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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Links - 26th June 2014

Levitation Secret Revealed (70 years ago) - "“[The photograph] is nothing short of hilarious. It is a flash-illuminated picture of a séance held at Wortley Hall in Finsburg Park, London, showing the attendees holding hands and medium Colin Evans ‘levitating’. A cord leading from a device in Evan’s hand indicates it was he who triggered the flash-photograph – a critical act since the evidence of the photo itself reveals the mechanism of ‘levitation’ and thus indicates its momentary nature: Evan’s feet are a blur above the seat of his chair, his body is in a partially crouched position, and his hair is in disarray. If springing into the air from a crouched position is levitating[…]”, writes skeptic Joe Nickell in Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation."

CDs for Sale - Classical Music Discoveries
Love how Classical Music Discoveries has their model strike a pose for each week's episode image

Apple partners with patent troll Digitude Innovations -- and wow, what a deal - "This isn’t the first time Apple has been called a patent troll."
Truly a Revolution

An Inside Look at China’s Censorship Tools - China Real Time Report - WSJ - "If you can’t beat China’s censors, why not join them? That’s what a Harvard University professor decided to do, in a creative effort to learn firsthand just how censorship in China works. To get inside the system, professor Gary King and two Ph.D. students started their own fake social network... the company recommended that his team hire two to three full-time censors for every 50,000 users. If that same formula was used at Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform, the company would employ somewhere between 2,160 and 3,240 censors to cover its 54 million daily active users. In an interview, Mr. King said his exposure to the broad range of censorship software on the market suggests that China’s government is “allowing competition and innovation in censorship technology.” “They have top-down control of outcomes, but not of the particular process. It’s not a bad strategy,” he said... Mr. King said this week that the study’s findings also reinforce his previous work on Chinese censorship, which found that posts with the potential to stir collective action—for example, those related to protests or Tibetan self-immolations—tend to be most heavily targeted, not the posts that are simply critical of the Chinese government."

Can FreeWeibo's Android App Defeat China's Internet Censors? - "The Android app, also called FreeWeibo, allows users to read posts that are deleted from Sina Weibo, giving Chinese netizens a chance to see what their government censors, and what their fellow countrymen are really talking about... The group is confident FreeWeibo cannot be blocked because of the way they have built it: All of the app's content is hosted on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 could-hosting platform. What makes Amazon's cloud perfect for this project is that it's all encrypted, making the task of censoring content on it almost impossible. When a Chinese netizen visits content hosted on AWS, Chinese censors can see only that the user is visiting, but not the exact final address. China can't selectively block just some content on AWS without blocking the entire service. And therein lies the key to the project: Thousands of businesses rely on Amazon's cloud in China. The government probably can't afford to block the service entirely just to kill FreeWeibo. It's a strategy researchers call "collateral freedom." It makes it impossible for governments to block access to a service because the collateral economic costs of doing so would be too crippling... The first real-world test of this theory came in January 2013, when China blocked the popular coding site GitHub and had to unblock it just two days later after Chinese developers protested against the move."

5 Avoiding or Exiting the Sex Industry — Ministry of Justice, New Zealand - "Pull factors can include excitement, encouragement from others involved in sex work, and a way of seeking affection. Freedom to work one's own hours to accommodate childcare or study responsibilities is another pull, particularly for brothel or small owner-operator brothel (SOOB) workers... The percentages of sex workers in each sector who indicated that each of the factors listed below was one of the main reasons for entry are presented in Table 12.
Exploring sexuality: 22.5%
Friend was doing it: 31.7%
Minding a friend and was asked to join: 10.0%
Thought it looked exciting/glamorous: 26.0%
Sex workers looked fun to be with: 22.8%
Curiosity: 49.7%
... The fact that few of the sex workers who were interviewed by CSOM indicated that decriminalisation of the sex industry in and of itself was the reason for entering the industry supports the conclusion drawn in chapter two: that the enactment of the PRA has not led to an increase in the number of sex workers operating in New Zealand... The Committee hopes that this will assist in clarifying the misconception that there are significant numbers of sex workers in New Zealand who are in the industry against their will... a 2003 study of 216 sex workers in Queensland aged 18 or older showed an average weekly income of A$1,500 a week when the average weekly earnings in Queensland was approximately A$900 (pre tax). This may largely explain why job satisfaction is higher than is popularly believed... Table 15: Reasons for Staying in the Sex Industry in Each Sector
Enjoy the sex 39.0%
All my friends do it 14.5%
It's exciting and glamorous 22.7%
Sex workers are friendly/fun to be with 42.2%
... it was potentially offensive to be discussing with sex workers how they should be assisted to exit... Many participants from all sectors enjoyed the contact that they had with most clients, as well as the people skills they developed through working in the industry... participants all discussed benefits they experienced from working in the sex industry. These benefits included having flexibility and freedom in their workplace, learning new workplace skills, meeting a variety of people and experiencing a sense of belonging."
Keywords: prostitute, prostitutes, prostitution, meet interesting people, survey, good pay

Tensions Set To Rise In The South China Sea - "Over the last month and a half, seven significant developments indicate that tensions in the South China Sea are set to rise in both the short and long term. The five short-term trends include: Philippine defiance of China’s fishing ban; continued inaction by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the Chinese navy’s repeated assertions of sovereignty over James Shoal; the possibility of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea; and stronger United States opposition to China’s ADIZ and maritime territorial claims."
The common factor in South China Sea tensions is China. A Peaceful Rise indeed!

Why Chinese Food Isn't Hip - WSJ - "Anyone worried about the rise of China on the world stage, as made clear by last month's lavish Olympics display, can take a kind of cold comfort from the almost total failure of the world's biggest culture to break into the foodie world. Yes, there are tens of thousands of places to buy second-rate pork buns and wontons in any town you might happen to be in, from Lima, Peru, to Lima, Ohio. There are also deeply rooted Chinese expat cuisines in Malaysia and the Philippines. And even these peripheral adaptations of Mother China's food can be found in modern restaurants in Manhattan outside Chinatown. But tell me where I can find a quality, high-end Chinese restaurant anywhere in a U.S. urban center aimed at nonethnic diners and I will beat a path there"

Why is Chinese food so cheap? Guest blog by Chinese food expert Sam Lipoff - "They ranged from Big Think’s Lindsay Beyerstein‘s hypothesis that it was cheap overhead and ingredients, to Boston food writer’s MC Slim JB‘s observation on different cultural perceptions of what makes a good restaurant. Friend Sam Jackson and Jimmy Li thinks it’s a marketing/image issue. Serious Eats intern Leah Douglas cites her history class and the economic class of immigrant foodways. Another SE intern, Aaron Mattis postulates it might be lack of restaurant culture... In the modern world, how does food become haute? Typically by applying French technique to the traditional ingredients. Conceptually, Chinese food doesn’t follow this rule, one possible reason why the American-Chinese version is inexpensive... Modern haute cuisine tends to feature artisanal, high-quality proteins, cooked in a simple method to bring out the natural flavors of the protein, often with a simple sauce that pairs well with those flavors, and some accompanying vegetables to balance those flavors. However, Chinese cuisine is based on different principles. Chinese food often uses protein less for flavor and more for texture, and utilizes extremely complex cooking methods and involved sauces to provide the flavor. You might have better luck on a Chinese menu ordering by cooking method than by protein. This doesn’t mean at all that Chinese food is inexpensive, but it means that expensive Chinese food isn’t just a matter of purchasing the kind of expensive proteins reared in the West for Western-style meals... There also may be a slight mismatch between what “restaurants” mean in different cultures. In many Chinese restaurants in the United States, you can order a $6.25 lunch plate during the week. But you can also host your wedding banquet there, and the same restaurant will be transformed with white linen, and $200+ a person food, from abalone to geoduck clam. Try getting Per Se to serve you lunch for $6, or try getting a McDonalds to provide black-tie clad table service and Filet Mignon for a banquet... It is extraordinarily difficult to get Chinese restaurants to produce authentic food for non-Chinese patrons. By contrast, it is extraordinarily difficult to get (real) Japanese restaurants to produce inauthentic food to cater to foreign tastes. I think this has something to do with deep ways in which these cultures define themselves. To Japanese it is obvious that foreigners should like authentic Japanese food, because Japanese food is obviously the best, so why wouldn’t everyone like it? To Chinese, however, the boundaries of the authentic are circumscribed by what foreigners can’t appreciate"

Why the nice guy gets the girl...but the nice girl gets left on the shelf - "For women, being well groomed appeared to have the biggest impact on getting married.. having a good personality barely made a difference to a woman’s chance of becoming a bride"

Taxes and the rich: Looking at all the taxes | The Economist - "MY COLLEAGUE suggests that America’s wealthy already pay at least their fair share of the cost for the public goods they depend on to prosper. He notes that in recent years, the top 5% of earners have received 32% of the country’s adjusted gross income, but paid 59% of federal individual income taxes. “If that’s not giving something back, what is?”, he asks. This is a case of cherry-picking the data. Yes, the federal income-tax system is progressive through most of the income distribution—although it becomes extremely regressive at the high end, because of the low rates applied to qualified dividends and long-term capital gains (as Mitt Romney can attest). However, federal income taxes account for just 27% of total government revenue collected in America. And the remaining three-quarters of the tax pie is quite regressive... The fact of the matter is that the American tax code as a whole is almost perfectly flat. The bottom 20% of earners make 3% of the income and pay 2% of the taxes; the middle 20% make 11% and pay 10%; and the top 1% make 21% and pay 22%. Steve Forbes couldn’t have drawn it up any better."

Singaporeans not as wealthy as GDP figures suggest - "In Singapore, personal consumption expenditure has steadily fallen over the years as a percentage of GDP and, at 35 per cent, is now barely half of what it is in Hong Kong. This is an oddity characteristic of a startup economy, not of a wealthy town like Singapore. But it means that, on the basis of our money-in-your-hands measure, Hong Kong at US$24,000 per capita still outranks Singapore at US$21,000. The second chart gives you a clue as to why the two economies are so different on this measure. Industrial investment in Singapore, always predominantly foreign, has become even more so in recent years, accounting for an average of about 80 per cent of total investment over the past 10 years... This foreign investment in Singapore has in turn produced a huge trade surplus in both goods and services. Over recent years, it has run at about 30 per cent of GDP. And most of this money goes right back out again to pay foreigners for all the confidence they have shown in Singapore by investing in it so heavily. In short, Singapore's high GDP numbers are mostly an anomaly created by very generous industrial concessions to foreigners. They do not really reflect domestic wealth... All that their relative state of wealth really tells you is one has fewer scruples than the other about how low it is willing to go. On this measure, I definitely rate Singapore as the more successful."

How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker
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