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Thursday November 29, 2012

### Coin flip example

“If a woman has two children and one is a girl, the chance that the other child is a girl has to be 50-50, right? No.”

I figured this out. Go back to the coin example. I flip two coins into a box, such that I can see the results and you can’t. The probability of two heads is 1 in 4. The probability of two tails is 1 in 4. But since there are two ways to get one heads and one tails, the probability of one coin being heads and the other being tails is 1 in 2.

I look down, and I say, “one of the coins is heads.” At this point, the probability of the other coin being heads is 1 in 3, and the probability of the other coins being tails is 2 in 3.

Back to the example of the kids. If I said “the woman’s first child is a girl.” Then the probability of her second child being a boy would be 50-50.

I think what this highlights is the extent to which what our brains are good for is based on how we evolved. We’re wired to figure out certain real-world practical problems, and comparatively terrible at abstract thought. We have the illusion of being good at abstract thought. Simple puzzles like this poke holes in the illusion.

(Via Steve, who brought an old newspaper clipping with this.)

Wednesday November 28, 2012

### My Mac configuration

About a year a go I switched from Windows to Mac, and I haven’t looked back since. I started with a Mac Mini, switched to an Air when I moved into a house and didn’t want to be tied to a single desk spot with my computer, and upgraded again when I realized I needed 500 gigs on my machine so I could have my music and photo libraries onboard and a larger screen. My current machine is a 2010 15” MacBook Pro bought used on ebay. I upgraded it to 8 GB of memory and a 512 GB SSD from Crucial. I use this computer at home and as my main computer at work every day. Here’s how it’s configured (this is pretty much the order I’d re-install stuff if everything got wiped clean):

• Trackpad configured for tap-to-click and three-finger-drag (it takes a little getting used to, but not having to click is great). I also use a Magic Mouse a lot of the time.
• Quicksilver, a do-almost-anything launcher thingy. A good introduction to Quicksilver is this screencast. There’s a quick guide a wiki, and a big PDF of a user manual. Quicksilver integrates with all sorts of things in the OS, which changes all the time, so various parts of all these guides are out of date, and not all the plugins work all the time. But what does work is amazing. I’ve tried Alfred and Launchbar, and Quicksilver works best for me. I have it set to trigger with just the Command key, which works great actually. My favorite QS add-on hack is Go To Here.
• I recently switched from Chrome to Safari for web browsing. I use Type-to-Navigate, Invisible Status Bar, and Click-to-Flash. I launch a lot of Web searches from Quicksilver, too. I have a custom web search list in my catalog that I add entries to when the need arises.
• I keep my dock auto-hidden, and empty except for running apps. I use a script to make it pop up instantly when I mouse over it instead of waiting a split second.
• Witch and Moom. Witch is a windows-switcher without which a recent Windows switcher would find a Mac unusable. Moom is a bag of tricks.
• My photos live in Lightroom, and I use Picasa to access the photo archive at work, which lives on a network drive (Picasa is cool because it stores starred photo info in each folder with the photos, so each user can see what others have starred.)
• My notes live in text files in a Dropbox folder, and sometimes I use nvAlt to get to them. Mostly Quicksilver, though. Currently I’m using iaWriter as my text editor, but TextEdit is just as good. (I tried out BBEdit and ended up configuring it to look just like TextEdit. It saved me once for the GREP search-n-replace, but I don’t go in for code highlighting or anything.)
• Better Touch Tool is fun to play with. I have it set to trigger full-screen mode on a four-finger tap and to minimize the current window on four-finger down swipe.
• I spent months getting up-to-speed with OmniFocus and getting synced across all my devices, but now I just use the built-in Reminders app. (Unless you have lots of projects with tasks that happen in different contexts, OmniFocus doesn’t really add much to the mix. Simplicity wins.)
• I have to turn on “Keyboard full access” in System Preferences (and the keyboard still doesn’t access all the dialog controls). And of course I have the Save-as hack installed.
• For my day to day work I use InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
• I use Hazel to move my Photostream photos into a folder that Lightroom auto-imports. I also have it delete anything off my desktop after 10 minutes. Keeps my desktop clear, while allowing me to use it as a temporary holding place for moving files around, and an easy place to drop trash.
• 1Password. I sort of preferred actually just using one password for everything, but these days you can’t do that. (I’m sort of surprised 1PW doesn’t nag you about all the stuff in its database that uses the same password, actually.)
• Time Machine backs up to a hard drive attached to my wireless router.
• I could get by without them, but I use Fantastical and RescueTime. Which means I need Bartender to keep the clutter hidden.
• For early morning writing, Nocturne is great. I sometimes resort to InsomniaX to keep my mac from going to sleep and dumping my mounted network drives. GrandPerspective is indispensable when hard drive space starts running low to find stuff to clear out or move.
• Speaking of network drives. These are drives on a Windows 2008 server. I keep shortcuts to the folders I use every day in a folder that Quicksilver indexes so I can mount them from the keyboard. Then QS indexes a few select folders to let me get to the stuff I need regularly (indexing whole drives slows QS way down). The big secret to searching for files in the hidden recesses of these network drives is EasyFind.
• Soulver is the best thing ever. So is Scrivener. And so is Keynote. (I don’t actually do presentations, but I use it to create text effects for videos, graphs, and website mockups.) Tweetbot for Twitter.
• Two things I miss the most from Windows: Being able to trigger any menu command from the keyboard by holding down Alt, looking at the screen, and hitting two keys. (None of the workarounds for this on the Mac have worked for me.) And the finder view where you have files in the main window and an expandable folder tree in the sidebar. Magician File does this, but it doesn’t work well enough to be usable.

Wednesday November 21, 2012

### UR1 "postponement"?

What the heck’s going on here? Weather? Really??

Announcement

It is with deep regret that we announce the postponement of the first annual UR1 Music & Art Festival due to circumstances beyond our control, including:

- Foreseeable inclement weather conditions in the Miami-Dade and South Florida region;
- Continued effects of the recent Hurricane Sandy.

In consideration of these and other factors including the safety and wellbeing of our fans and performing artists we have come to this tough decision. Understandably this has had an ancillary effect on ticket sales and business logistics. It has always been our mission to produce events of the utmost quality and safety.

The new dates for the UR1 Music & Art Festival will be announced shortly. New dates will be chosen when weather conditions satisfy the safety of our fans, artists and staff. Once the dates are released you may chose to retain your ticket, as we will accept it at the festival. Alternatively should you choose to be refunded, information and instructions on how to do so can be found at www.ur1festival.com/tickets. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

We would also like to inform you that we are making every effort to showcase some of the talent that was scheduled to perform and exhibit at the festival in various locations around Miami. For those of you who would like to join us and the talent that will continue on to be showcased pending forthcoming dates to be announced, UR1 Ticket holders will have the opportunity to use their festival ticket at events around Miami during Basel week. A list of events accepting UR1 Tickets & Vouchers will soon be listed at www.ur1festival.com

Sincerely,

The UR1 Music & Art Festival Family

Tuesday November 20, 2012

Blah. Nothing new last week, nothing new this week. I’ve been writing other stuff. The first thing is up now at The Atlantic: How Partisans Fool Themselves Into Believing Their Own Spin. I hope you to enjoy it. And by the way, the Twitter account is alive and well for you to enjoy, here.

#

Sunday November 4, 2012

### The November 6th ballot: part 3: county charter

Well, here we are: the day before election day. I’m aware that a lot of you have already voted; this ballot was a doozie, and early voting — or particularly absentee voting, which is sort of like a take-home exam — is a smart way go to. I salute you. But for the old-school (read: procrastination-inclined) among us, going to the polls on election day is the only way to do.

So we still need to figure out how to vote on a big chunk of the ballot. See part 1 of this guide for the state charter amendments and part 2 for some ideas on voting for elected officials. Today, Miami-Dade stuff. Let’s dive in.

#### School Board Question

Funding Modernization and Construction of Public School Facilities Through Issuance of General Obligation Bonds

Shall the School District of Miami-Dade County fund a plan for modernization and construction of public school facilities throughout the district, including educational technology upgrades, by issuing general obligation bonds in an aggregate amount not exceeding \$1,200,000,000, in one or more series, bearing interest at market rates, maturing within thirty years, and secured by the full faith and credit and ad-valorem taxing power of the district?

I’m not sure how you get around to opposing this. “We can’t afford to raise taxes for big government programs” doesn’t really work for schools, does it? Neither does, “sure we need to invest in schools, but now is not the time.” The preponderance of online opinion is pro. Vote FOR BONDS.

#### County Questions

Home Rule Charter Amendment Relating to Term Limits of County Commissioners

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that County Commissioners shall serve no more than two consecutive four-year terms in office excluding terms of service prior to 2012?

Here we are. TERM LIMITS. The holy grail. Stop the revolving door. Get in some fresh perspectives. But it turns out that this is actually an extremely difficult thing to reason out. There are persuasive arguments for and against. Incumbent commissioners manage their constituencies, so they’re very difficult to get rid of. Want to get fresh voices on the commission? Term limits are the only way to go. The Herald says yes to term limits.

But not so fast. Michael Lewis argues the side against term limits. It’s very much worth a read, but the short story is that limiting the terms of elected officials empowers lobbyists and government bureaucrats. It keeps relationships among commissioners fleeting. Institutional memory suffers. And commissioners who are term-limited are more likely to vote in ways that’ll benefit them once they’re out of office than to be accountable to voters. If you want to strengthen the county commission, Lewis argues, go back to county-wide elections.

But each of these arguments has a mirror-image counter-argument. You’d need deep knowledge about what happened when in term limits have passed historically on commissions like Miami’s around the country and a degree in political philosophy before you could really even discuss this question intelligently. But here’s the thing. County-wide commission elections aren’t on the ballot. Term limits are. We’ve tried the commission without term limits, and the results have left us wanting. And while it’s impossible to draw a line from the problems with the commission right now to term limits being the best solution, it’s the only tool in the box at the present moment. Will term limits be an improvement in Miami-Dade? I hate to be flip, but there’s only one way to find out. Perhaps a future charter amendment will allow us to reconsider county-wide commission elections. If this turns out to cause problems, it’ll not be difficult to get a charter amendment reversing the term limits decision. It’s an expriment. Let’s try it, and see if benefits of fresh voices are worth the certainty that their reign will be short. Vote YES.

Technical Amendments to Home Rule Charter

Shall the Charter be amended to clarify the titles of subsections, correct and update cross-references between provisions, and delete references to offices and agencies which have been abolished?

Here we are: the boring shit. I have no idea why I have to make a decision about why the titles of subsections should be clarified. If they’re unclear, isn’t “clarification” an opportunity for obfuscation? Am I not better off with a charter that’s got some obsolete stuff in it than a charter that someone gets to muck around with in the name of “clarification”? To the point: is it worth taking 5 minutes to google what the proposed amendments are? FINE. >> and << indicates stuff being inserted, [[ and ]] stuff removed. Feast your eyes. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Requiring Extraordinary Vote to Include Additional Land within the Urban Development Boundary

Shall the Charter be amended to require a two-thirds vote of County Commissioners then in office to include additional land within the Urban Development Boundary established by the County’s Comprehensive Development Master Plan?

Yes, it should. Not that we’re kidding ourselves that it’ll do much to bolster the integrity of the UDB, but any brakes we can apply here. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Pertaining to Changes in Municipal Boundaries and Creation of New Municipalities

Shall the Charter be amended to:
• Require the County Commission to consider the benefits of any proposed annexation of commercial areas, when approving or authorizing an annexation
• Establish alternative procedure for creation of new municipalities in unincorporated areas of the County by petition which provides conditions for creation of new municipalities and a single election to approve the creation of a new municipality and approve its Charter, instead of two elections for these purposes?*

The Herald’s discussion on this one is interesting. They support the creation of more an more cities and sub-cities, towns, and villages, but they disagree with this particular implementation. Personally, I don’t think that fragmenting what’s clearly a single municipality into fractal pieces — each with its own commission, mayor, and often police and fire services — is a good strategy. In either case, Vote NO.

Charter Amendment Regarding Penalties and Enforcement of Citizens’ Bill of Rights

Shall the Charter be amended to eliminate the provision providing for forfeiture of office if a public official or employee willfully violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights and allow, in addition to suit in circuit court, the Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to enforce the Citizens’ Bill of Rights with penalties authorized by the Code?

Isn’t it awesome that we have a “Citizens’ Bill of Rights” and a “Commission on Ethics and Public Trust”? Doesn’t that just make you feel so good? I don’t know, I’m all for ethics commissions and Bills of Right. But it seems that the a provision that gets the person who violated the Bill of rights OUT before anything else is not something to be eliminated? Heres’s the problem: you know how it’s determined that someone violated the BoR and should be removed? In court. So as it stands, the only way to get enforcement is for YOU the citizen to sue. Guess what? It’s never happened. If this passes, you can appeal to the Ethics Commission and see what happens. It’s all weak sauce, but the new sauce turns out to be less weak than the existing sauce. Ugh. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Related to Option for Filling Mayoral or County Commissioner Vacancy

Shall the Charter be amended to:
• Extend the time to conduct an election to fill a mayoral or commissioner vacancy from 45 to 90 days from the decision to call such election and provide a timeframe for qualification and any necessary runoff;
• Temporarily transfer, during a mayoral vacancy or incapacity, certain mayoral powers to the Commission Chairperson, Vice Chairperson or Commissioner chosen by the Board?

So we’re planning on making a habit of recalling commissioners who piss us off, and we want to make the process smoother. Well color me pink and call me bamby. Don’t retreat, reload. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. Vote YES.

Charter Amendment Regarding Mayoral Conflicts in County Procurement

Shall the Charter be amended to provide that when the County Mayor declares a conflict of interest in a particular procurement of a County contract, the chairperson of the Board of County Commissioners shall exercise all authority provided by the Charter or the County Commission to the Mayor with regard to such procurement including the authority to recommend a bid waiver?

I’m so ready to vote yes on this, but every reputable source I can find online says it’s a lame solution to a real problem, and Vote NO.

AND THERE IT IS. Oh, wait, you have city items tacked on at the end? Blah, you’re going to have to look that up yourself, as per part 2 of this guide. In Miami for instance, there’s something about a tennis center (funded solely by tournament revenues and private funs — YES), a straw poll about increasing taxes for improved animal services (I might write something about this tonight), and something about contracting with companies doing business with state sponsors of terrorism (resolved, we do not like terrorists). And you’re out of there. See: easy.