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There's Gold in Switzerland's Sewage

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Switzerland has so much gold that the country is flushing it down the drain. According to a new analysis by Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, every year 95 pounds of gold, worth nearly $2 million, passes through Swiss wastewater treatment plants.

The gold, the researchers believe, comes from “tiny flecks of gold”—residue from the country’s watchmaking industry and gold refineries. As Bloomberg points out, refineries in this small European country deal with 70 percent of the world’s gold.

In most of the 64 wastewater treatment plants studied—and let’s take a moment to recognize the work of the researchers who had the job of studying “elements discharged in effluents or disposed of in sewage sludge”—the concentrations of gold were small enough that it’s not economically worthwhile to extract it from the rest of the waste. In southern Switzerland, though, where gold refineries are concentrated, enough gold is being wasted that it could be worth recovering from the sewage stream.

The researchers also found that gold isn’t the only precious metal in Switzerland’s wastewater. The sewage plants were also streaming with rare earth elements used in high-tech and medical industries and with silver—6,600 pounds per year, in total, worth $1.7 million. It must be good to be a country so rich that your garbage is gold and silver.

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rlauzon
6 days ago
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Why does this remind of the movie Paint Your Wagon?

Changes in Password Best Practices

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NIST recently published their four-volume SP800-63-3 Digital Identity Guidelines. Among other things, they make three important suggestions when it comes to passwords:

  1. Stop it with the annoying password complexity rules. They make passwords harder to remember. They increase errors because artificially complex passwords are harder to type in. And they don't help that much. It's better to allow people to use pass phrases.

  2. Stop it with password expiration. That was an old idea for an old way we used computers. Today, don't make people change their passwords unless there's indication of compromise.

  3. Let people use password managers. This is how we deal with all the passwords we need.

These password rules were failed attempts to fix the user. Better we fix the security systems.

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CallMeWilliam
7 days ago
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A meeting recently:
Developer Team: Our passwords require special characters, and max out at 30 characters.
Me: Why on EARTH did you do any of that? Why do you have a max?
Devs: Because ... it's hard to remember something long? How long do you want it to be?
Me: ... Get rid of the max. Get rid of the special characters.
CIO: Wait. Why do we have passwords at all? Can we link to google/linkedin/facebook and make it their problem? We are not in the security business.
Devs: Yes!
acdha
7 days ago
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I’ve been happy watching such sensible guidelines make it through the review process
Washington, DC

Unlearning history

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In some circles there’s lately a vogue for vandalizing or pulling down Confederate statues. The people doing it think (or say they think) that they’re striking a blow against racism. I think they’re, at best, engaged in a dangerous reopening of old wounds. At worst they’re threatening to inflict serious new ones.

I’m a Yankee from Boston by birth and inclination. I’ve never bought into Lost Cause romanticism; I’ve studied the history and don’t buy the revisionism about tariffs or troop callups. The South revolted to defend the indefensible of chattel slavery, and deserved its defeat.

But once the war was won, the victors (both Northern and Southern Unionists) had to win the peace as well. It was not a given that the South would be reconciled to the Union; there was lots of precedent for the statesmen and the people of the era to look back on that suggested otherwise.

The South could have become a running sore, a cauldron of low-level insurrection and guerilla warfare that blighted the next century of U.S. history. Instead, it is now the most patriotic region of the U.S. – as measured, for example, by regional origins of U.S. military personnel. How did this happen?

Looking back, we can see that between 1865 and around 1914 the Union and the former South negotiated an imperfect but workable peace. The first step in that negotiation took place at Appomattox, when the Union troops accepting General Robert E. Lee’s surrender saluted the defeated and allowed them to retain their arms, treating them with the most punctilious military courtesy due to honorable foes.

Over the next few years, the Union Army reintegrated the Confederate military into itself. Confederate officers not charged with war crimes were generally able to retain rank and seniority; many served in the frontier wars of the next 35 years. Elements of Confederate uniform were adopted for Western service.

The political leaders of the revolt were not executed. Instead, they were spared to urge reconciliation, and generally did. By all historical precedent they were treated with shocking leniency. This paid off.

Of course, not all went smoothly. The Reconstruction of the South between 1863 and 1877 was badly bungled, creating resentments that linger to this day and – in the folk memory of Southerners – often overshadow the harms of the war itself. The condition of emancipated blacks remained dire.

But overall, the reintegration of the South went far better than it could have. Confederate nationalism was successfully reabsorbed into American nationalism. One of the prices of this adjustment was that Confederate heroes had to become American heroes. An early and continuing example of this was the reverence paid to Robert E. Lee by Unionists after the war; his qualities as a military leader were extolled and his opposition to full civil rights for black freedmen memory-holed.

Lee’s heroism and ascribed saintliness would layer become a central prop in “Lost Cause” romanticism, which portrayed the revolt as an honorable struggle for a Southern way of life while mostly airbrushing out – but sometimes, unforgiveably, defending – the institution of slavery. Even today, the “soft” airbrushing version of Lost Cause retains a significant hold on Southerners who would never dream of defending slavery.

The statues now at issue were mostly erected between 1865 and 1914 by organizations like the Daughters of the Confederacy who were fully invested in the soft version of Lost Cause romanticism. In view of current revisionism, it should be remembered that, in the time before the early 1960s when one could express white-supremacist and segregationist beliefs in the South and expect a lot of applause, the statue builders generally didn’t play that song.

We know this because we can read the dedications they chiseled on their monuments. Whatever the statue-builders may have privately believed, the face – the myth – about that they presented was not one of white supremacy justified but of virtue and heroism in a lost cause.

My cultural and political ancestors, the Yankees who had won the war, got out of the statue-builders’ way because we understood that the statue-builders were, in fact, cooperating in the great settlement between South and North. Making heroes of the rebels was not a large price to pay if it meant that Southern pride became American pride.

In fact, the deception was quite mutual. Southerners, by and large, tried to pretend their revolt had not been a defense of the indefensible. Northerners by and large, decided that agreeing with that pretense (or at least not disputing it in public) was a polite fiction useful to everybody.

The statue-smashers either fail to understand that great settlement (likely), or intend to undo it (not likely), or are pursuing a broader aim which I’ll address near the end of this essay.

It is 2017 and the wounds of the Civil War have not entirely healed. “Damnyankee” is still a single word in much of the South. Failing to understand the great settlement creates the risk that those wounds could re-open into divisive regionalism and eventual conflict.

This is especially so since Southerners already feel like victims in the red/blue conflict that now divides coastal urban elites from Middle America. Many Blue tribesmen talk as though they think everybody living more than 60 miles inland and outside a university town is a closet neo-Confederate. This is fantasy, but there is a possible future in which Southern resentment becomes the dominant symbology of the Red tribe in a way it is not today.

Some people are going to want to interject at this point “What about the insult to black people? Aren’t those statues symbols of white supremacy that should be smashed on that account alone?”

Brother, if I believed that I would be swinging a hammer myself. But the mission of the statue builders was to redeem the honor of the South in part by editing white supremacism and slavery out of our cultural memory of the war. They largely deceived themselves with Lost Cause romanticism. Making those statues into symbols of black subjugation would have undercut their whole project.

I do not want to see the post-Civil-War settlement undone. Thus, I’m in favor of letting Southerners keep their statues and their myths. We should let Southern heroes remain American heroes because that is what worked to pull the country back together – and because after the war so many of them really did argue for reconciliation.

There’s another reason I’m opposed to the statue-smashing that has nothing to do with the great settlement. That is: I believe the statue-smashers have a larger aim unrelated to any kind of justice.

Many of these people are, in effect, Red Guards. They don’t just want to erase icons of Confederate pride, they want to smash American pride. Statues of Columbus have already been defaced; I am pretty sure Washington and Jefferson will be next. The actual agenda is that Americans must be made to feel their nation was born in sin and cannot be redeemed – patriotism must be replaced with obsessive self-criticism and eternal guilt. Anything positive in our national mythos must be razed and replaced with Marxist cant.

If there were no other good reason for it, I’d defend our statuary just to oppose the Red Guards.

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Company Hurricane Policies

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I think I used to work for that company.
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Big Change for Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk

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FINAL INSTRUCTIONS, photo by Dave Trapp

Next Monday (September 4, 2017) is the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk, and you can click that link for all the details on the walk. This year is the 60th annual walk, and there will be a major change that the Northern Express explains:

“Because of threats happening across the country … We met with Homeland Security and the Michigan State Police, and it was decided that for the first time, we will not be allowing public [vehicle] traffic to drive across the bridge during the walk, for everyone’s safety and security,” said Bob Sweeney, executive secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority (MBA).

In prior years, the northbound bridge lanes were open to vehicles during the walk; this year, following incidents in London, Barcelona, and Charlottesville, Virginia, in which terrorists drove vehicles into crowds of pedestrians, the only vehicles allowed on the bridge will be law enforcement, emergency vehicles, and the shuttle buses that transport participants.

A total of 13 different law enforcement agencies — members of Homeland Security, the Michigan State Police, regional and local police, and the Native American Chippewa Tribe — will be on site for the event, including 240 troopers. Boats also will be deployed in the waters below the bridge.

Officials are quick to point out that there is no known threat to the event; they are simply taking precautions. Between 35,000 and 50,000 walkers are expected to participate.

Dave took this at the 2010 Bridge Walk which was attended by over 40,000 people. View it background big and see more in his Bridge Walk Weekend slideshow.

Lots more about the Mackinac Bridge on Michigan in Pictures!


Filed under: bridge, great lakes, lakehuron, lakemichigan, mackinac, michigan, photo, photography, wallpaper Tagged: mackinac bridge, mackinac bridge walk, michigan



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rlauzon
50 days ago
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More "movie plot" threats. They are closing the ONLY link between these places (well, for about 400 miles) for 6 hours.

Age Well Earned

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Own those lines across your face: you earned them! They are the map of a life well lived. And yeah, that includes at least some of the time you spent with the people you meet who are so stupid, you have to squint to try to make sense of what they’re saying. That’s how you […]
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