True's beaked whale.jpg

Western spotted skunk

Hooded skunk

Yellow-throated Marten


Post-COVID reflections

June 18th, 2024

Keying off Kevin Drum’s The lessons of COVID, which is a good start but too limited in imagination.

What the US did right: the CDC has great world-wide infectious disease monitoring.

What the US did poorly: the US had spotty local infectious disease monitoring. And lack of data–ignorance–was used as an excuse for inaction. With post-COVID wastewater monitoring, the US is doing better, let’s keep the funding high for it.

Biggest mistake: the federal government responded slowly and ineffectively in the first two months. Faster response that seems like an over-reaction at the time is the best response. If the response is effective, and a disease is slowed or stopped, it should always feel like an over-reaction. Hoof-and-mouth disease is the model.

Links for June 2024

June 9th, 2024

Tintin store in Porto

DIY cat tower

Big doll mold

In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. […] under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

Links for May 2024

May 2nd, 2024

An Implausible Mr. Buckley: A new PBS documentary whitewashes the conservative founder of National Review. by Rick Perlstein, April 17, 2024

The misleading information in one of America’s most popular podcasts: The Huberman Lab has credentials and millions of fans, but it sometimes oversteps medical fact. by A.W. Ohlheiser

The USDA’s gardening zones shifted. This map shows you what’s changed in vivid detail

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Lens Repair

What’s Glass Etching Cream Made of?

Open Bookcases by Robert Benchley, New York World, March 15, 1920

How to Make Google’s ‘Web’ View Your Search Default (&udm=14)

How Science Conquered Diphtheria, the Plague Among Children. It was highly contagious, lethal and mysterious. Then medical experts developed treatments and vaccines, and the affliction disappeared—but not entirely

Links for April 2024

April 6th, 2024

WuXi AppTec news / blocking Chinese biotech outsourcing

Who Goes Nazi? by Dorothy Thompson (Aug 1941)

The Museum of Science and Industry closed for mysterious reasons last week. Here’s why. It’s a sad day when it’s easier to get information out of the Pentagon than from the Museum of Science and Industry. by Neil Steinberg

Links for March 2024

March 2nd, 2024

Velvet Ants of North America by Dr. Kevin Williams, Dr. Aaron D. Pan, Joseph S. Wilson. 2024.
A New Jersey city that limited street parking hasn’t had a traffic death in 7 years

Thermochromic properties of some colored oxide materials

Fig. 5. Evolution of the color from RT to 500 °C for all the compounds of this study.

Rheem 80 Gallon 6-Year Solar Tank Electric Water Heater with Heat Exchanger, $1600

How to Photograph the Sun

Steven Universe

Grep by example: Interactive guide

Pig Latin

37 Pieces of Career Advice I Wish I’d Known Earlier

Genialer Spickzettel für Fotografen

GOES Image Viewer
Hard disk prices


An upside for AI / LLMs

February 11th, 2024

The new AI / LLM tools have many potential applications, but many of them will have downsides for some people–replacing copy writers, some tech support, these are benefits for the companies that apply them, but many of today’s jobs in those areas will be eliminated.

One application that seems inevitable and all positive is raising the floor for human performance. An tool that you can ask for advice, or better yet an AI tool that monitors you, by email, or watches internet use across devices, and/or is watching on video, understands what the user is doing, understands the context, and provides advice will help people avoid mistakes. While these mistakes are not obvious to the person making them, they are obvious to a person with experience, or able to research the problem. Imagine a person playing chess alone vs. someone playing with a chess program to flag potential mistakes, with the general knowledge of an AI allowing it to work in many more situations.

This AI tool can develop slowly and in a modular fashion, will be useful even in crude form, but will become revolutionary once it gets good enough. Imagine a person using a crude form of this as an interactive chat tool. The person could say, I’m taking a vacation to Greece and get advice on things to do, what they need to know about currency or visas. Or imagine a more advanced AI would remind a person of an appointments, or tells them they need to change the house air filter. If a person was goiing to make a poor decision–routinely using check cashing places or buying a car with poor service record, the AI could warn them.

This AI tool would be able to slot in special modules as needed. A person starting a business could get localized advice on the steps to take. Someone buying a house could get advice on things to check, and a new homeowner could get advice on what to check and repair and reminders for maintenance.

Links for February 2024

February 7th, 2024

What we talk about when we talk about The Future. A few thoughts on four genres of futurism. by Dave Karpf. Pundit futurism, The Professional, Techno-optimist Futurist, Cassandra-futurism, The Sci-fi futurist

Google Pixel 6 Pro, $220, specs

Bruce Schneier’s “AI and Democracy” talk at Capricon 44

February 4th, 2024

Bruce Schneier talked at Capricon about fifteen ideas he had on AI that are forming up into a 2024 book. One thing he mentioned is that AI would make lawsuits much cheaper to launch and carry out, and multiplying the number of lawsuits would mean that courts would need to adopt AI adjudication to adapt to this. Bruce passed over this pretty quickly, but I think this will have early and pronounced effect on society.

It looks like legal work is a problem AI will be able to solve soon. That is, AII tools will be able to contribute effectively to the process of filing and carrying out lawsuits. This is not one problem, but a set of related problems that AI will soon be able to do effectively. Given a set of facts and objectives, an AI will be able to determine what type of lawsuit to file, write it up in the proper jargon and format suitable for submission, determine and write a response to opposing counsel motions, summarize and prioritize discovery material, etc. A lot of legal work is routine, repetitive, and very similar to previous cases. Really, a perfect problem for AI.

The immediate upshot is that a lawyer using AI tools will be able to do much more legal work, work faster, and lawsuits will be much cheaper to launch. The short-term impact is that the number of lawsuit filed will go up multiple-fold and this will crash the courts. Gum them up. Bring things to a standstill. US courts are operating at capacity already and can’t handle more cases.

There isn’t any way for courts to prevent this. The lawsuits will be filed by lawyers at established law firms. Lawyers will use AI as a tool, review AI written suggestions and briefs, and from the court’s perspective these lawsuits will look just like the existing lawsuits, there will just be many more of them.

In the long term, it will make sense for judges and the courts to adopt AI tools to accelerate their end of things, but this will require new laws. New laws means years of hearings, discussion, negotiation, etc. Government functions require deliberation and consideration before making big changes. And who will develop AI tools for courts? The market is smaller and more uncertain than the market of making these tools for private law firms. And judges are very conservative, notoriously slow to act, to react, to adopt new technology.

So AI-assisted lawyering will hit the courts at some point in the next few years, but it will take a decade or more for the courts to effectively react.

Links for January 2024

January 15th, 2024

Robert Comploj, glass artist.

My proposed additions to the New York Times style guide to improve its political coverage by Dan Froomkin

Rich People Don’t Talk to Robots. How is it possible that I still need to explain this? by Josh Brown

10 Python Pandas Code Snippets That Solve Tasks Efficiently

Librarian on social media, mychal3ts

Links for December 2023

December 10th, 2023

New gene therapies confront many sickle cell patients with an impossible choice: a cure or fertility.
CRISPR treatment for sickle cell approved (Casgevy)

USB Logic Analyzer – 24MHz/8-Channel ($20)
Bus Pirate – v3.6a ($33) — v4.0 still experimental

Flipper Zero — Multi-tool Device for Geeks ($150)
CC1101 chip, making it a powerful transceiver < 1 GHz, 125 kHz RF
ID antenna, NFC module 13.56 MHz, BLE, infrared transmitter/receiver, 1-Wire, GPIO

Mini WiFi Surveillance HD Camera, $12.50
2K Pan/Tilt Security Camera, $26

A New mRNA Malaria Vaccine. By targeting resident memory T cells in the liver, a novel mRNA malaria vaccine prevented infection, even in those with prior exposure.

Falling In And Out Of Love With LA’s Mystery-Cloaked Magic Castle, part2, part3

How Many Creationists Are There in America?
2019 poll: 61%-81% US adults pick evolution, 32%-62% of US white evangelical prostestants