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Un Obscura Laberinto
The Ocean is Troubled to its Depths
21st-Oct-2016 06:33 pm - Brilliant!
pion-muon decay
Love it. And right now, with some personal things going on, I sure needed the laugh.
By the way, the images show up here a little cropped, so you should click it to see the full images.

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I am so glad to see that someone finally wrote about this! It has been frustrating to see so many people making a ridiculous big deal about a journalistic practice that is both fairly common and very effective as a method for getting "the goods" to write great pieces of journalism that we're all grateful for revealing to us the kinds of things that we all want to know about. Those and other journalists don't at all deserve to be lambasted for the kind of behavior revealed by some of the Podesta emails; they're doing their job, and they're doing it well, and at the end of the day, you get to benefit.

WikiLeaks and the Oily Washington Press, by Jack Shafer, senior media writer of Politico
Some noteworthy excerpts – of which the very last line is my favorite:
The toadying behaviors are driven by the power relationship between the news media and an administration or campaign. I would bet that many establishment reporters tiptoed around the Romney people as well, and asked them pretty-please for interviews. It’s a certainty that many of them bowed to George W. Bush when he was in the White House. Not saying it’s right. Just saying it is. […]

The primary reason Washington operators can dictate the terms of engagement with Washington journalists is that the true insiders are few and the journalists are many. […] [L]ong before the invention of email, journalists routinely donned false faces to charm their sources. They pretended to be sympathetic, they feigned interest in their sources and their families, they fawned, they socialized with them, fed their egos and remembered their birthdays. If you were a Washington journalist, you would, too. […]

Lesson learned, maybe Washington journalists will stop over-relying on email and return to the time-honored audio burn-bag that is the telephone to court and seduce and exploit their sources. Meanwhile, over drinks, they will recover soon enough and laugh at your petty ethical concerns.

I would like to draw your attention to a particular phrase the importance of which could very easily be missed. In the second half of the first sentence of the middle excerpt: the true insiders. There is an important reason he uses the word 'true' there.
self inflicted
Scientific American Podcast: Flint's Water and Environmental Justice

Not even 20 minutes long. No excuse not to listen. This stuff is so important, because there are a hell of a lot of other Flints out there.
Digging into the data and the records looks like it is starting to reveal that the socioeconomic and racial discrimination is systemic and pervasive. But is it intentional? That's pretty much impossible to prove. What is probably intentional is the practice of putting money first, making profits, and just not caring about anyone's welfare.

The data and records are starting to show that the building of plants and other industrial facilities that pollute the surrounding environments and neighborhoods occurred after segregation (inequality) had already started to make those neighborhoods populated predominantly by people of color and populated overall by socioeconomically poor people. In other words, the sites for building those facilities were chosen because they were cheap because all the neighbors were people no one would listen to or care about if they complained about the negative impacts on their health and well-being. Which is exactly what has happened when they have complained, time and time again. Furthermore, the presence of those polluting facilities contributed to the trend of segregation, making it worse and more worse over time.
self inflicted
Original article: http://www.popsci.com/calling-food-healthy-doesnt-really-mean-anything

Calling Food 'Healthy' Doesn't Really Mean Anything
Nutritionists and food policy experts say the word is nothing more than a marketing term

Back in 1994, the FDA decided to regulate a word that began popping up on food packages across the country: healthy. At the time, fat was America’s pariah fuel source and as such, these new “healthy” labels mostly dominated foods that were low in fat, letting foods high in added sugar slip through the cracks as “healthy.” Now, as more and more research shows the health implications of eating too much sugar, the FDA is stuck scrambling to find a work around.

At the end of September, the agency announced that it would begin the process of redefining its official meaning of healthy, and would take into consideration public opinion. However, nutritional and medical experts as well as public health policy specialists say that the real root of the problem may actually be the word itself. They argue that defining healthy should not, and perhaps cannot be done.

In September, a paper published in JAMA revealed that in the 1960s, as research started coming out that linked sugar and fat to a host of health conditions, sugar interest groups began funding and publicizing research that focused only on the latter link. Diet fads came to capitalize on that data, and turned “fat” into a four-letter word.

Read more...Collapse )

I wonder if this will have consequences regarding "non-GMO" and "GMO" labeling madness. Since, that should all probably just go away. Based on, you know, the mountains of evidence supporting GMO technology and production.
14th-Oct-2016 02:45 pm - Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan
This makes me quite happy. I'm really glad they chose to award him the Nobel in Literature for his song lyrics. It's not just that I think he deserves it. The decision, the gesture, our present time, it's meaningful.

Why Bob Dylan Deserves His Nobel Prize (Rolling Stone magazine)
13th-Oct-2016 08:53 pm - To vote or to not vote?
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There is a logical argument against voting, the gist of it being that your individual vote just cannot matter enough, so doing almost anything else would be the more rational choice because it would be a far better use of your time. Obviously, the argument is based on numbers: your vote mattering or making a difference in a presidential election gets mathematically translated into the probability that your individual vote would be the deciding vote (in your state, of course). The probability is so close to zero that, logically or rationally speaking, it's an utter waste of your time.

Now, the wrong response to this argument is to simply say that we have a civic duty (or however you want to phrase it) to vote even though it's irrational. That's the wrong response.

So what is wrong with the argument? Because something has to be wrong with it, right? Because if not voting were the rational choice, that leads to a clear problem if we carry out the consequences: no one votes.

Where the argument goes wrong is in an assumption that most likely is never stated (i.e. it's hidden) or is only vaguely referred to without being at all fleshed out or explained. I don't know how it would or should be stated or fleshed out or explained, but that's because, first, I've never tried to work it out, and, second, it has to end up being incoherent, which is why it's where the problem with the argument lies. What I can tell you is that the assumption has to do with the nature of a vote, what it is, in the sense of its purpose, what it means in a certain kind of context.

The incoherence would arise so long as the nature of a vote is fleshed out in a way that makes it an individual thing, a singular object, a thing that is a thing itself. Why is that incoherent? Because the nature of a vote – and this relates to having to do with the nature of a democracy – can only make sense within a larger context: a vote can only be a vote when there are other votes existing in the same context that make it a vote. In other words, the very nature of a vote is that it is fundamentally part of a collective of votes; and without that context, there's no such thing as a vote. (Let me point out: it may perhaps be more correct to say a potential collective. Like I said, I haven't put much thought into this. I suppose that, whether it would make more sense to put it in terms of a potential collective or not would depend on some of the other details in fleshing out the whole theory on the nature of a vote and of voting.)

So the problem with the logical argument against voting is that it assumes a fundamentally individualistic conceptualization to the nature of a vote, such that, your vote is a single and individual thing all by itself, a vote-object distinct and individuated from all other objects that are also votes.

Once you reject that idea, and instead take the nature of a vote to be something fundamentally existentially relative to a collective context, the logical argument falls apart because it no longer makes any sense to ask whether your individual vote matters, since your vote cannot be a distinct, individual object that could be coherently conceptually considered in isolation from all other votes. So, to ask whether your vote matters is to ask whether the collective of votes to which your vote belongs matters. Once you ask it that way, the logic cannot lead you to that simple mathematical translation of the question being what the probability is that your individual vote will decide the outcome of the election (in your state). Instead, a mathematical and probabilistic translation is going to end up being a lot more complicated. But, I'm not sure you need the numbers to argue the case in favor of voting; I think a purely conceptual argument would suffice.

[So, I included J.S. Mill in my tags, because, surely, Mill has to figure into this discussion somehow. Right?)
pion-muon decay
I don't even know what to say about this. Maybe I don't need to say anything, because it speaks for itself.
The reason I am posting this is because the same sort of thing can be said about so many other conspiracy "theories" (read: myths) about the government (or whoever) having complete and total control over information on some topic or other.

Despite what certain conservatives would like so much for you to believe, because they're sure you must be stupid enough, Weather forecasters can't manipulate hurricane warnings, because the whole fucking internet is watching, and if one single iota was out of place, you can be damn sure someone would notice and the internet would blow up about it.

I am willing to bet that a lot of the "alt-right" and other such individuals don't even believe one tenth of the bullshit they try to feed the general public. They're just using their followers as tools, nothing more.
9th-Oct-2016 12:05 am - Corvid Minds
A lovely follow-up to my previous post: demonstration of the cognitive problem solving capabilities of a New Caledonian crow. Like us, this species adopted and then evolved for tool use. While other species of corvids might be able to figure out how to use a tool, New Caledonian crows have so regularly fashioned and used their own tools for so long, that their bodies evolved adaptive traits for this kind of tool use. Compared to what you find in other corvids of similar size, the bottom half of the beak is larger and sturdier, with I think a little more muscle attached, and it has a slight curve upwards, again compared to what you find in other corvids, making the shape of the beak straighter, so that they have much greater control and precision and strength of grip on the tool. Furthermore, the eyes are actually a little higher up on the head so that they can easily see straight ahead and over their beak to see what they're doing with the tool.

(I do wish I could have a pet crow or raven! It would be quite the challenge to have such an intelligent and clever animal around, which is certainly one reason why I'm sure I'd love it. (I kind of love that guy in those videos. He's not for everyone, but his sense of humor is one I appreciate. And there's just something I find a bit endearing about him.))
4th-Oct-2016 06:31 pm - Animal Emotions and Animal Thinking
To resist the idea that any non-human animals have the capacity for a range of emotions and have the capacity for thinking is not only unscientific, it is to reject evolution altogether.

BBC Radio 4 podcast: The Life Scientific: Frans de Waal

Frans de Waal is definitely one of my favorite scientists. I was delighted to find out that he confirms (and writes extensively about) something I've learned myself over the years, that you have to be pretty clever to figure out how intelligent other animals are; and when you do figure it out, you learn a lot about yourself (and other humans) too.
pion-muon decay
Wow. I'm so glad for this. These kinds of predatory journals are a disgrace.

Source: IOP Physics World
By Michael Allen, science writer based in Bristol, UK

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – an independent agency of the US government – has filed charges against the open access publisher OMICS Group. It accuses the publisher of misrepresenting its journals to attract submissions, hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and making misleading claims about the conferences it organizes.

The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction against OMICS and is also seeking monetary relief, which could include refunds of money paid by researchers. OMICS, which is based in India and has offices in the US and Europe, publishes more than 700 online journals, including a number of physics titles such as the Journal of Physical Chemistry & Biophysics and the Journal of Astrophysics & Aerospace Technology. Read more...Collapse )
peace & harmony as the ideal
[Hmm, do you think that title just got the attention of the NSA? Hah.]
I've already posted about Islamophobia and its effects. But it needs emphasis again and again. Because frankly, I understand those Muslims here in the U.S. – and elsewhere in "the West" – who end up being pulled (pushed) into extremist or radical ideology and turning against us and lashing out, and even committing (or attempting to commit) acts of terrorism. What do you think is going to happen when you marginalize a certain group of people, become prejudiced against them, discriminate against them, mistreat them, give them dirty looks, say insulting and bigoted things to them, tell them they don't belong in "your" country, bully them, and even attack them?

I know what it's like – obviously, to a much lesser degree – to be on the receiving end of dirty looks and mistreatment and discrimination just because of the way I look, because I have a lot of tattoos and dreadlocks and have styles of dress that are apparently too different and unconventional for a lot of people. Furthermore, I'm an atheist, so I also know what it's like to be on that receiving end purely because I have such a different worldview and different beliefs (or lack of beliefs) and different values; and to have people assume that, just because I'm an atheist, I must have no ethical principles and must therefore be immoral, and that I must hate everyone who's not an atheist, and whatever other ridiculous nonsense they can come up with.

So I have no problem understanding the frustration, the increasing frustration, and the anger that so many Muslims are now actually feeling – as opposed to the mythological anger and hatred against the West that far too many Westerners believe all Muslims have always had. I have no problem understanding the seeming ease with which many Muslims are nowadays sliding towards extreme and radical and separatist views. I say the seeming ease, because it's not that they're easily sliding into it, but are being pushed. "You think I'm a terrorist? You treat me like I'm a terrorist? Well, then I'll show you a terrorist." Yes, I can fully empathize, because a human being, who is no fucking different from you, can only take so much abuse before they've had enough and turn around and fight back. Read more...Collapse )
pion-muon decay
It is downright ethically wrong what the anti-science fear-mongerers do. Which means, those who are able, have an ethical duty to try to do right by the public and set things straight. I urge anyone who happens to actually come across this post to please listen to this podcast episode (link below goes straight to .mp3 file), and to please pass it on to others, because the issues are extremely important for the public, and we all need to play our part in helping to educate. (I know the music playing in the background during the first few minutes of the episode is extremely annoying, but just bear with it for a little while, because it does stop.)

Weed Killer in Vaccines? No, absolutely not. (Talking Biotech Podcast Episode 51)

Description of this episode:
Today’s episode is born of frustration. Fear-mongering non-experts are abusing improper interpretations from an available herbicide detection kit to make claims that herbicides are now found in vaccines. Namely, they seek to find glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. They use a kit you can buy on the internet, but fail to use it in the way it is designed. Instead of using it on water, they use it on complex mixtures that yield false positives that are interpreted as legitimate signals.

So to push back I want to provide you with the information you need to discuss these topics with confidence. This topic has no guests. I reached out to the folks making the claims as well as the company that makes the product, and nobody wants to join the conversation. It is simply me talking about the claims, the assay, and how you can help debunk the bad information that pollutes this important public discourse.

The Talking Biotech Podcast is done entirely (and funded entirely) by Dr. Kevin Folta, Associate Professor and Department Chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. (His "About" page on the podcast website.)
It is worth giving you the mission statement of Dr. Folta's podcast:
The safe and powerful technologies of genetic engineering have had tremendous impacts in agriculture and medicine. However, future innovation and deployment of beneficial technologies are slowed by a lack of understanding. The point of this podcast is to help connect the public to current science and technology, and let scientists tell the stories of how science can help our farmers, industrialized world consumers, the environment, and the Developing World. The hope is that this resource can entertain and explain how new tools can improve food security, reduce poverty, and improve agricultural and medical practices.

Now, the anti-science fear-mongerers, because they seem to be filled with nothing but hatred and anger, have made an effort to smear Dr. Folta with ridiculous slander, which you can find plenty of across the interwebs. (They have also done a lot to try to destroy his life – they like to be destructive in as many ways as they can – and even gone so far as to break into his office.) But having myself spent time in academia and knowing what people in academia are like, and after listening to all of his podcast episodes and interviews of him on other podcasts, I can assure you that Kevin is nothing but genuine and that he is truly a valuable scientist, educator, and communicator, and thus, a valuable asset to the world.
pion-muon decay
I'm only sharing this because, honestly, it's too good not to.

This morning while on the toilet I notice two big bruises and some light scratches just below my left hip: "Oh my god! What the f--… Oh wait. Right. I fell from a tree yesterday."
12th-Sep-2016 07:06 pm - What did Socrates teach us? Nothing.
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While there is no question that Ray Kurzweil is very intelligent and has contributed a lot of great work to the world, he strikes me as an excellent example of the unfortunate fact that, in our world, you don't actually have to fully know what you're talking about; you just have to come off as solidly confident that you unquestionably do. And then a lot of people will see that as an obvious sign of your "genius" and flock to you.


So much of the time I have so many thoughts in my head, so many things I want to say, or ask, or propose, so many connections I want to make, sometimes it's overwhelming, and stifling. Besides, at the end of the day, whatever I might have to say, or think, or might have to offer, doesn't really matter anyway.
5th-Sep-2016 02:08 pm - Tuko Macho (2016)
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Weekly web series about vigilantes in Nairobi: Tuko Macho

Worth checking out other film work done by the same group: The Nest Collective

Watch trailerCollapse )
pion-muon decay
Whether or not Trump is genuinely serious about the mass deportation of 11,000,000 illegal immigrants, what I don't understand is:

Why is no one throwing the question to his supporters: who the hell do you think is going to pay for that?! 'Cause it's going be expensive as hell, you do realize that, don't you?

Even his supposed wall that he claims he'd make Mexico pay for, you do realize that what he's proposing is that the wall will be built, and then somehow he's supposedly going to convince Mexico to pay the bill, right? So who the hell do you think is really going to be paying for that wall?

And while I'm at it, let's talk about what he claims concerning the military. (I'm astounded that military personnel aren't appalled and insulted about what he says here.) Because he claims that he would also "beef up" the military big time. But again, who the hell do you think is going to pay for this so-called "beefing up" of the military?!

But, why does the military need "beefing up" anyway? He claims the military is ragged and thin, and is relying on old, shitty equipment that hasn't been replaced in decades, because they haven't gotten money from the government, so they're basically "starving" and they can't get access to the latest technology.
Excuse me?
If that isn't complete horseshit, I don't know what is.
The United States of America has the most powerful and most technologically advanced military in the world. And one of the most important reasons why is because our government, for decades, has been willing to pour billions upon billions of dollars into it! The military doesn't just have access to the latest technologies, the military is often the raison d'être for a lot of the latest technologies! Because the Department of Defense is one of the biggest contributors funding scientific research and development! (And mostly for the development!)

I'm not all patriotic and I'm not some worshiper of the military, so it's not like I have some personal interest or desire in talking up how awesome our military is. This is just the reality, and you don't have to look hard to find it!
The trash Trump talks about our military is so full of insulting bullshit, it's horrendously shameful and a disgrace.

But at the end of the day (or the end of this entry), the question remains: who the hell do you think is going to pay for this supposed "beefing up" of the military? Seriously, do any of his supporters ever wonder these things? He goes on and on about how much money the Democrats have spent and added to the national debt, and yet the shit he says he's going to do as president would cost ridiculous amounts of money!

Not to mention the money and lives he would cost sending us to war with Daesh, since he claims he'd make sure we completely demolish them. But I've talked about this before.
29th-Aug-2016 03:39 pm - In Defense of Protest
So, everyone is talking about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sitting in protest during the national anthem before a game. And it's apparently pissed off a lot of people, including a lot of people who are or were in the military. It's the same old refrain: "Thousands of soldiers have died and are dying defending our country. How dare you be disrespectful!"

But what exactly does it mean to say that soldiers have died and are dying defending our country?

Before giving an answer to that, I think it would be worthwhile to take a look at our not so distant history. (But perhaps distant enough that too many people have forgotten.)
The Vietnam War.

Let's imagine it's 1970. And let's imagine Kaepernick is the 49ers quarterback then. And, before a game, he sits during the national anthem. How would people react? Of course, before you can even begin to think about answering that question, you have to know enough of the history of that time and what the political atmosphere in this country was like. I daresay, even before he could announce to the world what his reason was, a lot of people would already applaud his defiance. But, after the game, the reporters run in, and he explains that he sat in protest of the Vietnam War. Immediately, a whole lot more people would applaud him.

But, would anyone be outraged and say to him, "How dare you be disrespectful! Thousands of soldiers are dying out there defending our country!"? No. I am very confident in saying that no one would say that, least of all, someone in the military. In fact, if anything, soldiers would cheer.

Because I think damn near everyone would agree that it wasn't the U.S. soldiers fighting and dying in Vietnam who were defending our country. Between 1965 and 1975, it was the protesters who were defending our country.

Back to the present. A lot of people throw around the phrase "defending our country" without giving it a lot of deep thought about what it really means. And that's unfortunate, because the result is that a lot of people as citizens don't really know what our country means to them, or is supposed to mean to them.

Well, I wanted to keep this short, so I'll just tell you one thing that it means.
It means defending our rights and liberties.
And one of the most important rights that we as citizens of this country have is the right to protest. You don't really know how important that right is until you look through our history and look into other countries today where that right doesn't exist, whether on paper or in practice. (Because there are plenty of places where that right exists on paper, but is not protected and is regularly violated by the government.)

So, when Kaepernick sits during the national anthem in protest, not only is he not disrespecting our country, he is demonstrating for all of us one of the most important rights that we enjoy, the right to protest. And, he is defending that right. And just like the millions of Americans who protested the Vietnam War, Kaepernick is protesting both something the government is doing and something it's not doing; and by such protest, is also standing up for something that is supposed to be an American value.
peace & harmony as the ideal
How can it be that so many people are so stupidly blind that they cannot see that their Islamophobia is directly leading more and more Muslims straight into the path of radicalization and extremism?

How can they not see that their Islamophobia only gives more and more Muslims reasons to begin to become more and more like what Islamophobics think Muslims are like?

Daesh delights in all the Islamophobia; for it gives them exactly what they want.

Islamophobia = the terrorists win.
You're afraid of Muslims? Then you've willingly surrendered yourself to the terrorists and now allow them to manipulate you. Your hatred and vitriolic bigotry are weakness.
12th-Aug-2016 06:30 pm - Read the official titles
The open letter signed by 50 former National Security officials explaining that none of them will vote for Trump because he is a very serious threat to our national security is well worth reading. But, I think it's even more worth it to attentively read through the official titles of every single one of those signers. Why? Because I think it matters a whole lot to know just who these former National Security officials are, in the sense of knowing what their positions and roles were, to give us all a good idea of how much these people know what the hell they're talking about. And, I think it reminds us all of the complexity of such a large and powerful organization as the federal government of the United States of America, and that something like national security isn't simple – nothing in government is – because it involves a lot of different departments and agencies, and you can bet that list only scratches the surface.
You are not doing yourselves any favors when you target and lock up human rights lawyers and activists. The world is watching and you're not fooling anyone. Do you really think your own citizenry are that stupid? You are only demonstrating for them why more of them need to speak out.
Just think of the shame you are bringing upon the future China when they will have to acknowledge and admit the wrongs and the harms you are now doing.
7th-Jul-2016 11:51 am - a.
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The Autumn cicada
Dies by the side
Of its empty shell.

~Naitō Jōsō

In the Autumn mountains
The colored leaves are falling.
If I could hold them back,
I could still see her.

~Kakinomoto no Hitomaro

As certain as color
Passes from the petal,
Irrevocable as flesh,
The gazing eye falls through the world.

~Ono no Komachi
14th-May-2016 10:06 am - Somehow I'm neither here nor there
pion-muon decay
I haven't heard this song in so many years, yet it's been replaying in my head for days.

Runaway TrainCollapse )
self inflicted
Hard evidence: spanking could lead to health problems, antisocial behavior
[This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.]

Elizabeth Gershoff, University of Texas at Austin and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, University of Michigan

Whether you are a parent who has occasionally spanked your child, an adult with recollections of childhood spanking or even an observer who has witnessed spanking in a public place, you likely have personal experience with the spanking of children for misbehavior.

Spanking remains a common parenting practice in the U.S. A nationally representative, long-term study of children beginning in kindergarten found that 80 percent of children had been spanked by the time they reached third grade.

While we all may have our opinions about whether spanking “works” as a method of disciplining children, what does science tell us? And what are the average outcomes for children who are spanked?

Recently, we conducted a “meta-analysis” – a review of existing research on spanking – to answer these questions. We found that spanking significantly increases the risk of detrimental outcomes for children. While this finding does not mean that every child will experience problems as a result of spanking, it does mean that a large body of research has shown it significantly increases the risks for problems.

Is there any evidence that spanking is good for children?

We included data from 75 studies from the U.S. and 12 other countries that were conducted over a period of 50 years, which included over 160,000 children. We looked at the associations between spanking and several different child outcomes.

Spanking was not linked with better child behavior. Instead, we found spanking was linked with worse child behavior. Spanking was associated with 13 of the 17 outcomes we examined, and all showed spanking was linked with detrimental outcomes.

The more children were spanked, the more aggressive and antisocial they were. We also found that children who were spanked were more likely to have mental health problems, problematic relationships with their parents and lower cognitive ability.
Please continue reading!Collapse )
Well, have a taste of what they're like in my current state of residence:

New Yorker Political Scene podcast: Harriet Krzykowski talks about abuse in prisons in Florida

An article about the main case Krzykowski talked about:

People try to make themselves feel better by insisting that abuse is rare, so that they, too, can turn a blind eye to our cruel and sadistic and medieval penal system here in the U.S., so that they still have "bad" people (convicts, inmates) they can hate and spit on and be condescending towards, in that desperate attempt to elevate themselves as "better" than those "bad" people whom they convince themselves deserve what they get in prison.

What they fail to get is that it doesn't matter whether the extreme abuses are rare or common.
Because this is about so much more than just those extreme abuses, because those are just the introduction to our cruel and medieval penal system. Because you have to start with the easy stuff – like in maths, you start with arithmetic because that's super easy and obvious. And, like in maths, most people don't care to go beyond the easy stuff, because it's hard…

I don't have anything more to say.
pion-muon decay
Finally sitting down to watch All the President's Men – forgot I even had it.
Goddamn. It may have been made in '76, but movies today just can't compete with this.
If you have not seen this film, then do so.
self inflicted
The Geneva Convention established that intentionally targeting medical facilities is a war crime, a crime against humanity.
In Syria alone, just in the first four months of 2016, seven MSF (Doctors Without Borders) supported hospitals have been bombed. But that's just MSF facilities; there are many more hospitals and medical facilities not supported by MSF, so how many of them have been bombed, too?
And it's not just in Syria, but other countries, Yemen being one.

The ongoing slaughter and devastation in Syria as well as other places for at least the past five years tells us something about the rest of the world, ourselves included, and the value of human life, the attitudes to the killing of very large numbers of people, the extreme suffering – suffering we can't even imagine – of those still (barely) alive, because it's not as if we don't know about it or as if we don't have the capabilities to do anything about it.

Do we see them? Don't we care?

Aleppo onslaught: clinic hit by air strike, the second time this week a medical facility has been targeted

Dozens killed in Aleppo attacks: Tit-for-tat attacks between Syrian government and rebels

Syria war: people are facing appalling desolation, hunger and starvation

Photos: Death rains down on Syria
pion-muon decay
I can't say it enough: nature is just more creative and clever than we are.
The traditional, orthodox [read: outdated, incorrect] theory of the brain carved it up into distinct parts that each have their distinctive function. One could perhaps compare it with a ship, the design of which is founded on function so as to fulfill a purpose: each part of the ship exists in order to fulfill that purpose by having its own function that plays a part in fulfilling that purpose. For example, the keel, the hull, and the bow are all part of the body that is in contact with the water, but each is a distinct part with its own function(s) apart from the others. But, those functions work together in concert in order to fulfill the purpose for which the ship is designed. Now look at the body of a bird, and one can see the same sort of logic of a composition based on function. That the brain should be so, too, seemed intuitive enough.

But if there is one lesson to take home from science, it is that we ought not trust our intuitions as much as comes so naturally to us by inclination.
(Oh, but such things do seem to get easily misplaced once home, don't they?)

The evidence that the brain is not carved up into functional parts has been accumulating, and here is one of the latest findings: some aspects of language are all over the brain. But it's not random. Because if anything, your brain is a master of organization, thanks to evolution. (In comparison, our attempts to come up with a theory of the functional structure and organization of the brain might as well have been written in crayon.)

A 3D map of the brain shows we understand language

Take a tour of the interactive 3D language map of the brain. I highly recommend checking it out if you can – although be warned that it's a heavy page to load up, being an interactive 3D model. Perhaps you should also be warned that if this sort of thing really piques your interest, you might lose an hour or so, getting sucked into playing around with it. Because it's fascinating and really cool.

Whatever it is you might think this could lead to, technologically and epistemically: stop, because it won't. If you think it might, then you are still stuck in that traditional, orthodox theory of the brain. It may be true in an objective sense that this brings us one step closer to understanding the human brain. But it's a step that reveals a stretch of terrain we hadn't seen before, because we had not a high enough view; and along with it, beyond it, a broader and further horizon.

And that is why I find this research and study to be fascinating and exciting.

It is worth pointing out that it also reveals to us that some previous research into topics on the neuroscience of language and linguistics were, at best, poorly designed due to certain assumptions about the brain – and of course, I mean assumptions we are realizing were incorrect – and at worst, fundamentally and irreparably flawed. And this, consequently, calls into question whatever were the findings and conclusions of those previous studies and researches. That is something that, as we go forward, we ought to keep in mind, and not underestimate how much it affects or changes what we thought we knew and/or found.

So let me highlight two paragraphs from the Popular Science article [emphasis in bold and italic added]:
While the results were quite similar across individuals, this doesn’t mean that the researchers have created a definitive atlas for language. First, the study only looked at seven participants, all from the same area of the world and all speakers of English. It also only used just one source of input: a series of spoken, engaging narrative stories. The researchers are eager to learn how things like experience, native language, and culture will alter the map.

Further, Gallant [one of the neuroscientists in the group of researchers who did the study] says, they think the map could also change if the setting changed or if a person was in a different mental state: if a person read the story instead of hearing it, or instead of hearing an engaging story, the context was tedious cramming for an exam.

N.B. I did intend for those analogies in my opening paragraph to be oversimplified and misguided, and therefore, basically just plain wrong.
pion-muon decay
Undrawing my tattoos: Tass Cambitzi has been tattooed 18 times, but is now undergoing painful laser removal

This woman pretty much represents the complete opposite of my attitude towards tattoos. Basically, everything that has always seemed to me obviously stupid types of tattoos and reasons for getting tattooed.
I don't mean to sound so harsh, and I'm not saying she herself is stupid. Because what she was, was suffering and in pain.
But this, this!, is why you don't get tattoos linked with significant others, or even friends, unless y'all have been together for a long time, at least a decade, maybe even longer, and things are still great. I have never understood how people can be so stupidly impulsive to get tattoos the meaning of which is their significant other. Or even, a best friend – of course I think there can be exceptions when it's fine, but my criteria won't be easy to satisfy.

Out of all of my tattoos – I don't know how many I have – there is only one the meaning of which is linked to a person in my life, and that is my mother. It's a lily, because that's what her friends and family call her because her name is Lillian.
27th-Apr-2016 07:23 pm - Munyaradzi Nyamarebvu
Beautiful voice, beautiful playing, beautiful language. Love it.
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27th-Apr-2016 09:30 am - Ivory ––> Panama?
pion-muon decay
Something just occurred to me. Elephant poaching is driven by demand for ivory, obviously, but where is there currently a high demand, possibly the highest? China. And a couple of surrounding countries, but largely, China. We've also learned via the Panama Papers that there are a significant number of those offshore accounts that are linked to China, including politicians, bankers, and lawyers.

Might those accounts have a link to the ivory trade in China that's driving a whole lot of elephant poaching?
Perhaps this is something people should be thinking about and looking into.
pion-muon decay
Could Donald Trump change journalism for the better?

Well, not Donald Trump, but putting into the spotlight how journalists and commentators report on and talk about Trump in order to re-evaluate journalistic practices, particularly demands for "objectivity" and "balance" when, under analytic scrutiny, these concepts are misunderstood and misapplied. What are we sacrificing when we kowtow to such misguided and confused insistence on "being objective" and "being balanced"?
21st-Apr-2016 11:48 am - Who's the real hero here?
This is wonderful news: Harriet Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill

Jackson wasn't as great as people in this country have been trained to believe [parrot]. Jackson was an absolute brute, pretty much an egomaniac, and as far as he was concerned, anyone who disagreed with him on anything was a traitor and deserved to be ruined and punished to the maximum degree, and Jackson would have been delighted if that meant death.

Everything about Harriet Tubman in the situation she faced in this world makes that woman a goddamn hero.

This is just pathetic: Tennessee Senator thinks the switch "diminishes" Jackson
Frankly, I'd be willing to give you the claim that it diminishes him, but I think that's just what needs to be done. The kind of hero-worship that Americans have been brainwashed to bow to is disgusting, and diminishes the real heroes!
19th-Apr-2016 11:25 pm - Avian Intelligence, Part II
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(I hope this is coherent enough. I've been working on this, and Part III, for several days now, here and there, but my day to day mental states haven't been all that conducive to writing. And then something awful happened, but at the moment it's not over yet, and I just can't think all that straight. But this was close enough to being ready to post, I think, that after a few edits or so, I just have to go ahead and post what I have here.)
Part I
More response to Stuff to Blow Your Mind's The Unsettling Depths of Bird Intelligence. My comments might seem a bit random, but that's because I don't particularly feel like attempting to write a smoothly flowing essay.

It is worth beginning by pointing out the one glaring issue with all of this: what exactly do we mean by 'intelligence'? History of anthropology and anthropological accounts clearly reveal biases on what constitutes intelligence. (And how many times did tribal peoples think these anthropologists were idiots for not understanding certain things that were obvious to them?) I won't go into (again, for the umpteenth time) all of the criticisms and problems with the notion of "intelligence" qua IQ test, or anything similar. One might also argue that there are perhaps distinct types of intelligence. Furthermore, even if one could come up with a suitable definition and a method of determining the degree of intelligence, the issue of whether intelligence is fixed or flexible needs to be addressed, especially since it often isn't. And while that might seem to apply only to humans, whereas for all other species it must be fixed, such an assumption would clearly be biased so as to find some way of somehow distinguishing [distancing] ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom and varied forms of life on the planet. Besides, there are characteristics in some species that we assumed for the longest time had to be instinct or inborn, but have turned out to, in fact, be learned. For example, otters must learn to swim; a mother spends quite a lot of time teaching her pups to swim, and she is even methodological in her curriculum of teaching lessons. Meerkats have to learn how to eat the poisonous scorpions they are so well known for eating; and once again, mothers are quite methodological. There are migratory birds that have to learn to migrate, and one very significant example is the whooping crane. Conservation efforts – which, for the whooping crane, are very challenging – involve raising them in captivity until they are mature enough to make a migratory flight; then they are led across the entire migration route by a person flying a powered parachute (or some such vehicle). And there are plenty of other examples.

They – the hosts of the podcast, that is – read a quote from Herzog on the intelligence, or lack thereof, of chickens. Herzog sees them as incredibly and utterly stupid, and makes the claim that this is evidenced by how easy they are to hypnotize.

I was rather surprised that neither of the hosts doing the episode made any mention of why Herzog's statement is refutable nonsense. Herzog is claiming that hypnotizability is evidence of a lack of intelligence. Except that the evidence is quite clear: there is an observed correlation between higher than average intelligence and hypnotizability (in people – and pretty sure we're talking about IQ). Of course there are exceptions, but it has been observed to be generally true. As always, correlation does not equate to causation, so whether the correlation is meaningful or accidental, no one knows, though there are many hypotheses out there to choose from. So, whatever you think about the cognitive capacities of chickens, Herzog's statement is misguided and confused.

Related to the Herzog quote, there is mention of, for some people at least, though this is not being claimed by the hosts themselves, a sense of emptiness in the eyes of birds. I simply had to say that, my first thought was: try looking into a hawk's or eagle's eyes, or even some vultures, like a bearded vulture or a cape griffon. (And I would just like to point out that I just spent two and half hours being mesmerized looking at pictures of those birds.)

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17th-Apr-2016 04:48 pm - Muslimgauze
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I think I have been meaning to share this for at least a year – my fabulous ADD memory: eventually I remember, just might not be all that timely. It is worth pointing out that the artist Muslimgauze was active 1983-1998; he died in '99. He was pretty prolific, with a good portion of his work being released posthumously and unfinished.
The thing I love about music like this – and by "this" I do mean something rather broad – is that, if you let it, it takes you to a different world – kind of like, dreaming while awake. Which is sort of how I feel most of the time anyway.
(My apologies, y'all, for the lack of postings. Still getting settled into a new place after moving. And, well, you know how depression goes…)

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14th-Apr-2016 03:27 pm - \
Into Dust…Collapse )
self inflicted
This presentation is a little data heavy at the beginning, but it's worth it to listen through:

The Female Autism Conundrum

And there's this piece from IFLScience: Changing the Face of Autism: Here Come the Girls

It would be nice to be recognized.
Then people would get it, why I can't really function in society. Why I am so detached from the rest of the world. Or hell, even just why I talk the way I do.
But there is no one currently around me that I can talk to. No one who would believe me or take me seriously. No one in my family would ever consider the possibility, because they're certain they know what autism is, and they're certain that they know me.
But it sure as hell would be nice if they knew and understood just how much I am disabled by it, with respect to the world outside my own head and beyond my interests and obsessions.
At some points, that presentation was hard for me to listen to. Because it confirms for me that I will have to suffer in silence, just as I have from the beginning, and forever misunderstood. (Perhaps things could be different if I had the benefits of privilege.) I don't recall exactly how old I was when I first conceptualized to myself that what I was doing everyday was wearing a mask for the rest of the world, but I do know for certain that I was still in elementary school. At some point I just couldn't do it anymore. It was too painful, too exhausting, too aggravating and frustrating. And, to put it purely metaphorically because I cannot right now come up with better and more accurate terminology, it was killing my soul to be fake, to be disingenuous, to pretend to be something that I was not and did not want to be.
So I threw that mask away, and vowed to only ever be true to myself.
And yet I still wear a mask. Because, as that presentation does well enough to explain, other people just don't and can't see it. I see the people around me being blind to what it is they are looking at and seeing when they are looking at and seeing me. They see me, and yet I am invisible. Or perhaps the opposite, that I am opaque.
But at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. Because at the end of the day, it's just the same as it was yesterday: it hurts, and I'm exhausted.
7th-Apr-2016 12:29 am - Avian Intelligence, Part I
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This is in response to Stuff to Blow Your Mind's episode The Unsettling Depths of Bird Intelligence, since they asked if any listeners had any experience or knowledge on the topic. (Yes, I sent them a message about this entry.) There's actually a lot of interesting stuff in that episode that I've been writing up a response to, so I hope to get that posted soon.

I have had some rather interesting and fun experiences with raising and taking care of ducks, which I have written about here several times. (You'll have to scroll down to the entry dated 15 September 2013 and everything previous. I apologize that all of the photos I'd posted no longer show up.) However, I would turn your attention specifically to the entry on 21 October 2012, then 25 August 2013 – you'll have to skip the first few paragraphs or so to get the duck discussion. And perhaps one paragraph in the entry on 29 April 2013: the second paragraph after the stand alone statement about updating on the ducks.

But there was a particularly significant event that I apparently, and shockingly, failed to write about that I want to share precisely because of its relevance to avian intelligence.
This is, of course, about the one duck who was surely the most intelligent of them all: Ella.

For the sake of those who might not already be familiar with my experiences taking care of ducks, some aspects of the background information needed to follow the story below will be included. (I don't apologize for any redundancy with previous entries.) I also need to set up the story for y'all, because otherwise you won't fully understand the one event I really want to point out.

Ella was one of six free range ducks already fully matured when I arrived on the property – 1:1 male to female. So not having raised them myself, I was a stranger for awhile. Once I'd started raising some ducklings and taking care of the adults, I tried to see if I could get the adults to become comfortable with me. It took awhile and a lot of patience, but eventually, Ella figured it out and would come right up and eat scratch grains out of the plastic cup while I held it and, importantly, while I was looking at her. I know that on her part she figured out that I was "safe" because of her intelligence. And I know this because, it didn't happen overnight, but happened gradually, as she would watch me, observe me, pay attention to me and what I was doing, while none of the other five adults bothered to do that. They knew that I fed them, of course, and gave them fresh bathing water regularly, but that never eased their instinctual suspicion.

This is something that I think is a mark of the degree of intelligence of an organism: whether and how much they can overcome, perhaps even deviate from, their instincts.

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(My exclamation of excitement is because I posted awhile ago the purely "homemade" video of Gasper Nali doing this song. I'm so glad to see him getting recognized. You have to understand why it's significant: Malawi is still one of the poorest nations in Afrika.)

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(The article is from the beginning of the month, so before Rubio was forced to drop out (which is unfortunate).)

"The chances of America entering a new ground war in the Middle East will significantly increase under a Republican president. Their style would be more forceful as they rely more on American military power as an instrument of change."

I don't think many supporters of Trump and Cruz stop to consider at all what the consequences would be if their stated intentions about Daish and other Islamist extremists were actually carried out. (There's a good reason you should call them Daish instead of IS or ISIS or ISIL: it's an insult, due to a play on words in Arabic.)

If you support Trump, then you support sending huge amounts of our sons and daughters into war, a ground war, not a war fought at a distance, but boots on the ground.

Want to try to guess how much money that's going to cost? Where do you think that money would come from, eh?

But the price tag gets higher.
Consider the fact that our incredible advancements in medical science have actually made it very difficult to die in war. Soldiers are surviving from injuries that we used to think would be impossible to survive.

To begin with, it'll cost a lot to get the all the medical needs set up over there on the ground to treat soldiers as quickly as possible. You need everything that the absolute best hospitals in the world have.
And, of course, you need the people working your war hospitals, and unlike normal hospitals, these won't ever be under-staffed, because these are the most efficient hospitals in the world.

Next, consider what it's going to cost in healthcare when these wounded soldiers come home and need continuing medical care, many of them for the rest of their lives. Remember that, if it's now more difficult to die in war, far more soldiers will survive, and thus, far more soldiers will come home with serious injuries that require a lot of medical attention over the following years, or for their entire lives. Where's the money for all of that going to come from?

Not to mention the psychological impacts that all of that will have on soldiers and their loved ones. Which means, of course, even higher healthcare costs for mental health. (One of the very, very sad consequences of so many soldiers actually surviving has been an incredible rate of suicides amongst them. That needs to change. Because that and any other psychological suffering that they don't get help for should not be the "thanks" they get for having fought for this country.)

The utter failure of people in this country to think about consequences and how things play out in the real world…

[Be careful what you ask for…]
17th-Mar-2016 01:41 pm - Drone Poetry
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Lynn Hill - 21st Century War Poet

"Lynn Hill was an active participant in both Iraq and Afghanistan. She spent much of her military career flying Predator drones, gathering intelligence and firing missiles remotely some 12,000 miles away - from a central station in Las Vegas.
Her brilliant poetry talks of the difficult task of separating her real life from her war life. About hate and insanity, violence and nihilism. About dreams and being involved in war via a screen. About seeing yourself in the third person. About some of the very serious problems faced by her 21st Century war colleagues - divorce, alcohol, psychiatric illness, crises of identity."
pion-muon decay
The current issue of Science has an open access special section on forensic science that will undoubtedly prove to be extremely interesting, so I highly recommend it:


Reading Larry Laudan's "Progress or rationality? The prospects for normative naturalism" (1987) while sitting in the vet's office this morning. The excerpt below, aside from making an excellent point, gave me a good chuckle, because for some reason I couldn't help but imagine zombies shuffling about, accidentally promoting scientific ends and thereby being rational.
One might try to defend the general approach I have criticized here by saying that, in claiming a certain scientist to be rational, we are not alluding to his ends, but rather to the ends constitutive of scientific enquiry. On this way of approaching the issue, an agent is rational only in so far as his actions tend to promote these general 'aims of science', even if his intentions (i.e. the aims driving his actions) were quite different from those of science. This analysis makes it possible for rationality to involve a good deal of sleep-walking, in that agents may promote 'the genuine ends of science' (and supposedly thereby be rational) without intending to do so. I have no trouble with the suggestion that agents often end up furthering ends quite different from those which motivated their actions. Indeed, this seems to me to be quite a salient point. But I cannot accept the violence it does to our usual notion of rationality, entailing among other things that agents who acted effectively so as to promote their ends may turn out to be irrational (viz. if their actions failed to promote 'the' ends of science), and that agents who dismally failed to act so as to promote their ends can turn out to be rational (specifically, when their inadvertently further the aims of science).

Hmm, can zombies be agents?
9th-Mar-2016 01:32 pm - Where the great ones tremble
Why did I forget how much I love Patti Smith?

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4th-Mar-2016 04:04 pm - Conned
Wow, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who thinks Trump is a con artist! Thank goodness!

Marco Rubio is right: Donald Trump is a con man

It's also worth pointing out: one of Trump's methods for riling up the public and trying to get them on his side is by pointing fingers at the ominous and sinister "they"!
Who's "they"?
Oh, that's right, it's "the establishment".
What exactly do you think you're talking about when you talk about "the establishment"?

Yeah, it's nice fiction, isn't it? When you need someone else to blame for… you know, stuff.
And when you want to take advantage of vulnerable people and manipulate them for your own selfish purposes.

"The biggest liar in the world is 'They Say'."
–the lumberman's poet, Douglas Malloch.
4th-Mar-2016 12:28 pm - Shame on America
Meant to get this posted sooner…
Perhaps worth pointing out a few things I said in a previous post.

New Yorker Politics and More Podcast: The Front Runners

Slate Political Gabfest: That really was a Super Tuesday

It truly boggles my mind how so many people in this country can blindly eat up every word Trump says, when he has a well-known record of lying and when there is blatant evidence that he lies. And it truly boggles my mind how so many people in this country can think that a deeply egotistical billionaire "identifies" with the common folk who are struggling and are tired of struggling, when, if he weren't running for office, he'd be calling all of you loser scum sucking the life out of the country. Or some other such stupid insult, which is about all he's good for.

Because Trump is the kind of character who thinks money is the only legitimate measure of a person: you're a winner, or a loser, and you only win if you're rich.
Not to mention that he pretty much admits that he thinks bribery and other such corruption is perfectly okay, since he has numerous times claimed to have "bought people off", because money gets you whatever you want.

So it utterly boggles my mind how so many people in this country can be so easily tricked and fooled when they proclaim that Trump is genuine and honest, and that he understands their anger and frustration and struggling. He's a goddamn billionaire, people, and an obnoxiously flamboyant and arrogant one at that; he does not understand you and your struggling and your frustration and your needs. It boggles my mind how people can fail to see that Trump, just like so many other politicians, is taking advantage of their high emotions and using and fueling those emotions in order to manipulate those people.

Because one thing Trump is not an idiot about is in knowing what the people he's dealing with want to hear, and he'll tell you whatever it is you need to hear in order for him to hook you.
He is fully taking advantage of how little some of the general population actually know and understand about politics and our particular political system, about the economy, about our recent history, and just about what goes on in general. And so he's lying to their faces, he makes things up, and yet so many people just take his word for it, whatever it is, because they don't know any better, and they put their trust in him. And in that sense, Trump is a con artist, and has conned a whole bunch of the American public. And what is worse is that he's managed to get them to con themselves, because every time Trump is criticized by anyone for anything, every time anyone points out negative and undesirable facts about him, Trump supporters leap forward ever more zealous.

Can't anyone see that Trump is planting in fertile grounds the kinds of seeds that grow into dangerous extremism?

It is truly sad that Trump has been able to drag the Republican Party to all time low in turning the nominee campaign into a campaign run on trading childish insults in a showdown of inflated egos.
I have never been in support of the Republican Party in any way, and nor can I imagine ever giving my support, and yet, even I, right now, feel embarrassed for the GOP.

And more broadly, I feel embarrassed for our whole country, that we have allowed and are allowing the campaign for our "highest" political office to be turned into a despicable mockery of itself.

But what I feel even more is fear about what this, and the support for someone who's not only completely lacking in the qualifications needed for being the leader of this country, but also, who's looking more and more like an unapologetic racist and misogynist, in addition to already being known for being a bully and a manipulative liar, reveals about what our country is becoming. Even if his support is much much smaller than he pretends and proclaims it to be, the fact that it's enough to get him this far is … I don't even know what words can capture this feeling.

It's like the scariest horror movie you can imagine, but worse, not just because it's real, but because it reminds us that the horrors of reality are nothing like how we imagine horror to be, and thus, they are able to creep up on us because we never see them coming and often don't even notice when they're already here, until it's much too late.

.there are things worse than death.
24th-Feb-2016 10:45 pm - Perhaps I am haunted by myself
17 December 2009

The other night, I dreamt of a woman bleeding to death.
Something weird happened, she was badly wounded, but far worse than we first realized, than we first thought.  Before I was aware of how bad it was, she, sitting on the ground, called out to me in a dazed, weakening voice, "Cheryl, I'm drowning in a pool of blood."  I turned around, and she was bleeding very badly, and I could tell she was losing blood too quickly, as she was mentally fading.  I knew then that it was too bad a wound and she was bleeding way too much, that she wasn't going to live.  She was scared, but at the same time, she was too weak and too out of it to panic or freak out or fight against death.  I felt bad, because in some way, I felt responsible, even though, in some sense, it was some weird accident.  I knew I couldn't save her – even if I tried to call an ambulance, there wasn't enough time.  In some way, it seemed that maybe she knew she was going to die, but she was accepting of it, that she knew it was too late, even though she was scared, and even though she didn't want to die.  Since I knew I couldn't save her, I wanted to comfort her.  I tried to just hold her, rocking her.  And I felt like, it was better this way, that she just go ahead and die, not because I wanted her to, not at all, but just, that it would be better, somehow.  So I just sat there with her, with my arms around her shoulders, her head resting on my chest, her arms around my waist, rocking her back and forth as she bled and slowly faded.

I woke before she died.

I wrote that in an email on that date.
I forgot all about that dream; but after reading what I wrote, it all came back vividly.
You might wonder, who was she? Well she wasn't anyone in particular whom I had known either then or before. In the context of the dream, she wasn't someone I knew and wasn't one of the people I was with. But, the moment I saw her, I felt an immediate awareness (knowledge) that, in some sense, in some way, she was mine. I will leave that to be vague and ambiguous, since it was a vague and ambiguous feeling in the dream; and I will only note that she didn't look all that different from me.
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