cogitationes me / Thoughts for myself [002.022.178]

VI. Thoughts (of the day) on human rights 

If you make your laws according to your religion and your moral then you are not a democracy. Your are a theocracy and you are no better than the Talibans. The Funding Fathers of the United States wrote the Constitution on the basis of the Separation of Church and State to avoid anything resembling what they wanted to escape — the totalitarianism and domination of a monarchy. If you go this way you are going backward…

Nobody is in favour of abortion. No one want an abortion. It is a solution that you take in last resort when you have exhausted all other possibilities (planned parenthood, contraceptive, adoption, etc.) and you have no other choices. Bad things happen (incest, rape, health issues for the baby, the mother or both) and if the need arise a woman should have the choice. No woman should be forced into a pregnancy that put her physical, mental or economical health in jeopardy. (Democrats and defenders of women’s rights should have better messaging!)

If you take away the right of women to chose what would be next? The same-sex marriage? The mixed-race marriage? The voting right of minorities? According to the extreme right none of those are guaranteed in the American Constitution. They say that life begins at conception (although some scientists say that a human brain is not completely formed until five or six year-old…) and therefore all those frozen embryos must be considered human. If they take full power of the country we could see the day when they force some women (Prisoners? Minorities? Underprivileged?) to carry those frozen embryos to term… Then we would not be far from what is considered science-fiction today (The Handmaid’s Tale anyone?)…

People will defend a right that they want. They will fight harder to defend a right that they had and lost… The Future will always be a struggle. Ours might be a socio-political war!

And now, for something completely different, maybe the worse war crime is for Europa to coward in front of the Russian scarecrow’s nuclear bluff, leaving the Ukrainians alone to stop the tide of his juvenile and distopic anger ???

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Images du mer-fleuri [002.022.152]

Quid est? / Qu’est-ce que c’est?

DSC_2706

Aubrieta x cultorum

Lorsque je me promène dans le parc (ou ailleurs dans la nature) et que je prends des photos de plantes, d’oiseaux ou d’insectes, j’aime bien savoir ce que c’est. Prendre une photo pour moi est une occasion d’accroître mon savoir. Il y a plein de gens qui prennent des photos et les mettent sur leur blog ou leur FB sans se donner la peine de les identifier et si cela offre une belle photo qui nous fait tous admirer les merveilles de la nature, je trouve cela tout à fait inutile si je ne peux pas identifier le sujet de la photo. Au jardin botanique c’est plutôt facile puisque la plupart des plantes sont présentées avec une fiche signalétique. Au festival de la tulipe d’Ottawa c’est un peu plus compliqué car il n’y a rien qui ressemble plus à une tulipe qu’une autre tulipe et que si le festival identifie le contenu d’un parterre il n’offre aucune aide pour associer chaque nom au cultivar qu’il représente (une image sur la fiche signalétique serait fort utile — quoi que cette année le festival offre une carte interactive des plates-bandes qui fait cette association). Toutefois, dans un parc nature, nous sommes tous laissé à nous même. Et même si j’ai déjà identifié une plante dans le passé, comme j’ai une très mauvaise mémoire, c’est toujours à recommencer…

J’ai d’abord essayé des applications d’identification de plante mais, malheureuse­ment, les applications gratuites ont un taux de réussite très bas quand il s’agit d’identifier une plante. J’ai alors vite abandonné et me disant qu’il valait mieux de simplement prendre un bon cliché de la plante et que je l’identifierais plus tard. Pour ce faire j’ai longtemps utilisé de bon vieux livres de botaniques mais cela demandait de longues heures à feuilleter des références à la recherche de photos similaires à la plante que je voulais identifier. Puis j’ai découvert Google Images, qui est un engin de recherche par image. Il suffit de “glisser/déposer” (“drag & drop”) une image dans la plage de recherche et Google vous suggère une identification. Encore une fois le taux de succès de ces suggestions est plutôt bas (par exemple, la plante ci-dessous est identifiée comme étant possiblement du jasmin !) mais Google fournit aussi une sélection d’images visuellement similaire que l’on peut parcourir et notre cerveau peut alors les analyser plus efficacement que l’intelligence artificielle de Google. Cela demande encore beaucoup de temps mais le fait d’avoir des suggestions de départ réduit de beaucoup le temps de recherche. Toutefois, j’ai récemment découvert une application encore plus facile et efficace.

[ iPhone 13 Pro, Parc Frédéric-Back, 2022/05/30 ]

Ce que j’admire chez Apple c’est leur volonté de sans cesse améliorer leurs applications, souvent en y ajoutant des fonctionnalités qui n’étaient auparavant offertes que par de tiers parties. Je me promenais récemment dans le Parc Frédéric-Back et j’y ai vu un arbre avec une superbe floraison très odorante. Je me souvenais vaguement d’avoir déjà identifié cette espèce mais la mémoire me faisait défaut (et, pour une fois, mon épouse n’a pas pu m’aider — pour ce qui est de plantes elle est d’habitude une excellente ressource). J’ai tenté alors de voir si je ne pouvais pas directement, sur place, fournir l’image de l’application “Photos” à “Google Images” pour l’identifier. 

En tâtonnant sur mon iPhone, j’ai remarqué deux étranges logos: une feuille dans un cercle blanc qui apparaissait au centre de l’image et un “i” dans un cercle avec un scintillement apparaissant dans les icônes de menu au bas de l’écran (j’ai par la suite découvert que ces icônes apparaissaient aussi dans l’app “Photos” de mon MacBook Pro). Cliquer sur l’un ou l’autre de ces icônes appel la fonctionnalité “Recherche Visuelle” qui utilise les connaissances de Siri (“Siri Knowledge”) pour identifier les différents éléments qui apparaissent dans les photos (sites touristiques, œuvres d’art, plantes, fleurs, animaux, etc. — fonctionnalité disponible uniquement dans certaines régions pour l’instant. J’ai ainsi découvert par hasard, à mon grand étonnement, que Apple avait amélioré son appli “Photos” dans sa dernière mise à jour (MacOS 12 Monterey / iOS 15 et iPadOS 15) en lui donnant une fonctionnalité similaire (mais O combien supérieure!) à Google Images: nous pouvons maintenant interagir avec nos photos non seulement en identifiant le contenu (“Recherche visuelle” [Visual Look Up]) mais aussi avec le texte présent dans les photos (“Texte en direct” [Live Text] qui permet de copier/coller le texte, le rechercher, le traduire, le partager, activer une adresse web ou un numéro de téléphone, etc.!!). C’est vraiment incroyable car, jusqu’à maintenant, les essais que j’ai effectué ont démontré un taux de réussite très élevé dans les identifications de plantes. Bon, ce n’est pas parfait (il y a parfois des erreurs où l’application donnera une mauvaise identification, ou une identification trop générique — une rose sera simplement un rose, une tulipe simplement un tulipe, mais au moins le genre est identifié correctement même si l’espèce ou le cultivar exacte n’est pas précisé) mais c’est un outil qui me sera dorénavant extrêmement utile.

Ainsi, Siri a correctement identifié cet arbre comme étant un Robinia pseudoacacia (robinier faux-acacia ou “black locust” en anglais). La technologie ne cessera donc jamais de m’émerveiller. Je me promène maintenant en pleine nature, mon iPhone à la main non seulement pour prendre de charmantes images mais aussi comme instrument scientifique, tel un “tricorder” de Star Trek! Où tous cela nous mènera?

NonSequitur-20220505

[ Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller, 2022/05/05 ]

“Génèse 2.0 : Selon la légende, quelqu’un a dit : « Alexa… rend le monde entier meilleur ». Puis, pour faire court, nous avons été redémarré”.

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Rideamus parum / cogitationes me [002.022.143]

12 Monkeys Pox

12MonkeyPox

As a fan of both the 12 Monkeys movie and TV series, I couldn’t avoid making this pun. However, I make such punishing humour to make people punder about more serious subjects…

Hopefully this story is not foretelling the shape of things to come… However, seriously, the prospect of another AIDS-like pandemic (with transmission only from close or sexual contacts) with a smallpox-like virus is daunting. The current outbreak of Monkey Pox is representing the first human-to-human transmission cases. Fortunately, the smallpox vaccine is 85% effective against it and it seems to have a fatality rate of less than 1%. So it is nothing like COVID or Ebola. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that, as humans encroach more and more on previously pristine natural habitats (mostly in tropical rainforests), we’ll see also more animal-born infections jump to humans. The monkeypox virus, which is an Orthopoxvirus (of the Poxviridae family; there are 12 virus species in this genus!!), is just another example of this.

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Joyeuse Saint-Valentin !

Mes parents (qui sont malheureusement tous deux retournés à la terre depuis quelques années déjà — mon père en 2015 et ma mère en 2017)  ont été marié pendant soixante-deux ans ! C’est admirable et un très bel exemple à suivre …

Alors je vous dis d’oubliez le côté commercial de cette fête, qui a été inventé pour faire vendre des fleurs et du chocolat, et contentez-vous d’apprécier l’amour et l’harmonie qui vous entoure. Je vous en souhaite à tous beaucoup en ce jour prochain de la Saint-Valentin.

[Ces photos ont été prises en août 1953 et le 16 mai 2015]

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Voeux de saison

NouvelAn-IMG_1417

Mes chers collègues, amis et lecteurs,

Je tiens à vous souhaiter à tous et toutes un joyeux solstice (en retard) ainsi qu’une bonne et heureuse nouvelle année qui sera pour vous, j’espère, remplie de santé, de paix et de prospérité. Souhaitons également qu’elle verra la fin de cette pestilence qui nous accable tous.

Prenez soin de vous et ne cessez jamais d’apprendre !

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Replica (2)

I recently talked about ancient book replicas, but this time I would like to discuss museum replicas…

For fun my sister gave me for Christmas a key-chain made with a roman coin replica that she purchased when she visited the “Pompeii: The Immortal City” exhibit at the Quebec City Museum of Civilisation.

It is reproducing a dupondius of Nero which shows on the obverse the radiated head of the emperor, right, with the latin inscription NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P (the last part is not very clear). The reverse illustrates a Roma helmeted and cuirrased, seated left, holding a winged victory in her right hand, and resting on Parazonium with a shield behind (although those details are not very clear either), with a ROMA in exergue and a S C on each side of the field. The original coin was struck in Rome in 65 CE (Sources: RIC 293, CoinArchives, Numismatics).

It is a nice reproduction, probably molded. It is engraved on both side “WRL” to clearly indicate that it is a reproduction. It comes with a small label saying “Roman Coin key-ring” that also tells us “WRL” stands for Westair Reproduction Ltd (MCMLXXII). It lists a website, Westair-reproductions.com, but this site is down because of COVID (they got a virus?) and is being blocked by Norton Life Lock. However, I found another website, westair.co.uk, dedicated for trade customers (whatever that means). It tells us that they are a UK company specialized in “supplying historical reproductions to Historic Houses, Castles and Museums not only in the UK but also to over 36 other countries around the world.”

There are one-hundred and thirty item listed in their roman section. They are the usual trinkets that you would find in a museum gift shop. They have a catalog available in PDF format. All stuff of little interest… The coin alone (without the key chain) is listed on their website and it come in pack of one-hundred (No price listed, order code RCDUPN). It is also listed with the key-chain (pack of 10, no price, order code RCKR).

There’s a lot of companies offering such replicas and often of much better quality:

One thing I am really looking for (a future birthday gift maybe?) is a fairly sized bust of the emperor Lucius Verus. It’s quite a minor emperor and yet there are a lot of possibilities on the market:

Etsy

eBay: Lucius Verus marble bust

1st Dibs: Lucius Verus bust (if you want something really expensive)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any reproduction with Verus in armor (Hermitage, Prado, Uffizi) or wearing a nice toga

Of course, the cheaper option is to find a 3D scan file of the object you want and print it yourself at a 3D print shop (some libraries offer that service, like the Benny Fab Lab). There is such a thing even for Verus:

Some places even take custom orders (like a bust of yourself!). If you like art but cannot afford the real thing this is definitely an option to consider. Now you know…

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Cogitationes me: Thought of the day (for myself) [002.021.337]

Deafness

I always thought that if there was a sense that I would not mind loosing it was my hearing. Today’s world is so full of sounds. The street noises, the planes criss-crossing the sky, the radio, the tv, the incessant chatting. The music has become cacophony and it is more of a distraction now. I thought it would be like being in a sensory deprivation box. It would be relaxing and calming. Like letting myself float at the surface of the lake (or pool), hearing only the lapping sound of the waves on the quay and the muffled, distant noise of the other kids playing on the beach. I valued vision so much more because it was definitely more essential for the input of knowledge by reading, watching documentaries, observing my surroundings, appreciating the beauty of the world… I don’t know how I would be able to continue living if I was loosing my vision. However, I thought that loosing my hearing wouldn’t change me much, could be a blessing even. I had an uncle that had become completely deaf after an accident and he was managing well. Hmm…. There is nothing that makes you appreciate something more than loosing it.

I have been practically (and hopefully temporarily) deaf for four days now . That’s what a rhinitis (very bad cold) coupled with a bilateral otitis does to you. Inflammation and cerumen block the ear canal, possibly impeding the movement of the tympanic membrane, infection and mucus also possibly obstructing the Eustachian tube, and voilà: you have hearing loss. These days, with the coronavirus pandemic, it is hard to see a doctor and even more a specialist like an otorhinolaryngologist (ORL). There’s no one to treat you quickly and reassure you… There’s just medication (antibiotics and ear drops) and patiently waiting for a distant appointment. In the meantime, I can barely hear anything but my aggravated tinnitus, people have to talk loudly right to my face, I have to put the phone volume to the max, I cannot watch tv without making enemy of my neighbours (or if I use earphones with the volume cranked up my head hurts after an hour), if I hear a sound I cannot tell from where, I cannot hear the birds nor the wind, I cannot hear the cat when he’s hungry or angry, I cannot hear the doorbell or the alarm clock, I cannot hear someone walking or a car coming, I cannot hear the silence (yeah! That’s thing) and I can’t even work (I can easily handle an exceedingly boring job that necessitate brutal concentration even with the terrible migraine I’ve had since May, but listening all day only to my tinnitus and not being able to understand needed instructions or essential informations, or even the office chit-chat: that’s unbearable). Maybe it’s the perfect time to catch up on my reading and writing?

No, being deaf is far from relaxing or calming. It is the most stressful experience of my life. I realize that it is the loss of nearly half the sensory information that my mind has access to (smell [the dainty fragrance of a flower], taste [the sweetness of a fruit] and touch [the warm softness of a woman’s skin], all together have a much smaller bandwidth than vision and hearing; although their data is more subtle and profound, triggering more easily connections with memory). It is now obvious to me that loosing the sense of hearing, it represents a lot. Enough to make you feel cut off the world. It also makes you paranoid, wondering what’s lurking beyond your field of vision. This vulnerability of not being in control of my full perception makes me annoyed and irritable. I hate being in that state. Hopefully I will get better soon. So, believe me when I tell you to enjoy what you have while you can because you never know when you gonna loose it!

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Cogitationes me: Thought of the day (for myself) [002.021.325]

Replica

I was watching yesterday a documentary on CNN (“The Hunt for Planet B”) about the James Webb Space Telescope which, after so many delays, will finally launch from French Guiana on December 18 (see its official Nasa website). It’s an infrared telescope with much more sensitivity than Hubbles which, among many other things, will push further our knowledge of the universe by looking for the very first galaxies and habitable exoplanets. 

On that documentary there was this guy reading Sidereus Nuncius (“The sidereal messenger”) by Galileo Galilei. Of course, it couldn’t be the original edition (published in 1610 by Thomas Baglioni in Venice) because it is a very rare book. It must have been a replica. My first reaction was, “I want that book.” I have always been into old books but they are very expensive and I cannot afford to purchase many of them — and certainly not rare edition which are priceless. It made me realized that purchasing replica could be an option. I quickly googled it to see if it was available. I could always make my own by using one of the many scanned files in PDF format (there is even translations available) but, of course, there are also several replica editions available on amazon. A purchase that I will seriously consider…

I already knew about old books replica, as my nephew mentioned he had purchased copies of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks (also available on Amazon from various publishers) but I never considered acquiring any. Now I am starting to have the hitch… Let’s see… which other great old books could I find replica of? Some facsimiles seems as expensive as the real thing! There is really a great market for old and ancient books and, if I prefer to go to ancient book fairs where I can browse through the books myself, there are also many purchasing options on the internet. In the course of my researches, I have even discovered that you can purchase on Etsy bundles of old books to decorate your house or give a more respectable look to your bookshelves ! The internet cannot cease to amaze me…

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Cogitationes me: Thought of the day (for myself) [002.021.324]

Self-learning

I just watched an interesting documentary on NHK World-Japan about a young boy, Asuka Umeda, who spent seven years writing in notebooks about events and subjects he was reading about in newspapers, commenting them and researching them further in what was for him a self-learning adventures. I first thought that he was an Hikikomori (ひきこもり) or suffering from a slight form of autism, but no, he was a normal boy, going to school and was just particularly shy and socially awkward — like many otakus (just a look at his bedroom and you instantly know that he’s a great anime & manga fan, doing lots of gunpla [ガンプラ]). He was certainly not shy about talking about his notebooks to teachers and museum directors, and won many awards for his writings and essays. One of those essays is about his self-learning experience and this documentary is illustrating it with cute animations and interviews.

Apparently, this type of self-learning (独学 / dokugaku / autodidacticism) is common in Japan. Elementary students are writing essays and compiling scrapbooks as homework assignments and some push it further as they make it an extracurricular activity. Asuka just pushed it even further, becoming obsessed with it to the point where he didn’t participated to any after-school club activities and stopped seeing friends to dedicate his time to writing in is notebooks. He is pursuing this interest even in high-school. He will probably become a good writer and journalist.

It made me realized that I was exactly like that as a child: curious but shy and socially awkward, spending lots of time reading, making scrapbooks and writing in my notebooks (thirty-seven so far) about ideas, places, books and movies that I have seen. Life has always been about the pursuit of knowledge for me. And I continue to do so, I just call it blogging now!

I recommend you see this documentary, My Notebooks: Seven Years of Tiny Great Adventures, which will remain available for streaming on NHK World website until the end of May. At he same time, you could have a look on another documentary about the animation studio Production I.G., which has created many of my favourite anime (like Ghost in the shell or Blood: The Last Vampire) — available for streaming until November 13, 2022.

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