Archive for the ‘Worth Knowing’ category

#  Hacking Audio Transcription with YouTube →

January 28th, 2014 at 15:16 // In Worth Knowing 

I’ve needed to transcribe some audio recently, and found it quite a bear of a task. Transcription services aren’t error-free, and they typically take at least 24 hours to turn around. But YouTube videos get free machine transcription, and while it’s more error-full than a human transcription it’s probably faster.

Andy Baio explain:

How’s the quality? Pretty mediocre! It’s about as good as you’d expect from a free machine-generated transcript. The caption files have no punctuation between sentences, speakers aren’t broken out separately, and errors are very common.

But if you’re transcribing interviews, it’s often easier to edit a flawed transcript than starting from scratch. And YouTube provides a solid interface for editing your transcript audio and getting the results in plaintext.

#  17 Supermarket Tricks →

January 28th, 2014 at 10:27 // In Worth Knowing 

These aren’t so much tricks as interesting tidbits, but more than a few were novel to me. And I was working in a supermarket just last year… This one I’d not thought about at all, but seems obviously to have happened in the US on reflection:

Shopping carts are getting bigger so you’ll put more in them: “We doubled their size as a test, and customers bought 19% more,” explained Martin Lindstrom, marketing consultant and author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.

(via NextDraft)

#  Comparative World Peacefulness →

January 20th, 2014 at 17:58 // In Worth Knowing 

Speaking of peace, my map-loving eye was caught by this map of peacefulness shared by @Amazing_Maps.Global_Peace_Index.svg

#  Peaceful School Reforms →

January 20th, 2014 at 16:39 // In Worth Knowing 

Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a great way to find cool things on the internet. In a recent issue he linked two stories about novel methods schools to improve peacefulness and safety other than the too conventional in America metal detectors and police officers.

#  How Credit Card Numbers Work →

January 13th, 2014 at 12:33 // In Worth Knowing 

This is a bit of deep data nerdery, but I really enjoyed it and didn’t know nearly as much about check digits and sums as Nick Berry talks about. Like:

In a typical sixteen digit credit card number, the first fifteen digits are determined by the issuing bank, but the last digit, called the check digit, is mathematically determined based on all the other digits. …

Obviously, with just a single check digit, not all errors can be detected (there’s a one in ten chance of a random number having the correct check digit), but the Luhn algorithm is clever in that it detects any singleerror (getting a single digit wrong), such as swapping the 9 with a 6 in the above example. It also detects almost all* pair-wise switching of two adjacent numbers. These errors are typical common errors people make when transcribing card numbers, so the check digit does a good thing.

(via The Browser)

#  Being a Woman Online →

January 10th, 2014 at 10:43 // In Worth Knowing 

A good read about the perils of being a woman on the internet. Sadly nothing with which I wasn’t vaguely familiar, though the specifics drive the point home. The overview is pretty simply expressed by this point:

Abusers tend to operate anonymously, or under pseudonyms. But the women they target often write on professional platforms, under their given names, and in the context of their real lives. Victims don’t have the luxury of separating themselves from the crime. When it comes to online threats, “one person is feeling the reality of the Internet very viscerally: the person who is being threatened,” says Jurgenson. “It’s a lot easier for the person who made the threat—and the person who is investigating the threat—to believe that what’s happening on the Internet isn’t real.”

(via Next Draft)

#  US Butter Consumption at 40-Year-High →

January 9th, 2014 at 9:49 // In Worth Knowing 

An interesting side-effect of the shaming of trans-fat. It makes sense but hadn’t occurred to me.

(via NextDraft)

#  Skeptical Meditation Experience →

January 8th, 2014 at 16:44 // In Worth Knowing 

I’m a big believer in meditation, however you come to it. With a partner I run Medivate, a site that aims to help you meditate more. And I found this skeptic’s take on the experience of trying out meditation really interesting. Even if you’re not as into the topic, I think you’ll like it.

This was really interesting to me, as one of pet issue is doing things when you don’t want to:

I don’t always get myself to meditate as soon as I get home (or on break during the busy shift); it takes willpower, and this is a willpower-reduced state. It would be an excellent habit to train, though. To clarify: I find meditation really difficultin this state. My thoughts are racing and the last thing I want to focus on is my breath, because I did exciting things today and I should think about all of them really fast. But at least meditation forces me to focus on the fact that my thoughts are racing, and notice that from a calm perspective, instead of completely identifying with and being caught up in the flow. Twenty minutes later, I’m generally reset and able to do something else, although that thing is most often sleep.


#  Bill Gate’s Good News of 2013 →

December 29th, 2013 at 18:33 // In Worth Knowing 

I won’t say anything of his news is huge or mind-blowing. I’m linking to it at least in part because Bill Gates has a blog and I’ve never linked to it. But it’s hard to say it’s not good:

Child mortality went down—again. One of the yearly reports I keep an eye out for is “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality.” The title doesn’t sound especially uplifting, but the 2013 report shows amazing progress—for example, half as many children died in 2012 as in 1990. That’s the biggest decline ever recorded. And hardly anyone knows about it! If you want to learn more—and I’d urge you to—the report has a good at-a-glance summary on page 3.

#  Catastrophic Insect Loss →

November 29th, 2013 at 17:34 // In Worth Knowing 

You’ve probably, by now, heard that bees are disappearing. It turns out, the monarch butterfly is too:

[The migrating butterflies] began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.

The article goes onto articulate the problem more thoroughly, though there’s no clear an simple solution to any of it. This wasn’t an issue I’d thought about recently, though its obviousness makes saying that a bit embarrassing:

Farm fields are not the only problem. Around the world people have replaced diverse natural habitat with the biological deserts that are roads, parking lots and bluegrass lawns. Meanwhile, the plants people choose for their yards are appealing for showy colors or shapes, not for their ecological role.


#  Why Bike Theft →

November 21st, 2013 at 17:43 // In Worth Knowing 

I read this essay over the summer, but then forgot about it until I saw a tweet from Paul Ford. It’s an interesting consideration of the economics of bike theft. The heart of the issue, as you may already recognize, is this:

For all practical purposes, stealing a bike is risk-free crime.  It turns out there is a near zero chance you will be caught stealing a bike (see here) and if you are, the consequences are minimal.

#  Greatest Inventions Since the Wheel →

November 13th, 2013 at 21:14 // In Worth Knowing 

The list isn’t mind blowing, but it is interesting, as is the article that proceeds it. I valued their starting with this point:

Some questions you ask because you want the right answer. Others are valuable because no answer is right; the payoff comes from the range of attempts.

(via kottke)

#  “Law of Urination” →

November 1st, 2013 at 18:34 // In Worth Knowing 

Some scientists are claiming that all mammals pee for exactly 21 seconds. I don’t know that I believe it, but it’s an interesting idea.

Combining this with data on mass, bladder pressure and urethra size, they were able to create a mathematical model of urinary systems to show why mammals take the same time to empty their bladder, despite the difference in bladder size.

#  Indonesia Today →

October 30th, 2013 at 21:40 // In Worth Knowing 

Pankaj Mishra’s article is opinionated, but also a great primer on the recent history and current outlook for the largest and least-talked-about (at least in my little American experience) countries in the world.

There is talk once more of a ‘rising’ Asian economy (the Boston Consulting Group predicts that more than half the country’s 242 million people will qualify as middle class by 2020), though recent economic setbacks suggest, as with similar predictions about India, that this may prove to be fantasy. Wealth has brought disconcerting changes: large parts of Sumatra, ravaged by slash-and-burn investors, resemble a lunar landscape, and smoke from land-clearing fires started by palm-oil prospectors extends as far as the cities of Malaysia and Thailand, where doctors warn people with respiratory diseases to wear masks.

#  Inside the NSA →

October 24th, 2013 at 22:09 // In Worth Knowing 

I didn’t expect to, but I actually found something interesting about Daniel Soar’s peeking under the corners of the NSA. Looking more closely than any one else I’ve seen, Soar reveals some unexpected (though understandably quite limited) details about how the NSA actually works:

One of the things these slides are most revealing of is the marketplace within the NSA. At your desk in S2C41, as you sit down to find the best way to home in on dodgy goings-on by senior Mexicans, you have a whole menu of sexy tools to choose from.

#  Electric Cars and the Grid →

October 12th, 2013 at 22:29 // In Worth Knowing 

An interesting short piece about some of the impacts that electric cars are starting to and might have on the broad electrical grid. This hadn’t occurred to me:

In most parts of California, charging an electric car [with a dedicated high-voltage charger] of those is the equivalent of adding one house to the grid, which can be a significant additional burden, since a typical neighborhood circuit has only five to 10 houses.

(via @drance)

#  A Kinder Iran? →

October 4th, 2013 at 20:08 // In Worth Knowing 

Gary Sick’s primer on Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s new president, and what he means for the countries relations with the outside world seems to walk carefully and well the line between optimism and realism about the future.

Khamenei appeared before the leadership of the powerful and conservative Revolutionary Guards Corps to remind them politely but firmly that their proper concern was national security, not politics. Since the Revolutionary Guards played a major part in undermining both of Rouhani’s predecessors, this was a unique and unequivocal demonstration of solidarity. It does not, however, guarantee indefinite support for Rouhani’s initiatives. The Guards and the senior clerical establishment will look for results and weigh their own interests. Thus far, Rouhani, with the help of the Leader, has stayed ahead of his domestic and foreign opposition, but in New York he and his associates gave every indication of being men in a hurry.

#  Subsidized Sports →

September 26th, 2013 at 21:09 // In Worth Knowing 

This article is about all the bogus benefits the NFL has, but it’s approximately true of all major sports leagues in the United States, and the mentioned tax incentives are realized by copious other businesses at smaller scales. Still, if you’re unfamiliar with the whole political structure of it, it’s hard not to be incensed by a summary like this:

Taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn’t apply to broadcast deals, the league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year. It’s time to stop the public giveaways to America’s richest sports league—and to the feudal lords who own its teams.

(via kottke)