Monthly Archives: October 2008

Dishonesty in political advertising

I cannot think of a political ad that I’ve seen, read, or heard this year that didn’t have a degree of dishonesty in it.  I don’t know how people can accept people behind these as leaders and be persuaded by them.  The following example, is one I just heard for the billionth time and it’s ridiculous.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the Obama ads that posit that McCain is a bad choice because he voted with Bush 90% of the time.

Do you see the dishonesty there?

I have no idea if that statistic is true, but let’s say it is.  For it to matter to a potential voter you have to know a couple of things not provided in the advertisement.  Is 90% of Bush’s legislation “bad”?  I have a hard time believing that is true, despite all of the horrible things coming out of the Bush camp.  There are many, many laws passed about mundane, non-consequential things.  Add that to the good things Bush has done, and it surely seems that 90% bad legislation is a stretch.  Does this supposed 90% of the time that McCain voted with Bush align with the bad legislation Bush provided?

It’s all a ploy to get you to vote your emotions.

The US Debt

Mint has a pretty interesting way of visualizing just how much debt the US is in.

We could go on about the trillions of dollars in debt, but numbers that large can feel really abstract. So, let’s take the nation’s spending down to the household scale. The median household pulls in $50,233 per year, the federal government around $3 trillion. Some basic arithmetic will put them in scale.

They include some neat little graphics to help illustrate their points.

It really makes me wonder how much further down the debt road the US can go. It seems like at some point the public has to just cry out “That’s enough!”. Currently the US spends just shy of 10% of it’s annual budget paying the interest on it’s debt!

How I recovered my photos and much of the metadata with a few tools (Part 1)

There I was looking to centralize all the storage in my house on a Windows Home Server. I have 8 hard drives that were scattered among 4 PCs and it was just getting impossible to manage in any sane way. As part of this process, I was taking all but one of the hard drives out of each PC while at the same time carefully managing the process of backing the important data on each one into the free space amongst the others.

The Problem

Where I ran into problems is when I went to bed one night during this process. When I woke up the next morning I forgot that I hadn’t finished completely backing up one of the most important hard drives in the house. So, I went ahead with my plan and formatted it.

Big mistake.

It was a little while before I realized what I had done and by the time I did realize it, I had already installed a fresh copy of Vista on it and a few applications. As anyone who has tried to recover data before will tell you, the first thing you should do after accidentally formatting/deleting data is immediately stop writing data to the hard drive!

This hard drive contained all of our personal photos. While the fact that these were personal photos was bad enough, what was even worse was that a huge portion of them (gigabytes) were photos that my wife had spent countless hours manually scanning in and she was in the process of organizing and labeling them.

Getting the data back

So, after realizing my error, I immediately shut off the computer and removed the hard drive.  While I knew the general ideas behind data recovery, I wasn’t really aware of what I should do next, so I hit the internet and did some research.  After awhile I decided to put the hard drive into another PC and try out some various utilities I had come across to scan it and see what kind of data could be recovered.  This turned out to be an exercise in frustration, as all the tools I used just turned out reams of information that would of taken me years to go through and find anything of use.

I was beginning to brace myself for the inevitable storm that would follow after telling my wife that all the photos were gone.  At this point, a friend of mine pointed me towards a tool called PhotoRec.  At a high level, PhotoRec operates like many data recovery tools in that it looks at the unused space on your hard drive for orphaned data, which is often the data you had on their previously.  Where PhotoRec saved me was that it was written specifically to recognize photo data, which saves me from being buried in a mountain of information.

Since we had thousands and thousands of photos, I don’t really have any way to know if any of our photos were lost, but PhotoRec recoverd so many (after 6+ hours of processing) that it seems like I have our whole library back.

In my next post on the subject, I’ll talk about how PhotoRec wasn’t all I needed.

See part 2 of this post here.

I’m a computer

No, I’m not, but soon I could be.

In an experiment known as the Turing Test after the great British mathematician Alan Turing, the six Artificial Conversational Entities (ACEs) tried to fool human interrogators into thinking they were also human. All the ACEs managed to fool at least one of their human interrogators and organisers feel it will only be a matter of time before the test is passed. But none could pass the threshold set by Turing in 1950 of fooling 30 per cent of the human interrogators.

The news

I’m constantly learning about new ways to look at things when reading one of my favorite sites, Overcoming Bias.

A recent post has me thinking a lot about what the stock market actually is.

Speculators were blamed for rising oil prices a few months back, but not for recent falling oil prices. Short-selling speculators were recently blamed for falling stock prices, and actually banned for a few weeks, but no one proposed banning buying speculators two years ago when stocks were rising. Now Steven Pearlstein of the Post wants to close financial markets for a week:

The author of this post, Robin Hanson, goes on to describe the stock market as a new outlet in which stock prices, and the market as whole, merely informs us about the future prospects of companies.

Aside from times when firms issue stock or buy it back, stock trades do not change a firm’s total capital; they just gives us news about its future prospects. Sure some of of these stock “reporters” can have incentives to mislead us, but newspaper reporters can also have incentives to mislead us. Systems for detecting and punishing misleading reporters are far stronger and more effective in financial markets than in newspapers.

In a galaxy far, far away…

… stuff is forming. Gizmodo posts about an image captured at the Keck Observatory which shows a spiral galaxy in the process of formation.

Two neat things about this:

  1. This galaxy is 11-billion light years away.
  2. It was caught at the detail it was because of gravitational lensing.

Unsurprisingly, Senate screws up broadband policy.

Techdirt points out that the Senate have yet again done something without doing anything.

By passing the Broadband Data Improvement Act the Senate has taken a step that makes it looks like it’s doing something about the United States miserable broadband penetration numbers. The problem with this law is that, it’s all for show. The Senate stripped the law of it’s most important parts…funding to measure broadband penetration and the mandate to generate a mapping solution to graph the data.

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it to?

eXtreme bacteria action!

Extremophiles are interesting because they’re eXtreme!

Ars Technica has a summary of recent work looking into one of the extremest of the extreme.

Faced with this evidence, it was fair to wonder just where the outer edges of survival might be. We may have a hint of that from samples taken from deep in South African mines, which show that life can make it nearly three kilometers down, but it’s far from the thriving communities we find in other extreme environments. In fact, it looks like the bacterial “community” in the mine may be comprised of a single species.

Aquaduct bike. Say what?

A large problem in much of the world is easy access to clean drinking water. This bike brings a solution to both problems. It aids access by virtue of it’s bikeyness, and it provides clean water by virtue of it’s pedal-powered filtering system. Check it out here.

Coupon user = cheapskate. (Or so people think)

I’m always fascinated by the biases that people have. I’m not talking about things like racism specifically, but the root cognitive malfunctions that cause people to draw the wrong conclusions from the evidence they have. Consumerist points to a study that highlights another example…

If you use coupons in a store, your fellow shoppers are probably negatively judging you as being cheap, according to a new study.