The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

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.

Fast. Cool. Energy Efficient.

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Apple is about to disrupt the microprocessor industry. The M1 chip is as industry shaking as the iPhone.

John Grubber at Daring Fireball sums it up perfectly:

M1 Macs embarrass all other PCs — all Intel-based Macs, including automobile-priced Mac Pros, and every single machine running Windows or Linux. Those machines are just standing around in their underwear now because the M1 stole all their pants. Well, that just doesn’t happen, your instincts tell you. One company, even a company like Apple, doesn’t just embarrass the entire rest of a highly-competitive longstanding industry. But just because something hasn’t happened — or hasn’t happened in a very long while — doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And in this case, it just happened.


For the industry as a whole, though, the M1 Macs have dropped as a bit of a shock. One reason for this, I think, is that Apple’s silicon prowess in iOS devices has been a slow boil. iPhones and iPads are better computers — faster and more efficient — than their Android competitors. But it’s been an annual incremental game. And it’s hard to tell what’s attributable to iOS’s software efficiency vs. Android and what’s attributable to Apple’s silicon prowess vs. Qualcomm and Samsung and whoever else is making chips for Android devices.

M1 Macs completely upend what we can and should expect from PCs. It’s a breakthrough along the lines of the iPhone itself in 2007.

The adage is, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Emphasis on probably — the M1 Macs are an exception. They really are that good.

Intel x86 is the modern Zune. Believe the hype - lest you sound like this guy:

It's Time to Hibernate

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Derek Thompson in The Atlantic

We’re also likely to see a historic increase in testing from all these people returning from their Thanksgiving vacation. On Sunday, the White House coronavirus-task-force coordinator, Deborah Birx, told CBS that everybody who traveled should “assume that you were exposed and you became infected.” That would mean tens of millions of people trying to get tested in the next week or so, leading to a backlog on top of the backlog.

In sum, the next few weeks are going to be a statistical blur at the very moment when families are looking for clarity regarding the winter holidays. As COVID-19 hospitalizations reach an all-time high, we are facing a normal weekend testing delay, exacerbated by a major holiday, complicated by the already rising COVID-19 caseload, and further burdened by the imminent wave of tests that will be demanded by people coming back from their Thanksgiving trip. For that reason, state and local governments, businesses, and families might have to fly blind for a while in the fog of pandemic.

The safe assumption is that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths will all reach new highs before Christmas. The virus is simply everywhere. While the spring wave slammed into the Northeast and the summer surge swept over the South, the latest surge, while concentrated in the Midwest, is truly national. Almost every state has seen an increase in cases since September, and nearly 40 states saw COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record highs in the past three weeks. Right when Americans should have separated themselves from new exposures, millions of them shuffled and reshuffled themselves into new combinations of people. This epidemiological experiment seems destined to produce more deaths, more grieving, more illness, and more exhausted health-care workers, who were already on a “catastrophic path” before 9 million people filed through TSA checkpoints in the past week.

Seriously? What the hell is wrong with people? Buckle up - we are headed for the worst public health catastrophe in US history. Stay home. Hibernate.

Scott Atlas Did More Damage Than You Can Imagine

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Why do they keeping paying respect to Atlas by referring to him as a doctor? He has clearly shown that he has violated a doctor’s primary oath - do no harm. Scott Atlas should have his license revoked. At the very least stop giving him professional respect.

Nikon Classes Are Free for the Holidays

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From November 23rd through December 31st, all classes in Nikon School Online can be streamed for free. All you need to do is sign up for an account with your name and email address.

One Shot

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Awarded the prestigious Candido Cannavo Award at the Milan Sport Film Festival 2018.

Built around the 100m men’s final in Rio de Janeiro, ONE SHOT explores the important role sport photographers have in capturing history. ONE SHOT is narrated by Olympic Champion Jonathan Edwards and features many multi-awarded photographers including Lucy Nicholson, Dave Burnett, Bob Martin, Tim de Waele and Japan’s own Tsuyoshi Matsumoto.

It also features 146 images representing some of the best works of another 96 photographers who have covered multiple Olympics going back over 50 years , with famous names such as Tony Duffy, Mike Powell, Heinz Kluetmeier, Franck Fife, Peter Read Miller, Doug Mills, Carl Yarbrough, John G. Zimmerman, Michael Kappeler, Kai Pfaffenbach, Gary Hershorn, Charlie Riedel, Simon Bruty, Jerry Lampen, Al Bello, Chang W. Lee to name but a few.

‘ONE SHOT looks at Olympians caught in time. The history makers of the Games captured in a single iconic moment. A story that has taken a lifetime to create and told in One Shot. One freeze frame.

With its official screening at the The Olympic Museum and then on the Olympic Channel and NBC Sports, in November 2018 ONE SHOT was awarded the prestigious Candido Cannavo Award at the World Final of the Milan Sport Film Festival 2018.

Apple's Chief Security Officer Indicted

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A grand jury issued two indictments ​on Thursday, Nov. 19, against Undersheriff Rick Sung, 48, and Capt. James Jensen, 43, who are accused of requesting bribes for concealed firearms licenses, also known as CCW licenses. Insurance broker Harpreet Chadha, 49, and Apple’s Chief Security Officer Thomas Moyer, 50, are accused of offering bribes to receive the permits, District Attorney Jeff Rosen said during a press conference on Monday morning.

The two-year investigation by the district attorney’s office found that Sung, who was allegedly aided by Jensen in one instance, held up the distribution of CCW licenses and refused to release them until the applicants gave something of value. […]

Sung and Jensen allegedly held up four gun licenses from Apple employees and extracted from Moyer a promise that Apple would donate iPads to the sheriff’s office. A donation of 200 iPads worth nearly $70,000 was ended at the last minute after Aug. 2, 2019, when Sung and Moyer learned that the district attorney’s office had issued a search warrant seizing all of the sheriff’s office’s CCW license records.

Can’t understand this obsession with carrying firearms…

Swiss Cheese Covid-19 Defense

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Virologist Dr. Ian Mackay has visualized the Swiss cheese Covid-19 defense in a wonderful way (pictured above). Each layer of cheese represents a personal or shared intervention — like mask wearing, limiting your time indoors w/ crowds, proper ventilation, quarantine, vaccines — and the holes are imperfections. Applied together, these imperfect measures work like a filter and can vastly improve chances of success. He even added a “misinformation mouse” chewing through one of the cheese slices to represent how deceptive information can weaken these defenses.

We Don't Need to Meet Nazis Halfway

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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito just complained that “you can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Now it’s considered bigotry.” This is a standard complaint of the right: the real victim is the racist who has been called a racist, not the victim of his racism, the real oppression is to be impeded in your freedom to oppress. And of course Alito is disingenuous; you can say that stuff against marriage equality (and he did). Then other people can call you a bigot, because they get to have opinions too, but in his scheme such dissent is intolerable, which is fun coming from a member of the party whose devotees wore “fuck your feelings” shirts at its rallies and popularized the term “snowflake.”

Nevertheless, we get this hopelessly naive version of centrism, of the idea that if we’re nicer to the other side there will be no other side, just one big happy family. This inanity is also applied to the questions of belief and fact and principle, with some muddled cocktail of moral relativism and therapists’ “everyone’s feelings are valid” applied to everything. But the truth is not some compromise halfway between the truth and the lie, the fact and the delusion, the scientists and the propagandists. And the ethical is not halfway between white supremacists and human rights activists, rapists and feminists, synagogue massacrists and Jews, xenophobes and immigrants, delusional transphobes and trans people. Who the hell wants unity with Nazis until and unless they stop being Nazis?