25 Mar 2017

“Friends in Safe Spaces”

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25 Mar 2017

Now When Can I Buy a Pair of Clip-Ons?

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TechXplore:

A team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin has developed a pair of glasses that allows the wearer to have tetrachromatic vision….

Humans have three types of cone cells in the back of the eye to differentiate color. Some react to blue, some to green and some to red. The cones do their work by responding to the difference in wavelength of the incoming light. Such vision is known as trichromatic. In this new effort, the researchers have found a way of fooling the brain into seeing as if there were a fourth type of cone, by wearing glasses with two types of filters. The result is tetrachromatic vision. …

The filters remove some parts of the blue light spectrum. But the filters each remove a different part. When the filters are fitted into a frame and worn like regular glasses, the wearer is able to see colors that are normally hidden—metamers. In a sense, it is rather the opposite of what occurs with people who are color blind. They might see blue and red as the same, even though there is more light information there. Adding spectrum identification to color blind eyes allows for seeing more of what is already there. With the new combined filter system, a person is able to look at what appears to be an object that is all the same color, such as purple, and see more colors in it—those normally hidden metamers.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

24 Mar 2017

“Be the Name of Boston”

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The story of a boy and his scorpion.

Via io9.

24 Mar 2017

Photographer Looks Tasty

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Pakistani photographer Atif Saeed got out of his car in a safari park to photograph a lion. The lion clearly thought the photographer looked delicious. Atif managed to snap this image before scrambling back into his car.

Bored Panda

24 Mar 2017

Garbo’s Apartment Listed for $5.95 Million

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Garbo’s Kitchen.

Greta Garbo’s former 5th floor coop apartment on East 52nd Street, private elevator, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, with East River views, $9100 a month maintenance, little changed since the star’s death in 1990, only $5.95 million.

Daily Mail

23 Mar 2017

“What Has Yale Become?”

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“My students who are most intellectually engaged, most intellectually thirsty, they would tell me that they feel that there’s no place for them at Yale.”

— William Deresiewicz.

Hat tip to Intellectual Takeout.

23 Mar 2017

Anent Yesterday’s Westminster Attack

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Winston Churchill writing in The River War (1899), his account of Kitchener’s campaign against the jihadists of that day, discusses Islam:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property — either as a child, a wife, or a concubine — must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science — the science against which it had vainly struggled — the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

23 Mar 2017

Scalzi Parody Update: Civil War in Amazon IT Department

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Vox Day yesterday explained that it wasn’t Jeff Bezos or Amazon officially that took down the “Johan Kalsi” parody of John Scalzi’s latest screed. Little SJW nerds buried deep in the Amazon machine are suspected.

Since some people seem to want to go on the warpath, let me be perfectly clear here: Amazon is not to blame. I even suspect that it is entirely possible that Tor Books is not to blame either, based on a) when the book was pulled and b) the fact that the book has shown as Live for nearly 24 hours but still does not have a page on any Amazon site. The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is a rogue low-level SJW employee, possibly two, in a specific department.

I have already spoken to the manager of one department and they have begun to investigate why Corrosion is Live but not available. They’ve done everything we asked and we have no problem with the way we have been treated.

——————————–

Civil War in Amazon IT Department

The Corroding Empire was up this morning, but SuperversiveSF found that it has been going up and down.

The Corroding Empire isn’t out of the woods yet, because following that conversation, it was blocked again, reinstated again and blocked a third time in short order.

Superversive links another Vox post which reports:

As we suspected, there appear to have been internal shenanigans taking place at Amazon, as one or more SJWs appear to have abused their positions to interfere with our ability to sell THE CORRODING EMPIRE. …

Thank you for your support and for holding fire while we sorted out who was, and who was not, responsible for the removal of THE CORRODING EMPIRE. The very helpful KDP representative to whom I spoke said that he did not believe there was anything improper or misleading about the title, the name, or the cover, but we’re going to wait to get explicit permission on all three elements before settling on a final edition that will see print.

Mr. Amazon SJW just blocked it again. Unsigned, of course. SJWs always double down.

    We’re writing to let you know that readers have reported a problem in your book. The error significantly impacts the readability of your book. We have temporarily removed it from sale so that more readers don’t experience the same problem in your book

    Error Category: Wrong_Content; Comments: The content of your book is a different edition than what the detail page indicates. Because this could be a serious issue for many customers, we have had to temporarily block your book from sale. Please correct the image so that we can make it available for sale again.

UPDATE: Another phone call and we’re back up again.

UPDATE: And blocked again, albeit this time UNDER REVIEW, not memory-holed.

UPDATE: Finally got to speak to a supervisor. She’s not only escalated the matter to legal, but has assured me that the book will be unblocked, stay unblocked, and that the matter will be fully investigated. It’s not just the three blocks, the culprit(s) also put the book on the Excluded list for Amazon Associates, which prevents others from being paid when someone buys the book.

UPDATE: The book is live, and is now locked for a fourth time. SJWs really do double down.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

22 Mar 2017

Nick Bull Meets Off-Track Thoroughbred

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You can get a great deal on a fine horse of superb breeding by purchasing an OTTB. However… the horse you get will be a racehorse accustomed only to running full tilt on a track. Your new horse will require lots of training to turn him into a hunter or ordinary riding horse. Naturally, some OTTBs will not be trainable.

Years ago, my wife and I and a friend looked at a Thoroughbred being offered for sale at a Ridgefield, Connecticut stable. I had met the ladies at the train station after commuting back from Manhattan, and I was handicapped by wearing ordinary trousers and street shoes.

The horse was handsome and large and up to weight, but he had the most horrible gaits any of us ever encountered on a horse. His trot was bone-jarring and so violent that both my wife and our female friend were bounced right out of the saddle after a few strides.

I climbed uncomfortably aboard (ordinary trousers work poorly for riding), gathered up the reins and signaled my steed to move off with my heels. His walk was decidedly uncomfortable. As I prepared to put him into a trot, I noticed the seller deliberately averting her eyes from the impending disaster. His trot was what I’d describe as a unique experience. It was so violent and extreme that in a very short time it was obvious to me that I had the choice of pulling up immediately and getting off, or getting bounced right off just like the girls. I pulled up.

Everyone who rides gets run away with from time to time. I always experience the imprudent temptation to let the horse go and enjoy the gallop. Fortunately for me, I have always been able to pull the horse up, or simply arrived on his back home at the stable where his stall and his hay are waiting. One time, the runaway ignored me and ran right into a tree, but I simply stepped off when he went down. Nick Bull was much less fortunate and seems to have experienced what the Irish refer to as “a crucifying fall.”

Hat tip to Jesse Swan.

22 Mar 2017

Context 958 Lived in the 13th Century

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Facial reconstruction of Context 958 burial.

Gizmodo reports on the reconstruction of the face of a man who lived 700 years ago by Cambridge scientists.

[H]ere’s what we know about Context 958.

He was just slightly over 40 years old when he died. His skeleton showed signs of considerable wear-and-tear, so he likely lead a tough and hard working life. His tooth enamel stopped growing during two occasions in his youth, suggesting he likely lived through bouts of famine or sickness when he was young. The archaeologists found traces of blunt force trauma inflicted to the back of his head, which healed over before he died. The researchers aren’t sure what he did for a living, but they think he was a working-class person who specialized in some kind of trade.

Context 958 ate a diverse diet rich in meat or fish, according to an analysis of weathering patterns on his teeth. His profession may have provided him with more access to such foods than the average person at the time. His presence at the charitable hospital suggests he fell on hard times, with no one to take care of him.

“Context 958 was probably an inmate of the Hospital of St John, a charitable institution which provided food and a place to live for a dozen or so indigent townspeople—some of whom were probably ill, some of whom were aged or poor and couldn’t live alone,” noted John Robb, a professor from Cambridge University’s Division of Archaeology, in a statement.

Strangely, he was buried face down, which is rare but not unheard of in medieval burials.

Full story.

21 Mar 2017

Diminished Respect For Authority

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Glenn Reynolds points out that when members of today’s establishment class of credentialed experts complain that ordinary Americans commonly reject their scientific consensus on Climate Change, their moral consensus, and their economic and policy consensus, there are reasons that the prestige and authority of the credentialed experts class have dramatically declined within the lifetimes of the Baby Boom generation.

[T]he “experts” don’t have the kind of authority that they possessed in the decade or two following World War II. Back then, the experts had given us vaccines, antibiotics, jet airplanes, nuclear power and space flight. The idea that they might really know best seemed pretty plausible.

But it also seems pretty plausible that Americans might look back on the last 50 years and say, “What have experts done for us lately?” Not only have the experts failed to deliver on the moon bases and flying cars they promised back in the day, but their track record in general is looking a lot spottier than it was in, say, 1965.

It was the experts — characterized in terms of their self-image by David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest — who brought us the twin debacles of the Vietnam War, which we lost, and the War On Poverty, where we spent trillions and certainly didn’t win. In both cases, confident assertions by highly credentialed authorities foundered upon reality, at a dramatic cost in blood and treasure. Mostly other people’s blood and treasure.

And these are not isolated failures. The history of government nutritional advice from the 1960s to the present is an appalling one: The advice of “experts” was frequently wrong, and sometimes bought-and-paid-for by special interests, but always delivered with an air of unchallengeable certainty.

In the realm of foreign affairs, which should be of special interest to the people at Foreign Affairs, recent history has been particularly dreadful. Experts failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union, failed to deal especially well with that fall when it took place, and then failed to deal with the rise of Islamic terrorism that led to the 9/11 attacks. Post 9/11, experts botched the reconstruction of Iraq, then botched it again with a premature pullout.

On Syria, experts in Barack Obama’s administration produced a policy that led to countless deaths, millions of refugees flooding Europe, a new haven for Islamic terrorists, and the upending of established power relations in the mideast. In Libya, the experts urged a war, waged without the approval of Congress, to topple strongman Moammar Gadhafi, only to see — again — countless deaths, huge numbers of refugees and another haven for Islamist terror.

It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions.

By its fruit the tree is known, and the tree of expertise hasn’t been doing well lately. As Nassim Taleb recently observed: “With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers.”

Then there’s the problem that, somehow, over the past half-century or so the educated classes that make up the “expert” demographic seem to have been doing pretty well, even as so many ordinary folks, in America and throughout the West, have seen their fortunes decaying. Is it any surprise that claims to authority in the form of “expertise” don’t carry the same weight that they once did?

If experts want to reclaim a position of authority, they need to make a few changes. First, they should make sure they know what they’re talking about, and they shouldn’t talk about things where their knowledge isn’t solid. Second, they should be appropriately modest in their claims of authority. And, third, they should check their egos. It doesn’t matter what your SAT scores were, voters are under no obligation to listen to you unless they find what you say persuasive.

21 Mar 2017

Amazon Bans Scalzi Parody

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John Scalzi’s latest, The Collapsing Empire, released today by Tor Books, apparently has some resemblances to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.

Scalzi and the publishers of Tor books are both prominent on the Social Justice Warrior side in the current and ongoing political conflicts within the Sci Fi-Fantasy community.

Consequently, Vox Day’s Castalia House released yesterday a parody, titled “The Corroding Empire,” purportedly written by one Johan Kalsi, described by Vox Day as, “Finland’s hottest science fiction author. An accomplished geneticist as well as a 6’3″ ex-Finnish Marine.”

The cover of “The Corroding Empire,” as you can see above, has a recognizable resemblance to the cover of “The Collapsing Empire,” and features the imaginary plug line: “Kalzi rips off Asimov even better than Scalzi rips off Heinlein!”

All this seems rather funny, but Tor Books was not amused and (who knew that such a minor publisher had that kind of power?) promptly prevailed on the great and powerful Amazon to remove the parody.

SuperversiveSF.com reports:

Tor Books author John Scalzi announced a book, which he turned in late, titled The Collapsing Empire.

Castalia House quickly and effectively put out a parody book titled The Corroding Empire by Johan Kalsi, which beat out Scalzi’s actual work in pre-orders for several days.

The parody, The Corroding Empire released today, to much fanfare (I’ve read a little myself, it is good science fiction work).

Tor sent Amazon an ultimatum telling them to take it down.

Amazon complied and sent Castalia House a notification that they were taking it down because they were pretending to be John Scalzi.

Castalia House had their book removed, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Wow! Amazon sucks with a leftwing conformist vacuum about as powerful as that of Mozilla, Target, Starbuck’s, ESPN, &c.

Vox Day apparently foresaw the possibility of censorship, and cleverly had ready an alternative cover, title, and auctorial pseudonym: “Harry Seldon” referencing Hari Seldon, the mathematician hero of Asimov’s “Foundation.” (see below). But… you won’t find “Corrosion” on offer at Amazon this morning either.

Here’s where both titles were pre-release yesterday on Amazon’s bestseller list:

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

20 Mar 2017

The Renaissance’s Leading Chef

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Edward White, in Paris Review,

Bartolomeo Scappi, [as] head chef for popes and cardinals throughout the middle decades of the sixteenth century, … prepared unashamedly decadent banquets for the most powerful men on earth. For thirty years, his art embodied the thrilling, brief moment when the papal court was one of the world’s leading patrons of artistic expression and intellectual enquiry. But no sooner had he hit his peak than he was forced to lay down his ladle: reform had gripped the Vatican.

Realizing that his life’s work would soon be only a memory lingering on the taste buds of a chosen few, in the last years of his life he recorded his genius in Opera dell’arte del cucinare. Published in 1570, the year of Scappi’s seventieth birthday, it was the world’s first illustrated cookbook, a colossal nine-hundred-page tome that includes a thousand recipes and serves as a treatise on cooking as an art form, a courtly pursuit, and a domestic science. …

Scappi was born to modest circumstances around the turn of the sixteenth century, probably in Dumenza, a tiny town about forty miles north of Milan. At the time, medieval tastes still dominated elite dinner tables. In the Ancient world, the cuisine of the Mediterranean, based on bread, oil, and wine, was held up as a marker of its innate superiority over the Germanic peoples, with their supposedly barbaric fare of meat, milk, and beer. After the fall of Rome, the two traditions slowly merged until, in the late Middle Ages, the food served on the tables of the mighty across Europe was broadly similar: heavily spiced sweet-and-sour combinations, given layers of earthy complexity with great heaps of garden herbs. Many of the dishes Scappi chose to record in his magnum opus retain that sensibility, such as his recipe for an omelette made with pig’s blood goat cheese, spring onion, cinnamon, clover, nutmeg, marjoram, and mint—the kind of concoction that would nowadays be considered inedible just about anywhere on earth. Yet, among these forbidding relics of the medieval world, the Opera abounds with innovation that put cooking—perhaps for the first time—on a plinth next to the other creative arts. …

The Opera overflows with references to a Bolognese sauce for this, a Genoese garnish for that, or a delicious dessert known and loved by the people of Padua but virtually secret from anyone else. It suggests he traveled a lot with the express intention of trawling markets, speaking to traders, and experimenting with every new ingredient that came his way. Though he hardly ever refers to something as “Italian,” in a rudimentary way Scappi’s recipes inadvertently assemble the nation that had yet to be made, sitting side by side dishes from the Veneto to the Kingdom of Naples in a single, sumptuous meal. This roving palate also encompassed the New World, the flavors of which are on every page of the Opera—especially sugar, which features in something like 90 percent of its recipes, including as a pizza topping, along with pine nuts and rosewater.

It was never enough for Scappi to please diners: he set out to amuse, astonish, and confuse them with vast menus of pungent flavors and retina-searing colors, presented in displays more akin to a performance art piece than a dinner party. His banquets were the talk of royal and ecclesiastical courts throughout Christendom; one of them comprised hundreds of dishes, including seventy-seven different desserts and edible statues of weird beasts from the Orient, Greek gods, and cavorting nymphs. Once their bellies had been filled, guests were presented with posies of silk flowers attached to stems of pure gold. Scappi specialized in elaborate visual jokes, such as salmon sculpted into the form of a glazed ham or a goat’s head, and everything was served on highly polished tableware of silver, gold, and exquisite Maiolica. Decorous restraint was not to be found in his kitchen.

Whole thing.

20 Mar 2017

The Moscow Drift

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Popular Mechanics:

Russia’s tank force is largely staffed by teenagers drafted to serve their country for 12-month terms. The T-80UD has a manual transmission. Maybe you can see where this is going.

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