Brother, can you spare a dime

The multitrillion-dollar patchwork of federal and state relief programs has not kept bills from piling up or prevented long lines at food banks. But it has mitigated the damage. Now the expiration of those programs represents a cliff that many Americans and the economy are hurtling toward.

The $1,200 checks are long gone, at least for those who needed them most, with little imminent prospect for a second round. The lending program that helped millions of small businesses keep workers on the payroll will wind down if Congress does not extend it. Eviction moratoriums that are keeping people in their homes are expiring in many cities.

And the $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits that have allowed tens of millions of laid-off workers to pay rent and buy groceries will expire at the end of July…

RTFA. Every spare economist can make a buck, right now, forecasting a quick revival of our economy. Some don’t.

Thank you to Barry Ritholtz‘ for the link to the 538 post…and the late Jay Gorney for being a helluva musician and composer.

Finally, updated my music on the XR


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First track played outdoors, this spring, “Sama Amie” by WOCK. They’re Senegalese and true favorites of mine. This was track 01 of their Western debut album and adopted as background music for the Paris-Dakar Rally Race. Makes this old heart roar.

Yes, the Japanese writing means this is my MR ROBOT hat. Ignore the boring controversy over translation. I accept the simplest, materialist, acknowledgement of evolution…anti-Cartesian intent. “I am, therefore I think!”

Playing musical instruments accelerates brain development

❝ Learning to play an instrument boosts a child’s creativity, but new research shows it may also help grow the brain itself.

At a time when many elementary schools have cut or reduced their music programs, neuroscientists at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that music instruction may be important for brain development in young children, particularly in the areas of the brain that process sound, language and speech.

❝ For five years, USC neuroscientists followed nearly three dozen children from low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles to see how children’s behavior and brains changed over time. One group of children learned to play the violin or other instruments starting at age 6 or 7, while a second group played soccer. A third didn’t participate in any specific afterschool programs.

When the scientists compared the groups two years into the study, they found that the budding musicians had more developed auditory pathways, which connect the ear to the brain…

A more-developed auditory system can accelerate a child’s brain development beyond musical ability. “This system is also engaged in general sound processing that is fundamental to language development, reading skills and successful communication,” Habibi says.

He and his team plan to explore whether music instruction could accelerate development of language, reading and other abilities in young children.

Praiseworthy.

In addition, a study in Mexico determined that “Experiencing music at an early age can contribute to better brain development, optimizing the creation and establishment of neural networks, and stimulating the existing brain tracts,”

I’ll second that emotion. I’ve long felt that direct involvement in music as a performer made significant difference to my childhood and overall learning. Just saying.

FBI spies on Burning Man festival to “prevent terrorism”


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The FBI has admitted to gathering secret intelligence about the annual Burning Man festival since 2010.

In response to a request under the 2012 Freedom of Information Act, the security service said its Special Events Management unit has kept files on festival-goers, known as ‘burners’ – to ‘aid in the prevention of terrorist activites and intelligence collection’.

But the FBI’s 16-page response to the question by Inkoo Kang is heavily redacted, with information about the technology being used to secretly gather the information being blanked out…

The FBI document describes the festival as a ‘cultural and artisan event, which promote (sic) free expression by the participants’…

The FBI said its involvement was ‘even more critical in the light of the ongoing war on terrorism and the potential for additional acts of terrorism being committed in the United States.’

But later the FBI warns: ‘The greatest known threat in this event is crowd control issues and use of illegal drugs by participants.’…

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Predictably, the FBI promotes their own full employment by seeing saboteurs everywhere and anywhere folks listen to music and have a good time.

I guess it keeps a certain number of conservatives out of twelve-step programs for constipation and in fresh air.

OK Go — an Amazeballs music video

When Honda unveiled the slimmed-down βeta version of its Uni-Cub last year, it might have thought the minimalist electric vehicle would find its most enthusiastic audience inside office buildings, where it would simultaneously lighten the load of worker drones and perhaps inject a bit of rolling robotic tech-type fun into an otherwise drab and dreary day. It was wrong. Clearly, this personal mobility machine was destined for greater things.

For instance, it could be used for electric unicycle square dancing (Okay, technically the Uni-Cub β employs one wheel and a caster-type ball, thereby disqualifying it from unicycle status, but whatever.) Or even better, it could be a platform upon which the power pop group OK Go and a few hundred Japanese school girls could perform awesome maneuvers, including the aforementioned electric unicycle square dancing, in their latest totally amazeballs video. Honda reportedly paid for the new video, which was shot at half-speed and when you watch it, you’ll know why.

As is the band’s wont, it’s all done in one take, and is sure to drop your jaw. Ok, go!

Let’s get a geek thing or two out of the way. This was shot in one take which means it was shot with a drone. That’s way cool – there obviously is sufficient stability, control and capability to produce what you see before you. Every choreographer and cinematographer must be playing with drones, by now.

Next – Honda gets better every minute of the day at building-in stability to inherently unstable mechanisms. Especially robot attendants for not-very-mobile senior citizens. All the other uses for one-person mobility over moderate distances are counter-productive to human health – in my mind.

Yes, I’ve worked in facilities that used electric vehicles when speed was an important component of getting from one part of a sprawling facility to another. Working in a major teaching hospital with buildings connected by tunnels for unimpeded traffic, techs who needed a load of equipment for their work utilized electric tricycle go-carts to get from engineering central to the job. And when a code was broadcast on the hospital public intercom for “smell of smoke” – everyone in engineering stopped whatever they were doing and walked briskly or hopped onto the nearest electric cart and went immediately to the designated point of danger.

We were the first line of defense against a hospital fire. Carts would arrive with two or three or four techs, anyone trained to stop a fire, hanging onto the top of the carts.

Otherwise – especially in comparable industrial facilities – if you had a half-mile or more between jobs/meetings you took a single-speed bike and got a little exercise along the way. Or you walked. Both better for your health than arabesques with Japanese schoolgirls.