company of three, black peppermint tea

Tag: politics

look alive

by cloudier

Stoya: Not-cool things to do, bro… Part 1

I can actually remember every time a person at a convention or trade show has touched me inappropriately. My first year at the Venus Fair in Berlin there was a man who shoved two of his fingers into my panty-covered vagina. It was really fast, like he was standing there one second and the next I was trying to figure out how the gusset of my underwear had ended up *in* my vulva. There was a man in Texas who rather violently squeezed my ass while we were taking a picture and then laughed at how I’d “squealed like a piglet”. Seriously. I’m kind of disappointed by how much of a stereotype he was. At AVN this year, a guy grabbed my forearm while I was walking from the elevators to Digital Playground’s booth. He let go when I punched him in the testicle area. There’s an average of three people per convention who try the more subtle approach of sliding their hand a *bit* too far down my back when I stand next to them for a photo. Every single one of them apologizes when I gently put their hand back where it belongs and ask them to remember that I am not a blow up doll.

The above paragraph is absolutely nothing, NOTHING, compared to what it’s like to be a girl or woman walking around in public in broad daylight. With dirty hair up in a ponytail or bun, no makeup, and baggy clothing on. With headphones in, sitting in a coffee shop or on the subway with your nose in a book, or talking on the phone.

Men have followed me down the street poking me in what one can only assume is an attempt to get my attention. Men have grabbed the cord to my headphones and ripped them out of my ears. Multiple times. Men have grabbed parts of my body, or my coat or purse strap. Twice, when I was transporting my Lyra (the three foot metal hoop/circus apparatus I do aerial work on) they have grabbed the hoop and refused to let go until I threatened to kick them. They’ve blocked me into corners on mostly empty subway cars, followed me for blocks and then stood outside whatever shop I duck into for absurd amounts of time. They stop their cars in the middle of the crosswalk to stare and yell things out of the window. Years ago, in Philadelphia, one man walked around my neighborhood asking people if they knew where this blue-haired white girl lived because he wanted to return her phone. Fortunately my neighbors were too smart for that trick.

They say I have a sweet ass, nice tits, a real pretty dress. They say I’m their future wife, or I’d look good with their dick in my mouth. They try (and probably succeed at times) to take pictures down my shirt. They ask if they can get my number, they ask where I live, why I’m not smiling, why my boyfriend lets me walk around by myself. Then they ask why I’m such a bitch, if my pussy is made of ice. They say that they never do this, as though I’ve somehow driven them to inappropriate behavior and deserve it. They say they’re just having fun, trying to pay me a compliment. Pretty frequently they get mean, slipping into a loud tourettes-like chant of bitch-whore-cunt-slut.

Before you try to tell me that it’s because I take my clothes off for a living, let me tell you that this started way before I was 18. Let me tell you that every single woman I know has at least one truly terrifying story of street harassment and a whole bunch of other stories that are merely insulting or annoying. Let me remind you that in a room of pornography fans, who have actually seen me with a dick in my mouth and who can buy a replica of my vagina in a can or box, I am treated with far more respect than I am walking down the street.

Not-cool things to do, bro… Part 2

Street harassment is not a rare or isolated occurrence. It does not only happen in America. It does not only happen to young or traditionally-considered-“beautiful” women. It does not only happen on public transit or in low income areas.

We shouldn’t have to have a big angry dog named Funster to protect us. We shouldn’t have to carry Mace or a knife, hoping that we’ll be able to use it properly if necessary or investing hours of our lives in self defense courses (something a lot of women have neither the time nor disposable income to do). We shouldn’t have to travel in packs to feel safe (again, something that isn’t really feasible).

Men have been responding saying that they want to divorce their gender. That they didn’t realize, until we started sharing our stories en masse, what it is like to be a woman. That they wish there was something they could do. That they’re sorry for the way other men treat people. Men shouldn’t *have* to feel like they need to apologize on behalf of their gender, or feel ashamed of being male. Unless they’re one of the ones doing the harassing, I don’t think they should apologize.

There are things that can be done. When someone you know engages in inappropriate or harassing behavior towards a woman, let them know they did something totally not cool. Like: “Actually, that woman had a right to be upset when you chased her down the street. She was completely accurate when she called it creepy.” or “Hey, this story you’re telling me about putting your dick on a drunk stranger’s face at a party when she clearly didn’t want it there but was too sleepy(2) to fend you off, that was a totally not cool thing to do with your penis, bro.” Teach every moldable male(1) mind (brothers, friends, sons) that treating women (humans) with respect is the right thing to do. Don’t have sex with jerks. Don’t blow them, don’t give them a handjob, don’t give them your phone number. If you hear a woman asking a man to leave her alone or calling attention to the fact that he’s whacking off in the train station, add your voice to hers. Say “This is not ok. This is not cool. We see what you are doing and it is unacceptable.”

that was beautiful. (via)

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by cloudier

What is consciousness?

“Consciousness” refers to several related phenomena, which is why people have such a difficult time agreeing about what it is.

Here are some specific phenomena that fall under the larger umbrella of consciousness and also “the mind”:

awake state — What is different about someone who is awake vs. someone who is in dreamless sleep? In both cases, the brain is highly active and functioning, but in only one case is the individual able to interact with the world and report experiences. Dreams and other altered states of consciousness may lie somewhere between these two extremes. Other variants of non-awakeness include general anesthesia and “persistent vegetative state” (related to coma).

perceptual awareness — What is going on when you are aware of something vs. when you aren’t? In binocular rivalry, two conflicting images are shown to each eye. The information about both images enters the brain, but only one image is seen at a time. Which image is seen changes periodically and spontaneously. There are other examples of information being processed “subliminally” without being perceived “consciously”. In stage magic, what is perceived is different from what is actually happening. What is the difference between sensory signals entering the brain, and something being perceived “consciously”?

subjective (first-person) point of view — Consciousness is private, subjective and experienced from a particular point of view: yours. What accounts for this point of view, for the unique “interiority” that gives the feeling that you exist inside your head somewhere? Is your version of the color red unique to you or the same for everyone? If a machine was conscious, would it have a first-person “experience”? As philosophers would say, is there something that it’s like to be a computer?

unity of experience — Consciousness feels “whole”, indivisible, and irreducible. There is the sense that the world is experienced instantaneously in complete, integrated, and meaningful detail. Hundreds of scientific experiments show that this unity is an illusion (change blindness, attentional filtering, attentional blink, visual illusions, timing errors, split brain patients, mental disorders, various neurological syndromes,  …). But the illusion is so powerful it takes a real force of will to be skeptical of it. When consciousness becomes fragmented, as with dissociative drugs, brain damage, split-brain surgery, or divided attention, has consciousness been degraded?

personal identity (existence, self, ego) — One unique aspect of the human experience is the sense that we exist — that there is an “I” in there somewhere, looking out onto the world. Why do all our experiences come from our body and not someone else’s? Does our uniqueness as an individual come from a “soul” that is somehow attached to the brain, or is it a construct generated by the brain? If someone wakes up with amnesia, or has dementia or dissociative disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder), has their conscious self ceased to exist, even though they seem conscious?

self-awareness — Also uniquely human is our ability to “introspect” onto what is going on in our own mind. Descartes famously said “I think therefore I am.” One complaint about the idea of consciousness in a computer is that a computer seems incapable of answering the question “what is it like to be you?”. If you can’t reflect on your own inner life, are you still conscious?

personal agency — In modern society, an important distinction is made between voluntary action (doing something”intentionally”) and involuntary action (accidental behavior). To do something “consciously” is to do it with forethought and purpose. In Tourette’s Syndrome, people make intentional-seeming actions involuntarily. This ties into the tricky question of “free will” as well as the legal concept of mental competency and the insanity defense. “He was not in conscious control of his actions” the defense might say.

Is the human brain analog or digital?

The brain is neither analog nor digital, but works using a signal processing paradigm that has some properties in common with both.

Unlike a digital computer, the brain does not use binary logic or binary addressable memory, and it does not perform binary arithmetic. Information in the brain is represented in terms of statistical approximations and estimations rather than exact values. The brain is also non-deterministic and cannot replay instruction sequences with error-free precision. So in all these ways, the brain is definitely not “digital”.

At the same time, all of the signals sent around the brain are “either-or” states that are similar to binary. A neuron fires or it does not. These all-or-nothing pulses are the basic language of the brain. So in this sense, the brain is computing using something like binary signals. Instead of 1s and 0s, or “on” and “off”, the brain uses “spike” or “no spike” (referring to the firing of a neuron).

Internal to the neuron, everything works via biochemical pathways, which are somewhat similar to analog. Neurons also perform internal electrical signal integration in an analog fashion. Analogously, the digital logic gates used by computers are implemented internally using transistors and resistors, which are also analog.

What is an understandable, systematic way to understand neuroscience? A source?

The problem you are most likely running up against is the way you’re approaching thinking about neuroscience and the brain.

In short, there is no systematic way to understand neuroscience because every level at which you want to examine the system is incomplete.

First, a caveat: thinking about certain fields of study as “harder” or “easier” than others will do you a disservice. Using those kinds of terms will immediately put other researchers on the defensive, so I’d recommend against thinking in that way so as to protect yourself from unnecessary emotional conflicts when discussion scientific topics.

Philosophy probably feels “easier” to you because philosophy is–by its very nature–a human endeavor built by humans using logical principles as understood by humans. So while there may be difficult concepts in philosophy, those concepts originate from human minds and thus are understandable by humans.

Neuroscience, in contrast, is the study of a natural, not man-made system that doesn’t have to adhere to any logical principles that we can grasp (i.e., the brain is likely deterministic but also chaotic). The issue is that you want to ascribe an orderly, logical system to a messy biological, organic, system that evolved in strange ways over billions of years.

So far you’ve learned about “parts of the brain” and “neurotransmitters”. By way of a physics analogy, so far you’ve learned classical mechanics.

In reality, there is no such thing as a discrete “part” of a brain and the boundary between what is and what is not a neurotransmitter is fuzzy. For example, dopamine is a macromolecule that crosses a synapse and binds to the post-synaptic neuron to modulate the probability of that neuron firing. In contrast, nitric oxide also plays a role in neurotransmission, but because it is a gas it diffuses long distances, can cross a cell’s membrane without any need to bind to a receptor, and yet plays an important role in long-term potentiation (the putative cellular mechanism for learning and memory). Not your traditional neurotransmitter and very hard to study!

Classical mechanics works wonderfully. To a first approximation. Of course the real world is much more complex, and classical mechanics starts to fail and we have to resort to electromagnetics, quantum mechanics, and so on.

So yes, while in general there are “motor” and “vision” parts of the brain, what’s happening is that we’re using language to define an organic system that doesn’t care about your linguistic boundaries and linguistic inadequacies.

Cerebral achromatopsia

Cerebral achromatopsia is a type of color-blindness caused by damage to the cerebral cortex of the brain, rather than abnormalities in the cells of the eye’s retina.

The case of the colorblind painter

The most famous instance of cerebral achromatopsia is that of “Jonathan I.” immortalized in a case study by Oliver Sacks and Robert Wasserman, and published as The Case of the Colorblind Painter.[7] The essay tracks Johnathan I.’s experience with cerebral achromatopsia from the point where an injury to his occipital lobe leaves him without the ability to perceive color, through his subsequent struggles to adapt to a black, white and gray world, and finally to his acceptance and even gratitude for his condition. Especially pertinent is the analysis of how cerebral achromatopsia affects his practice as a painter and artist. Descriptions of cerebral achromatopsia’s effects on his psychological health and visual perception are especially striking. For instance, in recounting Mr. I.’s descriptions of flesh and foods, the authors write:

Mr. I. could hardly bear the changed appearances of people (“like animated gray statues”) any more than he could bear his own changed appearance in the mirror: he shunned social intercourse and found sexual intercourse impossible. He saw people’s flesh, his wife’s flesh, his own flesh, as an abhorrent gray; “flesh-colored” now appeared “rat-colored” to him. This was so even when he closed his eyes, for his preternaturally vivid (“eidetic”) visual imagery was preserved but now without color, and forced on him images, forced him to “see” but see internally with the wrongness of his achromatopsia. He found foods disgusting in their grayish, dead appearance and had to close his eyes to eat. But this did not help very much, for the mental image of a tomato was as black as its appearance.

How well does music predict your politics?

A few highlights:

by cloudier

key findings of the gonski review

1. There is an urgent need for change. The Gonski Review found that Australia is
investing far too little in schools and the way the money is distributed is not efficient,
effective or fair. The system is failing too many students who are missing out on the
resources they need.
2. There are growing gaps in student achievement. While Australia remains a high
achieving nation in education, our overall performance has fallen in the last decade.
Students in disadvantaged areas are up to three years behind those of the same age
who live in wealthy areas. One in seven 15 year old students does not have basic
reading skills.
3. We must invest for success. The review recommends a major increase in funding
to schools. The way it is distributed would also change to better meet the needs of
students. It says public schools should get the greatest increases in funding for
additional staff, learning programs and upgraded facilities. Funding would vary
according to the needs of students, but the average increase would be almost $1,500
a student per year. That is enough for seven extra teachers in a public school with 500
4. The Federal Government needs to lead the way. Gonski recommends a much
greater funding commitment to public schools from the Federal Government. Currently
it is only providing 15 per cent of the money that public schools receive, despite
having access to greater revenue sources than state and territory governments
5. Our children’s future is at stake. The report’s recommendations are aimed at
ensuring every child has the same chance to receive a high quality education. But
Gonski warns a failure to act will cost not only our children but our country: “Australia
will only slip further behind unless, as a nation, we act and act now.”

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by cloudier

Doing it tough, far from a typical Australian income

In The Australian’s piece, a couple on $200,000 a year (who admit they pay only 18 per cent tax) complain that they may be forced to get a nanny if their childcare subsidy is reduced.

Now, The Australian itself has called for reductions in ‘middle-class welfare’, so either the editors have changed their mind, or they have a misguided sense of what constitutes a middle income in modern Australia.

I don’t doubt that the family featured in The Australian’s story genuinely thinks they’re more-or-less typical, but they’re wrong. We all tend to judge what’s normal, or typical, with reference to those we work and socialise with. This leads the poor to underestimate the wealth of the rich, and leads the rich to overestimate the wealth of the poor. It also means that a lot of us tend to think we’re ‘middle class’ when we’re not.

Andrew Leigh (before he was an MP) wrote a great little paper on the effect that this misperception has on our public debate, called ‘The Political Economy of Tax Reform in Australia’. In it, he argued that:

Opinion leaders [do] not properly appreciate the distribution of income in Australia. For the most part, the taxation rates applying to most politicians, journalists, business executives and think-tank staffers (and indeed, to academic economists) are not those that apply to the average voter. In all these professions, six-figure salaries are common. Yet only 4.5 per cent of Australian adults have an income that exceeds $100,000 per year, and only 1.5 per cent have an income that exceeds $150,000 per year.

(The paper is from 2006, so the figures are a little out of date, but the principle hasn’t changed).

Leigh also, correctly, notes that “reporting of ‘average’ income in Australia focuses on a measure of earnings which is not that of the typical voter”. Journalists often use average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults (AWOTE) as a measure of a typical income. This is misleading for several reasons.

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let me interrupt your studying with some rick santorum

by bezzle

Yeah, hating on Rick Santorum is unoriginal, but it still incenses me every single time.  Yeah, the internet is a free place for everybody.  Yeah, there’s stupid people on the internet.

This site.  Makes you want to kick things.  Cuss, strangle, stab, etc.

I actually read the entire first FAQ page wondering if this was some very exaggerated troll RPer…but nope.  Either they plan on taking this RP very seriously…or someone actually shares Santorum’s views.

If anyone reads that site, hopefully you’re at least progressive enough to realise ALL most of this person’s views are considered ultra-conservative/idiotic.

But the insinuation about socialists being racists grates me so much because I’m a left-left winger.  Not only is it hypocritical, it’s just plain wrong.

Also I’m guessing the “most of my gay friends” must mean ‘most of his nonexistent gay friends’.

Some gems I found on the site.

Respect, My Little Pony fandom.

Because that's what we've spent several weeks learning in Modern History...

And this one is a little mean…

edit – ARGH why is there an error in the 2011 3u answers?!  Okay, better get off this tumblr before I flood this post with a lot of ‘gems’; I’d probably end up screenshooting the whole site.

edit edit – I can’t resist.  Here’s the last one.

edit edit edit – I see why I can’t stop reading now.  All this idiocy…it’s sorta amusing.  In a ‘let’s find the most irrelevant and blatantly wrong reasons for social phenomena and try to annoy as many people as possible who aren’t male white-supremacist Christians who hate blacks, non-heterosexuals, sex, women, etc.’ sort of way.