Archive for July, 2018

Facial recognition: Why not in schools?

July 31, 2018

Some schools are already doing it!
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Many schools have security systems that include cameras sending live feeds that are monitored by security personnel.

The AP reports that some Lockport, NY  schools are going a step further by implementing facial recognition technology that checks each face against a database of expelled students, sex offenders, disgruntled employees and other possible troublemakers.

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In addition, the system can be programmed to scan for some weapon “tells” (think: guns or knives in waistbands) and can be matched against a complete file of student and faculty pictures.

Though the system has potential life-saving benefits, some folks are opposing it…

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Great moments in facial recognition……

July 30, 2018

The Chinese have a novel application for the technology. 

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According to the AP

To boost tourism, bathrooms at some Chinese tourist sites now use facial recognition to keep visitors from grabbing too much toilet paper.

Yep, you read that right.

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Picture source

Here are the details…

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Studies: More time on Facebook … and it’s not good for you.

July 27, 2018

“Negatively associated with overall well-being … particularly mental health”.

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At the risk of piling on during FB’s stock “correction” (single day drop of 20%), let’s connect a couple of recently reported studies …

First, the BLS periodically reports how Americans spend their leisure time.

According to the NYT, channeling the most recent BLS report:

The average time that users spend on Facebook is nearing an hour.

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Putting that hour of Facebook in perspective:

That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed … with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours).

It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes).

It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours). NYT

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And, a recent study published by the Harvard Business Review indicates that all that Facebook time is unhealthy.

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Facial recognition: This could be a big idea…

July 26, 2018

We’ve previously posted how facial recognition has been gaining traction at airports, in some schools, on Chinese streets and even in some amusement parks.

Recently, NY Gov. Cuomo announced that cameras with facial recognition software were being installed to spot criminals in some of the state’s traffic tunnels, bridges and other choke points.

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More specifically…

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Gov. Cuomo revealed that facial-recognition cameras were already in place at  bridge and tunnel toll plazas across the state.

The cameras scan drivers’ faces and feed them into databases to catch suspected criminals.

“We are now moving to facial-recognition technology which takes it to a whole new level, where it can see the face of the person in the car and run that technology against databases.”

When a match is made, an alarm is triggered for follow-up by law enforcement.

In China, images are posted to real-time digital billboards to shame perps.

See More great moments in facial recognition

My hunch: This is less of a tool to nab petty offenders … more intended to deter or sang terrorists.

That would make it a big idea.

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Of course, civil libertarians oppose the use of facial recognition as an invasion of privacy … and claim that facial recognition is unreliable for children and “persons of color”.

The former is true since kids’ facial structures change rapidly as they age and grow … but, kids don’t drive, right?

The claim that facial recognition isn’t accurate for persons of color is a headscratcher.

Think about it for a minute or two…

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Words really do matter … especially in a kid’s early years.

July 25, 2018

Interesting study reported in The Atlantic

A pair of psychologists – Betty Hart and Todd Risley –  got curious about why some 3 and 4 year old kids are more academically ready than others.

“They devised a novel (and exhaustive) methodology: for more than three years, they sampled the actual words spoken to young children from 42 families at 3 different socioeconomic levels: (1) welfare homes, (2) working-class homes, and (3) professionals’ homes. Then they tallied the quantity and quality of the words spoken to the kids. “

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The results were – in the words of the researchers – “astounding”…

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Amazon and the “power of free” …

July 24, 2018

Over the weekend, Bernie Sanders and NY Dem Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were barnstorming deep-red states with their Progressive platform: Medicare for all, free college, minimum wage, guaranteed job, etc. Source

Many dismiss the ideas as unaffordable pie-in-the-sky.

But in class, I always preached: Don’t underestimate the “power of free”.

Here’s a real life example to prove the point.

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Everybody knows that Amazon’s free shipping program has been a resounding success.

So much so. that the company has announced that it will be moving the minimum qualifying order up from $25 to $35 … inducing shoppers to fill  their carts fuller or switch to the highly profitable Amazon Prime program.

The free shipping program’s success was highly predictable based an an apparently inadvertent “matched market test” that Amazon did.

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Here’s the skinny on the Amazon’s inadvertent market test …

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We saved their butts twice and they still haven’t forgiven us…

July 23, 2018

This is cleaned up paraphrases a classic slam at the French for underappreciating the U.S. role in both World Wars.

It came to mind when I read a Los Angeles Times article over the weekend.

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The gist of the article is that Trump — by calling on NATO members to meet their 2% of GDP defense commitment and by not wholeheartedly promising to defend Montenegro — has given NATO members cause to question whether the U.S. is a reliable ally.

Say, what?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

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Red Notice: A timely book to read…

July 20, 2018

One of the early advantages about retirement is finally having time to read books that have little or nothing to do with my courses…

First up: was Red Notice.  Recommended by my son, long before this week’s Russia events and reactions..

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This was an engaging read … and provides an interesting back-drop to the current Russia bruhaha…

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In a nutshell:

Browder was a brash, recently minted Stanford MBA who moved to Russia and built Hermitage Capital … a hedge fund that rose to prominence as the biggest foreign investor in Russian businesses.

Browder leveraged keen financial analysis to identify market anomalies and undervalued assets … and had brass balls, utilizing aggressive strategies against Russia’s oligarchs and Putin’s government.

Predictably, taking on Putin ended badly.

Browder – and most of his team- got out of Russia, avoiding incarceration and physical harm.

But, one of his lawyers – Sergei Magnitsky – was jailed by the Russians, tortured in an attempt to get him to turn on Browder, and eventually beaten to death.

Browder turned Magnitsky’s death into a human rights case against Russia … and was the driver behind the Magnitsky Act which banned the perpetrators from the U.S. – establishing a blueprint for other human rights violators.

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The biggest takeaways were Browder’s keen investment analyses … and his gross underestimation of Russian brutality against perceived enemies of the state.

No doubt about it … Putin is one mean & nasty dude…

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Update: For more detail, see today’s WSJ editorial Donald Trump, Meet Bill Browder

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Is Russia really “an oil and gas company masquerading as a country”?

July 19, 2018

That’s the characterization usually attributed to Se. Lindsey Graham.

Let’s drill down on that, starting with some GDP stats.

Russia’s GDP is only about $1.5 trillion.

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Let’s out that number in perspective…

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Rand Paul cuts to the chase re: meddling…

July 18, 2018

Though often annoying, Rand Paul is consistent on a couple of important issues (think privacy and non-intervention) … and has an ability to to hone in on pivotal conclusions.

This week — after the Trump-Putin meeting — Sen. Paul cut to the chase on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections…

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Flashback: Obama schools Romney that “Russia isn’t a threat”

July 17, 2018

President Trumps is getting blasted for his presser with Putin.

“Naïve,  Disgusting, Disgraceful. Treasonous.”

Just a minute guys…

Remember the 2012 Presidential debates?

A key moment was when President Obama ridiculed Gov. Romney’s knowledge of foreign affairs.

Given the current hysteria over Russia, the clip is a classic …  try to stay calm when you.watch it

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Here’s more that’ll should make you scream …

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NYT gets it half-right re: NATO

July 16, 2018

Have to admit, I had to do a double-take when I saw this non-Trump-bashing New York Times headline:

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More specifically, referring to NATO’s 2% defense spending guideline, the Times editorial read:

Now that the smoke has cleared from the NATO summit meeting, the most tangible result is apparent:

President Trump advanced President Barack Obama’s initiative to keep the allies on track to shoulder a more equitable share of NATO’s costs.

Hat tip to the Times for getting this one half-right.

Here’s the half that they didn’t get right…

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About Strzok’s “out of scope” polygraph…

July 13, 2018

Why aren’t lawmakers (and pundits) drilling down on this apparent smoking gun?
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One of the few points raised in the Strozk hearing yesterday that caught my attention emerged from Rep. Collins’ questioning.

Collins asked Strzok when he last passed a polygraph test.

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After some bantering and parsing, a couple of points were established:

1) Strzok said that he last took a polygraph 2 or 3 years ago

2) Strzok confirmed that he (and his superiors) were notified in January 2016 that his polygraph was “out of scope”

3) The FBI took no action based on the out of scope notification.

Hmm … aroused my curiosity.

Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together…

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Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation.

July 12, 2018

Researchers say that not all of the “shaping” has been good.

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Last year, when Apple celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the iPhone and launch of iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook boasted:

Having sold over one billion units and enabling millions of apps that have become essential to people’s daily routine …

The iPhone redefined how consumers live, work, communicate, and entertain.

I chalked it up as marketing hype, but then …

Then I started reading a  book (coincidence?) called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

The author is Jean Twenge, a psychology prof with a specialty in “generational differences” who is credited with coining the newest generation “iGen”.

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Amazon link

Prof Twenge agrees with Cook’s basic claim that the iPhone has redefined life.

But, she argues, not all of the redefinition is positive … specifically highlighting the decline in in-person social interaction and a sharp rise in mental health issues among iGens.

Let’s start at the beginning ….

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The elephant in NATO’s room…

July 11, 2018

Heavy dependence on Russian oil.
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NATO’s primary mission is to keep it’s member countries safe … mostly from Russia, right?

But, as we posted yesterday, key NATO nations (think: Germany) are hesitant to spend 2% of their GDP on defense … and are largely dependent on U.S. troops to protect NATO’s eastern flank and police the rest of the world.

Given that Russia is a lot closer to Europe than to the U.S. … why aren’t European nations more energized to defend themselves more aggressively and more visibly against the Russians?

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The answer can be summed up in one word…

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All you need to know about NATO funding…

July 10, 2018

Trump is right about the NATO reliance on the U.S.

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Lot of chatter in the run-up to this week’s NATO meeting.

Trump says that the U.S. piggybanks of NATO’s funding.

MSM fact-checkers say that Trump is way off base.

So, who is right?

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I did some digging and here’s what I found…

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Tonite: Trump’s SCOTUS pick

July 9, 2018

Regardless, the end of “legislating from the bench” … at least for a couple of decades
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Tonight, President Trump will announce his nomination for the Supreme Court.

The left is understandably in panic mode … but, in my opinion, for the wrong reasons.

News reports say that Trump has narrowed the field to 4 candidates.

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Here’s my rundown … and my grand conclusion…

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Happy? Sad? Excited? … Facebook can tell.

July 6, 2018

And, has been caught doing just that.

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It always amazes me what people post on Facebook. Their daily activities, their deepest emotions – you name it.

By now, every Facebook user should know that FB sifts through their content – posts, pictures, links, emojis – to determine, for example, what topics are hot; what people are doing; which brands people are buying, recommending, trashing or considering; whether users are feeling happy, sad, scared, excited.

The latter is called “sentiment analysis” using computer algorithms to take users’ “emotional pulse”.

Of course, FB promises that they’ll protect users’ privacy and would never even consider divulging that information to outsiders, say, advertisers or political campaigns.

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Bad news for believers: FB was caught “sharing” sentiment analysis data.

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According to USA Today

Documents leaked to a newspaper, The Australian, indicate that Facebook executives prepared a report for one of the country’s top banks.

The report described how Facebook gleans psychological insights into the mood shifts of millions of young people in Australia and New Zealand by monitoring their status updates and photos.

The 23-page report showed Facebook’s ability to detect when users as young as 14 are feeling emotions such as defeat, stress, anxiety or being overwhelmed … and. other information on young people’s emotional well-being such as when they exhibit “nervous-excitement” are “conquering fears“.

FB claimed that it can track how emotions fluctuate during the week.

Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week.

Reflective emotions increase on the weekend.

Monday-Thursday is about building confidence.

The weekend is for broadcasting achievements.

At a relatively benign level, advertisers can use that information to target ads to certain age groups … and they can time them to run on a certain day.

That’s apparently what FB got caught doing – revealing anonymous and aggregated data – to a potential advertising client.

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Let’s go a step further…

According to the article: “Facebook has also come under heavy scrutiny in the past for secretly conducting research that manipulated the emotions of users by altering what they see in their News Feed without their consent.”

So, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the collection and dissemination of individuals’ sentiment data that could be used to target advertising to specific individuals at specific times – say, when they’re feeling down and are vulnerable to buying certain products geared to giving them a pick-me-up, say, some new clothes, a fancy car or miracle drug.

Pretty unnerving, right?

Of course, FB assures users that it would never consider divulging that sort of data.

Yeah, right.

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Connecting dots

In a prior post, we reported on a study that concluded time on Facebook can be hazardous to your mental health.

For details see Studies: More time on Facebook … and it’s not good for you.

So, being on Facebook can make you emotionally vulnerable.

Facebook can determine when you’re vulnerable.

Facebook can sell that info to advertisers.

But, FB assures us that it won’t sell that data.

Whew … that’s a relief.

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Are you a maximizer or satisficer?

July 5, 2018

Interesting piece from the WSJ

Psychology researchers have studied how people make decisions and concluded there are two basic styles.

“Maximizers” like to take their time and weigh a wide range of options—sometimes every possible one—before choosing.

“Satisficers” would rather be fast than thorough; they prefer to quickly choose the option that fills the minimum criteria (the word “satisfice” blends “satisfy” and “suffice”).

“Maximizers are people who want the very best.

Satisficers are people who want good enough,”

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Take the quick test below to see if you’re a maximizer or satisficer…. and see what the implications are.. 

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Happy 4th of July !

July 4, 2018

Take a moment to remember how lucky we are …

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Great Moments in Education: Proud Americans

July 3, 2018

Recently, two  of my grandkids — Maddie & Ryne — “graduated” from pre-school and are ready to start kindergarten in the fall.

Both graduation ceremonies were awesome.

I love the pomp & circumstances that elevate the importance of education.

At Ryne’s ceremony, the parental crowd broke into applause when the kids presented their rendition of “Proud to Be An American”.

Very appropriate to the July 4th run-up.

If your battery needs charging, click the pic below to view a 15-second snippet.

There’s still hope ..

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Dilbert asks: “Who wants a dangerous man in the White House?”

July 2, 2018

Well, not actually Dilbert … rather Dilbert’s author Scott Adams.

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With all of the MSM “Trump is a wild & crazy guy” hysteria … coupled with the apparent progress on the NOKO scene … I was reminded of a prior (and once again timely) post.

During the Presidential campaign, Adams hit the nail on the head on his Dilbert blog, …

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Adams observed that, during the campaign, , Hillary’s constant refrain that we can’t have a loose cannon in the White House.

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Adam’s cut to the chase on on “Dangerous Trump”:

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