Category Archive: society

Oct 01 2012

Voter registration fraud in Florida?

Remember ACORN? Yes, well, the Republicans are now doing the same thing that so outraged them…

A consulting firm engaged by the RNC has been filing voter registrations with county supervisors of elections that have forged signatures. The firm claimed that a “bad apple” was responsible — but this was exactly what happened with ACORN 4 years ago, and the Republican establishment united in a move to defund and effectively kill ACORN as an institution.

Ironically, at the same time that these forged registrations have been submitted by Republican operatives, another Tea Party-related firm was filing petitions with the state against so-called “dead” voters it had “identified” that were still on the rolls. It turned out, of course, that supervisors of elections were already culling their records of dead registrants as part of their ordinary voter roll duties (remember, dead people don’t notify the state that they can’t vote anymore); more importantly, some supervisors pointed out that there was no evidence of any dead voters having cast votes. That didn’t stop the right-wing blogosphere from leaping to the conclusion that a) all these voters who were dead had cast votes after their deaths, and b) that they were all liberals who had voted for Obama.

You will note that Democrats, as a whole, are not beating the drums for a war on voter fraud. That’s because voter fraud is a virtually non-existent problem; historically vote tampering has occurred when fake ballots are inserted into the record, or valid ballots are discarded or destroyed. Neither involves voters impersonating other voters.

Republicans will tell you that voting is a sacred right to be protected, yet they discredit their own case every time they engage in manipulations of voter rolls. Their claims that voter fraud is a liberal-inspired problem collapses with each new revelation.

State looking suspicious forms in 9 counties.

May 18 2012

Strong passwords that aren’t passwords

Creating usable passwords that resist cracking and yet are memorable is becoming an increasing burden, given how many sites, devices, and messaging systems we all now use. The trick is not to use a password, but a passphrase, and to encode it with symbols, not merely numbers and letters. It’s longer to type but by that very nature far harder to break. Consumer Reports has a short article on this very point, with some interesting tips.

How to create a strong password (and remember it).

Apr 15 2012

Most store honey…isn’t pure honey

Food Safety News performed a series of lab tests at Texas A&M University to learn if the labeling on honey sold in major stores was reliable. Why is this important? Because “ultra filtered” honey, which sounds more pure, actually isn’t:

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

Hiding the pollen in honey is a technique to prevent tracking of its source of production, and thus to disguise its impurity, not its purity.

What were the results? Not good:

  • 76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed. These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.
  • 100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.
  • 77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.
  • 100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.

The best defense appears to be to purchase honey labeled as “organic”, which seems to usually come from Brazil.

Much more detailed information, including brand names, is here.

Apr 13 2012

Charleston’s tiniest house

The tiniest house in Charleston, SC, at Reid and America. Known as the “House of the Future” (eek), it was designed by David Hammons as an art entry for the 1991 Spoleto Festival. It’s maintained by the contractor to this day. Keep your elbows in.

via charleston sc – Google Maps.

Apr 13 2012

Worrisome charts on the Spanish economy

Even though the debt/GDP ratio is middle of the road for the Eurozone (less even than Germany’s), the unemployment stats and other social indicators are alarming.

[warning]Chart On The Spanish Economy - Business Insider[/warning]

via Chart On The Spanish Economy 

Apr 13 2012

Alcohol sharpens the mind

Eureka! Drink up.

The drinking group solved nearly 40 per cent more problems than the others, and took an average of 12 seconds compared to the 15.5 seconds needed by sober subjects.

via Alcohol sharpens the mind, research finds

Mar 30 2012

The $30 billion Social Security hack

SScard 300x177 The $30 billion Social Security hackSometime last year computers at the U.S. Social Security Administration were hacked and the identities of millions of Americans were compromised. What, you didn’t hear about that?  Nobody did.

The extent of damage is only just now coming to light in the form of millions of false 2011 income tax returns filed in the names of people currently receiving Social Security benefits. That includes a very large number of elderly and disabled people who are ill-equipped to recognize or fight the problem. It’s an impact pervasive enough that the IRS now has a form just to deal with it: Form 14039: Identity Theft Affidavit, December 2011. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 24 2012

Einstein archives, online

Read. Browse. Possibly some of it will rub off.

Mar 22 2012

27 of history’s strangest inventions

…here come some of history’s most weird and wonderful inventions, from wooden swimwear to spectacles for reading in bed…

via 27 of History’s Strangest Inventions | Brain Pickings

Mar 22 2012

The Titanic in high def

Great article from the Mail on new high definition photos of the Titanic wreckage taken by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


Mar 22 2012

The Stuxnet worm: beginnings of the new warfare

Binary Code 2Stuxnet is almost certainly part of a new generation of state-created cyber-weapons. It is too sophisticated to be the work of hackers, too specific to a one type of industrial equipment to have been crafted by profit-seeking criminals. And it updates itself periodically.

Wired has a great article about how it was discovered and tracked by computer security investigators, and how it resembled other, supposed cyber-attacks:

To illustrate the destructive capability of Stuxnet, the researchers referenced an oft-cited 1982 CIA digital attack on the Siberian pipeline that resulted in an explosion a fifth the size of the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima.

Bruce Schneier has a good analysis of the purposes of Stuxnet:

Stuxnet doesn’t act like a criminal worm. It doesn’t spread indiscriminately. It doesn’t steal credit card information or account login credentials. It doesn’t herd infected computers into a botnet. It uses multiple zero-day vulnerabilities. A criminal group would be smarter to create different worm variants and use one in each. Stuxnet performs sabotage.


Mar 19 2012

Best rope swing ever

Phew. My stomach’s in my throat.

Mar 19 2012

Mayan doom teaches climate lesson

…these droughts may not have been strong enough to cause by themselves the collapse of the civilization, but they were likely strong enough and persistent enough … to cause major sociopolitical disruptions that ultimately led to the final outcome.

via Cosmic Log – Maya doom teaches climate lesson

Mar 19 2012

Trike drifting

Thought wheelies were fun? Try trike drifting.

Mar 18 2012

Calculated Risk website

This is a terrific site with dozens of revealing economic and financial charts.

Mar 10 2012

There is only one big problem: overpopulation

Overpopulation is an amplifier. Relatively solvable issues become major crises when scaled up in size because of population: epidemics, pollution, resource consumption, demand for geographic space, etc.
As societies sense this, they tend to self-regulate their populations, in part because the cost of children (schooling, medical care, housing, and so forth) increases. So you get the demographic transition model (graph courtesy of High School Geography):

A more detailed discussion of this model is here.

But the real question that remains is: will the population of the world overall regulate and reduce in sufficient time to prevent the amplifying effects of other secondary issues from causing widespread crises? Or will it take one of those crises (a good epidemic or war) to act as the population reducing agent?

Jan 01 2012

Sleepless at Stanford

The national prevalence has been established scientifically for one specific disorder, obstructive sleep apnea. This disorder afflicts 24 percent of adult males and 9 percent of adult females which extrapolates to 30 million Americans.

via Sleepless at Stanford

Jan 01 2012

The utility of mathematics

An interesting paper on why and how “pure” mathematics diverged from the natural sciences, and what it means.

Jan 01 2012

How Everything Works Home Page

Stay current on How The World Works at this website.

Jul 16 2011

Inca Paradox: Maybe the pre-Columbian civilization did develop writing

…the Incas developed a unique way to record information, a system of knotted cords called khipus (sometimes spelled quipus). In recent years, the question of whether these khipus were actually a method of three-dimensional writing that met the Incas’ specific needs has become one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Andes.

Detail of an Inca-era khipu. Click image to expand.
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