THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- OCTOBER 7, 2017
Perusing the news recently, I unearthed several things I did not know. I like to store things like this in my cranium so I can roll them out at times when I want to appear to be smarter than I actually am. When people tell me I am a few feathers short of a whole duck, a few peas short of a casserole, or the possessor of a photographic memory with the lens cover glued on, I can defend myself with a counter move.
For example, with hunting season on the horizon I've seen a lot of hunter pink clothing in local stores. Pink may be stylish, but blaze orange is still a must in Michigan. I found out that, according to the Michigan Natural Resources Commission, “hunters must wear some highly visible attire that's colored in blaze orange although they can choose something in hunter pink to accessorize.”
I also found out that hunter pink is allowed to substitute for blaze orange in six states — Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin. Arkansas allows another safety variant, known as neon green or chartreuse.”
The bottom line this state's hunters is pretty cut and dried: “Blaze orange has been required for hunting in Michigan since the 1970s. It’s an international standard for safety.” (http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/09/15/hunter-pink-michigan-hunting-orange/672196001/)
I am always interested in new terminology, so when I discovered the term “birth tourism” it caught my attention. I found out this is a growing industry, particularly in Florida. Basically, rich couples from foreign countries are coming to the U.S. to spend several months before the birth of their child. These couples “flock to the U.S. annually for warm weather, excellent medical care, and, more importantly, birthright American citizenship.”
The “services” usually involve stays at luxury resorts where it can cost up to $85,000. “Birth tourism is a booming industry thanks to the growing middle- and upper-class in Russia and China. These families have no plans to work in the U.S. or pay U.S. taxes as their child grows. Rather, U.S. citizenship is an extra security blanket that the wealthy give themselves after months-long vacations on Miami’s beaches. It also gives their kids a shot at financial aid at U.S. schools and easier access to jobs in the U.S..” (https://www.thedailybeast.com/russians-flock-to-trump-properties-to-give-birth-to-us-citizens)
Many people are sad to see summer go away, but there's one thing I won't miss about summer – fireworks going off at all hours of the night in my neighborhood. I must have missed the memo that made the fourth of July a two-month celebration.
In this regard, I found out that State Rep. Robert Kosowski, R-Westland has introduced a bill that would require fireworks retailers to only sell silent fireworks. This is one of forty-one bills have been introduced to repeal or modify Michigan’s fireworks law in the last three legislative sessions. (http://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/2017/09/10/bill-would-require-automakers-install-alarms-so-kfix-kids-dying-hot-cars-offered-proposed-legislatio/639206001/)
This led me to another thing I found out; there is such a thing as silent fireworks. I read a report about a town in Italy, a country where many fireworks companies are headquartered. “These days, when there’s a big celebration in Collecchio, a town in the Italian province of Parma, the fireworks are silent, as required by law since 2015 and out of respect for Collecchio’s animal population. The star of the show is Setti Fireworks, a company that makes dazzling fireworks without the thundering report.” So, it is doable. (http://blog.theanimalrescuesite.com/italian-fireworks/)
Speaking of holidays, a big one is coming up at the end of this month – Halloween. I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite treats, Candy Corn, is the most popular Halloween candy in Michigan (followed by Skittles and Starburst). Candy corn is also the top choice in South Carolina, Alabama, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Idaho. According to CandyStore.com: “Candy corn rules this midwestern state, that is shaped like a mitten. Or maybe it’s a hand reaching out for more candy corn. Michigan consumes nearly 150 thousand pounds of it around Halloween.” The National Retail Federation estimates that shoppers will spend $2.7 billion on Halloween candy this year. (https://www.candystore.com/blog/facts-trivia/halloween-candy-map-popular/)
Finally, I'm a technology guy, so I've been intrigued by the new phones and devices coming out that rely on facial recognition to protect your identity. I was a bit concerned when I found out: “The depth and portability of current facial recognition authentication may be a new bridge into consumer app insecurity...identity theft could take on whole a new face.”
Here is the crux of the potential problem. “There are two general technologies that perform facial recognition: feature-based and image-based. Image-based is old school, but it’s everywhere. Today, approximately half of Americans are in an image-based police face recognition database.”
The newer method, called feature-based facial recognition, “takes an initial set of measurements—at the millimeter level, and sometimes subdermally. The sensor, in this case the high-resolution front-facing camera of your phone will create an architecture, create code around it, and sign that code with a unique hash. Each face, including your face, will have a hash ID. This hash is stored in a secure enclave of the phone. But here’s the problem: If an individual can break into the secure enclave, they can take the representation of you and use it to be you, in any platform that uses that same database.”
In plain English, feature-based recognition relies on code written by a human and humans are flawed. “If someone figures out how to hack your face, that is the least of your worries. Increasingly, we’re using phones for everything from banking and company emails to unlocking the front door to our house. Feature-based facial recognition allows for an unprecedented depth of authentication across applications.” (https://www.thedailybeast.com/apples-new-iphone-x-could-help-identity-thieves-steal-your-face)
I have an added worry in this regard. How will this affect artificial intelligence services like Siri? I mean, will Siri be scolding me that she can't see my face because of the reflection of the sun off my bald head? Then again she might say: “No need for you to worry about identity theft because who would want to steal a face that looks like yours?”
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read NeffZone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.
INTERACTIVE MAP -- Place cursor over a state to see that state's favorite candy.