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Ed Snowden Lied To Me

Posted by Ogged
on 07.18.15

Wait, it's just a delay?

A congressional official who was briefed on the investigation said it was not yet clear whether Mr. Abdulazeez's computer or communications were encrypted, which would lengthen the time needed to pry clues out of them.


 

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Everything you need to know in order to understand my grandmother

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.18.15

October 3, 2008

Dear Anthony S.,

This letter is a follow-up to our conversation on October 2 in which I expressed dismay concerning two statements that appear in the website of [New Retirement Home]. After noting that "New Retirement Home (formerly Old Retirement Home) is now part of the nationally acclaimed Pacific Retirement Services Family," the website highlights four new features, only two of which are correct (brand new name, brand new apartments). The remaining two are flagrantly wrong, namely: "We have a brand new program!" and "More importantly, we have a whole new way of thinking about retirement living!"

I realize that the aim of the management team was to promote [New Home], but it should not have insulted [Old Home], its predecessor, by implicitly discrediting [Old Home's] programs and concept about retirement living. I also am sure that the insult was not intentional, but was an inadvertent consequence of being insensitive to the time-honored heritage of our retirement community. Instead, the website could have expressed pride in being in a position to build upon [Old Home]'s decades-old outstanding legacy.

[Another long paragraph about all the various people who are being insulted.]

Even though an apology on the part of the management team would be appropriate, I don't expect that. But I do expect that the current websites be modified in the spirit of this letter as soon as possible.

A bit of history to explain how I became aware of the website in question: In 2005, my life at what was then [Old Home], was filmed, during which I referred to this community with its programs and mission as being "the gold standard." Recently, the editors of the film, learning of the name change, requested access to the [New Home] website. I took the opportunity to visit the website, and that's where the story behind this letter really begins. Now I have the task of contacting the editors to apprise them of my concerns.

Anthony, when you suggested I write this letter, I was reassured that I would be personally contacted, at least by telephone. I trust that my concern will not come to naught.

I close with best wishes and high regard to you.

Sincerely,

Heebie's Grandmother

Ed: my grandmother sent me a copy of the letter, just out of generalness, with an accompanying note giving even more context


 

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"The peculiarity of piacularity"

Posted by Ben
on 07.17.15

Both canon and civil law recognized the status of the deodand. This was an inanimate object involved in some serious accident, usually causing a death, and the status meant that it became forfeit to the church or state and was withdrawn from the ordinary profane world and its uses. … In the United Kingdom recently a young man was killed by another on a motorbike. The driver of the bike was imprisoned for a relatively short time, but the motorbike was not forfeited. When the driver came out of prison, ready to ride again, the father of the dead man attacked and destroyed the motorbike with a sledgehammer. He was convicted of criminal damage, but the extenuating circumstances led to a nugatory sentence, and we can all understand why. (For interest: the status of deodand was repealed in both the USA and the UK in the 1840s when the new railway companies protested that their hugely expensive locomotives were the principal candidates for forfeiture.)

Thus Simon Blackburn. I was aware of such a status (I think in the context of inanimate objects actually being put on trial) but not its name or how long it had lasted.


 

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I Must Be Getting Old

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.15

grape.jpg


 

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Pacing

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.17.15

Before Ogged returned, I used to worry about steady pacing of posts. Or it was a consideration, at least. Now I see the error of my ways.


 

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I Wouldn't Know What To Do With That

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.15

I guess I'm going a bit heavy on the daily outrage lately. For a change of pace, here's a great (not too long) story about two former inmates who help other inmates on their first day out of prison. Really nicely observed and written, and manages to be pretty funny.


 

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What? He Said He's White

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.15

David Brooks writes to Ta-Nehisi Coates. He should have stopped before he began, but he really should have stopped here.

I read this all like a slap and a revelation. I suppose the first obligation is to sit with it, to make sure the testimony is respected and sinks in. But

Humble.


 

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Dear Iranian Rappers

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.15

Don't rap.

Yours In National Pride,

Ogged


 

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Sandra Bland

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.17.15

We should probably have a Sandra Bland thread. One of those cases where I think, "There's no angle to argue about. Just straightforwardly horrific." But those are the times when you all surprise me the most. (I assume I missed some discussion in the comments already, but I don't think there's been a lot?)


 

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Fair Housing Act

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.17.15

If enforcing the Fair Housing Act gains real traction, will white people abandon the Democratic party in droves? I think that is realistic. Depressing! Clearly it's more important to fight for equality than to maintain party unity with a bunch of people who don't actually support meaningful policy change, but god those people are strategically useful.


 

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The End Of Gawker? We Can Hope.

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.15

I'm not linking to it. I'm actually kind of stunned. Gawker has often been repugnant, but mostly in a puerile, vulgar way. This is just...immoral. Is this some kind of shot at Conde Nast? It doesn't really matter.

Also, don't send pics of yourself to an escort.


 

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Your Deepest Soul

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.15

Discovered.

When researchers analyzed characteristics of couples who'd met on OkCupid, they discovered that one-third had matching answers on three surprisingly important questions: "Do you like horror movies?" "Have you ever traveled around another country alone?" and "Wouldn't it be fun to chuck it all and go live on a sailboat?"


 

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Actually For Real Anti-Semitic

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.15

Much as I might complain about Israel's hold on US policy (ever so slightly diminishing of late), I suppose I'm thankful that I live in a country where being against Israel means being allied with basically reasonable Muslims and lefties and not...Christ, I had no idea this was going on. Any Freedoms or Freedomphiles care to comment? I get that disaffected/unemployed youth plus manifest injustice against "their" people equals this kind of thing, but it requires some kind of engagement from the French government.

Also this.


 

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11th Dimensional

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.15

I was going to say: joke's on Freddie, because Coates is actually not a good writer: frequently infelicitous, purple, ponderous, a mess in longer pieces, often reaching for effects he doesn't achieve. I was then tempted to say: of course that's the black writer whites venerate, because whites are horrible.

But while that's good trolling (kernel of truth! not the whole story!) it's...not the whole story. Coates lacks command, but that's just one part of good writing. What he has is a first-class temperament which manifests as remarkable honestly about his own flaws, ignorance, and vulnerability. And because he's not like most writers who spend energy arranging things just so to give an impression of themselves as some kind of alpha (even if it's the alpha of wretchedness), readers let down their guard with him, which accounts both for the fact that he has a weird groupie following, and that he's a black man calling out white society in fundamental ways--and getting bookings to do it in the mass media.


 

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Ethicists

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.15.15

Ethicists aren't any more virtuous than the rest of us. I bet this bit is wrong, though:

The same issues arise with clergy. In 2010, I was presenting some of my work at the Confucius Institute for Scotland. Afterward, I was approached by not one but two bishops. I asked them whether they thought that clergy, on average, behaved better, the same or worse than laypeople.
'About the same,' said one.
'Worse!' said the other.
No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession. But in most of their voices, I also hear something that sounds like genuine disappointment, some remnant of the young adult who had headed off to seminary hoping it would be otherwise.

I bet the clergypeople are just underestimating how gigantic the assholes are in the finance industry, and how skewed the average is. There may not be complete agreement on what constitutes moral behavior, but I bet most clergypeople make an above-average effort to stick to their own morals.

Via one of you, over there


 

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Monkeytorture

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.14.15

The hive-mind:

Neuroscientists have successfully linked three monkeys' brains using implanted electrodes and coaxed them to cooperatively control a robotic arm. Oh, and they also performed a similar experiment that directly linked the brains of four rats to test their capacity for synchronicity. ... No one has ever yoked more than two brains in such a way to accomplish a task. What's more, the trio of mind-melded monkeys frequently did a better job at controlling the robotic arm than one monkey working alone.

Neat!


 

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Deal

Posted by Ogged
on 07.14.15

So, can I trust you treacherous Westerners? I guess we'll find out.


 

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Should one become a vampire?

Posted by Ben
on 07.13.15

No contest:


 

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We'll Remember You Fondly, If At All

Posted by Ogged
on 07.13.15

This is about as good as science writing gets. Also: dooooooomed.


 

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Rippling Muscles

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.13.15

E. Messily sends in this link of hottie-hot athletes in all their glorious nudity.

There's only so many ways to pose naked people and still conceal their penises, nipples, and vulvas before it starts looking a bit silly. Still fun to scroll through, though. Also I'm confused by the 12" archer.


 

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Transformative Experience chapters 1 and 2

Posted by Ben
on 07.13.15

Ably written up by Thorn, continues below:

The introduction to Transformative Experiences lays out the question that is going to be explored throughout the book: if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? Okay, maybe it's not quite that, but I'm foregrounding how much my yeah-but response was triggered by the thought experiments rather than the theories, possibly because I spend way too much time in a community with an analogy ban.

In any event, the peer-pressure scenario at hand is whether you want to become a vampire. Your friends who've made the switch (which is painless, apparently, though no word on how sparkly) are all happy converts who can barely imagine how they ever survived their unglamorous human lives with the limited sensations and perceptions being human involves. They assure you they're using humane, ethically sourced, SWPLtastic blood, no tawdry sneak attacks required. Join them, they encourage you, and you hear the appeal of what they're saying they experience and you're not getting vibes of Stockholm syndrome, and yet how can you know that something so apparently great for them will go well for you? This is your last chance to let someone have a bite and turn you into something other than your human self, so what do you do? (If you shudder with nervous anticipation while baring your luxurious neck, turn to page 48. If you sell your friends out to the National Enquirer and head for the hills with nothing but your human dignity, turn to page 73. If you instead decide to listen to the friends who claim their lives have been changed irrevocably by understanding the nature and meaning of transformative experiences, read on!)

Chapter One has more vampire content but a few other scenarios too. If you have the opportunity to become a cyborg when doctors put a chip in your brain that will create a new sensory ability unlike your current senses, how do you decide whether you're fine sticking with the world as you experience it now. (As an aside, there's no mention of cochlear implants or similar existing technology because we're staying in the realm of the theoretical. I couldn't help thinking about Mara, though, who has no sense of smell. I assume she'd decide against being chipped if such a thing existed because she loathes and fears medical procedures, but my bigger worry would be how she'd experience the world and her past if suddenly garbage seemed disgusting in a whole new way and her food preferences no longer relied on her impoverished sense of taste as well as texture and look.) That's actually a good segue into the next scenario, whether to eat durian, which famously smells horrible but can taste sublime if you're into that sort of thing, and how do you know if you will be if you haven't tried? Or can't smell, which gets at the other thing I had a hard time with, that the "we" explanations sometimes seemed needlessly exclusionary or at least made me want to peep up with objections and exceptions. I also thought the mentions of actual rather than theoretical disabilities seemed awkward and more callous than I think they were meant to be.

Anyhow, we read about theoretical models of decision-making in choices that can be expected to yield experiences that are both epistemically transformative (changing how we experience and understand ourselves in the world) and personally transformative (changing how we experience our identities and who we are), which are the "transformative experiences" under discussion here. These choices are personal and subjective because the imagined future self plays a role too and because current factors like how comfortable we are with risk are important too. Because of the potential transformation involved, these are not decisions the chooser can make rationally based on assumptions of what that not-yet-experienced life will be like.

To become the "we" being described in the book, we readers have to be invested or at least interested in normative decision-making standards that provide guidelines for making rational decisions, namely that the chooser should select the path with the highest expected value. And yet how can we square this desire for a rational choice with the unknowability of a transformative experience? Can we proceed rationally if we don't/can't have all the facts about the likelihood of various outcomes?

Subjective deliberation lets us use the ways we know ourselves to decide which option might be best for us by imagining (a/k/a "running a cognitive simulation," apparently) and placing both values and likelihoods on the potential expected outcomes. We are also subjective in our comfort levels with risk and how much weight we're willing to put on futures of which we are fundamentally ignorant.
Once we've been transformed by an experience into a different person, we may feel differently than we did before about that choice, among other things. If, instead of trying to guess what that future-me might think and feel, I make the decision a choice between having this new experience to be able to get the understanding and learn what can be learned from such an experience, L.A. Paul thinks I'm following normative decision-making in a transformative context. I may not have a good sense of whether I'll like the taste of durian, but I can choose to learn both what durian tastes like and how I feel about being the sort of person who eats durian and has an opinion about it if that's what I choose to do.

The same of course is true for the vampire and cyborg scenarios, that if I'm going to decide that the only way out is through, I have to understand and value that being a vampire will mean enjoying or maybe in the worst-case scenario tolerating drinking blood, which isn't an activity I have or want in my current repertoire, and who I'll be as a blood-drinker will also change my experience of the world and how it works.

And right now no one is inviting me to drink blood or access a sixth sense or even to try durian. Yet as an average adult, I still have to make transformative choices (hi, custody thread!) as well as I can. And while I got impatient with some of the details of what-is-it-like-to-be-a-vampire stuff, that's a less-threatening, less-personal explanation for the more realistic examples grappled with for the rest of the book, which I look forward to also overthinking and taking too seriously.

I realize this is almost all summary and very little analysis, but I hadn't realized quite how transformative having to share a tiny motel room with three children would be and falsely guessed I'd have plenty of time and patience once they went to sleep to get reading and writing done. If I'd thought harder, the noise level and the extent of the cover-stealing involved might have seemed obvious, but it's finally bedtime for them and might as well be for me and I'll try to say more in the comments. Now I can sleep, which is transformative in its own way.


 

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Myths

Posted by Ogged
on 07.12.15

Which book has the best retellings of the Greek myths for kids?

I'll try Norse myths, too, if there's a good kids' book for those.

Is the answer to both questions "d'Aulaire?"


 

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