Friday, January 28, 2011

All Things being Equal, Netflix Streaming Isn’t

Netflix published a chart the other day showing the different streaming rates through the big cable/DSL/wireless providers.  When you plug into your cable modem, you assume you’re getting the same “Internet” that someone else is.  But in reality, the speeds differ a bit between providers.

Portland Maine uses Time Warner and we seem to be ok, thought we’re 10% lower than the highest which is Charter.  This is surprising since Charter has been fighting to throttle back Netflix bandwidth.  Netflix says it will publish this chart every month, a clear warning shot to ISP providers that those who cut back Netflix will be publicly admonished.

Clearwire, which provides wireless 4G access for mobile devices (think Netflix on the iPhone), is at the bottom, sharing the honors with providers Frontier and CenturyTel , largely rural providers.   That there is such a disparity between rural and urban providers 15 years after the term digital divide appeared is worrisome socially and politically. 

Infographic wise, this one gets a D (I can tell the colors apart), but the data is interesting.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do you Doodle? Everyone Does. It’s Ok. Your Teacher Never should have Yelled at You.

This is a great article on a passion of mine.  Why we doodle.  What it says about us.  And why our teachers should have just left us alone.

The article ends saying we should all doodle at work and that group doodle can free the mind to be the creative force it was designed to be.

So doodle.


Adding shadows and shading creates visual interest and realism, making your doodles three-dimensional.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guns and Ammo: Arming yourself with Data

The Atlantic has some good research out there that compares gun related deaths state to state.  Without re-stepping through their presentation, here was one of the interesting takeaways.


The Pearson Correlation is a way to measure how closely two variables are related.  Foot size and shoe size are highly correlated; the bigger the foot the bigger the shoe.  Whereas how many drinks Grant has and how well Green Lantern does in the box office has a very loose correlation; sure there may be a relationship but in the world of data it’s probably under 0.1. 

So it’s interesting to note that the biggest correlation found with gun deaths isn’t the measure of stress in the state or the amount of mental illness, but rather what the McCain vote share was.

Correlation is not causation.  Do McCain voters vote for weak gun control that leads to more deaths?  Or if you’re less educated you’re more likely to both a) vote for McCain and b) do something stupid.  Probably the latter.  But maybe neither.  We only know that there’s a link, but the article only speculates on how to connect the dots. 

The real takeaway is that it’s hard to argue against data.  In states with higher economic levels and tighter gun control laws, deaths related to guns decline. 

Unfortunately, plunging into a battle with data as our sword isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  Gun control is clearly a leftover issue of the 80s culture wars.  Prominent in Clintonian elections and fought in the proxy battles: Brady Bill, Ruby Ridge, and Assault Weapons today’s electorate is battlefield scarred from gun control debates.  In addition, Liberals relying on swing independents are hesitant to make a big stand on the issue and in states where gun control is mostly needed, as in Arizona, conservative passions prevail.

For today, I’m just going to pocket this little tidbit of knowledge.  When the guns start firing, I’ll be ready.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vernal Pools and the Trifecta

In case you missed the election of Tea Partier LePage to the Blaine House last November, the Press Herald today wonderfully illuminated the conservative shift Maine has taken.

The top left article describes how Maine’s AG is going to join a Florida-initiated anti-health care bill lawsuit.

The top right article goes into the wonderful relationship the Blaine House is forging with national civil rights groups.

And in the bottom right article, the governor wants to bulldoze vernal pools

At Scarborough Downs, we’d call that a trifecta.


For a minute, let’s explore the vernal pools article.  Make no bones about it, this administration wants to remove any barrier to development.   Need to bulldoze Bambi to build a WalMart.  Do it.  Need to steamroll a salamander to build a business park with no bus access miles from downtown.  Get out of the way.  In a LePagian world, developers lay down a hunk of cash and whatever they want is instantly built regardless of its impact to the surrounding community or environment.  Jobs trump everything.

The cool thing about the game Civilization is that you choose what world you want to build.  Choose Genghis Khan and you get a warrior society that scorches and burns.  Pick Caesar and you build temples and get culture.  The point is that our environment is dictated by the choices we make.

The current administration would turn Maine into Florida.  Need a 6 lane highway connecting plazas and gas stations.  Do it.  Need a low density housing development called Woody Corners where everyone has to get in their SUVs to go a tenth of a mile to get to the gate.  Build it.  Pretty soon you have everything the world can offer, and nothing. 

It’s important that we give communities tools to fight rampant development from developers that care very little about the world we live in and very much about the money in their pocket.  And it’s important that we choose our words carefully with groups that help underrepresented people in a state that could use more underrepresented people.  And it’s important that we help Mainers with health insurance, and at the least not fight the efforts of people trying to do the same. 

Anyways, the Press Herald glaringly, and sadly, shows us what elections are about.  So choose carefully.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Camouflage Hats, Glory, and the Heartland

No doubt this is what Eric Andreessen had in mind when the Internet was created.  Wait for the Johnny Cash middle part, it’s awesome.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A few choice quotations around the recent events in Arizona

About the assailant who legally purchased a semiautomatic 32 round per clip Glock:

Lydian Ali, a classmate at Pima Community College, said, “He presented a poem to the class that he’d written called ‘Meathead’ that was mostly just about him going to the gym to work out. But it included a line about touching himself in the shower while thinking about girls. He was very enthusiastic when he read the poem out loud.”

At the Y.M.C.A. where Mr. Loughner worked out, he would ask the staff strange questions, like how often they disinfected the bathroom doors. Once he asked an employee how he felt “about the government taking over.” Another time, he sat in the men’s room for 30 minutes, leaving front-desk staff members to wonder what he was doing. When he emerged, he asked what year it was.

--NYT profile

About the Rhetoric:

Today, the amazing thing about the reaction to the Giffords shooting is that virtually all the discussion about how to prevent a recurrence has been focusing on improving the tone of our political discourse. That would certainly be great. But you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.

If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.

But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.

--Gail Collins


About Sarah Palin’s Map (and really more on rhetoric):


Ms. Mansour (advisor to Mrs. Palin) said that the cross hairs, in fact, were not meant to be an allusion to guns, and agreed with her interviewer’s reference to them as “surveyors symbols.” Aides to Ms. Palin did not respond to interview requests on Sunday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Life: Patriots Dominance in a Graph

Since we met, my wife Kristyle and I have known no period when the Patriots weren’t awesome.  This is in comparison to my friend Andy, whose known no love since he married into a Buffalo Bills relationship (football speaking of course. Sorry Andy. Kristie is lovely). I wondered this afternoon, how strong is the Patriots franchise and Google helped me with the answer.  The source article is an ok perspective on Bob Kraft but this little chart makes it very clear who has dominated the 2000s.

For die hard infographic authoritarians out there (all 2 of you?) the other chart in this article is stupid.  You play one round of golf with Donald Trump and that merits a wide receiver connection.  I’m reminded of a joke where Chris Collingsworth and a snail discuss things at a Harvard book reading.  It goes something like “you’re slow too?”