August 20, 2015 archive

The Maple Syrup Cartel

Or you can call it a co-operative, depends on your Point of View.

Canadian Maple Syrup ‘Rebels’ Clash With Law

By IAN AUSTEN, The New York Times

AUG. 20, 2015

To keep prices high, the federation enforces strict quotas for the province’s 7,400 producers. Instead of flooding the market during years with bumper crops, all syrup produced beyond that amount is stored in the federation’s warehouse, which helps prop up prices by limiting supply. When seasons are lean, it releases the syrup, to maintain stable supply and pricing. (Sales of small containers to consumers at farms are exempt from the system.)

After five particularly bad seasons drained most of its stock by 2008, the federation enlarged its hoard. Stacked in barrels nine high, the reserve currently holds about 60 million pounds of maple syrup.

Prices are set by the federation, in negotiation with a buyers’ group. The federation holds most of the power, given that it controls a majority of the world’s production.

Such domestic systems are facing scrutiny in a global marketplace. One major hurdle in the talks over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal with 12 countries, has been Canada’s refusal to dismantle a similar quota system for dairy and poultry farmers.

Brown gold.  Worth more a barrel at this point than Oil.


The Breakfast Club (Ashley Madison)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgFairly recently I’ve spoken about the need to keep your private information, private.  Ideally you never, ever use your own name and only anonymous email addresses.  This limits your exposure to things you can not control, like your credit card and shipping info.

I have a separate family of emails I devote just to that.  I suppose if I was serious I’d get into BitCoin or at least a blind Paypal account.  If you have a couple of bucks to incorporate you can go wild with the added protections corporate personhood affords, but my prescriptions are only the mild sort designed to keep the casual spy off your back.

One idiot move I’ve never done is sign up for a porn or swinging site under my own name and certainly not one that required my personal information (Disclaimer: not that I’ve never visited a porn or warez site to evaluate anti-virus performance, of course I have, where do you think you picked them up?  Mary-Bo Peep’s Knitting and Yarn Supplies?  It’s just as likely actually, and the reputable porn sites are pretty good at policing and most warez sites not so much.).

So you might think that I’d laugh off the Ashley Madison hack and I do except on the ethics question-

Do you have things about your life you’d like to keep private?

I’m not much into porn because sex is icky and there are only a finite number of ways to do it so it’s also boring.  Neither am I inclined to enter a romantic relationship at this point in my life (mid-30s, 1926, do the math) and it’s been my experience that nothing is zipless.

Still, there are things that I don’t think are relevant to you as a reader and I don’t care to share with my family and friends because their opinion of me is important and enduring.  This is why there are therapists with whom you can have a professional relationship and those communications are privileged.

There are two things that bother me about the Ashley Madison hack.  The first is that it seems to be based mostly on its purient interest rather than any possible public good.  It’s kinda sorta relevant if some “homosexuality can be cured through conditioning and punishment” spouting icon gets burned lurking Craig’s List (Why you so stupid?) but not so much if some random teenager is driven to suicide by the exposure of their sexuality.

The second is not what you would expect.  It’s that businesses, people you actually pay money to in expectation of delivery of a particular good or service, are so disrespectful of your privacy that they leave the most intimate details of your transactions exposed to thieves who can steal from you or simply sell it to other businesses (corporate personhood, gotta love it) to use to target your particular used shoe fetish and Mary-Bo Peep’s Knitting and Yarn Supplies is no less likely than anyone else to do this.

I will note that I’m not much for the needle arts though I can sew well enough to make horrible looking sacks that might keep your personal micro-climate warm enough to keep from getting chilled while at the same time giving you more mobility than if you were wrapped in blankets.

The Ashley Madison Data Dump, Explained

By DANIEL VICTOR, The New York Times

AUG. 19, 2015

On Tuesday, hackers appeared to make good on a threat to release what they said was 9.7 gigabytes of account and credit card information from 37 million users of the site.

Frankly that seems rather high even for 37 million users.  Surely it is not all text.

The data includes members’ names, user names, addresses, phone numbers and birth dates as well as details of credit card transactions.

Brian Krebs, a security researcher, said in a blog post that he spoke with three people who found their information and the last four digits of their credit card numbers in the database, suggesting they were indeed stolen from the company.

“I’m sure there are millions of AshleyMadison users who wish it weren’t so, but there is every indication this dump is the real deal,” Mr. Krebs wrote.


The hackers said they were upset about Ashley Madison’s policy for deleting user data when requested. The company has long offered members the ability to scrub their profiles and information from the site for $19, a feature that BuzzFeed News said generated nearly $2 million in 2014. But, as the breach showed, the data remained.

“We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of A.L.M. and their members,” Impact Team wrote, referring to Avid Life Media. “Now everyone gets to see their data.”

So basically, useless extended warranty plans.

Science Oriented Video

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History August 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 20 is the 232nd day of the year (233rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 133 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1911, the first around-the-world telegram sent, 66 years before Voyager II launch

On this day in 1911, a dispatcher in the New York Times office sends the first telegram around the world via commercial service. Exactly 66 years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sends a different kind of message–a phonograph record containing information about Earth for extraterrestrial beings–shooting into space aboard the unmanned spacecraft Voyager II.

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft is an unmanned interplanetary space probe launched on August 20, 1977. Both the Voyager 2 and the Voyager 1 space probes were designed, developed, and built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. Identical in form and instruments with its sister Voyager program craft Voyager 1, Voyager 2 was launched on a slower, more curved trajectory that allowed it to be kept in the plane of the Ecliptic (the plane of the Solar System) so that it could be sent on to Uranus and Neptune by means of utilizing gravity assists during its fly-by of Saturn in 1981 and of Uranus in 1986. Because of this chosen trajectory, Voyager 2 could not take a close-up look at the large Saturnian moon Titan as its sister space probe had. However, Voyager 2 did become the first and only spacecraft to make the spaceflight by Uranus and Neptune, and hence completing the Planetary Grand Tour. This is one that is made practical by a seldom-occurring geometric alignment of the outer planets (happening once every 175 years).

The Voyager 2 space probe has made the most productive unmanned space voyage so far, visiting all four of the Outer Planets and their systems of moons and rings, including the first two visits to previously unexplored Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 had two sensitive vidicon cameras and an assortment of other scientific instruments to make measurements in the ultraviolet, infrared, and radio wavelengths, as well as ones to measure subatomic particles in outer space, including cosmic rays. All of this was accomplished at a fraction of the amount of money that was later spent on more advanced and specialized space probes Galileo and Cassini-Huygens. Along with the earlier NASA Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, sister probe Voyager 1, and the more recent New Horizons, Voyager 2 is an interstellar probe in that all five of these are on one-way trajectories leaving the Solar System.

Obama’s Latest Bad Idea: Arctic Drilling

This past Monday, the Obama administration issued the final permits allowing Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. to begin drilling oil wells in the Arctic. This is the same oil conglomerate that lost control of its drilling rig in December of 2012 that crashed onto the Alaskan coast in heavy seas. The disaster also lead to eight felony convictions and a $12.2 million fine

Considering President Barack Obama’s promises to focus on climate change and big speeches on controlling carbon emissions, this has to be one of his most hypocritical decisions. Compounding that hypocrisy, the president has planned a visit to the Arctic region later this month. He is the first sitting president to do so. This decision didn’t sit well with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who expressed her opposition in tweets and at her press conference in Nevada:

I think the very grave difficulties that Shell encountered the last time they tried to do that should be a red flag for anybody. I have been to the Arctic, I have been to Barrow, our most northernmost outpost in the United States and I think we should not risk the potential catastrophes that could come about from accidents in looking for more oil in a pristine – one of the few remaining pristine regions of the world.

In a segment on her MSNBC show, Rachel Maddow blasted the president calling this decision “the most awkward and ill-timed thing he’s done in a long time”

While we should praise Secretary Clinton for this stand and her environmental platform that put an emphasis on renewable energy, she now needs to take a stand on the KeystoneXL pipeline.

Just The Nightly Show (Happy Anniversary Larry)

Tonightly is the 100th episode.  Our topic will be birthright citizenship (good luck with that Donald) and a visit from the Trump Troll (love that hair).  Our guests are: Calise Hawkins, Brett Gelman, and Lil Rel Howery.

So, that went well.

Primary Sources