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Topics - Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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1
I've never read his books, but they were on my list. However, I am not so sure I can trust his analyses, considering his apparent behavior toward people with whom he disagrees.

http://violentmetaphors.com/2015/08/14/good-science-communication-means-never-calling-them-retard-even-if-youre-nassim-taleb/

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Communicating science to people who aren’t scientists is very hard to do well. Nassim Taleb should be very good at it, based on his enormous book sales and even more enormous opinion of his own skills. But we all have our demons, and Taleb has succumbed to his. Rather than encouraging a healthy discussion about science, he’s picked a side and declared all-out war on the people who disagree with him. Taleb even admits that his strategy is to prevent conversations from happening by abusing and insulting people who question him, and encouraging his followers to join in. What’s the point of that strategy? It doesn’t help communicate science, resolve legitimate questions about the facts, or even address the supposedly evil motives of his critics. All it really does is feel good. Nassim Taleb has chosen self-gratification over real engagement. Let’s talk about why that’s unproductive and unethical.

Taleb has been kicking up the dust lately on Facebook and Twitter, encouraging his readers to not even listen to people who disagree with his beliefs about GMOs. I caught an edge of it when I saw his contemptuous remarks about a scientist I follow, Kevin Folta:


Another example:




Actually, when I saw this, my first thought was to investigate whether it was true; apparently, it is. Or, perhaps, Taleb is embarking on some sort of new experiment. So I looked for some other sources:

http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/11/03/is-nassim-taleb-a-dangerous-imbecile-or-just-on-the-pay-of-the-anti-gmo-mafia/

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If you think the headline of this blog is unnecessarily inflammatory, you are right. It’s an ad hominem way to deal with public discourse, and it’s unfair to Nassim Taleb, the New York University statistician and risk analyst. I’m using it to make a point–because it’s Taleb himself who regularly invokes such ugly characterizations of others.

Taleb rocketed to seer and cult celebrity status after his 2007 book on extreme risk, The Black Swan, was followed serendipitously by the 2008 global market crash and Great Recession.

Taleb has recently become the darling of GMO opponents. He and four colleagues–Yaneer Bar-Yam, Rupert Read, Raphael Douady and Joseph Norman–wrote a paper, The Precautionary Principle (with Application to the Genetic Modification of Organisms, released last May and updated last month, in which they claim to bring risk theory and the Precautionary Principle to the issue of whether GMOS might introduce “systemic risk” into the environment. Taleb portrays GMOs as a ‘castrophe in waiting’–and has taken to personally lashing out at those who challenge his conclusions–and yes, calling them “imbeciles” or paid shills.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2014/11/01/nassim-taleb-venomous-twitter/

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Watching Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and other books, engage on twitter, is like being ringside at a verbal boxing match with the intellectual equivalent of Clubber Lang, the snarling, contemptuous boxer played by Mr. T in Rocky 3. In the movie, Clubber Lang was so mean and nasty the performance was almost a parody.

When you see Taleb go ballistic on Twitter, as he often does, you wonder similarly if the guy is truly an angry asshole of the highest order, or if it’s just some performance schtick by an egghead scholar trying to liven up his day. Then again, he can’t seem to help himself: The guy did get into it one time with a parody Twitter account. As one observer noted:

Taleb has a propensity for being quite combative on Twitter, on topics ranging from bonds to GMOs, and Taleb will fight with just about anybody.

Yeah, you could say that again. Some people, such as the economist Noah Smith, make allowances for Taleb’s bad behavior:

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Nassim Taleb is a vulgar bombastic windbag, and I like him a lot.

But Taleb is more than just a venomous, preening, brawler. It’s not enough for him to slug it out with real and imagined adversaries (including journalists). He has to smear their reputations with innuendo. I learned this myself when I engaged with Taleb some months ago. I saw that he was circulating a paper on GMOs and I asked to interview him. He declined and then asked:

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!! RT @nntaleb: @keithkloor BTW do you get (indirect) funding from GMO corporations? Can you state this here (which is on the record)?

— keith kloor (@keithkloor) August 13, 2014

What the hell, Taleb? Is he trying to coattail on Dawkins' enormous success at being a complete asspipe?

2
NOTHING. NOTHING MAKES US DIFFERENT.

At least, not in the way  the question is most often posed. In many psychology books, operating on a philosophy that is straight outta 1896, you will see again and again statements like "This makes humans unique among the animals of the world". This statement is almost always unequivocally false.

There is no one thing, no great difference, that makes humans different from other animals. Nothing that is biologically derived, anyway; you could argue that no other animal wears pants, and you would probably be correct, but given Nature's history of proving us wrong, eventually we'd probably discover some small Amazonian beetle that weaves pants for its young out of caterpillar silk. Other animals have culture, other animals have language, other animals use tools, other animals have enormous frontal lobes. There is simply no one thing that is so special about humans that we can hold it up like a trophy, some sort of divine symbol that we stand apart from all the other species. In all ways, our differences are emergent and in measures of degree, using different versions of the same structures present in other animals in ways that make us unique-- just like all the other animals.

I would like to see the "What makes humans unique and different from all other animals?" question put to bed forever. It is an irrelevant question, it asks nothing useful and there is no useful or enlightening answer. Seeking one fundamental difference, something which we share with no other creature, is a philosophical and scientific dead-end; and at this point, philosophy has nowhere to go if it fails to embrace science. "What makes us different from all the other animals?" is a question as deep and as elucidating as "What makes a horse different from a badger?"

If we can't be satisfied with that, we probably aren't ready to move forward in asking the more significant question, not of what sets us apart, but of how we fit in.

3
I don't know if any of you guys are familiar with the slightly baffling love affair that Portlanders have with the absolutely hideous PDX airport carpet, or the outcry and grief  that has ensued over the fact that it was recently replaced, but I just found out that there is an art gallery exhibit honoring and eulogizing the iconic carpet of PDX. http://www.oregonlive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/07/pdx_carpet_exhibit.html



I can't say that I completely understand it, but there you go.

4
YOU WILL LOVE THIS.

http://themuse.jezebel.com/guess-what-motherfuckers-uncle-ezra-ray-is-coming-to-t-1713077344

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It’s a remarkable performance

...about says it all.

5
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / HAY THE JOHNNY
« on: June 24, 2015, 02:22:01 am »
It turns out that on September 8th, I will be in Mexico City overnight; my plane comes in in the early afternoon and I fly out the next morning at 7 am. It seems like it would be a shame to be there and not try to meet up with you! I also wondered if you could recommend a safe but cheap place to stay?

6
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / I PITY THE TREES
« on: June 10, 2015, 07:05:31 pm »
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In July 1976, Tureaud's platoon sergeant punished him by giving him the detail of chopping down trees during training camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, but did not tell him how many trees, so Tureaud single-handedly chopped down over seventy trees from 6:30 am to 10:00 am, until a shocked major superseded the sergeant's orders.

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In 1987, he angered the residents of a Chicago suburb, Lake Forest, by cutting down more than a hundred oak trees on his estate. The incident is now referred to as The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._T

What the hell does Mr. T have against trees?

Also,


7
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / HA. AHAHAHAHAHAHA.
« on: June 05, 2015, 03:19:30 pm »

8
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Facebook is dying
« on: June 03, 2015, 04:38:58 pm »
About six months ago, I noticed something about Facebook: it was slow. I don't mean that I was getting fewer "likes" or that I had less crap in my feed; those things haven't really changed. But conversation in groups has dropped off sharply, and most telling, popular groups that had been gaining new members daily -- sometimes by the hundreds -- started having slower membership gains. Then they plateaued. And now they are declining. Post reach dropped precipitously, I suspect as part of Facebook's efforts to convince group and page owners to pay for visibility. It's funny that after all these years, they still don't understand  how the internet works.

I've seen this before. I saw it with dialup BBSes, and with newsgroups, and with pay-per-month web services, and with free webforums. I've been waiting for it, because frankly, Facebook is a shitty, shitty platform for online discussion, and discussion has always been my main motivation for being online.

I went looking to see what the Web had to say about Facebook's user numbers, and found these:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3025273/fast-feed/study-facebook-will-lose-80-of-its-users-by-2017

http://www.dailydot.com/technology/facebook-teen-stats-fall-2014/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2015/01/27/facebook-active-users-decline/

http://venturebeat.com/2015/02/27/facebooks-active-users-arent-so-active-anymore-says-survey-data/

I can't say I'll be sorry to see it go.

11
http://www.amazon.com/Live-Cat-Toy-House-Large/dp/B00WCHQYTU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432520172&sr=8-1&keywords=live+cat+toys

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Live Cat Toy - One House Fly
by LiveCatToys.com
   6 customer reviews 
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Available from these sellers.
Size: Large
"Captain Goldbloomer": The All-Natural, Battery-Free Live Cat Toy
Cats are mesmerized by house flies
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You will receive one large Blue Bottle house fly in an attractive, transparent container
Yes, this house fly will be alive and buzzing!
1 new from $2.99

12
The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / Swingers
« on: May 24, 2015, 10:42:58 pm »
So my housemate had an experience last night which helped me pinpoint exactly why I am skeeved out by swingers. At least, by people in the Portland swinger scene.

A woman contacted him on OK Cupid and explained that she and her husband are poly, and she is looking for a new boyfriend. So far so good, right? That is pretty much Portland standard. They chatted a bit, and she asked him whether he'd like to meet the two of them for a drink. Sort of an unconventional date, but I was like, hey sure whatever, why not? Then he asked me if I knew where the Bungalo bar is, and I was like, oh, are they swingers? Because that place hosts a lot of swinger events. He assured me that they were not, so I wished him luck and off he went.

Texted me an hour later with "They are totally swingers! I'm out of here."

So he came home and told me about how it was a swinger event, and for the brief time he was there he had to fend off several people who were aggressively hitting on him. We laughed about it a bit, he went to bed, and this morning got up really early to go fishing in a remote spot on the mountain.

When he came home from fishing, he told me that when he returned to cell range he had EIGHTEEN texts from the woman, inviting him to another event, telling him how lucky he is to be part of the group because they don't usually invite men, and how he'll have more fun at this one because her ladies like him. She apparently also told him that the whole group got kicked out of the next bar they went to because "they didn't like our lifestyle" and patrons were complaining about them making them uncomfortable.

Lady, it's not your lifestyle that was making people uncomfortable. Nobody fucking cares about your lifestyle. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that it was your behavior.

So in short, this woman:

-lied to my housemate about the nature of her relationship
-lied about what she and her husband were looking for
-deliberately misled him in order to get him to come to a swinger party
-did not pick up on the fact that she had put him in an uncomfortable position
-did not recognize that leaving after one beer was a signal of non-interest
-EIGHTEEN TEXT MESSAGES?

And that's when it crystallized for me. The thing about the swingers I've met is that they just plain don't respect other people's boundaries. Maybe they can't see them, maybe they don't care, but the net effect is the same; they tend to assume that the absence of no is yes, and that underneath no is yes if they just keep pushing. And they seem to think it's cute, and edgy, and that the reason people don't like them is because of their lifestyle, rather than because of their behavior.

For the most part, nobody gives any fucks if you have a lot of sex with different people. People start giving fucks when you lie, pressure, manipulate, and cross boundaries in pursuit of having a lot of sex with THEM.

13
http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/05/new-neural-implant-reads-a-persons-intentions-to-control-robotic-arm/

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Erik Sorto, 34, has been paralysed from the neck down for the past 13 years. However, thanks to a ground-breaking clinical trial, he has been able to smoothly drink a bottle of beer using a robotic arm controlled with a brain implant. He isn't the first patient to control an arm with a neural prosthetic device. But this represents the first time the implant was placed in a region of the brain thought to control the intention to perform movements, rather than the ensuing mechanics of movement. This difference created surprisingly natural movements and has the potential to work for multiple robotic limbs.

14
We really need laws that prohibit the exploitation of children as performers. Just as there's no good reason to have underage children working in our factories, there is no good reason to have them working on our stages.

15
Perhaps a few of you remember a couple of years ago, when I posted about an unwitting motorist getting stuck in the bike lane on Williams while trying to turn right, and getting screamed at by a bicyclist who refused to move when the light turned green, based on some principle of which apparently only he (and MMIX, who proceeded to inform me that I was wrong about the whole incident based entirely on looking at the street on Google Earth) were aware?

Well, in the ongoing saga of bike lane development here in Portland, the city has resolved that issue by simply moving the bike lane to the LEFT side of the street, and making it a combined bike/turn lane.

Which of course, is perfectly safe and makes all the sense in the world [/sarcasm].

It has certainly gone some way toward cutting down on bike traffic on Williams and Vancouver, by virtue of making those former bicycle thoroughfares absolutely fucking terrifying.

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