Have a bit of spare time? — you can help out watching penguins!

Click to enlarge

British scientists who have set up a network of penguin-monitoring cameras in Antarctica are asking the public to help them carry out their research…

In “PenguinWatch 2.0“, people will be able to see the results of their online efforts to monitor and conserve Antarctica’s penguins colonies.

Lead researcher Dr Tom Hart is also encouraging school groups to adopt their own colony – following and monitoring its progress and “learning about Antarctica along the way.”…

The team now has more than 75 cameras all over Antarctica and sub-Antarctic islands.

Their monitoring work – including a collaboration with a penguin census that has been operated by US organisation Oceanites since 1994 – has already shown a link between climate change and a decline in Adelie and Chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula.

But with their large camera network in place, and each camera automatically taking a picture every hour throughout the year, the researchers now have a backlog of hundreds of thousands of images they are yet to analyse.

“We can’t do this work on our own, and every penguin that people click on and count on the website – that’s all information that tells us what’s happening at each nest, and what’s happening over time,” said Dr Hart.

Worthwhile endeavor. My retirement time has beaucoup projects already in place, things I watch, things I report on and comment about. But, aiding scientists in a critical envirosphere like the Antarctic can always use your help. Contact PenguinWatch 2.0 here.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Steadily growing, the entire Web is being encrypted


Apple’s move to encrypt your iPhone and WhatsApp’s rollout of end-to-end encrypted messaging have generated plenty of privacy applause and law enforcement controversy. But more quietly, a small non-profit project has enacted a plan to encrypt the entire global web. And it’s working.

Earlier this week, the San Francisco-based Internet Security Research Group announced that the initiative it calls Let’s Encrypt is coming out of beta — and that it’s making serious headway toward helping tens of millions of unencrypted sites around the world switch from the insecure web standard HTTP to HTTPS, which encrypts your web browsing to protect it from surveillance.

Since launching less than six months ago, Let’s Encrypt has helped 3.8 million websites switch to HTTPS encryption, taking a significant chunk out of the unprotected web data that’s available to those eavesdroppers…

Let’s Encrypt has tried to make it easier for websites to switch from HTTP to HTTPS by flattening one of the biggest hurdles in the process: certificates. Let’s Encrypt functions as a certificate authority, one of the dozen or so organizations like Comodo, Symantec, Godaddy and Globalsign that verify that servers running HTTPS web sites are who they claim to be…Once verified, these authorities issue those computers a “certificate” they need to make their HTTPS encryption work with your browser. The certificate is designed to be an unforgeable signature that’s cryptographically checked by your browser so that you can be sure your communications are decrypted only by the intended site and not an impostor.

Unlike commercial certificate authorities, however, Let’s Encrypt is free, thanks to corporation sponsorship from companies including Cisco, Google and Akamai. It’s available to websites anywhere in the world—even far-flung countries like Cuba and Iran that sometimes aren’t served by other major certificate authorities. And it’s automatically configured with a piece of code that runs on any server that wants to switch on HTTPS.

Guaranteed to piss off the official snoops as well as the erratically-malicious creeps on the civilian side of snooping. This doesn’t give you an invisible shield like some of the serious end-to-end encryption systems; but, it certainly makes eavesdropping a bit harder for Big Brother.

California weed smells more like real business every day

After decades of thriving in legally hazy backyards and basements, California’s most notorious crop, marijuana, is emerging from the underground into a decidedly capitalist era.

Under a new state law, marijuana businesses will be allowed to turn a profit — which has been forbidden since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis — and limits on the number of plants farmers can grow will be eliminated.

The opening of the marijuana industry here to corporate dollars has caused a mad scramble, with out-of-state investors, cannabis retailers and financially struggling municipalities all racing to grab a piece of what is effectively a new industry in California: legalized, large-scale marijuana farming.

And with voters widely expected to approve recreational marijuana use in November, California, already the world’s largest legal market for marijuana, gleams with the promise of profits far beyond what pot shops and growers have seen in Washington or Colorado, the first states to approve recreational use…

Twenty-three states allow some form of legal marijuana, and up to 20 will consider ballot measures this year to further ease restrictions.

California is now making the largest effort in the country’s history to pull marijuana out of the black market. Medical marijuana sales in California hit $2.7 billion last year, accounting for nearly half of all legal marijuana sales in the country…Approval of recreational marijuana use in November could double the market here by 2020, experts said.

Legalization brings jobs and tax revenue to a state. I’m not surprised when some states with an old dope-smoking culture still drag their feet. Face it. Even stoner politicians from either of the two old parties are chickenhearted when it comes to challenging the folkways of church and 14th Century morality – no matter how out-of-date and useless.

But, as the wave of good sense sweeps across a nation sparked by a couple new generations of education and backbone – encouraged by a Great Recession the old politicians rolled over for – change has to come to social behavior whether Liberals approve or Conservatives whine.

RTFA for lots of detail. Some of it silly and irrelevant, of course.

“Affluenza” teen defendant sentenced to Jail — barely

Ethan Couch, the teenager who used an “affluenza” defense in a drunken-driving crash that killed four people and then violated probation by traveling to Mexico with his mother, was sentenced on Wednesday to nearly two years in jail.

Mr. Couch, who turned 19 on Monday, had previously avoided a harsher punishment because he was sentenced in juvenile court, where the emphasis is on rehabilitation. But after his foray to Mexico last year, prosecutors moved the case to adult court.

On Wednesday, a district court judge, Wayne F. Salvant, ruled that Mr. Couch must spend 720 days in Tarrant County Jail — 180 days for each count of intoxication manslaughter. The judge said the court would reconvene in two weeks to consider modifying the terms after each side submitted additional written arguments.

“Nothing I do is in stone, so I might reconsider,” Judge Salvant said.

Mr. Couch showed no emotion as the sentence was read. He will remain in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for his protection…

If the case had remained in juvenile court, Mr. Couch’s probation would have ended on his 19th birthday.

The case dates from June 15, 2013, when Mr. Couch, who was 16 at the time, and a group of friends stole beer from a store, had a party at his parents’ house and then went for a drive. Mr. Couch, who was behind the wheel, hit four people on the side of a road outside Burleson, a suburb of Fort Worth, killing them. A passenger in Mr. Couch’s vehicle was paralyzed and suffered brain damage.

Hours after his arrest, Mr. Couch had a blood alcohol level of 0.24, three times the legal limit for drivers in Texas.

Mr. Couch’s case received widespread attention after a defense witness argued that Mr. Couch suffered from “affluenza,” a term used to describe psychological problems that can afflict children of privilege.

A juvenile court judge, Jean Boyd, subsequently declined to give him the punishment sought by Tarrant County prosecutors — 20 years in prison — and ordered him to be placed in a long-term treatment facility while on 10-year probation. The decision angered the families of those Mr. Couch killed and injured. Others questioned whether a teenager with a less affluent background would have received similar leniency.

Perfectly reasonable questions further validated by the creep and his mommy fleeing to Mexico.