The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Back to Gilead

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The Testaments’ is the long-awaited sequel to the ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. It takes us back to Gilead and shows us how the cruel country came to exist out of what was once America.

While the first book focused on the tale of a single Handmaid, this book tells of three other women who lived during the time of Gilead. We start with the perspective of a character who featured prominently in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’- Aunt Lydia. We follow how her life changed when Gilead was formed and see how circumstances forced her to become the monster she seemed.

The second perspective is that of a young girl raised in Gilead called Agnes and the third of a girl raised in Canada called Daisy. Their vivid perspectives beautifully contrast the difference in their upbringing and international perspective on issues of the time. Daisy is like a modern American teen while Agnes almost seems like a child from a classic.

The writing in the book is as beautiful as the last, it flows easily and wraps itself around the reader drawing them into a world that is scarily familiar to our own. Atwood’s style describes both settings and emotions vividly, truly taking readers on an experience. The book is a must read for anyone who enjoyed ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ for it gives readers a wider perspective on Offred’s life and the consequences of her decisions.

James Bond 25 - No Time to Die

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Unveiled on social media to celebrate global James Bond Day - 007 Daniel Craig looking moody and focused in a tuxedo, framed against a blue wall. Whatever he’s gazing intently at in the film won’t be revealed until April 2020.

Model 3 - 24% of Small and Midsize

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From CleanTechnica

At the moment, while the verdict isn’t final, things are looking good for Tesla and Tesla fans. We don’t know precise Tesla Model 3 sales figures in the US, and even educated estimates are very rough estimates until we get more data from Europe and China, but our expectation is that there were between 40,000 and 50,000 deliveries in the US in the third quarter. On the more conservative side, we’ve estimated 43,000 US deliveries. That blows away sales of any other midsize or small luxury car.

1979 - Fifty Songs 3 Minutes

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Chicago mashup masters The Hood Internet has released a musical tribute to 1979, combining 50 songs released that year into a tight 3-minute mix. This shouldn’t work, but it does!


Featuring:

ABBA, AC/DC, Anita Ward, Billy Joel, Blondie, Boomtown Rats, The Buggles, The Cars, Charlie Daniels Band, Cheap Trick, Chic, The Clash, The Cure, Donna Summer, Doobie Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, The Flying Lizards, Gang of Four, The Gap Band, Gary Numan, Joy Division, Kiss, The Knack, Kool & The Gang, Lipps Inc, M, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar, Pink Floyd, The Police, The Pretenders, Prince, Queen, Rainbow, Rupert Holmes, Sister Sledge, The Specials, Squeeze, The Sugarhill Gang, Supertramp, Talking Heads, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Van Halen, The Whispers, Wire

Next four are due every week this month 1980-1983!!!

We Just Want Normal Libraries

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Alia Wong writes an interesting article in The Atlantic - talking about how maybe in the digital age we are trying to re-invent what is and alway was unbroken:

Likely in the hopes of proving that they have more to offer than a simple internet connection does, many college libraries are pouring resources into interior-design updates and building renovations, or into “glitzy technology,” such as 3-D printers and green screens, that is often housed in “media centers” or “makerspaces.”

Yet much of the glitz may be just that—glitz. Survey data and experts suggest that students generally appreciate libraries most for their simple, traditional offerings: a quiet place to study or collaborate on a group project, the ability to print research papers, and access to books. Notably, many students say they like relying on librarians to help them track down hard-to-find texts or navigate scholarly journal databases. “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers,” as the writer Neil Gaiman once said. “A librarian can bring you back the right one.”

The library has always been for most people a collection of books and a quite place to read them - but it has also been a vital and central infrastructure of a functioning urban society.

As best summarized by Ruth Faklis, director of the Prairie Trail Public Library District in suburban Chicago

It never ceases to amaze me just what libraries are looked upon to provide. This includes, but is not limited to, [serving as] keepers of the homeless … while simultaneously offering latch-key children a safe and activity-filled haven. We have been asked to be voter-registration sites, warming stations, notaries, technology-terrorism watchdogs, senior social-gathering centers, election sites, substitute sitters during teacher strikes, and the latest — postmasters. These requests of society are ever evolving. Funding is not generally attached to these magnanimous suggestions, and when it is, it does not cover actual costs of the additional burden, thus stretching the library’s budget even further. I know of no other government entity that is asked to take on additional responsibilities not necessarily aligned with its mission

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

HAL 9000 Prop

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I have always been fascinated by Fisheye lenses. Their crazy 180 degree (and sometimes more!) angle of view leads to some crazy images. However, I could never justify owning one as I had no idea what I would be using one for - besides the occasional goofy portraiture.

But here an interesting article over at Kosmo Foto about another use for a Nikon 8mm F8 Fisheye.

HAL 9000 needed to be all-seeing — the film’s plot hinges on his ability to detect a conversation between two of the crew. So he decided to use a camera lens.

The on-screen HAL 9000 — the single “eye” in blazing red — was played by one of Nikon’s most extreme lenses, its 8mm f/8 fisheye. But how did they add the glow? Simple — they used the camera’s very own red filter (R60) which screws on to the back of the lens. Then they simply shone a light through it.

Peter Jackson owns one of the original props now, and showed it to Adam Savage. What a clever use for a $1500+ specialty lens.


There are so many aspects of 2001: A Space Odyssey that were so dead on. HAL 9000 was everywhere. Quietly listening. Quietly analyzing. And Quietly plotting. Its amazing that all of the devices strewn through out our homes are doing the same thing - our iPhones, Alexa, Google Home, etc.

Gives me the chills…

Exercise Whenever You Think of It

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For the Atlantic, Olga Khazan writes about an approach to physical fitness called “greasing the groove”, which some people have translated into the Michael Pollan-esque “lift weight, not too much, most of the days”.

One way to grease the groove is to just do the exercise whenever you think of it. Ben Greenfield, in Beyond Training, describes how he would do three to five pull-ups every time he walked under a pull-up bar installed in his office doorway. By the end of the day, he’d have performed 30 to 50 pull-ups with minimal effort.

McKay opted for something similar: He set up a pull-up bar in his door frame, and every time he walked under it, he would do one. “You’re allowing yourself to practice more without going to fatigue,” he says. “If you’re constantly thrashing your body, doing max sets every time you do a pull up, you’re gonna have a bad time.” Anyone who has tried to climb the stairs to their apartment on achy quads after an overly ambitious leg day knows the risks of overexertion. Within a month, McKay says, he went from being able to do about five pull-ups to about 15.

Gun Control

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America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world’s 23 “rich” countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America’s ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America’s.

Here is what gun control looks like in Japan:

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Contrast this with Texas, USA:

Anyone can openly carry rifles in Texas without a permit, and a handgun license lets them put semi-automatics over their shoulders or pistols on their hips when they run to the corner store. Spotting an armed Walmart shopper in the produce aisle is not exactly a cultural rarity. When open-carry laws were approved in Texas, Walmart adopted a policy that employees must request to see a shopper's gun license before allowing them to carry their weapon in the store. Open-carry activists were not happy with the corporate decision.

So how does this translate into gun violence? Here are the numbers for 2019 (only half way through the year as of this writing) gun death rates per 100,000 people from World Population Review for Japan & the US.

Country Total Homicide suicide Accidental
Japan 0.06 0.00 0.04 0.1
USA 12.21 4.46 7.32 0.15

And for those who are numerically challenged - here it is visually:



To our elected officials - we don’t need our thoughts and prayers. We don’t need the outpouring of emotion and the standard visits with the family. We need GUN CONTROL NOW. Japan’s gun policies would be a great place to start.

Builder's Remorse

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A great post by Tim Carmody on kottke.org.

This is the builder’s remorse. Not that you invented a thing, not that the consequences were unforeseen. It’s that you gave the thing to a power structure where things were overwhelmingly likely to end in ruin. You gave the power to people who don’t care about what you claim to care about. And that problem, because of the nature and structure of money and power, is extremely hard to avoid.

A Pixel Is Not a Square!

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A technical memo that I came across by Alvy Ray Smith from July 15, 1995. A good point is made here. Every other book/article/graphics tutorial always models a pixel as a square.

A pixel is a point sample. It exists only at a point. For a color picture, a pixel might actually contain three samples, one for each primary color contributing to the picture at the sampling point. We can still think of this as a point sample of a color. But we cannot think of a pixel as a square—or anything other than a point. There are cases where the contributions to a pixel can be modeled, in a low-order way, by a little square, but not ever the pixel itself.

Walkman 40 Years Old Today

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On July 1 of 1979 - Sony first began to sell the TPS-L2 Soundabout, and soon rechristened the Walkman.

It’s weird to think that, in the years before the Walkman, there was no way to listen to music privately while out in public. There were ways to bring music with you — on transistor radios, on boom boxes, on car stereos — but they forced you to subject everyone around you to that music, as well. The Walkman freed us up. It allowed us to make music more a part of our lives, to build our own private soundworlds.

It was a transformative invention, one of the few that utterly upended the way we listen to music. Soon enough, more and more portable cassette players would hit the market, and the price fortunately dropped. But no matter which company made them, we still used the word “Walkman” to describe them.

That Answer Is Unacceptable

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When asked by Rachel Maddow, “Why isn’t [the Afghanistan war] over? Why can’t presidents of very different parties and very different temperaments get us out of there? And how could you?” Ryan had a ready, pre planned scripted answer:

I appreciate that question. So I—I’ve been in Congress 17 years and 12 of those years I’ve sat on the Armed Services Committee either the Defense Appropriations Committee or the Armed Services Committee. And the lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that you have to stay engaged in these situations. Nobody likes it. It’s long. It’s tedious.

Ryan didn’t answer the question. He didn’t talk of American goals, exit strategies or cost. Instead he was defending a war that is in its 18th year which has no end in site. A war in which we just lost two more - bringing the total to 3,551 Americans. No policy statement. No stance on the subject. Just we need to do more of the same - that I have done for the last 17 years.

And Tulsi Gabbard offered the best foreign policy statement of the night:

Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan? Well, we just have to be engaged? As a soldier, I will tell you that answer is unacceptable. We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan…We have spent so much money. Money that’s coming out of every one of our pockets…We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when this war began. This is why it is so important to have a president — commander in chief who knows the cost of war and is ready to do the job on day one.

This is what the Democratic party needs more of – simple, direct and common sense policy. You want to win against Trump – that is how you do it.

Who Wants to Loose the Election?

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Last week’s Democratic debate - lets just say it was depressing. Besides going on and on about how much the Democrats care about illegal aliens - and I get it, I am a supporter of treating people entering our country illegal or not - with dignity and respect. But when asked the question - do you think illegal immigrations should receive health care? - everyone candidate raised their hand.

What I wish they said was – “Yes. As should every American”

Stewart's Defense of 9/11 First Responders

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If you didn’t have the opportunity yesterday to watch Jon Stewart’s scathing and powerful opening statement before a House subcommittee about providing health benefits for surviving 9/11 first responders, you really should; it’s quite something:


As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting healthcare and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to. Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty Congress.

Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution. You should be ashamed of yourselves, for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be. Because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.


This is the kind of talk we need in modern politics. If Stewart runs for office, he has my vote.

GPS Distance

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I recently had to calculate the distance between a large number of co-ordinates. I could have used one of the many Ruby Gems that are available but due to business limitations had to develop the code myself. After some research I came across the haversine formula.

The haversine formula is an equation important in navigation, giving great-circle distances between two points on a sphere from their longitudes and latitudes. It is a special case of a more general formula in spherical trigonometry, the law of haversines, relating the sides and angles of spherical triangles.

You can read the full details on the maths here. For those who just want the code here is the implemenation I came up with:

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module GPS
  class Distance
    RAD_PER_DEG = Math::PI / 180
    GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_MILES = 3956
    GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_KILOMETERS = 6371 # some algorithms use 6367
    GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_FEET = GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_MILES * 5280
    GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_METERS = GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_KILOMETERS * 1000
    GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_NAUTICAL_MILES = GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_MILES / 1.15078

    attr_accessor :great_circle_distance
    attr_accessor :point1
    attr_accessor :point2

    def initialize(great_circle_distance = 0)
      @great_circle_distance = great_circle_distance
      @point1 = [0,0]
      @point2 = [0,0]
    end

    def to_miles
      calculate
      @great_circle_distance * GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_MILES
    end
    alias_method :to_mi, :to_miles

    def to_kilometers
      calculate
      @great_circle_distance * GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_KILOMETERS
    end
    alias_method :to_km, :to_kilometers

    def to_meters
      calculate
      @great_circle_distance * GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_METERS
    end
    alias_method :to_m, :to_meters

    def to_feet
      calculate
      @great_circle_distance * GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_FEET
    end
    alias_method :to_ft, :to_feet

    def to_nautical_miles
      calculate
      @great_circle_distance * GREAT_CIRCLE_RADIUS_NAUTICAL_MILES
    end
    alias_method :to_nm, :to_nautical_miles

    private

    # Radians per degree
    def rpd(num)
      num * RAD_PER_DEG
    end

    def calculate
      # Accept two arrays of points in addition to four coordinates
      if point1.is_a?(Array) && point2.is_a?(Array)
        lat2, lon2 = point2
        lat1, lon1 = point1
      elsif
        raise ArgumentError
      end
      dlon = lon2 - lon1
      dlat = lat2 - lat1
      a = (Math.sin(rpd(dlat)/2))**2 + Math.cos(rpd(lat1)) * Math.cos((rpd(lat2))) * (Math.sin(rpd(dlon)/2))**2
      @great_circle_distance = 2 * Math.atan2( Math.sqrt(a), Math.sqrt(1-a))
    end
  end
end

Here is a quick script on how to use it:

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irb(main):001:0> d = GPS::Distance.new
=> #<GPS::Distance:0x007fb93b036050 @great_circle_distance=0, @point1=[0, 0], @point2=[0, 0]>
irb(main):002:0> d.point1 = [40.7457395,-73.991623]
=> [40.7457395, -73.991623]
irb(main):003:0> d.point2 = [40.9176771,-74.2082467]
=> [40.9176771, -74.2082467]
irb(main):004:0> d.to_meters
=> 26413.70207758391
irb(main):005:0> d.to_kilometers
=> 26.413702077583906
irb(main):006:0> d.to_miles
=> 16.40128793265138
irb(main):007:0> d.to_feet
=> 86598.80028439929
irb(main):008:0>

Hope this helps. If you have any questions, or comments feel free to leave a message or contact me directly.

The Clap

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From an editorial from Monica Hesse in the Washington Post:

“You weren’t supposed to do that,” he said, chiding them for unexpectedly cheering at a moment he hadn’t anticipated.

No, they weren’t. The attention was to have been on him. This was to have been an uninterrupted performance.

But instead, Nancy Pelosi clapped for the president, and a group of congresswomen sat for the president, and they both displayed the art of stealing someone’s thunder without saying anything at all.

This is the look of a women who knows something that we are all going to find out very soon. This just might be the image that defines the Trump presidency.

You Have a Choice

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Control has its benefits. Facebook and Google really need to emulate Apple and protect their users.

SNL Cards

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Its kind of amazing how this is still a manual process. Sure the cards could be printed digitally, but I think the actors appreciate the “human” touch involved. Some things are just best done in the analog world.

What Global Warming?

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Millions of Americans in the midwdest woke up to temperatures an astonishing 50 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) below normal this week – as low as 35 degrees below zero. Combine with a strong wind, and the winchill can be as low as -60 F. At the same time, the North Pole is facing a heat wave with temperatures approaching the freezing point – about 25 degrees Fahrenheit (14 C) above normal.

This cold is nothing to sneeze at. The National Weather Service is warning of brutal, life-threatening conditions. Frostbite will strike fast on any exposed skin. Of course the climate change deniers are all out in force smugly asking “What ever happend to Global Warming?”


Jennifer Francis, senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, writes that the polar vortex bringing cold air into the Midwest is connected to the rapidly warming Arctic.

Because of rapid Arctic warming, the north/south temperature difference has diminished. This reduces pressure differences between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, weakening jet stream winds. And just as slow-moving rivers typically take a winding route, a slower-flowing jet stream tends to meander.

Large north/south undulations in the jet stream generate wave energy in the atmosphere. If they are wavy and persistent enough, the energy can travel upward and disrupt the stratospheric polar vortex. Sometimes this upper vortex becomes so distorted that it splits into two or more swirling eddies.

These “daughter” vortices tend to wander southward, bringing their very cold air with them and leaving behind a warmer-than-normal Arctic.