“Snollygoster”   ◆

Merriam-Webster, responding to a question on Twitter about removing words from the dictionary:

Yes—like snollygoster, “a shrewd & unprincipled person, especially an unprincipled politician.” Just added it back. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/whats-a-snollygoster


When is “3x” not “3x”?   ◆

The Huffington Post, in a story about the Trump Administration’s attempt to “tweak” Obamacare rules:

Insurers would have more leeway to vary prices by age, so that premiums for the oldest customers could be 3.49 times as large as those for younger customers. Today, premiums for the old can be only three times as high as premiums for the young, which is what the Affordable Care Act stipulates. According to sources privy to HHS discussions with insurers, officials would argue that since 3.49 “rounds down” to three, the change would still comply with the statute. 

“Rounds down to three?” Seriously?

If I’m currently paying $300 a month, and this fake math raises it to $349, I’m paying more money. That’s no longer “three times as high”, it’s “3.49 times as high”.

By that logic, 3.99 also “rounds down” to 3, if rounding to whole numbers.

This adminstration is hostile to all truth, even mathematical truth.

Against Normalization: The Lesson of the “Munich Post”   ◆

A lot of “Trump is the new Hitler” think pieces are based on superficial comparisons of authoritarian berhavior. This one by Ron Rosenbaum in the Los Angeles Review of Books is different:

What I want to suggest is an actual comparison with Hitler that deserves thought. It’s what you might call the secret technique, a kind of rhetorical control that both Hitler and Trump used on their opponents, especially the media. And they’re not joking. If you’d received the threatening words and pictures I did during the campaign (one Tweet simply read “I gas Jews”), as did so many Jewish reporters and people of color, the sick bloodthirsty lust to terrify is unmistakably sincere. The playbook is Mein Kampf.

I came to this conclusion in a roundabout way. The story of Hitler’s relation to the media begins with a strange episode in Hitler’s rise to power, a clash between him and the press that looked like it might contribute to the end of his political career. But alas, it did not. In fact, it set him up for the struggle that would later bring him to power.

The behavior Rosenbaum describes will seem scarily familiar.

By the way, Rosenbaum is an historian and a journalist who authored the book Explaining Hitler after spending more than a decade researching him.

On The Afro-Arab Experience   ◆

Ethar, a “Black Arab”, writing in Blavity:

Despite the good vibes I constantly send to my identities—my various me’s—others are not always so gracious or understanding.

For example, something that sometimes gets to me in my experience as an Arab is that some people say or think that I’m not really Arab. As in I’m not legitimately Arab. The reasoning I’ve gotten as to why is that this is mainly due to the fact that I’m black, or dark-skinned, or however it is put.

But does being dark-skinned or black negate Arabness? Does not having a light mocha shade as the darkest hue of your skin mean you’re not legitimately Arab? Not really, is the answer. There are some Saudis who are a lot darker than my coffee-with-creamer skin color and yet they are as Arab as you can get, from most people’s perspective.

A timely reminder that people are more than their religion, race, or skin color, and that not all Muslims are from “the Middle East” or “look Middle-Eastern”. Three of the seven “banned” countries—Sudan, Libya, and Somalia—are in Africa.

GitLab.com deletes production data, had no working backups   ◆

GitLab hosts hundreds of thousands of open source software projects, and had massive data loss due to a sysadmin error. They didn’t have working backups:

So in other words, out of 5 backup/replication techniques deployed none are working reliably or set up in the first place.

It’s not enough to “have a backup”. You need to know your backups work. I’ve been preaching this for fifteen years now.

Step One: Back up your data.

Step Two: Test your backups.

Check your backups now, people.

Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl LI Halftime Show Drones Have a Bright Future   ◆


It’s too soon to say whether anything Lady Gaga did tonight will resonate, but at least she offered something new: An army of dancing drones, ducking and dodging over the Houston skyline, transforming from stars to a fluttering flag.

It’s probably the first time you’ve seen 300 drones flying in formation, but it’s almost certainly not the last. The technology underpinning the Intel Shooting Star drone system is fascinating in and of itself, but its potential applications are even more so. The same drones that accompanied Lady Gaga will one day revolutionize search-and-rescue, agriculture, halftime shows, and more.

I was wondering how they were doing it. I thought I was animation/CGI. Drones are way cooler, and a neat piece of tech that might be Actually Useful™ one day.