We can’t fix politics without fixing 24-hour news

Updated on Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Take a moment to watch Brian Kilmeade and Janet Jackson below.

Brian Kilmeade

Janet Jackson

The wardrobe ‘malfunction’ resulted in the FCC attempting to impose a $550,000 fine (eventually overturned on appeal). Kilmeade’s “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims”, a genuine obscenity, resulted in a half hearted apology.

We’ve learned very painfully that throwing out Glass-Steagall was a horrible mistake. We need to learn a similar lesson about the Fairness Doctrine.

The current political climate is driven by unbalanced vitriol from both the left and the right. The Fairness Doctrine was eviscerated because of a belief that there was sufficient competition in broadcast media so that all sides of an issue could get fair time. But when you watch a news network that matches your political affiliation this just isn’t the case. If you’re in the news business then there should be some standards, including fairly presenting both sides of an issue and at the very least not repeating lies and insinuations with the authority of mass media.

24-hour news stations are especially bad because most days there just isn’t that much news. This leaves a choice between repeating the news that exists which is boring, or making stuff up which is a lot more fun. Unfortunately It’s also corrosive.

The FCC should be empowered and required to levy substantial fines where news outlets engage in factually incorrect reporting, where a reasonable amount of due diligence (or the slightest familiarity with terrorism) could have a prevented the error. This would reign in some of the worst, and also benefit from generating its own news coverage. We also need to consider brining back the Fairness Doctrine for any news outlet above a threshold audience size – print, television, radio or online.

Boob Bombs

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

The current pushback on the nasty choice between nude backscatter photos vs. ‘enhanced’ TSA groping got me thinking.

If I really wanted to blow up a plane (which I don’t) I wouldn’t mess around with printer cartridges or shoe bombs. I’d combine some explosive containing breast implants with a trigger disguised as a pacemaker. Some terrorist cell somewhere must be working on this or something like it.

How would the TSA respond? Would we need an MRI before boarding?

I think the radiation scare is overblown – far lower than the risk from hanging around at 30,000 feet. But it’s not ridiculous to refuse and getting to third base with the TSA doesn’t seem like it’s making us much safer.

etc, tsa, mri

Republicans and Democrats: Too big to succeed

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

The US political system is like daisyworld.

Flower Power Natural World

Daisyworld is a simplified model of the Gaia (Earth as organism) Hypothesis. A planet is populated by black daisies which absorb more solar radiation and white daisies which reflect it. Over time the temperature of the planet is regulated because the white daisies thrive when it’s warm. If it’s too hot the white population booms, increases the albedo of the planet and cools it down again. The black population then surges as the planet cools down and causes lower albedo and thus another round of warming.

This isn’t (directly) a post about global warming or race.

Replace the daisies with Democrats and Republicans. When Democrats are in power Republican voters are driven to the polls and vice versa. Homeostasis is guaranteed. Like daisyworld or the two-body problem it’s a toy system. It’s just never going to produce interesting results.

I think it’s time to break up the big parties (like the big parties should have broken up the big banks). Each party that achieves more than 20% of the popular vote is forced to split into two smaller parties. We have more than daisies. We have the three-body problem.

In addition to introducing some much needed chaos this could also turn the national political climate from us-vs-them to something more nuanced. Yes, there would still be left leaning and right leaning parties but they’d be forced to differentiate themselves through more than name calling and head stomping. We might have a political marketplace of ideas rather than affiliations.

Anything would be better than daisies.

Zombie Robs

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

I use Facebook for people I know well, LinkedIn for weaker ties and Twitter mostly for people I don’t know at all.

Over time though I’ve created identities on pretty much every network. With the increased interconnectedness of such sites when I stop using them I don’t stop posting…

I just discovered (in a spam filter) that someone was having a one sided conversation with me on Plaxo Pulse. I’m also actively posting (but not paying attention) on Buzz and goodness know how many other networks. I’m sure this inflates their active user count admirably but I’m now worried that undead me is being rude.

The social graph needs to work better in the other direction. Everything I post and comment on syndicates out like crazy but keeping track of responses just isn’t working.

Reviews and links for October 2010

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

5/5

Stonking. It tells the tale of a Dutch clerk (de Zoet) at a trading post with the xenophobic Japan of 1799. It has the swashbuckling panache and anal research of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle with just a dash of 'Big Trouble in Little China'. I hoped it was going to end with a 'to be continued...' but alas, Mitchell managed to wrap it up. Loved it.

 

Links

- Everest climbers get 3G network from BBC News - Home (Coming soon: escalators).

- Dream recording device 'is possible' from BBC News - Home (Life channels 'Until the End of the World').

- Pope urges migrants to integrate from BBC News - Home (How about getting priests to respect the laws of host countries and then start worrying about immigrants.).

- How Google understands language like a 10-year-old from San Francisco Bay Area News — — SFGate (Statistical analysis is Searle's Chineese Room, not AI.).

- Malcolm Gladwell is wrong about the revolution from All Salon (He's completely right. I joined a group to help the monks in Burma and they're still totally screwed.).

- Man used hosepipe to punish son from BBC News - Home (That's not what I was expecting the hosepipe to be used for. I think the son got off lightly and the father is lucky not to be facing a hosepipe ban related death sentence.).

Think before you print?

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Don’t tell me to think before printing your email.

Firstly, it’s not that special. You’re lucky if I’m reading it at all. Do you really think I want a copy for posterity? Am I going to have it framed? Let’s face it, your target audience is pre-Internet execs who have their secretaries print their emails out so they can dictate a reply back later.

Secondly, do you think your sanctimonious footer comes at no cost? Using the power of randomly Googling facts each bit takes 4.6µJ and 2.8 million emails are sent every second. Assuming a 60 character nag if everyone indulged that’s over 12kW of smugness. For approximately no pages of paper saved.

And don’t get me started on lawyers. We could probably stop global warming if they’d just skip the fifteen page footer explaining how it’s somehow your fault if they send their emails to the wrong address.

Reviews and links for September 2010

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson

4/5

I'm a big fan of Bronson and I became a father last Thursday, finishing this book the day after. NurtureShock is packed full of the latest research on child development from infants (I can't believe how happy I am that Baby Einstein doesn't work) to teenagers. If you're unwilling to vaccinate you can probably skip this, otherwise I'd say a must read for parents. But do check back - will update this review in eighteen years or so...

 

WAR by Sebastian Junger

3/5

WAR consists of Junger embedding with infantry trying to hold a valley in Afghanistan. He visits several times over the course of their deployment and gets caught up in a frightening amount of action. It's as much a book about dealing with this personally as it is about the soldiers he's there to cover. There's very little context about why the valley might be important, or about the war in general, just an account of the hard pointy end of warfare and the psychology of the troops before, during and after.

 

The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott

3/5

It's a passionate manifesto for focusing on new media for marketing and PR, and a reasonable guide as to how to go about it. I found repeated chapters on the same topic to be a bit grating but if you're completely new to blogging I guess it could be helpful. Readers would be better served by including more on SEO basics and less on Second Life. Worth a read if you're not even blogging yet, probably a pass otherwise.

 

Links

- Star Trek pizza cutter from Boing Boing (Need this!).

- The coming BlackBerry row from BBC - American Frei (Those who don't remember the Clipper Chip are doomed to repeat it...).

- David Miliband: This is Ed's day from BBC News - Home (And it will probably make for a really crappy Miliband Christmas.).

- Timelapse Footage of San Francisco and its Fog at Night from Spots Unknown (Often the fog here looks like a time lapse.).

- Ewan McGregor in a Spitfire from BBC News - Home (A Spitfire 'jet', really?).

- Pope aide in 'Third World' jibe from BBC News - Home (Criticizing Heathrow and BA is hardly the same as criticizing the UK. Also, he's right.).

- Clinton endorses Jerry Brown for Calif. governor from SFGate: Top News Stories (Wow. Probably says more about Meg than Brown.).

- Young 'exposed to unsuitable TV' from BBC News - Home (Right, so send them to bed early so they can watch porn on their laptops...).

- Turtles Eating Things from Boing Boing (Except... they're tortoises! One might expect Blade Runner savvy BB to spot the difference. Sigh.).

- Why patent lawsuits and hot tubs don't mix from All Salon (From the headlines you never thought you'd read department...).

- WTF stamp from Boing Boing (Want).

- Top Gear's 'The Stig': Revealed? from BBC News - Home (It's all a decoy to prevent the real identity from leaking out (Julian Assange)).

UAC shield icon in WPF

Updated on Sunday, September 30, 2018

WPF: When it's good it’s very, very good and when it’s bad it’s like sautéing your own eyeballs.

When you’re about to launch a process that will trigger an elevation prompt it’s polite to decorate it with the little UAC shield so the user knows what to expect. Of course there’s no such capability in WPF, and WPF controls have no handles so you can’t use SendMessage / BCM_SETSHIELD as with Windows Forms.

System.Drawing.SystemIcons.Shield seems promising, but it returns the wrong icon on Windows 7 (at least in .NET 4).

SHGetStockIconInfo will allow you to get the correct icon, but isn’t supported on Windows XP. I’ve just added the necessary interop signatures for SHGetStockIconInfo to pinvoke.net so I won’t duplicate that code here. Once you have the interop you can get the correct icon as a BitmapSource using the following code:

Geotagging posts in BlogEngine.NET

Updated on Sunday, September 30, 2018

I've written an extension for BlogEngine.NET that automatically adds several different geographical tags to blog posts. I knocked this up for my Hikes blog. It might be useful for any blog where some of the posts are related to a real world location.

To get started download GeotagFromKML.zip (2.24 kb) and copy GeotagFromKML.cs to the App_Code\Extensions folder in your BlogEngine.NET instance.

The extension does two things. Firstly it looks for a link to a KML file when post is added or updated (it does this because each of my hike posts includes a Google Earth KML file for the hike). If a KML link is found then a paragraph is added to the post containing the longitude and latitude of the first coordinate in the KML file. The paragraph uses the Geo microformat. You can customize the text in settings for the extension. You can also regenerate by deleting the paragraph and saving the post. 

The second function is to add ICBM and Geo Tag META tags when serving a post that contains the geotagged coordinates. You can take advantage of this without linking to a KML file, just include a location like this in your post:

Once you have geotagging up and running you might also want to add GeoURL to the list of ping services for your site.

Twin Peaks

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020

Twin Peaks

Not much of a hike, but Twin Peaks is about as high as you can get in San Francisco and offers wonderful views on a clear day or night. Park here and then escape the throngs by walking up one or both of the peaks.

Rob and Kate at the top of Twin Peaks in San Francisco
We often take guests from out of town up Twin Peaks. The occasion today was a first visit for a new native San Franciscan – Katherine Harper Ellison – seven days old on her first trip up to the top of Noe Peak.

Red-tailed Hawk above Twin Peaks in San Francisco 
A Red-tailed Hawk hunting over Twin Peaks.

(.49 miles, total elevation gain 201 feet, 25 minutes, average 1.17 mph, view in Google Earth.)

Hike starts at: 37.754849, -122.446607.