Wednesday, October 31, 2018

In which I tell a scary camping story

Hey it's Halloween, and I just read an account given by a couple of young American guys of the fright they received while camping:
23-year-old Wil Neill of Utica and 20-year- old Tyler Kroetsch of Livonia were camping at Waterloo State Recreation Area last month, near the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. In a message posted on the discussion website Reddit, one of the two Marine reserves wrote that they may have had an encounter with Bigfoot. According to MLive, around 2am one morning, they wrote they were awoken by footsteps that sounded as though they were 20 to 25 feet away. The duo heard what they could only describe as the most “loud, freakiest, inhuman yell, scream” or “roar” shouted at them twice. The creature then took off running in what sounded like a two-footed run.

When it was suggested that it may have a been a cougar, the Marine reserve wrote that the sounds of the impact made by the feet of the creature crashing through the woods weren’t made by something running on four feet. The screams from the animal, he said, weren’t at ground level, either, but instead coming from 5 to 7 feet above ground. The growling filled the entire forest. The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed 35 cougar sightings in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but not one has been confirmed in that time in the Lower Peninsula.
This gives me an excuse to tell the story of the night I got frightened by a particularly loud insect while camping in South East Queensland.   (Have I told this before?  - don't think so.)

Although I was not alone at the bush campsite (in the middle of State Forest where, even then, you were not really supposed to be camping) I was in my own little tent, and woke up in the middle of the night to what sounded to me, after some speculation, very much like a shovel being scrapped along a dirt surface.   It was quite loud, and a tad disturbing to think about why a person would be outside my tent making sounds with a shovel.  

I called out "who is it", and (if memory serves right) the sound stopped for a short time, then started up again.

No one else around the camp site said anything from their tents - which, of course, might have meant that I was the last to be bludgeoned by a shovel wielding outback maniac.  I'm sure I called out a second time, possibly to the same pause and re-start reaction. 

When calling out, I had stayed pretty still inside my tent.  I finally decided that the continuing noise was a sign that, whatever was making it, there was not intention to attack me.

I flipped around in my sleeping bag and looked outside, puzzled.  I undid the zip on my tent, and with my head now released from the sleeping bag hood, I realised that the sound was actually coming from very close to my head.

I released that it was coming from my little aluminium camping cooking kit, like one of these, only round:

which I had left virtually at the entry to my little tent.  Inside it was a large insect, the variety of which I did not know, but it was pretty big and very busy scrapping its legs over the surface, possibly eating some small amount of leftover dinner stuck to the pan.   The sound was amplified by the concave shape, towards my head, and yes, it was quite loud.   My ears had interpreted as coming from some distance away.   As it turned out, everyone else in the campsite was still alive.

In the morning, I was asked some embarrassing questions about why I had been calling out, sounding nervous, in the middle of the night.  

So there - the dark night (and bugs) can play tricks on the ear.  

[Underwhelmed?  OK, well you come up with a better "camping noises at night" story.]

Libertarian no more

So, if I understand this post correctly, the Niskanen Centre - the nice libertarians who don't disbelieve in climate change and who were seemingly pretty centrist on lots of issues - has recanted and decided it can't really call itself libertarian anymore.

Seems a reasonable conclusion.

Instead,  founder Jerry Taylor talks about moderation as an alternative to ideology.  I can agree with the sentiment:
What is the alternative to ideology? There is no easy answer. Without some means of sorting through the reams of information coming at us every day, we would be overwhelmed and incapable of considered thought or action. Without any underlying principles or beliefs whatsoever, we are dangerously susceptible to believing anything, no matter how ludicrous, and to act cruelly without moral constraint. Yet any set of beliefs, if they are coherent, are the wet clay of ideology. Hence, the best we can do is to police our inner ideologue with a studied, skeptical outlook, a mindful appreciation of our own fallibility, and an open, inquisitive mind.

Politics and policymaking without an ideological bible is incredibly demanding. It requires far more technocratic expertise and engagement than is required by ideologues, who already (they think) know the answers. It also requires difficult judgments, on a case-by-case basis, about which ethical considerations are of paramount concern for any given issue at hand, and what trade-offs regarding those considerations are most warranted. 

To embrace nonideological politics, then, is to embrace moderation, which requires humility, prudence, pragmatism, and a conservative temperament. No matter what principles we bring to the political table, remaking society in some ideologically-driven image is off the table given the need to respect pluralism. A sober appreciation of the limitations of knowledge (and the irresolvable problem of unintended consequences) further cautions against over-ambitious policy agendas.
I had previously posted about, with approval, their endorsement of moderation given by Will Wilkinson.   I think abandoning the title "libertarian" is probably a good idea.

Dissent in the ranks

This is, given the weird state of wingnut politics, big news.    Someone (presumably, a producer of the suckiest suck-up-to-Trump show on Fox News) has decided to send the message to him to drop the "enemy of the people":
On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends aired the relevant excerpts from the Ingraham interview and then cut back to the three hosts, who were all sitting outside for some reason. They all looked incredibly uncomfortable, though I could not tell whether Trump’s phrasing bothered them personally, whether they were simply nervous that they were about to criticize the president, or whether they were just cold. 

“So there he is, talking about his term, ‘enemy of the people,’ which … bothers a lot of people,” said Steve Doocy, tapping his hand on a table. 

“I really wish he would lose that term,” said Brian Kilmeade. “It doesn’t help anybody.” (This may well be the most reasonable thing that Brian Kilmeade has ever said.) “It doesn’t push back on the media that he wants to push back on. And I think that it gets too many other people [inaudible] shrapnel with that statement. Because the press isn’t the enemy of the people,” Kilmeade continued. “ … That broad statement does a lot of damage.” 

“Well, I think he probably feels like they are not doing him any favors and so he doesn’t like them, ultimately,” said Doocy. “But are they the enemy of the people? I don’t think so, either.”

As artistically uninspiring as a big statue can be

I've admitted before that I have a fondness for really big statues, and so it's with interest that I see India is about to open a truly gigantic one:

But, but....the figure itself makes for (what I would like to bet) is the most mundane, artistically uninspiring image for a big statue in the universe.   Here's who it is:
India’s new Statue of Unity, which will be formally unveiled Wednesday, depicts Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, an independence-era leader credited with uniting the fledgling nation in the 1940s when he served as India’s first home minister.

But the homage to Patel has far deeper symbolism. 

Patel, known as India’s “Iron Man,” has become a right-wing icon for Hindu nationalists. And the statue is located in the western state of Gujarat, which has been the site of some of the fiercest clashes between Hindus and Muslims in past decades.

I mean, the guy may have had his good points, but gigantic statues should, in my view, either be of religious figures looking awesome, or (as in Russia) some sort of idealised or stylised image of humanity looking dramatic or muscly or about to get something done.

Instead, it looks like the guy who runs a discount variety store who is so bored he's having a standing nap.

And despite this, I'm betting it would be still be awesome to be up close to.   Big statues are just inherently awesome.

Another long term environmental issue

As if climate change isn't enough of a long term worry, Real Climate has a lengthy post explaining the rise of mercury in the environment, and how it is not really possible to clean it up in the same way, in theory, you can remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  Kinda depressing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Discouraging space travel news

I knew prolonged periods of weightlessness were not good for bones, eyes and muscle:  not sure that I had heard before that it shrinks parts of brains too.   (Actually, this short explanation is kinda confusing):
Flying in space shrinks some regions of cosmonauts’ brains — an effect that persists long after crews come home.

Researchers know that spaceflight causes parts of the brain to swell and tilt, but Angelique Van Ombergen at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and her colleagues wondered precisely how time in orbit affects brain volume, especially well after the return to Earth. To investigate, the team studied brain scans from ten Russian cosmonauts before and after orbital stints of around six months.

About one week after the cosmonauts returned to Earth, some portions of their brains showed a larger volume of cerebrospinal fluid — which cushions and cleanses the brain — than before the flight. By contrast, certain regions of the brain’s grey matter, containing neurons that produce signals, shrank over the same time period. Most of the grey matter recovered in the following seven months, whereas the brain’s white matter, which transmits neural signals, withered in the months after landing.

The authors say that brain-volume changes might help to explain medical problems related to long-term space travel.
Another report about the study says this:
What these changes mean for the cosmonauts is still an open question. "However, whether or not the extensive alterations shown in the gray and the white matter lead to any changes in cognition remains unclear at present," study co-author Dr. Peter zu Eulenburg, a neurologist and professor of neuroimaging at Ludwig-Maximilians-Univeristat München in Germany, said in a statement.
Sort of ironic if Earth's best and brightest take off for Mars, but are too dumb to remember how to assemble their habitats by the time they arrive. 

Against the Word

Well, I'm always happy to read of people who think Word is pretty horrible as a word processing program, but Jason Wilson's explanation of why he doesn't like it is a bit odd.   Seems to be something about the purity of a program that does the bare minimum in terms of getting words on a screen that appeals to him.  As some people say in comments, he makes it sound like he should just use Notepad.

My beloved Wordperfect (windows versions) gets mentioned in comments a few times:  there is even a purist who has found a way to use WP5.1 on Windows 10!   That is taking things a bit far.

But the simple truth remains:  in terms of fixing formatting issues, Wordperfect with its "reveal codes" function is still much, much easier to use than the secret format coding of a Word document.

I still marvel at the way a university student who has only ever known Word will not know how to stop some formatting issue that I could fix in a flash if it was Wordperfect. 

I have been using Wordperfect X4 nearly daily for many years, and I don't see any great need to upgrade.   I see the latest version (X9) is pretty expensive though.  I don't know that Corel is really trying to sell it any more.

Oh look - you still get people posting stuff as recently as this year saying "They're still selling Wordperfect??!!"   And a couple of people in comments do note the wonder of the "reveal codes" feature.

I am not alone...

About the migrant caravan

I did mean to link to Vox's detailed explainer about the Central American "caravan" last week, but better late than never.   It's one of the best "fact checking" style articles about it that I have read.

And I have also been meaning to say - why would anyone think it made sense for a liberal like Soros to fund something that is so obviously able to be used by Trump and Republicans just before the mid terms to motivate the Republican vote?   It never made a scintilla of sense - but of course, since when have the Trump base been motivated by logic?

Stand proud, Fox News

There was also an interesting article at Vanity Fair as to how Fox News is being run under Lachlan Murdoch.   It claims he is actually pretty "hands off" and each producer runs their show however they like.   Also - and who know if this is true or not - says that the late Roger Ailes would have hated how Trump basically runs the network, because of the way he plays on the producers's desire to ingratiate themselves to their key fan.   

Yes, it's a mystery

Monday, October 29, 2018

Makes me feel lazy, but also sane (Part 2)

I have often linked to Bee Hossenfelder's Backreaction blog on physics.  She's a good writer, if presenting as somewhat eccentric in her music video hobby, and I should read her book and the current serious problems within theoretical physics.

She has made reference in the past to some mental health issues, but in this post, I'm surprise to read about her how bad her dissociative fugue problem when she was younger.   Quite remarkable, and actually something that sounds very suitable as a basis for a movie plot:

Horgan’s book “The End of Science” was originally published 1996. I never read it because after attempting to read Stuart Kauffman’s 1995 book “At Home In the Universe” I didn’t touch a popular science book for a decade. This had very little to do with Kauffman (who I’d meet many years later) and very much to do with a basic malfunction of my central processing unit. Asked to cope with large amounts of complex, new information, part of my brain will wave bye-bye and go fishing. The result is a memory blackout.

I started having this in my early 20s, as I was working on my bachelor’s degree. At the time I was living in Frankfurt where I shared an apartment with another student. As most students, I spent my days reading. Then one day I found myself in a street somewhere in the city center without any clue how I had gotten there. This happened again a few weeks later. Interestingly enough, in both cases I was looking at my own reflection in a window when my memory came back.

It’s known as dissociative fugue, and not entirely uncommon. According to estimates, it affects about one or two in a thousand people at least once in their life. The actual number may be higher because it can be hard to tell if you even had a fugue. If you stay in one place, the only thing you may notice is that the day seems rather short.

These incidents piled up for a while. Aside from sudden wake-ups in places I had no recollection of visiting, I was generally confused about what I had or had not done. Sometimes I’d go to take a shower only to find my towel wet and conclude I probably had already taken one earlier. Sometimes I’d stand in the stair case with my running shoes, not knowing whether I was just about to go running or had just come back. I made sure to eat at fixed times to not entirely screw up my calorie intake.

Every once in a while I would meet someone I know or answer the phone while my stupid brain wasn’t taking records. For what I’ve been told, I’m not any weirder off-the-record than on-the-record. So not like I have multiple personalities. I just sometimes don’t recall what I do.

The biggest problem with dissociative fugue isn’t the amnesia. The biggest problem is that you begin to doubt your own ability to reconstruct reality. I suspect the major reason I’m not a realist and have the occasional lapse into solipsism is that I know reality is fragile. A few wacky neurons are all it takes to screw it up.

Makes me feel lazy, but also sane (Part 1)

From the BBC:
Shirley Thompson is hoping to become the oldest woman to row solo across an ocean.
Remarkably, the 60-year-old, who is originally from Belfast, had never rowed before this year.

She plans to leave from the Canary Islands in November and aims to arrive 3,000 miles away in the Caribbean three months later.

Not a lot of owning this going on

As Adam Server writes in The Atlantic,  Trump's caravan hysteria (promoted, even with the Soros conspiracy theory connection, on Fox News) clearly motivated the Pittsburgh Synagogue killer.    

Of course, those on the Right in media commentary have rushed to the fact that he was not a Trump supporter, thinking that he had also sold out to the Jewish globalists.   It's a pretty lame excuse to say "hey, you can't blame us:  he started with a completely made up conspiracy supported by Trump and his virtual State television network - but then he went too far!"

As Slate writes in one article:
He was a staunch anti-Semite. A few hours before he set out to kill as many Jews as he could, he echoed a vile conspiracy theory that blames George Soros for most of America’s evils—the same conspiracy that the president himself validated as recently as Friday. And yet, unlike the man suspected of manufacturing the mail bombs, one of which was sent to Soros, the Pittsburgh suspect does not appear to have been a fan of the president’s.
Rather, he regarded Trump as a “globalist” who had sold out to the Jewish world conspiracy.
In another Slate take:  Why Did Synagogue Suspect Believe Migrant Caravan Is Jewish Conspiracy? Maybe He Watched Fox News. 

I note also that there is not a lot of "owning" of this going on in Right wing commentators:   Bolt, Blair, Hot Air - all saying nothing about how a Fox News promoted meme fitted right in with right wing terrorism.

I mean, two of those are unlikely to attack Uncle Rupert, but I was hoping someone at Hot Air might have the courage to address it.   Probably Allahpundit - as he is hated by many of its readers for being too critical of Trump.

I see that at least Jonah Goldberg has written about how dismaying he finds Right wing belief in conspiracy theories.  But this was written before the Saturday killings.  He should update it.

Update:   Also interesting to note the slackness of Twitter in dealing with false memes, debunked years ago, of a kind that are dangerous in the hands of nutters, so to speak:

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Did God send Trump to Earth to flush out fools?

With all the false flag BS about the US mail bomber now evaporating away, we are left with Donald Trump whining like a 7 year old that of course he's entitled to use the appalling rhetoric about the media* being "the enemy of the people" and his political opponents deserving jail, because the media is "so mean" and "unfair" to him and Republicans.

The media, and his political opponents are, presumably, meant to ignore that his White House has leaked like a sieve about his child like attention span, the odd near fist fight between staff, his self-disclosed lack of understanding about economics and trade, and the stream of lies and BS that comprises his constant, narcissism fuelled mini Nuremberg rallies.  Oh, and his refusal to disclose his tax returns.  Or that his tax cuts are fuelling an unsustainable growth in the deficit, exactly how everyone except Laffer-ite fantacists predicted.

I am constantly aghast that he has any supporters at all - and in all honesty, when I read someone who I used to think was at least a well intentioned, if wrong, conservative defending him, or using their  "whatabout-ism" tactics to downplay how unprecedented, nasty and so patently narcissistic his behaviour is, it makes me feel not just that the culture wars can make people believe ridiculous things, but that they must have been secret idiots all this time. 

It's like he was sent here to flush out the secretly stupid.

Maybe I should call this my Trump Theodicy.

* except Fox News

Top TV

I have to say, Episode 6 of Fargo Season 2 was just fantastic.  The acting, direction, writing:  just all brilliant.  Maybe not entirely credible - I mean, how many black underworld killers can recite Jabberwocky?   But no matter - maybe it was just my mood, but I find it hard recalling another hour of TV that was so pleasingly well executed.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Have to get in some more Leyonhjelm ridicule before he departs the scene

I should have known that David Leyonhjelm would have voted for the stupid, Pauline Hanson "it's OK to be white" motion dog whistle last week.    Well, he said (stupidly), he felt if he didn't vote for it, it might be interpreted as meaning he doesn't think it's OK to be white.   He says that even while acknowledging that he knows that it's a favourite saying amongst white supremacist groups.

I suppose it's nice that he parses all motions just at their face value -  he won't miss the meaning when I say he's a woeful, grating, arrogant, moral moron who demonstrates all the reasons libertarianism is rightly regarded by 99% of the public as a stupidly over-simplistic, self indulgent wank of a political philosophy that appeals primarily to the selfish who fall somewhere on the Aspie spectrum. 

He will be missed by no one, save for the (in a political sense) handful of people in his party.*

There, I feel better after that...

Anyway, this post was inspired by an amusing bit of ridicule I can see by Ben Pobjie at the start of piece I can see at Crikey, (which I wish would sack Helen Razor so I can subscribe to it in good conscience that I'm not helping pay for her absurdly self indulgent word-spews):
Every now and then, in the course of history, it falls to one brave individual to draw a line in the sand. It should come as no surprise that in our age, that individual is David Leyonhjelm: he is after all the man who reintroduced guns as a valid sexual preference in this country. And it is Leyonhjelm who has today stared down the forces of Stalinist mind control and said “No More”, by stating clearly the simple truth that “if it is OK to be white, we should be able to say so”.

As the Senator says, by allowing ourselves to be cowed into not saying that it’s OK to be white, we are letting the white supremacists win. For just as if we make guns illegal, only criminals will have guns, if we make saying “it’s OK to be white” illegal, only criminals will say it’s OK to be white. Is that a future we want, or even understand?

*  Which reminds me - how well did it fare in the Wentworth by-election?   I'm glad you (by which I mean, "I") asked:  Came in behind the Animal Justice Party, Sustainable Australia, the Science Party, and even (in harbourside Sydney, about as psychologically far from outback Northern Queensland as you can get) - Katter's Australia Party (!).

Um, if anyone thinks there's a future for the LDP from people actually intentionally voting for it: well, you don't need legalised drugs - you're already living in a fantasy land.   

Damaged goods

Yeah, I heard Barnaby get very upset with Fran Kelly for even mentioning there had been a sexual harassment allegation against him (the one to which the internal investigation had found a solid "We dunno.")

He is very damaged political goods, I reckon.   Should give it away and become a house-husband, or something.  It would lower his Child Support Assessment, that's for sure.

A potentially dangerous pill

I didn't know that some people taking a green tea supplement in capsule form have had severe liver damage from it:
While millions of people take green tea supplements safely, at least 80 cases of liver injury linked to green tea supplements have been reported around the world, ranging from lassitude and jaundice to cases requiring liver transplants. Those harmed after taking green tea pills have included teenagers, like 17-year-old Madeline Papineau from Ontario, Canada who developed liver and kidney injury, and an 81-year-old woman diagnosed with toxic acute hepatitis.
The article says the dangers are highest if they are taken as a dieting aid. 

When the WSJ has to keep correcting Trump... would think that at some point, Murdoch would tell his editors to start softening their support for him.  Latest example:
“We don’t have tariffs anywhere,” President Trump said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal. In fact, his administration this year has placed levies on more than $300 billion in imports.
Mr. Trump said he views tariffs as a trade negotiating tactic. “We don’t even have tariffs,” he said in the interview. “I’m using tariffs to negotiate. I mean, other than some tariffs on steel—which is actually small, what do we have? ... Where do we have tariffs? We don’t have tariffs anywhere.”
He was right when he asserted in the interview that not all tariffs threatened in trade negotiations have been imposed, such as tariffs on car imports.
And yet, so far this year, the U.S. has acted on threats to impose tariffs -- ranging from 10% to 50% -- on several classes of products. Here’s a list of the tariffs that have been put into place.
I strongly suspect that there are few businessmen who genuinely think Trump knows what he is doing, or understands anything properly.   It's just that they find him a useful idiot to get some of what they want by working on the people around him.

Thank you, internet repair men/persons

(I'm sorry, but they have all been men, in my experience.)

I'm here to praise the internet, and give myself a pat on the back, for having solved a dishwasher problem last night.  (I had no idea that solid material as small as a few lemon seeds, in the right spot, could result in a dishwasher leaving a substantial pool of grotty water inside.)

I think this is the third time in a couple of years where I've found the answer to an appliance problem on the internet (last night, courtesy of Youtube) and fixed it in light of the helpful information other people put up there.

One other thing - I was cynical about the use of bicarb soda and vinegar as a cleaning agent, but it did help my dishwasher problem last night in a very indirect way.   I didn't have the right tool to get a screw out (it needed a hexagonal head, like an allen key, OK?) to remove a plastic cover over a part of the machine I wanted to get to.   But I put in bicarb and a cup of vinegar in a general hope it would help de-grease things.   The fizzing up of the mix was what actually floated upwards, out from beneath the cover I couldn't remove, the lemon seeds that I suspect were at the heart of the problem.

Fascinating, I'm sure you'll agree.

Everyone needs a hobby, I suppose..

Human urine bricks invented by South African students

Actually, it's (literally) a cool technology idea for developing countries:
The engineering students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have been harvesting urine from men's toilets.
After first making a solid fertiliser, the leftover liquid is then used in a biological process "to grow" what the university calls "bio-bricks".
The process is called microbial carbonate precipitation.
The bacteria produces an enzyme that breaks down urea in the urine, forming calcium carbonate, which then binds the sand into rock hard, grey bricks.
The advantage:
Normal bricks need to be baked in high-temperature kilns that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

And the final round goes to: China!

Gee, in what has sadly become an unusual event, an interesting, detailed post has turned up at Club Troppo again.

Paul Frijters argues that China has got a lot of long term strength behind it, which means it will beat the US in the long run in any "one on one" power fight.  His concluding paragraphs:
So if you look carefully, America has no chance of really ‘winning’ a cold war against China. If the US teams up with Europe, which is still the likely longer-run scenario, it can hold its own against China. If it furthermore teams up with large parts of Latin America and India, it will for another 20 years or so be the largest player in the block facing China.

So, the US is no longer the biggest single economic or political player on the planet. That mantle already belongs to the Chinese whose only competitor this century will be India. The Americans just have to get over it, and the current phase of denial was probably inevitable in their grieving process. We should help the Americans get over it. Part of our task as allies.

In many ways, the relative weakness of the Americans is probably a good thing. It bodes for a relatively ‘warm’ cold war that makes it easier for the Europeans to push the US from its dominant Internet and financial positions, paving the way for a more multi-polar world where large blocks keep each other in check. If the Europeans can limit the damage that the Americans will inflict in their grieving process, there are good reasons to be optimistic about peace in the 21st century!

And Republicans carried on about Hillary's emails being a security risk...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Chinese spies often eavesdrop on President Donald Trump when he uses his unsecure cellphone to gossip with old friends, and Beijing uses what it learns to try to sway U.S. policy, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing current and former U.S. officials.
Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure and that Russian spies routinely eavesdrop on the conversations, but they say the president still refuses to give up his cellular phones, the Times reported.
The officials said U.S. spy agencies had learned from people in foreign governments and by intercepting communications from foreign officials that China and Russia were listening to the president’s calls.
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the Times report.
China has a sophisticated approach toward the intercepted calls and is seeking to use them to determine what Trump thinks, whom he listens to and how best to sway him, the Times reported, cited the officials.
Of course, I can imagine his conversations with "old friends" probably contains a ridiculously high noise to useful information ratio.   I can imagine some intelligence analyst in Beijing grimacing about having to listen again to the time he got some model or other into his bed.

Update:  Allahpundit at Hot Air is pretty much spot on, I expect:
 The view on both left and right for the most part will be a fatalistic “this is just how things are now” even though there absolutely would have been impeachment chatter among the House GOP if the Times had dropped a story like this on Obama. (If you thought Emailgate was a strong attack line against Hillary, imagine if she’d been caught using a phone which she knew had been tapped by foreign spooks.) In fact, if I know MAGA Nation, I bet we’ll see a few hot takes online tomorrow that this is all eight-dimensional chess and that Trump wants the Russians and Chinese listening in because it’s easier for him to feed them disinformation that way.
 He also finds amusement (and/or dismay) with this:
Administration officials said Mr. Trump’s longtime paranoia about surveillance — well before coming to the White House he believed his phone conversations were often being recorded — gave them some comfort that he was not disclosing classified information on the calls. They said they had further confidence he was not spilling secrets because he rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities.
He just doesn’t pay close enough attention to the details of his job to pose a real security risk. Whew?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Just the title is likely to cause Steve Kates to have a nervous breakdown

And Jason Soon will probably enjoy it too:

She should be pleased

That looks like a very flattering, and somewhat unconventional, official portrait of Julia Gillard:

It does look like a selfie blown up large, though; which I think will make it look out of place with the others.  Still, she should be happy with it.

And by the way - she continues to be one of the most dignified and likeable public figures around.   History will remember her as a basically good Prime Minster who had the job under very difficult circumstances.

Localised drug problems

I find it interesting how localised certain illicit drug problems can be.   I've posted about this before.  I think it's odd how, say, meth can be the problem drug in outback Australia, but hardly used at all in rural Britain.  Not entirely sure how that happens - some combination of cost and marketing decisions by the suppliers I suppose.  But there seems to be a bit of social contagion about it too. 

Anyway, the illicit problem drug of choice, so to speak, in New Zealand is apparently synthetic cannabis, and it does sound quite dangerous:
Daniel says synthetics have become the drug of choice because they are cheap and easy to buy. He believes the death rate is far higher than official figures.
Despite the risks to users, New Zealand is struggling to contain a synthetic cannabis epidemic, with children as young as 11 using the drug and entire neighbourhoods collapsing under the strain of addiction.
The government has been urged to confront the crisis after 45 people died from using the drug in the past year, making it the nation’s most deadly narcotic. In September dozens were hospitalised after a bad batch circulated in Christchurch, claiming two lives.
The grip of the drug re-emerged after a Radio NZ investigation found the entire suburb of Maraenui in Napier had been “swallowed” up by synthetics, with not a single person unaffected. 
I am told by a New Zealand born friend that cannabis itself was readily available when he was a young man there, which surprised me a bit, as I would have guessed that the climate there wasn't really ideal for its outdoor cultivation.

I wonder if there is any push there for legalisation of the natural product as being a better alternative than the black market of the synthetic.

But honestly, I still find it hard to believe that there is much benefit to adding more drugs into the mix of existing legal ones, particularly in poorer areas where drug use seems tied up with boredom and lack of economic opportunity.

A completely normal White House

It's kinda incredible that a story like this is not really attracting all that much attention.  But that's what happens when you put in a narcissistic lying idiot in the Oval Office:
The New York Times, citing half a dozen sources, reported that an altercation in February between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Corey Lewandowski turned physical, requiring the Secret Service to intervene in the episode outside the Oval Office.
According to Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers, the near-brawl happened after a joint meeting between the men and President Trump. After a shouting match, Kelly grabbed Lewandowski by his collar and tried to push him against a wall. Lewandowski did not get physical, and the two men agreed to move on after Secret Service agents appeared on the scene.

Another teeth grinding piece at The Conversation

At the risk of upsetting one of my rare regular readers - this article at The Conversation "Why 
rapid on-set gender dysphoria is bad science"  shows what a ridiculously partisan and untrustworthy field this is.

As I said in my earlier post, it is patently clear that those with intense "pro transgender" take on the matter feel they must immediately attack and try to shut down anyone who dares suggest that there might be more to look at than just what a transgender child/person says about themselves. 

It is a ridiculous attack on the paper surveying parents which made it plain it was aware of its limitations, and acted more as a call for further research.

But no no no, we can't have that, can we?

If you enjoy grinding your teeth over cultural appropriation handwringing... should try reading this article at The Conversation.

But make sure you read comments too.  There really is quite a pushback against this confected  grievance industry.

Or..they could try wearing a shirt?

An article at Medicalxpress notes that some Indian researchers have come up with a topical gel which "can be used by farmers to prevent nerve damage due to chemical crop spraying."

The article is accompanied by a video starting with this image:

Maybe I am too easily amused, but apart from the silly Bollywood macho vibe, my other thought is  "Hey, put a shirt on for your own protection, and stop waving about that poisonous chemical!"

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Perhaps teenagers should read this...

Fewer Sex Partners Means a Happier Marriage
People who have had sex with fewer people seem to be more satisfied after they tie the knot. Is there hope for promiscuous romantics?
Actually, the article notes lots of cautions about how this research survey was done, but still, this graph is interesting:

Here's one paragraph from the article:
“Contrary to conventional wisdom, when it comes to sex, less experience is better, at least for the marriage,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist and senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies (and an Atlantic contributor). In an earlier analysis, Wolfinger found that women with zero or one previous sex partners before marriage were also least likely to divorce, while those with 10 or more were most likely. These divorce-proof brides are an exclusive crew: By the 2010s, he writes, just 5 percent of new brides were virgins. And just 6 percent of their marriages dissolved within five years, compared with 20 percent for most people.

How to stop this level of paranoia?

I know that old pessimists have always been with us:  I remember a neighbour when I was a kid once  chatting to my father about how everything was dire and the world (and country) were getting worse and worse.  Mind you, this might have been in about the late 60's, when there was a considerable amount of bad news on the TV: Vietnam, the sexual revolution and doubts about capitalism's ability to thrive without environmental disaster were all key themes.  Not to mention what was going on in China and Russia and the possibility of nuclear war. 

But as a kid I was inherently optimistic (I suppose techno optimist, given my interest in science in the space program), and so it seemed to me that the neighbour was a sad case.  And, to his credit, my father thought so too.   "He's always thought everything was bad and getting worse. Some people are just like that." was his observation once the neighbour had gone back into his house.  (Well, I think that's a pretty close recollection.)  

Today, the problem of pessimism is exacerbated by online communities where the paranoid and conspiracy minded find it easier than ever to form a mutual support network.   You might think that this is harmless in some ways - keeping a small community of sad sacks in their own little world - but  the problem is, it surely works to deepen their paranoia and pessimism, and probably to bring others into the fold as well. 

Take this recent, fairly typical comment from (what I assume is) some older bloke in Queensland:

This comment comes in a Steve Kates thread about how "socialism kills".   The American "hard Right" started this "any policy involving any government intervention in anything is socialism" nonsense, and Steve Kates, a political idiot, sucks it all up and passes it on the blog of the (marginally) more sensible Sinclair Davidson.  

Then, in a post in which Keryn Phelps' Labor-like environment/refugee policy positions are listed he notes "These people are your enemy."   What uncivil and paranoid talk for an Australian.  

Basically, in their mind, centrism has become "socialism" - and all part of an evil plot involving culture, schools and political plotting many decades in the making. 

It's hard to say how influential or widespread such thinking really is - I mean, I can't even tell how much it is hurting the Liberals internally, given that so many at Catallaxy say they are abandoning the Party for the likes of Australian Conservatives, and will not vote for the Coalition in the next election.  (Or so they say - of course I don't believe that all that many will follow through, and in any event, their preferences will still go to the Coalition candidate.)  

But to the extent that there are "hard Right" members who really do want the Party to reject climate change action, privatise the ABC, and go all the way with whatever Trump thinks, it surely is hurting it internally.

The paranoia needs to stop and be wound back - but how?

I think a real problem is that no one within the Liberals is prepared to call it out.  They still linger on in the hope a "broad church" approach can work, when it is very clear it cannot.  

Malcolm Turnbull, you are now free to speak your mind - save your party by talking out about this.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Who really is interested in this?

I find it hard to imagine who, apart from the odd political journalist and historian, is going to be bother buying Kevin Rudd's revenge book.   

Still, I suppose you can say that about 95% of books by Australian politicians current or past.

I make one observation:  there seems there was a lot of crying going on when Kevin was in politics...

Update:  there's an extract from the book here.   Of course, extremely self-serving, with word for word recollection of conversation which make him sound like Mr Calm and Reasonable, against his observations of the "cold" viciousness of Julia Gillard. 

Look, maybe he didn't realise at the time that the "real reason" for the move came out of his behaviour as a nightmare of a boss.  But he's had time to learn the truth since then, when so many came out with details of his poor behaviour outside of media eyes. 

Just split - there is no other solution

I'm glad the Liberals didn't manage to get over the line in Wentworth (or so it seems.) 

The wingnutty Right seems to be reacting in a combination of "it's all Turnbull's fault - you couldn't trust him and he never really was a Liberal - believed in climate change - come on, as if"  and "you can't trust the voters of Wentworth - they're all doctors wives and believe in gay marriage and climate change - come on, as if."   To them, the party is doomed unless it swings firmly to the Right, blows up the Paris Accord and gets right behind burning more coal, right now.   (Oh, and stopping high levels of immigration, their second tier obsession.)   

This just goes to show the Liberal Party is completely internally compromised while ever the "hard Right"  or "wingnut Right" or whatever you want to call it tries to be accommodated by the centrists in the Party.

Mind you, even if Sharma had won, it would not have helped.   The centrists would have felt bolstered by that, leading to more resentment from the Right, which would have still run with the message "but you can't trust the voters of Wentworth". 

The Nationals are probably equally compromised - even though I don't keep that close a track on who is who there.   But you know there is trouble when you've got the National Farmer's Federation dropping scepticism about climate change, but Barnaby Joyce openly making it known that he'd be back in as Deputy PM in a flash if only the party would let him in.  He just doesn't take environmentalism of any kind seriously.

I've said it before but I'll say it again:   climate change and energy policies are really important issues.  When a substantial fraction of your Party does not even believe in the reality of a problem - there is no accommodating them by a tightrope act that cannot keep either side happy, because effective policies cannot keep both sides happy in that situation.  

The "hard Right" simply disbelieves science.   You can't accommodate that, policy wise.

This is worse than past examples of Labor factionalism.   At least their fights have been over how to react to an acknowledged issue, either from a firm Left perspective or a more compromising centrist one.   But they weren't fighting over whether there was actually an issue to address!   By contrast, this is the key  problem with the Coalition on climate change - dealing with a solid rump denying there is even an issue.

A proper leader of the Party needs to call for a split so as to resolve the otherwise unresolveable on a key issue for the future of the country.   Perhaps 20% to 30% of members, and a similar number of MPs, need to be told to leave and join the Australian Conservatives, or create the Tony Abbott Party,  or whatever.  They know they'll get the support of Murdoch and Sky News - why not go for it?    But they cannot expect to make their participation in the Liberals or Nationals work.  

Maybe Malcolm can call for that from outside of Parliament?   Can't see who else is going to do it, at least until the Party is soundly booted out of government.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

White madness, and Doug Mawson, revisted

Back in 2011 I wrote about the Mawson Antarctic expedition, since I had just read about it in a biography of one of the lesser known participants, Herbert Dyce Murphy.  (Now that I re-read that post - which is one of my favourites because the author dropped into comments, I see that missed naming her book - Lady Spy, Gentleman Explorer.  Sorry, Heather.)

It's probably more a case of my having forgotten, but I don't recall from that book much description of the mental breakdown of another member of the expedition - Sidney Jefferyes.  He was one of the six who had to stay in the hut for another year after missing the boat.  

His story is briefly told in ABC News today, and here are some highlights:   
There appeared to be no indication of Jeffryes' mental health problems until July 1913 when he got into several fights with his colleague Cecil Madigan, he stopped washing himself, and began collecting bottles of his own urine.

The expedition's medical officer wrote that Jeffryes was hallucinating and suffering from "delusive insanity".
Tensions grew further when another crew member found that Jeffryes had been telling Macquarie Island, via morse code, that he was the only sane member left on the expedition.

Mawson intervened, stating "Censor all messages Jeffryes insane" via morse, and removed him from most active duties.

In a letter declaring his sanity to his sister, Jeffryes wrote: "I am to be done to death by a jury of six murderers who are trying to prove me insane originating possibly from the jealousy of the six of them".

When the Aurora finally returned and took the men to Adelaide in early 1914, the ship's Second Officer Percy Gray wrote that "poor old Jeffryes, the wireless man, is beginning to go dotty again".

"The fellows were at the braces, they all rushed from one to the other and Jeffryes, whose cabin is on deck, thought they were coming to put him in his coffin, and leapt out of his bunk and barricaded the door."
"Poor chap, I am very sorry for him."
 Despite this, he was allowed to get on a train by himself, apparently to travel back to his home town of Toowoomba, and instead was later found wandering the Victorian countryside (naked, says one article - but another refers to having money in his pocket).   It seems he spent the rest of his life in insane asylums, at least one of which was possibly colder in winter than the hut in Antarctica.

What a sad life!

Anyway, I see that Mawson, when asked about Jeffryes making his way home unaccompanied, claimed that he thought he had recovered fully during the ocean voyage back, and the doctor who had shared his cabin thought so too.  Yet, you have that ship's officer in the above quote saying the opposite.   Perhaps this goes towards supporting the "Mawson was actually a jerk" theory which, as I noted in my 2011 post, seemed to be something of a relatively novel theme in Heather Rossiter's book.  (And got further backing in a, ahem, somewhat controversial revisionist biography in 2013 which speculated that he may have eaten one of his co-expeditioners to stay alive!)   

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Blair gets around

Occasionally, very very occasionally, I learn something new from scanning through the website for Australian wingnut conservatives.  This, for example:

Tim Blair is that closely aligned to the climate change denial/culture warrior faction of the Liberals (the part that needs to be purged from the Coalition for it to re-gain credibility) that he goes to things like this?

I thought he might be more cynical of politics generally than to do that.

Secondly:  that Riccardo Bosi is an absolute conservative culture war nutcase. 

Android mystery

My Motorola phone had been showing me that I had used up about 14.3Gb of internal memory (out of 16 Gb) and I was wondering if I should delete some apps, since videos and pics were already on the SD card (which was also starting to fill up.)

Then this morning the phone said a new system update was ready - I think up to an Android Oreo version.  So I let it do it - about a 1Gb download and half an hour later:   my phone now says internal memory is only 11.2Gb!

How did it save 3Gb??

Anyway, I see now that you can configure your storage (on some phones, including mine) to let it format an SD card and treat it as if it were part of the internal memory.   So you don't have to fiddle about with moving apps to the card if you want to say space on internal memory.

Only problem is - it seems it formats the SD card first, and then you are really stuck with the same SD card forever, because of the way the phone is treating it for memory.   So if you get a new phone, you can't just whip out the card and put it in the new one.   Or so it would seem - still reading about it.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Not prepared

I guess hospitals are able to cope with vegetarian patients; strict vegan are surely more of a problem, but vegan and gluten free seems to have thrown one Australian hospital into a spin.  Feels a little bit mean to snigger, but snigger I did:

American Conservatives are the pits

Yes, I had noticed some of this talk on conservative websites before WAPO reported it:
Hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist’s alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia — and support Trump’s continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom. 
In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Those aspersions — which many lawmakers have been wary of stating publicly because of the political risks of doing so — have begun to flare into public view as conservative media outlets have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part at protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights. 
It's hard to credit just how deeply shameful the talk and behaviour of American (and Australian) Trump supporting conservatives has become.

A potato observation

Is it just me, or do other people also find unwashed potatoes, when peeled and cooked of course, have better flavour than washed ones that have been peeled and cooked? 

Can someone give Jake Gyllenhaal a hug?

In an effort to find a relatively short Netflix movie to watch last Saturday, I settled on Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

I mean, I've always been pretty sympathetic to him as an actor, and this movie featured a mysterious doppelgänger, and those stories are usually sort of fun, aren't they?   Well, not always, as it turned out.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten that this movie had been renowned for its weird ending.  And weird beginning.   And several weird bits on the way to the ending.

Look, I recently spent a fair few words praising A Cure for Wellness for the intriguing possible number of interpretations that could be put on it; and it seems to me that quite a few reviewers more or less praised Enemy in the same way.

But for me - nah, this one crossed the line.  Trying too hard to be a movie that people will talk about by being obscure and arch.   And ridiculous.

There is one interpretation of what's going on that pretty much makes sense, up to a point.  But let's just say:  the spider ruins it all.   Don't get it - don't care.

The movie taught me two things:   someone in Hollywood really needs to tell Jake to start making movies in which he can be a nice, happy character and face a normal story arc.    It's OK to play a normal person, Jake. 

Secondly - I didn't realise til it was finished that it was directed by Denis Villeneuve, a director whose main films I have all seen, and commented upon here.   Careful readers may recall that I always find that they have a promising set up, and visually look good, but they always have story problems which cause my interest to dwindle away until by the end I am unsatisfied.

I have given him more than a fair chance to make a movie that has impressed me from beginning to end.   He has failed every time.

I do not like him as a director.  

Hedonism, again

The Guardian has an opinion piece by a gay activist (and, I would presume, popper user) complaining that the Therapeutic Goods Administration proposal to re-categorise amyl nitrite as a serious drug (potentially able to be treated criminally in the same way as heroin) is discrimination against gay and bi men.  (!) 

It would seem that the drug, which already (so I read:  not speaking from any personal knowledge here) is only sold for fake purposes under the counter at sex shops ("video head cleaner" used to be one of them, but then the VCR died out) is primarily used by gay men who find it useful to relax a certain sphincter during certain forms of sexual activity, as well as giving them a temporary high.  (And a flushed face, possible fainting, nausea and a variety of other potential and more serious side effects.)

I don't really understand drug categorisation and whether this article is exaggerating the potential for criminal action against someone in possession.   The TGA report linked to in the article certainly indicates there are hospitalisations in Australia (perhaps 20 a year in a recent decade) arising from its use - although its easy to find many sex advice health websites that appear to make light of the potential health risks.  (Have you seen what other things they make light of in terms of safe sex?  Instead of "why in God's name anyone would actually want to do such an obviously unnatural and bizarre stretching of an orifice is beyond us.  Honestly - do yourself a favour and just get more within the range of normal, hey?")

This is one of those topics where I wish there was a widespread revival of the Golden mean, and in my application of it the common sense suggestion would be "if you need a potentially dangerous drug to enjoy the sex, you need to try a different form of sex".    And/or "if you are finding your average ordinary orgasm is not enjoyable enough without being aided by the addition of a drug - you are being too hedonistic.  Perhaps try having fewer so that you enjoy the ones you have more?"

As for the TGA proposal - I would have thought a heavier crackdown on its sale and distribution would be what is deserved.  I don't really understand why it has been so commonly available so easily for so long.

Krugman correct

I think Krugman is perfectly entitled to claim vindication for his repeated warnings about what the Republicans would do.   (Well, he is not alone in such warnings, and he was sometimes repetitious in making them, but really, it is pretty breathtaking bad faith on the part of the GOP.)  I'll be bad and extract more of his column that I probably should:

When the Trump tax cut was on the verge of being enacted, I called it “the biggest tax scam in history,” and made a prediction: deficits would soar, and when they did, Republicans would once again pretend to care about debt and demand cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Sure enough, the deficit is soaring. And this week Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, after declaring the surge in red ink “very disturbing,” called for, you guessed it, cuts in “Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.” He also suggested that Republicans might repeal the Affordable Care Act — taking away health care from tens of millions — if they do well in the midterm elections.
Any political analyst who didn’t see this coming should find a different profession. After all, “starve the beast” — cut taxes on the rich, then use the resulting deficits as an excuse to hack away at the safety net — has been G.O.P. strategy for decades.
Oh, and anyone asking why Republicans believed claims that the tax cut would pay for itself is being naïve. Whatever they may have said, they never actually believed that the tax cut would be deficit-neutral; they pushed for a tax cut because it was what wealthy donors wanted, and because their posturing as deficit hawks was always fraudulent. They didn’t really buy into economic nonsense; it would be more accurate to say that economic nonsense bought them.

OK:   this part is new to me, and is important information when considering Laffer-ist claims that the total revenue did not drop after the tax cuts is some sort of semi-vindication:

What are they lying about? For starters, about the causes of a sharply higher deficit, which they claim is the result of higher spending, not lost revenue. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, even tried to claim that the deficit is up because of the costs of hurricane relief.
The flimsy justification for such claims is that in dollar terms, federal revenue over the past year is slightly up from the previous year, while spending is about 3 percent higher.
But that’s a junk argument, and everyone knows it. Both revenue and spending normally grow every year thanks to inflation, population growth and other factors. Revenue during Barack Obama’s second term grew more than 7 percent a year. The sources of the deficit surge are measured by how much we’ve deviated from that normal growth, and the answer is that it’s all about the tax cut.
Dishonesty about the sources of the deficit is, however, more or less a standard Republican tactic. What’s new is the double talk that pervades G.O.P. positioning on the budget and, to be fair, just about every major policy issue.

Physics and Philosophy for a Phriday

*   I quite like Philip Ball's explanation of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics in his article at Quanta.   He makes some points I do not recall having read before, such as this one (about the nature of the "splitting"):
For starters, about this business of bifurcating worlds. How does a split actually happen?
That is now seen to hinge on the issue of how a microscopic quantum event gives rise to macroscopic, classical behavior through a process called “decoherence,” in which the wavelike states of a quantum system become uncoordinated and scrambled by their interactions with their environment. Parallel quantum worlds have split once they have decohered, for by definition decohered wave functions can have no direct, causal influence on one another. For this reason, the theory of decoherence developed in the 1970s and ’80s helped to revitalize the MWI by supplying a clear rationale for what previously seemed a rather vague contingency.
In this view, splitting is not an abrupt event. It evolves through decoherence and is only complete when decoherence has removed all possibility of interference between universes. While it’s popular to regard the appearance of distinct worlds as akin to the bifurcation of futures in Jorge Luis Borges’ story “The Garden of Forking Paths,” a better analogy might therefore be something like the gradual separation of shaken salad dressing into layers of oil and vinegar. It’s then meaningless to ask how many worlds there are — as the philosopher of physics David Wallace aptly puts it, the question is rather like asking, “How many experiences did you have yesterday?” You can identify some of them, but you can’t enumerate them.

I must say, however, that I feel a little less convinced by the article as it goes on with his explanation of his problems with the theory.   There's a heavy concentration on it attacking the concept of self;  but in these days where Buddhist ideas of there being no core self anyway have gained quite a bit of intellectual traction, it feels a little odd to be going after a theory on that basis.   (Not that I am a fan of the Buddhist idea - I think it's a worry for quite a few reasons.)

*  Now for philosophy:  if you want a dose of the most headache inducing philosophical question - the matter of free will, its existence, and whether a belief in its absence makes a nonsense of making moral judgement about human behaviour, you could do much worse than read this back and forth between Daniel Dennett and Gregg Caruso at Aeon.   In fact, I have not read all of it carefully yet - but at first glance, Daniel Dennett is making quite a lot of sense.

Great links, hey?  

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Not quite Minority Report, but still sounds potentially open to abuse

Nature has an article that is upbeat about the potential for using AI to predict armed conflict, so as to enable early intervention:
Governments and the international community often have little warning of impending crises. Likely trouble spots can be flagged a few days or sometimes weeks in advance using algorithms that forecast risks, similar to those used for predicting policing needs and extreme weather. For conflict risk prediction, these codes estimate the likelihood of violence by extrapolating from statistical data4and analysing text in news reports to detect tensions and military developments (see Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to boost the power of these approaches.
Several examples are under way. These include Lockheed Martin’s Integrated Crisis Early Warning System, the Alan Turing Institute’s project on global urban analytics for resilient defence (run by W.G. and A.W.) and the US government’s Political Instability Task Force.

Trump and Science

Yet again, it's a case of not being sure whether to laugh or cry:  that Trumpian claim that he has "a natural instinct for science".   I think it's time to rename the Dunning-Kruger effect the "Trump syndrome".  More people would immediately recognise what it means. 

As for his natural science instinct:  how could you doubt it when one of his science-y highlights is how he has explained out loud for years about how CFC's cannot escape his sealed apartment:
Trump has made claims about hairspray and the ozone layer at least three times. Back in 2011 in Sydney, he implied the “eight-inch concrete floors” and “eight-inch concrete walls” of Trump Tower would prevent hairspray from “destroying the ozone that’s 400 miles up in the air.” In December 2015, at a campaign rally in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Trump also said he doesn’t “think anything gets out” of his “sealed” apartment when he uses hairspray.
It's not just the child-like stupidity of imagining that gases never escape an apartment - it's the ridiculous sense of entitlement that it's a major regret that hairspray is not just like it used to be. 

Anyway, someone at Esquire does not mince words:

Trump has a predator's instinct for how people work and for identifying their weaknesses. He knows what motivates them and what plays on TV and how the media ecosystem functions. He especially knows how to keep the spotlight where it ought to be: on Donald Trump.
But in terms of intellectual capacity—the ability to reason at a high level, the volume of knowledge he's accumulated about complex phenomena, his familiarity with how humanity gathers information about the world—he is a complete and utter moron. He's a simpleton. He has absolutely no concept of how science works, which is why he feels comfortable telling the AP that he has "a natural instinct for science." Even if he did, which he doesn't, that would have exactly zero bearing on whether climate change is real. To the scientific community, the President of the United States just saying things has the same value as any other 72-year-old man yelling at them on a street corner: none.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

In which he again complains about gunshots in entertainment

I just have to re-visit my complaint about how gunshot wounds are being portrayed on entertainment now.

I've been enjoying Fargo (second season) a lot, and it's not like I am going to stop watching it, but:  there was a very high body count from a sort of shootout situation in Episode 4, and the way the blood spray was special effected in on many shots made me feel more certain than ever - I reckon the special effects people are over doing it, and I strongly suspect it's certainly due to the influence of video games and their exaggerated depiction of how much blood sprays out of any gun wound.   

And look, I'm sure that some things like a close, high calibre gunshot to the head is going to be an awful mess, but it just seems that in too many shows, any shot to any part of the body is now creating big blood sprays that don't look all that real to me.  

I'm not going to ghoul around the internet trying to find close up videos of someone taking bullets, but I am curious as to whether I am right...

Dear Voters of Wentworth...

please, do not vote Liberal.   Help put this hopelessly inept government out of its misery:

And I should add:   dear Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie:   look, honestly, the Australian public will give you a pat on the back for curtailing a further 6 months of terrible government.  Please do it:

This man lectures at RMIT

The only way Steve Kates could climb further up Peak Cult Trump would be if he starts speculating on a transgender options, so that he can please the Master by giving his all, if you know what I mean.   Here he is, talking the Trump 60 Minutes interview:
The Interviewer thought she had his number, that she would take him apart. But she is dealing with the absolutely best, most articulate president possibly in history. A masterclass, as is every public presentation he gives.
Isn't his wife worried?   Not to mention his students.