Archive for Dyssynergy

The Information Highwaymen

The nature of the American economy, circa 2018? Nothing natural about it, the Z Man might tell you:

Sure, there are still people coming up with ideas to solve old problems, but most of what is called economic activity is just organized theft. Some clever guy figures out how to monetize the social capital of a part of society and then proceeds to sell it off. Amazon is an obvious example of this. There will be no little league teams sponsored by Amazon. There were always little league teams sponsored by the local store owners. That’s all gone because Amazon cannibalized it.

The internet economy is pretty much just the monetization of existing ideas, along with the artificial creation of bottlenecks. Apple and Google control the mobile space, so they now operate as toll takers. Neither company does anything interesting, in terms of technology or innovation. They just rob helpless travelers on the internet. PayPal is another example of a firm that adds zero value, but gets to operate as a gatekeeper. None of this would be possible without the massive taxpayer subsidies to build and maintain the internet.

And the number of potential victims is staggering. If Something Dot-Com can pry a single American dollar out of every resident with a ZIP code, that’s a third of a billion dollars. Information may want to be free, as the slogan says, but there’s always someone looking to turn a buck, or several bucks, from it.

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All those pads look alike

From the One of These Things Is Not Like the Others archives:

Pad sale!

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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But we taught that

“How is it that they didn’t learn it?” Oh, they learned it, all right. At the very least, they learned something. It’s just that you failed to consider all the possibilities:

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder reflects a little on a list she found of the way some machines that “learn” don’t necessarily do so in a way that we might appreciate.

Among the unforeseen consequences: When hooking a type of learning processor called a “neural net” to a Roomba automatic vacuum in order to increase its speed by limiting bumper contacts (those are when the Roomba bumps into something, backs up, and starts off again in a new direction). So the Roomba learned to drive backwards, since it doesn’t have bumpers on the back. Not really any faster and perhaps a little wearing on the device’s housing, since it will still bump into things.

This might make you very leery of self-driving cars, as well it should:

Another person set up a neural net that will “reward” a self-driving car that it is able to drive faster. So the net began driving the car around in small but speedy circles.

Clearly what is needed for these contraptions is not a means of instruction, but a means of indoctrination. Hey, it works in your neighborhood school, doesn’t it?

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Other than that, there ain’t no news

Said I about a year two years ago:

“Hitherto-unimagined” references an old prediction of mine to the effect that the [Consumer Reports] Buying Guide would be Web-only after 2015. Said prediction was, um, wrong.

The following has not changed:

Still “2,000+” rated products, and still 224 pages. The magazine’s new Colored Dots, however, don’t work so well in black and white.

I’m just grateful I get to use this verbiage one more time.

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Meanwhile in Snyder County

“Just because I don’t have a vote,” says Orange Street News publisher Hilde Lysiak, 10, “doesn’t mean I don’t have a voice.”

And she’s using that voice to make life as miserable as possible for Snyder County District Attorney Mike Piecuch:

And it continues:

One week after removing all of his social media after allegedly violating a court order (SEE ABOVE VIDEO) the OSN has obtained documents from Snyder County Republican District Attorney Michael Piecuch explaining why Selinsgrove can’t turn over government emails.

The letter is to Pittsburgh based Attorney Zachary N Gordon. Gordon is attempting to get Selinsgrove to hand over government emails. Scroll down to read Piecuch’s reasons why he won’t turn over the emails.

Two minutes of listening to Lysiak, and you wonder why you ever even noticed nimrods like Jim Acosta.

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And no one won Brownie points

I suppose I should have seen this coming:

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America have filed a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America for dropping “boy” from the scout group’s name.

The Boy Scouts of America announced in May they would rename the Boy Scouts programme Scouts BSA as they prepare to allow girls as members.

But the Girl Scouts say the change could erode their brand, calling the move “uniquely damaging” to them. Their lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction against trademark breaches.

At least this is consistent with prior GSUSA practice:

The Cub Scouts, for ages seven to 10, opened its local clubs to all children in 2018. Boy Scouts, for ages 11 to 17, will follow its footsteps next year when the programme name change becomes official.

But the Girl Scouts protested the decision at the time, with the group’s president Kathy Hopinkah Hannan accusing them of a “covert campaign” to recruit girls to tackle a “well-documented” declining membership.

The Boy Scouts reportedly have close to 2.3m members in the US, down about a third since 2000, compared with around 2 million members for the Girl Scouts.

Now if the boys start selling cookies, there’s going to be litigation like you wouldn’t believe.

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Witness to the horrible

You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, John:

A former cameraman for an Oklahoma City television station is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for post traumatic stress related to his work covering tragic events, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals ruled Friday.

Former KOKH Channel 25 videographer John Christopher Biebrich’s job required him to “record tragic scenes, many of them too disturbing to be shown on television,” the court said.

The court ruled Biebrich’s mental injury was not compensable because it did not arise “directly as a result of a compensable physical injury” as required by law.

I’m guessing this is not the John Christopher Biebrich who was billed as “Red Suspender Guy” in the 2004 film Reconciled.

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Mass hysteria

The International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM) is in charge of defining all those units of measurement, and not just the metric stuff either; an inch is defined as exactly 2.54 centimeters, and that’s that. Almost all the standards for all these measurements are based on constants found in the physical universe: for instance, one second equals 9,192,631,770 cycles of a cesium atomic clock, which was found to be more consistent than 1/86400 of a day.

But the operative word here is “almost.” The definition of the kilogram, originally the absolute weight of a volume of pure water equal to the cube of the hundredth part of the meter, and at the temperature of melting ice, times 1,000, made a lot of assumptions, and eventually there was an object whose mass was defined as 1 kg:

There’s one obvious problem with this: it’s impossible to make an exact duplicate of it. There are about 100 official copies, though each is ever-so-slightly off. Worse yet, the IPK itself, simply by being a physical artifact, is subject to change.

So soon there will be a new definition, presumably based on Planck’s constant, which will have the advantage of being, well, constant.

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Now shut up and download the update

Apple admitted last year that they deliberately slowed down some older iPhone models because their battery performance diminished over time, arguing the move would “prolong the life” of devices. Cynical Americans shrugged: Forget it, Jake, it’s iOS. The Italians, by comparison, deliver a hit to the pocketbook:

Apple and Samsung have been fined millions of euros each by Italian authorities over “planned obsolescence” in smartphones.

Apple was hit with a 10 million euro (£8.8m) fine while Samsung received a smaller bill of five million euros.

“Apple and Samsung implemented unfair commercial practices”, the Italian competition authority said in a statement.

Software updates were said to have slowed the performance of older phones. This “caused serious malfunctions and significantly reduced performance”, which provoked users into upgrading their devices, the authority said.

In other news, as of 1990 Italy has a competition authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato).

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Mega milieu

Very few lottery tickets win anything at all, while the vast majority end up like this:

Losing Powerball ticket

Then again, you knew all that when you bought it, right?

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Planes to nowhere

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel López Obrador is apparently keeping a campaign promise:

Construction of a partially built new airport for Mexico City is to be halted after it was rejected in a referendum.

Mr López Obrador, who takes office in December, said money would be used instead to improve existing facilities. He has been a strong critic of the project which he says is bad for the environment and tainted by corruption.

To say nothing of the price tag, which has climbed to $13 billion.

Inevitably, there have been warnings:

The government of outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto says it would create up to 450,000 jobs and business leaders have insisted the new facility is needed to ease traffic at Mexico City’s aging main airport.

And not just among Mexican pols, either:

Peter Cerda, regional vice-president for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said abandoning the project would cost Mexico’s economy $20bn annually.

“The decision puts Mexico at a disadvantage as a regional hub,” he said, adding that IATA would lobby the Mexican government to change its position.

López Obrador is a smidgen too far to the left — okay, several smidgens — to suit me, but I award bonus points to anyone who is suspicious of grandiose job claims.

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I want my DVD

It’s the beginning of the end for the creature previously known as the Digital Video Disk, and Kim du Toit is not happy about it:

Look, I understand the March Of Progress and all that, and I know that technology becomes outdated after a while. I just wish that the “while” would last a little longer.

And no, I’m not going to “stream” movies — at least, not the movies that I love and want to watch over and over again — because as any fule kno, what the “Cloud” giveth, the Cloud can take away (often without warning) and I refuse to be held hostage by the fucking movie studios (e.g. the horrible Disney Corporation, or Netflix). The ordinary movies (i.e. most of them) I can watch once and never watch again without regret; but the gems? oh no, I wantssss them all, my Precioussss, so that I can enjoy them anytime I want and not when Global Entertainment MegaCorp says I can (or can’t, a pox on them).

I’m currently looking for a semi-obscure French two-reeler; it’s not out on DVD anywhere, but nobody’s streaming it either. Should someone slap it on a disk at some point, I will grab it.

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Point being missed

Moron fails to comprehend decimals, blames Google: How long is 482 hours?

Is it 20 days? I did the google search but I hate when it gives the answer in decimal. Google never says like, “482 hours is ____ days.” It says, 482 hours = 20.0833 day etc.

Same guy asked last year: Could I download memories from my brain to a hard drive? I suspect he could get by with a couple of floppies.

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With a street value of $0

That’s some fine police work there, mates:

I wish someone would seize my lawn clippings.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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The Copyright of Spring

Yuja Wang sends her regrets:

Sacre causes scandal, AGAIN! Just like at the premiere in 1913, when catcalls and near-riot conditions erupted, Stravinsky’s iconic work is still causing tidal waves of controversy over a century later. My colleague Martin Grubinger and I have been notified that the Stravinsky estate will not allow our upcoming performance of Sacre in the adapted version in Europe, due to a potential infringement of copyright. We are very disappointed to learn this news, but have to respect their wishes. Unfortunately this means we have to cancel our upcoming performances in Dortmund and Luxembourg. The concerts in Ann Arbor and at Carnegie Hall in New York will go on as planned. We both deeply regret the position of the Estate and Publishers, but look forward to performing together in North America very soon.

For those keeping score:

Stravinsky continued to revise the work, and in 1943 rewrote the “Sacrificial Dance.” In 1948 Boosey & Hawkes issued a corrected version of the 1929 score (B&H 16333), although Stravinsky’s substantial 1943 amendment of the “Sacrificial Dance” was not incorporated into the new version and remained unperformed, to the composer’s disappointment. He considered it “much easier to play … and superior in balance and sonority” to the earlier versions. A less musical motive for the revisions and corrected editions was copyright law. The composer had left Galaxy Music Corporation (agents for Editions Russe de la Musique, the original publisher) for Associated Music Publishers at the time, and orchestras would be reluctant to pay a second rental charge from two publishers to match the full work and the revised “Sacrificial Dance”; moreover, the revised dance could only be published in America. The 1948 score provided copyright protection to the work in America, where it had lapsed, but Boosey (who acquired the Editions Russe catalogue) did not have the rights to the revised finale.

And presumably still doesn’t, seven decades later.

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Save the game

Fillyjonk contemplates the Experience Point:

Was thinking just now how so much of my life these days seems like “side quests” and honestly I might be happier if life had obvious “XPs” like video games do. (And I also wonder: has any sadistic soul composed a video game that is nothing BUT pointless side quests, so you grind endlessly for XPs, but never have a boss fight or anything like that? The game could be called “real life” or some such.)

It probably doesn’t scale. Although I have to admit, had I sketched out a scheme for such a game, the one and only player would be designated “Player 2.”

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Sizes vary

You wouldn’t want a whole lot of variety, I think. Then again, I could be wrong:

Fish assholes

According to The Local Malcontent, the contents are as follows: “60% Schumer Blowfish, 29% rancid Feinstein Codfish, and 11% Packaging.”

So apparently some of these are actually Pacific sphincters.

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The smoker you drink

Or that makes you want to drink, anyway:

The wife bought me a new grill over the weekend. My old one has been unusable all summer. The bottom rusted away completely last winter and the burners were rusted away as well. This time we went to a better model that did not seem like it was constructed from Chinese aluminum foil deemed too crappy to sell at the Dollar Store.

You get what you pay for. The unwritten corollary is that sometimes in life you pay for what you can get. We bought that crappy grill because it was what we could afford at the time. Now I have a box of parts sitting in the garage waiting on me to turn them into a metal box for cooking steak, chicken, and burgers.

I’m still reeling from the notion that there are things too crappy to sell at the dollar store.

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When inventory becomes tricky

“But what if we’re completely out?”

Case of invisible tape, maybe

“Who’s gonna know?”

(With thanks to Ted “Rocket Jones” Phipps.)

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We eat your butterflies

Now this is depressing: 13 Monarch Predators in the Butterfly Garden. This one I hadn’t anticipated:

If you raise monarch butterflies, make sure you don’t place monarch eggs too close together.

After a newborn caterpillar hatches, its first meal will be the nutrition-laced egg shell. If other eggs are in the vicinity, the hungry little caterpillar may wander over to an unhatched neighbor for seconds.

The same is true when placing newborn caterpillars with large ones. If they are competing for the same milkweed leaves, the large caterpillar could eat the competition for lunch … or dinner.

And you thought it was just a dog-eat-dog world.

(Via Van Dyke Parks.)

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This is not even slightly civil

And it should not be encouraged under any circumstances:

Wouldn’t matter if it was a Payless $19.99 special.

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Here today, gone tomorrow

Oh, I’m sorry. It was gone yesterday:

Another mid-century landmark, the former Founders Bank, is being destroyed this week as new development continues to encroach on 1960s architecture that once dominated the skyline along Northwest Expressway and May Avenue.

The football-shaped Founders National Bank building at 5613 N. May, built in 1964, is anchored by two 50-foot exterior arches. It was last home to Bank of America.

What used to be Founders Bank

Preservation Oklahoma placed the bank on its endangered places list earlier this year. The committee that assembled the list noted the former Founders Bank is one of Oklahoma City’s best examples of mid-century modern architecture, and it’s the only known local design of the architect and former Bruce Goff student, Bob Bowlby. The building’s arches, a landmark on North May Avenue and Northwest Expressway, removed the need for any interior walls inside the bank.

A building permit for demolition was filed at City Hall Monday morning at the same time Midwest Wrecking began tearing down the structure.

Clearly they didn’t want anyone noticing until it was too late.

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People acting out, or up

Fillyjonk is tired of social media:

It’s all so much become a “if this person doesn’t care for something I love, I’m going to impute Bad Reasons to them for it (sexism, racism, whatever) and I’m going to do whatever I can to dunk on them” and when did life become a giant game of, uh, micturational combat and again, I am so tired.

Folks, this: we are all fellow-passengers to the grave. Ain’t none of us getting out of this alive no matter how many points we score or how many people we dunk on or how much hashtag activism we do. And life is hard and a lot of people are hurting and my general MO is not to add to that hurt.

There might be a deathbed somewhere occupied by someone thinking “I should have spent more time thinking about politics,” but that someone is almost certainly not someone I am going to mourn.

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Going with the flow

It takes a lot to upstage a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Just ask this elephant.

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Turd gear, hang on tight

This puts the “D’oh!” in Play-Doh:

Poop Troop by Play-Doh

To explain, kinda sorta:

It’s kind of like a Mr. Potato Head except that instead of a plastic potato body, you stick the arms, eyes, and other anthropomorphizing pieces into a squishy, emoji-like poop swirl of Play-Doh.

We are evidently being punished for not taking Mr Hankey to heart.

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Tubeway army

The nearest (by about 250 feet) drugstore has two drive-through lanes, configured rather like similar lanes at the bank: the inner lane has a drawer, the outer one a pneumatic-tube system. The inner lane is almost always slower, which I attribute to purchase size: someone picking up seven prescriptions is not about to use the tube, which might hold five at a time if they’re small. (Never you mind how I determined these dimensions.) Yesterday I had three, and used the inner lane, which probably cost me six or seven minutes.

What I’m asking is this: do you have a rule of thumb for lane selection? At what point do you decide you don’t want to mess with the tube?

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Cerumen bored

Personally, I’d choose an alternate product:

Years ago, after blowing wax out of my ears, my doctor told me that she had cleared the ears of an older woman whose family thought she had dementia. Instead, she had enough wax to detail a Camaro in there, and once it was out she heard and responded to things normally.

Castro Tinklepaugh was not available for comment.

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SEC scores pound of flesh

Took it right out of Elon Musk’s back, they did:

Elon Musk must step down as Tesla chair and pay a fine after reaching a deal with US regulators over tweets he posted about taking the firm private. It follows Thursday’s decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to sue Mr Musk for alleged securities fraud.

Under the deal, Mr Musk will remain as Tesla CEO but must step down as chairman for three years. Both he and Tesla will also have to pay a $20m (£15m) fine.

Under the terms of the deal, he will also have to comply with company communications procedures when tweeting about the firm.

The SEC deemed this statement to be fraud:

“Musk tweeted on August 7, 2018 that he could take Tesla private at $420 per share — a substantial premium to its trading price at the time — that funding for the transaction had been secured, and that the only remaining uncertainty was a shareholder vote,” the SEC said. “In truth, Musk knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies. Musk had not discussed specific deal terms, including price, with any potential financing partners, and his statements about the possible transaction lacked an adequate basis in fact.”

Before the markets closed for the weekend, Tesla stock fell to $264 a share.

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Hands up

Roger being sensible again:

I suppose I like the analog clock — a retronym, BTW — precisely because it’s imprecise. A quarter to three might be 2:44 or 2:46, and unless you’re trying to catch a train or something, it matters little.

What is really weird is the fact that we tend to assume a digital clock is more accurate, though there’s no real reason why we should. And I know that this tendency has caused me to make seemingly constant corrections to the old (early 1980s) digital watch, in an effort to force it to live up to that assumption. I have to reset the watch at least four times a week to keep it within 30 seconds of correct. (By comparison, the analog clock on top of the center stack in the car gets reset about four times a year, and half of those are for DST-related reasons.)

Then again, “quarter to three” is a lot easier to explain than “25 or 6 to 4.”

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The deepest pockets available

GateHouse Media, new owners of The Oklahoman and its ancillary marketing services, has one thing the paper really needs: money, and the (occasional) willingness to spend some of it. (Does that count as two things?)

This year alone, GateHouse has peeled off over $100 million to acquire three big-time dailies: the Austin American-Statesman, the Palm Beach Post, and the Akron Beacon Journal. (Nobody is giving out a price for what used to be OPUBCO, though I’d guess about $28 million.)

Amusingly, GateHouse’s B2B subsidiary owns The Journal Record here in OKC. And the chain has five other dailies in the state, the largest being the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.

It should be noted that GateHouse went through Chapter 11 in 2013, mostly due to the terms imposed on it by a hedge fund that had acquired controlling interest. (Don’t you just love private capital?) They emerged after a mere two months, and five years later, they seem to be flush with cash. How much of that will go to improving the product is not knowable at this time, though the Oklahoman outsourced editing and design to GateHouse’s Austin complex a couple of years back, preempting one obvious change.

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