friday linked list: driving as a series of moral choices, fighting the attention crisis on your phone, lobbyists

How Would Jesus Drive? – A reminder that we make a ton of tiny moral decisions every day.

Take control of your phone (from Time Well Spent) – this is an interesting set of recommendations. I haven’t followed a lot of these but I’m trying to follow the spirit of them by being more thoughtful about jumping into my phone. One positive change that I’ve made is using Gmail’s Inbox app for my mail. I only get a notification on my phone if an email is deemed “important”, which is mostly emails from people I know (and about house stuff, these days…), and it automatically bundles low priority for me. It makes it easier for me to keep my inbox low and lowers my stress level because I’m not looking at notifications for emails I don’t care about all day. (thanks for the recommendation, Mary!)

I was a lobbyist for more than 6 years. I quit. My conscience couldn’t take it anymore. – so, this sounds pretty bad. But politicians of both parties begging for money, while unfortunate, is not hypocrisy; it’s a necessary part of getting elected to Congress. You can support campaign finance reform of some sort, but that doesn’t mean you have to unilaterally disarm to be moral!

A Radical New Scheme to Prevent Catastrophic Sea-Level Rise – I am seriously all for geoengineering projects like this. Technology got us into this climate change mess, technology can get us out of it!

What Putin Really Wants – very good (and long) Atlantic article.

What Serena Williams’s scary childbirth story says about medical treatment of black women – nothing good! In her case it was clearly an issue that she wasn’t taken seriously because she’s a woman and black. (since she’s both rich and famous…)

Physicians who refuse to accept Medicaid patients breach their contract with society – food for thought.

Uber’s Secret Tool for Keeping the Cops in the Dark – Uber doing something unethical? *drops monocle out of shock*

The diabolical genius of the baby advice industry – yeah, I didn’t even read that many baby books but there was still plenty of conflicting advice…

Why Mickey Mouse’s 1998 copyright extension probably won’t happen again – cool!

Sarah Silverman’s response to a sexist tweet is a much-needed ray of hope – wait, it’s not what you think! I mean, I don’t know what you think, so it’s possible it’s what you think. But probably not!

Guess Who’s Coming to ‘Peanuts’ – neat! This is something I’ve talked with David about for a while – if you go back and look at old “Will and Grace” episodes, for example, I’d imagine the gay characters look pretty stereotyped today. But for its time, having a gay character as the star of a primetime network show was a very big deal! (see Joe Biden on gay marriage: ‘Will and Grace’ helped educate America) So you do have to judge things in context.

The Strange Brands in Your Instagram Feed – this is…weird. Not sure how much value these people are adding?

Happy 2018! linked list: Meltdown/Spectre, age discrimination, Swedish robots

– Another widespread security issue, but this one’s in hardware! (as always, make sure you’re automatically installing updates for your OS and web browser) For more information about Meltdown/Spectre, you can start at the top of the list and stop when things get too technical for you:
  – xkcd
  – Ars Technica summary
  – Meltdown and Spectre – the “official homepage” of the vulnerabilities, because that is a thing now
  – Detailed Google Project Zero report – I got about a third of the way through, got the gist of it, and stopped reading…

A few comments:
  – The list of companies that have released security advisories is truly a thing to behold.
  – Is this worse than Heartbleed, my previous candidate for worst security problem ever? Meltdown/Spectre don’t allow for attacks from remote systems, but given that the problem is in the processor itself and that people have been working on patches for this for months now, I would say yes.
  – Many kudos to Google for funding Project Zero, whose researchers found these vulnerabilities! (although some academic researchers also discovered them around the same time)
  – These sorts of vulnerabilities are kinda weird. It seems pretty unlikely that anyone would have discovered this before the “good guys” did (although it’s been around for like ten years in one form or another), and since working around the issue was tricky enough it took months for people to do, in one sense the world was safer because the researchers discovered it. But of course, someone would have discovered it eventually…

T-Mobile, Amazon, and other companies are accused of using Facebook ads to exclude older Americans from jobs – discriminating based on age is illegal, but targeting job ads to (say) younger people by buying ads in magazines that young people tend to read is OK. This seems on the illegal side since older people will never see the ad on Facebook. (thanks David!)

Christians Need a New Right-to-Life Movement – amen!

The Robots Are Coming, and Sweden Is Fine – a good safety net and strong unions sounds pretty amazing!

The Man Who Tried to Kill Math in America – interesting! He meant well but really discouraged teaching kids any sort of advanced math. From the article:

When the United States entered WWII, the military reportedly had to offer enlisted men and officers in all military branches remedial math classes so they could fulfill their duties; many were struggling with tasks as basic as bookkeeping.


How Drug-Free School Zones Backfired – a policy that sounds good (and is good if used in moderation!), but…yeah.

Trump puts the world’s worst crooks and killers on notice – somewhat surprisingly, the Trump administration is enforcing the Global Magnitsky Act effectively. Hooray!

Why the debate over the budget deficit is so confusing and frustrating – economics is complicated, and countries aren’t households.

It’s been one year since N.J. ditched cash bail. Here’s how it’s going – it’s going pretty well! Bail is a weird idea that really boils down to your ability to pay.

Porgs given reason to exist, besides the fact that they are cool and good – Porgs are actual puffins altered with CGI! This is amazing!

The Navy’s Tradition of the New Year’s Day Deck Log – neat little tidbit 🙂 (thanks Emily!)

Chess’s New Best Player Is A Fearless, Swashbuckling Algorithm – another look at AlphaZero.

Social Security Will Be Solvent for the Rest of the Century – yay, probably!

Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6 – support browser diversity; use Firefox!

linked list wednesday: Pence’s “never dine alone with a woman” rule, don’t buy an Amazon Echo!

Vice President Pence’s “never dine alone with a woman” rule isn’t honorable. It’s probably illegal. – legality aside, the rule is clearly discriminatory unless you do the same for men. (also that Iowa dentist case from the article is bonkers! What the heck, Iowa?)

Don’t Buy Anyone an Echo – this was written as a part of Grinch week, so take it with a grain of salt, but I’m pretty surprised how popular the Echo (and Google Home, I guess) have become. Are people really not bothered by a listening device in their home? And you can trust big tech companies if you want, but they’re going to get hacked or be buggy. (like at least one Google Home unit was)

Yeah, it’s cool to be able to talk to a computer like on Star Trek. But at what cost?

What makes people nostalgic for a past worse than the present? – interesting survey results! (thanks David!)

My $200,000 bitcoin odyssey – for some reason I really enjoy reading these “aaaa I might lose thousands of dollars in bitcoins” stories. Just a reminder that while cryptocurrency solves some problems, it creates a bunch of new ones too. Also, I wonder how many bitcoins are lost forever because of mishaps like this? Since there’s a fixed supply of bitcoins, seems like this could be a problem at some point?

Cards Against Humanity Redistributes Your Wealth – this is very cool! (see the whole series at Cards Against Humanity Saves America)

Google’s AlphaZero Destroys Stockfish In 100-Game Match – so AlphaZero just used reinforcement learning for four hours and beat the highest-rated chess engine in the world? This seems like a huge deal.

Why Trying New Things Is So Hard to Do – it is!

Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance – man, the debt collection “business” is really really shady.

“An orgy of serious policy discussion” with Paul Krugman – wonky but very readable and interesting!

In Raising the World’s I.Q., the Secret’s in the Salt – neat look at Kazakhstan’s efforts to iodize salt! (although the article is ten years old, FYI)

The Story Behind the Music of The Muppet Christmas Carol – Merry Christmas everyone! (thanks Jessica!)

linked list saturday: how to stop the trickle-down tax cut, parental leave, Facebook being creepy

– Sadly, the Republican trickle-down tax cut passed the Senate last night. The House and Senate versions are different, but this is a huge step towards a bill passing.

So what can you do? You should call your Congressperson and Senators every day and ask them to oppose the bill. If you can, donate to Swing Left to support Democrats running against Republicans in swing districts in 2018.

Which countries are most generous to new parents? – a surprisingly wide range here, and of course the US is at the bottom 😦

How out of date are Android devices? – the answer is: pretty out of date. (neat visualization though!)

How Facebook Figures Out Everyone You’ve Ever Met – do NOT share your contacts with Facebook or any other app! This is creepy stuff.

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race – speaking of Facebook being creepy…

How to Get Rich Playing Video Games Online – interesting look at what it’s like to make a living on Twitch.

America Is Now an Outlier on Driving Deaths – our fatality rate has gone down since 1990, but not nearly as much as the rate in comparable countries.

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer – the answer appears to be: the number of guns we have. (The US makes up about 4.4% of the world’s population, but we have 42% of the world’s guns!)

friday linked list: Carrie Fisher, Texas inmates, Russian spies

Carrie Fisher apparently sent a cow tongue to a producer who assaulted her friend – she was so great. In a similar vein, here’s a list of nice allegations against celebrities, like the time when David Tennant read a random fan’s academic paper!

Texas Inmates Donated Nearly $54,000 for Hurricane Relief – wow, that is something!

Americans Are Sending Too Much Stuff to Houston – …and not enough cash.

The Russian Spies Who Fooled Seattle – I think I remember vaguely hearing about this, but man does this sound more sinister knowing what we know now…

The Origins of All 30 NBA Team Names – I love things like this! (thanks Utah Jazz!) See also the All 30 MLB team names, logos, mascots ranked! thing I did a while ago.

Cancer survival rates have increased dramatically over the past 35 years – that is impressive progress!

The Battle Between Baseball and Cricket for American Sporting Supremacy – interesting, I didn’t realize cricket used to be popular here! (thanks Mom!)

The Unsung Role That Ordinary Citizens Played in the Great Crime Decline – this is impressive:

Comparing the growth of other kinds of nonprofits, the researchers believe they were able to identify the causal effect of these community groups: Every 10 additional organizations in a city with 100,000 residents, they estimate, led to a 9 percent drop in the murder rate and a 6 percent drop in violent crime.

Holes In The Plot: Suspect Loses Bet With Cops, Turns Himself In — With Doughnuts – hah! (thanks David!)

friday linked list: go Astros!, HIV vaccine, the KKK

New antibody attacks 99% of HIV strains – wow! Human trials are supposed to start next year and still a lot of things could go wrong, but this is exciting!

I wanted to understand why racists hated me. So I befriended Klansmen. – wow! Powerful story.

– One of the reasons I left LiveJournal was that they turned off HTTPS, which makes it very easy for people (ahem, Russian government) to get your password and see what you’re doing. Well, to my surprise they turned it back on again! Although there are still other reasons not to use LJ anymore….

– Boston University has developed a preliminary way of diagnosing CTE in living patients, which may have a big effect on the NFL.

– This video for Maroon 5’s “Sugar” is very sweet – they go around LA crashing weddings 🙂 (although would it have killed them to crash a gay wedding? They’re in California!) (thanks Jennifer!)

How the Catalan government uses IPFS to sidestep Spain’s legal block – that is clever!

The Good Place is a great show! If you’re watching it, here a giant list of food pun restaurants from a recent episode, and a ranking of the ones that actually showed up in the episode. (if you’re not watching, that second link has spoilers!)

My Mass Shooting Ritual – it makes me incredibly depressed that I have the same thoughts. See also Our collective happiness on Twitter reaches a new low.

Russian soccer officials add bleachers OUTSIDE stadium to satisfy FIFA – hah! That looks terrifying.

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…