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progressoid's Journal
progressoid's Journal
April 12, 2023

New NASA Director Swears Oath on Carl Sagan Book Instead of Bible

Dr. Makenzie Lystrup getting sworn in as Director of @NASAGoddard
Space Flight Center using Carl Sagan's 'Pale Blue Dot' is just everything. 😍



While Lystrup's choice of oath-taking literature is "unusual," it's definitely allowed by law thanks to our good ole' separation of church and state, and there's a long tradition of political statement-making via swearing in books.

From Dr. Suess to a Superman comic and any number of non-Christian religious texts, American political figures have for centuries been putting their beliefs on display by being sworn into office on books other than the Bible.

That said, this appears to be the first time someone's been sworn in on a Sagan book, and we're with Cowing when it comes to admiring Lystrup's oath book — which NASA, interestingly enough, chose not to mention in its own blog post.

"Why do I suddenly get the urge to apply for a job over in Maryland at Goddard?" quipped Cowing, himself a former NASA employee. "Anyone who does this has to be cool to work for."

December 14, 2022

The End of Art: An Argument Against Image AIs

Follow The Concept Art Association for further news on organizing against AIs, and check out their recent AI town hall video: https://www.youtube.com/c/ConceptArtAssociation

Equity is fighting against AIs replacing many kinds of artists, their efforts are relevant to all creatives and they have good resources here: https://www.equity.org.uk/getting-involved/campaigns/stop-ai-stealing-the-show/

Know more organizations going against the AIs? Send me links at: stevensketches (at) gmail.com

A transcript of this video is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/128yey0VfYhM9eUdvkvCpk5zvvoIkqXfI4hEPAYeJCHU/edit

A site to investigate just one of the LAION data sets to see if you or your art are in there. A note that this site offers to sign you up for a future opt-out product- I have no idea what the nature of that product will be and would urge caution: https://haveibeentrained.com/

Open AI explaining how they invented their legal structure because nothing else worked for them: https://openai.com/blog/openai-lp/

Stable Diffusion release info with no mention of “artists”: https://stability.ai/blog/stable-diffusion-announcement

Imagen release info that explains how the data set it is trained on is “uncurated” and contains “a wide range of inappropriate content including pornographic imagery, racist slurs, and harmful social stereotypes.” This is another page you should do a ctrl-f search for “artist” on: https://imagen.research.google/

Dance Diffusion explanation: https://wandb.ai/wandb_gen/audio/reports/Harmonai-s-Dance-Diffusion-Open-Source-AI-Audio-Generation-Tool-For-Music-Producers--VmlldzoyNjkwOTM1

Example of private medical imagery being used to train the AI: https://www.vice.com/en/article/3ad58k/ai-is-probably-using-your-images-and-its-not-easy-to-opt-out

A great article summarizing the data laundering techniques of AI companies: https://waxy.org/2022/09/ai-data-laundering-how-academic-and-nonprofit-researchers-shield-tech-companies-from-accountability/

California Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo writes OSTP urging investigation into unsafe AI release models, namely Stable Diffusion: https://eshoo.house.gov/media/press-releases/eshoo-urges-nsa-ostp-address-unsafe-ai-practices

The best non-technical explanation I’ve seen on how diffusion models work: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRHrUyDM/

A good semi-technical explanation of how diffusion models like Stable Diffusion work:

I did the drawing for this video, “Prey For A Spiritual Creature” on 18”x24” Strathmore bristol paper. From imagination for the sheer love of drawing!

Special thanks to my wife for her help editing the script, to my Patrons for their support, to my friends on my Discord for links, expert info, and first reactions, and to those who get the course, of course.
March 1, 2017

First generation immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are less likely to commit all types of crime

Does legal or illegal immigration increase crime? That is an empirical question that should be answerable through rigorous research. Whatever the answer, it should inform our policy priorities and decisions. At the very least, if we are going to have a national conversation about immigration, the established facts should serve as common ground.

When you are done laughing (or crying) you might be interested to read about recent research into the correlation between patterns of immigration and various types of personal and property crime. Researchers have previously looked at this question by focusing on individuals – are immigrants more or less likely to commit crimes than native born Americans? Let’s consider that question first.

The research overwhelmingly shows that first generation immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are less likely to commit all types of crime at all ages than the native born. Interestingly, by second generation the statistics look more like native born crime rates, so it does not take long to assimilate in this regard. As an aside, this, of course, does not include crossing the boarder illegally itself, but it has been pointed out that being an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal offense, but a civil offence.

Make no mistake, this data can be complicated, and there are studies showing higher incarceration rates for immigrants. Those studies, however, have significant flaws, such as relying on self report, or only looking at particular counties that are likely not representative.

The most complete data shows that immigrants are about one fifth less likely to be incarcerated than the native born. In fact the research delves deeper to determine why that is the case. The difference is not explained through deportation of criminals. Rather, it seems to be mostly due to the self-selective nature of immigration. Those who choose to immigrate, whether legally or illegally, appear to be less likely to commit crimes, or are more responsive to deterrents.


February 20, 2017

Excellent LTTE: "Dear Steve King: Here's the real 'cultural suicide' Iowa faces"

....when you say that the changing racial demographic of our country is “cultural suicide,” I know what you mean. You mean me. You mean my brother and sister. You mean my father, who immigrated from India in the 1970s with eight dollars in his pocket and a perfectly pressed suit that was no match for the Midwestern winter wind.

My siblings and I may not look like the racially pure version of Iowans — or Americans — you desire, but we had a fairly typical Iowa childhood. We played tennis and conducted the marching band and designed elaborate costumes for Odyssey of the Mind. We showed hogs at the county fair and spent long summer days selling lemonade during RAGBRAI. The education we got in small-town Iowa (in school systems which, as a state legislator and a U.S. representative, you’ve systematically de-funded) got us full-ride scholarships to Iowa colleges. We’re now a professor and a lawyer and an art curator. We’re doing just fine.

My hometown, however, is not doing fine. And, despite your belief in the horrors of “demographic transformation,” I’m pretty sure my siblings and I aren’t the cause of its slow decline. I’ve watched over the years as small businesses on Main Street turned into vacant storefronts. Members of my high school class (myself included) left western Iowa because the jobs we could get there just didn’t compete with the ones we ended up getting elsewhere. In fact, your sense that allowing other races to mix into an historically white area will lead to “cultural suicide” couldn’t be more off base.

Cultural suicide occurred when the unions were broken at the packing plants in our hometowns, turning respectable $21-an-hour jobs into back-breaking $11-an-hour labor that couldn’t support a family. Cultural suicide occurs every time you vote to defund public education, stripping Iowa public school teachers of the resources they need to educate the next generation of Iowans even as you accept $10,600 in campaign contributions from the College Loan Corp. — a company that profits from increased student debt. Cultural suicide occurs when you decide to display a Confederate flag on your desk, conveniently forgetting that you represent a state that fought for the Union.

I get it. It’s easier to point fingers at the brown people who take those 3 a.m. shifts at the packing plant and are now raising their families on minimum wage than it is to accept personal responsibility for the ways that your particular brand of strip-mining the Iowan economy is devastating the lives of Iowans.

More.... http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2016/10/02/king-heres-real-cultural-suicide-iowa-faces/91304942/

I don't remember this when it came out last year. Thankfully a former Iowan just posted it to Facebook.
October 27, 2016

Destruction of Walk Of Fame star leaves Donald Trump down to his last six Horcruxes

Stabbing a copy of The Art Of The Deal with a Basilisk’s tooth is the next step to eliminating Donald Trump, according to experts this morning.

Donald Trump howled in agony and demanded a flask of serpent’s milk to help him recover some strength after the destruction of his first Horcrux on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame yesterday.

Trump, whose unusually-styled hair is believed to hide a face on the back of his head, is understood to have concealed fragments of his soul in multiple receptacles in an attempt to protect himself from defeat in the forthcoming election.

Fragments are believed to be hidden in places as diverse as the fabric of Trump Tower, a pussy he grabbed without warning in 2003, and Mike Pence’s unnaturally shining white head of hair.


April 29, 2016

On Tour with Prince: A Photo Story and Remembrance

June 21, 2011. “You want to shoot Prince’s European Tour? Need to know ASAP.”


10,000 frames later, the Paris show ended very late. Curfew laws meant that the stage lights in the stadium went out at 11pm, to prevent the concert from continuing. Prince, though, simply continued to play in the dark. They eventually turned the lights back on, and he finished with an amazing rendition of “Purple Rain.” Afterwards, he played an un-announced after party in Paris which lasted till 4AM.

Prince didn’t have time to review my photos from Paris until the next show, in Gdynia, Poland. I was nervous, but I had my edit ready. Before the show, Prince walks into the production office and says, “Hi, I’m Prince. You have something to show me?”

Normally, when showing an edit, I have things in chronological order, but for some reason, 20 seconds before he walked in, I re-arranged the 200 picture edit to bring my favorite five frames to the beginning. I said, “Yep!” and clicked to the first frame, the shot which I thought encompassed all of what Prince is about—an epic wide shot from behind the stage, Prince facing me, the audience at the Stade de France sprawling out behind him, Prince with his Hohner guitar caught by a spotlight seemingly a mile away. My finest moment. I thought. Kiran, Prince’s manager at the time, said, “Wow.”

Prince stared at the picture for 15 seconds, then stood up, and walked out of the room.

I turned to Kiran and said, “What does that mean?” She said, “I don’t know, he’s never done that before.” We waited for about two or three minutes in silence, then Prince walked back in, with the entire band trailing behind him. He pointed at the screen, smiled, and stood back. The band broke into multiple “Ooohhh’s” and “Ahhhs” and “WOWs!” Prince turned to Kiran and asked, “Where did you find this guy?” I said, “Queens.” Prince laughed out loud, and from then on, we seemed to have a great understanding of each other.


My days and nights went like this typically: Wake up at noon, eat, relax for an hour by going for a walk in whatever country we were in, then start gathering and inspecting my gear. I was at the venue around 4PM for a 9PM show, often reviewing last night’s pictures for ideas on how to shoot differently. Unlike other performers I have photographed, with Prince, there is no “set” show. Everything is different every single night. The band has to know 300+ songs, ready to go at the drop of a hat. And let’s talk about those band members. The absolute best, the cream of the crop. Maceo Parker needs no introduction, but the other members were the best musicians I have ever seen, night after night. You have to be, if you are working with Prince.

More from behind the scenes here...http://petapixel.com/2016/04/28/shooting-prince-photo-story/

See some of Ach's photos of Prince on his site.
April 11, 2016

“Eating Chicken Can Make Your Kid's Dick Small.”

PETA Just Made A Very Bizarre Claim About What Eating Chicken Will Do To You

People become vegetarians for many reasons: concerns about animal welfare, concerns about the environment, and even simply concerns about their health. Well, how about anxieties about your unborn child’s penis?

That’s the message PETA posted to Facebook in a video called “Eating Chicken Can Make Your Kid's Dick Small.”

According to their video, phthalate – a family of chemicals used in plastics, paints and packaging – leads to male children being born with a smaller penis. The video goes on to say that these phthalates have been found in chicken flesh. In their words: “The more chicken consumed, the smaller the dick.”

The study PETA is referring to is a 2008 report by the National Institute of Health. The report manuscript itself doesn’t make any explicit link between chicken and a child's penis size, or in fact any reference to chicken at all.


Ben Williamson, senior international media director at PETA, told VICE: “PETA’s humorous new video is simply trying to warn potential new parents about the link between eating chicken and stunted penis growth. Chicken flesh has been shown to cause higher levels of the phthalate Mono(2-ethylhexyl), or MEHP as it’s better known. That’s a fancy name for a chemical that can shrink the penises of unborn children.”

He concluded, “Our new ad is simply trying to help people who are concerned about the development of their unborn child. It’s a humorous video with a serious message.”



I just had chicken for dinner!
April 5, 2016

Near 20-Year High: Bee-pocalypse Postponed Again, Until 2017

Despite the hype, there’s still no bee-pocalypse. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department Agriculture released its latest count of commercial honeybee hives, and although the figure dipped 2.9 percent from the 20-year record-high set in 2014, the overall count of 2.7 million hives in 2015 remains strong. You wouldn’t know it from the news coverage.


This is where the bait-and-switch comes into play. It’s absolutely true that there were more managed honeybees in the 1940s. Bees were part of the war effort, producing wax used to coat guns and ammunition. So when the war ended, subsidies were introduced to prop up the beekeeping industry.[3] Thanks to Uncle Sam’s support, bee populations peaked at around 5.5 million in the 1950s, then gradually dropped to around 2.6 million in the mid-1990s.

None of that drop can be attributed to neonics, because they only came on the market in the mid-1990s, and didn’t exist in that five decade period of decline.

Now, the national bee numbers did decline at bit around the year 2005 -- to 2.4 million. That was the year in which colony collapse disorder (CCD) struck. The term that describes the unexplained death or disappearance of a hive’s adult bees.

As USDA puts it, “No scientific cause for CCD has been proven.”[4] Activists see the lack of a clear cause as a wide-open opportunity to come up with their own explanation. So they blame neonics.

Calmer minds reflecting on the evidence conclude that the CCD phenomenon existed long before the scientists who invented neonics were even born. Indeed, the November 19, 1868 edition of the Louisville Democrat described CCD-like symptoms with the headline: “Extraordinary exodus of honey bees—They abandon their winter stores and disappear.”[5] Throughout history, CCD has come and gone, and right now, it has gone. There hasn’t been a case in four to five years.[6]

Pesticide seed treatments didn’t exist in the middle of the 19th century, but disease did ravage hives, just as it does now.[7] The USDA has already identified the primary suspect that has been spreading disease: “The parasitic mite Varroa destructor remains the single most detrimental pest of honey bees.”[8] This blood-sucking creature latches onto young bees, injecting over a dozen types of debilitating viruses that can devastate entire hives.

More with links at the source http://www.science20.com/news_articles/near_20year_high_beepocalypse_postponed_again_until_2017-169496?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook

Cross posted in Env and Energy http://www.democraticunderground.com/112799371

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