13 August 2018

Awesome lightning video

Photographer Dustin Farrell spent the summer of 2017 chasing storms while toting a 4K camera rig that takes 1000 frames per second of raw, uncompressed footage. (For comparison: most movies are shot at 24 frames per second.) After driving 20,000 miles over a 30-day period, he had recorded 10 terabytes of data, which he then whittled down to 3:18 of spectacular video.

What enabled his success was not just the ultrafast frame rate of modern cameras, but also the recording technology in which a camera constantly records, writes to RAM, then overwrites, and overwrites again…until a button is pressed to save the RAM contents.
With a tip of the cap to fellow blogger Fletcher DeLancey, who created Oregon Expat.  I will echo his advice: "Stop what you’re doing and watch this video. But watch it the right way: full screen, in a darkened room, and with a good sound system turned up."

Bodycams worn by police can be hacked

Josh Mitchell, a consultant at the security firm Nuix, analyzed five body camera models from five different companies: Vievu, Patrol Eyes, Fire Cam, Digital Ally, and CeeSc. The companies all market their devices to law enforcement groups around the US...

In all but the Digital Ally device, the vulnerabilities would allow an attacker to download footage off a camera, edit things out or potentially make more intricate modifications, and then re-upload it, leaving no indication of the change. Or an attacker could simply delete footage they don't want law enforcement to have...

Additionally, Mitchell says that some of the more sophisticated models, which contain radios for Bluetooth or cellular data connectivity, also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited to remotely stream live footage off the cameras, or to modify, add, and delete the footage stored on the devices...

Then, when the camera connects to a PC for syncing, it could deliver all sorts of malicious code: a Windows exploit that could ultimately allow an attacker to gain remote access to the police network, ransomware to spread across the network and lock everything down, a worm that infiltrates the department's evidence servers and deletes everything, or even cryptojacking software to mine cryptocurrency using police computing resources...

"These are full-feature computers walking around on your chest, and they have all of the issues that go along with that."
Via BoingBoing.

Behold a modern dairy farm

My grandparents, who had perhaps a dozen "milk cows" on their family farm, would have been awestruck to see the industrial-scale processes that are now involved.  Even my mother, who milked those cows and took the milk cans to the local creamery, would find it hard to believe.  The StarTribune offers some insight:
The milking carousel at the Louriston Dairy turns 22 hours a day and milks more cows in half an hour than most dairies do all day.

Cows step onto the slow-moving merry-go-round in single file. A worker sprays disinfectant on each cow’s udder, another wipes the teats clean with a paper towel, and another secures suction cups onto the teats for milking during a seven-minute trip around the room. Gleaming silver tanks in the next room fill with flash-cooled milk as 106 cows are milked at once.

The farm 18 miles west of Willmar is home to 9,500 cows, 40 times larger than the average U.S. dairy operation. It is part of a fast-growing network of giant farms built and run by Riverview LLP, a Morris, Minn.-based firm that is a game-changer for the Minnesota dairy industry. The company owns 92,000 milk cows — more than all the farmers in Illinois or Virginia — and 60,000 of them are in western Minnesota, where it has nine dairies and is building more...

For 30 years, farms in the Upper Midwest have gotten bigger and farmers who used to work a couple hundred acres now work a couple thousand. In that time, new methods of raising livestock emerged to take advantage of efficiencies of scale. Hogs, poultry and beef cattle disappeared from fields and were moved into massive barns.

This upsizing has come more slowly to dairy farming, but as the number of U.S. dairy farms shrinks, milk production continues to rise. Amid low milk prices and a trade war threatening exports, Riverview is placing massive bets: $50 million in construction and startup costs for each new dairy...
This is a complicated matter, which I don't have the expertise to discuss or critique.

The "potato paradox"

"You have 100 lb of potatoes, which are 99 percent water by weight. You let them dehydrate until they're 98 percent water. How much do they weigh now?

These are "mathematical" potatoes; you can substitute grapes or jellyfish or amoeba if you want something with a higher percentage of wet weight. 

But given the parameters of the question, what is the answer?

50 pounds.  This is a veridical paradox.

White supremacist "rally"

This weekend's "Unite the Right" rally in Washington, D.C.  Many of the people inside the police cordon are journalists.  The number of white nationalists was estimated to be a couple dozen.  The counterprotestors numbered in the thousands.

Photo (annotated for clarity) via.

11 August 2018

Two guys watching TV

44 years ago this week, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein watched Nixon resign.

Children can easily hack American election data

Bianca Lewis, 11, has many hobbies. She likes Barbie, video games, fencing, singing… and hacking the infrastructure behind the world’s most powerful democracy.

“I’m going to try and change the votes for Donald Trump,” she tells me. “I’m going to try to give him less votes. Maybe even delete him off of the whole thing.” 

Fortunately for the President, Bianca is attacking a replica website, not the real deal. She’s taking part in a competition organised by R00tz Asylum, a non-profit organisation that promotes “hacking for good”.

Its aim is to send out a dire warning: the voting systems that will be used across America for the mid-term vote in November are, in many cases, so insecure a young child can learn to hack them with just a few minute’s coaching...

Hacking the real websites would be illegal. So instead, Ms Sell’s team created 13 sites that mimicked the real websites, gaping vulnerabilities and all, for 13 so-called “battleground" states - parts of the country where the vote is expected to be tight.

Over the course of a day, 39 kids aged between 8 and 17 took the challenge - 35 of them succeeded in bypassing the trivial security. Pranks ensued...

While the hacks learnt here wouldn’t change actual vote counts - even if carried out for real - they could alter how the vote results were displayed on official websites. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the furore that would be caused were an official election website to declare the wrong candidate the winner.

The fallibility of these systems has been of concern since 2016’s presidential election, and in some cases well before that. Each state in the US is able to come up with its own system, and with budgets tight, many are relying on poorly secured databases and voting machines that run software that’s well over a decade old.
More information at the BBC.

Tetris block distribution

I always wondered about this.  Discussed at the Data Is Beautiful subreddit.

"Our boys need and deserve books"

Yesterday I was reading one of my John Dickson Carr mysteries, in this case a paperback edition published in 1943, and noticed the page above.  Apparently during wartime you could mail a used paperback book to the Army and Navy libraries for a 3c stamp.

Also of some interest was the following list on the next couple pages at the back of the book, listing best-sellers for 1943 (for this company, which obviously leaned toward mysteries).  But interesting anyway.

#232 reminded me how much I was enthralled by Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios when I read it decades ago - staying up most of a night to finish it, as I recall.  I think (hope) I have sufficiently forgotten the plot twist that I'll be able to read and enjoy it again.


From Twisted Sifter:
Hovenring is the world’s first suspended bicycle path roundabout. Located in the Netherlands, Hovenring can be found between the localities of Eindhoven, Veldhoven and Meerhoven which accounts for its name, Dutch for “Ring of the Hovens“.
I'll use this opportunity to start a new category for blog posts: Nice Things We Could Have Instead of a Border Wall.

No, they don't know your secret

It's just random extortion, as explained in the Washington Post:
I know about the secret you are keeping from your wife and everyone else,” a mysterious letter read. “More importantly, I have evidence of what you’ve been hiding.”

The letterwriter, GreySquare15, threatened to expose a secret — unless Strohl wired the sender $15,750 in bitcoin...

Strohl, who lives in Washington’s Chevy Chase neighborhood, has been happily married for 14 years and said he recognized the letter was a likely scam. After posting about it on a community listserv the next morning, he realized he was one of several residents in the area to receive similar threats in the past month in a scheme the FBI says appears to target affluent neighborhoods across the country...

The customized blackmail threats using a name or other personalized detail to bolster the all-knowing tone in the letters may draw on names and addresses found on publicly available sites or have been acquired through private data the fraudster bought.

“Because of the amount of people’s personally identifiable data out there on the dark Web, criminals can purchase this type of information and attempt to use it against you,” Ames said. “But it’s a scam, and folks should not pay the demand money.”

The fact that someone appears to have access to passwords or other information — even if the information is out of date — can be unsettling all on its own.

Firestorm aftermath

Everyone has seen photos and videos of the wildfires ravaging the western states.  What always startles me is how many of the destroyed homes are not cabins nestled in a woodland - just ordinary houses in a residential subdivision.  Also, as shown in the second photo, the startlingly narrow margin between survival and devastation.

Second image cropped for emphasis from the original, both of which credit City of Redding (California), via a gallery at The Guardian

Related: The Hinckley Firestorm of 1894

The best video on "how to fold a fitted sheet"

If you search YouTube for "how to fold a fitted sheet," the resulting list seems to scroll endlessly.  If I had to recommend one video on the subject, it would be this one, via Neatorama, where Miss C always posts excellent videos.

07 August 2018

"Natural wine" and "glou glou" explained

As explained by The Guardian:
‘Natural wine’ advocates say everything about the modern industry is ethically, ecologically and aesthetically wrong – and have triggered the biggest split in the wine world for a generation...

A recent study showed that 38% of wine lists in London now feature at least one organic, biodynamic or natural wine (the categories can overlap) – more than three times as many as in 2016. “Natural wines are in vogue,” reported the Times last year. “The weird and wonderful flavours will assault your senses with all sorts of wacky scents and quirky flavours.”

As natural wine has grown, it has made enemies. To its many detractors, it is a form of luddism, a sort of viticultural anti-vax movement that lauds the cidery, vinegary faults that science has spent the past century painstakingly eradicating. According to this view, natural wine is a cult intent on rolling back progress in favour of wine best suited to the tastes of Roman peasants. The Spectator has likened it to “flawed cider or rotten sherry” and the Observer to “an acrid, grim burst of acid that makes you want to cry”...

Once you know what to look for, natural wines are easy to spot: they tend to be smellier, cloudier, juicier, more acidic and generally truer to the actual taste of grape than traditional wines. In a way, they represent a return to the core elements that made human beings fall in love with wine when we first began making it, around 6,000 years ago...

The haziness of what actually counts as natural wine is particularly maddening to such traditionalists. “There is no legal definition of natural wine,” Michel Bettane, one of France’s most influential wine critics, told me. “It exists because it proclaims itself so. It is a fantasy of marginal producers.” Robert Parker, perhaps the world’s most powerful wine critic, has called natural wine an “undefined scam”...

..as natural wine advocates point out, the way most wine is produced today looks nothing like this picture-postcard vision. Vineyards are soaked with pesticide and fertiliser to protect the grapes, which are a notoriously fragile crop...

The modern winemaker has access to a vast armamentarium of interventions, from supercharged lab-grown yeast, to antimicrobials, antioxidants, acidity regulators and filtering gelatins, all the way up to industrial machines. Wine is regularly passed through electrical fields to prevent calcium and potassium crystals from forming, injected with various gases to aerate or protect it, or split into its constituent liquids by reverse osmosis and reconstituted with a more pleasing alcohol to juice ratio.

Natural winemakers believe that none of this is necessary...
And more at Grub Street:
Some quibble over which methods count as “natural,” from filtering to machine-harvesting to vineyard architecture. (“I’m offended by vines on a wire. It’s slavery,” a Spanish winemaker tells Lepeltier and Alice Feiring in their book The Dirty Guide to Wine.) Some use prehistoric winemaking methods, like subterranean fermentation in clay amphorae. The semiotics of what counts as “natural,” and why, and who gets to decide, can be a source of rancor...  Whatever the process, the results can be downright funky: white wines that can be amber, orange, and cloudy. Red wines that resemble fizzy beet juice and occluded amethysts. The flavors can be intense and unfamiliar — savory, salty, and startlingly sour. These wines flout the conventions of connoisseurship, but among the city’s wine geeks and sommeliers, natural wine has an intense following. Justin Chearno, the wine director at the Four Horsemen, describes himself as “really, really, really evangelical,” especially early in his career. After Cork Dork author Bianca Bosker’s dismissal of “so-called natural wines” appeared last year in the New York Times, she says she received hate mail...

There’s a lot of really fucked-up natural wine out there,” says Jon Bonné, author of The New Wine Rules, who was, for almost a decade, wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle...
But enough shit-talking. Let’s talk manure. That horse-shit scent, politely called “barnyard,” is the product of Brettanomyces, a bacterium present in many wines. Lepeltier, a partner at downtown bistro Racines NY, explained: “It triggers some sexual stuff. And I’m sure about that.” Lepeltier has a degree in philosophy and total certainty in her opinions and taste. Like a musky perfume, barnyard wines appeal to “something very, very primitive in us. So that’s one reason [people like it]. And the second thing is: You can recognize it.”
And now it's time to explain "glou glou" -
As a recent feature in Fortune explained, “The French, perfecters of both making and consuming natural wine, have an onomatopoeic term for this, glou glou, the sound these easy-drinking reds and whites make hurtling down your throat on a warm June day.” This is wine designed to be gulped, not sipped. Glou glou is both demonstratively and deceptively simple. A visibly unfiltered wine shows off its maker’s rustic approach to viniculture. But that is only possible when the wine is elaborate — organic, biodynamic, location-specific, and labor-intensive.

The glou glou aesthetic applies to more than wine. Glou glou is a stripped-down renovation that showcases a building’s “bones.” It’s not wearing makeup and looking great, because you’re well rested and have an elaborate skin-care routine. (Natural wine, like natural beauty, requires long-term commitment. Minimalism works best when it’s minimal only on the surface.) Glou glou is passing a Polaroid camera around the party (then arranging the Polaroids into an artful display and photographing that with your iPhone). Glou glou is serving caviar with potato chips, as they do at Brunette, a natural-wine bar run by a married couple, designers who ditched New York City for the Hudson Valley. The tabletops are unadorned marble. The walls are whitewashed brick.

Glou glou is a maddening form of luxury, one that simultaneously rejects and performs elitism. Glou glou rejects the near past in favor of a modernized version of the old past. This makes glou glou incomprehensible to tastemakers from the near past — the ones who abandoned whatever elements of the old past glou glou seeks to resurrect. But here’s the worst part: Everyone who partakes in glou glou knows this. Glou glou is self-conscious, self-aware, and self-critical. Glou glou is how millennials do snob.

Like all trends associated with millennials, glou glou boils down to economics...
Lots more at the links, both of which are longreads.   None of this matters to TYWKIWDBI; we are perfectly content swilling an occasional bottle of cheap pinot grigio.  My initial impetus for blogging this topic was the photo of that awesome piece of farm equipment at the top.

The average age of first-time mothers

From the New York Times:
... a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education... First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South...

The difference in when women start families cuts along many of the same lines that divide the country in other ways, and the biggest one is education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often use the years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes...

Young mothers are more likely to be conservative and religious, to value traditional gender roles and to reject abortion. Older mothers tend to be liberal, and to split breadwinning and caregiving responsibilities more equally with men, they found...

Being a young mother has benefits, she said: “I still have a lot of energy to deal with them, and when they get older, I won’t be too old.”
Much more discussion at the link.  The map embedded above is not interactive; the one at the link is.  Also, these two graphs are instructive:

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