Sunday, February 26, 2023

Today's Random Stuff

First, here's something I didn't know: Fascinating article in The Atlantic: The Puzzling Gap Between How Old You Are and How Old You Think You Are 
 ...It’s bizarre, if you think about it. Certainly most of us don’t believe ourselves to be shorter or taller than we actually are. We don’t think of ourselves as having smaller ears or longer noses or curlier hair. Most of us also know where our bodies are in space, what physiologists call “proprioception.” Yet we seem to have an awfully rough go of locating ourselves in time.... 
 ...adults over 40 perceive themselves to be, on average, about 20 percent younger than their actual age.
 ... viewing yourself as younger is a form of optimism, rather than denialism. It says that you envision many generative years ahead of you, that you will not be written off, that your future is not one long, dreary corridor of locked doors. 
Envisioning yourself as about 15 or 20 years younger seems to start when people are in their mid-40s and 50s, according to several studies. The author explains the possible reason: 
...I’m 53 in real life but suspended at 36 in my head, and if I stop my brain from doing its usual Tilt-A-Whirl for long enough, I land on the same explanation: At 36, I knew the broad contours of my life, but hadn’t yet filled them in....I was not yet on the gray turnpike of middle age, in other words. 
... Adolescence and emerging adulthood are times dense with firsts (first kiss, first time having sex, first love, first foray into the world without your parents’ watchful gaze); they are also times when our brains, for a variety of neuro­developmental reasons, are inclined to feel things more intensely, especially the devil’s buzz of a good, foolhardy risk. 
...adults have an outsize number of memories from the ages of about 15 to 25. They called this phenomenon “the reminiscence bump.” (This is generally used to explain why we’re so responsive to the music of our adolescence—­which in my case means my iPhone is loaded with a lot more Duran Duran songs than any dignified person should admit.) 
But not everyone wants to be younger, or thinks of themselves that way. The article ends with this anecdote: 
Recently, I wrote to Margaret Atwood, asking her how old she is in her head. In the few interactions I’ve had with her, she seems quite sanguine about aging. Her reply: 
 At 53 you worry about being old compared to younger people. At 83 you enjoy the moment, and time travel here and there in the past 8 decades. You don’t fret about seeming old, because hey, you really are old! You and your friends make Old jokes. You have more fun than at 53, in some ways. Wait, you’ll see! :) 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Today's News: Ukraine Strong

A year ago, Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 
A year later, Ukraine still stands. 
There is lots of commentary today about how Ukraine did this -- Zelenskyy's brilliant leadership, the indominable spirt of Ukraine's people, the ineptitude and corruption of the Russian military, the unwavering and effective financial and military support from Biden, NATO, the EU, Poland, England, and Canada.
David Rothkoph has made a list of what has been learned from this war so far: 
...- While Ukraine has pleaded for fighter jets for a year, unmanned aircraft have stolen the show.... 
- “No Time for Sergeants” was once a TV hit in America. It has been a flop for the Russian army....
- Speaking of time, it’s time for traditional navies to realize their time will soon be up.... 
Poland is the new Germany. (And Estonia is the new France.)... 
- Vladimir Putin may be a madman, but at least he has the common sense not to want to be obliterated in a nuclear war with NATO.... 
- Speaking of Putin, stick a fork in him. He may not be quite done yet, but he will be soon… and besides if anyone deserves to have a fork stuck in him, it’s Putin.... 
- ...Ukraine’s masterful use of social media has played a major role in shaping global public opinion about the war... 
- Ukraine is already in the EU and NATO whether you (or Russia or Turkey) like it or not.... 
- With friends like Turkey, Israel, the global South and Elon Musk, who needs enemies?... 
- And the most important lesson of all is, as it will be for the remainder of this century, everything is always about China....
... the prospects of a Ukrainian winter offensive, once widely anticipated, are pretty much nil. There’s no reason to waste lives and material when heavy Western armor is on its way, while the U.S. drills Ukrainian commanders on combined arms operations in Germany’s training fields. 
Ukraine has gotten this far because it has always worked to undermine Russia’s logistics. It’s why they are screaming for longer-range rockets, to hit Russian ammo depots further behind enemy lines and force those supplies even further back. Ukraine’s success in shrinking the active front line is also its great challenge, as Russia squeezes more men into a smaller space. 
 But Ukraine won't win by killing 300,000 Russians. It will do so by cutting off their food and ammunition. Russia lost the war because of logistics, and Ukraine will win it for the same reason. 
Also at Daily Kos, check out Mark Sumner's useful month-by-month summary of the war's major events.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Today's News: "Home On Native Land"

Yes, "home on Native land" is exactly right. Some Canadians may be freaking out about this national anthem version at the NBA All-Star game, but I think it's perfectly justified: The Toronto Star reports on the background:
 ...In an interview with TSN reporter Kayla Grey, Black said she had reached out to Indigenous friends for feedback, and landed on this version of the song. 
Eva Jewell, the research director at Indigenous-led research centre Yellowhead Institute, said she was “heartened” to see her rendition. 
“Indigenous Peoples have been saying that line for decades actually — this is something that is known within our communities,” Jewell said. “So, to see Jully uplift that into the national anthem … it showed me that she has seen us, she understands us; she gets it.”
 ... Hearing it performed this way, though, is powerful, she said. 
 “I think that changing that word and being very explicit about settler colonialism is a pause for reflection amongst the Canadian public,” she said. “Too often, the Canadian state is normalized as just being a fact, and that small word change would call that into question and be really explicit about that pre-existing world of the Indigenous countries that were here before Canada violently stole our lands.”

Monday, February 20, 2023

Today's Funny Stuff: rounding up the tweets and substacks

I still love this cartoon, from a year ago. 

Here's one more great comment about the Rouleau report:
In yesterday's other news - that Globe and Mail piece about China trying to interfere with the 2021 election - Alison flags something that has been completely forgotten:

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Today's News: Justified

TL;DR In October, I wrote that I hoped the Public Order Emergency Commission looking into Trudeau's use of the Emergencies Act to shut down the FreeDumb Convoy Ottawa occupation and border blockades should answer five questions: 
1. Whose side were the police really on? 
2. Whose side are the media really on? 
3. Whose side is the public really on? 
4. Conservatives, WTF? 
5. Are the hearings going to be a clown show? 
Paging throgh the POEC Final Report released today, I wanted to see if any of these questions were considered, either directly or indirectly. 
Commissioner Paul Rouleau found that Ottawa police were inept and unprepared, but I haven't come across any discussion of whether some police were acting as Convoy supporters or enablers. I couldn't find discussion of how many Canadians actually supported what the FreeDumb Convoy was trying to do. Pandering to the Convoy by Conservative politicians isn't mentioned, even though it is noted that the Ford government dropped the ball.  Also not discussed is whether Canadian media gleefully embraced the Convoy initially because it was an embarassment to the Trudeau government. 
But at least Rouleau ensured that the hearings were not a clown show, though Ford refused to testify. 
One point that Commissioner Rouleau does make clear in the report is that the outrage at Canadian border vaccine requirements - the rationale for the Convoy's entire existance - was based on a lie. Maybe the truth will never be believed by the Freedumbers, but at least the truth is in the report:
...on October 12, 2021, the government of the United States announced [emphasis mine] that, starting in January 2022, all inbound foreign national travellers crossing United States land or ferry ports of entry would be required to be fully vaccinated. This included those travelling for essential purposes, including commercial trucking. Then, on November 18, 2021, Canada announced that its border rules would also change ... 
The effect of these new rules was that foreign truck drivers would be barred from entering Canada unless they were vaccinated. Canadian truckers, who have a constitutional right to enter Canada, would not be barred from entry. However, if unvaccinated, they would no longer be exempted from the requirement to quarantine, which would have a significant impact on their ability to engage in commercial trucking. 
In practice, they were more impacted by the American rules that barred them from entering that country entirely. However, as I mentioned earlier in this chapter, several protest leaders believed that the American authorities decided to impose their vaccination requirement only after Canada did so. 
This was not the case [emphasis mine] but does go some way to explaining why protesters may have focused their anger toward Canadian authorities and believed that a repeal of the Canadian requirements would have allowed unvaccinated truckers to continue cross-border work ...
Rouleau continues:
In some circles, “the trucker” became a symbol for hard-working Canadians who, despite their contributions to society, were having their lives and livelihoods upended by government COVID-19 regulations. 
This narrative was a contributing factor that helped to animate the Freedom Convoy.  
(Volume 2, page 98-99)

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Today's Scene: "What about the squirrels?"

One of the things I love about social media is that we keep finding "some guy" who knows an awful lot of great stuff.
For example, here is a Balloon Juice post with an outstanding discussion thread: Sunday Night Open Thread: Chatbot vs Jagoffs. The post discusses why jerk conservatives are getting mad at ChatGPT because they can't get it to say racial slurs and I can't even.... 
In the Comments, the discussion about Artificial Intelligence goes all over the place, but a reader who calls himself Carlo Graziani adds this thoughtful comment:
....ChatGPT is essentially never very far away from a crazy response, and relies on people not feeding it crazy prompts to appear as a sane interlocutor.
So now, the danger: at the moment it is easy to find the sense/nonsense boundary. But we could imagine a future ChatGPT version that has orders of magnitude more parameters, and is trained on vastly more, better-curated data, to the point that it is difficult to fool it into giving a pathological response. Question: has the sense/nonsense boundary been annihilated for such a system?
The correct answer is “duh, no.” The boundary has simply been made harder to find, even by experts. But it’s still there, waiting for the unwary to be led over it by the Chatbot. Which is guaranteed to happen, eventually, because the future is not like the past. The world is an ever-surprising place. ChatGPT’s heirs are bound to get tripped up eventually by a world that has drifted beyond their training data. Yet humans will trust the AI’s inferences, because it’s never made mistakes before.
The fact that such an AI customized for, say, air traffic control has simulated successfully landing billions of aircraft over the past 50 years using real ATC data is a terrible reason to trust it to run ATC unsupervised, because changing aeronautic technology and changing economics of air travel are extremely likely to produce situations that it’s never seen, and ought not “reason” about. But DL systems make overconfident decisions even with cases that in no way resemble their training.
Now, for “ATC”, substitute “surgery”. Or “war policy planning”. Or ” emergency management”. And imagine the consequences of falling off the cliff of bullshit, led on by your implicit trust in your “demonstrably” (“never been wrong before”) infallible AI.
That’s the real danger. The superficially anthropomorphic character and apparent oracularity of such systems make people forget that the future is a strange country which drifts away from the past, and that any system that cannot acknowledge that — as DL cannot — is doomed to fall off the cliff of bullshit sooner or later, taking anyone who places their faith in that system with it.
Another commenter soon replies:
I think I have a way of quickly finding the boundary.
Ask: “What about the squirrels?”
If it attempts to answer the question, it’s a bot.
If it says, “Huh?” it’s a human.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Today's Funny Stuff: Baseball and Billings Bridge and Penquins and more

I know I'm pushing the season a little -- six weeks until opening day! - but in honour of Superbowl Weekend, here's some baseball stuff: I now subscribe to a substack newsletter Dead Legends, which this week talked about The Pine Tar Incident. See the newsletter for the full story in all its glory. Loved Billy Martin's comment here "When you win the game, you don't protest." The news tonight in baseball is that now the LA Dodgers have been accused of stealing signs in the 2018 World Series, which they lost in five games to Boston anyway, so whatever they may have been doing, it didn't do them any good. 
I found this quite touching: Baseball is now getting dragged into the US culture wars - school districts in Florida are preemptively removing biographies of players like Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron, apparently because nobody wants to find themselves targetted by Florida's asshole governor Ron DeSantis nor his redneck supporters. 
Jemelle Hill asks an excellent question here:

Friday, February 10, 2023

Today's News: Roundup time

A roundup of this week's news: 

First, this happened on Tuesday -- weird, wasn't it: Then on Thursday, Smith did this -- Twitter can't decide whether it was stupid or smart: Of course, none of this has anything to do with increasing federal money for health care -- we'll find out on Friday how much more the Premiers they they can get:

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Today's Scene: We don't get to choose the battle. We only get to choose our side.

I said this years ago and I say it again today: 
 We don't get to choose the battle. We only get to choose our side. 
Right now, Canada finds itself dealing with Islamophobia and the anti-Muslim Bill 21 law in Quebec. This isn't an issue that anybody really wanted to deal with right now, at this time of wars and pandemics. 
But it's here, it's happening - we don't have a choice about that. 
We only get to decide whether we agree with what Quebec is doing, or whether we support Trudeau's appointment of Special Representative Amira Elghawaby to combat Islamophobia. 
I, on the other hand, do not. :

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Today's Great Stuff: Thoughtful, interesting, funny

I noticed some of the kids from down the block coming home from school yesterday and one of them was wearing shorts ....

Here's some thoughtful, interesting, and funny stuff I have collected over the last week or so.

First, the thoughtful:

Friday, February 03, 2023

"Abandoned to violence" - Ottawa People's Commission first report

The Public Order Emergency Commission report is due this month, but already we have an initial report from the Ottawa People's Commission -- a community initiative set up last June when it looked like official Ottawa just wanted to deep-six the whole miserable FreeDumb Convoy occupation and blockade experience.
I have been following their hearings over the summer and fall, and now they have released their first report - Press Progess summarizes it in this article- "It Was Violent: People's Commission report shines a light on violence, harassment and hate crimes during the 'Freedom Convoy'
The Ottawa commission held 14 hearings and 8 community meetings, and wrote a 72-page report, released in a pdf format on Tuesday. Part One is titled "What We Heard". The second part will be released in March.
The most significant finding is this - as the Ottawa Occupation continued for three weeks last winter, the people of Ottawa were abandoned to violence, harassment and danger by police and by governments.