Digital Photo Professional, Photoshop, Flickr Uploader

I have finally processed some photos that had been too-long ignored:

Now I can go get some new images – maybe some indoor portraiture, or still life stuff. Or some more ‘spring emerging from the Ottawa freezer’ shots.

[Update: 1 May 2011] Bonus: Enriched Bread Artists – Open House 2011

Education as a technology

“Education is neither writing on a blank slate nor allowing the child’s nobility to come into flower. Rather, education is a technology that tries to make up for what the human mind is innately bad at. Children don’t go to school to learn to walk, talk, recognize objects, or remember the personalities of their friends, even though these tasks are much more difficult than reading, adding, or remembering dates in history. They do have to go to school to learn written language, arithmetic, and science, because these bodies of knowledge and skill were invented too recently for any species-wide knack for them to have evolved.”

Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. p. 222 (paperback)

Iggy pot

As shown in a video from the Canadian Press, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff was asked whether he had ever smoked marijuana. Here is what I think he said in response:

I have smoked pot as a young man, yes. I did not. And it’s one of the reasons. And I urge young people not to repeat the experience. It did not ruin my life. I just think there are a lot more important and interesting things to do with your life, including a glass of wine after dinner. I mean, let’s all relax here.

The Globe and Mail captioned the video: “Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff admits he smoked marijuana when he was younger, but he says, he prefers a nice glass of wine.”

If that’s what it comes down to – a matter of preference – I feel obligated to ask about the severe double standard that exists in the law now. Ignatieff’s drug of choice is available in all of Canada’s finest restaurants. They will bring it to you for free in first class on Air Canada. And yet if you prefer the other drug he has tried, you risk being branded as a criminal, fined, and potentially imprisoned.

It doesn’t make sense to apply a harsh legal regime to drugs that are less harmful than alcohol. If we grant adults the sovereign right to poison themselves with alcohol or nicotine or caffeine, we should acknowledge the same right with regard to marijuana, MDMA, and other comparatively benign substances.

Where paywalls might work

Making internet browsers pay for content is a big challenge. No matter how good your stuff is, chances are someone is giving away something similarly good for free. As such, most websites opt to fund themselves through advertising.

One place paywalls do seem to have promise is for sites that people access for work-related reasons. Then, the situation is akin to the subscriptions universities have to databases of journal articles. Their staff need them, and so the organization pays the subscription fee. That’s a model that news organizations might be able to use, given that the work of many different people is affected by the information they provide.

STRATFOR is one organization experimenting with different funding models for information online. They probably have some institutional subscribers, but they also advertise directly to interested individuals, sometimes offering significant discounts to lure those whose demand is more elastic.

Moving past danger

Riding the bus past the Darlington nuclear station, between Ottawa and Toronto, I noticed a very irrational emotional reaction. Moving closer to the building, I felt a small but rising amount of anxiety, thinking about all the dangerous materials contained inside. Immediately after the bus passed the reactor, leaving it out of sight, I felt relieved.

Of course, it is completely irrational to feel relieved immediately after passing something dangerous. After all, you are still right beside it. You should feel equally nervous at equal distances.

Still, it is possible to see how the emotions involved produce the irrational reaction. Moving toward an object of danger naturally creates a certain degree of anxiety: whether it is a dangerous animal, an opposing army, or an array of hot uranium rods. The feeling of anxiety encourages people to behave cautiously and consider their actions. By contrast, moving away from a dangerous thing is naturally comforting, and arguably something that can be done with less caution.

Certainly, it is possible to imagine why a gene for feeling relieved when moving away from dangerous objects would confer a selective advantage upon the individuals who possess it. It would probably make them less likely to die in a number of different ways.

Bum me out, and I’ll ignore you

My friend Lauren sent me a link to an article by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger entitled: The Long Death of Environmentalism.

It contains much that is of interest, but one passage stood out for me:

John Jost, a leading political psychologist at New York University, recently demonstrated that much of the partisan divide on global warming can be explained through the psychological concept of system justification. It turns out that many Americans have a strong psychological need to maintain a positive view of the existing social order. When Gore said “we are going to have to change the way we live our lives” he could not have uttered a statement better tailored to trigger system justification among a substantial number of Americans.

‘A strong psychological need to maintain a positive view of the existing social order’ probably contributes to the Lindzen Fallacy.