Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Micro Habits" for Language Learning

Forget “learning a language.” Focus on forming the habit.
[...]

What is a Habit?

Habits are the key to behavior change.

When you form a habit, you won’t have to get “motivated” to do something. You won’t have to use willpower or “force” yourself and get it done.

Think about how it feels to go to bed without brushing your teeth. It feels wrong. You feel like your day isn’t complete — and you’ll even drag yourself out of bed to do it, despite being tired.

Why?

Because brushing is so deeply ingrained into your daily routine that it actually requires more willpower to NOT brush than just to brush! It’s a deeply formed habit — and you rarely miss a day.

How much more progress would you make if you could retrain your brain to treat language learning the same way? How much faster could you master the basics and move on to fluency if you practiced your new language 365 days in a row without missing a day?

You’d be unstoppable. And you’d definitely be able to hold a casual conversation without grabbing the dictionary every other word.

It all starts with changing your behavior and forming new habits.

This idea of making language study a habit in my life was on my mind a lot back in Florence when I was learning Italian.

And so I’ve spent the last two years rigorously researching behavior change and figuring out how to make goals like language learning, working out or waking up earlier a natural part of my day, rather than an eternal struggle. Since then I developed Pavlok — a wearable technology to help you build new habits (and break bad ones). Pavlok currently commits you to fitness, waking up on time, and being more productive — but we are currently working on integrating Duolingo and other language learning tools so it can commit you to forming the habit of learning a language.

In this article, I’m going to distill all of our best research and teach you the step-by-step process for reprogramming your brain and making language learning so efficient that it becomes part of your everyday life, automatically.

If you’ve ever felt like learning a new language was a chore, and that you weren’t making the progress you’d like, this article is for you.

Keep reading! [...]
The rest of the article is about Demystifying the Habit Formation Process, and intentionally forming good habits that work for you. Here it is applied to language learning, but it could be adapted to many other areas also. Read the whole thing, for embedded links and more.
     

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Friday, February 10, 2017

South Dakota: Where The Jobs Are

Why people are moving to South Dakota
60% of people who moved to South Dakota did so for a new job or job transfer
South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, topped the list of states with the most inbound movers in 2016, and it’s mostly for the jobs.

The state, which has seen a 23% increase in people moving to the state in the last five years, took the No. 1 spot for the first time, beating Oregon, which had been in the top place for the past three years. South Dakota also attracted those looking to live closer to family and retire, according to the 40th annual moving study by St. Louis-based moving company United Van Lines. The study based its findings on states’ inbound and outbound percentages compared to total moves the company handles.

Of the people moving to South Dakota, 60% came for jobs. The state is home to financial services firms, like Citibank C, +0.83% , and has a low unemployment rate and reasonable home prices, said Michael Stoll, an economist and professor and chair of the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who worked with United Van Lines on the study. High demand jobs with high wages in South Dakota include registered nurses, accountants and auditors, general and operations managers, elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers and management analysts, according to the South Dakota Dept. of Labor & Regulation.

“There are more pull factors than push factors,” Stoll said. The unemployment rate in South Dakota was 2.7% in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with the U.S.’s unemployment rate that same month of 4.6%. The median home in South Dakota is about $170,000, according to real estate website Zillow’s home value index.

The top inbound states after South Dakota were Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, South Carolina, Washington state, then Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Nevada and Arizona. [...]
Interesting, that Oregon had been the top state drawing new people for the past three years. I'm pretty sure though, that most people coming to Oregon are looking to retire, not find work. Read the whole article for embedded links and more.
     

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Rapid Advance of Artificial Intelligence: is it the problem, or the solution?

In some ways, it's both:

Davos Highlights AI's Massive PR Problem
[...] Artificial Intelligence: The Evolution of Automation

Perhaps Henry Ford was able to build a market for the Model T by paying his assembly line workers a living wage, but it’s not clear if everyone buys into the same principle when it comes to the economic impact of automation today.

In fact, the problem may only be getting worse with the arrival of the next wave of innovation in automation: artificial intelligence (AI). AI has been playing a role in automation for years in the form of assembly line robotics, but innovation in the technology is now reaching an inflection point.

One of the concerns: AI will increasingly target white-collar jobs. “AI is going to focus now as much on white-collar as on blue-collar jobs,” explains John Drzik, President of global risk at insurer Marsh, in the ComputerWeekly article. “You are looking at machine learning algorithms being deployed in financial services, in healthcare and in other places. The machines are getting increasingly powerful.”

[...]

Given the sudden and rapid acceleration of innovation in AI, some Davos attendees even sounded alarmed. “The speed at which AI is improving is beyond even the most optimistic people,” according to Kai-fu Lee, a venture capitalist with Sinovation Partners, in the Financial Times article. “Pretty much anything that requires ten seconds of thinking or less can soon be done by AI or other algorithms.”

This kind of alarmist talk emphasizes AI’s greatest public relations hurdle: whether or not increasingly intelligent computers will cast off human control and turn evil, à la Skynet in the Terminator movies. Increasingly intelligent robots replacing humans is “a function of what the market demands,” explains Justine Cassell, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, in the Washington Post article. “If the market demands killer robots, there are going to be killer robots.”

Killer Robots? AI Needs Better PR

Aside from the occasional assembly line worker getting too close to the machinery, killer robots aren’t in the cards for AI in the near term. However, the economic impact that dramatically improved automation might bring is a very real concern, especially given populist pushback.

[...]

Wealth and income inequality remain global challenges to be sure, but the accelerating pace of technology innovation brings benefits to everyone. After all, even the poorest people on this planet can often afford a smartphone.

In fact, the ‘killer robots’ context for AI is missing the point, as technology advancement has proven to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem for the woes of globalization. Actually, the disruptions businesses face today are more about speed to market than automation per se.

It’s high time to change the PR surrounding AI from killer robots to digital transformation. “Companies must adapt their business models to driver new areas of revenue and growth,” explains Adam Elster, President of Global Field Operations at CA Technologies. “With digital transformation, the biggest factor is time: how fast can companies transform and bring new products to market.”

Where populism is a scarcity-driven movement – ‘there’s not enough to go around, so I need to make sure I have my share’ – technology innovation broadly and AI in particular are surplus-driven: ‘we all benefit from technology, so now we must ensure the benefits inure to everyone.’ [...]
Read the whole thing, for embedded links and more. This will be an ongoing debate for many years to come.
     

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Ubiquitous Alexa; is the Amazon AI assistant starting to be everywhere?

Kinda looks that way. The title of the article below refers to cars, but the article itself goes into much more. More about Alexa being incorporated into other appliances and, well, have a look:



Alexa will make your car smarter -- and vice versa
The integration into vehicles is yet another sign of how dependent we're becoming on AI.
[...] Within a span of just two years, Amazon's cloud-based voice service has spread far beyond the Echo speaker with which it first debuted. Alexa has gone from being an at-home helper to a personal assistant that can unlock your car, make a robot dance and even order groceries from your fridge.

At CES, both Ford and Volkswagen announced that their cars would integrate Alexa for weather updates, navigation and more. According to CJ Frost, principal architect solutions and automotive lead at Amazon, the car industry is moving into a mobility space. The idea isn't restricted to the ride anymore; it encompasses a journey that starts before you even get in the car. With the right skills built into the voice service, you can start a conversation with Alexa about the state of your car (is there enough fuel? is it locked? etc.) before you leave the house. It can also pull up your calendar, check traffic updates and confirm the meeting to make sure you're on track for the day.

Using a voice service in the car keeps your connection with the intelligent assistant intact. It's also a mode of communication that will be essential to autonomous cars of the near future. I caught up with Frost and John Scumniotales, general manager of Automotive Alexa service, at the Las Vegas convention center to trace the progression of the intelligent assistant from home speakers to cars on the road. [...]
The rest of the article is in an interview format, discussing where this is all going, and how and why, and what the future holds. Read the whole thing for embedded links, photos, video and more.

There have been lots of reviews on Youtube comparing Alexa with Google Home. People who use a lot of Google Services, claim the Google device is smarter and therefore better. But it's not that simple.

I have both devices. If you ask your question of Alexa in the format of: "Alexa, Wikipedia, [your question here]", the answer you get will often be as good or better than what Google can tell you. Alexa has been around longer, has wider integration, and more functions available. It can even add appointments to my Goggle Calendar, which Google Home says it cannot do yet!

Google Home does have some features it excels at, such as translating English words and phrases into foreign languages. If you own any Chromcast dongles, you can cast music and video to other devices, which is pretty cool. Presently it's biggest drawback is the lack of development of applications that work with it. However, it's POTENTIAL is very great, and a year or two from now we may see a great deal more functionality. It has the advantage of access to Google's considerable data base and resources. It could quickly catch up with Alexa, and perhaps surpass it. But that still remains to be seen.

It's not hard to make a video that makes one device look dumber than the other. But in truth the devices are very similar. Both can make mistakes, or fail at questions or functions. Sometimes one does better than the other. I actually like having both. It will be interesting to watch them both continue to evolve. To see if Google can close the gap created by Amazon's early head start. To see how the two products will differentiate themselves over time.

For the present, if you require a lot of integration with 3rd party apps and hardware, and if you are already using Amazon Prime and/or Amazon Music services, you might prefer Alexa. If you you are heavily into Google services, and/or Google Music or Youtube Red, you might prefer Google Home. Or if you are like me, an Amazon Prime/Music member and experimenting with Youtube Red and owner of chromcast devices, you may prefer both! Choice is good!
     

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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Is the Star Trek Communication's Badge
Finally a Reality?

Yeah. Well, kinda, sorta, in a way... does Bluetooth count? You decide:


Published on Dec 15, 2016
To a Star Trek-obsessed kid growing up in the 90s, there was nothing cooler than the combadge, a communicator so small it fit into a Starfleet logo worn on the chest. I amassed quite a collection of combadge prop replicas over the years, but this isn’t just another hunk of chrome-plated potmetal: this is a communicator pin that actually works. (Well ... sometimes. And only with the help of your phone.) Join me for the MrMobile review of the Star Trek Bluetooth Combadge by Fametek!
An interesting first attempt, although apparently there is room for much needed improvements. Hopefully the manufacturers will learn from this, and the Next Generation of the device will do better.

Don't throw your smartphone away yet. ;-)

Source: Star Trek's Combadge Is Finally Real, But It's Got Some Bugs

     

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Russia Hacking Our Election:
The Year's Biggest Fake News Story

Tancredo: Biggest Fake News Story of the Year Is Russia Hacking the 2016 Election
[...] So, pardon me if I consider President Obama’s moral outrage over alleged Russian interference in 2016 the height of political hypocrisy. Sadly, the only surprising thing about this manufactured ruckus is how many Republicans in Congress have joined the charade. Obama has his political axe to grind, and so do Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, political losers who have not let up on their criticism of Donald Trump since November 8.

United States government sponsorship and funding of interventions in foreign elections has been official government policy for at least 50 years since the Cold War began in the 1950s, and it has had bipartisan Congressional support. Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent ANNUALLY on such activities.

Hacking into computers to steal sensitive data, email messages and other information is simply the use of new technologies to pursue traditional foreign policy goals. It is not news that the Russians do it, and Obama has known it for eight years since the day he walked into the Oval Office. He also knows his own government is doing it on a massive scale.

So, I must ask: What is so different or so shocking if Russia was somehow involved in assisting the WikiLeaks theft and subsequent publication of the highly embarrassing DNC emails that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign? The New York Times and Washington Post showed no moral scruples when publishing other WikiLeaks-obtained information embarrassing to American politicians and national security interests. Why are the DNC emails more sacrosanct than Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails?

The brazen dishonesty and hypocrisy of the allegations of “Russian hacking of the 2016 election” is made even more grotesque by the sophomoric media bait and switch: While Russian hacking of both industrial secrets and government agency data is widespread, as is hacking by Chinese and North Koreans and others, there is no evidence of hacking into election machines or any attempted compromise of 2016 election tabulations.

Simply put, there is yet to be any evidence of Russian “hacking” of the 2016 election. And yet, the White House and the media establishment is intent on planting that idea in the American political conversation as if it were a proven fact. Trying to influence American public opinion is not the same as manipulating the election results and the attempt to confuse and confound the two is an insult to the American people.

The whole fabric of this fake news story is a fiction intended to mislead the public and cast a shadow of illegitimacy over the electoral victory of Donald Trump. Yet, when we look beyond the screaming headlines and examine the facts of the matter, we find there is no evidence the Russians have done anything that the US government isn’t doing TODAY in a dozen places around the globe. But somehow, we are supposed to believe they have engaged in impermissible interference in our politics. [...]
Read the whole thing. The facts are there, for anyone who bothers to pay attention.

As I said in another post, are they lying now or were they lying then? Either way, they ARE lying. And their biggest concern is that scandalous activities of the DNC were exposed by the Russians, not that the DNC was engaged in scandalous activities that could be exploited. We are supposed to be upset because DNC dirty laundry was exposed? And only now, because they lost the election, not before, when the same people blaming the Russians now, insisted before that Russian hacking was not a problem and everything was safe and under control.

It's time for a change. Throw the liars out.
     

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Why Apps Won't Matter in the Future: Aggregators

... and smart bots and personal assistants:



Oh, and streaming. As technologies quickly change and evolve, so will the many ways we use them. Today's solution is tomorrow's history. The video also points out why these developments and trends are both exciting and scary.
     

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Modern Russian Dance Music

File this under "Not your grandfather's Russia". I was perusing foreign radio stations on my Alexa app, when I came across this song on a Russian radio station. It sounded so modern, so ... "un-Russian", and it made me curious to know more. Here is a clip of the song being performed on a TV show. I think the song is in Russian, but I'm not sure, I think the couple performing are Ukrainian, and the Russian and Ukrainian languages are very similar, but the song and the dance are great, here it is, at what looks like Christmastime:



When I looked for the song, I found the Original Music Video on Youtube, where at one point it was the most watched video on Youtube by Russians. Clearly, some of my concepts about Russia need updating!

The duo's website: http://vremyaisteklo.com/.
     

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