Real Neat Blog Award, congratulations, 18 nominees!

Real Neat Blog Award

Late in 2014, I made this Real Neat Blog Award. There are so many bloggers whose blogs deserve more attention. So, I wanted to try to do something about that.

It is the first award that I ever made. I did some computer graphics years ago, before I started blogging; but my computer drawing had become rusty. So, I made the award with this logo then.

It is good to see that this award, which later came back to me, since then has gone to many places of the blogosphere. And that some people have made new logos for it; like the one at the top of this blog post.

The rules of this award are:

  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • Answer the 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
  • Nominate any number of people linking to their blogs and let them know you nominated them by commenting on their blogs.
  • Come up with 7 questions for the people you nominated.

My seven questions for my nominees are:

1. Who is your favourite visual artist?

2. Which is your favourite bird species?

3. Which is your favourite mammal species?

4. What is your favourite insect?

5. What is your favourite plant?

6. Where do most visits to your blog come from?

7. If you would be invited to make a space journey, then to which solar system planet would you like to go?

My nominees are:

1. Chocoviv’s Lifestyle Blog

2.The grocery whisperer

3. Casa Albergo Positanonews

4. Dreams and Adventures at Cosy Cottage

5. CqFox

6. selva – vida sin fronteras

7. irevuo

8. Adventure Bound

9. Birder’s Journey

10. BP or not BP?

11. Live life lightly

12. The Happiness Nerd

13. The Luna(tik) Enigma

14. Rain Coast Review

15. Content Catnip


17. Ana Seas The Day

18. Thinking Chitalia

Birdwatching and artificial intelligence computing

This 12 April 2018 video says about itself:

In 2016, Arjan Dwarshuis took his love for birdwatching to extreme lengths. He boarded over 140 flights to 40 different countries, journeying through jungles and forests in search of the birds of the world. During his 366-day trip, he smashed the world record, observing 6,856 species of birds—that’s 65% of the global bird population. Now, he’s using his epic adventure as a way to raise awareness for conservation efforts, here.

From Duke University in the USA:

This AI birdwatcher lets you ‘see’ through the eyes of a machine

New research aims to open the ‘black box’ of computer vision

October 31, 2019

It can take years of birdwatching experience to tell one species from the next. But using an artificial intelligence technique called deep learning, Duke University researchers have trained a computer to identify up to 200 species of birds from just a photo.

The real innovation, however, is that the A.I. tool also shows its thinking, in a way that even someone who doesn’t know a penguin from a puffin can understand.

The team trained their deep neural network — algorithms based on the way the brain works — by feeding it 11,788 photos of 200 bird species to learn from, ranging from swimming ducks to hovering hummingbirds.

The researchers never told the network “this is a beak” or “these are wing feathers.” Given a photo of a mystery bird, the network is able to pick out important patterns in the image and hazard a guess by comparing those patterns to typical species traits it has seen before.

Along the way it spits out a series of heat maps that essentially say: “This isn’t just any warbler. It’s a hooded warbler, and here are the features — like its masked head and yellow belly — that give it away.”

Duke computer science Ph.D. student Chaofan Chen and undergraduate Oscar Li led the research, along with other team members of the Prediction Analysis Lab directed by Duke professor Cynthia Rudin.

They found their neural network is able to identify the correct species up to 84% of the time — on par with some of its best-performing counterparts, which don’t reveal how they are able to tell, say, one sparrow from the next.

Rudin says their project is about more than naming birds. It’s about visualizing what deep neural networks are really seeing when they look at an image.

Similar technology is used to tag people on social networking sites, spot suspected criminals in surveillance cameras, and train self-driving cars to detect things like traffic lights and pedestrians.

The problem, Rudin says, is that most deep learning approaches to computer vision are notoriously opaque. Unlike traditional software, deep learning software learns from the data without being explicitly programmed. As a result, exactly how these algorithms ‘think’ when they classify an image isn’t always clear.

Rudin and her colleagues are trying to show that A.I. doesn’t have to be that way. She and her lab are designing deep learning models that explain the reasoning behind their predictions, making it clear exactly why and how they came up with their answers. When such a model makes a mistake, its built-in transparency makes it possible to see why.

For their next project, Rudin and her team are using their algorithm to classify suspicious areas in medical images like mammograms. If it works, their system won’t just help doctors detect lumps, calcifications and other symptoms that could be signs of breast cancer. It will also show which parts of the mammogram it’s homing in on, revealing which specific features most resemble the cancerous lesions it has seen before in other patients.

In that way, Rudin says, their network is designed to mimic the way doctors make a diagnosis. “It’s case-based reasoning,” Rudin said. “We’re hoping we can better explain to physicians or patients why their image was classified by the network as either malignant or benign.”

The team is presenting a paper on their findings at the Thirty-third Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2019) in Vancouver on December 12.

Other authors of this study include Daniel Tao and Alina Barnett of Duke and Jonathan Su at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

CITATION: “This Looks Like That: Deep Learning for Interpretable Image Recognition“, Chaofan Chen, Oscar Li, Daniel Tao, Alina Barnett, Jonathan Su and Cynthia Rudin. Electronic Proceedings of the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference. December 12, 2019.

‘Call of Duty’ game, war crimes whitewashed

Destroyed Iraqi tanks and vehicles after Highway of Death attack, United States military photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘Call of Duty distorts history of US American war crimes’

The popular [computer] shooting game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is under attack. The game suggests that Russia is responsible for an infamous bombing in the Middle East. In reality, the West carried out that attack.

Modern Warfare is the sixteenth and newest part of the Call of Duty series. It appeared last weekend. In the series, you play as a soldier in various wars. This part is set in a modern setting in the Middle East.

In the game, the ‘Highway of Death’ in the fictional country Urzikstan is bombed by the Russians. “They killed those who tried to flee”, one character says. …

The Highway of Death really exists. It just isn’t in ‘Urzikstan’ but in Kuwait. The road was given this name after a notorious bombing raid. That was not carried out by Russia, but by Western bomber aircraft led by the United States.

“So, uh, it turns out that the new Modern Warfare game just sorta lies about a US war crime and makes it a Russian one, because it needs the US forces to be seen as the good guys … Disgusting”, writes gamestreamer Chowderhead in a tweet that went viral.

“The US bombed, shelled, shot and set alight probably about six hundred fleeing soldiers and refugees,” Chowderhead continues. “If you’re going to make a ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic story’, don’t make war crime denial part of it, OK?”

Highway of Death: hundreds of deaths

On the night of February 26 and 27, 1991, US American, Canadian, British, and French aircraft bombed hundreds of Iraqi vehicles departing from the city of Kuwait. That was in the first months of the Western attack in the First Gulf War.

“Hundreds of cars were destroyed, soldiers screamed”, a survivor told The Washington Post in 1993. “It was night when the bombs fell, lighting the burned cars. Bodies lay along the road, soldiers sprawled on the ground. They were hit by cluster bombs as they tried to escape from their vehicles. I saw hundreds of soldiers like this.”

The number of people killed in the attack is controversial. Estimates range from 200 to 10,000. …

According to US human rights lawyer Ramsey Clark, the attack on the Highway of Death is a war crime. The Geneva Convention says that attacking soldiers who are “hors de combat” (outside of combat) are considered a war crime. The United States has never been prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.

The game is part of a popular US American franchise, says Eline Muijres, game developer and former game journalist. “And it is not exactly known for its nuanced depiction of war history.”

“In this series, US Americans are always the heroes,” says Muijres. “Russians or Arabs are the bad guys. Even if you play a Russian or an Arab, it is always from a very American perspective.” …

Activision, the creator of the Call of Duty series, decided not to sell the game in Russia. Several (state) media said there that the game was a “provocation”. It was also about portraying Russians as bad guys, and the many Russians who must be killed in the game.

This reminds me of an earlier post on my blog:

From TechRadar UK, 8 April 2009:

Japanese videogame giant Konami has controversially announced a new game based on the recent conflict in Iraq called Six Days In Fallujah. …

But is it really ‘just a game’?

“The massacre carried out by American and British forces in Fallujah in 2004 is amongst the worst of the war crimes carried out in an illegal and immoral war,” Stop The War Coalition spokesperson Tansy E Hoskins told TechRadar, upon reading the first reports of Six Days In Fallujah.

“It is estimated that up to 1,000 civilians died in the bombardment and house to house raids carried out by invading troops. So many people were killed in Fallujah that the town’s football stadium had to be turned into a cemetery to cope with all the dead bodies.

The Japanese corporation finally decided not to sell the game after many protests.

‘Free jailed Egyptian blogger’

This 19 October 2019 video says about itself:

UN urges Egypt to release detained blogger

The U.N. human rights office called on Egypt on Friday to free a prominent blogger, lawyer and journalist allegedly mistreated in custody who are among nearly 2,000 people detained since street protests began a month ago.

Officials at the interior ministry were not immediately available for comment. The state prosecutor’s office said in late September that it had questioned a number not exceeding 1,000 suspects who took part in the demonstrations.

“Unfortunately such arrests are continuing, and have included a number of well-known and respected civil society figures,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing in Geneva.

Protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and other cities have followed online calls for demonstrations against alleged government corruption.

Sisi, who came to power after, while army chief, leading the 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, has overseen a broad crackdown on dissent that has extended to liberal and Islamist groups, and which rights groups say is the most severe in recent memory.

Journalist and activist Esraa Abdelfattah was arrested by plainclothes security officers in Cairo on Oct. 12 and was reportedly beaten after she refused to unlock her mobile phone, Shamdasani said. Abdelfattah is on a hunger strike, she added.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and software engineer, was released in March after serving a five-year sentence for protesting without permission, but was re-arrested on Sept 29, Shamdasani said. The same day, his lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer, was arrested while attending the interrogation, she added.

Abdel Fattah was struck by guards on his back and neck while being forced to walk down a corridor in his underwear, while al-Baqer has been subjected to physical and verbal abuse, and denied water and medical aid, she said.

Flying squirrel at Cornell USA bird feeder

This video from New York State in the USA says about itself:

Flying Squirrel Is Early Morning Visitor To Cornell Lab FeederWatch Cam – Oct. 15, 2019

Thanks the Cornell Lab FeederWatch cam’s new night vision feature, we can now see all the visitors who stop by the feeder after the sun goes down! Watch this flying squirrel zip onto the platform, where it would stay feasting for about 10 minutes before venturing out of view.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology writes:

Since 2012, the Cornell Lab FeederWatch cam has been known for its binge-worthy broadcast of our feathered friends from the Treman Bird Feeding Garden right outside our visitor center. We’re excited to announce that the cam you know and love has just received a 4K ultra high definition facelift! Tune in now for crisp, colorful views of your favorite Northeastern feeder birds in the highest resolution available. Thanks to the new cam’s night vision capabilities, you can stay up late and see all the action after the sun goes down (including late-nite visits from flying squirrels, see below). Watch cam here.