I think you'll enjoy this week's paper. Best articles I've had in a while. Cheers.

This weekend I visited Orcas Island, WA


The Silicon Valley Quest to Save Stephen Hawking's Voice - San Francisco Chronicle

    When he spoke, it was in the voice of a robot, a voice that emerged from a gray box fixed to the back of his chair. The voice synthesizer, a commercial product known as the CallText 5010, was a novelty then, not yet a part of his identity; he’d begun using it just three years before, after the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis stole his ability to speak. Hawking selected bits of text on a video screen by moving his cheek, and the CallText turned the text into speech. At the start of one lecture, Hawking joked about it: “The only problem,” he said, to big laughs, “is that it gives me an American accent.”

    “I keep it because I have not heard a voice I like better,” he once said, “and because I have identified with it.” He could change to a smoother voice, but then he wouldn’t sound like himself.

    “To Stephen, his equipment is like a part of his body,” said Wood, his chief technical aide. “To upgrade him to a new piece of software or a new piece of hardware … he’s having to change a physical part of himself.”


His Pacific Island Was Swallowed by Rising Seas. So He Moved to a New One - New York Times

    The spit of earth he currently occupies here in this remote stretch of the South Pacific is half the size it was when he arrived five years ago. At mid-tide, it’s 24 steps across at its widest point, and 58 steps long (by my own walking count).

    At high tide it’s even smaller, a teardrop of sand and coral with just enough room for his family and a few tons of the seaweed they grow offshore.

    It’s that seaweed that keeps them here. The shallows near his island — and two others nearby that have also been settled by farming families — are perfect for a wiry breed that’s exported across Asia. And Mr. Tebaubau, 50, a former mechanic with the calm voice and long beard of a sage, is especially adept at its cultivation.

    His earnings have already sent his children to private school on a larger island. To the neighboring seaweed farmers, he is not just a recluse. He is The Seaweed King.

    At least for as long as he has a kingdom.

City of Exiles

Every month, thousands of deportees from the United States and hundreds of asylum-seekers from around the world arrive in Tijuana. Many never leave. - California Sunday

    Three young Guinean men stood in a group, evidently nervous. One had a bandage around his foot from a snake bite suffered in a South American jungle. Another, named Alpha Barry, had quick, friendly eyes and a wide smile and deep scars across his lips. Barry’s front teeth had been shattered. He told me that he was a member of a large ethnic group called the Peul that is scattered across West Africa and currently in conflict with the Malinke and Sousou ethnic groups in Guinea. Barry ran an internet café in Conakry, the Guinean capital, until somebody stole his computers. He reported the loss to police only to have the thieves return and beat him so severely that he spent two months in a coma and emerged with a severe stutter.

    Many Guinean asylum-seekers flee across the Mediterranean into Europe. Barry had a cousin in Maryland, so he chose the Western Hemisphere analogue. He flew to Brazil, where Guineans can get tourist visas, then rode buses north. In Colombia, he joined migrants from all over the world — Pakistanis, Eritreans, Nepalis, and Malians — for the 60-mile walk through the Darién Gap, a roadless rainforest that separates Colombia from Panama and harbors jaguars, FARC rebels, and right-wing paramilitaries. Navigating by scraps of cloth tied to trees, they were all bound for Tijuana. Migrants shudder when they speak of this part of the passage; they describe bandits routinely robbing and raping migrants, dead bodies by the trail, and people slipping off cliffs and drowning in rivers. Barry crossed Panama next and then walked across Nicaragua at night to avoid criminal gangs. Once he reached Honduras, he started riding buses north.

    None of the migrants at Movimiento Juventud 2000, despite all they had risked to come so far, knew much about approaching the border wall. They fell quiet as Ramos explained that U.S. asylum law recognizes persecution only on the basis of race, nationality, religion, political beliefs, or membership in particular social groups — including certain gender identities and sexual orientations. The Haitians in the crowd looked crestfallen as Ramos said that poverty, no matter how life-threatening, does not count.

    Ramos said that Pueblo Sin Fronteras planned to lead a mass march of asylum-seekers to the border gate, part of a new strategy for shaming border officers into obeying the law. All those present were welcome to join, and Ramos would plead their cases to border officers, but she could not promise that anyone would get through. Those who did should expect to yield all personal belongings on the other side. Border officers would allow a single three-minute phone call. Ramos recommended that they write somewhere on their skin the number of a person likely to answer that call. Next would come days of imprisonment without blankets in a frigid room. Then, a so-called “credible fear” interview, the first part of the asylum process. After that, indefinite incarceration while they await various court dates: Families would be separated, parents and children perhaps in different facilities.

    An African man, standing nearby, said, “You stay in the camps six months?”

    “It’s not a camp. It’s a detention center,” Ramos replied. “They don’t let you leave. I know it’s overwhelming and stressful, and it’s not right, but that’s how the law is there.”


Microfilm Lasts Half a Millenium - The Atlantic

    I recently acquired a decommissioned microfilm reader. My university bought the reader for $16,000 in 1998, but its value has depreciated to $0 in their official bookkeeping records. Machines like it played a central role in both research and secret-agent tasks of the last century. But this one had become an embarrassment.

    The bureaucrats wouldn’t let me store the reader in a laboratory that also houses a multimillion-dollar information-display system. They made me promise to “make sure no VIPs ever see it there.” After lots of paperwork and negotiation, I finally had to transport the machine myself. Unlike a computer—even an old one—it was heavy and ungainly. It would not fit into a car, and it could not be carried by two people for more than a few feet. Even moving the thing was an embarrassment. No one wanted it, but no one wanted me to have it around either.

    And yet the microfilm machine is still widely used. It has centuries of lasting power ahead of it, and new models are still being manufactured. It’s a shame that no intrigue will greet their arrival, because these machines continue to prove essential for preserving and accessing archival materials.


IFR waypoints are hilarious - The Atlantic

    But there is one special set of aviation jargon, more alien than the concocted vocabulary of Esperanto and more bizarre than patterned wordplay of Pig Latin or Id. This is the lexicon of waypoints, which are the road markers in the sky for directing planes on a course.

    When we fly on instrument flight plans (IFR) the ATC will issue an explicit “clearance,” or set of directions on the route to follow...

    Foodies: Near Kansas City, you get the regional SPICY, BARBQ, TERKY, SMOKE and RIBBS. And in Vermont and New Hampshire, HAMMM BURGR FRYYS


The heat index is calculated via looking up the "effective temperature" in a table of air temperature and humidity values, and then adding a bunch more degrees because it feels WAY hotter than that.

Heat Index: XKCD 2026

posted by demure: 130 days ago