Thursday, December 3, 2009

They're slicin' up HM's brain today!

Follow this link: http://thebrainobservatory.ucsd.edu/hm_live.php to see HM's brain get all sliced up by a microtome! It's very exciting - they're doing the hippocampus today, which should be neat.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's not just one day.

Remembering our trans sisters and brothers who have been killed is not something that should only happen one day a year. It's something we should do every time we hear about a person being dehumanized, degendered, assaulted, or harassed because s/he is trans. Because every 'it' or 'tranny' joke, every 'she's REALLY a he', contributes to a culture where trans people are abused and killed in obscene numbers.

I hope you take some time to remember.

RIP.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sources for the paper I'm working on

Aarsland, D., Alves, G., & Larsen, J. P. (2005). Disorders of motivation, sexual conduct, and sleep in Parkinson's disease. In W. J. Weiner, K. E. Anderson & A. E. Lang (Eds.), Behavioral neurology of movement disorders (pp. 56-64). Philadelphia: Raven Press.

Baddeley, A. (1998). Working memory. C R Acad Sci III, 321(2-3), 167-173.

Banich, M. T. (2004). Cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Braver, T. S., & Cohen, J. D. (2000). On the control of control: The role of dopamine in regulating prefrontal function and working memory. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.), Control of cognitive processes : attention and performance XVIII (pp. 511-534, 713-738). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Burns, R. S., Chiueh, C. C., Markey, S. P., Ebert, M. H., Jacobowitz, D. M., & Kopin, I. J. (1983). A primate model of parkinsonism: selective destruction of dopaminergic neurons in the pars compacta of the substantia nigra by N-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 80(14), 4546-4550.

Chiodo, L. A., Antelman, S. M., Caggiula, A. R., & Lineberry, C. G. (1980). Sensory stimuli alter the discharge rate of dopamine (DA) neurons: evidence for two functional types of DA cells in the substantia nigra. Brain Res, 189(2), 544-549.

Cohen, J. D., Braver, T. S., & Brown, J. W. (2002). Computational perspectives on dopamine function in prefrontal cortex. Curr Opin Neurobiol, 12(2), 223-229. doi: S0959438802003148 [pii]

Damier, P., Hirsch, E. C., Agid, Y., & Graybiel, A. M. (1999). The substantia nigra of the human brain. II. Patterns of loss of dopamine-containing neurons in Parkinson's disease. Brain, 122 ( Pt 8), 1437-1448.

Duzel, E., Bunzeck, N., Guitart-Masip, M., Wittmann, B., Schott, B. H., & Tobler, P. N. (2009). Functional imaging of the human dopaminergic midbrain. Trends Neurosci, 32(6), 321-328. doi: S0166-2236(09)00075-7 [pii]
10.1016/j.tins.2009.02.005

Gold, J. I., & Shadlen, M. N. (2007). The Neural Basis of Decision Making. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 30, 535-574.
Hollerman, J. R., & Schultz, W. (1998). Dopamine neurons report an error in the temporal prediction of reward during learning. Nat Neurosci, 1(4), 304-309. doi: 10.1038/1124

Kobayashi, S., & Schultz, W. (2008). Influence of reward delays on responses of dopamine neurons. J Neurosci, 28(31), 7837-7846. doi: 28/31/7837 [pii]
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1600-08.2008

Laviolette, S. R., Lauzon, N. M., Bishop, S. F., Sun, N., & Tan, H. (2008). Dopamine signaling through D1-like versus D2-like receptors in the nucleus accumbens core versus shell differentially modulates nicotine reward sensitivity. J Neurosci, 28(32), 8025-8033. doi: 28/32/8025 [pii]
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1371-08.2008

Lee, H. J., Youn, J. M., O, M. J., Gallagher, M., & Holland, P. C. (2006). Role of substantia nigra-amygdala connections in surprise-induced enhancement of attention. J Neurosci, 26(22), 6077-6081. doi: 26/22/6077 [pii]
10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1316-06.2006

Matsumoto, M., & Hikosaka, O. (2009). Two types of dopamine neuron distinctly convey positive and negative motivational signals. Nature, 459(7248), 837-841. doi: nature08028 [pii]
10.1038/nature08028

O'Brien, J. (2009, 10/23/2009). [Motivation and visual selective attention].

Ploran, E. J., Nelson, S. M., Velanova, K., Donaldson, D. I., Peterson, S. E., & Wheeler, M. E. (2007). Evidence Accumulation and the Moment of Recognition: Dissociating Perceptual Recognition Processes Using fMRI. Journal of Neuroscience, 27(44), 11912–11924.

Salamone, J. D., & Correa, M. (2002). Motivational views of reinforcement: implications for understanding the behavioral functions of nucleus accumbens dopamine. Behavioural Brain Research, 137(1), 3-25.

Sanfey, A. G., Loewenstein, G., McClure, S. M., & Cohen, J. D. (2006). Neuroeconomics: cross-currents in research on decision-making. Trends Cogn Sci, 10(3), 108-116. doi: S1364-6613(06)00027-1 [pii]
10.1016/j.tics.2006.01.009

Schultz, W., Dayan, P., & Montague, P. R. (1997). A neural substrate of prediction and reward. Science, 275(5306), 1593-1599.

Sugrue, L. P., Corrado, G. S., & Newsome, W. T. (2005). Choosing the greater of two goods: neural currencies for valuation and decision making. Nat Rev Neurosci, 6(5), 363-375. doi: nrn1666 [pii]
10.1038/nrn1666

Waelti, P., Dickinson, A., & Schultz, W. (2001). Dopamine responses comply with basic assumptions of formal learning theory. Nature, 412(6842), 43-48. doi: 10.1038/35083500
35083500 [pii]

P.S.: Endnote is awesome.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The AMA, the FDA, marijuana, Marinol, Sativex, and Barack Hussein Obama

The AMA has recommended a change in the classification of marijuana to facilitate medical research on it!

I am actually presenting on this in class:


As part of my presentation, I'll be talking about how the FDA has denied the scientific evidence for the efficacy of marijuana for medical purposes... but at the same time the FDA has approved Marinol, which is delta-9 THC but not plant-derived, for distribution; and the FDA has approved Sativex, which is a mix of plant-derived cannabinoids, for Phase III trials!

So, there's evidence enough to support cannabinoids' safety and efficacy for medical purposes to sell pot to us as a prescription drug, at a premium price, but obviously not enough evidence to lower the Schedule of the whole plant product. Uh-huh.

I'll finish up with a word from our President:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Why you suck at things when you're sleep deprived.

According to some new research by Todd Maddox at U of Texas, sleep deprivation makes the thinky part of your brain, the frontal cortex, get all sucky.

Yeah, we all knew that, right? But what we didn't know is that it doesn't really affect the instinct-y part of your brain, the striatum. Which is why, for example, you're still OK at doing routine tasks (take out the milk, take out the cereal, take out the bowl, put food in face), but sometimes you'll muck up and do something wrong, but do it in the right way (put the milk away in the pantry, put the cereal away in the fridge).

And when you're really sleep deprived, you'll start consciously over-thinking things, which leans on the frontal cortex, which as you'll recall is all wonky from the sleep-dep, so you'll muck things up even more.

I will try to keep this in mind during grad school, and do everything by instinct. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A good friend once told me that part of the role of government is to intervene in large-scale Prisoner's-Dilemma type situations. I think that's a fantastically succinct way to put it.

Being categorically against that kind of government intervention basically outs you as someone who thinks you have some sort of "right" to snitch in a prisoner's dilemma. Even if it's worse for everyone, yourself included, in the long run. In Dawkinsonian terms, you're a cheat. And not only does this make you a right smart asshole, but you're also supporting a completely unsustainable strategy.

Forget Fear says it pretty damn well:

In essence [some conservatives] want to be able to live completely without care or regard for the plight or wellbeing of anyone but themselves (and sometimes the immediate family unit), and not have to worry about anything that happens outside their immediate geographic area. The hypocrisy is, they seek to enforce this socioeconomic model on everyone else to create the circumstances for them to setup a “little house on the prairie” style life for themselves. They put the wants of themselves (the few) over the needs of everyone else (the many), and will tell you that 1 > 2, if they are the 1, and mathematics can be damned.

This may not be what conservatives openly advocate, however if you look at the end-result of their policies this is what they are trying to establish. It’s plain as day, and if you follow conservative socioeconomics through to their logical conclusion, the above-described is what you end up with. It’s immoral, it’s hypocritical, it’s illogical, and it’s just plain selfish.


So what should we do? What’s the answer? Simple: Care. Care about other people, about their experiences, their happiness, their well being, and their safety. This may sound overly idealistic, and maybe it is, but it’s the only solution to modern conservativism.
Word.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Working with the IAPS: Cute overload meets Rotten.com

The International Affective Picture System! IAPS for short.

These pictures, they make you feel things. In a standardized way.

See this guy here wanted to study emotion, so he got this set of pictures together and showed them to people, and he had them rate how good/bad the pictures made them feel, and also how intensely the pictures made them feel that way. And then he averaged these scores.

So now if I want to make you feel happy for the purposes of studying your brains, I can pull out an IAPS picture with a high happiness rating, like bunnies nibbling on cut flowers. The most intense happy pictures are pretty much softcore porn.

But if I want to make you feel unhappy, I can show you a picture of a pointed gun, or a starving child, or a dead kitty. And if I want to make you intensely unhappy, I can show you a mutilated face.

I have spent a lot of my time looking at emotional pictures lately.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ahhh so busy!

Grad school is like being kicked in the face all day by an adorable kitten. Yeah, it's not exactly unpleasant, but you're still getting kicked in the face all day.

On that note, it is time for some brainless cuteness.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pittsburgh Police

Starting from the WPU lawn:


Starting from the Schenley Plaza:


This is MY fucking campus these cops are locking down; I've been part of similar "curiosity sit-ins". Those lawns are where I used to sit and smoke my cigarettes; it's between two of the busiest buildings on campus and RIGHT NEXT TO THE DORMS. I know, being a Pitt alum, that when you see something like riot cops marching in formation out your window, you're likely to come down and check it out. And it didn't look like much of a fucking protest to me until well after the cops started the push - and I've been at plenty of protests, some of which were actually ON those lawns.

During the memorial service for those three downed officers, there was even more of a crowd on the WPU lawn than in this video - people paying their respects.

I feel angry and sick.

Fuck the police.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fallacies 101

Cherry-picking and ad hominem.

Orac and White Coat Underground make my life a little bit more worthwhile.

fMRI is a useful tool - you just have to use it right!

Some dudes at Dartmouth put a dead fish in an fMRI scanner, "instructed" it in a task, and (using crappy statistical methods) found a couple significant voxels in the fish's brain. This is used to demonstrate the importance of using good statistical methods in analyzing fMRI data so that you minimize the false positives. (There's a good summary over at Neuroskeptic.)

But for some reason, my friends who've forwarded me the Wired article about it are all like, "SEE- just like I've been telling you, imaging studies are silly and untrustworthy."

Grrrr.

See, here's the big thing that the dead-fish peeps point out. When you're making statistical comparisons, you shoot for a certain confidence level. Let's say we're shooting for 95% confidence. That means, even if we do everything completely right, about 5% of the time we're going to get wacky results - completely by chance.

In an fMRI, you're making thousands of statistical comparisons, one for each voxel. So even if you are shooting for 99.999% confidence, there's enough voxels that some of them are going to, completely by chance, show weird and unlikely things. Like "activity" in a dead fish's brain.

As the Wired article says:
Bennett’s point is that a suite of methods known as multiple comparisons correction can allow researchers to maintain most of their statistical power while keeping the danger of false positives at bay.
But people, even smart people, even psychologists, look at the fishy fMRI and go, "OH WOW FMRI = USELESS LOLOL U STOOPID IMAGING PPL".

Ugh.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I've been so freakin' busy...

...I don't even have time for video games. But that won't stop me from trying, damnit! I started the original Fallout game on the PC, and a combination of limited time and me sucking has led to very very little progress.

Here's a good gameplay overview. It's comfortably Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque, and it has that Ultima Online 2.5-D style. I love the 1997 graphics, and so should you.

Because I am a complete n00b, I died repeatedly the first time I played. Dying is serious business, and it made me generally unhappy.. especially because there is no such thing as autosave. Then I made a new character with better starting stats, and stopped being stupid. (Protip: If you don't have high strength, you'd better have a high first aid / doctory skill. And don't be afraid to bitch-run. Also, save your game a lot.)

I really really really want to play more [and post more, and post more things of substance, heh], but almost all of my time is spent between school, lab, and starting a new social circle in my new home town.

I'm thinking about playing for a half hour or so before I get some sleep.. or bringing my laptop to school so I can catch a quick lunch-break level or two.

In the meantime... I'm off to do some SCIENCE!

Friday, September 18, 2009

I am a big fat lying liar!

So...

On Thursday, I had an in-class presentation that would have made me late for the Great Faith Debate... and additionally the person who was supposed to drive me was overloaded with work. So I didn't have a ride.

You can read about the debate on Reuters, and there's a decent blogospheric review done by Josh Colwell.

Looking at the review, it didn't look like I missed much. And instead I went to a Greek restaurant to celebrate a friend's birthday, so it worked out well!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Omg meatspace.

Something you should all have figured out by this point: graduate school keeps a person busy.

BUT I do have a neat little surprise for any loyal readers!

I'm going to The Great Faith Debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Souza with a couple of friends. This happens on Thursday evening, and I plan on writing it up here for you guys.

So stay tuned!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The sound of computation:


PalMD is my new hero.

This. This this this. THIS.

Bremner: If you're going to criticize Pharma for something (insufficient evidence, poor sources, conflating bias with fact).. make sure you're not doing it yourself. Glass houses. Stones. Etc.

PalMD is the coolest mofo on the planet.

That is all.

(If you know me personally, feel free to call me up for details.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The coolest thing about grad school...

The coolest thing about grad school is being able to socialize with respected, influential people as if they were peers. I'm still squee-ing every time I talk to someone whose reputation precedes them, and I'm in absolute disbelief that they actually take me seriously.

On a semi-related note, a couple science-bloggers have been commiserating with me on a topic that I find suddenly more relevant than I'd like. I will link-dump massively when I have time, I promise.

Pax hominibus.

Friday, September 4, 2009

One more argument against the existence of deities...

My pal takes on some silly ad campaign trying to convince us heathens that God is realz0rz, and is also Jesus. He makes some good points - I especially like his refutation of the anthropic principle (though no one can best Douglas Adams' puddle analogy). I'm not going to approach the subject that my good friend Noisy Queer Vegan covered, as he's taken care of that quite well indeed, but I will go off on my own tangent..

Since I've recently moved to a new location and am surrounded by people who don't know me well, I've gotten to explain why I'm a deterministic atheist to a good handful of fairly educated, non-judgmental people. I think it's gone down well, and I've learned how to succinctly explain what I believe and why.

Basically, what I think is that the God-belief-thing is really statement about what a person believes is the nature of the universe at its most basic level. If you take away all the matter and the energy and the spacetime (if you can do such a thing), what's left? In a theist's conception, the basic and default nature of the universe is an infinite consciousness, with desires and thoughts and feelings, which can create and destroy through sheer will.

That seems pretty damn unlikely. And it certainly poses more questions than it answers. From what I understand about how reality works, things start out simple and then, over time, things develop progressively more complex emergent patterns. A very simple "first cause" would require a lot less explanation for its own existence than a very complex one.. and I can't imagine anything more complex than the infinite consciousness that I described above.

Thus, I do not believe in a God. I am not sure what exactly the basic, default state of the universe is (my best guess - empty spacetime?), but I can say with confidence that God ain't it.

In sum: Ultimate 747 + Occam's Razor = o'rly.

BTW: I got to where I am, philosophically, from watching Scott Clifton's vlogs. I may or may not be desperately in love with this man.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One more drop in the ocean

Yet another reason why we need healthcare reform. Steph's story is not the exception - it's the norm.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I've gotten into the habit of eating again, damn.

Yes, you can actually break a habit. It's called extinction. Now, that does not mean that a habit cannot reemerge given the right environmental triggers, as the author does note. But it's a little disingenuous to say that you cannot break a habit. Ask any behavioral psychologist. Or neuroscientist, for that matter.

Your brain is a little more plastic than this idiot wants you to think it is.

However, since she's talking about weight lose and appetite... yeah, I don't know if you can break free from that whole 'neural regulation of caloric intake' thing that triggers hunger and feeding behavior when your body has less than its normal level of fat stores.

That's a slight difference from "breaking a habit", and good luck with that one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Open season on idiot liber-trolls! Come'n get 'em!

Some idiot doesn't realize that public healthcare programs are more efficient than our private one, additionally doesn't realize that a public healthcare option is NOT the same as a single-payer healthcare system and is proud of his ignorance, what else is new. But he did have some pretty good suggestions!
So, after I repeat your mantra, may I go put on my brown shirt and swastika? Why don't we just go ahead and have tax payer funded housing too? How about tax payer funded food for everyone while we are at it? It all relates to the health and well being of everyone right? Tax payer funded cars? Tax payer funded electricity and gas? Tax payer funded funerals? And on and on and on and on.
Oh noeesss, teh horrar!! If the burdens of basic housing, food, transportation, healthcare, childcare and utilities for each tax-paying citizen were shouldered collectively by society then EVERY PERSON CONTRIBUTING TO AMERICAN SOCIETY WOULD HAVE A BASIC MINIMUM STANDARD OF LIVIN-- oh wait, there was something wrong with that?

Do you really want the least well-off of your fellow Americans to starve, to be homeless, to go jobless (because you need a job to pay for bus fare, and you need a bus to get to work...), to suffer without heat in the winter? Really?

Do you really think that the America that put a man on the moon can't muster up the resources to feed her people?

Why do you hate America, Greg?

BTW, zombie hitler's apparently been sowing some serious fuckin' Godwin.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Daily Mail headline generator

"COULD THE METRIC SYSTEM DESTROY YOUR DAUGHTERS?"

"IS FEMINISM INFECTING THE COUNTRYSIDE WITH AIDS?"

"WILL NEW LABOUR TURN COMMON SENSE AND DECENCY GAY?"

"HAVE GYPSIES BURGLED THE ROYAL FAMILY?"

Omg, omg, this is too funny.

H/T Kate Harding

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Message to men who have trouble dating because of clinical-level anxiety.

Get your fucking anxiety treated by a professional like the medical problem that it is.

Do not use it to justify predatory means of picking up women.

Thank you, Tycho. Gabe, thank you for being an example... and then maybe learning something from it.

Protip for both of you idiot manboys: Women are, surprisingly, NOT objects to be acquired, but people! With thoughts! IMAGINE THAT.

I'd like to think that you are aware of this fact, but it doesn't come across well when you equate fucking PUA with "socialization skills". Formulaic methods of projecting "value" so as to enable the presumed-male audience to sleep with many women (and f'reals, what else do you really think "game" refers to??) != learning social skills. If it were general socializing tips, it'd be gender-neutral.

I adore you both, but srsly now.

Srsly.

Silly name, not-too-shabby articles

This FaithWorld blog isn't actually too bad.

Here's one fairly good article about the contributions that the cognitive sciences make to the study of religion. (To summarize: our brains automatically assume agency even where none exist.)

And another one that speaks fairly well about brain imaging.

However, the site does seem to allow for some weird nebulous religiosity... but I think I can allow it, so long as they keep talking intelligently about my precious braaaains.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My new desktop wallpaper


From the CreoZerg! I <3 PZ sometimes...

OK, now back to settling into my new place, which involves no small amount of basking by the pool and having my roommate cook tasty dinners for me. By next week, maybe I'll feel up to tackling some SCIENZE!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

False dilemmas and snake oil, from Greta Christina?

Greta Christina, your Fat-Positive Diet post was almost perfect. Seriously, as both a skeptic and a FA advocate, I enjoyed both of your posts.

But when I read this, I knew I needed to say something:
And when I start thinking that this weight loss thing isn't that big a deal and I can have that ice cream if I want it, it helps to imagine my old age, and to think about whether I want to be spending it dancing, walking in the woods, exploring new cities, on my knees committing unspeakable sexual acts... or sitting on a sofa watching TV and waiting to die.
Lovely, lovely Greta. Firstly, that's the False Dilemma fallacy, and you should know better. I know that framing it that way might help sustain you in achieving your goals, but that doesn't make it something you should necessarily promote on your blag.

Most importantly, though... look, I know that in this case, you're talking about your knee, and how much better your knee feels since you've lost weight, and all the awesome things you'll be able to continue doing with your knee... but this paragraph still echoes the Fantasy of Being Thin. Strongly.

I know that you haven't let your fatness stop you from doing any of those above-mentioned actions, and you don't think they're reserved only for those Good Moral Skinny People. But you do basically state that you need to be thin(ner) to continue doing those things.

Yes, yes, because of your knee! Your bad knee, which will only get worse if you don't stop being fat on it! But you don't acknowledge that losing weight is only a temporary measure. Not because I think you'll gain the weight back, but because weight is not the only thing that causes bad knees to get worse. Age, everyday wear-and-tear, accidents... look, I don't know your medical history, but I'm betting with all that dancing and walking and kneeling for unspeakable acts, your knee's going to get worn on regardless. Losing weight now will reduce the rate of that wear, fer sure, but it won't cure your bad knee.

I get the impression that you think that losing weight is a permanent, life-long cure, because that's how you're framing it. Lighter me = active self into my old age. Heavy me = sitting on couch waiting to die. And that's how your readers are reading it. Us fatties have been told that shit - "Just lose some weight, and [complicated, multi-faceted problem] will be ALL BETTER, FOREVAR!" - over and over AND OVER again, and it's always an exaggeration.*

I understand you have your theory in the right place both with FA and skepticism, and that writing about dieting sucks when you're on a diet (for the same reason that writing about quitting smoking sucks when you're quitting smoking - it reminds you of That Thing You Want To Do But Aren't Supposed To Be Doing), and that it's easy for you to let an irrational-but-motivating thought pattern slide.

But.. gah. You're just wrong here. And it's making this reader cringe.


*Progressively angry aside:

This is, of course, not to say that losing weight won't ever help a bad knee at all and so you shouldn't even try losing weight. I'm not a fucking moron, and I'm willing to bet that most in the fatosphere aren't either, so your other post claiming just that is even more cringeworthy. In terms of putting weight on a bad knee, I'm fairly certain that reasonable FA peeps would agree that simply in terms of physics, it's better to put 140 lbs on it than 200, and if you're willing and able to give it an attempt, then good luck! All the best! Hope it works!

In terms of diet and activity level, even as a scientist and a skeptic, I've seen no good reason to believe that one person can't be just as healthy at 200 lbs as another person is at 140, but I do have a hard time believing that any one person could be practicing equally healthy habits at 200 lbs and 140 lbs.

In addition, the implication that fat people are fat because they are eating quadruple- patty hamburgers and chocolate chip pancakes and sausage on a stick and candy bars is a little unnecessary from someone who calls herself a fat-acceptance advocate, especially when that person acknowledges 1) that you can eat healthily and still be fat and 2) it's still important to plan in some non-weight-loss-y foods while dieting because total deprivation would be, in your own god-damned words, "intolerable".

Oh, and for fuck's sake, comparing eating to drug use?! Christ, Greta. I still love you, but... fuck.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You mean polls can be biased?! SAY IT AIN'T SO...

Onenewsnow is one of the most unintentionally hilarious sites out there, as illustrated by this poll of theirs:
What is the impact of positive portrayals of homosexuality on network and cable TV?
Ow. Owwwww. Ow. The pain, the agony, the stupid. I seriously think they covered all of the stupid bases. Maybe add an option "5. Sodomy in the streets" and call it a night.

But it isn't quite as amusingly blatant as BillO's "No Spin Poll". Yet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm never too busy to post neuroscience linkies!

Whenever you're letting your mind wander, not thinking about anything in particular, there's a few areas in your brain that have coordinated, cyclic activity levels. This activity is suppressed whenever you decide to concentrate on a task. This brain network has been labeled "the default network", and it's theorized to play a role in abstract simulations.

If you want to read a little about it, ScienceNews has this really neat piece out.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Graduate school preparation...

Departure date: Aug 1
TA training begins: Aug 7
Class begins: Aug 23? 24? Shit. I should know this.

Things I've done:
  • Acquired housing (and an awesome roommate, to boot!)
  • Sent my immunization record to the new university
  • Sent all appropriate forms from the Welcome Packet to the new U
  • Boxed up my cat's litter pan, food dish, water dish, and poop scooper to pre-ship to my new place (so my cat will have her needs met when we arrive)
  • Set up my university mail account
  • Registered for the grad student open-house introductory thingy
  • Bought a one-way plane ticket (gulp!)
Things I have yet to do:
  • Have my official I'm-graduated-I-swear transcript from Pitt sent to the new U
  • Pack any of my clothes or personal effects (affects?)
  • Clean the room I'm sleeping in
  • Vacuum the room that's currently the cat-poop-box room
And on top of all that, I have a going-away party tomorrow, and a bridal shower on Saturday (for which I am a bridesmaid, so I must help pwe...pwewp...pewpwewe... get weady).

There's a small knot in my stomach, for some reason.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I have a very good idea.

I want to do a pop-up style neuroscience kids' book, with a slidey thing to demonstrate action potential propagation.

(c) me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Big Ben's civil suit

As a native Burgher who isn't a woman-blaming fuck, I need to take a second to counter this "gold-digger" narrative coming from almost everyone I know regarding the woman taking Big Ben Roethlisberger to civil court over an alleged rape.

The alleged rape happened a year ago. If the she really had been raped, why wouldn't she have called the police then? Gotten a rape kit done? Pressed criminal charges?

This might give you a clue as to why. Or this.

If that's too vague for you try a quote from this...
According to her suit, the hotel’s chief of security told her, "Most girls would feel lucky to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger.”
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Roethlisberger really did rape this woman. Put yourself in her hypothetical shoes. It's your word, you silly unknown schmuck, against Ben freaking Roethlisberger's. Big Ben, the quarterback for a nationally beloved team, the SuperBowl-winning team for fuck's sake. Jesus fuck, people, think about it for a second. It'd probably be easier just to try and get over it without involving the criminal justice system.

That leads, always, to question number 2: Why would she press a civil suit now?

Well, let's look at the details.

From the NY Times:
According to the civil complaint filed Friday in the Second Judicial District Court in Washoe County, Nev., the woman accused Roethlisberger of assault while he was a guest at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, where she is an employee. The suit, however, is also for libel and slander and is filed against nine defendants, including Roethlisberger. The eight others are reportedly employees at Harrah’s whom the woman accuses of defaming her following the assault. She also says Harrah's did not adequately investigate her complaint.
And these from The Examiner:
The lawsuit was coincidentally filed the week that Roethlisberger happened to be in Nevada attending another golf tournament.
Coincidentally, eh? Let's assume this woman's claims are true. Big Ben rapes her while in Nevada for a golf tournament. She presumably doesn't report it because of the horrible backlash that she'd face. She presumably tries her best to get over it. But it doesn't work. Over the next year, people she works with throw it in her face repeatedly. They tell her she's lucky to have been raped. She ends up spending time in a mental health hospital with depression.

And then the prick comes back to town a year later for another golf tournament. Wouldn't you be worried, if the man who raped you (and got away with it) was strolling back into town, just like before? Wouldn't you be furious, that this man who raped you, who made your past year miserable, was just walking around like nothing happened?

If you were in her position, and everything she said were true, wouldn't you want some justice?

At that point, a year later, a criminal suit is out of the question. So what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on pretending nothing happened? You saw how much good that did you. The only real recourse you have is a civil suit.

Which is what she's doing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blog Silence

So, you guys should be used to semi-periodic blag silences from me by now, right?

I'm moving several hundred miles on Aug 1 to start graduate school, and what with getting my old place all cleaned up, doing obligatory Family Stuff, managing a surprise summer relationship, seeing all of my friends before I leave, and maintaining my sanity... I suppose you can forgive me for spending more time in meatspace than usual.

But, hey, if you're bored you can scroll down to my post below and delurk! Cmon, you know you want to... :P

Monday, July 6, 2009

Penny Arcade

The story arc going on right now at Penny Arcade is simply magnificent.

It starts here, and then is continued here. After #2, you can just hit "next" and page through them.

I can't wait for #5.

Also, it's as important to check the "News" tab when reading PA as it is to check the alt-text for xkcd.

I haven't forgotten about you, Stephanie!!

Hokays, so I got tagged by Steph Zvan about 90 years ago in blagoweb time, and in this moment of perusing youtube I should really get on with it.

I'm supposed to pick out the worst cover song, and then the best. I haven't been ignoring you, I've just been carefully researching. (Also, ignoring everyone. Not just you! Lol.)

So the very worst? Alanis - My Humps. Ok, yeah, I know it's supposed to be this whole commentary thing, but THE ORIGINAL HAS SUCH A GOOD GROOVE TO IT. I just didn't dig this reinterpretation. At all. Yech.


The very best? Hands down, to Trent Reznor covering Physical. Omggg, his breathiness into the microphone pretty much leads to insta-orgasm on my part. (/fangirl)


So, um, tags... yeah, as I think this meme has passed its prime, and I'm pretty sure anyone who actually reads my blog has done it already... but if you're reading this, you have a blog, and you haven't done this meme yet, CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED.

I have a motherfucking bachelor's in this subject - WHY DID I NOT LEARN THIS?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_psychology

I knew NOTHING in that above link.

The University of Pittsburgh fails to teach me adequately where MY FUCKING FIELD came from. Why do I have to hear about Freud in every damn class, but NOTHING about ANY of these people?

Oh yeah, brown people don't count. Gotcha.

/Fume.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gender discrimination among playwrights.

Have I mentioned how much I love reading feminist critiques of science journalism?

Echidne of the Snakes opens a can of science whoopass on journalists who cannot read the studies about which they report.

To make a long story short, it had been reported in several news outlets that a recent study showed that female directors and managers give worse ratings to female-authored plays, thus women are really the cause of discrimination against female playwrights.

The reporting was very, very wrong.

The study design was:
1) Send out identical plays to many such directors/managers, all of which were actually written by women, but put male names on half of them.
2) Have such directors/managers fill out long questionnaires that asked both about how the director thought the play would be received and also about what the director thought about the actual quality of the play.

The results?

Male directors rated the "male" and "female" authored plays equally on both personal ratings and how they thought it would be recieved.

Female directors rated the "male" and "female" authored plays equally on personal ratings, but they responded that "female" authored plays would be received less-well by others, likely because they were more aware of how gender-based discrimination plays out in these situations.

Apparently in the eyes of science journalists, as Echidne says, "To notice discrimination is to be guilty of it."

Monday, June 29, 2009

A brief lesson for any whackjob libertarians reading this:

The data does not support your contention that a strictly private healthcare system is more efficient or cheaper than a public one. No, you will not even have to wait longer for a doctor's appointment.

I know, I know, that's not what you've been led to expect. Just read this.

Marvel at its reliance on actual data.

That sensation you're feeling? It's cognitive dissonance.

Sometimes, people come up with theoretical systems that seem very likely to work out, but those systems end up not working out as well as theorized. Right now might be a good time to reevaluate whether or not your system is as ideal in practice as it is in theory.

Take as long as you need.

When you're done with that, repeat after me:
A public health insurance option is not the same as a single-payer system.

A public health insurance option will create more competition, not less.
Sometimes a public project is more effective than a private industry.
Taxation is not equivalent to theft, slavery, or initiation of force.

Now get over yourselves.

On a slightly unrelated note, I read my President's speech about his plans for healthcare reform to the AMA, and I squeed a little. Yay for having a reasonable! person! in the White House.

Here's a link to the post that got my boxer-briefs all in a twist.

And here's a link to my craaaaaaaaazy suggestion that people who use the apparatus of society the most and draw the most benefit from said apparatus should be expected to contribute more to it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A brief note about Pharyngulan commenters.

Commenters like Troy are seriously idiotic fucked up monsters, and they make me want to find the servers that host Pharyngula's comment threads and burn them to the ground. Or at the very least, to never ever ever read said threads again.

Commenters like Rev. BigDumbChimp give me hope for humanity. Don't ever stop "feeding the trolls" by correcting their asshattery; if no one speaks up and says that bigoted shit is wrong, it seems like there's some implicit condoning going on. I hope you get a Molly, and I'm planning on voting for you the next chance I get. Reading your responses has helped preserve my sanity today, and for that I thank you.

Good day.

...

I SAID GOOD DAY.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WANT

I am an unbelievable sucker for silly books that attempt to proselytize to me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I've been hooked

The Sims 3 is the reason why I haven't been posting... or doing laundry.. or doing much of anything, actually. It is a fantabulous game.

Here is a small example of why.


Now I'm going back to my Sims family!

BTW: BUY THIS GAME.

Friday, June 12, 2009

TONIGHT WE DANCE WITH LORD STANLEY

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teaspoons.

I've been up all night, spending some time with The New Dude, then home to read and fret and read and fret some more. The internets can be a rough place, even when I stay in more-or-less happy places like Scienceblogs and Feministe and Racialicious. Even if I'm not going to get slapped in the face with misogyny or racism or general ignorance... blogs tend to be full of Big Scary Issues, and reading about the latest creationist goofball or sexist pig or domestic terrorist can get my insides all tied in knots.

So I go to my security blanket on the internets: Shakesville.

Shakesville is my happy place. The authors there cover serious business with amazing grace, and on top of that they make sure I get my daily quota of kittens and non-hate-filled lulz. Shakesville has changed the way I think, act, and talk. And I owe a great debt to Liss for making all of it that way.

I'm ashamed that it's taken something like this to make me realize that.

So this is for Liss:

I don't have a Disqus account (because I already have a facebook and a gmail and a livejournal and good gawd damn there are only so many minutes in the day and if I have to remember one more username and password I'm going to start screaming and I don't know if I'll ever stop), and I don't want to contribute to the clusterfuck that I'm sure your inbox is swiftly becoming... but I wanted to say something. Oh, fuck that, I want to say THANK YOU.

Thank you!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. For putting up with this bullshit internets thing for so long, for gathering together such an amazing crew of people, for caring so deeply, for helping effect a positive change. Thank you for your teaspoons. You are so brave and persistant and wonderful, and the world is a better place for it. I am amazed by your strength.

I would totally bake you a million cookies, do your taxes for the next decade, give you a week-long foot massage, and rent you one of those awesome inflatable bouncy-castle thingies that make me want to be 5 again.

If you need to take a break... Hell, if you need to pull yourself permanently out of this wretched hive of scum and villainy we call the intertubes... I think we can all understand. Take some you-time. Maude knows you've given us plenty of us-time, at your own expense no less.

But you should know that you've at the very least inspired me (and I'm sure many others) to maintain my little corner of the blagoweb as a safe space.

You're welcome here any time.

((((Liss))))

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

First there was the abhorrent shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, which I've just found out was disgustingly successful in achieving its aims - Dr. Tiller's clinic has been closed. The success of this form of domestic terrorism is horrifying. This is not new, and so long as we do nothing about it, it will continue.

And now I hear about this shooting at the Holocaust Museum in DC. Seeing the two following lines in the same article infuriates me:
According to a Web site maintained by Mr. von Brunn, he embraces a far-reaching conspiracy theory involving Jews, blacks and other minority groups.
There were no clues to his motive or identity.
Where the fuck did all our righteous indignation go about terrorism? Why aren't the waterboarding-is-OK people going all gung-ho on Tiller's killer, since it's the closest thing to a ticking time bomb situation that we're going to get outside of TV?

Oh yeah... white, Christian, American dudes aren't terrorists. I forgot.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

RRRRRR.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Silence is the Enemy.

Do you care about the institutionalized rape of women and children? Want to do something about it?

Go here. Frequent the linked blogs. Thank you.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My posting might be a little slack this week...


^-- The Outer Bank, which is where I am. I'll be here until Saturday. So... well, just expect some brief roundups, and maybe beach pictures.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Omgomgomg - SCIENCE.

This. Is. Awesome.

A new Nature study demonstrates two dopamine pathways - one tuned for salience of reward, and one tuned for salience of general value (both punishment and reward).

Go. Read. Now. I'll wait until you get back.

*fidgets, squirms*

OK, isn't that freaking awesome?!! Did you see the differences in firing patterns during the air puff vs. juice for the second set of neurons? That's GORGEOUS - this study showed us SO MUCH. OooMmmGgg, I wonder what it all means! Brains are so very deliciously complicated.

I love neural pathways, I love gorgeously tuned populations of neurons, I love firing patterns, I love raster graphs, I love primate studies, I love Scicurious, I love dopamine, I love neuroscience, I love new discoveries. I'm squeeing my head off over here.

Hopefully these results are replicable. (Nature isn't always so good with that... but this seems like a well-done study. Preemptive squee!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Antifeminist Links

I use StumbleUpon to ... well, stumble upon new and interesting things on teh interwebs. I click the button, it sends me to something new, based on the interests I plug in. (FYI, I totally recommend this service. It's fantabulous.)

But sometimes people submit the most ridiculous antifeminist things...

Such as 18 General and Contradictory Criticisms of Women, where I am informed about all the things men (as a cohesive unit, apparently!) hate about me.

Oh, and there's also Four Ways You're Not Catering To Teh Menz, that will set me straight about my horrible tendency to talk to LotR fans about my favorite winery in Napa, which is clearly costing me the opportunity to get swept off my feet by charming shiny knights.

Look, if you're tempted to write down your personal list of pet peeves about an entire class of people in list-based format... just stop it. Stop it. You're embarassing yourselves. The only people who can pull that off are Cracked writers, and even they just barely squeak by sometimes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Citation Needed

Let me lay out my bias ahead of time, here. I am absolutely squicked out by vaginal birth. If and when I ever have a baby, I want either a Cesarean, a needle in my spine, or a lot of nitrous oxide.

But my pro-Cesarean and pro-medical-care views are not the only problem I have with this ridiculous article.

I'm only going to address the most egregious lines from it, because otherwise I'd be here all day. And this article is only about 600 words long!
Inducing childbirth -- bringing on or hastening labor with the drug oxytocin, also raises the risk of complications that lead to cesareans. Experts say miscalculations often result in the delivery of infants who are too young to breathe on their own.
Dudes - lungs are functioning at the 27th-29th week of pregnancy. No one would induce a child more than a week early. Yes, at that point the baby can very well breathe on its own.
Cesareans also have been shown to increase premature births and the need for intensive care for newborns.
Citation needed. And... how? (If you mean children born later to women who have Cesareans, then maybe. Maybe.)
Most U.S. physicians discourage vaginal deliveries after a cesarean because of some widely publicized cases several years ago in which the uterus split disastrously along the prior incision. The modern C-section in the United States is the low transverse, an incision in the bottom part of the uterus, from side to side. Those heal better. All the studies say, in those types of incisions, the risk is less than 1%, probably a half percent that it will open during labor. Doctor's will insist on a C-section again for the second birth because of a 1% chance of a uterine rupture.
DUDE. I'd like to point out, 1% isn't a very small number. That's one instance out of every hundred. Yeah, I'd certainly like to avoid a 1% chance of my uterus erupting catastrophically during childbirth, putting both me and my baby in imminent danger.

I mean, there are legitimate things to say about the overmedicalization of all that. But this article either doesn't say them, or says them very, very poorly.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

DOOOOO ITTTTTT!!!

[California] Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has written legislation to allow the legal sale of marijuana to adults 21 years and older for recreational use. His Assembly Bill 390 would charge cannabis wholesalers initial and annual flat fees, while retailers would pay $50 per ounce to the state.
From AP, as reported by the Miami Herald.

Fangirl Joygasm!

Zomg PZ Myers wrote this article for the LA Times and it's basically the best way I could have ever imagined anyone would ever talk about atheism.

I liked PZ before this article, no denying it. He's at the top of my blagroll. I've always thought he was pretty groovy. But this? This changes everything.

PZ Myers, if you came to Pittsburgh this summer (before August 1 when I move out of state for grad school - btw, if you ever want to vacation in Tampa, you're totally welcome to crash at my place literally anytime, anytime you'd like, I'd sleep on the couch and you could use my room, it'd totally be cool), I'd be one of the first in line to buy tickets to PZ-stravaganza, and I'd sit outside your trailer afterwards -because all superstars have trailers, naturally - with a homemade "PZ is my homeboy" T-shirt waiting and hoping for an autograph. If I were permitted the great honor and privilege of meeting you in person, I'd present you with frankincense and myrrh. I would camp out on 279 to eagerly await your presence, and as you approached I'd throw palm fronds onto the highway to herald your presence.

I would not, however, wash your feet. That would be creepy.

:P

But seriously now, that was a really good article. Go, PZ! You tell 'em!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ida, The Missing Second-Aunt Thrice Removed

You guys do know that an awesome transitional apey/monkey-lookin fossil was found, right? A really, really pretty one. It's kinda been hyped just a little bit recently.


Well, member of the Sciborg collective Coturnix has an absolutely intense link roundup about Ida on his blog. So, go over there and read about it to your heart's content.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My first troll!

Today was the date of the Allegheny County primaries. I voted, and I hope you did too (if you had the opportunity).

I've already shared a couple of my picks with you. Having a terrible memory, I checked in on that post to write down my preferred candidates... and found that I had acquired a troll! Lovely!

My good anonymous friend had been telling me about PA Super Lawyer Phil Ignelzi when all of a sudden this guy shows up:
Ronald said...

Do not vote for Leah Williams Duncan. For 4 years she has been refusing rights of men and their children rewarding woman who abandon their children to live a Lesbian lifestyle. She has also refused child care for those children. She has been taking away funds for the childs care to forward her Gay agenda. Pittsburgh does not need a judge that refuses the rights of children and punish the morally correct and reward immoral lifestyles. She was a single parent trying to raise her children but refuse to make woman pay for their infidelity. She keeps imposing her immoral views from the bench instead of enforcing the laws as she is supposed to. I also watched as she laughed when she found out that the woman she was rewarding was commiting Federal Tax Fraud for 6 years.
Leah Willaims Duncan is not the type of judge Pittsburgh needs.
I had a couple responses to this. Firstly, a judge who doesn't make rulings based on anti-gay or misogynist bigotry is a judge I'd like on the bench. A lesbian mother doesn't get cut out from her child's life? Fantastic. Second, if she did anything like rule against child care or condone tax fraud, link me up. Otherwise, Ronald's 'objections' actually encourages me to vote for Leah Williams-Duncan.

I figured this guy would be a hit-n-run commenter, something I don't consider trolling, so I didn't bother saying anything more. But nope:
Ronald said...

Muse142 I figured you would like her as your choice that is why I wrote this on your blog Leah is for people like you that refuse Children their rights to impose your sexual preferences upon them.
I have custody of my son not her due to her mental illness. Hearing officers like Leah Williams-Duncan felt that she should be rewarded for abandoning her son, her family, and she was a Catholic Christian mother when she abandoned her faith. Through all this she has also bankrupted her own mother and two more like you. I would like to see you vote for her so she will allow my ex-wife to bankrupt more like you. In doing what Leah Williams-Duncan has done for her over the years she has alienated my son from his mother. (I requested the visitation his mother didn't want any) Leah has put more woman and their children on welfare that I took care of bankrupting the state. Her immoral judgements have always produced the opposite results. I leave it up to you to decide is this the kind of judge you want? You may not get what you like. Just look at her profile on Facebook.


Anonymous said...

How can you say, "For 4 years she has been refusing rights of men and their children rewarding woman who abandon their children to live a Lesbian lifestyle"? She isn't a judge yet! How can she refuse the rights of men while simultaneously rewarding women. That doesn't make any sense!


Ronald said...

Anonymous She has been a hearing officer for many years in Family Division of Allegheny County. Take away the rights of Men to insure that Gay woman don't have to pay child support. But look at her profile on Facebook. If you are gay or straight with my info or her own profile would you vote for her to be a judge? It's your choice. Anonymous why don't you look at Leah's profile and look at what I'm saying which way would you vote. I'm just showing you that she is hypocrite. Either way I don't live in Allegheny County any more to many hypocrites there. I moved to Central PA. where the real thieves are in Harrisburg.
This guy is full of non-sequiturs, ridiculousness and general flaming bigotry. Let me count the ways:

First, all this talk about taking away men's rights. What rights? What, do you mean primary custody? Paying child support?

Custody... ok this one's difficult for me, because I don't think it's a right or a "reward". I think it's a responsibility. You have kids, and whether you're a woman or a man (or anything in between), you should be responsible for raising them. You pointed out yourself that you have custody of your kids now. Men aren't ruled out from custody. In almost all divorces I know where kids were involved, the parents share custody. Giving someone custody isn't 'rewarding' them and taking it away isn't 'punishing' them. I think the APA guidelines for this kind of thing are key - and notice that the only time they mention sexuality, it's to note that child custody evaluations should be free from discrimination.

Which brings me neatly to my second point. There's nothing inherent about being a lesbian that makes someone unfit for parenting. Children raised by lesbian mothers are no different from children raised by straight mothers in acquiring sex-role behavior or frequency of psychological problems. You can read some more about lesbian mothers and how family law has basically pissed all over them for no reason here. I'll repeat for you: There's nothing inherent about being a lesbian that makes someone unfit for parenting. If you think so, then you have some damned bigoted views. Feel free to start a blog elsewhere, but that won't get very far here.

And on top of that, children don't have some sort of right not to interact with other human beings. No one can "refuse Children their rights to [escape from a parent who would] impose your sexual preferences upon them", because children don't have that right. At this very moment, Ronald, you are imposing your sexual preferences upon your children!! In fact, I'd imagine that you're a lot more "imposing" than most lesbian mothers, who would probably understand if their child wasn't JUST LIKE THEM OMG THE HORROR.

Thing number three: your misogyny is showing. I know, I know, it must suck not owning your woman, such that she can go and get divorced and explore her sexuality and (gasp!) sleep with someone who's not you. And unlike the days of yore, she won't be punished for it! Gosh, what has society come to, when these bitches refuse to let the patriarchy rule their lives, and the system isn't even allowed to take their children away like they clearly rightly deserve! Tch. Throw your preserve-my-privilege pity party somewhere else.

One last thing... OMG terrible grammar ftl. If English is not your first language, forgive me for this, but GEEZ OH MAN. I normally wouldn't bring it up, but I literally had to reinterpret like half of your sentences. If I misunderstood something you said, that's why.

Oh, and I hope everyone voted for Leah Williams-Duncan!

So, that's that. My first troll! Squee!

Brief late-night roundup

Yes.

No.

Wtp?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Like an ice pick in your eyeball.

I have been thinking a lot about lobotomies lately.

There's not much easily-Googled info about the specifics of prefrontal lobotomies. I mean, yeah yeah you can look at the Wikipedia page, and Neurophilosophy has a nice roundup of the history, and there's stories from lobotomy survivors. Any one of those links will give you a good idea about the effects of a lobotomy. Typically, lobotomies make people quiet, calm, and unemotional - to the point where a person who's been given one can get "zombie-like".

But only a passing mention is given to the actual lobotomy itself - severing the white matter that connects the thalamus with the frontal cortex. What is that all about?

You've all seen the typical neuron diagram, right? Well if you haven't:

A brain cell / nerve / neuron has a cell body (soma) just like any other cell, with a nucleus and all that. It's special in that it has a long extension called an axon that ends in a synapse on another neuron. When a neuron is activated, it sends a little electrical pulse down its axon. That's how nerves send signals.

Your brain has "gray matter" and "white matter". Gray matter is where your cell bodies (somas) are. White matter is where the axons go. So when you cut white matter, like in a lobotomy, you're cutting axons. In essence, you're cutting the cables from one brain area to another.

The axons affected in a lobotomy start in the thalamus and go to the frontal cortex. The thalamus is like a relay station; sensory, emotional, and other basic info go to the thalamus, which processes it a little and sends it on through the white matter to the cortex.

The cortex is the outside layer of your brain - the gray wrinkly stuff that you think of when you think "brain". It does a lot of stuff, but the frontal cortex is what's important here. The frontal and prefrontal cortex are basically the thinkin' parts of the brain. That's where the planning happens. Any action you consciously take has its roots in the frontal cortex.. and many actions you don't consciously take.

So, basically, a lobotomy cuts the cables that send emotional and sensory information to the "planning" part of your brain. Knowing this, you can explain the effects of a lobotomy very well. People are quiet and calm because the part of their brain that plans actions and responds to emotions ain't getting the usual amount of information.

This is great, if you just want "that crazy person" to stop bothering you, shut up, and sit in the corner staring at a wall. But for those of us who understand that people with cognitive or mood disorders are human fucking beings...

Well, we've come a ways since lobotomies, right?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Two things I have issues with:

Numero uno:

This is why I do not read DailyKos. Here is a sane response to it, with lots of refreshing comments.

Numero dos:

Obesity is (apparently!) bad for you!!! What's the problem with that, you ask? Even if those conclusions are completely correct... Firstly, is there really a good way to prevent oneself from being fat or to become thin once one is fat? Is there really? (If you give me the bunsen burner model of humans [cals in - cals out = cals stored], then I'd like some evidence that human biology is really that ridiculously simple, because even my wee bit of intro to physiology would indicate otherwise, kthx.) Secondly, CORRELLATION != CAUSATION. For the diabetes correllation (higher BMI ~~ more likely to have a diabeetus diagnosis), if fatter people are screened more intensely for diabeetus, or if both obesity and diabeetus are lots higher in certain specific populations (low-income, minority, disadvantaged...), or if the two conditions are genetically linked, or even if maybe higher weight might be protective against dying from diabeetus then wouldn't it be true that the fatter you got, the more likely you'd have a diabeetus diagnosis? I mean, MarkH does point out that, if we think fatness is unhealthy, it'd be unethical to try and make thin people fat experimentally... but as far as I know it's pretty much been shown to be nigh impossible (to make thin people fat) anyway. I will acknowledge that the all-causes mortality graphs are pretty convincing, though. So I'll be pondering this.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Recommendation for music lovers

Pandora Radio is spectacular for anyone who loves music.

Here's how it works. You enter in a song or an artist, and it creates a radio station based around the musical qualities of that song or artist. This process uses the Music Genome Project, which is totally sweet. You can "seed" as many songs/artists as you like. Then, when it's playing songs, you can give them a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down". It's pretty intuitive, but the FAQ is very thorough in case you want to know exactly what thumbs up/down does to a song.

I have the following stations, all made by me (seeds in parentheses):
  • Chill male alternative (John Meyer, Modest Mouse, Barenaked Ladies)
  • Celtic punk rock (Flogging Molly)
  • Reggaeton 'n' Rap (Gasolina by Daddy Yankee)
  • Soul of Pop (Boyz II Men, Told You So by BNL, More Than Words by Extreme, At This Moment by Billy Vera & The Beaters)
  • [Dude] thinks it's cool (At The Drive-In) [my station for my ex-Dude]
  • I can dance to it (Single Ladies by Beyonce, Live Your Life by T.I., Crank That by Soulja Boy)
  • Pseudo-psychedelic (Buffalo Springfield, The Yardbirds, Syd Barrett)
  • Kinda Folky (Blackbird by The Beatles)
You do need to sign up, but it's entirely free to do so.

One caveat: Your seeds are used individually to generate your music. So if you type in "The Beatles", it really seems like the songs generated could have the musical qualities of any Beatles song ever. So if you seed a lot of artists, you're going to have to thumbs-down a lot of crap.

When you thumbs-down a song, normally it will skip the rest of it. But you only get six 'skips' an hour per station. Especially when you're first making a station, you might thumbs-down a song and have to suffer through the remainder of it.

But as faults, those are extremely minor. It's free, you get to make as many stations as you can stand, and each station is completely customizable. So, all in all, a great service. If I were you, I'd get an account while it's still free. (If you were me, you'd already have one, because I do. And that's how these things work.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Privilege: What is is, and what it ain't.

I happened across this quote in the comments section of Sociological Images:

I think the reason for using an “everyman” instead of an “everywoman” is because women, being women, have specific experiences as women. A female character is aware of her gender. An everyman character can have both male and female experiences, and become somewhat androgynous (ie. Nemo).

It’s privilege, I admit. White privilege is being able to not think about race, and male privilege is being able to not think about gender.

Here's the thing; this commenter got it exactly backwards. It's true that "male privilege is being able to not think about gender", but that's BECAUSE THE MALE GENDER IS ASSUMED THE STANDARD. So men don't have to bother themselves to familiarize with women's experiences, and thus don't have to "think about gender". Women, as the "other gender", have to deal with male-centered culture all the damn time, where the male perspective/motivation is presented constantly. Thus women have a better idea of what it's like to be a man than men have of what it's like to be a woman. If it were about lived experiences, the average woman would be a much better "everyman" (eugh, typing that word made my stomach turn a little).

But it's not about lived experiences. It's about what the audience can project onto the characters. In this case, this commenter sees women, clearly, as the "special case" gender who can only experience womanly things, whereas men are objective observers. Men are the default, women are the other. AGAIN.

Basically, what this douchenozzle is saying is, "Men are the standard, because men are the standard!! People notice when girls are girls. Because they're girls! Duh. That's what male privilege means!"

OK, so maybe he's unintentionally closer to the truth than I'm giving him credit for...

Links I've posted on Facebook recently

I'm very lazy, and have been enjoying my summer relaxation immensely, so you'll forgive me if I just link dump on you and then go along my merry way.

The new revision of the DSM is unnecessarily pathologizing sexualities. Sigh. KEEP YOUR STUPID OUT OF MY BEAUTIFUL SCIENCE.

A big Fuck You Very Much to the anti-LGBTQQ haters out there.

Dr. Free-Ride always has good discussions, this one about math and science and femininity and masculinity and.... Look, just click the link.

I'm going to go catch a nap now. :)

Monday, May 4, 2009

I've been a very, very bad blogmistress.

Firstly, I've been away so long that I've missed ridiculous things, that I wish I'd had the time to participate in. Like Blogging Against Disablism Day! And countless carnivals that I need to catch up on.

But the most egregious error I've made is not updating my blagroll. How on earth is it that Steph Zahn wasn't on my roll there?! She was my first legitimate commenter! And it was missing Isis, too! And Shakesville, for crying out loud. Wtf?! I check these blogs every day! Greta Christina was myseriously missing, even though I check her at least once a week. And at least one blag had moved locations, with nary an update on my roll. Sorry OldAndrew!

I'm such a terrible slacker. Ugh.

Also, if I have STILL forgotten someone, don't be shy and let me know! If I'm on your roll, you should be on mine. End of discussion!

IF YOU LIVE IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY, AND ARE ELIGIBLE TO VOTE, CHECK THIS OUT PLZ.

UPDATE: A helpful commenter provided more info to one of the jurists; if you're interested, also read the comments.

The local primaries in Allegheny county, PA are coming up on May 19th, and the most confusing race is the one for the Court of Common Pleas. It's confusing because there are 15 candidates running for 5 primary spots, and there's a lot of info to digest.

The Post-Gazette has some information about a selection of the candidates here:
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09123/966365-181.stm

The candidates' respective websites can be found at the above link as well, if you're interested.

I am generally cool with the Bar Association recommendations, a complete list of which can be found here:
http://www.acba.org/ACBAsite/media/JudicialPR.asp

There's four levels of Bar recommendation: Highly recommended, just plain old recommended, not recommended at this time, and unqualified. Dude, if the Bar Assoc. tells you that someone's not qualified to be a judge, I tend to acknowledge that. More on that later.

Now, given these sources of information, here's my somewhat informed opinion of the candidates:

My personal favorite is Judge Joe Williams. http://www.judgejoewilliams.com/about.htm He's HIGHLY recommended by the Bar and also the Democratic Party, and he has a long and diverse history as a as a lawyer, judge, and all around swell guy. Also, for those of you who are all about diversity n'at, check out his page. He plays it down, but he is married to Darryl Ford Williams. He's been endorsed by the Stonewall Dems, too! Plus he has a psych degree. Squee! I didn't know it was possible to be a fangirl for a Judge on the Court of Common Pleas...

Some others I like:

Leah Williams-Duncan, because of her record as a public defender, especially her work in the family courts. She's represented both parents and children, and she's recommended by the Bar. http://www.lwduncan4judge.com/

Hugh Fitzpatrick McGough, because... well, just look at his resume, especially the representative cases. http://www.mcgough4judge.com/custom?key=225 Upholding public employee retirement benefits, and working pro bono for the Bethlehem Women's Shelter? Yeah, yeah, I'm all over that. Plus, HIGHLY recommended by the Bar.

EDIT: Phil Ignelzi (http://www.phil4judge.com/) is likely to be a good dude, once the Assistant US Attorney who was named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer and highly recommended by the bar. He spent some time defending white collar criminals, which makes me go ehhhh, but it's well-balanced by his efforts working to help victims of medical malpractice.

Arnie Klein, but this one's more iffy because my liking of him comes from the Post-Gazette blurb about him but not his own website. He has experience in family, orphans', and elder-law cases (as well as civil and criminal), and was a public defender... but his own damn site has very little of substance to it. http://www.kleinforjudge.com/about.html

You can see my biases there. I'd like to have judges on the bench who are compassionate to those who deserve and need it (retirees, battered women, orphans, poverty-stricken, etc) and throw the book at people who would prey upon them.

I am more or less indifferent to Michael Marmo (http://www.marmoforjudge.com/index-1.html), recommended by the Bar, who is already a special master for the common pleas court who hears neighborhood law cases, things like eminent domain and tax appeals.

A couple candidates don't look too bad, but don't have very much meaningful information on their websites. Like Alex Bicket (http://www.bicket4judge.com/), who was highly recommended by the Bar but has nothing but platitudes on his site. Or Susan DiLucente (http://www.judgesusan.com/about.php), who's been involved with many areas of the law, but I have no idea about what side of the law she came down on.

Another couple candidates seem like great lawyers, but they take stances that I'm kinda meh about. Like Phil Ignelzi (http://www.phil4judge.com/), who was named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer and highly recommended by the bar but spent a lot of his time defending white collar criminals. Or Mike Sherman (http://www.michaelshermanforjudge.com/) who both fought tobacco companies - cool, I guess - and represented the state police for 8 years - meh... and his whole site is a black/gold stump speech with a donation form at the bottom.

Carolyn Bengel, Jeff Eisenberg, Don Walko, and Michelle Peck were all not recommended at this time by the Bar Association. Since there are 15 freaking candidates, I think we can safely rule these guys out. (Unless you have some particular reason for liking one of them, in which case comment away and let me know!)

Both Joe Luvara and Jenifer Satler were deemed unqualified by the Bar Assoc., so... yeah.

My final ticket will probably look something like this: Joe Williams, Leah Williams-Duncan, Hugh McGough, Arnie Klein Phil Ignelzi, and Susan DiLucente. What about yours?

And if I missed someone, I'm very very sorry, and feel free to point it out. I'll remind you again: 15 candidates! Intensity!