Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sic transit gloria bloggi 

(With apologies to whoever came up with the Latin phrase "sic transit gloria mundi" ("thus passes the glory of the world").)

Now that the time has come, I can barely make myself type it: This will be my final post.

There, I said it!!

I was slaving away on the computer a few weeks ago when my train of thought was interrupted by a voice in my head that said "You need to focus on expansion, not reduction." It came so out of the blue that it'd have been easy to attribute it to an outside source, but since there wasn't so much as a wisp of smoke rising from any of my bushes I accepted it as a message from my subconscious mind, one so major that it'd come bursting into my consciousness in this unprecedented way. Although I wasn't working on anything blog related when it happened, I knew instantly that it was a reference to how I'd steadily given up everything I used to do with my free time in order to be able to write decent posts, and that... that... I needed to stop blogging and go back to doing all that other stuff. The very idea shocked me to the bone; stop blogging?!! Although not addicted to it (I'd had no problems scaling back from blogging daily to every 2nd, 3rd and finally 4th day), I was still passionate about it, still getting a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment out of it; how could I QUIT?

So I took a hard look at what blogging was costing me: I'd read through my entire library annually since I was a kid, but I hadn't touched any of those books since this blog got into full swing. I've only read the most recent bunch of Stephen King novels once instead of a dozen times. I stopped reading Dean Koontz entirely, even though a couple of his newer novels have been given to me (they're waiting in the pile with the other unread books). For the 1st time since literally grade school, I'm not reading any women's magazines, because when I didn't renew Cosmo (I'm just too old for it now) I couldn't justify paying for LHJ or Redbook because I wouldn't have time to read them. I have CD's I haven't played in years, not to mention my huge record collection that's still stored at my mother's because we don't have my husband's junk consolidated enough to bring the rest of MY stuff here; he managed that because I've been blogging every spare minute and he won't do a lick of work without me standing over him. I've got a mountain of lovely puzzles and games still sealed in their boxes because I haven't had time to play with them even once, and old favorites covered in dust for the same reason.

My husband brought me home a cool-looking DVD from Blockbuster, but I had to send it back unwatched because it had subtitles and I don't have time to actually look at the TV screen for an entire movie.

I haven't polished my toenails in so long that all my polishes are probably dried up (which is sad for my husband, who has a low-grade fetish for my feet), because if I'm at the computer I'll forget and scrunch my wet toes into the carpet... and I'm only away from the computer to get too little sleep and exercise.

I decided to try writing shorter entries to see if that could fix things; I've been averaging 3 "compose screens" per post rather than the previous 5 since then, although sometimes it made me feel constrained because it didn't always allow me to say all I'd wanted to. It DID free up a non-trivial amount of time for me... and it felt like waking up from a dream. I looked around my house and saw, really SAW, how much just plain maintenance and organization had gone by the wayside: I discovered EIGHTEEN jars of pickles and relish strewn throughout my pantry with expiration dates as far back as 2002, because I've been trusting my husband's opinions as to what we should buy instead of sorting periodically through all the food myself, tossing expired stuff and keeping track of what was in there. My roses had aphids on them. My tires were low on air. Some of my newer collectables hadn't been put on display yet. And on and on and on.

That this could be the result of blogging might be puzzling to those of you who write standard-type blog entries that can be tossed off in 10 minutes, and who therefore don't need to give anything up to blog, but my long, complicated entries take more hours than you'd believe to create, not just because I'm the world's slowest and worst typist but because of the amount of time I have to spend pondering what I want to say and how best to say it, researching to double-check my facts and seek out further info to allow me to cover topics more thoroughly, and doing several rounds of editing (including reading everything out loud to be sure it "sounds like me"), all of it interrupted constantly by the phone, my husband, the critters and the myriad tasks that can't wait for me to finish a paragraph.

I LOVE that process, I love the ideas I come up with, I love my posts, and I love being part of the blogosphere; I'm not tired of it, burned out or out of ideas... it's just reached the point where it's necessary for me to do other things with my free time. I need to get at least an hour more sleep per night, exercise a couple more hours per week, call my friends more often, spend more time with my husband doing something other than discuss topics (and, um, you know), and re-embrace my former pleasures... and maybe discover some new ones.

Believe me when I say that I've thought EXTREMELY hard about all this; I'm not walking away from almost 3.5 years' work on a whim. I tried to come up with a way to blog AND have a full life again, but failed; I'd have to blog once a month or some such nonsense to make it all work, and in the fast-paced blogging world that'd cause me to drop right off everyone's radar, leaving me posting for nothing but a handful of diehards, if that much... and this blog deserves better than to be piddled away into nothingness. I could switch to making short posts, either about nothing much or just skimming over topics rather than plunging into them, but YOU deserve better than that (after all, that's not what you come here for), *I* wouldn't get any joy out of it, and, again, I'd be turning this blog into a shadow of its former self... I refuse to continue posting just to keep the blog going. To blog in a way I can be proud of, with sufficient frequency to have someone still reading what I wrote, I couldn't spend much less time on it than I've been doing, and just adding an extra day or so between posts wouldn't be enough to get me the rest of my life back; to my sorrow, the only choice I have is to quit entirely.


I had so many things I still wanted to tell you, but in a way I've already said everything that matters; although I've covered a wide range of topics, there are only a few that are really central, that I've been covering from different angles since Day 1... and those are the things that I hope you'll take away from this blog, and keep in mind long after you've forgotten it (and me):

1) As non-coincidentally discussed in my previous post, there's more to the world than what's easily visible or scientifically provable; with a little effort, you can figure out for yourself what some of those things are. Don't take anyone's word for it, work it through it on your own, based on things you can be sure of, so you can be sure of what you're placing your belief in. You don't have to call it religion, spirituality or metaphysics if you're not comfortable with that; think of it as philosophy:

"Philosophy... is a science, and as such has no articles of faith; accordingly, in it nothing can be assumed as existing except what is either positively given empirically, or demonstrated through indubitable conclusions."
-Arthur Schopenhauer

This blog contains the sum total of MY spirituality/philosophy as it has evolved to this point; if you enter "karma" into the search thing at the top of the page, you'll get all the relevant posts. I don't expect you to swallow it whole, since your personal experiences differ from mine and thus your beginning assumptions will differ, but I hope that the way I've reasoned things out will inspire you to do the same with your own data.

2) We need to stop deciding that people are "good," worthy of respect and trust, and that what they do is ok, based on knowing them a long time, loving them, sleeping with them or even sharing DNA with them; instead, judge everyone you know objectively by their actions, and based on that decide who gets to be closer to you... and who you need to kick to the curb.

3) People will periodically do you wrong, because they're evil, mad at you, too depressed to know better, etc; they'll generally give you plenty of red flags before doing so, which in self defense you need to stop discounting out of misguided loyalty and heed. To learn about some of these warning signs, search this blog for "Beware List."

4) American culture has a sick obsession with evil people; we see them as being more fun, exciting, sexy, glamorous and desirable for relationships. If you're tired of being done dirt to by folks like this (and they'll ALWAYS do it to you sooner or later, usually sooner), choose, CHOOSE, to spurn them and pursue nice people instead, however dull they may seem at 1st (remember, YOU will probably seem dull to them as well, but the truth is that neither you nor they are actually dull).

5) Being a good person requires action; if you don't do good deeds, and in particular if you don't defend those who're being attacked, both online and offline, you can NOT call yourself a good person... you're neutral at best.

6) When you see some sort of interpersonal battle going on, analyze what's happening correctly and then take the correct action, especially if you're in a position of authority: There's virtually never any confusion as to who's a victim and who's an attacker, and thus no confusion about who should be blamed and punished (the attacker(s)) and who should be protected and supported (the victim(s))... and it doesn't matter who you know or like better, or how strong the urge is to illogically decide that the victim did something horrible to cause the fight (they didn't) or that the attackers are in the right because there's more of them (they aren't), you should still make the proper judgment and act accordingly.

7) And the #1 concept I hope to pass along; don't just cruise through life mindlessly accepting everything. Constantly question if what you're being told is true, whether the teller is a friend, the media, scientists, whoever; if it isn't, try to discover the truth and share it with others, even if the process is difficult or painful.

"The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true."
-Carl Sagan

Constantly seek out what the REASONS are for why things are a certain way and why we do the things we do, and ask yourself if the status quo is right or wrong... and if the latter, DO something, even if that just means blogging about it to raise awareness.

"We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers."
-Carl Sagan

And last, but far from least, I want to express my undying gratitude for every person and service that allowed this blog to be more successful than I could ever have imagined when I 1st decided I wanted my own place in cyberspace to say what was on my mind: Every site, from Blogger on down to the little guys who design sidebar doodads, that provided me with things of value for free over the years-thank you. Every person that took the time to read my posts, liked them enough to come back for more, and especially those that linked to me, submitted me to directories, cast "votes" for me, and said nice things about me on their blogs-THANK YOU!!

I'll always look upon what I accomplished here with great satisfaction; I've done some of the best, deepest, most original thinking of my life for these posts, and one of the biggest thrills of my life has been the knowledge that thousands of people around the world, even from exotic countries that I barely knew anything about before I got online, would read what I wrote and maybe absorb and carry on some of my ideas... I paid a high price for that thrill, but I consider it to have been worth it even though I now have to walk a different path.

It's hard to stop typing, to finish this post and with it my time as a blogger; that'd sound nuts to non-bloggers, but I know that YOU, my blogging brethren, understand. I'll miss you, I'll miss the blogosphere, and I'll always remember you with great affection.

I wonder how long I'll stare at the "Publish Post" button before I click it and end my blogging career.

I wonder how long it'll be before I close the "Publish Status" window.

I wonder how long it'll be before I stop automatically checking on my blog.

I wonder how long it'll be before I stop responding to anything interesting I learn with "that'll make a good blog entry."

I wonder how long it'll be before I go even one day without thinking about my blog.

I wonder what'll be the 1st thing I do after I summon the courage to publish this entry and start my new life.

Ok, here I go...

Goodbye everyone!!



Friday, May 18, 2007

What is reality, really? 

You know what reality is, right? Or do you? We define reality, in the strictest sense, as what we and the instruments we've designed can perceive; the problem with that is that neither our senses nor our instruments are designed to perceive reality as a whole... all we can get are bits and pieces.

We think our 5 senses are wonderful, but looked at objectively there's not much to them: We can perceive light and sound, but only within certain ranges. We can distinguish some sorts of chemicals via smell and taste, but far from all. Our sense of touch tells us about what we're in contact with (down to a certain level) and temperature. And that's IT; our bodies have no ability to detect any of the other aspects of reality, whether it's commonplace stuff like microwaves, esoteric stuff like the parallel universes predicted by string theory, or anything in the spiritual realm. Even within the zone of what we CAN detect, we're no great shakes; countless lower animals have far sharper senses than we do, and in the bigger picture our senses evolved only to help us deal with our immediate environment, so we can't see atoms or galaxies, much less the nuts and bolts of how the omniverse is built and operates. Worst of all, our senses, and the parts of the brain that deliver their data to us, are easily fooled; illness, drugs, tiredness, emotional distress, religious mania, etc can distort our perceptions, and illusions, both of the optical and magician varieties, show how easy it is to trick them.

And; our brains filter out the overwhelming majority of info our senses produce, so that our conscious minds only get a trickle of what little information we HAVE about reality... don't you wish you could see what the world around you looks like withOUT that filtration? AND; studies show that your memory isn't anywhere near as good as you think it is, which is bad because pretty much all our knowledge and understanding is rooted in MEMORIES of what we experienced or learned. Thus, we're basing our view of reality on woefully incomplete data brought into easily-fooled brains through crude senses, filtered heavily and then corrupted over time.

Still think you know what reality is?

But wait, what about the information brought to us by scientific instruments, or more basic ones like cameras-don't they show objective reality? Ignoring the issue of glitches and such, when one of our gadgets records something, it means that something real was there; it does NOT necessarily mean that what was recorded exactly matches what was there (ask anyone who's tried to photograph a dark object on a light background), or that the experts, who are only human, correctly interpreted what was recorded, or, and here's the biggie, that what has so far been recorded is everything that exists. Most scientists like to make it sound like we know everything now, except for minor details, but the truth is that, not only do we NOT know it all, we can't even guess at how much exists that we can't even SPECULATE about yet, much less measure and study via instruments... and all that stuff is part of reality.

If you went back a few hundred years and tried to talk to people about, say, subatomic particles, you'd be greeted with laughter, scorn, derision... and maybe get thrown into an asylum, or even burned at the stake as a heretic. Even the most educated folks wouldn't believe you, because they'd have no way to perceive or otherwise detect the particles, or any evidence at all of their existence, and wouldn't just take your word on it... just as people with no personal experience of "the unknown" usually don't believe that there are spirits, psychic abilities or karma no matter what those of us who've experienced them claim.

In the modern world, some of the most brilliant people we've got, theoretical physicists, can't agree on... just about anything that'd explain how the universe(s) is built at the finest level and/or how all the forces and the quantum world can be tied in together, despite the fact that massive amounts of the highest level math point to... well, they don't agree on that either. In other words, they don't agree on what reality is... so how can WE be sure when THEY aren't? And let's not forget, there's no reason whatsoever to think that the points they're debating now will be the final answers; if you had a dollar for every time the so-called experts believed they had the final answer for ANYTHING and were later proven wrong, you could retire. String theory, which is the best they can offer currently to explain reality, might be right, but why should we believe that strings are absolutely the most basic parts of matter/energy (which are actually the same thing, remember)... just because they're the most basic part that anyone's THOUGHT of thus far? And let's not forget that they've got nothing but guesswork to account for what 99.02% of the mass of the universe is made out of (see my post of 2-15-07); it could be ghosts, God, heaven, hell, demons, angels, karma, anything your religion, spiritual path or philosophy has come up with, and/or stuff that no human has even guessed at yet in the wildest speculative fiction... and whatever it is, it's part of reality.

STILL think you know what reality is? If so, you need to write a book, because you're the only human being with that knowledge; of course, you'd be asked to furnish PROOF to convince the scientific types... and if you don't have any, you're in the same boat as the rest of us, because we've all spent the greater part of our lives, at the very least, believing that the combination of our personal observations and experiences, whatever bits and pieces of scientific lore we can recall, and our particular flavor of spirituality combined to fully describe reality.

Ok... so what? On the one hand, this is all totally irrelevant, because you can live your life just fine without knowing what reality is. On the other hand, it's the biggest issue there is... and would you still be reading this post if you didn't have some shred of desire to KNOW? The best suggestion I can make is to pay a little attention to science to give you some guidelines, and ALOT of attention to those patterns in what goes on around you that can't be explained by normal cause and effect, and keep asking yourself "how?" and "why?"; sooner than you'd believe, you'll discover that "There are more things in heaven and Earth," and be a big step closer to knowing what reality is.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Awesome URL's 

In today's "Foxtrot" comic strip


the "average" kids get promised rewards for straight A's, but the smart kid doesn't get offered anything because he ALREADY gets straight A's; kudos to cartoonist Bill Amend for making the long overdue point that, while it's fine to reward kids for better-than-usual performance, kids that perform well all the time should get something for it every so often too... even, dare I say it, MORE often than the kids who perform less well.

Those of you that're constantly changing your layouts will love this one:


The topmost picker (there are some other useful ones on the page as well) allows you to select any color and get multiple colors that go perfectly with it, whether you want similar colors or wildly contrasting ones; there are controls (nearly every part of the display is clickable) that allow you to alter aspects of the colors to get you to the desired shades(s)... you can even choose to see how your chosen colors would appear to people with different kinds of colorblindness. The only thing that keeps this from being perfect is that, inexplicably, although you can enter specific #'s for hue, saturation and brightness you can't enter the hex # of a color; Photoshop can translate hex to HSB, and if you don't have it you can go here


to get a translation, but be aware that you may have to alter the hue 15-20 points to get the correct hex at Colorpicker-the math for that is a little bit off.

Here's a site that, as long as they don't do something stupid, will make a fortune:


Bag Borrow or Steal™ allows you to "Rent the Latest Authentic Designer Handbags Purses Jewelry and Accessories"; they've adopted the Netflix concept (also used by Blockbuster and some game rental companies) of your being able to pick what you want, have it mailed to you, keep it as long as you like, and mail it back when you're done... with the necessary difference that you have to pay for every week/month you keep each item, since these things are worth far more than most DVD's. Unlike with the DVD/game setup, you can't treat these items like garbage (I'm convinced that at least one of my fellow Blockbuster-onliners drags DVD's behind his truck), because they get checked when you return them, and you get penalized if you damaged them; the upside of that is that renters are presumably guaranteed to receive them in usable condition. If, once you've got a stellar accessory, you can't bear to part with it, you can "steal" (aka buy) it... or cross your fingers and hope you snag it when it gets demoted to their online store. What makes this site brilliant is that for a tiny fraction of what it'd cost you to BUY these pricey, cutting-edge accoutrements you can "rent" them for a party or to just be trendy while they're "hot"; I'm betting that this is gonna be BIG... and if they ever offer stock, it'd be an excellent investment.

This next one is the coolest thing I've ever seen online, a Shockwave... well, it's not a game really, it's... just go take a look:


Be sure and have your sound on, because it's musical, and I don't just mean a few beeps and clicks; most of the construction pieces are effectively musical instruments, and each one that's part of your maze/machine adds to your orchestra. In addition, the controls on the factory actually do stuff, and for the musical pieces you have the ability to change the pitch of their "songs." My husband and I have had hours of fun with this; my goal is to have as many different actions going on at once as I can, and his is to try to construct and guide it so that he has one "playing piece" trapped in a infinite loop; however YOU play it, I guarantee you'll love it.

And finally, here are a couple of great free samples we've gotten recently:

My husband loves this cereal, which is as crunchy as you can get without eating gravel (aka Grape Nuts)


My mother actually laughed with pleasure when she got this and saw how big it was (it contained THREE hair care products, each a full 2 oz), especially compared to the little packets most hair-related samples come in


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Husband humor 

First, a quick announcement: If you look at the "subscription area" in my sidebar you'll see that I've added a new option, "+ Bookmark"; if you click it, you'll get a window that'll allow you to add my blog to your bookmarking services, not just Del.icio.us and Digg but a bunch of others too, 33 total as of when I write this. The site that provides this service, Addthis.com, also offers a similar service for feed readers, but it doesn't have nearly as many options as offered by Addtoany.com (my yellow "subscription button"), so I didn't take advantage of it; it's worth keeping an eye on, though, as it'll make for a nicer-looking display to have both buttons be from the same site, and they may catch up eventually.

Husbands generally do things that wives don't like; that's a given. MY husband really pushes the envelope, though: A prime example is his insistence that if he lays down on the floor with his eyes shut he won't fall asleep, that instead he'll somehow become more rested but stay awake... despite the fact that it's NEVER happened that way. His perpetual snoring eliminates any gray area as to what he's doing, but he'll still try to deny that he was sleeping even after he's TOLD that he was snoring; he also tries to convince me that he's an ill-used victim, that I'm inventing the snores that are so loud that I can't hear the TV over them just to mess with him... as this is an all-ages blog, I'll refrain from including my reply to that line of discussion in this post. The thing that makes this behavior pattern so dismaying is that he does this same nonsense at other people's houses; it's bad enough to lie on someone else's floor with your eyes shut, which is rude and weird and socially unacceptable even for geeks, but to then fall asleep in the middle of their living room and start snoring so deafeningly that all conversation grinds to a halt and everyone stares open-mouthed in horror is just unforgivable... especially since he'll do it even when he's warned not to. (Perhaps he wants to make sure that we're humiliated in front of EVERYONE we know?)

He seems impervious to shame about the previous issue, but this next one embarrassed him enough that he's actually making an effort to change (with a little help from ME, of course): One of his favorite ways of being a jerk is to respond to everything I say with "Yes dear"; he's gotten so used to automatically saying it after every sentence spoken to him that yesterday he said it to his BOSS... and the latter is a gay man, and it's anyone's guess what he thought it meant (I hope he didn't think it was intended to be some sort of slur on his sexuality). Luckily, that conversation took place over the phone, and he didn't have to face the man he'd misspoken to... doubly lucky considering that he's a hardcore blusher. Even better, the reflexive blither to the last person in the world he should be blithering TO woke him up to how deeply ingrained his idiocy has become; when I pointed out that his next slip of the lip might be to one of my friends, or one of their husbands, he wanted to deny it but couldn't... and since he's socially awkward even by geek standards, he naturally doesn't want to risk making it harder to feel comfortable with one (or more) of our friends as a penalty for how he's been getting a kick out of being aggravating. An official end has been called to his being able to get away with "Yes dear"-ing me all the time; from now on, if he does it I'm going to whack him with a ruler... I'm not strong enough to hurt him, but the hope is that this somewhat extreme response will prevent him from getting the jollies that encourage him to perpetuate his disrespectful behavior and give him the chance to retrain himself in proper conversational responses before he makes another, possibly worse, faux pas.

As always, we managed to see a little humor in the situation:

Me: The word "dear" should never come out of your mouth again.
Him: But what if someone asks me where venison comes from?
Me: Say you don't know.
Him: Then they'll think I'm a moron.
Me: No change there, right?
Both: LOL!!

No look into my marriage would be complete without something gross, since marriage is in itself gross: While I was typing away on my laptop recently my back knotted up; I eventually couldn't stand it anymore and limped down the hall to get my husband to crack it for me. The door to his study was closed, which generally means that he's, um, taking matters in hand in there; I knocked, and he informed me that he'd just finished... if I hadn't been in pain my "wifely radar" would've gone off and I'd have been there within the 1st 30 seconds, but I didn't perform "whackus interruptus" on him this time. When he opened the door to see what I wanted, I told him that I needed my back cracked... but that he'd better go sterilize his hands 1st, all things considered. In response, he waved his unclean hands in front of my face; I recoiled, laughingly calling him a pig, and he chased me down the hall with his hands outstretched while I shrieked with disgust. When I was able to grab a magazine to shield myself from the biological attack, and aimed a few blows at his overactive groin with it, he went snickering on his way to the bathroom; I called after him that he was lucky that we don't have an autoclave, because I'd expect him to put ALL the affected bodily parts into it. ;-)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Do you think for yourself? 

Ok, now ask yourself that question again and really think about the answer. Still sure you're a rugged individualist?

Do you have the same political beliefs as your parents? Or the exact opposite ones? Or ones that match the views you encountered in college? Or the same ones as your romantic partner or social group? If you answered "yes" to any of those, and you didn't do an in-depth objective analysis the conclusions of which coincidentally fell into one of those categories, you're not thinking for yourself.

Do you have the same religious beliefs as your parents? If you said "yes," unless the reason for it is that your deity appeared to you and confirmed that you'd picked the one true religion, you're not thinking for yourself.

If asked your opinion on an issue, does your reply parallel what you read or heard from the media, or, worse, on a blog? Unless you did independent fact-checking and, again, in-depth analysis, that just happened to dovetail with those NON-objective sources, you're not thinking for yourself.

If you're asked what music, movies, etc you like, and what comes out of your mouth is whatever's currently popular, either among your circle of acquaintance or in general... do I even have to say it? Popularity is probably the most powerful influence on the average person's preferences; if something is perceived as being popular, even among total strangers whose tastes are unknown, people rush blindly to that thing rather than looking at the ones that are closest to what they already know they like. The New York Times has a fascinating article on this topic called "Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage?":

"people almost never make decisions independently - in part because the world abounds with so many choices that we have little hope of ever finding what we want on our own; in part because we are never really sure what we want anyway; and in part because what we often want is not so much to experience the 'best' of everything as it is to experience the same things as other people and thereby also experience the benefits of sharing."

"when people tend to like what other people like, differences in popularity are subject to what is called 'cumulative advantage,' or the 'rich get richer' effect. This means that if one object happens to be slightly more popular than another at just the right point, it will tend to become more popular still. As a result, even tiny, random fluctuations can blow up, generating potentially enormous long-run differences among even indistinguishable competitors"

Ahhhhhh, I love to find out why folks do the silly things they do. In case you don't believe the explanation, fear not, they proved it with an experiment:

"more than 14,000 participants registered at our Web site, Music Lab (www.musiclab.columbia.edu), and were asked to listen to, rate and, if they chose, download songs by bands they had never heard of. Some of the participants saw only the names of the songs and bands, while others also saw how many times the songs had been downloaded by previous participants."


Do I need to quote any more? You know what happened when people could see how many times each song had been downloaded, right? You can give a little slack to those who're influenced by their loved/liked ones raving about something, or even by strangers if they can see excited faces or hear excited voices, since we absorb each others' emotions so readily, but to just see NUMBERS and be so influenced by those tiny traces of strangers' preferences is pretty scary... and I'll bet that every person thus manipulated would swear to their dying breath that they always think for themselves.

Human beings are social animals, and as such it's natural for us to be affected by what those around us think and feel; that undoubtedly served us well in our primitive days, when we had to all want the same things and work towards the same goals in order to survive. There aren't many of us in the modern world who want to live our lives with others doing our thinking for us, so it's up to each of us to look at all our opinions and ask "WHY do I feel that way?", and to be willing to devote some serious skull-sweat to each topic that we can't find a solid reason for holding our current view on.... only then will we truly be thinking for ourselves.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Is testosterone one of the causes of evil? 

No, this isn't a man-bashing post; it's about people with higher-than-average levels of testosterone for their gender. With that said; we take it so for granted that the overwhelming majority of crimes, especially violent ones, are committed by MEN that we don't wonder WHY... all *I* ever thought about it was that testosterone often leads to aggression, and aggression can be the root of criminal behavior, but that's clearly not a sufficient explanation. If testosterone is part of what creates, not just aggression, but EVIL, that'd explain alot; here's the 1st hint that this could be so (asterisks mine):

"Most people don't appreciate an angry look, but a new University of Michigan psychology study found that ***some people find angry expressions so rewarding that they will readily learn ways to encourage them.***

'It's kind of striking that an angry facial expression is consciously valued as a very negative signal by almost everyone, yet at a non-conscious level can be like a tasty morsel that some people will vigorously work for,' said Oliver Schultheiss, co-author of the study and a U-M associate professor of psychology."

This is horrifying, of course, but shouldn't come as a surprise; we've all known people who clearly enjoy being able to upset others... but did you ever consider what the psychological mechanism could be that'd cause them to have that response? They're bad people, yes, but what's in their brains that MAKES them bad; abnormal physical structures, alteration to mental pathways due to trauma... or, reasonably enough, hormonal or other chemical differences? (Evil is so huge and so varied that it almost certainly arises from a combination of things, but we need to know what they ARE.) This article doesn't explicitly make the connection that people who have this anti-social response are evil, but there's no other word for those that get a kick out of making others angry; nice folks don't react that way.

"They took saliva samples from participants to measure testosterone, a hormone that has been associated with dominance motivation.

Participants then worked on a 'learning task' in which one complex sequence of keypresses was followed by an angry face on the screen, another sequence was followed by a neutral face, and a third sequence was followed by no face.

Participants who were high in testosterone relative to other members of their sex learned the sequence that was followed by an angry face better than the other sequences, while participants low in testosterone did not show this learning advantage for sequences that were reinforced by an angry face.

Notably, ***this effect emerged more strongly in response to faces that were presented subliminally,*** that is, too fast to allow conscious identification. Perhaps just as noteworthy, participants were not aware of the patterns in the sequences of keypresses as they learned them.

While high-testosterone participants showed better learning in response to anger faces, they were unaware of the fact that they learned anything in the first place and unaware of what kind of faces had reinforced their learning.

Wirth, the lead author of the study and now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, added: 'Better learning of a task associated with anger faces indicates that the anger faces were rewarding, as in a rat that learns to press a lever in order to receive a tasty treat. In that sense, anger faces seemed to be rewarding for high-testosterone people, but aversive for low-testosterone people.'"


I don't have to point out how powerful and deeply ingrained the enjoyment of angry looks has to be for it to work subliminally, right? There might've been some gray area if they'd been showing the angry faces of those the subjects dislike or are competitive with, but they were using the faces of strangers, so all this can be is the pure love of the anger of others... pure evil.

What IS evil? We don't know. We're finally emerging from the shameful days of imagining that so-called "mental illnesses" arose from some mystical thing separate from our physical beings (a mystical thing inexplicably affected by medication) and accepting that they, like every other affliction, are caused by PHYSICAL issues (mostly from imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain); it's high time that we grasp that evil MUST arise from physical sources as well. Can we be genetically predisposed to be evil? How about genetically CERTAIN? We don't know. Are the brains of evil people fundamentally different, as the brains of schizophrenics typically are? Which of the wide variety of chemical and electrical processes our brains possess are abnormal in evil people? We don't know... and can you think of any possible excuse as to WHY we don't know, and why as best as I can determine no one's studying this? We should be dragging every serial killer and equivalent scumbag in our prisons out of their cells and into research centers to do every test and scan in existence on them, right down to their DNA, to see exactly how their brains differ from those of decent human beings; once we know what the sources of evil are, we've got a shot at what would be the greatest advance in all of human history... treatments, or even CURES, for evil.

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