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The streaming music service Pandora is wonderful but there are a few simple ideas that can make it perform better.

First, get involved, respond with thumbs up or down on the winners and losers.

But wait! Before you click thumbs up on a song, remember Pandora doesn’t know what you like about that song. Don’t upvote because it gives you happy memories of an old friend, upvote if the general characteristics of that song (genre, melodic style, etc.) are the things you want to hear more of. If a station plays a song you sort of like but you don’t really want to upvote, just let it go by. If you don’t vote it down, it will stay in the list of “acceptable” songs.

When making a new station think the same way: Do you want all the sorts of songs that artist ever made as the station seed? Or is it one or two songs that you love? Be specific.

Unless you want an “Oldies” station, be careful about upvoting old songs, Pandora seems to have a weakness for drifting toward retro.

It can be effective to use several artists or songs for a station but don’t make it too diverse or it will lack a firm style. Instead of trying to make one very mixed station, try making a bunch of very tightly focused stations and then turning on shuffle. This can give you the best of both worlds: Different kinds of music in the mix but all of it focused tightly on what you really like!

 

 

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Within months there have been some remarkable breakthroughs in Biology that I find very exciting.  First, they’ve discovered a second code language in DNA. Top level language controls which proteins are made and the second language which was hidden WITHIN the first one controls turning genes on and off. Amazing. Huge implications. And besides that, this extraordinary study below indicates a genetic version of updates to the knowledge base caused by the life experiences of the animal. This is like experiential Lamarckism. 
 
If this study holds up it’s huge.
  1. Mice were trained to be afraid of the smell of cherry blossoms (I don’t even want to know HOW).
  2. These mice later had litters which had never been exposed to cherry blossom and when they were, they were afraid of it.
  3. These second generation mice later had litters and their children…were afraid of the same smell.

This is obviously not direct alteration of the genetic code, it’s a methylation change called epigenetics. What it amounts to though is a much more powerful means of shaping evolution than sheer randomness, but one that doesn’t rely on some variety of intelligent design.

Continue reading

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It occurs to me that the most basic refutation of Ayn Rand is what would happen if all people everywhere were passionate “objectivists” (her incredibly self congratulatory name for her “system”). It would be a planet of arrogant lizards hissing at each other.

Rand’s philosophy requires  a world pre-populated with the rich and poor already in place so she can align herself with the one and spit on the other. Her own lifestyle, the one she oddly evangelized, requires losers to step on and revile. Besides communists and such though, these losers include everyone who shows some societal concerns and compassion. It includes mother love, family love, friendship and any impulse toward generosity. Ayn Rand produced only one consumable that anyone would pay for: That product is a greasy lotion to be rubbed upon the rich which leaves them with a golden glow of complete comfort and satisfaction with the status quo. It has a secondary property of encouraging some people who aren’t rich to assert their complete justification in behaving as assholes any time they feel like it. As a totally selfish asshole, Rand realized that a product niche existed and she could fill it very lucratively. The delicious malicious truth is that in her purest, most “objective” thinking she is utterly dependent upon other people after all, the boring, needy, prosaic people she despised. Her “philosophy/literature” is the artistic portrait of a furious toddler foot stamping or a mean teenage sister with no friends who calls everyone “loser”.


 

And as an addendum to the “hissing lizards” idea: Thomas Paine on the subject of “You didn’t build that all by yourself”– “Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally. Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.” -Agrarian Justice Part Three

 


One of my favorite philosophers, Robert Anton Wilson on meeting Ayn Rand: “The first new dogmatism I embraced after rejecting the Marxist BS (belief system) was Ayn Rand’s philosophy (not yet called Objectivism in those days.) The Fountainhead had exactly the appeal for me that it has retained, decade after decade, with alienated adolescents of all ages. (The average youthful reader of Thus Spake Zarathustra decides he is the Superman, and the average youthful Randroid decides she is an Alienated Super Genius.) Like most Randroids, I went around for a few years mindlessly parroting all the the Rand dogma and imagining I was an ‘individualist.’ “Some years later, after becoming a published writer, I actually was invited to meet Ayn Rand once. (I was ‘summoned to the Presence,’ as Arlen said.) I confessed my doubts about certain Rand dogmas and was Cast Out Into the Darkness forever to wail and gnash my teeth in the Realm of Thud. It was weird. I thought the Trots and Catholic priests were dogmatic, but Ayn Rand made both groups look like models of tolerance by comparison. “I thought she was a clinical paranoid. It was nearly 30 years later that I found out Rand was merely on Speed all the time, which creates an effect so much like paranoia that even trained clinicians cannot always tell the difference, and some even claim there is no difference.”

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Meet Your Professors!

All across the United States public college systems have adopted a system of having a tiny minority of full time teachers and an overwhelming majority of part timers (“adjunct” “transient” “contingent” Smell the euphemisms?).

1. We do not receive equal pay for equal work
2. We face teaching caps, limits to how much we CAN work because then we would cross a barrier to a better pay and benefit scale.
3. Many receive no benefits, those who do, lose them if their workload drops from 50% to 49%.
4. We have no job security, quarter to quarter employment is luck and relationships.
5. If we have the bad luck to become unemployed, we receive no unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile of course the college is FULL of administrators, office workers, and support staff all of whom have more security and respect than us. The reason college has become so expensive is that for the last 40 years or so this administrative and office strata has swollen beyond all reason. It simply propagates at the expense of actual teaching and actual teachers. The internal cost cutting has been accomplished entirely at the expense of faculty who have become a legion of temp workers.

And it’s interesting (in an awful way) but there’s a strange class sensibility and “politeness” framing this. They’ll hold “Adjunct Recognition Day” as they did just a few days ago, by order of the Governor no less, where we are offered home baked cookies. If I was to say “Hey these cookies are great but could I have my health insurance back?” Everyone would just look at me like a burped loudly. “Do you have have to bring up such a painful subject?” Always coming from someone whose benefits are unquestioned. 

  1. http://portside.org/2013-10-30/her-own-words-adjuncts-and-academic-labor-force-campus-equity-week-october-28-november-2
  2. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/when-a-college-contracts-adjunctivitis-its-the-students-who-lose/
  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/noodleeducation/2015/05/28/more-than-half-of-college-faculty-are-adjuncts-should-you-care/
  4. http://college.usatoday.com/2014/07/17/underpaid-and-overworked-adjunct-professors-share-their-stories/

 

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He is vacuuming up information about everything as always, continuing to follow all the threads talked about in earlier crib sheets. He is getting very interested in letters and numbers. He knows many & points them out with excitement. Words become sentences. The first sentence I heard was a few days ago, looking at a picture on the computer screen “That’s a fish.”

He is more strong and agile and if he wants down and out of your arms it’s a little more powerful as an argument than it was. But he seems a little tentative about some physical stuff like walking on rough uneven terrain or getting down off M’s bed by himself. Neither of us knows what to make of it but we are just going to try to help him have more fun with rough-house play without making a thing out of it. He continues to be fascinated by bugs. Yesterday he found a little dead spider on a window sill and cheerily greeted it: “Hi Bug!” and pointed it out to me. I gently blew it away hoping he would think it just decided to leave. But he launched into calling out “Bug? Bug? Bug? Bug?” and after awhile sadly said:”Bye bye Bug.”We were at a coffee shop the next day, me having coffee and him cheerios when he noticed an ant on the floor and got very excited. We had dropped a cheerio (or ten) and the ant was inspecting it. He saw this and picked more cheerios out of the bag and dropped them deliberately around the ant. I’m sorry, coffeeshop employees, but in fairness, ants?

I give him something interesting to hold onto and look at when I’m changing a poopy diaper. I gave him a little shiny red “Hot Wheels” car and he was looking at it and said “Truck” so I said “Car” and he said “truck” so I leaned down at him and said “Car!” and he laughed and said “Truck!” and we went on and on getting more and more amused at our own silliness. When he says “No!” like a mad little toddler I find I can often change the tone just by being amused. Not mocking, just playful. Months ago we were watching an old movie with William Hurt on TV and Isaac looked at him and said “Daddy!” and I thought “Natural Mistake”. A week or two back I didn’t shave for a week and wore my glasses and my black baseball cap a lot. We were in the video store with him in my arms when he pointed at a video and said “Daddy, Daddy” I thought “Which handsome movie star has he mistaken for me this time?” He was pointing at a picture of Michael Moore on the cover of “Bowling for Columbine”. yOw.

He says “Please” but it’s pronounced “Peas” “Pick me up” is “UP-Peas”. He helps to put away toys and books at bedtime. It’s amazing.

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Well…I’m all at sea. I don’t know where I left off but I know it was a while ago.

Isaac is Six feet tall and taking pre-med at UW.OK not quite, he’s fat and small and still a baby though a big strong smart one.

As my earlier email to most of you this week mentioned, the word “birdie” is filling in for well, all the other words. It could be summed up by this phrase: “If you don’t have something birdie to say, don’t say anything at all.” (Except bye bye and cat).He is still using his parental slave units to hold his hands while walking across open rooms but he is round pink lightning along walls, off couches and beds and after rolling toys and cats.Some of the cool stuff I could tell you doesn’t fit well into anecdotes because it’s about the little things he notices by listening and looking and the ways he tries to communicate. No example really rates a story to you (I have some self respect left) but he is more observant and involved and relating in deeper ways.

When he was really an infant and he put his head down on my shoulder it was sweet but it meant he was going to sleep. When he does it now it means “you’re my person” and it is to die for. He’s very grumpy when he’s grumpy and he’s very sweet when he’s sweet. We play “I’m Gonna Get You” and he laughs and squeals with a purity of joy that makes me feel less cynical about life, the universe and everything.Here’s to you all

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