Friday, August 26, 2016

Delicate Tim and gay marriage

Oh, so newly elected walking selfie Tim "Send in the water cannon" Wilson is now taking to re-tweeting rude tweets from lefties?   To show up the intolerant Left?  Seems a bit rich...

As to the whole same sex marriage plebiscite - what a mess this issue is.  While I think a plebiscite is actually not a bad idea for everyone for a major social and legal change, I would expect it to be conducted conveniently (and economically) with an election day vote.  But this seemed to have been beyond Turnbull's ken to get going in time for the last election.  Do we blame deals with his conservative Coalition base for that?  I'm not sure.

Now with the Greens going all "principled" again (they manage to delay a lot of useful things to their side of politics by doing this) it seems there won't be one for years.  Actually, I wonder if it's more likely now that we won't have one at all, and gay marriage will just come in via a new Labor government.  But I could be wrong.

It's one of those issues where everyone's annoying - gay activists by carrying on too much about how dire it will be for gay teens to hear rhetoric against it;  conservatives for going on about how it will be a cultural disaster that will see people locked up for refusing to marry same sex couples.  And Tim Wilson for criticising the Greens, when members of his own party are interested in delaying the inevitable, including undertaking not to be bound by the result anyway.  

And for the record, again:  I would favour civil unions over gay marriage.  If the plebiscite had been held at the last election, I would have likely have voted "no", but with the expectation that the "yes" vote would win, and without any great concern that it would end Western civilisation.  (Or perhaps, I would just have voted informal on this - that's probably the better line for someone like me to take, given my preferred option is not on the table.)   Give it another couple of years of listening to argument about it, though, I might be persuaded to vote "yes" for gay marriage, just so I can stop hearing about it....

A funny line about Coulter

The Great Ann Coulter Immigration Bamboozle

From The Federalist, of all places:
“I don’t care if @realDonaldTrump wants to perform abortions in the White House after this immigration policy paper,” Coulter tweeted last August, calling Trump’s immigration plan “the greatest political document since the Magna Carta.” At the time, due to my longtime understanding that Coulter is 85 percent ratings-and-book-sales-related shtick and 15
percent the amalgamated ghosts of old cigarettes, I shrugged and rolled my eyes.

Robot babies

I see that an evaluation of one of those "here, look after this demanding, crying, robot baby and see what a pain baby care is, so you'll know not to get pregnant" programs with teenagers in WA actually ended up with more of the robot carers getting pregnant.

I'm a little puzzled by this.  Haven't these programs been tried in the US for many, many years?  They've featured in some sitcoms for a long time, I'm sure.  Were those programs properly evaluated?  Or does it depend on the location of the teenage population (with, for example, teenagers in remote towns with little to do finding that even caring for a robot or real baby is better than being bored?)

The Hillary health campaign

The Trump/Guiliani/nutty Right wing conspiracist reliance on ridiculously concocted "evidence" of Hillary Clinton being seriously frail just goes to show what intense gullibility has swallowed up significant sections of the Right in the US, as well as the dearth of genuine good policy they have on which to run.   Just as they would prefer to believe that climate change is a self serving fabrication of money hungry scientists and/or socialists of the UN, rather than believe the hundreds of professional science bodies and the evidence of record temperatures before their eyes, they show little in the way of common sense, let alone good policy judgement, and swallow the silliest suggestions whole.  I am still inclined to blame the internet for this - I just don't think conspiracies used to get the hold on as large a part of the Western public in the pre-internet decades as they do now.

And it seems to me that the Trump campaign is probably facing a backlash for this - with one poll now showing a 10 point lead for Clinton, and ridicule of the health conspiracy finally making news.   Or maybe it's the Trump flip flopping on his populist immigration policy.  Who knows. 

And why haven't those in the GOP who want their party to have a skerrick of credibility been calling out Trump on this health conspiracy issue?  Are they just figuring that the only way the party can rise again is to see it first burn to the ground when the nutty element takes control?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

More comedy stylings from the escapee from 1950

Spotted at Catallaxy, from someone who has become the walking definition of hysteria about homosexuality and the matter of gay marriage:

The video, incidentally, shows the weakest "firestorm" of violence since, well, I dunno, readers can up with their own comparison for wannabe violent confrontations that weren't anything to write home about. 

Providing for the dead

China's ghost weddings and why they can be deadly - BBC News: Police in north-west China have charged a man with murdering two women with mental disabilities, alleging that he wanted to sell their corpses to be used in so-called "ghost weddings".

It has put a spotlight on the ancient shadowy ritual, still practised in certain parts of China, which aims to provide spouses for people who die unmarried.
Read the whole thing - it's fascinating.

Yet more on (very odd) Japanese management ideas

The ‘handsome weeping boys’ paid to wipe away your tears - BBC News

This will, no doubt, be the oddest story about Japan you will read today.

Putin and the Noosphere

What is the Mysterious “Nooscope”? Let’s Ask Putin’s New Chief of Staff | Mysterious Universe

Russia has long been the home of crank-ish spirituality; although, as it happens, I'm quite fond of the idea of the Noosphere myself.  The possibility of an orbiting nooscope, though?  Sounds like something out of Philip K Dick.

What it means for Putin to be elevating someone who seems to take these ideas very seriously is anyone's guess.

More about "Japanese Schindler"

Documentary sheds light on Japanese who helped Jews escape Holocaust | The Japan Times

I've mentioned him before on this blog, way back in 2008.

The problem of regional predictions

Global climate models do not easily downscale for regional predictions | EurekAlert! Science News

Zhang and Michael Mann, Distinguished professor of atmospheric
science and director, Earth System Science Center, were concerned that
the direct use of climate model output at local or even regional scales
could produce inaccurate information. They focused on two key climate
variables, temperature and precipitation.

They found that projections of temperature changes with global
climate models became increasingly uncertain at scales below roughly 600
horizontal miles, a distance equivalent to the combined widths of
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. While climate models might provide
useful information about the overall warming expected for, say, the
Midwest, predicting the difference between the warming of Indianapolis
and Pittsburgh might prove futile.

Regional changes in precipitation were even more challenging to
predict, with estimates becoming highly uncertain at scales below
roughly 1200 miles, equivalent to the combined width of all the states
from the Atlantic Ocean through New Jersey across Nebraska. The
difference between changing rainfall totals in Philadelphia and Omaha
due to global warming, for example, would be difficult to assess. The
researchers report the results of their study in the August issue of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.
The problem has been well known for some time, but I guess this is putting some more specific details into it.  Also, it makes it clear what nonsense it was for the head of the CSIRO to suggest we could afford to move on from climate modelling work.

Things you probably didn't know about airplane tires

Airplane Tires Don’t Explode on Landing Because They Are Pumped! | WIRED

The article ends by noting that it's really hard to make an airplane tire explode by overinflating, because they are designed to be so strong.  I presume they are better now than tires on Orions in the 1980's - as I am aware that an airman lost his legs due to an accidental overinflation explosion in Adelaide in that decade.

In other natural disaster news

Giant, deadly ice slide baffles researchers : Nature News & Comment: One of the world's largest documented ice avalanches is flummoxing researchers. But they suspect that glacier fluctuations caused by a changing climate may be to blame.

About 100 million cubic metres of ice and rocks gushed down a narrow valley in Rutog county in the west of the Tibet Autonomous Region on 17 July, killing nine herders and hundreds of sheep and yaks.

The debris covered nearly 10 square kilometres at a thickness of up to 30 metres, says Zong Jibiao, a glaciologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITPR) in Beijing, who completed a field investigation of the site last week.  The only other known incident comparable in scale is the 2002 ice avalanche from the Kolka Glacier1, 2
in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia, says Andreas Kääb, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo in Norway. That catastrophic event killed 140 people.

I hadn't even heard of these, until now...

Roman earthquakes

Can an Earthquake Bring About the Fall of Rome? - TIME

With news of the deadly Italian earthquake, not all that far from Rome, I was curious about whether Rome itself has ever suffered a lot of damage from a major quake.  The answer appears in that Time article from 2012.  Seems from historical precedent that the city is not all that likely to ever be reduced to rubble; but sure, it has had some earthquake damage, and could get a moderately large shake again.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Man, he's childish..

Just had a look at the Trump twitter feed:

Don't any of his advisers have the gumption to say to him - "Boss, I suggest you stop using these 'people are saying' and 'virtually everyone agrees' lines - they're seen as transparently self serving and a silly rhetorical device"?

Money for access

For people who like to accuse the mainstream media of liberal bias, aren't they are little surprised that the New York Times and the Washington Post both have had articles playing up the concern about the Clinton emails and the "access for money" issue they raise?

I find it hard getting too worked up about this:  money for access to politicians (via political donations and attendance at exorbitantly priced fundraisers) is so common now that it seems beyond winding back.  True, from little I have read, it seems that the Clinton arrangement incorporated an indirect - but only just - wealth enhancement to the Clintons personally (via Bill being paid by his own foundation?), and I can understand why people think this is a bit rich (ha!)   But as for how bad it is for good governance - isn't the problem that to get too horrified by it, you have to show that the payment did in fact lead to corrupt and bad decisions?  As far as I can tell, so far, no one has pointed to a clearly egregious example of such a decision as a result of donation to the Clinton Foundation, which lead to an email to Hilary, which led to a meeting, which led to a bad decision that would not otherwise have been made.  But I stand to be corrected.   It seems from the most recent articles that donors who contacted Hilary or her staff for help often didn't get much "value for money"; sometimes getting responses that were more "I dunno.  Good luck with that one.  Oh, and thanks for the donation, again."

Anyhow, here's the choice:  a candidate who has a long history of doing very well personally out of politics and political connections - sometimes in dubious fashion - but who appears basically sound on matters economic, understands foreign affairs (even if you don't agree with every decision she made - but let's face it, it's frequently a case of not being able to win no matter who you support when it comes to foreign policy, especially in the Middle East), and believes scientists when it comes to climate change - the global issue of the century with dire planet wide risks.

On the other hand - a narcissistic flip flopping ignoramus, with terrible judgement as to who to take policy advice from, who still thinks decades later that his being able to use hairspray with CFCs was more important than fixing the ozone hole.

It's just not a realistic comparison.

Update:  I think I can say that this BBC summary of the issues with the Foundation over the years supports my general take on the matter.

Update 2:  and here's the Slate take on the matter.  Pretty much along the same lines - the Foundation was sort of asking for trouble; or at the very least, doubts.  Perhaps the best line in this article is this:
You don’t need to believe the Clintons orchestrated some sort of pay-for-play scheme to know that there is something wrong with a dynamic where it is nearly impossible to prove whether they did or did not.   
 But this is still not the same as showing the Clintons were corrupt in any highly serious way.

And it's not as if people shouldn't have doubts about Trump's ability to remain a cleanskin.  If anything, his refusal to be upfront about his tax returns, and the connections with Russian money (that do indeed go to the matter of direct benefit to him and his businesses), as well as his generically self centred, immature attitude to everything, show him to be a fertile field for future corruption and secret dealings.

Update 3:  Here's the Michael Yglesias take on the matter at Vox, more defensive of Clinton than other media.  Key point:
Here’s the bottom line: Serving as secretary of state while your husband raises millions of dollars for a charitable foundation that is also a vehicle for your family’s political ambitions really does create a lot of space for potential conflicts of interest. Journalists have, rightly, scrutinized the situation closely. And however many times they take a run at it, they don’t come up with anything more scandalous than the revelation that maybe billionaire philanthropists have an easier time getting the State Department to look into their visa problems than an ordinary person would.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Japanese management style

BBC - Capital - Why you don’t give praise in Japan

This all sounds about right, from what limited amount I have heard about the Japanese workplace. It is all rather odd, from a Western perspective:

Traditionally, the Japanese language had no word for feedback because
it just wasn’t something that anybody did, says Sharon Schweitzer, CEO
of Protocol and Etiquette Worldwide, and an expert on how managers can
assimilate in foreign countries. So they had to make up a word, fīdobakku.

Yet, it’s still simply not something that’s done. “If you don’t hear from
your Japanese manager, you’re doing well,” Schweitzer says. “If your
manager asks for an update on your project, that means you’re not doing

Managers in Japan aren’t likely to ask for an update because
employees are expected to constantly provide them. It’s a process called
hou-ren-sou and it involves subordinates sending their boss
emails, all day long, about when they’re going to lunch, the percentage
of the project they’ve finished, when they’re taking a coffee break,

For foreign managers, the temptation may be to reply
with accolades, congratulating them on finishing 32% of the project. But
don’t, Schweitzer cautions. “If you reply and tell them good job, you
will lose face and they will lose face. Just say thank you or don’t
reply at all.”

A second series of Adam

Adam Ruins Everything, And For That We Thank Him - MTV

Yeah, I find this show (which was on SBS on Demand for a long time) good and entertaining, even if I don't always agree with his take on things. 

The American opioid problem

This city saw 26 opioid overdoses in less than four hours

Monday, August 22, 2016

I prefer my fish cooked

It's been quite a while since I've noticed any article about catching parasitic worms from eating raw fish, but here's one which goes into a lot of interesting detail:  

Parasitic Worms Burrow into Walls of Woman's Stomach After Meal: The worms can burrow into the walls of the stomach or the small intestine, though it is much more common to find them in the stomach, Fuchizaki said. About 95 percent of anisakiasis cases are in the stomach, he told Live Science.

When the worms burrow into the walls of the stomach, the symptoms usually develop within several hours of eating contaminated fish, Fuchizaki said. If the infection occurred in the small intestine, however, the symptoms wouldn't start until one to five days later, he said.

Some people may notice the worms even sooner than a few hours after eating raw fish — in some instances, people actually feel a tingling sensation in their mouth or throat while they are eating, which is caused by the worm moving around there, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some people may be able to remove the worm with their hand or by coughing, the CDC says. Vomiting, which is often a symptom of anisakiasis, can also expel the worms, the CDC says.

In most cases, people experience pain and other stomach problems because the worms are damaging the tissue of the digestive tract, Fuchizaki said. But some people may be allergic to the worms, and experience an allergic reaction if they eat them, he said.

Because the worms do not reproduce in humans, they eventually die and cause an inflamed mass, according to the CDC.

A problem unsolved

I see via a Jason Soon tweet that the matter of "shy bladder" in men's public toilets is still the subject of articles, this one in Vox.  

I first posted about this topic in 2007, and made the very reasonable observation that, with modern public toilet design for the last few decades going nearly always with the individual ceramic urinal, it is dead easy to give each user a bit of privacy by installing simple, solid dividing screens to the wall between each one.  They don't have to be floor to head high; and I would assume that you'd really have to have a very serious aiming problem to ever miss the urinal so far that you could dirty one.   On the occasion I have been to a toilet incorporating such a design, I liked the additional bit of privacy, and I'm sure I would not be alone.

But yet, I have noticed over the intervening years that, even with new toilets in renovated shopping centres, this is pretty rarely an option taken up.


As the Vox article notes, and as any male knows, there is a lot of use of the toilet stalls by men who only want to urinate, causing dirtier toilets because of poor aim, etc.  

This is a well known and understood issue, so why is one obvious, useful and cheap design addition to public toilets routinely ignored?

Clearly, this is some bizarre failure of the free market, and it calls for government regulation!   (An approach Jason Soon would surely endorse - ahahahaha.)

A good conceit for a novel

Book Review: 'Ghost Talkers,' By Mary Robinette Kowal : NPR

The new opiate of the masses

The Virtues of Reality - The New York Times

Interesting idea put forward here by Ross Douthat - that some of the "old" problems associated with youth (rate of violence, unwanted pregnancies, etc) are getting better because they're happy to live in an internet/cyberworld of games and porn. 

And he deals with the theory in a non-panicky way. 

She can't handle the truth

Oh look, there goes Judith Sloan having an attack of the vapours because an Australian journalist correctly pointed out that about the only agitation about repeal of s18C Racial Discrimination Act comes from white privileged (usually male) people aligned with the IPA.

Once again, I wonder why she doesn't realise that her continual hyperbole (often in the bitchiest tone possible, especially when it comes to other economists) about, well, everything (she's also upset that swimmers were still in Rio after their competition had finished - yes really) means everyone outside of her tiny circle of fans from Catallaxy and the Australian (and that may be exactly the same, tiny group) ignore her? 

Update:  by the way, I don't doubt that the QUT s.18C case is pretty ridiculous, but seems to me there is every chance that the judgement might confirm that.   I wouldn't get into any frenzy about it until the outcome is known.  

Kubo (further in the long series - movies reviews no one is waiting for)

Yes, I did get to see Kubo and the Two Strings yesterday.

Some quick comments:

* While I knew that there would be a heavy emphasis on magic, I didn't realise it would be quite as mythological as it is.  

* I wasn't sure while watching the movie, but on checking afterwards, the matter of how it presents the Japanese tradition of welcoming the spirits of dead ancestors (and releasing them again) is entirely accurate - see these entries on the Bon Festival and Toro Nagashi at Wikipedia.   (I should explain - while I knew that there were countries that did the river lantern bit, I wasn't sure that it was done in Japan, and in this specific context.)

* I get the feeling that the theme of loss of memory might come from some particular story in Japanese folklore too, but I haven't found it yet.  And I could be wrong.  As for another explanation, as someone at a Reddit thread said, it seems quite possible that one of the writers may have personal experience with a parent with Alzheimer's.

* There are some story gaps which I would have liked to see filled.   For example, the underwater experience - it seems there should be more revealed about Kubo by the experience, but it doesn't happen.  

*  But overall:  yes, the movie looks and sounds great, and is often touching.   But I really want to see it again in better viewing conditions (there were a bunch of 12 year old boys completely uninterested in what was going on in the movie some distance in front of us, and they were distracting.)   I hate to say it, but I doubt it will be a break through financial success for Laika - the themes are too melancholic for children below about mid-Primary school level, I think; some teenagers (who really should see it) will think they are too cool to do so;  and while Laika has lots of adult fans, I'm not sure there are enough to help it make a lot more than $100 million per movie.

*  So - even if you think there is a chance you might like it - do so at a cinema now.   I'd like to see this art form by a studio with real beauty, heart and soul survive.

Message to Tim:   you would like it, I am pretty sure.

Update:   here's the top guy at Laika, saying that their next movies will be quite different.  He suggests that Kubo is like the end of a cycle.   I would say that I could see his point if it weren't for Box Trolls, as Coraline, Paranorman and Kubo all do show a great interest in supernatural, after-life issues.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

An app for the day

I have a bad habit of forgetting to turn my android phone ringer back on after turning it off for things like the cinema, or a concert.  A day later, I might look at the phone and realise that I have missed a call or two for that reason.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that it would be handy if you could set the ringer off for a certain period, to have it turn itself back on later without my further involvement.

And, indeed, there are many phone ring schedulers out there, which you can use for turning it off for evenings, or overnight, etc.

But the simplest one for the specific purpose I wanted seems to be Shush! Ringer Restorer.   Works very simply (just turn your ringer volume to zero and it pops up automatically, letting you assign the restoration in 1/4 hour increments.)

What a neat app (assuming it works, haven't fully tried it yet) for my problem.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Trump and racial sensitivity

Charles Blow at the NYT writes with some amusing clarity on the matter of Why Blacks Loathe Trump.  An extract:
He erupted like a rash onto the public consciousness on the front page of The New York Times in 1973 because he and his father were being sued for anti-black bias at their rental property.
This is the same man who took out full-page ads blaring the headline “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” in New York City newspapers calling for the execution of the Central Park Five, a group of teenagers made up of four African-American boys and one Hispanic boy, who were accused and convicted of raping a white female jogger in the park. A judge later overturned the convictions in the flimsy cases and in 2014 the Five settled a wrongful conviction suit with the city for $41 million.
This is the same man who is quoted in the 1991 book “Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump — His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall,” as saying:
“I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

Coalition: "Yes, we were a terrible, inhumane Opposition. So sorry"

Gee, this outburst of blame shifting and quasi-apologies from Liberals for how they acted whilst in Opposition under the then soon-to-be most inept PM in Australian history are coming thick and fast.

First, it was Tony himself musing that perhaps he should have let Labor try deflecting wannabe refugees to Malaysia instead of driving them to desperation in the dead end societies of Nauru and Manus Island.  Half- baked, not-really-an-apology-but-thanks-for-the-thought, no doubt not accepted by the people living in tents in the tropics for the last few years, Tony.

Yesterday, Morrison was happy to point out that he was only following orders from Abbott in that matter.  Strange how he nonetheless tied his rising star to a level of secrecy and dubious tactics including high seas bribery against refugees that were every bit as questionable as Abbott's self serving painting of Malaysia as the hell hole of Asia.

And today, Christopher Pyne says "well it wasn't me being the unreasonable one":
Leader of the House Christopher Pyne has blamed Tony Abbott’s former chief whip, Warren Entsch, for a series of bad calls that resulted in Labor MPs initially being refused leave during Julia Gillard’s hung parliament.
Mr Pyne, again touting his credentials as a “fixer”, insisted he overruled Mr Entsch’s hardball tactic of refusing parliamentary pairs for Labor’s Craig Thomson to attend the birth of his child and Michelle Rowland, who wished to care for a sick child.
I wonder how the Right wing Murdoch cheer squad for the then Opposition are feeling now that the politicians they supported at the time are now changing their tune.

Still waiting for Kubo

I have the power of overwhelmingly positive reviews (like this one) behind me in convincing the resident teenagers that they will accompany me to see Kubo and the Two Strings on Sunday.  (Actually, they've given up putting up resistance.)

Meantime, here's the video clip of the song that plays over the credits at the end (I think I read).  I like it (although comments on Youtube indicate Beatles purists may not.)

Yay for libertarians (\sarc)

Peter Thiel wants to destroy Gawker. It will be catastrophic if he does.

And I see today that he effectively has.

I become more and more convinced as the years roll on that libertarianism is the most destructive and dangerous political philosophy since the height of Soviet style communism.   Even though I didn't read Gawker with any regularity at all, I think Peter Thiel's campaign against it was petty and ridiculous.

But the main objection to it [libertarianism], of course, is the key role cashed up libertarians in the US have had in obstructionism of effective government policy on climate change in that country (and therefore, indirectly, internationally.)   Sure, I can't directly blame them for Indian and Chinese obstructionism in past years (well, I don't think I can), but the US has been prevented from unleashing the proper power of capitalism to building clean energy because of libertarian funded objection to proper policy settings.

And, of course, libertarians have been key figures in the climate change policy wars in Australia.  I see from recent media that Leyonhjelm tries to avoid sounding as nutty as Roberts on climate by saying his key objection to pricing carbon is that there is no point in doing it until other nations do.  Yet this is disingenuous weasel words - his party's platform is clearly that climate change (as a serious issue to be addressed) has not yet been proved to their satisfaction:

Should the evidence become compelling that global warming is due to
human activity, that such global warming is likely to have significantly
negative consequences for human existence, and that changes in human
activity could realistically reverse those consequences, the LDP would
favour market-based options.
So don't believe Leyonhjelm's attempts to portray himself as just being Mr Pragmatic on this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Trying hard to maintain his perfect score of "0" (in the category "black Americans who will vote for me")

Donald Trump defends Milwaukee police shooting - BBC News

One would have thought that he might hold back until after video was released to the public; but this is Donald.

A common problem

In Canada's aboriginal suicide crisis, lesson on protective power of culture -

I feel I shouldn't say it, but I'm still not sure that every nation's (or perhaps, every region's) aboriginal culture has the sort of depth to it that enable it to serve this useful purpose.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A strange French habit

For French Teens, Smoking Still Has More Allure Than Stigma : Parallels : NPR

Wow, I didn't know this:
"They know we smoke at parties; they think it's a social thing," says
Louise Ferlet, age 16. "But if they knew that on our way to school we
light a cigarette, they'd get mad. I mean, my dad caught me smoking in
my room multiple times. He doesn't react because he went through the
same thing and he knows I'm going to quit one day. And I know I'm going
to quit. Just not today," she says with a laugh.

About 40 percent of French 17-year-olds smoke, according to French government
figures. That's one of the highest rates in Europe. Less than 10 percent of American teens smoke, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a bid to reverse the high rate of smoking, particularly among the
young, France has just introduced some of the world's toughest
anti-tobacco measures, including plain cigarette packs and a ban on
menthol cigarettes.
 In Australia, incidentally, around 5-6% of teenagers smoke.  France's rate is about 8 times higher!

I wonder if the tobacco lobby there will be flying Sinclair Davidson in to tut tut about plain packaging.  But it's too late.

Writing to code

BBC - Culture - The secret code to writing a bestseller


Yes, this is all a bit of a worry

Rise of the critical flops: Suicide Squad takes 360m at box office | Film | The Guardian

The article notes several other films that were big financial successes despite poor reviews.  But perhaps I save my biggest indignation for films that get both good reviews and good box office when I consider them immoral trash.

Waiting for Kubo

I had noticed recently an unusual amount of advertising for the soon to be released Laika feature Kubo and the Two Strings.   Given that it is a stop motion animation being released outside of school holidays, I thought that this perhaps indicated a high degree of studio confidence in the film, even though I didn't find the trailers all that impressive.

And, yeah, seems my guess was right:  early reviews from America are very, very strong, and I am now keen to see it. [Update: the Rottentomato score is even higher, and the one "rotten" review is from someone unknown at the Guardian, and it reads more as clickbait than a serious review.]

Once again, I will be forced to bribe at least my daughter to see it with me. My son is more easily persuaded to try new movies based on my sales pitch.

Anyway, as I love seeing behind the scenes at Laika, here's a short video showing some of the work on this film:

Trump, Roberts, etc

If you ask me, Brian Cox and the rest of the panel was too soft on Malcolm Roberts last night.  While his conspiracy thoughts about NASA got an airing, we didn't hear about Agenda 21 and the European banking families.  Still, I can't blame Cox, who is a mere visitor to our shores, for not reading up a bit more on nutty Mal.  There are better things to do with your time.

As for Trump - the little bit of his speech I have heard about seemed a bit "meh" - and no explanation as to how "extreme vetting" is supposed to stop the internet radicalisation of Muslim kids who were born in the US.   Did he suggest working more closely with Putin?  I thought that was the general drift.

Monday, August 15, 2016

This'll be interesting...

Trump to lay out plan for combating radical Islamic terrorism -

Although, truth be told, the way Trump is complaining about media bias I think the theory that he will soon "fire himself" (while trying to divert the blame to "the system") is looking more credible than ever.

What a surprise: the blog for angry white males approves of a mock complaint by an angry white male

See here.

Of course, the correct way of seeing Leyonhjelm's complaint is that it's just another example of a Senator with too much time on his hands, playing games.  

What's his "nanny State" and wind power enquiries achieved, by the way?

Monday stuff

*  Well, that's weird.   Trumpkin tragic Steve Kates from the clown rodeo at Catallaxy yesterday noted an article about the unclear size of the proton-muon combination, and how important this may turn out to be for physics, just after I had read the same day an updated article on arXiv suggesting that the discrepancy can be explained by extra dimensions, and suggesting further experiments that might help confirm it.  I assume that this type of experiment does not require high energy and particle acceleration, so it would be ironic if a "table top" experiment turned out to be key to proving the existence new physics when the LHC has not.

*  So Tony Abbott now thinks he probably shouldn't have played games with human lives by allowing the Gillard government to legislate for trying the "Malaysia solution"?   This poses a bit of a quandary - should he be at least grudgingly admired for coming around to this view, or should we feel greater vindication about his appalling hypocrisy and willingness to advance his career at any cost?    I'm leaning strongly to the latter - Abbott is like a bad advertisement for the type of Catholic who takes full advantage of its "get out of jail free" system - you can sin pretty much as much as you like provided you have enough time on your death bed to regret it and receive absolution.   Nope, sorry Tony - it was clearly a mere political game you were playing at the time, and you don't deserve sympathy.

*  The Olympics - I have my own guilty confession to make -  I'm sort of finding Rio's reputation as the most dangerous and bumbling Olympics ever held to be refreshing.   I mean, every Games there is panic about facilities not being ready on time, tickets not being sold, and whether visitors will face dangers from terrorism or whatever.  But this time, it's all coming true (well, thankfully, with visitors only being robbed and avoiding bullets, but not being killed - I wouldn't be making this comment if that had happened.)   It makes a change from the Games all going smoothly after all.   Perhaps it will work as incentive to give the games back to poor old Greece permanently, which would seem to be about the only way that country might make a long term economic recovery.  

And I would have thought most Australians would be happy enough with the performance of the swim team - I can't stand commentary about "choking" from armchair critics.

So, yeah, I am sort of perversely enjoying these games - and Rio still looks like a very pretty city.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Password problems

I am getting overwhelmed with passwords, and in particular, with the interaction between Yahoo, Google and YouTube.  I think there's less problem if you're not trying to keep a level of net anonymity, but if you are....

The end of the line for super colliders?

Physicists need to make the case for high-energy experiments : Nature News & Comment

Bee paints a pessimistic picture, too.

And here's an article (a pretty clear one, too, given the topic) about it at The Atlantic.

Message to monty (everyone else can ignore)

Can you please tell CL to stop his "I support Trump...but not really" act?  He does the same with Gateway Pundit - calls Hoft a dimwit who is only right 1 out of 20 times, yet still continually and gullibly re-posts every Clinton conspiracy theory that Hoft posts, and only occasionally covers his endorsement with "well, if this is true..."   His self created land of obfuscation is bothering me...

And - you might also note there that Snopes has looked at the wildly implausible RWDB meme that Clinton needs a doctor actually ready to inject her at any moment by her side.   You're dealing with folk not playing with a full deck, you know?

"Work with me here, Donald"..."No"

I find this hilarious - the pro-Trump Hewitt trying to help Trump de-doofus himself, and Trump refusing the invitation:

Update:  at Hot Air, of all places, they have a serious take on the stupidity of this:
This is a recurring problem for Trump, seen most recently in what he said about “Second Amendment people”: He doesn’t seem capable of imagining how the things he says will be understood beyond his own fan base. Tom Joscelyn noted this morning that “Obama founded ISIS” is also an idea pushed by Iran’s supreme leader, Khamenei. He has a different meaning of “founded” than Trump does: He wants Shiites, who loathe ISIS, to believe that the organization was deliberately created and equipped by the U.S. to persecute them. That’s not what Trump means by it, but because he insists on using a word that implies intent in describing Obama’s role, Iran can use the clip of Trump in its English-language propaganda. Trump either doesn’t grasp that or doesn’t care enough to be more precise with his criticism.
Update 2:  and then comes the argument, from Slate, that Trump knows what he's doing.  Personally, I think that's giving Trump too much credit.  I think it's more likely that he wings it in front of supporters, because he likes the roar of the crowd and is actually insecure, and then comes the retro-justification:
Hewitt then countered one last time by suggesting that he personally would use “different language” to communicate the same criticism. Trump’s response was remarkable for its awareness. “But they wouldn’t talk about your language,” he told Hewitt, “and they do talk about my language, right?”
That remark is telling, and it illustrates something that should be obvious by now but is often lost in the noise of each new controversy that comes every time Trump says something outlandish and/or obviously untrue. This was not some ad-libbed comment that went awry, a bad joke that did not land, or the candidate going “off message,” as Beltway pundits call it. In fact, he’s completely on message, and this has been the message for years, dating back to Obama’s first term, during which Trump used the birther movement to lay the foundation for his current presidential run. More than anything, Trump has built his campaign on (white) America’s fears of the other, and what better way for him to harness those than by othering the sitting president of the United States, be it by questioning his citizenship, his faith, or his loyalty.  It doesn’t matter to Trump whether his wild-eyed accusations are true; it doesn’t matter to him whether they’re offensive. All that matters to him is casting an illusion his supporters want to believe in.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ridiculous technology

While I take great pleasure in marvelling at what technological capacity there is in cheap mobile phones these days (my current phone was under $100 last Christmas), I would love to have the new Samsung Note 7, which, I see, comes with a pre-order offer of a micro SD card of 256 G capacity (at a price of $1348 at Harvey Norman.)

Carrying around 256G of storage in your smart phone (even more if you count part of the in built 64G)?  And on such a tiny card?

This is just ridiculously awesome, and young folk who are growing up with this need to understand how incredible it is.  (Hence I spend time doing this with my own kids, and encourage all adults over 40 to do the same.)

I suspect this phone is going to do well for Samsung, given the way some markets (such as India) go for the big "phablet" devices if they can only afford one computing device.  Reviews seem positive.

And, back to my under $100 Samsung phone - I have recently tried a new launcher - Smart Launcher - and I like it a lot.

Trump's still running?

The Trump campaign has been a disaster for the Trump brand - The Washington Post

Some spectacularly bad PR for Trump yesterday/today, hey?  Even being generous to the idiot that he didn't mean gun nuts could shoot her, I reckon the least you could plausibly interpret it as would be speculating about armed intimidation of a Clinton presidency over her choice of presidents (of the "open carry" type of demonstration that makes the country look like a hick third world nation.)

The article linked deals with something I had been wondering about - wouldn't all of this woeful publicity be hurting anything branded "Trump"?  I mean, if you were a Democrat who previously might have holidayed at a Trump resort, and just joked with your friends about the apparent support for an eccentric TV character that this entailed, wouldn't you now take it more seriously and definitely avoid having anything to do with his name?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Census 2016

I find it hard to understand the privacy freakout by certain folk with respect to the 2016 census.  I strongly suspect it is age related - I reckon you have to be over 45 to worry about it at all, even though I well and truly belong to that category, and don't.  I'm guessing that 95% of people under 30, most of whom have so little regard for privacy that they post about their strings of partners (temporary or longer)  on Facebook, and have probably at least once sent or received pics of their naked bits through the aether,  have no concerns at all.  

Bernard Keane has been particularly overwrought about this - and didn't he write a novel about surveillance  which featured many sex scenes?  He has some other odd obsessions, including donkeys and greyhounds.  (None of which, I trust, are involved in the novel.)   I wish he would just stick to politics.

Anyway, no I couldn't complete it on line tonight either, and I'm sure I'll get sick of hearing about this government tech failure over the next week.  

I don't know why they just didn't call it "Census Week" to make it clearer people could do it on line over (say) 7 to 14 days.  Seems an obvious way to avoid the rush of "census night", no?

Laffered out of a job

Conservative Lawmakers Ousted in Kansas Primary Election - WSJ

Even the Wall Street Journal notes the failure of the Laffer inspired Kansas experiment in large tax cuts.

Good to see some politicians paying for it.

Warming lakes not so good for them

Decline of fishing in Lake Tanganyika 'due to warming' - BBC News

Steel story

The (largely false) globalization narrative - The Washington Post

I was surprised by this explanation of what happened to the American steel manufacturing industry.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Lol indeed

I was just on Youtube looking at the video of the old Safety Dance song (for no particular reason other than it's catchy - I've embedded it before.)  Thought I would look at the recent comments, and found this:

This song attracts the funniest comments...


For what it's worth:  I quite liked the Rio opening ceremony.   It was, apparently, a much cheaper production than recent Olympic openings, but was actually better for it - it reminded me of the scale of the Sydney opening, which was also great but with less mechanical contraptions than seem to have turned up at later openings.   It again showed how much can be done with the clever projectors they use at all these events now.  (I particularly liked how the early airplane I had never heard of before seemed to be designed backwards.)

And yes, it was appropriately sexy in a Brazilian way.


*  Wasn't Insiders interesting yesterday, with new Senator Malcolm Roberts sealing the deal as having outpaced Leyonhjelm as the biggest nutjob in the Senate, by far.   Apparently, only 5 years ago he let some "very strong researcher" from Queensland convince him that the "sovereign citizen" movement was the way to go to try to argue against a carbon tax.  (I hadn't even heard of this bunch of nutters until Malcolm came along.)   He seems to have changed on this in more ways than one - originally trying to claim he had no knowledge of the movement, now saying it was "a mistake".

The guys looks nutty; he definitely sounds nutty; and he committed his nuttiness to paper - I think based on his "empirical evidence" insistence, I can declare the evidence is in:  he was and is a nut; and a slippery dishonest (even by normal political standards) one at that.

*  Also on Insiders, Gerard Henderson* was claiming that One Nation was a long term problem for the Coalition, as having 4 Senators and staff meant they could consolidate their credibility before the next election.

Yeah, sure, Gerard.   The track record of parties based around one personality is obviously dire - especially when they are run by self interested populists like Palmer or Hanson.  (Hanson does well out of elections whether she wins or not.).    At least people like Xenophon or Don Chipp - smart guys running for a neglected centre of politics - might establish parties that run some distance, but even then the Democrats show they won't be around forever.

Gerard's gone downhill as a political commentator; time to retire, I suggest.

*   Is Trump still the GOP candidate?    The longer this campaign runs, the more it shows that the power of positive thinking may take a BS artist who starts with a family fortune quite a long way, but it does absolutlelynothing to encourage insight.

The thing is, the more he derides Hillary's mental state, the more the electorate will see it as projection.  But he obviously doesn't see that risk.

Update:  *  even after just having watched the nut filled interview performance of Roberts.  But Henderson has always given undue credence to climate change denialism - he gave Salby a venue at which to claim he had discovered the end of AGW.   Where's Salby now?   Completely discredited, where ever he is.

Saturday, August 06, 2016