26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic

Reuters photographer Carlos Barria recently spent time in Shanghai, China, the fastest-growing city in the world. A week ago, he took this amazing shot, recreating the same framing and perspective as a photograph taken in 1987, showing what a difference 26 years can make. The setting is Shanghai’s financial district of Pudong, dominated by the Oriental Pearl Tower at left, and the new 125-story Shanghai Tower, China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper, at 632 meters (2,073 ft) high, scheduled to finish by the end of 2014. Shanghai, the largest city by population in the world, has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year the past 20 years, and now is home to 23.5 million people — nearly double what it was back in 1987. This entry is focused on this single photo pairing, with several ways to compare the two.

Source: 26 Years of Growth: Shanghai Then and Now – The Atlantic

Brain scans in the name of science

Yes, I do have a brain.


I took the day off yesterday to travel to Boston University to participate in a Gulf War Illness research study. The study is looking to identify biomarkers that might indicate Gulf War Illness. It cost me a day off of work and paying for my travel expenses but I was able to add my information to the pool of data so that it might help other Gulf War veterans.

Part of yesterday’s tests included a structural MRI, after which I was sent home with a copy of my imaging data. Being a data nerd, this thrilled me and I couldn’t wait to check out what was on my CD. While the typical image tools available for Linux like GIMP were able to view the images, it wasn’t until I installed the MRIcron application that I was able to view my imagery in three dimensions. MRIcon converts the DICOM files that the MRI generated into an open format that can then be manipulated by MRIcron.

Pretty cool, although a bit disconcerting to realize I’m looking at tiny slices of my own head. There’s a strong part of me that keeps thinking “man, you’re not dead yet! You should not be seeing your brain!” Coupled with my image data, MRIcon is a really captivating tool for exploring the structure my brain (and my head as well).

Looking closely at the third image you can clearly see that my eyeballs are shaped completely differently. This probably accounts for my unusual combination of nearsightedness and farsightedness. Good times.

Navy Cape Henlopen, The U.S. Navy at Cape Henlopen SOSUS Naval Facility

I visited Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last week for some intuitive training. While I was there I got a chance to visit the Cape Henlopen State Park, former home of a U.S. Navy base known as NAVFAC Lewes. This facility was one of many that was tuned to track deep-diving Soviet submarines, some thousands of miles away. The program was called SOSUS for Sound Ocean Surveillance System and was highly successful at tracking subs until that traitor Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Walker Jr. sold it out to his Soviet handlers.

To defend against the threat of Soviet submarine operations inthe eastern Atlantic or off the coast of the U.S., in the mid-to-late 1950s, the Navy established an underwater Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS). Naval facilities (NavFacs) of the system were located along the coast of the U.S. and Carribean Islands. From those facilities cables ran to the edge of the continental shelf with hydrophones that could detect the sound of submarines.

The mission of these NavFacs was “To provide world-widemaritime surveillance and cueing from undersea sensors to warfare commanders and intelligence partners in support of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).” But, since that mission statement was (then) classified, a cover story was provided explaining the role, purpose and operations of the stations as an extension of and adjunct to the acoustic and oceanographic surveys conducted by the Navy’s fleet of research ships.

Soon the Navy realized that NavFac Cape May was threatened by beach erosion, which would eventually undermine the station buildings. Thus, in September 1960, Delaware Senator Allen J. Frear announced that $1,500,000 had been allotted for the construction of a Navy oceanographic research facility at Fort Miles, which had been a WWII Army Coastal Defense Artillery fort and was still being utilized as an Army training facility and as a Department of Defense military receation center. In October 1960, the Navy had obtained 626 acres at the southern end of Fort Miles.

Source: Navy Cape Henlopen, The U.S. Navy at Cape Henlopen SOSUS Naval Facility

How People Like Paul Manafort Have Multiple U.S. Passports | Travel + Leisure

On Monday, one-time Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was arrested and charged with a plethora of offenses including conspiracy against the United States. But that isn’t even the craziest part of the story, as according to court filings Manafort not only possesses three separate U.S. passports, but he has also filed for 10 passport applications in as many years.

This move may be the nail in the coffin for Manafort’s ability to be released on bail as it shows he’s likely a significant flight risk, but is it even illegal to own more than one passport?According to the National Passport Information Center, it’s actually perfectly legal for a U.S. citizen to own and obtain two U.S. passports — within certain guidelines. 

An official from the State Department told CNN that “no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid passport of the same type (regular, official, diplomatic, no-fee regular, or passport card) at any time, unless authorized by the Department of State.

So when would someone qualify for, or need, a second U.S. passport?

Source: How People Like Paul Manafort Have Multiple U.S. Passports | Travel + Leisure

The curious case of Paul Manafort’s three passports – ThinkProgress

A court filing on Tuesday showed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates were not only well-traveled and considerably wealthy, the former also had three U.S. passports to his name.

“In a little more than the last ten years, Manafort has submitted ten United States Passport applications on ten different occasions, indicative of his travel schedule,” a footnote in the court filing indicated. “He currently has three United States passports, with different numbers.”

Both Manafort and Gates were “frequent international travelers” according to the filing, and within the last year alone, Manafort had traveled to Dubai, Cancun, Panama City, Havana, Shanghai, Madrid, Tokyo, Grand Cayman Island, and Cyprus, where many of his foreign bank accounts and shell companies were based. In May and June this year, he also traveled to Mexico, China, and Ecuador while using a phone and email account he had registered under a fake name back in March.

Source: The curious case of Paul Manafort’s three passports – ThinkProgress

How many U.S. passports can you really own? – Nov. 1, 2017

Eyebrows were raised after a court filing Tuesday revealed former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, now under federal indictment, has three U.S. passports.

On top of that, he had filed for 10 passport applications in as many years, according to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling during the 2016 presidential election.

Three passports? We wanted to find some answers.

Can you have more than one passport?Yes. U.S. citizens are allowed to have more than one valid U.S. passport at the same time, according to the National Passport Information Center, which is a division of the U.S. State Department.

But in most cases, you are only allowed to have two valid passports at a time, according to the NPIC.

As NPIC notes on its website, holding a second passport “is the exception to the rule.”

It remains unclear why Manafort has three.

Source: How many U.S. passports can you really own? – Nov. 1, 2017

Another Victim of Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico’s Treasured Rainforest – The New York Times

It’s sad to read of the devastation to the El Yunque rainforest. It is a national treasure.

LUQUILLO, P.R. — When you looked up, you could once see nothing but the lush, emerald canopy of tabonuco and sierra palm trees covering El Yunque National Forest.

That was before Hurricane Maria obliterated the only tropical rain forest in the United States forest system. Left behind was a scene so bare that on a recent visit, it was possible to see the concrete skyline of San Juan about 30 miles west — a previously unimaginable sight.

El Yunque, pronounced Jun-kay, has been an enormous source of pride in Puerto Rico and one of the main drivers of the island’s tourism industry. The 28,000-acre forest on the eastern part of the island has over 240 species of trees; 23 of those are found nowhere else. Over 50 bird species live among the forest’s crags and waterfalls.

But sunlight now reaches cavities of the forest that have not felt a ray of light in decades, bringing with it a scorching heat.“Hurricane Maria was like a shock to the system,” said Grizelle González, a project leader at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, part of United States Department of Agriculture. “The whole forest is completely defoliated.”

Source: Another Victim of Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico’s Treasured Rainforest – The New York Times

Dubai: The Vegas of the Middle East, with a catch

Johnny Walker Red

A recent story about a Brit who inadvertently ran afoul of the law in Dubai reminded me of the first (and last) time I visited Dubai.

When I was in the US Navy in the early 1990s my ship made a stop in Dubai. A group of my fellow sailors and I booked rooms at (what was at the time) a fairly high-end hotel to relax. I was astonished when entering my room to find a thank you card and a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, a gift for our protecting the Gulf. Being gifted a bottle of fine scotch in a Muslim country was a taste of the odd juxtaposition and tension in Dubai, where east meets west and tries to offer something for everyone.

In the days I wandered around Dubai seemed clear to me what the cultural expectations were. Back then it was a few hotels and mostly sand but now Dubai advertises itself as an exotic playground, the Las Vegas of the Middle East. It seems to me it’s easier now to cross a line one didn’t mean to cross, though I have not been back since. I was planning a trip to Dubai with my wife around Sept 11, 2001 but .. .uh, soon scuttled it :-(.

(Wikimedia Commons photo by Mohylek)

DefCon 25

Having worked in IT for (gasp!) twenty-five years, I have long enjoyed the side of my job that deals with securing the networks I am responsible for. Network security is a game to me; trying to find and stop hackers before they find and stop me. As my blogging has revealed over the years, I enjoy solving a good mystery. How far back can a track an attacker? Or an adversary? How much knowledge can I dig up? This is all very fun.

My current job doesn’t deal with this directly as I am lucky to have a great team who watches the network. Still, I have to pay some attention to what’s what. So, when the department budget allowed for sending me to my first DefCon, I was delighted to go. Two weeks ago, I was on a plane to Las Vegas to join 25,000 other “hackers” in an intense, three-day powwow of matching wits, sharing forbidden knowledge, and proving points.

This year is the 25th anniversary of DefCon (i.e. “DefCon 25”). DefCon gets its name partly from the U.S. Department of Defense’s “Defense Condition” levels, as popularized by the movie “War Games.” Partly, it’s a made-up word with the “Con” meaning “convention.” DefCon was started (if I am correct) by Canadian bulletin-board owners who decided that on-line meetings were not enough. It has continued to be one of the premier conferences/training sessions that draws attendees from around the world.
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A Massive Lake Of Molten Carbon The Size Of Mexico Was Just Discovered Under The US


The Yellowstone volcano has a massive chamber the size of Mexico.

A recent scientific discovery has drastically changed our view of the global carbon cycle and identified a new significant risk. Researchers have discovered a giant lake or reservoir made up of molten carbon sitting below the western US.

The molten carbon (primarily in the form of carbonate) reservoir could drastically and immediately change the global climate for over a decade if it were to be released. Thankfully there is little risk in the near future of this happening. The carbon sits 217 miles beneath the surface of the Earth in the upper mantle and has no immediate pathway to the surface. In total the lake covers approximately 700,000 square miles, approximately the size of Mexico. This has redefined how much carbon scientists believe sits locked away in the Earth’s mantle and its interaction with surface and atmospheric carbon.

Source: A Massive Lake Of Molten Carbon The Size Of Mexico Was Just Discovered Under The US