Modernization of technology is not always the most urgent task: sometimes the newest innovations are more trouble than they are worth. But as time passes, older technologies become harder to maintain and find parts for. I speak from experience, as my office has an older computer kept around just to run legacy software that has been defunct for about ten years. Not ideal, but I realize eventually, I won’t be able to rebuild the old computer without learning how to solder and program.
The US government has a much greater budget than my humble office, yet doesn’t seem concerned that the nuclear arsenal is controlled by floppy-disk era computers, and even more ancient COBOL routines.
The government is squandering its technology budget maintaining museum-ready computer systems in critical areas from nuclear weapons to Social Security. They’re still using floppy disks at the Pentagon. In a report released Wednesday, nonpartisan congressional investigators found that about three-fourths of the $80 billion budget goes to keep aging technology running, and the increasing cost is shortchanging modernization.
GAO says its estimate of at least $80 billion spent on information technology in 2015 is probably low. Not counted were certain Pentagon systems, as well as those run by independent agencies, among them the CIA. Major systems are known as “IT investments” in government jargon.
The White House has been pushing to replace workhorse systems that date back more than 50 years in some cases. But the government is expected to spend $7 billion less on modernization in 2017 than in 2010, said the Government Accountability Office.
“Clearly, there are billions wasted,” GAO information technology expert David Powner told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at a hearing.
Although lawmakers of both parties say they are frustrated, it’s unclear whether Congress will act.
(click here to continue reading Report: Feds Spend Billions To Run Ancient Technology – Tech Trends on CIO Today.)
Unclear. Right, meaning, Congress has no intention of doing anything between now and election time, other than demagogue and raise money.
America’s nuclear arsenal depends on a surprising relic of the 1970s that few of us may recall: the humble floppy disk.
It’s hard to believe these magnetic, 8-inch data storage devices are what’s propping up the most fearsome weapons humanity has ever created. But the Department of Defense is still relying on this technology to coordinate key strategic forces such as nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to a new government report.
The floppy disks help run what’s known as the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, an important communications network that the Pentagon uses to issue launch orders to commanders and to share intelligence. And in order to use the floppy disks, the military must also maintain a collection of IBM Series/1 computers that to most people would look more at home in a museum than in a missile silo.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the military’s reliance on seemingly archaic tech: back in 2014, the U.S. Air Force showed CBS’s “60 Minutes” one of the top-secret floppy disks that helps it store and transmit sensitive information across dozens of communications sites. So to hear from the Government Accountability Office that the Pentagon has still not phased out the technology – and doesn’t plan to until the end of fiscal year 2017 – is remarkable.
(click here to continue reading The real reason America controls its nukes with ancient floppy disks – Chicago Tribune.)
For the record, here are some of the systems we are spending $80,000,000,000 a year on:
Among the vintage computing platforms highlighted in the report:
— The Defense Department’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which is used to send and receive emergency action messages to U.S. nuclear forces. The system is running on a 1970s IBM computing platform, and still uses 8-inch floppy disks to store data. “Replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now obsolete,” GAO said. The Pentagon told GAO it is initiating a full replacement and the floppy disks should be gone by the end of next year. The entire upgrade will take longer.
— Treasury’s individual and business master files, the authoritative data sources for taxpayer information. The systems are about 56 years old and use an outdated computer language that is difficult to write and maintain. Treasury plans to replace the systems but has no firm dates.
— Social Security systems that are used to determine eligibility and estimate benefits, about 31 years old. Some use a programming language called COBOL, dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s. “Most of the employees who developed these systems are ready to retire and the agency will lose their collective knowledge,” the report said. “Training new employees to maintain the older systems takes a lot of time.” Social Security has no plans to replace the entire system but is eliminating and upgrading older and costlier components. It is also rehiring retirees who know the technology.
— Medicare’s Appeals System, which is only 11 years old, faces challenges keeping up with a growing number of appeals, as well as questions from congressional offices following up on constituent concerns. The report says the agency has general plans to keep updating the system, depending on the availability of funds.
— The Transportation Department’s Hazardous Materials Information System, used to track incidents and keep information regulators rely on. The system is about 41 years old, and vendors no longer support some of its software, which can create security risks. The department plans to complete its modernization program in 2018.
(click here to continue reading Report: Feds Spend Billions To Run Ancient Technology – Tech Trends on CIO Today.)
Nothing important to see here, move along sheeple, there are Benghazi hearings to attend…
If you haven’t seen this film recently, do. Especially the Criterion Collection released a few years ago…
Casting David Bowie as a space alien was one of Hollywood’s best decisions since marrying sound and image. Okay, that’s more than a touch hyperbolic, but come on. Bowie, and his post-Ziggy specialization in coming off like an otherworldly being, was exactly what Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth needed. Hallucinatory, heartfelt, and wholly bizarre, Bowie’s 1976 cult film turned 40 this year, and its marvelous mystery seems to still reach not just beyond the stars, but deep within the human condition. The Man Who Fell to Earth endures not only as a truly bizarre sci-fi masterpiece, but as a time stamp for one of Bowie’s most fascinating and alluring creations: The Thin White Duke.
Newton’s the only alien on our planet; perhaps not so coincidentally, so was Bowie. While the film may flounder at points due to ‘70s excess – hefty nudity, hallucinatory cinematography, a general lack of focus that may or may not have been brought on by drugs – it endures as a wild trip into the outer limits of what defines a man. If anything, Newton is a classic story of commerce, a rise and fall experienced by an extraterrestrial with a preternatural world-weariness. Newton lacks affect for much of the film, as he casually gazes at our world through a particularly yahoo American landscape. Commerce and cowboys and loud things abound. Why wouldn’t an alien recoil in quiet contemplation of the surrealism of it all? Bowie himself summarized it best: The film is sad.
(Via Consequence of Sound)
I was no fan of Christopher Hitchens’ politics, post-1998, especially as he became a cheerleader for George Bush’s illegal and immoral wars, but Hitchens was a clear-headed writer about religion, so count me among those skeptical of Hitchens suddenly converting to evangelical Christianity on his deathbed.
Matthew d’Ancona agrees:
In this respect the trail was blazed by the world’s great religions, which routinely claim recruits among the dying. Indeed, the faithful have form when it comes to falsifying deathbed conversions – notoriously so in the case of Darwin. In 1915 the evangelist Elizabeth Cotton, better known as Lady Hope of Carriden, declared that the great scientist, readying himself for the end in April 1882, had repudiated his life’s work (“How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done”) and asked her to gather an audience so he could “speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation”.
This was preposterous, and quickly dismissed as such. Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta Litchfield, was with her father at his deathbed and insisted that Lady Hope had not even visited him during his last illness. None of his family believed a word of her testimony.
Almost as flimsy is the Catholic church’s claim that Antonio Gramsci returned to the faith and died taking the sacraments. Though a former Vatican official maintained that the Marxist philosopher embraced Catholicism afresh shortly before his death in Rome in 1937, none of the official or personal documents relating to his last days support this extraordinary account.
It is in this context that one should consider the meretricious new book by Larry Alex Taunton, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist.
The religious knew that it was worth claiming the spiritual scalps of the founding father of evolution theory and of Italy’s pre-eminent Marxist. In our own era, a resourceful Alabamian evangelist is exploiting his friendship with Hitchens, who died in 2011, to allege that the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything was, in fact, on a secret spiritual journey and halfway to embracing Jesus.
(click here to continue reading Christopher Hitchens and the Christian conversion that wasn’t | Matthew d’Ancona | Opinion | The Guardian.)
For your daily theremin news…
If Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin are two of the undisputed masters of synthesis, then Dorit Chrysler is the sonic equivalent when it comes to the theremin. A composer, producer, and singer, Chrysler is the co-founder of the New York Theremin Society and founder of the first school for theremin, KidCoolThereminSchool. So as much as the theremin is a tool in Chrysler’s electronic instrument arsenal, she’s also one the most visible thereminists spreading the gospel of this mysterious sounding instrument, which is basically played by massaging thin air.
…Chrysler’s door into the world of the theremin was opened by her friend Lary 7, a New York-based musician and filmmaker. After inviting Chrysler to his house one day, Lary 7 showed her a theremin he was repairing, then demonstrated the playing technique.
Something clicked within Chrysler, who refused to rest until she mastered some notes. She saw in the theremin a lot of underappreciated sonic potential, and had to “get to the bottom of it,” as she explains. For Chrysler, this involved dedicating herself to the theremin.
“With the theremin, you surrender to a microtonal universe consisting within a one-inch movement of your hand towards the pitch antenna,” she explains. “[You] sculpt and chisel every note above the volume rod—close your eyes and perk your ears and you shall be rewarded.”
“For me a good thereminist is a player who focuses on the expressive potential of the instrument,” she adds. “No other electronic instrument can sound so devastatingly emotional, or shall we say, even hysterical at times. Run with it and find your own voice. Supposedly, Lev Termen, its inventor, said, ‘if you put your soul in it, you are worthy of playing the theremin.’”
(click here to continue reading Get Inside the Mind of a Theremin Master | The Creators Project.)
One of these days, I’ll encounter a cheap-enough theremin, or theremin-building kit, and will add it to my home orchestra.
Bonus video: Leon Theremin playing a theremin…
Speaking of biometrics, and facial recognition, both key components of the REAL ID Act of 2005, Illinois doesn’t allow private businesses to do scans of your face, at least as of today.
The Biometric Information Privacy Act of Illinois is not a law many are familiar with. But if you have ever shared a photo on social media, the little-known statute turns out to be one of the nation’s toughest regulations for how companies like Facebook and Google can use facial recognition technologies to identify you online.
On Thursday, an Illinois state senator, Terry Link, introduced an amendment that would have weakened the law by exempting photo-tagging technologies that are now commonly used on social media. The proposal also had the potential to extinguish several class-action lawsuits against technology companies like Facebook by retroactively removing the right of Illinois citizens to sue companies that might have broken the law in the past.
The amendment was lobbied for by Facebook, according to a person involved in the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity. And it helps to illustrate how from drone aircraft to genetic information and statutes that govern how companies sell consumer information to data miners, tech companies are in a capital to capital fight to keep new laws from being passed or to soften those already on the books.
“The Illinois biometric privacy act is one of the best new privacy laws in the country,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “It’s bad news for consumers when Internet companies start lobbying against good privacy laws.”
(click here to continue reading Tech Companies Take Their Legislative Concerns to the States – The New York Times.)
If the federal government wants to create a database with everyone’s face, no problem. But Facebook, Google or LinkedIn? Not so fast.
For what it is worth, I’d vote that neither Facebook nor the Feds have this kind of information.
Applicants will have their photograph taken at a local office and a digital copy will be submitted immediately to Springfield for comparison in a pool of several million digital photos, according to Jim Burns, inspector general for the secretary of state’s office.
“We have in Illinois one of the better facial recognition systems in the country,” he said.
Illinois is among 27 states either not in compliance or taking steps to comply with the Real ID Act. Under this act, stricter identification is required to pass through airport security and enter federal buildings. Homeland Security earlier this year postponed the deadline for states to comply to 2018.
Homeland Security also will accept the temporary paper document in conjunction with an old driver’s license or ID card to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail.
Congress passed the law in 2005 after a 9/11 Commission recommendation to take steps that would make it tougher to counterfeit government-issued IDs.
Critics of Real ID, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have complained that it is a blatant invasion of privacy and would make people vulnerable to identity theft.
Ed Yohnka, director of communications at American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said he believes Illinois and other states have been doing a good job protecting peoples’ identities, and switching to a national identification card would do more harm than good.
“Congress ought to pull the plug on this,” he said. “It creates a national identification system that puts people at a greater risk of having their identity stolen.
“They talk about this in terms of it being for safety and security, but there is no evidence that it adds any of those things,” Yohnka said. “But what we do know is that it creates this powerful dynamic that can be used for surveillance.
“Once you have this national database, the only natural thing to do next is to take it and begin to use it to track people,” Yohnka said. “Then you are just creating a huge surveillance system, and that’s the real danger.”
Yohnka said if Real ID is developed, the government would have the potential to track what people buy and where they go.
(click here to continue reading Illinois Takes Step Toward Real ID Compliance.)
Even with the new procedures, IL is still only 84% in compliance, whatever that really means. And by the way, for a state already in budgetary trouble, here’s an extra expense:
The system will cost the state an additional $8.3 million in vendor and postage costs a year, said Nathan Maddox, [ Illinois Secretary of State Jesse] White’s senior legal adviser. The state plans to use a fund dedicated to driver’s license upgrades to pay for the new system.
“We have been making steady progress in implementing Real ID,” Maddox said. “We’ve met approximately 84 percent of the requirements.”
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced that his office is upgrading security features to the Driver’s License/ID card design and expanding the central issuance process for driver’s licenses and ID cards to all applicants. With implementation of these changes, Illinois has moved closer to achieving full REAL ID compliance, which is a federal mandate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). By the end of July, applicants visiting Driver Services facilities will no longer be issued a new permanent DL/ID card at the end of the application process. Instead, they will leave the facility with a temporary, secure paper driver’s license, which is valid for 45 days and will serve as their DL/ID for driving purposes and proof of identification. The temporary, secure paper driver’s license or ID card will contain a photo and the basic information that appears on the permanent driver’s license or ID card. In addition, the facility employee will return the old DL/ID card back to the applicant after punching a hole in it.
Meanwhile, the applicant’s information will be sent to a centralized, secure facility in Illinois. After fraud checks have been conducted to ensure the applicant’s identity, a higher quality, more secure DL/ID will be printed and sent via U.S. mail within 15 business days to the applicant’s address.
For purposes of air travel, DHS states that it will accept the temporary document in conjunction with the old DL/ID to board an aircraft until the permanent card arrives in the mail. Illinois joins 39 other states that have moved to centralized production of DL/ID cards.
Illinois DL/IDs will continue to be accepted as primary forms of identification to board commercial airplanes for domestic travel until January 22, 2018.
(click here to continue reading 42nd Ward Update: Respect. Honor. Remember. Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade and Wreath Laying Ceremony.)
The full press release, if you are curious (PDF file)…
Fine, whatever, as long as the damn thing doesn’t get lost in the maw of the unreliable Chicago mail – seriously, what percentage of these DL/ID cards will be left to burn under a dumpster?
What percent will be delivered to the wrong address? I’d estimate that our building gets several erroneously delivered pieces of mail a week. Often inconsequential direct mail, but often checks, invoices, utility bills, magazines, and so on. Let’s hope the Chicago branch of the USPS takes special care to deliver these new driver licenses…Footnotes:
- ridiculous [↩]
I downloaded the Kodak Professional Film app this afternoon, and for a free app, it has some useful bits: a sunrise/sunset geolocation time calculator, a local processing guide, etc. Worth the price, certainly1
The Kodak Professional Film App isn’t new, but it just got a big update that makes it more widely compatible and more useful than it was before.
Using the new and improved app, Kodak film shooters can: get recommendations on what film type would work best for a particular situation, learn about different film formats, search for retail locations that sell Kodak film within 200 miles of you, search for places that will develop the specific Kodak film you’re shooting, find out when the sun is rising and setting at your current location, and, as if that wasn’t enough, there’s even an at-home B&W darkroom processing guide.
- free [↩]
embiggen by clicking
I took Hecate Lingers Low On the Horizon on May 19, 2016 at 01:17PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 27, 2016 at 09:47AM
embiggen by clicking
I took Too Many People, Too Many To Recall on May 26, 2016 at 06:47AM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 27, 2016 at 08:58AM
embiggen by clicking
I took Our Lady of Perpetual Decay on June 08, 2013 at 12:57PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 27, 2016 at 08:56AM
Digital imagery, or as some still call it, photography, would not be possible without powerful, fast portable storage devices, such as those made by SanDisk and Western Digital…
Seven months after announcing the planned acquisition and one quarter ahead of schedule, Western Digital has officially acquired SanDisk, “creating a global leader in storage technology.”
In case you weren’t aware of how big of a deal this is (speaking both literally and figuratively), WD is happy to drive home the point in this announcement released May 12th:
The addition of SanDisk makes Western Digital Corporation a comprehensive storage solutions provider with global reach, and an extensive product and technology platform that includes deep expertise in both rotating magnetic storage and non-volatile memory (NVM).
Translation: all hail our new storage overlords.
and via Dow Jones:
Western Digital Corp. on Thursday cut its profit projection for the current quarter to reflect higher debt costs tied to its $19 billion acquisition of rival SanDisk Corp. this month.
The Irvine, Calif., disk-drive maker now projects 65 cents to 70 cents a share in adjusted profit for the quarter that ends July 1, compared with its earlier view of $1 to $1.10 a share.
…Western Digital, the largest maker of computer disk drives, is seeking to build on SanDisk’s position in the growing market for flash memory chips used in smartphones and other devices.
On Thursday, Western Digital officials re-iterated during a conference call with analysts that they are ramping up production of 3D flash technology, which is expected to become the mainstream data storage.
(click here to continue reading Western Digital Cuts Quarterly Profit Projection Following SanDisk Acquisition – WSJ.)
There is a trend towards so-called authenticity in many fields. Reuters and perhaps some other news organizations no longer accept photos shot as digital RAW files. If you want your photo published by Reuters, you have to use your camera only as a recording device:
Reuters, the news and photography agency, has issued an outright ban on photographs captured and submitted in RAW format. Instead, freelance contributors must now only submit photos that were processed and stored as JPEG inside the camera.
According to Reuters, there are two reasons for this move. First, there’s the matter of alacrity: RAW images need to be processed by the photographer, which takes time—and when you’re reporting on a breaking story, sometimes you don’t have time. The second reason is much more contentious: Reuters wants its photographs to closely reflect reality (i.e. be journalistic), and it’s concerned that some RAW photos are being processed to the point where they’re no longer real.
“As photojournalists working for the world’s largest international multimedia news provider, Reuters Pictures photographers work in line with our Photographer’s Handbook and the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles,” a Reuters spokesperson told PetaPixel. “As eyewitness accounts of events covered by dedicated and responsible journalists, Reuters Pictures must reflect reality. While we aim for photography of the highest aesthetic quality, our goal is not to artistically interpret the news.”
(click here to continue reading Reuters bans submission of RAW photos: “Our photos must reflect reality.” | Ars Technica.)
Many photographers on Flickr and elsewhere boast about how little processing they perform on their photos. Perhaps this is a natural reaction to the digital photography world, filled with HDR photos looking like SciFi films, or over-saturated to the point of eye bleeding, or Instragram images where a photo is often tweaked with a filter with but a few seconds consideration. It is true that new photographers often over-process their photographs, yet that doesn’t make processing a tool to shy away from, only that someone has not yet learned to process well. I remember when I first starting fooling around with Photoshop with scanned prints: it was so easy to make gaudy, weird and obviously digital manipulations, I was learning how to use the tools. None of those experiments are online, or few, but I consider it part of the process of learning.
There was this example too:
You’ve probably heard by now that Steve McCurry is the latest to be caught up in a manipulation scandal. PetaPixel has reported that several examples of excessive Photoshopping of McCurry photos have come to light. A Facebook user named Gianmarco Maraviglia found this example:
Steve McCurry example
Study that for a couple of minutes and you can see how deep the changes go. Not as bad, arguably, as the example of the soccer-playing boys on PetaPixel where a whole person was removed. A photograph is in part a witness, and that’s part of what makes it unique: At that moment, that boy was there. He might not have been, but he was. The look of the world is inconvenient to our picture-contriving intent. But that’s part of what makes it so mysterious and rich.
By the late 1970s, the fundamental difference between photography and all the other methods of creating visual art had been worked out more or less completely. Photography was a matter of “hand and eye,” in the words of John Szarkowski, of recognition followed by the recording of the lens image more or less in an instant, and more or less as the lens saw it. Painting and other “plastic” (i.e., malleable) arts involved a back-and-forth over time: look, contemplate, evaluate, make changes; look, contemplate, evaluate, make more changes; and so on over and over, a process that could continue for days or weeks or even years.
(click here to continue reading The Online Photographer: The Ugliness of Beautification.)
Capturing the decisive moment is important, but much of what makes a photo a piece of art is more than just the mechanics. There is no one, perfect way to paint an apple or the curve of a woman’s hip, similarly, there is no ideal way to take and process a photograph. Art is expression, every artist has a different vision, whether or not they are new to the craft, or a seasoned professional, or somewhere in the middle, like myself.
Most black and white photos you see these days are actually shot in color, that’s a manipulation. Digital cameras capture red, green, blue, that is not the same as an analog film camera with different kinds of film stock.
Nearly 98% of the time, I crop a bit or a lot (I typically use a 5×7 ratio to crop, a 1.4 ratio, my camera is more like 16 x 11, a 1.5 ratio), 99% of the time, I enhance color contrast, and boost saturation. I don’t usually remove elements – other than by cropping – but I have occasionally removed a distracting car fender, or telephone wire. Composition is more often handled at time of photograph, but sometimes as a street photographer, you don’t lots of time to frame and mentally crop. Photoshop allows me to continue the work at a later time. I use filters to change the dominant color mood of a photo – turning water from brackish green to aquamarine for instance; or use a filter to emulate various film stock: Velvia, T-Max, Tri-X 400, or Ilford, sepia, cyanotype, etc.
I reject that photography has to be journalistic and nothing else. Speaking for myself, of course, I’m more interested in artistic expression, using the language of film, and the language of poetry to capture the myriad facets of the world around me, in all its ragged, incomplete glory.
These photos are interesting, but be warned, Wired wants to charge you $52 a year to view them, or else install 15 or so 3rd party advertising related cookies and trackers on your computer. I’ve found if you are quick, you can avoid either of these unsatisfying choices…
FRENCH FILMMAKER ADRIEN Selbert was 7 when the Bosnian War started in 1992, and he’s never forgotten the horrible images he saw each night on TV. His fascination with the war and its impact on the country intensified over time, leading him to join a friend in making the 1,100-mile drive from Paris to Srebrenica in 2005. “It was just 10 years after the war, but in a city like Srebrenica, [it] looked like the conflict had ended only yesterday,” he says.
The war killed 100,000 people between 1992 and 1995 and displaced 2.2 million more, making it Europe’s most devastating conflict since World War II. Even now, Bosnia and Herzegovina remains politically and economically fractured, its people divided by ethnicity and religion.
Selbert explores these themes in Nino’s Place, a documentary film he made in 2008, and Srebrenica, Night to Night, a photo series about Bosnian youth in 2014. He returns to them in The Real Edges, an ongoing series of moody vignettes he made while visiting 10 cities, wandering the streets and talking to locals.
His scenes teem with contrasts. In one, a woman relaxes with a cigarette in Markale square, where dozens of civilians died in two bombings during the siege of Sarajevo. In another, a priest baptizes a child in Pale, a Serbian stronghold during that same brutal siege. Selbert occasionally combines scenes to form diptychs and create a dialog. “I like the cinematic idea, theorized by Jean Luc Godard, that two images put together create a third image,” he says.
(click here to continue reading Haunting Photos of Life 20 Years After the Bosnian War | WIRED.)
The photographer’s website is also a source for these photos, without the ad-blocking annoyance, fwiw…
Some snacks while you wait…
Road innovation, what’s not to love?
Founded in 2008, in Chicago, IL, LANDLOCK® Natural Paving, Inc has set out to solve the world’s infrastructure needs, both in road building and dust suppression. Our reach is global, and we’re proud to be the industry leader in our field.
Unpaved and poorly paved roads have been identified as infrastructure barriers to profitable development: by individual nations, businesses, city planners and supranational organizations (the World Bank and the United Nations) alike.
The United States alone has over 1.5 million miles of unpaved roadways, leading to transportation inefficiency, destructive airborne pollution and unsafe transportation.
Asphalt, as a primary paving solution, has increasingly proven expensive and environmentally irresponsible because of its reliance on crude oil, poor durability, need for maintenance and pollution.
To respond to this need for a reliable, cost-effective and durable paving solution, LANDLOCK® has emerged as a respected, reliable international distributor of a patented paving technology that is among the most cost-effective, durable, strong, sustainable and easy to build. Most of all, it is superior to asphalt: less expensive, more durable, easier to install and more sustainable.
Environmentally, asphalt incurs a high cost because of the toxic footprint of the fuel-inefficient trucks that must drive back and forth to the plant; and because of the petroleum in asphalt that leaches into the groundwater and, when hot, pollutes the air, proving toxic for the workers laying the asphalt. Finally, the added cost of maintenance comes into play when inevitable erosion and potholes arise with time and changing climate patterns, necessitating frequent repeats to the whole expensive process.
(click here to continue reading About Us | LANDLOCK® Natural Paving | The Future of Road Building is Here….)
I think we can all agree that the TSA should be abolished, sooner than later:
The TSA is hard to evaluate largely because it’s attempting to solve a non-problem. Despite some very notable cases, airplane hijackings and bombings are quite rare. There aren’t that many attempts, and there are even fewer successes. That makes it hard to judge if the TSA is working properly — if no one tries to do a liquid-based attack, then we don’t know if the 3-ounce liquid rule prevents such attacks.
So Homeland Security officials looking to evaluate the agency had a clever idea: They pretended to be terrorists, and tried to smuggle guns and bombs onto planes 70 different times. And 67 of those times, the Red Team succeeded. Their weapons and bombs were not confiscated, despite the TSA’s lengthy screening process. That’s a success rate of more than 95 percent.
It’s easy to make too much of high failure rates like that. As security expert Bruce Schneier likes to note, such screenings don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be good enough to make terrorists change their plans: “No terrorist is going to base his plot on getting a gun through airport security if there’s a decent chance of getting caught, because the consequences of getting caught are too great.”
But even Schneier says 95 percent was embarrassingly high, and probably not “good enough” for those purposes. If you’re a prospective terrorist looking at that stat, you might think smuggling a gun onto a plane is worth a shot.
Schneier isn’t a TSA defender by any means. He likes to note that there’s basically zero evidence the agency has prevented any attacks. The TSA claims it won’t provide examples of such cases due to national security, but given its history of bragging about lesser successes, that’s a little tough to believe. For instance, the agency bragged plenty about catching Kevin Brown, an Army vet who tried to check pipe bomb-making materials. Brown wasn’t going to blow up the plane — the unfinished materials were in his checked luggage — but if the TSA publicized that, why wouldn’t it publicize catching someone who was trying to blow up the plane?
(click here to continue reading The TSA is a waste of money that doesn’t save lives and might actually cost them – Vox.)
People like Peter Thiel would be better served if they left the United States and started their own country somewhere else, leaving the rest of us normals alone:
Peter Thiel, foremost among Silicon Valley’s loopy libertarians and the first outside investor in Facebook, has written an essay declaring that the country went to hell as soon as women won the right to vote.
Thiel is the former CEO of PayPal who now runs the $2 billion hedge fund Clarium Capital and a venture-capital firm called the Founders Fund. His best-returning investment to date, though, has been Facebook. His $500,000 investment is now worth north of $100 million even by the most conservative valuations of the social network.
On the side, though, his pet passion is libertarianism and the fantasy that everything would be better in the world if government just quit nagging everybody. But, now he’s given up hope on achieving his vision through political means because, as he writes in Cato Unbound, a website run by the Cato Institute, all those voting females have wrecked things
(click here to continue reading Facebook Backer Wishes Women Couldn’t Vote.)
I’d be very leery of doing business with Mr. Thiel, he seems like he could fly off the handle very easily, and hold a grudge about it for years. But you might never hear about it, because the media that covers Silicon Valley is more like a PR machine than journalistic:
I would like to think that I would know more about whether this sort of thing is typical of Thiel’s behavior because there would be enough evidence of it one way or the other in tech press. But I don’t think there would be. A lot of self-censoring happens in the tech industry because people fear blowback — and in a way that I haven’t experienced in finance or publishing. Entrepreneurs genuinely worry that capital markets won’t be accessible to them if they express any kind of criticism, or talk about the bad things that happen in the industry. (I am not of that opinion, obviously, but as the former CTO of a big tech co told me a couple of weeks ago with a bit of an eyeroll, “you’re not normal anyway, Spiers.”)
Another factor: I think Thiel aside, tech press is largely fawning toward successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and mostly unintentionally. Journalists who haven’t worked in tech themselves are sometimes genuinely and sincerely enamored with the promise of what they’re looking at and are so dazzled that they fail to ask the questions they should. Some of them are lazy and it’s always easier as a journalist to write the glowing lightweight story, where no one’s going to press you to nail down the facts and you won’t get any blowback from sources or subjects. Ultimately, this has created a sense of entitlement in the industry where denizens of Silicon Valley expect the media to actively support them and any negative portrayals are met with real anger and resentment, even when they’re 100% accurate. And it’s never the media’s job to support the industry — that’s PR. It’s the media’s job to cover it, the good and the bad. But if you’re not used to being covered, and that would describe 99% of the tech industry, the scrutiny can be uncomfortable.
(click here to continue reading On Peter Thiel and Gawker : Elizabeth Spiers.)
Does Donald Trump have a long history with the mob? David Jay Johnston thinks Trump might:
6. Trump Tower is not a steel girder high rise, but 58 stories of concrete.
Why did you use concrete instead of traditional steel girders?
7. Trump Tower was built by S&A Concrete, whose owners were “Fat” Tony Salerno, head of the Genovese crime family, and Paul “Big Paul” Castellano, head of the Gambinos, another well-known crime family.
If you did not know of their ownership, what does that tell voters about your management skills?
8. You later used S&A Concrete on other Manhattan buildings bearing your name.
9. In demolishing the Bonwit Teller building to make way for Trump Tower, you had no labor troubles, even though only about 15 unionists worked at the site alongside 150 Polish men, most of whom entered the country illegally, lacked hard hats, and slept on the site.
How did you manage to avoid labor troubles, like picketing and strikes, and job safety inspections while using mostly non-union labor at a union worksite — without hard hats for the Polish workers?
10. A federal judge later found you conspired to cheat both the Polish workers, who were paid less than $5 an hour cash with no benefits, and the union health and welfare fund. You testified that you did not notice the Polish workers, whom the judge noted were easy to spot because they were the only ones on the work site without hard hats.
What should voters make of your failure or inability to notice 150 men demolishing a multi-story building without hard hats?
11. You sent your top lieutenant, lawyer Harvey I. Freeman, to negotiate with Ken Shapiro, the “investment banker” for Nicky Scarfo, the especially vicious killer who was Atlantic City’s mob boss, according to federal prosecutors and the New Jersey State Commission on Investigation.
Since you emphasize your negotiating skills, why didn’t you negotiate yourself?
12. You later paid a Scarfo associate twice the value of a lot, officials determined.
Since you boast that you always negotiate the best prices, why did you pay double the value of this real estate?
(click here to continue reading 21 Questions for Donald Trump.)