Tuesday, June 30, 2015

la tendre indifférence du monde

This past weekend, yours truly visited his brother & significant other on the Cape. While there, they took me and my wife to a shoal at maximum low tide, whereupon we walked out for over a mile into the mist, in total silence and awe of the vastness of nature, something Camus captured in L’Étranger, the classic existential novel whose essence can be summed up in five unforgettable words ... la tendre indifférence du monde = literally, "the tender indifference of the world")

When reading Camus, one sees just how fleeting and insignificant our existence truly is in comparison to a reality of forever, where life is but a temporary hedge against the void before being recycled as all things are in this part of the multiverse. Needless to say, yours truly will come back to the shoal again as experiencing something as powerful as this is existence at its best, something I bet Camus would appreciate to the max.

Click here to get Camus' classic for free. :)

The beginning of the End

BRT has discussed the evils of Gerrymandering in past posts as said practice keeps 96+% of the fools in congress in office due to the ruling party's ability to carve up its state into districts favorable to the controlling party when the census is taken, something the dems of CT have done since the beginning of time. 

With this in mind, the supremes actually did some good this time by upholding Arizona's bid to rid its state of the evils of this sad but eminently expected practice by our "wonderful" representatives.

Hopefully, this is the start point for other states to do the right thing but one never knows, do one?

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Walking Dead

Loyal readers of BRT know about the numerous posts yours truly has written concerning the 6th extinction, the ongoing ecological disaster being perpetrated by us rubes 24/7, based on greed, ignorance and the perverse notion that earth's resources are infinite and there for the taking, something not consistent with the stark reality in which we find ourselves in.

A few facts.

The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing in the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

In essence ...

Click here to download the PDF. Intense does not begin to describe what lies ahead if we don't change our ways, beginning now.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

There must be a Pony in there somewhere

BRT has talked often about neural nets and their ability to learn by example, a notion that tends to be discussed in the abstract, until now.

In looking at these amazing images, one sees the beginnings of true AI, where interpreting reality via neural nets resembles, in indirect fashion, the paintings of Dali, Hieronymus Bosch or better yet, Chagall, where daydreams rule in unusual yet recognizable forms.

I and the Village - Chagall

When you let the system roam, images emerge similar to Van Gogh, electric, evocative and powerful.

The Starry Night - Van Gogh

If we apply the algorithm iteratively on its own outputs and apply some zooming after each iteration, we get an endless stream of new impressions, exploring the set of things the network knows about. We can even start this process from a random-noise image, so that the result becomes purely the result of the neural network, as seen in the following images:

The World Island

Sometimes, yours truly stumbles upon an article that changes one's view on reality, in this case, the nexus of power and how it impacts the Great Game, something eloquently articulated in Alfred W. McCoy's piece titled The Geopolitics of American Global Decline /Washington Versus China in the Twenty-First Century. 

Click here for larger version of Mackinder's map.

When this notion is combined with the catastrophic neocon approach to foreign policy, one begins to see the wheels falling off the American empire at speeds that truly boggle the mind.

To see how the world island is coming together under the aegis of China and Russia, check out Rethink's excellent article titled The New Silk Road Initiatives in Central Asia. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sortition = Equality by Lot

The kleroterion (Ancient Greek: κληρωτήριον) is a randomization device used by the Athenian polis during the period of democracy to select citizens to the boule, to most state offices, to the Nomothetai, and to court juries. The kleroterion was a slab of stone incised with rows of slots and with an attached tube. Citizens' tokens—pinakia—were placed in the slots and the tube was filled with different-colored dice. The dice were released one by one, each die corresponding to a row of pinakia. The color of each die determined whether the owners of the pinakia in the corresponding row were selected to hold office or to become jurists.

In essence, equality by lot is the only true democracy whereby citizens of a given state are chosen by lot to fulfil a designated position in government, something radical, disruptive and wise, with a bit of luck thrown in, originating in Athens around 486 BC.

Sortition,  election by lot, a method of choosing public officials in some ancient Greek city-states. It was used especially in the Athenian democracy, from which most information about the practice is derived. With few exceptions, all magistrates were chosen by lot, beginning with the archons in 487–486 bc; likewise the Boule (council) of 500 and the juries of the law courts were chosen by lot. The practice of sortition obviated electoral races and provided for the regular turnover of officeholders. The operations of government were thus not in the hands of experts, but, through the system of sortition, the Athenian democracy provided at least some practical political education for its citizens.

The rationale of sortition was the equality of all citizens. 

Or, in a really interesting piece titled Early Elections, Bush or Clinton, one sees this.

ME. On the contrary. True democracy existed long ago and only briefly. In the Athens of old, public offices were drawn by lottery among those who qualified – in the instance, the heads of a household. Names were mixed in an urn and a boy with a scarf on his eyes drew the names. The process was called ‘sortition’, that is, the selection of officers from a larger pool of candidates.
Aristotle clearly stated the argument, “Democracy arose from the idea that those who are equal in any respect are equal absolutely. All are alike free, therefore they claim that all are free absolutely… The next is when the democrats, on the grounds that they are all equal, claim equal participation in everything.”

And he was even more categorical on elections, “It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.”

There you have it. Sortition is the only and true democracy. At elections time, there is a lottery. Your next door neighbor can be President, the postman Minister of Defense, the milkman Minister of Agriculture and so on till the last public office.

True democracy is a lottery. Every other political structure, including voting-based government is camouflaged aristocracy, though given the times, even aristocracy is a misnomer. The Greek word “aristo” means “best”, hence government by the best. A closer definition, to borrow again from the Greek, would be “coprocracy”, or government by the shittiest.

Kind of says it all regarding the current state of America doesn't it?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Of Fire & Beer

Creativity is based on play and perception with luck and chance thrown in to complete the process, characteristics one sees in abundance regarding fire and beer, two prime drivers that gave rise to humanity on planet earth.

As for beer ...

With this in mind, yours truly is going to grill some burgers and drink some beer in homage to our ancient ancestors who knew a good thing when they saw it. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

With Steely Resolve

Powerful and insightful, Neil Halloran's video shows, in clear and eloquent ways, just how many people died in WW II, particularly on the Eastern Front, where millions perished in some of the most horrific battles known to man. With this in mind,  the obtuse neocons better reconsider the very dangerous game they are playing in the Ukraine as Russia's the real deal in every sense of the word.

"Nuff said." - Stan Lee

Monday, June 08, 2015

A Different Perspective ... On reaching 1600

A Different Perspective ... On reaching 1600 is, IMHO, a pretty significant number, something never even conjectured when starting up BRT 7+ years ago on the suggestion of a good friend stating the ideas we discussed at length, might have enough gravitas to share with the connected world of the net, a thought both intriguing and terrifying when posting the first blurb back in 2007 from one who is not a professional writer by any stretch of the imagination but rather one insatiably curious about how reality works at a deep level.

So what are these levels? For starters, it's the BRT links garnered over the years, the connects to amazing sources of knowledge that show the good side of the net, where nuanced and well researched ideas are shared and amplified due to the elimination of the Tower of Babel file formats made possible by the rise of the web, a chaotic system of ever increasing size that never ceases to amaze in the fact the damn thing works through voluntary adherence to open standards, thus forever changing how the world does business.

At the same time, BRT has discussed the inevitable costs of virtually every process known to man as the 1st law of thermodynamics rules whereby energy can neither be created or destroyed, only transformed, a notion now being artfully integrated into entanglement and wormholes (ER = EPR), a duality top scientists are now viewing as the prime drivers to the creation of existence. This cost variable of the first law also applies to tech, war, sex and drugs along with governance and caring for the environment as there's no such thing as a free lunch, ever.

At the same time this notion of entanglement and wormholes is being discussed, the 2nd law (Boltzmann, Wheeler et al) , gives rise to entropy and information where the entropy of any system will always increase in time, thus increasing the amount of disordered information in that system, something contradicted by life where life temporarily takes energy (transforms) from the given system and reduces entropy by encapsulating a part of the reality in question and using the energy extracted to transform unordered information into structured, something we see 24/7 on planet earth and, as yours truly believes, will be seen outside of terra firma in the not too distant future.

As for how little we know, just look out into the vastness of space and see how limited our view truly is, something Carl Sagan expressed with eloquence and passion in The Pale Blue Dot.

As for governance or the lack thereof, BRT has talked at length about subjects ranging from the abject failure of the neocons regarding all things related to foreign policy to the resolute obtuseness of politicos rejecting science and evolution in favor of 24/7 jesus as the infrastructure of the nation goes down the tubes in favor of never ending war enriching the military/industrial/congressional complex at the expense of this once great nation.

As for economics, back in 1980, financialization accounted for 5% of the economy while in 2015, it accounts for nearly 40%.

As for art, music, video and writing, along with mashops of every conceivable description, the beat goes on, amplified by the web 24/7, the digital wild west where freedom and surveillance reign supreme, where knowing the ground is key and where the willingness to ask questions and have a beginner's mind in trying to understand how this crazy existence may actually work are, in this person's take, rules to live by as we move further into this exciting yet perilous times of a world driven by the Anthropocene, where we have become nature, a notion disquieting to say the least.

On that positive note, here's to 1600 and to future blurbs as there more then enough grist in the mill to grind as we move ever forward into the 21st century. :)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Low Rent Bottom Feeders

Low rent bottom feeders accurately describes our "elected senators'" when they fast tracked the toxic TPP for bribes totaling just $1.15 million from the Goldman Sachs lead TPP Business Coalition.

The best congress money can buy now equates to low rent bargains @ Walmart, don't you think?

It gets better.

The Ministry of Truth lives.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Our $ @ Work

DOD knows how to spend our money, particularly in pursuit of nefarious & guilty pleasures as seen by this post, courtesy Judicial Watch.

In the latest of many flagrant examples of how tax dollars are wasted, government-issued credit cards were used by Department of Defense (DOD) employees to make more than $4 million in personal charges, including at casinos and strip clubs.

During a one-year period the agency charged 20 million transactions for $3.4 billion on government credit cards, according to a DOD Inspector General report issued this month. About $3.2 million of it was spent at casinos and nearly $1 million on personal expenses, including about $100,000 at strip clubs by 646 card holders. The casino charges were made through 4,437 transactions by 2,636 charge card holders, according to the report which breaks down expenditures by military branch.

The U.S. Air Force is by far the biggest offender, outspending other branches and civilian DOD employees with government-issued credit cards. In the year analyzed by investigators, the Air Force charged more than $400,000 in personal expenses at casinos and nearly $40,000 at strip clubs. The Army came in second by spending almost $350,000 at casinos during the same period and nearly $35,000 at “adult entertainment establishments.”

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows...

Any questions? :)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Incompetence personified

This is now commonplace. Tech handled by people not equipped to work with the tech in question generates abysmal results that could be rectified by employing the Israeli method of hiring SMART people to interview suspicious travelers on why they're flying while saving enormous amounts of money on tech not needed to do the job. This is WTF territory without a doubt. End of rant, for now.

Sometimes a Great Notion

Sometimes a great notion issues forth where one's ability to see something hidden in plain sight  solves a seemingly intractable problem by using tech that works with nature to make it happen. 

In an odd way, this relates to Ken Kesey's novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, a book showing how ideas are often hidden in plain sight but can be seen if one has the perseverance to make it so.

The film's not bad either.