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Mosquitoes of the mind

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — or should that be Uber über alles?]
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uber-drones
Forget billboards — motorists now have ads buzzing a few feet above their windshields — MIT Technology Review

**

There is an endless variety of possible starting points for a critique of oneself and the world. One might start from:

  • the message in a fortune cookie
  • whatever one’s parents imparted
  • whatever one rejected of what they imparted
  • Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates
  • a return to the Green Line
  • Palestine from the river to the sea
  • the sweet humility of the Magnificat
  • the fierce doctrine of Original Sin
  • the Cloud of Unknowing
  • the uncontaminated Unity of Godhead
  • the Buddha’s Noble Truth of suffering
  • the shining suchness of the Tathagata
  • something Karl Marx said, or Darwin
  • a tall tale from Chuang-Tzu
  • Lao Tzu’s unspeakable truth, unmappable path..
  • or the way someone reacted when one trod on their foot in the subway
  • Myself, I tend to go from either:

  • the Bene Gesserit adage, Fear is the mind-killer
  • or its obverse in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Yoga is the cessation of waves in the mind.
  • **

    Which brings me to advertising.

  • Yoga is the cessation of waves in the mind.
  • Advertising is the paid attempt to capture my attention regardless of my wishes in the matter.

    In terms of the Yoga Sutras‘s goal of an unruffled mind, advertising attempts to stir up trouble — not in Syria or Afghanistan, or even in my kitchen, but within my consciousness.

    And I’m not alone in detesting this invasive behavior. “Nearly 90% of people watching timeshifted shows fast-forward the ads,” the Guardian reported in a piece titled TV advertising skipped by 86% of viewers, and while Victoria may have a secret ingredient which makes her ads memorable — I’m referring here, of course, to a recent Nobel Prizewinner — most ads are simply irritants.

    The benefit of advertising, to those whom it speaks, is that it acts as a road-sign to what we may want. It’s adverse effect is to clutter up our lives with road-signs to irrelevant and possibly offensive destinations. Apples don’t need little stickers on them proclaiming “apples by the Creator” but a discreet mention of “All purpose disinfecting cleaner by Bright Green” was quite helpful to me the other day, as I was wandering the aisles of Safeway in search of a brand they no longer carry..

    And yes. Advertising drives sales drives manufacturing drives employment drives a roof over the head for many who might otherwise find themselves in the rain. Granted.

    **

    But here come the mosquitoes.

    The image at the head of this post comes from an article titled Uber’s Ad-Toting Drones Are Heckling Drivers Stuck in Traffic.

    The unfortunate drivers in traffic jams in Mexico City are close to ground zero of an epidemic; Beelzebub, remember, is Lord of the Flies.

    At the intersection of Religion and Politics

    Sunday, October 16th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Metaxas (Christian) and Hindus (Bollywood included) ]
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    Eric Metaxas for Trump:

    Hindus for Trump:

    **

    Eric Metaxas is the author of the widely praised biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

    Divinely appointed killing in Gita and Summa

    Saturday, August 20th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — two focal texts for Landmines in the Garden plus the matters of just war / peace ]
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    Herewith two quotes, one (upper oanel) from the Bhagavad Gita, the other from the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas — each of which expemplifies the notion that someone, in the first case Arjuna, in the second, Abraham — has divine authorization to kill:

    SPEC DQ Summa and Gita

    It is noteworthy that Arjuna does in fact kill those he has been ordered to kill, and that in contrast Abraham is reprieved from the necessity of killing his son by the same divine authority which had first demanded that extraordinary sacrifice — but God (the Father) in the Christian narrative goes on to kill his own Son in what is both the perfection and completion of sacrifice..

    And from the perspective of military chaplains blessing members of the armed forces on their way into battle in a just war, the same divine approval presumably holds.

    But are wars ever just?

    **

    Further Readings:

  • Foreign Policy, What Happens When You Replace a Just War With a Just Peace?
  • National Catholic Repoorter, Pope considering global peace as topic of next Synod of Bishops
  • Rome Conference, An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence
  • United States Institute of Peace, Abrahamic Alternatives to War
  • It is worth noting that a sometime commenter on this blog, William Benzon of New Savanna, has a new, small & handy book out:

  • Bill Benzon, We Need a Department of Peace: Everybody’s Business, Nobody’s Job
  • Sunday surprise — cows, laws and enforcement

    Sunday, August 14th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — in India, cows are a vigilantism issue, in California it’s manure, flatulence, & methane ]
    .

    Behold:

    Tablet DQ 600 cow police

    **

    In India:

    Indian police have launched a “cow protection” force and a 24-hour hotline after a spate of attacks related to laws governing consumption of beef and the religious status of cattle.

    The 300-strong team in Haryana will enforce some of the toughest laws in the country shielding cows. Haryana imposes jail terms of up to ten years for illegal slaughter and smuggling but Hindu officials in the northern state are concerned about a rise in cow-related crime and are determined to protect the animals.

    In California:

    First they came after the oil producers, then manufacturers, and now they’re coming for the cows. Having mandated emissions reductions from fossil fuels, California’s relentless progressives are seeking to curb the natural gas emanating from dairy farms. [ .. ]

    “If dairy farms in California were to manage manure in a way to further reduce methane emissions,” the board explains, “a gallon of California milk might be the least GHG intensive in the world.” And the most expensive. Many California dairy farms have already been converted into nut farms, which are more economical amid the state’s high regulatory costs.

    Around the globe:

    Cows are still chewing the cud.

    **

    Sources:

  • The Sunday Times, Holy cow! Police protect sacred cattle
  • The Wall Street Journal, California’s Cow Police
  • Sunday surprise: peering digitally around corners 2: Blade Runner

    Sunday, July 31st, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — moving from a consideration of Holbein’s Ambassadors to a celebrated scene in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner — and thence, wide-angle, to Kumbh Mela ]
    .

    Here’s the Bladerunner scene:

    What Ridley Scott depicts is a camera with the ability to see around corners — a fantastic piece of science fictional cinematography, demonstrating a sufficiently advanced technology with a skill amounting to wizardry.

    **

    How close, though, can state-of-the-art cameras come to seeing around corners? Here’s what Nature has to say:

    Andreas Velten, Thomas Willwacher, Otkrist Gupta, Ashok Veeraraghavan, Moungi G. Bawendi & Ramesh Raskar, Recovering three-dimensional shape around a corner using ultrafast time-of-flight imaging:

    Abstract:

    The recovery of objects obscured by scattering is an important goal in imaging and has been approached by exploiting, for example, coherence properties, ballistic photons or penetrating wavelengths. Common methods use scattered light transmitted through an occluding material, although these fail if the occluder is opaque. Light is scattered not only by transmission through objects, but also by multiple reflection from diffuse surfaces in a scene. This reflected light contains information about the scene that becomes mixed by the diffuse reflections before reaching the image sensor. This mixing is difficult to decode using traditional cameras. Here we report the combination of a time-of-flight technique and computational reconstruction algorithms to untangle image information mixed by diffuse reflection. We demonstrate a three-dimensional range camera able to look around a corner using diffusely reflected light that achieves sub-millimetre depth precision and centimetre lateral precision over 40 cm×40 cm×40 cm of hidden space.

    Here’s another illustrative video:

    **

    Okay, seeing is simple, but we’re Zenpundit, so there’s gotta be a military angle we can see around, no?

    Here are two possibilities — the first is called CornerShot:

    while the second is called ShotView:

    **

    We’re still pretty far from Ridley’s Blade Runner, but the idea of seeing / shooting around corners has clearly caught the imagination of others.

    Okay, those last two videos are for those interested in matters martial.

    Kumbh Mela

    For my own sake, and for the possible interest of blog-friend Pundita, let’s take a look at a video of Ramesh Raskar, head of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture research group and one of the authors of the Nature paper quoted above.

    Here Dr Raskar is talking about that most fascinating of Hindu festivals — and largest of human gatherings? — the Kumbh Mela

    Talk about wicked problems — and crowd-sourcing solutions — and genius — and the manifold intersections of the secular and the sacred!


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