Circus

“And I kept hacking at Hewlett Packard until it was only this big”

I can’t quite get my head around the crazy this week. Ted Cruz announced his Veep running mate today — despite the facts that a) that usually is reserved for actual nominees and b) that usually gets done so as to shore up alliances and produce the strongest overall ticket. And who was his pick? A retired General maybe? A well-liked Governor, perhaps? Wait, no, maybe a member of Bush’s cabinet?

Nope. Failed candidate, failed CEO, and barely passed the Turing test: Carly Fiorina. See, picking a veep is something you do to make your ticket more likable, not less. But I suppose this is what desperation looks like.

Meanwhile, one of the Koch Brothers has gotten disgusted with the clowns coming out of the circus they’ve been funding. As the supposed Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” More accurate in this case: “Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.”

In Closing: a couple items on the job prospects of the Millennials and others; who am I kidding, I’m not gonna write a whole post about Harriet Tubman; Juice; British notice reality of a trade agreement; Judge points out the actual meaning of “in plain sight’; and oops.

Congress Still Wants to Make Your Phone Insecure

Over a million dollars of tax money later, the Feds found somebody to crack one iPhone. And what did they find? As predicted, nothing of value.

That isn’t stopping the Feds from trying to make you less secure (not that you are terribly secure now). After all, the location of a ticking time bomb might someday be in somebody’s phone! The bill on the table has been called “technically illiterate,” “unworkable,” and “a firing offense.” You might want to take a minute to remind your Senators and Representatives that you vote.

In other news, a meddling judge said that the FBI can’t get around the need for an actual warrant by just hacking suspected perps. Let’s hear it for meddling judges.

Just a reminder, folks: uawsw

In Closing: a mighty suspicious coincidence; power shopping; the piano; and a double dose of Prince.

The Other Side of the Shorties

Hey folks, I’m in the final push towards finishing this degree, so no promises regarding regular posting. So, here’s the shorties!

It’s easy to go after the more numerous target: yeah sure, doctors make a bunch of money. So if you’re trying to reduce medical costs, they have a target painted on their collective back.  Kindly don’t pay attention to the boatload of money healthcare organizations spend trying to get paid, and certainly don’t pay attention to profits.

Disconnect: To listen to the media, this proposed law in New York would let cops see if you’ve been texting before a crash. However, to listen to cops and the manufacturer of the product, it just says if you’ve been “using” your phone. So, can it tell whether I was “using” the phone legally with a hands free device? Can it tell whether I was “using” the phone to stream music through my stereo? Can it tell whether it was actually being “used” by a passenger? And can it tell whether the “use” was something I initiated, or a push notification from an app or my carrier? Unless the answer to all of the above is “yes” — and I find that doubtful — this is a dumb idea.

Vintage Vegas: nightlife.

The Freaking TPP: Maintaining [New] Balance.

Didn’t I say this?: Seriously, didn’t I say Google already had all the information? Oh, yeah. I did.

Jinkies!: Korean Pirate Ghost Ships!

And that’s all for tonight.

Straight Shooter

Or, “Oh Nicky”

This brave dog is Nicky. Nicky was shot and killed in the line of duty here in Las Vegas. This made the national news. So a few days went by, and some people started to wonder how come the criminal hadn’t been charged with capital murder of a police officer (I don’t know if K-9 units count, but I did hear some people ask), or even animal cruelty. It turns out that the shot was fired by a cop: Nicky was killed by “friendly fire.”

Now, when I heard that I was even more sad. But I also remembered this old post from 6 years ago.  It took 7 cops 81 shots to kill one bad guy? I really don’t have a problem with cops shooting bad guys now and again, but they should actually hit what they fire at!

Just maybe Vegas cops need to spend some time on the freaking firing range learning to hit their targets.

In Closing: Lawmakers are really trying to make encryption worthless (thus killing the tech industry in America, promoting identity theft and other cybercrimes, and not really doing jack about terrorists); Google doesn’t trust anybody; the sad truth about all those jobs being created; the neighborhood you live in influences how much activity you get; and sugar.

 

The Little Search Engine that Thought it was Smarter than Me

I’ve been using search engines and Boolean search terms since literally before there was a Google.  Back in the old days, you actually had to use some care and know some things about your topic before you started. Some of those search engines were sufficiently dim that — no joke — a search for “ants” might turn up restaurANTS and consultANTS. This actually happened to a lady I know.

Search engines got better and more numerous in the late 90s and early 2000s. Each had its own strength and weaknesses. On the Macintosh, there was actually a tool that let you use one search query on multiple search engines. This was a boon to me, since I was working as a researcher at the time. I could get Yahoo and Lycos and Ask Jeeves and all those other search engines to dance together and spit out what my bosses wanted to know in far less time than most people — partly because I knew what to ask.

Then this wonderful new search engine called Google came to my attention. It blew all the competition out of the water. Google was so good at what it did that “to Google” replaced “to do a web search” in our collective vocabularies. Over the years, Google got mostly better at finding what most people want to know. You could start asking it questions: what is the Capital of France; where can I get Thai food in Seattle; what is the airspeed of an unladen swallow? By the way, Google autocompletes that last one by the time you get 2 letters in to “airspeed.”

And here’s where it started getting dumber. It sounds like a brilliant idea to tailor your searches towards your history, right? If you are constantly looking up medical articles, you are likely to want more. Ok, but what if you were looking up anti-vaccine arguments for a school project? Google will happily help you make a tin-foil hat. Look up arguments against Hillary Clinton? Be prepared for biased articles every time you want to know about politics. There is a way to turn this feature off, and I recommend it. I have no idea how many arguments on the internet center on “Look, every time I search Google on this issue, X comes up.” Yeah, because Google decided that’s what you want to hear!

This ability of Google to find what it thinks you want instead of what you actually asked comes up in odd places. This brings me to this morning’s adventure. I am doing research on a specific zip code for a project:

  • How many parks are there in my target zip code, Google? Well, here’s a park in the next zip code over — because surely you actually want information on nearby parks, right?
  • What grocery stores are there in that zip code, Google? Well, there’s these 3, but wouldn’t you rather shop at the better-rated store across the street in the next zip code? And hey, will a convenience store do? And what about the places that you usually shop at a mile farther down the road? They’re open and traffic is clear!

In the old days, a search engine would have been literalist. Yes, the convenience stores would have turned up as grocery stores because most of them carry certain basic grocery products. But if that address didn’t have the right zip code at the end, it would not have turned up. I concede that most of the time “near” is a better answer. However, sometimes precision matters.