Category Archives: Linkfest

Thursday LinkFest (7/23)

Technology and Science!

  • You’ve heard that light is both a particle and a wave. Scientists have figured out a way to photograph the dual nature of light.
  • Take a free course in “Poker Analytics and Theory” from MIT. The math is pretty heavy, be forewarned: poker is not a game for the innumerate.
  • Check out this wonderful talk on “Web Design — The First 100 Years”.
  • Crows are scary smart. Crows might be smarter than you are.
  • Self-described “experts” may not be as smart as crows: they’re more likely to believe things that simply aren’t true. Researchers from Cornell and Tulane found that a little competence turns into a big case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome.
  • We’re hearing a lot about how self-driving cars are going to “make things better”, but I’m unclear on how cars whose cost will exceed the US median income are going to help anyone but the plutocrats who make them, and their minions who can afford them. And we’re seeing proofs-of-concept that while they may cut down on accidental traffic fatalities, there’s a distinct possibility that they might facilitate some deliberate ones.
  • A new species of firefly has been identified in Southern California. Yeah, we have fireflies out here, but a vastly smaller population of a very limited number of species, they’re not nearly as flamboyant as the ones back East. Bright, flashing fireflies pretty much stop west of Kansas, no one really knows why.
  • Does cold-brewed coffee have more caffeine than hot coffee does?
  • A study just published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that extreme poverty may affect physical brain development, particularly in the areas responsible for things like learning. Another argument in favor of a guaranteed minimum income.
  • Boas, anacondas and other “constrictors” don’t kill their prey by asphyxiating them: they actually stop the blood flow in their prey’s body, according to new research.

Society and Culture


  • What happens when a paleontologist takes issue with pop-tart Kesha for manhandling a triceratops fossil he worked to restore? Nothing good.
    Also, bonus ageism:
  • Age discrimination at Google? Gee, ya think? A woman has joined a class-action suit against the Goog alleging that she was recruited no fewer than four times, had excellent interviews, and failed to get hired.
  • What do a shyster lawyer, nine million missing dollars, and several boxes of extremely rare comics books have to do with one another? Here’s a great story that will tell you.
  • When Twitter, a company where nine out of ten tech employees are dudes, throws a themed party, what’s the theme? Frat house, obviously.
  • The Timmins Public Library in Ontario started a robotics club, yay! But it’s only for boys, boo! But nine-year-old Cash Cayen’s mom didn’t take that sitting down, she got a petition going on, collected 27,000 signatures, and got the mayor to open the program to anyone who wanted to participate. Even girls.
  • The cop who stopped Sandra Bland did not have the right to tell her to put out her cigarette, nor to order her out of her car for no reason, nor did she have to do anything other than identify herself to him, nor could he “yank” her out of her vehicle, nor could he object to her recording this encounter with her cell phone, nor could he threaten to “light her up with a Taser”. It looks like your rights don’t matter much in the face of some Barney Fife’s aggrieved privilege.
  • Meanwhile, it seems increasingly likely that there are some shenanigans going on with the “now you see it, now you don’t” video of Sandra Bland’s traffic stop. Chicanery is being alleged.
  • A journey into the purring heart of Japanese Internet cat culture.
  • A robot is hitchhiking from the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. What adventures will our plucky little droid encounter?
  • Sound engineering is “the grumpiest profession in the world”. As an occasional audio engineer, I can confirm this.
  • Am I wrong to find it horrifying that the Smithsonian Institution is reduced to panhandling on Kickstarter — and giving Kickstarter a healthy percentage of the proceeds — to restore and preserve a unique and important artifact of American history?
  • The brilliant thinkers over on r/adultery have some great ideas for how to explain your having a “Ashley Madison” account to your (dumb) wife.
  • Louisa Lim, author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia, wants to know how China managed to completely forget that the Tienanmen Square uprising ever happened.
  • “I gave up Ayn Rand for Bernie Sanders” — a journey back to sanity.
  • Speaking of Ayn Rand, here’s a nice piece on how she became the “Libertarian Sociopath Pixie Dream Girl”. Also, some hair-raising quotes from her newly-published-for-no-reason-whatsoever bad novelization of her very bad stage play, Ideal. Believe it or not, this is a quote: “He felt as if there was something—deep in his brain, behind everything he thought and everything he was—which he did not know, but she knew, and he wished he did, and wondered whether he could ever know it, and should he, if he could, and why he wished it.”
  • Why is Congress handing over Apache sacred lands to a British-Australian mining company?


Everything Else

  • No words are necessary. Just watch.
  • Ambient sound in movies — particularly the sounds you never notice but would absolutely miss if they weren’t there — is what “foley artists” and “soundscape designers” do.

Wednesday Linkfest



  • Columnist Dan Savage asks the entirely reasonable question, “Why are people horrified at Gawker for outing one cheating dude, yet gleeful over hackers outing 37 million of them?”


  • After Hieu Minh Ngo was convicted of a massive series of identity thefts, a class-action suit has been instituted against credit bureau Experian, which is accused of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act, among a variety of other things. The plaintiffs want to force Experian to contact anyone who may have been affected by Ngo’s activities, to offer them a full year of free credit monitoring, to disgorge any profits Experian may have realized from Ngo’s scheme and to establish a fund to reimburse people affected by Ngo’s activities.
  • AshleyMadison CEO Noel Biderman made an effort to pitch Robert Scoble on how incredibly serious they were about security. You’d think they might’ve considered encrypting their databases.
  • A possible breach at PNI Digital Media, providers of a widely-used online photo management platform, has had the effect of causing CVS, Rite-Aid, CostCo and a number of others to shut down their photo-processing services.
  • The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against putative identity-protection firm Lifelock, for lying about its services, a charge it has faced in the past. Additionally, the FTC has charged that LifeLock failed to implement a meaningful security program (STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE!), falsely claimed that it offered consumers protection comparable with that of major financial institutions with regard to their own data, and had failed to meet the record-keeping requirements of the company’s $12 million, 2010 settlement with the Commission and 35 states’ attorneys general.


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Drones, Drones, Drones

Society & Culture


  • If you talk with your co-workers about your salaries at Google — discovering all sorts of untoward things in the process, evidently — your manager will give you a hard time about it, in spite of the fact that doing so is completely illegal in California.
  • Breitbart chucklehead and Donald Trump impersonator Milo Yiannopoulos doesn’t believe women should be involved in tech. No one’s got time for that kind of stupid, especially not Margaret Hamilton, who led software development for the moon landing and coined the term “software engineering”.
  • Speaking of “Breitbart chuckleheads”, editor Ben Shapiro has filed assault charges against transgender reporter Zoey Tur after she put her hand on his neck and called him a “little man”. Why so serious, Ben? Feeling…inadequate…?
  • A young iOS developer hurls herself to her death from a 20th-floor rooftop bar in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. Other patrons, attending a “corporate event”, are unperturbed and just keep on drinking.
  • A study by researchers at the University of New South Wales and the University of Florida has found that the worse a guy is at games the more likely he is to make negative comments toward women gamers. U JELLY BRO?
  • Remember how people used to “run away to the Big City” to make their fortune? Got a median income? Here are all the big cities you can’t afford to live in, and when they became unaffordable. San Francisco crossed that line in 1982.
  • A 6-foot 4-inch 260 pound South Carolina construction worker has been arrested for slapping a waitress (on whom he had 120 pounds and 13 inches) when she took issue with his racially harassing a black family while they were trying to have dinner. Reportedly, he was under the impression that the family “didn’t mind” being abused.
  • Been bitten by a rattlesnake? Expect an enormous hospital bill. ObamaCare has improved things, but the American health care system is very broken.

Other Stuff (and #CannibalismInTheNews!)

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  • A burglar manages to take a selfie by accident while stealing an iPhone from the apartment he’s broken into. Venice, California police are requesting help in identifying this dolt. Guys like this are the reason “crime doesn’t pay” — they bring down the average.
  • “Pot polish” — the rounding of broken bone edges when they’ve been cooking in a pot — as well as cut marks on the bones show pretty conclusively that the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845 did, indeed, resort to cannibalism.
    Relatedly, Dan Simmons’ book The Terror is a terrific fantasy novelization of the privations and demise of John Franklin and his two ships full of hapless, doomed explorers.
  • Missed yesterday’s Festival of Links? Check it out here.

    Tuesday Linkfest

    What I’m hearing from people is that they’re going to miss the raft of links I typically would post on Facebook about the news and other stories that had caught my interest. Here’s a first stab at providing something as a replacement.

    Discussion in the comments. (Comments are moderated, get over it.)


    •, a site which purports to enable one to have a “discreet affair”, got hacked and badly. As many as 37 million users are at risk of having their personal data—including ther “kinky sexual fantasies” posted online. A group calling itself “Impact Team” is taking responsibility, and it all seems to be over an issue of not scrubbing data after hitting up customers for $19 to do so.
      What astounds me here is the moralizing in the comments. A site with your medical or financial records, or lists of purchases you’ve made that you might not want your boss to know about, can be hacked just as easily as a cheating-on-your-wife site you despise. The blue-nosed “YOU DESERVE THIS!” tone of the attackers’ taunts suggests to me that Chansters are behind this somewhere. They’re all about ethics, you know.
    • From the “Stop Me If You’ve Hurt This One Before” desk, Android is again being called out as a security risk owing to the tremendous amount of fragmentation in the platform. This time, security researchers have written a paper on it (link in the article).
    • After discovering that one of the zero-day exploits they sold to hacking team had in turn been sold to human-rights-violating regimes, Netagard has shut down its controversial Exploit Acquisition Program. Again.
    • Completely aside from the potential impact on jobs and the economy, there’s a side of those “self-driving cars” that’s not getting discussed in all the excitement. Here’s a story relating a demonstration of hacking a Jeep on the highway, and taking it over. We’ve already seen drones spoofed with fake GPS; while robot cars may well reduce accidental traffic fatalities, I’d bet any amount of money we’ll see some deliberate ones. You know: for the “lulz”.


    Society & Culture

    • Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. I remember sitting in my dad’s apartment, watching it on a tiny black-and-white TV. Here’s a story of someone the same age as I, who was watching it while I was, and how it affected his life.
    • According to this story in Salon, instant rāmen noodles are an environmental disaster. Instant rāmen noodles are fried to creates “holes” in the noodles that let them cook in three minutes; the frying is done with palm oil. Lots of palm oil. So much palm oil that it’s destroying entire habitats and endangering orangutan populations in Borneo and Sumatra.
    • Astoundingly, it’s being reported that Google’s targeted advertisement algorithms are doing things like showing higher-paying jobs to men than they do to women. Further detail at the MIT Technology Review.
    • Robert W. Gibson, who wrote a number of issues of “Captain Harlock”, has passed away at age 55.

    Other Stuff (and #WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot!?)

    • Ever wondered how you’d portray a mute on stage, or write a blind character in a story, or any number of things? This wonderful reference site is an objet trouvé from the wonderful Mordant Carnival.
    • And from the “Tech Geniuses of Silicon Valley” desk, a “wiccan witch” (?) has apparently gotten a business going protecting company’s computers and networks through sorcery.