Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mountain Lion's "New Filesystem"

Hmm, which seems more likely - Apple's decision to disallow multi-level folder hierarchies for their new integrated cloud service*:
(A) constitutes some sort of visionary forward-thinking insight into how the human brain processes information, or
(B) is because difficulties inherent in implementing automatic change-tracking and conflict resolution across arbitrary folder hierarchies on that scale (and for a user base with many non-technically-literate users) might otherwise have become an implementation and user/support nightmare, and they probably just didn't have enough time to get a solid working implementation ready for "version 1". ("You want it to do what by when!?")

I'm guessing it'll eventually be added in a subsequent version.

* It's not actually a "new filesystem".

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fracking - odds and sods

I like fossil fuels as much as the next guy, but:

... the Environmental Protection Agency published a 120 page report today concluding that the process known as ‘fracking’ does indeed cause contamination of water supply
In an initial sampling in 2008, EPA scientists found traces of hydrocarbons and other contaminants associated with frcking fluids. A second analysis in 2010 by federal health officials and the EPA confirmed these results, and residents were urged not to drink their water and to ventilate their homes while showering to prevent explosions from released methane gas.
"The evidence keeps on coming in
The government findings are sure to ignite more debate amongst Congress, but they are part of a mounting body of evidence that fracking is a source of chemical contamination for local water supplies.
A previous study of fracking well sites in Pennsylvania and New York by Duke University scientists found extensive evidence of thermogenic methane contamination (associated with deep shale beds) in drinking wells located within a kilometer of fracking sites

The report results aren’t pretty. Wading through a mess of chemical terms and testing jargon, we get to the nitty gritty: “detections of high concentrations of benzenes, xylenes, gasoline range organics, diesel range organics and … hydrocarbons in ground water samples from … wells near pits indicates that (frack) pits are a source of shallow ground water contamination,” the report says.
At some wells the researchers found “water near-saturated in methane” and in deep water wells, they also found chemicals used during the fracking process: gasoline, diesel fuel, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), naphthalenes, isopropanol, and a whole slew of other things that you’d rather not drink.
The report continues: “Detections of organic chemicals are more numerous and exhibit higher concentrations in the deeper of the two monitoring wells … (which) along with trends in methane, potassium, chloride, and pH, suggest a deep source of contamination.”"
"They also found that the reports companies filed detailing jobs listed chemicals as a class or as “proprietary,” “rendering identification of constituents impossible.”

"Air Emissions Near Fracking Sites May Pose Health Risk, Study Shows; Sites Contain Hydrocarbons Including Benzene" 
"In a new study, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites"

In 2004, the EPA's study was released, concluding that hydraulic fracturing did not threaten water supplies and that no further study of the practice was needed.8 Soon afterwards, Weston Wilson, a scientist and 31-year veteran of the EPA, spoke out. In an 18-page letter to the EPA Inspector General and to congressional leaders, Wilson, who sought protection under the federal Whistleblower Protection Act wrote:
EPA's conclusions are unsupportable. EPA has conducted limited research reaching the unsupported conclusion that this industry practice needs no further study at this time. EPA decisions were supported by a Peer Review Panel; however five of the seven members of this panel appear to have conflicts-of-interest and may benefit from EPA's decision not to conduct further investigation or impose regulatory conditions
Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?
"In July, a hydrologist dropped a plastic sampling pipe 300 feet down a water well in rural Sublette County, Wyo., and pulled up a load of brown oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people.
The results sent shockwaves through the energy industry and state and federal regulatory agencies.
Sublette County is the home of one of the nation's largest natural gas fields, and many of its 6,000 wells have undergone a process pioneered by Halliburton called hydraulic fracturing"
"An investigation by ProPublica, which visited Sublette County and six other contamination sites, found that water contamination in drilling areas around the country is far more prevalent than the EPA asserts. Our investigation also found that the 2004 EPA study was not as conclusive as it claimed to be"

[This was the same 2004 EPA study which was later revealed by a whistleblower to have purposely basically had the negative bits about fracking removed]

... more than 1,000 other cases of contamination have been documented by courts and state and local governments in Colorado, New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In one case, a house exploded after hydraulic fracturing created underground passageways and methane seeped into the residential water supply. In other cases, the contamination occurred not from actual drilling below ground, but on the surface, where accidental spills and leaky tanks, trucks and waste pits allowed benzene and other chemicals to leach into streams, springs and water wells

Feds Warn Residents Near Wyoming Gas Drilling Sites Not to Drink Their Water
"The federal government is warning residents in a small Wyoming town with extensive natural gas development not to drink their water, and to use fans and ventilation when showering or washing clothes in order to avoid the risk of an explosion.
The announcement accompanied results from a second round of testing and analysis in the town of Pavillion by Superfund investigators for the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers found benzene, metals, naphthalene, phenols and methane in wells and in groundwater. They also confirmed the presence of other compounds that they had tentatively identified last summer and that may be linked to drilling activities."

Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers
"... internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.
The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle. 
Other documents and interviews show that many E.P.A. scientists are alarmed, warning that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. Their concern is based partly on a 2009 study, never made public, written by an E.P.A. consultant who concluded that some sewage treatment plants were incapable of removing certain drilling waste contaminants and were probably violating the law.
The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tog 'n Bloubul (or, pitfalls of crowdsourcing-based translation data sourcing?)

(For the benefit of foreign readers: "Ek is tog 'n Bloubul" means to be a supporter of the 'Blue Bulls', a local provincial rugby team.)

Friday, March 23, 2012

'How one man escaped from a North Korean prison camp'

His first memory is an execution. He walked with his mother to a wheat field, where guards had rounded up several thousand prisoners. The boy crawled between legs to the front row, where he saw guards tying a man  to a wooden pole.
Shin In Geun was four years old, too young to understand the speech that came before that killing. At dozens of executions in years to come, he would listen to a guard telling the crowd that the prisoner about to die had been offered "redemption" through hard labour, but had rejected the generosity of the North Korean government.
Guards stuffed pebbles into the prisoner's mouth, covered his head with a hood and shot him.
In Camp 14, a prison for the political enemies of North Korea, assemblies of more than two inmates were forbidden, except for executions. Everyone had to attend them.
The South Korean government estimates there are about 154,000 prisoners in North Korea's labour camps, while the US state department puts the number as high as 200,000 ...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Home schooling

Some studies on home schooling suggest some of the common criticisms aren't borne out by the facts:

"A significant difference was found between GPAs, TASP reading, and TASP math scores of home schooled students and non-home schooled students. Home schooled student performed significantly better than non-home schooled students regardless of part-time or full-time status or age at the time of admissions" [1]

"In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families ... demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects. A significant finding when analyzing the data for 8th graders was the evidence that homeschoolers who are homeschooled two or more years score substantially higher than students who have been homeschooled one year or less. The new homeschoolers were scoring on the average in the 59th percentile compared to students homeschooled the last two or more years who scored between 86th and 92nd percentile. ... another study by Dr. Lawrence Rudner of 20,760 homeschooled students ... found the homeschoolers who have homeschooled all their school aged years had the highest academic achievement" [2]

Similar results have been found overseas:

"... home-schooled children perform better on average in the cognitive domain (language, mathematics, natural sciences, social studies), but differ little from their peers at school in terms of socio-emotional development" [3]

And a summary on Wikipedia of another 2003 study:

"In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:

- Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. 71% participate in an ongoing community service activity, like coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared with 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.

- Homeschool graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers. 76% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared with only 29% of the corresponding U.S. populace. The numbers are even greater in older age groups, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared with a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace.

- 58.9% report that they are "very happy" with life, compared with 27.6% for the general U.S. population. 73.2% find life "exciting", compared with 47.3%" [4]





Friday, March 16, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

String laziness

This might be a stupid question, but any good reason the C++ compiler can't/shouldn't automatically treat "hello" as e.g. L"hello" when the type is explicitly clear from the context? E.g.:

const wchar_t* message[2] = { "hello", "world" };