These Are the Most Vermin-Filled Cities in the U.S.

These Are the Most Vermin-Filled Cities in the U.S.
Tampa, Fla., is among the roachiest big cities in America. Seattle may be the rattiest. Philadelphia has more mouse sightings per housing unit than any other U.S. city. These are some of the filthy highlights from the U.S. Census Bureau’s biennial accounting of rat, mouse, and cockroach sightings across the country. The most recent numbers, collected in 2013, were released last month.
The data comes from the American Housing Survey, which is conducted every two years. And it does have limitations. For one, the survey includes only households, so sightings in public areas like subways and sidewalks don’t count. And in each installment, the Census breaks down detailed data for only 25 metropolitan areas. This year, the list included Chicago, Houston, and New York—but it didn’t include Dallas, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.

Which means that while Richmond, Va., had the smallest share of households that reported signs of a rat among the 2013 cohort, it isn’t necessarily the U.S. city with the fewest rats.


Who Is the True Monster? – The New Yorker

Who Is the True Monster? – The New Yorker

Men and womenfolk of the village, I stand before you a miserable wretch. You chase me with torches and pitchforks. You hound me, rain or shine, to the town’s very limits. And can any of you answer why? I beg of you, look within yourselves and ask: Who is the true monster here? Me, an eight-foot colossus created from human viscera with the sole purpose of killing and destroying? Or, perhaps, could it be you, who want me to leave town for some reason?

I know the idea might shock you. But take a moment to consider it: Would a “civilized” society form angry mobs to hunt one such as me solely because he is different? Would it curse him as a “fiend,” a “devil,” and a “beast” without taking the time to truly get to know him? And what did I do to deserve this? Besides inadvertently crushing your mayor’s head in one of my massive fists and starting a fire that, admittedly, reduced most of your homes to smoldering ruins, that is.

Townspeople, I implore you to be reasonable! Your ways frighten and confuse me. How could I have known, when you approached me with fresh food and clothes, that it was meant as a peace gesture, and that I was not supposed to repay you by picking up your town’s chaplain and hurling him into the ravine? Or when you were running away from me, screaming and wildly waving your arms, that you were trying to beg for mercy rather than summon reinforcements?

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Best Joke Ever: Coyle and Sharpe: ’60s Pranksters Who Were a Bazillion Years Ahead of Their Time.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Best Joke Ever: Coyle and Sharpe: ’60s Pranksters Who Were a Bazillion Years Ahead of Their Time.

We all have our own Mount Rushmore of comedy: the TV shows, movies, stand-ups, and humor writers that rule Funny Land in our minds like Odin rules Asgard, only without the ravens. For me, that pantheon will always include Coyle and Sharpe: an early 1960s radio team that created some of the weirdest and funniest bits in the history of comedy.James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe were put-on artists in an era far removed from our own share-happy planet. Carrying then-current recording equipment, these two well-dressed, conservative-looking fellows strolled the streets of San Francisco asking bonkers questions that provoked shockingly sincere answers. Would like to work in a flaming pit, fighting maniacs and eating bats? Would you mind being hung from a pole to help train pilots to avoid birds? Would you play a coyote as a musical instrument? The sheer imagination was staggering: get thee to the Coyle and Sharpe website or one of their CDs to sample the most preposterous comedy I’ve ever heard.

Sharpe was the straighter of the two straight men, making absurd pronouncements in a deadpan that would make Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, or Stephen Colbert proud. A typical Sharpe introduction was, “This is field marshals Coyle and Sharpe with good news concerning mutant creature warfare” or “Here’s an opportunity for you to participate in a kidnapping that will lead to the destruction of Los Angeles.” Coyle tended toward the maniacal, and often presented himself as an absurd character such as shower inventor Lorenzo Shower or a werewolf. They often started with a simple, reasonable idea, then gradually revealed a criminal or downright evil motivation, all the while pressuring the mark into deeper and deeper involvement. If a store owner was willing to accept the existence of a hybrid animal known as a zebeel (half-zebra, half-eel) maybe he would allow it in his store window—or take it home. As Coyle non-reassuringly asked, “Do you have any children? If you don’t have any children, it might be OK.”

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Required Reading Essay Questions Written By a First-Year Adjunct Who Does Not Have the Time or Wherewithal to Do the Required Reading.

McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Required Reading Essay Questions Written By a First-Year Adjunct Who Does Not Have the Time or Wherewithal to Do the Required Reading.

1. Compare and contrast the two cities in A Tale of Two Cities. Which one do you think Charles Dickens preferred?

2. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, why does the caged bird sing? Is it because it gets free food and shelter for just sitting there, doing nothing? Please elaborate and provide textual evidence.

3. What made The Great Gatsby so great? Does everyone think he’s that great? Why?

4. In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, how did the man become invisible? Do you sometimes feel like you’re invisible? Like, when you ask a tenured professor for some teaching advice and he says, “Yeah sure, give me your email” and you never hear back from him?

5. Does the punishment fit the crime in Crime and Punishment? Why or why not? Please provide textual evidence.

6. Who sent The Scarlet Letter? To whom was it addressed? Was it a letter of recommendation? Is there some sort of easy-to-follow format for letters of recommendation which you can use for students you don’t really know that well, but on whose evaluations you depend for continued employment?

11. Who is The Lord of the Flies? How does one become lord of the flies? Is it a paying position?

12. In The Sun Also Rises what, in addition to the sun, also rises? Is it the rent? I bet it’s the rent. Why is the rent so high?

14. Who drew The Picture of Dorian Gray? Did Dorian Gray like his picture? How do you become one of those famous artists whose pictures probably took a minute to make and sell for millions?

15. Describe the relationship between the two titular characters of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. How did they meet? Are they roommates? Are you looking for a roommate? Do you maybe have a walk-in closet you’re not using?

When average isn’t good enough: Simpson’s paradox in education and earnings | Brookings Institution

When average isn’t good enough: Simpson’s paradox in education and earnings | Brookings Institution

In the early 1970s, the University of California, Berkeley was sued for gender discrimination over admission to graduate school. Of the 8,442 male applicants for the fall of 1973, 44 percent were admitted, but only 35 percent of the 4,351 female applicants were accepted. At first blush, and assuming the applicants’ qualifications were similar, this pattern indeed appeared consistent with gender discrimination. However, when researchers looked more closely within specific departments, this bias against women went away, and even reversed in several cases.

This apparent contradiction, in which the trend of the whole can be different from or the opposite of the trend of the constituent parts, is often called Simpson’s paradox, after British statistician Edward H. Simpson, who described the phenomenon in 1951. In the Berkeley case, the “paradox” occurred because women disproportionately applied to departments with low acceptance rates, as shown in the table above, while men disproportionately applied to departments with high acceptance rates.  Examples of Simpson’s paradox have also been found  in baseball batting averages, on-time flights of airlines, and even survival rates from the Titanic.

How to quietly slurp sensitive data wirelessly from an air-gapped PC • The Register

How to quietly slurp sensitive data wirelessly from an air-gapped PC • The Register

Air-gapped computers are those kept physically isolated from other networks as a safeguard against hacking. The work by researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) throws up another way that data might be exfiltrated even from air-gapped systems, in this case using nothing more than an infected feature phone. Smartphones would not be needed to pull off the attack.

The researchers, led by PhD student Mordechai Guri, converted a regular air-gapped computer into a cellular transmitting antenna through software running on the PC that modifies the machine’s firmware. This GSMem malicious software extracts and transmits security keys and passwords over a GSM signal and across an air-gap to a mobile phone running matched malicious software.

Yes, that’s right: you do need to infect the air-gapped the computer for this to work. The goal is to extract information from the PC over the gap.

“GSMem takes the air out of the gap and will force the world to rethink air-gap security,” Dudu Mimran, chief technology officer of BGU’s Cyber Security Research Center, in a statement. “Our GSMem malicious software on Windows and Linux has a tiny computational footprint, which makes it very hard to detect. Furthermore, with a dedicated receiver, we were successful exfiltrating data as far as 30 meters in distance from the computer.”

The research followed earlier studies by the same BGU group on how it might be possible to siphon off data from supposedly secure, air-gapped computers. The same researchers developed a technique using FM waves after previously coming up with an even more ingenious method using heat to communicate. One possible countermeasure against the latest technique would involve prohibiting the presence of mobile phones anywhere near air-gapped computers.

Computer fires requiring a 911 call rare | Computerworld

Computer fires requiring a 911 call rare | Computerworld

Computer fires severe enough to prompt a 911 call are so unusual that when it does happen, local media sometimes makes note of it. That was the case in Arlington, Va., recently, when firefighters found a computer burning on the balcony of an apartment complex.

According to the Arlington County Fire Dept., the resident of the apartment had built his own desktop computer. The computer wasn’t in use, but was plugged in — and the resident was in another room when it caught fire.

“He was alerted to the fire by the sound of the smoke alarm and then found smoke coming from his hard drive,” said department Lt. Sarah-Maria Marchegiani.

The resident carried the computer out to the balcony after it caught on fire, according to a local media report on Arlington Now.

“Computer fires are fairly rare for us,” said Marchegiani. That may be the case nationally, as well.

From 2007 through 2011, local fire departments responded to an average of 350 computer fires per year, according to a study (PDF) by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

“It’s a fairly small number, but they do happen,” said Marty Ahrens, manager of fire analysis services at NFPA.

Other components that are associated with fire department calls included a yearly average of 61 computer printer fires, as well as 46 computer monitor fires per year.

[My guess would be that computer monitor fires have gone way down since CRT based monitors have been replaced with LCD monitors.]

Clusters of living worlds would hint life came from outer space – New Scientist

Clusters of living worlds would hint life came from outer space – New Scientist

Does life spread like an interstellar infection? If we spot it on clusters of planets, that might suggest it doesn’t stay put wherever it evolves.

The theory that life crosses space to reach new worlds, called panspermia, is hard to test. Life on Earth could have been seeded by just one microbe-laden rock, but there are too many rocks to check, even if we had a foolproof test for extraterrestrial life.

“That’s not a very effective strategy of testing whether life came from outer space,” says Henry Lin of Harvard University. He says the answer lies in mapping life across the galaxy.

Future probes like NASA’S James Webb Space Telescope will scrutinise the atmospheres of planets in other solar systems for possible signs of biological activity. If life spreads between planets, inhabited worlds should clump in space like colonies of bacteria on a Petri dish. Otherwise, Lin says, its signature would be seen on just a few, randomly scattered planets.

[The problems with this theory are 1) it implies one master starter set of life and 2) there is only one type of life. The universe is so hostile to life as we know it I doubt that there was a single starter.  The distances that need to be traveled (unless there are some back doors we have yet to discover) would limit the disbursement. Other than photons nothing travels close to the speed of light.]

Microsoft Edge on Windows 10: The browser that will finally kill IE | VentureBeat | Dev | by Emil Protalinski

Microsoft Edge on Windows 10: The browser that will finally kill IE | VentureBeat | Dev | by Emil Protalinski

Despite Chrome’s and Firefox’s gains, IE still dominates in terms of browser market share, and that’s mainly due to the fact that Windows is the desktop king. Changing the default browser on an operating system is a massive undertaking, especially if that operating system has always been so closely tied to its browser.

You undoubtedly want to know: is Edge any good? The short answer is: Yes, yes it is.

The long answer isn’t so simple. Edge offers a lot of new features and functionality, while remaining a lean tool for browsing the web. Microsoft is finally giving Chrome and Firefox a run for their money, but Edge is still lacking in many areas.

Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to achieve the impossible in the first version if you’re building from the ground up. Edge is capable of doing a lot more than IE for one simple reason: The legacy code is gone.

This leaves room to fill Edge up with new features. That said, the most important one — extensibility — still isn’t ready. Developers will “soon” be able to port their Chrome extensions and Firefox add-ons to Microsoft’s browser, but for now Edge is a powerful browser clearly not meant for power users.

[No word on how difficult it will be to port an extension.  If the operating model is sufficiently different then it will be a rewrite which will limit the interest in do it.]

Beyond safety: Is robotic surgery sustainable? | Robohub

This week, the “144” study on adverse events in robotic surgery made the rounds in media outlets such as the BBC, NBC and the MIT Tech review. An impressive group of researchers found that between January 2000 and December 2013, we have records of robotic surgical procedures killing 144 people, injuring 1,391, and involving 8,061 malfunctions – this is out of a total of more than 1.7 million procedures performed in that time period.

This is of course serious news, raises important questions, and adds to a heated conversation on the safety and effectiveness of robotic surgical procedures. A growing body of studies now argue these points, and thankfully we’re starting to learn when and why this technology works or causes trouble. A lot seems to come down to how frequently a procedure is performed at a particular hospital and by a particular surgeon, for example. Hopefully this dialogue will mean safer and more effective robotic procedures as the years go on; this is generally the story with surgical technologies as they mature.

It may also mean many fewer competent robotic surgeons, just as demand for robotic surgery soars. After two years of field research – observing close to a thousand hours of robotic and open surgery at five diverse hospitals and interviewing surgeons and residents from ten teaching hospitals around the country – I have found that the intense focus on safety and effectiveness seems to be compromising training for new robotic surgeons.  I should say from the outset that I’ve collected data only on surgery involving Intuitive’s da Vinci system, and primarily on urologic procedures. I did this to uncover best practice: the da Vinci is used far more frequently than any other robotic surgical system, and the field of urology has had – by far – the most experience with the system over the longest period of time.

Why is surgical learning compromised in surgery involving the da Vinci? Mainly because the technology allows a single surgeon to perform the bulk of each procedure. In traditional “open” surgery, senior surgeons need significant help from medical residents throughout. While I explore interesting exceptions in my research, at my sites this generally translated into a ten- to twenty-fold reduction in the time that medical residents got to spend actually doing surgery. It’s hard to hand the controls over to a rookie for long when you’re accountable for safety and quality in life-and-death work. Perhaps in response, Intuitive introduced a “driver’s ed” model that allows senior surgeons to digitally delegate surgical control to a trainee sitting in another control console. Interestingly, the presence of this model did not lead to notable increases in resident “console time” at my sites. Most often, residents watch procedures unfold on TV screens in the operating room, which likely has limited learning. As a chief of urology said to me, “Watching movies does not make you an actor.”