Thursday, May 25, 2023

Well this is a dumb exercise in enginnering


 Los Angeles (more correctly the Southern California Transit District) decided that the city needed more shade at bus stops. Poorer people and immigrants normally use the bus in LA, because few people don't have a car. And extra shade is a great idea. As you might expect, the busses do not run often.

But the implementation is also important. And implementation here is laughably bad. The "shade" is riddled with airflow holes, and therefor doesn't provide much relief. And the "shade" that it generates will cover, maybe, one person. It does have light for safety at night, but past that it is a bad idea.

Giving the designer the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the new shade had to use the existing pole. In any case, it is pretty pathetic.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

As long as we are signal things with absolutely no way to check it....

 ... I am committed to living out the rest of my days on Mars.


He won't talk about the millions of dollars in goods and services Clarence Thomas and his wife took. He won't comment on the fact that Thomas' wife got lucrative contracts are participated in the January 6th insurrection. He allowed Clarence Thomas' benefactor to ignore a Congressional subpeona.

But yeah, I totally believe him. 

Not every dog is cut out for a service dog life

 


Get Out! There is a "Global Penguin Society" that works to conserve Penguins and habitat


 Turns out there are many other penguin lovers out there. I heard about this one only because The Atlantic wrote about one of conservations biggest awards was giving from the Indianapolis Zoo to the group.

The society's first work was in Patagonia (Argentina), where the director had grown up. He started as a child saving penguins from oil spillage. Now the program works all over the world with them. Their reasoning is that when penguins are doing well, the ocean ecosystem is doing well.

And they have some great images on their web site.



When you get rid of predators...


 There are wild foxes in England not afraid or people. Wild boars in the US South. Wild monkeys all over the place.

And on the picturesque Hawaiian Island of Kauai, feral chickens. And apparently the wild chickens roam the island free ... and annoying.

The story is behind a paywall on The Atlantic, so entire story after the jump.

My favorite part is that the spend $7, 000 to catch wild birds, and they caught 67. That is more than $100 per bird. I think you could do better than that by offering the locals $25 bucks a bird they bring in.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Wrong Fear of AI

The world has a general fear of Artificial Intelligence. And many people, both smart and conspiracy stupid, are telling us to be afraid of AI. But I think we are worrying about the wrong thing.

The fake image that launched 1,000 tweets

Before I continue to say why our current fear of AI is a different problem, let's review what the current fear mongers say. 

One problem they see that an artificial intelligence might not need humans, and actively work against the beings that can turn off the switch. And we all die. Not much we could do about that, except stop AI science altogether. And we can't.

Second they say that not-too-bright artificial intelligence might be so focussed as to be to our detriment. There example is the paper-clip example. That says we tell an AI to make paperclips at the lowest cost and maximize output. Then our all-knowing, but dumb AI will convert more and more manufacturing towards paper clips until every plant and workers is focussed on paper clips and we all die. Yeah, I can't really believe this situation. It seems that at some point the cost / benefit price obtained would stop the production of paper clips. And, if not, pull the plug out of the wall.

Realistically there is another fear that is specific, not general, which may be right (but that isn't my main point). In this third situation we incorporate AI into our weapons. We have already done this - as have other countries as prices for drones drop. The fear is that a simple mistake that the AI is fed might lead to a nuclear war. They point to a couple of different scenarios in both the United States and the Soviet Union / Russia which would have led to war if key people had not objected and raised concerns. If an AI is given the power to launch nuclear weapons, those mistakes in input would cause a war. And, again, AI in some drones already to make targeting decisions with no human input. At the very least the American military has human backups before we launch a nuc. My guess is that other countries don't want to exterminate life and have the same process.

Well... maybe we should start


BUT

Here is my new fear. Artificial Intelligence lies. 

In some cases an AI writer will list a source as an input to the article from an expert - that is not true. In the case of a Bloomberg article, the AI actually went back and CREATED an bogus entry from the past that supports their argument.

In other cases the AI (like ChatBots - those things that answer you or create documents) have been fed bad information somewhere and therefore creates response that aren't true. An example that occurred when they first came out a few years ago is that enough people "taught" the AI that Hitler was correct, the AI would produce reams of reasons that Hitler was a good man and the final solution made sense.

Finally, they could be instructed to lie. Either through outright malice (describe the way a pizza joint in Washington steals children), or through asking accidentally for information that they have to make up.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE  I am not sure which problem this real life example originates but....

A college professor used AI before grading papers. He asked an AI to report how many of his students used an AI to write or contribute their essays. The "ChatAI" found 5 instances of people that employed "ChatAI" to write their papers. The professor failed them. 

The AI was wrong in flagging these students. But the students had to prove it was wrong in order to be heard out by the professor and school. There was the presumption of guilt based on an AI decision. The proof  a few were able to provide included time stamps for the first, second and third drafts, along with the research. Finally the professor and school had to accept that the AI was lying about it was wrong.  There are lots of examples where AIs incorrectly flag AI interactions. Texas on May 17th. UC Davis in April.

And the result is "ha ha funny", but it has real world implications. At UC Davis, a student was sent to Judicial Review and a second review by an Honor Board. He had to prove that the accusation was incorrect - and it is hard to prove a negative.

Happening in college is worrying, but what if we get to the point we honestly can't believe in what is real. In a country and time like ours, where people already don't believe in the honesty of the other side, this would heighten the changes of violence.

Ouch

This hurts a bit more than even the LGBT book banning. This is an attack on kids and the American dream. One of the best received poems in the country. WTF


In case you forget this most inspirational moment from Biden's inauguration, here is Amanda Gorman - story teller extrodinaire.

My favorite lines - and maybe Florida's least favorite - are these:

And so we lift our gaze
Not to what stands between us
but
what stands before us

She was stunning. Watch again.

Monday, May 22, 2023

My latest post from The Intersection of Geography and Economics

I enjoy writing these. Not only do I learn a lot more when researching - my memory isn't always trustworthy. Anyway, I knew some of this, but learned a lot more.



I remember when the world was nicer too.....



CNN article on floating off-shore wind turbines

CNN has a great article on the idea of floating wind turbines father out in the ocean. In the United States the first of its kind will be set up off Maine's coast. It is one of an array of 10 that are planned.  And it is 20 miles from the land, so people can't see it (a traditional complaint).


I confess, until I saw this illustration I was skeptical. Honestly, I thought that floating windmills would just fall over. Which is silly because we can do oil wells that deep.

Turns out that farther off shore we are working on various ideas to capture wind. And the promise is that in these reliably windy areas we can create a HUGE amount of power. Its a cool idea.


I think showing these will bring about a protest similar to Vietnam

I think when television news started showing the devastation, deaths, and horror of war - that was one of the key things that motivated people to oppose the Vietnam War. 

Similarly, I think showing the victims of gun violence will waken people to the horrors of gun violence. I don't think it will be easy or comforting. But the story of the impacts must be told.

Stories of old white guys shooting people "by accident" or because the shooters are mentally ill simply takes us away from the reality, and places us as innocent bystanders. People rendered helpless in the face of gun deaths.

It is easy to turn off images of cops storming a school. It is much more difficult to ignore images of children who survived a school shooting. CNN will now show survivors, but only if they parents agree. And many parents will agree because that is the only way to get through to people Sure, it might not work, but victims of gun violence will do almost anything to stop it.





 

Titanic's Passenger Mausoleum in Woodside: The Straus's

In the movie Titanic, there is a touching scene where an older gentlemen is refused entry to a lifeboat (women and children first). His wife is invited on, but she stays. She has spent her entire life with her husband and will die with him on the boat.

Turns out, the story is true. It is the story of Ida and Isidor Straus. You can read all about their story by googling, but the highlight is that by 1886 Isidor owned Macy's department store (he had bought out Mr. Macy). He was a Congressman who left to work with non-profit educational services.


And he and Ida were that couple on the Titanic.

On the left from the movie Titanic | on the right the real Isidor and Ida Straus

Anywho, when Ed and I toured Woodlawn Cemetery were shown the Straus Mausoleum. Although the were Jewish, they were not particularly observant and the families did not worry about the Jewish directive to bury people in the ground, and the family is interned inside the building.


Ida and Isidor are not buried there as they went into the Atlantic with the ship. But there is a remembrance in the front of the mausoleum which is meant as a graphic reminder of the sinking. It was cool.


New York Times has all the bills DeSantis signed this year

 In the semi-serious Republican circles, Ron DeSantis is the new "great white hope" (see note*) . He was seen as Trump without the baggage. If Trump falls out somehow then DeSantis is looking to be the nominee. Of course, it was thought that Trump would fall out of the race if he was convicted of anything. We now know that Trump is impervious to anything because he followers will consider him persecuted.

But still, DeSantis is there waiting in the background. And he is held up as the possible future of the party. Which is fuck all scary. Here is a copy of the NY Times article explaining what new laws he has signed this year.

What Bills Did DeSantis Sign as He Propelled Florida to the Right?

Gov. Ron DeSantis ushered in a six-week abortion ban and curriculum restrictions, while expanding capital punishment and concealed carry access as he prepared to run for president.



Seeking to elevate his stock with his Republican base for his presumptive presidential candidacy, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida this year has checked off many boxes on a far-right wish list of laws restricting abortion rights, gender-transition care for minors and teaching about sexual orientation.

Expanding capital punishment and who can carry a concealed firearm in his state? Check. Targeting Disney? Check.

And he could soon remove a requirement that he resign as governor to run for president.

The frenzy of bill-signings and a culture-war agenda laid the groundwork for the candidacy of Mr. DeSantis, who is seeking to position himself as a viable alternative to former President Donald J. Trump, the G.O.P.’s front-runner and a onetime ally.

Here are the bills Mr. DeSantis has signed this year: (rest of article after the jump)

Saturday, May 20, 2023

All the world's roads, mapped

 I love a map, and I particularly love a map of things that are interesting. This is a map of roads in the world. You can select it to get a much bigger and more complete picture. Africa is interesting here since the north around the Mediterranean is not connect to south of the Sahara.

The dense spots in Africa are South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia in the south and Ethiopia in the east of the continent. 



Good News

 Good news is in short supply, mainly because it doesn't push papers media. But there is some great news out there and this is one.

Worms still infect more than 1.5 billion people - I am assuming mainly in Africa. It causes elephantiasis, which leads to divorce and massive pain. When the Rockefeller foundation eradicated it in the American south, test scores went up and childhood diseases went down.

This decline has been greatly support by United States organizations and other non-profits. In particular, the Hellen Keller Foundation, supported by the End Fund, also working hard is U.S.A.I.D. For $1 dollar we can keep 50 children and adults worm free. It costs more than $24 to keep one US Dog worm free for a year.

The article



Friday, May 19, 2023

A Wonderful Statue in Woodlawn

Woodlawn is a cemetery in the Bronx. It was a pastoral cemetery, often used as a place to stroll, eat a picnic and relax before there were a lot of public parks. Eddie and I took a tour of it, and were wow'ed by a lot. In particular, I loved this monument...



It is integrated into a wall that defines the resting area and graves of them.



Quietly Checking out more and more

The 2023 looked to be a good year in the beginning. I won't go over how it all turned to shit. Or why "political discourse" has turned into a monkey flinging shit at visitors. But I will say that Kurt Vonnegut makes me feel better and better about it.

A friend's new(ish) girlfriend reminded me of why I love Mr. Vonnegut so much. And nearly every day now, he (an my stoic principals) remind me that I must accept what I cannot change. I don't have to like it, but I have to go from here.

And here, Kurt helps me...


So... Welcome to the Monkey House



Monday, May 15, 2023

New post in "The Intersection of Geography and Economics"

 LINK



I'm back

 This last week I was visiting my mom and Nic in Montana. 


As usual, it is beautiful in the Bitterroot Valley. Particularly in spring. And more particularly THIS spring because they had a lot of rain and snow.

This year we took a trip to "the Garden of 1000 Buddhas". It is a Buddhist retreat built on the scared land of two Native American Tribes. So, yes, oddly placed in the mountains of Montana.  It is arranged has a huge prayer wheel whee you can to the traditional walk around the outside of the wheel. 



Inside the wheel 6 walls topped by Buddhas lead to a central shrine.


On a hill to the northeast is a route to a outbuilding flying prayer flags everywhere. 


It was odd and cool. 

Friday, May 5, 2023

So the state can take away kids in (check notes) Florida - UPDATED

 Holy Fuck... 

I have tried to remain calm and not freak out over the little stuff, but what is our country doing?

Let me yell this. YOU CAN'T TAKE AWAY CHILDREN FROM PARENTS BECAUSE THE PARENTS SUPPORT THEIR TRANS KIDS!


People made fun Dwyane Wade (basketball star) and his wife Gabrielle Union (actress) when they left Florida because they worried for their trans daughter. But, low and behold, not 3 weeks later, Florida passed a law that would let the state take their daughter.


Unfortunately not everyone has NBA Champion as a father and a famous actress (and UCLA alumni) as a mother. Not everyone has the money and job so they can get the fuck out of Dodge. And, if you can't leave the state, the state can disappear your child. This is some fucked up Soviet Union / Fascist Italy, Peronist Argentina shit.

Where is this country going?

Article from The New Republic... Read it and weep.


-----------------UPDATED ----------------------

OH MY, I missed something in the law. It does not only relate to Florida residents. So, let's say a family has a 17 year old trans child and they go to DisneyWorld. The family gets on "It's a Small World", only to find armed sheriffs at the end of the ride and take the 17 year old away from their parents. Totally legal.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

My new post on The Intersection of Geography and Economics is up

 LINK 



Best Architecture Awards 3: Best Mid-Rise Housing and Best Library

 Yes, I chose mid-rise housing because two finalists are in LA. And Best Library because they are important.


Best Mid-Rise Multi Unit Housing


That one on Santa Monica 




Best Library 


All nice interiors , but only one is a wow! And this "Indian Creek Library" in Kansas is from a closed big chain store (like an old Best Buy) and has been rehabbed.






Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Funny

 From instagram... This would be something I would do...


Best Architecture Awards 2: Best New Museum and Small Private Residence

Again, feel free to disagree with me. These are the awards for best new museum and best small residence. It funny because my reasoning is almost exactly different for these two.

For the Best New Museum :


I like the "Destination" Museum here that showcases the topography a lot. So I loved the Art Bridge.

This is an art gallery and museum space. I love it. Halfway between Sydney and Canberra



For Best New Small Private Houses (between 1,00 and 2,000 sq feet)


I chose the residence that actually had to fit into a current urban area. I think it is very easy to make a gorgeous building that has not context to fit into except nature.

This smaller house had to fit into a plot in Bangkok



The tale of Chiselborough

 Our second dog sit in England this past month was in Chiselborough. Which is a village of about 100 - 125. It was in the middle of nowhere....