Geeks, Greeks and Sneaks: Potpourri

Let’s start and end with a slightly skeptical theme. Have you ever encountered a psychic, or someone who visits one regularly? Ask them to read this excerpt from a psychic’s memoirs.

One of the big stories this past week centered around how easily your online identity can be messed with. Mat Honan broke the story  in Wired about how easily this was done and how profound were the issues it created. Shortkly afterwards Wired posted some excellent advice for protecting your online identity. Forbes also carried an article on how to create and remember strong passwords. You might consider following much of this advice. The two-factor identification recommended for gmail is particularly important. After all, if someone gets into your email they may as well have everything. I recently changed over to two-factor identification. It was easy to do and certainly makes things no harder. When you log in the system sends an access code to your cellphone which you enter to complete the process. This needs to only happen once for any computer; once you log in on your own machine the system can renumber it as trusted. If you need to access your gmail from someone else’s computer the system will send another code to your cellphone and you can choose to make that login a one-time event. An outsider who trys to access your email will be stopped at the login process because they would not be able to retrieve the access code.

Curiosity made it! Here’s my favorite video explaining the Curiosity rover. Who better than Will Shatner?

According to Forbes here are Ten things for organizations to avoid. I feel thus applies to government services, health and education too.

What are the most popular websites in the world? No big surprises…

Oh man! We can be so gullible. All we need are a few pictures and we can be convinced of anything!

Here’s a fascinating breakdown of reserves by country. Note that Canada is highly positioned in many categories.

You know how people seem to drop random stats … right out of the blue?  Haven’t you always wanted to challenge them, especially on the more preposterous items. Here’s a great place to look things up. Worldometers gives stats for the whole world. Bookmark it just for reference.

I read, with interest, numerous articles on Trapwire, a surveillance system capable of tracking people using software with mostly undisclosed capability applied to ordinary cameras.  Despite the obvious threats to individual privacy, along with questions of just who can access this info without authorization, the real story seems to be in the less-than-above-board deals that were made in order to create it. Stories are here, here and here (the sleaze). Oh, did I mention it’s here in Canada too? Speaking of surveillance this this must be the year of the drones. They seem to have found a ready-made market in the law enforcement area where there is a great appetite for low-cost high-value surveillance. So, enter the drones! See this article in the Star. I still have concerns regarding privacy and procedure–it always takes about a decade for the ethics and legislation to catch up with the capability. On that note, The Atlantic did run a story on a proposed bill that stipulates some procedural justice around obtaining online information such as texts. It’s a good start, assuming it passes. With any luck Canada will follow–at some point.

According to this article in the NY Times Friends … real ones, I mean, are so much harder to make and keep when you are an old geezer

Last week, when I was in Montreal, I had a great chat with the taxi driver who drove me to and from the airport. he moved to Montreal from Greece about 35 years ago and has been back many times. His experience shed light, for me, on Greece’s current difficulties. One thing was clear. Like the author of this article in the Economist, he emphasized that there is a lot of work ahead if Greece is to turn it around.

In Yahoo Finance I saw an article on the recent trend toward posting massive amounts of content online and on offering huge online courses. Of course the finance people would be all over it due to the potential cost savings. It certainly gives me reason to wonder, though, about hoe we ensure that the students get a quality experience.

The smaller online devices are certainly maturing. The desktops and laptops arrived about 10 years ago, no doubt–see this great timeline from Ars. But now the small ones are there too.  Me, I totally love my Galaxy S3. It’s the first such device I ever saw that was a real tool and not just a toy that did some of what you needed to do. The tablets are really coming into their own too; getting better and much cheaper.

Software development literacy. Here’s one person’s opinion. Me–I’m not there; I still say that the basics in electricity and semiconductors should be important but maybe not mandatory; the rest just comes from that.  This whole ‘mandatory’ thing is thrown about just a bit too easily, isn’t it?

Did you know that the Gates Foundation sponsored a competition to develop a better toilet? I wonder if they called it the Super Bowl :>)

The new words: from the Atlantic Wire.  Yep–‘F-Bomb’ made it!

Have you heard of Duolingo? It’s a website that encourages you to translate parts of the web. It says it only gives you material that you can understand and helps you with words. It also says it’s a great way to learn another language. BUT I would love to hear how my second-language teacher friends really feel about this.

This Sci Am article sheds some light on why people pursue degrees in STEM. It was interesting to note that there are significant gender differences. Speaking of science, as you know, scientific knowledge needs to be replicable. That is, under similar conditions, others need to be able to obtain the same results. Surprisingly little of this is actually done. You might be appalled to learn how many ‘scientific’ claims are shaky at best. It’s just that people don’t have the time or money to call everyone and everything out. This Slate article, delves a bit into a cost-effective service that can attempt to replicate published findings. Sounds like an excellent public service as far as I am concerned. As someone who’s been taking meds for mild hypertension for about a decade, for example, I was surprised to learn that it seems they are not that useful in the long run. I mean–I just assumed… Well. No more assumptions! Now If I could only pay someone to give that ‘backing soda in the fridge’ foolishness a good try!

Good tests kill flawed theories; we remain alive to guess again.
Karl Popper

One’s work may be finished someday, but one’s education never.
Alexandre Dumas


About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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