People believe the only alternative to randomness is intelligent design. — Richard Dawkins
Why, yes, Mr. Dawkins. Yes, they do.
Here are a few items of note from the past week or two, with my random or intelligent commentary. You decide.
It Only Grants Wishes If You Catch It Alive: A young Michigan hunter set off a minor explosion of internet rage last week when he dispatched a 12-point albino buck with a crossbow. A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources stated there is no biological reason to protect deer randomly carrying the gene for albinism, which causes their unusual white coloration (or, more accurately, lack of coloration).
Faun Tumnus from the Narnian Department of Natural Resources agreed, but expressed sadness for what he characterized as “an opportunity lost.”
Cranequin: A cranked rack-and-pinion device used to draw and cock a medieval heavy crossbow, a feat beyond the strength of your random archer. Not needed by the sturdy little outdoorsman who downed the White Stag with a state-of-the-art string gun.
Make Cat Videos, Not Cat Calls: Forget Ebola—an even more horrifying virus, Vox Felis, seems to be sweeping across America. Leah Libresco offers a thoughtful discussion on the topic of street harassment, and how it overflows into other venues, even the church environment, but I found the implications more than a little unsettling. Here’s an excerpt:
…when I’ve responded cheerily to men’s “Good mornings” on my walk, the follow-up statement is usually unpleasant. If I think about it honestly, I like saying “Hi” to people, but, at this point, I’ve got a defensive flinch when a male passerby says “Hi” to me. Not every greeting escalates into a catcall, but enough do that I need to think about how I’ll respond, whether I’m alone with my interlocutor, and whether that’s a problem.
Do we really live in a society where any random hello feels threatening? I’ve not witnessed the sort of crude boorishness shown in the video Ms. Libresco references, but I’ve never lived or worked in the big city, either. Perhaps I’ve been blind to it. It’s sad to think the line between amiable courtesy and offense is so thin as to preclude any acknowledgement of passers-by at all.
Anyhow, my Darling Daughter was disturbed enough by this issue to participate in a protest rally at college and post a friendly little reminder at her workplace.
UPDATE (Nov 12, 2014): Another perspective, because Star Wars is relevant to any and all cultural issues.
Link to Random Cat Video: Didga, the World’s Best Skateboarding Cat.
The Paradox of the Smoking Doctor: Okay, let’s not forget Ebola. A nurse who recently returned from West Africa, where she was part of the contingent from Doctors Without Borders fighting the epidemic, is refusing to submit to a precautionary 21-day quarantine at her home imposed by her state government. Other health care workers, despite assurances that they were “self-monitoring” for symptoms, have developed Ebola subsequent to their return despite showing no symptoms upon their arrival. They displayed a similarly cavalier attitude about moving about in public while their status was uncertain, an attitude at odds with the courage and concern for others they displayed in Africa.
Nothing may come of this, but I’ve never understood it when health care professionals flout the advice they dispense and the precautions they impose on others. For example, it’s jarring to see doctors and nurses smoking outside the entrances of hospitals and clinics. It’s not just the random disregard for their own health—-we look to these people for sound guidance on medical issues, and actions always speak louder than words. Today’s message: It’s okay to risk spreading disease for the sake of my personal convenience.
Vector: In biology, any agent (person, animal or microorganism) that carries and transmits an infectious pathogen into another living organism, randomly or intentionally. In mathematics, a geometric entity having both magnitude and direction.
A related informal military colloquialism is “headless vector,” which refers to an individual possessed of seemingly-infinite velocity but no perceptible direction.