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More adventurous than the average bear

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Links - 25th November 2017 (1)

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Is there a civil war in the West Wing? - "The military is not a microcosm of civilian society. They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up. They are not there to be socially engineered. We want people who are transgender to live happy lives but we want unit cohesion and we want combat effectiveness. There are leading studies from the medical establishment for example that state that the transgender community has a forty percent suicide attempt rate. That is a tragedy. We need to help those people. We don't need to try and force them into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed and that is why the president is doing this out of the warmth of his consideration for this population"
Trans activist logic: trans people are so discriminated against that they have major issues and cannot function in society. Yet you should put them everywhere on the assumption that they can function as well as anyone else

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Is there a mathematical equation for love? - "One example comes from a psychologist called John Gottman in the states who has spent well over a decade filming couples having arguments basically. And scoring everything that happens in those arguments so every time that somebody laughs they get positive score, every time that somebody you know throws a bit of scorn or is a bit nasty to their partner they get a negative score and with just those scores the team can predict whether or not a particular couple will get divorced within a certain period of time. However I think the more interesting is when you look at the mathematical equations of how those conversations, those arguments spiral into negativity or how some couples managed to dig themselves out of a hole, something comes out, something called the negativity threshold is a very potent factor. And this is essentially how annoying someone has to be before they really start an argument. And you might think, if you weren't thinking about rational stuff you might think that the couples who did best were the ones where their negative threshold was really high. Where it takes an awful lot but actually the maths shows that it is the opposite. The couples who have a very low negatively threshold are the ones that do well in the long run. So couples that are constantly repairing and resolving small issues in their relationships"

British Gas website blunder reveals electricity price hike - "Expectations of a price rise were fuelled by a website blunder by British Gas staff yesterday. An incomplete statement briefly appeared on the website at noon promising to explain why it has had to raise electricity prices. It was titled 'Why we've had to raise electricity prices - our first increase since November 2013.' However, the body of the text read only 'blah blah', suggesting the upload was an error."

No Bull: Lizards Flee When They See Red - ""A lot of times we're doing work at night in people's neighborhoods and we're using flashlights to look for geckos on the sides of people's houses. And so sometimes people will think we're criminals or burglars or something." The museum's solution was neon orange shirts with the museum logo. "And we call these shirts the ‘don't shoot me’ shirts." But the bright orange left Putman with a concern: that the color would spook the very animals they were trying to study."

Flying through a Corpse's Clues - ""Within five to 15 minutes of death, blowflies or other insects begin to colonize the body." Rabi Musah, an organic chemist at the University at Albany. She says different species turn up at different stages of decomposition. "Because of that, depending on what entomological evidence you find, you can learn something about when the person died in terms of the timing of the death.""

Buying time promotes happiness - "Despite rising incomes, people around the world are feeling increasingly pressed for time, undermining well-being. We show that the time famine of modern life can be reduced by using money to buy time. Surveys of large, diverse samples from four countries reveal that spending money on time-saving services is linked to greater life satisfaction. To establish causality, we show that working adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase. This research reveals a previously unexamined route from wealth to well-being: spending money to buy free time"

This Caterpillar Whistles While It Irks - "The North American walnut sphinx caterpillar produces a whistle that sounds just like a songbird's alarm call--and the whistle seems to startle birds"

Humans recognize emotional arousal in vocalizations across all classes of terrestrial vertebrates: evidence for acoustic universals - "Writing over a century ago, Darwin hypothesized that vocal expression of emotion dates back to our earliest terrestrial ancestors. If this hypothesis is true, we should expect to find cross-species acoustic universals in emotional vocalizations. Studies suggest that acoustic attributes of aroused vocalizations are shared across many mammalian species, and that humans can use these attributes to infer emotional content. But do these acoustic attributes extend to non-mammalian vertebrates? In this study, we asked human participants to judge the emotional content of vocalizations of nine vertebrate species representing three different biological classes—Amphibia, Reptilia (non-aves and aves) and Mammalia. We found that humans are able to identify higher levels of arousal in vocalizations across all species. This result was consistent across different language groups (English, German and Mandarin native speakers), suggesting that this ability is biologically rooted in humans. Our findings indicate that humans use multiple acoustic parameters to infer relative arousal in vocalizations for each species, but mainly rely on fundamental frequency and spectral centre of gravity to identify higher arousal vocalizations across species. These results suggest that fundamental mechanisms of vocal emotional expression are shared among vertebrates and could represent a homologous signalling system."

You Are More Likely To Be Murdered Than Die From Your Nut Allergy - " The risk that a person will die due to a random accident is 100 times greater than the risk that a food-allergic person will die from a fatal allergic reaction... while the risk of death from a peanut allergy (4.25 per million per year) is much greater than the risk of death from food allergies overall (1.81 per million per year), the risk of both is still very small."

Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O. - - "Google’s diversity officer, Danielle Brown. She didn’t wrestle with any of the evidence behind Damore’s memo. She just wrote his views “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” This is ideology obliterating reason... Various reporters and critics apparently decided that Damore opposes all things Enlightened People believe and therefore they don’t have to afford him the basic standards of intellectual fairness. The mob that hounded Damore was like the mobs we’ve seen on a lot of college campuses. We all have our theories about why these moral crazes are suddenly so common. I’d say that radical uncertainty about morality, meaning and life in general is producing intense anxiety. Some people embrace moral absolutism in a desperate effort to find solid ground. They feel a rare and comforting sense of moral certainty when they are purging an evil person who has violated one of their sacred taboos. Which brings us to Pichai, the supposed grown-up in the room. He could have wrestled with the tension between population-level research and individual experience. He could have stood up for the free flow of information. Instead he joined the mob. He fired Damore and wrote, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not O.K.” That is a blatantly dishonest characterization of the memo. Damore wrote nothing like that about his Google colleagues. Either Pichai is unprepared to understand the research (unlikely), is not capable of handling complex data flows (a bad trait in a C.E.O.) or was simply too afraid to stand up to a mob. Regardless which weakness applies, this episode suggests he should seek a nonleadership position. We are at a moment when mobs on the left and the right ignore evidence and destroy scapegoats. That’s when we need good leaders most."

Study: diet soda can really mess with your metabolism - "A diet drink consumed by itself and on an empty stomach may be far less harmful than one consumed with carbohydrates — with a sandwich, say, or a bag of chips. But what’s troubling is that in an effort to reduce added sugars, food companies are now designing all sorts of products that contain blends of sweeteners and carbohydrates that could be disrupting the body’s metabolic response"

Why I Was Fired by Google - WSJ - "When I first circulated the document about a month ago to our diversity groups and individuals at Google, there was no outcry or charge of misogyny. I engaged in reasoned discussion with some of my peers on these issues, but mostly I was ignored.Everything changed when the document went viral within the company and the wider tech world. Those most zealously committed to the diversity creed—that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and all people are inherently the same—could not let this public offense go unpunished. They sent angry emails to Google’s human-resources department and everyone up my management chain, demanding censorship, retaliation and atonement. Upper management tried to placate this surge of outrage by shaming me and misrepresenting my document, but they couldn’t really do otherwise: The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views... It saddens me to leave Google and to see the company silence open and honest discussion. If Google continues to ignore the very real issues raised by its diversity policies and corporate culture, it will be walking blind into the future—unable to meet the needs of its remarkable employees and sure to disappoint its billions of users."

Tomato flavor is broken. Can it be fixed? - "Roughly half of the flavor compounds are significantly worse in modern varieties. They’re also much lower in sugar. We found this by running a complete chemical profile of every tomato variety and asking, what’s in the tomatoes people like and what’s in the ones people don’t like? Then we took it a step further and used software that goes through the entire tomato genome and checks every nucleotide to see if it’s correlated with a particular flavor compound. When we took all the modern varieties and grouped them together and compared their flavor compounds with the old varieties, what we found the modern varieties are way lower... For decades, tomato breeders have selected traits related to performance — yield, disease resistance, how well tomatoes ship, how well they last on a shelf. Those are the things they can measure and do measure, and they’ve done very well at it. But they never select for flavor. And if you don’t select for flavor, you are selecting against it... Tomato growers know consumers prefer sweeter tomatoes. They also know that sweeter means smaller fruit size. And they don’t want to grow smaller tomatoes, because that pushes their labor costs up."

Getting A Girlfriend : The Hacker's Way - "I decided to write a python script for it and its objective was simple, try all the possible combinations of 4 digits and print the phone number whose result has “Neha” in it."

How I, a woman in tech, benefited from sexism in Silicon Valley - "I’ve had a guy asking me to join his startup because it looks good to have a female co-founder. I’ve had the feeling that a company wants to hire me just because they want to diversify their office, like one day the all-dude team would look around and say: “What’s up with all this testostorone? We need a girl in here.” In school, I keep having guys asking me to join their projects because they thought I was cute. They didn’t say it at that time, but after we’d spent some time together they asked me out. Sexism isn’t making it harder for women to enter tech. From my personal experiences, sexism makes it even easier for women to enter tech... We need to be careful when encouraging affirmative action in tech to ensure it doesn’t reinforce the philosophy of treating women differently. Lowering your hiring standards for women can give people like me the lingering self doubt that maybe I wasn’t good enough. Worse, it gives many men reasons to believe that their female colleagues aren’t as good as them, and act accordingly."

The truth about Japanese tempura - "The Portuguese remained in Japan until 1639, when they were banished because the ruling shogun Iemitsu believed Christianity was a threat to Japanese society. As their ships sailed away for the final time, the Portuguese left an indelible mark on the island: a battered and fried green bean recipe called piexinhos da horta. Today, in Japan, it’s called tempura and has been a staple of the country’s cuisine ever since... Avillez said his one complaint about the dish, in general, has always been that the beans are often fried in the morning and so they go cold and limp by the time they get to the table later that day. He remedies this by not only cooking them on demand, but by adding a starch called nutrios that keeps them crispy. After the bean is blanched, it gets rolled in the batter of wheat flour, egg, milk, and nutrios and then flash fried."

Selangor primary school criticised for 'Muslim' and 'non-Muslim' cups - "Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria said the practice was discriminatory and could lead to hatred of Islam, according to Free Malaysia Today. "This should not have happened. We should know the ruling. Don't be too rigid that others would begin despising us. Islam pays importance to human relations," he was quotedas saying. He said there was no basis to separate utensils even if Islam prohibits its followers from consuming certain kinds of food. "Even if one consumes pork, that does not mean his lips are unclean."
A Muslim apparently told someone I knew that Halal food becomes non-Halal when porky hands touch it

I Travel The World To Photograph Girls In Dresses Against Backgrounds Of The Most Beautiful Places

Lee's Betrayal of PAP and Singapore : Devan Nair - "As an ex-detainee myself, who had undergone in two separate spells a total of five years of political imprisonment in the fifties under the British colonial regime as an anticolonial freedom fighter, I recalled that I was never treated in the shockingly dehumanizing manner in which Francis was by the professedly democratic government of independent Singapore... What we launched as the independent republic of Singapore succeeded, as the world knows, all too well, only to discover that in the eyes of Lee Kuan Yew, means had become ends in themselves. First principles were stood on their heads. Economic growth and social progress did not serve human beings. On the contrary, the primary function of citizens was to fuel economic growth - a weird reversal of values. The reign of Moloch had begun. Not an unfamiliar phenomenon to those who browse in the pages of history. My old-guard colleagues and I might have been wiser men and women if we had read our history with greater comprehension than we do now. Alas, one cannot alter the past... I confess that, with every passing year, I have come to fear that the point of no return has already reached and passed. For Singapore's grey eminence lords it over the republic from the top of a tower of undeniable previous achievement. He had been the superb captain of a superb team which had led a highly responsive and intelligent population out of a savage and sterile political wilderness into outstanding success and internationally recognized nationhood. Today every member of that superb team has been eased out of power and influence in the name of political self-renewal, while Lee himself has ensured that he presides, as Secretary-General of the ruling party, not as he once did, over equals who had elected him, but over a government cabinet and a judiciary made up entirely of his appointees or nominees. In relation to old guard leaders, Lee had been no more than primus inter pares. He had perforce to deal with equals, and they were fully capable of speaking their minds. Once, in the early days of the PAP, in sheer exasperation, I myself had responded to him with a four-letter word and thought no more about it... Keep your head down and you could enjoy one of the highest living standards in Asia. Raise it and you could lose a job, a home, and be harassed by the Internal Security Department, or by both, as happened to Francis Seow... Lee forgets that in the colonial past, his British predecessors were not knocked off by free reporting on Singapore by the foreign media, even though they had to deal with an obstreperous population and its equally restive politicians who included, for instance, rambunctious types like Lee Kuan Yew and Devan Nair. In particular, he forgets that his own international reputation as a staunch anticolonial freedom fighter owed a great deal to the free and open manner in which the foreign media covered him and his party's activities."

Who Were the Witches? – Patriarchal Terror and the Creation of Capitalism - "The book argues that these gruesome executions not only punished “witches” but graphically demonstrated the repercussions for any kind of disobedience to the clergy or nobility. In particular, the witch burnings were meant to terrify women into accepting “a new patriarchal order where women’s bodies, their labor, their sexual and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the state and transformed into economic resources”"
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