Believe what you see.

Aug. 18th, 2017 12:01 am
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
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From a Charlottesville resident:

"There seems to be a perception from people outside of Charlottesville that what is going on here is two opposing groups coming to town and fighting some ideological battle that has gotten messy. That is not what is happening here. What is happening here is that several hate groups from the extreme right have come together under the "unite the right" banner here in our town and basically started acting as terrorists. This may seem like an exaggeration but it's not...."

Can vehicle attacks be prevented?

Aug. 18th, 2017 02:40 am
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In just over a year Europe has seen seven attacks where vehicles have been used as weapons. Security correspondent Gordon Corera looks at what authorities are doing about it.
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Posted by Harry Enten

The final Subway Series contest of the 2017 season takes place this evening at Citi Field, and if you put on the game, you might get the impression that the Yankees and Mets have a big-time rivalry going. It’s not that way for most baseball fans, however. The numbers show that only a minority actually like one team but not the other, while far more people hold the same opinion of both teams (good or bad) or just don’t care about one or both. In other words, most fans will probably be fine no matter the outcome tonight.

That’s according to data from a combination of two FiveThirtyEight-commissioned SurveyMonkey Audience polls conducted in June and July. SurveyMonkey asked baseball fans across the country how they felt — whether they had a favorable view, an unfavorable view or didn’t know enough to say — about each MLB team. Here, we’re examining a subset of that data, totaling 321 baseball fans who were asked specifically about the Mets and Yankees.

Of those, many fans (29 percent) held a favorable view of both the Mets and the Yankees. It’s not just that a fairly high percentage liked both teams. It’s that if you like one team, it actually increases your chance of liking the other team. While just 49 percent of the overall subsample held a favorable view of the Mets, 66 percent of fans who viewed the Yankees favorably felt the same way about the Mets. And a similar story holds in reverse. Only 44 percent of the fans in our subsample held a favorable view of the Yankees, but that percentage jumped to 59 percent among fans who held a favorable view of the Mets.

While the idea that someone could simultaneously like the Mets and the Yankees is unthinkable to this Yankee hater, it actually makes a lot of sense. Fans often root for the hometown team, whether it be in their city or even their state. So it’s not unreasonable to say you like both the Mets and the Yankees because they are both from New York. Indeed, among our subsample who live in New York state, the Mets and Yankees sport a 71 percent and a 67 percent favorable rating, respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum, 21 percent of baseball fans dislike both franchises. So that means 50 percent of baseball fans either like both the Yankees and Mets, or dislike both — not quite what you’d expect from a heated rivalry where battle lines are drawn and allegiances sworn. In fact, disliking the Mets or the Yankees actually makes one less apt to like the other team as well. The Mets sport just a 41 percent favorable rating among those who dislike the Yankees, 8 points below their overall favorable rating. And the Yankees do even worse among fans who dislike the Mets, with a 33 percent favorable rating — far below their 44 percent favorable mark overall.

Again, part of this may just have to do with disliking a city or a state. As an illustration of this, the Mets and Yankees sport favorable ratings of just 40 percent and 30 percent among our subsample that hailed from New England. New England, of course, is a natural geographic rival of New York.

Still, there are some people who do like the Mets and dislike the Yankees, and vice versa. One-fifth (20 percent) of fans hold a favorable view of the Mets and an unfavorable view of the Yankees. Meanwhile, 11 percent of fans hold a favorable view of the Yankees but an unfavorable view of the Mets. These fans, however, total only about a third of our subsample. That’s not much more than the 20 percent of fans who hold no opinion of at least one (if not both) teams.

Don’t tell that to the New Yorkers in the stands, jawing at each other about the two ballclubs. But the bottom line is that most baseball fans around the country won’t have much of anything on the line in tonight’s Subway Series finale.

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Posted by Clare Malone and Dhrumil Mehta

While news from Charlottesville, Virginia, has dominated media coverage in recent days, it was only a short while ago that Americans were Googling the projected trajectory of intercontinental missiles launched from North Korea and fretting about the prospect of war. In late July, North Korea tested a missile that experts believe is capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States, and in August it was reported that the country had also figured out how to miniaturize nuclear weapons to fit on these missiles. In unscripted remarks at an event on the domestic opioid crisis, President Trump said, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Americans have long perceived North Korea as a threat, but more acutely so in the last few weeks, according to recent polling. That renews the relevance of questions about the prudence of military action, the public’s tolerance for a looming specter of nuclear conflict, and Trump’s ability to lead effectively in a moment of crisis.

Recent events have left Americans demonstrably shaken. A CNN poll shows that in March of this year, 48 percent of Americans saw North Korea as a “very serious threat” to the U.S., but by early August, that number had reached 62 percent. That puts North Korea on par with the threat posed by ISIS in American minds: 64 percent of those asked in the same August poll viewed the terrorist organization as a very serious threat.1

Right now, North Korea worries Americans more than Iran does; 33 percent said Iran was a very serious threat. This is a change from September of 2015, when 49 percent of people saw Iran as a very serious threat and 37 percent said the same about North Korea.

But Americans have long feared the North Korean regime. Back in 2003, the year North Korea pulled out of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, a Gallup poll found that 60 percent of people in the U.S. thought the Kim regime’s weapons capabilities were a “major problem.”

The rhetoric Trump used to talk about North Korea might be exacerbating Americans’ worries. Threatening “fire and fury” against a nuclear-armed, anti-American dictatorship is apt to keep some people up at night, particularly when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would consider an attack on Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific.

A recent Marist University poll, conducted in the days following Trump and Kim’s comments, found that only 19 percent of Americans have a “great deal of confidence” in the president’s ability to lead the nation in an international crisis, and 76 percent preferred the U.S. pursue non-military options. In the past few days, an Economist/YouGov poll found that 68 percent of people favored negotiations with North Korea to end its nuclear program, though 52 percent of respondents thought Trump wasn’t just talking tough and actually meant to attack the dictatorship.

But what happens if diplomacy doesn’t work? Americans remain nervous about the likelihood of a nuclear strike by North Korea. While an August CBS poll found that most people — 68 percent — think North Korea is just posturing and isn’t actually planning a strike, a July poll from Bloomberg found that 55 percent think there’s a realistic chance that North Korea could launch a nuclear attack in the next several years. For historical context, in 1982, a Los Angeles Times poll showed that 63 percent of Americans thought that the Russians would be willing to start a nuclear war. Americans might have felt the chill of the Cold War creeping back into their collective consciousness this month.

When asked how the U.S. should approach efforts to end tensions with international adversaries over the nuclear issue, Americans have tended to favor nonproliferation agreements, though the negotiations with Iran during the Obama era were more controversial with the public; a Gallup poll from February 2016 found that 57 percent of people disapproved of that agreement.

That might be in part be because Americans rarely seem to trust an adversary to uphold their end of a bargain. Eighty percent of respondents to a 2015 Fox News poll said that Iran couldn’t be trusted to keep its promises in the nuclear deal. Going back to 2002, a Time/CNN poll found that 47 percent of Americans thought Russia would live up to its end of a potential nonproliferation agreement, but 41 percent thought it wouldn’t. In 1963, at the height of U.S.-USSR tensions, only 19 percent of people thought the Soviets would live up to the terms of a test-ban treaty.

Should the U.S. enter into some kind of negotiations with North Korea in the future, it seems likely that a pattern of public distrust would continue. For now, what will carry on are tensions and an international standoff.

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Posted by Rob Arthur

A few names come to mind when pondering the surefire Hall of Famers playing baseball today. Adrian Beltre, who recently broke the 3,000-hit barrier, is one, as is Mike Trout, despite his youth. But there’s another all-time great who is toiling away on one of the worst teams in MLB: San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. The Giants’ record might make Posey easy to overlook, but his combination of hitting and defense makes him almost a lock to one day join the Hall. In fact, despite being only 30 years old, Posey might already have a Hall of Fame résumé if he retired today.

It’s difficult to forecast whether any given catcher will find his way to Cooperstown. Only 18 backstops have made the Hall, and some did so in part because of accomplishments after their playing careers (as managers or executives).2 Perhaps because of the strain of constant crouching and the beatings they receive behind the plate, catchers are notoriously quick to decline, and historically great performers can become merely ordinary in the space of a few years.

But Posey is special. In a nine-year career, he’s already amassed 37.5 wins above replacement (WAR),3 which puts him 25th on the all-time list among backstops. If we look at how productive all catchers have been through age 304 — Posey’s current age — he looks even better, ranking 11th all-time in WAR.

According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS, a rough guide to measuring a player’s Hall-of-Fame qualifications,5 Posey would have a decent chance to make the Hall even if he never played another game. I looked at the top 500 catchers’ JAWS scores and used them to calculate the probability that they would one day be inducted into the Hall.6 Posey’s JAWS score is 36.8 — already only a little below the catcher average of 43.9. (Coincidentally, Posey’s current JAWS score is identical to the end-of-career score of stalwart backstop Ernie Lombardi, who made the Hall of Fame.) Based on this analysis, Posey would have about a 29 percent chance of getting to Cooperstown if he retired today — and as we’ll see below, those numbers probably understate Posey’s contributions.

Why is Posey’s résumé so strong? It starts with his impressive numbers at the plate. Since 2009, Posey’s first season in MLB, he has the 17th-highest Weighted Runs Created Plus in baseball, and he’s the only full-time catcher in the top 50. Posey has power, to which his 128 home runs (in one of MLB’s least hitter-friendly ballparks) can attest. He also has patience, with a career walk rate of 9.6 percent, well above the MLB average of 8.1 percent.

But Posey is much more than just a catcher who hits well. In addition to his power and discipline, Posey has been one of the best defensive catchers in baseball during his career — thanks to his particular knack for pitch framing.

Catcher framing is the art of receiving a pitch so that an umpire is more likely to call it a strike. Before the debut of pitch-tracking technology such as PITCHf/x and Statcast, the idea of framing as a skill was unproven, but now it can be measured. And as Hall-of-Fame voters increasingly understand and recognize the importance of framing, catchers like Posey will probably benefit.

Baseball Prospectus rates Posey as the seventh-best framer since 1988,7 so he’s among the cream of the crop. And because framing isn’t factored into most versions of wins above replacement, Posey is somewhat underrated even by newfangled Hall-of-Fame yardsticks like JAWS.

Baseball Prospectus’s version of WAR incorporates the number of runs a catcher saves via framing (which the versions from Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs do not). Unsurprisingly, Posey’s value under that measure is higher, shooting up to 49.8 WAR. If we recalculate his JAWS score using Prospectus’s version of WAR, then, Posey is already good enough to have an 85 percent chance of making the Hall, according to my calculations. Now, Posey’s framing value this year has been minimal, so it’s possible that he’s losing his touch (he wouldn’t be the only older catcher to forget how to frame a pitch). But even if you assume that he will be a league-average framer going forward, Posey’s JAWS could end up high enough to practically guarantee a Hall of Fame induction.8

In some ways, comparing Posey with the historic greats of yesteryear in this manner isn’t fair. We don’t know what kind of framer Johnny Bench was, for example, and it’s possible that his already-tremendous WAR total would just get more inflated if we did. But we do know that it’s rare for a catcher to have both offensive ability and framing skills. (The few catchers better than Posey defensively tend to be specialists like Jose Molina and Brad Ausmus.) Conversely, there are a lot of catchers who are not great framers but nonetheless have long careers because they excel at the plate. So it’s likely that at least some of the catchers ahead of Posey on the all-time list would see their total value decline if we could measure their framing ability.

Add it all up, and Posey has likely already had a Hall-of-Fame career. And his playing days probably won’t end anytime soon — the average catcher who had 20 or more WAR through age 30 ended up playing another six and a half seasons. So Posey has plenty of years to improve upon his already impressive career. To get a sense of how Posey might end up finishing his run, I asked the folks at Out of the Park Baseball — a baseball simulation engine — to game out the rest of his career.

Out of the Park came back with four simulations of Posey’s future. And according to each, the hypothetical Busters fared very well. In each simulation, Posey earned an end-of-career JAWS score of greater than 51, which would give him at least a 90 percent chance of making the Hall, according to my calculations. With an average of about 2,000 hits, 400 doubles and 250 home runs, Posey’s milestones weren’t overly impressive, so he didn’t make the Hall on the first ballot in the simulations — it usually took three to four years for him to get in — but he was eventually inducted in each universe that was played out. That sounds pretty similar to what will happen in our universe, too.

Posey is one of the few catchers in history who can do it all. He can hit and frame, and he even provides extra value by blocking errant pitches and throwing out runners. When you combine his offensive and defensive skills, Posey might just be the most underappreciated Hall of Famer playing today.

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Posted by Maggie Koerth-Baker

Brace yourself, because we are about to ask you to read a story about a boring technological problem and its impact on government. Like many dull things, though, it’s also important — a failure so pervasive that it costs taxpayers billions and has the power to bridge partisan divides, uniting Jared Kushner and congressional Republicans with congressional Democrats and Obama-appointed scientific experts. Despite those things, the problem remains so deeply unsexy that Kushner publicly speaking about it resulted mostly in headlines about what his voice sounded like.

Senior advisor Jared Kushner speaks during an event with technology sector CEOs at the White House on June 19, 2017, in Washington, D.C. His data center consolidation initiative is supported by both Democrats and Republicans.


Data center consolidation — the art and science of making sure technological infrastructure is being used in an efficient way — does not make for great TV. But experts say it does represent good governance, because fixing it simultaneously saves money and corrects structural problems in the way the federal government is managed. This spring, bipartisan proponents of data center consolidation managed to get a bill through the House that would help get the job done more easily. But it’s now sitting in senatorial limbo. Even when an issue has cross-party cooperation and the support of the White House, it can still fall victim to the current state of political disarray.

Data centers are physical places housing the computers that archive information for the government — records that have to be backed up so a single, failed desktop won’t mean they’re lost forever; historical data that can’t be consigned to the virtual trash bin but also isn’t needed every day; statistics that need to be accessed by multiple people who work in different locations. Some are like warehouses — imagine the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but with racks of blinking electronics instead of wooden crates. Others are more prosaic, like a closet in someone’s office with a couple computers sitting screenless and lonely in the dark. As storage becomes less physical and more digital, we’ll only rely on them more.

But, right now, the federal government has more data centers than it needs, which is a problem since excess data centers mean more spent on building rental, electricity demand, maintenance workers and air conditioning bills. Between 2012 and 2016, data center consolidation efforts saved taxpayers a reported $2.3 billion. But experts say there’s still a long way to go. They talk in terms of the utilization rate — effectively how much of the energy being used by the equipment in a data center actually goes to doing productive work. If the rate is low, that means you’re spending money without getting much benefit from it. The average server in a data center owned by the federal government has a utilization rate between 9 and 12 percent, said David Powner, director of information technology management issues for the Government Accountability Office. The goal set by the federal Office of Management and Budget is something like 60 percent.

This problem isn’t confined to the government, but the government has run into some unique problems while trying to solve it.

Federal data center consolidation efforts have been ongoing since 2010, but while more than 4,300 federal data centers have been closed — out of a total 5,597 scheduled for elimination — many were low-hanging fruit: small, closet-size data centers that didn’t take much effort to close down but also didn’t save much by disappearing, said former Obama Chief Information Officer Tony Scott. Closing larger data centers is more complex and, in many cases, would require technological upgrades that agencies don’t have the budgets to implement. That’s because, in government, funding for software, programming, and other technological infrastructure comes when a project is first implemented. As time goes on, the project will get the funds to maintain itself, Scott said, but not the funds to improve. “If it was started in the ‘90s, it’s running on ‘90s technology. If it started in the ‘60s, it’s running on ‘60s tech,” he said. That can make it difficult to merge the data centers where that software is running.

Meanwhile, Powner said, there have been cases of agencies closing data centers and saving money but not reporting it. “There are some weird incentives in government,” Powner told me. “If you don’t spend your budget, they’ll take it away.” The result is a loss of transparency about how federal dollars are being spent. Document the savings, and you can’t use it for other projects, no matter how legitimate. Fail to report the savings and it becomes available to use, but taxpayers now have no real record of how it’s being spent.

Texas Republican Will Hurd and Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly are trying to solve these problems with their Modernizing Government Technology Act. It would establish a centralized modernization fund that all agencies could use, and, more groundbreakingly, authorize agencies to reallocate the money they’ve saved by consolidating data centers and reinvest it as working capital. Both Powner and Scott praised the effort. It passed the House easily in May. If it becomes law, the bill could be both a heartwarming show of a functional Congress working across party lines and a success for the White House. When Kushner made his first public speaking appearance in June, as part of a White House technology summit aimed at bringing ideas from the business world to government, the need for data center consolidation was one of the main issues he championed.

But that only works if the Senate has time to pay attention. “We are awaiting action in the Senate,” Connolly said. “Given the … what’s the polite word? … the current hiccups legislatively, one does not know if it will be a convenient time to bring it up or if they are just in stasis.”

For now, the Senate version of the Modernizing Government Technology Act is sitting in committee, where it’s been since April. And, even if it does make it to a vote, the project of data center consolidation could still be hamstrung by management issues this bill doesn’t address, like the overabundance of agency-level chief information officers. There are at least 250 people in the federal government with that title, according to Connolly and Hurd. They’ve counted 14 in the Department of Homeland Security alone. Most private companies just have one, but technology often came to the government piecemeal from the bottom up, rather than all at once from the top down. Today, so many people have the same title that it’s not always clear who has ultimate authority, making it difficult to know where the buck stops and who can approve consolidation decisions.

Ironically, this problem is currently exacerbated by the lack of a top CIO, the one in the White House. That role is currently unfilled, and Powner, Scott, Connolly and Hurd all said that position was important for coordinating among the different agencies and ensuring that someone has the authority to make the kinds of decisions that allow large, complex data centers to be reconfigured. It’s wonderful that Kushner’s Office of American Innovation is paying attention to data center consolidation, Scott said, but that top CIO role will be crucial to making those goals a reality. “Ideas are great, but implementation is what really matters at the end of the day,” he said. “If you don’t have somebody really, really focused on implementation, you’re going to come up short.”

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Posted by Oliver Roeder

If you’re a famous dead artist, nothing welcomes you to the canon quite like someone sitting down and meticulously recording every piece of art you ever made. These records become a compendium, often several volumes long, called a catalogue raisonné.9 Such a catalog can itself represent the life’s work of the scholar who compiles it. It took Jacob-Baart de la Faille 11 years to complete van Gogh’s catalog. Monet’s catalog was published over a span of 18 years by a French billionaire. And it took 46 years for all of Picasso’s catalog to be released, while its publisher sold his car and apartment to finance the project.

Tucked away in Massachusetts, one man is making his life’s work out of those other life’s works. For the past three years, Jason Bailey has been hunting these catalogs down. He’s baffled librarians with his voluminous requests. He’s searched for libraries with liberal lending policies, so he can spend time with these pricey rare books. He’s scoured eBay and Amazon. He’s sought out a friend with a Ph.D. in Italian to decipher one rare catalog.

His mission: to turn them all into a proper digital database.

A catalogue raisonné typically lists each piece’s title, dimensions, date, medium, location, provenance, exhibition history, condition and occasionally even more. Together, these represent a comprehensively large and remarkably rich set of data on the most beautiful, seminal and expensive works of modern art. But this data is scattered, unsearchable and unanalyzable, locked away in countless books high on dusty library shelves, or shrink-wrapped and bearing stupefying price tags at boutique bookshops. “It’s locked up in these old books — hard to find, out of print, not very dynamic,” Bailey said. “For all this talk about ‘big data,’ I’ve seen over and over again — you need the data.”

The A.C.I. Art Catalogue Index, top, is a list of all the painters, sculptors, paper artists, engravers and contemporary media artists between 1780 and the late 20th century with catalogues raisonnés. Below it are the individual catalogues raisonnés of Stuart Davis, Hans Hofmann, and Juan Gris, and a portion of Cy Twombly’s.

On a coffee table in his living room in Ashland, Massachusetts, amid the clutter of everyday life — books, power cables, beer bottles — sits a boxy, homemade frame of PVC pipes. In the center of the frame lies an angular cradle, holding open a large volume of a catalogue raisonné, its facing pages held flat by two clear plastic panes; a light dangles above. Flanking this rig are two high-end digital cameras that record the artwork data within. Each volume takes about two hours to scan. Bailey then ships the resulting PDF files to the internet, where he takes bids from freelancers who do the painstaking transcription. The data comes back in a spreadsheet, where Bailey cleans it. Finally, he takes it to his central database: ordered, searchable and analyzable.

This moonshot project is called Artnome (as in “genome”).10 So far, Bailey says he has completely extracted, liberated and reassembled the data from the print catalogs of 35 major artists (including Cézanne, Dalí, Monet, O’Keeffe, Pollock and Rothko), and at least 10 more are currently in progress.

Other art databases exist, of course. Artnet maintains a massive database of auction sales, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA recently made their own databases public. The Wildenstein Plattner Institute, an arts nonprofit in New York, is currently digitizing and publishing online a century’s worth of Impressionist archives. But “a database of complete known works across the most important art and artists of the 20th century,” as Bailey describes his goal, does not exist.

“Everybody thought I was crazy to do it, which made me want to do it more,” he said. “A single raisonné across all artists is the Holy Grail.”

Even a simple chart of Bailey’s data so far, a sampling of which he provided to FiveThirtyEight, reveals the artistic depth running beneath: the human-size color fields of Mark Rothko, the delicate intricacies of van Gogh, the panoramic abstractions of Lee Krasner.11 “Just playing in the virgin snow, I’m able to discover some interesting things,” he said.

Coming from a family full of engineers, “I was sort of the black sheep,” Bailey said. When he and his friends skipped school, he would eschew more typical adolescent hijinks and read art history books in the woods instead. But he got his start in data collection at age 11, when his father taught him to use Excel so he could catalog his comic book and baseball card collections. He went to school for studio art and design, but his current day job is at a company called Tamr that unifies data for large companies. His art project was sparked after he listened to a book on tape about art forgeries on his commute to work.

The project is very much a work in progress. The list of interesting artists is endless, and the catalogs of Picasso and Francis Bacon are Bailey’s white whales at the moment. Picasso’s catalog, often called “the Zervos,” after its original publisher, is 33 volumes long and retails for $25,000. It contains information on over 16,000 Picasso pieces. Bacon’s catalog was published just last year, and retails for a relatively meager $1,300. Bailey is still on the hunt for the data locked on paper inside them.

Bailey said he’s received a warm reception from art scholars, and one I spoke with agreed that the project had potential. “To the extent that projects are collaborative across institutions or between scholars, independent researchers, and institutions to make those works available worldwide, that’s all to the public good,” Carole Ann Fabian, the director of the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, told me.

But Bailey also said many were skeptical it could be done. “These are very complicated projects he’s talking about,” Fabian said. “He’s an enthusiast, and these are areas of extreme expertise that the field dedicates tremendous effort toward.”

Bailey made a cradle out of PVC pipes, left, to photograph the catalogs. He uses a bag full of cans, right, to keep it from tipping.

Ultimately, Bailey hopes Artnome can do for the art market what Zillow does for real estate. More than $45 billion worth of art was sold in 2016 — a lot of demand despite no comprehensive ledger of art’s supply side. Just how many Rothkos are there, anyway? And where are they? Who owns them? What are they titled? These are surprisingly difficult questions to answer.

While Bailey is hoping to spark a “Moneyball” era for art, the traditional auction houses are still acting as scouts. His database could allow them to do all sorts of new things, though. He’s beginning to weave data on auction prices into his universal raisonné, adding market valuations to the art-historic descriptions. That data helped him argue that Christie’s was overvaluing its pre-sale estimate by millions of dollars for a Wassily Kandinsky painting it plans to sell this fall. (Christie’s did not respond to a request for comment.) And the auction houses have shown interest in data. Last year, Sotheby’s acquired the Mei Moses Art Indices, “a constantly updated database of 45,000 repeat sales of objects.”

The Artnome project thus far has relied on a long list of high technology unthinkable to de la Faille or the other assemblers of early catalogs — the internet, the gig economy, data science and interlinked databases. Bailey plans to leverage much more tech. For his next phase, he’s drawing from artificial intelligence, machine learning, image matching and a Slack community where art historians, art-loving programmers and deep learning specialists from around the world have flocked in recent days. In concert, these technologies could help gather, verify, match, unify and enrich this budding Holy Grail.

“I don’t see it as a project that scales, long term, as one person’s crazy hobby,” Bailey said.

Despite the mountainous engineering challenge, another potential hurdle remains: These catalogs, no matter how hard won, don’t belong to Bailey. He didn’t spend the grueling years their authors took assembling and editing them, or the expenses their publishers incurred publishing them — and he certainly doesn’t hold their copyrights. But Bailey was optimistic about the copyright issues, citing the scanning done by the Google Books project and reading he’d done on the matter. One copyright lawyer I spoke with was optimistic, too, citing the example of the periodic table of elements: It was really hard to come up with, but it isn’t copyrightable. Copyright protects expression, not facts.

Still, Bailey offered a bit of gallows humor. “I don’t know if I’ll get blacklisted by libraries and have to wear a disguise,” he said. Bewigged or not, Bailey continues to pursue his “crazy hobby.” And as you read this, the database continues to grow.

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Posted by Walt Hickey

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

Looking for a single page to bookmark to always access the latest Significant Digits? Say no more.


Number of orca deaths at SeaWorld parks this year, the latest resulting from the euthanization of a 42-year old female Kasatka at its San Diego park. SeaWorld is phasing out its orca performances by 2019. [Associated Press]

7 episodes

Number of episodes of “There’s… Johnny,” a sitcom about the backstage crew of “The Tonight Show” that was produced for streaming network Seeso as its tentpole comedy. Here’s the issue: Seeso was shuttered before the program could even go to air, raising a fundamentally modern question of what happens to shows that outlast their streaming start-up network. [The Wall Street Journal]

13.2 points

Difference between the labor force participation of men and women in the United States in July, an all-time low. [Bloomberg]

83 percent

Favorable opinion of Russia in Vietnam, the highest in the world according to Pew Global; only Greece and the Philippines also have a majority positive opinion of Russia. [Pew Research Center]


Passer rating of Jags quarterback Blake Bortles during garbage time over the past two seasons, one point off Tom Brady’s overall quarterback rating last season. Granted, Bortles is only good during garbage time, that magical period in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter when a team is two or more scores back and Blake is throwing as if his job depends on it. [FiveThirtyEight]

$1 billion

Apple is moving into the original content business and intends to spend $1 billion buying content over the next year. Hey, uh, I know a guy with a Tonight Show sitcom if they’re looking. [The Wall Street Journal]

If you see a significant digit in the wild, send it to @WaltHickey.

‘Guinea pigs'

Aug. 17th, 2017 11:32 pm
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The Tennessee county started offering time off inmate sentences in exchange for birth control

(no subject)

Aug. 17th, 2017 09:10 pm
meganbmoore: (book of life: elena)
[personal profile] meganbmoore posting in [community profile] fandom_icons
  70 x The Book of Life
58 x Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart

@ my DW

Left Behind and Trumpism

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:48 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

The Left Behind series sold more than 65 million copies. I can't offer a precise Venn diagram comparing those 65 million readers with the just-under 63 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump, but I would imagine the overlap in the middle would be pretty big. Their appeal is the same, and so is the audience.

Broken city

Aug. 18th, 2017 01:08 am
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Rebuilding Mosul and restoring trust among its residents is a monumental task, says Yalda Hakim.
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
Confederate-honoring statues are going down. In Hollywood Forever Cemetery, LA. And Lexington, KY. And quite a few other places. And Nancy Pelosi wants them out of the Capitol. Here's a list across the country.

And whose heritage do public symbols of confederacy belong to, anyway?

Florida has more racist hate groups than any other state; I wonder how old the members are.

Texas A&M cancels a rally by white supremacists, because of the possibility of violence against students.

Congressman Will Hurd and others say Trump should apologize for his remarks about Charlottesville.

Not only did Trump's business leaders walk away from him, they're not quiet about why. Here's another statement of why, including the following: "To be clear, the council never lived up to its potential for delivering policies that lift up working families. In fact, we were never called to a single official meeting, even though it comprised some of the world’s top business and labor leaders. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. joined to bring the voices of working people to the table and advocate the manufacturing initiatives our country desperately needs. But the only thing the council ever manufactured was letterhead. In the end, it was just another broken promise."

It took quite a bit of behind the scenes discussion, apparently.

And a look into the past history of American racism in the other inconvenient truth. Note the role Nixon had in creating hatred and persecution that continues to this day.

The racist who organized the Charlottesville white separtists ran away from his own press conference. Another white separatist was stuck having a press conference in his own office after two hotels turned him down.

I am not sure I agree with this idea of how to handle Trump, by making him say only what is written down. Why? I'm not sure he's literate enough to deal with the concepts. Even when he writes things down, they're offensive, ignorant, ahistorical and just plain wrong. And he's as much of a racist in private as in public. It's not just for show. He's bad enough at being president that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is saying, publicly, Trump lacks the stability and competence to do the job. Is he about to go down in flames? The big question: What do you do when the President is unAmerican?

At this point, domestic terrorism is not a federal crime; that may change soon. Or we may have to consider if we are heading for another civil war.

Bannon doesn't understand about interviews. He should. He was a founder of Breitbart, and fell down their hole long ago.

And Silicon Valley is having an anti-Nazi purge. Twitter is shutting down white supremacist accounts. Can they shut down Trump now? Maybe the damaging myth of the longer genius nerd is involved.

The NYTimes has thoughts on how to roll back fanaticism.


Is there a better way to protest?

Malala is going to Oxford.

New Jersey introduces a fund to support local journalism.

A new poem by Sherman Alexie.

Trump's anti-abortion policies could keep girls around the world out of school.

Top journalists talk about the best job advice they were ever given. And 7 quick tips for conducting tough interviews.

When someone is hit by a train in the NY Subway, where do they put the body? In the MTA lunchrooms!

Some thoughts on signaling behavior and decisionmaking in government.

Buddhist wisdom: Everything we do matters, but two things are critical.

You don't know about Vernice Warfield, but you should.

Meg Wollitzer on feeling strong without a security blanket.

Talking with Lili Taylor and Janeane Garofalo.

current events

Aug. 17th, 2017 08:53 pm
alchemise: season 1 Buffy, text "change the world" (BtVS: change the world)
[personal profile] alchemise
Every time I see the word 'Nazi' I hear it in my head spoken by Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds.

It helps, somehow?


butterfly: (Default)

February 2015


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