Atomic Overlook by Clay Lipsky

by Limbic on October 4, 2014

Via I Need a Guide and BoingBoing


Judas Goat

by Limbic on October 1, 2014

Heard about these curious creatures on RadioLab’s Galapagos feature.

According to Wikipedia:

A Judas goat is a trained goat used in general animal herding. The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter, while its own life is spared. Judas goats are also used to lead other animals to specific pens and onto trucks.


One of the most effective uses of Judas Goats was in the Galapagos islands, where they were trying to eradicate them as an invasive species. They did so by shooting the goats from helicopters…

After endless planning and meetings, we commenced project Isabella…In under a year, through an aerial attack [by helicopter], we ended up wiping out 90 percent of the goats on Isabela. But to give an example of the nature of this business, its relatively easy to remove 90 percent of a goat population from an island. As they become rarer and rarer, they become harder to detect. The become educated. So the goats start hiding. You end up flying around in an expensive helicopter not finding any goats.

So the way we deal with that is an interesting technique called Judas goats. Goats are gregarious and like being in groups. They’re herd animals. The technique we would use was you fire up the helicopter, capture goats live, take them back to base camp, unload them, put a radio collar on them, and then throw them back on the island. Instinctively, that goat will go find other goats. A week, two weeks go by. You fire up the helicopter and…start tracking the Judas goats until you spot it with other goats. And then everyone gets shot except the Judas goat. And then they do it again. Every two weeks for a year.





Digital Militias

by Limbic on October 1, 2014

The term digital militias is usually used to refer to online social media fighters, often paid, who agitate on behalf of their chosen cause.

Every conflict has cadres representing both sides who slug it out in forums, on twitter and Facebook .

I have another idea about digital militias. It stems from my observation that ordinary end-users do not stand much of a chance against contemporary online threat actors.

There are so many attack vectors, so many software vulnerabilities, such well resourced criminals with cleverly designed social engineering campaigns. The ordinary tech unsavy user is wide open to compromise, exploitation,  blackmail, data and identity theft.

What I see happening us that they  tend to seek out a lord of their technical domain. Someone to help and protect them. Someone to troubleshoot, clean up viruses and advise on technical matters.

Like so many professional and journeyman technologists, I find myself in this role. I am responsible for a host of computer, tablets and phones belonging to family, friends and neighbours. It goes beyond helping elderly parents with technical support. I host their websites on my server. I harden and maintain their computers and devices. I clean up the mess when they nailed by bad guys. They call me when they have a suspect a link, or need help when stumped by a technical problem.

Of course I do this all completely for free. It is a pleasure to help friends and family in this way. I almost see it as a duty. In a sense I am a one man digital militia protecting and fighting back where law enforcement is completely absent. I have often wondered where this might end up. Maybe people will start to pool resources to defend themselves online. Entire neighbourhoods who have a pooled network with a firewall and paid system administrator patrolling the virtual wall.

We’ll see. maybe the wild west days of the internet are over. The bad guys have had such an advantage for so long, one imagines there must be a corrective due. Until them, the vulnerable will huddle under the protection of the (relatively) strong but as dozens of hacked celebrities embarrassingly discovered, no one is safe.


Two quotes via Satya Nadella

by Limbic on September 26, 2014


“The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

“[we must have] courage in the face of reality.”- Nietzsche


Religion_for_Atheists___Alain_de_BottonReligion for Atheists by Alain De Botton

Waking Up by Sam Harris


Three great books on Moral Philosophy and Ethics

by Limbic on September 26, 2014

These three books go brilliantly together. Here is the order I read them in. The images link to kindle editions.

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene

The Quest for a Moral Compass by Kenan Malik


The 21st Century as it Should Have Been

by Limbic on September 26, 2014

VICE has a good theme for this shoot “the 21st century as it was supposed to be”…



As much as I detest most of George Galloway’s political opinions, one has to denounce him being violently attacked on the street. Get well soon George. Don’t let this inhibit your free speech in any way. BBC News – George Galloway taken to hospital after street attack.

UPDATE: The attacker has been charged with “religiously-aggravated assault”. This is strange. According to Advice Guide:

“Racially motivated attacks and religiously motivated attacks are attacks which are carried out because of someone’s racial or ethnic origin, or their religion or lack of religion.”

Does this confirm that Galloway is a Muslim and that the attacker indicated that was a factor in the attack? Or the attacker just thinks Galloway is a Muslim and said so? Or is it because the attacker mentioned the Holocaust (saying Galloway was a denier)?


Not sufficiently sympathetic

by Limbic on August 9, 2014

Listening to Global Public Square podcast on the way to work the other day, when something caught my attention.

Paul Krugman was explaining how Obamacare was working and that medical costs growing slower, but what caught my attention was this allusion to young, affluent males:

KRUGMAN: The aggregate data shows something, which has got people pinching themselves, which it’s health care costs are growing so slowly it’s really hard to believe. Medicare, Medicare is currently spending about a thousand dollars less per beneficiary than what’s projected at just four years ago. So, Medicare is way down. It’s aggregate health expenditures is growing much more slowly. Premiums are rising, but premiums have risen every year forever. They don’t seem to be rising. They seem – If anything be rising more slowly than before. The thing, you know, you’re going to find basically if you’re a healthy young male in a state that didn’t have community ratings, so California, not New York, and you’re affluent enough that you don’t qualify for a subsidy, yeah, your premiums have gone up. You don’t find a lot of — you know, the anti-Obama care ad campaigns don’t highlight people like that because they’re not sufficiently sympathetic. They keep on trying to find middle-aged or older middle class people who have had big premium increases, but not one of those stories that’s been highlighted and the assets held up under scrutiny. So, it turns out, yes, there are some losers, but it’s pretty narrow group and the people that the program is supposed to help are being helped. The people who really need the care.

Krugman is stating the obvious, but just look at how accepting we are of this.

The young male is “not sufficiently sympathetic” by default in Western culture. When you add colour (sometimes whiteness, sometimes blackness) and especially affluence,  you have true 21st century villains. In the cultural and political narrative, not only does no one cares about the welfare of this demographic, they are seen as a problem to be managed, a pool of tax money to drain for the benefit of others and a political liability.

No wonder so many of young men are going their own way.




See also: Worthless White Male Victim


whiteness and you have super-villains.



The Grim Story of Malthe Thomsen

by Limbic on August 9, 2014

This is a dreadful story.

Either a young paedophile was let loose amongst preschoolers or a young teaching student has been falsely accused and wronged by the US justice system.

It concerns Malthe Thomsen, a 22 year old student teacher who has been accused of inappropriately touching multiple children in his care. Initially exonerated in a school investigation, his accuser approached the police and he was arrested,  jailed and eventually released on bail to await a decision from the authorities as to whether they will proceed with a prosecution.

The case has many complications. His accuser was fired shortly after making the accusations. Some media reports claiming because she was a drama queen and troublemaker, others that she was a victim of whistle-blower revenge.

The police appear to have fooled him into a false confession based on video evidence they may or may nit have and a claim he could return to Denmark and be simply treated for his “problem”. He has subsequently recanted.

It could be a case of Danish standards and practices being misunderstood in the USA. In Danish kindergartens – which are the most enlightened and science-guided and enlightened institutions of their kind in the world – the pedagogues are physical with the kids. They cuddle them if they fall, they hug them, they sit on the teachers knees. All of this is considered normal and healthy. US friends have expressed their surprise at how different and tactile Danish teachers are compared to US counterparts. Maybe this kid fell victim to this gap?

Or maybe he really does have a problem and did touch the children inappropriately.

In any case, in Denmark male kindergarten teachers are considered extremely important and there has been a big push to try and redress the huge gender imbalance in pre-schools.

As one male kindergarten teacher explained to a colleague, the children need to see that there are different ways of handling the world. A male perspective and presence is seen as salutary and worth the very low risk of sexual abuse that having male teachers may increase.

n Denmark the damage done to boys and girls by having an unbalanced gender environment is now recognised. Unfortunately the Malthe Thomsen case reinforces stereotypes – male teachers are a risk and we should only have female pre-school teachers. It is a setback for enlightened Nordic educational practices that are usually decades ahead of the US.

As or  Malthe Thomsen, let’s hope justice is done.

Some links: