Ad-click business models are a civilizational threat. Tax the click.

Olds like me wonder “what happened?”

The current theory goes like this

1. In the 90s the Internet, especially Google, became ad-click funded. (The click is important. Not funded by dollars sold, funded by click.)

2. Slowly Google and others discovered that emotionally extreme material generated more clicks. Again, clicks, not necessarily sales. (We don’t know if this is because the material selects for ad-clickers or encourages ad-clicks. I’ve probably clicked 4 ads in my life.)

3. Ads on kitten videos and white-nationalism and “viral content” got more clicks.

4. The algorithms encoded this knowledge and began tailoring content based on interest “hints”.

Lately researchers have been quantifying this. They found emotionally engaging content drives more clicks, and it is easier to invent that content than it is to find it. So the mass web became a tool for disseminating false content.

The effect is so powerful non-researchers see it in simple YouTube tests, aided in this case by a disaffected Google engineer:

Basically the dark side of humanity is amplified by Pay-per-click advertising business models.

The good news is there are obvious fixes. The same fixes used for other addictive social harms like tobacco. Regulation and taxes. For example, tax click-based ad revenue heavily.

To know the enemy is to understand the fix.

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Did CSS kill tables on the web?

Once upon a time there were fabulous tools for creating HTML tables.

Twenty years later the dominant web authoring tool, WordPress, has no native table support.

I have never gotten a good explanation for the death of tables.

So I’ll venture a guess.

I think it was CSS. I wonder if it’s just too hard to put HTML’s table model together with CSS.

If this is true then my CSS dislike will double …

Update 2/19/2018: @clarkgoble creates his tables in Numbers then posts into MarsEdit (choose paste and preserve formatting!). I tried it and it works! I also installed the popular tables plugin for WordPress but it’s a poor substitute for native support. I wish MarsEdit did tables, but they didn’t make the recent big update.

Posted in t

Old iPhone weirdness: Favorites include Message and FaceTime references

This is an old weirdness. shows a “Favorites” list. The list includes phone number references of course, but it can also hold FaceTime audio (UI for adding FaceTime audio is obscure), FaceTime video, and Message references. Favorites only show in, not in or

Favorites should logically be its own app or a part of, not a part of

(There’s probably a name for people who find this noteworthy.)

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My periodic test of Google Translate

Inspired by The Shallowness of Google Translate – The Atlantic I repeated an old test using Hostadter’s concluding paragraph. I did a round-trip translation from English to Chinese and back.


When, one day, a translation engine crafts an artistic novel in verse in English, using precise rhyming iambic tetrameter rich in wit, pathos, and sonic verve, then I’ll know it’s time for me to tip my hat and bow out.


One day, a translation engine used English poetry to create an artistic novel, with exquisite rhythms, rich wit, sadness, and sound, so I knew it was time to give me a little hat.

This is a real improvement over the last time I tried this. The “little hat” is goofy, but the result evokes a similar meaning.

It is a better result than I expected.

If I were writing for a Chinese audience, I could try this round-trip technique and tweak the English until it worked. Then have a native read the Chinese.

Posted in t

Why do healthy young people sometimes die of influenza?

Our best guess is “bad luck”. Maybe they had another infection that interacted with influenza. Maybe their immune system was transiently disordered. Maybe they had an obscure genetic trait that set things down a bad path.

I’ve seen some long tortured explanations, but in this epidemic it seems bad luck. Sometimes lightning hits us.

Posted in t

How much did the cost of software maintenance increase between 2000 and 2017?

I’m guessing severalfold cost increase due to security issues. Much higher patch frequency driven by security findings and OS changes.

IT budgets, especially in government, have not kept pace. Internally developed software is no longer cost effective.

Lots of implications we don’t understand yet. Some workflows will need to be simplified or change to fit generic tools … or even revert to pre-software modes.

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Returning from a Nordic ski resort in genteel decline …

This resort was in Northern Minnesota, along the Gunflint Trail. Could be anywhere though; every one we’ve visited in the past 15 years has had better days.

Lovely times when there is snow, but always with some melancholy. The world has moved on. There’s not enough consistent snow cover to sustain Nordic skiing in North America.

It was a beautiful sport – especially on narrower classic trails through woods. Our snowless winters feel longer for its passing.

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Off the grid: More iOS bugs

Off the grid I discover new iOS bugs. Choosing an alarm I’m given a list of tunes, but turns out many are not on device. Had to choose from playlist.

Apple assumes unlimited high speed data in its designs now.

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Refurb goods and shortened warranties

When my son’s XBOX ONE died age 18m I was happy to have my AMEX extended warranty at hand.

Except, they correctly pointed out, it was a refurb and had a limited 90 day warranty.

Oddly enough I’d never run into this before; I assumed a normal warranty. Why buy something the seller predicts will fail prematurely? That would require a hell of a discount.

If I ever buy refurb again the product will have to have a full warranty period.

Penance paid, lesson learned, shared, etc.

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Unsurprising news from physician payment experiments.

This week we learned:

  • If you pay physicians based on how patients do they avoid caring for high risk patients. Who then do worse.
  • Conversely physicians who care for wealthy healthy patients get more rewards, so health card dollars are flowing to wealthy patient care.

This surprised nobody with a brain.

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Pinboard increasingly unreliable.

I pin a lot as part of my microblog posting. More and more authentication challenges. Maybe result of some bot attack/password reset?

I think I’m going to have to switch my flow around. Make it WordPress centric.

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How many calories does menstruation use?

I couldn’t find a scholarly article on this. Which is weird. Maybe research is old.

Women’s magazines estimate around 200-300 calories, they typically source a physician known to the journalist.

At the high end that is 3,600 calories a year, roughly a 1lb yearly weight gain if not menstruating and nothing else changes.

Posted in t

Neural networks 2018

The speed of neural network development feels faster than anything in my lifetime. Maybe early web was similar.

This is bigger potential impact though.

2018 is going to be too interesting.

Posted in t

Consequences of bundling with macOS.

The only sensible way to use macOS is to wait 8 months for bugs to be fixed and OS ecosystem to be updated.

That means waiting 8 months for bug fixes.

On the other hand, one gets a mature update yearly with 3 months of tweaks.

Not all bad, but 8 months is a long time to wait for big bug to be fixed.

I’m still on Aperture, so still but abstract. Aperture looks better all the time.

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Apple metadatacide: iPhoto, Aperture, Photos

iPhoto allowed notes on albums and rolls. Aperture discarded the album notes but allowed notes on Projects. Photos discards the notes on Projects, it does not support them when translating to Albums.

Why I would like to see Apple broken up into five smaller companies.

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The science of bias and a roadmap for progress

A NYT piece on how bias works at law firms summarizes evidence-based research.

It is consistent with the hypothesis that the more a new employee resembles their superiors the more effective they will be.

I read this from the same NYT RSS stream that included an article about frustrated women staring more independent businesses.

That startup effort runs into obstacles to all business startups. We know startups have been in decline for over a decade. The suspects are burdensome regulations, lack of affordable health care outside of large corporations, effective use of financial and political weapons by large corporations, and increasing monopoly and monopsony powers of megacorps without antitrust responses.

There ought to be room for political compromise to support small business startups for all and particularly non-white-males. ObamaCare or single payor for health coverage. Regulatory rationalization. Startup support including packaged plans. Aggressive antitrust. Tax reform. Political and campaign contribution reform.

Of course all of these are far more likely to come from Dem than GOP — although the western GOP ( Utah, etc) would support some. I read several of these in Clinton’s policy proposals, though they didn’t get any media attention.

If America survives the Trump era, and a new party replaces the GOP, there is at least a roadmap. Now all we need is a miracle.

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Gaming of FDA adverse event database by anti-vaxxers

There is something especially horrible about this. From Politico health newsletter:

“In recent decades, lawyers alleging that their clients became autistic as a result of childhood vaccines were known to post reports in the related Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. Anti-vaccine activists then cited the reports as evidence that the vaccines were harmful.”

Posted in t

Objectivism and eugenics

Recent events remind us the mass of humanity make sheep and frogs look pretty smart. (Frogs jump out of boiling water, humans seem to cook.)

Libertarian “market” solutions to things like Equifax require an informed and intelligent actor. Obviously humans don’t qualify.

So then how is this supposed to work? Only the elites survive?

I suppose that is how it worked out in Rand’s books.

So libertarianism is effectively a kind of eugenics program…

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Local: “Black man” with “afro” shoots unarmed security guard at local college

Helicopters, airplanes, K9 dogs, cordons. Not a good time to be a black man going for an evening run.

Security guard late admitted he shot himself with a gun he wasn’t supposed to have. Made up the black assailant in slightly misguided attempt to save his job.

Local Facebook commentary during the search had less overt racism than I’d expected. Maybe it was moderated? I didn’t hear of any black men running into scary trouble. St Paul police have a good reputation, that might have helped.

Apparently nobody hurt, so salutary lesson.

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Statins and global warming

Two years ago I was studying for my family medicine board exams. This was around the time the avant garde were ready to put statins in the water supply.

Fast forward 2017. Everyone hates on statins for primary prevention. Myalgias. Diabetes. Brain fog. Whatever. Now patients need to have a pretty good risk of 10y CVD death to take ’em.

This is kind of routine in medicine. Big swings usually amped by big money.

The swings have consequences beyond personal health and billions of dollars. They cost confidence. They are one reason it was so easy for big money to turn the GOP into an anti-science machine.

Statins have given us Scott Pruitt.

Thanks pharma.

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iOS is becoming less accessible for the cognitively disabled.

The original Mac was very easy to use. It became much less cognitively accessible after MultiFinder was introduced. Apple then added “SimpleFinder”, but that never truly made the transition to OS X (the name was preserved without the CamelCase, bit it is much less useful).

iOS is following a similar path, but without SimpleFinder. This impacts not only the legally disabled but also everyone who is less gifted – and the elderly.

iOS needs cognitive accessibility controls and considerations.

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Electoral strategy: Dems must drink the poison too.

So we now know 20% of Americans are proto-Nazi and another 20% lean that way.

I suspect that is a rule for human societies.

Today that 40% is concentrated in one political party that controls every aspect of Federal government. A ruling minority.

This is a historic disaster that we are all struggling to understand.

That poisonous 40% will be always with us. That is humanity.

We cannot eliminate it, but we cannot have it dominate one party. It has to be diluted.

So we Dems must drink some of the poison – without becoming the GOP. The deplorables must be shared.

I think Obama understood this. The key is policies that address the “great unwanted” across all genders and races and tribes. Policies for the 45% of Americans that are not going to college and have no future in a purely market driven post-labor economy.

If Dems address those policies we can take the salvageable half of the deplorables. The GOP will have to live with the 20% Proto-Nazis; but it may then be able to convert them to non-voters and reemerge as a democratic political party.

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Google and civilization’s fail

Google doesn’t find my stuff any more. Even when it holds answers Google can’t find.

Quality ad-supported media, available to all, is dying. Quality journalism requires subscription.

Donald Trump.

These are all part of the same thing.

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Apple two factor incompetence

“will verify your identity by entering your password plus a six-digit verification code sent to your other devices or a trusted phone number.”

There is no such thing now as a trustworthy phone number.

Posted in t

PasswordWallet – bought it, deleted it.

PasswordWallet looked like a good alternative to 1Password. Michael Tsai likes it — and he has great taste.

Bought it on App Store and installed Mac and iOS versions. It wasn’t easy to get the sync working, but once it worked it seemed reliable. UI unpolished, but workable. I liked the ability to handle multiple vaults.

Looked good, until one day I searched for a record and got nothing. My jaw dropped.

Sure enough Selznick Scientific only implemented basic string search — the default SQL function. There’s no ‘word starts with’ search. A search for “green red” does not find a record with the title “green yellow red”. Search is basically one string at a time. That does not scale to my hundreds of passwords. It’s only good for numbers so small you could get away with an encrypted document.


This is why I prefer to download apps with In App purchasing. I can discover fatal flaws like this before I buy.

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Canon SL2 – handheld night scene and HDR

This is new since my T2i, I think maybe was T5i. The entry-level Canon dSLR includes some computational photography with HDR mode and 4 shot handheld low light photography. The 4 shot is marketed for night scenes, but there are interesting effects with indoor low light photography (just don’t blink).

Can’t compare to the wizardry of an iPhone 7, but there are some interesting effects there.

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