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Beautiful chronophotographic images of birds in flight. #surreal

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“Spanish photographer Xavi Bou (previously) tracks and records the flight patterns of birds, combining their repetitive movements into elongated shapes that twist through the sky for his series Ornitographies. The images are inspired by chronophotography, a Victorian era photography method that combined multiple images to create movement, and edited digitally in Photoshop.”

(Photos by Xavi Bou, via Colossal)

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18 days ago
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18 days ago
Amazing! Look at all that math.
Space City, USA

Unspeaking Horror: Halloween (2018)

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When it comes to the heyday of slashers in the 1980's, I always preferred the corny jokes of Freddy Krueger and the one-liners of Hellraiser's Pinhead to the sullen silence of Michael Myers and his compatriot Jason Voorhees.  It's not that I didn't like the original Halloween when I saw it on video in the 80's, but I admit that most of what I've always loved about the original was John Carpenter's synth-tastic soundtrack.  Apparently I wanted to hear something.  

But I did hear good things about this 2018 incarnation of Halloween, especially the performance of Jaime Lee Curtis.  John Carpenter is back, too; he updates his classic soundtrack with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, but leaves the directing to David Gordon Green this time.

So, how is it?  Maybe not the greatest horror movie ever, but a lot deeper than you'd think.  It turns out that a movie about a silent killer may have something to say.

Jaime Lee Curtis does a great job reprising her role as Laurie Strode, haunted by her experiences with the killer Michael Myers back in 1978.  She has gone almost, but not quite, full-on Sarah Connor paranoid--instead of retreating to the desert and ending up in an asylum, she sticks around and makes family dinners awkward for her daughter (Judy Greer) and granddaughter (Andi Matachak). But she also has a compound in the forest with steel shutters and a safe room in the basement.

Some British journalists are doing a story on Michael Myers, so they come to America to meet his psychiatrist and visit Myers, bringing him his trusty old mask (which was originally a Captain Kirk mask!).  Michael annoyingly remains entirely silent.  Michael is set to be moved to a new location (for some reason on the 40th anniversary of his original murders), and well, of course, the move does not go as planned (maybe it's according to Michael's plan ...?).

And of course good old fashioned 80's slasher mayhem ensues, only with a few 2010's twists (the teenagers have smartphones and talk about their feelings).  I admit it's fun how retro it all is.  It's also great how this incarnation pits a few women against the antagonist as a representation of... what, exactly?  Toxic masculinity? Marginalization? An uncaring universe?

Slasher movies aren't exactly known for their philosophical depths.  Although arguing with a philosopher can often feel like being pursued by a crazed murderer, slashers tend to be the horror equivalent of fast food: cheap, easy, and oddly satisfying even if you're not sure why.

But while watching the new Halloween movie, I noticed something interesting in the fact that Michael Myers remains silent despite the desire many have for him to speak.

Humans are typically driven by a deep desire to understand.  As Aristotle says in his Metaphysics, "All humans by nature desire to know."  This desire has given us cool things like science, philosophy, and literature, but is this desire always healthy?

The journalists and Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) are horrified by Michael Myers yet they want to understand what makes him tick.  Another nice touch of the film is that we never get a clear view of Michael's face without the mask on.  I don't want to give any spoilers, but if you haven't seen the film yet, watch for what this desire to understand does to these characters and the people around them.  Laurie Strode, on the other hand, has decided that Michael cannot be understood.

What if Laurie is right?  What if her life has been destroyed by an unfathomable horror beyond our human ken?  What if she has to fight it anyway?  What if what makes Michael scary is precisely the fact that he doesn't speak, that we never hear from him any explanation for what he's doing?

A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to understand serial killers, from true crime fans to FBI profilers (I enjoyed the TV show Mindhunter, but there's an odd hubris about the whole idea of profiling serial killers with any degree of accuracy).  Every time we have one of our all-too-common American mass shootings, people try to understand the mind of the killer (for my part, I think we'd be better off understanding our easy access to firearms than the minds of killers--it's not his style, but how many more people could Michael Myers have killed with a gun?).  In the last week, we Americans have had bigotry-fueled murders in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.  Our hearts break, and many ask: what makes them hate?

But what if the answers to these sorts of questions are sometimes beyond our ability to ascertain?  What if the true horror is not the answers we find, but the answers we lack?  What if the cruelties, suffering, and bigotries of this world simply make no sense?  (To be sure, most bigots say a lot, but they never explain the deeper why of it; their vitriol revolves around a secret core of hate).

What if the minds of some of our fellow humans are as unfathomable and as silent as the universe itself in something like the sense you find in the work of Albert Camus and as represented by the Great Old Ones of H. P. Lovecraft?   The universe and Michael Myers are equally unspeaking horrors, refusing to divulge their motivations and plans, hinting that we may not understand what they would say, if indeed, they have any answers to give.

Like the universe, however, Michael Myers can destroy you whether you understand him or not.  And in both cases this destruction may be either physical or moral.  Halloween (2018) invites the audience to consider whether Laurie Strode can fight this unspeaking horror without destroying herself in the process, and indeed, whether we can fight the horrors that threaten us--physically, philosophically, politically--without destroying ourselves as well.  Not bad for a dumb slasher flick.

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18 days ago
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Novum Organum: The original “How To Not Be Wrong”

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When I visited with Alan Kay and Bonnie MacBird in June, one of the ideas that he got me thinking about was Sir Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620, wikipedia link), for ‘new instrument of science.’ Bacon understood human tendencies for bias long before behavioral economics. His book was the prototype for the modern popular book “How to Not Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking” which advocates for mathematics as an approach to addressing human biases and limitations.

Bacon aimed to construct a foundation for real science, a body of knowledge that we could trust despite the fact that our minds are weak and that we are easily swayed. He lists four “idols” — the biases which keep us from thinking objectively and scientifically. Wikipedia has a short description for each. A couple that I found particularly striking:

  • Idols of the tribe: The things we get wrong because we like to see things at human scale and in regular structures. I read these as including the ideas we like because everyone else likes them, like picking a programming language because it’s popular and not because it suits the task.
  • Idols of the cave: The things we get wrong because of our unique education and background. Bias due to privilege (and assuming that everyone else has the same privilege) seem to fall in here.
  • Idols of the market: I just kept thinking “computational thinking” here. Idols of the market include words “which spring from fallacious theories” and “that are the result of imprecise abstraction.”  Unsupported theories of transfer and terms which we can’t actually define and test are part of Bacon’s warnings about “the market.”

I haven’t read the whole document — it’s available on Project Gutenberg, but it’s tough going.  I have found that Bacon talks about issues not in the Wikipedia article that are are significant today. For example, Bacon decries making decisions based on too “few experiments” which is explicitly a concern addressed in the efforts to replicate prior results (e.g., article here).

I keep thinking about what Bacon would say about computing education research. CER has some deep research questions it’s pondering (which I plan to address in some future blog posts). How do we make sure that we’re doing Science and not just following our Baconian idols?

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18 days ago
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Corvid Thanatology with Kaeli Swift

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 Dr. Kaeli Swift in the field, being awesome. Also: wearing an Ologies shirt because she is awesome.

Dr. Kaeli Swift in the field, being awesome. Also: wearing an Ologies shirt because she is awesome.

Crows have funerals? CROWS HAVE FUNERALS. The inky black bird with the big brain warns and maybe mourns around their fallen friends and Dr. Kaeli Swift is here to tell us all about it. As an avid wildlife researcher and corvid specialist, she's observed death behaviors that will surprise you to your bones and ruffle your hackles while somehow also making you cry about a peanut. Also: so much inspiration to keep being yourself and to work hard toward what you love. She is a hero.

Listen on iTune, Art19, Stitcher or wherever you get podcasts.

Dr. Kaeli Swift's Blog, YouTube, Twitter & Instagram

Become a patron of Ologies for as little as a buck a month: www.Patreon.com/ologies

OlogiesMerch.com has hats, shirts, pins, totes!

Follow @Ologies on Twitter or Instagram

Follow @AlieWard on Twitter or Instagram

Sound editing by Steven Ray Morris

Theme song by Nick Thorburn

Some links which might be of use:

Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich 

What IS a corvid tho?

Dr. Swift’s video of …a death orgy?

Dr. John Marluff’s mask work 

Many many berbs on the Bothel campus

On Go’s death

Plague doctors: very creepy 

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18 days ago
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#BecauseWeveRead Nov/Dec: Prisons, Police, and Abolition

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Possibly one of the topics I get the most questions about: what does contemporary police and prison abolition look like, and is it truly feasible or just an ideal? Well, let's read.

New to #BecauseWe'veRead? This is how we work!

What a deeply important topic to close out the year with. This #BecuaseWeveRead unit on police, prisons, and abolition builds on our past units on race, anti-Blackness, and capitalism and explores the relationship of these themes as they are connected to global policing and mass incarceration that is deeply interwoven into the political and economic system of the United States. The prison-police industry is so vast and interconnected with, and dependent upon, anti-Blackness, anti-Muslim racism, classism, white supremacy, capitalism, and the maintenance of global empire and control. Police are truly a shared violence globally, from Israel to India to London to the United States, police around the world share tips, weapons, violence, and a mutual root in upholding an oppressive status quo. While most of these texts focus on the United States, many policing tactics are shared widely--and therefore so is the opportunity for global resistance and solidarity.

We're reading the intro to the incredibly fundamental The New Jim Crow, a collection of essays and interviews on global policing, and of course a few chapters from Angela Davis' profound Are Prisons Obsolete? that focus on gender and imagining alternatives. In this unit, we're not just talking about systems and problems, but also encouraging a discussion about solutions. We're understanding and exploring the root of police and prisons to ask, and propose answers for, the questions: What are the relationships between the prison system, capitalism, race, and class? Can reforms fix this? What does justice look like? What does a world look like without police or prisons?

Be sure to take a look through the additional resources, as there is quite a list of amazing podcasts, videos, visualizations, and articles that really take the readings to he next level and provide incredible depth to the topics and questions at hand!

As mentioned on Instagram, due to popular demand, we are also moving to releasing a new book every two months (as opposed to every month) to give more time to everyone to read in time for the instagram live discussion and stay on-track (and for our international members to have their books delivered to them before the end of the month, hah)!




Policing the Planet (2016), Jordan T. Camp & Christina Heatherton, editors - Full PDF available here
The PDF is graciously provided by the incredibly wonderful and wonderfully radical Verso Books, the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world!

Verso Books is also providing #BecauseWeveRead members 50% off Policing the Planet! Grab this amazing discount here!

+ Introduction, The New Jim Crow (2010), Michelle Alexander - Introduction available here

+ Chapter 4 "How Gender Structures the Prison System" and Chapter 6 "Abolitionist Alternatives",
Are Prisons Obsolete, Angela Davis (2003) - Full PDF available here

(As always, please email us at editor@joojooazad.com if you are not financially (or politically) able to purchase a book and cannot read the PDF linked above, and we can mail you a free copy while supplies last!) 


+ Ear Hustle (podcast), brings you the stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it.
+ A World Without Police study guide
+ Verso five book plan on Political Policing
+ A collection of infographs, maps, and data visualization on prisons 
+ The writing of abolitionist Mariame Kaba (@prisonculture on twitter)
+ "You are Already an Abolitionist", essay on RadFag
+ "No Abolition Without Demilitarization: Black and Muslim Solidarity For Ending Policing Worldwide", essay on RadFag
Angela Davis on Prison Abolition, the War on Drugs and Why Social Movements Shouldn't Wait on Obama (video), Democracy Now
+ #BelieversBailOut Twitter town hall on the prison industrial complex, bail, and abolition from Muslim perspectives
+ The New Jim Crow study guide
+ Invisible Institute, a journalism and research-based company on the South Side of Chicago conducting research, developing databases, and managing projects related to policing in Chicago. Check out their databases, projects, and reports!
+ How to End the Police State (video) conversation hosted by Verso Books


+ Instagram, @BecauseWeveRead
+ Twitter, @BecauseWeveRead
Subscribe to our email updates!
(We're giving away copies of Policing the Planet on Instagram, so be sure to follow us for a chance to win! Also, we love our reader posts! Use the hashtag #BecauseWeveRead and tag us to join the conversation on social media, and we might just repost you!)


Our beautiful, fabulous #BecauseWeveRead official chapter leads are listed below, along with their email addresses and social media to get in touch! They will be releasing the date for their meetup and additional information as the month progresses, so be sure to follow them on social media, email them letting them know you're interested in joining, and/or keep this page bookmarked as we continue to update as information arises! 


Ann Arbor/Detroit, Michigan: Samantha Rahmani / email

Boston, Massachusetts: Reza Mirsajadi & Joubin Khazaie / email

Brooklyn, NYC: Sana Altaf / email

Cincinnati, Ohio: Sara Zandvakili  / email

Chicago, Illinois: Samantha Rose / email

Houston, Texas: Laila Khalili / email

Los Angeles, California: Alexis Wong & Ashley May / email

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Binta Kanteh / email

Montreal, Canada: Mona Ghassemi / email,  twitter

San Francisco Bay/Oakland, California: Allison Chan / emailinstagram

Seattle, Washington: Anisa Jackson / emailinstagramtwitter
Seattle Facebook Group

Toronto, Canada: Yeldah Yousfi / email intsagramtwitter

Ottawa, Canada: Zaynab / email

San Diego, California: Noor / email

Washington D.C., USA: Hana Manadath & Jada Olsen / email


Cairo, Egypt: Hana Ehab Hassanein & Shahd Sherief / email

Cape Town, South Africa: Surekha Bhugeloo / email

Lagos, Nigeria: Hulaimah Kolawole / emailinstagram

Nairobi, Kenya: Suhayl Omar & Powell Arimi / email

Mauritius, Mauritius: Soufia Bham / email


Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Anisa Alkunshalie / email

Bombay, India: Smirit Sant & Anadita Bhalerao / email

Delhi, India: Yusra Hasan / email

Istanbul, Turkey: Zineb Sadok & Hiba Abdennabi  / emailinstagram

Jakarta, Indonesia: Annissa Rosyidah & Nana Rosyidah & Intan Khasanah / email

Lahore, Pakistan: Madiha Tallat / emailinstagram

Tehran, Iran: Maryam Rashidi / email

Singapore, Singapore: Muneerah Razak / email


Leeds, England: Halima Nawaz / email

London, England: Alliyah Riaz & Maryam Abdullah / email


Auckland, New Zealand: Zainab Baba / email

Sydney, Australia: Miriam Mubayyid / email


Check back soon as we finalize details for our youtube live discussion at the end of December! 

Happy reading!
Can't wait to read all of your thoughts as you're reading -- be sure to tag us & hashtag #BecauseWeveRead to join the club & conversation!

Want to sponsor this project? Help get books into more hands of communities in-need internationally? Donate to us via venmo (@hoda-katebi) or paypal -- be sure to write #BecauseWeveRead in the memo so we can be sure to allocate toward this project!

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23 days ago
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You need to know more about jay spit

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Look, I’m a reasonable person.  I know what you’re thinking.

“Literally never has it occurred to me I might know too little about jay spit.”

But here’s the thing: it’s actually super interesting and you really can’t understand Canada jays without knowing about their saliva.  It would be like trying to understand the internet without cat videos-you just can’t do it.  So trust me when I tell you this is the information you didn’t know you needed.


In the early 1960’s Walter Brock was examining Canada jay corpses when he discovered that they have massive salivary glands on par with the ones found in woodpeckers.1 Such generously sized glands are found in no other songbird.  Furthermore, like the woodpeckers, it’s not just that Canada jays make a lot of saliva, but they make a lot of sticky saliva.  At the time this discovery was made, it was already known that the enlarged glands of woodpeckers served to allow for a foraging tactic called “tongue probing” where, like anteaters, the birds use their long sticky tongues to extract food from narrow crevices.  Although Canada jays don’t have especially long tongues, the ability to tongue probe seemed the most parsimonious explanation for this strange adaptation, and Brock suggested that this strategy may actually be the key to the jays’ winter survival.  A study a few years later examining their foraging behavior revealed that they don’t feed in this manner, however.  They feed more or less the same way the other corvids do.2  It seems instead, that it’s what they do with the food after that’s different.


Rather than using their copious amounts of weird, sticky spit for acquiring food, it’s used for depositing it.  If you watch a jay closely after it’s got a bit of food you’ll notice it seems to have missed Emily Post’s memo about chewing with your mouth closed. Over the course of a few seconds you’ll see the food peek out from the bill as the bird moves it around inside its mouth.


This jay picked up this bit of food about 60sec before this photo was taken.  Now it’s working it around with its tongue, coating it in sticky saliva.

Once sufficiently spit coated, the bird will deposit the food blob (called a bolus) onto the foliage or trunk of a tree.  No matter the material or angle, once the spit dries the food is safely secured come hell or high-water.  Because these caches are pretty small there’s little fear that many will be found.  More importantly, by stashing food high in the trees instead of burying them into the ground like many other cache-dependent corvids do, Canada jays can thrive in areas that receive much heavier snowfall, allowing them the title of the most northern residing jay in North America.

Here’s where it all really comes together though.  If you’ve seen me write about Canada jays before you’ll have noticed that it’s almost inevitable that I’ll use the phrase “Cute little faces” at some point to describe them.  But have you ever wondered why? Why do they have such cute little faces?  While jays do feed more or less in the same way as other corvids the one exception is that they don’t hammer at objects.  If you’re ever given a crow or a Steller’s an unshelled peanut you’ll know exactly the motion I mean. Without the need the hammer objects, or dig holes for burying food, Canada jays don’t need the heavy bills their cousins do.2  Instead they have the blunt little bill that helps give them their characteristic baby-faced look.  So not only is their spit responsible for their ability to tough it out in some of the harshest winter environments this continent offers, but it also means they get to look super cute while doing it.

So like I said, you don’t really know Canada jays until you know a thing or two about their spit.


Literature cited

  1.  Brock WJ. (1961). Salivary glands in the gray jay (Perisoreus). The Auk 78: 355-365
  2. Dow DD. (1965). The role of saliva i food storage by the gray jay.  The Auk 82: 139-154

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30 days ago
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