Thursday, August 16, 2018

TRUMPERWOCKY – An Ode to Fake News



Beware the Trumperwock at run!
The tweets that bite, the lies that catch!
Beware the Jared bird, and shun
The frumious Pencersnatch!

Don took his nuclear code in hand;
Long time Dear Leader foe he sought –
So rested he by the DMZee
And stood awhile unthought.


by GeekChickPro

Then, as in disarray the DL stood,
The Trumperwock, with hair of flame,
Came whiffling through Panmunjeom wood,
And tweeted as he came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
His tweets went snicker-snack!
He felt Kim’s dread, and in his head
He went victorious back.

And hast thou slain the Jong-unwack?
Come to my arms, my devilish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
She chortled in her joy.


from 85086 Magazine

A riff on ‘Jabberwocky’ with apologies to Lewis Carroll

Monday, July 23, 2018

Nature's Place in an Urbanised World




In June a landmark court case in the Province of Quebec accepted the principle that private development that destroys the habitat of threatened species can be forbidden on that basis alone. The ruling is opposed by both the municipality in which lies a rare Western Chorus Frog breeding area and the Quebec Government, and will be appealed.  Municipalities (such as Caledon where I live) in which there is a considerable amount of undeveloped and unfarmed land not publicly owned contain much biology that is un-surveyed and therefore unknown. Conservation authorities and others who wish to investigate the ecology of privately-held land need landowner approval, and this is not always granted. My home is my castle and my land mine to do with what I like is still the view of many. Attempts to preserve privately-owned heritage buildings and landmark trees run up against this outlook all the time.

As we in Ontario continue to urbanise northwards from the southern Great Lakes we not only destroy our best farmland, we eliminate the small ponds, marshes and woodlots that harbour what remains of native plant and animal life characteristic of this geographic zone. Rougher country like the limestone Niagara Escarpment that runs north through Southern Ontario, unsuited for farming and more expensive to develop, has been traditionally easier to protect. This favours the preservation of life-forms that utilize rocky and less fertile terrain over meadow dwellers. Shrikes and larks, many lepidopterans and native bees disappear.

A New York Times feature article of May 27th, by a Natural Sciences professor at an Upstate New York college and titled ‘The Silence of the Bugs’, describes what the author calls the beginnings of “an insect Armageddon” – the alarming decline in the observable population of flying insects. Think about how many of them splat onto your car’s windshield/screen or get stuck in your radiator grill versus the number in your childhood. It’s a lot less. This drop is reflected in the large scale declines of pollinators that threaten global horticulture. The writer is at pains to point out that the quantification of this potentially catastrophic phenomenon has been almost entirely done by volunteer naturalists (in Britain and Germany). The academic study of biology in the field rather than in the lab and at the cellular level is now a minor discipline compared with my 1960s university studies in Zoology, in which field trips and whole animal morphology were key elements of the programme.  

Professor Stager quotes a 1996 editorial in the journal Conservation Biology, “Naturalist are dying off…Will the next generation of conservation biologists be nothing but a bunch of computer nerds with no first hand knowledge of natural history?”.  These days dedicated expert and amateur naturalists are more than ever necessary for us to have any sort of overall perspective on population shifts and environmental threats. Those of us who belong to naturalist clubs are becoming ever more conscious of the information gathering role we must play in creating some awareness of the many threats to the ecology in  the world’s most urbanised and developed countries, nation that are a too-ignorant custodian of a vanishing array of wild things and places. 

In recent years the field trips and speaker roster of volunteer naturalists clubs in developed countries have become less of ‘a walk in the woods to see what we can see’ and more ‘let’s do a butterfly survey of this grassland’. We put emphasis on the less obvious components of our natural world – insects flying by, not just the birds, the trees themselves and not just a woodland’s spring flowers.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Could 'The Internet of Things' Be The Greatest Threat To Human Freedom Ever?

from 'A Simple Explanation Of The Internet Of Things' by in Forbes

 
The Internet of Things has become an umbrella term for what appliance, transportation and construction businesses hope will be the future for what they sell - an Internet-connected network of sensors and intercommunicating devices in our homes, our offices, our cars and public spaces that, while they may feed data to us, do so more widely to databases and algorithms that will monitor and increasingly manage our days.

The driverless car constantly connected to the Cloud; fridge, washing, heating and other household devices that will soon sense and inform via networks; the audio-video technology, fixed and mobile, that is already connected via the Web to browsers, Netflix, Internet radio providers and others who monitor our ongoing activity and preferences; and the third party monitoring of home security systems that soon will extend inside our doors and windows to cover full household operations, these are just a few of the ways that our daily lives will service what Jennifer Cobbe of the New York Review of Books NYR Daily calls 'surveillance capitalism'.

A few years back a US robotics engineer, Daniel H. Wilson, authored the novel 'Robopocalypse' in which, in the not-too-distant future at a moment no-one will notice, the dazzling technology that will run our world will unite and turn against us through the agency of a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) who uses the interconnectedness of all things to attempt to dominate and exterminate humans. The book is a useful catalogue of how artifacts connected to the Cloud can be used to take over society.  

While the nature and capabilities of future AI is speculative, what we may safely guess is that humans in competing national intelligence agencies are already working on how to use the Internet of Things to cripple their antagonists. The current huge Chinese commercial data thievery and Russian online offshore disinformation campaigns are only a glimpse of what could be to in store for us if we don't strongly resist now rampant surveillance capitalism through our viewing and buying decisions, and, via both the ballot box and the courts, the already widespread but often illegal online personal and social intelligence gathering  of government security agencies like the US CIA.  

In 2014 David Ignatius, a distinguished Washington Post columnist and long-time student of the CIA, published 'The Director', a novel focusing in detail on the illegalities that have long characterized that agency's global endeavours and which had recently been given some air by both Wikileaks and an internal whistle blower. Four years later we can assume nothing has really changed other than the tools and options have got better, and will soon, thanks to the Internet of Things, be much more so.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

BREXIT As A Fault Line In Parliamentary Democracy



 

"Brexit has been the most divisive issue of my lifetime.  It has divided not only the four nations of our UK, but regions within them.  It has divided political parties;  political colleagues;  families;  friends – and the young from the old

 

by Steve Bell for The Guardian

 

We have to heal those divisions.  They have been made worse by the character of the Brexit debate with its intolerance, its bullying, and its name-calling.  I welcome rigorous debate – but there must be respect for differing views that are honestly held. 

 

In this debate there are no 'remoaners', no 'mutineers', no 'enemies of the people' – just voices setting out what they believe is right for our country." 

from a speech given today by the former UK Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major to the Creative Industries Federation

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

False Facts as Old News

"Let the greatest part of the news thou hearest be the least part of what thou believest, lest the greater part of what thou believest be the least part of what is true."

"Where lies are easily admitted the father of lies will not easily be excluded."

Francis Quarles, poet 1592-1664
 Image result for donald trump as the devil