To my African-American fellow citizens

I only have a small set of messages, and I like to make them provocative. It just so happens that one of those messages is about our human origins, and it could be possible that one of you might read something I have written and determine that I might be some kind of racist, because I harp on things like our Neanderthal hybrid heritage, the gap in human scientific nomenclature, and my understanding of the state of the science on how the history and the paleontology and genetic science all talk to one another. I’m a house painter, and not an academic, so it is always possible that my awareness of the state of the science is behind the curve.

I don’t think I am a racist or harbor any grudges against any particular ethnic group, but I’m open to working on it. My point is that I am here to sting everyone equally, but I would rather not hurt anyone unnecessarily, and especially if it was due to a misunderstanding.

I speak in the most stark, but factual, terms that I feel I can ethically get away with, if given a fair hearing. Such is my trust in my ability to articulate my defense.

Having said all of that, my message to African-Americans, and I mean specifically those whose families have been here for a while, you might look and talk differently than me, but you are statistically likely to be only 80% or so “pure” sub-Saharan African, and that means you are, statistically speaking, likely to be infected with either the D-allele, or Neanderthal genes, or both. Just like me. And that is “the thing”. Not the skin color. That makes you more my cousins than my ancestors. And that is almost the sum total of my thoughts on race in America, vis a vis Black and White.

You can’t handle a Star Trek world

Our central human tragedy is the ability to imagine a better way to live together but never seem to be able to manifest it in reality.

Aliens? From different parts of the galaxy? Working together toward a common good? Goddammit, man. Human social insecurity is our enemy. Solve the need for upwardly mobile, educated, obedient people to imagine themselves so distant from, well, folks like me, and you solve the same set of needs that makes ethnic and religious identity so ridiculously knotted. It’s all fraught with lack of self-awareness, specifically of how we aren’t bad people for feeling the need to protect ourselves, but we can protect ourselves and live with greater openness and tolerance. People are so loss-averse and neurotic that they grab what ever grievance stream is available; already established as a rhetorical weapon. Identity politics are just ready-to-hand. Underneath the different forms, fear, anxiety, ignorance, and perhaps even biological propensity.

For we know that the emotional disposition comes first, and then the mind back-fills with rationalization. Ergo, if you come with a story of oppression, you first felt oppressed, then constructed a rhetoric for justifying your emotional and cognitive predisposition. If you immediately identify with victim, the oppressed, the less rich, the less beautiful, in every text, it eventually, perhaps only after a lifetime of reflection, becomes clear that everything contains its opposite and life is a mirror.

The original Hebrew OT, or so I have heard, was written as an unbroken string of consonants and no vowels, no punctuation. Anyone familiar with Jewish numerology would be familiar with this, and possibly with the understanding that when a string of characters can mean more than one thing, what you read into them reflects what is inside of you.

THA MEDIA

Well, dammit, it is true, anyway. There is a crisis in journalism, reporting, news distribution, the whole enchilada. And every time you hear them come over the airwaves to again discuss themselves as their own subject, and then rationalize their way consistently to total absolution, using their own perch, it becomes more obvious, only not to themselves as a species.

There was a somewhat interesting survey study conducted a few years back. Someone wanted to know if certain characteristics were aggregated in any particular industries, and whether you could tease out interesting insights from testing members of one industry after another using the same metrics for things like, well, capacity for abstract thought and executive judgment.

Those two were not the only characteristics that were measured in the study, but the way journalists scored, on the whole, using those two metrics proves most insightful to our moment. First, journalists, it should come as no surprise, score highly on capacity for abstract thought. Their profession is about composing narrative on the fly, using language. That already requires a linguistic faculty and the ability to turn concepts over in your mind, examine them from multiple angles, etc. You pretty much have to be able to think abstractly in order to approach the profession. The study said that journalists, on average, were better than average at abstract thought.

Heh. But the study also indicated that journalists are poorer than average in executive judgment. That means, given an abundance of narrative alternatives, the journalist is poorer than average at determining which is the more likely, or more accurately represents proximate truth.

Put them together, and what do you get? They know what their bosses want. They know what their peers want. They have access to the pertinent facts and so they compose the facts and tie the narrative strings that connect those ambient desires and match them up. And what else could they do? With poorer than average executive judgment, they are not meta-aware of themselves. They cannot help it. They still, to this minute, do not openly admit that they emphasize certain narratives over others for reasons than are nothing more or less than realpolitik. Which means they cannot both be psychologically realistic about themselves and keep doing what they do at the same time. These things are mutually exclusive.

Many in Congo Do Not Believe Ebola Virus Is Real

[Here is a concrete example of why reflexively-formed identity (as opposed to conscious and intentional identity self-creation) is a primitive vestige; a way that the untutored human mind organizes itself with other human minds. You could say the ebola virus is killing them, but you could also say their culture is killing them. I don’t know whether the lack of the D-allele in sub-Saharan African brains is part of the problem, but science should look into it, despite the fear and anxiety that comes along with embracing unwanted awareness. If being polite and avoiding hard truth results in more of their deaths than necessary, did you actually do them any favors by avoiding it?]

Health experts are concerned about Ebola Virus Disease spreading in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Eastern Congo is currently facing the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.

More than 600 people have already died from the disease since last August. Hundreds more are infected.

But a recent study found that one out of four people questioned in eastern Congo last year do not believe the Ebola virus is real. Nearly half said they thought some people were making up the Ebola outbreak in order to gain money or power. Their beliefs are strengthened by the economic and political insecurity in the area.

The study was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. It was based on interviews done last September, about a month after the outbreak was first reported.

Beliefs can help spread – or stop – the deadly virus

Researchers say the study showed how people’s misguided ideas about Ebola were making it harder to fight the virus.

Ebola is spread through body fluids, so stopping the virus depends on isolating those who are infected. They must be separated from the rest of the population.

But those who did not believe Ebola is real were far less likely to seek help at a treatment center. They were also less likely to agree to an Ebola vaccine.

Eva Erlach is with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The group has more than 800 trained volunteers working to tell people in eastern Congo how they can prevent the disease.

Erlach called the findings “absolutely interesting,” even if the interviews were done more than six months ago. She said they showed the connection between trust and preventive measures.

Tariq Riebl of the International Rescue Committee is currently working in eastern Congo. He said the findings confirm what he and other workers are seeing. As the virus spreads, helping communities take steps to prevent the disease is almost as important as treatment, he said.

Riebl added: “It doesn’t matter if you have all the treatment options available because no one is ever arriving to take advantage of that.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

[Lifted from: https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/many-in-congo-do-not-believe-ebola-virus-is-real/4852543.html]

Kamala Harris is wrong, Trump isn’t ‘raiding money’ from military pensions

[Bottom line: Tell the truth or die in a fire. Kamala Harris, you will not be President of the United States. Denied. Next.]

California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has sharply criticized President Trump for his plans to divert military funds to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump in February declared a national emergency on the border to access billions of dollars that Congress refused to give him to build the wall.

One of Harris’ recent attacks caught our attention: She claimed the Trump administration was “raiding money” from the military pensions of service members to pay for the barrier.

“Members of our military have already given so much. Raiding money from their pensions to fund the President’s wasteful vanity project is outrageous. Our servicemembers deserve better,” Harris said on March 8 on Twitter and Facebook.

Is the Trump administration really planning to raid military pensions?

FactCheck.org, along with some social media users who commented on Harris’ posts, described her claim as misleading or wrong. We decided to fact-check her provocative statement ourselves.

Background on Trump’s national emergency declaration

Democratic leaders have called Trump’s emergency declaration a power grab, and some Republicans also said it sets a dangerous precedent.

The move allows the president to transfer $3.6 billion from military construction projects to the wall, according to the White House. It also gives him the ability to tap $2.5 billion from drug interdiction programs and $600 million from a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement in February: “The Congress will defend our constitutional authorities in the Congress, in the Courts, and in the public, using every remedy available.”

The House and Senate voted this month to block the declaration. Trump vetoed the joint resolution shortly after. A bid to override the veto failed this week in the House.

Sixteen states, including California, have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Trump’s authority to divert funds for the border wall.

Examining Harris’ claim

To support her statement, Harris linked in her social media posts to a March 7 Associated Press article. Reading just the headline — “Pentagon may tap military pay, pensions for border wall” — Harris’ claim seems mostly accurate.

But the first paragraph describes the money as “leftover funds,” casts a different light.

The Pentagon is planning to tap $1 billion in leftover funds from military pay and pension accounts to help President Donald Trump pay for his long-sought border wall, a top Senate Democrat said Thursday.

The money is available because the Army missed a recruitment goal by 6,500 enlistees. Additionally, fewer soldiers opted to take financial incentives for voluntary early retirement, according to the article.

The Pentagon plans to move the extra money to its drug interdiction account, freeing it up to spend on border barriers, the AP reported.

Experts say claim misses the mark

To further assess Harris’ claim of raiding pensions, we spoke with three experts on federal defense budgets. Each said the senator’s statement was inaccurate.

“It’s off-base,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization.

He said the money is leftover in certain Army personnel accounts.

“It’s a separate issue worth debating whether that money should be used for the border wall or should be used for other purposes within the military. But the fact that they’re moving money out of these accounts is not an indication that anyone is cutting military pay or cutting benefits or pension payments. That’s not the case.”

No military service member’s pension would be reduced, he said.

Mark Cancian, who worked for the White House Office of Management and Budget on defense budget strategy during the Obama administration, agreed that Harris’ statement is wrong.

“The answer is, ‘No.’ They are not raiding military pensions,” Cancian said. “I’m sure the Army had some places they would have preferred to send that money. But they are not taking any money from pensions.”

Cancian is now a senior advisor with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Travis Sharp directs the budget program at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which provides independent defense budget analysis. He also said Harris’ statement is flawed.

“This is another example of there being a lot of confusion about what it means to cut something in the budget,” Sharp said.

Transferring money after an agency overestimated how much something would cost is not the same as a cut, he said.

“The Department of Defense has to budget in advance for things that are unpredictable,” Sharp said. “The money that’s leftover is what the Trump administration is trying to reallocate. Does that constitute a cut? In my opinion, no. That’s not a cut.”

When the Pentagon has funds remaining in one account, it can “reprogram” the money to others, such as a health care or fuel accounts that have a budget shortfall, Cancian said.

If that doesn’t happen, Congress “will rescind that money and use it for other purposes,” Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.

The Department of Defense did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the Harris campaign provided a written statement:

“The AP reported that money is being transferred from a fund dedicated to pensions of armed service members. The President is trying to circumvent Congress who refused to give him funding for this wall by diverting resources from other military funds.”

The spokesperson would not say whether the senator stood by the original claim.

Our rating

Sen. Kamala Harris claimed the Trump administration was “raiding money” from the military pensions of service members to pay for the wall.

In reality, the Pentagon plans to move leftover pay and retirement funds that are available because fewer soldiers opted for an early retirement program and because the Army missed a recruitment goal by 6,500 enlistees.

No service members would lose pay or retirement benefits as a result of the move, according to experts on federal defense budgets.

The headline in the article Harris relied on did not make this clear. But it’s important for anyone, especially a public official, to read beyond a headline before making such a claim.

The debate over whether the Trump administration should tap this money is a separate issue.

Harris’ claim was off-the-mark.

We rate it False.

[Stolen, lifted, taken from: https://www.politifact.com/california/statements/2019/mar/28/kamala-harris/kamala-harris-wrong-trump-isnt-raiding-money-milit/]

Star Trek: Discovery

Only just signed up for CBS All Access. Couldn’t stand it, anymore. Had to know. I signed up just for the Star Trek: Discovery series. And you know what? It’s amazing. Just started Season 2 and just finished New Eden. First season, identity, second season, faith. And so smart. And so much eye candy. This is the most affection I have felt for Star Trek since Voyager and the OS.

Who gives a shit what Chris Evans thinks?

I’m not a Trump supporter. Never have been. But then, I’m not much of a joiner. I did want to make a protest vote, but could not, in the end, vote for either Trump or the other one.

Also, I’m not a Good Man, never have been, never will be, and I no longer give a shit about that because I have no belief whatsoever that there are any Good Men or Good Women out there among you, either. I just use my little, lonely perch here to purge, mostly, since I don’t yell at my partner and kick my dog. I save all of my vitriol for You*. A Generalized Other of sorts, who is an hypothetical average American with at least the cognitive capacity to parse and understand me when I venture into abstraction. You* are sometimes interchangeable with God* since you are both abstractions, frankly. I say all of this to make it clear that I claim no moral superiority to anyone at all. Rather, I deny Your* claim to any moral superiority whatso-fucking-ever, and can make you understand it, too, eventually, if you have the capacity for self-honesty and a reading comprehension level above the 8th grade.

But even morally depraved me can see that drawing a circle around people to exclude them the way Saint Chris Evans does so with Tom Brady is a dick move, and it reminds me why the other candidate and her base are just as fucking dangerous as the Moralists on the other side. Evans, when you draw a circle like that, you cut yourself out, you fucking schmuck. Partisanship is for those who rilly, rilly need that constant fucking approval and affirmation from strangers or an in-group, combined with a fatal lack of self-honesty OR intellectual rigor, most likely compounded by being a rich actor who probably isn’t surrounded by a bunch of intellectual diversity.

Take it as a badge of honor to be excluded by Saint Chris Evans. I certainly would.

clapback clapback clapback

If I never hear or read this idiotic phrase again, it will be too soon. To those of you who write for a living: try to respect the medium, yourselves, and your readers a little more. It’s okay if Deshawn or Shaniqua uses it to describe an interpersonal interaction. It’s not okay for a journalist to use it to describe events in the world. It’s a built-in identity marker; a dog-whistle indicating that you are either only talking to one section of America, or else you are pandering to it. Either way, there are many ways to express yourself in English without relying on hackneyed colloquialisms. You have one job.

#SurvivingCardiB

You morons. She tells you exactly what she is in her “music”. Cardi B is exactly what she told you she is, and you just caught yourself liking it, is all. And now you might be closer to fine, having a hint that you are not a “Good Person”. No one is. Let truth wash over you. This culture and its idols are exactly as broken and fucked up as they appear to be, and only because WE are, collectively.

Her “I did what I had to do” line is not plausible. If your judgment is worth considering, then you’ll agree. Otherwise, you, too, can die in a fire, for all I care.

THE VERY MATHEMATICAL HISTORY OF A PERFECT COLOR COMBINATION

A COUPLE OF years ago, I fell in love with a color scheme: off-white text accented with a buttery yellow-orange and a neutral blue against a deep gray, the “color of television, tuned to a dead channel,” to borrow a phrase from Neuromancer author William Gibson. The colors were part of a theme called Solarized Dark for the popular MacOS code editor TextMate. To be honest, I didn’t think much of Solarized at first. But I soon found that I couldn’t work with any other color scheme. Staring at screens all day can make you particular about fonts and colors.

It turns out I’m not alone. I’m not a coder by trade, but I like to use code editors for writing and organizing notes. While hunting for tools after switching from a Mac to Windows, I started to see Solarized Dark and its sibling Solarized Light, which uses the same 16-color palette, practically everywhere I looked. It’s hard to say how many programmers use it. The design is free and open source, so there’s no tally of purchases. It’s available for every major code editor and many other programming tools. Microsoft even bundled it with its popular code editor VS Code. Solarized has a loyal following.

“If I bring up a terminal window that doesn’t have Solarized, I feel out of place; I don’t feel at home,” says Zachery Bir, a Richmond, Virginia, programmer and artist who has been using Solarized since shortly after it was released in 2011. Bir likes Solarized so much he uses it as the color scheme for his computer-generated art. “I didn’t trust myself to come up with a palette that was balanced and looked good both in a dark and light medium,” he says.

The Solarized color scheme is no accident. It reflects the obsessive attention to detail of its creator, Ethan Schoonover. “I didn’t release it until I was 1,000 percent sure I loved all the colors and they were all dialed in mathematically,” Schoonover says. “I had multiple monitors, some were color calibrated, others were deliberately messed up. Sometimes I showed my wife, who thought I was a little nuts.”

Too Much Contrast

Schoonover was working as a designer and programmer in Seattle when he started work on Solarized in 2010. He’d recently switched operating systems and was disappointed in the color schemes available for the tools he used. Many applications offered only a simple white-on-black scheme that harkened back to old-school text-based computer terminals. But Schoonover found these throwback color schemes much harsher than the retro displays they tried to emulate. That’s because the backgrounds displayed on old 1980s monitors weren’t truly black, Schoonover says. “They had less contrast.” Today’s LCD’s, on the other hand, are capable of displaying much darker, and much brighter, colors.

The optimal amount of contrast for text on a screen is controversial; many people prefer high-contrast themes. But contrast wasn’t Schoonover’s only concern. He found most low-contrast color schemes lacking as well. Even the best-designed themes tended to use at least one color that appeared distractingly brighter than others. That’s because the apparent brightness of a color varies depending on its background. In other words, a specific shade of blue will appear more or less bright, depending on the surrounding colors.

This phenomenon, known as the Helmholtz–Kohlrauscheffect, is particularly aggravating for programmers because coding tools use color to distinguish different parts of code. In the code for a web page in a typical text editor using the Solarized Dark theme, for example, web links appear in green; the syntax for formatting, such as adding italics, is blue, and comments that developers write for themselves are gray. Ideally, the colors should help tell these elements apart, but no single element should stand out more than others.

Schoonover set out to find a set of colors that would not only look good together, but would have the same apparent brightness. That task was made more difficult because he wanted to use the same palette in both a light and a dark theme. Hence the need for all the monitors and testing.

Examples of the Solarized Dark (left) and Solarized Light (right) themes displaying HTML code in the code editor Vim. ETHAN SCHOONOVER
ETHAN SCHOONOVER

Schoonover talks a lot about the mathematical nature of his color selections, but he picked the starting colors, a blue and a yellow, for very personal reasons. The blue reminds him of his long-standing thalassophobia, the fear of very deep water. And though he says he doesn’t otherwise experience synesthesia—such as hearing colors or tasting words—the yellow invokes tastes and smells he associates with his childhood. “My parents are artists, I’m comfortable picking things for obscure reasons,” he says.

With those starting points, Schoonover sought out other colors that provided just enough—but not too much—contrast between elements, and that maintained the same level of contrast in light and dark versions. The result is a palette of just 16 colors that retain the same relationships even when inverted. “I suppose it’s a little like composing music with only a limited number of notes,” Schoonover says. “There can be something sparse and beautiful about it.”

An Open Source Program Takes Off

Schoonover released Solarized for free in April 2011 on GitHub, a code-hosting platform and collaboration service. He says he never intended to commercialize it. “It would kill something special about it, taint it,” he says. “I believe in open source software, I believe in giving something special to the world that anyone can use.”

Although he’d tested the color scheme in a variety of applications, Schoonover initially released themes for only a few tools he used in his own work, like the code editor Vim and the text-based email client Mutt. He announced the release of Solarized on the Vim mailing list; soon after, the project hit the front page of the online community Hacker News. It was an immediate hit with programmers, who soon went to work adapting it to other programming tools beyond those Schoonover initially supported. In 2013, Solarized Dark appeared on the monitors of developers in a Facebook commercial—watch for those dark rectangles on the screens and notice the faintly colored lines that cross them.

Solarized is slowly starting to find its way into applications for non-geeks. Ulysses, a writing application for MacOS, includes Solarized themes as an option. The color scheme was used for many of the graphics in the videogame N++ in 2014. The note-taking app MicroPad even advertises Solarized as a feature on its website. “Solarized Dark for MicroPad is especially useful for late-night studying, which I do more often than I would like to admit,” says MicroPad creator Nick Webster, a computer science student at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

But it still hasn’t really crossed over to the mainstream as a color scheme for, say, a major web application or software suite. “When Apple introduced dark mode for MacOS, I thought it was cool,” says Bir, the Virginia programmer and artist. “But I wish it was Solarized.”

With more applications, like Google Chrome, Facebook Messenger, and Slack, releasing dark-mode themes, though, Solarized just might have its day in the sun.

[Stolen from: https://www.wired.com/story/very-mathematical-history-perfect-color-combination/]