darthfar: (Default)
Perhaps the strangest book I've read this year:



Review here )

-------------

Want to know more about quorum sensing, or what happens after death? Check out these articles:

Small Talk in the Microbial World
The Processes of Death and Decomposition



[Yes, I wrote those as a student.]
darthfar: (Default)
When it comes to food, my mother does not take "no" for an answer. It is her chief belief that I'm ridiculously fussy about my food, and it is her duty to (1) disseminate this information to anybody who mentions food preferences and (2) condition me to like them with repeated, forced exposure. (Well, not so much anymore, since the last repulsive food she exposed me to a few times caused severe allergic reactions for two nights in a row, a few months back). Obviously, the latter doesn't work, because I have not managed to like anything that I was repulsed by upon initial contact, but more annoyingly, everybody who has heard this now assumes that I was spoilt rotten as a child, and am now insufferably, reprehensibly picky.

I choose to believe that there is an in-built biological reason why people like or dislike certain foods. )
darthfar: (Default)
The previous week has been interminably slow and dull; my chief forms of entertainment for the past few days has consisted of watching my computer do primality tests for M23837323 and M23837659 for the Mersenne Primes Search (GIMPS), watching season 3 of The Guild and... playing Hitman: Blood Money. After four years. Seriously. It's embarrassing: I was such a big fan of the previous three games (and I wrote that exhaustive guide to the first game, that covered all the weapons and equipment, characters *and* different execution methods - easy and cheapskate - which should say something about my commitment)... and then I bought the fourth and let dust gather on it for FOUR YEARS before I finally installed it. I don't know why I never got around to it for so long (maybe Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and my then-newfound interest in art had something to do with it), but god, it's rekindling the joy of planning and pulling off the perfect Silent Assassin execution. Not to mention the frustration of occasionally botching it up because you accidentally bashed someone in the mouth instead of sedating them...

Enzyme Fever

In other news... my mother is caught up in the latest fad sweeping through town: ... making enzymes? Confused, I went poking around the internet for an explanation of what the hell they're actually doing, and found about a gajillion eyebrow-raising recipes with titles like "Making fruit enzymes"  and "Making garbage enzymes" and "Fruit enzyme drink". WTF?

Blatherfest )

On the Art Front

I also did manage to finish my painting of Volly and the cow in spite of the fact that all my betas were on vacation >.<. Proof that I'm ridiculously unsystematic when it comes to painting (I changed stuff so many times it's not funny):

Pointless Wippage )
darthfar: (Default)
Or so saith the Empathising Quotient/Systemising Quotient (EQSQ) test. Okay, so they didn't *quite* put it like that. (The test actually implies that I'm not even human...).

Found a link to it from some other site, had nothing to do, thought I'd take it. (Force knows, I've tried everything from the Nerd Purity Quiz, to determining my LOTR Orkish name. Which happens to be Ishluk the Choker, in case anyone's asking). This is what my scores said:

Your Systemizing (SQ) and Empathizing (EQ) Quotient Test Results

May 07, 2010

 
Respondent Average EQ Average SQ Brain Type
Males 39.0 61.2 Systemizing
Females 48.0 51.7 Empathizing
Your Score 11 (???!!!) 101 (?!)
Extreme Systemizing

What does your score mean?

Generally, the higher the score the greater your natural ability for that trait. However, the EQ test has 40 questions compared to 75 in the SQ test. As a result, although the unprocessed quotients may be used for comparing each trait ability between individuals, the absolute scores do not tell an individual if he or she has a greater tendency to empathize or systemize. A calculation taking into account the quantity of questions in each test is used to determine a person's brain type along the following continuum:

  • Extreme Empathizing (Extreme E)
  • Empathizing (E)
  • Balanced (B)
  • Systemizing (S)
  • Extreme Systemizing (Extreme S)
  Brain Types of Experimental Control Groups
Respondent Extreme E E Balanced S Extreme S
Males 0% 17% 31% 46% 6%
Females 7% 47% 32% 14% 0%

The important factor to consider is not your absolute score, but the difference between the two. This indicates whether you have more natural ability as an Empathizer or a Systemizer. If your scores are about the same for your EQ and SQ, then you have well balanced empathizing-systemizing capabilities.

Eleven??? OMGROFLMAO.How is it even possible to score *that* low on an empathy test, assuming the person taking it is neither, oh, Jeffrey Dahmer or a brain-dead oyster? [facepalm] I may be socially dense at times, and know exactly where each and every book I own is in my library, but scores like that also imply that I routinely vivisect my neighbours' pets (and maybe even my neighbours) in the basement, and obsessively count the number of peas in each can I open (and probably sort them out by size)? I'd love to set my friends loose on that site. If their scores come out equally odd, it can be assumed that the quiz is broken. If their scores *don't* come out equally odd... the quiz is broken anyhow! (The alternative would be that I'm actually a robot placed on earth to imitate humans while studying their behaviour and culture so that I can report to Chief Green Guy when I get back).

In the meantime, if anyone wants me, I'll be upstairs in my room. Cutting worms in half.
darthfar: (Default)
Another of those ridiculous emails masquerading as health warnings...

In the past, every time my mother forwarded me one of these, I'd fire off angry rants to all the recipients on her list, dissecting the hoax to kingdom come and attacking each point with fact and basically insinuating that everybody who believed crap like it were several hundred neurons short of a nervous system. It was only after my mother repeatedly begged me not to keep spamming her friends, I gave it up as a bad job. Lately, though, I've been feeling the urge to write long, scathing replies again because seriously... the hoaxes just keep getting worse and worse.

Electronic avalanche follows )

EPIC FAIL


So I just completed my first... uh, complete acrylic painting.



(You don't want to see the other portrait I tried. Seriously).

Remind me again why I don't work with traditional media. Oh yeah, they get all over the place, and cameras can't get the damn colours right. Because I swear, the original didn't have THIS much yellow in it. It's supposed to be a gift for a good friend, although now I can't make up my mind whether to give it, or to do another one with Corel.

On the other hand, I did learn some very important lessons from this exercise in new media. Namely:

1. It's a bad idea to put your coffee cup next to your dirty (washing) water cup.
2. Forgetting to cap your paint tubes is only marginally less stupid than drinking out of the wrong cup.
3. Acrylic paint, being paint, gets on everything. Like tables and keyboards and shirts. And it doesn't come out either.

Ah well. There's always next time, I suppose.
darthfar: (Default)
ROGUE MICROBES

I awoke yesterday to the startling realisation that some heavy-duty construction work (involving what seemed like a jackhammer and a piling machine) was taking place somewhere deep inside my skull. Today, the goblet cells lining my nose decided once again to increase performance in an attempt to meet this year's mucous quota (and perhaps next year's as well), and effectively clogged up my nose, with the result that today's run was not exactly pleasant, given that said honker was only good for honking, and that the mouth, being an excellent opening for inserting food and exhaling carbon dioxide, was also a highly efficient suction pump for not only oxygen but smoke, small airborne creatures and random suspended debris.

I very much suspect this to be the fault of the maid who, instead of staying home to nurse her cold, has been bringing her viruses to work like highly unruly, destructive children.

WATCHING THE WEIGHTS

Today at the gym, I watched with some amusement as two decidedly overweight guys who knew squat about routines attempted the lat pull machine. Guy 1 (aka the spotter) set the resistance to some arbitrarily high number, and spent yonks adjusting the position of Guy 2(the one sitting down)'s hands on the bar, as Guy 2 visibly sweated from the exertion. Guy 2 tried pulling down the bar. Did two reps very badly. Guy 1 stepped behind and grabbed the bar at the centre. Between the two of them, they managed under a dozen reps before Guy 2 (whose head looked as though it would explode from the first rep) called for a halt.

[It reminded me of this one girl who came *one* time, and who was obviously clueless in the ways of gym machinery. After observing me at the cable crossover machine (I was using only one side) for a spell, she decided that she too would try tricep presses - and set her weights to the same as mine. (I think her line of reasoning was, I'm kind of small, the girl was much taller and somewhat bigger, so - hey, I bet I can manage that). After watching her struggle to force the bar down, subtract 5kg, struggling again, subtract another 5kg, I suggested, "Why don't you try it the other way around? Start at something much lighter, say, 10kg and work your way up." She said, "OH!! okay!" *facepalm*]

Seriously, if you don't know how to operate a machine, you should try locating the trainers, or approach one of the veteran bodybuilders, before you wind up hurting yourself badly. (I mean, hell, we have *four* defending champions who're there almost every day. They're pretty easy to spot, because they're the ones with biceps big and hard enough to drive nails in with). *chuckles*

DATA MISREPRESENTATION

I've been reading these big fat supplementary reports that were included in my research material, and scribbling very rude remarks all over the margin that hopefully boss guy will never see. (I don't even know why I'm reading it, since the project will not include said product). Because, seriously, it's downright hideous how all this data is being misrepresented by the opposing party. Without alluding to what the product in question is, specifically, I shall say this:

1. If there is one case of disease for every 12 million units of Product A consumed, and one case for every 19 million units of Product B consumed, it does NOT mean that you can safely consume an additional 7 million more units of Product B without risk of infection. It's just that for every unit of Product A consumed, there is a 8.33 x 10-6% chance that there's a high enough number of pathogens in it to make a person sick, versus a 5.26 x 10-6% chance per unit with Product B. I mean, if, say, 1 in 1,000 people stupid enough to stand under a tree during a lightning storm get struck by said lightning, does that mean you can safely stand underneath a tree 999 times without getting hit?

2. I love how they keep saying things like, there were only 450 cases of contamination for Product A in [year] as opposed to 1,400 for Product B. Yeah, but what were the production values for Products A and B? How big a market did they cater to? Those numbers aren't reflecting any kind of percentage, yo.

[Back when we did Scientific Writing, our lecturer cited this hilarious example of statistics: "In our studies to test the hazardous effects of [chemical] on laboratory white mice, 33% of the samples died, 33% lived - and the last mouse ran away." AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.]

3. If you're going to study the effects of Product X vs Product Z upon the health of a consumer, you do NOT set it up as follows: you give ONE consumer Product X, ONE consumer Product Y (what has Y to do with the study?) - and give them BOTH additional supplements - and then give ONE consumer your Product Z WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS. That is seriously the stupidest experimental setup I have ever heard.

4. Neither should you, in a coronary disease study involving Product Q vs R, compare the health of people who consume large quantities Product Q (which contains significant proportions of fat) with people who do not consume Product Q. (Where are the people who consume Product R, anyway?).

5. When asserting that cooking destroys Chemical X in Product C, which promotes good health, you should also bear in mind that the majority of the population doesn't even consume significant quantities of said Product C, and that Chemical X is found in other, more common foods anyway, instead of trying to scare the reader into thinking it necessarily leads to DEFICIENCY.

The list goes on and on ad nauseum. Seriously, you could write an entire dissertation on "Data Misrepresentation in a Report on X". ... You know, I don't believe the people who put this together are actually this dumb. I think they knowingly chose to convolute said data to push their case. God, I just want to hit them over the head with this mountain of reading material.

THESE CAN'T POSSIBLY BE CHRISTMAS CARDS...

Just thought I'd share two that went out today:

darthfar: (Default)
It is probably not the best course of action to hand-launder and bake leather gloves. After all the jokes my father cracked about my gym gloves being noxious enough to wipe out the indigenous aquatic life in our local lake, my mother decided that it was high time they had a bath (the gloves, I mean; I'm assuming that said indigenous aquatic life needs no further introduction to water). When I attempted to put them on today, I found, to my consternation, that they had somehow shrunk two sizes, and I could hardly wiggle a finger in. After some very determined pulling and squashing, I managed to get my hands in - just barely. I thus spent the next hour fighting the impression that I was working out with armadillo plates on my hands. Plates that were gouging the flesh out of my palms, at that.

I think I'm going to have to buckle, after all, and buy myself a new pair. Force knows, leather gloves should only have so many holes.

CANNIBALISM, ANYONE?

I just received the strangest email from an aunt today, one she claimed was proof that modern cannibalistic practices were well and alive. A cursory glance at the fifty-odd photographs confirmed that (1) yes, there was a corpse involved, and (2) there was a bunch of people in uniform (police and medical staff?) doing eyebrow-raising things to it, namely, dismembering and eviscerating it, and (3) oh hai, they're hanging around having lunch. I gathered, from the sequence of images, that one was supposed to arrive at the conclusion that said people made a hearty meal of their morning's work. Yum.

[Want to see a small selection of the pictures? CLICK HERE. Be warned: if you don't have a strong stomach, you might not enjoy what you see.]

While fried corpse might smell delectable, the email itself smelt fishy. Sure, you have photographs of them paring the corpse down to the bone, and sure, you have photographs of the group of people cooking and eating a meal together... but if they *were* indeed eating the corpse, where were the pictures of stir-fried fingers? of leg stew? or boiled head soup? Surely, if one were to be part of so exotic a feast, one would document the entire event, yes? The only photographs supposedly of the "cooking" process showed a couple of men boiling what looked decidedly like the corpse's hands in a large vat (unless they were deep-frying them, I can't think of a more unpalatable way of rendering meat of any sort than boiling them in water. Yuck), near what looked like stone body drawers; the lunch group, on the other hand, was out in the bushes - nowhere near the white building, it seemed.

So I did a little poking on the internet, and unearthed the following:

NaRa Saturday, August 29, 2009 22:58:00
In Thailand, there are several groups of volunteers that would go out and help transport the bodies of accident victims to the coroner office. The reason being is that the Coroner office in Thailand does not have enough manpower to go out and perform all the tasks of retrieving bodies themselves.

The pictures you are seeing came from an event hosted by one of the volunteer group mentioned above. Many times the bodies were never claimed, these bodies are actually stored in an unclaimed cemetary [sic]. But when they run out of space to buried the bodies, they would have to clean out the cemetary. The pictures here shows the volunteers actually cleaning the cemetary by removing the unclaimed bodies. This needed to be done to make space for the new bodies.

In order to maximize the space to keep the bones, they had to remove the remove the flesh (which later would be cremated) and only kept the bones.

These people have worked with the dead bodies for so long that it doesn't bother them to sit down and eat their lunch next to the bodies. The volunteers are NOT eating the corpse. They are just eating the rice with some stir-fry meat with ginger.
[Supporting news item here]

Okay, I figured it for an anthropology class out for a day of collecting material, but that's close enough. LOL.

It amused me. Here we have two sets of photographs that have absolutely nothing to do with each other, beyond the fact that the people in both sets are the same - one showing what, in the eyes of the majority, must constitute a defilement of a deceased person; the other, showing the partaking of a meal - and one automatically arrives at the conclusion that the meat from set A must have wound up on plates in set B. It is a strange thing, the human mind, that possesses the software to achieve closure by filling in gaps with information from previous experiences - the same software that gives us the power of deduction, of putting two and two together. Unfortunately, the same software that serves us can also work against us, leading us to see connections where there are none (which I can only liken to seeing animals in clouds and Ronald Reagan in a head of broccoli), simply because we're used to links and sequences. And so the viewer automatically - erroneously! - deduces that (forgive me) one (dead) man's meat is another man's protein source for the day. (And it is perhaps a resounding testament of man's tendency to always assume the worst). Not the nicest prank you can play on someone, but hey, that's dark humour for you.

And then I found the following post on another website, and all of a sudden it wasn't funny anymore:

Warning: The forwarded pictures are truly gruesome. Please do not scroll down if you cannot withstand the shock. They are definitely NOT for Minors.

Ambassador Keshi:

Is there anything the Nigerian government, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs Chief Ojo Madukwe could do on the diplomatic front to bring this serious matter to the attention of the Government of Thailand, may be through the Thailand ambassador to Nigeria or at the United Nations.

I will be forwarding the pictures to the Thailand Embassy in Ottawa, Canada and to the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Canada tomorrow morning along with a letter of concern of concern which will also ask for their comments on the issue. Individual Nigerians and citizens of other African countries should also be encouraged to bring this matter up with the Embassy of Thailand wherever in the world they may reside.

I believe that the citizenship of the victim, which is unknown of at this time, should not be be major consideration in our reaction. If the Thai hunters could do this to a full grown black man, can we imagine what they still do to the aboriginal peoples who still live in the tropical jungles of Thailand.

Bye,

Ola
Because, all of a sudden, it's no longer humour of questionable taste; it's become malicious.

Wait, it gets even better:

From: OlakassimMD
Sent: 21/07/2009 9:36:11 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Re: [NIDOA] Fw: Thai people eating blackman

Dear All:

The scenes depicted in the pictures are truly disgusting not necessarily because the victim is a black man as they would still be disgusting regardless of his race. The pictures depict a group of hunters who after hunting down and killing a black man (as they would any animal) proceeded to dismember his body and then cooked some parts which they ate. All these acts took place in ether late 20th or early 21st century.

I believe we must embark on some steps to ensure that:

a) the Thai government authorities are made aware of this atrocity.

b) that human rights groups worldwide including at the United Nations be made aware of this incident.

c) that this matter be bought up at the United Nations so that all nations of the world could become involved in stamping out these kinds of primitive cannibalistic acts.

d) that the Nigerian government exact some diplomatic response from the Thai ambassador in Nigeria on the basis that the black victim could be a Nigerian.

e) try and obtain a translation of the text that is written in the Thai language.

Bye,

Ola

In a message dated 21/07/2009 8:20:48 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, adaejiagamba08@ yahoo.com writes:

Why are black people despised all over the world? Why do they see us as less than human? I hope the pictures below are not true, this is sickening.
Please those of you plying Thailand and its neighboring countries beware!!! We don't want any of our own to end up being eaten by barbaric cannibals
.
Adaejiagamba.
Wait, did I miss something? Where, in all these pictures, is there evidence that the corpse was hunted down? Where are the weapons - at least, weapons that can be associated with the few areas of trauma on that body (for a "hunted" corpse, he seems to be in terrific condition)? You'd also think that the group could dress a little more appropriately for the so-called hunt than medical whites and police uniforms... seriously. Oh, and that's not a even a fresh corpse, as should be evident from the livor mortis. So what, they let their corpses sit around a bit for better flavour? And how did the writer even arrive at the conclusion that "black people are despised all over the world" and "are seen as less than human" from that one set of photos, which showed only *one* individual (who, as we've already established, wasn't even eaten, but prepared for some kind of ossuary), rather than something more conclusive... say, a corral full of these folks, or multiple "hunting" events? Nice job of leaping to illogical conclusions there.

It makes me wonder what the authors of the emails are trying to accomplish. Because when you bring in actual racial and nation identities, you can't possibly have anything in mind that is any less than creating discord and persecuting a particular group of people that don't fit into your worldview - or, at the very least, attempting to solicit sympathy for your own group, that you do not deserve. What better way than to portray your targets as savages - or at the very least, morally and intellectually inferior? (Once you establish them as being inferior beings, you take away the guilt of committing crimes against them. History's littered with examples. Surely I need not name them).

[And indeed, what better horror, in this case, to inflict than that of the Ultimate Crime: desecration of the dead? Almost every modern culture1 has its own death taboo; while the details may vary, most of them involve having it ground into you that it's immoral to chop up old granny like a side of pork, and stir-frying her with the vegetables, - and any one or any group that violates this sacred code is automatically a force of terror to be dreaded or hated.]

It makes you want to throw your hands up in despair sometimes, doesn't it?

People, if you've received similar emails, if you're reading this, pass on the message. This is a hoax, and a particularly pernicious one. Don't spread the hate.


1 I say modern culture, because there are apparently still a few primitive cultures that practice ritualistic cannibalism, and I refuse to discuss them in the context of this journal entry because the people depicted are clearly from the "civilised" world.

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