MEK Studios tag:www.mekstudios.com,2013-02-10:/notional/20130210055031443 Critical thinking to start your day.<br>A blog of ideas, thoughts, and concepts for consideration. Copyright (c) 2013 Michael E. Kirkpatrick 2019-01-15T11:22:06-08:00 Michael E. Kirkpatrick http://www.mekstudios.com michael@mekstudios.com Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why tag:mekstudios.com,2019-01-15:/2019/01/earths-magnetic-field-is-acting-up-and-geologists-dont-know-why 2019-01-15T11:22:06-08:00 2019-01-15T11:22:06-08:00 Alexandra Witze <p>Summary from the <a href="https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/612758/the-magnetic-north-pole-is-messing-with-your-smartphones-mapping-apps/">MIT Technology Review’s “The Download”</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Earth’s magnetic north pole is moving so quickly and unpredictably that our existing navigation models will have to be updated years earlier than scheduled.</p> <p><strong>What’s happening:</strong> The magnetic north pole is wandering away from the Canadian Arctic toward Siberia, and much faster than expected. It’s sped up from about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) to around 55 kilometers (34 miles) per year, according to Nature. The magnetic north pole is influenced by the movement of liquid iron below Earth’s surface. The World Magnetic Model, which provides a five-year forecast of the planet’s magnetic field, was last set in 2015 and due to be updated in 2020, but these rapid movements mean it’ll have to be updated this year.</p> <p><strong>Why does it matter?</strong> We rely on the model for the magnetometers built into our smartphones, which sit below the mapping apps that help us to get around. Organizations like NATO and the US Department of Defense also use it for navigation systems.</p> <p><strong>Yet another shutdown victim:</strong> The scheduled fix to the model was due to take place today, but it’s been pushed back to January 30 by the US government shutdown.</p> </blockquote> <p>The linked Nature article has some interesting tidbits that give more context to what’s happening geologically and the implications for navigation and modeling.</p> Factors in authentication tag:mekstudios.com,2019-01-14:/2019/01/factors-in-authentication 2019-01-14T09:09:08-08:00 2019-01-14T09:09:08-08:00 Avery Pennarun <p>Interesting read from Avery…</p> <blockquote> <p>Multi-factor authentication remains hard-to-use, hard-to-secure, and error-prone. I’ve been studying authentication lately to see if it might be possible to adapt some security practices, especially phishing prevention, from big companies to small companies and consumers.</p> <p>Here’s what I have so far.</p> </blockquote> <p>What he’s really studying is the viability of second factors; the real issue is enrolling new users.</p> <blockquote> <p>So here’s the catch. The whole multi-factor authentication thing is almost completely solved at this point. Virtually everybody has a phone already (anyway, more people have phones than computers), and any phone can store a secret key - it’s just a number, after all - even if it doesn’t have secure element hardware. (The secure element helps against certain kinds of malware attacks, but factor #2 authentication is still a huge benefit even with no secure element.)</p> <p>The secret key on your phone can be protected with a PIN, or biometric, or both, so even if someone steals your phone, they can’t immediately pretend to be you.</p> <p>And, assuming your phone was not a victim of a supply chain attack, you have a safe and reliable way to tell your phone not to authorize anybody unless they have your PIN or biometric: you just need to be the person who initially configures the phone. Nice! Passwords are obsolete! Your phone is all three authentication factors in one!</p> <p>All true!</p> <p>But… how does a random Internet service know your phone’s key is the key that identifies you? Who are you, anyway?</p> <p>The thing about a previously-enrolled private key is you have to… previously… enroll it… of course. Which is a really effective way of triggering Inception memes. Just log into the web site, and tell it to trust… oh, rats.</p> </blockquote> I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. tag:mekstudios.com,2019-01-04:/2019/01/i-was-a-cable-guy-i-saw-the-worst-of-america 2019-01-04T07:59:14-08:00 2019-01-04T07:59:14-08:00 Lauren Hough <blockquote> <p>I can’t tell you about a specific day as a cable tech. I can’t tell you my first customer was a cat hoarder. I can tell you the details, sure. That I smeared Vicks on my lip to try to cover the stench of rugs and walls and upholstery soaked in cat piss. That I wore booties, not to protect the carpets from the mud on my boots but to keep the cat piss off my soles. I can tell you the problem with her cable service was that her cats chewed through the wiring. That I had to move a mummified cat behind the television to replace the jumper. That ammonia seeped into the polyester fibers of my itchy blue uniform, clung to the sweat in my hair. That the smell stuck to me through the next job.</p> <p>But what was the next job? This is the stuff I can’t remember — how a particular day unfolded. Maybe the next job was the Great Falls, Virginia, housewife who answered the door in some black skimpy thing I never really saw because I work very hard at eye contact when faced with out-of-context nudity. She was expecting a man. I’m a 6-foot lesbian. If I showed up at your door in a uniform with my hair cut in what’s known to barbers as the International Lesbian Option No. 2, you might mistake me for a man. Everyone does. She was rare in that she realized I’m a woman. We laughed about it. She found a robe while I replaced her cable box. She asked if I needed to use a bathroom, and I loved her.</p> <p>For 10 years, I worked as a cable tech in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. Those 10 years, the apartments, the McMansions, the customers, the bugs and snakes, the telephone poles, the traffic, the cold and heat and rain, have blurred together in my mind. Even then, I wouldn’t remember a job from the day before unless there was something remarkable about it. Remarkable is subjective and changes with every day spent witnessing what people who work in offices will never see — their co-workers at home during the weekday, the American id in its underpants, wondering if it remembered to delete the browsing history.</p> <p>Mostly all I remember is needing to pee.</p> </blockquote> Honourable Governance tag:mekstudios.com,2018-12-13:/2018/12/honourable-governance 2018-12-13T15:46:28-08:00 2018-12-13T15:46:28-08:00 Avery Pennarun <p>Great post in full, well worth reading.</p> <blockquote> <p>The job of an elected official isn’t to do whatever they want. It’s to figure out what the people want (or need), and to deliver that, in accordance with principles and ethics. This is a surprisingly selfless expectation: sometimes the right thing to do is the opposite of what you want to do. And it can be hard to figure out what’s right, which is why we have debates, and why we listen to our opponents in those debates, even when we have a majority and they’re “merely” the opposition.</p> </blockquote> This Is the Saturday Night Massacre tag:mekstudios.com,2018-11-15:/2018/11/this-is-the-saturday-night-massacre 2018-11-15T18:14:23-08:00 2018-11-15T18:14:23-08:00 Walter M. Shaub Jr. <blockquote> <p>whatever the outcome of Mueller’s investigation, America is establishing new precedents. One precedent is that President Trump fired the FBI director—and Congress did nothing. Another is that Trump admitted the FBI’s investigation of his campaign motivated the firing—and Congress did nothing. A third precedent is that Trump fired the attorney general after having railed against him publicly for refusing to intervene in the investigation—and Congress has done nothing. A fourth precedent is that Trump circumvented the Justice Department’s order of succession so he could replace the attorney general with an individual who has directed partisan attacks at the special counsel, has described publicly how a new attorney general could undermine the investigation, has had a personal and political relationship with an individual involved in the investigation, and has been associated with a company that is the focus of a separate FBI investigation.</p> </blockquote> I was Pat Tillman’s wife, but I can’t speak for him. Neither can you. tag:mekstudios.com,2018-11-12:/2018/11/i-was-pat-tillmans-wife-but-i-cant-speak-for-him-neither-can-you 2018-11-12T21:05:42-08:00 2018-11-12T21:05:42-08:00 Marie Tillman <blockquote> <p>…I believe we are at our best as Americans when we engage in constructive dialogue around our differences with the goal of understanding one another.</p> <p>This mind-set is where change happens, progress is made and bridges are built. I believe that in our hearts we are all the same: We all want our children to be healthy and safe and to have opportunities. We may have significant differences in how we think we should get there, but divisive rhetoric will only deepen the chasm and make us forget all that we share.</p> </blockquote> Woolsey Fire tag:mekstudios.com,2018-11-12:/2018/11/woolsey-fire 2018-11-12T21:01:41-08:00 2018-11-12T21:01:41-08:00 Michael Eason Kirkpatrick <p>A very sad statistic in today’s incident report on the Woolsey fire: “83% of all National Parks Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has been burned by the Woolsey Fire.” I didn’t get to to see much of those mountains and now wish I had.</p> <p>I have two friends whose family homes have been in the path of the fire. My family’s home has been close to wildfire. It’s scary. I’m holding out hope that their homes are standing and ready to support them if the worst is realized.</p> The Big Meltdown tag:mekstudios.com,2018-10-30:/2018/10/the-big-meltdown 2018-10-30T15:32:33-07:00 2018-10-30T15:32:33-07:00 Craig Welch <blockquote> <p>Climate change has since left an unmistakable mark. Winter air on the western peninsula has warmed more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1950s. Winds drive changes in ocean circulation that bring warmer deep water toward the surface, helping to reduce sea ice—the broken crust that forms when the ocean’s briny surface freezes. Sea ice now appears later and disappears faster: The ice-free season on the western peninsula lasts a full 90 days longer than in 1979. For a Northern Hemisphere equivalent, imagine summer suddenly stretching to Christmas.</p> </blockquote> <p>With photographs by Paul Nicklen, Cristina Mittermeier, and Keith Ladzinski. As always, an incredible look at a continent we continue to learn more about — and a continent whose biosphere is rapidly changing.</p> Lasts Longer tag:mekstudios.com,2018-09-17:/2018/09/lasts-longer 2018-09-17T10:35:22-07:00 2018-09-17T10:35:22-07:00 Horace Dediu <p>I agree with Horace, this was a huge strategic announcement by Lisa Jackson at Apple’s recent keynote:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Lisa Jackson] laid out a goal for Apple to eliminate the need to mine new materials from the Earth.</p> <p>She said that to reach that goal Apple will have to do three things:</p> <ol><li>Sourcing recycled or renewable materials for all products.</li> <li>Ensure that Apple products last as long as possible.</li> <li>After a long life of use, ensure that they are recycled properly.</li> </ol><p>It’s this second point that I thought would bring the house down.</p> <p>To emphasize the second point she said Apple now strives to design and build durable products that last as long as possible. That means long-lasting hardware coupled with long-lasting software. She pointed out that iOS 12 runs even on iPhone 5S, now five years old. Because iPhones last longer, you can keep using them or pass them on to someone who will continue to use them after you upgrade.</p> <p>She said that “keeping iPhones in use” is the best thing for the planet.</p> <p>At this point in the presentation I wondered if everyone would rush out of the room and call their broker to sell Apple shares.</p> </blockquote> An Oral History Of Apple’s Infinite Loop tag:mekstudios.com,2018-09-16:/2018/09/an-oral-history-of-apples-infinite-loop 2018-09-16T10:08:11-07:00 2018-09-16T10:08:11-07:00 Steven Levy <p>A wonderful look inside Apple and the history of Infinite Loop from Steven Levy, a long time chronicler of Apple.</p> <blockquote> <p>For more than a year I’ve been interviewing Apple employees, past and present, about their recollections of Infinite Loop. In their own words, edited for clarity and concision, here is the story of a plot of land in Cupertino, California, that brought us the Mac revival, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the Steve Jobs legacy.</p> </blockquote> Enemy Bylines tag:mekstudios.com,2018-08-16:/2018/08/enemy-bylines 2018-08-16T13:34:41-07:00 2018-08-16T13:34:41-07:00 David Pell <p>Today, in a coordinated effort led by the Boston Globe, news organizations across the United States printed, posted, shared their perspective on this idea:</p> <blockquote> <p>A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press. Journalists are not classified as fellow Americans, but rather “the enemy of the people.” This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences. We asked editorial boards from around the country – liberal and conservative, large and small – to join us today to address this fundamental threat in their own words. </p> </blockquote> <p>From David Pell’s perspective:</p> <blockquote> <p>For Nixon supporters, one of the key lessons of his era was that a corrupt president could be weakened and even destroyed by the combined investigative efforts of law enforcement and a free press. Trump has spent a good portion of his presidency attacking both — so that by the time he utters his version of “I am not a crook,” the institutions tasked with countering that statement will have been greatly weakened in the eyes of voters. While Brennan and the hundreds of media outlets are correct to make their stand, it’s worth noting that these battle lines have been drawn within a framework of Trump’s creation. Trump vs the media and Trump vs the so-called deep state are the battles he wants, and like those fought in the 60s and 70s, the outcome of this battle will define America for years to come.</p> </blockquote> The Strange David And Goliath Saga Of Radio Frequencies tag:mekstudios.com,2018-08-09:/2018/08/the-strange-david-and-goliath-saga-of-radio-frequencies 2018-08-09T13:33:56-07:00 2018-08-09T13:33:56-07:00 David Zweig <p>Hat tip to <a href="https://pxlnv.com">Nick Heer</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>I know the headline of this link sounds esoteric and boring, but this is actually a fascinating story from David Zweig in Wired:</p> <blockquote> <p>Random Farms, and tens of thousands of other theater companies, schools, churches, broadcasters, and myriad other interests across the country, need to buy new wireless microphones. The majority of professional wireless audio gear in America is about to become obsolete, and illegal to operate. The story of how we got to this strange point involves politics, business, science, and, of course, money.</p> <p>[…]</p> <p>The upheaval around wireless mics can be traced to the National Broadband Plan of 2010, where, on the direction of Congress, the FCC declared broadband “a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life.” Two years later, in a bill best known for cutting payroll taxes, Congress authorized the FCC to auction off additional spectrum for broadband communications. In 2014, the FCC determined it would use the 600 MHz band — where most wireless microphones operate — to accomplish that goal.</p> </blockquote> <p>According to Zweig, this is the second time in ten years that part of the RF spectrum used for wireless audio equipment has been reallocated; so, for many users, this is the second time in recent memory they’re having to spend thousands of dollars on new gear. And there appears to be no indication that the FCC will cordon off a specific spectrum for these kinds of devices to operate on, which is foolish.</p> </blockquote> An open-source, creative commons beer & brewery database with an API tag:mekstudios.com,2018-08-09:/2018/08/an-open-source-creative-commons-beer-and-brewery-database-with-an-api 2018-08-09T07:59:05-07:00 2018-08-09T07:59:05-07:00 Michael E. Kirkpatrick <p>Hey! I’m looking for some feedback and thoughts on a brewery and beer database I cooked up. I’ve got 6,601 brewers and 70,729 beers in the database at the moment. The idea is to provide the community with brewer information including a little about the brewery, their location(s), links, and information on the beer they brew (all the pertinent info: name, style, description, ABV, IBU).</p> <p>Any content added to the database is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) and is accessible via a website and API. Unlike other beer and brewer databases online, you don’t need to get approved for API access, and you don’t have to pay to remove rate limitations. The database is open and accessible to anyone.</p> <p>I would love to see beer entrepreneurs leverage the database into new and exciting apps, provide beer enthusiasts with a catalog of information about the breweries they’re interested in, and researchers the opportunity to mine the vast world that is craft beer.</p> <p>What do you think? You can check it out at:</p> <p><a href="https://catalog.beer">https://catalog.beer</a></p> <p>Known issues and limitations:</p> <ul><li>You can’t currently edit beer or brewer information</li> <li>There’s an authenticity component where brewers can verify their information that needs additional development. See <a href="https://catalog.beer/brewer/d3d29639-f374-e473-bf7c-5b764b8cf67d">Triton Brewing</a> as an example of a verified brewer.</li> </ul><p>All feedback is welcome: <a href="https://catalog.beer/contact">email</a> / <a href="https://twitter.com/mekirkpatrick">Twitter @mekirkpatrick</a></p> Ways to think about machine learning tag:mekstudios.com,2018-06-24:/2018/06/ways-to-think-about-machine-learning 2018-06-24T21:46:46-07:00 2018-06-24T21:46:46-07:00 Benedict Evans <p>Great primer from Benedict Evans on how to think about Machine Learning.</p>