Category Archives: the blog

Jeff Sessions wants to go back to the failed drug policies of the 80s

Sessions is completely out of touch with reality in his claims about drugs, like, “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs will destroy your life,” “Each of us has a responsibility to be intolerant of drug use anywhere, anytime, by anybody,” and “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

118 million people have smoked marijuana, 36 million in the last year. “Does Sessions honestly think all those people are bad, or that anyone would believe they are?” writes Jacob Sullum at Reason.

I smoked a lot of marijuana in college. I decided it was bad for me and tapered off in my late 20s. Last time I smoked was 1992. Now, I hardly even drink any more.

I was not a bad person during the time I smoked pot.

I might even try it again sometime, especially now that it’s virtually legal in so many places.

Jeff Sessions is an idiot.

With Trump, the simplest explanation is the best one

Many people, including me, struggle to figure out the Trump administration’s strategy for doing things, why they do what they do. I figured it out yesterday: They’re idiots. That’s why they do what they do.

If you see someone repeatedly doing something stupid, you don’t look for some four-dimensional chess strategy to figure out why they do a thing. That person is an idiot. That is the explanation.

Similarly for Donald Trump and his administration. They’re not geniuses. They’re not even EVIL geniuses. They’re just idiots. The whole bunch of them couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if they had instructions on the heel.

Arguably, I’m an idiot too for not having figured this out sooner.

Using a GPS switches off parts of your brain

Researchers at University College London found the parts of the brain that relate to memory and navigation are quiet when using GPS, but active when test subjects rely on their own brains to navigate, according to an article by Charlie Osborne in ZDNet.

Researchers looked at brain activity in volunteers navigating simulated London streets.

The researchers followed 24 volunteers that agreed to navigate through a simulated drive through Soho in central London while undergoing brain scans. The team focused on the hippocampus, a region of the brain related to memory and navigation, alongside the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and decision-making.

UCL also mapped London streets to connect how these brain regions reacted to particular areas.

When the study participants did not use a satnav, their hippocampus and prefrontal cortex revealed spikes of activity when the individuals entered new streets, as well as when they made a navigation choice based on different route options.

However, those that were given a satnav to use had no spikes of activity.

Fans of “The Office” already know this.

IBM is ending its decades-old remote work policy

IBM, which pioneered remote working, is now telling employees to start working in offices – or else, reports Sarah Kessler at The Quartz.

IBM is “co-locating” its US marketing department, about 2,500 people, in one of six different locations – Atlanta, Raleigh, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and New York.

Employees who worked primarily from home would be required to commute, and employees who worked remotely or from an office that was not on the list (or an office that was on the list, but different than the one to which their teams had been assigned) would be required to either move or look for another job. Similar announcements had already been made in other departments, and more would be made in the future….

“Everyone I know is very upset,” says one employee, who like most interviewed asked to remain anonymous while discussing an employer. Some workers furiously began looking for new jobs. Others say they have stopped contributing to long-term projects because they aren’t sure whether they’ll be around in the future. A theory among some employees is that IBM is using co-location as a downsizing effort. One referred to the colocation move as “the massacre.”

IBM has had many layoffs during a transformation attempt that has involved 19 consecutive quarters of declining sales, but executives say the colocation effort aims to achieve something more difficult: a complete revamp of how the company—which has a workforce the size of Cleveland—quite literally, works.

The march back to the office

“Is it possible for a company the size of IBM to have the innovation and pace of the best small tech companies, of the best small teams, but have the scale of IBM?” Jeff Smith, IBM’s CIO, asked at a conference in 2016. He said this was his goal for IBM, to make it “agile.” At this point, “agile” describes so many different work systems that it’s become an almost meaningless term, but it broadly refers to small teams that constantly iterate on projects and use data to make decisions. A feature of Smith’s particular “agile playbook” for IBM was that “the leaders have to be with the squads [his word for small teams] and the squads have to be in a location.”

Before the marketing department, IBM’s design department, security department, procurement department, large parts of the IT department, and teams that work on Watson, Watson Health, Watson Internet of Things, and Cloud Development had already been co-located, among others.

The article cites studies showing remote workers are more productive, but teams that work shoulder-to-shoulder in the same office are more creative.

I’ve been working from a home office most of the last 25 years. Be hard for me to adjust to commuting.

There was a fungus among us

Long Before Trees Overtook the Land, Earth Was Covered by Giant Mushrooms – Colin Schultz, Smithsonian:

From around 420 to 350 million years ago, when land plants were still the relatively new kids on the evolutionary block and “the tallest trees stood just a few feet high,” giant spires of life poked from the Earth. “The ancient organism boasted trunks up to 24 feet (8 meters) high and as wide as three feet (one meter),” said National Geographic in 2007. With the help of a fossil dug up in Saudi Arabia scientists finally figured out what the giant creature was: a fungus. (We think.)

That must have been something to see.