Content Advisory

Content Advisory: Whereas: this blog occasionally employs "colorful language,"

may also occasionally contain implicit and explicit references to

tobacco, alcohol, and other substances, as well as sexuality,

and favors logic over dogma, any or all of which may offend some,

and whereas I may occasionally give disclaimers,

but I do NOT give "trigger warnings,"

therefore, be it resolved that: this blog is intended for mature readers.

However, this blog is not age-restricted.

Monday, December 23, 2013

War on Christmas?

Here's an interesting little piece by Jim Hightower:
Christmas War!

The victim routine they've been trying for a while now is one I've seen the same people play before.  In the 1980s, the Fundamentalist wing of the Southern Baptist Convention kept whining about how their voices were being drowned out by the awful "Liberals" (as if! seeing as how the people they were complaining about were actually Evangelicals, who are, or were at that time, merely Protestants with a conservative theology, and who generally believed rather strongly in the separation of church and state -- as distinct from the crop of Fundamentalists then being farmed by unscrupulous leaders, who, to the contrary, were Protestants with an almost reactionary theology and a desire to impose their religion on the state, and thence onto the rest of the nation), and how they just wanted to be heard, to have an equal voice, and other such innocent-sounding claims.  However, once they had cemented their hold on the machinery of the Southern Baptist Convention, they took off the fleeces they were wearing and revealed themselves to be the wolves they were pretending others were, and then they did precisely those things of which they had been accusing the "Liberals" (again, actually Evangelicals, and not Liberals by any stretch of the imagination).

Do not fall for this victim routine!  The whine is not authentic, but merely an act, intended to mask a scheme to take control of government in an effort to enforce conformity to their narrow worldview.  Here is a good discussion of what's going on with this routine, notwithstanding what some may regard as an unfortunate choice of font:
The Self-Defined "Victim" - Page 1

See also:
Merry Christmas, right-wingers, The Red Pope, and Jesus

Feeding Children from the Tree of Death: Fundamentalism's Abusive Legacy

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fads in Mental Diagnoses

From Mind Hacks:

The New York Times has an important article on how Attention Deficit Disorder, often known as ADHD, has been ‘marketed’ alongside sales of stimulant medication to the point where leading ADHD researchers are becoming alarmed at the scale of diagnosis and drug treatment.

It’s worth noting that although the article focuses on ADHD, it is really a case study in how psychiatric drug marketing often works.

Read more:
A disorder of marketing

SuccubaSuprema writes:

I'm not sure why ADHD researchers are only now becoming alarmed, nor why this trend was not anticipated -- not the trend specific to overdiagnosis of ADHD, but the trend to overdiagnose certain "popular" disorders.  It's hardly a new phenomenon, after all:  "Hyperactivity" was the condition overdiagnosed in the 1970s, while "Manic Depression" or "Manic-Depressive Disorder" was the overdiagnosis of the '80s.  In the '90s, the lingering Manic Depression (by this time renamed to "Bipolar Disorder" for various reasons, not least of which was a need to be more specific and more inclusive at the same time) continued to be overdiagnosed, but a new diagnosis was also on the rise, and "Attention Deficit Disorder" began to be overdiagnosed.  Moving into the first decade of the 21st century, this name expanded to "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder," and had become the dominant overdiagnosis.  In the present decade, it's too early to say for sure, but "Asperger Syndrome" was viewed as pretty sexy at the beginning of the decade, and "Autism Spectrum Disorder" (which is the new label in DSM-5, and which includes what has up till now been called "Asperger Syndrome") seems to be replacing that as a popular diagnosis.

I'm also far from sure that this can be laid at the feet of advertisers.  "Hyperactivity" in the '70s, for example, was treated with a specific diet ("the Feingold diet," which involved omitting artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, caffeine, and sugar from the child's diet) rather than medication.

What may be most telling is that these diagnoses pertain to behaviors and attitudes often noticed in childhood and/or adolescence.  I would be inclined to refrain from making any explicit explanation of this observation here, due to relatives whose children were diagnosed with one or another of these conditions, but I do think the connection is worth considering.  To be more precise, I would suggest that the ones in need of therapy and/or medication may more often be the parents than the children!

A parent has a "problem child" and takes the child to a mental health professional, where the child is diagnosed with "XXXXX disorder," and then the parent shares this information with another parent, and that parent wonders if his/her child might also have "XXXXX disorder."  The next act in this tragedy is easy enough to predict.

Fads in Mental Diagnoses Revisited

Friday, December 13, 2013

Chris Christie's Vision for the United States?

From Rolling Stone:

... Camden is just across the Delaware River from the brick and polished cobblestone streets of downtown Philadelphia, where oblivious tourists pour in every year, gobbling cheese steaks and gazing at the Liberty Bell, having no idea that they're a short walk over the Ben Franklin Bridge from a full-blown sovereignty crisis – an un-Fantasy Island of extreme poverty and violence where the police just a few years ago essentially surrendered a city of 77,000.

All over America, communities are failing. Once-mighty Rust Belt capitals that made steel or cars are now wastelands. Elsewhere, struggling white rural America is stocking up on canned goods and embracing the politics of chaos, sending pols to Washington ready to hit the default button and start the whole national experiment all over again.

But in Camden, chaos is already here. In September, its last supermarket closed, and the city has been declared a "food desert" by the USDA. The place is literally dying, its population having plummeted from above 120,000 in the Fifties to less than 80,000 today. Thirty percent of the remaining population is under 18, an astonishing number that's 10 to 15 percent higher than any other "very challenged" city, to use the police euphemism. Their home is a city with thousands of abandoned houses but no money to demolish them, leaving whole blocks full of Ninth Ward-style wreckage to gather waste and rats.

It's a major metropolitan area run by armed teenagers with no access to jobs or healthy food, and not long ago, while the rest of America was ranting about debt ceilings and Obamacares, Camden quietly got pushed off the map. That was three years ago, when new governor and presumptive future presidential candidate Chris Christie abruptly cut back on the state subsidies that kept Camden on life support. The move left the city almost completely ungoverned – a graphic preview of what might lie ahead for communities that don't generate enough of their own tax revenue to keep their lights on. Over three years, fires raged, violent crime spiked and the murder rate soared so high that on a per-capita basis, it "put us somewhere between Honduras and Somalia," says Police Chief J. Scott Thomson. ...

Read more:
Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch From America's Most Desperate Town

See also:
The Bankruptcy and Privatization of Detroit Is a Terrifying Preview of What Republicans Want to Do to the Rest of the Country

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

British Stone Age Diet and Security Maximized by Location Choice

From The Independent:

Stone Age Brits were past masters at choosing the perfect ‘des res’, according to new research carried out by archaeologists.

Their investigations have revealed that, 300,000 years before the emergence of anatomically modern humans, prehistoric Britons were selecting their domestic real estate with tremendous care.

Nutritional and security considerations appear to have been the main criteria, according to the new research carried out by scholars at the University of Southampton and Queen's University, Belfast.

A survey of 25 major British and north-west French sites dating from 500,000 to 200,000 years ago has revealed that early humans – members of the now long-extinct species Homo heidelbergensis – predominantly chose to live on islands in the flood plains of major rivers. They avoided  forests and hills – and the upper and middle reaches of river systems,  and their estuaries. ...

The reasons for choosing flood plain areas and avoiding other locations were complex – but help to explain why Homo heidelbergensis was so successful for so long.

Read more:
Revealed: how prehistoric 'des res' gave Stone Age Brits a perfect diet

See also:
Early humans selected habitats based on nutrient rich food sources

SuccubaSuprema writes:

The information provided in this article is very interesting.  The last paragraph quoted above alludes to explanations which are provided in the article, following the portion I have quoted.

Music -- 5 New Psych Studies

From PsyBlog:

1. Singing aids language learning

The link between music and memory is so strong that it can help you learn a foreign language.

Research by Ludke et al. (2013) found that people trying to learn Hungarian, a notoriously difficult language, performed much better if they sang the Hungarian phrases rather than just saying them.

The researchers think that the melody may provide an extra cue which helps embed the memory.

Read more:
Music and Memory: 5 Awesome New Psychology Studies

Monday, December 9, 2013

LastChaos-USA Publication Rights Transferred from Aeria to Gamigo

From Aeria Games & Entertainment:

Greetings Citizens!

As most of you know, Last Chaos is Aeria Games' very first game and together we have experienced many ups and downs. For nearly eight years, Last Chaos has facilitated many friendships, built communities and allowed all of us to thrive in the fantastical world of Iris.

There's a time to let go and that time has come. Aeria Games has reached an agreement with the German publisher of Last Chaos, Gamigo AG, who will facilitate the next steps in this awesome saga. As of December 4th, Last Chaos in English is published and serviced by Gamigo.

Aeria had been working closely with Gamigo to ensure a smooth and seamless transition for all active LC players. All of your Last Chaos characters' information has been transferred to Gamigo's servers. Your account credentials and game client remain the same. There should be minimal disruption to your Last Chaos experience.

All players who have logged in to Last Chaos after December 1, 2012 have had their information transferred for a login transition. Aeria Games provided Gamigo a duplicated server of our current players, their characters, inventory (including AP purchased items), etc. in their entirety. This is literally a full copy of the game that is running on a new machine.

Furthermore, players who spent Aeria Points in LC for the past 30 days will receive an AP rebate. These rebates will be sent to your registered email account. For more detailed questions, Gamigo has also prepared an FAQ page for your convenience.

If there are any questions not covered yet, we'll work together with the Gamigo community manager to update you as soon as we can. Gamigo sent out a newsletter via email yesterday with more detailed instructions so please check for that email as well.

If you have any questions regarding this please contact us at and we will be more than happy to help you out! Happy Gaming!
Copyright © 2013 Aeria Games & Entertainment, Inc.
 All Rights Reserved.
(Reproduced with permission.)

 SuccubaSuprema writes:

For several years now, I have been playing Last Chaos USA, a Fantasy genre Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) Developed by T-Ent (now BarunsOn), and published by Aeria Games & Entertainment.  My ex-housemate (then still my housemate) introduced me to the game (and thus, to the company, Aeria Games & Entertainment), knowing of my interest in such games (I've been involved in RPGs since the late '70s).  I immediately fell in love with the game.  In a very short time, I had a dream in which I was in the world of Iris (the setting of the game);  this was the first time I had ever had a dream involving such a game (or at least the first time I remembered having a dream involving a computer game).

On 28 August 2008, I became a "Game Sage" for LastChaos-USA at Aeria, and an Alpha Tester for the game.  A Game Sage is a player volunteer, or, to paraphrase slightly "the Last Chaos Game Sage Mission Statement" which I composed, "A player who volunteers his or her time to help other players of the game, to help the company which hosts and publishes the game, and to work for the improvement of the game."  At the time, I was an LC GS for the Katar server (the first and original game server for the game at Aeria) only, but, in November of 2008, I became an "All-Server Game Sage for LC-USA" (which meant that I was a GS on all the servers for the game which Aeria had at the time;  four such servers were in operation then, and a fifth was about to be opened;  eventually, the game's continued appeal and success resulted in six such game servers, and I was a GS on all of them).

In April of 2011, I had to take a break from my position, for various reasons, not least of which was the fact of having been diagnosed with "Student's Elbow," a localized (in the elbow region) manifestation of Bursitis caused by having leaned that elbow on hard surfaces (desks and tables) for decades.  Eventually, the anti-inflammatory medication I had been prescribed succeeded in alleviating the inflammation in the bursae which had been giving me such excruciating pain.  On 22 July 2011, I returned to my position as an All-Server GS for LC-USA, and I continued in that position until 2 January 2013, at which time, I transferred from LastChaos-USA and became instead a Game Sage for Dragon Knights Online (DK Online, or DKO), a new game to which Aeria had obtained the publication rights for the English-language version.

When DKO went down (25 April 2012) on hiatus for repairs and further development, I resumed helping out with LC-USA via the Aeria fora and ShoutBox for the game, and continued to monitor the fora and ShoutBox for DKO as well, as I was (and still am) a GS for DKO.  The news of the sale of the publication rights to LC-USA from Aeria to Gamigo took all of the Game Sages and players by surprise, and the transfer took place very rapidly.

Before the transfer had even begun, I set up an account at Gamigo, and I plan to continue to play LC-USA there.  While the game has its bugs and glitches, and could use some improvement in various particulars, it remains very captivating to me, and it has been a major part of my life for over five years.  I have made some good friends through the game, and through Aeria -- players, Game Sages, Forum Moderators, and Staff members.

Update:  Sequel to my earlier post

Feeding Children from the Tree of Death: Fundamentalism's Abusive Legacy

Uncharacteristically, I begin this post with my own comments, and then move on to quoting from the article on which I am commenting.  I do this because this is a very important issue which has potential to adversely affect all of us (no matter what perspectives we hold), and the planet itself.

Anyone who has ever entered a Protestant Fundamentalist (authentically Fundamentalist, and not Evangelical, because there is a difference, even though the inexperienced/untrained conflate the two far too often) congregation's meeting hall and interacted with the members of said congregation, experiencing the situation with an open mind and some background in social sciences, will probably not be terribly surprised at the reports of child abuse contained in the article from which I quote a small portion below.  What is more likely to surprise is the fact that some have managed to escape the conditioning.  More noteworthy is the fact that they have developed the skills to combat the movement (and particularly its brainwashing efforts) effectively.

Something else to which the article alludes, and which deserves much attention, is the reproductive proclivity of the Fundamentalist cults, a technique they have learned from conspiracy theories concerning the Roman Church (which has been accused, by clergy members on the fringes of Protestantism, of growing a religious empire by means of condemning birth control).  For over a decade now, Protestant Fundamentalists have included persons who have sought to stack the deck in favor of ignorance, superstition, irrationality, and bigotry, by means of having large families, and indoctrinating their unfortunate offspring in the dogma of their preferred brand of Christianity, which usually also involves the promotion of Far Right Wing Exremist economic philosophy (to the tune of Ayn Rand) and socially reactionary perspectives.  The separation of church and state was, not that long ago, a distinctive doctrine of most Baptist sects in the United States;  that is no longer the case.  These fundamentalists, many of whom claim "Baptist" as part of their self-designations, have goals which include the imposition of their own religous biases on everyone by means of legislation, and their roadmap to success in that particular goal involves spawning more and more offspring and raising them to be voters who will support such initiatives and candidates who will push such initiatives.  This is a very frightening reality, but it is indeed reality, and ignoring it is dangerous for the future of humanity and the earth itself.

What I will quote here from the article is merely some history of the homeschooling movement, and how it became usurped by fundamentalist fanatics, but the remainder of the article describes (in some detail) the ordeals of several children raised in Christian Fundamentalist homes, isolated from reality, and fed the poisonous fruit of the dogma of insanity, abused physically, emotionally, and intellectually.  The article also describes how some have escaped those horrors, and how they have banded together to help others who are still imprisoned by their own parents, who view them not as human beings to be loved, nurtured, and cared for, but rather, as pawns to be exploited in a great "cultural" struggle.

From AlterNet:

Homeschooling didn’t begin as a fundamentalist movement. In the 1960s, liberal author and educator John Holt advocated a child-directed form of learning that became “unschooling”—homeschooling without a fixed curriculum. The concept was picked up in the 1970s by education researcher Raymond Moore, a Seventh-Day Adventist, who argued that schooling children too early—before fourth grade—was developmentally harmful. Moore’s message came at a time when many conservative Christians were looking for alternatives to public schools. ...

Moore’s work reached a massive audience when Focus on the Family founder and Christian parenting icon James Dobson invited him onto his radio show for the first time in 1982. Dobson would become the most persuasive champion of homeschooling, encouraging followers to withdraw their children from public schools to escape a “godless and immoral curriculum.” For conservative Christian parents, endorsements didn’t come any stronger than that.

Over the next two decades, homeschooling boomed. Today, perhaps as many as two million children are homeschooled. (An accurate count is difficult to conduct, because many homeschoolers are not required to register with their states.) Homeschooling families come from varied backgrounds—there are secular liberals as well as Christians, along with an increasing number of Muslims and African Americans—but researchers estimate that between two-thirds and three-fourths are fundamentalists.

Among Moore and Dobson’s listeners during that landmark broadcast was a pair of young lawyers, Michael Farris and Michael Smith, who the following year would found the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). With Moore’s imprimatur and Dobson’s backing, Farris and Smith started out defending homeschooling families at a time when the practice was effectively illegal in 30 states. As Christians withdrew their children from public school, often without requesting permission, truancy charges resulted. The HSLDA used them as test cases, challenging school districts and state laws in court while lobbying state legislators to establish a legal right to homeschool. By 1993, just ten years after the association’s founding, homeschooling was legal in all 50 states.

What many lawmakers and parents failed to recognize were the extremist roots of fundamentalist homeschooling. The movement’s other patriarch was R.J. Rushdoony, founder of the radical theology of Christian Reconstructionism, which aims to turn the United States into an Old Testament theocracy, complete with stonings for children who strike their parents. Rushdoony, who argued that democracy was “heresy” and Southern slavery was “benevolent,” was too extreme for most conservative Christians, but he inspired a generation of religious-right leaders including Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. He also provided expert testimony in early cases brought by the HSLDA. Rushdoony saw homeschooling as not just providing the biblical model for education but also a way to bleed the secular state dry.

With support from national leaders, Christian homeschoolers established state-level groups across the country and took over the infrastructure of the movement. Today, when parents indicate an interest in homeschooling, they find themselves on the mailing lists of fundamentalist catalogs. When they go to state homeschooling conventions to browse curriculum options, they hear keynote speeches about biblical gender roles and creationism and find that textbooks are sold alongside ideological manifestos on modest dressing, proper Christian “courtship,” and the concept of “stay-at-home daughters” who forsake college to remain with their families until marriage.

HSLDA is now one of the most powerful Christian-right groups in the country, with nearly 85,000 dues-paying members who send annual checks of $120. The group publicizes a steady stream of stories about persecuted homeschoolers and distributes tip sheets about what to do if social workers come knocking. Thanks to the group’s lawsuits and lobbying, though, that doesn’t happen often. Homeschooling now exists in a virtual legal void; parents have near-total authority over what their children learn and how they are disciplined. Not only are parents in 26 states not required to have their children tested but in 11 states, they don’t have to inform local schools when they’re withdrawing them. The states that require testing and registration often offer religious exemptions.

The emphasis on discipline has given rise to a cottage industry promoting harsh parenting techniques as godly. Books like To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl promise that parents can snuff out rebellious behavior with a spanking regimen that starts when infants are a few months old. The Pearls claim to have sold nearly 700,000 copies of their book, most through bulk orders from church and homeschooling groups. The combination of those disciplinary techniques with unregulated homeschooling has spawned a growing number of horror stories now being circulated by the ex-homeschoolers—including that of Calista Springer, a 16-year-old in Michigan who died in a house fire while tied to her bed after her parents removed her from public school, or Hana Williams [6], an Ethiopian adoptee whose Washington state parents were convicted in September of killing her with starvation and abuse in a Pearl-style system. Materials from HSLDA were found in the home of Williams’s parents.

Read more:
Escape from Christian Fundamentalism - the Kids Who Flee Abusive, Isolated Christian Homes

Related (as linked in the article):

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Homeschooling's Invisible Children

Prohibited Research?

From Scientific American:

Imagine being an astronomer in a world where the telescope was banned. This effectively happened in the 1600s when, for over 100 years, the Catholic Church prohibited access to knowledge of the heavens in a vain attempt to stop scientists proving that the earth was not the center of the universe.  ‘Surely similar censorship could never happen today,’ I hear you say—but it does in relation to the use of drugs to study the brain.  Scientists and doctors are banned from studying many hundreds of drugs because of outdated United Nations charters dating back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Read more:
The Potential of LSD, Heroin, Marijuana and Other Controlled Substances in Brain Research

SuccubaSuprema writes:

The "guardians" of society (sometimes self-appointed, seldom qualified) have not uncommonly been biased by personal dogmatic beliefs, whether those beliefs were religious, political, economic, or something else.  In the case of seventeenth-century astronomy, the bias of the "guardians" was religious, a biblical literalism which, however, was not consistent with the Tradition of the Church -- but then again, that Tradition itself is hardly self-referentially consistent, contradicting itself on any number of points.  Indeed, as I have mentioned in previous posts here, a worldview colors one's perception of everything, and thus can result in distorted perceptions.  In the case of substance research, several different beliefs have resulted in such skewed perspectives.  In some cases, the culprit is a political viewpoint, in particular as relates to Philosophy of Law ("crime and punishment" and "protection of society" from perceived threats), without much regard for, or consideration of, the contentions of the medical community that addiction and dependence are medical situations, rather than (inherently) criminal.  In other cases, a political viewpoint is again involved, but in a sort of "us versus them" mentality, such that the "guardians" arrive at their conclusions based on opposition to an alternate political viewpoint.  In still other cases, economic viewpoints are involved, sometimes with vested interests (since Cannabis, for example, is an herb which can be grown almost anywhere, in widely varying conditions, its manufacture, distribution, and use cannot be effectively controlled -- and it cannot be patented, and thus, profits from Cannabis cannot be reliably restricted to the pharmaceutical industry, which has numerous less effective and potentially more harmful substances from which it wishes to continue to profit, regardless of the consequences for patients).  In yet other cases, the bias is again due to a religious viewpoint, whether that be the anti-intellectualism and epistemophobia (fear of knowledge) which is so typical of religious fundamentalists, or a belief that the distribution and use of such substances are somehow contrary to the will of the divine and thus must be prohibited (disregarding any lack of justification for such prohibition on the basis of separation of church and state, ignoring the failures of past efforts at prohibition, and, in the specific case of Christianity, blatantly defying teachings of the religion itself, in particular as regards such teachings as are found in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the gospel of Matthew and the fourteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans).

In still yet other cases, addiction and/or dependence, or even a perspective based on an idealized understanding of the psychedelic movement (which may itself have religious dimensions, as suggested by, for example, the writings of Carlos Castaneda, and/or claims made by Dr. Timothy Leary), must be acknowledged as capable of biasing conclusions, with those who wish to have license to use such substances themselves basing their conclusions on that wish.

In spite of the latter possibility, the potential for increased knowledge (both neuroscientific/psychiatric and otherwise medical) from research into these substances is far more relevant and important than the fears of those who have embraced ignorance, superstition, irrationality, and prejudice.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Social Construction of Death

From Everyday Sociology:

In Philadelphia, an emergency room nurse named Barbara Mancini was arrested for providing her 93-year-old terminally ill father with a lethal dose of morphine. Her father was in hospice care, meaning that no further treatment was possible and death was imminent; the goals of hospice care are to ease pain and provide comfort for the dying patient. He was in kidney failure and apparently in a significant amount of pain.

Read more:
The Social Construction of Death

SuccubaSuprema writes:

The article takes a serious and hard look at our social relationship with death, pointing out rightly that "people idealize death, thinking that death is naturally peaceful, something that happens in our sleep, but the reality is that it often involves a lot of suffering."  I too have had to face the reality of the loss of a beloved feline companion.  One of the cats who have graced me by sharing their lives with me developed an inoperable tumor.  She had been with me for over a decade, through good times and bad, and may have been the primary reason I remained sane during the worst state of my health, when I myself was near to death.  Letting her go was a difficult choice;  I tried to keep her comfortable and aware of love, but as time went by, her suffering became far too evident.  The time to let her go was present, and I agonized as I contacted the local vet, who, however, was then out of the euthanasia drug necessary to ease the passage of this beloved furry companion.  I contacted another veterinarian in an adjacent county, and, together with my then-housemate, took the beloved silver tabby to his office.  The passage was quick -- too quick for me, honestly, but mercifully quick for my feline friend and companion.  I burst into tears.  Thinking about it as I write this, several years after the fact, my eyes well up with more.  I will always be grateful to her for her condition-free love and consolation;  I wish something could have been done for her to not only prolong her life, but also to cure that cancer and remove her pain.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  I do not regret my decision to have her "put to sleep," but the pain of loss remains.  I know I did the right thing, the just thing, the ethical thing, and it was not done callously or on the basis of anything other than love and compassion.  Why we as a society have continued to refuse to allow such an act in the case of a human animal boggles the mind.  This is not about "playing God," nor usurping a supposed divine prerogative;  it is, rather, about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you;  it is about "God is love," and it is about "he who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inner Speaking

From the British Psychological Society's Research Digest:

Studying the ways people talk to themselves in their own minds is incredibly tricky because as soon as you ask them about it, you're likely interfering with the process you want to investigate. As William James said, some forms of introspective analysis are like "… trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks."

For many years Russell Hurlbert and his colleagues have used a technique that they believe offers the best way to study what they call "pristine" inner speaking, unaltered by outside interference. They provide participants with a beeper that goes off randomly several times a day, and ask them to record in precise terms their mental activity that was happening just before the beeps. Early in the process, this "descriptive experience sampling" (DES) approach also involves cooperative interviews between the participants and a trained researcher, so that the participant can learn to identify true instances of inner speaking from other mental phenomena.

Read more:
The science of how we talk to ourselves in our heads

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Paleolithic Cave Artists Mostly Women?

From Sci-News:

Anthropologist Prof Dean Snow from Pennsylvania State University analyzing ochre-stenciled handprints in Paleolithic caves in France and Spain has determined that about 75 percent of the handprints were left by women.

Read more:
Paleolithic Cave Painters in Europe were Mostly Women, Researcher Says

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Which Is It? Fat and Fit, or EITHER Fat OR Fit, or Is This Too Simplistic?

From Huffington Post (published 20 November 2013, updated 25 November 2013):

When it comes to living a long and healthy life, a meta-analysis of mortality studies finds that being physically active, no matter what your weight, trumps being thin and unfit.

Researchers at Middle Tennessee State University, led by exercise scientist Vaughn Barry, Ph.D., examined 10 past studies that recorded information about participants' body mass indexes and fitness levels. The studies looked at the weight and fitness levels of thousands of participants (the largest one included 21,856 people) and continued to follow up with the participants over several years, ranging from an average of 7.7 years to an average of 16 years. ...

They found that fitness levels, not weight, predicted whether or not a participant had died in the study's intervening years. Unfit people, regardless of their weight, had twice the risk of dying during the study than fit people, and overweight and obese people who were fit had similar mortality risks as fit, normal weight participants. Another way of putting it: thin, unfit people had twice the mortality risk as obese fit people.

The study was recently published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.

Read more:
Fat But Fit? Study Reveals That Fitness, Not Weight, Predicts Risk Of Early Death

But wait, that's not all.

From The Daily Mail (published 2 December 2013):

Canadian scientists carried out research examining 61,000 people from the 1950s to the present day
The study strongly refuted the suggestion that a person's physical fitness is more important than their weight
Evidence showed despite a person having normal blood pressure and being able to process sugar easily, excess weight alone remains critical ...

There is no such thing as being fat and healthy, scientists warn.

They have strongly refuted suggestions that a person’s physical fitness is more important than their  weight. ...

The theory was that good metabolic fitness, that is, having normal blood pressure and being able to process sugar easily, would protect people from the consequences of obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes.

However, the new research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that even though high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control and high blood fats are important indicators of disease, the excess weight itself remains critical.

Seriously overweight people who displayed none of these warning signs were nonetheless found to die younger than people at a normal weight.

Canadian scientists, from  the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, conducted a review of eight studies published from 1950 onwards to find out whether these metabolic indicators were linked to premature death and heart disease in normal-weight, overweight and obese people.

Read more:
Being fit is no help if you're fat as well: Scientists say healthy obesity does not exist

SuccubaSuprema writes:

So which is it?  Can a person be "fat but fit," or does obesity trump fitness?  Those who are rightly skeptical of the reliability of reports in The Daily Mail (due to a history of that paper occasionally getting it wrong and having to print retractions) should be advised that media outlets which are generally regarded as usually more reliable also covered the same story, among them Time Magazine:
You Can’t Be Fit and Fat
-- Or are there other variables (such as genetics, for example, or sleep patterns, or diet, or alcohol use, or any of several other possible contributors) which should be factored into the equation?  In short, has the question been formed as a False Dilemma?

What do you think?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Does Stonehenge Ring True?

From Sci-News:

British researchers, reporting in the journal Time & Mind: the Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, may have cracked the mystery of why the builders of Stonehenge chose to haul some of its giant bluestones 320 km away from Wales to Salisbury Plain.

Read more:
Scientists Reveal Extraordinary Sonic Properties of Stonehenge Bluestones

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Will the UK Grant Rights to the Intersex?

From The Independent:

It has taken Holly Greenberry, Sarah Graham, Dawn Vago and Elizabeth Jo Roberts years to go public with their stories. Born into a world that insists on dividing people into two sexes, they did not always know how they fitted in. They were born to typical families in typical areas of Britain, but none of them developed into typical male or females. They are intersex.

An estimated one in 2,000 babies is born with an intersex condition or a (controversially named) disorder of sex development (DSD), which means that they are born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male. This can include atypical genitalia, chromosomes or internal sex organs.

The women argue that their very existence has been “eradicated” by British society. Generations of children have been operated upon to “normalise” their genitals or sexual anatomy, while official documentation, from birth certificates to passports, requires a male or female box to be ticked.  They argue it’s one of the last “human rights taboos” in the western world.

The women have a type of androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), which means they have XY chromosomes, but are partially or completely insensitive to testosterone – they are all infertile.

The group has come together to launch a campaign, calling for the Government to urgently review the way intersex people are treated. Following on from Germany’s decision to allow newborn babies to be registered as neither male nor female, their recommendations include the option to leave the sex on British birth certificates blank, measures to protect babies or young people from irreversible and non-consensual treatment and surgery, better emotional support and increased education.

Read more:
Special report: Intersex women speak out to protect the next generation