A trifecta of links today.
I was often frustrated by the difficulty in tying the shoelaces on my shoes. Oftentimes, shoes come with round, slippery laces that are hard to tie securely, but are too short to double knot. I looked around, and I found Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot. This is heartily recommended. I use it almost all the time now, because I can be sure that my laces will stay were I put them. This may seem a little silly, but knots are actually of professional interest to me, because I need to know how to make secure knots with slippery fibers.
Cool tools is another place I had seen before. It is a geek kind of thing, clever solutions to small problems.
Finally, Science Hobbyist. I like the idea of amateur science. Today, most big physics involves multi-billion dollar particle accelerators or telescopes. However, science did not start out this way, and you can still have some fun and learn things on the cheap. There is more on this website than I could possibly look at, so beware of wasting time.
h/t Art of Manliness
I first came across this over 10 years ago, but it is still funny. The 100 Tips for Evil Overlords. This definitely appeals to the geek in me, and you can see from the copyright notice at the top that a bunch of Star Trek nerds came up with this. However, it applies to just about any area of geekery, so it should have a wider appeal than its source may indicate.
I advise checking out the cellblocks that contain additional advice for aspiring evil overlords. These have the more recent pop-culture references.
Today was a form day: all about squats.
We practiced back squats, front squats, and overhead squats, all without weight.
It is always surprising how hard it can be to lift your own fat butt.
CrossFit was outside last night. The workout was timed to last 15 minutes. It had a '15' theme to it.
- 15 box jumps
- 15 curb pushups
- 15 kettlebell swings
- Run 150 m
Repeat until time is elapsed. These exercises could be done in any order, to facilitate a larger number of people.
I just finished five rounds of this in 15 minutes.
The interior of the Arabian peninsula is a vast sandy desert. So little is found here that the Arabs refer to it simply as the Empty Quarter or the Rub' al Khali (الربع الخالي). However, this was not always the case. Once Arabia (and the Sahara) was lush and verdant. This we can surmise by the existence of the wells in the Empty Quarter that the Bedouin use. The Bedouin did not dig them. They freely admit this, they simply found them in the desert. Someone went to the trouble of digging wells all over Arabia. Unfortunately, archeology is not among the sciences that Wahhabi Islam is interested in, so not much information about previous inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula is forthcoming. The find at Gobleki Tepe may indicate that a substantial civilization could be found in this area that has remained unknown.
After the climatic shift that brought sand and scorching heat to Arabia, civilization could still be found in the Empty Quarter. The City of Ubar was such a place. Ubar was a trading city of the 'Ad, the place where caravans rested before braving the desert. The primary trade good was incense, valuable even today, but worth as much as gold to the ancient world. Ubar is mentioned in the Qu'ran as a city that was destroyed by the wrath of God. However, the ruins of the city were purportedly left entire in the desert. This legend was enough to entice Sir Harry St. John Philby into the Empty Quarter to look for the lost city. What he actually found was a meteorite impact site, but given that the city had supposedly been destroyed by fire from heaven, this could have been entirely appropriate Later, the City of Ubar was found by the use of satellite imagery. The city had the misfortune to be built atop a limestone cavern, and it collapsed, destroying the city.
The legend spawned by this city and its sudden demise has proved fertile in fiction. Ubar, also known as Wabar and Irem, has been featured in H. P. Lovecraft's the Nameless City, the Arabian Nights, Tim Powers' novel Declare, and Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic.
Powers conflated the impact site with the actual city, making it a part of his story. At the impact site, one can find tektites, small bits of ejecta from the impact crater that were mistaken for pearls by the Bedouin. These were supposedly real pearls dropped by the women fleeing from the harem, scorched black by the doom that overcame Ubar. In Powers' telling, the pearls were the cause, rather than the result of the doom of Ubar. The impact site is 300-400 years old, while the city was destroyed approximately 1600 years ago. While it would have been fun for the city to have really been destroyed by fire from heaven, that seems to not be the case.
I was horrified today to learn of the work of Harry Harlow, Ph.D. Harlow actually stumbled into his most famous work because he was attempting to lower the cost of his laboratory by raising his own rhesus monkeys. He raised them Skinner style, fed and warm, but bereft of any contact with either their mothers or other juveniles. He discovered that his monkeys went crazy from this lack of social interaction. Instead of thinking to himself, gee, that was dumb, Harlow instead decided to do this on purpose to see what happens when you deprive an animal of something that it needs. Does that count as a sin against nature?
I came across this little tidbit in an article in the New Yorker about solitary confinement. The article is tough going, but I can recommend it if you are interested in matters of crime and punishment. The reason Harlow came up is that what he saw in his monkeys is oftentimes seen in prisoners who undergo extended periods of solitary confinement. The article is an extended reflection on whether solitary confinement is making things worse or better in American prisons. The article refers to a study done in 2003 on just that question but regrettably fails to cite it. Ah well. I'm sure the experimental design would just annoy me.
I am generally sympathetic to the conclusion of the article that solitary confinement is probably not worth it overall, given that those subjected to it are generally rendered less fit for society than they were previously, and the violence in the general prison population continues unabated. By way of counter-example, British prisons are cited for a different approach (but again no data!)
Beginning in the nineteen-eighties, they gradually adopted a strategy that focussed on preventing prison violence rather than on delivering an ever more brutal series of punishments for it. The approach starts with the simple observation that prisoners who are unmanageable in one setting often behave perfectly reasonably in another. This suggested that violence might, to a critical extent, be a function of the conditions of incarceration. The British noticed that problem prisoners were usually people for whom avoiding humiliation and saving face were fundamental and instinctive. When conditions maximized humiliation and confrontation, every interaction escalated into a trial of strength. Violence became a predictable consequence.
So the British decided to give their most dangerous prisoners more control, rather than less. They reduced isolation and offered them opportunities for work, education, and special programming to increase social ties and skills. The prisoners were housed in small, stable units of fewer than ten people in individual cells, to avoid conditions of social chaos and unpredictability. In these reformed “Close Supervision Centres,” prisoners could receive mental-health treatment and earn rights for more exercise, more phone calls, “contact visits,” and even access to cooking facilities. They were allowed to air grievances. And the government set up an independent body of inspectors to track the results and enable adjustments based on the data.
This too makes sense. Prison violence is not irrational. You do what you got to do to survive. To shank. It's a verb.
However, on the other hand, it is a bit unwise to hold up England as a paragon of criminal rehabilitiation. If anything, the English slums are worse than the prisons in some respects. For example, take the experience of Theodore Dalyrymple, who found that his patients were much healthier after a stint in prison than they were when left to their own devices. If anything, the English seem to have quelled violence in the prisons by unleashing it on the countryside. Perhaps part of the problem is that you can only punish (and thereby rehabilitate) a good man.
It would be helpful to see some real data on this. Perhaps I will troll through the work of Steve Sailer to see if something pertinent comes up. I do know that a large part of the problem is that American jurisprudence has constitutionalized criminal justice to such a degree that the only options left to the ordinary modes of government are longer sentences and harsher penalties. The better European policing referenced in the New Yorker article is actually a result of Europeans having fewer rights than Americans do.
I missed posting my Friday fun last week due to car trouble, so here it is. This comes from one of my new favorites, FailBlog. It is potentially NSFW, but hilarious.
I take it as a general principle that you should know exactly whom you are messing with.