Firefox annoyance #5: redirect caching

Firefox Annoyances:

1) Sync
2) pocket
3) hello
4) everything else, other than the plug-in API itself, that isn’t a paper-thin shell around gecko
5) 301 redirect caching

To clear the 301 redirect cache for a single page, go to the “View” menu and light up the “History” sidebar (yeah, of course you forgot about that, nobody uses it), find the site you’re working on, right-click and select “forget about this site”.

Medieval Cats has an article titled Why Cats were Hated in Medieval Europe that I liked. It references Irina Metzler’s article Heretical Cats: Animal Symbolism in Religious Discourse which seems to be only available in German, and Joyce Salisbury’s The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages which is available in English as an ebook.

15th century manuscript from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Medievalisterrant chimes in with a post on Cats as pets in the Middle Ages.

ISP hacked, blog savaged

Our ISP,, was hacked and an amateurish attempt was made to plant various forms of malware on this site. Fortunately for my non-existent readers, the hackers weren’t particularly competent. Unfortunately for me, the same might be said of my ISP…

User registrations are disabled, for the nonce, which again will be a trial for my non-existent audience.

Group dynamics and prototype theories of cognitive neuroscience

Humans are pack animals. They need to gather according to shared traits and then see an enemy of everyone who does not fit.

— Some geeky guy on Slashdot.

Computer scientists are taught classical categorization, which has little correspondence to how our brains actually categorize. The Aristotelian “necessary and sufficient” check-lists of traits, on which we’ve built giant monoliths of computer code (hello, Active Directory) and theory (hello, cladistic phylogeny) are something like the phlogiston theory; a bluntly workable model, that lets you get things done, but also fundamentally wrong, and thus a limitation on what can be understood and predicted.

Research that’s been ongoing since the 1960s or earlier, by people like Eleanor Rosch and Paul Kay, and later George Lakoff and Ronald Langacker, has provided significant amounts of data showing our brains do not assign people to us/them categories because they have a set of traits that we’ve understood and identified. In neurological reality, we assign people to categories based on how closely we think they resemble one or more prototypes, which might be real people (a group leader, typically) or an idealized belief or perception of how men and women should be. The prototype can be fixed (like, say, Jesus) or constantly changing (like, say, a political candidate).

There will always be someone in the group who least resembles the prototype, so there is always a scapegoat available if there’s not enough food or someone needs to take the blame for some unavoidable accident. There may also be anti-prototypes and whoever most resembles that person is less “in the group” than someone who is otherwise the same but lacks these correspondences with the anti-prototypes.

In a strange way this confirms one of Cipolla’s famous “basic laws of human stupidity“; since we’ve evolved a categorization method that mainly serves to quickly identify who gets thrown off the sled when the wolves are catching up, of course there will always be more than enough people to fill that role. If you need a scapegoat, you’ll always be able to identify someone as the stupid person responsible; our brains are biased to work that way.

The problem with privilege metaphors

It seems to me that we are all the recipients of unearned privilege. You were formed in the womb of your birth mother, to her great discomfort and inconvenience; and obviously nothing you did yourself made you worthy of this privilege – it was a gift, literally the gift of life itself, that you received for free. You had already been a freeloading moocher for nine months before you were even born!

But not every birth is equal. Recent research claims that poverty diminishes mental capacities from birth. It’s fairly clear that the richer your parents and community are, the more unearned privileges you will eventually enjoy – for example, the children of Barack Obama enjoy vastly more privilege than the children of impoverished Arkansas sharecroppers, or the children of impoverished Native Americans on the Res.

Right Wing radio pundits like to split common people along color lines by screaming of “black criminality” and “black on black violence”, but criminality and violence correlate far more with poverty and lack of opportunity than with any skin color. Left Wing bloggers like to split common people on color lines by screeching “white privilege” – as though privilege did not correlate with wealth, and as if there were no privileged people of color.

These talking heads, Right and Left, are of their own free will servile to the ruling class. The .001% of humanity whose titanic wealth makes them immune to law would prefer that the rest of us split on color lines, gender lines, religion, anything that will keep us from uniting. If we could put aside our differences, it might interfere with the continuing concentration of the Earth’s vast resources into fewer and fewer hands – or even reverse that trend.

Homeopathy as the least worst choice

Interesting thing about homeopathy, that I learned from visiting the Mary Baker Eddy Museum in the Boston Christian Science Reading Room: less than 200 years ago, the best medical treatment you could get was probably homeopathy. It was unlikely to outright kill you, and would keep you well hydrated. The next best treatment was almost certainly prayer (because it might have psychological benefits and at the very least it didn’t involve bleeding or the administration of poisons) followed by herbalism (which could definitely kill you, but might also heal you) followed by a dog’s breakfast of other therapies which mostly involved greatly increasing your chance of an untimely death in the name of healing.

Over time, the bits and pieces of things that actually worked (such as keeping patients hydrated, and various herbal remedies such as willow bark and etc.) became the basis of modern medicine, mostly through the efforts of snake-oil hucksters and patent medicine companies who found ways to profit from them. The profit-driven system has mostly worked rather well (despite numerous debacles like aspirin, thalidomide, Coley’s cancer cure, etc.) because you couldn’t make profit from dead patients (until the development of mass media campaigns, anyway).

Today the snake oil industry has metastasized into modern corporate medicine, which primarily exists to sell pills. But most of those pills actually do something, so it’s a huge step up from the days of homeopathy, when the last thing any sick person needed was any treatment that actually did something.

Today it’s popular for self-aggrandizing Internet commentators to hold up homeopathy as a “fake science” that they lump in with whatever other targets of opportunity they think will make them look scientific and clever, such as chiropractery if the pundit is left-wing, and “global warming” if s/he’s right-wing. And invariably these critics know almost nothing of the history of medicine, and they’ll usually characterize medicine as a “science” (or possibly a “Science”) rather than the praxis that it is. But to my mind, today’s corporate medicine is very much the same as the homeopathy of Mary Baker Eddy’s time – it’s the least worst choice.

Weirdest comment spam so far

Entire text of a comment spam that showed up on Typing Animal last year:

I make them have dirty sex with each other and THEN i bite off their limbs and they have dirty dirty amputee gummy bear sex. And then i bite off their heads and they have fihtly disgusting zombie gummy bear sex. And then I eat them and growl and make yummy noises while I chew. So, I’d say that the above wife-saying is not strange or dirty at all.

The text was originally linked to a facebook page that has since been shut down for hosting malware.

US Mononoke subtitles disappoint

The original 2000 Miramax/Disney [DVD] release […] included a nice English subtitle track based on the original Japanese dialogue (done by Stephen Albert and Haruyo Moriyoshi). Unfortunately, that track is not on board this set. All the praise and accolades I can heap upon this new Blu-ray’s video and audio elements are completely undone simply because these English subtitles are a disaster.

Historical European Martial Arts Wiki

Wiktenauer is an ongoing collaboration among researchers and practitioners from across the Western martial arts community, seeking to collect all of the primary and secondary source literature that makes up the text of historical European martial arts research and to organize and present it in a scholarly but accessible format.

“Man Ass”

Unix-derived operating systems have a tradition of making commands short and easily typed regardless of social conventions.

So, in order to consult the manual page for the Autonomous System Scanner, you would type “man ass” at the command line. People involved with AS work would not find this remarkably odd or offensive – we’ve already got jobs to do, that don’t involve complaining about other people’s sense of propriety.

However, if one creates a site that automatically generates HTML-formatted web pages from the man pages of the Ubuntu V13.04 linux distribution, popularly called Raring Ringtail, one ends up hosting a page describing “raring man ass”.

The Internet being what it is, such a page may have unexpected effects on your google analytics results…

Great blog posts on color perception

I was taught in school that when light of a certain frequency strikes your eyeball, you see it as a specific color. This is almost completely untrue.

Jason Cohen talks about the inadequacy of the color wheel.

Jason doesn’t mention it, but the part of your brain responsible for color vision is about the size of a lima bean. (You know these things if you read Oliver Sachs.)

Robert Kosara talks about how the practice of assigning R-O-Y-G-B-I-V values to map data misleads viewers.

Color is a cognitive effect, a subjective phenomenon of the mind, that is influenced by culture and language as well as by gross physical circumstances like lighting and surroundings. The influence goes both ways – not only is our vision mediated by our state of mind, but also vice-versa.