links for 2009-04-29

  • "Billions of photos have now been uploaded to the internet, and many are tagged with text descriptions. Some are even geotagged â stamped with the latitude and longitude coordinates at which the image was taken. David Crandall and colleagues at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, analysed the data attached to 35 million photographs uploaded to the Flickr website to create accurate global and city maps and identify popular snapping sites."
  • "In addition to the floor, which threatens to send the un-sure-footed hurtling into the sunken kitchen at the center of the house, the design features walls painted, somewhat disorientingly, in about 40 colors; multiple levels meant to induce the sensation of being in two spaces at once; windows at varying heights; oddly angled light switches and outlets; and an open flow of traffic, unhindered by interior doors or their adjunct, privacy.

    All of it is meant to keep the occupants on guard. Comfort, the thinking goes, is a precursor to death; the house is meant to lead its users into a perpetually âtentativeâ relationship with their surroundings, and thereby keep them young."

  • "For the low-scoring borrowers, a bank has to âdo the homeworkâ in a traditional sense. The slightly higher-scoring borrowers are slightly more creditworthy, but a lender doesnât need to âdo the homeworkâ he can just use the number-crunching computers and bonus-obtaining Ivy Leaguers. Except it seems that the number-crunching does a worse job. "
  • "Did American education go completely to hell in the 70s and 80s? It sure doesn't look like it. Both reading and math scores stayed almost rock steady during the entire "Nation at Risk" period. Did things improve with the passage of NCLB and the advent of massive high-stakes testing? Scores for 9-year-olds have gone up a bit, but past evidence suggests that gains among young children usually wash out by the time they're 17. There might be a bit of progress over the past eight years, but the evidence is very thin and very tentative. Overall, among 17-year-olds, the average reading score during the past four decades has gone from 285 to 286 and the average math score has gone from 304 to 306. There's hardly cause for either alarm or excitement."
  • "I've seen a lot of advisories about the possibility of a flu pandemic that give a lot of common-sense advice about how to prevent transmission of the disease: wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, avoid touching your face (this is hard for me to manage), cover your coughs and sneezes, and, especially, an admonition to stay home from work if you're sick.

    The last grates on me. Not because it's bad adviceâit's very good adviceâbut because it's always phrased in terms of individual behavior, as if this were an entirely free choice."

  • "In the second Cat in the Hat book (I think it is the second one), the Cat reveals that he has more smaller cats under his hat. They are labeled A - Z with Z being so small you canât even see. Question: What is the sequence of sizes for successive cats? How big would Cat Z be?"
  • "Everyone knows what it really means when someone uses that word," Powell said. "Still, we hear it all over the morning radio shows, all the time. Oooh, it burns me up. Those DJs aren't fooling anyone, certainly not us here at the FCC. But sadly, our hands are tied."
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