"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Links - 14th March 2018 (2)

William Marshal: the greatest knight | Podcast | History Extra - "William's favorite tactic in tournaments from a modern perspective I was suggesting seems positively disreputable and underhand but what is striking is that it's lauded by contemporaries including the History of William Marshall and described in glowing terms in many ways. His technique was this: he would arrive with his entourage or the lord he was serving at a tournament. Tournament would be about to begin: they would say well actually we've come along to watch but we're feeling a bit tired so I think we'll just, we'll stay on the sidelines today, have a good tournament. We'll meet you at the end. Let things begin, the chaos would ensue and then when everyone else was exhausted William and his men would decide that actually they were now just going to sit on the sidelines. They ride onto the field, mop up as many prisoners as they could and achieved a stirring and striking victory. And remember even sources that are very positive about William present this as the kind of cunning that you would expect from a night. It is an example of William's life showing us the code, the ideal of chivalry doesn't always conform to our expectations... he was bringing in so much cash through ransoms on the tournament circuit that he actually had to employ a part time accountant to keep his books"

The Knights Templar | Podcast | History Extra - "How can you be going around murdering other human beings, maiming, killing, slaughtering other human beings and still claim to be following the teachings of Christ who told his disciples to turn the other cheek?... It is decided that no no no, we've got a better idea. Actually if you sign up to the life religious then your violence, your murdering, your maiming can be to the benefit and the big, the satisfaction of God, of Christ and not to the detriment of your eternal soul. And so that by killing the enemies of the Church you will not be committing homicide, you'll be omitting malicide - you know, the killing of evil... Templars were forbidden to wear pointy shoes or shoes with laces because it was thought that these abominable things belonged to pagans"

Victoria the matchmaker | Podcast | History Extra - "'The world's most exclusive dating agency'
'Well to be honest that is what it felt like because there you are with these grandchildren occupying a very pivotal position in these grand palaces. You know one good looking princess might find herself sought after by the heirs to several thrones. Several princesses ended up on several princes' shortest. You know it was an extraordinarily elite little club with Queen Victoria herself sort of adjudicating or trying to adjudicate the outcomes'"

Starkey on the Reformation | Podcast | History Extra - "The Reformation is taking a country England which had been at the heart of the international enterprise of Christendom and the Catholic Church for a thousand years which puts the forty odd that we've been in the European Union into perspective. Remember England was unique in that it was actually being converted to Roman Christianity directly by Rome... why Canterbury is as near as possible to Dover... For most of the Middle Ages we are part of a Greater France. Remember the Channel is not a barrier, the channel's a means of communication... The Church is also strikingly similar to the EU. Above all it's a system of law. It's a system of jurisdiction and again it is a self consciously international one. It has a particular focus. A locus, a capital in Rome. It's the universal court of appeal. Why else does Henry have to take his marriage there? Just like the ECJ you know? So the parallels are truly astonishing...
I am not a doubting atheist but we have become contemptuous of the force of religion. We must remember, those of those who are atheists in an essentially atheistical or least a society that is careful about religion, all of this vulgarity about skyfarers, we are the minority. Most people now and most human beings in recorded history have believed. We must recognize the power of this thing. Especially if we don't like it...
So much history on television, even it's about nasty and violent things, there's a kind of nice fairy tale, nice bedtime story about the whole thing. It's a long way away dear child, it's not going to hurt you. There there there. We've gotten over all that haven't we? We've got you know the welfare state and quantitative easing, there's nothing to worry about. I don't believe that and hence the wish to disturb"

When Working From Home Doesn’t Work - "Letting Chinese call-center employees work from home boosted their productivity by 13 percent, a Stanford study reported. And, again according to Gallup, remote workers log significantly longer hours than their office-bound counterparts. Another batch of studies, however, shows the exact opposite: that proximity boosts productivity... If it’s personal productivity—how many sales you close or customer complaints you handle—then the research, on balance, suggests that it’s probably better to let people work where and when they want. For jobs that mainly require interactions with clients (consultant, insurance salesman) or don’t require much interaction at all (columnist), the office has little to offer besides interruption. But other types of work hinge on what might be called “collaborative efficiency”—the speed at which a group successfully solves a problem. And distance seems to drag collaborative efficiency down... Back in 1977, the MIT professor Thomas J. Allen looked at communication patterns among scientists and engineers and found that the farther apart their desks were, the less likely they were to communicate. At the 30-meter mark, the likelihood of regular communication approached zero. The expectation was that information technology would flatten the so-called Allen Curve. But Ben Waber, a visiting scientist at MIT, recently found that it hasn’t"

The hidden strengths of unloved concrete - "Piso Firme means "firm floor", and when economists studied the programme, they found that the ready-mixed concrete dramatically improved children's education. Previously, the floors were made of dirt, which let parasitic worms thrive, spreading diseases that stunted kids' growth and made them miss school. Concrete floors are much easier to keep clean. So the kids were healthier, and their test scores improved. Economists also found that parents in the programme's households became happier, less stressed and less prone to depression"

Should we thank Steve Jobs or Uncle Sam for the iPhone? - "The real engine of innovation and American economic superiority is good old American companies like Apple, right? Actually, no. In large measure it’s the federal government. More specifically it’s the government’s funding for basic research"
A libertarian would probably claim that without government "interference" we would have gotten further, faster

The Attack on Truth - "It is sad that the modern attack on truth started in the academy - in the humanities, where the stakes may have initially seemed low in holding that there are multiple ways to read a text or that one cannot understand a book without taking account of the political beliefs of its author. That disrespect, however, has metastasized into outrageous claims about the natural sciences. The strategy is to say, "I refuse to believe this," and then filibuster in the court of public opinion. Anyone who has been paying attention to the fault lines of academic debate for the past 20 years already knows that the "science wars" were fought by natural scientists (and their defenders in the philosophy of science) on the one side and literary critics and cultural-studies folks on the other. The latter argued that even in the natural realm, truth is relative, and there is no such thing as objectivity... But then a funny thing happened: While many natural scientists declared the battle won and headed back to their labs, some left-wing postmodernist criticisms of truth began to be picked up by right-wing ideologues who were looking for respectable cover for their denial of climate change, evolution, and other scientifically accepted conclusions. Alan Sokal said he had hoped to shake up academic progressives, but suddenly one found hard-right conservatives sounding like Continental intellectuals. And that caused discombobulation on the left. "Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies?," Bruno Latour, one of the founders of the field that contextualizes science, famously asked. "Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said? Why does it burn my tongue to say that global warming is a fact whether you like it or not? Why can't I simply say that the argument is closed for good?"... That is the price one pays for playing with ideas as if doing so has no consequences, imagining that they will be used only for the political purposes one intended. Instead, the entire edifice of science is now under attack. And it's the poor and disenfranchised, to whom the left pays homage, who will probably bear the brunt of disbelief in climate change.

Intimidation Is the New Normal on Campus - "Perhaps because it was a professor who was injured, Middlebury students did not defend the use of violence in the way that some Berkeley students had. But even the students’ coordinated effort to silence Murray is harder to justify than the effort to silence Yiannopoulos... When two psychologists, Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci, asked 70 professors at various colleges to assess the political leaning of Murray’s speech — given to them as a transcript with no source attributed — they rated it as "middle of the road," leaning neither left nor right. But for many students and professors, what Murray intended to say was not relevant. The Southern Poverty Law Center had labeled him a "white supremacist" on the basis of his writings, and that was sufficient for many to believe that they had a moral duty to deny a platform to him... A month after the Middlebury fracas came the Heather Mac Donald shout-down at Claremont McKenna College. But this was no special case. Mac Donald is a typical campus speaker — a journalist and political commentator who wrote a book challenging prevailing wisdom on a matter of current concern... because Mac Donald challenged the dominant narrative and criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, some students at Claremont McKenna decided that she, too, must be denied a platform. They mobilized a mass action via Facebook with a call to "show up wearing black" and "bring your comrades, because we’re shutting this down." A mob outside the auditorium, estimated at around 300 people, prevented anyone from entering the building. The college decided to stream Mac Donald’s talk live from the nearly empty hall as hundreds of protesters pounded on the windows. Immediately afterward, she was whisked away through a kitchen exit by the campus police in an unmarked car. What are we to make of this? There were no reports of violence or property damage. Yet this event is potentially more ominous than the Berkeley and Middlebury violence, for we are witnessing the emergence of a dangerous new norm for responding to speakers who challenge campus orthodoxy... Because of flagrant "concept creep," however, almost anyone who is politically right of center can be labeled a racist or a fascist, and the promiscuous use of such labels is now part of the standard operating procedure. The call to shut down Mac Donald’s talk asserted, without evidence, that her agenda is "racist, anti-Black, capitalist, imperialist, [and] fascist." As with accusations of witchcraft in earlier centuries, once such labels are attached to someone, few will dare to challenge their accuracy, lest they be accused of the same crimes... From now on, any campus speaker who arouses a protest is at risk of a beating. Can this really be the future of American higher education?... The decision to turn so many events into collective moral struggles has profound ramifications for the entirecollege"

Don accused of rape to continue teaching - "Rogan reminded students: “It’s not just about sexual violence. For some students it’s just another way for Europeans to gang up against a prominent Muslim intellectual. We must protect Muslim students who believe and trust in him, and protect that trust.”"
Comment: "I grew up Catholic, does that mean I should have been protected against all the stories about pedophilia in the Catholic Church? Rogan’s comment reeks of paternalism – why do Muslim students need to be protected? And why is it his job to protect them? And does it occur to Rogan that there might be people – including the women who have brought cases against Professor Ramadan – who are both Muslim AND European?"

French official knew of Tariq Ramadan’s ‘violent’ sexual encounters but failed to act - The National - "That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I have never heard of rapes, I am stunned"

Listening to too much Christmas music is bad for your health, according to clinical psychologist - "People working in the shops at Christmas have to tune out Christmas music because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else"

Carousell: The New Black Market for Controlled Substances - "The Straits Times reported that smart drugs were increasingly being used by students, some as young as 16, to help with their last-minute exam revision"

You don’t need to make things up to embellish Trump’s idiocy - "Donald Trump is touring Japan at the moment, and within record time, his trip has already produced its first viral scandal. A photo of Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a koi pond quickly rocketed around the media yesterday, purportedly capturing Trump as he upended his box of fish food like a bored toddler chucking an entire bread loaf at ducks. The outrage and mockery was swift and, in some cases, scientific; many were quick to point out that overfeeding is a serious issue with koi, and that Trump’s carelessness had surely led them to gorge themselves to death... Except it didn’t happen that way, and reporting that it did is only making things worse... As you can see from the full, unedited video, Abe was the first to empty the rest of his fish food into the pond, meaning Trump was simply following his host’s lead... the story was reported as “Blundering Asshole Kills Fish”—and outlets such as CNN even edited around the video to make Trump look like an impetuous buffoon—is exactly the sort of petty bullshit that fuels the “fake news” narrative that Trump and his supporters so depend on to foster blanket mistrust of the media. Great. Hey, here’s another one! In a meeting with Japanese automakers, as both CNN and Business Insider reported, Trump suggested they “try building cars in the United States”—which, as many analysts haughtily pointed out, they already do, by the millions. Ha ha! What a maroon! Only, once again, this has been taken completely out of context"
If the media is lying and spreading fake news, why is it worrying to call it out?

Something is wrong on the internet – James Bridle - "This video, BURIED ALIVE Outdoor Playground Finger Family Song Nursery Rhymes Animation Education Learning Video, contains all of the elements we’ve covered above, and takes them to another level. Familiar characters, nursery tropes, keyword salad, full automation, violence, and the very stuff of kids’ worst dreams. And of course there are vast, vast numbers of these videos. Channel after channel after channel of similar content, churned out at the rate of hundreds of new videos every week. Industrialised nightmare production... online kids’ content is one of the few alternative ways of making money from 3D animation because the aesthetic standards are lower and independent production can profit through scale. It uses existing and easily available content (such as character models and motion-capture libraries) and it can be repeated and revised endlessly and mostly meaninglessly because the algorithms don’t discriminate — and neither do the kids."

How should we understand the teenage jihadists' mind? | Simon Jenkins - "The Islamic scholar Malise Ruthven has warned that while most religions tend to mature out of textual literalism, the idea of the Qur'an as a handbook of pluralism and democracy is fanciful. It is permeated with the language of struggle (jihad) and victory over unbelievers. It insists on the oneness of the political and the religious realm, of this world and "the next". He writes: "Once it is allowed that there are different paths to ultimate truth, an individual's religious allegiance becomes a matter of personal choice. Choice is the enemy of the certainties that religions, especially monotheistic ones, are supposed to uphold." Islam is a beautiful creed but a stern discipline... Another writer in the same vein, Hans Küng, points out that jihad was never just a defensive concept but "a struggle to advance God's cause among the unbelievers". To make it accord with western pluralism would require a theological upheaval, a "total paradigm shift". Yet even to suggest this "can still be as dangerous for a Muslim as a heterodox view was for a Catholic at the height of the Inquisition or for a liberal Protestant in Calvin's Geneva"."
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