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Kee Hinckley

Kee Hinckley 

Fascinated by the boundaries of technology and social behavior.

Occupation: I create things using code, words, and ideas. (TiVo, Inc.)

Location: La Conner, WA

Followers: 11,211

Following: 1,136

Views: 8,021,541

Added to CircleCount.com: 12/25/2011That's the date, where Kee Hinckley has been indexed by CircleCount.com.
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Activity

Average numbers for the latest posts (max. 50 posts, posted within the last 4 weeks)

6
comments per post
3
reshares per post
14
+1's per post

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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 85

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2016-08-28 02:06:05 (85 comments; 21 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

A nuanced view of the bikini/burkini debate that looks at why we can agree that forcing women to disrobe is wrong, but still not nearly equivalent (in either pressure or repercussions) to what happens in cultures that force women to remain covered.

Most reshares: 21

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2016-08-28 02:06:05 (85 comments; 21 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

A nuanced view of the bikini/burkini debate that looks at why we can agree that forcing women to disrobe is wrong, but still not nearly equivalent (in either pressure or repercussions) to what happens in cultures that force women to remain covered.

Most plusones: 40

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2016-08-25 16:41:38 (3 comments; 3 reshares; 40 +1s; )Open 

The Lottery of Indecency

Via +Natasha Gauthier​​

Latest 50 posts

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2016-08-30 02:27:29 (3 comments; 4 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

❝ I think I’ve been to jail probably six, seven times over the same [$29] check. Every time I go to jail, they’d let me out immediately for $100. They’d turn around and add $600 or $700 more to my bond. I couldn’t afford to pay. I didn’t know what to do. ❞

For an accidental overdraft. Read it all the way through. This is sick. Criminalized poverty.

❝ I think I’ve been to jail probably six, seven times over the same [$29] check. Every time I go to jail, they’d let me out immediately for $100. They’d turn around and add $600 or $700 more to my bond. I couldn’t afford to pay. I didn’t know what to do. ❞

For an accidental overdraft. Read it all the way through. This is sick. Criminalized poverty.___

2016-08-30 02:17:34 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s; )Open 

San Jose work done. Back to Seattle. Back in San Jose in a month or so, assuming a) nothing blows up with the transition and b) the post-buy-out plans don't move ridiculously fast.

I give the first 25% odds and the second 50%. 

San Jose work done. Back to Seattle. Back in San Jose in a month or so, assuming a) nothing blows up with the transition and b) the post-buy-out plans don't move ridiculously fast.

I give the first 25% odds and the second 50%. ___

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2016-08-30 01:27:49 (7 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

Russian hackers breached vote registration system and attacked voting machines. Still want electronic voting?

We need federal standards, and we need them fast. And if that means a bunchof voting machine companies go under, that's just fine.

___Russian hackers breached vote registration system and attacked voting machines. Still want electronic voting?

We need federal standards, and we need them fast. And if that means a bunchof voting machine companies go under, that's just fine.

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2016-08-30 00:01:20 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

Facebook was apparently a bit hasty in firing their trending topics team.

___Facebook was apparently a bit hasty in firing their trending topics team.

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2016-08-29 06:34:29 (3 comments; 7 reshares; 20 +1s; )Open 

❝ No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. ❞

in which Francis Scott Key celebrates the defeat of escaped slaves who were supporting the British counterattack against America's attempt to take Canada.

❝ No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. ❞

in which Francis Scott Key celebrates the defeat of escaped slaves who were supporting the British counterattack against America's attempt to take Canada.___

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2016-08-29 06:24:37 (11 comments; 3 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

What happens when you turn on a 20,000 watt lightbulb in your house?

The video doesn't really get going until 5-6 minutes in, but the details of the bulb (and his power system) are pretty impressive.

What happens when you turn on a 20,000 watt lightbulb in your house?

The video doesn't really get going until 5-6 minutes in, but the details of the bulb (and his power system) are pretty impressive.___

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2016-08-29 05:05:29 (0 comments; 5 reshares; 22 +1s; )Open 

Going berserk!

"There is a study out this year that suggests Frenchmen feel pain."

[Original: http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/life-as-a-berserker]

Going berserk!

"There is a study out this year that suggests Frenchmen feel pain."

[Original: http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/life-as-a-berserker]___

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2016-08-29 04:49:02 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 21 +1s; )Open 

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2016-08-28 20:36:29 (3 comments; 1 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

"Almost paganly gay"

"Almost paganly gay"___

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2016-08-28 17:47:42 (5 comments; 11 reshares; 34 +1s; )Open 

Analysis of an ancient codebreaking tablet has revealed that Babylonian astronomers had calculated the movements of Jupiter using an early form of geometric calculus some 1,400 years before we thought the technique was invented by the Europeans.
 
h/t +Xenophrenia

Analysis of an ancient codebreaking tablet has revealed that Babylonian astronomers had calculated the movements of Jupiter using an early form of geometric calculus some 1,400 years before we thought the technique was invented by the Europeans.
 
h/t +Xenophrenia___

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2016-08-28 07:05:35 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

The number of innocent people who confess to crimes is large. Interrogation gets answers, even if they are wrong.

Innocent? Don't talk to the police. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-duane-dont-talk-police-20160826-snap-story.html -via Flynx___The number of innocent people who confess to crimes is large. Interrogation gets answers, even if they are wrong.

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2016-08-28 02:06:05 (85 comments; 21 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

A nuanced view of the bikini/burkini debate that looks at why we can agree that forcing women to disrobe is wrong, but still not nearly equivalent (in either pressure or repercussions) to what happens in cultures that force women to remain covered.

A nuanced view of the bikini/burkini debate that looks at why we can agree that forcing women to disrobe is wrong, but still not nearly equivalent (in either pressure or repercussions) to what happens in cultures that force women to remain covered.___

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2016-08-28 01:16:39 (8 comments; 3 reshares; 18 +1s; )Open 

The "neighborhood social network" Nextdoor started to develop a nasty racism problem a while ago: people were using it to identify and discuss "suspicious behavior" among their neighbors which was often nothing more than "being in our neighborhood while dark-skinned." This started to become the reputation of the company - and the company decided to do something about it.

This article is about how minor user interface tweaks can profoundly affect user behavior. By injecting friction at the right point, you can significantly change how people behave - and in this case, substantially reduce the problem. It's a good lesson in UX design, and even more so a good discussion of how subtle cues shape people's behavior in a system.

h/t +Amber Yust​

The "neighborhood social network" Nextdoor started to develop a nasty racism problem a while ago: people were using it to identify and discuss "suspicious behavior" among their neighbors which was often nothing more than "being in our neighborhood while dark-skinned." This started to become the reputation of the company - and the company decided to do something about it.

This article is about how minor user interface tweaks can profoundly affect user behavior. By injecting friction at the right point, you can significantly change how people behave - and in this case, substantially reduce the problem. It's a good lesson in UX design, and even more so a good discussion of how subtle cues shape people's behavior in a system.

h/t +Amber Yust​___

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2016-08-28 00:39:52 (3 comments; 5 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

Its the weekend......and Cows just wanna have fun.......awwwww

Its the weekend......and Cows just wanna have fun.......awwwww___

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2016-08-27 23:00:37 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

Drew a bunch of portraits of people on twitter. Just $10 if you'd like one yourself.
https://twitter.com/ChrisHallbeck

Drew a bunch of portraits of people on twitter. Just $10 if you'd like one yourself.
https://twitter.com/ChrisHallbeck___

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2016-08-27 21:46:15 (8 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

Excerpt: As women take off their bras and blouses in Union Square Sunday, and men don string bikinis tops in solidarity, the San Francisco Go Topless day celebrants may not realize the strange bedfellows they're united with in promoting the freedom to have a bare chest.

"Monotheistic religions are the culprit for the guilt humans feel about their naked body, their sensuality, their sexuality with of course a woman as the ultimate instigator of 'the original sin," president of GoTopless, Nadine Gary tells SFGATE.

Gary also happens to be a Raelian priestess. That's the alien religion from the 70s, if you recall. It turns out the national protest event is the work of Rael, the spiritual leader of the Raelians.

Rael used to be a French race car driver and journalist until, he says, he had a close encounter of the third kind in 1973, after which he changed... more »

Excerpt: As women take off their bras and blouses in Union Square Sunday, and men don string bikinis tops in solidarity, the San Francisco Go Topless day celebrants may not realize the strange bedfellows they're united with in promoting the freedom to have a bare chest.

"Monotheistic religions are the culprit for the guilt humans feel about their naked body, their sensuality, their sexuality with of course a woman as the ultimate instigator of 'the original sin," president of GoTopless, Nadine Gary tells SFGATE.

Gary also happens to be a Raelian priestess. That's the alien religion from the 70s, if you recall. It turns out the national protest event is the work of Rael, the spiritual leader of the Raelians.

Rael used to be a French race car driver and journalist until, he says, he had a close encounter of the third kind in 1973, after which he changed his name from Claude Vorilhon to Rael. He began writing books about his newfound spirituality involving extraterrestrials and cloning as the means of immortality, and toured the world founding the Raelian movement. The religion makes sensuality and feminism part of its core values.

Raelians promote the celebration of Go Topless Day on the Sunday closest to Women's Equality Day, Aug. 26, acknowledging the date in 1920 that American women earned the right to vote. It's an officially recognized day for women's rights. The topless part was Rael's addition.

In San Francisco, however, it's a moot point. Being topless is perfectly legal here, although there seems to be some confusion about the law, and rangers appear to be enforcing a shirt policy for women at Dolores Park although no such ordinance exists that we can find. (We have calls in to Parks and Rec for clarification, but other law enforcement agencies made it clear that topless women are perfectly legal).___

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2016-08-27 21:44:59 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Help is on Its Way: Cherokee Nation Sends Water to Standing Rock - Native News Online
http://nativenewsonline.net/currents/help-way-cherokee-nation-sends-water-standing-rock/

Help is on Its Way: Cherokee Nation Sends Water to Standing Rock - Native News Online
http://nativenewsonline.net/currents/help-way-cherokee-nation-sends-water-standing-rock/___

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2016-08-27 20:49:46 (1 comments; 9 reshares; 37 +1s; )Open 

I think we know what the sequel is going to be called.

I think we know what the sequel is going to be called.___

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2016-08-27 20:35:31 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

___

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2016-08-27 20:19:04 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

New Analysis Confirms Why the Skagit River Bridge Collapsed http://gizmodo.com/new-analysis-confirms-why-the-skagit-river-bridge-colla-1785842162 …

New Analysis Confirms Why the Skagit River Bridge Collapsed http://gizmodo.com/new-analysis-confirms-why-the-skagit-river-bridge-colla-1785842162 …___

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2016-08-27 18:57:31 (8 comments; 5 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

❝ I want my children to grow up in the real world. This is not the real world. ❞ — White parent moving out of an ethnically diverse suburb.

___❝ I want my children to grow up in the real world. This is not the real world. ❞ — White parent moving out of an ethnically diverse suburb.

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2016-08-27 18:41:08 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

Florida's 'Prison Houdini' Nearing Release

Florida man Mark DeFriest earned the nickname of 'Prison Houdini' for his repeated escapes from Florida prisons. He escaped, in fact, a total of 7 times... though, this was out of 13 attempts, so the comparison to Houdini is somewhat generous. Nonetheless, some of his escapes were like the stuff of movies, such as duplicating guard keys solely from memory.

Ironically, it all began with an arrest as a young man for stealing his father's tools after he died, earning him a mere 4-year sentence. An autistic savant, he found prison life intolerable, and through a series of escapes, escape attempts, and disciplinary issues, this short stay ultimately became a virtual life sentence.

A misclassification ultimately landed him at a maximum security prison in Oregon, where he was still considered a prisoner of... more »

Florida's 'Prison Houdini' Nearing Release

Florida man Mark DeFriest earned the nickname of 'Prison Houdini' for his repeated escapes from Florida prisons. He escaped, in fact, a total of 7 times... though, this was out of 13 attempts, so the comparison to Houdini is somewhat generous. Nonetheless, some of his escapes were like the stuff of movies, such as duplicating guard keys solely from memory.

Ironically, it all began with an arrest as a young man for stealing his father's tools after he died, earning him a mere 4-year sentence. An autistic savant, he found prison life intolerable, and through a series of escapes, escape attempts, and disciplinary issues, this short stay ultimately became a virtual life sentence.

A misclassification ultimately landed him at a maximum security prison in Oregon, where he was still considered a prisoner of Florida, and landed him in solitary confinement. There he suffered severe and untreated health issues, so that now he has no teeth left, among other health issues.

Recently, Florida's parole board voted to grant him parole some 70-years early, after he finishes a period of as little as a couple years in California for a drug related offense. He will, by then, be nearly 60-years old, having spent most of his adult life behind bars despite being non-violent.

His greatest trick, therefore, will be remaining free.

#OnlyInFlorida #PrisonHoudini #FloridaMan___

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2016-08-27 16:31:13 (15 comments; 4 reshares; 24 +1s; )Open 

Remember. The French still ban the Burka. Telling women what to wear is alive and well in the world.

#fckcps___Remember. The French still ban the Burka. Telling women what to wear is alive and well in the world.

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2016-08-27 09:02:29 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s; )Open 

Who had a Thunderscan?

I don't think I ever made the connection that the company was also responsible for the Apple ][ Thunderclock.

Who had a Thunderscan?

I don't think I ever made the connection that the company was also responsible for the Apple ][ Thunderclock.___

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2016-08-27 06:12:18 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

"Campaign officials promise a changed Donald Trump" That explains the cancelled campaign stops. Either theyre waiting for the drugs to take effect, or the stunt double is still in training.

"Campaign officials promise a changed Donald Trump" That explains the cancelled campaign stops. Either theyre waiting for the drugs to take effect, or the stunt double is still in training.___

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2016-08-27 06:04:28 (7 comments; 14 reshares; 26 +1s; )Open 

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2016-08-27 06:00:15 (4 comments; 3 reshares; 22 +1s; )Open 

A letter to Governor LePage.


Sorry about the screenshot. FB wouldn't let me cut and paste, or create a good share link.

A letter to Governor LePage.


Sorry about the screenshot. FB wouldn't let me cut and paste, or create a good share link.___

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2016-08-27 05:49:58 (6 comments; 3 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

"Eye of the tiger" on dot matrix printer--this is way better than I expected.

I suppose that's not saying a lot. But really!

#TGIF  

Pardon my semi-random Plussing (Curmudgeon Squad & several others)
+Laura Gibbs +Bob Calder +Liz Stevenson +Phil Hill +A. Michael Berman +Terence Towles Canote +Alexandra Riecke-Gonzales +Lauren Weinstein +Charlie Hoover +Robert Rambusch +Karla Carter +Bryan Alexander +Annette Holland +Christina Talbott-Clark +Keith Wilson +Kathryn Huxtable ___"Eye of the tiger" on dot matrix printer--this is way better than I expected.

I suppose that's not saying a lot. But really!

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2016-08-27 05:45:30 (3 comments; 0 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

So excited for former housemates +Johanna Bobrow, +Eric Mumpower and Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band who got to perform with the Dresden Dolls!

So excited for former housemates +Johanna Bobrow, +Eric Mumpower and Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band who got to perform with the Dresden Dolls!___

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2016-08-27 05:41:22 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

___

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2016-08-27 05:21:59 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Dark mysteries

You probably heard the news this week: astronomers found a galaxy that's 98% dark matter. 

It's called Dragonfly 44.  It's extremely faint, so it doesn't have many stars.   But we can use redshifts to see how fast those stars are moving - over 40 kilometers per second on average.  If you do some calculations, you can see this galaxy would fly apart unless there's a lot of invisible matter providing enough gravity to hold it together.   (Or unless something even weirder is happening.)

Something similar is true for most galaxies, including ours.   What makes Dragonfly 44 special is that 98 percent of the matter must be invisible.   And this is just in the part where we see stars.   If we count the outer edges of the galaxy, the halo, the percentage could rise to 99% or more! 

By comparison, theMilky Way is... more »

Dark mysteries

You probably heard the news this week: astronomers found a galaxy that's 98% dark matter. 

It's called Dragonfly 44.  It's extremely faint, so it doesn't have many stars.   But we can use redshifts to see how fast those stars are moving - over 40 kilometers per second on average.  If you do some calculations, you can see this galaxy would fly apart unless there's a lot of invisible matter providing enough gravity to hold it together.   (Or unless something even weirder is happening.)

Something similar is true for most galaxies, including ours.   What makes Dragonfly 44 special is that 98 percent of the matter must be invisible.   And this is just in the part where we see stars.   If we count the outer edges of the galaxy, the halo, the percentage could rise to 99% or more! 

By comparison, the Milky Way is roughly 90% dark matter if you count the halo.  We know this pretty well, because we can see a few stars out in there and measure how fast they're moving.

There are also galaxies like NGC 3379 that may have less than the average amount of dark matter in their halo, though this is debatable.

And most excitingly, sometimes clusters of galaxies collide and stop moving, but their dark matter keeps on going! 

We can see this because light from more distant galaxies is bent, not toward the colliding clusters, but toward something else.   The most famous example is the Bullet Cluster, but there are others.

All these discoveries - and more - make dark matter seem more and more like a real thing.  So it's more and more frustrating that we don't know what it is.  As I explained a while ago, recent experiments to detect particles of dark matter have failed.  So it could be something else, like black holes about 30 solar masses in size.  And intriguingly, the first black hole collision seen by LIGO involved a 30-solar-mass and a 16-solar-mass black hole.  These are too big to have formed from the collapse of a single star.  They might be primordial black holes, left over from the early Universe.

But more on that later.

For more on Dragonfly 44, see:

• Pieter van Dokkum, Roberto Abraham, Jean Brodie, Charlie Conroy, Shany Danieli, Allison Merritt, Lamiya Mowla, Aaron Romanowsky and Jielai Zhang, A high stellar velocity dispersion and ~100 globular clusters for the ultra diffuse galaxy Dragonfly 44, http://arxiv.org/abs/1606.06291.

For our failure to find dark matter particles, see this post of mine:

https://plus.google.com/117663015413546257905/posts/3U53iqtWYXk

For more on dark matter on the outer edges of galaxies, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter_halo

For the Milky Way's dark matter halo, see:

• G. Battaglia et al, The radial velocity dispersion profile of the Galactic halo: constraining the density profile of the dark halo of the Milky Way, http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0506102

#astronomy___

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2016-08-27 05:18:03 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

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2016-08-27 04:07:30 (3 comments; 8 reshares; 21 +1s; )Open 

Great article a "Superman crossover that perfectly explained white privilege"

___Great article a "Superman crossover that perfectly explained white privilege"

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2016-08-26 22:24:49 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

Exploring imperialism's "civilizing missions."

Exploring imperialism's "civilizing missions."___

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2016-08-26 22:23:36 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 5 +1s; )Open 

Compromise is definitely possible on voter IDs. It's not the IDs that are objectional to liberals, it's how easily they are made available and what happens if you don't have one.

State voter identification laws have inflamed the bases of both parties. But they may not actually be so far apart on policy. http://trib.al/0JTNmNe___Compromise is definitely possible on voter IDs. It's not the IDs that are objectional to liberals, it's how easily they are made available and what happens if you don't have one.

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2016-08-26 21:12:15 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s; )Open 

Ice cream delivery.

#ns

Ice cream delivery.

#ns___

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2016-08-26 16:33:40 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 23 +1s; )Open 

French high court brings sanity back on burkini laws; strikes them down.

❝ The court struck down both arguments for the bans: It ruled that the burkini is neither an insult to the equality of women nor a harbinger of terrorism. The attempts to ban it, the judges maintained, insulted “fundamental freedoms” such as the “freedom to come and go, the freedom of conscience and personal liberty.” ❞

Of course those same arguments apply to the country's Burka ban.

French high court brings sanity back on burkini laws; strikes them down.

❝ The court struck down both arguments for the bans: It ruled that the burkini is neither an insult to the equality of women nor a harbinger of terrorism. The attempts to ban it, the judges maintained, insulted “fundamental freedoms” such as the “freedom to come and go, the freedom of conscience and personal liberty.” ❞

Of course those same arguments apply to the country's Burka ban.___

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2016-08-26 05:22:20 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s; )Open 

___

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2016-08-26 05:18:56 (68 comments; 8 reshares; 28 +1s; )Open 

Hospital turns away woman bleeding from a dislodged IUD, citing Catholic rules.

In fact, her entire network turned out to be under those rules.

Yes, the hospital has since said that the doctors misunderstood the rules. But the fact that there was any question at all, any possibility of misunderstanding, says how far off track we are.

Hospital turns away woman bleeding from a dislodged IUD, citing Catholic rules.

In fact, her entire network turned out to be under those rules.

Yes, the hospital has since said that the doctors misunderstood the rules. But the fact that there was any question at all, any possibility of misunderstanding, says how far off track we are.___

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2016-08-26 04:14:15 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 7 +1s; )Open 

I want to go see the Bosch Parade

I want to go see the Bosch Parade___

2016-08-26 03:28:48 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

Unusual uses of catnip:

"Perhaps the most fantastic of all responses noted among all species tested are the startle responses of some of the younger tigers. In two cases these were violent. Tiger number 2, a zoo born, tame animal, trotted over to the dried catnip leaves when these were placed on the floor of his cage. One sniff caused him to leap several feet into the air, urinating in the process, fall flat on his back, scramble to his feet and dash head-long into the wall of his cage. Tigers number 1 and 3 gave similar, but less violent responses, not losing bladder control. When animal number 1 was retested four months later, he withdrew from the catnip with a startle response to an adjacent cage and would not re-enter the original testing area even with coaxing for over an hour. Since there is nothing physically noxious about catnip, these responses (similar to but more intense than... more »

Unusual uses of catnip:

"Perhaps the most fantastic of all responses noted among all species tested are the startle responses of some of the younger tigers. In two cases these were violent. Tiger number 2, a zoo born, tame animal, trotted over to the dried catnip leaves when these were placed on the floor of his cage. One sniff caused him to leap several feet into the air, urinating in the process, fall flat on his back, scramble to his feet and dash head-long into the wall of his cage. Tigers number 1 and 3 gave similar, but less violent responses, not losing bladder control. When animal number 1 was retested four months later, he withdrew from the catnip with a startle response to an adjacent cage and would not re-enter the original testing area even with coaxing for over an hour. Since there is nothing physically noxious about catnip, these responses (similar to but more intense than those of domestic cats and other species) must be considered to have some special biological meaning."

--Todd 1963 "The catnip response" http://www.gwern.net/docs/catnip/1963-todd.pdf___

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2016-08-26 03:18:04 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s; )Open 

Call Of The Wild

A potentially habitable, Earth-like world has been discovered around the nearest star from the Sun, Proxima Centauri. It sounds pretty cool when you say it like that. While it is a great discovery, there are reasons to be cautious.

To begin with, this particular planet, known as Proxima B, was discovered using the Dopper method rather than the transit method. This means it was discovered by looking at how the light from Proxima Centauri shifts due to the motion of its surface. While such Doppler effects can be due to the gravitational influence of an orbiting planet, it can also be caused by things like solar flares. Sometimes this leads to a false positive, so we really need more data to be sure it’s really a planet. Assuming the data holds up, calling the planet “Earth-like” is a bit optimistic. Since the Doppler method only measured stellar motiontowar... more »

Call Of The Wild

A potentially habitable, Earth-like world has been discovered around the nearest star from the Sun, Proxima Centauri. It sounds pretty cool when you say it like that. While it is a great discovery, there are reasons to be cautious.

To begin with, this particular planet, known as Proxima B, was discovered using the Dopper method rather than the transit method. This means it was discovered by looking at how the light from Proxima Centauri shifts due to the motion of its surface. While such Doppler effects can be due to the gravitational influence of an orbiting planet, it can also be caused by things like solar flares. Sometimes this leads to a false positive, so we really need more data to be sure it’s really a planet. Assuming the data holds up, calling the planet “Earth-like” is a bit optimistic. Since the Doppler method only measured stellar motion towards us and away from us (radial motion) it only gives the minimum mass of a planet. If the planet’s orbit is highly tilted relative to us, then its mass will be larger. The quoted size of 1.3 Earth masses is actually the low end, and it’s more likely to have a mass of 2 – 3 Earths, making it more of a super-Earth planet.

The planet is also in Proxima Centauri’s habitable zone, which again means less than you might think. The “habitable zone” of a star is just a simple calculation of an distance where liquid water could exist on a planetary surface. Actual surface temperature depends not only on distance, but also atmospheric density and composition. One need only look at the variation between Venus, Earth, and Mars to see how much that matters. Since Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, there are other challenges to habitability. For one, any planet in a red dwarf’s habitable zone is likely to be tidally locked, with one side under constant noon while the other side is in constant night. Such planets are likely to experience constant extremes of temperature, rather than a reasonable Earth-like variation. Then there is the fact that red dwarfs like Proxima Centauri are quite active, with large solar flares and bursts of x-rays that could fry a close planet like Proxima B.

All that said, there is some reason to be optimistic. Computer simulations of the planet’s orbit indicate that it likely formed farther away from Proxima Centauri, and therefore is likely to have plenty of water. It’s mass is large enough that it could have a strong magnetic field like Earth due to an iron core and geologic activity, and this could protect the planet’s surface from solar flares and x-rays. Calling the planet potentially habitable is not too much of a stretch. There is a chance that if its mass is on the low end and conditions are favorable it could look somewhat like Earth.

But the real draw for Proxima B is that it is only 4 light years away. That’s still about 180,000 times the average distance from Earth to Mars, but it is close enough that we can imagine sending a space probe to Proxima B. The proposed Project Longshot mission envisioned just such a mission that would take about 100 years. It’s a long mission, but humans have undertaken century-long projects before. Just as the call of the Moon led to the Apollo mission, and Mars inspires near-future missions, Proxima B inspires a mission to the nearest star.

That’s the power of a planet like Proxima B. It allows us to hear the call of the wild.
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2016-08-25 16:46:32 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 18 +1s; )Open 

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2016-08-25 16:44:45 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 0 +1s; )Open 

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2016-08-25 16:41:38 (3 comments; 3 reshares; 40 +1s; )Open 

The Lottery of Indecency

Via +Natasha Gauthier​​

The Lottery of Indecency

Via +Natasha Gauthier​​___

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2016-08-25 14:34:59 (8 comments; 0 reshares; 2 +1s; )Open 

I was wondering, Why do we in the USA vote on the first Tuesday in November anyway? Google's first result gave me the answer. As the clickbait headline writers would say, "The answer will astound you!"

I was wondering, Why do we in the USA vote on the first Tuesday in November anyway? Google's first result gave me the answer. As the clickbait headline writers would say, "The answer will astound you!"___

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2016-08-25 14:29:46 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

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