Every morning I get an email from The History Channel with "this day in history" bullet points. A couple stood out today:
And now, the sanity. Via author John Scalzi, (conservative) attorney T. Greg Doucette explains why the president will leave office on January 20th no matter what chicanery he tries to steal the election:
While I wait for my frozen pizza to cook, I've got these stories to keep me company:
Going to check my pizza now.
Remember the hurricane season of 2005, where we got the 27th named storm at the end of December and it finally dissipated on January 6th?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Tropical Storm Iota, the 30th named storm of 2020:
At 400 AM EST (0900 UTC), the center of Tropical Storm Iota was located near latitude 13.5 North, longitude 74.8 West. Iota is moving toward the west-southwest near 5 mph (7 km/h). A westward motion with some increase in forward speed is expected to begin later today and continue through Monday. On the forecast track, Iota will move across the central Caribbean Sea during the next day or so, and approach the coasts of Nicaragua and northeastern Honduras on Monday.
But, of course, climate change is a hoax. And the Greek alphabet has 15 more letters.
After finishing a sprint review, it's nice to reset for a few minutes. So after working through lunch I have some time to catch up on these news stories:
Finally, mathematician and humorist Tom Lehrer has waived most of the copyright protections around his music and lyrics, effectively putting the corpus of his work into the public domain. He says: "Most of the music written by Tom Lehrer will be added gradually later with further disclaimers." People have until the end of 2024 to download the materials he has released.
From Andrew Marantz at The New Yorker:
In retrospect, it seems that the company’s strategy has never been to manage the problem of dangerous content, but rather to manage the public’s perception of the problem. In [former UK Liberal Democratic Party leader Nick] Clegg’s recent blog post, he wrote that Facebook takes a “zero tolerance approach” to hate speech, but that, “with so much content posted every day, rooting out the hate is like looking for a needle in a haystack.” This metaphor casts Zuckerberg as a hapless victim of fate: day after day, through no fault of his own, his haystack ends up mysteriously full of needles. A more honest metaphor would posit a powerful set of magnets at the center of the haystack—Facebook’s algorithms, which attract and elevate whatever content is most highly charged. If there are needles anywhere nearby—and, on the Internet, there always are—the magnets will pull them in. Remove as many as you want today; more will reappear tomorrow. This is how the system is designed to work.
“It’s an open secret,” Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist for the company, recently wrote, “that Facebook’s short-term decisions are largely motivated by PR and the potential for negative attention.” Zhang left Facebook in September. Before she did, she posted a scathing memo on Workplace. In the memo, which was obtained by BuzzFeed News, she alleged that she had witnessed “multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales”; in some cases, however, “we simply didn’t care enough to stop them.” She suggested that this was because the abuses were occurring in countries that American news outlets were unlikely to cover.
Nothing surprising in the article, but Marantz adds a lot more detail than most people have realized.
Let's start with the good news: Julie Nolke has a new video.
OK, ready for everything else?
And finally, today would have been John Lennon's 80th birthday.
Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Atlantic on 30 December 2005 and almost became a hurricane on 2 January 2006. When Zeta finally dissipated on January 6th, it ended the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history, and also one of the most destructive: category-5 hurricanes Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma caused incredible damage and loss of life throughout the US. The season also included three unnamed tropical depressions and an unnamed tropical storm.
That season, Tropical Storm Alpha formed on October 22nd, and Hurricane Beta formed on October 26th.
Flash forward 15 years, and it looks like we're going to break a few of 2005's records. This year, storms Alpha and Beta both formed on September 18th. So far only Hurricanes Laura and Teddy—the latter now about to pound Nova Scotia and Newfoundland—got up to category 4, and we haven't yet had any category 5 storms. But the season shows no sign of winding down.
We have known for decades that climate change would cause more frequent tropical storm activity. Welcome to the future.
I've had an unusually busy (and productive!) day, so naturally, the evening reading has piled up:
Finally, National Geographic has a slideshow of the world's best ghost towns.
I'm glad I took a long walk yesterday and not today, because of this:
In other news:
- State health officials warn that suburban Cook County (the immediate suburbs surrounding Chicago) has experienced a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, and placed it and 29 other counties on warning that social restrictions could resume next week.
- Moreover, Covid-19 leads in a massive wave of excess deaths reported by the Cook County Medical Examiner this week. Suicides, homicides, and overdoses are also at near-record levels.
- Jonathan Russo, writing in TPM Cafe, lays out the case that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin got what he wanted with his meddling in the 2016 US elections, and stands to gain even more if the president wins (or somehow achieves) re-election.
- The nationalist, right-wing disease has started to infect Canada as well, as their new Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole has adopted a "Canada First" platform.
- Graceland Cemetery, which doubles as an arboretum, will be closed for the longest period in its 160-year history because of damage from the August 10th derecho.
- Mother Jones obtained video from a 10 December 2015 deposition showing Donald Trump boasting about his lack of ethics and ignorance of the law.
Finally, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has called for an end to Daylight Saving Time—not just the twice-annual time changes associated with the practice.
I'm sitting at my desk waiting for my work laptop to finish updating, a process now in its 24th minute, with "Working on updates 25%" on the screen for the past 5. Very frustrating; I have things to do today; and if I'd known how long it would take (I'm looking at you, help desk), I would have started the update when I left this evening.
So, all right, I'll read a few things:
My laptop has rebooted three times now and appears to have gotten up to 83% complete. I may in fact get something done today.