(no subject)

The more I look at the political world, the more I feel that the most significant division is not between "liberal" and "conservative", but rather between "analysts" and "partisans".

Nobody is 100% in either camp, but I'd say that a 25-75 split is typical.

Some generalizations:

Partisans' opinions are guided by loyalty to their peers.
Analysts' opinions are guided by data.

Partisans reflexively seek information that confirms their beliefs.
Analysts reflexively seek information that challenges their beliefs.

Partisans do not show any affinity for numbers, and rely mostly on anecdotes.
Analysts disregard information that is not carefully measured and quantified.

Partisans are mostly concerned with ideas far removed from personal decisions and action.
Analysts are mostly concerned with ideas that have immediate practical use.

Partisans care about what other people think and try to persuade others of their correctness.
Analysts don't much care what other people think, but sometimes mislead others to secure their own advantage.

Partisans believe their cause is inherently moral and just.
Analysts see morality as arbitrary, and invoke it without sincerity.

Partisan differences are entrenched and inherently unresolvable.
Analysts often have differing goals, but gain strength through finding common ground.

Partisans believe the world is full of flaws that must be corrected.
Analysts do not judge the world as good or bad, but accept it on its own terms.

Partisans are frequently outraged when their expectations are violated.
Analysts are cool and unemotional, but skilled at generating outrage among their opponents.

Partisans sometimes imitate analysts, but cannot "pass" in an analytic environment.
Analysts don the cloak of partisanship easily, and use it to their advantage.

Partisans are loud and prominent, yet remain weak and easily manipulated.
Analysts quietly rule the world.

Falling out of love with LJ

Gosh, it's been nearly ten years of writing here on LJ, and for a good while I've considered myself an LJ diehard, but the juice just isn't flowing anymore.

It's a couple of things, one being engagement, the other laziness. G+ seems to have captured me on both fronts. G+ is very action-oriented, it's got my phone buzzing all the time, it gets my fingers flying. And it's easy.

I do like being able to control the layout of photo-heavy posts using html, but posting straight from Picasa to G+ is so quick and straightforward that it's hard to muster up the energy to do anything else.

G+ has many serious annoyances but ultimately what I write and where I write it is not really a conscious decision. Either it spews forth or it doesn't. G+ is where it's spewing right now, warts and all. The annoyances are kind of a big deal, and there are definitely subjects I would write about here but not over there, but still it's not enough to turn the whole ship around again.

The thing that tears me up is that poll I did a while back indicating that nearly all of you would rather read my work here than over there. I can re-post over here but something about that process feels kind of deadening. And it's hard to catch up once I get behind on that. So I've ended up feeling kind of "virtually homeless", so that no venue feels quite right. And I am left wondering if I have put too much time into it in the first place. Am I getting anywhere or just writing the same things over and over with different details? That's how it feels sometimes.


This video is long but highly entertaining. Hat tip to kevynjacobs. I thought the falsehood of the "lone genius" concept was the most significant point - just taking that into account takes care of 90% of the cranks. I'm not sure that any significant progress in science has EVER come about without the engagement of a larger community.

What's going on here is a sort of reversal of judgment; cranks start with the conclusion of "I am a genius" and construct their whole reality around that assumption, working backwards to the magnificent and triumphant "theory" that justifies it. Pretty much anything contradicting that conclusion cannot be part of that reality, so it doesn't exist for them. In other words, it's really just narcissism, with a bit of schizophrenia thrown in, corresponding to the stubborn and crazy axes. The naïve ones aren't really in the same category; they have a little fantasy in their heads, but once they learn about how science actually works, they immediately realize that they are way out of their element and cease speculating.

When I was a kid, I had similarly grandiose dreams. Which is normal. There wasn't all THAT much difference between myself and a crank at the time, except I didn't confuse fantasy with reality, and outgrew it in short order. The cranks suffer arrested development to a degree that their fantasy pushes reality off the stage.

And yeah, they are ALWAYS engineers.

Lots and lots and lots of cranks are showcased at this magnificent site: . Hours of entertainment to be found there.

GMO safety

Statement by the AAAS on the safety of genetically modified foods:

Unfortunately this has become the equivalent of climate change denial on the left. Not so long ago, one could say that US Republicans had a near monopoly on the misrepresentation of science, but the FUD surrounding GMOs has reached the point where that is no longer the case.

Ironically, this is a situation where the many good reasons to be skeptical of the value of GMO technology - concerning its political and economic effects - are buried under a mountain of fake debate. In the long run, GMO opponents are hurting their own cause.


[cross-posted from G+]

So just so you know, my last post was not really a funny yuk-yuk post, although I have to admit the subject admits for a lot of humor.

I have a real strong reaction to these videos and they seem to me to be a new art form. Well, maybe not all that new, I am reminded of a few antecedents - Duchamp's stuff, for instance, or Tusalava, a video I encountered in New Zealand:

I don't think anyone has identified Tusalava as an #ASMR video but it seems like a good candidate. And it was done in, what, the 30s or something? People were so interesting back then.

It's much better on the Internet, by the way, the museum didn't have audio. Or maybe they had headphones, I don't remember. Anyway, if you want a little ten minute meditation, I recommend setting aside some quiet time and watching / listening intently. It's a definite "trip" and I think most people will experience drug-like effects.

Anyway, I absolutely groove on these videos and they generate in me a response that is comparable in intensity to any soft drug. It's kind of like that sensation you get from one of those wire scalp massagers. It's pleasurable and deeply calming.

And no scientific basis so far. Isn't life interesting? It's like we have a whole new petri dish in which these things can incubate. And this may not be all that new but the YouTube phenomenon you can't just ignore.

I remember a science fiction story a while back that involved a "pattern", any representation of which - visual, audio, even tactile - would cause death. Of course some senator exclaims "this is bullshit" and demands to see the pattern. The scientists all avert their eyes and he drops dead. I have always believed that such a thing might exist, although as with most things the observer would probably have to be trained in the genre. :-P

But we do expect new viral forms of video to emerge, and the "uncanny" nature of this makes it a good candidate for memetic propagation.

What is going on? I see parallels to sexuality, sure, but I think these are actually "grooming" videos that stimulate and play on the primate desire to groom and be groomed. The less hurried and driven the grooming is, the more exquisite it is. The infantile nature of some of the sounds - soft cooing and whispering - suggests some kind of regression or role-play circuits are being stimulated. Fuzzy textures, gentle caresses - it's the sadism of cuteness I referenced in yesterday's post.

I guess there's a certain obsessive-compulsive angle to this too, and I wonder if they are stroking the same circuits that OCDers pleasure themselves with by, you know, DETAILS.

And, in a world full of pornography, it's a new kind of porn. It stimulates an appetite in a way that is detached from its original role. Under this broad description, there is a breathtaking amount of porn in the world, what makes this interesting is that it's so unexpected and out-there. If you had asked me, would this be cool to do, I would say yes, absolutely, I've even proposed such ideas myself to incredulous listeners. What's new to me is the refinement of it into an Internet-deliverable package. Sort of like when they invented the Fleshlight. I don't know if most other people "get" it at all, if they have the sensitivity to experience the frisson of these films. But even without the brain fireworks it seems like a good meditation technique, just lose yourself in it and switch off for a while. I figure even if it's not 100% healthy it's a hell of a lot more benign than the way some people get their kicks!

Thinking about dumplings

Been thinking about filled dumplings lately. I had a few days at home alone and at such times I tend to do weird things in the kitchen. So, I started to consider why dumplings were made as they are.

I looked at the ingredients I had lying around and thought, what is it about putting them in a wrap actually makes them better? Two reasons came to mind.

One is that it lets unsatisfying scraps create the impression you're really eating something substantial. I cannot quite put my finger on it, but the building up of form and texture that is characteristic of pastry is satisfying in the way something simpler, like pasta with a sauce, is not. I can't help but feel like its addressing the primal urge to eat small animals whole. Maybe thats too vivid? Also, the dumpling withholds its scent until its bitten, making the sensory presentation more intense than is possible with a dish that can be smelled before tasting. In any case, it's a way to turn a little bit of meat or even just vegetables or potatoes into something "big and meaty".

The other consideration is preservation. Making a soup or a hash invites spoilage. Wrap it in dough and especially if it dries out a bit after cooking it will not go bad so quickly.

I had on hand some tired lamb shoulder, some veggies, and so forth, and I set out to make the most primitive possible dumpling out of the worst materials. I cooked the lamb quite a while, unfortunately scorching it a bit more than I had intended, along with onions and various veggies. For the dough, I made a very soft pasta dough and rolled out small pieces into circles with quite a lot of flour. This was easier than expected. I've seen Chinese chefs do this on TV at a rate of about twelve a minute, which looks like it takes a lot of practice, but I was able to get the basic roll and turn motion down so that I could roll out most pieces efficiently without having to touch them directly. Without aiming for accuracy or a particularly high filling to dough ratio, I made a bunch of rough looking lamb filled dumplings, boiled them only briefly, and stuck them in the fridge. I didn't want to actually test non-spoilage the hard way, just get a sense of how they aged.

Even after a couple of days, when retrieved from the fridge and pan fried, they were pretty good. Even though I made them deliberately "badly" their appearance magically improved during cooking. Don't plan to do this normally, but thinking about life without machines and refrigeration gave me a better sense of the motivation behind this technique. Next step, I am going to apply these insights to some more traditional pork potstickers, one of my favorite things in the world. This time around I think I can get improved results - rustic looking, simultaneously chewy and tender and juicy and crunchy, and intensely flavorful. And maybe not have to cook for a few days afterwards. :-P


I have a pretty high regard for Wikipedia, because whenever I look at an article where my own knowledge is authoritative, it gets it pretty much right. It's not perfect, and I have found a few minor but glaring errors, but when it's used for what it's meant to be used for - as a first introduction and an entry point into the secondary literature for a given subject - it does that very well.

Every now and then someone gets their knickers in a twist about how unfair the editing process is:

This is usually along the lines of "But I'm an EXPERT, why won't you listen to me?" There is hardly any sincere effort to understand and work with the standards and process Wikipedia has established: the would be authors just sweep in and make changes, and wonder why those changes are reverted.

I always look into the talk page in such cases, and on reviewing what went on, I am rarely sympathetic to the frustrated author. They never seem to understand that their lack of appreciation for Wikipedia standards, their apparent self promotion, reliance on original research, and so forth are just not part of how it works. So they go on some other forum and complain about how awful it all is. Sorry, guys, no dice. Either work with it or ignore it. Wikipedia doesn't need your expertise, your credentials, or your indignant opinion of What An Online Encyclopedia Should Be. It needs your reliable secondary sources. Preferably summarized and referenced by someone else, someone who doesn't have a career to promote or an axe to grind. Thanks for sharing!!!

Mojo and the lack thereof

I find it so interesting that my mood can change so much over time. It's kind of inconvenient, actually - the times when I'm wildly ambitious, I have lots of great-seeming ideas which I jot down for future reference. Then later, I think, WTF - you must be kidding. My task list gets weighted down with all sorts of interesting-seeming things that are NOT going to make my life better. I've come to accept that "ideas" are not really my friends, that I don't need to follow up on them, that they aren't an important part of who I am.

Here in the country there's a tendency for visitors to see all sorts of exciting possibilities that get expressed with the phrase "You should..." To which my favorite response is "Don't should on me!" I've come to really dislike this word. Especially when it applies to work that I would have to do and the speaker wouldn't.

Perhaps the most interesting variable is what I tend to think of as "mojo". The drive to be sociable, to get to know people, to be out in the world. This swings real hard and by definition most people see me in the high-mojo state and perhaps think I'm like that all the time. Not so! It's a real finite resource. I have to learn to stop thinking of low-mojo periods as having "something wrong" with them.

It's just that the high-mojo me and the low-mojo me don't quite understand each other. I wouldn't say I'm bipolar or anything, just that I have to be careful of what commitments I make, because it's easy to get the ball rolling faster than I want it to roll.

Test picture

OK, it turns out you CAN host an album on G+ and conveniently embed the photo here. Is this presentation disagreeable in any way? (Wrong size, clipped, annoying, etc.) If you guys like it I'll use this method in the future.

Both puppies should be entirely within the frame.