Monday, 29 February 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 22-28/2/16

Hi fenestration addicts,

I've been pondering Windows 10, this week.

Being a Windows 7 user, i've been getting the offers for a free upgrade, for a while now, so i thought i'd give myself some time to think - the offer runs out on the 29th of June.

Having read a variety of different reviews, it seems to me that Windows 10 is good.

But not good enough.

It might be great for yuppies with several different devices - PC, tablet, smartphone, etc - who feel cramps of ennui without being as permanently 'interconnected' as the marketing tells them to be; but...

Windows 10 doesn't appear to be any better than Windows 7 at being an Operating System on a PC.

You might be surprised to read that i don't own a single non-PC device except an mp3 player. Even my phone's a bronze-age thing that comes with two games: blocks, and tetris.

To me, any other device is a distraction. I spend most of my time working at a computer, and frankly, i have things to do, that don't involve electricity at all, when i'm away from it. They would be purely for procrastination.

But in this crazy crazy world of "wow, my phone knows my name!", "i found that out before you", "can you get a connection? i can't get a connection" and the occasional "bloody hell, someone's stolen my identity, my life is ruined, ruined, RUINED!!!" Microsoft clearly sees the demand for a Douglas Adams style 'fundamental interconnectedness of all things'.

So Windows 10 seems deliberately developed to accommodate that interconnectedness. At the cost of functionality as a PC!

All of the "may i publish all of your personal data to the world wide web?" settings are currently opt-out - you don't get asked the question, you have to ask it yourself.

The other part of Windows 10, which i think is what's attracted the big businesses, is the intention to make it a definitive jack-of-all-trades operating system, requiring one big update, every now and again (at Microsoft's whim) to ensure pathogenic security is maintained to the best of Microsoft's ability.

Those security updates, by the way, are obligatory - you're going to lose hard drive space, whether you like it or not.

But to big businesses, with lots of little franchises, the idea that responsibility for keeping everything updated has been left in the hands of Microsoft, is a very attractive one. There'll be no micro-management to do :-D

In fact, even The Pentagon has decided to make a huge leap toward Windows 10, with 4 million devices requiring the upgrade. For them, i think economy is the reason.

And maybe surveilling the members of their staff, who haven't changed their privacy settings ;-)

So while reviews (and narky remarks in comments sections) have given me the impression that Windows 10 is leaps and bounds ahead of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, i think i'll be sticking with Windows 7 for now, thank you very much.

It has all the mod-cons, and none of the added data security flaws.

Maybe Microsoft should develop a two-pronged OS mission, with two products, for those who wish to stick to PC work, and those who wish to 'go public'?

They could call the respective operating systems 'Windows Private' and 'Windows Public' :-D

Uber or Taxis? Which is the goody, and which is the baddy?

If you believe the taxi industry, you might think Uber is the worst thing since Hitler invented genocide; but in reality, there's no genuine evidence that Uber drivers are any more dangerous than old-fashioned cabbies.

'Which is safer—Uber or a taxi? There's no clear answer'

Like with the wine industry in the first half of the 20th century, the taxi industry has sought glamorous claims of horrendous violence, to foment hysteria about their competitors... for profit.

For the wine industry, it's the spirits industry, and for the taxi industry, it's Uber. Jean Lanfray's serial killing as an absinthe drinker got the drink banned across Europe, and around the world, and crimes by Uber drivers have been used as arguments to condemn Uber itself. But Lanfray drank a lot more wine on his fateful night, than he did absinthe, and taxi drivers, too, have been responsible for many crimes toward their customers, over the years.

Are we really expected to believe that this is about safety, and not about established companies objecting to their financial models being undermined by competition?

Taxi drivers, for example, currently have to be fingerprinted and databased; but only because taxi drivers have a history of crime toward their clients! With all the same regulations applied to Uber drivers, what would really be the difference?

I permit myself to suggest, that Uber drivers come from the same cultural population as taxi drivers, and so there is no essential difference between them at all. If anything, Uber just needs more regulation.

Evidence for animosity toward Uber:

According to the Daily Fail, "Facebook has a similar effect on your brain as COCAINE" with the implication that this makes Facebook something to fear.

'Brain scans used to see if Facebook is addictive'

The Torygraph, Metoo, and Dependent, echoed the same warnings. I'm surprised more 'papers didn't go with this story. The implication is clearly a factionalist one: "Facebook (social media) is bad for you, so get all your beliefs from us, instead".

Aside from the Ocean Dilemma in the study itself - it was not possible to work out whether high activity in the ventral striatum was causing Facebook usage, or a consequence of it - this spurious correlation seems convenient propaganda fodder for the recently-passed Asceticist's Charter (the Psychoactive Substances Bill) which pre-emptively bans anything that might make people think/feel anything.

This, of course, includes both cocaine and Facebook. And newspapers.

'It may be impossible, but it's the law'

The bill is so shoddily defined, and incompetently produced (exclusively by a small band of Conservatives) that efforts have been made to specifically exclude certain substances from it, as if this eternal opt-out process could possibly be practicable! Imagine becoming an MP and finding yourself emburdened with the task of exempting everything in the world, in turn, from a stupidly pseudoscientific bill that your PM refused to revoke in its entirety!

The exemptions, of course, have been given not to genuine medicines, but to quackery (for example, Homeopathic fraud) and to the most dangerous drugs that are available in the UK at the moment - caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

Because they are so much more abundantly consumed, they do vastly more damage than any fatuously-titled 'legal high' has ever done. Wine, for example, caused Jean Lanfray to murder his wife and children; and has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people since, by poisoning, dangerous behaviour, liver disease, and a variety of other medical ailments.

Alcohol is exempted from the Psychoactive Substances Bill!

‘Drugs Ranked According To Total Harm’

And it's the exempted alcohol, that has been similarly exempted from any kind of moral accountability, for decades, as this graph shows:

‘Comparison of alcohol-caused liver disease in the UK, and in the EU’

Since the availability of cheap booze has sky-rocketed, so has the abundance of liver disease. It's not the 'legal highs' that are the problem - it's lax regulation of legal drugs.

What kind of a government opts for prohibition, in favour of the evidentially-proved-to-be-effective minimum alcohol unit price?

What kind? A government of cretinous imbeciles.

In other news:

Not content to be in the news for just the one bullshit medical story, the Daily Fail has gone with these wonders, to whet your epicaricatic appetite: "Indigestion pills taken by millions 'could raise the risk of dementia by 50%'". There's no evidence that they could or do.

"Men who talk on their cell phones for an hour a day 'are twice as likely to have low sperm quality'". The study actually found that, in small numbers of hypofertile men, mobile phone use does not correlate with semen quality. It did not compare with healthy men.

"Desperate to lose weight?... Eat almonds! Handful a day 'wards off hunger and replaces empty calories from junk food'" The study, funded by the Almond Board of California, failed in its aims of showing improved bowel function, better bacteria in the gut, and signs of improved immune status. Megafails all around, then :-D

"Air pollution is contributing to about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK"... oh, wait, that's the BBC. And it's actually true. And the figure doesn't include effects from indoor pollutants. The report, by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, states that gains have been made from cutting the combustion of solid fuels, like coal, especially in the home, but that pollution from road traffic poses a greater threat as road traffic's increased. Gas cookers, cleaning products, damp and mould, carbon monoxide, and of course cigarette smoke, can all contribute to ill health, in the forms of lung damage, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, type 2 diabetes, brain damage - retardation and dementia, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. All of these conditions take years to show affect, so are easily underestimated. The authors of the report estimate these quiet costs to be worth £20 billion to the economy, which is just under 16% of the current annual NHS budget. The authors also estimate that the costs of reducing air pollution would be lower than the costs of treating the resultant medical conditions.

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives (one of the executive bodies of the USA's government) has passed a blood sports bill, stripping endangered wolves of federal protection, extending protection for the use of lead bullets, diverting funding meant for conservation, and allowing imports of ivory from African elephants! The UK's Cammers Wammers Hammers, being an olde-worlde Tory, is a keen fan of blood sports, and proponent of blood sport legalisation, so it seems the deranged are no different on the other side of The Pond! Their excuse, too, was the English "you townies don't know our country ways" rephrased as "By overregulating, these bureaucrats do a lot of damage to our fishermen, shooters and outdoor enthusiasts, stopping perfectly legal and safe outdoor activities. Washington regulations should enable access (to public lands), not stop it." Enable access to lands, so that they can be shot by frothing-at-the-mouth bloodsports enthusiasts? Unfortunately, it's not your life you're gambling with.

In the same week that it's revealed that the French finance ministry is demanding €1.6 billion from Google, in unpaid taxes; the UK government is put under pressure for bowing out with a pathetic £130 million payoff! Google has received profits of at least £106 million, on revenues of £1.18 billion in Britain in the last 18 months alone. The Labour Party's equated this to a 3% tax rate - less than the starting rate for a UK taxpayer!

Sexist research has found that feminist fear-mongering is likely to be pushing women into abusive relationships. This research has found that the more women fear crime, the more they seek 'dominant' males as socio-sexual partners. This is seen in many species, as a risk-balancing strategy - go with a weak male, and retain your freedom; or go with a strong male, and be bullied by them instead - but not by the other species, or members of your own species. Ambient danger determines whether it's worthwhile. So the more feminist propaganda there is, telling women that they're walking rape-fodder, and The Patriarchy's pushing them down, and they're horribly oppressed, and the whole world's out to get them, the more fear they will feel; and the more fear they feel, the more they will desire a risky, strong male to spend their time with; and the more they do that, the greater the risk of being abused by the person that they are subject to. So the horrid irony is that the ideological, unwarranted-by-evidence fear that feminists profit from, by inculcating it into women, is probably actually endangering the women they purport to be defending. Fears are self-destructive if they're not proportional to the threat - they must be warranted by evidence, and not by paranoid, hysterical prejudice. You might be wondering, however, why i called this 'sexist research'. Well, it doesn't really change the conclusion, but it was a study entirely aimed at vulnerable women - it didn't study mate-selection in fearful men - and for no apparent reason, didn't measure rapes committed by women, to judge the genuine abundance of crime in the women's home locations. Why? Because Hannah Ryder et al didn't think it worth researching, i presume.

Transexual athletes are no longer required to have surgery, to compete in Olympic events. Women who are transitioning toward being men, are free to compete in Men's events; but men who are transitioning toward being women, must show hypo-testosteroney feminine physiology to compete in Women's events. Why do non-men have to do this? Because sex segregation in sport compels this silliness. The only reason Women's events exist, into the 21st century, is because women have got used to having competitions that they can win, and past winners often go on to advocate for their sports, and adopt positions of power in regulatory bodies. Consequently, they don't want to end the segregation, that supports this dual system, where the 'best of' of womankind never (well, rarely) directly competes with the 'best of' of mankind. They would, of course, routinely lose. Sport is essentially a test to see who's the butchest person in the room. So men who transition toward being women, have a physiological advantage, and that's why they're not allowed to compete in Women's events - the 'proper' girls want the glory for themselves. I wonder whether the intent to accommodate intersex athletes will lead to the eventual demise of subjugative Women's events, and sex segregation in sport, entirely? I foresee decades of awkward wrangling and moaning, before that might happen.

There is now sufficient wealth in enough Chinese households, that the Chinese are importing goods from Australia in vast quantities. Unfortunately, according to this article, much of the benefit appears to be in the quackery sector, with 'organics' benefitting, fraudulently-marketed honey glooping off the island continent, and vitamin supplements going from Oz to China. Quack supplements going into China? That's like selling coals to Newcastle, surely?! Caveat: there might be other, more respectable, products being imported from Australia, but the sample bias of this particular article could be leaving them out.

For those who need a little introduction to systematic bias, this is how to do it: Hong Kong's 'Chief executive' (leader) is apparently more unpopular than Donald Trump. How's this known? By counting the number of emojis left on his Facebook page. This might be good enough to judge that he's disliked by some people, to some amount, but it can't be used to compare subjects of emoji campaigns in different spheres of life. The kinds of people who dislike Trump, Cameron, or Obama (also mentioned) are far less likely to use emojis, because they'll live in cultures in which emojis are far less popular as a means of communication. So is "Hong Kong's beleaguered leader [] nearly 100 times more unpopular than US presidential hopeful Donald Trump" as the article says? The evidence simply doesn't warrant the claim. Hong Kong's 'beleaguered leader' might be unpopular with some people, but this evidence can't say whether he's more or less unpopular than Trump.

Dental microwear texture analysis - a method of 3D scanning objects - has been used for the first time, to safely reveal children's diets. Not living children, of course - children who died centuries ago, between the 11th and 15th centuries CE. Dietary analyses from teeth are usually destructive, but this technique could tell us more about our ancestors' diets while preserving their skeletons.

Researchers have found that a dinosaur unearthed in Arizona, back in 1942, has retrospectively set a record for number of injuries and bone growth problems. The Dilophosaurus wetherilli specimen had eight bone breaks and infections, including a fractured left shoulder blade, a fractured left radius, an infection in its left ulna, two areas of damage due to bone infection in its left thumb, an injury to its right humerus, and two examples of osteodysplasia, where the bone was deformed due to unusual growth. The researchers concluded that the injuries were likely all caused by a fight, which it survived. Hence the development of infections. Evidence has shown that, unlike mammals, dinosaurs could not regrow lost bone, so the deformed bone growth might not have been caused by its conflict.

Glyptodonts were among the megafauna of South American wildlife, thousands of years ago, and coexisted with humans for at least 4000 years. They were a family of huge armadillo-like species, with rounded shells, and some with spiky tailclubs. But it wasn't until DNA from a specimen's carapace was used to analyse the two families' ancestries, that the relatedness of these giant armadillo-types to modern armadilloes could be calculated. It turns out that they genuinely have common ancestry, that diverged no later than 35 million years ago. Their divergence in form has resulted in a mass range of 6 to 2000 Kg. This DNA evidence is in accord with the available fossil record.

Why aren't the Burgundy Truffles, that grow across central Europe, more radioactive than the measured amount? In the wake of fallout from the Chernobyl Disaster, many studies have been made, of the distribution of Caesium-137, across the continent, which renders plant and fungal species noticeably radioactive. This follows through, into the bodies of animals such as deer and boar. But the Burgundy Truffle, despite living in the contaminated topsoil, shows little contamination itself. All 82 Burgundy Truffle samples, collected between 2010 and 2014, in this study, found negligible amounts of Cs-137, rendering them safe for human consumption. The quest continues, to discover what truffles to differently, that leads to them soaking up so much less Cs-137 than even other fungal species.

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'Male sand martin birds filmed having sex with a dead male'

'Eastern Rosella'

'ScienceCasts: Horn-rims and Funny Stockings on the Space Station'

'Science Bulletins: Shedding Light on Type Ia Supernovae'

'Being an atheist doesn't mean you're rational' - potholer54

[video] 'Seeing cancer cells in 3-D'

'Image: The ice fields of Patagonia'

'Image: Jarosite in the Noctis Labyrinthus Region of Mars'

'Image: Cassini captures group photo of Tethys, Enceladus and Mimas'

'Image: ESA Cluster's 16-year-old webcam restarted'

'ATLASGAL survey of Milky Way completed'

"Socialist" by Roy Zimmerman
This is the replacement for last week's 'You're A Socialist - Improv' link, that doesn't work anymore.

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Word Of The Week: costard -- a large cooking apple; or a person's head (humorous)

Unsurprising Press Release Claim Of The Week: An Organics Industry funded study has 'found' that organic stuff is healthier than tawdry non-organic shit. No, just no. The term 'organic' is a marketing con.

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

'¡Muere, estúpido cerebro!' (Die, you stupid brain!)

'Reacciones químicas asombrosas' (Amazing chemical reactions)

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