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Archive for August, 2013

In On The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin wrote about natural selection. This is the process by which organisms evolve over time. Humans – or better known by their scientific name, homo sapiens – have not been immune from this process and our species is the product of evolving from other, earlier species including Homo erectus and Homo habilis.

This post is not to talk about evolution or those who deny its scientific credentials. Instead, this post is about how Homo sapiens is an evolutionary dead end.

Yep, we are the last of our kind. There is no moving forward from this point on the family tree.

I make this announcement based on two idiosyncracies of our species.

The first has to do with out brain power. Because of our intelligence, we can build solutions to adapt to changing situations. With our mental know-how, there is no need for us to use natural selection to adapt to any different set of conditions that we might encounter in the future. From climate change to space travel to an errant chunk of comet slamming into the Pacific Ocean, humanity will be able to use its combined cranial fortitude to craft a technological solution to help us live.

And if we can’t, then that is the end of us and our line.

The second reason I make my Traveling Wilburys-like announcement has to do with how our society treats change.

The process of natural selection will express itself in humanity – as it does in all other organisms – by producing a mutation. This mutation may or may not produce an effect that is beneficial to the person who has that mutation. This mutation may or may not show itself as a physical difference. However, if this mutation does produce a marked physical difference and whether or not if confers an adaptive advantage to the carrier, the person with that mutation will be killed off as soon as possible.

Sad to say – but ever so true – but human society despises the other and actively seeks to destroy that which is different. It’s part of the reason genocide is the pastime of humanity. So if there ever comes a person who displays gills or translucent skin or…whatever the beneficial mutation is, that person will be knocked off by a tribe, mob, or government entity before that mutant has the chance to propagate.

So, for those pair of reasons, that is why I conclude that H. sapiens is the highest – and last – branch on the Homo tree.

Best of luck to those who follow us.

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Focus is the theme for this week’s photographic challenge hosted by WordPress.

My answer to this week’s challenge was going to be part of a larger puzzle post whereby I would upload pictures I took from a specific place and ask my readers to identify where I was. However, it didn’t quite work out, but at least I can salvage the idea with one of the photos I took, which you can see below.

Knot a Knight

Knot a Knight

I purposely attempted to keep the background out of focus so that certain details would not be immediately visible – which would also be a dead giveaway. I wanted to the focus to be on the foreground, which is the white horse head. That item, in and of itself, should be enough of a clue for people in the know to know where I am.

So, how about you? Can you guess where I took this picture that was snapped in July of 2013? Frequent visitors to my blog should have little difficulty because they already know where the Mannski Family spends part of the summer vacation.

Happy hunting.

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For those of you in the United States who haven’t been following along, I currently live in Thailand.

Thailand, for those of you not following along, is a foreign country that resides outside of the United States of America.

As a foreign country, Thailand has some rules, laws, and conventions that some citizens of the U.S. of A. might find odd.

Thailand has a constitutional monarchy which means, like England (another foreign country), there is a king and queen who sit as the formal head of government.

However, unlike England, it is against the law and is indeed a punishable offense to make fun of or to say anything negative about the royal couple. The name for this crime is lese majeste.

Can you imagine living in a country where you can be punished – perhaps even lose your job – for mocking the head of the government?

Of course you can. You already do.

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As I have written before, my previous vocation was that of a software tester.

As I have written before, there are reasons why it is important to test products before they go out the door.

This post has a pair of stories that, once again, show the importance of having folks in the quality assurance (QA) department look over products before the customer get their hands on them. Yes, QA takes some extra time, but it takes even more time to recall flawed products and do damage control.

Story One…The stereotype about Americans is that they are bad at geography. There may be something to that canard as the people at Nike didn’t even know the states that make up the United States. Nike decided to make a shirt to honor the Carolina Panthers, a professional football team that plays in North Carolina. So it was a tad embarrassing for Nike when they unveiled their shirt and it had the outline of South Carolina.

Oops.

Story Two…The Hippocratic Medical Oath says to “do no harm”. While there is no Software Developer Oath, it should also state that a piece of software should “do no harm”. Whether it is a new piece of software or an update, a developer’s code should not poorly affect a user’s hardware or existing software. So, it must have been partially embarrassing to Sony when one of their upgrades to the their PlayStation 3 game console caused the on-screen navigation to vanish.

The story from BBC News about the Sony issue even included the following quote from a disgruntled user, “You’d think they test these things out, right?”

You’d think.

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The settling in of the Mannski Family to our new digs in Thailand has reached a point where I can take a breath and catch up on all the on-line zaniness that I missed while moving halfway across the world.

One of those on-line activities that I have missed and am glad to come back to is the Weekly Photo Challenge brought to you by the fine folks over at WordPress.

On Friday, they announced their theme for the week was carefree.

My response is, “What could be more carefree than the Happiest Place on Earth?”

During our nomadic experience between the Continent and Thailand, the family stopped off in the States to visit my side of the family in California. One of the things we did while there was to visit the House of Mouse in Anaheim. One of the new attractions in California Adventure is the Cars ride. Below you can see a group of carefree folk about to enjoy the latest and greatest Disney has to offer.

Please remember to exit to your left.

Please remember to exit to your left.

Seriously, who could be more carefree than a chap enjoying roller coasters and turkey legs.

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I have written before about the concept of the troika, an idea dreamed up by my former college roommate. The troika is a group of three people (living and/or dead) who can either be Muses or who are simply folk that embody qualities to be emulated.

In one of the first posts of this blog, I gave my troika as painter Claude Monet, comedian George Carlin, and author Douglas Adams.

I would now like to update and amend that threesome to now be the following…

For his creativity, the first member of my new troika is writer and director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers);

For her amazing bravery in the face of adversity (and a bullet), the second member is education activist Malalai Yousafzai.

Finally, for following his passion until the utter end, the third member of my troika is wildlife expert and television personality Steve Irwin, also known as The Crocodile Hunter.

If I can only come close to emulating this troika‘s creativity, bravery, and passion, I will be a happy atom.

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Before I raised anchor from the Continent, spent some time in the U S of A becoming reacquainted with my home culture, and before planting my new homestead in Thailand’s capital, I wrote a post about a double standard in the Arabic world.

Now that I am ensconced on the other side of the world, I am going back to mine that “double standard” vein…mainly because it is so easy.

Today’s installment deals with the treatment of mosques.

In April of 2013, LEGO announced that they would be halting production of the Jabba’s Palace playset. Cries of racism came from the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria as they claimed that the palace of Jabba the Hut, the criminal lord of the Tatooine underworld, looked too much like the famous Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Putting aside the fact that the LEGO representation of Jabba’s Palace looks almost nothing like the iconic Turkish mosque (i.e., zero minarets on Jabba’s Palace as opposed to the four on Hagia Sophia, the tops of the domes are different), I’m here to talk about the double standard of the reaction.

The Turkish Cultural Community of Austria (TCCA) threw out the cry of racism and took to the electronic media to decry the technical desecration of a historic mosque because of its questionable similarity to a toy.

So what do you think the reaction of the TCCA would be to the actual desecration and destruction of a real historic mosque? If you guessed “apoplectic” or “hysterical”, then you don’t understand the meaning of the phrase “double standard.”

When – also in April of 2013 – a minaret of a historic and ancient Umayyad Mosque in the Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed during the civil war, the reaction of the TCCA was…

…absolutely ear-shattering nothing.

Go ahead. Look at their website here and you won’t find an iota or hint of any outrage at the destruction of the minaret in Aleppo.

The lesson here appears clear.

If a Western (in this case, Danish) toy company makes a product that looks something like a mosque (but only if you squint), then bring down the rafters with condemnation.

If an Arabic entity (in this case Syrian military or rebels) actually destroys part of a mosque, then shrug your shoulders.

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