Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night - Celtic collection

In response - or riposte - to the Steeleye Span recording shared here a few days ago, JD offers a "Celtic Connection" selection, commenting, "Music from the Celtic fringe is so exuberant and joyous". Ready for that!

From Scotland:



... Bretagne:



... Asturias:



... Galicia "(yes, I know they are French but the tune is almost the Galician 'national anthem')":



... and finally, from Ireland (with a Scottish singer):



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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Show me yours...


Produced by Liberty.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Morning song



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Friday, April 22, 2016

Where trust is a design problem

From an alphr interview with Michael Gough, chief design officer in the Applications and Services Group (ASG) at Microsoft.

Take sound. There are people here who focus full-time on the personality of sound. Cortana is not going to be successful unless she is trusted, so what’s the voice of trust? What’s the vocabulary of trust? What’s the cadence of interaction to trust a voice? That’s a design problem, a really hard one.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Spoofing for fun

I love this kind of thing, it sets so many hares running. Via Retraction Watch we have yet another delightful parody of academic pretensions. This one is a spoof philosophy paper which supposedly passed peer review. Almost worthy of the Guardian I thought.

Abstract: 

Since “gender” has been continually the name of a dialectics of the continued institution of gender into an ontological difference and the failure of gendering, it is worth addressing the prospects of any gender-neutral discourse through the tools of Badiousian ontology. As established by Badiou in Being and Event, mathematics – as set theory – is the ultimate ontology. Sets are what gendering processes by reactionary institutions intend to hold, in contradiction to the status of the multiplicities proper to each subject qua subject. This tension between subjectivity and gender comes to the fore through the lens of the ‘count-as-one’, the ontological operator identified by Badiou as the fluid mediator between set-belonging and set-existence. After having specified these ontological preliminaries, this paper will show that the genuine subject of feminism is the “many” that is negatively referred to through the “count-as-one” posited by the gendering of “the” woman. Maintaining the openness of this “many” is an interweaving philosophical endeavour. It is also a political task for any theory receptive to the oppressive load proper to the institutions of sexuation, as deployed through modern capitalism – that is, any queer theory. In its second step, the paper will therefore expose the adequacy of the Badiousian ontology to provide theoretical resources for articulating the field of a genuine queer nomination. It will finally appear that “non-gender” structurally corresponds in the field of a post-capitalist politics of the body to what Francois Laruelle (1984) designated as non-philosophie within the field of metaphysics.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

SCIENCE: A salute - and solution - to the Australian bush fly

(Reposted from The Polynesian Times)

Demonstrating the Aussie wave, aka Australian salute: http://i.imgbox.com/achP9bim.gif

Reporting on the experimental use of a virus to control burgeoning numbers of European carp Down Under, the Wall Street Journal lists "five animals that have gone wild in Australia". Four species are also European imports, but the fifth - flies, of the "bush" type that pesters everyone outdoors  - certainly isn't:

"... it's likely the fly got to Australia in an Aboriginal boat, the same way the dingo got here. In that case, the bush fly might have arrived in Australia as long as 45,000 years ago," says Jim Heath in his Seuss-like-titled 1989 book "The Fly In Your Eye"*

Heath explains that the bush fly needs protein to develop its eggs and is quite happy to find it in human tear ducts, noses, saliva and sweat, not to mention blood and raw meat; hence the plague of them at barbecues. As beef farming grew so did the fly population, feeding and breeding on the droppings of Australia's 28 million cattle. At up to 12 cowpats daily per animal, times up to 2,000 larvae per pat, the herds are potentially fostering quadrillions of flies.

Not just bush flies. Initial efforts to control flies focused on agricultural pests such as the blood-sucking buffalo fly and involved chemicals, to which the insects are increasingly becoming immune

So attention turned to biological controls, and this is where the dung-beetle comes in. Dr. George Bornemissza of the Australian CSIRO looked at native beetles and determined that they couldn't cope, so in April 1967 he began a project to import other species:



http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/131790650?searchTerm=Bornemissza&searchLimits=l-category=Article

The first foreign beetles were from Hawaii, released in Queensland on 30 January 1968The dung-beetles disrupt fly-larval development by shredding and burying manure - which also improves soil quality and helps reduce contamination of run-off water, say the Kiwis, who are using the same strategy.

Because of Australia's diverse climate it was originally estimated that 160 different species would be required; in practice, "a total of 53 species were introduced and of these 23 have established," says CSIRO.

Unfortunately these species tend to cease their activity in early spring before the new season's flies begin to arrive, so two more kinds that are active at that time were introduced in 2012 from France and Spain to southern Australia by Dr Bernard Doube. The entomologist has been calling for a $50 million program to introduce 25 additional species, money which he says will multiply into several billions-worth of extra pastural productivity.

The real salute, then is reserved for the dung-beetle:


http://2bgreener.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Dung-Beetle.jpg

* Full text and illustrations on-line at: http://www.viacorp.com/flybook/fulltext.html


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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Why the Government believes...



We received our EU referendum propaganda pamphlet today. Unlikely to be worth reading so I won't, but having a technical mind I weighed it instead. It's about 40 grams by our kitchen scales, so what does that come to if 27 million were printed?

A quick calculation suggests we are talking about roughly 1000 tonnes of paper, so not a trivial operation. How many trees does this equate to if we assume it isn't recycled paper, which it may well be but the pamphlet doesn't say. From one source we are told -

One ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for magazines like National Geographic) uses a little more than 15 trees.

The pamphlet seems to be printed on high quality coated paper so 1000 tonnes of paper equates to about 15000 trees if we also equate a tonne to a ton. Oops - if it isn't recycled paper that's another bout of disgruntlement on the horizon and who would believe them anyway?

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Panama Papers": just asking...

In how many ways could a UK resident receive money from an offshore trust without having to declare it on his income tax return?

If a UK resident has to pay tax on income or capital gains from an offshore trust, what would be the point of having set it up in the first place?


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Saturday, April 09, 2016

When confusion reigns

Towards the end of the nineteenth century Émile Zola wrote an interesting novel about Lourdes, the claimed miracles, the character and visions of Bernadette Soubirous and the huge pilgrimage site Lourdes became. He wrote the novel through the eyes of Pierre Froment, a priest struggling with his loss of faith.

The passage below shows how in Zola’s view confusion can be a vehicle for human hopes and passions even when faced with the stark realities of death and incurable disease. Over two centuries earlier Baruch Spinoza saw confusion as the essential element of misguided human thought. Whatever one thinks of the Lourdes phenomenon, it is very far from being the only area where confusion has bypassed painful or inconvenient realities. 

Pierre had now begun to understand what was taking place at Lourdes, the extraordinary spectacle which the world had been witnessing for years, amidst the reverent admiration of some and the insulting laughter of others. Forces as yet but imperfectly studied, of which one was even ignorant, were certainly at work — auto-suggestion, long prepared disturbance of the nerves; inspiriting influence of the journey, the prayers, and the hymns; and especially the healing breath, the unknown force which was evolved from the multitude, in the acute crisis of faith.

Thus it seemed to him anything but intelligent to believe in trickery. The facts were both of a much more lofty and much more simple nature. There was no occasion for the Fathers of the Grotto to descend to falsehood; it was sufficient that they should help in creating confusion, that they should utilise the universal ignorance. It might even be admitted that everybody acted in good faith — the doctors void of genius who delivered the certificates, the consoled patients who believed themselves cured, and the impassioned witnesses who swore that they had beheld what they described.

And from all this was evolved the obvious impossibility of proving whether there was a miracle or not. And such being the case, did not the miracle naturally become a reality for the greater number, for all those who suffered and who had need of hope?

Émile Zola – Lourdes (1894)

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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Arabian Reflections, by "JD"



The gentleman you see in the photo came each evening onto our power station construction site in Cairo. He was, I think, our night watchman but his main job seemed to be to deter the stray dogs who would probably try to take up residence. I worked for a Spanish company, the lead engineers were American and the boilers were being installed by an Italian company. When this chap realised I wasn't any of those nationalities but a product of good old Blighty he said "Ahhhh!! General Montgomery, very fine man!" That was followed by a display of rifle drill using that cut-off ranging rod he carried and a snappy salute! He had very little English so I couldn't have any conversation with him but he did that every time he saw me. The stray dogs by the way became a bit of a problem and we received an official 'site instruction' to have them all shot. When the girls in the office in Madrid saw the instruction it was all 'oh no, poor little dogs' but you could never be sure if they carried rabies or not. The dogs that is, not the girls.

Working in Dubai in 1976 there was a local in the office whose job was to make the tea and coffee. Again, no English so I learned the words 'chai' - tea, and 'halib' - milk, 'sukkar' - sugar and, of course, 'shukran' for thank you. One morning he was marching up and down the corridor shouting 'very good, very good' and giving the thumbs up to all and sundry. He had one hand over one eye and motioning with the other hand a sort of semi salute. What?

Eventually somebody managed to translate this strange message. It was the day after the hijacked Air France plane was rescued from Entebbe airport. So the hand over one eye was to indicate Moshe Dayan and the strange motion of the other hand was meant to indicate a plane taking off. He was celebrating the rescue of the passengers by the Israeli special forces. That may be hard to believe given the alleged animosity between Jews and Moslems. But it illustrates what I said in a previous post, that the people in the Middle East are tribal above all else and they admire a strong leader who will be the protector and 'father' to the particular tribe or clan whatever you wish to call it. And they will admire and respect a strong leader in a different tribe, clan, nation etc. It is how they have managed to live in relative harmony over thousands of years. Same for the man in Cairo: he admired and respected Montgomery in the same way that Monty and Rommel had a mutual respect.

The tribal idea was evident in other ways. When I had to wander out to workshops or the markets to source materials I would ask about other suppliers or artisans. Very often the answer would be 'Ah, yes he is my cousin'. The tribe is a family in that way.

Another aspect of the same thing is the hospitality and respect for strangers/visitors which is necessary in a desert climate where travellers will camp at an oasis and differing tribes must get on with each other or perish. And that climate can be very harsh and unforgiving. One venturing away from the coastal area of Doha, Qatar it didn't take long to see how harsh the desert can be. The air is so dry it is impossible to breathe. We were all wrapping our heads in towels with mouths covered over just to prevent sweat evaporating and to have the moisture we breathe out retained to assist with breathing in. If you have ever wondered why Arabs are always fully covered from head to toe in such unbearably hot temperatures, that is why.

It was worth it, by the way. The interior of Qatar is spectacular with the wind-carved limestone rock formations:

http://www.qatarliving.com/sightseeing-tourist-attractions/posts/doha-day-trips-visit-zekreet-beach-fort


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Monday, April 04, 2016

Pacific weather weirding and geopolitical manoeuvering

Reposted from The Polynesian Times:

Papua continues to suffer from the worst drought since the late 1990s; so do Micronesia and the Marshall Islands; a number of Pacific nations have declared a state of emergency.

As the United Nations' OCHA explains, this is related to an El Niño event in the eastern Pacific - warming of surface ocean waters leading to changes in weather patterns across the world. While some areas become drier, others will experience higher rainfall leading to flooding and higher sea levels, the latter especially trying for low-lying islands.

But is it proof of "global warming"?

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has historic data of ocean temperature variations in the El Niño-prone region going back to 1950 (1). The 3-month period from last December to February 2016 saw the highest positive variation from mean, ever (2.2 degrees C).



However, sceptics could say (a) there are always difficulties with methodology in measurements like these and (b) 65 years is not long in geological terms.

It also depends on how you sample and present the information. Typically, the highest average surface ocean temperatures are found in the September-November period:


The pattern is similar to that in the first graph, but what happens if we start looking at years, rather than rolling quarter-years?


This year still looks exceptionally warm. Yet take 5-year averages and the picture changes significantly:


On that basis the current El Niño is merely returning us to the average point. And look at the pattern for rolling 10-year averages:


Taken as a whole, the last decade has actually been cooler! In fact, since the decade 1992-2001 the rolling 10-yearly averages have all been on or below the mean. If reversion to the mean is to be expected, we should be anticipating some more years of above-average temperatures as a correction.

This doesn't at all help the nations now in crisis; but help is coming, and as ever it has political implications. In a Radio New Zealand interview on Friday, Mark Adams of the International Organization for Migration stressed the logistical difficulties of assistance from the Philippines and the USA's west coast; yet a couple of weeks ago the Federated States of Micronesia issued a press release reporting a visit by the Chinese Ambassador, who announced a "10 million RMB worth of equipment specifically to address and mitigate the effects of the drought."

It has been said that the Chinese ideogram for "crisis" is a combination of elements representing "danger" and "opportunity". Even if its meaning is more correctly explained as "critical point," the notion may have relevance for Western geopolitical analysts looking at the Pacific region.
______________________________

(1) http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensostuff/ensoyears.shtml



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Sunday, April 03, 2016

AUSTRALIA: thwarted love

Reposted from The Polynesian Times

Bill Harney on a love triangle in 1940s Arnhem Land:

I have found that native tradition, with its prohibitions and fixed customs, really eliminates those things we know as sin and morals...

Some people tried to break down this code, but it always brought trouble in its wake. I well remember an aboriginal couple who were married 'Christian way in church'. The woman was not aware that the union was a fixed one - not as in the tribe, where the people can become divorced by mutual consent.

The marriage irked her so much that she decided to break it up and take to herself another man of the tribe. Her method was simple and ingenious.

She became the friend of another native man I knew and, unknown to him, used him as a means of arousing her husband to such a jealous madness that he crept upon the man, who he thought was his wife's lover, and killed him with a spear.

I found it all out too late, and even then I could not stop the self-satisfied smile on the real killer's face, as her husband went to jail whilst she returned to her true lover.

"Life Among The Aborigines" by W. E. Harney, Robert Hale Limited (1957) - pp. 15, 31-32

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Friday, April 01, 2016

A novel in which the ego is the hero

Theseus and the Minotaur

Below is a typically profound passage from Santayana. He says we cannot be scientific about our own thought processes and he is right. Worth dwelling on in a world obsessed with narratives.

Philosophy fell into the same snare when in modern times it ceased to be the art of thinking and tried to become that impossible thing, the science of thought.

Thought can be found only by being enacted. I may therefore guide my thoughts according to some prudent rule, and appeal as often as I like to experience for a new starting-point or a controlling perception in my thinking; but I cannot by any possibility make experience or mental discourse at large the object of investigation: it is invisible, it is past, it is nowhere. I can only surmise what it might have been, and rehearse it imaginatively in my own fancy. It is an object of literary psychology.

The whole of British and German philosophy is only literature. In its deepest reaches it simply appeals to what a man says to himself when he surveys his adventures, re-pictures his perspectives, analyses his curious ideas, guesses at their origin, and imagines the varied experience which he would like to possess, cumulative and dramatically unified.

The universe is a novel of which the ego is the hero; and the sweep of the fiction (when the ego is learned and omnivorous) does not contradict its poetic essence. The composition is perhaps pedantic, or jejune, or overloaded; but on the other hand it is sometimes most honest and appealing, like the autobiography of a saint; and taken as the confessions of a romantic scepticism trying to shake itself loose from the harness of convention and of words, it may have a great dramatic interest and profundity. But not one term, not one conclusion in it has the least scientific value, and it is only when this philosophy is good literature that it is good for anything.

George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

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Parliament to reconvene re steel crisis

Fooled you!

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