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Topics - Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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Aneristic Illusions / When scientists troll
« on: December 31, 2016, 03:28:44 am »
An acquaintance of an acquaintance submitted this to one of those bullshit predatory journals, and they published it.


Beyond the wall / Space dogs
« on: November 25, 2016, 09:38:25 pm »
If human beings do manage to develop practical interstellar travel, it occurred to me that the ethical considerations of colonizing other planets are not completely dissimilar to those of colonizing other continents. I think that most of us will probably agree that invading and colonizing a planet already inhabited by intelligent life would be unethical. However, I don't see a ton of conversation space generally given to the ethics of colonizing a planet where there is life, but none that we recognize as "intelligent". This raises multiple questions, including how we define "intelligence", where we draw the line for ownership purposes, and also, even in the definite absence of intelligent life, is it ethical to colonize a pristine, unexploited ecosystem?

Further, why do we seem to assume that we have some sort of natural RIGHT to colonize other planets?

I would have to say that Ron Paul is about half a DK, and Unfunny Elvis is about two Prelate Diogenes Shandors, making him 1/5th of a DK.

Beyond the wall / Awesome art
« on: November 23, 2016, 04:24:00 pm »
This installation is badass and makes no sense.

Aneristic Illusions / General Trump hilarity free-for-all thread
« on: November 22, 2016, 04:26:22 pm »
This is good, but the best part has to be Alec Baldwin's response.

Techmology and Scientism / Somehow, not the future I saw coming.
« on: November 02, 2016, 03:50:55 am »

Spinach is no longer just a superfood: By embedding leaves with carbon nanotubes, MIT engineers have transformed spinach plants into sensors that can detect explosives and wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a smartphone.

This is one of the first demonstrations of engineering electronic systems into plants, an approach that the researchers call "plant nanobionics."

"The goal of plant nanobionics is to introduce nanoparticles into the plant to give it non-native functions," says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the leader of the research team.

In this case, the plants were designed to detect chemical compounds known as nitroaromatics, which are often used in landmines and other explosives. When one of these chemicals is present in the groundwater sampled naturally by the plant, carbon nanotubes embedded in the plant leaves emit a fluorescent signal that can be read with an infrared camera. The camera can be attached to a small computer similar to a smartphone, which then sends an email to the user.

Techmology and Scientism / Self-declared "empaths" and narcissism
« on: October 30, 2016, 03:34:51 pm »
Years ago, I stumbled across an article I've never been able to find again, about research in which people who declare themselves "empaths" tend to score low on the ability to correctly asses other people's emotional states and high on measures for self-interest; in other words, they tend to be less empathetic and more narcissistic than people who do not consider themselves "empaths", or able to read and feel other people's emotions. This jives well with my own observation that self-declared "empaths" are almost always malignant narcissists who seek attention and recognition. Unfortunately, it has taken me forever to find that article since, as the internet is so flooded by self-aggrandizing little articles and blog posts by "empaths" talking about what a terrible drain narcissists are on them.

However, in my searches I found this:

The tl;dr is that, unsurprisingly, most research shows that narcissists typically score low in empathy, but there is one exception; they tend to score high in empathy when it is linked to self-interest; if they are in an exploitative mindset or overall score high in the exploitative dimension of narcissism, they also tend to excel at correctly reading other people's emotional states.

To my delight, in the references of this paper I found the older one I was looking for:

Along with the Konrath paper, it definitely lends support for the idea that people who consider themselves "empaths" are more likely to be malignant, exploitative narcissists who tune in to other people's emotions when they might be able to take advantage of them, but are otherwise very disconnected from other people's emotional realities.

Aneristic Illusions / Ignorance, oppression, and gaslighting
« on: September 06, 2016, 03:34:57 pm »
I've been thinking a lot lately about willful ignorance as it relates to gaslighting and oppression. One incredibly common tactic that I have seen over and over and over again is the "I just don't understand, teach me" tactic, which makes sense when you are literally the only available expert, but no sense in the context of a thread in which it has already been explained and hashed out countless times, or there are information and articles readily available in a simple web search.

In these cases, particularly, the person requesting information is using it as a stalling or diversion tactic. They aren't interested in learning; they are interested in eating up your time and nitpicking your attempts at explanation until you give up. In many cases, it's also a power play; by maintaining ignorance and asking you to "teach" them, they are not only making you serve them, they are also making you responsible for whether they learn, and how much. It is a form of passive-aggressive bullying, it is manipulative, it is abusive, and in my opinion the only constructive response is to walk away from people who use this tactic.

This article really breaks it down well, in my opinion:

And this classic piece from the generally unimpressive Huff Po is quality:

If you don't know what gaslighting is, it's an abusive manipulation tactic:

Of course, there is also genuine, simple ignorance; the inability to know where to start. It's easy to tell the difference between simple ignorance and willful ignorance. With simple ignorance, if you point the person in the right general direction, they'll take the hint and run with it. These are the people who, when told to look something up or to just read the damn thread, just do. If they are sincerely interested in learning and are pointed toward learning tools, they use them. With willful ignorance, if you point them toward learning tools they protest that they just don't have time, that you're being rude, and continue arguing while simultaneously playing innocent and claiming that they just don't understand and why won't you just teach them.

If you use this tactic, whether you think you are deliberately gaslighting or not, you may want to reconsider whether it's really something you want in your debate repertoire. Being deliberately clueless is no way to win respect, or anything else.

Aneristic Illusions / Politically Correct
« on: February 14, 2016, 03:19:36 pm »
I saw this cartoon the other day that did a pretty accurate job of summing up my feelings about "Political Correctness".

And then I read this blog, which elaborates further:
“Warning — I’m going to say some things here that aren’t politically correct.”

Or, “Oh, I’d better be careful, I might upset the PC police.”

Or, in response to a complaint about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, “They’re just being politically correct, I’m so sick of all that PC nonsense.”

I hear this a lot. I hear it from writers, speakers, politicians, commentators, comedians. And I don’t just hear it from overtly douchey asshats. I also hear it from people who are generally smart, thoughtful, decent, and clearly wanting to do good.

I hear this a lot. And whenever I hear it, it’s like a red flag. It’s like a red flag attached to sirens and klaxons and flashing red lights. It’s like a guy on the side of the road jumping around with a giant sign — a sign that says, “This person is about to say something incredibly screwed-up.”

When you use the phrase “politically correct,” here’s what you’re saying.

You’re saying, “I want to be able to say things that are damaging — and I don’t want to be held accountable for it.”

You’re saying, “I don’t want to have to think very carefully about the things that I’m saying. I want to say whatever pops into my head — and I don’t want to think about whether it’s unfair, inaccurate, bigoted, or otherwise harmful.”

You’re saying, “I want to say whatever pops into my head — and I don’t want to think about whether it perpetuates harmful tropes or stereotypes.”

You’re saying, “In particular, I want to say whatever pops into my head about people who’ve gotten the short end of the stick for centuries — and I don’t want to think about whether the things I say are bashing them with that stick one more goddamn time.”

You’re saying, “When people speak up about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, I don’t want to have to think about the actual content of what they’re saying.”

You’re saying, “When people speak up about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, I’m not going to engage with the content of what they’re saying — I’m just going to dismiss it wholesale.”

You’re saying, “When people speak up about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, I’m not only going to dismiss what they’re saying — I’m going to trivialize the very idea of them speaking about it and asking people to change.”

Alty and I were talking about this the other day; those who demonize "political correctness" are essentially dinosaurs who are angry that their day of glory has passed. They don't want to have to THINK before they speak, and they resent being made to feel bad because they want to call people retarded as an insult. I get it; I grew up in the 80's. Some shitty habits are hard to break, but that doesn't mean they aren't shitty.

The thing is, these people are basically already dead, they just don't realize it. They are clinging with the last of their strength to a time past when they didn't have to think about how their own privilege colors their perception, or why they can't make decisions for everyone. They are intellectually stultified, and can't grasp the idea that other people have other perspectives which can be different from theirs without being inherently wrong. Because they can't comprehend that simple concept, they find any differing perspective a direct attack on themselves. The consider being told that they can't be the decider for other people's lives as offensive as being told that they can't be the decider for their own lives. It makes them feel... irrelevant.

Because they are.

Its too late for them. Their time has passed, and they are simply digging in their heels and trying to screech us back into the 20th century, when women were chicks, blacks were grateful, and retards were retards. Almost all of their objections to what they hatefully label political correctness are just different ways of saying "I DON'T WANT TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW". "I DON'T WANT TO SEE OTHER PERSPECTIVES". "I DON'T WANT TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND".

They are already dead, because living things can change.

Beyond the wall / Mansplaining: Why?
« on: December 31, 2015, 08:23:24 pm »
I am eyeballing a refurbished Macbook Pro, and mentioned it casually in a chat I'm in with a bunch of my friends. One friend, who is a delightful and lovely human being, is also terrible about mansplaining allll the time, and immediately after I posted the link to the computer in the chat, he started mansplaining to me about Macbooks, (incorrectly) answering questions I never asked. I know he is a well-meaning, warm, considerate person, but he does this, seemingly compulsively, even with subjects he knows I know far more about than he does.

He's not at all an exception; in my experience, the majority of men do this, and it seems almost reflexive. Not too long ago, I was on the phone with a guy who, when I mentioned that my car is on the fritz again, started mansplaining through a troubleshooting process despite the fact that I had already said that it was an old familiar problem on an old familiar car - one which I have dealt with before.

What I am wondering is what drives this? Is it driven by a deep-seated desire to help? Is it an ego thing? An authority issue? Women occasionally do it too, usually older women, but it's definitely far far more of a man thing.

If anyone here has ever caught themselves mansplaining or is aware that they do it, how would you describe the motivation for explaining something to someone who hasn't asked or otherwise indicated in any way  that they need an explanation?

Or Kill Me / Soft, warm little animals
« on: December 12, 2015, 01:33:35 am »
Something old I found while cleaning out my cloud to make room for new things. I don't recall posting it here before, so here it is. Written in 2011.

Dearest Hamish,

The bridges are singing only quietly, as it is summer, and the Dark Empress is the sanest she has ever been, for which the vagrants and hipsters, as well as Her minions, rejoice, even though we find it a bit unsettling. Not once has She visited her subterranean chambers this year, nor so much as opened the drawer in which Her dildoes and whips reside. The people of Portland are reasonably content, with a good outlook through August. Once September arrives, of course, things may change, but we can’t dwell too much on the future, can we?

The Dark Empress still thinks too much about the linguist, and we are eternally grateful for Doktor Howl’s efforts last year in helping lure him into joining with Her for a while. If the attempt failed, it was certainly through no lack of effort on the part of the supporting cabal, and we cannot overstate how much that means to us, even in this time of the Great Dampening of the Empress’ heart. We must be grateful for small blessings, for at least Her Joyful Wrath is stifled and that means many of us are spared Her great Festivities, which upon times would leave us limping and sore, if grateful to be alive.

Just a few days ago, the Empress met a gentleman in the park, and was greatly struck by his story, which She wishes to share. Twelve years ago, he was attacked because his friend danced in the club with a girl with a jealous ex-boyfriend. When they left the club, a group of men jumped them, and hit him in the head with a hammer, crushing his skull, and then viciously beat him, destroying his frontal lobe and leaving him in a coma for ten days. The man’s head does not look right, and is bisected with an impressively horrifying scar from the surgery wherein the surgeons attempted to reconstruct his forehead.  Otherwise, he is remarkably handsome; a gentle Frankenstein with a beautiful face and four young children.

You already know this story. Maybe not this story, but you know this story. These are the things that people do to each other, that make up part of the nature of humanity. There are movies about this viciousness, this terrible cruelty, made mostly by sheltered middle-class Europeans and Americans who find it a great novelty, a misery they can play Peeping Tom to. Some of us, of course, do not need to be voyeurs into the miseries the human ape inflicts upon its own. A book the Dark Empress was reading recently asked, think of the worst thing you can imagine another person inflicting upon another, the most unthinkable suffering. Something unimaginable. She put the book down and has not picked it up since, as there is no human-inflicted suffering that is not imaginable. Her dreams are already full of the Horrible Truth, there is no need to imagine.

Here is the thing; it is the Should Not Have. Because we humans, we blame the victim. The man says to himself, I Should Not Have uttered a racial epithet when I saw the men break my friend’s leg on the curb for dancing with a girl he had never seen before and would never see again. The woman says, I Should Not Have gone to that man’s house when I did not know him very well. The child says I Should Not Have let my friend’s uncle take me for a ride. And yet, they pay consequences that they did not earn. They pay the consequences of human brutality that they could never have earned, just for being human. The child who was molested pays the consequences in a lifetime of being unable to find good love, the man who is in the wrong place at the wrong time suffers mutilation and brain damage, the woman’s husband will not touch her after she is raped, the toddler who was born to the wrong mother is dead in the back seat of a car. How could anyone hold them accountable for the violence done to them? And yet, people do, and these are the gentlest of brutalities compared to what we do to our own. We set villages on fire. We starve children.

People watch movies about these things, for entertainment.

Our species invented evil.

The Dark Empress sees things when She is asleep that no person should see. She knows too many things. She is blessed, because most people see them when they are awake.

If you hold a baby, Hamish, it’s a soft, little, warm animal.

We are all soft, little warm animals.

Beyond the wall / Hey guys I made a joke
« on: December 03, 2015, 01:17:55 am »
 What do right-wing Fundamentalists, Libertarians, and Bernie Sanders supporters all have in common?

Beyond the wall / Men's lib
« on: November 15, 2015, 05:05:40 pm »
What do you guys think about this?

I can't excerpt it due to some weird issue with my computer that is preventing me from copying and pasting, but it's worth a read, IMO.

It's a really weird article; it started with an oddly combative tone, with the phrasing that women are "competing" with men and men have to "adapt". It also came across with a heavy dose of "ugh, I guess men will be forced to to women's work" . It managed to almost completely avoid addressing the fact that many men WANT to take more nurturing roles, or that men love being engaged and loving fathers and caregivers. The suggestion that "nurse" be changed to "health attendant" for gender neutrality is absurd, because "nurse" is already a gender-neutral word and any gender associations it has, we are imposing on it due to our own tendency to associate "nursing" with "women" and our social stigmatization of traditional women's jobs. The interesting thing about this article, though, is that after the oddly combative beginning and shortly after the suggestion to change "nurse" to "health attendant", the tone shifted, and the entire latter half of the article is, IMO, quite good and very valid.

I think the premise of the entire article is quite sound, it's really just the creepy, MRA-like "war of the sexes" wording of the first half that I have a problem with. Perhaps that was a deliberate attempt to pander to men who resist the idea of role parity.

Beyond the wall / So, Nassim Taleb is a giant douchebag?
« on: August 15, 2015, 02:49:41 am »
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.

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:

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.

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:

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:

!! 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?

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