The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Other Countries Treat Their People So Much Better

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We’re taught to believe that America is the greatest country on earth and that it couldn’t possibly get any better. Let’s put that claim to the test. This video compares the US to other wealthy nations using several key metrics: “low-skilled” job compensation, vacation time, length of the work week, and paid parental leave.


It should be absolutely embarrassing that the wealthiest country the world has ever seen ranks dead last in every category.

Ban Trump Indefinitely

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I completely agree with Kara Swisher:

That is why Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, which are the three main conduits of online communications for most Americans, must now de-platform Trump permanently.

I do not call for this lightly and have always thought that he should get a wider berth owing to being the most newsworthy person on the planet. But it’s long past time to make an example of him as a persistent violator of platform rules who cynically games their laudable impulse toward allowing as much speech as possible. […]

Twitter — Trump’s favored online communications vehicle — says as much in its civic integrity policy, noting that “you may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes.” Well, he has done that over and over on social media, raging like the monster that he has always been.

Considering the traffic that Trump drives to these services and by definition profits, I am not holding my breath that they will do the right thing.

Simon & Schuster Cancel Josh Hawley's Book

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As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints; at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.

Facebook and Twitter should take note.

What a Presidency Looks Like

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Pete Souza, former Official White House Photographer for U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama reminds us what a normal presidency looks like.

The Mob

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An angry seditious mob, incited by President Trump, attacked the US Capital building yesterday.

Who were these people? Well I can tell you who they weren’t:

  • Antifa
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Immigrants arriving in caravans from the from Mexico and South America
  • African Americans
  • Latinos
  • Asians

I think you can figure this one out.









The 25th Amendment

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Donald Trump unleashed a mob on Capitol Hill. What he has done is without precedent in American history. Even if he had seven minutes left in his presidency, he should not be permitted to spend another second as the President. Nancy Pelosi should call an emergency session of the House tonight and impeach the president, and Mitch McConnell should convene the Senate tomorrow and call a vote to remove Trump from the presidency.

If there ever was a need for invoking the 25th Amendment, the time is now.

Republicans Meet Their Monster

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The political enablers of Donald Trump finally met the monster they created face to face. This will be their legacy.

Elaine Godfrey for The Atlantic:

But the morning’s fevered theorizing about election fraud and “Stop the steal!” chants, which at first felt more pitiful than threatening, gave way to violence by the afternoon. The mob stormed the Capitol, chased police officers up the marble steps, and forced the evacuation of the vice president as hundreds of lawmakers and congressional staff huddled under desks and reached for gas masks. It was a grave moment for American democracy, and a clarifying one as well: Today was one of the few times that Trump’s most extreme supporters actually encountered the Republican lawmakers who have stoked their anger and encouraged their delusions for years.

The politicians who enabled Trump did not expect the president’s followers to ever break through the glass windows of the Capitol and ascend the Senate dais. They did not anticipate that a man wearing a camp auschwitz shirt or others, with Confederate flags or dressed as fur-clad Vikings, would breach the building; that a woman would lie dying by one of the building’s entrances, shot by Capitol Police. Trump, for them, has been a blunt instrument they can use to retain power, appoint conservative judges, and pass tax cuts. Today, these Republicans finally confronted the monster they’ve created.

The Aspirational American Dream

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Dani Exliex Ryskamp in The Atlantic - The Life in The Simpsons Is No Longer Attainable:

Adjusted for inflation, Homer’s 1996 income of $25,000 would be roughly $42,000 today, about 60 percent of the 2019 median U.S. income. But salary aside, the world for someone like Homer Simpson is far less secure. Union membership, which protects wages and benefits for millions of workers in positions like Homer’s, dropped from 14.5 percent in 1996 to 10.3 percent today. With that decline came the loss of income security and many guaranteed benefits, including health insurance and pension plans. In 1993’s episode “Last Exit to Springfield,” Lisa needs braces at the same time that Homer’s dental plan evaporates. Unable to afford Lisa’s orthodontia without that insurance, Homer leads a strike. Mr. Burns, the boss, eventually capitulates to the union’s demand for dental coverage, resulting in shiny new braces for Lisa and one fewer financial headache for her parents. What would Homer have done today without the support of his union?

The purchasing power of Homer’s paycheck, moreover, has shrunk dramatically. The median house costs 2.4 times what it did in the mid-’90s. Health-care expenses for one person are three times what they were 25 years ago. The median tuition for a four-year college is 1.8 times what it was then. In today’s world, Marge would have to get a job too. But even then, they would struggle. Inflation and stagnant wages have led to a rise in two-income households, but to an erosion of economic stability for the people who occupy them.

[...]

Someone I follow on Twitter, Erika Chappell, recently encapsulated my feelings about The Simpsons in a tweet: “That a show which was originally about a dysfunctional mess of a family barely clinging to middle class life in the aftermath of the Reagan administration has now become aspirational is frankly the most on the nose manifestations [sic] of capitalist American decline I can think of.”

For many, a life of constant economic uncertainty—in which some of us are one emergency away from losing everything, no matter how much we work—is normal. Second jobs are no longer for extra cash; they are for survival. It wasn’t always this way. When The Simpsons first aired, few would have predicted that Americans would eventually find the family’s life out of reach. But for too many of us now, it is.

Apple Car

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Starting in 2014, Apple began working on “Project Titan,” with upwards of 1,000 employees working on developing an electric vehicle at a secret location near its Cupertino headquarters.

Over the course of the last several years, rumors even suggested Apple shelved plans for a car, but Apple has overcome development problems and still plans to develop a consumer-facing car.

Stephen Nellis, Norihiko Shirouzu, and Paul Lienert, reporting for Reuters:

Apple Inc. is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. […]

As for the car’s battery, Apple plans to use a unique “monocell” design that bulks up the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials, one of the people said.

Apple’s design means that more active material can be packed inside the battery, giving the car a potentially longer range. Apple is also examining a chemistry for the battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, the person said, which is inherently less likely to overheat and is thus safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries.

”It’s next level,” the person said of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time you saw the iPhone.”

The iPhone was a shift in what a phone was. Apple redefined the phone as a personal computing device that had a phone app. Everyone else was making phones that just happened to have compute capability bolted on.

It’ll be interesting to see what Apple has up its sleeves.

If You Fall Through Thin Ice

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Another item to file under useless information that just might one day save your life. Kenton Whitman explains how to survive a fall through ice on a frozen lake or river.


While it varies with water temperature and body mass, it can take 30 minutes or more for most adults to become even mildly hypothermic in ice water. Knowing this is vitally important in a survival situation, since people would be far less likely to panic if they knew that hypothermia would not occur quickly and that they have some time to make good decisions and actions to save themselves.

In other words - keep calm and kick your way out.

Northern Lights Photographer of the Year for 2020

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Maze’s photo, of the aurora australis in Tasmania, is stunning — one of the best astronomy photos I have ever seen. Here’s how he captured it:

Captured in this image is a trifecta of astronomical phenomena that made for some of the best astrophotography conditions one can witness in Australia, namely, the setting Milky Way galactic core, zodiacal light, and of course, the elusive Aurora Australis. On top of this, a sparkling display of oceanic bioluminescence adorned the crashing waves, adding the cherry on top to what was already a breathtaking experience.

Having been out of reception and civilization for over a day, fellow photographer Luke Tscharke and I had no idea the aurora would strike on this night. We’d just heard rumors of a potential solar storm. We could barely contain our excitement when the lights first showed up on our camera’s screens. We later realized we were in the best place on the entire continent to witness the rare show, with Lion Rock being on the southernmost cape of Tasmania and much more cloud-free than the rest of the state at the time.

The colors that our cameras picked up were incredible, too. Rather than the classic green, the display ranged from yellow and orange to pink and purple. When I’d captured enough frames that I was happy with, I simply stood by my camera with my head tilted towards the sky, occasionally swirling my hand around in the sparkling water by my feet. I’m forever grateful for moments in nature like this that show us the true wonders of our planet.

Apple Search Engine

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Looks like Apple is seriously ramping up its search bot activity. This looks like a direct result of U.K. competition commission threat to break up the Google/Apple agreement to be the default search engine on iOS devices.

But does Apple really have a chance of disrupting Google at its own game? FastCompany’s Hamza Mudassir:

Apple’s search engine will have a different future if rumors about its business model are true. Apple has been focusing heavily on user privacy recently, including but not limited to publicly refusing to give secret access to its devices to the FBI. It will be very much in line with this “privacy first” position that Apple chooses not to make money from advertising, which involves exposing customer usage data to third parties. Instead, it could simply sell more of its highly profitable devices and subscriptions to privacy-conscious customers. By not following Google’s footsteps, Apple does not have to engage with the search giant on its terms.

Why Apple Will Disrupt the CPU Industry

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In his excellent piece on Why Is Apple’s M1 Chip So Fast?, Erik Engheim summarizes Apple’s greatest advantage in the upcoming CPU wars.

Here we get a big problem with the Intel and AMD business model. Their business models are based on selling general-purpose CPUs, which people just slot onto a large PC motherboard. Thus computer-makers can simply buy motherboards, memory, CPUs, and graphics cards from different vendors and integrate them into one solution.

But we are quickly moving away from that world. In the new SoC world, you don’t assemble physical components from different vendors. Instead, you assemble IP (intellectual property) from different vendors. You buy the design for graphics cards, CPUs, modems, IO controllers, and other things from different vendors and use that to design an SoC in-house. Then you get a foundry to manufacture this.

Now you got a big problem, because neither Intel, AMD, or Nvidia are going to license their intellectual property to Dell or HP for them to make an SoC for their machines.

[...]

For Apple this is simple. They control the whole widget. They give you, for example, the Core ML library for developers to write machine learning stuff. Whether Core ML runs on Apple’s CPU or the Neural Engine is an implementation detail developers don’t have to care about.

Buckle in - we are in for a very interesting 2021!

Did You Not Know Who This Man Was?

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Jake Tapper has a question for the GOP:

And more importantly, tragically, unacceptably, horrifyingly even putting lives at risk - it has to be asked. Did you not know who this man was when you took him in?

The horrifying truth is that they did know. The GOP decided to put their self interest, their pursuit of power and their party before the United States and their constituents. This administration and the members of the GOP have put the final nail into the coffin of “The Party of Lincoln”.

Limitations of IBIS

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IBIS is one of the most useful advancements in digital photography. Olympus arguably had the most sophisticated implementation for its Micro Four Thirds system - which supported an amazing 6.3 stops! Which begs the question just how far can this technology go?

Olympus claimed that 6.3 stops was the theoretical limit due to the earth’s rotation, not the electronics. David Berryrieser in at The Center Column has a detailed mathematical explanation. Here is a summary for those who are terrified of a little math :)

To illustrate , lets imagine that you are somewhere on the Earth’s surface, pointing the camera due East or West. For simplicity, lets assume you are on the equator, but your latitude doesn’t actually matter for this analysis. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, so Earth rotates at a rate of 2π/86400 radians/second, or 7.27*10^-5 rad/s. That means that your subject, which is presumably stationary on Earth’s surface as well, is rotating at this rate. Your camera, which is using its IBIS system to attempt to keep everything as still as possible, may not realize that you are rotating with your subject and will instead try to zero out any rotation of the camera, including that of the Earth. More technically, the camera is trying to maintain stability with respect to an inertial reference frame, which by virtue of the Earth’s rotation, you and your subject are not.

Lets face it though, nothing will beat good technique and a tripod!

When States Do Nothing

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The story of the coronavirus in this state is one of government inaction in the name of freedom and personal responsibility. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has followed President Donald Trump’s lead in downplaying the virus’s seriousness. She never imposed a full stay-at-home order for the state and allowed bars and restaurants to open much earlier than in other places. She imposed a mask mandate for the first time this month—one that health-care professionals consider comically ineffectual—and has questioned the science behind wearing masks at all. Through the month of November, Iowa vacillated between 1,700 and 5,500 cases every day. This week, the state’s test-positivity rate reached 50 percent. Iowa is what happens when a government does basically nothing to stop the spread of a deadly virus.

[..]

[Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds] did not require Iowans to wear a mask in public, ignoring requests from local public-health officials and the White House Coronavirus Task Force and arguing that the state shouldn’t make that choice for its people. “The more information that we give them, then personally they can make the decision to wear a mask or not,” Reynolds said in June. She also wouldn’t require face coverings in public schools, where she ordered that students spend at least 50 percent of their instructional time in classrooms. When Iowa City and other towns began to issue their own mask requirements, Reynolds countered that they were not enforceable, undermining their authority.

All we need to do as a society is to achieve 95% mask usage and the pandemic would be controlled and life can began to return to normal. This is isn’t wishful thinking. Just look to South Korea as an example. South Korea has a total of 35,703 cases with 529 deaths as of this writing - the United States has 13,999,385 cases with 273,518 deaths.

Wear a damn mask.