Blog Post #369:  Digital Domestic Abuse

Blog Post #369:  Digital Domestic Abuse (or there is a ghost in my house!!)

Taken from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/23/technology/smart-home-devices-domestic-abuse.html

This article from the New York Times was highlighted on ABC’s Good Morning America show yesterday.  I thought it was significant enough for this blog.

The article states:

“SAN FRANCISCO — The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.”

“One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse helpline that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.”

Yes, I think that might be a little spooky – but consider the reasons:

The couple has split for some reason – and now the out-of-the-house / out-of-the-apartment person wants to electronic abuse their previous partner / spouse.

The article continues:

“ more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool. Abusers — using apps on their smartphones, which are connected to the internet-enabled devices — would remotely control everyday objects in the home, sometimes to watch and listen, other times to scare or show power. Even after a partner had left the home, the devices often stayed and continued to be used to intimidate and confuse.”

The article continues:

“Graciela Rodriguez, who runs a 30-bed emergency shelter at the Center for Domestic Peace in San Rafael, Calif., said some people had recently come in with tales of “the crazy-making things” like thermostats suddenly kicking up to 100 degrees or smart speakers turning on blasting music.

“They feel like they’re losing control of their home,” she said. “After they spend a few days here, they realize they were being abused.”

“Smart home technology can be easily harnessed for misuse for several reasons. Tools like connected in-home security cameras are relatively inexpensive — some retail for $40 — and are straightforward to install. Usually, one person in a relationship takes charge of putting in the technology, knows how it works and has all the passwords. This gives that person the power to turn the technology against the other person.”

“Emergency responders said many victims of smart home-enabled abuse were women.”

While it doesn’t have to be just domestic abuse, that might be the easiest to do.  Assuming the or partner who left the relation (maybe a male who installed the equipment) knows all the codes and has them on his phone.  Maybe he is sitting with buddies over beers and says “Look at what I can do to my ex” – and proceeds to turn on or off lights; resets to heat to 100 degrees (or turns off the air conditioning in Phoenix in the summer).  

Advice to those left, reset them, change the password, unplug them, take control over the equipment that was once so easy to control your life that has become toxic.

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #368: I am no longer (and haven’t been for years) A Cool Dad!!

Blog Post #368:  I am no longer (and haven’t been for years) A Cool Dad

Taken from: https://www.cnet.com/news/fortnite-makes-me-feel-old-and-uncool/

I feel for this dad in this article.  He aimed at being the “cool dad” of the neighborhood.  He goes on the trampoline, he knows how to surf, he plays street football with the neighborhood kids – he is COOL!!!

Or at least he thought so – but then a new game in a new genre – came out – Fortnite.  

He writes: “Kids these days: They’re obsessed with Fortnite. Fortnite is the battle royale game. A hundred players parachute onto an island and battle to the video game death. Fortnite is fun, Fortnite is current, Fortnite makes roughly $300 million a month.

Fortnite makes me feel like I’m 120 years old.”

Sorry Dad!!!  

As a dad, now a grandpa to five, I haven’t been cool since college.  I had bell-bottom jeans and long hair. I knew the music that was playing.  I was cool!!!

But, then came marriage and a job – and not the same time to work on being cool as before.  My job was a high school teacher. Hey I could be a cool teacher – but that just didn’t work for me.  Then came – Steve and Becky – two precious kids. Maybe I could be cool to them. But, (as I have written before – we ran out of money before we ran out of month) – I had to earn a living – and being cool went on the back burner.  And eventually we turned off that back burner and put everything away. My career became important. I became a professor – I was ‘kind of’ a cool professor – had great rapport with my students – but I just wasn’t cool in other ways.  

Steve (especially) grew up without Nintendo or Xbox or Playstation.  (Boy was I uncool). He went to his friends to play computer games. Sure – we had a TRS-80 and he could learn programming with his dad.  (Becky did more than he did).

So, I can commiserate with this dad  – cool dad status is great to get, but almost impossible to keep.

He writes: “Long story short: There was a tremendous blind spot in my peripheral vision and Fortnite somehow snuck past it.  I couldn’t have predicted this. The “thing” currently rendering me confused, out of touch, yelling at clouds like Abe Simpson, was my speciality. It was a video game. I’ll never recover from this. Thank you, Fortnite.”

“My Cool Dad dream is dead.”

Sorry Dad – I know what you mean!

Bruce

 

 

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Blog Post #367:  Google knows when you are going to DIE!!!  (Really!!!)

Blog Post #367:  Google knows when you are going to DIE!!!  (Really!!!)

Taken from: https://www.information-management.com/articles/google-is-training-machines-to-predict-when-a-patient-will-die

Okay – maybe Google can predict for a dying person (based on over 175,000 data points) the probability that a patient will die with some accuracy.

The article states:

“A woman with late-stage breast cancer came to a city hospital, fluids already flooding her lungs. She saw two doctors and got a radiology scan. The hospital’s computers read her vital signs and estimated a 9.3 percent chance she would die during her stay.”

“Then came Google’s turn.  An new type of algorithm created by the company read up on the woman — 175,639 data points — and rendered ist assessment of her death risk:  19.9 percent. She passed away in a matter of days.”

The concept is based on using data mining.  There exist within computer and health care systems vast information – comparative data from similar cases, similar people, analysis of a lot of different factors, and (with the new algorithm) the software analysis to refine and assess the risks closer.

The article goes on to say:

What impressed medical experts most was Google’s ability to sift through data previously out of reach: notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts. The neural net gobbled up all this unruly information then spat out predictions. And it did it far faster and more accurately than existing techniques. Google’s system even showed which records led it to conclusions.”

“Hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers have been been trying for years to better use stockpiles of electronic health records and other patient data.  More information shared and highlighted at the right time could save lives — and at the very least help medical workers spend less time on paperwork and more time on patient care.”

The article did suggest that getting the data can be problematic.  With the desire to protect data, more companies and health care systems want to protect patient information.  For this study Google arranged to use over 46 billion (yes, with a “B”) data items from the University of California-San Francisco and the University of Chicago. Could it be with the ‘right’ data all lives could be extended?  Could it be that a hospital in (say) South Dakota has great success with particular data, medications and treatment that could help in the analysis? In other words (my words) – could a “Fountain of Youth” be found to find that right combination for each patient?

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #366:  Keeping track of kids (even illegal alien children) – cheaply

Blog Post #366:  Keeping track of kids (even illegal alien children) – cheaply

Taken from: https://www.cnet.com/news/in-border-controversy-us-ignores-a-tech-alternative-to-detention-centers/

“Look Ma!!!  I’ve got a new bracelet!!!”  Except it might be an ankle bracelet – that can be tracked.  

Wikipedia describes ankle bracelets as follows:

An ankle monitor (also known as a tether, or ankle bracelet) is a homing device that defendants under house arrest or parole are required to wear. At all times, the ankle monitor sends a radio frequency signal containing location and other information to a receiver. If an offender moves outside of an allowed range, the police will be notified. Ankle monitors are designed to be tamper-resistant and can alert authorities to removal attempts, such as cutting the band causing a circuit break.”

So, even kids in high crime areas walking home from school could be tracked if they are abducted.

The linked article states: “Low-cost and effective, ankle bracelets and smartphone tracking apps mean families could stay together while keeping kids out of detention centers.”

The program which began in 2004 is described:

“The US government may have a more humane and cost-effective tech alternative to detaining families at the border. But it isn’t being offered to the thousands of immigrant families that have been forcibly split over the past two months.

“The majority of undocumented immigrants detained by border patrol agents are enrolled in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “Alternative to Detention” program, which uses technology to keep track of people instead of physically detaining them.

“Since the pilot program kicked off in 2004, these techniques allowed for tracking through ankle bracelets, phone check-ins with voice recognition software and a mobile app. It meant that families could stay together rather than in a detention center.

BUT – the government isn’t using the ankle bracelets (et al) for the new illegal immigrant families (especially children).  
“The tech alternatives program allows ICE to monitor immigrants without locking them up. It has a low rate of failure. An ICE spokesman said the program had a 99.8 percent compliance rate, with the majority of immigration hearings happening without a hitch.”

So, as the illegal immigrants arrive in the US and border patrol find them, they could put an ankle bracelet on them.  The bracelet can’t come off (well – it can with specialized tool – but that will trigger an alarm so that they will be apprehended shortly thereafter).  

So, the Perez family sneaks over the border and is caught.  The father, mother and two children (including the baby Maria – aged 9 months) get an ankle bracelet and told to stay around.  The family finds some other families from ‘back home’ and stays with them until their hearing. If they try to go to another location, they might request a change (such as a closer family member is already there) – and if not, the alarm on their ankles will be immediately reported and they can be rounded up.  The baby and children are still with the rest of the family. Yes, maybe their live is not quite settled yet – but they are free – and the government doesn’t have to house them in some kind of detention center. When their hearing is over they might be allowed to stay (such as persecution back home) or deported back to their original country.

Makes sense to me.  The government already has been doing this – now might be the time to expand the program to the new-comers.

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #365: Get up to speed – QUICKLY!!~!

Blog Post #365:  Get up to speed – QUICKLY!!

Taken from: http://www.newsweek.com/elon-musk-building-car-rocket-boosters-969122

Well, well – a car with rocket boosters?

Seemingly that is what Elon Musk of Tesla Cars and Space X fame (and the Boring Company and more).

The article states
“Tesla founder Elon Musk has announced plans to install rocket thrusters in the backseat of the company’s newest car.


“The Tesla Roadster—which is being brought back to life in the coming years—will reportedly sacrifice two seats in the back of the car for SpaceX Thrusters. The private space exploration company was also founded by Musk.

“The “SpaceX package” of the new Roadster was teased by Musk in a tweet on Saturday. “SpaceX option package for new Tesla Roadster will include ∼ 10 small rocket thrusters arranged seamlessly around car,” Musk tweeted. “These rocket engines dramatically improve acceleration, top speed, braking & cornering. Maybe they will even allow a Tesla to fly…”

The article continues:

“Any concerns of excess power being demanded from the COPV have been quashed by preliminary Roadster specifications. The car will include a 200 kWh battery capable of travelling 620 miles on a single charge. It can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 1.9 seconds.

The SpaceX package will sacrifice the back seats for the thrusters. Musk has regularly referred to the spots as “kids seats.”

“Trade is just that Roadster becomes a 2 seater instead of a 2+2. COPV in place of the kid seats, which is prob wise for many reasons,” Musk tweeted.

“The original Tesla Roadster was released in 2008. It was the first electric car with a top speed exceeding 200 kilometres per hour (124 mph). Musk announced the new version of the Roadster at an event in November last year.

(Bruce adds:) So, kids be the first ones on your block with this Roadster.  Soon all your friends will want one too!!!

 

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Blog post #364: First day of Summer

Blog Post #364:  First day of summer

Taken from: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/6/19/17479094/summer-solstice-2018-june-21

Today is the first official full day of summer.  So, does that mean anything to us?

We live in a world where sunlight is still vastly important, but we have artificial light readily available.  While our ancestors in the years before electricity had candles, we have lights – with abundancy. Many of us work in offices (or classrooms) with no windows.  I couldn’t tell if it was raining or snowing; if the sun was still up or not. “We” have harnessed power to control our lives. Where in past days, farmers got up with the sun – and today even farms are so electrified that daylight can be compensated with lights.

Mid-summer’s day / summer solstice was an important day in past times.  Shakespeare wrote the comedy “Midsummer’s night’s dream” that this day had some mystic powers; some pagan groups worshipped their gods with this as a special day; Stonehenge seemingly is oriented so that the morning light on Midsummer’s day shone in a particular direction.

For us in the 22nd Century, the day is just another.  We have a few minutes more of sunlight – to play golf or softball; we can mow our lawns in the twilight just a little later.  

Depending on your location, out of the 24 hours of a day – today you might have 14 hours of sunlight (and 10 hours of darkness); or – in Alaska (where my sister and brother-in-law are today) – they will be close to 24 hours of sunlight today.  (But that price will be paid back on December 21st – or so – with close to no hours of sunlight!!)

We have tried to make the sun adjusted to our lives.  We have daylight savings time (is it all going into a sun-bank so we can withdraw an extra hour in the fall for harvest or some other time?)  Some have suggested even double daylight savings light. My friends back in Connecticut have the sun rising today about 5:18 a.m. and setting at 8:28 – Eastern Daylight Time.  (But that might be better than without daylight savings time – when the sun would rise at 4:18 a.m. and set at 7:28!! They would like to move that an extra hour – to 6:18 – and setting at 9:28.  (Who is up at 5:18 to enjoy the sunlight anyway – why not have that second extra hour in the event for activities?

But, whatever the thoughts are, we do still rotate around the sun, the earth’s axis is tilted and we do enjoy seasons – some with more sunshine and some with less sunshine.

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #363:  How to get hired (or … not)

Blog Post #363:  How to get hired (or … not)

Taken from:  https://www.ozy.com/acumen/do-companies-need-to-shake-up-the-way-they-find-tech-talent/80019?utm_source=dd&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=06182018&variable=8e233d577055ce202c56c4a28f1e4dc7

Today’s article suggests that technology hiring is stuck in the twentieth century.  In these days of online everything, while does hiring (and especially hiring for technology jobs) still rely on the old methods of paper resume, application forms, then face-to-face interviews?

The article states:

Everything about business today is changing, from how companies are run to the way customers interact with brands they love. So it seems incredible that the most important part of building a successful company — recruiting talent — has barely changed at all. Writing résumés, filling out application forms, face-to-face interviews: That’s how it’s been done for decades. If ever there was something that needed disruption, it’s the way people apply for and get jobs.

Even a statement from the Harvard Business Review that “as much as 80 percent of employee turnover comes from bad hiring decisions”.  

I know of former students that interview well.  They come off as friendly, knowledgeable, outgoing.  I also know of very talented former students who are very skilled and yet introverted and interview poorly.

The article further states:

“By relying exclusively on traditional recruiting practices, businesses are not being exposed to the broadest variety of candidates. This is perhaps especially true in technology, a sector primarily composed of college-educated males. In fact, less than 20 percent of people studying computer science today are female and even fewer are Black or Hispanic”.

So, many technology companies are still “good-old-boy” shops.  No minorities, no attempt to break the bonds and try some new ideas.

So, how would you change the hiring process?  Actively seek minorities? Seek women?

It might be a tough challenge!

Bruce

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Blog Post #362:  RIP INTERNET?

Blog Post #362:  RIP INTERNET?

Taken from:  https://www.cnet.com/news/why-net-neutrality-supporters-are-cringing-at-the-at-t-time-warner-merger/

It was a bad week for consumers last week according to this article:

  1. Net neutrality ended
  2. AT&T and Times Warner allowed to Merge
  3. Comcast raised Disney’s bid on 21st Century-Fox film and studios (to 65 billion)

Let’s see.

Net neutrality was thought to keep internet access equal (or neutral).  So a user (think me or you) can access this blog or Facebook or the weather with the same ability as (say) a major corporation.  Seemingly the thought is that now the big players paying more can have their access to the Internet and the little players (think us again) get what is left.  (Hmmm … I’m thinking of the days when I had to use dial up access to get to the internet – I hope it doesn’t go back to that!!!)

The article states: “The FCC voted on Dec. 14 to repeal the net neutrality regulations, established in 2015, which prohibited broadband providers from blocking or slowing traffic and banned them from offering so-called fast lanes to companies willing to pay extra to reach consumers more quickly than competitors”.  

So, let’s say I have Comcast for my Internet provider – but Comcast owns NBC Universal.  I might find that as I watch TV (on my Comcast Internet), I get their content instantly – but (say) ABC content is slow – or might go down.  That might mean that Comcast gets to charge more for ads on NBC since people might be watching it more since it comes in so well!!

As for AT&T and Times Warner, the article says: “AT&T already owns one of the largest broadband networks in the US and is the second largest wireless provider in the nation by subscribers. Now with the Time Warner deal, it also gets popular media properties such as DC Entertainment and HBO.”

“Without net neutrality protections in place, AT&T will be free to block, slow down, or charge fees to competitors like Netflix and Hulu to favor their own DirecTV Now streaming service and HBO content.”

So I like Netflix, but with AT&T delivering Internet and content to my house, it might be slow or off-line – again favoring the programs of the provider.

The third aspect was that bidding wars might come along to snatch up smaller companies.

As the old adage says “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”.

Stay tuned – this isn’t done yet!!!

Bruce

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Blog Post #361:  It sure is HOT in Texas (Global Warming)

Blog Post #361:  It sure is HOT in Texas (Global Warming)

Taken from:  https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/what-does-climate-change-mean-texas

Okay, it is HOT in Texas.  Not a new concept. But maybe it is HOTTER in Texas!!!

This article suggests global warming is going to continue in Texas with these problems:

  • Drought – major dry periods
  • Heat Waves – more days over 100 degrees
  • Flooding and Downpours – but … when it rains it POURS
  • Sea level rise – affecting the Texas coast (maybe not as much as the eastern seaboard, but enough)

The article states:

“Unfortunately, it applies to climate change in Texas as well. With a super-sized state, the impacts of climate change are bigger and badder than in the other 49. In fact, Texas experienced 75 weather and climate disasters between 1980 and 2015, each of which produced at least a billion dollars in losses (across the states in which they impacted), more than any other state.

Here’s what global warming means for the Lone Star State. In other words, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Now global warming has been discussed by smarter minds than mine.  There are facts and figures and projections all over the board. Some suggest that global warming is just a periodic trend – give us a few more years and we’ll be in a global cooling period (maybe some significant number of years).  Or … if we don’t do something soon, the ice caps at the north and south pole will melt. With the melting ice caps, New York, Boston, Miami and other cities right on the coast will disappear under seawater. Food crops will dry up (or will have to be grown in Norway and Alaska).  Cacao and vanilla may have trouble growing in their current locations.

Recently I’ve written about using renewable energy resources.  Some countries are already at 100% renewable energy and others are close – and the United States is quite a distance behind.  Even Australia which has abundance solar energy is not harnessing that energy.


So … maybe there is a chance we can change our lives and our usage of energy to help stem global warming – maybe we need to think, talk and act on it sooner rather than later!

 

Bruce

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Blog Post #360:  Pass me the (Norwegian) Bananas!!

Blog Post #360:  Pass me the (Norwegian) Bananas!!

Taken from:  https://www.thelocal.no/20161003/why-norways-farmers-will-benefit-from-climate-change

Well, maybe not bananas, but Norwegian farmers are having longer and longer growing seasons.  

This article states:

Tore Furevik of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research said that the good crop yields are confirming what climate models have predicted. ”

“We have already observed a longer growing season in Norway; spring comes earlier and the summer and autumn last longer. We see this in the temperature measurements,” Furevik said.”

While the higher temperatures brought on by climate change generally have a negative impact on food production for the rest of the world, Norway is experiencing the opposite. ”

“Norway is among the countries where one sees the greatest positive effect of climate change with a longer growing season,” Furevik said.”

“Although increased precipitation also can give the farmers challenges, we can nevertheless see that the longer growing season gives more positive than negative effects on agriculture. But the harvest will obviously vary from year to year, and some years can experience extreme rainfall that will lead to particularly vulnerable periods,” he said.:”

 

So, global warmth seemingly will push farther north with longer growing seasons.  It also will affect other crops – may be negatively. Seemingly about 70% of all the cacao (i.e. chocolate beans) are grown in western Africa (Ghana  and Ivory Coast) and global warming is predicted less growing areas for chocolate!! (Hmm … since chocolate might be in shorter supply in the future, I better go buy it up and save it now!!!)

(And … vanilla too!!!)

What do you think?

Bruce

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