Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Heisman, the NCAA COI, and Hypocrisy.


:  a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially :  the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.

According to the Heisman Trust's mission statement, "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."

Allow me to vent: Bullshit!

Three of the last four Heisman winners were tainted: Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston.  All of them had well-documented mud on their hands and displays of poor character and sportsmanship.  The last Heisman winner -- Winston -- is so tainted in character, the only people who can't figure it out are the people who live in Tallahassee and the Heisman voters.

So while they forced Reggie Bush to give his trophy back, in subsequent years the Heisman Trust has had no quarrel over the character of these three players who were awarded the Heisman.  The word, "integrity", has been drained of its meaning by Heisman voters.

And while the NCAA COI came down hard on USC for what amounted to a single case of a player breaking the rules, it has failed to follow through with widespread corruption at Miami, FSU and UNC, while showing leniency towards PSU over their cover-up of an employed pedophile.

When you see how well Notre Dame and especially Oklahoma have handled investigations over NCAA infractions or character issues, and then look at how the NCAA COI has essentially punted on Miami, PSU, UNC and now FSU, one gets the sense that the system is putrid.

It's absolutely stunning at the rife hypocrisy in college (and seemingly professional) sports today.  Most of our sports heroes are no heroes; they are self-absorbed assholes.

Officially official: Nexus 6 and 9 (edit: and the Nexus Player)

First thing's first: We now know that Android L is Android Lollipop.

Specs don't need to be explained here.  Just watch the videos.  These new devices are rather stunning.  They're not yet in the Google Play Store, but expect them to pop up (and sell out quickly) later today...if you're in the US, that is.  (Update: preorders won't go live until Oct. 17 for the Nexus 9 and Nexus Player, while the Nexus 6 is slated for "late October".)

Google also added a TV-based media device (Android TV), the $99 Nexus Player which, in addition to all the obvious, can also play Android games with a separate gaming controller.

You can catch all the details of the new devices, here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

10 Thoughts for October 14, 2014

  1. Leakage has apparently occurred with Dropbox accounts, though Dropbox's official statement is that it was a third-party who leaked it, not a vulnerability with Dropbox specifically.  In other news, always have two-factor authentication (2FA) turned on, so that no one can access your cloud services.  Also, when you're logged into Dropbox, delete any 3rd-party apps that you no longer use!
  2. It took some time to process the USC - UA game.  The issue here is that if you analyze it based on the outcome, then it was a quality win for the Trojans over a #10 opponent for the second time this season.  But the only difference between a win and a deja-vu last second loss, was a missed field goal with seconds left in the game.  USC had been ahead by two scores late, only to see the Wildcats march down the field twice.  I'm with #21 Su'a Cravens, that the team shouldn't have been in the position it was, at the end of the game.  And once again the culprit seems to be the coaching staff.  Let's see if this is familiar: The defense switched the call but not everyone was on the same page, leading to a big play for the opposing offense.  I have zero confidence that USC can win out, but I do feel a lot better that the USC defense can go up against a spread offense without a blowout loss.
  3. It took nearly as much time to process the Seattle Seahawks loss to Dallas.  I wasn't exactly shocked, because the Seattle defense just hasn't been up to the same level as last year's defense, particularly with the loss of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons -- the run-stop king.  But then, the offensive line looked really bad, as in undisciplined, with 3 false starts, in your own stadium no less.  And unlike the Washington game, they moved away from the read-option plays.
  4. Speaking of the Seattle game, no one around the country cared one bit for Fox Sports' "bonus coverage" of the Cincinnati - Carolina game, except those folks living in Ohio and North Carolina.  To make it worse, the damned game went into overtime and they played all 15 minutes -- a full quarter's worth -- to reach a tie.  Again, no one cared, but by the time they switched to local games, everyone was already into the second quarter.  Gee, thanks Fox Sports for screwing up Sunday football.
  5. My new NAS setup is going well -- zero lag when streaming video files from it, via Chromecast to the TV.  Only problem so far, has been network performance when it comes to moving content from different sources to the NAS.  I've moved all my FLAC audio files to the NAS, which is nice as now I don't need to be online to access my music (via Google Play Music) from my laptop.  Only problem is, I've still only ripped about half my classical music CDs.
  6. I understand many things about stocks, but the one thing I can't figure out, is why Adobe (ADBE) trades so high.  At 127 P/E and whole-year EPS at $0.48, it makes no sense that people are buying into the long-term of its transition to subscriptions-only.  Before the move to subscriptions, Adobe routinely hit the $0.40+ EPS mark in a quarter, but now it's a rare thing to see a $0.30+ mark.  So far the data is quite clear: Substituting the software cycle for continual billing has slashed earnings.
  7. Have you checked out Google Fonts lately?  It's an explosion of free (open) fonts.  If you use Google Docs, incorporating them is as simple as selecting the "more fonts" pull-down tab.  Or you can just select the fonts you like in Google Fonts, then download them to use.
  8. Speaking of Google Docs, apparently they now correct some French grammar.  Type in the wrong gender article and it highlights the error.  Le pilule bleue results in grammar checking asking if you meant La pilule bleue.  Cool.
  9. Droid Life has posted leaked videos of ads for Android.  This one shows what is expected to be the Nexus 9, while this one shows off the Nexus 6.  This one just is an amusing ad.  Of course there is a message in all of the new ads: Android comes in many flavors even though it's one ecosystem.  All those Androids come from the Androidify app, so remake yourself into an Android.
  10. IF you are lucky, tonight is a good night to check out the Northern Lights.  It's not covered by the media because it wasn't the result of a massive X-class flare.  But you see, tonight's show is already stronger than the last X-class flare.  If I could speculate, it's probably due to a direct hit from the M-class flare yesterday.  Current -- as of this writing -- Kp = 5.  We're talking big.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Photo of the day, October 13, 2014

These were taken last week Wednesday morning as the sun was rising.  My Nexus 5 camera does not do well in low-lighting situations, but then again, what tiny sensor on a smartphone does?  Those are, of course, clouds in the sky, with lots of depth that they created deep textures that were interesting.


See if you can remember that combination of characters -- I'll get back to that in a moment.

If you explore the various combinations of "1", "i" and "L" in online searches.  A lot of esoteric and interesting results come up.  It turns out that automated computer translations of digitally-scanned texts will garble text.  That's a bit interesting, though seemingly irrelevant to anything, right?

So why did I start a search on a mix of these characters?  Imagine if you wanted to try to anonymize yourself, such that, when license plate scanners and anyone else wanting to track you, suddenly were forced to manually review scans rather than automate it.

Think about it for a bit.

If you had to manually search through 3^7 combinations of characters it would take you some time, but because of the similarities of the characters, you would have to slow down and use care.

Now, imagine if that was instead, "I10OL01".  The pattern becomes even more complicated because now you're introducing another two confusing characters with "O" and "0".  We're talking 5^7 combinations -- 78,125 combinations.

Big Brother would have a heck of a time if people started selecting license plates using these combinations.  And what if a group of people started buying the same make, model and color vehicle?  5,000 black Crown Victorias with these odd combinations could make some people neurotically paranoid.

Will I start using this, myself?  No.  It's just something that crossed my mind these past few days.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

There's a reason why Google (voice) Search is the most popular.

One (voice) search engine understands what you want, much better than the others.

I know that iPhone users will insist that this is wrong, but how often do you see iPhone users using Siri to complete tasks?  And I know that Cortana users will insist that the new Microsoft ad showed that Cortana was better at understanding and executing tasks, but none of these people have used Google Now.

I use Google Now, and it's just scary at how good it is and delivering what you want.  It's not perfect by a long shot (12% according to that chart) but it's really good!

Some things you're being told about Ebola are wrong.

About that 21-day quarantine

I had been under the assumption that the 21-day isolation period was sufficient to contain the Ebola virus, but this morning KGW News showed a short video of a microbiologist in Seattle hinting about the insufficiency of the 21-day period.  Naturally, I had to do the research to find out what he was talking about.

Of course he was right.  In 2011, a group of researchers analyzed data from a 1995 Ebola (Zaire subtype) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and discovered that 4.1% of people had incubation periods longer than 21 days.

Without going into the methods of their determination, let's just say that they're relying on statistical analysis to reach their conclusion.  This does not mean that 4.1% of people exposed to Ebola will become sick after 21 days; it means that after 21 days, your risk of getting sick is reduced to roughly 4.1%.  While that is small, according to the researchers, the risk could be further reduced to a 1% chance by extending the quarantine to 25 days.

I think this additional risk reduction is important.  In a smaller outbreak with good controls in place, a 4.1% chance of getting sick is rather inconsequential.  In a widespread and uncontrolled outbreak that is already larger than all past outbreaks (in the last 28 years since it was discovered), there are many people who will make it past the 21-day quarantine but get sick -- statistically speaking.  Those who do get sick may easily and falsely conclude that they are infected by Influenza, Rhinovirus, or even Malaria, as opposed to Ebola.

On the impossibility of aerosol transmission

From the start, I've known that contrary to what has been said about how Ebola is spread, if you are close enough to a visibly sick person, their coughing may result in transmission.  While it is true that it is not as infectious as Influenza or the common Rhinovirus, it is nonetheless possible in close quarters.  The virus, being rather large (970-14000 nm), does not travel in the air as easily as Influenza (80-120 nm).  Still, it has been shown that it can be transmitted in primate species via aerosol, which has some important implications if you're treating a sick person.

In a study on a related hemorrhagic virus (they're of the same class), Marburg, the authors noted that, "a relatively close contact is needed for virus transmission from man to man, although the possibility of aerosol transmission of the infection may be appreciably increased in case of the hemorrhagic syndrome with a high level of viremia."  Viremia, meaning someone who has the virus in their blood.

On the survivability of Ebola outside of a host

It has been implied that you require direct physical contact to become infected -- this is not exactly true.  The easiest path to infection is direct contact, but this study showed that the Ebola virus can survive for nearly two months in moderately cold temperatures (4°C), on dried tissue cultures on glass slides, and two weeks at room temperature.  I had always suspected this to be true (that the virus could survive outside of the host as many other viruses do), but only now did I do the research to confirm it.

In this separate study with a small sampling, positively infected fluids included tears, saliva, breast milk, stool, semen and of course blood.  If you cough into your hand, your hand has the virus on it.  If you then touch a door handle, you've deposited the virus onto it.  Inside of a hospital's isolation ward where there is a strict protocol of repeated cleaning and disposal of equipment, this is not an issue.  Outside of this zone, things are different.

Nevertheless, you won't catch it

Even though some of the information being circulated are half-truths or technically wrong, you still won't catch Ebola.  We're six months into this outbreak in West Africa and we're still talking less than 10,000 cases.  By comparison, annually some 60M Americans will catch the flu and somewhere between 3,000 and 49,000 will die from flu-related complications.  Ebola might be scarier because of its high mortality rate, but its transmission rate is so low as to be relatively unimportant.

On the other hand, you can reduce even this minimal risk by simply avoiding touching things, and immediately sanitizing your hands after touching foreign objects that are high risk infection zones -- in other words, best practices to avoid transmission of any virus.

And I have a suggestion: When you're sick, STAY HOME!  I don't care if you have Ebola, Rhinovirus or Influenza, you shouldn't be going to school or work and spreading your virus, ever!  Do you have to go to the grocery store?  Don't cough into your hands, don't wipe your nose or face with your hands, and don't go touching everything at the store.

My two cents.