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  1. #1
    Lesser Hivemind Node Lethe's Avatar
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    Stuff Wot Is Good to Read

    It seems to be a recurring phenomenon: there is something wot is interesting to read, but perhaps not interesting (or provocative) enough to justify its own thread. So why not collate such material in one convenient thread, the better to peruse on a rainy winter's day?

    Some guidelines wot seem sensible:

    1) No novels. I'm not sure it's useful to put a hard cap whereby an article is "too long" to be posted. Nonetheless, we should value other people's time as we would our own. As such, the best articles are those that deliver their message, blow our minds or what have you -- succintly. Relatedly, consider posting only one article per day.

    2) Consider attaching a short summary of or suitable quotation from the article. Why should someone be interested in reading this article?

    3) No specialised knowledge or prior reading assumed: articles should be self-contained and suitable for a general educated audience.

    4) Discussion is cool, but should occur in the context of a given article such that, if necessary, it can easily be split off into its own thread. If a discussion threatens to overflow the banks of the thread, consider pre-empting this by creating a new, dedicated thread.

    5) No news. We already have a thread for that, and any news that doesn't fit there probably deserves its own thread.


    So to lead off:

    Suzanne Sadedin -- War in the Womb
    It isn’t that our babies are less ruthless [...] but that our mothers are less generous. The mammal mother works hard to stop her children from taking more than she is willing to give. The children fight back with manipulation, blackmail and violence. Their ferocity is nowhere more evident than in the womb.

    Ally Fogg -- The Last Great Masculine Delusion
    As a society we find it really easy to understand that women are products of the culture that moulds them – consider all the concerns about Disney princesses, pinkification, gendered toys etc. We find It really easy to agree that women need help and support to be liberated and fulfilled, to have full opportunities in their life, education and careers. We find this easy because we are steeped in patriarchal values. For the exact same reasons we (as a society and individually) tend to fail dismally in recognising that the exact same is true of men. Men are not masters of their own destiny. We cherish the delusion that men are in control of their own destinies, when by and large they are anything but.

    Peter Lee -- Good News, World! You Can Stop Worrying About The South China Sea!
    A more accurate characterization of the South China Sea as “a useful but not indispensable waterway for world shipping whose commercial importance, when properly exaggerated, provides a pretext for the United States to meddle in Southeast Asian affairs at the PRC’s expense” is excessively verbose and fails to convey a sense of urgency [....] the only major power with a vital strategic interest in Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea is the People’s Republic of China.

    John Cusack -- Things that Can and Cannot be Said
    One morning as I scanned the news—horror in the Middle East, Russia and America facing off in the Ukraine, I thought of Edward Snowden and wondered how he was holding up in Moscow. I began to imagine a conversation between him and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war). And then, interestingly, in my imagination a third person made her way into the room—the writer Arundhati Roy. It occurred to me that trying to get the three of them together would be a fine thing to do.

    Particularly astute readers will note that four is more than one. But these are merely examples to illustrate the kinds of writings wot I am thinking of. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.
    Last edited by Lethe; 08-06-2016 at 04:49 PM.
    What though the field be lost? / All is not lost; th’ unconquerable will / And study of revenge, immortal hate / And courage never to submit or yield.

  2. #2
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    The Peter Lee article is rather bizarre and clearly aimed at "blinding with science" (i.e. spamming dubious stats - fuck me that heatmap - and hoping everyone nods sagely and doesn't question them). I work in shipping and these throwaway lines struck me as pretty insane-person:

    "The kicker, of course, is that the lion’s share of the $5 trillion is China trade, and most of the balance passes through the South China Sea by choice and not by necessity."

    "But if that route goes blooey, they can always go via Lombok and the Makassar Sea. Just a little bit more expensive."

    Wow.

    Both could be said of almost any non-coastal route! Meaningless hand-waving. Extra distance and an insane amount of shipping changing route is a big deal matey. Days matters less - sometimes slower is better.

    But I do agree with his overall thesis - that it's not worth worrying about long-term*. Just not his reasoning or mode of argument which seems to be very "see what sticks". I feel like this fails at 3) because it is likely to mislead a "general educated audience" unless the are very cynical/skeptical.

    * = Primarily because China is the main country that is being hurt by China being silly here.
    Last edited by LexW; 08-06-2016 at 05:39 PM.

  3. #3
    Lesser Hivemind Node Lethe's Avatar
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    Your response seems to be a case of the specialist missing the forest for the trees. You write that "extra distance and an insane amount of shipping changing route is a big deal matey." How big a deal, exactly? Enough to make stock markets tremble and cause some temporary confusion and disruption in trans-Pacific trade does not seem a terribly big deal to me in the greater scheme of things, not when the underlying subtext of the discussion is the prospect of major power conflict.
    What though the field be lost? / All is not lost; th’ unconquerable will / And study of revenge, immortal hate / And courage never to submit or yield.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus icupnimpn2's Avatar
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    Ed Fries -- Fixing Color Gotcha & Fixing Computer Space
    There was a long list of obvious problems:No enemy saucers.
    Game counter runs too fast.
    Thrust is broken: player’s rocket will not move.
    As I worked on it more I realized that there was also a long list of subtle problems:
    Rocket is missing a pixel.
    Rocket thrust is missing a pixel.
    Rocket Missile shoots the wrong direction from some rotations.
    Rocket Missile only shoots at diagonals, not left/right or up/down.
    No sound.
    Where to start? I picked one of the problems at random, the lack of enemy saucers, and tried to track it down.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lethe View Post
    Your response seems to be a case of the specialist missing the forest for the trees. You write that "extra distance and an insane amount of shipping changing route is a big deal matey." How big a deal, exactly? Enough to make stock markets tremble and cause some temporary confusion and disruption in trans-Pacific trade does not seem a terribly big deal to me in the greater scheme of things, not when the underlying subtext of the discussion is the prospect of major power conflict.
    The entire article seems to be a concerted effort to throw a giant pile of trees (some fake) at you and claim it's a well-established and consistent forest with a specific history to me, and sneering about me being a "specialist" for spotting bullshit reasoning is hilarious. Either it's spurious and shouldn't be included, and presumably is only included for the sake of science-blinding, or it's not spurious, somehow. The prospect of a major power conflict is a joke. The article seems to agree, overall. China is just being stupid, wasteful and provocative in exactly the manner the US has been.

    I will try to provide some articles for this thread this weekend.
    Last edited by LexW; 10-06-2016 at 09:59 AM.

  6. #6
    Lesser Hivemind Node Lethe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LexW View Post
    The entire article seems to be a concerted effort to throw a giant pile of trees (some fake) at you and claim it's a well-established and consistent forest with a specific history to me, and sneering about me being a "specialist" for spotting bullshit reasoning is hilarious. Either it's spurious and shouldn't be included, and presumably is only included for the sake of science-blinding, or it's not spurious, somehow. The prospect of a major power conflict is a joke. The article seems to agree, overall. China is just being stupid, wasteful and provocative in exactly the manner the US has been.
    The article appears reasonable and coherent to me. The argument as I understand it is as follows:

    (Given) That there is an awful lot of noise being made about China's attempts to control or claim rights over the South China Sea and the ostensible significance of this development in light of the $5tn worth of trade that passes through the waterway annually.

    (1) That most SCS trade is trade to or from China.
    (2) That there are alternative routes for non-China SCS trade that would impose only minimal additional costs.
    (3) That the SCS is therefore a shipping route of strategic significance for only one nation: China.
    (4) Therefore that China is unlikely to attempt to "shut down" SCS trade.
    (5) In contrast, the United States does have a strategic interest in maintaining its ability to "strangle" China via exercising dominance over the SCS.
    (6) That China is aware of its reliance upon the SCS and its vulnerability to disruption at the hands of (realistically) one power in particular, and this is one of the factors driving China's attempts at energy and trade route diversification, one-belt-one-road, and China's recent actions to establish its claims over and ensure it has the ability to deny other nations the power to control the SCS.

    Conclusion: that this is Great Power maneuvering of a markedly different character to that presented in mainstream western media accounts.
    Last edited by Lethe; 10-06-2016 at 01:45 PM.
    What though the field be lost? / All is not lost; th’ unconquerable will / And study of revenge, immortal hate / And courage never to submit or yield.

  7. #7
    Moderator Anthile's Avatar
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    The Guardian: China’s memory manipulators
    I remember one trip to find the Five Pagoda Temple, which was built in the late 15th century and featured five small pagodas on top of a massive stone platform. Nagel’s said most had been destroyed in the turmoil of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but that the five pagodas were still there. Our 1980s maps of Beijing showed nothing, but Nagel’s intrigued us. Did it still exist?
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  8. #8
    Lesser Hivemind Node Lethe's Avatar
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    Shane Bauer -- Mother Jones -- My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard

    At 36,000 words this goes well beyond reasonable length, but nonetheless it is a remarkable work of investigative journalism, providing a peerless first-hand account into the workings of America's private prison industry.

    On the morning of the audit, we wake everyone up and tell them to make their beds and take any pictures of women off their lockers. Two well-dressed white men enter Ash unit and do a slow lap around the floor. The only questions they ask Bacle and me are what our names are and how we're doing. They do not examine our logbook, nor do they check our entries against the camera footage. If they did, they would find that some of the cameras don't work. They do not check the doors. If they did, they would see they need to be yanked open by hand because most of the switches don't work. They don't check the fire alarm, which automatically closes smoke doors over the tiers, some of which must be jimmied back open by two guards. They do not ask to go on a tier. They do not interview any inmates. They do a single loop and they leave.
    TL;DR: All the rumours are true, and worse.
    What though the field be lost? / All is not lost; th’ unconquerable will / And study of revenge, immortal hate / And courage never to submit or yield.

  9. #9
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    Here's one - The Daily Beast - The Religious Cult Secretly Running Japan

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...source=twitter

    TOKYO — In the Land of the Rising Sun, a conservative Shinto cult dating back to the 1970s, which includes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and many of his cabinet among its adherents, finally has been dragged out of the shadows.

    ...

    The current cult’s goals: gut Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution, end sexual equality, get rid of foreigners, void pesky “human rights” laws, and return Japan to its Imperial Glory.
    So yeah everyone has extreme right-wing religious maniacs I guess. (Yes, even China but that's another story.)

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Gus_Smedstad's Avatar
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    That was an interesting read. That was a big nostalgic, because I was an electronics hobbyist as a teenager, and I spent a lot of time with TTL ICs containing the kind of basic logic gates he talks about when diagnosing Computer Space. And like him, I had no real understanding of analog electronics. Oh, sure, I knew what components like transistors did, but I couldn't look at a schematic and see what it was intended to do if it weren't super-simple.

    I found the details of how the game tracked a sprite's position using an out-of-sync counter quite intelligible and interesting. It's the kind of thing I would have been into in the 70's.

  11. #11
    Moderator Anthile's Avatar
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    Oh, almost forgot to post this one.

    Virginia bans child marriages: How common are they in the US?
    Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R), who sponsored the bill in Virginia, said she hadn't been aware of the issue until constituents sought her help when a man in his 50s was suspected of having sex with a high school student. To avoid facing prosecution, man obtained the permission of the parents and married the girl. It was the second time he'd used this strategy; the first marriage had ended in divorce.
    No, not "Virginia has banned child marriage in a distant point in the past", they did it just now.
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  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    The only problem with that is that it worked THE FIRST TIME!

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Eight Rooks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthile View Post
    Oh, almost forgot to post this one.

    Virginia bans child marriages: How common are they in the US?


    No, not "Virginia has banned child marriage in a distant point in the past", they did it just now.
    I guess the law of headlines applies here, but... too damned common for sure. I'm not as surprised as some people might be - I've seen too many "Did you know a law about X was still on the books until <very recently>?" articles for that - but the idea a whole bunch of states apparently still allow this... and does it go down that young everywhere else that still thinks it's okay? Jesus. I admit I'm not comfortable with some sections of the moral right and their insistence kids, or at least adolescents, should exist in some kind of rarefied bubble until they turn 18, but this is just indefensible on any level.
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  14. #14
    Lesser Hivemind Node Matt_W's Avatar
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    Didn't see this one before: bookmarked. This is a must read for me; Bauer previously wrote an expose about solitary confinement comparing it unfavorably to his time as a hostage in Iran. One starts to wonder what it is that America does right.

  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    Uh...food?

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Gus_Smedstad's Avatar
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    We're pretty good at electronics and software.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus EPICTHEFAIL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt_W View Post
    Didn't see this one before: bookmarked. This is a must read for me; Bauer previously wrote an expose about solitary confinement comparing it unfavorably to his time as a hostage in Iran. One starts to wonder what it is that America does right.
    When it comes to justice? Depressingly little, as it turns out. Okay, so it's not a single article, but if, as an American, you don't feel deeply ashamed and slightly suicidal by the time you get to the third or fourth page, there may be something quite wrong with you. This one, in particular, is horrific.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by EPICTHEFAIL View Post
    When it comes to justice? Depressingly little, as it turns out. Okay, so it's not a single article, but if, as an American, you don't feel deeply ashamed and slightly suicidal by the time you get to the third or fourth page, there may be something quite wrong with you. This one, in particular, is horrific.
    It's astonishing, really. America has this obsession with it's justice system, virtually fetishizes it in a way that makes even good old quasi-fascist Britain seem laid-back, and yet it's justice system is more or less completely rubbish. I mean, great compared to some third-world hell-hole, but as soon as you start comparing it to Western-style justice systems? Holy fuck it's total crap. As you say there's almost nothing it does right.

  19. #19
    Lesser Hivemind Node Matt_W's Avatar
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    I'm gonna reference Ta-Nehisi Coates again, because he's brilliant. He points out time and time again that American institutions perform their functions with admirable efficiency and verve. It's just that the functions of the institutions of American democracy are not always what we publicly say (or think) they are:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    There’s a sense that the police departments of America have somehow gone rogue. In fact, the police are one of the most trusted institutions in the country. This is not a paradox. The policies which the police carry out are not the edicts of a dictatorship but the work, as Biden put it, of “the greatest democracy in the history of the world.” Avoiding this fact is central to the current conversation around “police reform” which focuses solely on the actions of police officers and omits everything that precedes these actions. But analyzing the present crisis in law enforcement solely from the contested street, is like analyzing the Iraq War solely from the perspective of Abu Ghraib. And much like the Iraq War, there is a strong temptation to focus on the problems of “implementation,” as opposed to building the kind of equitable society in which police force is used as sparingly as possible.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus EPICTHEFAIL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LexW View Post
    It's astonishing, really. America has this obsession with it's justice system, virtually fetishizes it in a way that makes even good old quasi-fascist Britain seem laid-back, and yet it's justice system is more or less completely rubbish. I mean, great compared to some third-world hell-hole, but as soon as you start comparing it to Western-style justice systems? Holy fuck it's total crap. As you say there's almost nothing it does right.
    Apart from free speech, I guess. It's one of the few systems that are still sane enough to recognise that no, hurt feelings don't trump freedom of expression and that to do so is to basically destroy what little semblance of democracy remains in its political system.

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