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Topics - Mesozoic Mister Nigel

I'll go unblock you.

I can't promise you can keep my interest, but I will, for as long as it takes me to not forget this is here, respond to your embarrassing obsession.

What did you want to say to me?
The first time someone told me I had a "Type A" personality, I was offended.

I had always associated the so-called type A personality with the sorts of people I held in the lowest regard; stockbrokers, CEOs, bankers, high-power sales. Mercenaries, in my mind, out to make a buck at the expense of the naive and the optimistic.

Over time, though, and after pursuing an education that included deep analysis of the origins of personality and temperament, I came to understand what "Type A" is shorthand for, and I realize now that the person who called me that is completely correct. I understand and acknowledge that I am one of those high-energy, ambitious, nonstop control freaks. I also understand why, and what the consequences are for those of us who fall into this unfortunate bin.

Type A people are driven, to start with. Where other people deal with anxiety by withdrawing and feeling drained or powerless, we deal with it by PUSHING AS HARD AS WE CAN against whatever makes us anxious. We are convinced that if we flinch or look away, That Thing will win, so we engage our natural propensity toward hypervigilance and NEVER LOOK AWAY. We are convinced that if we stare hard enough, we can win.


Relax? Are you shitting me? That's how they get us, we know that! If we relax everything will fall apart. If we look away, we will lose and That Badness will win. OK, yeah, I know that I will die younger and more horribly than I need to, but if I can stay on top of everything, then the people I care about will be safe, and isn't that the point? Isn't that why I do all of this?

If we falter in our vigilance, SOMEONE WE LOVE WILL DIE. I have proof. I know this firsthand. I failed in my vigilance, I let my control slip, and I lost my son. I failed. I looked away. And the consequences were everything I ever feared, they were what I became this way to prevent in the first place.

So you go on and relax, you kick back and have your blanket-fort days. Indulge yourself by doing nothing, take care of your heart and your beloved, fragile spirit. We will be watching. We will always be vigilant. We will kill ourselves with the sheer will to protect you, because we love you, and we know the consequences of failing in our duty.
PEEVE OF THE MOMENT: When people try to justify using the word "female" instead of "woman" by claiming that scientists use it this way. No we fucking don't. "Female" is an adjective, so the only time it can be used in substitution for a noun is when the noun has been immediately prior defined as having two or more modifiers, ie. "male and female snakes were hibernated for 12 weeks. After hibernation, females showed a higher rate of...". The same is true for other adjectives, such as pink and king in the context of salmon. Do you think a paper that spoke of "pinks" without ever defining WHAT THEY ARE would pass peer review? Well here's a hint: it wouldn't. Likewise with "females". The reviewers would not recommend it for publication because it doesn't define its model organism. So just stop trying to justify using "females" to refer to women using your ignorance as an argument, for fuck sake.
Seems like a lot of people are hard at work lately, bandying around phrases like "identity politics" and "virtue signaling" as if these are bad things that should be done away with. Every wondered what these phrases mean?

I'll tell you what they mean. They mean "I'm a straight white male and your minority complaining makes me uncomfortable, SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP".
Think for Yourself, Schmuck! / Cynicism
February 08, 2017, 04:30:06 PM
I have been thinking quite a bit about cynicism recently, and essentially, the opinion I have formed on it is this:

Cynical contributions are generally designed to shut down creative discussion and problem-solving unless they are accompanied by an informed analysis supporting the cynical conclusion, which is a high-effort, high-skill endeavor and is therefore a high-value contribution. I will call such high-value contributions, which typically come from experts in the given topic, "complex cynicism", which differs from the vastly more commonplace simple cynicism.

Simple cynicism is appealing, especially to the undereducated, because it is low-effort and imparts the illusion of worldly cleverness. However, for precisely these reasons, cynical contributions are almost always low-value.

Most cynicism is, in effect, just noise.
Yes. Yes, they are.

This article highlights one of the many problems with Google search ranking, and the way the site uses preferential ranking to show you results it thinks you will "like" based on what sites you spend the most time on -- it reinforces whatever the user already believes, exacerbating confirmation bias. This is why, when debating people about certain topics, it often appears as if they literally exist in a different world with different facts. Google is helping to polarize public opinion on controversial topics.

I think that search engine customization is, potentially, going to continue to widen social gaps and badly needs to be regulated. If you think about it, it means that the primary gateway to information for all Americans is being selectively censored - soft censoring via result ranking, but censored nonetheless - per individual. The censorship is naturally going to fall along socioeconomic lines. That means, literally, that the information Google presents a poor black user will be qualitatively different from the information Google presents a wealthy white user.

Search results are customized based on past searches and the time spent on web pages. Therefore, customized search results are tailored to an individual's previous exposure to websites. The filtering is not purposely based on race or class, but the natural net effect is the same as if it were. Essentially, someone who reads about alternative medicine will get more alternative medicine websites, and when they search a topic, those websites will be prioritized in their search results. Over time, the cumulative effect will be that they are less likely to be exposed to consensus science and medicine, and may even be functionally unable to find articles that offer science-based views because their results are so heavily weighted toward woo. A black person is more likely to gravitate toward articles, and therefore sites, that support their perspective. Likewise with a white person, as exemplified by Dylann Roof in the linked article. The net result is that individual customization of search results reinforces and even creates polarization around ideas and values.  In my opinion, this is profoundly unethical, harmful, and a threat to social stability.
Aneristic Illusions / When scientists troll
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.

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Space dogs
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.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Awesome art
November 23, 2016, 04:24:00 PM
This installation is badass and makes no sense.
This is good, but the best part has to be Alec Baldwin's response.


QuoteSpinach 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.
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.

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
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:
Quote"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.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Mansplaining: Why?
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
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.
 What do right-wing Fundamentalists, Libertarians, and Bernie Sanders supporters all have in common?
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Men's lib
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.
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.

QuoteCommunicating 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:

QuoteIf 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.

QuoteWatching 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:

QuoteNassim 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:

Quote!! 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?

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.
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.

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

QuoteIt's a remarkable performance

...about says it all.
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?
QuoteIn 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.

QuoteIn 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.

What the hell does Mr. T have against trees?


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:

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

QuoteLive Cat Toy - One House Fly
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Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Swingers
May 24, 2015, 11:42:58 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

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.

QuoteErik 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.
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.
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.
So, the rich club is this network theory phenomenon in which the most highly-connected nodes tend to be connected with other highly-connected nodes. It's a big deal in connective neural networks, and the discovery of rich club networking in the brain appears to be taking network scientists by storm for some reason.

Anyway, while I was looking up a rich club neural network article for class, I came upon this, and thought it was really interesting for a variety of reasons.

Here's the abstract:

QuoteWe analyse the evolution of the online interactions held by college students and report on novel relationships between social structure and performance. Our results indicate that more frequent and intense social interactions generally imply better score for students engaging in them. We find that these interactions are hosted within a "rich-club", mediated by persistent interactions among high performing students, which is created during the first weeks of the course. Low performing students try to engage in the club after it has been initially formed, and fail to produce reciprocity in their interactions, displaying more transient interactions and higher social diversity. Furthermore, high performance students exchange information by means of complex information cascades, from which low performing students are selectively excluded. Failure to engage in the rich club eventually decreases these students' communication activity towards the end of the course.

Interested in hearing other people's thoughts about this, even if you just read the abstract and not the whole article. I'll chime in with my own as well, but I don't want to taint the thread with my ideas about it before the discussion gets rolling.
I'm starting this thread for a couple of reasons. One is, I would love to have a repository for my ramblings about preparation. Another, because I will be mostly off the grid for a couple of weeks, but I might be able to get online here and there and it would be cool to have a place to check in with you terrible people. Lastly, if I don't make a hole to put it in there is a possibility that I will get random ramblings all over the place, and nobody wants that.

Today I finished my travel shopping, which meant a ton of hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and Pepto Bismol. I could tell the checkout guy was a little uncomfortable.
I was researching power-trippers today, and stumbled upon this article:

If you can't open that link, Google the author's name and you should find her website, it's available to read free there.

This research seems interesting and important; it seems directly relevant to discussions we have had about bad leadership, and the desire to impose an ideology over others even when it comes at a net social expense.

I'd write more but I'm sitting in a doctors office right now so it will have to wait... I just wanted to post that link before I forgot.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / So this is a thing
February 15, 2015, 04:41:02 PM
Apparently the good folks at Croteam came up with a fictional philosopher, Straton of Strageira, for their game:

They've done a touch of astroturfing to make him more convincing:

I particularly like this made-up quote:

QuoteIt behooves us to be cautious when particularly taken with any philosopher's claims, and to consider whether our reaction is due to the logic of his claim or due to the poetry of his words. A beautifully-phrased sentence is an accomplishment in oratory, not philosophy, and the pleasure we take from it should not be mistaken for truth.
The philosopher must be like the architect: to write well is important, but not more important than building an edifice that will not collapse. Some philosophers construct dwellings that seem pleasant to the eye, but are traps for the unwary.

He sounds like a cranky old fuck, and I want badly to believe that somehow his character is based on me. Unfortunately, it's far more likely that it's based on Strato of Lampascus, who was also a crotchety materialist.


He is just stringing words together in a way that sounds like they make sense, but they don't.
Relevant to Tumblr SJW Culture, fart-huffing, and the ongoing theme of Being Better at The Cause Than you, I encountered this post today:

It's really worth reading the whole thing, but the synopsis is that a lesbian planned a fairly large outing to a strip club for her birthday, and after getting some texts that made her concerned that things might no go smoothly, wrote a humorously tongue-in-cheek email to her friends with advice on making the night a win for everyone, including the staff at the club. Someone thought it was funny and forwarded it to a writer at Jezebel, who, with the help of an alleged stripper friend, proceeded to rip the email to shreds because apparently, in her estimation, the 25-year-old lesbian birthday girl just wasn't doing it right enough.

If anyone isn't familiar with Jezebel, it's a "feminist" online magazine that seemed to get off to a decent start, but then rapidly degenerated to something that is essentially a faux-feminist bully clearinghouse version of Cosmopolitan that spends more time ripping on women for not being perfect than it does analyzing or challenging the patriarchy, rape culture, or other feminist issues.

This seems to me to be very relevant to, and illustrative of, much of the conversation we've had over the last couple of years about movements and causes, particularly online, and how they so often start cannibalizing themselves by preying upon any of their own members they view as weak, vulnerable, or imperfect, because elevating oneself within the structure of a small group by climbing over one's comrades is easier by far, and more immediately gratifying, than tackling the larger societal structures that are causing harm to everyone. In this way organizations such as Jezebel actually perpetuate that which on their face they claim to oppose, fundamentally doing the patriarchy's work for them.
Literate Chaotic / Study abroad essay
January 31, 2015, 05:56:52 AM
Any of you writing spags what writes want to look this over and give me feedback on whether any of it is terrible, doesn't make sense, or sounds like I'm just throwing words together to sound like I'm saying something when I'm really not? I feel like it might be a little too jargony.


As an aspiring neuroscientist with environmentalist values and a strong interest in epigenetics, I am working toward a personal understanding of how I can integrate my values and diverse interests into my future research work. I believe that the principles of sustainability are not only essential for our long-term survival as a species, but is also critical in order to create human systems and environments that foster the intellectual and physical health of their inhabitants.

I also believe that it will be necessary to change the hierarchical, single-discipline structure of most biomedical research studies, and reach toward something that is far more interdisciplinary and community-oriented, in order to find the origins of some of the complex neurobiological diagnoses which have emerged or grown dramatically in the last few decades. I hope that participation in this project will give me insight into how my ideals can inform research that will help to drive our culture toward healthy, sustainable communities.

As a matter of personal enrichment, I have been fascinated with the people and cultures of Peru since I first learned that, as the birthplace of the cultivated potato, they have a potato museum with over 5000 recorded varietals. That amazes me; what a contrast with the monoculture of American agribusiness! As a person of Native American descent, the ruins left by multiple ancient cultures there speak to my curiosity about and emotional connection with indigenous civilizations in the Americas, as does the rich living culture there.

It is my hope that my participation will contribute to the goals of the program by bringing to it my energy, enthusiasm, and unique perspectives from my life experience as a nontraditional student.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / ATTN: PEEDEE
January 25, 2015, 04:56:08 AM
If you are not currently high, get real high and watch this:

I am not high on the marijuanas, but I am eating enchiladas and that is basically the same thing.

QuoteThe vajankle – as its name suggests – is the unholy union of a vagina and an ankle... and it's as disturbing as it sounds.

Unless you have a serious foot fetish that is, in which case, we'd imagine, it's serious good times.

Sin boutique – the website selling them – explains: 'These quirky feet have a vagina built right in at the ankle!'

They go on: 'The vajankle is in the left foot only. You can order the vajankle independently, or as a pair with the standard right foot.'
This actually makes the admins of that anarchist cat group look like geniuses. Watch this, and despair for the future of humanity, for all is lost.
...and why is the "Discordan ads" thread closed?

QuoteThe smells instantly rushed back this week when London's water authority announced that it had discovered the biggest fatberg yet, a 15-ton mound about the size of a school bus. Thames Water, the public utility that manages the sewers, gave it the historic and oddly momentous title of being "the biggest berg in British history."