The TV’s Eye Is Set on You “Americans have been watching television commercials for more than 50 years. Pretty soon, commercials will be watching them.

Cable and satellite giants are installing technology that will enable them to zap targeted TV commercials to different homes based on the occupants’ age, gender, ethnicity, income and other personal details, including what shows they watch.” LA Times

This is how Microsoft will end up running the


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The Brain Basis of a “Consciousness Monitor”

Surgical patients under anesthesia can wake up unpredictably and be exposed to intense, traumatic pain. Current medical techniques cannot maintain depth of

anesthesia at a perfectly stable and safe level; the depth of unconsciousness may change from moment to moment. Without an effective consciousness monitor

anesthesiologists may not be able to adjust dosages in time to protect patients from pain. An estimated 40,000 to 200,000 midoperative awakenings may occur in

the United States annually. E. R. John and coauthors present the scientific basis of a practical “consciousness monitor” in two articles. One article is empirical

and shows widespread and consistent electrical field changes across subjects and anesthetic agents as soon as consciousness is lost; these changes reverse

when consciousness is regained afterward. These findings form the basis of a surgical consciousness monitor that recently received approval from the U.S. Food

and Drug Administration. This may be the first practical application of research on the brain basis of consciousness. The other John article suggests theoretical

explanations at three levels, a neurophysiological account of anesthesia, a neural dynamic account of conscious and unconscious states, and an integrative field


Memory, whose accuracy is a pillar of common knowledge, is actually quite synthetic and unreliable for the sake of making sense of things, as several studies reviewed at the website of the American Psychological Association show. First: People make sense out of stand alone effects by thinking they “remember” seeing their probable causes

Memory “illusions” may result from the basic human need to make

sense out of events. A series of experiments has provided the first scientific evidence

that when people see effects (a student toppling onto the floor) without also seeing

its cause (a student leaning back in a chair), they automatically “fill in the blank” with

that probable cause — even if they haven’t actually seen it with their own two eyes.

The result: a memory that seems real, but isn’t. The inference may be correct, but

it’s not based on actual perception, suggesting that memory helps us to make sense

of the world, perhaps at the expense of a complete reliability.

And: Jurors distort evidence to favor their tentative verdict as they move through the course of a trial

Presenting further proof that jurors are vulnerable to human error,

psychologists … found significant

evidence of a deep bias affecting both students and prospective jurors…, hypothesiz(ing) that “predecisional distortion” of new information

could cause a juror to evaluate trial evidence with a bias toward supporting

whichever party that juror currently favors. Already known to sway consumer

decisions, predecisional distortion would then bias juror decisions as well. Such a

finding could raise questions about the adequacy of conventional jury instructions to

not reach a verdict prematurely.

Sophisticated psychotherapists have known this for a long time. Clients in therapy, ‘remembering’ the past to make sense of their lives are actually synthesizing coherent stories, inventing mythologies for themselves, under the influence of a therapist whose job it is, whether consciously or unconsciously, to shape them so that they are most helpful.

I’m sure it’s a spoof (although I haven’t dug down to see who owns the domain), but the self-proclaimed Net Authority is keeping us off-kilter by announcing it’s keeping a database of weblogs reported to be in violation of its Acceptable Internet Usage Guidelines. Some webloggers are all puffed up when they receive notification that they’ve been reported and investigated. While I uphold several of the guidelines, a few others deserve to be broken liberally. By the way, is it blaspheming to send up the Net Authority? If so, report me…

The ever-excellent Random Walks captures the enraging and worrisome absurdity of the Gap expropriating anti-globalization anti-corporate sentiment to market its jeans.

“…(D)ue to the tremendous power of corporate advertising over consumers, Gap might just pull it off, trivializing the movement… and selling jeans at the same time.

The effect that this new marketing could have on the movement is tremendous. If Gap

succeeds, it will mean that every protest that is staged will be building on their new

image, in effect turning protestors and activists into living, walking ads for Gap.”


I hated Archie Bunker. I hated all TV during the All In the Family era, come to think of it, but I especially hated Archie Bunker. Getting a little confused between the character and the actor (“The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon”, the saying goes), I didn’t think too much about Carroll O’Connor’s passing until I read this arresting quote, also from Random Walks:

“As James Baldwin wrote, the white man here is trapped by his own history, a history that he

himself cannot comprehend and therefore what can I do but love him?”

R.I.P. O’Connor.

Lynnette Millett at Medley considers a Scripting News post calling “weblogs without discipline” a waste of time, thoughtless “impulse journalism” with narrow “expressive bandwidth”. She doesn’t agree that every post ought to say something affirmative, as she puts it, about the item linked to. Millett goes on: “If you want to hold me to a standard beyond ‘she links/quotes stuff she finds interesting and/or worthy of note’ then you should probably go elsewhere,” and she gives a sympathetic nod to my wry sidebar disclaimer,

“For entertainment

purposes only.

All content is provided as is, with no

warranty stated or implied

regarding the quality or accuracy of any

content on or off this website.

Absolutely no responsibility is taken for

the content of external pages to which I


While I’m cited as an authority here [grin], I have to say I don’t fully agree. I feel my weblogging is more “on” when I can give you my own take on things, and most of the posts at FmH to which readers respond are those, rather than the ones I excerpt or point to without exposition. I sometimes barrage you with alot of frantic webclipping, and I often feel I’d rather slow it down and be more thoughtful. But, on the other hand, I’m driven… and I do feel, rationalizing, that I am being expository when I merely post something. It’s usually more than just saying it’s “interesting.” FmH is polemical; 90% or more of my posts make a point I want to get across, whether I say so or not. And I trust you’ll be curious about what the significance of any post was to me, or at least what significance it’ll have for you.

For a slightly different flavoring, consider this post of Matt Rossi’s I just happened upon again, coincidentally on the one-year anniversary of his posting it:

Lately, it seems as though you might as soon admit to consorting with Lucifer as

maintaining one of these sites. Everyone’s tired of it, it seems. Everyone’s sick of

the link economy, or the cookie cutter nature of 9/10’s of the content of these

‘blogs’ as people have taken to calling them. Everyone wants to get back to the

purity of maintaining a site just for them.

Well, not me, baby. Me and my diseased imagination are gonna keep on keeping

on till they pry our cold dead fingers away from the keys. Let me bare myself to

my limited readership for an instant; I am fully aware of how unique I am, and I

like it. I like that I’m smart. I like that I’m erudite. I like that I read and think about

what I read and melt my disparate reading into mental alloy. I am, in short, not all

that humble about this page, or what it is I do on it. Is it Earth-Shattering? Nope.

Does anyone care? Well, a few people do, and they’ve been very nice about it.

To everyone who has bothered to come by and send me a nice email, I thank

you kindly. Your simple generosity has been appreciated.

But I do not do this for you, and I never did.

And he concludes later on, lovingly: ” I admit it! I consort with Lucifer! Whew. That was a load

off. Well, back to the salt mines…I got nuggets of strange glowing gold to wrench

from the rock. It’s my task, and it isn’t by far unpleasant. Oh my no. I do so love

shattering reality.”

Boy Testifies Dog Raped Him: “For seven years, she’s maintained

her innocence, insisting that she did not brutally sodomize her

7-year-old son, injuring him so badly that doctors considered

removing part of his bowel.

It was the family dog, Bugsy the pit bull, that raped the boy, she said.

Now, the woman, who is serving a life sentence in an Ohio prison for

felonious penetration, may get a shot at freedom, after her son, who

has remained silent for seven years, testified in court Tuesday that

the woman’s story is true.” APBnews

Do People Aggress to Improve Their Mood? “…people who had been induced to

believe in the value of catharsis and venting anger responded

more aggressively than did control participants to insulting

criticism… (R)esults

suggest that many people may engage in aggression to regulate

(improve) their own affective states. ” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, July 2001 Abstracts

Technical difficulties — “Today’s technology is wreaking havoc on the old-fashioned methods of building plot complications.” The essayist suggests several plot contortions to get around the dilemma — setting a plot in the past or in a remote region without access to technology, portraying the protagonist as anti-technology, etc. But surely a modern world full of Palm Pilots, cell phones and computers still presents human dramas without outlandish plot contrivance? I know I’m technologically replete, but there’s plenty of drama, pathos and even melodrama in my life. [Maybe you don’t want to write a book about it, though…] Salon [via spike]

Annals of the Erosion of Privacy (cont’d.): Roadrunner vs. Big Brother — The driver’s speed is transmitted back to the rental car company by a GPS onboard, which ‘allows rental car agents to “manage driver

behavior by auditing location information” and “receive boundary crossing and

excessive speed reports.” An agent can even shut a car off by remote control if it’s

going too fast or heading into territory it’s not supposed to be in.’ The police never pulled him over, but the company is fining the driver… exorbitantly. It’s all legal; it was in the fine print of the rental agreement the driver signed. And the company ‘claims it’s for humanitarian reasons, that it’s not about collecting money.

“It saves lives by discouraging speeding. It’s an accepted [rental car] trade practice.” ‘ At $150 for each of the three instances of speeding, the renter found his bank account had already been drained of $450 by the time he returned the car. Now he’ll tell it to the judge. [Will you ever rent again from a company that uses GPS in this way? If a court upholds the rental car company’s practices, will you have a chance not to for long?] The New Haven Advocate

A Data-Mining Bonanza Squandered? Financial corporations have accelerated data management on their customers drastically in the past 12-18 months to do targeted marketing. “Now shrinking profit margins, a homogenization of products among firms and a move to self-service by customers has pushed companies to seek a personalized view on how each customer uses — or, more importantly, could use — myriad financial services, from securities trading to checking accounts to life insurance.” Washington Post

More news from the World Federation of Neurology XVII World Congress: Lunacy revisited — persistent suspicion about the relationship of the full moon to psychiatric and neurological distress is usually scoffed at by medical professionals. A Florida neurologist describes a case where a patient’s seizure disorder is destabilized each month by the full moon. Laboratory testing confirms the significant contrasts in this man’s seizure incidence around the lunar cycle. Other neurologists continue to scoff. Tidal effects of gravity on bodily fluids are often suggested as a physiological basis for full moon effects. One conference respondent also wonders about moonlight-induced sleep deprivation. Suffice it to say we have no good explanations yet… BioMedNet [registration required]

The mayor of Toronto has foot-in-mouth disease. On the eve of an African trip to promote Toronto’s bid to host the 2008 Olympics, Mel Lastman remarked, “What the hell would I want to go to a place like Mombassa

… I just see myself in a pot of boiling water with all these

natives dancing around me.” The comment may just lose him the votes of 16 Africans on the IOC. Here’s the transcript of the press conference he called to apologize; interesting use of contrition as obfuscation. And he’s no stranger to controversy; his foot-in-mouth disease appears to be chronic.

A Lesson in Cruelty: Anti-Gay Slurs Common at School. Perhaps because of the increasing social visibility of gay students, anti-gay slurs are the insults of choice in America’s schools, according to teachers, counselors and students themselves. Such taunts have been cited in more than half of the recent rash of schoolyard shootings. It doesn’t even appear to be directly associated with sexual orientation. ‘Gay’ and ‘fag’ appear to be the synonyms of choice for ‘stupid.’ World New York, in discussing this Washington Post article, raises the concern that, rather than just a reflection of societal intolerance, the school setting may be a breeding ground for the origination of social attitude problems. Why didn’t I think of that?

Taking a Page from Science Fiction. Didn’t realize that Cory Doctorow, from one of my favorite weblogs boing boing, is both an entrepreneur and an accomplished science fiction author and winner of the John W. Campbell Award in 2000, at age 29. Congratulations, Cory! Here’a an Inc. magazine interview with him.