what i saw October 21, 2017 at 01:27PM

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 08:27 pm
ironymaiden: (beholder)
[personal profile] ironymaiden

Baby alpaca, no filter. something i saw

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Posted by Pete Redfern

The World Health Organisation has defended its decision to appoint the Zimbabwean President as a goodwill ambassador, arguing that you should have seen who he was up against.
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Posted by Davywavy

Still reeling from the wake of Storm Ophelia, a battered Britain bracing itself for Storm Brian has been told by the Met Office, "Always look on the bright side of life".
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Posted by Chris Lee

Enlarge (credit: Baruk Feddabonn)

I have to admit that my only experience of dyslexia is via family members. My youngest daughter has just started high school, and she's struggling with all the reading associated with three languages, an issue that bleeds over into all the other subjects. In testing, she scores high on reading comprehension but really low on reading speed. My oldest son reads and reads and reads... but cannot write worth a damn. Both have trouble internalizing spelling rules and multiplication tables.

These all standard symptoms of dyslexia. Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder, one that covers many aspects of reading and writing, so when people start touting single causes, my skepticism goes into overdrive. But it turns out that new research on its causes is reasonably solid, and it raises some interesting questions.

Your brain in the mirror

When the brain creates an image, it's faced with a problem. The two eyes report two images that are extremely similar, but shifted with respect to each other. The displacement is awesome, because it provides us with better depth perception. However, in the absence of a large amount of alcohol, the brain still has to decide on a single coherent image so it has something to present to our consciousness. To do that, the two images are melded into one, which is fine for displacement. But for mirror images, the brain must choose a single image.

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Posted by Beth Mole

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

I love October. As an avid baker and Halloween reveler, I usually spend the whole month whipping up my favorite fall desserts and packing in as many gnarly sci-fi and horror flicks as possible. It’s just not October without the smell of spiced apples baking in the oven, knife-wielding serial killers, sage and sausage stuffing, flesh-eating zombies, pumpkin bread, and ferocious aliens.

But this year—this October—is extra special. With the upcoming release of the much anticipated second season of Stranger Things, I, along with some folks at Ars, thought we should go a little bigger. I’ve spliced together my two favorite pastimes to create sci-fi inspired treats that can fuel a lengthy, nostalgia-fueled Netflix binge.

I could pull out a themed recipe or two that would provide adequate sustenance for a binge of the entire new season plus a full re-watching of the first season. But this isn’t amateur hour. There’s just so much amazing sci-fi to celebrate.

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The Leave trajectory has run into the sand, says JANE MERRICK. Now it is not just a ‘no deal’ that is on the cards, it’s a ‘no Brexit’

Brexit – the Guilty Men?

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 01:29 pm
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Posted by Mike Smithson

Cyclefree sticks her neck out and gives her choices

Scepticism (Euroscepticism, certainly) has a bad press these days. But being sceptical of received wisdom, of grand plans and theories, of the assumption that because matters have always been this way, this is how they should remain, is a good thing. At its best, it’s the courage to ask “Why?”and “Why not?” We could have done with more of it when Mrs May came out with her alliterative but empty “Brexit means Brexit” line last year. And it is possible to be a Eurosceptic – ie sceptical of how the EU behaves, its destination and whether it is adopting the right policies – while still thinking that, on balance, it makes more sense for Britain to remain part of it than not. But that kind of Euroscepticism has fallen out of fashion or, perhaps, been forced into silence by a much more toxic form which seems to see no good in the EU at all, which knows what it is against but not what it is for, which sees conspiracies and bad faith everywhere and which sounds increasingly strident and angry to anyone who is, well, sceptical of this. How did this come about?

Well, here is my list of some of the men who helped, some of them unintentionally, toxify a debate in a way which is doing no credit to anyone involved. (And one, perhaps surprising, omission.)

1. Jacques Delors

Delors wanted to have a social aspect to the EU and, as part of it, famously sold that vision to the TUC Congress. Nothing wrong with such a vision, of course, and pursuing it at an EU/ governmental level. But inserting himself in UK domestic politics in an attempt to sell one of the EU’s benefits to a hostile/sceptical Left had disastrous long-term unintended consequences for the EU debate in Britain. It looked as if the EU was seeking to undermine the results of British elections, of seeking to impose policies which had been rejected by British voters. It made the EU look as if it opposed the Tories and helped trigger or accelerate a a feeling within some Tories that the EU was the enemy. And for others it highlighted concerns about the EU’s approach to democracy and the electoral process within member states, about whether its default instincts were quite as liberal and democratic as it claimed, about how far it might go if voters did not like what it was doing.

2. Major / the “Bastards”

Unfair to group them together? Maybe. The Redwood’s/IDS’s/Cash’s/Gorman’s obsession with Maastricht, with undermining their own leader, with fighting arcane Parliamentary battles bears much of the blame for making those worried about EU developments seem unhinged. Few people will listen to arguments, however reasonable, from the sort of person you wouldn’t want to sit next to on a long bus journey with no stops. But what it also meant was that the consequences of Maastricht were never properly explained – let alone sold – to the public, particularly in relation to what has now become, unfairly perhaps, the totemic EU issue: Freedom of Movement. Major failed to do so or, more likely, was too exhausted or fed up to do so. The purists, shielded by their monomania, failed to realise that others would take the debate beyond high-minded discussions of Parliamentary sovereignty into Faragiste “Too many foreigners on the train” territory.

3. Tony Blair

FoM would never have become as toxic as it has if the arrival of Eastern Europeans had not been preceded by an increase in immigration in the preceding 8 years, the abandonment of previous attempts to control it and the almost total failure to implement effectively those controls which did exist, coupled with a snobbish refusal to understand why people might want to know about – let alone – control who is or is not allowed into their country. Did Blair really think it sensible for his

Home Secretary to say that there was “no obvious limit” to the number of immigrants allowed in? Blair’s biggest mistake was not the lack of transitional controls in 2004. Britain’s approach to Eastern Europe was open, generous and the right thing to do (and rather more communautaire than that of the Pharisaical Germans). Rather, it was his total failure to engage properly with immigration in the years beforehand. The Poles were, unfairly, seen as the final straw. And as a result, a country which has generally had a good record of openness and welcome, which has not indulged in blood and soil notions of race and nationalism has acquired a reputation for small-minded xenophobia which will likely – and shamefully – endure long after any agreement on rights for EU citizens already here.

And one omission

Wot – no Thatcher? Well, no. On balance. Ever the pragmatic politician, she fought for Britain within the EU and, on the whole, did so rather more effectively than her successors. Being the grit in the EU oyster suited Britain quite well and was of more use to some EU states than they might publicly admit. She relished argument rather than simple assertion of apparently self-evident truths or insults, a point Cameron might have done well to ponder, especially after Clegg’s poor showing in his debate with Farage. Would she have favoured Brexit or a referendum on it? Who can say? But she’d have been a damn sight better prepared for it. And the resulting negotiations.

The irony is that her one main European achievement, the Single Market, one part of the EU which has indisputably been a benefit to Britain and which is treasured by the rest of the EU (as May and Davis are painfully learning) will likely be lost to it, at least in its current form, as a result of the actions of those who claim her as their inspiration. Guilty men indeed.


(no subject)

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 08:55 am
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
[personal profile] skygiants
After reading Ann Leckie's new book Provenance I went on Twitter and asked what you call a screwball plot if it isn't necessarily a comedy.

Like, Provenance, while frequently funny, is not a non-serious book -- it concerns itself with classism, wildly unhealthy family relationships, interstellar warmongering, fetishization of cultural artifacts, and inhumane conditions of incarceration, not to mention murder -- but the structure of the plot is very classic screwball. Misunderstandings! Mistaken identities! Brilliant[ly ill-advised] schemes colliding with each other and blowing up in everybody's face! The faint air of Yakety Sax playing frequently in the background!

Honestly it feels a lot like Ann Leckie channeling Lois McMaster Bujold, with less intense character dynamics but also fewer moments of side-eye.

Our Heroine Ingray Aughskold is the foster daughter of an elected official who has been locked in competition with her foster-brother since they were both small for the eventual goal of inheriting their mother's position. Ingray comes from a public orphanage, while her asshole abrother is the son of a wealthy family, which gives him an edge that Ingray has never quite been able to best.

CUE: Brilliant[ly ill-advised] scheme! Ingray decides to attempt to break a fellow political foster-kid, Pahlad Budrakim, out of Compassionate Removal (i.e. terrible jail) in order to learn the location of the highly important cultural artifacts which Pahlad has hypothetically stolen.

Complication: Pahlad is possibly not Pahlad, and is certainly not inclined to be cooperative.
Complication 2: The space captain who Ingray hired to get them back home is wanted for theft by an alien ambassador, who Does Not Understand Humans, and whom everyone is panicked about offending due to some Very Important Alien Treaties.
Complication 3: Meanwhile, what Ingray's mother would actually like her to be doing with her time is shepherding around some other ambassadors, human ones from a different planet, who want to do politically-motivated excavations in a local nature preserve
Complication 4: Also, someone is about to get murdered!
Complication 5: And the cop in the case has a crush on Ingray!
Complication 6: And MANY OF THE HIGHLY IMPORTANT CULTURAL ARTIFACTS HAVE DISPUTED PROVENANCE AND IT'S VERY DISTRESSING (for everyone but me, because the minute I heard that title I was like 'this had better be about cultural heritage' and LO AND BEHOLD)

((...though I did want to see a little more documented archival paperwork and process surrounding the question of the authenticity of the artifacts, but I mean, ignore me, it's good, it's fine.))

My favorite character was definitely possibly-Pahlad, with their bitter cynicism and constant challenges to everyone else to do better; wanting More Pahlad all the time was probably my biggest complaint about the book.

My other favorite character was the almost entirely useless Radch ambassador, who just did not want to be there that day. Everything about the treatment of the Radch in this book delights me. "So weird to hear this totally clueless woman speaking with the accent we're used to hearing from villains on the TV!" You definitely don't need to have read the Imperial Radch books to enjoy Provenance, but I suspect it does probably make the few Radch cameos five times funnier.
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Posted by Sam Machkovech

Enlarge (credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

As the public learns more about confirmed Russian troll accounts on social media platforms over the past few years, reporters have begun digging into any ties they may have with major political or tech voices. The Daily Beast found a pretty big one on Friday, when it confirmed via Internet archives that Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey unwittingly retweeted posts from a phony Black Lives Matter advocate.

In fact, the example Daily Beast reporter Ben Collins found was a single account, @crystal1johnson, getting two juicy retweets from Twitter's very own "@jack." The discovered posts (which are now archive-only, thanks to the account being deleted in August) date back to March 2016. Both revolve around black identity in the United States.

The first congratulated musician and actor Rihanna for winning a Humanitarian of the Year award from Harvard (dead link here, proof of its content here). The second shared a now-dead image of what may have been children of different races having fun together, with the description reading, "Nobody is born a racist. This picture is so sweet! Teach your children to judge others by the kind of person they are inside." (Archived link of Dorsey's retweet [RT], found by Collins, is here.)

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Interesting Links for 21-10-2017

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 12:00 pm
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Posted by Megan Geuss

Enlarge (credit: Megan Geuss)

On Thursday, Maryland officials gave Elon Musk’s Boring Company permission to dig a 10.1-mile tunnel “beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, between the Baltimore city line and Maryland 175 in Hanover,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

According to Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, The Boring Company (which Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk founded to advance tunneling technology) wants to build two 35-mile tunnels between Baltimore and Washington, DC. The federal government owns about two-thirds of the land that Musk’s company would need to dig underneath. As of Friday, it was unclear whether that permission had been granted. (A Department of Transportation spokeswoman told Ars that the land in question was owned by the National Park Service, which did not immediately respond to request for comment.)

But the 10 miles that have been approved by the state of Maryland will for the first leg of an underground system that could contain a Hyperloop system. Musk first floated the idea of a Hyperloop—which would ferry passengers through a low-pressure tube in levitating pods floating above a track using air-bearings—in 2013. But the CEO determined that he didn’t have time to see his idea through to fruition, so he issued a white paper and challenged startups and students alike to make headway on the concept.

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Posted by Annalee Newitz

Google Earth

For almost a century, aerial photographers have been documenting mysterious, millennia-old structures built from low walls of stone in the rocky lava fields, known as harrat, in Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. This desert region, blistered with volcanic mounds, is nearly devoid of life. But seen from above, the barren ground is covered with massive, interlocking geoglyphs that take the form of abstract arrow shapes called "kites" and rough rectangles called "gates."

University of Western Australia archaeologist David Kennedy became interested in the structures after discovering how easy they were to track using Google Earth. He'd seen some of the kites while doing fieldwork in Jordan and realized that the structures continued into Saudi Arabia. "We would have loved to fly across into Saudi Arabia to take images. But you never get the permission,” he told The New York Times. “And then along comes Google Earth.” Now Kennedy has a paper about the rectangular gate structures in a forthcoming issue of Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.

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50-year-old research issue still biting biologists

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 09:50 am
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Posted by John Timmer

Enlarge (credit: Tom Deerinck/NIH)

Normally, news involves something that is, as the name implies, new. But this week, attention was given to a problem in biology that is anything but new. There have been decades of warnings that researchers sometimes perform studies using cells that have been misidentified—presented as liver cells when in fact they're derived from the spleen, for example. As cell lines are shared and studies build on earlier work, this misidentification has the potential to cause wider problems in the scientific record.

Despite decades of warnings and the existence of a database of problematic cell lines, the problem isn't going away, as emphasized by a study released last week. The new analysis estimates that as much as 10 percent of the papers in the biological sciences may be influenced by cases of mistaken cellular identity. And it's hard to ascribe this to anything other than carelessness and overconfidence on the part of biologists.

Mistaken identity

How do you end up with the wrong cells? There are a variety of ways. Often, new cell lines are made from tumor or tissue samples. If the sample is not 100-percent pure, there's a chance that something other than what you expect could grow out. In addition, some tumors can be misidentified—assumed to be lung if they're found there, but the tumor may actually represent a metastasis of a cancer that started in some other tissue. While there are ways of identifying a cell's source (typically, checking the battery of genes active in the cells will indicate its origin), this hasn't been done as consistently as it should be.

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another coffee

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 11:43 am
flaviomatani: (flavonside)
[personal profile] flaviomatani
Saturday morning. A good lie-in, although sleep was disturbed by waking up with a horrendous leg cramp that took forever to go away.

Now it's sunny, had breakfast at leisure and am half way through my first lesson with my pupil, preparing his guitar Grade 7, playing 'A Foggy Day' by Gershwin. Not a bad morning, overall. Good morning, world!
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Posted by NewsHound

In Nick Clegg’s latest iNews column, he says that MPs are finally starting to flex some muscle in the Brexit process. He is as bold as to say that he believes Parliament will actually save the country from its fate. Nick’s article is important because it gives those who think that our fate is inevitable a clear route map to a better future.

He says that if Parliament votes down the deal, the two year Brexit clock will stop ticking:

Next October, Brexit Secretary David Davis will present the Government’s threadbare Brexit deal to the House of Commons for approval. This is the key vote, the key moment, which will determine Britain’s future. Vote down the deal, and headlong rush towards Brexit will come to a shuddering halt. The clock counting down the minutes to Britain’s departure from the EU will stop ticking. ‘Senior officials in Brussels last week expressed their certainty that Britain can still find a place for itself within the EU’

The government, with increasing panic, insists otherwise, and will continue to repeat its threat that by rejecting a deal MPs will be voting for Britain to crash out of Europe without a deal. This is total nonsense. For a start, Britain will legally remain part of the EU.

However, should MPs, on behalf of their constituents, decide not to go ahead with Brexit then the Article 50 process will inevitably be paused. Our friends and partners across Europe won’t shrug their shoulders and simply carry on with the process. Instead the EU will reach for the pause button. This was made clear to me by senior officials in Brussels last week, who not only expressed their growing bewilderment with the government’s approach to the Brexit talks but also their certainty that Britain can find a place for itself within the EU should it choose a different path.

He says that given the severity of the situation, MPs should not be whipped in this vote:

And as they vote, MPs will have to look into their consciences. This will be a moment of such historic magnitude that they will be asked about it for years to come. How they voted will be recorded in the history books. Given its significance for the country today and for future generations to come, the vote cannot be left to the arm-twisting antics of party whips. Instead this should be a free vote, and MPs should be encouraged to set aside their short-term tribal instincts and vote instead for their country rather than their party

You can read his whole article here – and share widely with people who may be a bit resigned to our Brexit fate.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

The National Trust needs to grasp the nettle on hunting

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 09:44 am
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I used to be a member of the National Trust but left in disgust in 1990 when its ruling council voted to effectively ignore an all-member vote to ban deer hunting on Trust land. 

As well as stately homes, the National Trust owns thousands of acres of valuable land throughout the UK, including large parts of Gower, where they act as an effective bulwark against those who might want to destroy or undermine it as Britain's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

As a leading conservation advocate and a trustee of our natural heritage, the National Trust in my view has a duty to do more than just preserve valuable areas of beauty and historic buildings, they should also be concerned with the wildlife that lives on their land. That is why I favour them closing off their land to hunting of any sort.

Trail hunting may be an attempt to simulate an actual hunt but it can also result in the 'accidental' death of live prey. That sort of 'accident' is becoming increasingly common. There is no reason why these so called hunters cannot resort to drag hunting, which is far less likely to lead to such an outcome.

These forms of hunting may well be traditional but so, at one time was bear-baiting, dog fighting and many other sports that have been outlawed as cruel and unnecessary. If I were still a member of the National Trust I would be at the meeting in Swindon today to vote to ban trail hunting on their land. I would not though have any confidence in the ruling council to implement it.

The National Trust needs to provide leadership on these matters if it is to live up to its reputation as an important conservation body and if it is to carry on in that role into the 21st century.

The Blood is the Life for 21-10-2017

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 11:00 am
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[personal profile] miss_s_b
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Posted by Pete Redfern

Following the airing of the new Bodyform advert, men across the country have been shocked to learn that women regularly bleed actual blood out of their vaginas, rather than a charming blue liquid.
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Posted by Cathleen O'Grady

Enlarge (credit: International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Why are humans so smart? We must have evolved in an environment that made more intelligent individuals likely to survive. But this just raises new questions: what factors in the environment could have created an evolutionary pressure for intelligence? And how have other species that faced similar pressures ended up evolving?

One prominent hypothesis about our brains is that the human lineage became especially social, which required a suite of advanced cognitive skills to manage the relationships that were intertwined with survival. There’s evidence that social behavior is associated with bigger brains across the primate family, and the same correlation has been found in birds.

There's now evidence that whale and dolphin brains show the same relationship. The finding offers new support for the “social brain hypothesis," and it's an exciting discovery. But not all researchers agree on how this evidence should be interpreted.

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The Future of the Shadow Police

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 08:11 am
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Posted by Paul Cornell

Readers have been asking me for a while now about when the next Shadow Police novel is coming out.  The unfortunate answer is: I don’t know, verging toward never.  I’m afraid Tor UK have dropped the line.  Now, this is no cause for anger at them.  I serve at the pleasure of publishers.  I’m used to the ups and downs.  (And I know I have several ups coming my way soon, so I feel strong enough to write about this.)

I might, at some point in the future, consider using a service such as Unbound to publish the last two books in the series.  (There were always going to be five.)  And if a publisher were to get in touch, seeking to republish the first three, then go forward, I’d have that conversation.  But the aim right now is to continue with the flourishing Lychford series, and look to use the next non-Lychford novel to move up a league division or two, and then return to Quill and his team from a position of strength.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I’ve loved the reader reaction to the Shadow Police books.  I promise I will finish that story when it’s possible to do so.  I thought you all deserved an explanation.

London Falling, UK ebook

In other, better news, you can get the digital versions of the complete Saucer Country and every issue so far of its sequel, Saucer State, very inexpensively, in the ComiXology IDW horror sale!

And here’s a brilliant review of A Long Day in Lychford.

Again, my apologies.  I’ve lived with this news for quite a while, without knowing what to do with it, and I feel relieved at having let it out into the world.  Thank you.

Please Feel Free to Share:

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Posted by Caron Lindsay

Here’s Vince talking on the Daily Politics the other day about Theresa May’s offer to EU nationals, trade and how the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form undermines democracy.

He emphasised that the British Government is in a very weak negotiating position with the EU.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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Posted by Eric Berger

(credit: NASA)

This week, the US Government Accountability Office reported on progress the space agency is making to prepare the Space Launch System rocket, Orion spacecraft, and launch systems at Kennedy Space Center for future missions. NASA is making progress on these complex integration activities, the report finds, but the space agency has a long ways to go to make a test flight in late 2019 or early 2020.

One surprise in the report is that NASA still has not provided Congress (or anyone else) with cost estimates for the first crewed mission of the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft, which could occur in 2023 or later. This "Exploration Mission 2," which would entail flying a crew of four into deep space and possibly delivering the first component of a space station into lunar orbit, would mark the first human mission after 12 years of development of the rocket and nearly two decades of work on Orion.

"Establishing a cost and schedule baseline for NASA’s second mission is an important initial step in understanding and gaining support," the report states of NASA's exploration plans, which include building the deep space station and then going to the lunar surface or on to Mars. "NASA’s ongoing refusal to establish this baseline is short-sighted, because EM-2 is part of a larger conversation about the affordability of a crewed mission to Mars."

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Random Doctor Who Picture

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 08:46 am
purplecat: The Seveth Doctor and Ace (Who:Ace/Seven)
[personal profile] purplecat

I recently listened to the Doctor Who Book Club podcast on Relative Dementias. They quite liked it but thought it wasn't completely in control of its themes, there was too much incidental stuff to bring up the page count and its descriptions of action were confusing. All criticisms that could probably be aimed at many of the Doctor Who novels.
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Posted by Beth Mole

(credit: PROUnknownNet Photography)

As the trend of backyard flock tending skyrocketed in recent years, so has deadly infections, the Associated Press reports.

Since 2015, the number of Salmonella infections from contact with backyard poultry has quadrupled across the nation. This year, nearly every state has been pecked by outbreak strains; only Alaska and Delaware can crow about dodging them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 1,120 cases. Nearly 250 of those involved hospitalization, and one person died.

But that is likely just scratching the surface of the real numbers, according to CDC veterinarian Megin Nichols. “For one Salmonella case we know of in an outbreak, there are up to 30 others that we don’t know about,” she told the AP.

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Tips for WH2020: Bullock, Hickenlooper – and Trump

Saturday, October 21st, 2017 02:09 am
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Posted by David Herdson

The field is too clogged up with the debris and echoes of 2016

One of the enduring mysteries of political betting is the continuing strength of David Miliband in the Next Labour Leader market. Despite his not having sat in the Commons for four and a half years, despite his showing no inclination to return, despite there being little opportunity to return in the near term, despite his politics now being completely out of line with a Labour Party whose membership is utterly transformed from the one he left in 2013, and despite his close association with Blair – hardly flavour of the month these days – his odds are no longer than 33/1 anywhere and are ludicrously as short as 14/1 (co-fifth favourite!) with BetStars. In reality, he should be at least 200/1.

The mystery is perhaps best solved by looking at punters rather than bookies. For all the evidence, some people place far more weight on the past and far too little on the present and the future.

What is true of Britain is even more true of the United States, with its four-year presidential cycle. Of the nine Democrats listed at 40/1 or less, four will be in their seventies by Inauguration Day 2021. They include two former candidates, Biden (78) and Sanders (79), and one frequently speculated about as a potential candidate, Elizabeth Warren (71). Following Trump’s victory, proving that inexperience in politics was no bar to victory, the top of the list is unusually heavy with celebrities and businessmen. Mark Zuckerberg is priced at just 33s (his current age, as it happens), with Oprah Winfrey at 40s. Several more are rated as 50/1, as, for that matter, is Hillary Clinton.

I’m sceptical about the chances of most if not all of the above. The first and most important question is: will they run? As with the Miliband example in Britain, the field at this stage in the cycle tends to be heavily influenced by considerations of the last campaign, not the next one. Square pegs are attempted to be hammered into round holes. Hence Biden, who should have run in 2016 but will be too old in 2020, or Warren, who offers little that Hillary Clinton didn’t. As for non-politicians, they rarely run. Trump is a highly unusual exception and is proving the difficulty of changing careers as he has.

I ought to be equally sceptical about the woman who is the fourth-favourite Democrat, Michelle Obama. Surely 25/1 is too short? Is this not just lazy thinking, tied back to a mixture of the Obama White House and Hillary’s ex-First Lady presidential bid? That was certainly my first impression, bolstered by previous comments that she wouldn’t run for office and past polling that’s shown the public to be unsympathetic to the idea of her candidature.

In truth, 25/1 is too short, but only a little. For all that she doesn’t want to run, the fact is that her husband remains hugely popular among Democrats and with decent ratings in the country at large. The only problem is that he can’t run again; not under his own name anyway. That is of course hugely patronising to Michelle, who is an accomplished speaker in her own right and a far more human and sympathetic figure than Hillary ever was. All the same, I doubt if she’d be so high up the favourites were the promise of two-for-one not a consideration. Unless some rising star can break through, the pressure will no doubt continue to mount as Democrats survey a field of has-beens, second-raters and enthusiastic amateurs and come to the conclusion that Trump could potentially beat any of them.

Are there such candidates? At this stage, it’s hard to tell. Kamala Harris (18/1) and Cory Booker (33/1) are ‘next generation’ in the senses both of following those now in their seventies and in when they broke through into national politics, even if they’re both in their fifties. All the same, I’m not convinced by the odds. Harris’s have dropped following speculation that she’ll run which of itself is fair enough but I think they’ve overshot. Booker is also being touted but I’m far from convinced that the US is ready to elect a man who’s never married and who refuses to address questions about his sexuality.

In terms of value, I’d look even down the field, into the zone where there are all sorts of oddball candidates, together with some who I think shouldn’t be there. Two who shouldn’t be there, both available at 100/1, are the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, and the governor of Montana, Steve Bullock.

But there’s only so much value to be extracted that far down. Some also exists at the top. I’ve said that there are precious few Democrats worth backing. That’s because one Republican in particular is too long, namely the president himself: Donald Trump. For him to be 5/2 to win re-election is for punters to forget all the lessons that should have been learned in 2016. Never underestimate his chances against an opponent with a weak spot.

David Herdson

[MA, gastronomy] Moar Ghoti?

Friday, October 20th, 2017 08:51 pm
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[personal profile] siderea

I have a friend coming from out-of-town – from one of those more landlocked places – who would like to go out for seafood. I'm abashed to admit, my answer to the question of where I go for seafood around here is "New Hampshire", which is not compatable with our plans. I am nursing a grudge against Legal, and just about all the places I used to go are out of business.

They're a foodie, will be staying in Somerville, and will be getting around on the T.

Where should we go?

The place spacecraft go to die

Friday, October 20th, 2017 11:26 pm

this was a new one

Friday, October 20th, 2017 02:13 pm
solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird
So normally these gaming posts lately have Widowmaker's icon, but today is definitely a Tracer icon day. (I've also been playing around with my Widowmaker sight/targeting settings, now that linear tracking mode is working as it should on PS4, and I'm still getting used to it but I like it.)

Right. Offense. Junkertown. We're inside, but haven't been inside for long, on the last leg. I am in full-bore Manic Pixie Murder Machine mode, I end up with some very large and enjoyable kill streak that I card for, all that. That's all fairly normal.

But I've never been the greatest with Tracer's bombs, right? They're everybody's weak point because they're so damned random and often just won't deploy and even when they do sometimes they just don't go off. This has been seen in pro play, even. But today was not that day.

'Cause I've just killed their Mercy and their Hanzo and somebody else in their backfield (maybe their Junkrat? I forget who, I was doing a lot of backfield killing and they were not picking up on it) and their D.va comes charging by out of the shortcut just as I'm looking back towards my team and the payload to see what's up.

So I empty both clips into the back of her mecha a couple of times, getting her about, eh, 60% down or so? And just as she jets away, I follow it up with my Tracer bomb.

As I'm doing this, she hits her nerf. Her mech goes flying forward, into the rest of my team, and...

...my bomb goes off, and her self-destruct doesn't.

That's right. NERF THIS CANCELLATION MOTHERFUCKERS. She lost the ult completely, straight up cancellation, had to earn it back from scratch. In other words: nerf this? No, nerf this.

I didn't even think you could do that. I didn't know it was possible.

They didn't even give me play of the game. WRONG. I know who had play of the game. It was me.


8. Wayne Kinsey (2016), The Hammer Dracula Scrapbook

Friday, October 20th, 2017 08:42 pm
strange_complex: (Dracula Risen hearse smile)
[personal profile] strange_complex
I am very happy indeed a) that this book exists and b) that I managed to bag one of the original print run of a mere 600 copies for only £35 last year. It now goes for upward of £150 on eBay... The publishers' page is still up, though, and includes several page images which indicate what the book is like: basically a pictorial record of the seven Hammer Dracula films which have Christopher Lee in them (so not Brides or Legend), covering cast pictures, production documentation, behind-the-scenes pictures and publicity material. As such it is of course an absolute treasure-trove.

I'm fairly familiar with the publicity photos and posters, but even they are wonderful to have in high-quality printed form. Meanwhile, the really exciting content was the production documentation, including letters, set designs, pages from shooting scripts etc. From these I learnt several things which I had not known before, such as how the various sets for Dracula fitted together. I had long realised that Harker's bedroom and Dracula's crypt in this film must be essentially the same set re-dressed, because they share the same curved, pointed arches along one wall. However, I never realised before I saw the set drawings in this book that this is actally because they both make use of the area glimpsed between the very same curved, pointed arches in the dining room after they had been blocked off by book-cases to create the library set. (I.e. they are slotted into the shadowy space from which Valerie Gaunt's vampire woman first appears when Harker is in the dining room.) Nor did I know, as correspondence with the censor for Risen reveals, that the name of the Monsignor's niece in this film was originally to have been Gisela. The switch to Maria in the final film was of course a sound move, since it is more familiar to Anglophone audiences, as well as accentuating her virginal purity and connection with a Catholic clergyman. Meanwhile, Gisela did not go to waste: the name was repurposed for the unfortunate girl found in the bell at the beginning of the film, whose coffin Dracula goes on to steal once he has been reawakened from the icy stream.


Also very illuminating were Terence Fisher's hand-written notes on Jimmy Sangster's original script for Dracula 1958. They're written on plain pages, rather than on the script itself, so you can't see what Sangster actually wrote - only Fisher's reactions. But that is enough to make it very clear that Sangster's first draft must have included far more scenes from the original novel than ever made it into even the shooting script, never mind the film. Scenes or characters which Fisher is reacting to include for example Harker in an inn before he ever reaches the castle, the three vampire brides, the 'child in a sack' scene, Harker gashing Dracula in the head, the Demeter, Renfield and Quincy Morris. And what Fisher is saying about them includes things like "cut", "keep till later?", "new character unexplained and uninteresting", "make it a pre-title sequence?" etc. This is absolutely revelatory, because the standard line until now has always been about how the efficiency of the script reflects Sangster's instinct for what could be achieved on a small budget. But I now see that his original draft must actually have followed Stoker's novel fairly closely, while most of the credit for that ruthless efficiency really belongs to Fisher.

In between the images runs a concise and generally useful supporting text from Kinsey, but I was struck by the fact that he doesn't always seem to recognise the full value of the material he himself is presenting. So, in spite of having treated us to Fisher's observations on Sangster's first draft, he still reports the usual story about how Sangster "was given Bram Stoker's novel to adapt, which he achieved again within Hammer's modest budget" only a few pages later. I spotted a couple of mistakes, too. The double-page spread on Francis Matthews in Prince calls his character Alan (rather than Charles), while a similar spread about Patrick Troughton as Klove in Scars claims that he passed on the mantle of Doctor Who to Tom Baker (not directly!).

That is to quibble, though. On the whole this is an absolutely superb collection which huge amounts of work must have gone into, and which I am certain I will keep returning to over the years. Three thousand cheers that my favourite films in all the world have received this splendid tribute.

7 things make a post

Friday, October 20th, 2017 09:26 pm
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
1. We spent a pleasant low-key weekend in Todmorden with my mother and stepfather for Charles's birthday / their wedding anniversary. The only niggle was the mild cough I had before going turned into a horrible cough and I got very little sleep on the Saturday night, so my patience etc on the journey home was ... limited. We got home with no-one murdered though.

2. I love my Yuletide assignment and have a plot bunny gently growing. It's going to be pretty niche and I don't care, so long as it works for the recipient.

3. Thanks to the aforementioned cough, I missed morris practice last week - so frustrating given my fears about falling out of it - but I managed it again this week, and it is still very happy making. (I am so, so unfit compared to all these older women, but they are all so pleasant and welcoming.)

4. Charles was away this week with the school residential outdoor activity week with PGL. It was a bit of a challenge for him being away from home and his usual routine, but he seems to have mostly enjoyed it, and enthused at me about climbing and rifleshooting and archery and a few other things too ... It is good to have him back; and now it is half-term.

5. I had my flu jab this week, and the children had their flu sprays last week (I am a bit envious of them, but the nurse at my GP surgery is really very good about doing jabs quickly and with minimal pain). Flusurvey has started up again and are keen for more participants if any of my UK subscribers aren't already doing it and would like to.

6. It seems like half my reading list already posted about the #PullTheFootball campaign to require a congressional declaration of war before the US President can launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike.  But in case you didn't see it, that link has actions, phone numbers and a script for US citizens (the rest of us can just help by sharing it with US citizens ...)

7. Clipping wrote the soundtrack for a new TV show, The Mayor, and tracks from it are being released weekly onto Spotify and iTunes.  I couldn't find an official Spotify playlist so I made my own and am adding the new tracks each week as they get released - TWO this week for a Halloween-themed episode.  The show's premise is that an up-and-coming rapper stands for mayoral election as a publicity stunt for his music career and accidentally wins. I love this idea, but can't find a way to legally watch the show from here; anyway I am really enjoying the musical output.

Nain Singh Rawat’s 187th birthday

Friday, October 20th, 2017 07:48 pm
[syndicated profile] googledoodles_feed

Nain Singh Rawat’s 187th birthday

Date: October 21, 2017

For much of the 19th century, Europe played the Great Game. Explorers vied with each other to map the geographical vastness of Central Asia and understand its people and customs. Knowledge was essential to political success, but Europeans were not welcome everywhere.

A thirst for knowledge and the need for secrecy led to the creation of pandits, a select group of highly educated and brave local men trained in geographical exploration.

Prominent among these was Nain Singh Rawat, the first man to survey Tibet, determining the exact location and altitude of Lhasa, mapping the Tsangpo, and describing in mesmerizing detail fabled sites such as the gold mines of Thok Jalung.

Disguised as a Tibetan monk, he walked from his home region of Kumaon to places as far as Kathmandu, Lhasa, and Tawang. He maintained a precisely measured pace, covering one mile in 2000 steps, and measured those steps using a rosary. He hid a compass in his prayer wheel and mercury in cowrie shells and even disguised travel records as prayers.

Today’s Doodle by Hari & Deepti Panicker is a silhouette diorama illustration, portraying Nain Singh Rawat as he might have looked on his travels — solitary and courageous, looking back over the distances he had walked, rosary beads in hand, and staff by his side. Oh, the wonders he must have seen!

Process photos courtesy of Hari & Deepti:



Location: India

Tags: paper, diorama, explorer, mountains, Guest Artist

Shortsighted "artists"

Friday, October 20th, 2017 02:18 pm
missdiane: (Default)
[personal profile] missdiane
I use the quotes because the person that fancies himself a deep and meaningful "artist" is about as glory-seeking and heavyhanded as they come. He also seems to think he has a wolf spirit animal. This is related to the "me too" thing going around twitter and FB. Am I wrong in thinking that this new "art" installation he put up on the main road in our town is rather inappropriate? Oh and yes, I'm the one questioning him on instagram. 
Cut for potential triggering - nothing graphic )
[syndicated profile] new_european_feed
STEVE ANGLESEY rounds up the losers and losers (because there are no winners) of another crazy seven days on Planet Brexit

Bitcoin boom prompts growth of coin-mining malware

Friday, October 20th, 2017 02:18 pm
[syndicated profile] bbc_technology_news_feed
The coin-mining software can grab processor power and drain phone batteries quickly, warn security firms
[syndicated profile] ars_technica_uk_feed

Posted by Joe Mullin

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images)

In the beginning of 2017, Twitter said it would take on harassment and hate speech. CEO Jack Dorsey said the company would embrace a "completely new approach to abuse on Twitter" with open dialogue along the way.

For months, though, the company has offered few details about what it would do, or when. That changed late yesterday, when Twitter posted a timeline with specific promises on actions it will take.

The changes begin next week. On October 27, Twitter will expand what types of "non-consensual nudity" (aka "revenge porn") that it takes action against. The company will already act when a victim complains, but Twitter will soon act even in cases where the victims may not be aware images were taken, instance like upskirt photos and hidden webcams. "Anyone we identify as the original poster of non-consensual nudity will be suspended immediately," the October entry reads.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Pollution hot spots around the world

Friday, October 20th, 2017 04:37 pm
[syndicated profile] bbc_science_news_feed
What's it like to live somewhere like Beijing, where you can even see pollution with the naked eye?
[syndicated profile] ars_technica_uk_feed

Posted by Kyle Orland

Enlarge (credit: Aurich / Thinkstock / Taito)

Developers that want to stop cheaters in their Windows games are getting a little additional system-level help from Microsoft via TruePlay, a new API being rolled out through Windows 10's Fall Creators Update.

The feature, which is now documented on the Windows Dev Center lets developers easily prioritize a game as a protected process, cutting off some of the most common cheating methods by essentially preventing outside programs from looking at or altering the game's memory. TruePlay also "monitor[s] gaming sessions for behaviors and manipulations that are common in cheating scenarios," looking at usage patterns on a system level to find likely cheaters.

TruePlay is only available to developers using the somewhat controversial Universal Windows Platform, which Microsoft has been encouraging developers to embrace for a while now. The anti-cheat system can be applied across an entire game or only certain portions, so developers can monitor cheating only in multiplayer matches, for example.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Challenge #674: wheel

Friday, October 20th, 2017 09:32 am
primsong: (bessie)
[personal profile] primsong posting in [community profile] dw100
Welcome to [community profile] dw100. Challenges are posted approximately once a week.

Challenge #674 is wheel.

The rules:
  • All stories must be 100 words long.
  • Please place your story behind a cut if it contains spoilers for the current season.
  • Remember, you don't have to use the challenge word or phrase in your story; it's just there for inspiration.
  • Please include the challenge word or phrase in the subject line of your post.
  • Please use the challenge tag 674: wheel on any story posted to this challenge.
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Paul Walter

Embed from Getty Images
It was one of the most famous speeches ever made and led to two major pieces of Civil Rights legislation in the USA.

Yet, in issue 1277 of the Big Issue, author Philip Collins tells how Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” on August 28th 1963 in The Mall, Washington DC, wasn’t planned as it happened.

Dr King had been speaking about his “dream” on several occasions around the country, prior to the big event when 250,000 piled into The Mall to watch a succession of speakers and singers, for whom Dr King provided the finale.

Philip Collins tells us:

When Dr King’s advisers gathered to help him write the speech they were all adamant on one thing – on no account was he to do the dream speech.

Instead, the speech had working titles such as “Normalcy, Never again” and “A cancelled check”. Indeed, Dr King explored the check (cheque) theme in the first few minutes of his speech, without exactly setting the audience alight:

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

Then as the audience became rather bored after long journies and a very hot day, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, on stage behind Martin Luther King, whispered to him:

Tell ‘m about the dream, Martin.

So he went off on his dream riff, causing one of his team to mutter:

Aww shit, he’s doing the dream.

But the dream sequence fired up the audience and made history.

You can read Philip Collins’ article in issue 1277 of Big Issue. The article trails his new book “When They Go Low We Go High: Speeches that Shape the World and Why We Need Them“.

This post is another of our contributions for Black History Month.

Finally, here is that “Dream” speech in full:

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

[syndicated profile] ars_technica_uk_feed

Posted by Beth Mole

Enlarge (credit: Getty | VW Pics)

British Airways has apologized to a Canadian family who reported being feasted upon by a pack of bedbugs during an overnight flight from Vancouver to London earlier this month, CTV Vancouver reported.

Passenger Heather Szilagyi was flying with her fiancé and eight-year-old daughter when she says she spotted several of the bugs on the seat in front of her. Szilagyi said that as someone who had worked in the hotel industry, she was primed to identify them. But when she flagged the flight attendant and asked to be moved, she got no help.

“She was like, 'Oh ok, sorry about that. We're sold out. We don't have anywhere to move you',” Szilagyi told CTV.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[syndicated profile] ars_technica_uk_feed

Posted by Sean Gallagher

Enlarge (credit: Oliver Morris/Getty Images))

In response to an Ars report on a court hearing in New York on October 17, New York City and New York City Police Department officials attempted to clarify the nature of the issues surrounding a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit legal defense organization Bronx Defenders. In response to reporting that the Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS) did not have database backups, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said via e-mail, "Contrary to some published reports suggesting that NYPD does not electronically back up the data in its Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS), all such data is backed up continuously in multiple data centers."

That statement would appear to be in direct conflict with an affidavit filed by city attorneys (PDF) in the case, in which NYPD Director of Strategic Technology Programs Christian Schnedler stated, "Currently, there is no secondary or back-up system, and no repository of the data in PETS outside of PETS itself."

Schindler's affidavit, which is part of the NYPD's effort to block an external audit of cash-seizure data recorded in PETS, claims that the system is so fragile that even just using a "Web scraping" tool to retrieve cash-seizure data could collapse the whole system. "The risk of introducing and running a generic Web scraping tool into a complex, functioning law enforcement database, which has no backup system, is to risk disrupting NYPD operations, corrupting and/or losing some or all of the data, without a way to retrieve it," Schnedler testified under oath.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

Above is my annotated version of the latest YouGov summary chart showing the top line responses since the referendum when the the firm’s tracker question was asked.

The question is in exactly the same form every time and reads “In hindsight, do you think Britain was right or wrong to vote to leave the European Union?”

I’ve put a little green tick against those polls where more thought it was right than wrong and a red one alongside where more thought it was wrong.

Those polls where opinion was equally divided have been left unmarked.

What is very clear is that from referendum to Mrs. May calling the general election on April 14th only one poll had “wrong” ahead, three had it evenly split and the rest all had “right” ahead. In the eleven polls since the general election only two have green ticks the last one more than two months ago.

We now have a run of six polls with five showing “wrong” leads.

Overall this suggests that opinion might just be shifting though, of course, we need more polling.

Mike Smithson

Tech firms to remove extremist posts within hours

Friday, October 20th, 2017 04:21 pm
[syndicated profile] bbc_technology_news_feed
Firms such as Facebook and Twitter have agreed to do more to remove extremist content within hours of it being posted.
[syndicated profile] ars_technica_uk_feed

Posted by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Well, this one will certainly set the cat among the pigeons. Via the Daily Kanban, we came across this video of Volkswagen CEO ripping Tesla during a panel discussion on the future of the automotive industry. Prompted by a comment from the moderator, Matthias Müller laid into the electric car company for its small production volumes, regular quarterly losses, and for firing hundreds of workers.

Per Daily Kanban's translation:

Now I really need to say a few words about Tesla: With all respect, there are some world champions of big announcements in this world—I don’t want to name names. There are companies that barely sell 80,000 cars a year. Then there are companies like Volkswagen that sell 11 million cars this year, and produce a profit of 13 or 14 billion euro. If I am correctly informed, Tesla each quarter destroys millions of dollars in the three digits, and it willy-nilly fires its workers. Social responsibility? Please. We should not not get carried away and compare apples with oranges.

The attack comes at a tough time for Tesla. The Model 3—its new mass-market EV—is mired in "production hell" with little chance of meeting its goal of building 20,000 in the month of December. And there have been a spate of allegations of harassment at the company's factory, with workers reporting racial and also now anti-LGBT abuse.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

About This Blog

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.

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