Tagged: New York Times
Snap quiz: What do the following verses have in common?
And that’s how it went
all afternoon, one lizard
It made me wonder
if snow leopards have a taste
for joggers as well
As is typical,
the Pope stayed above the fray
and did not comment.
Whether such tactics
will have a chilling effect
remains to be seen.
Answer: All four are inadvertent haikus, composed by humans but discovered by machines.
The first two come from a Tumblr blog created by New York Times editor Jacob Harris, who adapted some open-source compter code to scan the homepage of the New York Times, looking for snippets of text that conform to the Haiku syllabic structure: 5:7:5.
“Sometimes it can be an ordinary sentence in context, but pulled out of context it has a strange comedy or beauty to it,” Harris told the Nieman Journalism Lab.
“Not every haiku our computer finds is a good one,” Harris wrote on the Times Haiku blog. “The algorithm discards some potential poems if they are awkwardly constructed, and it does not scan articles covering sensitive topics. Furthermore, the machine has no aesthetic sense. It can’t distinguish between an elegant verse and a plodding one. But, when it does stumble across something beautiful or funny or just a gem of a haiku, human journalists select it and post it on this blog.”
Both the Times project and Haikuleaks have their roots in Haiku Finder, an open source python script that crawls through text and ferrets out haiku. You can try it yourself by copying a large block of text—the bigger the better—and pasting it into the Haiku Finder search box.
If you do that with, oh, say, Nova Scotia’s broken Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Haiku Finder coughs up this ironic bit of poetic wisdom:
is critical, please consult
With so many real and pressing environmental crises threatening to harm Planet Earth, why are so many well-meaning environmentalists so easily diverted into foolhardy projects like the campaign to ban plastic water bottles?
On January 1, the Town of Concord, Massachusetts, prohibited the sale of “non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less.” To be clear, it’s still OK to sell small, plastic bottles of Coke, Red Bull, colored sugar-water, and carbonated water, and it’s OK to sell Just Plain Water in 40-oz plastic bottles or gallon jugs.
The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates, equals about 49 cents a year. The same amount of bottled water costs about $1,400, according to the tap water activist group Ban the Bottle.
- The recommendation for drinking eight glasses of water per day is quackery, debunked at Snopes.com and many other places.
- No bottled water defender recommends that people consume water exclusively from bottles, merely that it’s a convenient way to drink water in some circumstances — such as in a car or on a beach, where municipal water taps tend to be scarce.
- The proposition that bottled water use lowers public support for municipal water supplies (which are all but ubiquitous in North American towns and cities) suffers from an absence of evidence.
- The Concord, MA, ban wisely omits emergencies when municipal supplies are contaminated or unavailable—unusual, but hardly unheard of events.
For his part, Contrarian drinks many glasses of tap water, but from time to time, he prefers the convenience of a recyclable plastic bottle, whether newly purchased with water inside, or refilled with tap water from his non-municipal bore hole. Sometimes he freezes water in bottles to take to the beach on hot summer days.
When one of these bottles has served its purpose, Contrarian carefully places it in the recycle bin, thereby contributing revenue his rural municipality can use to maintain water systems in places other than Boularderie Island.
He would like the Globe and Mail and the Town of Concord to get off his case.
H/T: JP (who might disagree).
One would like to think of human history as an unbroken march toward enlightenment in which superstition and magical beliefs are gradually discarded in favor of rational thought and evidence-based decisions. One would like to, but then one remembers the media’s obsession with Mayan doomsday predictions never actually predicted by actual Mayans, and the scandalous failure of most Nova Scotia health care workers to get the ‘flu vaccine (thus depriving themselves, their families, and their patients of the most effective life-saving advance in medical history), and today’s numerological media trope-de-jour: the fact that today’s (arbitrary) date can be rendered as 12-12-12.
So it was with a mixture of amusement and chagrin that we read (courtesy of Lauren Oostveen of the Nova Scotia Archives) the New York Times’s account of the last 12-12-12 iteration, the one that occurred on December 12, 1912. The anonymous Times writer of a century ago cataloged the carry-on about arbitrary dates with an air of droll contempt that seems not at all dated.
[F]or those who live on past to-day, there will still be available some triple-plated dates of magical mischance. And one of them, to come a mere thirty-two years from now, will outdo all other combinations in the magic of its mixture. It will come on April 11, 1944, and the 4-11-44 that may then be written will, of course, bring out into the letter writing industry every soul that ever hugged a rabbit’s foot, threw a horseshoe over the left shoulder, or trembled when he broke a mirror or walked under a ladder.
So mark this down as one area where 100 years of humankind’s relentless march toward rationality appears to have gained no ground whatsoever. Here’s the whole Times piece:
From the moment I first stepped inside one, I have regarded dollar stores as miraculous institutions, unappreciated by the cognoscenti. In this morning’s New York Times, reporter Jesse McKinley describes how he outfitted his new apartment in Albany, NY, entirely from items purchased at the various dollar stores that abound in the area (with a slide show). The daring Mr. McKinley does not observe my only rule of dollar store consumption: Avoid items intended to be ingested.
In an almost perfect illustration of Donham’s Law, the New York Times reports this morning that New English fishermen are pooh-poohing calls from fisheries scientists for greater restrictions, or even an outright ban, on cod fishing in the gulf of Maine.
The scientists point to new data showing cod stocks in much worse shape than previously thought; the fishermen say there’s an abundance of fish.
“Fishermen will almost always tell you that, and it’s not that they’re lying,” said Mark Kurlansky, whose 1997 book, “Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World,” documented how Canada’s once-abundant Atlantic cod were fished almost to extinction. “Landing a lot of fish can mean the fish are very plentiful, or it can mean the fishermen are extremely efficient in scooping up every last one of them.”
Donham’s Law of Fisheries Conservation states that All fishermen resolutely support conservation measures, except those targeting the species they fish for, and the gear types they fish with.
Nova Scotians could be forgiven for feeling confused about prospects for shale gas fracking in the province. Is shale gas a sensible short-term approach to reduced carbon emissions? Or an environmental calamity waiting to happen?
Those who stand to profit from shale gas, and governments desperate for energy solutions that won’t cripple the economy, are predictably bullish on our shale gas reserves. Many environmentalists oppose fracking with the unreassuring obduracy they bring to every issue (see: the nonsensical flap over biosolids).
I have no idea who’s right about shale gas, but today’s New York Times offers a massive dump of insider documents purporting to show promoters have wildly exaggerated shale gas reserves, while regulators and venture capital companies have averted their eyes. The candid assessments range from “bubble” to “Ponzi scheme.”
The New York Times has posted eight interactive satellite images of tsunami-ravaged cities in Japan. By moving the blue slider in the center of the image left and right, you can transition back and forth between the before and after images. (You can’t do that on the screenshot shown here, only by going to the NYT site.)
H/T: Richard Stephenson
A New York Times article explains something that has long puzzled me: why are institutions where security really matters so lax about passwords, while the corner store requires long, ever-changing, combinations of upper and lower case, alphanumeric and non-alphanumeric characters? Why are my credit union and my bank satisfied with a four-digit numeric PIN, which they never make me change?
The answer, according to a number of security experts interviewed by the Times, is that passwords don’t need to be strong or constantly changed. Worse, “[O]nerous requirements for passwords have given us a false sense of protection against potential attacks. In fact, they say, we aren’t paying enough attention to more potent threats.”
After investigating password requirements in a variety of settings, [Microsoft security specialist Cormac] Herley is critical not of users but of system administrators who aren’t paying enough attention to the inconvenience of making people comply with arcane rules. “It is not users who need to be better educated on the risks of various attacks, but the security community,” he said at a meeting of security professionals, the New Security Paradigms Workshop, at Queen’s College in Oxford, England. “Security advice simply offers a bad cost-benefit tradeoff to users.”….
One might guess that heavily trafficked Web sites — especially those that provide access to users’ financial information — would have requirements for strong passwords. But it turns out that password policies of many such sites are among the most relaxed. These sites don’t publicly discuss security breaches, but Mr. Herley said it “isn’t plausible” that these sites would use such policies if their users weren’t adequately protected from attacks by those who do not know the password.
Mr. Herley, working with Dinei Florêncio, also at Microsoft Research, looked at the password policies of 75 Web sites. At the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, held in July in Redmond, Wash., they reported that the sites that allowed relatively weak passwords were busy commercial destinations, including PayPal, Amazon.com and Fidelity Investments. The sites that insisted on very complex passwords were mostly government and university sites. What accounts for the difference? They suggest that “when the voices that advocate for usability are absent or weak, security measures become needlessly restrictive.”
Donald A. Norman, a co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, a design consulting firm in Fremont, Calif., makes a similar case. In “When Security Gets in the Way,” an essay published last year, he noted the password rules of Northwestern University, where he then taught. It was a daunting list of 15 requirements. He said unreasonable rules can end up rendering a system less secure: users end up writing down passwords and storing them in places that can be readily discovered.
“These requirements keep out the good guys without deterring the bad guys,” he said.
I’ve suspected this for a long time, although I may have carried it too far. I recently found my (former!) favorite password in the number-two slot on a list of most frequently chosen passwords.