Category Archives: Culture

Culture for the cultured and uncultured alike.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Speaking of Rule Five:  Apparently six-bots might not only screw you – they may screw you up as well.  Excerpt:

From the Drudge Report to The New York Times, sex robots are rapidly becoming a part of the global conversation about the future of sex and relationships.

Behind the headlines, a number of companies are currently developing robots designed to provide humans with companionship and sexual pleasure – with a few already on the market.

Unlike sex toys and dolls, which are typically sold in off-the-radar shops and hidden in closets, sexbots may become mainstream. A 2017 survey suggested almost half of Americans think that having sex with robots will become a common practice within 50 years.

As a scholar of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and the law, I’m interested in the legal and policy questions that sex robots pose.

How do we ensure they are safe? How will intimacy with a sex robot affect the human brain? Would sex with a childlike robot be ethical? And what exactly is a sexbot anyway?

More on this in a bit, but first, here’s the bit about sexbots possibly being dangerous:

For example, dangers lurk even in a seemingly innocent scene where a sex robot and human hold hands and kiss. What if the sexbots’ lips were manufactured with lead paint or some other toxin? And what if the robot, with the strength of five humans, accidentally crushes the human’s finger in a display of passion?

It’s not just physical harm, but security as well. For instance, just as a human partner learns by remembering what words were soothing, and what type of touch was comforting, so too is a sex robot likely to store and process massive amounts of intimate information. What regulations are in place to ensure that this data remains private? How vulnerable will the sex robot be to hacking? Could the state use sex robots as surveillance devices for sex offenders?

Maybe I’m a bit naive about this, but for what possible reason would you want your sexbot connected to the internet?  Simply insisting on the sexbot have no wireless connections – something you can verify with an app on your smartphone – would preclude the espionage issue.  And I can’t fathom why you’d build a sexbot with the kind of strength described above.

Now, to circle back to the ethical questions:  What exactly is a sexbot?  Well, never fear, Animal has the answer!  A sexbot, no matter now fancy, how sophisticated, how expensive, is nothing more than a fancy masturbation toy.  A married person having sex with a bot isn’t cheating, they are just (literally) jerking off with a pretty toy.

But a bot designed to look like a child?

That’s a head-scratcher.  The bot is still just a machine.  It’s inanimate.  You can’t molest a bot.  It isn’t a victim.  It’s not capable of giving consent, but there’s no reason why it should have to, any more than your toaster has to give consent before you stick a slice of bread in it.

But there’s an “ick” factor here.  On the one hand, of course, such bots might give a non-victimizing outlet to perverts who might otherwise be lurking around schoolyards.  On the other hand, it might normalize the behavior in the minds to the point where they’re more likely to act out.

There’s probably fodder there to keep a legion of head-candlers busy full time for months.

Rule Five Virginia Is For Lovers Friday

Boy howdy, Virginia is way into train-wreck territory.  First, their Governor did something naughty decades ago:

A muddled defense that included moonwalking and a blackface Michael Jackson costume may be enough for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to keep his job despite widespread calls for his resignation over a racially insensitive photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook. 

Virginia’s Constitution says elected officials who commit “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty or other high crime or misdemeanor” may be removed from office. Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told USA TODAY “nothing that has happened so far is grounds for removal” under the state’s provisions for impeachment.

“There is nothing in his service as governor that satisfies those terms,” Tobias said.

Then, his Lieutenant Governor got accused of something more serious:

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia emphatically denied on Monday a woman’s claim that he sexually assaulted her in 2004, suggesting at one point that Gov. Ralph Northam’s supporters were trying to block his ascent to the governorship at a moment when Mr. Northam is besieged by demands that he resign over charges of racism.

“Does anybody think it’s any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that’s when this smear comes out?” Mr. Fairfax told reporters surrounding him in the rotunda of the state Capitol about whether he believes Mr. Northam, a fellow Democrat, was behind the accusation’s coming to light.

Now the third man in line, the Attorney General, has come out with some ancient shenanigans of his own:

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) said Wednesday he dressed in blackface during college, elevating the Capitol’s scandals to a new level that engulfed the entire executive branch of government.

Now, Herring, Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax – the state’s three top Democrats – are each embroiled in separate scandals that threaten their careers. Also on Wednesday, the woman who has accused Fairfax of sexual assault made her first public statements, going into graphic detail of an alleged 2004 attack which Fairfax has vehemently denied.

One might feel no small amount of schadenfreude at seeing Old Dominion Democrats hoist on their own petard.  While the sexual assault accusation is pretty serious – and the accuser has some pretty specific details – the other two, with Governor Northam and AG Herring, are pretty silly.

The right thing for Northam to do here is this:  Call a press conference.  Get as many members of the media there as his people can dig up.

Take the stage.  Ask the assembled throng, “which of you here can honestly say you never did anything dumb when you were young?  Raise your hands.  No one?  That’s what I thought.”

Drop mike.  Leave the stage.  Discussion over.

And he’d have a hell of a good point.  My own youth was pretty much a catalog of “hey, hold my beer and watch this” events, which is why I remain to this day delighted that cell phone cameras didn’t exist in the Seventies, or there would be some embarrassing footage of me on YouTube.

But yes, that’s all this is – embarrassing.  It is not nor should it be career-ending.  No matter what letter you have behind your name.

Animal’s Daily Mad Max News

National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson continues his chronicling of the downfall of the once-Golden state in his latest piece, describing an odyssey across the state’s highways.  Excerpt:

Walking to the car in San Francisco was an early morning obstacle course dotted with the occasional human feces and lots of trash. The streets looked like Troy after its sacking. Verbal and physical altercations among the homeless offered background. The sidewalks were sort of like the flotsam and jetsam in the caves of the Cyclopes, with who knows what the ingredients really were. Outbreaks of hepatitis and typhus are now common among the refuse of California’s major cities.

The rules of the road in downtown San Francisco can seem pre-civilizational: the more law-abiding driver is considered timid and someone to be taken advantage of—while the more reckless earns respect and right of way. Pedestrians have achieved the weird deterrent effect of so pouring out onto the street in such numbers that drivers not walkers seemed the more terrified.

The 101 freeway southbound was entirely blocked by traffic—sort of like the ancient doldrums where ships don’t move. About 20 percent of the cars in the carpool lane seemed to be cheating—and were determined not to let in any more of like kind. The problem with talking on the phone and texting while driving is not just cars, but also semi-trucks, whose drivers go over the white line and weave as they please on the theory that no one argues with 20 tons of freight.

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that was once one of our greatest?

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that is rich in natural resources, graced with gorgeous scenery and a salubrious climate?

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that hosts some of the most prosperous tech companies in the world, not to mention the heart of the motion picture industry?

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that has so joggled their election laws so as to virtually guarantee one-party rule, eliminating the need to make any accommodation to a pesky opposition party?

Maybe it has something to do with the party that has seized that unchecked power?  The taxes, the winking at immigration status, the selective enforcement of statutes, the endless over-regulation of private property selectively enforced so that Central Valley farmers pay tens of thousands for minor infractions of obscure environmental regulations while Third-World-styled immigrant encampments are ignored?

All of that might have something to do with it.  And what party was that again?

Animal’s Daily Loony Shoes News

I like basics in footwear.  My favorite foot-housings are plain, unadorned Justin ropers; a pair costs a hundred bucks or so and can last twenty years.  The plain old roper boot (known as a Wellington in some parts) is 18th century technology, but there’s a good reason they haven’t changed much – and that’s because there’s no reason for them to change.  I put mine through rain, mud, snow, dust, rocks, all manner of stuff.   Clean them, apply some saddle soap and mink oil, and you’re good to go.  Simple and reliable.

That’s how footwear should be.  Simple and reliable.  So why do people have to complicate things?  Excerpt:

“Athletes will be able to update and evolve their shoes with upgrades, new features and services all through smartphone technology inside their footwear,” said Michael Donaghu, Nike’s vice president of innovation.

While Nike touts this shoe as a “mobile sports research lab on feet everywhere,” the shoe currently doesn’t provide any data, but the company said that will be coming.

“We are moving from fit to firmware,” said Donaghu.

Nike researchers said the Nike Adapt BB is the most tested shoe in its history. The company chose basketball as the first sport because of the demands basketball players put on their shoes with fast cuts and constant sprints.

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum has been the guinea pig secretly testing the Adapt behind the scenes. Tatum will wear the Adapt BB in the shoe’s professional debut Wednesday night when the Celtics play the Toronto Raptors. The shoe is available to customers beginning Feb. 17.

These damn things start at $350.  I could get a fair-middling pair of blue stingray cowboy boots for that, suitable for a Saturday night on the town, and I can tell you I consider that money far better spent.

Here’s my concern with high-tech shoes:  Shoes go on your feet, which are generally used for walking, running, hopping, jumping and other things that involve impact.  Further, those shoes are probably going to get muddy, wet, dirty in all sorts of ways.  And, sooner or later, the fancy smart-phone-adjustable gizmos are going to break, leaving you stuck with a really expensive pair of sneakers that you can no longer lace up.

This is a high-tech solution looking for a problem.  A First World problem.

 

Animal’s Daily Colorado Baker News

This is interesting news; an Imperial judge has ruled that Colorado baker Jack Phillips has standing to sue the State of Colorado for religious bias.  Excerpt:

Last week, a federal judge ruled that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, could proceed to sue the state for anti-religious bias.

Phillips previously fought a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cited him for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court found that the commission discriminated against Phillips for his religious views.

On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take Phillips’ appeal, Denver attorney Autumn Scardina requested Phillips to bake a cake that celebrated gender transition with a blue outside and an pink inside, the Western Journal reports. After Phillips refused, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cited him again.

Despite Phillips winning his case at the Supreme Court, the state still decided to prosecute him, causing him to file a lawsuit.

And:

Campbell added that Phillips serves all customers regardless of their lifestyle but doesn’t create custom cakes that express messages that conflict with his religious beliefs.

You know, it’s illustrative to reverse the roles here.  Imagine an LGBTQX baker that refused to make a custom cake for a traditional heterosexual couple’s wedding.  Would the state of Colorado descend on them with the same fury they have visited on Phillips? Of course not!  And in that case, as opposed to Mr. Phillips’ case, the state would be correct; it is a clear violation of freedom of association to force a private business to enter into an agreement that violates their personal sense of ethics.

It doesn’t matter what their ethics system is based on:  The Bible, the Kama Sutra, the Books of Bokonon or the rantings of a street-corner drunk.  The state only has two legitimate purposes:  To protect the safety and the liberty of the citizen.  In this case, nobody’s safety or liberty was threatened by being denied a custom cake – except, of course, the liberty of Mr. Phillips, in the sense that the state attempted to deny him freedom of association.

“But Animal,” you might ask, “where do we draw the line?  Should a baker be allowed to refuse to provide a custom cake to a mixed-race couple, because he’s a (actual, as opposed to the usual, modern definition) racist?

“Yes,” I would reply, “…because bigoted pricks still have freedom of association.  No victim, no crime.  I may join you in a protest in front of that guy’s shop to deprive the bigoted prick of customers, but I’ll never say he isn’t within his rights to refuse – and there are plenty more bakers in Denver.”

The entire discussion should stop right there.  No victim, no crime.

Animal’s Daily #MeToo News

No, not me.  Wall Street.  Excerpt:

No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings.

In fact, as a wealth adviser put it, just hiring a woman these days is “an unknown risk.” What if she took something he said the wrong way?

Across Wall Street, men are adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women.

Call it the Pence Effect, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he avoids dining alone with any woman other than his wife. In finance, the overarching impact can be, in essence, gender segregation.

Interviews with more than 30 senior executives suggest many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope. “It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley who’s now an independent adviser overseeing more than $1.5 billion.

Now I’m the least threatening guy in the world to women young or old.  At 57, I’m well past the hormone-driven stage; as a happily married man for 26 years, I’m not interested in shopping around.  I enjoy women aesthetically, but I also enjoy golden aspens in the fall, beautiful sunsets, kittens and wildflowers for much the same reasons.

And yes, I’ve adjusted my behaviors because of all this crap.  No one-on-one meetings behind closed doors.  I’m probably speaking more deliberately because my natural tendency is towards rough language and I have to watch that more carefully now.  And unlike years gone by, I never, ever complement a woman (other than Mrs. Animal, my Mom or my daughters) on their appearance.  My one exception to the above rule is a 30-something colleague who a few years back asked if I could mentor her through her advancing career, and I have agreed to do so, but have known her for a long time, she and Mrs. Animal are great friends, and I trust her.

It’s a shame that things like this have to suck every last bit of enjoyment we have in human interaction.  I like women; I enjoy being around them and talking with them, even though I’m not interested in hitting on them or sidling up to them.

But even I, as harmless a sort as you’re liable to find, have cut way back on my interactions with female coworkers.  It’s not worth taking the chance.  No way.  And that’s just too damn bad.

Animal’s Daily Vaping News

National treasure John Stossel and his mustache weigh in on vaping.  Excerpt:

“Your kids are not an experiment! Protect them from e-cigarettes,” warns former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in a CDC PSA.

My former employer, ABC News, which never finds a risk it doesn’t hype, has run more than a dozen scare stores on vaping. A “Nightline” reporter warned about kids “addicted to nicotine before they even graduate from middle school!”

Yet compared to regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes are “extraordinarily less harmful,” says Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. In my new newest video she says, “We should really be encouraging people to use vaping.”

Calling vaping safer than smoking doesn’t mean the risks are zero. Vapor contains harmful chemicals, too. But scientists say it’s far less harmful than smoking. If smokers switched to e-cigarettes, that would save millions of lives.

Nicotine is what makes both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes addictive. But nicotine itself isn’t that bad. Like caffeine, it’s a stimulant.

“On the spectrum of drugs that you can become addicted to,” says Minton, “nicotine and caffeine are very similar.”

The big health risks come from the 7,000 other chemicals generated by burning tobacco leaves.

By contrast, e-cigarette smoke is mostly just flavored vapor, which is less likely to harm anyone.

It doesn’t even smell as bad as cigarettes. “Somebody who’s vaping a huge cloud of Vanilla Cherry Blast, or whatever they’re vaping, is way more pleasant than standing next to somebody exhaling smoke from a combustible cigarette,” observed Minton.

Here’s a question for all of you True Believers; here is the United States Constitution.  Show me in there where the Imperial government has the power to rule over tobacco or other, similar substances.

Couldn’t find it?  Me either.  Anyway…

Its interesting to see how many of our supposed betters feel the compelling need to nanny other folks.  As a casual smoker myself (2-3 cigars a week) I can say honestly that my cigars are a choice I make, knowing the risks, and enjoying a fine smoke in moderation is something I will continue to do.

But the anti-vaping RHEEEE is something I find baffling.  It seems to me that vaping is a valuable tool for helping long-term smokers wean themselves off cigarettes; I would have thought government would want to encourage that.  As for teenagers, would you rather a booming black market grow around vaping – or tobacco?  Because that’s what would happen.

Trust me on this.  When I was in high school in the Seventies, marijuana was very illegal, especially for teens, and yet, nobody had any trouble getting a dime bag if they wanted one.

Maybe someday the nanny-staters will learn.

Animal’s Daily Ironic News

Irony, thy name is Tijuana.  Excerpt:

In blunt contrast to the warm reception thousands of migrants received as they made the arduous journey through Central America to Mexico – getting food donations and well wishes from locals – the nearly 3,000 people who reached the Mexican border with California in recent days have been met with marked hostility.

The majority of migrants, who have been on foot for more than a month, are sleeping on a dirt baseball field at an outdoor sports complex in Tijuana by the newly-fortified barbed wire fence that separates Mexico from the United States. A truck parked on the street is providing showers for women, while the men are told to use newly established outdoor showers near the field.

Reports of insults being shouted, rocks being hurled and even physical fist-fighting has escalated over the weekend.

The reception has left many in limbo – afraid to return to their homeland, which for the vast majority is Honduras, yet unwelcome in Mexico and uncertain if their U.S. asylum requests will be granted. The U.S is said to be processing around 100 claims per day.

Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum has referred to the arrivals as “bums” and questioned whether a referendum in the city of 1.6 million is needed to determine whether or not they should be allowed to stay.

“Human rights should be reserved for righteous humans,” Gastelum lamented last week.

How do you say schadenfreude in Spanish?

Here’s what the article linked above misses.  When they make this statement:  In blunt contrast to the warm reception thousands of migrants received as they made the arduous journey through Central America to Mexico – getting food donations and well wishes from locals

Those people didn’t necessarily get a “warm welcome” from those mostly impoverished locals.  They got a “keep on moving” from those locals.  I suspect the predominant attitude was feed them, find them a ride, and move them along.

In any case, the blanket offer of asylum from the Mexican government has invalidated any claim any of these people have on the United States.  They fled their home countries – while waving the flags of those countries – to demand accommodation in the United States.  But now they are running into a border fortified with concertina wire (and trust me, that stuff is no fun) and an administration determined to make them follow American law for entry or go home.

But the Mexican response in Tijuana – that’s a game-changer.  Now the “asylum-seekers” are camping in their neighborhoods, and wandering around their neighborhoods.  It’s going to be very, very interesting to see how this unfolds.

Animal’s Daily Friend Zone News

Suffering from a shortage of good friends?  Turns out folks may like you more than you think.

Or do they?  Excerpt:

Erica Boothby of Cornell University, and her colleagues Gus Cooney, Gilliam Sandstrom, and Margaret Clark, of Harvard University, University if Essex, and Yale University, conducted a series of studies to find out what our conversation partners really think of us. In doing so, they discovered a new cognitive illusion they call “the liking gap:” our failure to realize how much strangers appreciate our company after a bit of conversation.

The researchers observed the disconnect in a variety of situations: strangers getting acquainted in the research laboratory, first-year college students getting to know their dorm mates over the course of many months, and community members meeting fellow participants in personal development workshops. In each scenario, people consistently underestimated how much others liked them.

The discrepancy in perspectives happened for conversations that spanned from 2 minutes to 45 minutes, and was long-lasting. For much of the academic year, as dorm mates got to know each other and even started to develop enduring friendships, the liking gap persisted. 

The data also revealed some of the potential reasons for the divide: we are often harsher with ourselves than with others, and our inner critic prevents us from appreciating how positively other people evaluate us. Not knowing what our conversation partners really think of us, we use our own thoughts as a proxy—a mistake, because our thoughts tend to be more negative than reality.

We’re social animals, that’s for sure and for certain.  And reading this was interesting for me, a peripatetic consultant, a guy who has been happily self-employed for over fifteen years and who has been pretty good at it.  In the course of this I’ve learned a few things, not least of which was how to talk with folks.  Why is this important?

Because people like to do business with people they like.

Social discourse is important to almost everyone, and for a variety of reasons.  But for those of us who make their livings as independent contractors, it’s essential.  I’m apparently lucky to have been outfitted since my youth with what Mrs. Animal describes as “farm-boy charm” but the main thing in such matters is to be open, honest and forthright.

People like to do business with people they like.  And, as we are social animals – and political animals – people who engage are usually seen as more likable.

If these Ivy League researchers had’a asked me, I could’a told ’em.