is better.

    Right, but factual vs. fabricated or fair or unfair persuasion isn’t neutral like conservative liberal. I feel like factual nature of reporting, quality of arguments and the quality of arguments are separate axes.

    So the least biased would be the channels near the middle of the x-axis and higher on the y-axis, right?

    Yeah, I think that makes sense. But doesn’t this have the connotation that bias is bad, something undesirable? If so, I don’t care for lumping analysis and persuasion under the heading of bias.

    Journalists consider news far more important. And if people get their news primarily from sources that skew heavily in favor of (even complex) analysis, how good is their news?

    I might be able to agree that news might be more important, but I guess I guess I don’t see the gap as wide as others. And maybe my larger objection is to a conception of news that pretends that journalists can be purely objective–that subjective judgments are both avoidable and inherently bad.

  19. Mitchell, of course, I thought of you. I also cringed, and wondered if I should post a link. I didn’t have a positive reaction to seeing the “excising” part. I have no idea how you’re going to respond, but I’ll just post this.

    (I stopped reading at some point, because I’m probably going to reread this soon.)

  20. There’s a similar piece in WaPo today. Thanks for the link. There’s no way the film can ruin the book for me so I don’t care what they do.

  21. More Granular Details of How Office of President Works and Interesting Description of the Work of Legislatures

  22. I sometimes get annoyed when I see people recommend a thread saying something like, “Do yourself a favor and read this,” or something to that effect. I say “annoyed” because on one level the sales pitch does pique my curiosity, but I’ve had enough experiences where I feel ripped off that I hesitate. “Should I really take the time to read this?” I think. It can be annoying being in this position. Here’s a thread like that, and while it may not be earth-shattering, I did not felt the people who recommended the threat were justified in doing so.

  23. I guess that’s a sound policy. I mean, it could result in you missing out on something you would enjoy or find insightful, but the chances that this will really matter would be really low. In other words, if you don’t read it, you’re probably not missing out on much.

  24. It’s not so much a policy (except maybe with email attachments, when it’s a matter of safe computing) as an expectation that people respect my time. I don’t even have time to click everything I want to read; if someone else wants me to bump something up the list, that’s great, but tell me what you’re asking me to click and tell me why. Sometimes, someone will direct something right at me, with just a “Mitchell, you should look at this,” and rather than click, I will ask, “What is it?”

    It’s not just time or safety, but avoidance. 🙂 I have a friend who likes to Rickroll me, but instead of using “Never Gonna Give You Up,” she uses photos of people eating balut. No thank you.

  25. By the way, with regard to the video above, I realized a few things:

    1. A lot of filmmakers (especially in Hollywood TV and film) don’t really care a lot about characters–not to the point where they want the emotions to be real. Maybe saying they don’t really care is unfair. It could be a function of the style favored by Hollywood filmmakers–although I’d guess commercial factors are the primary drivers of that style. I’m thinking not only of allowing the characters’ emotions and thinking space on the screen, but also allowing action sequences to be coherent, or providing plot developments that make sense. In a way it comes to down to caring about craft, about putting in the extra time to get things right. And a lot of Hollywood films just don’t do this.

    2. One notable exception–at least with regard to the characters and acting–Showtime’s Homeland. For a spy thriller, the acting stood out for me. The type of patience and waiting for emotions and thoughts to develop really stood out for me–especially with Claire Danes and Damian Lewis.

  26. What It’s like to be Black in America

    These are not feel-good threads, but they’re both worth reading in my opinion. I should say that I don’t know these people–I don’t know if what they’re saying is true. (I found them via re-tweets.) However, the stories aren’t hard to believe, and the sad thing is that I suspect they’re not rare. I found both to be profoundly sad. I got emotional on the first one, too.

  27. I thought this was hilarious. I could imagine as a scene from My Cousin Vinny, part 2.

  28. I’m not sure if you guys will find this interesting, but I did. (Note: I didn’t get to finish the second part.)

  29. I didn’t get to watch the 60 minutes piece, but will try to later.

    In the meantime, the following is kinda crazy–almost like that Bruce Lee video with him playing ping pong with the nunchaks.

    Most impressive thing you'll see today. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/tMn2sq4NO7— Whistle Sports (@WhistleSports) May 21, 2018

  30. I found this talk interesting. tl;dr Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon are too powerful and preventing the markets from functioning properly. Therefore, we should break them up. (He talks fast, and I could absorb all of his points, but I got the main ones.)

  31. I wonder if a company was ever forced to “break up”? I didn’t watch the entire clip that Reid posted, but I recently saw a 60 Minutes piece on how Google is a monopoly. According to the 60 Minutes story, Google is used for 90% of worldwide searches. That’s a ridiculous number. And yes they drive all traffic to these searches to their own company as much as possible. Basically, now Google doesn’t produce the most relevant search results, but the results that pad their own pockets, which is why I would rather use Yahoo in most cases.

    I don’t know if we can “break up” these companies, but US should take a serious look at a moratorium on these guys acquiring new companies. Most start-ups’ dream is one of these big companies (actually called FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) by stock market guys) buy them out, so this moratorium may have other implications, but the size and power of these companies are getting ridiculous.

  32. AT&T was forced to break up into regional “baby bells” in 1984.

    I haven’t looked at this video yet, but Google is a dominant force in its market, but this is because it created a product that was far better than its competition, in a field where it was a relative latecomer. Until Google came upon the scene, most people were using Lycos, Yahoo, or Webcrawler (which was no longer in operation when Google was introduced, I think). Web geeks preferred Alta Vista, the best engine if you knew how to use it.

    We might call it a monopoly now, but you could have said the same for MySpace in social networks just 15 years ago. The web is a fickle space. Give users a reason to use something else and they absolutely will. Should Google be broken up simply because it’s so popular? This doesn’t seem right to me.

    Before Walgreens opened its first store on Oahu, Longs had something like an 85% share of its market in Hawaii. I was at first not thrilled about Walgreens, but when a Walgreens executive shared that stat, I was like, “Welcome to Hawaii, Walgreens!” I don’t know what the market numbers look like now, but I haven’t seen any Walgreens closures, so the stores must be doing okay — not because a steel grip on the market was broken up by the government, but because competition saw a place to make some room and did so.

    For a while, shortly after CVS bought Longs, the local Longs stores were pretty crappy. So when Walgreens came along, I was happy to shift my loyalties (and I have waxed poetic about how great I used to think Longs was). Now Walgreens has gotten pretty crappy, and CVS has done some corporate social initiatives I totally admire. I’m back on the Longs train.

    If something better comes along, people will use it. Breaking up Google seems like a bad idea.

    1. Edit: I just looked it up and WebCrawler is still a thing, but it’s a metasearch engine now, and not its own independent thing. Man, still online since 1994.

  33. I was about to watch that, but holy crap. It’s 32 minutes long? That guy’s going after a monopoly of my time!

    1. For what it’s worth, he crams in a lot of information in that time frame (at times he’s talking too fast in my opinion). I think if you watch about 10 minutes, you can get a lot of information, and you’ll get a good sense if you’re interested in hearing more.

  34. I wonder if a company was ever forced to “break up”?

    I think so. Two names pop into my head immediately: Ma Bell (phone company) and Standard Oil. I don’t know if this is accurate, but if I were playing Jeopardy!, those are the two companies I’d name.

    I also read this Atlantic article, How to Fight Amazon (Before You Turn 29), which I would recommend if you’re interested in this topic. The article focuses on Amazon, and here some interesting details (some of which are covered in the video, I believe):

    Amazon does not, in some respects, look like a monopoly. According to the National Retail Federation, it is only the country’s seventh-biggest retailer by total sales. It sells more than Target, but less than Walgreens. And Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, still generates nearly three times as much revenue as Amazon.
    Yet these numbers fail to capture Amazon’s online dominance. About 44 cents of every dollar that Americans spend online go to Amazon. (The next-biggest online retailer, Ebay, gets about six cents of that dollar.) They also miss Amazon’s prodigious growth. In 2010, when Khan graduated from college, Amazon employed 33,700 people. It now employs more than 560,000, and its search for a site for its second headquarters has turned cities and locales across the country into desperate supplicants. Three years ago, Amazon was worth less than Walmart. As of this year, it is three times as valuable as the big-box king.

    and

    For more than a decade, Wall Street allowed the company to plow any profits into price discounts. Partly as a result, Amazon has grown so large that it can undercut other companies just by announcing that it will soon compete with them. When Amazon purchased Whole Foods, its market cap rose by $15.6 billion—some $2 billion more than it paid for the chain. Meanwhile, the rest of the grocery industry immediately lost $37 billion in market value. (Amazon protests that it has no control over how investors value its competitors.)

  35. Should Google be broken up simply because it’s so popular? This doesn’t seem right to me.

    That’s not the reason.

  36. Try out this little experiment. You have to count the number of basketball passes made by the people in white shirts.

  37. I knew the results before I tried this, so it didn’t work for me. I wanted to see if it worked on you guys.

    By the way, I found that from a pretty interesting article. Tl dr; Some scientists and economists place too much emphasis on the idea that bias and a kind of blindness often prevent humans from seeing what is obvious. The author suggests that the questions or theories when making observations cause them to attend to certain details while missing others. This is unavoidable and useful way of focusing and attending to meaningful facts/details.

  38. Importance of Having 2 Factor Authentication to Your Email

    This thread goes shows examples of the spearphising attack on John Podesta. Setting up 2FA is not hard, and it seems worth doing.

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