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Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

“The salient facial feature discovery is one of the important research tasks in ethnical group face recognition. In this paper, we first construct an ethnical group face dataset including Chinese Uyghur, Tibetan, and Korean.” So begins the abstract of a Chinese AI research paper on using facial features for identifying ethnic groups. The authors are Cunrui Wang, Qingling Zhang, Wanquan Liu, Yu Liu and Lixin Miao. The paper is available in the Wiley Online Library and it’s titled “Facial feature discovery for ethinicity [sic] recognition.”

The human rights implications of this should be obvious to everyone. The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that machine learning is out of the bottle and, while it can be used to do good, it can be used for evil purposes, too. If it’s going to be used to do evil, the most likely place for this to happen right now is China.

Tomorrow here, The Last Secret: The Final Documents From the June Fourth Crackdown.

Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition


Tank Man still haunts China’s dictators

Tuesday, 4 June, 2019

On this day in 1989, the so-called Chinese People’s Liberation Army slaughtered at least 2,000 peaceful protesters in and around Tiananmen Square. The most iconic photo of the 1989 events was taken on 5 June, the day after the carnage: A lone man stands before an array of battle tanks in Tiananmen Square. He carries two shopping bags. After the leading tank stopped, the man climbed aboard and spoke with the soldiers. He was eventually pulled back into the crowd and disappeared. The Chinese government claims it has never found him. Everyone else believe he is in an unmarked grave.

Tank Man has become the defining image of China’s Tiananmen Square protests. An individual standing in the way of mass oppression. Beijing now forbids discussing the massacre and wishes to erase Tank Man from history, but he lives on in memory.

Tomorrow here, China’s work on facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition.

Tank Man


The China Menace

Monday, 3 June, 2019

Our posts this week will be devoted to China, a nation that has made authoritarianism terrifyingly efficient. One of the ways in which it has managed this feat is through the theft of Western intellectual property. Example: Huawei. Its name translates as “Accomplish for China,” and Huawei will do whatever China orders. China is Huawei and Huawei is China, in other words. But Huawei is not unique in this regard because no Chinese company is independent.

Founded in 1987. Huawei claims to be “employee-owned,” but it could not have become the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications network equipment and the second-largest maker of smartphones on its own. Allegations of theft have followed Huawei from its earliest days. Cisco Systems was one of its first targets. It sued Huawei in 2003 for the theft of source code for routers. The two companies settled in 2004, but they were back in the news in 2012 when Cisco disclosed that Huawei had copied source code, help screens and manuals.

The sheer shamelessness of Huawei’s thievery is breath-taking. Earlier this year, unsealed indictments handed down by a grand jury in the Western District of the State of Washington against two Huawei affiliates documented 10 Federal crimes relating to the theft of the intellectual property of T-Mobile. In the most brazen act of all, Huawei employees surreptitiously dismembered Tappy, a T-Mobile robot, and walked away with its arm.

Tomorrow here, Tank Man. The photo that China wants to erase from memory.

The China Menace


Leopards at Knole

Sunday, 2 June, 2019

Vita Sackville-West, the English poet, novelist and garden designer, died on this day in 1962, aged 70. Her home, the magnificent Knole House, located within a 1,000-acre estate in Kent, was given to Thomas Sackville by Queen Elizabeth I in the sixteenth century, and Vita was born there in 1892, the only child of cousins Lionel Edward Sackville-West and Victoria Sackville-West.

Vita’s mother, who was raised in a Parisian convent, was the illegitimate daughter of Lionel Sackville-West and a Spanish dancer, Josefa de Oliva, known as Pepita. Pepita’s mother was an acrobat who had married a barber, and Vita inherited some of this adventurousness. Her most famous intrigue was with Virginia Woolf, who celebrated their relationship in the novel Orlando. What Vita Sackville-West did not inherit, however, was Knole. The English aristocratic custom of the day was followed by the Sackville-West family, preventing Vita from inheriting her beloved home on the death of her father, a source of life-long bitterness to the poet. The estate followed the title and was bequeathed instead by her father to his nephew Charles.

Leopards at Knole

Leopards on the gable-ends,
Leopards on the painted stair,
Stiff the blazoned shield they bear,
Or and gules, a bend of vair,
Leopards on the gable-ends,
Leopards everywhere.

Guard and vigil in the night
While the ancient house is sleeping
They three hundred years are keeping,
Nightly from their stations leaping,
Shadows black in moonlight bright,
Roof to gable creeping.

Rigid when the day returns,
Up aloft in sun or rain
Leopards at their posts again
Watch the shifting pageant’s train;
And their jewelled colour burns
In the window-pane.

Often on the painted stair,
As I passed abstractedly,
Velvet footsteps, two and three,
Padded gravely after me.
– There was nothing, nothing there,
Nothing there to see.

Vita Sackville-West (1892 – 1962)

Vita Sackville-West


Corvus cornix under anthriscus sylvestris

Saturday, 1 June, 2019

Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is a short-lived perennial plant that’s native to Europe, northwestern Africa and western Asia. It’s ability to spread rapidly means it is defined as “an invasive species” in many parts of the USA and, in Iceland, cow parsley has been classified as an “alien invasive species”.

The hooded or grey crow (Corvus cornix) has a distinctive grey and black plumage. It’s an omnivore and will eat practically anything, including insects, other birds’ eggs, berries, fish and carrion. Widespread throughout Ireland, where it is known as the “scawl crow”, the bird has endured centuries of persecution, largely due to the belief that it kills young game birds and harms livestock — especially lambs.

Gray crow


Jackie Tyrell goes to war with figures of speech

Friday, 31 May, 2019

The Phoney War is the name given to the period in World War Two from September 1939 to April 1940 when, after Hitler’s Blitzkrieg attack on Poland, seemingly nothing happened. Jackie Tyrrell, the distinguished Kilkenny hurler, who now pundits about the game for the Irish Times, begins his think-piece on Sunday’s Waterford-Limerick match by declaring, “On this Sunday nine weeks ago, we had the ultimate Phoney War take place in Croke Park when Waterford and Limerick met in the league final.” The ultimate (“the most extreme example of its kind”) Phoney War?

And if that wasn’t enough, Jackie Tyrell, who appears to have read history, ploughs deeper into the furrow: “Go back and watch it and that’s what strikes you, how it rivals those early months of World War II for its lack of intensity, savagery and real purpose.” Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed during the 1939 invasion of Poland and millions more were killed in the following years of German and Soviet occupation. During the Waterford-Limerick game Jackie Tyrell refers to, there were minor injuries but no fatalities on a mass scale.

As the hurling season warms up, we can expect mountains of metaphor, heaps of hyperbole, swathes of simile and clatters of cliché from Jackie Tyrell.

Eddie and Ali


Kerry Kefir

Thursday, 30 May, 2019

It is earthy, but not pungent. It is creamy, but not sweet. It is natural and it “encourages metabolism”. It is kefir made in Kerry using yeast, “many strains of beneficial bacteria” and, of course, pasteurized milk from cows in Kerry. Hat tip: Mary and Niamh.

Kerry Kefir


Chesterton said it

Wednesday, 29 May, 2019

The English writer, philosopher, journalist and literary critic G.K. Chesterton was born on this day in 1874. In his essay collection, Heretics, Chesterton wrote: “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”


It’s time to turn the lock, and poke the fire

Tuesday, 28 May, 2019

It was Dorothy Parker who said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Among the many things we love that she wrote is Hearthside, which is very appropriate as we head to a place where, “Under deeper skies than mine / Quiet valleys dip and shine / Where their tender grasses heal / Ancient scars of trench and tomb.”

Hearthside

“If I seek a lovelier part,
Where I travel goes my heart;
Where I stray my thought must go;
With me wanders my desire.
Best to sit and watch the snow,
Turn the lock, and poke the fire.”

Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967)

Hearthside


Enoch Powell on Sebastian Kurz

Monday, 27 May, 2019

At 32, Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor, is the world’s youngest state leader. Or was. Kurz has just lost a confidence vote in parliament and must now wait until President Alexander Van der Bellen decides who is going to run the country until elections take place in September.

Enoch Powell, the classical scholar, author, linguist, soldier, philologist, poet and Conservative Member of Parliament, was right when he said that all political careers end in failure. Actually, what Powell said was: “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”

The political life of Sebastian Kurz has just taken a knock at an unhappy juncture for Austria but he’s only 32 so he’s far from midstream yet.


Show of hands

Sunday, 26 May, 2019

Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Loves Me is a track from the album The Space Between by the pianist Chad Lawson. To get the sound he wanted, Lawson placed extra felt between the hammers and strings and then placed a microphone close to the hammers.