Ellie Asks Why Annex

Mild science, tech news, stories, reviews, opinion, maps and humor

21 January 2015

Cartography of Second Life

Surprise! Cartography enthusiast and mapping patron David Rumsey was there too: Viewing Second Life.

Ellie with radio in SL
Me
I am Ellie Heartsdale. I owned a small corner plot of land on an island sim in the west. I built a little house there, for me and the piggies. I went to the Second Life synagogue, in Nessus, on Friday nights.

Second Life animals
Piggies


My father was still alive then. I was working for the State of Arizona, Department of Health Services, Office for Children with Special Health Care Needs, as chief research statistician. That was my title, "Research Statistician, chief".

I was happy, but as usual, didn't realize it at the time.

Maps

Click on images to view full-sized.

SL map of Emerald Point
ThreadMap is a third-party mapping project
Location was Emerald Point

SL map
Screen shot in Hooper 










SL map screenshot
Screen shot of road map of routes throughout mainland SL

early 12 sim 2003 SL map
All sims in early days of SL, approximately January 2003

I wrote a lot more about SL on my WordPress blog. It is all in one place, under the category Second Life.

31 July 2014

Cassandra Is Sooooooo Correct

Nihon Cassandra is more of a stock market investor than macroeconomics type. In other words, she isn't really into bonds. In her own charming words,
So long as my distribution is skewed-right, and the tail not overly kurtotic, I am sanguine.
Recently, Cassandra excoriated herself for failing to predict our current global macroeconomic malaise, specifically, the odd lack of self-preserving behavior by those who have the most to lose. I think she is being unnecessarily harsh, as she understands far better than many others do, even now.

It was a close call. From September 2007 through 2010, the masters of financialization escaped ruin by the skin of their teeth. Saving the system, at public risk and expense, was useful to asset holders, e.g. the AIG crowd, Goldman Sachs and friends, Stevie Cohen, Walmart family scions, Icahn, Einhorn, Pritzkers, Koch brothers, Larry Ellison, Larry and Sergei Google, Mark Z, Jeff Bezos, Bill and Melinda, other much less publicly known owners of nation-sized yet privately owned wealth.

03 June 2014

If he were a spy

I looked for answers on Quora, a question-and-answer website.

Is Jacob Appelbaum a U.S. government employee?


He gets a huge salary from the Tor Project but mostly jets around the world, more lavishly than celebrities and movie stars. His home is chic, minimalist but opulent according to Rolling Stone. He writes for the Wall Street Journal, even has a WSJ pointillist author portrait. He posed with semi-automatic firearms in Iraq in 2008. He parties  ALL the time.

jacob appelbaum poses with Knuth 2008
The question doesn't really seem to follow from the details, Ellie?

Granted. I thought Tor was a US government project. It is a former US government project. I was trying to be discreet, and not ask if he were a spy. That would be indiscreet, so I said "employee" instead.

23 May 2014

Message of the market

Joe Saluzzi tried to get the word out. He really did make a good faith effort. This was one of his numerous appearances on Bloomberg, Fox Business News, CBS etc. The mainstream news media did not ignore him. He was interviewed for about 10 minutes in each station's Manhattan studio. Each appearance was broadcast live. Receiving that much air time is unusual.

13 May 2014

The Cleveland Fed Drawing Board goes silent

I find Cleveland to be the most friendly* of the 12 Federal Reserve districts. They do a lot of community outreach work, and have a good research department.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is the headquarters of the U.S. Federal Reserve System's Fourth District. The district is composed of Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Fed Reserve building in Cleveland, Ohio
Main office in downtown Cleveland since 1923

The Cleveland Fed building was designed by architects Walker & Weeks. The building is considered an historically significant piece of architecture. I like how it looks too. Apparently, few know much about the art and architecture of the building, not even in Cleveland!

30 December 2013

Emails to the Editor

I found an entire blog of well-written comments and an occasional, traditional "Letter to the Editor". All are written in response to articles published by The New York Times and Washington Post. Unlike my critique-style comment/harangues, these posts stand on their own.

The most recent entry is Emails-to-the-Editor: The take.
Editor, 
Equality of wealth versus equality of opportunity is a choice that does not even touch the problem that descended on American society...

It is brief. Read through to the end. It is not a rant against Republicans, nor is it a condemnation of capitalism.

24 November 2013

Bitcoin in the limelight: Questions for buyers and investors

DDoS attacks manipulate vulnerable markets

The vulnerable market was the Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange. In April 2013, Mt. Gox was overwhelmed by DDoS. The point, the company speculated, was to destabilize Bitcoin and fuel panic-selling. After driving market prices down, the attackers can then rush in and buy Bitcoin at the lower price. Obviously, this isn't fair.

Life isn't fair but Bitcoin must be

Life may not be fair in general, but securities and currency markets require fairness and avoidance of market manipulation in order to function. Without it, they will die. Trust is essential. Apparently, Mt. Gox was robust enough to withstand this volatility. The attackers were fortunate. In their pursuit of unfair profits, they are taking a selfishly short-term view. DDoS attacks could destabilize Mt. Gox, or any other entity that serves a similar purpose. If that happens often enough, or in sufficient size, it will undermine credibility in Bitcoin.

Mt. Gox wasn't uniquely vulnerable. In the past few months, there were other DDoS related Bitcoin extortion incidents. BTC-China was brought down in September 2013, and BIPS, a European payment provider, experienced a DDoS attack two days ago, on 26 November 2013.

27 October 2013

Paleo specie

This is BB Billosaur, a ceramic piggy bank for paper currency. He is made by Le Mouton Noir & Co. Le Mouton Noir is located in New York City. I am not surprised (I miss it there).

The store owners describe their motivation:
For many years we have followed the heard like a flock of sheep. Working hard, learning and growing, we have never let go of our dream. The black sheep finally wakes up and steps forward to have some fun.

Meet bb billosaur a ceramic piggy bank
Billo-saurus!

BB Billo seems difficult to resist: A paper currency-only porcelain piggy with holes down his back emulating a Stegosaurus-like Mohawk, made by black sheep!

25 October 2013

Account hijackers

If a message originates from a familiar name or email address, its likelihood of making it through spam filters is greater.

Google described their efforts to minimize harm to users due to email account hijacking:
"Our security team...saw a trend of spammers hijacking legitimate accounts to send their messages. [We developed] a system that uses 120+ signals to...detect whether a log-in is legitimate, beyond just a password."
Less than 1% of spam emails make it into a Gmail inbox.

chart Google Gmail accounts compromised since 2010 decreased to nearly zero
Legitimate Gmail accounts blocked for sending spam versus time

The number of compromised accounts decreased by 99.7% since 2011. That's impressive, for a sustained reduction! How does Google avoid false positives? I am so curious about the specific details of their filtering rules!

The blog post was written in March 2013. It is remarkable that the same methods continue to be effective, as Gmail spam-attackers would perceive this as a new challenge to be overcome.

120 Signals


I suspect that Google's methods are analogous to those used by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in detecting medically unlikely edits (MUEs). MUEs can be accidental, due to claim coding or data entry errors. MUEs can also be deliberate, when there is fraudulent intent, e.g. by filing for more services, or for more expensive services. Regardless of intent, MUE identification reduces paid claims error rates.

How will the Affordable Care Act impact existing processes for detecting MUEs, and for setting benchmarks? CMS does not disclose its MUE criteria for the same reasons that Google will not reveal details about their 120 signals.

Continuous improvement is a part of life, for email-spam account hijackers, Google and the fraud detection team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

I wrote a post about health care, with a much more Ellie-centric theme, a few years ago. That was when I worked as statistician for ACCCHS, Arizona's state-administered Medicaid/Medicare program, monitoring program performance and quality of care.