Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Target (and several others) have recently been hacked at their point of sale (POS) terminals to the tune of 10′s of millions of credit cards. Back in the ‘old days’ when it was a whole lot of work to take advantage of a stolen credit card it made a lot of sense for the credit card companies to simply bake in a percentage of fraud and just get the customers to deal with it (note that the real customers of the CC companies are the merchants, NOT the consumer). However, now that CCs can be stolen by the millions and monetized quickly and entirely remotely this strategy is now biting the CC companies on the ass. Sure, with data mining they can identify a lot of fraud and take steps to minimize it, but since they push this cost on to their customers at some point the customers are going to balk. The core of the problem is that when you use the CC at the POS the merchant (and by extension anyone who has hacked the merchant’s POS hardware) now has all the information to make any number of unauthorized purchases. If we had smart cards that produced a one-time encrypted, signed token, ‘stealing’ this information would be entirely pointless. While it is not trivial to make such a system bulletproof, even a naive implementation would immediately eliminate any value from stealing the CC information and likely make the cost of fraud orders of magnitude higher. Of course, in the real world it is very hard to get anyone to change AND there is a huge amount of money to be made in converting to a new system so none of the current actors actually want to have open standards. However, I predict that the current paradigm will end soon (decade or so) because the fraud costs are going up on nearly a daily basis and I am quite sure that merchants are about ready to switch to cash-only to avoid the increasing percentage the CC companies are charging them. Of course, the merchants simply pass this cost onto their customers (us), but because of the highly competitive nature of (true capitalistic (not that we really have a lot of that here in the good old USofA)) competition, if a merchant can give a consumer a 10% discount for paying with cash (and maintain the same or better margins) I bet that would attract a lot of attention.
I was motivated to write this post after reading this other blog post:
Dispute Resolution Systems for Security Protocols
It is not totally relevant to my post, but here it is in case you are curious. I didn’t read the paper the post refers to, because, as mentioned in my post and a couple of the comments (as usual, the comments are very interesting (well, if you are interested in infosec, anyway)) the paper is addressing the wrong problem.
Mobile Marketing from xkcd:
To me this really speaks to the phrase ‘think outside the box’. Problem: customer wants to increase visits to their website. Solution: trigger a wave of website visits by playing on the viral aspects of social media (how many people would simply forward the text without bothering to check out the news sites?). Sure, every other news site also gets increased traffic, but the customer didn’t specify they _didn’t_ want that in their initial requirements. The solution is simple, quick and effective.
Of course, solutions like this are bound to trigger upset by the customer’s user community. This is why contracts today are a dozen pages of tiny print.
The Bill Nye-Ken Ham Debate Was a Nightmare for Science
In a much-hyped showdown, “the Science Guy” tried to defend evolution against creationist Ken Ham, and proved how slick science-deniers can be. How did the guy who’s right go so wrong?
I didn’t watch the debate, though I gave passing thought at one point because Nye has historically been pretty good at explaining science and I figured it might be entertaining. However, I am glad I didn’t waste my time; apparently Nye is totally incapable of explaining science to non-believers and, at least based on the above article and another couple I read, did Creationism a huge boost by sounding totally clueless. The anti-science attitude here in the US is getting stronger each year (or it sure seems to me) and while it is possible to make some progress on a technological level without understanding how science works (presuming you consider something like smartphones and Facebook ‘progress’), fundamental advances require fundamental understanding of science which is generally incompatible with an acceptance of a literal interpretation of the bible. It is not necessary to believe in one or the other exclusively (as I suggest here science is indeed build on faith); I know people who are quite religious but also have a strong belief in science (personally I have a problem reconciling that, but I also believe in a lot of ‘sketchy’ things science wise, so who am I to judge?). I believe the Catholic Pope is on record as saying there is no conflict between science and religion. Anyway, my point is if you are going to let your critical thinking skills be driven by an unshakeable belief that science is bunkum because it says the world is older than 6,000 years, I find it incredibly hard to believe you can ever make any sort of meaningful contribution to advancing society.
Just to bring it to the fore, the article mentions the “Red Queen Hypothesis” that posits evolution, on average, is driven by competition between the organism and its parasites/predators as both evolve to get better and better at their respective jobs. (Note that there is also a theory called “Punctuated Evolution” that posits that most evolution happens over short (geologically speaking) timescales and the vast majority of the time nothing really happens. This is where the Red Queen steps in to explain why there is a steady state of extinction in between the punctuations.) Anyway, thought my reader(s) might be interested in the Red Queen but might not read the article, so wanted to point it out.
Sugar not only makes you fat, it may make you sick
This is interesting because the evidence is building up that refined sugar (and be sure to always include refined starches (such as refined flour)!) is actively bad for your health in the amounts any normal member of our society consume. I have mentioned ‘evil’ sugar before (you should also read the links in that post if you haven’t already), it is getting to the point that I think excess refined sugar/starches are worse for you than smoking and I believe the science on the evils of smoking are quite well established (but note: smoking is far from a death sentence! it may only slightly increase your chance of dying by any other means), though it will no doubt be decades before the sugar producing industry will acknowledge that.
Bottom line: if you can afford it, try to keep the total calories in your diet from refined sugar/starches to under 10%, ideally under 5%. What does that mean? If you ate nothing but unrefined food (salads, steak, fish, etc.; no pasta, rice, etc.) then you could have a _single_ 16 ounce soda. Pretty amazingly different from the average Jill and Joe diet eh?
The Older Mind May Just Be a Fuller Mind
A very interesting take on ‘cognitive decline’ and how it might be a measurement artifact. I sort of discuss it in a post on why thinking takes longer as you get older, it is interesting to see my opinion might have some science behind it.
Of course, as the author says, it might be old people grasping at straws to try to keep even with you young punks. However, keep in mind you young people: old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill!
Fifty States of Fear
A very interesting article that sort of consolidates a lot of my own arguments. A bit long for the average web article, but I recommend it to my reader(s). The author alludes to the us of fear by monied interests, which dovetails nicely with my continued rants against the oligarchy. Divide and conquer: the strategy of the elite (can’t call it a conspiracy when they do it right out in the open) is to keep us in fear and in anger against each other. That way we can’t organize to cooperate against them. They have to be terrified of that organization; Russia, France and China are large reminders of what happens when the peasants organize (you can be sure ‘they’ think of ‘us’ (1% vs 99%) that way) so they will work non-stop to keep us in fear. Fear of abortion (pro/anti, it doesn’t matter), guns, ‘terrorists’ (e.g.), lately the poor, etc. Why not global warming? Well that would put them in a position to have to spend money, though you can be 100% certain once one of them thinks of a way to make money off of the fear of global warming the fear level will be ramped up to max.
Not that it matters, humans in general, and seemingly Americans in particular, are so easy to lead, to trigger fear, to trigger self-loathing (where ‘self’ is membership in the 99%), even if I had an audience beyond my 1 or 2 readers (even my wife doesn’t read my blog, but then again, she hears it all orally) I am quite sure nothing fundamental will change. I guess I have the same elite mentality: humans are sheep (sheeple!) that have to be managed and fear is the easiest way to do so. Since collectively we won’t take any time to analyze why we are being led around by the nose, I guess collectively we will continue to be led thus.
A Separated Economist Gets Discriminated Against — Online
An interesting concept I hadn’t given much thought to, so worth it to me in that element alone. I also think it will appeal to my reader(s), so wanted to bring it to their attention.
I guess I statistically discriminate against humans. I feel the default state of humans as idiotic, lowest-energy state seeking blobs of flesh that, none-the-less are quite dangerous if provoked sufficiently. Sort of like a porcupine, humans are best to just leave alone, but if you learn a few tricks you can get an easy and tastee meal out of one (thinking of con men, here). Occasionally I am pleasantly surprised by non-idiot humans who invest in a bit of effort to lift themselves out of their lowest energy state, but I generally find my preconceived prejudices and biases confirmed, so rarely ignore any sign of a trend.
Maybe humans aren’t so bad as a species and I have just put on blinders to anything good from the maggoty lowlife scumbags. I don’t see that, though; it is just a theoretical possibility ;-).
Investor compares U.S. wealth debate to Nazi Germany
Right, the Jews are _exactly_ like the rich elite in the US: they have no power to influence events, no control over media, police or government, so they are in imminent danger of being swept up into cattle cars and sent to death camps. I have mentioned the idiot rich before (I have also explained why they actively work against expanding the economy), so this is just another case of a rich asshole with clearly way more money than sense (disclaimer: I hope to achieve that state) spouting off and winding up on the news because he is a rich asshole.
I was just discussing with my wife last night on our regular 2 hour trip home from our place in the country how Russia and China were both ‘communized’ because the idiot rich elite completely lost touch with the common man and the common man decided to get rid of the idiots. Somehow I doubt it will get to that point here in the good old USofA any time soon, but if the idiot rich don’t get a damn clue soon I see us getting there in a couple of decades.
Russian man faces weapon of mass destruction charges in Pennsylvania
This is the best they can do? Haven’t heard from the FBI in a while, with their manufactured terrorists, I guess we were due something that would make some good press. This dude sounds like a bit of a knuckle head (I know a lot and have been one from time to time), but a ridiculous far cry from someone producing a WMD with any intent of mass murder.
It reminds me of when a friend got busted for carrying ‘explosives’ when he had train torpedoes in his pocket. Then they added ‘aiding and abetting a minor’ because one of his friends with him was under 18. Of course, this was 30+ years ago, but he didn’t wind up on the front page or on the evening news like this guy did (imagine what would have happened if he were Muslim!).
However, we want the media to assure the credulous sheeple that all our loss of privacy is worth something!
Found this not so amazing-to-me article:
Australian Personal Trainer Debunks Those Infuriating ‘Before And After’ Weight Loss Pictures
and this is her product:
What a huge difference wearing the correct sized clothes, lighting and posing make, eh? What a transformation! That article links to this second one:
Seduced by the Illusion: The Truth About Transformation Photos
With these ‘amazing’ transformations:
I have tried, without much success, to convince my wife that any pictures of her that aren’t flattering are due to my inexperience as a photographer, not any inherent flaws in my subject (you can see a few pictures from before we got married here; in my opinion she is hotter now than she was back then, but she won’t let me document that). In the past I studied glamor photography quite intently, I still remember a lot of the ‘tricks’ to getting the best out of a model and I see many of those ‘tricks’ when I see a lot of these before and after pics, so it is nice to see a few people document the power of posing and lighting.
It is so easy to manipulate images _before_ Photoshop I think most people totally fail to appreciate the skills of a good photographer. Maybe these articles (and my tiny effort to promulgate them) will have some impact.