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BRENNEN has released App-WRT-v7.0.0

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WRiting Tool, a static site/blog generator and related utilities
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brennen
2 days ago
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Boulder, CO
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webshit weekly

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An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the last week of March, 2020.

Pro drivers are competing with gamers after F1 and Nascar canceled races
March 22, 2020 (comments)
Advertising finds a way. Hackernews' response comes in three categories: Pro Racing Hackernews who live for the track and would like us to know that racing simulators are either flawless or irredeemable, Pro Gaming Hackernews who live for the livestream and would like us to know that real cars are exactly or not at all like computer games, and Pro Expert Hackernews, who are only here to find irrelevant nits to pick in the inapplicable information provided by the first two groups.

Jitsi Meet: An open source alternative to Zoom
March 23, 2020 (comments)
Some copyright cultists scream into the wind. Hackernews posts anecdotes about videoconferencing software. Some consideration is given as to whether Zoom's "virtual background" feature is crucial for quarantined work-for-home success, since it relieves the user of the last traces of desire to clean their living space in any way.

Zig cc: A drop-in replacement for GCC/Clang
March 24, 2020 (comments)
An Internet decides that clang is not complicated enough. The "programming language intended as a C replacement with extreme C interoperability" genre is one of Hackernews' favorites, so the story receives many votes, but nobody can figure out what the goal of this particular language is, whether anyone has ever actually used it, or why one would bother, so there aren't too many actual discussions. Most of what does get posted focuses on cross-compilation, as though that were either a feature people actually used or else one that hasn't been dead-simple (outside of GNU) since the 1980s.

Private client-side-only PWAs are hard, but now Apple made them impossible
March 25, 2020 (comments)
A webshit is mad that Apple won't let browser shit in its yard. Hackernews, deeply invested in webshit, Apple products, and yardshitting, is on the case. It turns out there are ways to authorize selected webshits to bypass the limitation whined about in the article, so Hackernews argues about whether Apple's communications team is good enough for a while, then the article's author posts an update: still mad. Elsewhere in the comment threads, Hackernews bitches that Apple and Google fuck up webshit in incompatible ways, and a Google shows up to reassure everyone that they're going to make the documentation better... real soon now.

Zoom iOS app sends data to Facebook even if you don’t have a Facebook account
March 26, 2020 (comments)
Vice dot com is a website that sends data back to Google, Facebook, and Segment, even if you don't have a Facebook account. But someone at the office made Hackernews use Zoom, so they're on the warpath about that EULA they accepted. Hackernews is outraged about whatever indiscernible difference may exist between Zoom's data collection practices and the data collection practices that pay for Hackernews' studio in San Mateo. [Editor's note: we have been informed that Hackernews has in fact moved to a studio in Oakland.] Zoom-the-company modifies Zoom-the-computer-program to discontinue the outrageous API requests, but Hackernews is still mad, because there's nothing better to do.

Zoom needs to clean up its privacy act
March 27, 2020 (comments)
An Internet is still mad about the videoconference software from yesterday, and writes a blog post that sends data back to Wordpress, even if you don't have a Wordpress account. It also sends data directly to the webshit's personal stats server running piwik, because you just cannot have enough user surveillance on your vanity blog. Right, Doc? There's no useful information here, so Hackernews reverse-engineers Zoom's Mac OS program (okay, okay: Hackernews reads about someone else reverse-engineering Zoom's Mac OS program on Twitter) and then stoke the rage fires even futher -- not only does this company do business with Facebook, it abuses a bad package manager as well! Hackernews, faced with this cavalcade of turpitude, is forced to take firm and drastic action: grumpy posting on a web forum, followed by several hours of Zoom meetings.

The internet should be a public utility
March 28, 2020 (comments)
Quartz continues to shit out a harried stream of barely-coherent thinkpieces with "coronavirus" in the titles. Hackernews is disappointed with residential internet connections and blames Boomers.

WireGuard 1.0 for Linux 5.6
March 29, 2020 (comments)
The Linux kernel sprouts a seven hundredth network encryption feature, and we are assured that this one is the good one for real this time. Hackernews is extremely grateful for this development, as they suspect it might get simpler to watch their home Plex server at work without getting caught by IT. Nobody is actually allowed to go into work to try it because of the plague quarantines, so they limit themselves to recommending other networking gadgets to play with in the meantime. Fun fact: this same story was posted (via a different mail list mirror) the next day and not only was the highest-voted story THAT day as well, it was higher-voted than THIS one. Hackernews moderators could not stand the sheer disorder of things and dumped all tomorrow's comments into this article.

WeWork sells Meetup
March 30, 2020 (comments)
The most hilariously topical coporate trade occurs. Hackernews is glad that the assholes let go of an otherwise useful site, but can't decide if what is essentially a shared calendar service with a really shitty interface is a viable business or not. Other Hackernews debate what the hell all those people do all day, why it takes a couple hundred people to run a site that could be replaced tomorrow by Craigslist, and how terrible it is that venture capitalists keep supporting these bullshit companies, instead of real value-producing organizations that bring needed improvements to the human condition, like "crowdfunding for funerals" or "AirBnB for sheds."

Honda bucks industry trend by removing touchscreen controls
March 31, 2020 (comments)
Exactly the same article as last time, except it's Honda instead of Mazda, and Autocar is stupid enough to open their article with "Honda has done what no other car maker is doing." Hackernews' response is utterly indistinguishable from the last time I covered it, except for the couple dozen Hackernews pasting these same links.

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brennen
6 days ago
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"[Editor's note: we have been informed that Hackernews has in fact moved to a studio in Oakland.]"
Boulder, CO
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Review: A Grand and Bold Thing

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Review: A Grand and Bold Thing, by Ann Finkbeiner

Publisher: Free Press
Copyright: August 2010
ISBN: 1-4391-9647-8
Format: Kindle
Pages: 200

With the (somewhat excessively long) subtitle of An Extraordinary New Map of the Universe Ushering In a New Era of Discovery, this is a history of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It's structured as a mostly chronological history of the project with background profiles on key project members, particularly James Gunn.

Those who follow my blog will know that I recently started a new job at Vera C. Rubin Observatory (formerly the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope). Our goal is to take a complete survey of the night sky several times a week for ten years. That project is the direct successor of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and it's project team includes many people who formerly worked on Sloan. This book (and another one, Giant Telescopes) was recommended to me as a way to come up to speed on the history of this branch of astronomy.

Before reading this book, I hadn't understood how deeply the ready availability of the Sloan sky survey data had changed astronomy. Prior to the availability of that survey data, astronomers would develop theories and then try to book telescope time to make observations to test those theories. That telescope time was precious and in high demand, so was not readily available, and was vulnerable to poor weather conditions (like overcast skies) once the allocated time finally arrived.

The Sloan project changed all of that. Its output was a comprehensive sky survey available digitally whenever and wherever an astronomer needed it. One could develop a theory and then search the Sloan Digital Sky Survey for relevant data and, for at least some types of theories, test that theory against the data without needing precious telescope time or new observations. It was a transformational change in astronomy, made possible by the radical decision, early in the project, to release all of the data instead of keeping it private to a specific research project.

The shape of that change is one takeaway from this book. The other is how many problems the project ran into trying to achieve that goal. About a third of the way into this book, I started wondering if the project was cursed. So many things went wrong, from institutional politics through equipment failures to software bugs and manufacturing problems with the telescope mirror. That makes it all the more impressive how much impact the project eventually had. It's also remarkable just how many bad things can happen to a telescope mirror without making the telescope unusable.

Finkbeiner provides the most relevant astronomical background as she tells the story so that the unfamiliar reader can get an idea of what questions the Sloan survey originally set out to answer (particularly about quasars), but this is more of a project history than a popular astronomy book. There's enough astronomy here for context, but not enough to satisfy curiosity. If you're like me, expect to have your curiosity piqued, possibly resulting in buying popular surveys of current astronomy research. (At least one review is coming soon.)

Obviously this book is of special interest to me because of my new field of work, my background at a research university, and because it features some of my co-workers. I'm not sure how interesting it will be to someone without that background and personal connection. But if you've ever been adjacent to or curious about how large-scale science projects are done, this is a fascinating story. Both the failures and problems and the way they were eventually solved is different than how the more common stories of successful or failed companies are told. (It helps, at least for me, that the shared goal was to do science, rather than to make money for a corporation whose fortunes are loosely connected to those of the people doing the work.)

Recommended if this is topic sounds at all interesting.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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brennen
6 days ago
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Boulder, CO
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brennen
7 days ago
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Is it time to ditch the “cone of shame”?

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Has your cat or dog ever had to wear a “cone of shame”? Also known as an Elizabethan collar (or an E-collar), and resembling more of a lampshade, these devices are routinely prescribed by veterinarians to prevent our pets from scratching themselves, biting at sutures, or otherwise harming themselves.

Apparently the term “cone of shame” was popularized by the movie “Up” – perhaps referring to the fact that it likely feels like a punishment to the wearer. It’s no walk in the park for the pet owner either – turns out that owners are reluctant to use them on their pets, and do not use them for the full length of time recommended by their vet. Cones may even be dangerous, with at least two dogs dying due to getting tangled in plastic bags while wearing the collar.

A recent open-access study out of Australia (“The Cone of Shame”: Welfare Implications of Elizabethan Collar Use on Dogs and Cats as Reported by their Owners) surveyed pet owners with cats or dogs who had needed an E-collar in the last year, asking several questions about why the collar had been recommended, how long the pet had to wear the collar, and whether the owner had observed problems or signs of stress in their pet. There were 434 participants, primarily from Australia. They reported that their pet had a wear the collar for anywhere from 3-7 days.

More than half of owners reported welfare concerns related to the use of the collar: 60.2% said the collar interfered with drinking, and 67.5% reported that their pet was unable to play while wearing the collar. A quarter of pets experienced (mostly minor) injuries from wearing the collar such as itching, trauma, or bumping into walls or objects. Almost of quarter of animals were able to remove the collar on their own, but their owners were helping them out too: over half of owners just took the collar off their pet when they were supervising them.

My cat, "depressed" and coned.

The majority of owners reported that their pet had a worse quality of life while wearing the cone, and reported that their pet was “depressed”, had difficulties eating, and that the distress was worse than the behavior it was supposed to prevent. In some cases, the cone didn’t fit well, and some animals could not jump or walk normally when wearing them.

On the plus side, owners did feel that the cone of shame was effective at preventing the behavioral responses such as licking or biting. It is possible that some cats and dogs could be trained to habituate to and accept wearing a collar, but that is not the approach that most owners can take – the collar needs to go on NOW, not after the pet has been sensitized to it.

I had my own experience a few years ago with the cone and my cat. She was limping, so we took her to the emergency vet. She was diagnosed with “lameness” (okay, it still makes me chuckle) – just a soft tissue injury -- and sent home with pain killers and a cone. Why the cone? I still don’t know. She hated it, and like many pet owners, we did not comply, and we took it off her after just a few hours of her misery. She recovered just fine.

So is the cone of shame a necessary evil? Is it necessary at all? Are there other options? I decided to throw some questions at one of my favorite experts when it comes to medical care for cats, Ellen Carozza, LVT, who works at the Nova Cat Clinic in the DC area. She has specialized in feline medicine for almost two decades, and trust me, this woman knows her sh*t. But I also knew from previous conversations with her that she shared some of my concerns about the routine use of the cone of shame.

***************

Why did your clinic stop the routine use of e-collars?

EC: We noticed it caused more stress to the patient when they wear them.  When a patient is properly pain managed using a multimodal method, we have found they will not pick or groom the suture area. We barely have external sutures – we do internal and subcutaneous or subcuticular to minimize the picking as well.

 The main complaints we get from clients on e-collars is that the cats won’t eat, they bonk into the walls, become depressed and overly groom the e-collar (that is a indication of pain…they just can’t get to the spot but trying to groom it sure does help!). These cats may also not rest well due to the collar propping their head and face up, so that adds to the discomfort and now the animal can’t get comfortable and sleep. And sleep and rest is very important with the healing process. 

Using a local block, opiates, Gabapentin and NSAIDS (if the kidneys will allow it) along with complimentary therapies such as laser and the Assisi Loop aid in healing because the pet is kept comfortable and the acute and chronic pain is diminished and kept to a minimum. 

Why do most veterinary clinics continue to rely on the “cone of shame”? 

EC: They believe they really do help. What we should be focusing on is pain management to prevent them from wanting to pick at the first place. It is also taught that this is the standard of medicine: just stop the behavior. You also have the " We've always done it *insert excuse of the day here.* 

You can't always trust the owners to keep the area clean and dry.  Most clients don't even check incision sites daily.  So putting a collar on the animal prevents the client from having to do an extra job as a pet parent and pay attention. 

What are the alternatives? Is it time to end this "shameful" practice?

EC: There are lots of alternatives. Some of the newer "cloud or balloon collars" allow the animal to eat more freely, but don't allow the head to rest properly either as it’s an inflatable ring. The "No Bite" collars are neck braces that prevent the neck from bending back to function normally. Some companies go as far as making ridiculous, yet cute e-collars that resemble flowers or lion manes so something so "shameful" isn't (clever marketing). OR the best thing ever is to PROPERLY PAIN MANAGE!!! and address any underlying obsessive behaviors with mood modifying drugs and environmental changes (especially the cats who just clean obsessively and you can't find the reason why medically).

Do I think it's time to end the "shameful" practice? I think it's time for better pain management, behavior and environmental modifications to be done to limit the routine use of them in practice. Understanding the feline pain body scoring allows you to stay ahead of the issue at hand and not have to rely on a cone to suddenly halt a behavior. 

******************

Hopefully this research will help increase awareness that e-collars are not necessarily necessary or helpful to maintaining companion animal welfare while helping them heal. People hate ‘em, our pets hate ‘em, it’s time to start taking the alternatives seriously!

References

Shenoda, Y., Ward, M. P., McKeegan, D., & Fawcett, A. (2020). “The Cone of Shame”: Welfare Implications of Elizabethan Collar Use on Dogs and Cats as Reported by their Owners. Animals, 10(2), 333.

Shumaker, A. K. (2019). Diagnosis and treatment of canine acral lick dermatitis. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice, 49(1), 105-123.

Wilson, S. (1993). Elizabethan collars and plastic bags. The Veterinary record, 132(26), 664-664.

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brennen
7 days ago
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Huh.
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97. It’s FineLike many of you, lately I spend a lot of time in...

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97. It’s Fine

Like many of you, lately I spend a lot of time in silent stress. I hope you and those dear to you are safe and that you’re each taking social distancing very seriously. The comic will resume its usual content after this in hopes that, at the very least, I can create some distraction for us both.

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brennen
13 days ago
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