Tristan da Cunha I. in the South Atlantic is the most remote inhabited place on earth. It also looks ungodly beautiful. And the nearest place to it is another island, called Inaccessible I. After reading about it, I think I could live there.
“In a 2007 study on international state building, Ulrich Schneckener draws a clear distinction between failed states and failing states. Failing states like Colombia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Georgia, and Nigeria are unable to completely control their territories, but they still deliver public services to the majority of the population and have some degree of political legitimacy. In failed states, however, none of the functions mentioned above is effectively performed. The most prominent example of a failed state is Somalia. Although I acknowledge that the breakdown of regional security might have serious repercussions on international security, I argue that ultimately, it is the failing state, not the failed state, that encourages international terrorism and organized crime. The failed state, in contrast, poses more threats to regional security than to international security.” — Stefan Mair, Director of Studies at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs
“In today's technological world we leave electronic traces wherever we go, whether shopping online or on the high street, at work or at play. That data is the raw material for a new industry of number crunchers trying to explain and influence human behaviour, as Stephen Baker explains in his new book The Numerati.”
I don’t watch television but, if I had any doubts about that, this description of the shows, cancelled or not, that capture a TV critic’s attention seals the deal. Just get past the clever and superfluous analogy to the auto-bailout controversy.
“A mile and a half (two and a half kilometers) underwater, a remote control submersible’s camera has captured an eerie surprise: an alien-like, long-armed, and—strangest of all—”elbowed” Magnapinna squid.”
John McWhorter on Elvin Lim’s The Anti-Intellectual Presidency: The Decline of Presidential Rhetoric from George Washington to George W. Bush:
“…[This] is not one more rant about the limited cognitive abilities of George W. Bush but a brisk, methodical deconstruction of ‘the relentless simplification of presidential rhetoric in the last two centuries and the increasing substitution of arguments with applause-rendering platitudes, partisan punch lines and emotional and human interest appeals.’ “
By the way, I am enamored of the term apophenia for this phenomenon. Patternicity seems too cutesy. As a psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of psychosis, I think apophenic thinking is at the heart of the paranoid process and one of the core disturbances in schizophrenia. But Shermer’s argument that natural selection will favor patternicity when it has the best adaptive cost undercuts his crusade against irrational belief, doesn’t it? As I have previously pointed out in discussions of apophenia, finding patterns (in the sense of “believing superstitions“) has helped human groups to survive.
“An overworked protein that causes yeast to age when it neglects one of its functions may trigger ageing in mice too. If the same effect is found in people, it may suggest new ways to halt or reverse age-related disease.”
“Dec. 1st is the best night of all. The now-15% crescent Moon moves in closer to form an isosceles triangle with Venus and Jupiter as opposing vertices. The three brightest objects in the night sky will be gathered so tightly together, you can hide them all behind your thumb held at arm’s length.
The celestial triangle will be visible from all parts of the world, even from light-polluted cities. People in New York and Hong Kong will see it just as clearly as astronomers watching from remote mountaintops. Only cloudy weather or a midnight sun sorry Antarctica can spoil the show.
Although you can see the triangle with naked eyes–indeed, you can’t miss it—a small telescope will make the evening even more enjoyable. In one quick triangular sweep, you can see the moons and cloud-belts of Jupiter, the gibbous phase of Venus 69% full, and craters and mountains on the Moon. It’s a Grand Tour you won’t soon forget.”
Now all the talk starts about who the attackers were. The “Deccan Mujahedeen”, a reference to the Deccan plains of the south of India, took responsibility. They are a previously unknown group and the pundits are “unclear whether it’s a real group or not”, etc. RAND corporation terrorism “experts” debate whether they style and targets suggest linkage to al Qaeda. Everyone opines that the degree of sophistication and coordination point to a broader organization behind the perpetrators. Discussion ensues about which precedent attack patterns can be discerned blended in the event.
This all seems so absurd to me, as it has ever since 9/11. Just as, during the Cold War, all our boogeymen were “Communists”, now we need desperately to figure out what the “al Qaeda” ties are. The most obvious, disastrous, consequence of that type of limited thinking was of course to justify the criminal invasion of Iraq but the fundaments of our approach to terrorism are shot through with this kind of thinking. There are (always, everywhere) a plethora of angry locally-rooted groups willing to sow terror with violent acts, and whether they have the “fingerprint” of al Qaeda or not does not determine whether they proclaim themselves to be allied with the supposed aims of al Qaeda. You choose the boogeyman you want to be as a function of what will have the maximum desired impact, and your victims choose the boogeyman they want to see to help them comprehend the incomprehensible. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. As I have already said, that is really all that “al Qaeda” is. The War on Terror is a war against smoke and mirrors. Pitiful how comforted we are by the meaningless exercise of giving a name to our terrors, even though it dies nothing constructive to help protect us.
This is derived from an analysis of the content of FmH, knowing nothing else about me:
“The analysis indicates that the author of http://followmehere.com is of the type: INTP (“The Thinkers”), the logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.
They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.”
Distinguished developmental psychologist Jerome Kagan argues that the current spate of childhood mental health diagnoses such as ADHD and bipolar disorder do not represent biological diseases but rather convenient explanations that get us off the hook by covering up social problems. He discusses social trends that may account for childhood behavioral difficulties.
I agree that childhood disorders are overdiagnosed and that, in general, we are in an era of overmedicalization of behavioral problems for a variety of reasons, not the least of them being the influence of Big Pharma. I hope no one thinks any longer that psychiatric diagnoses are immutable gospel truths. From revision to revision, the nomenclature changes. The boundaries of what is considered psychopathology expand and contract (in this era, mostly expand) and the internal pigeonholes are everchanging. Our research practices, supposed to contribute to “evidence-based” medical reasoning, compound the errors, because drug companies have a subtle and not-so-subtle vested interest in the results, they fund much of it, and there is an inherent bias against the publication of negative or disconfirmatory results.
On the other hand, let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should be long past the need to debate nature vs. nurture in mental ilness, social context vs. biology. There are of course contributions of both, and Dr Kagan’s argument should not be seen as dismissing the biological bases of behavioral problems whole hog. I do agree with him, vehemently, though, that overdiagnosis and overattribution is rife, and that it is obscene when you look at the major consequences, the pathologizatioon and the foisting of enormous volumes of medication on our children and youth. A good psychiatrist’s role should be as much to take patients off medication as to get them on it.
“As reported by Der Spiegel and picked up by the New York Times blog The Lede, two German cartographers have created The Atlas of True Names, which substitutes place names around the world with glosses based on their etymological roots…”
The Bush administration ends January 20th, and Ann Wroe will miss Dubya’s flaring nostrils.
‘With Jimmy Carter it was the teeth, big, straight and white as a set of country palings. With Richard Nixon it was the eyebrows, surely brooding on Hell. Abe Lincoln had the ears (and the beard, and the stove-pipe hat); Bill Clinton had a nose that glowed red, almost to luminousness, as his allergies assailed him. But George Bush’s most extraordinary feature was his nostrils, and they will be missed.
It is not just that they were large, and lent his face a certain simian charm. They were also uncontrollable. When the rest of the presidential body was encased in a sober suit, and the rest of the presidential face had assumed an expression appropriate to taking the oath of office, or rescuing banks, or declaring to terrorists that they could run but they couldn’t hide, the nostrils would suddenly flare and smirk, as if Mr Bush was about to burst out with something outrageous or obscene, or flash a high-five, or hail his deputy chief of staff as “Turd blossom”.’
The author argues that loneliness is relative. Just as widows do better in a housing development with alot of widows, people living alone do better in New York, with the largest proportion of single-person households in any major city (around 1:2). And suicide rates, which since Emile Durkheim‘s classic sociological study Suicidehave been tied to loneliness and isolation, run at a lower rate in New York than other urban areas.
Barack Obama and Maya Soetoro with their mother Ann Dunham and grandfather Stanley Dunham in Hawaii (early 1970s).
‘Ruth Behar, a filmmaker, poet, and anthropologist based at the University of Michigan, offers an interesting take on the fact of Obama’s anthropological matrilineage — and uses that fact to make a policy plea:
“The fact that Barack Obama’s mother was a cultural anthropologist has been noted with curiosity and amusement. A few commentators dismiss her anthropology credentials by describing her as part of a radical American fringe, while others represent her favorably, but as ‘unconventional’, ‘free-spirited’, or ‘bohemian’. That reputation is based on her two brief (and interracial) marriages and her wanderings through Javanese villages in an era when the stay-at-home mom was the public model of the American mother. Many now find it difficult to comprehend her passion for her adopted culture and her desire to live for years among the subjects of her research and advocacy work, though what she did was nothing out of the ordinary within anthropology.
“As a cultural anthropologist, I think Obama’s family background is something to celebrate. But even more important, I think the time is ripe for cultural anthropology to become a fundamental part of American education and public culture. Anthropology needs to be taught alongside math, science, language arts, and history as early as elementary school and definitely throughout the high-school years. Its insights about the perils of ethnocentrism, racialization, and exoticized stereotypes need to become part of our everyday vocabulary.” ‘
Did his mother’s anthropological roots contribute to Barack Obama’s thoughtfulness and genuinely multiracial embrace? Arguably; and I agree with the implication that anthropology, often dissed as the stepchild social science because of its jargon, politicization and general self-indulgence, should be a core part of education, given its potential to impart cultural sensitivity and an appreciation of relativism. My undergraduate degree was in social anthropology (as I have written here before I was lucky enough to live in several indigenous cultures doing ethnographic fieldwork for my undergraduate thesis) and I think it has shaped my thinking in a pivotal way, informing my cosmology, spirituality, epistemology, and politics as well as my practice of psychiatry (which in some ways I approach as a cross-cultural exercise).
“Rich countries launch great land grab to safeguard food supply: Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.
The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of “neo-colonialism”, with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.
Rising food prices have already set off a second “scramble for Africa“. This week, the South Korean firm Daewoo Logistics announced plans to buy a 99-year lease on a million hectares in Madagascar. Its aim is to grow 5m tonnes of corn a year by 2023, and produce palm oil from a further lease of 120,000 hectares (296,000 acres), relying on a largely South African workforce. Production would be mainly earmarked for South Korea, which wants to lessen dependence on imports.”
Israel is “held hostage by memory” and should get over the Holocaust, a former speaker of the Knesset says. In a column and a new book, he says Israelis are so bent on “never again” becoming victims that they’ve become blind to injustice or suffering that does not involve Jews. What about Israel’s humanistic founding values?
I rebelled against the Judaism I was taught in my youth precisely because of the meaninglessness of a religious identity that, as far as I could see, was grounded on nothing but having been victimized.
“In this image released by NASA, a dust ring, seen in red, surrounds the star Fomalhaut. The star resides at the center of the image and is not visible to the human eye in this image. The Hubble telescope discovered the fuzzy image of a new planet, known as Fomalhaut b, which appears as no more than a white speck in the lower right portion of the dust ring that surrounds the star.”
“The image shows a pair of colossal stars, WR 25 and Tr16-244, located within the open cluster Trumpler 16. These are two of the galaxy’s most massive stars shrouded in mystery until recently. This this new image shows them in greater detail than ever before.”
A Miami judge ruled to permit a gay couple to adopt their two foster children, finding that the 30+-year ban on gay couples adopting in Florida violated their right to equal protection under the law. “Expert” testimony from a psychologist on the instability of homosexuals and the poor outcomes when they raise children was deemed not credible. This is not the first gay adoption that has been permitted in Florida in contravention of the state law, but in the previous case the state decided not to contest the ruling. In the current case, the attorney general has already indicated that Florida will appeal. The wingnuts are already talking about “a classic case of judicial activism,” which is a four-letter word.
‘A group of scientists working in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health division has revolted against the corrupt managers of its own department, accusing them of committing crimes by claiming, “There is extensive documentary evidence that managers at CDRH have corrupted and interfered with the scientific review of medical devices.”
The letter from the FDA’s own scientists goes on to say, “It is evident that managers at CDRH have deviated from FDA’s mission to identify and address underlying problems with medical devices before they cause irreparable harm, and this deviation has placed the American people at risk.” ‘
“Everyone expects the U.S. president to know the difference between Sunni and Shiite, or understand the causes of the financial meltdown. But in today’s high-tech world, many critical issues have more to do with electrons than economics. Here are five short physics lessons for President-elect Obama from the author of Physics for Future Presidents.”
“…here is Kathryn Jean (K-Lo) Lopez, head honcha of National Review Online, explaining why Governor Palin is her leader:
What is it about Sarah?
For many folks on the Right, she represented an influx of social conservatism in the campaign. All she had to do was arrive at the scene with her son Trig to demonstrate her pro-life bona fides. Some estimated 90 percent of Americans faced with the knowledge that they might give birth to a child with Down Syndrome wouldn’t have made the choice she and her husband, Todd, did to let the child live.
I detect some assumptions here. (1) Palin’s carrying Trig to term was a choice. (2) The choice was hers and her husband’s to make, not God’s or the government’s. (3) She deserves praise for having chosen the choice she chose.
But if Palin (and Lopez) were truly “pro-life”—if they truly believed that abortion, especially elective abortion in the first trimester, is murder or at least unjustifiable homicide—then having Trig was not a choice. It was a simple matter of obedience to God’s law, which is infinitely more sacrosanct than man’s law. Palin no more deserves praise for it than I deserve praise for not having lately gunned down any friends, colleagues, or strangers.
What this demonstrates is that even in the minds of anti-abortion zealots, abortion is now implicitly viewed in the same light as divorce: an unfortunate choice, a reprehensible choice, a choice that may even contravene the will of God, but still a choice. And, again implicitly, the choice that Sarah Palin had every right to make. In both directions.
This is why, even if Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned, it will always be legal to get an abortion somewhere in the United States of America.”
“The recent discovery in Bonny Doon, Calif., of a former mail carrier’s old stash was not exactly unprecedented. There’s also the recent arrest of a Detroit postal carrier who squirreled away 9,000 pieces of mail into a storage locker, a work dodge worthy of a Seinfeld plot. A week earlier, a postman was nailed for hoarding 27,000 letters in Leeds, England; the week before that revealed a postal hoarder with 20,000 letters in Frankfurt, Germany. (“[He] didn’t deliver mail addressed to himself either,” a police statement dryly noted.) And all of them were dwarfed by the North Carolina postman who admitted in August to filling his garage and burying in his backyard nearly a tractor trailer’s worth of undelivered junk mail.”
“A researcher at Pennsylvania State University, Stephan Schuster, said in the journal Nature last week that he might be able to regenerate a mammoth from ancient DNA for just $10 million. Given that Chicago’s Field Museum, with the help of McDonald’s and Walt Disney, recently paid $8.36 million for an especially fine Tyrannosaurus rex fossil, Dr. Schuster should be able to sell a pack of live mammoths to zoo managers around the world.
For making the past come alive, a mammoth is a good start, but it’s just a hairy elephant. What other extinct species would be good to have around again? Herein, a wish list.
A friend (thanks, julia), who herself happens to be a cartoonist, forwarded a link to this site to me and also mentioned she knows the writer of Pharyngula and had sent it his way. (Coincidentally, Pharyngula is on my reading list and I had already seen the blink to the CAC site there.) With Pharyngula having a much larger readership than FmH (or at least a more vocal readership), there have been in excess of a hundred comments to the post over there. Like my take on it, opinion is running in favor of its being a parody. Especially telling is that one reader tracked down the registered owner of the CAC domain and reports that it belongs to an animation studio! In any case, I learned a new, very useful, concept from the comments — Poe’s Law.
…and the end-of-year best-of lists are starting to appear. I won’t even try to point to individual lists because in this weblogging era so many come tumbling out every day. The best aggregators are Largehearted Boy, for music, and Fimoculous, for everything. If you like that sort of thing, bookmark them and check back with them frequently, as they do obsessional running updates from now into early next year.
“The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you. Conmen ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable. Because of THOMAS, the human brain makes us feel good when we help others–this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers. “I need your help” is a potent stimulus for action.”
I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protestors of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O’Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, “There you go, again.”
However, I realize that you may have been a little preoccupied lately with planning your resurrection as the savior of your party, so I thought I would fill you in on a few important developments you might have overlooked…”
The study notes that the most common non-dope ingredients in street heroin are lactose, milk sugar, sucrose, cellulose, mannitol and other inert ingredients, but there is an increasing trend for heroin to contain psychoactive chemicals or additional substances to alter its effect through changing how it is absorbed into the body.
Interestingly, the paper also notes that professional heroin cutters are expensive, charging up to $20,000 for a kilo of heroin. This is likely due to the skill and knowledge needed to select ingredients that will have certain effects, which can be different for ‘smokers’, ‘snorters’ and ‘injectors’.
Ingredients that affect the vaporisation point of heroin will be more important for smokers, while adulterants that increase absorption through the nasal passages will obviously be more important for snorters.
For injectors, cutters need to be able to select ingredients that aren’t going to gum up needles or cause too much damage to the users’ veins.
Additionally, some ingredients are added purely for their psychoactive effect to give a different experience and ‘brand’ the dope.
However, owing to the cost of a professional cutter, some dealers just cut it themselves with whatever they think is reasonable, meaning all kinds of potentially fatal ingredients end up in the average bag of smack.”
‘A Florida teenager who used a webcam to live-stream his suicide Wednesday was reportedly encouraged by other people on the Web site, authorities told ABCNews.com.
Authorities say approximately 1,300 people watch as the boy takes his life.
"People were egging him on and saying things like 'go ahead and do it, faggot,' said Wendy Crane, an investigator at the Broward County Medical Examiner's office.
Abraham Biggs, 19, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., had been blogging on an online body-building message board and had linked to his page on Justin.tv, a live video streaming Web site, where the camera rolled as he overdosed on prescription pills, according to Crane.
Biggs, who had reportedly been discussing his suicide on the forums, also posted a suicide note on a body-building forum, which has since been taken down, in which he wrote, "I hate myself and I hate living." ‘
“In a report, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Anne Cleary of Colorado State University says deja vu may occur when aspects of a current situation resemble aspects of previously occurring situations — the more overlap between the elements of the new and old situations the stronger the feeling of familiarity”
I haven’t read the research paper; just this account in the popular press. But it seems problematic. Most people I know can tell the difference between a deja vu experience and something reminding them of something from the past. The first response when something feels familiar is to ask what it could possibly be reminiscent of. The deja vu experience is so uncanny precisely because of that distinction — the nature of the situation promoting the sense of familiarity is one in which, after consideration, you know it cannot possibly be reminiscent of anything. It is more likely the case that deja vu represents a malfunction of the machinery of recognition or familiarity in the brain, in which the sensation of familiarity is too readily activated in inappropriate (i.e. novel) situations. This occurs, for example, in temporal lobe epilepsy, because the abnormal electrical activity autonomately activates areas of the brain associated with memory and recognition without the usual input. The research referenced here seems to misunderstand a fundamental aspect of deja vu, in short. This is my take on contemporary psychological research alot of the time. Hmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?
“Alaska Governor Sarah Palin pardoned a turkey Thursday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday but another turkey didn’t fare as well.
Warning: video could be disturbing to viewers
The governor was being interviewed by a local television news station while the work of the Triple-D Farm and Hatchery continued. That’s when Governor Palin found herself in a less than desirable spot for the interview.
Just minutes after pardoning one turkey, a farm worker began processing another turkey just a few feet behind her, plainly visible in the background of the video.”
In an abbreviated version of the argument they expound in their book The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Misery Into Depressive Disorder, psychologists Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield say that the epidemic of depression arises from changes in the definition of the disorder, and specifically the loss of context. There is a bereavement exclusion but it is the only place where psychiatrists recognize that there is a difference between a ‘normal’ reaction to a painful loss and a depressive disorder. In fact, in my training, the ‘naive’ comment, “You would be sad too if that was going on in your life” was presented derisively as the caricature of ignorance about depression. The ‘bible’ of psychiatric diagnoses, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), currently in its fourth edition, devalued the time-honored recognition by physicians that the context in which symptoms arose was an important considderation in determining whether what the person was experiencing was normal. This goes hand in hand with other pressures in my field to medicalize and pathologize normal emotional reactions, of which I have written with concern here in the past.