friday linked list: AI can identify gay people by their face, the greatest story ever told, reframing negative thoughts

Artificial Intelligence Can Identify ‘Gay Faces’ From a Picture, Study Claims – oh, man. There is nothing but bad things that can come of this. The author’s notes take pains to say they didn’t develop an algorithm, they’re just using already existing ones, which is even more scary. (thanks Stephen!)

The Week My Husband Left And My House Was Burgled I Secured A Grant To Begin The Project That Became BRCA1 – this is the best story I’ve ever read. Take a few minutes and read it!

For Teens Knee-Deep In Negativity, Reframing Thoughts Can Help – this is helpful. I worry about being able to help my daughter as she gets old enough to have these problems…luckily, I have a while to prepare!

Break Up the Tech Giants? No, Just Level the Field – this seems like a more achievable goal. (yes, Uber is a taxi company, not “ride-sharing”…)

United Airlines is testing a novel way to bump passengers – hey, this is, like, not terrible!

I downloaded an app. And suddenly, was part of the Cajun Navy. – neat firsthand experience!

How Hurricane Harvey Taught the World About Houston – Yay Houston! (thanks Mom!)

Mystery of sonic weapon attacks at US embassy in Cuba deepens – scary stuff that sounds like something out of a spy novel

Anatomy of a Moral Panic – yeah, the whole “Amazon is radicalizing people by suggesting bomb ingredients” take is a bit much…

Beautiful 30-day time lapse of a cargo ship’s voyage – wow, look at that night sky! Very pleasant to watch.

Nasa’s ambitious plan to save Earth from a supervolcano – great, I had forgotten how scary supervolcanoes are. From the article:

“But Yellowstone explodes roughly every 600,000 years, and it is about 600,000 years since it last exploded, which should cause us to sit up and take notice.”

When Henry Ford’s Benevolent Secret Police Ruled His Workers – umm, creepy!

You Don’t Need to Do a Prolonged Fast Before Surgery – interesting! (thanks David!)

Don Draper’s Carousel Pitch, delivered by Bane – I do enjoy listening to things read in Bane’s voice…

friday linked list: redlining’s continuing effects, VW engineer sentenced to prison, break up monopolies!

How Redlining’s Racist Effects Lasted for Decades – a sad reminder that slavery ended 150 years ago, the Civil Rights Act was passed 50 years ago, but discrimination’s effects last a very long time.

VW engineer sentenced to 40-month prison term in diesel case – this seems appropriate, given that the code was pretty obviously intended to commit fraud. Engineers should have professional ethics like doctors and lawyers!

Bust Up America’s Monopolies Before They Do More Harm – this is a good idea.

Boston Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Steal Signs Against Yankees – well, that’s new. (although sign stealing is very very not new!) Here’s a step-by-step view of what they did.

– So KFC made a VR escape room to teach employees how to fry chicken and it is super weird and worth a watch.

Relationship Problems? Try Getting More Sleep – this is definitely a thing. (thanks David!)

Playing board games can make you a nicer person with better relationships – hey, I play board games! 😛 (thanks Emily!)

– A Delta plan flew into San Juan as Hurricane Irma was hitting to help evacuate people. A Wired story points out that the real risk was to the plane (if it had had to stay there when the rest of the storm hit it would have almost certainly been destroyed), but still!

Houston’s Mayor Was Right to Not Evacuate – this point has been made a number of places, but it was nice that the guy who lost to Mayor Turner is defending his decision.

The ‘Cajun Navy’s’ secret weapon for saving lives: The human voice – neat!

To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now – while the article compares Apple of today with Kodak from the 1980s, the problem is certainly not limited to Apple. It’s concerning that companies are creating fewer middle-class jobs these days.

The Worst (and Best) Places to Be Gay in America – from the article

In Waco, Tex., the lone justice of the peace who presides over weddings recently admitted that she won’t do so for same-sex couples no matter the federal law. But Houston, just a three-hour drive away, has in instances been a pioneer: Annise Parker, its mayor from 2010 to 2016, is the only openly L.G.B.T. person ever elected to lead one of the nation’s 10 most populous cities. And Austin, the state’s capital, is practically Key West, Fla. — minus the coconuts.

Yay Houston and Austin!

State Department reports new instance of American diplomats harmed in Cuba – they’re apparently being harmed by some kind of “sonic harassment attacks”, which is pretty weird.

It’s been 10 years since the Rangers beat the Orioles, 30-3, and it’s still brutal – that is a lot of runs!

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries review

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic QuandariesDeath by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was kind of interesting, and the “lots of short chapters” format works well. But I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a huge fan of Tyson’s writing. To me, it comes off as kind of condescending and pretentious – not in a big way, but enough to be irritating. Am I the only one that feels this way?

View all my reviews

eclipse linked list: women in tech, spending money to save time, the gender wage gap

The e-mail Larry Page should have written to James Damore – this is so much better than my response that I’m just going to link to it from my post. Well put!

Want to Be Happy? Buy More Takeout and Hire a Maid, Study Suggests – I’ve heard this before about spending money on experiences instead of on things, but spending money to save time is also a good idea.

The truth about the gender wage gap – really good look at the causes of the gap. It seems like a lot of it comes down to whether you can work inflexible hours or not, and that’s hard for women who are the primary caretaker for children.

Ellen Pao: This Is How Sexism Works in Silicon Valley – Pao sued her venture capital firm for sex discrimination and lost, but man does she have a story to tell. (although this seems pretty different from sexism at high-tech companies)

Better Business Through Sci-Fi – companies hiring sci-fi writers to predict what will happen in the future is kinda cool and kinda creepy. Also:

Phillips mentioned one story that initially featured a kangaroo running amok in a major North American city. The client, a carmaker, asked that the marsupial be removed.

Ghoulish Acts & Dastardly Deeds – interesting story about a serial bomber in New York in the 50’s.

The Common Wisdom on Antibiotics Is Wrong – interesting, I hope they do more research on this! See also The Fight Against Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Might Start With Vaccines.

The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe – this is terrifying:

The original receiver remains useless: one engineer’s simple oversight nearly doomed humankind’s lone visit to Uranus and Neptune.

‘Skunk in the outfield’: How the most epic trick play in history broke baseball – title is a bit hyperbolic, but this is a good story, both funny and kind of sad.

Somehow Women Still Make Up Less Than a Third of Speaking Characters in Top U.S. Movies – le sigh

Harlem Globetrotter nails a shot from a damn helicopter

about that Google “women in tech” screed

I really didn’t want to post about this, because it’s the year 20*checks watch*17 and we are apparently still having this argument. But I’m a guy in tech and apparently his views are wider-spread than I would like to believe, so here goes:

Edit: this article about The e-mail Larry Page should have written to James Damore is way better, just read that instead!

If you haven’t read the essay, I’d recommend doing so. (I debated about whether to even read it, but eventually decided it was better to be engaged) Here it is in full – note that it was posted to an internal Google forum that is apparently available for all employees to read.

It’s a little hard to respond to because there’s a whole tangled mess of points he makes, a few of which are reasonable. I do think conservatives can be alienated in tech circles, and if you think taxes should be lower, then you shouldn’t feel afraid to express that opinion at work. (although why are you talking about politics at work?) But, there’s some pretty bad stuff:
He claims to value diversity, but doesn’t like programs that work to increase diversity – for example:

Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.

I…don’t even know what to say to this. Which is weird because later he says

I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority.

(emphasis added) So…which is it?
Maybe there are fewer women in tech for non-sexist reasons? for example:

We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.

I think the best response to this is this chart of the gender representation in Computer Science over time:

Women are biologically different than men! This is true to a very small extent. David just finished a whole book (Brainstorm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences) showing how most of the studies that purport to show differences are way overblown. Even the guy whose research the author cited says he misinterpreted that research.

Ugh, I’m tired. Read this response by an evolutionary biologist and call it a day.