Archive for February, 2011

Flex in a Week video training | Adobe Developer Connection

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I was using Flash back at the end of the second millennium when it was still called 'FutureSplash' (and was identified by the visionaries at CodeMonkey as a "Plugin that Sucks"). Now it is often buggy and crash-prone and Apple is trying to kill it, but I wouldn't count it out by any means yet. […]

Sam Harris Responds

Monday, February 28th, 2011

In his latest Response to Critics , Sam Harris spends some (too much) time on the nutbars before getting to the serious cases like Russell Blackford. And before starting with his main response he provides this convenient summary: For those unfamiliar with my book, here is my argument in brief: Morality and values depend on the […]

Kenny Felder

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Kenny Felder who I "met" as an appreciative user of my GraphExplorer applet has written a number of Essays and Commentaries that I find quite interesting.

Origin of Religion

Monday, February 28th, 2011

How Did God Get Started? by Colin Wells in  Boston University's  'Arion' magazine gives a part of the story but fails to address some key questions.

Value of Religion

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

The great debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens was a bit of a bust - with Blair citing the roles of moderate religious leaders in "bringing together" Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland (without any acknowledgement of the fact that religion itself was the defining characteristic of the warring classes). Other discussions such as […]

Was Montaigne the First Blogger?

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Ian Brunskill's review of Sarah Bakewell's recent book about Montaigne ends with "Montaigne was happy in a way that no blogger ever could be. There is, in the end, something to be said for the little room behind the shop." This seems to me exactly wrong (not to mention being insufferably presumptious about the feelings […]

Algorithmic Babies and the Chinese Room

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

I commented at Stephen Downes' website on Patricia Kuhl's TED talk about "The Linguistic Genius of Babies". My quibble was less with the content than with the sentimentalized headline, because, although the babies' brains do appear to implement a sophisticated statistical algorithm (to identify the phonemes of relevance to the language of their community), there […]

Nicholas Christakis: A tale of two videos

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Nicholas Christakis  has a couple of TED videos. This one (on how social networks predict epidemics) struck me as saying something truly interesting. The fact that we can gain predictive value by just asking random people to nominate friends  as subjects rather than picking the subjects at random themselves is the kind of beautiful idea […]

Defining Evolution

Monday, February 21st, 2011

When I read the title of this piece (Theologians Lobby Successfully to Change Definition of Evolution | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine)I was prepared to get angry. But instead I am embarrassed on behalf of those who are complaining about the change (which happened more than ten years ago). Apparently the US National Association of […]

The Case for Play

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The Case for Play - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education. "OK kids, you can stop your creative paper folding exercise now and the monitor will collect your products for evaluation. And now, let's take a break from all that with a quick game of Drill'nKill!" Many traditional children's games have a […]

"The Belief Instinct"

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Jesse Bering's "The Belief Instinct" is described as an exploration of possible sources of religion in cognitive tendencies towards a sense of being observed even when we have no evidence for it. To support this idea he reportedly both cites experimental evidence and postulates evolutionary explanations - which lead him to identify "adaptive illusion" as […]

Christopher Norris Defends Philosophy

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Christopher Norris has written an article in Philosophy Now defending the Philosophy of Science from allegations of its irrelevance by scientists (most recently Stephen Hawking for example).  Norris alleges the existence of "scientists’ need to philosophize and their proneness to philosophize badly or commit certain avoidable errors if they don’t take at least some passing […]

Learning Theories

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In all of my efforts to participate in Connectivist MOOCS (#CritLit2010, #PLENK2010, #CCK11) I have run into a roadblock when discussion turned to "Learning Theories" and I have found myself unable to express (or perhaps even determine) what I want to say on this topic. My instinct is just to shout that the emperor has […]

This Must be Said

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

In the light of the apparent opinion of Conservative MP Ed Fast that the mere presence of a digital lock trumps virtually all other copyright rights it must be said that the only appropriate response to passage of Bill C-32 without a Fair Dealing Circumvention Exception is to advocate and support widespread defiance of the law. It […]

Mythical Myths #3 - The Concept of Race

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Oh damn! I had no particular wish to address this until browsing led me by chance to RACE - The Power of an Illusion at PBS where a bunch of well intentioned people are discrediting anti-racism by associating it with a poorly argued denial that a meaningful concept of race even exists. It is indeed popular […]

Obama Leadership "Tested" by Egypt

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

A good part of my recent visit to Toronto was spent glued to the news coming out of Egypt. Then on Thursday, Mubarak finally addressed the  nation -  and failed completely  to satisfy the demonstrators. But by the time I read the headline in the Globe and Mail on Friday announcing that he would stay, […]

Dumb Slogans

Monday, February 14th, 2011

I am sick and tired of watching the "left" shoot itself in the foot by trying to popularize its position with dumb and reactionary slogans which actually work against (what should be) their core principles. A recent case in point is the campaign against "Usage Based Billing" for internet access. Previously we have the BCNDP's […]

Many Views on UBB

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Michael Geist provides some useful links to opinions about the "Usage-Based Billing" issue, and has just expanded on his own view, as has also Teksavvy's Rocky Gaudrault.(More here, here, and here.) My take on all this is that it is not the principle of UBB but rather the specific implementation and lack of transparency that […]

Collapse of Trade as a Phase Transition

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Prompted by our visiting friend Geoff (the 'lucky Geologist' and author of 'Green Figs' and other essays), I have recently finished reading 'The Fall of Rome - and the End of Civilization' by Bryan Ward-Perkins (OUP2005), wherein the author responds to a recent trend amongst historians to view the fall of Rome as a largely […]