pion-muon decay

Ivory ––> Panama?

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

"Journalists owe democracy their allegiance"

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"?

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!
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Avian Intelligence, Part II

(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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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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self inflicted

The mask I still wear, despite having thrown it away a long time ago

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.
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Avian Intelligence, Part I

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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