Linkdump 19-10-2017

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 10:00 am
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Posted by Peter Bright

HP

Imagine that you're a digital artist. You like the idea behind Microsoft's Surface Pro—a good touchscreen with pen support, tablet form factor for convenience, but adaptable into something like a laptop for when you've gotta write an e-mail—but you want something with a bit more potency. Perhaps you need to do 3D modeling, perhaps your Photoshop files are a bit too big and complex, perhaps you use Chrome so the Surface Pro's 16GB of RAM is too limiting.

Boy, does HP have the answer for you. The ZBook x2 joins HP's line of Surface Pro-like hybrid tablets, but as the Z in the name will indicate (at least, to those who are overly familiar with HP's product naming terminology), this is positioned as a workstation-class machine, sitting alongside HP's other PC workstations.

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Posted by Dan Goodin

Enlarge (credit: portal gda)

Google has booted eight Android apps from its Play marketplace, even though the apps have been downloaded as many as 2.6 million times. The industry giant took action after researchers found that the apps add devices to a botnet and can perform denial-of-service attacks or other malicious actions.

The stated purpose of the apps is to provide a skin that can modify the look of characters in the popular Minecraft: Pocket Edition game. Under the hood, the apps contain highly camouflaged malware known as Android.Sockbot, which connects infected devices to developer-controlled servers. This is according to a blog post published Wednesday by researchers from Symantec. The malware mostly targets users in the US, but it also has a presence in Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, and Germany.

When the researchers ran an infected app in their laboratory, they found it establishing a persistent connection based on the Socket Secure (SOCKS) protocol to a server that delivers ads. The SOCKS proxy mechanism then directs the infected device to an ad server and causes it to request certain ads be displayed.

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Posted by Rich Smith

Theresa May has given her word to the UK's EU migrants that the process to say in the UK after Brexit will be easy and cheap, promising this won't be like all those other assurances that she's given in the last couple of years.
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Posted by Cathleen O'Grady

Enlarge (credit: Kelly Sue DeConnick / Flickr)

Theoretical biologist Philipp Mitteröcker is intrigued by the puzzle of dangerous human childbirth. Unlike other species, human babies are often too big for the birth canal, leading to dangerous—and possibly fatal—obstructed labor. Last year, Mitteröcker and his colleagues published a mathematical model that showed how the mixture of evolutionary pressures acting on humans would inevitably lead to an ongoing risk of obstructed labor in our species.

The model also suggested that C-sections are changing the rules of the game by increasing the likelihood that large babies and their mothers survive childbirth and pass on genes that promote this head/pelvis mismatch. The model predicted that we'd see an increasing risk of obstructed labor (and need for C-sections) over generations—but there was no real-world evidence of that happening.

Now, in a new paper, Mitteröcker and colleagues have published empirical evidence that this is indeed the case: women who were born by C-section seem to have a higher risk of needing a C-section themselves. And the real-world increase in risk is similar to what their model predicts.

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UK Government abandons promise to social housing tenants

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 08:13 am
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We were all emotional after the terrible tragedy that killed so many people living and staying in Grenfell Tower in London. Our first thought was with the families and then we started to think how we could prevent such a terrible fire happening again.

That was when the UK Government together with the three National Governments and every local council started to identify high risk blocks of flats, carried out tests and started to plan to replace unsafe cladding and install sprinklers and other measures where appropriate.

Ministers promised every assistance to keep tenants safe. We are now learning the limits of that assistance and how in some cases the Government is making the judgement that they must continue to take risks with people's lives.

As the Independent reports, Theresa May has confirmed there will be no Government cash to fit sprinklers in tower blocks, triggering accusations she has broken a promise made after the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

She has told MPs that it is “up to the council to make decisions”, despite the multi-million pound bills that many town halls face and which they will have difficulties finding. Nottingham, Croydon and Wandsworth have all had multi-million pound requests turned, even after being advised to carry out works by their local fire brigades.

The government are in fact falling back on two classic civil servant-style responses, redefining what is essential and what work is additional, and pushing responsibility to where it legally lies, the landlord, despite saying they would assist previously.

I am aware that many Conservative politicians believe that sprinklers are a 'nice extra', however in these high rise blocks, where escape routes can be easily blocked and advice is to stay put in the event of a fire, they are essential. That view is backed up by expert opinion, so why is the UK government ignoring it and going back on previous promises?
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Posted by Arabin Patson

Without a hint of regret, the members of Google's Deep Mind AI project have cheerfully announced that their newest creation has taught itself how to master Go, a zero-sum game where the objective is to wipe your opponent off the map.

Boris Johnson arrested for torturing a metaphor

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 07:53 am
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Posted by Neil Tollfree

The political world was left in shock after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was arrested yesterday for torture of a metaphor.

Alarm over decline in flying insects

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 07:07 am
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Flying insects have declined by more than 75% in 30 years in German nature reserves, alarming ecologists.

We Are More Unequal Than Ever

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 07:15 am
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Posted by Kirsten Johnson

My dismay over inequality was one of the two main issues (the other poor mental health care provision) which drove me into politics in 2014. I jumped in with both feet, determined to be a voice for the voiceless and make the world a more equal place.

But here we are in 2017 and the IPPR report just out shows we are more unequal than ever. The wealthiest 10% of households has five times the wealth of the bottom 50%. Absolutely ridiculous, that so much wealth is disproportionately in the hands of the few.

Our Lib Dem Leader, Vince Cable, who is also a gifted economist, comments:

This report reveals just how unequally wealth in the UK is distributed. When the richest 10% of the population are almost 1,000 times wealthier than the poorest 10%, it puts the very existence of social mobility in 21st century Britain into question.

Vince goes on to say what we need to do about it:

Tackling inter-generational inequality and the growing concentration of wealth will require radical solutions, including reforms to the taxation of land, property and inheritance.

Our current tax system, by focusing on income rather than wealth, facilitates the accumulation of unearned assets while punishing productive activity by individuals and businesses.

One of the most influential books I have read in recent years is the late Sir Anthony Atkinson’s last book, Inequality. Published in 2015 by Harvard University Press, Atkinson brings a life-time’s research together into a highly-regarded, peer-reviewed epic tome on how to fix inequality. His 15 proposals to limit the extent of inequality are worthy of reflection and debate. The ideas are fleshed out in detail in his book which I commend to you.

And still another report highlights the inequality in pay within our society: the Social Mobility Commission’s report on low pay has found millions of workers remain trapped in low-paid jobs.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson comments:

We urgently need to invest more in education, including adult learning, to improve social mobility and help people escape from poverty.

Employment rules must be made fit for the 21st century, to strengthen rights and increase security for workers.

Getting rules and regulations right are key to furthering equality. It’s good to have Vince and Jo leading the way in fighting inequality, giving their voices to the voiceless.

 

New neural network teaches itself Go, spanks the pros

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 07:30 am
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Posted by John Timmer

Enlarge (credit: DeepMind)

While artificial intelligence software has made huge strides recently, in many cases, it has only been automating things that humans already do well. If you want an AI to identify the Higgs boson in a spray of particles, for example, you have to train it on collisions that humans have already identified as containing a Higgs. If you want it to identify pictures of cats, you have to train it on a database of photos in which the cats have already been identified.

(If you want AI to name a paint color, well, we haven't quite figured that one out.)

But there are some situations where an AI can train itself: rules-based systems in which the computer can evaluate its own actions and determine if they were good ones. (Things like poker are good examples.) Now, a Google-owned AI developer has taken this approach to the game Go, in which AIs only recently became capable of consistently beating humans. Impressively, with only three days of playing against itself with no prior knowledge of the game, the new AI was able to trounce both humans and its AI-based predecessors.

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Student speech to be censored at UK universities

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 07:41 am
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Posted by Zoe O'Connell

Last night, I gave a talk at Pembroke College as part of Cambridge Hub’s Michaelmas Series. The topic was censorship.

This morning, I woke up and saw that the headline story in The Times is Jo Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, wanting to “guarantee free speech” at universities.

It is worth noting there is already a law that ensures freedom of speech at universities, but it would seem that Johnson wants even more extreme guarantees. The existing law is not invoked or referenced when we have one of the regular fusses about high-profile figures having their right to free speech violated. That is because they are not being censored.

Despite existing free-speech laws, there is already quite a bit of censorship at our Universities, and it comes from two sources. Neither form is good, and neither should be extended. Paradoxically, increasing the latter of these two forms of censorship is precisely what Johnson’s proposals will do.

The first is the PREVENT duty. That duty is supposed to target all extremism that leads to terrorism. Controversially, it usually ends up targeting Islamic and other non-white forms of extremism. In a university context, it is used to question room bookings and the nature of invited speakers. I doubt Islamic societies at universities will be welcoming Johnson’s statement today. It is unlikely the duty will be relaxed in support of “free speech”.

The other source is the de-facto censorship of students and student protest against influential media figures.

Wikipedia says censorship is “the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information”. I have mentioned PREVENT, and there’s no doubt that duty involves censorship even if there is disagreement over the desirability of PREVENT overall. China censoring WeChat is an example of that most in the West would regard as negative, and we have also seen cases within LGBT+ communities of censorship gone wrong with unintended consequences.

There is a common theme in those cases. Positive or negative and deliberate or accidental, it is those with power doing the suppression.

What is not censorship is selling only eight tickets to an event and having the venue cancel, as happened to Kate Smurthwaite. Smirthwaite seems to believe “free speech” means she can demand people listen and that venues give her a free platform. Consequently, she used her media contacts and influence to spin a story about how students were suppressing her free speech. The publication of her ideas was undoubtedly not restricted as a result. Quite to the contrary, the resulting media fuss and claims to martyrdom at the altar of free speech gave her an even more prominent platform.

Peter Tatchell was not censored when a student learnt he was due to speak at the same event as her and pulled out. She did not want to share a platform with someone she believed is racist and transphobic. Her withdrawal was not public, but Tatchell’s outrage at being unable to demand the energy of someone less powerful was. He used every possible media outlet he could muster to denigrate her.

A particular shout out needs to go to Julie Bindel at this point, who has repeatedly claimed to be censored herself but has just resorted to issuing legal threats against Brooke Magnanti, a.k.a. Belle De Jour. It is not surprising that Bindel’s claims have not received any media coverage condemning her attempts at silencing. There is a common theme running through these claims of censorship against media figures. Allegations are always targeted at those with less power.

There is a chilling effect hidden within these false claims of censorship, however. Those whom the allegations target become figures of derision in the press with no way of responding. They do not have their voices heard. I was at the event held in parallel to Greer’s Cambridge Union slot, and I know several of the students involved felt traumatised by resulting coverage. They are less likely to now engage in activism.

Media outrage is increasingly invoked to shut down legitimate free speech rights such as protest and running petitions. It happens merely because high-profile disagree with protests or feel threatened.

Ratcheting up that rhetoric will only increase the pressure on students to conform. Contrary to what Johnson believes it will not broaden the minds of young people. Instead, it will teach them that the powerful will not tolerate criticism.

The post Student speech to be censored at UK universities appeared first on Complicity.

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Posted by Mark Walton

Ultimate Ears, maker of fine portable Bluetooth speakers and custom-fit headphones, has hopped on the digital assistant bandwagon the new Blast and Megablast Bluetooth speakers. Now with built-in Wi-Fi and Amazon Alexa, the Blast and Megablast have the full suite of Alexa services, including voice control for the likes of Spotify and Amazon music, as well as for smart home tech like Philips Hue bulbs and Logitech Harmony remotes.

The Blast costs £200 and the Megablast £270. Both are up for pre-order today, with launch due in "late October."

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Posted by Cyrus Farivar

Enlarge (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

On Wednesday, Amazon sent out another installment of payments relating to its “Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement”—except this time, it was to settle related lawsuits brought by a group of state-level attorneys general.

In 2014, Amazon paid out based on settlements with book publishers—including Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster—which allegedly conspired with Apple to fix e-book prices in 2012.

As Ars reported previously, the case began way back in 2012, when Apple and five publishers (Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan) were sued by the Department of Justice and 33 states’ attorney general offices for conspiring to offer e-books at a higher price than Amazon’s loss-leading $9.99. The publishers all eventually settled for a total of $166 million to states and consumers, but Apple held out and eventually lost a judgement in Manhattan district court.

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Posted by Beth Mole

Enlarge (credit: Getty | JOHANNES EISELE )

Naturopaths and other gurus of “alternative medicine” love to tout the benefits of traditional herbal medicines. For instance, Aviva Romm—a Yale-educated doctor who publicly defended Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop then later called it a “caricature of everything alternative health for women”—sells her own line of unproven herbal remedies. Billionaire Susan Samueli—who donated $200 million dollars alongside her husband so the University of California, Irvine, could open an “integrative” medicine program—promotes homeopathy, naturopathy, and runs an active consulting practice versed in Chinese herbs.

Herbal remedies are often seen as harmless, soothing treatments that tap into the ancient wisdom of traditional healing. While that may be the case for some, there are also those that cause cancer—and sometimes it’s nearly impossible to tell one from the other.

According to a study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, traditional components of herbal remedies used throughout Asia are widely implicated in liver cancers there. In Taiwan, for instance, 78 percent of 98 liver tumors sampled displayed a pattern of mutations consistent with exposure to herbs containing aristolochic acids (AAs). These are carcinogenic components found in a variety of centuries-old herbal remedies said to treat everything from snakebites to gout, asthma, and pain.

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Posted by Mike Smithson


Table – Commons Library

Why BoJo/Andrea/Phil/David/Amber might be cheering Nicola on

The group of constituencies that have seen the most dramatic changes over the past two general elections have been the 59 seats in Scotland.

At GE2010 when Labour lost power there were no changes at all north of the border with what was then Gordon Brown’s party retaining all 41 seats that it held on an overall increased Scottish vote share. The SNP had just 6 seats with the LDs 11 and the Tories just 1.

Then came the huge changes in 2015 in the aftermath of the IndyRef nine months earlier. LAB lost all but one of the 41, the LDs lost 10 and the Tories remained with just one Scottish MP.

The SNP found itself with 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats and displaced the LDs as the third party at Westminster.

Move on to June 8th this year which proved to be something of a disaster for Sturgeon’s party losing 21 seats and holding onto the 35 listed above all of them with much reduced majorities.

    Two years after gaining 50% of the Scottish vote the SNP’s biggest vote share in any constituency was 46.7% leaving a lot prospective rich pickings for the main national parties particularly LAB

If LAB is to return to government then much of the current seat deficit it has nationally with the Tories will be made up from battles with the SNP not the blue team.

One of the problems we have with ongoing analysis of this is that there is very little regular Scotland only polling. Trying to assess what’s happening north of the border from the Scottish sub-set in national polls is fraught with danger.

So in many ways whoever is Tory leader at the next election might be secretly cheering the SNP on.

Mike Smithson


I'm tilting at windmills today!

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 01:26 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
Emailed three different news sites asking when the hell they intend to start moderating their comments. Seriously, a free-for-all where everybody shouts as loud as they can is not conducive to free speech.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
But it's pricey! The total cost was going to be near $2000, with a six-day-a-week commitment.

Then I realized I can just pay for the labs, which is the only part I really want anyway, and that's a third the price and a one-day-a-week commitment.

She said she'll consider it.

It's not necessary for her to take a Regents in August (fully nine months earlier than any of her peers...), I'd just like her to.

Also, finally figured out what cake I'll bake tomorrow for her birthday. How does rosewater and ginger sound? If I ever find my rosewater, I mean. It's because I read this article, but anyway, it's a good idea. I've been rocking the rosewater lassi lately that I get at the supermarket.

**************


The Microbes That Supercharge Termite Guts

For ornery shelter cats, 2nd chance is a job chasing mice

What Star Wars taught scientists about sperm

Inside The Weird Texas Tradition of Enormous Homecoming Corsages

Book's challenge: Can you do squats like Justice Ginsburg?

Why a New Zealand Library’s Books Kept Vanishing, Then Reappearing (Happy ending!)

How Domestication Ruined Dogs' Pack Instincts

Star Wars themes, but with the major and minor reversed. (This is like the Mirror version of the music, I guess? I can just picture evil Tom Paris on classic movie night in the Holodeck, rubbing his beard as he watches this version of the trilogy, the one in which the mighty emperor defeats the puny rebellion.)

Hero dog: 'Animal guardian' saves 8 pet goats, orphaned deer from wine country fires

Filling the early universe with knots can explain why the world is three-dimensional

Baba Yaga on the Ganges

Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids' Schooling (My experience tells me it's close to impossible to explain to people that a school that starts with high-performing kids and ends with high-performing kids is not doing as much as a school that starts with low-performing kids and ends with kids that are in or approaching the middle. They just don't understand, or want to understand. Also, Stuy is overrated.)

Judge orders government to allow detained teen immigrant's abortion (Only read this second link if you want to be stunned and horrified by the world's most ridiculous anti-abortion argument ever.)

Understanding the coevolving web of life as a network

Fish Depression Is Not a Joke (Sad ending. Journalist should've rescued Fish Bruce Lee.)

After victory in Raqqa over IS, Kurds face tricky peace

Despite potential trade sanctions, Kurds continue with exports

China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

Lawsuit: Bighorn sheep threatened by domestic sheep grazing

As anti-drug push's toll grows in the Philippines, so does church's pushback

The true cost of a plate of food: $1 in New York, $320 in South Sudan (Sorta - the prices are adjusted in a weird way to account for different spending power)

Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics

Why Are Prosecutors Putting Innocent Witnesses in Jail?

The Crazy Flood of Tech Revelations in the Russia Investigation

The Russian Troll Farm That Weaponized Facebook Had American Boots on the Ground

No, US Didn’t ‘Stand By’ Indonesian Genocide—It Actively Participated

The Trump Administration Is Letting Americans Die in Puerto Rico, Nurses Say

Trump’s Dangerous Spin on Puerto Rico’s Suffering

Hurricanes Make the Need to Dismantle Colonial Economics in the Caribbean Increasingly Urgent

The Danger of President Pence

A Gun to His Head as a Child. In Prison as an Adult.

Chilling Photos of the Hundreds of Thousands of Rohingya Fleeing Burma

(no subject)

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 07:40 pm
skygiants: (wife of bath)
[personal profile] skygiants
I didn't deliberately read up on seventeenth-century English history history in preparation for A Skinful of Shadows; it was just a fortunate coincidence that I'd just finished Aphra Behn: A Secret Life right beforehand (thanks to [personal profile] saramily, who came into possession of the book and shoved it into my hands.)

The thing about the English Civil War and everything that surrounds it is that it's remarkably difficult to pick a team, from the modern perspective. On the one side, you've got Puritans and repressive morality and NO PLAYS OR GOOD TIMES FOR ANYONE, but also democracy and egalitarianism and a rejection of the divine right of kings and the aristocracy! On the other side, you've got GLORY IN THE DIVINELY ORDAINED KING AND THE PERFECTION OF THE ESTABLISHED SOCIAL ORDER, but also people can have a good time every once in a while and make sex jokes if they feel like it.

Anyway, one fact that seems pretty certain about Aphra Behn is that she grew up during the Interregnum and wrote during the Restoration, and was very much on Team Divine Kings Are Great. Would Puritans let a woman write saucy plays for the stage? NO SIRREE, NOT AT ALL, three cheers for the monarchy and the dissolute aristocracy!

There aren't all that many facts that are certain about Aphra Behn, especially her early years -- the first several chapters of this book involve a lot of posed hypotheticals about who she might have been, how she might have got her start, and who might have recruited her into the spying business. It does seem fairly certain she was a spy: code name Astrea, Agent 160. (Me, to [personal profile] aamcnamara, after seeing Or last month: "I don't know that I buy all that Agent 160 business, there's no way that was something they did in the 1660s!" I apologize for doubting you, Liz Duffy Adams.)

Admittedly she was the kind of spy who spent most of her spy mission stuck in a hotel in Antwerp writing irritated letters back to King Charles' intelligence bureaucracy, explaining that she would happily continue with her spying mission and do all the things they wished her to do if only they would send her enough money to PAY HER DANG HOTEL BILL. (They did not.)

Besides her unpaid expense reports, most of what is known about Aphra Behn comes from her context and her publications, and the things she wrote in them -- only some of which can absolutely definitively be traced to her at all; several of her short stories and novellas are disputed, including one of the ones I found most interesting, "Love-Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister." This early three-volume novel is extremely thinly-veiled RPF about a wildly trashy historical trial involving King Charles' illegitimate son, his best friend, the best friend's wife, and the best friend's sister-in-law. All of these people then went on to be involved in a major rebellion, which the second and third volume of "Love-Letters" cheerfully fictionalizes basically as it was happening, in the real world.

One of the first English novels ever written by a woman [if it was indeed written by Aphra Behn], and arguably the first novel written EVER, and it's basically one of Chuck Tingle's political satires. This is kind of amazing to me.

OK, but back to things we think we're fairly sure we do know about Aphra Behn! She wrote a lot about herself talking, and about men judging her for how much she talked; she wrote a lot of things that were extremely homoerotic; she also wrote a lot about impotence; she was often short on money; she cheerfully stole other people's plots, then got mad when people accused her of stealing other people's plots; she rarely wrote anything that was traditionally romantic, and most of her work seems to have an extremely wicked bite to it. She did not read Latin, which did not stop her from contributing to volumes of translations of things from Latin. She was almost certainly not a member of the nobility, but she believed in divine right, and divine order, and divine King Charles, even though it seems likely from her writing that she did not believe personally in religion, or God, and the King probably never did pay her bills. An extremely interesting and contradictory person, living in an interesting and contradictory time.

And now I think I need to go find a good biography of Nell Gwyn - she's barely relevant to this biography (Aphra Behn dedicated a play to her, but there's no other information available about their relationship) and yet Janet Todd cannot resist throwing in a couple of her favorite historical Nell Gwyn one-liners and they're all SO GOOD.

Still photographs spring to life

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 11:22 pm
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New software animates still photos so that subjects can be made to smile and pull expressions.

The Basilisk Murders: Now Out!

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 09:02 pm
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Posted by Andrew Hickey

My new novel The Basilisk Murders is now out in hardback from Lulu, and in paperback and ebook from Amazon (UK) (US). Those of you with Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library can read it for free — and if you *don’t* have those, you can sign up for a thirty-day free trial for Kindle Unlimited and read it for free anyway — and I’ll still get paid (though you’re more than welcome to buy a copy rather than read it free if you want to make sure you can keep it). Patreon backers should be receiving their free copies soon.

For those who haven’t seen me talk about this book, here’s the blurb:

“Was this going to be the end? I wondered as I sprinted down yet another flight of stairs. Was I going to get caught, and get killed, by a geek serial killer?”

When Sarah arrives at a tech conference she’s meant to be covering for her magazine, she thinks it’ll be a few days away from her marriage problems on a tropical island. Instead, she’s surrounded by sleazy men who want to build a computer God, thousands of miles from home and her wife. She hates where she is, and the people who are around her.

But when someone starts killing those people off, Sarah has to investigate. What is the Basilisk? Who is committing the murders? Why is everyone talking about blackmail? And why is everyone drinking fish?

Surrounded by Russian billionaires, gropey bloggers, alt-right computer scientists, and philosophy professors, can Sarah solve the murders and win back her wife before the Singularity? And can she do it without having to deal with her racist ex-girlfriend?

Part cozy mystery, part technothriller, part biting satire, The Basilisk Murders is a hilarious, gripping, story of irrational rationality, staying kind in a hostile world, and building a better sandcastle.


Your guide to Ukip's new 'shadow cabinet'

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 05:23 pm
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New Ukip leader Henry Bolton named the party's new 'shadow cabinet' today - and what a bunch they are

so very streaky

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 02:40 pm
solarbird: (widow)
[personal profile] solarbird
I've still got this damned head cold or whatever it is and it's awful and won't go away. I was feeling better yesterday but that didn't last.

I was fuckin' terrible today in lunchtime Overwatch. Well, as Widow, anyway. I was good as Tracer as always, and the weird thing is, the one time I wasn't terrible as Widow, it was in deathmatch, where I was surprisingly competitive against a pretty heavy set of enemies including three Pharahs and a D.va, which is not normally a recipe for competitiveness but I was.

So I was feeling pretty okay in warmup. But christ, go into quickplay and suddenly it's WHAT IS SNIPERS? and I can't hit a shot to save my life. (And that included while winning. So.)

This is in huge contrast to yesterday where I was not just playing well, but had another entire game of being the Widowmaker I want to be. Defence in Hollywood, 70% scope accuracy, eight criticals, golds in objective kills and objective time and silver in total kills, enemy Bastion got so sick of me that he tried being enemy Widow and yeah that did not help, enemy Pharah kept trying to go over the gate wall and I just kept one-shotting her out of the air until she got so mad that on their last serious push she apparently decided "y'know what, fuck the objective, fuck the game, I'm killing that fucking Widowmaker at least once" and went through the security office while I was busy with other people, jumped me from behind and let loose her one and only ult at point-blank range just for me.

Honestly, I felt quite flattered.

I guess the short form is I am still a work in progress, and it shows.

you wanna be there when they count up the dudes

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 12:56 pm
ironymaiden: (Rebels)
[personal profile] ironymaiden
i was cranky last night, so i watched some tv to cheer me up. it kind of worked.

the new (final) season of Rebels started this week. looks like they're going to be releasing two episodes a week for the next month or so.

spoilers for Star Wars Rebels through season 4 premiere, and The Clone Wars re: Mandalore )
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Posted by Rich Smith

Lewes Speakers Festival is hoping to learn how music festivals deal with gargantuan amounts of piss being hurled at a performer, after inviting Katie Hopkins to speak.

YouTube star Casey Neistat criticises video site's leaders

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 04:47 pm
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Award-winning vlogger Casey Neistat claims video creators could leave the service en masse.
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Posted by David Kravets

Two aviation security officers involved in the April incident in which a 69-year-old doctor was violently removed from a United Airlines flight have been fired. The doctor, David Dao, suffered a broken nose, the loss of two teeth, and a concussion in an event that went viral on the Internet after it was captured by passengers' mobile phones.

The Chicago Department of Aviation did not release the names of the officers who were fired. Another resigned and a fourth official was briefly suspended in the O'Hare International Airport episode, in which Dao had refused to give up his seat on a flight to Louisville that was overbooked. He was forcibly removed. Dao later sued the airline and settled for an an undisclosed amount. The ordeal also prompted United's CEO, Oscar Munoz, to publicly apologize.

Chicago's inspector general on Tuesday confirmed earlier reports that the officers involved had suggested that it was Dao's fault that he struck his face on an armrest before he was dragged off the plane.

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Big-budget, single-player gaming isn’t dead (yet)

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 04:15 pm
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Posted by Kyle Orland

Enlarge

Yesterday's news that EA is shutting down Visceral Games is bad news for fans of franchises like Dead Space and for the studio's unnamed Star Wars project. But the abrupt shutdown has also caused a bit of an existential crisis to creep into the game industry chatter regarding the future of big-budget, single-player, story-driven gaming in general.

The core of all that worry comes from a section of the blog post EA's Patrick Söderlund wrote to announce Visceral's shutdown (emphasis added):

Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe. In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design.

That's all a bit vague, but the wording suggests that the "story-based, linear adventure game" being planned didn't look like it was going to turn a profit given "fundamental shifts in the marketplace." In other words, they started making Uncharted and now they want Destiny.

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Google Calendar for Web gets its first redesign since 2011

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 03:49 pm
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Posted by Ron Amadeo

Google Calendar on the Web is getting a new look. Google announced that the company is "taking a lot of what you know and love from Calendar’s mobile application, like the modern color palette and sleek design, and bringing it to the Web." Calendar is getting a "Material" redesign.

Calendar's existing design is something like six years old. It debuted in 2011 and uses a "red and gray" motif that just isn't Google's style anymore. "Material Design" is Google's current design philosophy, which debuted in 2014 on Android 5.0 Lollipop. The design language usually mixes white backgrounds with bold splashes of color, animation, and lots of whitespace. Information is presented in grids of cards, and the design language usually brings in smartphone motifs like "hamburger" buttons that open navigation panels. Material Design sites tend to look like big smartphone apps.

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The Earth’s interior is teeming with dead plates

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 03:15 pm
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Posted by Ars Staff

Enlarge (credit: Atlas of the Underworld)

Last week, scientists released a monumental interactive catalog that tracks 94 ancient tectonic plates lurking deep within Earth’s mantle, a resource they’re calling an “Atlas of the Underworld.”

Although scientists have known for decades that tectonic plates plunge into the Earth’s interior at subduction zones, until recently, those plates disappeared off the geological map once they stopped generating earthquakes, which happens after they’re around 670km below the surface. In the last few years, seismic tomography, which uses waves from earthquakes to make images of the planet’s interior, has restored their visibility. It has revealed subducted plates sinking in the mantle all the way down to the core-mantle boundary, 2,900km below Earth’s surface.

Now, Dutch scientists Douwe van der Meer, Douwe van Hinsbergen, and Wim Spakman of Utrecht University have catalogued 94 separate pieces of ancient tectonic plates, called “slabs,” in the mantle, linking them to dates where geological events happened while they were on the surface. Some subducted almost 300 million years ago, while others can be traced to active faults, such as those along the western coast of the Americas.

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Posted by Eric Berger

Enlarge (credit: LEGO)

A new playset from LEGO will honor four key women in NASA history—astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, and pioneering astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison. The 231-piece set will be released on Nov. 1, with a recommended selling price of $24.99.

First proposed in July, 2016 by the deputy editor of MIT News, science writer Maia Weinstock, on the LEGO Ideas website, the project reached 10,000 supporters in just 15 days. "The set clearly touched and inspired many," Weinstock said. In addition to the historical minifigures, the set includes three builds that put the work of each woman into historical context.

LEGO

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Posted by Mike Smithson

And Remain 3 points ahead to hypothetical 2nd EuRef question

Survation, the pollsters that was widely, and as it turned out unfairly, criticised in the run-up to GE2017 because it had the smallest CON leads has a new voting poll it. Its relatively old with its fieldwork being carried out in the week of the Tory conference when the blue team were making the headlines for all sorts of reason. The splits are CON 38%, LAB 44%, and LD 7%.

This is a somewhat better position for Corbyn’s party than the tie in the most recent ICM and 3 point lead from YouGov.

There’s a hypothetical 2nd EuRef question voting question which has Remain 3 points ahead – 52 to 49.

Whatever the sizeable Labour lead from the pollster that got it most right on June 8th won’t make comfortable reading for Mrs. May who remains in post for the time being.

I’ve no idea why we are getting this poll late but it is interesting that the pollsters producing regular surveys are in just about the same order as they were at the general election – ICM with the Tories in the best position Survation the worst.

Mike Smithson


Snapchat to make original TV-style shows

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 01:18 pm
[syndicated profile] bbc_technology_news_feed
The social media app teams up with NBC to create a new studio where they plan to make original shows.
[syndicated profile] ars_technica_uk_feed

Posted by Sam Machkovech

Enlarge (credit: Sony)

As Ars's resident car guru Jonathan Gitlin tears through the racing nuts and bolts of this week's new racing video game, Gran Turismo Sport, he has asked me to kill time by reviewing its higher-end elements. Namely, Jon owns neither a PlayStation VR headset nor a 4K HDR display, and both of those are specifically and uniquely supported by the latest Gran Turismo game (and first in the series for the PlayStation 4 Pro).

Basically, he wants to feel better about not buying either of those ridiculous gadgets. I have good news and bad news for him.

4K/HDR performance: A well-oiled machine

Let's start with the high-end TV stuff. This applies specifically to TVs rated for both 4K resolution (a 3840×+2160 pixel count) and HDR-10 color gamut, and you'll need a PlayStation 4 Pro to capitalize on the combination. All PlayStation 4 consoles are capable of pushing HDR-10 color, but its effects are far more dramatic with a higher pixel count, and you'll need a PS4 Pro for that.

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Prime Minister’s Questions to be renamed ‘Jeopardy’

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 12:23 pm
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Posted by Spacey

Prime Minister’s Questions is to be named after the game show Jeopardy, with MPs receiving cash prizes for guessing which question Theresa May is actually answering.

Twitter pledges tougher action against abuse

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 11:48 am
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The social network says it will impose new restrictions on pornographic and hateful imagery.

S. Chandrasekhar’s 107th Birthday

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 11:52 am
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S. Chandrasekhar’s 107th Birthday

Date: October 19, 2017

“Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.”  Thanks to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, we know! Today marks the 107th birthday of the first astrophysicist to win a Nobel Prize for his theory on the evolution of stars.

A child prodigy, Chandra published his first paper and developed his theory of star evolution before turning 20. By age 34, he was elected to the Royal Society of London, and soon after, became a distinguished service professor of physics.

The Indian-American physicist’s honors are astronomical, including the National Medal of Science, the Draper Medal of the US National Academy of Science, and the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Though originally met with skepticism in the 1930s, Chandra’s theories and equations won the Nobel Prize in Physics 50 years later.

Today’s Doodle illustrates one of the most important of all of S. Chandrasekhar's contributions to our understanding of stars and their evolution: The Chandrasekhar limit. The limit explains that when a star’s mass is lighter than 1.4 times that of the sun, it eventually collapses into a denser stage called a “white dwarf.” When heavier than 1.4, a white dwarf can continue to collapse and condense, evolving into a black hole or a supernova explosion.

Today we honor the original starman whose universal theories propel current space research and modern astronomy on their ambitious missions.

Happy birthday, Chandra!

Location: Global

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'Future city' to be built in Canada by Alphabet company

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 10:56 am
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Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is to build a digital city on Toronto's waterfront.
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Posted by Liz Evans

Changing our constitution is recognition of where we currently are as a Welsh party; a brave, necessary and ultimately exciting step. My name is Liz Evans, I’m a County Councillor for Ceredigion, an intrepid campaigner and committed liberal! So here we are, two Welsh speaking women from the coast and countryside of Wales; campaigning colleagues looking to be the next Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader – how amazing is that!

Be in no doubt that Welsh politics is the poorer without Welsh Liberal Democrat parliamentarians, both in the Welsh Assembly and Westminster. Yet this is the reality check. The last eighteen months has been the stuff of nightmares; four of our five Assembly members gone; talented Councillors gone and losing the seat of my close friend and colleague Mark Williams was devastating. Having ran his office for nine years the principles of liberal democracy were at the heart of everything we did.

Secretary of Education Kirsty Williams is improving and developing education in Wales and delivering on our manifesto commitments as part of the progressive agreement with Welsh Government including 20,000 new homes; prioritising links between education and industry; the establishment of a Wales Development Bank to help people set up business and grow existing businesses; extra money to help schools support teenagers with mental health problems and where mental health discrimination is ended. That’s not bad going for one Liberal Democrat in government!

I am rooted to this party and I care deeply about its future direction. I am a proud European, a  devolutionist to the core and I am ambitious for Wales. I also recognise that the Welsh Liberal Democrats have an identity problem.

We are the party of home rule, radical liberalism and social democracy. We are outward looking, British, European and truly internationalist. Yet we see a growing warmth towards nationalism in Wales and we must offer a clear, positive alternative. We are the antidote to nationalism and the champions of self determination and we need the people of Wales to know.

Our policies reflect our ambition, from health and social care; transport and setting a target of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have the exciting, progressive policies that offer fairness and opportunity. Across the UK, Liberal Democrats are campaigning against Brexit and the unquantifiable impact it will have on our lives.

Like us all, I am an expert envelope stuffer, leaflet dropper and canvasser. I understand the importance of working with our volunteers, they are at the heart of this party and a Leader must listen, respect and motivate our grassroots members because they matter. We need to start winning elections again with a clear vision and prioritising policies; with a party infrastructure which works and a no-nonsense leadership, from the bottom up, we can win! Working with the Federal party is essential yet we must also learn to row our own boat as we re-build this wonderful, bruised party. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are nothing if not resilient!

* Liz Evans is a County Councillor in Ceredigion and is a candidate for Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

Horror Blackademics: Candyman's Revenge On Gentrification

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 06:14 am
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Posted by Graveyard Shift Sisters


"How much did you pay for this place?" Fear, Entitlement, and Urban Space in Bernard Rose's Candyman

written by Aviva Briefel and Sianne Ngai
Horror Film Reader, edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini

Concept: Based within the 'haunted house' trope, "all horror or Gothic narratives derive from this point of private proprietorship, one that produces anxieties about proprietorship in general, these narratives subsequently establish anxiety as a form of emotional property." Fear is an inherited right owned by those privileged enough to own property. There is a struggle between both property and who has a right to be afraid.

Thus, "restricting the representation of fear or anxiety to figures we immediately recognize as privileged" (ex: white, middle- upper class people). Further, "being frightened is paradoxically a sign of empowerment" because of where horror is popularly located in films; surburbia and who owns property in suburbia.

Also, Briefel and Ngai argue that fear is originally experienced by those who are "economically marginalized" while in a space. If they become "repressed" or perish, they become a feared legend (ex: Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees- in this case Candyman) by the person(s) who own the space, and the fear is transferred to the privileged.

This transfer of fear harkens back to the Reagan sociocultural ideologies of the 1980's and its connection to popular culture texts. Particularly in horror films, the genre is known for capturing the fear of a nation (generally speaking), and placing it within an exaggerated, fictional narrative that is an allegory for reality. It keeps the genie in the bottle in order for us to understand and examine it. A product of Reagan's administration policies has been cuts in public housing that has displaced, dispersed, and further disenfranchised lower-income families and individuals that have been primarily Black and Brown in inner-cities.

Candyman (1992)


  • Denotes a shift away from the surburbs to the city as the popular narrative in horror.
  • Shifts the concept of the urban setting as having multiple threats to one, singular, mythical killer.
  • As an "urban horror film," it still maintains its commitment to addressing social concerns (crime, poverty, public housing, gentrification etc.)
  • Operates as a slasher film (ex: use of a hook as the only weapon utilized)
  • Candyman as subservient; voluntarily summoned and only appears therein.

Helen (Virginia Madsen), our protagonist, is the owner of fear (assaulted by a gang member calling himself Candyman and Candyman himself, positioning her to be implicated in multiple murders). Helen may not be responsible for the kidnapping of an infant or the murders, but they are symbolic markers or punishment for her imposition in a place she doesn't occupy. Her potential exploitation of the people with limited to no options to live anywhere else due to race and economic disenfranchisement, and perhaps her refusal to acknowledge her privilege as a white, educated, middle-class individual.


The product of 'liberal white guilt' is translated as Helen's transition from skeptic to believer/mythologized monster by way of her entanglement with Candyman and his tragic backstory in the film's third act. Helen is both the Final Girl and monster, haunted and haunter, doubling her position of privilege throughout the film. By becoming the myth, Helen usurps the original author's (Cabrini-Green residents) story and comprehension of it. Again, privileging the privileged.

Candyman operates on three levels:

  • "teenage horror story" - one told to Helen by a young, white man in the opening 
  • "academic fable" - his backstory told to Helen by one of her higher education peers
  • "urban reality" - recounts of true crime/fear by Black residents of one of Cabrini-Green's most notorious gang members

Discussion Questions:

What does the Reagan-Bush administration of the 1980's and the shift of middle-class Black families from the inner city to suburban neighborhoods suggest about horror film victims/types during this period?

What do you think using a highly publicized, real space such as Cabrini-Green for a horror film in contrast to commonly homogeneous suburban areas suggest about matters of race and class in American society?

Let's breakdown how Briefel and Ngai reference the tension between Helen (Virgina Madsen) and Bernadette (Kasi Lemmons) in regards to their trip to the Cabrini-Green projects in the film. Through examples in dialogue, what do these two women, one black and the other white, suggest about authority, privilege, and intrusion?

What other spaces, objects, and things do Briefel and Ngai note as symbols of the larger narrative at play in Candyman?

How does Candyman also reinforce violent fear evoked by stereotypes of Black men, especially in regards to the title character's relationship to Helen? What critiques do Briefel and Ngai use?

Do you agree that "Helen finally achieves the vestmental inconspicuousness she sought on her first visit to the projects, this time successfully assimilating into the environment of Cabrini-Green and thereby positioning herself as entitled to the property shared by its inhabitants"? Why or why not?

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Posted by Jon Brodkin

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai initially resisted calls to tell President Trump that the FCC won't revoke broadcast licenses from stations whose news coverage Trump dislikes.

But today, six days after Trump first said that NBC and other networks should have their licenses challenged, Pai said the FCC won't pull licenses based on the content of news reports.

Pai was on a panel at a telecom law conference hosted by the Mercatus Center when moderator Greg Ip of The Wall Street Journal referred to Trump's statements that news stations are spreading "fake news" and should have their licenses challenged.

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Interesting Links for 18-10-2017

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] ars_technica_uk_feed

Posted by Samuel Axon

(credit: Yubico)

Today, Google rolled out a new program called Advanced Protection for personal Google accounts, intended to provide much higher account security to users of services like Gmail and Drive who are at a high risk of being targeted by phishers, hackers, and others seeking their personal data. The opt-in program makes Google services much less convenient to use, but it's built to prevent the sorts of breaches that have been making recent headlines.

Examples of users who could benefit include journalists, politicians, and other public figures who may be running up against hostile actors with considerable resources—and also for private individuals in dangerous situations, like those escaping abusive relationships. In its blog post announcing this program, Google specifically named "political campaign managers," which harkens back to the breach of Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign Chairman John Podesta's e-mails, which led to a release from WikiLeaks that may have played a significant role in the US presidential election last year.

And yes, Podesta could have avoided that particular breach had he been using this new program. That's because the Advanced Protection Program goes beyond digital two-factor authentication by requiring a physical security key in addition to your password to log in. This isn't a new idea, of course, even on the consumer side of things. Facebook has offered something similar, and even video game company Blizzard has offered one to gamers who want to protect their World of Warcraft accounts for years. In this case, the security key is a USB stick or wireless Bluetooth device that works with FIDO Universal 2nd Factor (U2F).

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Posted by Sam Machkovech

Enlarge (credit: 343 Industries)

In 2014, the Halo: Master Chief Collection anthology launched as a much-needed lineup filler for the struggling Xbox One. But fans' hopes of a lovely, 1080p collection of four classic Halo games, including a remastered take on Halo 2, were soon shattered by a litany of matchmaking hiccups, bugs, and other issues.

A series of patches in the game's first year resolved some issues, particularly with online matchmaking, but in spite of continued complaints about the anthology, Microsoft hasn't put out a H:MCC patch in over two years. And the company failed to capitalize on Xbox One X hype by implying in July that the anthology wouldn't see any 4K-specific updates for that new console.

Thankfully, on Tuesday, Microsoft changed its tune.

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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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