Bruce White

Blog Post #421:  Easier and cheaper baggage checks with WiFi

Blog Post #421:  Easier and cheaper baggage checks with WiFi
Taken from:  https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/wi-fi-detects-suspicious-items/

The article starts:

“For the last couple of decades, security measures in places like airports, schools, stadiums, and other public venues have continuously ramped up. X-ray machines, surveillance cameras, and bag searches have all become commonplace, but still concealed weapons, bombs, and explosive can slip through the cracks — sometimes with tragically devastating effect.”

Then it adds:

“Looking for a new way to help solve this problem, researchers from Rutgers University, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, and Binghamton University have found a fresh use for a technology that is ubiquitous in 2018: Ordinary Wi-Fi. Using this radio wave-based connectivity tool, they developed a new type of security screening system which is both low-cost and, potentially, life-saving. It works by detecting suspicious objects by leveraging the fine-grained channel state information (CSI) from off-the-shelf Wi-Fi, without needing to invade the user’s privacy by physically rifling through bags.”

So, common, ordinary Wi-Fi can be about 95% effective on suspicious items and 90% on dangerous objects.  If it isn’t 100%, it just isn’t good enough.

A recent news story on Austin television was that a few months ago a passenger got through screening and was waiting for his flight and opened his carry-on bag and right at the top was his gun!!!  He immediately went to a TSA rep, apologized, but also carried the message – “Hey, your screening didn’t catch this.”

Assuming the researchers can tweak the system to get 100% accuracy out of common Wi-Fi that would be a great advantage.  I’m guessing that the person sitting behind the X-Ray screen can get bored after a while and maybe would yawn and miss something.  Human error is probably the most common error and if there could be a better system with 100% accuracy and cut down on human error it would be great!!!

(This reminds me of a mathematical joke:  Before all the screen occurred in air travel, a professor was flying with a companion.  The professor opened his carry-on and showed it to his friend – he had a BOMB in his bag.  His companion was aghast. But, the professor had done his homework: “The probability of a bomb on any given flight is 0.001%, but the probability of TWO bombs on any given flight is 0.0000001%.  So, to give myself a better chance, I bring my own bomb with me!!!”)

What do you think?  Would you feel safe in a screening that relied on common Wi-Fi signals?

Bruce

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Blog Post #420:  Power of Positive Thinking for Seniors!!!

Blog Post #420:  Power of Positive Thinking for Seniors!!!
Taken from:  https://stonegatesl.com/the-power-of-positive-thinking-renewing-senior-lives/

This topic is NOT just for seniors – but for all of us.  But as a senior, I think it is more important.

Staying positive can be hard – no matter the age.  When your body aches, when you see more doctors than any other profession, it is easy to get down and depressed.  

The article mentions a song from the 1940’s – Accent the Positive, Eliminate the Negative.  The article says “Studies have found that actively fostering positive emotions can boost the immune system, stave off depression, and enhance health and quality of life overall”.

Again the article says:

“As wellness professionals, we look at the whole person, striving to help each resident not only physically, but emotionally, intellectually, vocationally, socially, and spiritually,” Whitwell explains. “Our program focuses on all these areas, with the goal of improving physical health, mental outlook, and social belonging.”

For a second, think of your car’s gas gauge.  When the tank is full, the arrow points to “F”; and when empty, the arrow points to “E”.  Now think of your happiness gauge, is it on “F” or is it on “E”? When it gets to “E”, you are unhappy, depressed, feeling worthless, sick and very negative.  You need to find your happiness filling station to get your happiness gauge back to “F”. For some people it is easy and for others, very hard.
I find that I can get some ‘happiness’ into my tank through music.  I’ve had Tschaikowsky on my iPod in the car for the last week and before I can hum along or even whistle.  (I do try to avoid Symphony Six finale as that is a down movement – of the last symphony before he died). Or, the movement from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite – from the Berceuse (the next to last movement) into the Finale.  I hold my breath as the firebird dies at the end of the Berceuse and wait for the solo French Horn to open the finale as the firebird comes back to life.  At the end of the piece, in fortissimo volume, the orchestra joins in the joyful leading to a very peaceful final measure. (As a tuba player, there is one note that the tuba and timpani change the chord before the rest of the orchestra that I also await).  If I am in the car next to you, and my windows are down, and my volume is full and if you look at me, I am the conductor – directing this awesome finale.

Others can find joy and happiness in their gardens or hobbies; I also find great joy and happiness in my grand-children.  

Deep inside, when you are starting to hurt, find that special place in your mind, that special process to fill your tank again and conquer the pain and depression.

What do you do to fill up your life with happiness and joy?

Bruce

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Blog Post #419:  Wanna Save Democracy – READ!!

Blog Post #419:  Wanna Save Democracy – READ!!
Taken from:  https://www.ozy.com/immodest-proposal/wanna-save-democracy-read-a-novel

Sometimes a great title catches my attention – this is a great title – and a topic worth thinking about!!

The title is interesting – want to save democracy?  Then go out and read a NOVEL. Not a business book, not a scientific book – but a novel.

The article states: “Where have all the novels gone? People simply aren’t reading them like they once did. In the U.K., sales of literary fiction have plummeted in recent years.  In the U.S. 24 percent of Americans didn’t read a book or even part of a book in the past year, let alone a novel. This could spell doom for humanity. After all, a large body of research shows a strong link between reading fiction and increased empathy.”

The article goes on to suggest tax breaks – $10 for each book read, and $20 for each novel that is read.  It also suggests a penalty for those that don’t read.

The article states: “Reading about a fictional scenario is often better than experiencing it in real life, in terms of the insights shared”.

As a conclusion, the article suggests that we have become polarized, but reading novels can help us relate to others circumstances and lives – and maybe we can become ‘humans’ again.

I’m not sure what the author would do to me!!!  I really haven’t ‘read’ a novel in the past year.  I love to LISTEN to novels. I’m currently reading a James Patterson novel, I finished a Nicholas Sparks romantic novel three days ago.  I listened to The Scarlet Letter (I hadn’t read that in high school) and the Mayor of Casterbridge (which I had read before). To this date (mid-August), I’ve probably have listened to 40 books – and read none!!!  

I remember a similar comment from about 20 years ago.  The commentator had watched two teen couples at the convenience store.  The two boys were playing video games and ignoring their dates; the two girls were on the side talking – and ignoring their dates.  He was thinking that games and technology were going to make us less human. And who knows, maybe we are less human (we can text, post, tweet, but talking in person to another human – too ‘old school’!!

 

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #418:  Hurray!! The next election will be tamper proof (or not)

Blog Post #418:  Hurray!! The next election will be tamper proof (or not)

Taken from:  https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/12/hacking-the-websites-responsible-for-election-information-is-so-easy-an-11-year-old-did-it/

Sure the ‘midterm’ elections are coming up soon (less than three months away). WIth the last national election (2016) there were cries that the election was tampered with (with fingers pointing at Russia / Russians).  

But … our security systems have been improved.  (Haven’t they?)

Today’s article looks at an eleven-year-old hacking in a mock election reporting system in Florida and changing the outcomes.


The article says: “For 11-year-old Emmett from Austin, hacking the website for the Florida Secretary of State was as easy as a simple SQL injection.

“While it took Emmett only 10 minutes to break into the election reporting section of the Florida Secretary of State web page, it’s important to note that these pages were set up as replicas.”

“The idea, according to event organizers from Wickr (a secure communications platform), “was mainly focused on breaking into the portions of the websites that are critical to the election process, [so] the kids worked against the replicas of the webpages where election results are reported by secretaries of state.”

So, an eleven-year-old kid was able to hack into the Florida Secretary of State election reporting page.  So, if without tampering, candidate A won, but with changing the voting tallies (not the actual votes) as it gets transferred from precinct XYZ to the Secretary of State’s office (or the results from county XYZ to the state), the outcome could be switched to candidate B.  

 

Disclaimer – these were not the real election reporting pages, but, hey, if an eleven-year-old person could hack into the election reporting pages in about ten minutes, couldn’t a hacking expert from Russia (or other entity) do it as well?  

To me, that seems to indicate that the election process still has some gaps in the reporting process.  And, that seems to indicate that the results may or may not be open to hacking and changes in the results!!

What do you think?

Do you think we need to add more security at various points around the election system – and yet keep the election process anonymous?  Please add your comments below:

 

Bruce

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Blog Post #417:  Space – the Final Frontier?

Blog Post #417:  Space – the Final Frontier?

Taken from: https://www.space.com/41454-nasa-parker-solar-probe-launches-to-sun.html

In the past month, SPACE has taken off!!!  (In many ways).

Today’s article talks about a probe going to the sun.  The Parker Solar Probe took off on Sunday, August 12th. At top speed, it will go 430,000 miles per hour (almost as fast as my brother-in-law drives).  It will use seven flybys of Venus to accelerate to the full speed. It will find out so much more about the sun’s corona, solar flares, solar winds and more.  The article says “It will get hammered” as the probe endure temperatures estimated about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. (I thought about volunteering to go with the problem until I heard about the temperatures.  I thought I could pack a portable air conditioner, but the electrical cord just got too long to be viable!!!)

But, in the past month (or slightly more), scientists found water on Mars, encouraging Elon Musk and others to plan a Mars colony; SpaceX rocket company has demonstrated the ability to retrieve and reuse rocket parts; Vice President Pence revealed a plan for a “Space Force”; the use of the International Space Station to be a launching people to the moon and mars; Jeff Bezos (from Amazon fame) has supported Blue Origin – another spacecraft launch facility); and probably more.

Some are promoting space as a way to get off the earth before we ‘kill’ it with pollution, garbage, hatred, and global warming.  

In my mind, a song from 1966 is playing – Everyone’s gone to the moon:

Streets full of people, all alone
Roads full of houses, never home
Church full of singing, out of tune
Everyone’s gone to the moon

But, not just the moon – but to that last frontier – Space.

Are you ready?  (Will your great-great-great-grandchildren live on Earth or someplace else?)

(By the time my great-great-great-grandchildren come along, I’ll be long gone; but maybe, just maybe, someplace in cyberland, my blog posts will exist!!!)

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #416:  Okay, a true confession day – I like Pro Football / NFL

Blog Post #416:  Okay, a true confession day – I like Pro Football / NFL

Ideas taken from:  https://www.nfl.com/

Okay – true confessions day.  I have missed pro football a lot since the SuperBowl last February.

It can be a truly irrational attraction.  But, on any given Sunday, I will be watching a noon game a 3:00 game and the Sunday night game.  Depending on the teams, I will probably watch the Monday night game and maybe even the Thursday night game.  Thanksgiving Dinner is arranged around the pro football games.

Yes, I like college football too – but somehow the pro game is packaged better.

Sure there is controversy – standing for the national anthem, protests and more.  The past few months were spent by the rest of the world talking about “fuitbol” – that Americans know as soccer.  My soccer story is like this: I went to a soccer game, the ball and players went back and forth for the first half which ended in a 0 to 0 tie.  During the second half, I went to the restroom, heard the cheering and came back to my seat to a 1 to 0 game (I think the home team had scored the goal, but really not sure).  The rest of the game was scoreless – so 3 hours and a 1 to 0 score.

But in American Pro football, where you might get a score of 42 to 39 with the losing team losing on a last second ‘Hail Mary’ pass that gets intercepted.  I ‘know’ American football; four downs and 10 years to go; penalties; red zone; touchdowns; field goals; sacks; and even some spectacular plays.  I know that I can go to the restroom when the ball is on the 35 yard line with 65 yards to go. I know I can also go to the restroom when it is 4th down and 35 yards to go (okay, time for a punt).

I can cheer for the Minnesota Vikings (where they may only be one or two players from Minnesota on the team); or the Green Bay Packers.  For a game between Miami and New England, I’ll cheer on New England – because I lived in New England for 13 years and saw almost all New England Patriot games on the local channel.  Or a game with Seattle against Jacksonville – who cares, but I’m going to watch anyway. I might have my computer in my lap, reading an article, playing Words with Friends against my sister, but I know when something exciting is happening as the announcer’s voices go louder and higher.  

I like college football too – so I will spend Saturday afternoons with three (or more) college games and Sunday with three (or more) pro games.

I also know (but choose to forget) the concept that the pro teams that win this year, will get lousy draft choices; and the teams that did poorly this year will get high draft picks – and next year the teams that were on top this year probably won’t be on top next year; and likewise the teams that were on the bottom will probably move up in the standings this year.  And the team that won the SuperBowl this year will have players demanding more money for the next season and the team pushed against the salary cap and will have to cut or trade some of the players.

I didn’t want my son to play football (and he didn’t); I don’t want my grandson to play football (and since he is only four, that is a ways off).  Too many injuries. BUT I can watch generally healthy men in the upper teens (college) and twenties or thirties (pro) go at it like gladiators in ancient Rome.  There is kind of hidden aggressive hope that they will be a major injury with some player carried off on a stretcher (and … again, not my family). Maybe it will be the quarterback who will come back into the game in the last quarter and bandaged up will still throw the winning touchdown pass to some guy that was just activated from the injury-reserved squad last week.  

So, football season is almost upon us.  The NFL squads have played their first preseason game.  Now I can start planning on being a TV zombie for upcoming Saturday and Sundays this fall!!

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #415:  Flying Taxis?

Blog Post #415:  Flying Taxis?

Taken from:  https://newatlas.com/uber-ut-austin-flying-taxis/55844/

Yes, we’ve had what amounts to “flying taxis” for years, except we called them just plain helicopters.  Of course, they weren’t really just taxis – but moved people from point A to point B – so maybe in an extended concept of taxi we are already there.  But, let’s look more at this.

In many United States cities, gridlock, traffic backups (for miles), frustrated drivers, hot tempers and longer times for non-so-long drives exist.  Yes, we have a ‘love affair’ with our cars; yes, if you look at the cars next to you on the road to or from work, almost all are single passengers; yes, cities have mass transit and ride sharing; and finally, no, it doesn’t seem to get better.  

Chicago is experimenting with new tunnels to get people from the airport to downtown quicker (with Elon Musk’s Boring Company getting the contract). My city, Austin Texas, is experimenting with additional light rail lines and with autonomous shuttles downtown to get some traffic off the roads.

So, why not flying taxis?

Uber has contracted with the University of Texas-Austin engineering department to build quieter flying taxis.

Here is a statement from this article:

The UT team will be responsible for exploring the efficiency and noise signatures of stacked co-rotating systems for Uber’s aircraft, a relatively novel technology whereby a pair of rotors are placed on top of one another, spinning in the same direction. It says early testing has shown that this configuration could prove more efficient, versatile and offer better performance than other approaches.”

The flying taxis will have vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) so that like a helicopter they don’t need a runway to take off.  But, they also need to be quick. The article also adds: “The venture calls for the VTOL aircraft to be fully electric and capable of cruising speeds of 150 to 200 mph. It should also be able to complete 60 trips per charge.”
So, a taxi that flies won’t have to fight traffic (unless the skies are full of them); can go much faster (up to 200 mph) and stop at multiple locations.  I can guess that the expensive for a trip will be high (and that the expense of making these taxis will also be high). It might mean that people drive a short distance to a base and then hop on for a 10 to 20-minute flight to a location close to your work.

I’m kind of skeptic on this – kind of a let’s wait until we see it focus – but I know of the frustration of traffic jams and being stopped for hours in traffic.  Let’s hope it all comes out.

What do you think?  Any chances for success?

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #414:  A Space Force

Blog Post #414:  A Space Force

Taken from:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/us/politics/trump-pence-space-force.html

Let’s see, we have the Army (basically a ground force); the Navy (a sea force); the Air Force (as the name implies an air force); the Coast Guard (guarding our coaches/shores); and the Marines (land and water force).  So why not a “Space Force”.

We do have NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Agency.  But NASA is primarily a research entity. As other countries also ‘conquer’ space and could destroy our communications systems (that is, our communication satellites) and render the United States to be ‘deaf and blind’; the Space Force could patrol space for potential hostilities.

One quote from this article states: “Mr. Mattis said that space “is becoming a contested war-fighting domain, and we have to adapt to that reality.”

And another quote: “Proponents of a Space Force argue that the Air Force does not pay enough attention to outer space. What is more, they say, Russia and China are developing anti-satellite weapons that could pose a threat to American satellites.” and related: “A United States intelligence assessment of threats in February warned that Russia and China will be able to shoot down American satellites within two to three years.”

Other articles suggest that there will be redundancies – like the Air Force already has the Air Force Space Command and NASA.  There are also the private entities operating in space – like Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

I find myself in the middle – wishing we (that is, the United States) didn’t have to do this.  But, until the world can come together and talk and be peaceful, we probably don’t have many alternatives.

If I was drafted and needed to select which military group to serve in – would I (or would you) select the “Space Force”?

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #413:  And … what is Elon Musk upto these days (Critical thinking / Creative Thinking)

Blog Post #413:  And … what is Elon Musk up to these days

Taken from:  https://www.teslarati.com/category/news/

No, this isn’t isn’t the Elon Musk / Tesla blog – even though it seems I write about him almost every day.  Actually, the linked page IS a Elon Musk blog!!)

  1. How about a Mini Tesla car (see: https://electrek.co/2018/08/05/tesla-mini-car-elon-musk/) That article says: “Musk claimed that Tesla is working on a ‘Tesla mini-car’ in which adults will be able to “squeeze in”.  Okay – is that a toy car – like the Model S Radio Flyer – see: https://tesla.radioflyer.com/build.html  – or a real driveable adult car for a single adult.
  2. How about that SpaceX is having great successes lately (see: https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/06/spacex-landed-two-of-its-three-falcon-heavy-first-stage-boosters/ ) that SpaceX salvaged has managed an incredible feat alongside its historic Falcon Heavy – landing two of its boosters at once, nearly simultaneously, intact.
  3. Or that Tesla Powerwalls helped the state of Vermont keep the power on in a recent energy crisis (brought on by record heat and lots of air conditioners running) (see: https://www.tesla.com/powerwall)
  4. How about Elon Musk saying he wants to die on Mars – and have a fleet of spaceships to build a compound there – since water was found on Mars (see: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/11/elon-musk-says-mars-spaceship-will-be-ready-for-short-trips-by-first-half-of-2019.html)
  5. Or that Elon Musk is thinking about buying back all the Tesla shares and taking the company private (see: https://money.cnn.com/2018/08/07/news/companies/elon-musk-tesla-private/index.html)
  6. Or that Tesla stock has performed quite well (despite many naysayers) (see: https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-stock-tsla-model-3-performance-reviews/)
  7. How about Elon Musk’s OpenAI (Musk founded, but has left the board) (see: https://www.teslarati.com/openai-bots-defeat-pro-dota-2-players/)
  8. Or that the Boring Company is currently tunneling under Chicago with plans for more tunnels to move traffic that is almost at a standstill (see: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alanohnsman/2018/04/16/boring-co-raises-112-5-million-to-make-musks-high-speed-tunnel-vision-a-thing/)

 

No, today’s blog isn’t as much about one of these feats (most of which are definitely worthy accomplishments and worth writing about for the next several days); but that companies founded and led (or at least influenced) by Elon Musk are shaking the future.  We’ve talked about ‘disruptive technologies’ in the past – between Musk and technology and Jeff Bezos and Amazon (and all) and a few other players – that a lot is happening and quickly!!! To take the old book title – it is a “Brave New World” written by Aldous Huxley in 1931.  

What are YOU doing to be ready for the future?  Hiding your head in the sand? Or keeping up with technology?  My grandchildren are going to have a whole different world – even myself – will have a whole different world as I live to age 98!!!  

Two related thought patterns / thought techniques are vital to all of us:  critical thinking skills AND creative thinking skills. Learning to adapt has been important throughout the history of mankind – from living in caves; to starting fires; to building cities, boats, airplanes, railroads – and now to living in space?  Who knows – but we (humankind) have to be ready to adapt and embrace change by thinking critically and creatively!!!

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #412:  Should I get a semicolon tattoo?

Blog Post #412:  Should I get a semicolon tattoo?

Taken from:  https://www.powerofpositivity.com/if-you-see-someone-with-a-semicolon-tattoo-this-is-what-it-means/ and https://www.refinery29.com/2018/05/199466/semicolon-tattoo-meaning-13-reasons-why

The concept of a semicolon tattoo popped up in a feed this morning.  Huh, I thought – a semicolon tattoo? I think I’d go with a tattoo that has my wife’s name first – or maybe one with the grandchildren’s names – so why a semicolon tattoo?  [Or, really, why get a tattoo at all!!]

An article stated:

When Amy Bluel tragically lost her father to suicide, she wanted to commemorate him in a special way while also increasing awareness for mental health problems. She founded Project Semicolon, which allowed her to meet both of her goals. According to the website, Project Semicolon aims to “present hope and love to those struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.”

This Amy Bluel also said “ “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life,”

I do a lot of writing – this blog, five books (so far), and more.  There are times that I use a semicolon in my writing to connect related concepts into one sentence.  A period ends a sentence but a semicolon keeps the sentence going.

Now think of our lives.  I was depressed after my serious six-and-one-half-hour surgery and the follow up surgeries.  I had seriously thought of suicide; I had no value; I couldn’t drive; I was pretty much worthless.  I was waiting to cross a very busy street (to the hospital for another checkup). Cars were whizzing past me.  All it would take would be a quick step (or two) to step out in front of one of those cars. But, I didn’t. I could have ended my ‘sentence’ (that is, my life) at that point and left my wife a widow, my children without their dad, and maybe even more significant left my five precious grandchildren without a Papa. One quick step – bamm!!!  

But, no, I didn’t step out in front of a car.  I choose life – the continuation of my ‘sentence’.  Eventually my life will have a period – it will end – but hopefully it will not end because of my own selfish thoughts.  No, I choose to heal; to get healthy; to recover and to regain value. In effect, I choose a ‘semicolon”.

There are many depressed people around us – fighting lots of problems in their lives.  We need to love them; to show them that they do have value and that suicide is not a valid choice.  

What do you think?  Have you lost a loved one or a friend to suicide?  What pains and thoughts were in their brain. How can you help that person through these black thoughts?  Maybe spreading the concept of a semicolon tattoo indicating that life doesn’t need to end and we can keep going!!

Bruce

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