It’s Monday, June 6, 2022 in Portland, Oregon and despite raining as hard as an oversubscribed newsfeed desperate to incite engagement, it is a very nice, not-too-hot day.
Today’s newsletter title is not a bad rainbow code in that it is not a bad rainbow code for an existing project, but that it is a string of characters that oh just go and read it.
IEEE Spectrum has a feature on the history of Xerox PARC, the institution that has taken on almost mythical status as a charismatic megalab responsible for Much Of What Is And Could Have Been.
THOR (via Ars Technica1) is a tracklet-less heliocentric orbit recovery that implements a new method2 for discovering and tracking asteroids. Caught my attention because: it’s running in the cloud on ADAM, the Asteroid Decision, Analysis and Mapping platform, run by the B612 Foundation, a non-profit “dedicated to planetary science and planetary defense against asteroids and other near-Earth object (NEO) impacts”3.
Caught my attention because: apparently it can use any dataset, of imagery (“THOR makes any astronomical data set a data set where you can search for asteroids”1).
Via New York Magazine4 from 2017 (it somehow crossing my feed somewhere), Nathan Myhrvold’s Intellectual Ventures had a plan to kill mosquitos using some sort of LASER-based point-defence system [New York Magazine, archive.ph].
Caught my attention because: apparently we now know the minimum lethal dosage required to LASER a mosquito to death, and, you know, the intervention system appears to have disappeared ever since that article in 2017, the phrase “photonic fence” from an FT article5, and the ridiculous over-engineered-ness.
Unsurprisingly, the inhabitants of New Zealand care about the exact route their internet traffic takes to get to the West Coast of the USA, from a thread from Liam Farr about how Starlink’s New Zealand service gets its ground-based connectivity:
So Starlink have just turned on their NZ pop (today it seems), they have two 100G Ports on AKL-IX, and are using HE for everything else… [tweet]
One of my favorites is this, on the Auckland to PDX (Portland! Where I am!) route:
So that’s the Hawaiki cable, its a new (2018) crappy path to the USA that lands in Portland… but its hella cheap! (vs the traditional Southern Cross Cable to Morro Bay, with a pop in SJC) [tweet]
Caught my attention because: Routing! Remember why some people feel very strongly about using microwave links that have to be line-of-sight? And I learned about AKL-IX, one of the peering locations in Auckland. Also I take offence at Portland, I live here and we’ve got some very nice datacenters in Prineville nearby.
Which stands for asymmetrical operation at scale, which was a throwaway comment in s12e12: It’s still about Ethics in Dataset Collection, Attribution and Licensing, but also Governance6, and is still stuck in my head:
asymmetrical operation at scale which is that tech allows you to map:reduce on society, but that undo operations on individuals are incredibly costly in comparison6
(And yes, I am trying to commit to acronym headings in this episode).
Stuck in my head because: still something about spamming operations like society is some sort of spreadsheet and you’re just grabbing the bottom-right handle in Excel and applying the same formula to everyone. Which, you know. Is what MapReduce essentially is. But also a hallmark of computering, software and data: that the people who have the resource to do MapReducing on people and their data have disproportionate power, and that’s what humans have ever invented tools to do: as force multipliers.
… is the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a greener-field U.S. federal government entity tasked with making sure you don’t get too screwed over by banks and where some of my internet friends have worked.
The CFPB is in my head because I am committed to this acronym thing and it’s the first acronym that popped into my head related to this concept: that the well-informed consumer is under an asymmetrical distributed denial of time and attention attack7.
Caught my attention because: Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist covered pink slime news sites8, which are disinformation/misinformation sites masquerading as reputable local newspapers/news organizations. I understand the pink slime analogy – the one about what-it-is-like-to-be-processed-meat – but it really does need a better name in the news-space. But the big thing that stuck in my head was this, the News Literacy Project’s tips for practicing good information hygiene, consisting of (i) pausing; (ii) speed-reading the comments; (iii) “doing a quick search”; and (iv) asking for the source, or finding the original source of the story.
I mean, this is a lot of work! It also caught my attention because of Kaiser Health News’ bill of the month, about someone who got hit with a ~$2k colonoscopy bill (sorry for people not in the U.S. shaking their heads). Short story: they should not have been billed. The entire mess was, it sounds like, down to one billing person at a hospital, that required a three-way patient-mediated and scheduled call between the hospital, the patient, and their insurance company, which was a terribly stressful Peter Greenaway film.
Here’s how to be a well-informed consumer of healthcare in the U.S., for example when you want… a cancer screening?
But before getting an elective procedure like a cancer screening, it’s always a good idea to try to suss out any coverage minefields, Howard said. Remind your provider that the government’s interpretation of the ACA requires that colonoscopies be regarded as a screening even if a polyp is removed.
“Contact the insurer prior to the colonoscopy and say, ‘Hey, I just want to understand what the coverage limitations are and what my out-of-pocket costs might be,’” Howard said. Billing from an anesthesiologist — who merely delivers a dose of sedative — can also become an issue in screening colonoscopies. Ask whether the anesthesiologist is in-network.
Be aware that doctors and hospitals are required to give good faith estimates of patients’ expected costs before planned procedures under the No Surprises Act, which took effect this year.
Take the time to read through any paperwork you must sign, and have your antennae up for problems. And, importantly, ask to see documents ahead of time.
So, you know. Do all that. Which is why I say it’s impossible to be a responsible consumer these days. No that it was ever really possible, but let’s just say that it’s less possible, and again, computers mean bureaucracy can explode, or rather than we can have more edge cases than ever. And sure it isn’t just computers’ fault, there’s the whole hitting-ourselves-in-the-face aspect of the economy.
Okay, that’s it for today.
How are you, and how was your weekend?
The privately funded killer-asteroid spotter is here, Ramin Skibba, 5 June, 2022 ↩↩
Where’s Our Laser-Shooting Mosquito Death Machine?, Carl Swanson, July 26, 2017 and on archive.today ↩
The well-informed consumer is under an asymmetrical distributed denial of time and attention attack. Me on Twitter, June 5, 2022 ↩
Beware partisan ‘pink slime’ sites that pose as local news, Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post, June 5, 2022 ↩