Friday, January 27, 2023

Links 27 January 2023

Anita Chowdry, Fibonnaci spiral in the style of a Persian manuscript

The FBI announces that they and European agencies have broken into the systems of the Hive ransomware group, stealing decryption keys and saving victims $130 million in ransomware payments. (FBI announcement, Reuters) Interesting side note: since FBI agents were in Hive's systems for months they learned about many companies that paid ransoms quietly without notifying the authorities, which is illegal in the US and some other countries, so some of those folks may be getting knocks on the door.

It has become an article of faith in some quarters that colonialism caused famines in India and generally made the economy worse. But this is very much disputed among historians. Here is Tirthankar Roy arguing that British rule did not cause famines in central India and that in fact the famines ended when the British built railroads to the region.

Sun haloes by photographer Goran Strand.

Interview with poet Charles Simic, who loves the town dump. He has written a lot of prose but he says he just did it for the money. But "a little bullshit is fine."

Lots of angst these days. "What I have called megathreats others have called a 'polycrisis' . . . confluence of calamities. . . perhaps its biggest test since the Second World War." Ok.

Japan's PM decries falling birth rates, says "Japan is standing on the verge of whether we can continue to function as a society."

A Vox poll of their readers found that 57% need subtitles to understand tv dialogue; 10 minute video explaining why this is. I think they're exaggerating all the other factors and the real one is that actors mumble.

Wikipedia's Australian Megafauna page is a battleground between people who think most of the extinctions were caused by humans and those who think the Aborigines were good people who didn't do such things.

The competition between Kenya and Tanzania over which country will provide rail access to the Great Lakes region. Nice to see countries competing by building rail lines instead of launching missiles.

Summary of actor Danny Trejo's appearance on Finding Your Roots. He grew up in a rough family "surrounded by toxic machismo" and gravitated toward gangs, and he seems thrilled to discover that his great-grandfather was a respectable man who owned a grocery store.

When asked by pollsters, Americans used to be able to name people who were influential in their communities; now they have no clue. Presumably this is at least partly because most people now live in suburban neighborhoods rather than towns or cities.

Next semester Tyler Cowen plans to teach his students how to write a paper using AI chatbots.

The wonders of Street View. And a curated sample here.

Predators doing what predators do: after swimming out to Alaska's Pleasant Island in 2013, a pack of wolves first ate the local deer and have now moved on to eating all the sea otters.

Meanwhile, river otters keep attacking children and dogs around Anchorage; nobody knows if this is a widespread habit or just one angry gang. Or angry bevy, or angry raft, since those are all names for groups of otters.

Scott Siskind makes a valiant attempt to write about whether we really want a "purely biological, apolitical" definition of mental illness without writing things that sound terrible taken out of context.

Ben Pentreath, photographs of the Dorset countryside in winter.

Florida woman is "rescued" from storm drain but never wanted to be rescued in the first place.

The proliferation of hiring interviews: "There’s no reason why 10 years ago we were able to hire people on two interviews and now it’s taking 20 rounds of interviews." And yet somehow there seem to be lots of reasons for this, since it happens so often. It's basically risk aversion, everyone afraid of hiring the wrong person and being stuck with them for the next decade.

Ukraine Links

Seventeen-minute video from Binkov's Battlegrounds arguing that unless Ukraine can break through to the Sea of Azov the most likely outcome is stalemate followed by a long-term cease-fire followed at some future time by another war.

How Russian tactics have changed, from Blitzkrieg to WW I style infantry assaults.

The US plans to increase production of 155mm artillery shells by 500% within two years, to 90,000/month. That's more than Ukraine is using so presumably some of that is to replenish US stocks and maybe also for Taiwan. (NY Times) This is contrary to stated US doctrine, which is to move away from massed artillery fires toward using only precision weapons, but I guess the Army thinks that era is not here yet. 

Three-minute video of a Ukrainian night raid across the Dnipro to locate a Russian command post.

Modern warfare: after Germany announced that they would allow the transfer of Leopard tanks to Ukraine, Ukrainian social media filled up with pictures of people in leopard print clothes, with the hashtag "FreeTheLeopards."

Interesting interview with Ukrainian national security advisor Oleksiy Danilov: "we are a nation that is part of Europe; Russians are a nation that belongs to Asia."

High-ranking officer of Ukrainian intelligence arrested as a Russian spy. At least 60 members of Ukrainian law enforcement and intelligence have been revealed as Russian agents since the invasion began. I suspect that one reason the Russians were confident of victory last February was the extent of their penetration of the Ukrainian military and intelligence. But, as usually happens, spies are a lot less useful than people expect.

Review of Russia's past strategy and likely strategy in the coming year, long article but interesting.

Reuters reports on the cemetery for Russian prisoners killed fighting with the Wagner Group. They were able to learn something about 39 of the men buried there.


G. Verloren said...

"A Vox poll of their readers found that 57% need subtitles to understand tv dialogue; 10 minute video explaining why this is. I think they're exaggerating all the other factors and the real one is that actors mumble."

Literally a minute into the video they're interviewing an industry expert, a dialogue editor for film and TV, who explains that she "basically performs audio surgery on actor's words", and she says she gets asked this question all the time and that it doesn't have a simple, straightforward answer...

...and you, a total industry outsider with no experience or qualifications whatsoever, flatly dismiss all the subsequent explanations offered about the complex reasons behind the issue as overblown, and instead suggest that it DOES in fact have a simple, straightforward answer?

Imagine if someone came to you with a question about some archaeological trend, you went to great pains to explain that it's a complex issue with no easy answer and tried to explain why, and then they dismissed all that and insisted it was just one single element that mattered, and you're just bloviating and exaggerating everything else for no good reason.

John said...

And yet somehow, with much worse technology, using primitive over-the-air broadcasting, 1950s television managed to be much, much, much easier to understand than contemporary television.

Susi said...

Not only do they mumble, swallow their lines, etc, but the picture is so dark that even in a dark room with the picture as clear as I can make it, I can’t see the actor’s faces to read their lips. I’ve stopped hoping for improvement. Older movies don’t have this problem.

G. Verloren said...


Yes, exactly right - but not for just a single reason (although that one single reason is a factor), but rather for a complex combination of multiple reasons - including some wholly technical factors such as the differences between a sound mix for a movie theatre and one for a home theatre.

You're normally the first person to argue against accepting simplistic surface level answers, preferring more nuanced ones which involve combinations of multiple factors, so I admit I'm brought up a bit short in this case.

szopeno said...

I've already said that before - same problem in Poland, but for years it was explained that it's because we are poor country and our cinematography do not have enough resources to do proper sound post-processing. It came to the point that I preferred watching foreign movies with lector instead of Polish ones.

"Lector" is our custom, considered strange by many, where instead of dubbing or subtitles we have a guy translating in monotone voice the sentences as they happened, with original soundtrack left in the background. It's quite transparent when yu get used to it and the huge advantage is that the guy usually has proper diction and never mumbles.

David said...

I would think actor training would be a factor. Research might reveal that more actors were thoroughly stage-trained in the 50s than today. Also, the trend toward gritty realism--a lot of folks mumble in real life.