essentialsaltes: (islam)
"My child's personal religious beliefs were violated,” said Edmisten, adding that her seventh grade daughter took zeros on the section on Islamic history after a teacher didn’t allow her to opt out of the curriculum and standards and do alternative studies. “Those are zeros that we proudly took and we will not compromise.”

Some people can't even face learning about something.

When I first saw the story on HuffPo, it seemed like it was just one crazy mom, but sadly that's not the case.

She got applause for her rant, and a board member made a motion to remove the textbook “because it does not represent the values of the county.”

And then there's this:

Hughes said Sullivan County must follow the law and standards “"whether we like it or whether we don’t.”

“I think everybody on the board agrees with the public. We live here, too,” Hughes said.
essentialsaltes: (unleash the furry)
A bidder with 0 feedback won two of my videogame auctions. During the auction, he cancelled a $90 bid on one of them, which is not a problem, other that it shows that he doesn't know what he's doing. After winning the two auctions -- he made several bids on that item, and only retracted one of them -- here are a selection of his messages over the next 6 days, each line a separate message.

I told uto cancel them
Im sorry but i dont want them i all hmhave them i for got to tell u i been so busy working sorry
U can sell them ti tge next person
I ma pay u for this next friday ok thanks
Cancel it mistakes rong system


At this point I cancel both auctions. Unfortunately, the bidder has to confirm the cancellation (to confirm that he hasn't paid money).


I told u next friday u blinde
Next friday
Friday. Ok
Cancel the shit


I started the cancellation process. You have to confirm it.


I did i check with paypal its ok


You have to confirm it on ebay. Check your messages From Ebay.


U have to do it i check





So I spent ten minutes on the phone with a nice gentleman at an Indian call-center, who seems to have sorted things out for me. Although he said that he was going to send a message to the bidder to explain the process, and that the bidder would have to confirm, I suspect he (mercifully) made the cancellation happen by fiat, because they were cancelled by the time I got off the phone and refreshed my account.
essentialsaltes: (herbert West)
This is not a novel.
This is not a short story collection.
This is Self-Reference ENGINE.

I gave up. There are a few smiles, a few hints of Borges or Doug Hofstadter, but more in a quoting sort of way than an organic sort of way. In an alternate universe I would have moved widdershins through time, molested a sock, and enjoyed this book. But instead, I gave up.

✓Book you started but never finished
✓with bad reviews
If I seemed to imply at any time that this book makes sense, I am sorry. It does not.

I almost feel that people may rate it high simply in order to not look dumb, because this book is definitely not for everyone. This is an experimental sci-fi book organized as a loose collection of vignettes or short stories that roughly take place in the same fluctuating universe.
I believe this book is a cutting-edge experiment and an extended thought experiment on the space-time continuum. However, I can’t say I personally enjoyed it. Sadly, reading this work of high concept sci-fi just felt like a chore to me.

Agenda 21

Feb. 10th, 2015 04:50 pm
essentialsaltes: (perill of Breakdancing)
We were walking around the neighborhood, when a young guy on a bike slowly catches us up and starts talking at us. The conversation was odd from the get-go, and got odder. He was not satisfied with our explanation that we were taking a walk, and said something like...

"Oh, I know what's going on. This is some Agenda 21 action."

"Uh, no we're taking a walk."

"Yeah, Agenda 21. I have a well over 200 IQ and know what's going on. Where are your notebooks? Aren't you taking notes?"

"No, we're taking a walk."

With some last words about how we were carpetbaggers, he drifted down a different street.


Agenda 21 is "non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development", but it has turned into some sort of (largely rightwing) conspiracy about how the UN is going to take over America. But there's also Democrats Against Agenda 21.

Although, you have to admit, they may be on to something here:
Bicycle advocacy groups are very powerful now. Advocacy. A fancy word for lobbying, influencing, and maybe strong-arming the public and politicians. What's the conection with bike groups? National groups such as Complete Streets, Thunderhead Alliance, and others, have training programs teaching their members how to pressure for redevelopment, and training candidates for office. It's not just about bike lanes, it's about remaking cities and rural areas to the 'sustainable model'. High density urban development without parking for cars is the goal. This means that whole towns need to be demolished and rebuilt in the image of sustainable development. Bike groups are being used as the 'shock troops' for this plan.


It certainly does seem like Washington is in the pocket of Big Bike.
essentialsaltes: (herbert West)
There was a little ad in the Smithsonian, offering $1000 to someone who can disprove the APTheory.
essentialsaltes: (psychic)
Preston Bost's "Crazy Beliefs, Sane Believers: toward a cognitive psychology of conspiracy ideation"

"Perhaps the most consistent finding is that people are relatively consistent in their conspiracy ideation; if they believe one conspiracy theory, they tend to have other conspiratorial beliefs ... Interestingly, conspiracy ideation also can bridge contradictory theories; Wood and colleagues observed that participants who endorsed the belief that Princess Diana had been murdered also tended to endorse the claim that she had faked her death. Researchers have taken these findings to confirms one of the first clearly articulated theories of conspiracy ideation: Goertzel's (1994) concept of a monological belief system, in which conspiracy ideation is a worldview -- rather than a collection of discrete beliefs -- in which multiple conspiracy theories reinforce each other."
essentialsaltes: (diversity)
Subtitle: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University

It tells the story of a Quaker student at Brown who spends a semester at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in 2007. OK, yes, it's a bit of a stunt, but at least it's an interesting one, and Roose definitely throws himself into the role, a lot more so than, say, Jason Rosenhouse in Among the Creationists. Roose enrolls at Liberty and presents himself as a Christian (At Liberty, "Christian" is synonymous with 'born again Christian') and (awkwardly) fakes up a recent conversion story to explain his presence (and why he has so little knowledge that he would flunk Sunday school for six year olds).

In short he comes to, generally, like the students and staff at Liberty, and a little Stockholm Syndrome sets in I think, and he finds himself simultaneously defending them, and disapproving of their (fairly common) homophobia and the one-sidedness of some portions of the 'education'. He even comes to have some appreciation for Jerry Falwell. And in "you can't make this shit up", he scores a one-on-one interview with Falwell for the school newspaper, gets praised for it by Falwell himself in convocation (I mean, what's not to praise, it was a puff-piece in the Liberty newspaper; the hard-hitting exposé uncovered the fact that Falwell had a peach Snapple every day at 3pm, which he slammed down in 6 seconds). A few days later, Falwell's dead, and this Quaker mole has published the last print interview Falwell ever gave, which comes to have a life of its own as it is reprinted in the memorial for the funeral.

I have once again abused the highlight feature of the Kindle...

if you click here, I'll reward you with Larry Flynt's parody ad featuring Falwell that led to a Supreme Court case )
essentialsaltes: (arkham)
Dr. Pookie noticed Edwin Henry Landseer's "Man Proposes, God Disposes," painted in 1864. It's quite a striking painting.

Despite the title, the complete lack of tentacles, and being painted decades before Lovecraft's birth, I think there's a hint of the Lovecraftian here, in the illustration of the futility of man in the face of the uncaring universe, even with the benefit of our feeble science, represented here by the telescope. This is not a celebration of the heroism of those who risk their lives in exploration, but a scene of horror at their failure.

The painting depicts the aftermath of John Franklin's last expedition to the Arctic, which led to the deaths of the entire complement of 129. Obviously, "At the Mountains of Madness" also deals with a failed polar expedition, and to make an extremely tenuous connection, the fictional expedition passes Franklin Island, named after John Franklin.

To get even more tenuous, the story also mentions Mount Erebus and Mount Terror, two volcanoes in Antarctica. The mountains are named after the ships used by James Ross in his polar expeditions, and later used by the doomed Franklin expedition. The remains of HMS Erebus have recently been found.

The painting now hangs in a university hall in London, where (on test days) it is covered by the Union Jack to avoid spooking the students.

Recent graduate Michaela Jones was told that a student during an exam had stared directly into one of the polar bears' eyes. Trance-like, the student had then gone "mad" and killed herself - although not before etching the words "The polar bears made me do it" onto her exam paper.


Friendspage breaking giant image back here )
essentialsaltes: (Agent)
Looking at the choices for the sexy Water Replenishment District of Southern California, I note that the incumbent is 83 years old, had a face-off with the state attorney general for conflict of interest, and was apparently free with the expense account.

So what are the alternatives?
Johnnie Roberts, Public Affairs Consultant. Not too inspiring: "He has done some Research on Water Issues, & arrived at some solutions to improve the way Southern California receives it's Water."

James T. Law, minister/disability activist. No info I can find. Except that in 2011 he was bumped from the city council election "(James T. Law was the last candidate to be checked — his petitions had an insufficient number of valid signatures, bumping him from the competition.)"

Daniela Calderon, mother and restaurant manager. No info I can find, although she may be a manager at the Hollywood Café 50s, which I guess is a point in her favor.

Mervin Evans, author/consultant. Ok, Mervin, you're my last hope. sigh.
essentialsaltes: (Yellowstone Falls)
... [and] the effects of climate change are branches hitting the windshield along the way.”

The Last Drop: America's Breadbasket Faces Dire Water Crisis - an eye-opening look at the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. I think the most mind-blowing fact is that, in the great state of Texas, water is not a public resource:

No other state’s water law allows such unfettered individual control. The danger, especially apparent as the Ogallala disappears, is that it favors an individual motivated to turn a profit in the present day above community needs of the future.

The Texas law allowed billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens to sell trillions of gallons of Ogallala Aquifer water beneath 211,000 acres surrounding his majestic Mesa Vista ranch, in Roberts County, near the Texas-Oklahoma border. In 2011, the now 85-year-old sold his water rights for $103 million to 11 water-impoverished cities nearby, including Lubbock and Amarillo.
...
Elsewhere, particularly in Kansas, farmers irrigating where the Ogallala is shallowest are required to meter their wells, observe water-use restrictions, and are fined for not doing so.

Landowners in the HPWD – even today – can choose to suck their portion of the Ogallala dry any time they like.


Whew! I'm sure glad California has no water problems!
essentialsaltes: (Wrong)
I was invited to a small FB group for political discussion - just a couple dozen members, and not that many active ones. While there are some reasonable people there, there are also a couple people that I would like to think were trolls or paid shills of the Koch Brothers or something. But I fear they are sincere. And these are probably people who vote. If you would like to stare at them, as at a freak show or psychological experiment, you can ask me to invite you into the FB group (if we're FB friends -- I'm using LJ mainly so I can format stuff below). I beg you not to.

Examples of what passes for 'argument'.

Experimental Subject #1: Mahar... What a scumbag

Me: Ad hominem

Experimental Subject #1: Okay he's a dick

Me: Ad hominem

Experimental Subject #1: He is the King of all you liberals

Me: [SUBJECT NAME], an ad hominem is where you attack the person instead of the person's argument. Do you want to discuss what Maher has to say, or do you just want to call him names?

Experimental Subject #1: I want to call him names...he's a liberal nut job


TL;DR Example #2 )

So, like I said. I can invite you into this group. Do not, under any circumstances, take me up on this offer.
essentialsaltes: (Danger)
We received three offers on the house. We sent out counteroffers, and got some responses, and just a few minutes ago, we accepted one of them. It's not signed, sealed, and delivered, but we may have just sold our house.

On the buying front, we made an offer on the hipster place. We've received a counteroffer. I expect there were a lot of offers, so they're probably fishing for more money. But I figger -- hey, these people are hipsters... Let's send in the same offer, but we'll put a bird on it. It's a lock.

We dithered on the coke palace with a view, but ultimately we decided not to make an offer. And there's more fish in the sea at open houses this weekend.
essentialsaltes: (Cognitive Hazard)
Sciam article on the effects of believing (or having been recently exposed to the idea that) free will is in some sense illusory.

Equally disturbing for social cohesion, diminished belief in free will also seems to release urges to harm others. One of the admittedly odd ways that psychologists measure aggression in the laboratory is by giving people the opportunity to add hot sauce or salsa to a snack that they know will be served to someone who hates spicy food. Roy F. Baumeister of Florida State University and his colleagues asked a group of volunteers to read arguments for or against the existence of free will before preparing plates of tortilla chips and clearly labeled hot salsa for another volunteer who had rebuffed each group member earlier, refusing to work together with that person. This same aloof individual, the subjects knew full well, was not a fan of spiciness, and the person would have to eat everything that was handed out. Those who had read texts doubting free will’s existence used nearly double the amount of salsa.
essentialsaltes: (Laika)


Trips Into History has some good background on how Rufus Porter, founder of Scientific American, came up with the plan. Unfortunately, it never got off the ground (so to speak).
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
On May 19, 1969, The Supreme Court concurred with Leary in Leary v. United States, declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional and overturned his 1965 conviction. On that same day, Leary announced his candidacy for Governor of California against the Republican incumbent, Ronald Reagan. His campaign slogan was "Come together, join the party." On June 1, 1969, Leary joined John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Montreal Bed-In, and Lennon subsequently wrote Leary a campaign song called "Come Together".

That compresses the truth a little, but...

"The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?" -- John Lennon
essentialsaltes: (Herbert West)
This book is the result of investigating the possessions of institutionalized patients from Willard State (Mental) Hospital in New York. Possessions left, forgotten, in an attic for decades. In addition to the book, there is actually a very nice website with a fair amount of information and photos. The authors have done a great job sleuthing down the identities of the owners, and building up as much of a biography as is possible. Most of them were institutionalized in the first half of the 20th century, though a few lived on into the 60s and 70s. So collectively, they lived through treatment changes from 'warehousing', to occupational therapy, to shock therapy, to antipsychotic medicines.

The variety of stories is impressive. A Filipino who came to the US in 1907, an Italian lady who thought she was a princess, an African American veteran, and the guy who had a Jesus complex and also a Secret Service record for being arrested outside the White House, since he had an idea that he was married to President Truman's daughter.

A lot of it makes for very interesting reading. However, the book actually angered me quite a bit here and there. Now, I am probably the last person who needs to be convinced about the shortcomings and abuses in the treatment of the insane in the early 20th century. I wrote the book on it. OK, a book on it.

But author Darby Penney "is a national leader in the human rights movement for people with psychiatric disabilities" and this comes through as a real bias in the book. At every turn, she minimizes the very real mental problems these people had. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. I mean it's one thing to point out things that people at the time should have known, but Penney takes the hospital to task for keeping a person institutionalized merely for hearing voices, pointing out the existence of the Hearing Voices Movement, which takes it as a foundational point that "Hearing voices is not in itself a sign of mental illness." Not only is this anachronistic, but even today the HVM is a fringe movement at best in mental health.

Here's an illustrative excerpt:
[quotes are from medical observations of patient: Marie] "At times is assaultive," "usually remains alone," "smiles and responds when spoken to," "has a sexual trend." In December 1920, things seemed to take an even more bizarre turn. She began to claim that "there were live chickens inside her hatched from eggs she had eaten." Becoming more suspicious, especially about the food given to her, she took to scraping her bread carefully before eating it. And on March 24, 1922, she had a physical altercation with two female attendants, "pounding (one) severely" and nearly tearing the uniform off the other one, which landed her on a more 'secure' ward in Chapin Hall. We can't know what prompted this altercation, which was described as an 'assault' on the staff member. Such attacks are rarely unprovoked.


(My emphasis.) I mean, if someone gets pounded severely, surely that's an assault, with no need for scare quotes.

For the record, the Taint of Madness game stats for Willard State Hospital are: 94% survival rate (per year), 32% cure rate, 4% release rate. It looks about average for NY state, which was one of the better places to be in the country. The mismatch between the cure rate and release rate does support one main theme of the book -- that patients who seemed to no longer have significant symptoms were still kept institutionalized, rather than being released. but it's hard to trust the book's selective quotations. Just as another example, you can see where the focus of attention is in this sentence, "Aside from repeating psychopathological terms such as blocking, ideas of reference, paranoia, defective insight and judgment, and hallucinations, he was noted to be a good worker and more pleasant and agreeable than before."
essentialsaltes: (Larpies)
This is Chaosium's anthology of Lovecraftian cyberpunk stories. It has a story by me.

The anthology starts of strong with Bob Price's "Obsolete, Absolute". The 'twist' ending is probably not much of a surprise by the time you arrive, but it's fun getting there, and the last line is a great inverted version of how Grandpa Theobald would often end his stories, in italics yet.

The book also ends well with CJ Henderson's "Indifference" and "Open Minded" by Jeffrey Thomas.

Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of space in the middle (where my story is) of rather indifferent stories. Among them were a couple other stories that piqued my interest, like David Conyers' "Playgrounds of Angola" and Tim Curran's "The Blowfly Manifesto".

[Actually, that's too kind. There is one story that I found to be maddeningly terrible. The worst of what "Lovecraftian fiction" has become. No thematic connection to HPL, but numerous paper-thin allusions and name-checks. If you're one of the other authors and are mortified to think it might be you, it almost certainly isn't, because that potential mortification takes more imagination than this story displayed.]
essentialsaltes: (NukeHugger)
This is one of the two big cornerstones of the conflict thesis that science and religion are ineluctably bound for conflict. Unfortunately, this book is far inferior (in my opinion) to Andrew Dickson White's A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (not that it doesn't have problems of its own).

Anyway, despite the title, Draper's book does not actually deal with the conflict between religion and science all that much. Primarily, it bashes Roman Catholicism. An enjoyable pastime to be sure, but really... There's probably ten times as much ink spilt over papal infallibility as over the Galileo affair. But still some interesting things, especially some perspective from 1874. Check out those New Atheists!

WHOEVER has had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the mental condition of the intelligent classes in Europe and America, must have perceived that there is a great and rapidly-increasing departure from the public religious faith, and that, while among the more frank this divergence is not concealed, there is a far more extensive and far more dangerous secession, private and unacknowledged. So wide-spread and so powerful is this secession, that it can neither be treated with contempt nor with punishment. It cannot be extinguished by derision, by vituperation, or by force. The time is rapidly approaching when it will give rise to serious political results.

I was unaware of the virgin birth of Plato.

He does have a way with words, betimes:

The portraits of our friends, or landscape views, may be hidden on the sensitive. surface from the eye, but they are ready to make their appearance as soon as proper developers are resorted to. A spectre is concealed on a silver or glassy surface until, by our necromancy, we make it come forth into the visible world.

I found it weird that Draper refers to Copernicus as a Prussian. Though it seems this comes from him having been born in Royal Prussia, a province of Poland. The connection between Royal Prussia and Prussia Prussia are complex enough that I gave up on untangling the tale.

Pale Blue Dot crossed with an indifferent universe: "Seen from the sun, the earth dwindles away to a mere speck, a mere dust-mote glistening in his beams. If the reader wishes a more precise valuation, let him hold a page of this book a couple of feet from his eye; then let him consider one of its dots or full stops; that dot is several hundred times larger in surface than is the earth as seen from the sun! Of what consequence, then, can such an almost imperceptible particle be? One might think that it could be removed or even annihilated, and yet never be missed. Of what consequence is one of those human monads, of whom more than a thousand millions swarm on the surface of this all but invisible speck, and of a million of whom scarcely one will leave a trace that he has ever existed? Of what consequence is man, his pleasures or his pains?"

"A horse, whose master had taught him many tricks, was tried at Lisbon in 1601, found guilty of being, possessed by the devil, and was burnt."

There must be more to that story. In a quick search, the only thing I've seen that doesn't clearly come from Draper is this from some Theosophist website: "Granger tells the story, describing it as having occurred in his time. The poor animal "had been taught to tell the spots upon cards, and the hour of the day by the watch. Horse and owner were both indicted by the sacred office for dealing with the Devil, and both were burned, with a great ceremony of auto-da-fe, at Lisbon, in 1601, as wizards!""

Draper bashes a papal encyclical from 1864, and with good reason:

From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an "insanity,"2 viz., that "liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right, which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way."


Talking about the fight between the Prussian government (back in the 19th century) and the Church: "The Bishop of Ermeland declared that he would not obey the laws of the state if they touched the Church. The government stopped the payment of his salary."

Ah, the good old days in America: "In America the temporal and the spiritual have been absolutely divorced--the latter is not permitted to have any thing to do with affairs of state, though in all other respects liberty is conceded to it."

And finally:
Then has it in truth come to this, that Roman Christianity and Science are recognized by their respective adherents as being absolutely incompatible; they cannot exist together; one must yield to the other; mankind must make its choice--it cannot have both. SCIENCE AND FAITH. While such is, perhaps, the issue as regards Catholicism, a reconciliation of the Reformation with Science is not only possible, but would easily take place, if the Protestant Churches would only live up to the maxim taught by Luther, and established by so many years of war. That maxim is, the right of private interpretation of the Scriptures. It was the foundation of intellectual liberty. But, if a personal interpretation of the book of Revelation is permissible, how can it be denied in the case of the book of Nature? In the misunderstandings that have taken place, we must ever bear in mind the infirmities of men. The generations that immediately followed the Reformation may perhaps be excused for not comprehending the full significance of their cardinal principle, and for not on all occasions carrying it into effect. When Calvin caused Servetus, to be burnt, he was animated, not by the principles of the Reformation, but by those of Catholicism, from which he had not been able to emancipate himself completely. And when the clergy of influential Protestant confessions have stigmatized the investigators of Nature as infidels and atheists, the same may be said.


See, it's all the Catholics' fault. And even when it isn't, it still is.
essentialsaltes: (Devilbones)
In a discussion on the Flood of Noah, and whether there is physical evidence of it. Obviously there is evidence of floods, but to be the Flood of Noah, it would seem to involve, in my words, "a flood that kills all the animals on earth, apart from Noah, his immediate family, and any other animals he saved."

Creationist: The evidence shows that Noah's flood did not kill all the animals on earth, so your [sic] dealing with a false premise.

Me: wat

Creationist: The only correct premise is to state that ALL animals on Earth that had the "breath of life in its nostrils died." The animals on the earth that did NOT have the BREATH of life did not die. In the Hebrew the words here are: "ruwach" and "naphach".If you do not understand the meaning of those two Hebrew blah bla-blah blah blahhh....

Me: Which animals on earth were spared, apart from those on the ark?

Creationist: I am pretty sure that the Kangaroo in Australia were spared and the Native American Indian in America. Because neither one of them had the breath of life.

Me (silently to myself): please be a Poe, because I think you've just said that Native Americans don't have souls.

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