It's longer than you think it is

Published Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 11:39 AM EDT
Jun 21 2018

Here in Pittsburgh on the summer solstice, the elapsed time from sunrise to sunset today is 15 hours, 3 minutes and 49 seconds. Sunrise was at 5:49 am; sunset will be at 8:53 pm. Solar noon, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky (73.0°) will be at 1:21 pm. While it's the longest day of the year, the latest sunset will not occur until next Thursday, June 28 at 8:54:28 pm.

Sunrise and sunset times are misleading. It's not like flicking a light switch. The sky gets lighter before rising above the horizon at sunrise, and stays light later than when the sun dips below the horizon at sunset... this period is called twilight, and includes dawn and dusk.

Twilight is the time between day and night when the Sun is below the horizon but its rays still light up the sky due to sunlight scattering in the upper atmosphere.

There are three phases of twilight: civil, nautical, and astronomical.

Morning civil twilight begins when the geometric center of the sun is 6° below the horizon and ends at sunrise. Evening civil twilight begins at sunset and ends when the geometric center of the sun reaches 6° below the horizon. Under clear weather conditions, civil twilight approximates the limit at which solar illumination suffices for the human eye to clearly distinguish terrestrial objects. Enough illumination renders artificial sources unnecessary for most outdoor activities. Civil twilight in Pittsburgh began today at 5:17 am, 32 minutes before sunrise; it ends at 9:27 pm, 34 minutes after sunset.

So we actually have an hour more daylight for outdoor activities than the sunrise and sunset times would suggest.

Nautical dawn is the moment when the geometric center of the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon in the morning. It is preceded by morning astronomical twilight and followed by morning nautical twilight. Nautical dusk is the moment when the geometric center of the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon in the evening. It marks the beginning of evening astronomical twilight and the end of evening nautical twilight. Sailors can take reliable star sightings of well-known stars, during the stage of nautical twilight when they can distinguish a visible horizon for reference. Under good atmospheric conditions with the absence of other illumination, during nautical twilight, the human eye may distinguish general outlines of ground objects but cannot participate in detailed outdoor operations.

Morning astronomical twilight (astronomical dawn) begins when the geometric center of the sun is 18° below the horizon in the morning and ends when the geometric center of the sun is 12° below the horizon in the morning. Evening astronomical twilight begins when the geometric center of the sun is 12° below the horizon in the evening and ends (astronomical dusk) when the geometric center of the sun is 18° below the horizon in the evening. In some places- away from urban light pollution, moonlight, auroras, and other sources of light- where the sky is dark enough for nearly all astronomical observations, astronomers can easily make observations of point sources such as stars both during and after astronomical twilight in the evening and both before and during astronomical twilight in the morning. However, some critical observations, such as of faint diffuse items such as nebulae and galaxies, may require observation beyond the limit of astronomical twilight. Theoretically, the faintest stars detectable by the naked eye (those of approximately the sixth magnitude) will become visible in the evening at astronomical dusk, and become invisible at astronomical dawn. However, in other places, especially those with skyglow, astronomical twilight may be almost indistinguishable from night. In the evening, even when astronomical twilight has yet to end and in the morning when astronomical twilight has already begun, most casual observers would consider the entire sky fully dark. Because of light pollution, observers in some localities, generally in large cities, may never have the opportunity to view even fourth-magnitude stars, irrespective of the presence of any twilight at all, and to experience truly dark skies.

(Sources: Wikipedia,

Categories: Astronomy; Solstice; Summer; The Daily KGB Report; Twilight

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Fun with personality disorders

Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 12:43 PM EDT
Jun 20 2018

Section 7 of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics states that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements.

Fortunately, neither me nor, presumably, you, is a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Therefore, our opinions are not professional; they;re just opinions. And, as of yet, having an opinion is still something you're entitled to do in the good ol' US of A.

Use of this handy little checklist is not limited to public figures. Just about every family or workplace has someone who meets the criteria outlined below, cribbed from the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

In the past 15 months or so, have you encountered anyone who acts as if they have oppositional defiant disorder? Someone so afflicted may:

  • Often loses temper
  • Often touchy or easily annoyed
  • Often angry and resentful
  • Often argues with authority figures
  • Often actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules
  • Often deliberately annoys others
  • Has been spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past six months.


How about histrionic personality disorder? These folks:

  • Must be the center of attention
  • Craves novelty and excitement
  • Easily influenced by others, especially those who treat them approvingly
  • Socially skillful, but manipulative and exploitative
  • Overly dramatic and emotional, exaggerates problems
  • Blames personal failures or disappointments on others
  • Seeks reassurance or approval constantly
  • Excessively sensitive to criticism or disapproval
  • Exhibitionist behavior
  • Cannot tolerate frustration or delayed gratification
  • Makes rash decisions
  • Proud of own personality and unwillingness to change, viewing any change as a threat
  • Has emotional states that rapidly change and may appear superficial or exaggerated to others
  • Believes relationships are more intimate than they actually are


Perhaps a megalomaniac with narcissistic personality disorder?:

  • Exploits others to achieve personal gain
  • Fixates on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  • Vainglorious, expects superior treatment and obedience from others
  • Intensely envious, believes others are equally envious of them
  • Needs the continual admiration of others
  • Arrogant and pompous
  • Believes they are unique, superior, and belong with high-status people and institutions
  • Refuses to empathize with the emotions, hopes, and needs of other people


Although not recognized in the DSM, you can do a mashup of the above to produce different flavors of narcissist:


Subtype Description Personality traits
Unprincipled narcissist Including antisocial features. Deficient conscience; unscrupulous, amoral, disloyal, fraudulent, deceptive, arrogant, exploitive; a con artist and charlatan; dominating, contemptuous, vindictive.
Amorous narcissist Including histrionic features. Sexually seductive, enticing, beguiling, tantalizing; glib and clever; disinclined to real intimacy; indulges hedonistic desires; bewitches and inveigles others; pathological lying and swindling. Tends to have many affairs, often with exotic partners.
Compensatory narcissist Including negativistic and avoidant features Seeks to counteract or cancel out deep feelings of inferiority and lack of self-esteem; offsets deficits by creating illusions of being superior, exceptional, admirable, noteworthy; self-worth results from self-enhancement.
Elitist narcissist Variant of pure pattern Feels privileged and empowered by virtue of special childhood status and pseudo-achievements; entitled façade bears little relation to reality; seeks favored and good life; is upwardly mobile; cultivates special status and advantages by association.
Normal narcissist Absent of the traits of the other four Least severe and most interpersonally concerned and empathetic, still entitled and deficient in reciprocity; bold in environments, self-confident, competitive, seeks high targets, feels unique; talent in leadership positions; expecting of recognition from others.
Fanatic narcissist Including paranoid features Grandiose delusions are irrational and flimsy; pretentious, expensive supercilious contempt and arrogance toward others; lost pride reestablished with extravagant claims and fantasies. Reclassified under paranoid personality disorder.
Hedonistic narcissist Mix of initial four subtypes Hedonistic and self-deceptive, avoidant of responsibility and blame, shifted onto others; idiosyncratic, often self-biographical, proud of minor quirks and achievements, conflict-averse and sensitive to rejection; procrastinative, self-undoing, avolitive, ruminantly introspective; the most prone to fantastic inner worlds which replace social life
Malignant narcissist Including antisocial, sadistic and paranoid features. Fearless, guiltless, remorseless, calculating, ruthless, inhumane, callous, brutal, rancorous, aggressive, biting, merciless, vicious, cruel, spiteful; hateful and jealous; anticipates betrayal and seeks punishment; desires revenge; has been isolated, and is potentially suicidal or homicidal.
Pure Narcissist Mainly just NPD characteristics. Someone who has narcissistic features described in the DSM and ICD and lacks features from other personality disorders.
Attention Narcissist Including histrionic (HPD) features. They display the traditional NPD characteristics described in the ICD & DSM along with histrionic features due to the fact that they think they are superior and therefore they should have everyone's attention, and when they do not have everyone's attention they go out of their way to capture the attention of as many people as possible.
Beyond The Rules Narcissist Including antisocial (ASPD) features. This type of narcissist thinks that because they are so superior to everyone they do not have to follow the rules like most people and therefore show behavior included in the ICD for dissocial personality disorder and behavior, included in the DSM for antisocial personality disorder.


Sources: Wikipedia

Anyone come to mind?

Categories: American Psychiatric Association; DSM; Histrionic personality disorder; Megalomaniac; Narcissistic personality disorder; Oppositional defiant disorder; Personality disorders; The Daily KGB Report

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Wrestling with the infrastructure and Nazis

Published Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 8:39 PM EDT
Jun 19 2018

In addition to the Windows system problem I talked about last week, the overall tech situation worsened on Saturday with a power outage. West Penn Power restored service in a little over an hour, but the reinitialization surge apparently took out our Comcast Xfinity X-1 cable box/DVR in the living room and the main surge suppressor/uninterruptible power supply in my office.

Dealing with the cable box was simple. I scored a new one as well as a new cable modem/wireless router just by driving to the local Comcast office- it was open on Saturday until 7 p.m. Getting the unit up and running was uneventful. The X1 boxes store recordings and schedules in the cloud, so we didn't lose anything.

The only aggravations were getting used to a smaller remote (Comcast calls it the XR11) and having to fix the 30-second commercial skip feature.

The older boxes supported entering a code into the remote to enable the 30-second commercial jump feature. With the new configuration, the page up button jumped five minutes ahead. A workaround is using X1's voice command feature: tell the remote "jump ahead 30 seconds." You can apparently tell it to jump forward or backward in five second increments up to 30 seconds. It's neat, but it's a lot faster just to hit the page up key a couple times.

In the new setup, the "jump ahead" stuff is not stored in the memory of the remote, but in the X1 box itself. You have to program the box via a secret input sequence: get the remote close to the box, point the remote at it, hit the exit key on the remote three times as fast as you can, followed by 0030. I had to try it a few times before it "took." There's no indication whether or not the input worked. In fact, hitting the exit key three times and the four digits results in the box going back to wherever the main tuner was set, and displaying the mini-guide with channel 30 highlighted. Patience and persistence will win out, though.

Regarding the UPS system blowout, I think it was just time to replace the batteries in the unit. I've done it twice already, though. The unit's over ten years old, and I need one with a greater capacity, anyway. I ordered a 1,500-watt unit via Amazon Prime. Pulling the old unit out, installing the new one, and re-cabling everything is a long and tedious operation. I wanted to get the replacement in ASAP. Aside from West Penn Power's "normal" summer fair weather blackouts, it's also thunderstorm season. I decided to take a vacation day from work and do it today, instead of waiting for the weekend. So, of course...


On the brighter side, replacing the hybrid drive on my Toshiba laptop with a standard mechanical drive appears to have solved all my Windows 10 problems. There was absolutely no indication the drive was the source of the trouble; it passed all the diagnostics with flying colors. The problem is the way in which a hybrid drive manages the solid state drive (SSD) portion of the device. It is totally opaque to the user. I suspect something was cached in the SSD that wasn't compatible with a Windows 10 or driver update. That's just a guess, based on my observations that the system started to act up each time I installed a new application, or a new Windows update was applied.

I'm not comfortable not knowing if the drive was actually the cause of the problem, but I have no software tools to dig deeper into the system, and I can't waste any more time investigating. Four to eight hours every weekend for three months, plus another four hours during the week just getting the thing to boot correctly... I'm too old for this stuff.

Final results: From a system with no user apps running, shutdown, reboot, and Windows load to the desktop with taskbar populated and the "Windows" chime: two minutes. I can live with that.


Godwin's law
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Godwin's law (or Godwin's rule of Hitler analogies) is an internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1"; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds. Promulgated by the American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin's law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.

So, how bad are things now in the United States?

Pretty bad. Godwin's suspending his own law.

Categories: Adolf Hitler;; Evil; Godwin's law; Mike Godwin; Nazis; West Penn Power; Windows; Xfinity

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Your brain is trying to kill you

Published Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 1:13 PM EDT
Jun 18 2018

(Jess Milton/Getty)

Doughnuts are particularly difficult to resist- and now we know why. A study of how our brains respond to food has found that treats that are high in both carbs and fats trigger a super- charged amount of activity in our brain’s reward center.

Dana Small at Yale University and colleagues scanned the brain activity of hungry volunteers as they were shown images of foods that were either high in carbohydrate, such as candy, high in fat, such as cheese, or high in both, such as doughnuts. After the scans, the volunteers were asked to bid money in a competitive auction for the food they wanted to have for a snack.

Compared to food containing just carbs or fat, the team found that foods high in both of these together provoked far more activity in the brain’s striatum– a region involved in reward that releases the feel- good chemical dopamine.

The volunteers were also willing to pay more for the snacks that were high in both carbs and fat, despite all the food items having the same calorific value.

Small thinks we may have separate systems in the brain to evaluate fatty or carb-heavy foods. If both get activated at the same time, this tricks the brain to produce a larger amount of dopamine- and a bigger feeling of reward- than there should be based on the food’s energy content.

This could be because when the human brain evolved, our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate a diet consisting mainly of plants and meat, and never encountered food that is high in both carbs and fat. "The brain is used to seeing one signal at a time. Modern food is tricking the system," says Small.

The finding fits with studies on rodents which found they can regulate their calorie intake when given food containing only fat or carbohydrate, but over-eat and gain weight when given access to foods containing both.

-(Alison George in New Scientist)

Categories: Donuts; Dopamine; Food; New Scientist; Nutrition; The Brain; The Daily KGB Report

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Know your rights

Published Thursday, June 14, 2018 @ 10:31 AM EDT
Jun 14 2018

On June 7, Tiana Smalls, whose Facebook profile describes her as owner of Fire Flower Beauty Company, was riding a Greyhound bus from Bakersfield, California to Las Vegas, Nevada. As the bus approached an agricultural checkpoint at the Nevada state line, Ms. Smalls said the driver made an unusual announcement: "We are being boarded by Border Patrol. Please be prepared to show your documentation upon request."

Ms. Smalls immediately reacted. According to a description she posted on Facebook, she stood up and loudly said, "This is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. You don't have to show them shit!!!" She then used Google Translate to repeat her message in Spanish, reassuring the Spanish-speaking woman sitting beside her and probably countless other fellow passengers.

Border Patrol agents boarded the bus and started to ask the passengers for their "documentation." Ms. Smalls stood up again and shouted, "You have NO RIGHT to ask me for anything! This is harassment and racial profiling! We are not within 100 miles of a border so [these agents] have no legal right or jurisdiction here!"

Ms. Smalls' simple and courageous act of resistance was enough. The Border Patrol agents, realizing that they would face an uphill battle, immediately retreated, telling the driver to continue on.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials claim sweeping authority to operate in the interior of the United States. Their basis for doing so is a federal statute that purports to allow CBP officers to undertake certain enforcement activities without a warrant "within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States." A federal regulation adopted in 1953 inexplicably defines a "reasonable distance" as up to 100 air miles from any external boundary of the United States—an area that sweeps up nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population (200 million people), nine of our 10 largest cities, and several entire states (including Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey). And still CBP cheats its way to more interior encroachment, for example, by claiming that the Great Lakes shared with Canada are "functional equivalents of the border" so that all of Michigan and Chicago are in its reach.

CBP often overlooks basic civics in making this power grab, however. No act of Congress can authorize a violation of the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land.

In general, the Fourth Amendment allows law enforcement to enter business areas that are open to the public. In nonpublic areas, however, law enforcement officers must have a warrant, consent, or "exigent circumstances" for their entry to be constitutional. Because you need a ticket to board a Greyhound bus, these are nonpublic areas. In a recent letter to Greyhound's general counsel, the ACLU explained that Greyhound is not obligated to consent to the Border Patrol's warrantless and unjustified raids on its buses.

Since Trump took office, CBP activity far from our actual borders has increasedsignificantly. ACLU affiliates in Washington, California, Arizona, Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Florida have reported multiple incidents involving Border Patrol agents boarding Greyhound buses without a warrant or consent, and terrorizing passengers by demanding their papers. These reports indicate that Border Patrol agents routinely engage in racial and ethnic profiling, singling people out for the color of their skin or accents.

We live in dark times. Many people want to stand up for their own rights and the rights of others, but feel unsure about how. Ms. Smalls' experience, like that of two brave women in Montana last month, teaches us that sometimes knowing one's rights and speaking out with confidence delivers truth to abusive power.

Categories: ACLU; Border Patrol; Congress; Donald Trump; Fourth Amendment; Greyhound; U.S. Constitution; U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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