Department of Chemistry

...California State University Stanislaus

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  • Valorie Zimmerman: Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
    Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

    Interesting, engaging, and sometimes challenging. My only criticism of the book is that he dwells a bit on fads in academia which are fading, but since he's been extensively challenged by that crowd, I suppose it is forgivable.

    I'll quote extensively from the last chapter, but first, Emily Dickinson (quoted in that final chapter):
    The Brain--is wider than the Sky--
    For--put them side to side--
    The one the other will contain
    With ease--and you--beside-- 
    The Brain is deeper than the sea--
    For--hold them--Blue to Blue--
    The one the other will absorb--
    As Sponges--Buckets--do-- 
    The Brain is just the weight of God--
    For--Heft them--Pound for Pound--
    And they will differ--if they do--
    As Syllable from Sound--
    And the beginning of the final chapter:
    The Blank Slate was an attractive vision. It promised to make racism, sexism, and class prejudice factually untenable. It appeared to be a bulwark against the kind of thinking that led to ethnic genocide. It aimed to prevent people from slipping into a premature fatalism about preventable social ills. It put the spotlight on the treatment of children, indigenous peoples, and the underclass. The Blank Slate thus became part of secular faith and appeared to constitute the common decency of our age.  
    But the Blank Slate had, and has, a dark side. The vacuum that was posited in human nature was eagerly filled by totalitarian regimes, and it did nothing to prevent their genocides. It perverts education, child-rearing, and the arts into forms of social engineering. It torments mothers who work outside the home and parents whose children did not turn out as they would have liked. It threatens to outlaw biomedical research that could alleviate human suffering. Its corollary, the Noble Savage, invites contempt for the principles of democracy and of "a government of laws not of men." It blinds us to our cognitive and moral shortcomings. And in matters of policy it has elevated sappy dogmas above the search for workable solutions. 
    The Blank Slate is not some ideal that we should all hope and pray is true. No, it is anti-life, anti-human theoretical abstraction that denies our common humanity, our inherent interests, and our individual preferences. Though it has pretensions of celebrating our potential, it does the opposite, because our potential comes from the combinatorial interplay of wonderfully complex faculties, not from the passive blankness of an empty tablet. 
    Regardless of its good and bad effects, the Blank Slate is an empirical hypothesis about the functioning of the brain and must be evaluated in terms of whether or not it is true. The modern sciences of mind, brain, genes, and evolution are increasingly showing that it is not true. The result is a rearguard effort to salvage the Blank Slate by disfiguring science and intellectual life: denying the possibility of objectivity and truth, dumbing down issues into dichotomies, replacing facts and logic with intellectual posturing. 
    The Blank Slate became so deeply entrenched in intellectual life that the prospect of doing without it can be deeply unsettling. ...Is science leading to a place where prejudice is right, where children may be neglected, where Machiavellianism is accepted, where inequality and violence are met with resignation, where people are treated like machines? 
    Not at all! By unhandcuffing widely shared values from moribund factual dogmas, the rationale for these values can only become clearer. We understand *why* we condemn prejudice, cruelty to children, and violence against women, and can focus our efforts on how to implement the goals we value most. ... 
    ... Acknowledging human nature does not mean overturning our personal world views... It means only taking intellectual life out of its parallel universe and reuniting it with science and, when it is borne out by science, by common sense.
    This book was published in 2002, and I think Pinker and his fellow scientists who investigate human nature are beginning to make headway. This book was a good reminder of some of the nonsense we are now sweeping into the dustbin of history, and new understanding of human nature now coming to light.

  • Costales: Folder Color: New custom color for each folder
    I developed this little (but really useful) improvement to Folder Color: Now, you can choose a custom color for each folder in our Ubuntu!

    New improvement: Choose a custom color

    What is Folder Color?
    It's an application for changing the color of a folder in Ubuntu with just a right-click. Really useful for easily spotting folders in 12 preconfigured colours!

    Easy, fast and useful

    Let's see a video with Folder Color in action!



    How can you install?
    • In a Terminal from the PPA:
    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:costales/folder-color
    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install folder-color
    • If you have already installed Folder Color from the PPA, just update your system:
    sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install folder-color

    You need to logout from your current session (or kill nautilus with nautilus -q) after the installation.


    What do you need?
    Just Ubuntu (or derivate) & Nautilus, the file browser by default in Ubuntu :)

    +info: Oficial web.

  • Svetlana Belkin: Why do I Use Open Source?

    I decided to respond to Michael Hall’s post, “Why do you contribute to open source?“, but first I will explain why I use open source and in the next post, I will explain why I contribute to it.  I don’t only use it because it’s almost free to use but for the intuitive sense of things that I see in all of the programs that I use.  This intuitive sense matches up with the way that I think and how I do things.

    I have three examples why I use Open Source:

    Example One: Evernote Ink Notes vs. Xournal- A Shift in My Workflow

    This example is a recent thing that happened to me.  On Monday, August, 25, 2014 (first day of my last school year of my undergrad years), I was able to restore my Nexus 7 2013 back to Android from Ubuntu Touch since Ubuntu Touch wasn’t worth while to use (for now) as a working tablet.  For those who want to know, you need at least 2 GB of RAM to use the ./flash-all.sh command.  I only restored my tablet- meaning that I didn’t brother to install a custom ROM on it (don’t ask me why).  After I restored, I installed the Evernote app and signed in to it.  The hour before I restored my tablet, I was in my eight A.M. class and I took hand-written notes on my netbook, Evernote Ink Notes, and my Wacom Intous 4 pen and tablet.  When I opened the notes on my tablet and they looked horrible!  Not because I have chicken scratch for my handwriting (it does get bad at times) but because it was zoomed in and I had to finger scroll.  I had no way to zoom out.  And the UX of the app is just not fun to use.

    After that first use of the Evernote, I decided to go back and use my favorite handwritten note-taking program, Xournal, but with some tweaks.  One of them being all of my notes for one class is be one file, when possible, which is for my eight A.M. class.  The other one is be convert the presentation slides for my second and also last class (I have two this term) into PDF and annotate that PDF.

    The only problem with this workflow is that Xournal is X based not Qt based.  That means when Mir and Unity 8 comes out, I won’t be able to use my favorite program!  But maybe I could work with some developers and get some of the features of Xournal into the Reminders app.

    Example Two: Open Source has More Intuitive Minds

    I have noticed that many of the programs that I use have features that are latter used in non-open source programs.  Who had tabs first in Internet browsers?  Firefox.  Conversion from a word/spreadsheet/presentation to PDF?  OpenOffice.  This goes to show that who are more daring to be more intuitive.

    When Unity first introduced back in Ubuntu 11.04, it was hard for me to get used to it at first.  I think it took me maybe two months to tell myself to that is the change can be good.  After I installed 11.04, I saw that Unity increased my productivity.  I found that searching in the Dash of Unity was faster than scrolling and clicking through folders on the menu.  Unity is quiet intuitive to my mind and it was here before Windows 8.  Another example of open source having more intuitive minds.

    Example three will be in my next post when I will talk about why I contribute to Open Source.  Most likely, I will have a series of posts about why I’m in the FOSS community and other subjects such as why I blog.

     




  • José Antonio Rey: FOSSETCON in two weeks – See you there!

    A while ago I posted about FOSSETCON (Free and Open Source Software Expo and Technology Conference), but now the time has come. In less than two weeks the conference will be taking place, and I cannot wait to fly over there!

    FOSSETCON will start on Thursday, September 11th with day 0. We will have an Ubucon the whole day! Panels, workshops, make sure you don’t miss it. I’ll be flying during that day and hope I can get there at least for the last session.

    During the 12th and 13th there will be an expo hall, as well as several talks! I will be with the Ubuntu Florida LoCo Team in the Ubuntu booth. Make sure to visit us there if you want to take a look at the Ubuntu phones and tablets, and maybe get some swag? Who knows.

    On the other hand, I will be hosting a 40-minute Juju Charm School during day 1 (September 12th) at 10:30am local time. Make sure to attend if you wanna get a glimpse of what’s up with Juju and all the things you can do with it, including a bit of development.

    In case you’re wondering. Yes, I will have the so-loved Orange Box! If you want to see it in action or just give it a hug, make sure to go to FOSSETCON!

    You can buy your tickets for FOSSETCON by clicking here. There are three ticket options: the Training Pass, the Conference Pass and the Supporter Pass. You can find more information about each ticket type on the link.

    Also, if you have already got your copy of the Official Ubuntu Book, 8th edition and want me to sign it for you, I will be more than happy to.

    Don’t be shy and say hi, maybe we can grab a coffee after conference hours. See you all there!




  • Costales: Destino Ubuconla 2014 - #11 The End
    Antes del viaje todo el mundo me advertía de que Colombia es un país muy peligroso para el turista... ¡Colombia... ays Colombia! ¡Qué país! El viajero encontrará paisajes extraordinarios, vertiginosas ciudades llenas de historia grabada a fuego durante siglos, una gastronomía exquisita y su gente que hace a este país especial, al ritmo de su música rumbera, abiertos, alegres y muy hospitalarios. Como bromean por aquí, el peligro es que te quieras quedar :P

    perdiéndose por los mercados callejeros

    de sus calles
    y disfrutando el alma de este pueblo
    con sus junglas de asfalto
    y sus junglas reales
    (jue con la 'hormiguita')
    ... hasta el infinito y más allá

    Del viaje en particular podría destacar muchísimas cosas, las playas, las islas, los pueblos, las ciudades, la gastronomía, incluso el calor sofocante; pero no, no voy a destacar nada de todo eso.
    Destaco los momentos únicos con personas únicas, que hicieron de este viaje, un viaje único ;) ¡Gracias a todos/as! ¡Hasta la próxima!

    Next station? El destino dirá

    Todas las entradas del viaje:

    Gracias a todos/as por 'acompañarnos' en este relato

    ... The end ...