Yay! Science programing worth a good goddamn!

Tina’s going to be excited about the above.

Drawing from never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives, director Brett Morgen tells the story of JANE, a woman whose chimpanzee research revolutionized our understanding of the natural world.

Then there’s this Blue Planet II delightfully created, produced and delivered beast of a show with an amazing sound track from Radiohead and Hans Zimmer. Dip below the fold for a behind the scenes look at the way the sound track was approached (amazing).

Continue reading “Yay! Science programing worth a good goddamn!”

The impossibility of translating Bienvenue back

On Wednesdays, I take a French class downtown Chicago at Alliance Française.

It’s an advanced class with other eight students all speaking at a variety of skill levels.

I love taking the class. It’s invigorating and I’ve become more and more comfortable interjecting and pushing my own limits in terms of constructing sentences and expressing thoughts.

I spent a college semester in France 20 years ago, and my biggest regret is not finding a way to continue classes once I got back. I could be so much further along in bilingualism.

I’m not entirely sure how the students are placed in the class. There are people who can barely string a sentence together. There are people like me who make sentences, but I often have trouble making a paragraph.

There are people who speak in broken conjugations.

But the point isn’t necessarily a criticism of each others French. The experience is one of self motivation and courage. If you don’t have the courage to try and speak, I believe you’re wasting your money.

Truth be told, I have a tough time speaking English, and it’s my first language. My second language is non-verbal communication. My third is anger and my fourth language is French.

Often, when someone asks me a question (in English), a rush of thoughts bottleneck at the back of my throat and I end up stuttering a bit.

If someone asks me a tough question in English, I often have a tough start. So you can only imagine that a question in French causes even more of a bottleneck.

This French class is primarily a discussion session with a few grammar lessons balanced in here and there. So if we’re talking about how to define “Digital Identity” or how to determine the difference between the French Penal Code on Identity Theft compared to the lack of Swiss Identity Theft laws, I find myself at a loss of where to start in English, let alone goddamn French.

I find these French discussions invaluable, though. The exposure to other ideas in my own language is valuable. The exposure in French is even more, because attempting to speak in French, topics become more salient. I have to give ideas more thought.

I find myself rethinking topics over and over, even more than when I’m thinking in English. How do I think of this in English and how does that then translate into French. French doesn’t translate directly in many cases.

For example, yesterday we were walking into school and just before I went into my class, Tina asked me how to say, “Welcome back” to her teacher who was gone for two weeks in France. I turned my head into my class and interrupted my teacher and asked, “Comment dit-on ‘Welcome Back’ en Français? … Est-ce que c’est ‘Bienvenue back’?”

I laughed. He laughed. We all laughed.

My teacher tilted his head and said, “Il n’y a pas un façon de dire ‘Welcome back’ en français.” (There’s not a way to say welcome back in french).

That’s only a small example, but it might illustrate that there isn’t always a direct translation.

Last night, my teacher was explaining to another student — who tried to explain something in a direct English to French translation — that three out of four times, direct translations don’t work. It’s not bad to try, but it’s usually not the case.


My point is that to speak French, you have to really learn French. When I was there in college, I remember wanting to make French cooler — if only in my head. I found the rules to be restrictive. Even the vernacular used more words than I thought was necessary. I thought that if I applied slang concepts from my English into French, I could make French cooler.

Said and done, this was a stupid idea, because my french friends didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about. Just like almost everything in the world, the most effective approach to challenging situations is the long road. It’s taking the time to attack a goal with that seemingly Sisyphean chipping away at a HUGE task.

Anything worth a good goddamn takes time, practice, repetition, comprehension, agility, creativity and honesty. You know, everything that this current president has not done in his approach to “be” president of the United States of America.

When class finally started and we got started into last night’s lesson, my teacher noticed a student who wasn’t there the previous week. He looked at her and said, “Bienvenue back, Victoria!”

And we all laughed.


Today’s quote of the day comes from a recently dead fake news propagator. Who knew?

In a Washington Post interview last year, Fake News writer and now dead (at 38) Paul Horner explained the following about his ability to fool people on social media:

Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.

My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.

More below the fold.

Continue reading “Today’s quote of the day comes from a recently dead fake news propagator. Who knew?”

I need a brain amputation. You need a brain transplant.

Last night, I dreamed that I was in need of a partial brain removal. The surgery was due to what seemed to be swelling in my brain.

In the dream, a man, I think it was the contractor we used to tile the floor in my bathroom, he told me that he could do the procedure and it wouldn’t be that intrusive. You know, because he has one of those machines to cut tile. He could use it (somehow) to cut through my skull.

He explained he would have to keep me awake, saw into my skull, start peeling off layers of brain with a scalpel, and he would know if he hit any necessary keeper tissue if I jolted from pain.

So he numbed some of the areas in my head, and went to work.

There he was sawing into my head, the sound was deafening. Like when you’re at the dentist and he or she is jamming into your teeth with a drill and the sound is excruciating because it’s in your mouth just inches from your eardrum.

He removed a large portion of skull, hair intact (not shaven). He placed it on the table. Then he started slicing brain, like it was sandwich meat and lying it on the table beside me. I could see the gray ripples of my brain guts in strips, kind of like what I would serve if I made steak tacos with flank steak.

He sewed me back up saying that he was able to remove about 1/16th of my brains.

I woke during the night several times, but every other dream seemed to harken back to that partial brain amputation. Like it was one continuous dream.

This one continuous dream thing has been happening for a couple weeks now. It’s got me thinking.

This brain amputation must be real. It seems that ±35% of the American population has had this procedure and the removal was upwards of 75% to 95% of their entire gray matter.

There’s this one guy in Washington DC who seems to have had an 85% brain amputation and if he knew better would encourage science to figure out brain transplants. But he can’t, because his skull is cobwebs and the most idiotic tweets I’ve ever read.


Is reality real? The Simulation Argument

One simulation argument proposes that:

at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

Hit the link to read more.

I really don’t know how I feel about all of this. I haven’t explored it enough.

I don’t have a degree in math. I accomplished a few viewings of sci-fi movies and took different philosophy classes in college that explore Cogito Ergo Sum. How do we know we exist exactly and what surrounds us is anymore than a computer construct.

I attended a Christian college in North Carolina called Montreat College. It’s a little school in the mountains with a Christian slant, but I feel that I got a pretty good liberal arts education. Our bible classes were pretty in depth and showed us scripture from a more rounded perspective. My freshman year challenged my level of evangelical faith more than any other time in my life.

In high school, we were brainwashed taught that a liberal arts education at a secular college would basically be — to put it in realistic terms —  the equivalent of being Satan’s bitch.

I chose Montreat because it promised a liberal arts education with a Presbyterian influence. The staff were all Christians, after all. Safe!

At the time, I felt like that was safer for my mortality. I kind of regret that choice now. I wish I had a more prestigious educational diploma to point at when people ask me what college I went to.

Since I spent a semester overseas and I wanted to graduate on time, I had to make up some classes the summer of my junior year. I took two or three literature classes and a Philosophy class at University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Going to a state school placed me close to whoring myself to Satan’s grasp. I assure you I thought I was going to hell just walking through their doors.

I remember being blown away by my Philosophy 100 or 200 class. It was as secular as nothing I had ever experienced. Extremely “Liberal” by my waining extremely conservative standards. There was not a hint of any familiarity with the “Christian” worldview that I came from.

I remember the classes discussing how philosophical thought brought us through some ideas of wondering about our existence and whether we know for sure whether its true or not.

When Matrix came out, all I could think of was that it was Philosophy 101. I thought it was beneath me, if you will. And I yawned the entire movie.

This is all to say that I’m somewhat turned on by the subject, but I feel like my level of education suffers too much to really make a statement of any substance.

Something that has been rattling around in my head again lately thanks to a few different current events in my world, though, has been the idea of the paranormal and the afterlife.

Think about it this way:

Many people think souls or life essence exists at the point of birth (yes, some at conception). Whether or not you’re a Christian or whatever, most people I know think that the body dies and a spirit lives on. Some think that the spirit then goes on to live in heaven (or hell). Some think that the spirit might dwell in an invisible realm at earth level with a kind of connection to the so-called tangible world we live in.

My problem with the whole idea that humans are born and then live their life and then die and then live in another dimension is that what in the world was going on before they were born. What were they before that point?

Say you think the world is 10,000 years old and you were born in 1975 and died in 2000.

The “they” is telling me that your spirit was not existent for 9,975 years. It floated around without a voice. Without a language. And it wasn’t until they passed through the vaginal wormhole that they were given the ability to possibly communicate with others in the “afterlife”. What about the goddamn prelife?

There are people out there waving their hands over crystal balls, turning over tarot cards or wiggling divining rods only access spirits of those who were born and died. The mediums only have access to those who were named, lived a life of some kind, and now speak through mediums who are sooo blessed with psychic gifts, they can talk to only the ones who passed through the vaginal wormhole into the world.

The spirits/souls all speak the language of the medium as well. Kudos to them.

It’s this idea that for all time, before you were born, you were ABSOLUTELY nothing. Somehow a zillion other people became brains of thought millions of years ago. They, and only THEY are either in heaven, hell or wandering the earth communicating through psychics.

Given passage through a vagina, these people, and these people only, landed the opportunity to pass into heaven, hell or whatever the fuck you believe in.

I happen to accept that the universe is billions of years old. And the idea that all these “souls” waited eons before mental birth some millions of years ago … and that that birth, life and finally death passage through the wormhole into the next life or eternal life … and that that ONLY pertains to human spirits … that shit needs to be revisited when looking at the Bible, the Koran, the Matrix, et al … except the Simulation Argument.

That one is safe from this kind of head scratching.


Is the atmosphere changing the quality of our food?

Will you have to start eating two servings of vegetables to get the same nutrients as you did when you were five? Or six McDonald’s hamburgers to get the same nutrients as you did 20 years ago?

Wait. Are there nutrients in McDonald’s Hamburgers?

That’s for another story.

Scientists are starting to study the effects of rising CO2 in the air and how its affecting food.

From an article in Politico called, “The Great Nutrient Collapse“:

Loladze and a handful of other scientists have come to suspect that’s not the whole story and that the atmosphere itself may be changing the food we eat. Plants need carbon dioxide to live like humans need oxygen. And in the increasingly polarized debate about climate science, one thing that isn’t up for debate is that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising. Before the industrial revolution, the earth’s atmosphere had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Last year, the planet crossed over the 400 parts per million threshold; scientists predict we will likely reach 550 parts per million within the next half-century—essentially twice the amount that was in the air when Americans started farming with tractors.


In 2014, Myers and a team of other scientists published a large, data-rich study in the journal Nature that looked at key crops grown at several sites in Japan, Australia and the United States that also found rising CO2 led to a drop in protein, iron and zinc. It was the first time the issue had attracted any real media attention.

“The public health implications of global climate change are difficult to predict, and we expect many surprises,” the researchers wrote. “The finding that raising atmospheric CO2 lowers the nutritional value of C3 crops is one such surprise that we can now better predict and prepare for.”

Hit the link for much more.

Via Kottke.