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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Value of Destructive Criticism

From Google+:

"A Note About Destructive Criticism: It Has Value

A lot of people are open only to constructive criticism, and only want to hear constructive criticism. Some people even think destructive criticism is rude. Sometimes I even see admonishments to only give criticism if you can be constructive.

That's never sat right with me. Destructive criticism can have value.

Let me give you an example:

Let's say you had a landscape photo, and a photo of the moon, and you composited them into a photo montage of a landscape with a moon. Then, let's say I came along and said to you "The angle of the light on the moon is from the right; the angle of light on the land is from the left; the picture looks wrong".

This was purely destructive criticism. In other words, I didn't make any helpful suggestion; I just pointed out a flaw. Constructive criticism might be along the lines of calculating the date and time and latitude / longitude to rephotograph the moon so that it looks perfectly correct with the rest of the picture, and suggesting you re-photograph the moon for your composite, then and there.

Instead, I just told you what the problem is, and nothing more. And yet – if it was your picture – wouldn't you rather know that you made a mistake and it looks fake? Would you really rather stifle this destructive criticism, just because it's not constructive? Would you really rather not know the truth?

Personally, I'd rather know. Personally, I think I'm better off being more fully informed about the problems in my picture. Even if no solutions are offered, I'd rather know what's wrong.

Destructive criticism doesn't always have value, of course. But the same thing can be said of constructive criticism, too. Whether criticism is constructive or destructive, it can be true or false, significant or trivial.

It's also worth noting that destructive criticism is not the same as insults, since some people confuse the two. "You're picture is shit!" is an insult. (Though, even there, I enjoy hearing people's unfiltered reactions, as long as they're honest.) You can see how that differs in kind from the destructive criticism example above.

I suggest you open yourself up to destructive criticism, too, if you want to become the best you can. I suggest you come to see that it has value, too, even if it may sting a little."

An awesome image

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Defining Liberalism / Hegel as a Liberal

"Her own mother lived the latter years of her life in the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house." - James Thurber


"According to Dr. Pelczynski, Hegel was a “champion of political rationality,” in the same sense as Jeremy Bentham. The difference between them is to Hegel’s credit, for whereas Bentham’s moral utilitarianism prevented him from making sense of “natural rights” and “the law of reason,” Hegel was their stout defender. “In this respect Hegel is much nearer Paine than Bentham.” Not since the baptism of Aristotle has anything as bold as this transfiguration been attempted.

If Dr. Pelczynski’s interpretation is valid, then we must indeed conclude that Hegel has been one of the most misunderstood of philosophers in the history of thought. But it seems to me, to put it mildly, to be invalid...

Herbert Marcuse contends that the Burschenschaft and others whom Hegel denounced were proto-Nazis; but this is absurd. If all who expressed anti-Semitic sentiments are to be considered Nazis, or “as bad as Nazis,” we would have to include among the precursors of Hitler not only Voltaire but Marx himself...

Perhaps those who see in Hegel a prophet of liberalism are using the term “liberalism” in a Pickwickian sense. It is wrong to assume with Russell that liberalism is necessarily wedded to empiricism or vice versa. Socially, the connections between the two are less than logical and more than merely psychological. A thinker can defend a liberal position on the basis of an idealistic (even theological) metaphysics in the sense that his justifying reasons are expressed in the idiom of his system or creed. But what defines a liberal position in social and political affairs? Not any one trait or program, to be sure, whether it is “free enterprise” or the conception of the state as a neutral umpire between warring social groups. There is a family of traits which define the liberal temper, several of which must be present before we can justifiably classify a thinker as liberal. Among the things we look for in a liberal thinker are recognition of the moral primacy of the individual in appraising institutional life, acceptance of a free market of ideas, tolerance of political opposition, appreciation of diversity, openmindedness to alternatives, endorsement of the right to self-determination, national, social and personal, including the moral right to revolution if the demand for self-determination is persistently frustrated. And, underlying all, reliance on the methods of intelligence conceived not as Reason carrying out ends of which we are not aware, but as common sense fortified by relevant scientific knowledge. Liberalism is not so much a doctrine as an attitude toward political affairs which is aware of human finitude and the tentativeness of human judgment and yet is prepared to act vigorously in moments of crisis. When it is given to religious language, it regards the ascription of Perfection or Divinity to the State (which we find in Hegel), or to any other human institution, as blasphemous...

Nonetheless there is something that contemporary liberals can learn from Hegel. This is the importance of the principles of continuity and polarity in avoiding lapses into doctrinaire positions. History abounds with illustrations, and we need not go far in our own time to find them. Not every plausible plan is a workable one. Readiness is not all the ripeness and maturity of conditions, independently determined, count for some thing too. We cannot wipe out history and begin as if we were born yesterday. There is no one principle that can guide us in human affairs whether it be the principle of freedom, peace, survival, justice, love, or what not. Each one exacts a price in terms of the others. Effective as these and similar maxims are in diminishing the risks of excess, by themselves they do not constitute an adequate philosophy. All they add up to is a counsel of caution.

Despite contentions to the contrary, the philosophy of the Enlightment in its best exemplars, save for its optimism and absence of the tragic sense of life, took note of the dangers Hegel feared. Except for Rousseau, whose false and mischievous doctrine of the “general will” Hegel took over, they were free from obscurantic romanticism. For all his invocations to Reason, Hegel distrusted the critical and sceptical spirit of the Enlightenment, its striving for clarity, its exposure of theological and philosophical humbug. The Hegelian philosophy did not become, except for its fetishism of the State, the ideology of the counterrevolutionary restoration."

--- Hegel Rehabilitated? / Sidney Hook

Ironically, by this definition of liberalism contemporary liberals wouldn't be liberal. But then Hook wrote this in 1965.

Hook again on Hegel:

"Hegel is the very model of a small-minded, timid Continental convservative. There is no more reason to regard Hegel as a liberal than Plato as a democrat"

"By the most specious reasoning that ever disgraced a philosopher, he tries to 'prove' by Hegelian logic that state sovereignty must be embodied not merely in an individual, not merely in a monarch, but in a hereditary monarch! No wonder Hegel declares that this feat is beyond the power of 'the understanding'... It is difficult to tell what is more nauseating in writing of this kind - its sycophancy or its obfuscation"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Links - 25th April 2012

"All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else." - H. L. Mencken


TODAYonline | Travel | To Myanmar with love - "After visiting my cousin working in Myanmar last October, I found myself appreciating certain aspects of the country I highly doubt would exist if the hermit state had been more sociable from the start"
Comments from Burmese: "Please Don't Anyhow INSULT Any Country... Anyway, I just feel like by writing this kinda article, you are showing the public how jealous, low-standard and closed-minded you are... Be Mindful with your Words Ms Serene Lim.. I hope your words ain't represent All the Singaporeans....."
"what a pathetic reporter writing an article in such a prejudiced way..."
If you thought Singaporeans had a poor grasp of English, the Burmese are even worse

Apple crafting weapon to vanquish Flashback virus - ""All the stuff the bad guys have learned for doing attacks in the PC world is now starting to transition to the Mac world," McAfee Labs director of threat intelligence Dave Marcus told AFP. "Mac has said for a long time that they are not vulnerable to PC malware, which is true; they are vulnerable to Mac malware." Dr. Web has now determined that more than 650,000 Mac computers may be infected with Flashback, which is designed to let hackers steal potentially valuable information such as passwords or financial account numbers"

Japanese firms face penalties for overweight staff

'In God We Trust' suit rejected by Supreme Court - "Michael Newdow, an atheist, has filed numerous lawsuits against government-sponsored religious invocations, including the words "under God" that were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954... in a 2-1 decision in October, a different appeals court panel said "under God" was a historic, nonreligious recognition of the faith of the nation's founders in a higher power as the source of all rights... Judge Carlos Bea wrote that the court recognized in a 1970 ruling that the motto has a "patriotic or ceremonial character" and "has no theological or ritualistic impact.""

Taoists upset over priest's robe worn at fashion show - "Leaders of the Taoist Federation are upset with the Floral Designers Society Singapore (FDSS) over a fashion show it held during a gala dinner last month... Federation president Tan Thiam Lye said that since Monday, it has received more than 10 calls from outraged Taoist devotees who have threatened to make police reports against the FDSS."
What is the distinction between religion and culture? Is "in God we trust" necessarily a declaration of religious faith?; Once you open the floodgates, it's a free for all. We're going to need to hire more police officers.

Soldier who refused to lose heart - "When doctors diagnosed him with a slow heart rate, Private R. Saravanan's hopes of becoming a combat soldier appeared dashed... 'I've always wanted to be a combatant who goes outfield and leads men... I wanted to do something more fulfilling during my NS,' said the former Yishun Junior College student... After appealing to his superiors and going through a seven-month battery of tests such as heart scans, the NSF was eventually deemed combat fit and started his BMT in Pulau Tekong last December"
One can apply the logic "you're crazy for trying to get what so many others are trying to avoid" (e.g. "you're crazy for having an abortion when so many people are trying for a baby")

The Incredible Story Of How Laid-Off OMGPOP Workers Got Hired Back Just In Time To Cash-In On The Big Sale A good contrast to OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter's Twitter Mishap

Bib:Love Offers Free Sex To Female Students, Promises Better Grades - "Female university students in Germany who are feeling stressed out and potentially receiving bad grades because of that stress can now use a service known as “Bib: Love” to help relieve their stress through free one-night stands. The program was started by three University of Mannheim students who thought offering a “stress free environment” to students would be a great service and the benefits for those men is obvious... at least a few female students have agreed to give the service a try with decent results. One female says she had “no complaints” about the service that was offered."

Why Does Bottled Water Have an Expiration Date?

The Dangerously Clean Water Used To Make Your iPhone - "The ultra-pure water used to clean semiconductors and make microchips would suck vital minerals right out of your body. Plus it tastes really nasty... That’s the kind of claim about water that people scoff at--it seems ridiculous on the face of it. Water too clean to drink?"

'Star Wars: The Old Republic' allows players to explore homosexual relationships - "It’s strange that Perkins is so upset about an extremely minor game-play addition which will allow a gamer to pursue an extremely quote-unquote “relationship” with a character created entirely with pixels, especially since The Old Republic also allows players to join the all-encompassingly evil Sith Lords and brutally conquer the galaxy. (But who cares about totalitarian despotism? Gay people: screech!"

Darlene Mayes, 73-Year-Old “Drug Kingpin,” Arrested in Oklahoma [Video] - "In one of the most bizarre stories of the day, a 73-year-old grandmother has been arrested for allegedly running a major marijuana drug operation out of her northeast Oklahoma home... Mayes also had $300,000 in cash and numerous guns stashed throughout the house"

THE ECONOMICS OF HIGH-END PROSTITUTES - "Among the many things we are left to consider in the wake of the Eliot Spitzer scandal, there is one I still can't quite get over: the staggering price of a high-end call girl. What service can anyone provide to justify up to $5,500 an hour?... It seems purchasing sex is like buying shellfish: it should come from a reputable provider. Meeting a woman in a clean, well-kept environment signals higher quality and lowers the risk of an infection substantially. Some argue that such no-strings transactions are ultimately less harmful to both career and marriage than taking a mistress. The men at the airport lounge also pointed out that the premium buys discretion. But at these prices, it is difficult to avoid a paper trail... A colleague with some experience arranging escorts for clients (when he worked at a rather nefarious-sounding private-equity firm) explained that a higher price often meant that a woman was either especially talented and versatile (ie, would provide a wider range of services), or simply more popular and experienced. I had been under the impression that this was a job in which seniority was undesirable. It depends on the woman, he said, just before emphatically denying ever using a call girl himself. As with all things, a premium price signals quality. Men who seek out high-end prostitutes may question the value of a bargain. The industry feeds their narcissism (hence the name "Emperors club VIP")"

The Gender Gap: Three Decades Old, as Wide as Ever | Pew Research Center for the People and the Press - "There are virtually no gender differences in opinions about abortion. Last November, about half of women (52%) and men (50%) said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 42% of women and 44% of men said it should be illegal in all or most cases. These views have changed little in Pew Research Center surveys going back more than a decade"
Given attempts to silence anti-abortion views when they come from men, this is significant

Rights or Benefits? Explaining the Sexual Identity Gap in American Political Behavior - "Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals (LGBs) are far more likely than heterosexuals to support the Democratic Party and its candidates. But is this support due to the Democratic Party support for the civil rights agendas of historically disadvantaged groups, or is it based on other factors? In this article, we use the issue of same-sex marriage to attempt to explain the nature of the sexual identity gap. We demonstrate that a substantial portion of LGBs place a great deal of importance on winning healthcare and other employee benefits for their spouses, but that they are less concerned about having legally recognized marriages. Furthermore, we find that it is the goal of acquiring spousal benefits, not the right to marry, that influences the degree to which LGBs support the Democratic Party. We conclude that the sexual identity gap is generated more from LGB concerns about acquiring tangible economic benefits than from an interest in pursuing civil rights."

Self-Righteous Cyclists Cause Share of Road Rage | The Urban Cyclist - "What struck me about both the cyclists I experienced was their complete lack of self-awareness, especially considering that both men were dressed like Lance Armstrong-wannabes with expensive clothing to match their expensive bikes. Yet, for all the money they spent on their gear and equipment, they proved to be more of a harm to other cyclists than any angry motorist. Why? Because the excessive and rude actions of both the cyclists provoked and antagonized the motorists around them"

Swedish minister in 'racist cake' controversy - "Sweden's culture minister is facing calls to step down after she was photographed cutting a cake designed like an African tribal woman... the cake was supposed to highlight the issue of female circumcision. But the Association for African Swedes said it was a crude racist caricature and called for Ms Liljeroth to resign. Kitimbwa Sabuni, a spokesperson for the group, told Swedish news agency TT: "To say that you did this for a good cause only makes the mockery of people who are victims of racism and of circumcision worse." The artist behind the cake, Makode Linde, who is black but was born in Stockholm, said the work had been misunderstood... "I was invited to speak at World Art Day about the freedom of art and the right to be provocative, and then they asked me to cut up the cake""
Moral of the story: try to be as bland as possible so nothing bad will happen to you

Swedish culture minister in 'racist cake' row - "Pictures of the Swedish culture minister cutting a cake designed like an African tribal woman has caused widespread anger and prompted prompted one organisation to demand her resignation. Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was invited to cut the cake, which doubled as an art installation... The exhibit at the Moderna Museet was meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation, and Makode Aj Linde, its Afro-Swedish creator was part of it all with his head built into the cake. When Adelsohn Liljeroth put the knife into the cake, he screamed "No, no!" from inside the installation... Adelsohn Liljeroth described the incident as a "bizarre situation". "I was invited to speak at World Art Day about the freedom of art and the right to be provocative, and then they asked me to cut up the cake... [The artist] has for several years used art to criticise stereotypes of black people and said that female genital mutilation as a choice of theme for the cake "was quite natural, as you would have to cut it up"... Karin Olsson, culture editor of Swedish daily Expressen, wrote that the event appeared to be a "brilliant performance, in which the initially humourostic tone raised questions about power and colonial perspectives. "Of course it would have been easier to do as PR consultants and nervous press spokesmen probably would have recommended: politely decline cutting the cake, to avoid tough questions afterwards. But such sterile politicians, who never take a risk, are not wanted," she wrote. The arts critic Dan Jonsson of the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter raised the possibility that Adelsohn Lijeroth had been "trapped", and said that whatever the minister had chosen to do, it would have been "wrong". "Either she'd been accused of being judgemental about artistic freedom, or to express racism," he wrote. "If this is the case, it was a skillfully set trap.""
Political Correctness hurts Art (and arguably activism). Though from a certain point of view it's comforting that this sort of thing can still happen in Sweden; Al Jazeera has the most incisive of the 4-5 articles I found on this topic

Morozov on Internet Studies

"Nothing's so apt to undermine your confidence in a product as knowing that the commercial selling it has been approved by the company that make it." - Franklin P. Jones


The Internet Intellectual

"Jarvis has mastered the art of transforming the most trivial observations into empty business maxims...

HAD JARVIS WRITTEN his book as self-parody—as a cunning attack on the narrow-mindedness of new media academics who trade in pronouncements so pompous, ahistorical, and vacuous that even the nastiest of post-modernists appear lucid and sensible in comparison—it would have been a remarkable accomplishment. But alas, he is serious. This is a book that should have stayed a tweet...

It would be hard to exaggerate the intellectual laziness of this book. When he is not re-phrasing the obvious, Jarvis churns out ideas that he believes to be fresh and brilliant but turn out to be stale and boring and old... he ends up accusing the great German thinker of being a smug elitist. This is how Sarah Palin would read Habermas if she could read Habermas...

Whenever Jarvis assumes the role of a cultural anthropologist, Public Parts turns from a really bad book into a really embarrassing one...

JARVIS'S STYLE IS itself a measure of what passes for Internet intellectualism. Habermas appears next to German sausages and Oprah and botox and hair extensions. Even Thomas Friedman would be aghast at some of Jarvis’s cheesy sound-bites... Jarvis’s habit of restating his banalities at least three times is extremely annoying... It gets still worse. Jarvis contradicts himself every ten pages or so... In Jarvis’s universe, all the good things are technologically determined and all the bad things are socially determined...

An Internet guru would not be an Internet guru if he didn’t make claims that contradict what he has said or written before. Take the subject of Google and its algorithms. Jarvis 1.0 was all about celebrating Google, but Jarvis 2.0 has new friends in Facebook and Twitter. (An Internet intellectual always keeps up.) Jarvis 1.0 wrote that “Google’s moral of universal empowerment is the sometimes-forgotten ideal of democracy,” and argued that the company “provides the infrastructure for a culture of choice,” while its “algorithms and its business model work because Google trusts us.” Jarvis 2.0 claims that “by sharing publicly, we people challenge Google’s machines and reclaim our authority on the internet from algorithms”... in one crucial respect Jarvis’s second book is true to the spirit of his first one. The only way to make sense of Public Parts is to read it as a wordy marketing brochure for Jeff Jarvis, the thought leader, the consultant, the international man of mystery...

Our Internet intellectuals lack the intellectual ambition, and the basic erudition, to connect their thinking with earlier traditions of social and technological criticism. They desperately need to believe that their every thought is unprecedented. Sometimes it seems as if intellectual life doesn’t really thrill them at all. They never stoop to the lowly task of producing expansive and expository essays, where they could develop their ideas at length, by means of argument and learning, and fully engage with their critics. Instead they blog, and tweet, and consult, and give conference talks—modes of discourse that are mostly impervious to serious critique...

As Chuck Klosterman has observed, “the degree to which anyone values the Internet is proportional to how valuable the Internet makes that person”...

WHY SUCH NARRATIVES are in demand by the general public is more mysterious. It could be that ordinary people find the surreal perplexity of the Internet—the stuff of WikiLeaks, Anonymous, Stuxnet, “Twitter revolutions”—so maddeningly complex and labyrinthine that they are ready to settle for whatever theory or pseudo-theory or theoretical uplift seems to make sense of the puzzling new situation. And what better way to make sense of it all than to claim that the source of their perplexity is in fact a part of some inexorable historical process that has been unfolding for centuries? Most Internet intellectuals simply choose a random point in the distant past—the honor almost invariably goes to the invention of the printing press—and proceed to draw a straight line from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, as if the Counter-Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, the Reign of Terror, two world wars—and everything else—never happened.

The ubiquitous references to Gutenberg are designed to lend some historical gravitas to wildly ahistorical notions... This lack of elementary intellectual curiosity is the defining feature of the Internet intellectual. History, after all, is about details, but no Internet intellectual wants to be accused of thinking small. And so they think big—sloppily, ignorantly, pretentiously, and without the slightest appreciation of the difference between critical thought and market propaganda."

Mencken on moral dogmatism / New technology and old thinking

"Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on "I am not too sure.""

--- Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks (418)

Someone quoted this with regard to religion, but I can think of other arenas where it would apply as well.

On a side note, this book is available for borrowing on Open Library.

I'm flabbergasted that one would need to "borrow" an e-book. Despite it not being in the FAQ I'm pretty sure this is because of licensing issues.

Someone pointed out that this is no different from borrowing a paper book from a library, but this is like how the first cars were literally horseless carriages - thinking had not yet adapted to the new technological paradigm.

The advantage of this approach, at least, is that one can read books online that one would otherwise be unable to. And that anyone can donate any book to be digitised, so potentially any book can be digitised regardless of licensing issues.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Earth Day

Run to mark Earth Day

Links - 23rd April 2012

"There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun." - Pablo Picasso


Conference Report - Third Annual Female Sexual Function Forum: Prevalence - "African American women were more likely to rate their own sexuality as excellent, seemed more aware of their own physiologic responsiveness, and were more concerned with different aspects of partner relating than were white women. The African American women reported that "feeling comfortable talking about sex" with their partner was important to them, whereas white women were more likely to attach importance to "feeling emotionally close" to their partner... African American women were more likely and Chinese and Japanese women less likely than white women to report sex as being very important to them. Dr. Johannes reported that there were significant ethnic differences for frequency of all sexual practices (intercourse, kissing, caressing, oral sex, and masturbation). The Asian women were more likely to report infrequent desire for sex and a lower frequency for oral sex. The frequency of sexual touching was lowest among Japanese women. African Americans reported a higher frequency of sexual intercourse, while white women reported a higher frequency of masturbation than did other ethnic groups"
The next time people ask me for proof that Asian women are frigid, I'll have more papers to point to apart from the previous one. There's also another source which says that "sexual dysfunction is quite common in Japanese women"
Keywords: Asian girls are frigid

The Role of Sex Guilt in the Relationship Between Culture and Women’s Sexual Desire - "A large body of literature demonstrates that East Asian women report lower sexual desire than Caucasian women. Although most studies have explained these differences by referring to general culture-linked differences in sexual conservatism, none have examined the potential role of specific constructs such as sex guilt... Caucasian women reported significantly higher levels of sexual desire, significantly lower levels of sexual conservatism, and significantly less sex guilt. In the entire sample, sexual conservatism and sex guilt separately mediated the relationship between ethnicity and sexual desire such that women with more sex guilt and those who were more sexually conservative reported lower sexual desire. Among the East Asian women, sex guilt, but not sexual conservatism, mediated the relationship between mainstream acculturation (degree of westernization) and sexual desire such that women with more sex guilt reported lower sexual desire... levels of sex guilt did not differentiate between sexually functional and dysfunctional men... more westernized East Asian women reported greater sexual desire [and] less sex guilt... The Neo-Confucians of the Song Dynasty (960 to 1276 A.D.) gave the Confucian classics repressive interpretations, thus setting the stage for the current East Asian view of sexuality as being reserved for marriage and procreation... sex guilt may be salient in the process of westernization and becoming more sexually open whereas sex guilt is likelyunrelated to the extent towhich individuals continue to embrace the values of their heritage culture"
And this paper has lots of references with evidence in the first paragraph: Brotto, Chik, Ryder, Gorzalka, and Seal
(2005); Cain, Johannes, Avis et al. (2003); Laumann, Nicolosi, Glasser et al., 2005

Hen: Sweden’s new gender neutral pronoun causes controversy. - "Olika only publishes books that "challenge stereotypes and obsolete norms and traditions in the world of literature"... Jan Guillou, one of Sweden's most well-known authors, referred to proponents of hen as "feminist activists who want to destroy our language." Other critics believe it can be psychologically and socially damaging, especially for children. Elise Claeson, a columnist and a former equality expert at the Swedish Confederation of Professions, has said that young children can become confused by the suggestion that there is a third, "in-between" gender at a time when their brains and bodies are developing. Adults should not interrupt children's discovery of their gender and sexuality, argues Claeson... "gender ideologues" have managed to change the curriculum to establish that schools should actively counter gender roles... The Green Party has even suggested placing "gender pedagogues" in every preschool in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, who can act as watchdogs... Ironically, in the effort to free Swedish children from so-called normative behavior, gender-neutral proponents are also subjecting them to a whole set of new rules and new norms as certain forms of play become taboo, language becomes regulated, and children's interactions and attitudes are closely observed by teachers. One Swedish school got rid of its toy cars because boys "gender-coded" them and ascribed the cars higher status than other toys. Another preschool removed "free playtime" from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school put it, when children play freely "stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying." And so every detail of children's interactions gets micromanaged by concerned adults, who end up problematizing minute aspects of children's lives, from how they form friendships to what games they play and what songs they sing."
Comments: "I'm confused, is this Sweden or Mao's China?"
"This is not creating equality, this is closing your eyes and declaring the sky is orange because you wish it so"
The urge to avoid stereotypes just means imposing a whole new set of them

Ozy’s Law - "Any theory or ideology that is based on a big and usually bullshit generalization about women invariably carries with it an unspoken corollary: a big and usually bullshit generalization about men. And vice versa. Try this out on some of your favorite misogynist and misandrist tropes, it’s fun. Men are all slobs… women should be keeping house. Women need to cover up their bodies or they deserve to be raped… men are animals who commit immediate rape at the sight of cleavage. Women are all gold-diggers… men are only valuable for their success and money. Women are only valuable for their looks… men are all shallow"

Answer to If a sexist woman could experience what it was like to be a man, what is the most important lesson that she would learn? - Quora - "While we are allowed to publicly insult men, (e.g. Sheryl Sandberg's favorite story about how men are arrogant and always associate their success with their own awesomeness, or Richard Power's social dance class at Stanford, always making everything the men's fault, and taking digs at men for everything and anything that might go wrong during a dance). On the other hand, a man is not allowed to publicly say anything that generalizes woman, or else he'll risk being called sexist. A good example was Harvard's ex-President"

‘Planet of the Apes’ May Be a Classic, But It Was Racist - "One of the astronauts is black, and I guess black folks circa 1968 were supposed to be grateful for that. But there is not one black human in the future Earth. And the setting is what’s left of New York City in the future, mind you. All those black folks in New York today, and NOT ONE survived in the future? Oh, and there are no Latinos or Asians either. Every one of the future humans - the ones who survived - is white. Subliminal wishful thinking on the part of the film’s producers? Or were they just too darned cheap to hire black, Asian or Latino extras for the film?"
Comment: "Now next there's the claim that not having one of the dim whitted animalistic futuristic humans be black is somehow offensive. If Planet of the Apes were a racist movie, I'd expect all of the protohumans to be black. The primitive tribal stereotype is a long standing tradition of racist cinema. The fact that the mindless brutes were Caucasian if anything suggests the film wasn't racist."

Indian skeptic charged with "blasphemy" for revealing secret behind "miracle" of weeping cross - "Sanal Edamaruku, an Indian skeptic, went to Mumbai and revealed that a "miraculous" weeping cross was really just a bit of statuary located near a leaky drain whose liquid reached it by way of capillary action. The local Catholic Church demanded that he retract his statements, and when he refused, they had him arrested for blasphemy"
Just remember: Jesus was crucified because of blasphemy
Addendum: He went into exile in Finland

Metal bands per capita - "Clear dominance in Sweden and Finland"

Maya Pedal - Pedal Powered Machines in Guatemala - "Pedal power can be harnessed for countless applications which would otherwise require electricity (which may not be available) or hand power (which is far more effort). Bicimaquinas are easy and enjoyable to use. They can be built using locally available materials and can be easily adapted to suit the needs of local people. They free the user from rising energy costs, can be used anywhere, are easy to maintain, produce no pollution and provide healthy exercise. We make water pumps, grinders, threshers, tile makers, nut shellers, blenders (for making soaps and shampoos as well as food products), trikes, trailers and more"

The Death of Postmodernism And Beyond - "A far more compelling case can be made that postmodernism is dead by looking outside the academy at current cultural production. Most of the undergraduates who will take ‘Postmodern Fictions’ this year will have been born in 1985 or after, and all but one of the module’s primary texts were written before their lifetime... The only place where the postmodern is extant is in children’s cartoons like Shrek and The Incredibles, as a sop to parents obliged to sit through them with their toddlers. This is the level to which postmodernism has sunk; a source of marginal gags in pop culture aimed at the under-eights... Postmodernism conceived of contemporary culture as a spectacle before which the individual sat powerless, and within which questions of the real were problematised. It therefore emphasised the television or the cinema screen. Its successor, which I will call pseudo-modernism, makes the individual’s action the necessary condition of the cultural product. Pseudo-modernism includes all television or radio programmes or parts of programmes, all ‘texts’, whose content and dynamics are invented or directed by the participating viewer or listener... Where once special effects were supposed to make the impossible appear credible, CGI frequently [inadvertently] works to make the possible look artificial, as in much of Lord of the Rings or Gladiator... The cultural products of pseudo-modernism are also exceptionally banal, as I’ve hinted. The content of pseudo-modern films tends to be solely the acts which beget and which end life"
"Pseudo-modernism" sounds like the complaints people always make about the new

Read the Web - "Can computers learn to read? We think so. "Read the Web" is a research project that attempts to create a computer system that learns over time to read the web. Since January 2010, our computer system called NELL (Never-Ending Language Learner) has been running continuously"

How Recruiters See Your Resume - "In the short time that they spend with your resume, the study showed recruiters will look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education. With such critical time constraints, you should make it easier for recruiters to find pertinent information by creating a resume with a clear visual hierarchy and don't include distracting visuals"

L'apathie politique ? (Political apathy?)

L'abstention est quelquefois idéologique
Abstention is sometimes ideological

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Australia 2011 - Day 9, Part 2 - Kakadu National Park: Sunrise Cruise

"There is something that is much more scarce, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability." - Robert Half


Australia 2011
Day 9 - 6th August - Kakadu National Park: Sunrise Cruise
(Part 2)

We were told about a bird with yellow eyes called the Vanity Bird - because it spent a lot of time looking at its reflection.

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Possibly the vanity bird

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Kingfisher with green neck

There was an egret which vibrated its legs to stir up crustaceans in the mud to eat.

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Crocodile in water

Crocodiles can jump out of the water up to 3/4 of their body length. This one was 3.5-4m, and they can be twice as long. They can eat bats.

Crocodile fishing. Before this video 2 fish flew into the air - fished by the crocodile. And 1 followed after this video.

The boat captain was saying something about a male crocodile chasing a female crocodile and her not moving, and limbs being ripped off and death resulting - but I can't reconstruct the narrative from my notes. In captivity, if a male crocodile doesn't like a female crocodile he keeps her from entering water so she will dry out and die.

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Some bird on tree

More crocodile commentary

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Open water lillies

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Floating crocodile
For a long time (my notes say 15 mins but the timing seems off) nothing happened but when we moved off one crocodile (maybe this one) attacked and pounced on something on the bank.

Walking on Water Lilies 1

Walking on Water Lilies 2

Crocodiles can stalk you, your horse and remember tires. So you need to change where you pitch your tent, wash your dishes and stuff like that.

You can fish in the river but you're not allowed to use bait (this is supposed to prevent the spread of invasive species). Uhh.

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Crocodile on bank

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Lotus / Sacred Lily

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There's a bird which sets fires - it takes a stick with embers and drops it in a spot with food. The aborigines and the national park were arguing about who was setting fires without permission - then they found out it was the bird.

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Forest Kingfisher in tree

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Forest Kingfisher in tree with fish

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Second largest bird of prey in Australia. Closeup:

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Birds flying overhead: maple geese

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Birds in formation

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Crocodile on bank. When the jaws are open it's to cool the brain

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Wild horses

Male barramundi change sex at 5.

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Crocodile on bank - just out of the water

US alligators are smaller and less aggressive than saltwater crocodiles. So in Florida you can play golf with them around.
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