This weekend’s edition of Meet the Press took a totally new tack. Just one topic: Climate change. And the show started with an introduction: “We’re not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter. And human activity is a major cause, period. We’re not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not. And we’re not going to confuse weather with climate.” Followed by a full hour of hard-hitting conversation. We’re going to start seeing a lot more of this. Thanks MTP for putting a stake in the ground.
Not sure what to make of Elvis Costello’s “Look Now” tour (last night at the Masonic). His music has occupied a pretty big place in my life, mostly in his early years but on and off in decades since — Elvis is a stalwart. Of course every artist should be able to re-interpret their own music however they like, but there were a lot of moments last night when I felt like he was losing the plot in his own tracks. Butchering his own work, to be blunt. And he is faltering – missing a lot of vocal notes, playing some seriously bad guitar, and completely embarrassed himself at the piano for a while, sitting down without any apparent intent and noodling out scratch – you could feel the audience feeling embarrassed for him, and it was awkward. The Imposters felt like studio musicians, and all the real energy was coming from his backup singers. There were moments of greatness, and his voice is still both tender and punchy (when it’s not cracking). He says his recent prostate cancer surgery was blown out of proportion and that he’s fine. I’m so glad for that, but also thinking it might be time to retire gracefully. Hate to think that, but … hmm. Listening to his new album now, after the fact, and it’s heaps better than the performance was. Maybe it was just an off night? I’ve loved other performances of his over the years.
Like most devs, I often have a need to generate tons of fake data to fill out models – addresses, usernames, “news” content, locations, IP addresses, you name it. Data-mocking libraries are invaluable for creating data factories for use in unit tests, and for populating a site under development with realistic content. For Python, I use the Faker lib in conjunction with FactoryBoy.
Recently I was working on a site that required generating a lot of maps, and realized that randomly chosen geographical coordinates were most often over ocean (since earth is mostly water). Realizing that the right way to solve this was to include a hash of locations known to exist on land and to then pull randomly from those, I started a pull request, which evolved over the past few weeks into a whole new
geo module for the lib.
I started with the open source data sets at GeoNames, converted one of their databases into a Python tuple, then extracted every fifth entry to keep the dataset down to a manageable size. Pretty certain I’ve got every country on earth represented, but let me know if you find any missing.
I ended up bringing geographic features from other Faker modules into the new geo module, and added the ability to specify the country you want random land coords for. As of this morning pull request merged!
I’m way too late paying my respects to Hardy Fox, one of the anonymous eyeballs of The Residents, a band I stumbled upon as an adolescent browsing the dusty bins at SLO’s original Cheap Thrills in the Creamery. Duck Stab came first, but it was 1980’s “Commercial Album” that really got me – 60 tracks of exactly one minute each (ask me to recite a lyric). The intersection of surrealism and rock never let go – I still return to it from time to time. In 1989 I finally had the opportunity to see them live, in a performance that turned out to happen in a 400-yr-old German bank, floors and walls of white marble – it was the 3rd installment of the Mole Trilogy, and I was transported. Truthfully, I did not know the name Hardy Fox until he died, that’s how anonymous they were. But thank you Hardy, for a lifetime of strange music.
Hardy Fox, of the Avant-Garde Band the Residents (Maybe), Dies at 73
Hardy Fox, of the Avant-Garde Band the Residents (Maybe), Dies at 73
He never admitted that he performed with the group, whose members remained anonymous behind masks as they playfully subverted rock conventions for decades.
22 states have a vote by mail option. Three states: Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, are now set up to vote ONLY by mail. Every potential voter gets a ballot mailed to them – no questions asked, no hassle. These states save tens or hundreds of millions of dollars running elections, put to rest all of the questions and vulnerabilities of voting machines, and maintain a tangible paper trail (even texting you confirmation when your vote is received). We need to put an end to polling places being used as tools of voter suppression, and this solution seems like a no-brainer to me. Bring it on, in all 50.
Love this photo: Carrol Spinney performing Oscar the Grouch while still partially dressed as Big Bird.
U.S. unemployment rate is at an all-time low! I mean, just look at the data! Oh, wait. Blue line = Obama inauguration, red line = Trump inauguration.
May as well look at the Down Jones while we’re at it (the stock market):
Notice a trend?
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Visualize eight million of something, anything. Now visualize a metric ton. Now visualize eight million metric tons. That’s how much plastic enters our oceans every year. Mind boggling.
After posting last week about how just nine rivers in the world account for most of the plastics in the world’s oceans, I heard from a group called Sustainable Asia about a podcast series they’ve produced about ocean plastics, the challenges of plastics recycling, the conundrum of incineration (waste-to-energy), and the programs China is undertaking to address its role in the crisis. I listened to it over the course of a week and it was so good I’m starting over. Super recommend (though it takes a bit to really ramp up).
When people say “fossil fuels” they think of fossils, which makes them think of dinosaurs, which makes them think fossil fuels are made of dinosaurs. But that is far from truth. Actual dinosaurs make up a teeny, tiny percentage of fossil fuels, which really represent the carbon leftovers of ancient moss and other plant matter. Think of how much biomass you get when you rake leaves a few times a year. Multiply by the earth’s surface, and that by millions of years. If a few lizards found their way into the pile, fine. “May contain dinosaurs.”
There are no truly socialist countries in the world, if you’re going by strict definitions. Neither are there any truly capitalist countries in the world. All countries have some regulations to protect the less fortunate, and all countries have some regulations to prevent the effects of runaway capitalism. There is a spectrum of regulation and a spectrum of social safety nets. “Socialist” usually just means “More socialistic than my country” and vice versa for “capitalist.” The only question is where you want your country to exist on these spectrums. Great answer at Quora.