Log in

No account? Create an account
Un Obscura Laberinto
The Ocean is Troubled to its Depths
1st-May-2018 02:25 pm - In Defense of James Comey: Prelude
pion-muon decay

While I did say I wouldn't be posting here anymore, I am willing to make exceptions (for a little while anyway) for things I deem very important.
4th-Apr-2018 07:48 pm - This will be no more
pion-muon decay
I will no longer be using Livejournal. I am moving my blog to Blogger: https://obscuralaberinto.blogspot.com/
This blog will stay up while I go through the very tedious process of moving all old posts to Blogger.
11th-Mar-2018 12:39 pm - Getting to know Jupiter
pion-muon decay
The fact that we mere humans engaging in and utilizing science(s) can build and send machines to low-Jupiter orbit and continue to communicate with those machines and receive data they collect is most certainly a testament to the epistemic standing and credibility of science(s) as a collection of investigative methods for gaining knowledge and understanding that towers above the epistemic standing and credibility of just about every other method intended for gaining knowledge and understanding.

We had no idea that Jupiter's poles are such complex cyclonic storm systems! https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180308.html (Note: that's an infrared (composite) image; i.e. not the coloring we would see with our own eyes (or instruments calibrated to the light wavelengths equivalent to our eyes). In other words, read the caption to the image.)

Everything more about the Juno Mission:

It is also worth checking out NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/index.php

And, as a side note, because I can't resist pointing it out:
The generous amounts of openness and transparency with which all of this kind of scientific research is done is more than enough to diffuse the plethora of conspiracy "theories" about anything to do with any of this kind of scientific research and work. And I have to put scare quotes around 'theories' because they don't deserve to be called theories, because they're really just a bunch of hypotheses strung together with a few or more facts that are cleverly misrepresented and misconstrued, while other facts are intentionally ignored. To be called a theory requires meeting some rather rigorous and stringent standards and criteria, which includes, by the way, being open to modification (or even replacement) due to new and well-confirmed findings (data, experimental results, discoveries, etc.).

[trying to get back into the habit of writing and posting]
9th-Jan-2018 02:25 pm - 2020
self inflicted
Okay, I get why tons of people are in favour of Oprah running in 2020…
In the very least, I will say this:
We were extremely concerned about Trump's conflicts of interest. Now, if there's anyone who actually has what you might want to call a powerful business / financial empire – as opposed to someone who merely desperately tries to convince you that he does – it's Oprah.

So, shouldn't we be just a tad bit concerned about Ms. Oprah's conflicts of interest?

Now, what about Tom Hanks? At this point – I have no problem saying that I have little information here – I have no reason to think he wouldn't make a good President or Vice President…
Ya, it's been far too long since I've written anything. For now, I wanted to share one of my new favourite podcasts, and share episodes from two other podcasts because the topics and discussions are deeply fascinating and important.

This Week in Evolution
Admittedly the topics and discussions are very science-heavy and can get rather technical – these are real and practicing scientists after all – but if you have enough background knowledge to follow it and understand both what they're saying and the implications of it, it's great stuff.
I also appreciate that they talk about scientific practice, i.e., what scientists actually do, what it's like working in this or that lab with a team of other scientists, how scientists collaborate with each other, how they get funding, the process of writing up their findings and getting them published, what fieldwork is like, the kind of equipment they use, their methodologies, and perhaps most importantly, when they get things wrong, when they make mistakes, when things turn out very differently from what they expected, etc., and how they proceed forward from that, what they learn from it, what silver linings they find, what new questions are opened, and so on. And of course, much of that is coming from their own personal experiences as scientists. Getting that "side of the story", so to speak, can be very helpful and eye-opening to the rest of us non-scientists to understand science better. (And I use the word "science" there as a catch-all term to include: scientists, scientific practices, scientific research, experiments and studies, scientific findings, scientific publications, scientific hypotheses, scientific theories, scientific claims, scientific knowledge, the applications of scientific findings and scientific knowledge, etc.)

An episode from Vox's The Weeds: Why is U.S. life expectancy falling? Plus, political elites are biased about what they think the general public thinks; and, why pushing for unpopular policy is bad for democracy.
Very thought-provoking stuff there.

An episode from The Intercept's Intercepted: All the news unfit to print: James Risen on his battles with Bush, Obama, and the New York Times
From the intro:
"James Risen is a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism. As a reporter for the New York Times, Risen broke some of the most important stories of the post 9/11 era, from the warrantless surveillance against Americans conducted under the Bush-Cheney administration, to black prison sites run by the CIA, to failed covert actions in Iran. Risen has won the Pulitzer and other major journalism awards. But perhaps what he is now most famous for is fighting a battle under both the Bush and Obama administrations as they demanded — under threat of imprisonment —the name of one of Risen’s alleged confidential sources. In the end, Risen prevailed and refused to testify and he was not locked up. But during the course of his case, there were rulings that could have far reaching implications for journalists, particularly in a climate where the president of the United States is characterizing news outlets as enemies of the people, contemplating arresting reporters, and is conducting at least 27 leak investigations. All before the end of his first year in office."

But more importantly, think!
17th-Aug-2017 06:56 pm - It's beautiful to watch, isn't it?
Donald Trump, you are going to go down in flames. And while the whole world is watching.

[You love being the center of attention, don't you?]
Vox's The Weeds Podcast try their hand at figuring that out: http://traffic.megaphone.fm/PP9079033447.mp3 Are they right? I haven't the slightest clue. Which is why I'll be very interested to hear what others who are much closer to being experts than I am have to say about it.
Just as Trump suddenly discovered, despite everyone else already knowing it, all this healthcare stuff is very complicated and very complex, and the economic, political, and social consequences are not always obvious, and sometimes not what you'd expect.

[I've been doing rather terribly. When I will ever write again, I have no idea. I'm not sure there's much of a point anymore.]
pion-muon decay
Most recent episode of Vox's The Weeds podcast is particularly interesting this week.
Link directly to .mp3 file: http://traffic.megaphone.fm/PP7756593704.mp3
What the hell is going on in the White House, Trump? I suspect he hasn't a clue. Keep your attention on all of this, America, because we're all going to get to see just how unfit Trump is for this job and how incompetent he and his administration and "team" are.

[Eventually I'll post a substantive entry of some kind. I've now got a very old laptop as a temporary stand-in for my computer. It's good enough - for now - for the absolute barest minimum of my needs. But there's so little I can do with it that it's rather depressing, which leaves me with little motivation to get on it.]
pion-muon decay
I see now why Trump made conflicts of interest such an attack against Clinton: Trump is loaded with conflicts of interest himself.

Please, I beg of you to read this article in its entirety. Jared Kushner, a Trump In-Law and Adviser, Chases a Chinese Deal I know it's very long, but the citizens of this country need to know about Trump's financial and business interests, conflicts of interest, and how entangled they are in politics, especially international politics, and potential policy that he will try to put forward. His behavior is, frankly, unbelievable. He still refuses to release his tax returns, claiming Americans don't care about that, only the "crooked" media does; and he proudly states openly that the laws do not actually prohibit the president from having financial and business conflicts of interest, and that he could legally run the country while also being involved in those financial and business conflicts of interest. And he may be right about that! It may actually be legal! But does that mean the American public - who are supposed to be the major interest in our democratic government! - should just accept that as perfectly okay? Just because something is legal does not make it right and just. After all, laws are regularly challenged for being unjust, and if the courts agree that they are, then they are changed. That's how things are supposed to work.

Point being: we all need to stay on top of this, and pay attention, and not allow him to screw over the American public, and utilize his position and power to benefit himself and his family, which he will very likely attempt to do, given his entire history of behavior regarding his financial and business interests.
2nd-Jan-2017 09:13 am - In the mood of Beckett
Aside from all the other bad, difficult and challenging things, and the madness and depression of my life the past several months, my computer broke down a little over a month ago. Since my situation does not afford me the possibility of even trying to see if it could be fixed, or of getting a new one, I am still without a computer, and expect to be for a little while.
Samuel Beckett
what would I do without this world faceless incurious
where to be lasts but an instant where every instant
spills in the void the ignorance of having been
without this wave where in the end
body and shadow together are engulfed
what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die
the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love
without this sky that soars
above its ballast dust

what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness

my way is in the sand flowing
between the shingle and the dune
the summer rain rains on my life
on me my life harrying fleeing
to its beginning to its end

my peace is there in the receding mist
when I may cease from treading these long shifting thresholds
and live the space of a door
that opens and shuts
16th-Nov-2016 01:52 pm - Social media
pion-muon decay
Hearing more and more about this issue/controversy/debate regarding the algorithmic filtration of people's "news feeds" on facebook, the reactions (including feelings) people are having to the gradual realization that their own views and perspectives have been shaped by a filter that they not only had no say in, but never knew about, and then realizing that that is just as true for everyone else on facebook, and then realizing what that means or might mean given the fact that facebook is one of the main places of interaction between people … add to that the similar world of Twitter, the impacts that Twitter is having on people's views and on their lives, and then people's gradual realization of that fact, … :

I have to say, it makes me very grateful that I'm neither on facebook nor on Twitter.
Very grateful.
In fact, a big part of the reason I got off facebook six years ago was precisely because of how much undesirable, unnecessary, and useless influence it was having on me and my day to day life. And avoiding that was a big part of the reason why I never signed up for Twitter.

I've never felt more grateful for being so cut off from what the majority of other people are socially involved in.
But it doesn't make me feel better. Because I am very much aware of the damage it – what the majority of other people are socially involved in – has done, that damage coming in many degrees and in many varieties.

But do not misunderstand me: I am well aware of the good and positive things that have and do come out of facebook and Twitter. Like most things, they're not inherently good or bad; because it all depends on how they're used. But that doesn't make me feel any better either.
pion-muon decay
Things are still crazy and bad in the personal realm, so it's very challenging finding the mental and emotional space in which it's possible for me to write, and having that coincide with the right timing. But I came across this article by chance, and it seems worth sharing, because my first reaction to the headline was, "wait, what??", until I realized that it was actually written back in March. However! The sub-headline immediately roused another "wait, what??", so then I had to read it even though it's not recently written.

Here's that sub-headline: "Maybe — just this once — state legislators should use their constitutional authority and change how we elect the president." So my continuing reaction while reading was a mixture of more "what??", surprise, bewilderment, and a building sense of wondering I'm not even sure what. But I certainly wasn't aware of how much more there is to the Electoral College, and I presume that most people aren't either.

So how come we, the citizens, never hear any discussion or reporting on these deeper aspects of the Electoral College? Are most of the people who work in media and journalism unaware, too? Because, well, this seems like more going on "behind the scenes" in terms of actual presidential election, but not because it's supposed to go on behind the scenes, just that it does go on "behind the scenes" just because nobody talks about it. I don't know, I guess I'm slightly bothered by it, but I don't really know what to think, but it seems like something we all should be much more aware of, and something that should be talked about.

The electoral college could still stop Trump, even if he wins the popular vote: Maybe — just this once — state legislators should use their constitutional authority and change how we elect the president.

Really, it's worth reading it. It's not just the popular vote vs. electoral vote; this is much deeper.
This thought has occurred to me on several occasions: Perhaps the appeal of Trump is just another symptom of a current trend in our culture: being against experts, against those who have legitimate authority, and who are thus the most qualified, on certain topics or in certain fields. In my oh so humble opinion, choosing Trump because you think his being a political outsider is a good thing and is what's going to "fix all of our problems", is like choosing a witch doctor (or a naturopath!) instead of an oncologist when you find out you have, or your closest loved one has, cancer.

But, I digress from what I initially intended to be posting. I think this is definitely worth considering the topic for discussion:
Civility at the core of American democracy, whatever politicians say
It's not in-depth, it's not very specific. I just think it's worth looking at because, in the very least, it puts onto the table for discussion something that I think is most probably, when we dig down to basics and fundamentals, common ground between all or nearly all of us, regardless of our political views and perspectives and feelings and backgrounds.

Tangentially related, I highly recommend John Dickerson's podcast Whistlestop: "a podcast of campaign curiosities" from history, revisiting "moments from the American quadrennial carnival. Hear about the grand speeches, emergency strategies, baby kissing, and backstabbing that make each presidential election cycle so fascinating."

John Dickerson, I would like to point out, is a political journalist par excellence. If you've never listened to him or read any of his work, you really ought to, because he truly is an example of how political journalism ought to be done and how a political journalist ought to speak, ask questions, and behave. (I actually find him rather pleasant to listen to, because he has a really nice voice, and just because of the way he speaks.) This, from the Wiki page, is spot on: "The Washington Post once wrote about his style of asking questions: 'The master of the game is John Dickerson of Time magazine, who has knocked Bush [George W.] off script so many times that his colleagues have coined a term for cleverly worded, seemingly harmless, but incisive questions: "Dickersonian."'" He is the political director of CBS News, host of Face the Nation on CBS, and a political columnist for Slate magazine; he used to write for Time magazine.
self inflicted
The rhetoric these days is heavier and thicker than ever.
But people are letting themselves be fooled, too. Why?

BBC Documentary (podcast): Change in America
[Edited @ 10:00 Eastern, 4 Nov, edit flagged in list below.] (Due to a change in some circumstances – a change that is not good, though – I might actually have some time to add more to this today.)
[Edited @ 7:36 Eastern, 4 Nov, edit flagged in list of articles below.]
[Edited @ 22:45 Eastern, see end of post.]

I've been meaning to post these for awhile, with some of my own comments, but things in and around my life have been bad, very bad, worse, and potentially getting more worse, so I haven't had the time nor the mental space. But I have to get this out there.

Donald Trump’s Companies Destroyed Emails in Defiance of Court Orders Yes, it's long, but it's so worth reading, because people really need to know who Trump really is and what he is really like, and this is a very, very good representation.

How Donald Trump Ditched U.S. Steel Workers in Favor of China Trump really does have quite a history of screwing over workers, too.

In 2007, Trump was forced to face his own falsehoods. And he did, 30 times.

[Edited @ 7:36 Eastern, 4 Nov]
I just remembered this gem: Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All: “The Art of the Deal” made America see Trump as a charmer with an unfailing knack for business. Tony Schwartz helped create that myth—and regrets it. [/edit]

Trump Has 75 Ongoing Legal Battles -- Which Media Are Ignoring During Their Breathless FBI Letter Coverage

This is truly frightening! But this is exactly what we should all expect from him!
Trump's kitchen Cabinet: The nominee leans on like-minded CEOs, many of whom he's known for years. CEOs of big industry companies, including ones in oil and possibly coal? Please, America, wake up and realize how much more elitist and corrupt and tied to big business interests Trump is than Clinton could ever possibly be. (That's another problem: y'all think you know Clinton, but the fact is, few people of the general public really know what she's actually done and accomplished and how she operates. Because they're too lazy to find out, and too willing to just follow the childish sensationalism.)

[Edited @ 10:00, 4 Nov]
I know a lot of people are in denial about Trump's relationship with Russia, but, there is something there, and it's extremely frightening. Why Vladimir Putin’s Russia Is Backing Donald Trump Again, I know it's long, but worth the read. [/edit]

I cannot possibly recommend a better podcast right now. This has been so full of useful information I probably would never have come across anywhere else. Slate's Trumpcast A few episodes are with authors who've either written for Trump – because he didn't actually write any of the books that bear his name, nor has he even read them! – or about him, and they are very revealing because those authors got to spend a lot of time with Trump, getting to know him very, very well. I wish I had the time right now to link to them specifically, but circumstances just aren't permitting right now.

Equally, I wish I could post some articles on Clinton. I doubt I'll have time tomorrow, but perhaps there's a slim chance. The only reason I'm able to slap this up at the moment is that I already had the list of links on hand, because I was planning on sending them to someone. I just haven't had the chance to compile a list on Clinton, which I'd hoped to do for that same person.

Actually, this podcast has been equally great and informative: Slate's Political Gabfest

Okay. I'm exhausted. Mental mess.

[Edit follows]

Here's at least one brief piece on the Clinton Foundation that I just now happened across. It's not much, but if you really listen to what Clinton says about the supposed appearance of "pay to play", and if you take a step back and an honest look at how organizations such as charities operate and behave, it's not only normal, it's perfectly legitimate and perfectly fine. The accusations (by Trump and others who oppose her) of "pay to play" are hot air; and they are playing off of the public's lack of knowledge and background information on these sorts of things in order to disinform you. Trump and his ilk do it constantly: they're counting on people's ignorance in order to take advantage of them and manipulate them by using their ignorance to make them believe things that are false, or deliberate misunderstandings, or disinformation, or just plain don't even make any sense because they just fail to refer to reality in any meaningful way. Anyway, I'm putting too much into this right now, so here it is:
Despite Trump's Claims, Evidence From FBI's Clinton Foundation Probe 'Not Impressive,' Sources Say
28th-Oct-2016 12:54 pm - The Secret Lives of Bats
spaces in between
I haven't even listened to this podcast yet, but it's about bats, so it's got to be good, right?

Inquiring Minds: Episode 153: Merlin Tuttle: The Secret Lives of Bats
Or, on Soundcloud, if you prefer.

Bats are truly amazing animals, utterly underappreciated by too many people because of dumb myths and just plain falsehoods about them.
No, they're not going to get caught in your hair. The fact of the matter is that bats, especially the small ones, are the best, most skilled and most precise fliers in the entire animal kingdom. (You certainly don't ever worry about birds getting caught in your hair! Why would you think bats would while birds won't?) They're so good and so precise, they'll easily dodge you and whip by you so fast you won't even realize what just happened. I have been in the woods with bats flying around, flying right past me, around me, and even crossing my path right in front of me while I was walking. I've been in the same room(!), more than once, with a bat flying around because it somehow accidentally got inside, and didn't know how to get out; but it sure didn't have a problem flying around and not flying into anything.
Maybe you don't like bats just because you think they're ugly. (You can't think this is ugly, now can you?) I would bet that the ones you'd probably think are ugly are the ones with really weirdly shaped faces. Well, I'd ask you to take a moment to appreciate that those faces evolved as instruments for echolocation, especially for helping the bat focus their calls, and possibly helping to increase the power of the call. A call so powerful, mind you, from such a tiny little thing, that if you could hear it, it would be as loud as a jet engine! So, those little strange faces that a lot of people think are ugly are rather a lovely example of the beauty of evolution.

Oh, and by the way, bats do not have poor vision. They can see quite well, actually; a hell of a lot better than you can in very low light, which is what their eyesight evolved for. So on top of being able to "see" extremely well using their echolocation, they can also see just fine using their pretty acute eyesight.
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.

spaces in between
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?
spaces in between
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.
spaces in between
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)
spaces in between
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.
spaces in between
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.
This page was loaded Oct 22nd 2019, 9:47 am GMT.