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They're Already Smarter Than Some People

Posted by Ogged
on 03.12.16

Well, aren't we breathless.

It is not all that hard to imagine, in time, an even smarter AlphaGo that can do more things -- paint a picture, write a poem, prove a difficult mathematical conjecture, negotiate peace -- and do those things creatively and better than people.

This is idiotic. If people can figure out an algorithm to get a computer started on statistical analysis of some phenomenon, the computer can compute the shit out of that thing. Is this going to happen in our lifetimes, or our children's lifetimes, or, like, ever, for writing a novel or negotiating peace (for fuck's sake)?

That said, AlphaGo is super cool, and things like painting a picture could totally be done competently by a computer. Take the win. Don't be an idiot.


 

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But The Benefits Are Great!

Posted by Ogged
on 03.11.16

This is amazing, particularly because even on "it's the job" grounds, no one would criticize you for staying away from the burning fireball.


 

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A civic-minded proposal

Posted by Ben
on 03.11.16

No one should be allowed to use BART until they have taken a short seminar, led by me, on how not to be a total asshole on the train. Questions to be answered will include, but will not be limited to, the following:

  1. When I board a crowded train, should I move into the car the minimum distance required to get me on the train and then stand stock still, or should I move as far in to the unoccupied areas (should any exist) in the aisles as I can, to accommodate those entering after me?
  2. If I am already on board a crowded train and more people are boarding, should I stand stock still, forcing them to crowd around me, or should I observe the vacancies that recently off-boarded passengers may have made in the aisles and move to fill them?
  3. If I am on a crowded train and other passengers wish to debark and I'm standing near the door, should I stand stock still, or should I exit the train to clear space, then reëmbark after those debarking have done so?

You'd be surprised how many people apparently don't know the answers to these questions and choose the most conservative (in terms of their own movement) option!


 

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Friday morning primary talk.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.11.16

Last thread surpassed 500. Chat here.


 

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Active shooters

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.10.16

Heebie U has been having active shooter trainings lately, of which I've attended none. But I sat with some enthusiastic faculty members at lunch today. The premise of the conversation (and the training, I gather) was that you can't say, "It could never happen here," because you should still have a plan. Just like we have plans in place, in case of fire.

Ok, fine, I bought into the premise. Basically, you're supposed to get your students to run, period. If your only escape is blocked by the shooter, then you hide, and barring that, you throw things at the shooter. Especially chairs and desks. Make a commotion (during which time hopefully someone tackles the shooter.) The important thing is (apparently) not to just freeze in place.

I did not take the conversation unduly seriously, but I did wonder if I should consider carrying pepper spray. (One member of the conversation has actually been in two legitimate open shooter situations. One in a club/restaurant, and one during stopped traffic on the highway. Both were decades ago.)


 

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Yes, we have no bananas.

Posted by Stanley
on 03.10.16

Today's Diane Rehm Show is about the imminent banana crisis. Here's a summary:

For decades the most-exported and therefore most important banana in the world was the Gros Michel, but in the 1950s it was practically wiped out by the fungus known as Panama disease or banana wilt.

Banana growers turned to another breed that was immune to the fungus - the Cavendish, a smaller and by all accounts less tasty fruit but one capable of surviving global travel and, most importantly, able to grow in infected soils.

[...]

But just as breeders were busy cultivating their Cavendishes, so too was Panama disease developing a new strain capable of killing them off.

And the new fungus is even more deadly than that which wiped out the Gros Michel, for it also affects numerous local breeds of banana around the world.

"I try to avoid dramatising this story but look at what happened previously with the Gros Michel," said Dr Gert Kema, an expert in global plant production from the Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands.

"If that happens again we have a very serious issue, and it is happening now.

"This does not mean that next week there will be no bananas in supermarkets in the UK.

"This is going to take some time but that time is extremely pressing; we have nothing to replace the Cavendish right now."

Alarming! I quite like bananas. But maybe the upside is (eventually) we'll end up with a less-shitty banana as the standard banana. Or no standard banana at all, but rather several commonly available varieties.


 

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Berniesuit.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.10.16

Bernie's Brownsuitgate is funny to me because of the horror that people express upon contemplating the possibility that it might be brown. It does look brown in this photo, though. The idea of a brown suit really heightens his image as an angry old fogey. Unfortunately, scientists have no explanation for why some backgrounds alter our color perception.


 

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God Don't Never Change

Posted by Ogged
on 03.09.16

Man, this Blind Willie Johnson tribute album is so fabulous, for the hits and for the misses, because nobody seems to have phoned it in. I put the release date on my calendar months ago, and it didn't disappoint.


 

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Movies

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.09.16

Omigosh:


Janelle Monae is making a leap on to the big screen in an upcoming drama about Black women mathematicians working at NASA in the 1950s.



 

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Guest Post - Burns shooting

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.09.16

Minivet sends in: Long exegesis of the death of LaVoy Finicum, with new video (below article). They've declared it justified; I haven't gone through the whole thing, but it matches my priors. At the same time, the federal agents have not treated the investigation as seriously as they should have - the best guess is they fired at the car, missing, but then repeatedly denied doing so.

Heebie's take: I should have gotten this up yesterday, but I was bushed.


 

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They Told Us It Would Be Like This

Posted by Ogged
on 03.09.16

As part of my final project, I want to map some census data with Google Maps, and wow, the intersection of the government's stone-age tech and google's constantly changing product features is not a happy place. Has anyone done this, in like the past six months? I'd be thrilled just to know the projection settings to convert a shapefile to a google maps readable geoJSON file.


 

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Informed Voters

Posted by Ogged
on 03.08.16

There are sites like this, that purport to inform voters, and pardon the curmudging, but that stuff is just useless. There's just a handful of things you want to know about any candidate:

1) Who does she answer to? What's her clique?
2) Are there any issues in which she has a genuine concern or expertise?
3) Is she nuts, even relative to other politicians?
4) Is she crooked, even relative to other politicians?
5) Is this a stepping-stone job?

That's it! If you have that information, you can decide who to vote for in just about any election, from local to national. And this information exists--at least a few dozen local journalists can answer all these questions about their local and state politicians--but it's not easily collated from a pile of data or with a series of API calls, so there's no site for it, and the journalists can't put the information directly in their stories, because that would be "editorializing," so the people who want to share the information can't get it, and the people who have the information can't share it. Somebody, please, make an "Opinionated Voting Guide," hire some savvy youngsters to call local reporters, and compile this info for every election from county-level and up. That would be a real public service.


 

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Young children of immigrants

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.08.16

This article is full of ridiculous lines:


A senior Justice Department official is arguing that 3- and 4-year-olds can learn immigration law well enough to represent themselves in court, staking out an unconventional position in a growing debate over whether immigrant children facing deportation are entitled to taxpayer-funded attorneys.

and

"I've taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds," Weil said. "It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience. They get it. It's not the most efficient, but it can be done."

and

Legal and child-psychology experts ridiculed Weil's assertions, noting that key milestones for 3- and 4-year-olds include cooperating with other children, saying simple sentences and building towers of blocks.

Via E. Messily

Also, Texas had a problem where our gigantic horrifying detainment camps were unfit to house children. So we're having them licensed as child-care facilities. ta-da, all better.


 

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Party over here!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.07.16

Yell about the primaries in a new thread!


 

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Development

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 03.07.16

I had P&Z training last week. I have specific thoughts that I'll reserve for now. Generally, I'm hoping that Heebieville doesn't develop into something soulless. There's soulless UMC - here it's big white limestone rock, wide hallways and open floor plans, and everything is matching beige and speckled granite. (Bonus points for Texas Tuscan style.) There's soulless MC - Chili's and Kohl's and complete domination by national chains, subdivisions without any trees. There's soulless lower class - gross gas stations and pawn shops and McDonald's and giant sprawling apartment complexes. There's also charming versions of each class. I'm wondering about steering us towards the charming versions.


 

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