linklog 060408

  • Aero Press Brew Instructions from Sweet Maria’s
    Ralf-trap! Scroll down here for purchase info on this coffee maker, which sounds ideal for work as well as travel. I gave up on my Bodum press because I simply couldn’t find a grind coarse enough to give a clean cup. (I hate gritty coffee!) After this write-up, I really want to try this thing; I’ve been adding chocolate to the rotgut free coffee at work just so I can swill it down, but my guts don’t like me for it. Via Cool Tools.
    “Pick up your email from any computer anywhere in the world. Used by over 15 million users in over 220 countries.” Does involve password, of course, but good to remember nonetheless. Might work when web interface down. Via CUJoe.
  • The Lost Gospel of Judas–Photos, Time Line, Maps–National Geographic
    Nat Geo was involved in the project to restore and translate a codex containing, inter alia, the only surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas. This is a great web presentation — photographs of the codex, a translation, how it came to light, a timeline of early Xtian history and non-canonical gospels. Not clear whether Judas is supposed to have written it (cf “Gospels of” MMLJ) or called GoJ because he is its primary subject.
  • WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: BikePower! (Pedal-powered Electricity)
    This guy has a really good point: we have no idea how much work our appliances are doing. If you worked out at Olympic levels for five or six hours, you could probably run your refrigerator for a day. I bet I’d learn to get by with a smaller fridge if I had to power it myself. (And after you read this, don’t forget to swap out your incandescents for compact fluorescent bulbs!)
  • Conversations:

  • YoungFemaleScientist: Fixing the System
    An anonymous commenter suggests restricting grant spending on student stipends and on-costs as a way of balancing supply and demand in the postdoc market.
  • Mike the Mad Biologist: Misreading Judas
    Not sure who Mike’s angry at (there’s plenty of blame to go around).
  • Adventures in Ethics and Science: How important is effective teaching to science professors anyway?
    The eternal tension between teaching and research.

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linklog 060407

Powered by Simpy and Feed2JS; the archive, aka my Simpy account, is here.

linklog 060406

Powered by Simpy and Feed2JS; the archive, aka my Simpy account, is here.

Friday Poetry Blogging

I can’t seem to stick to Fridays, but here’s a poem for last week anyway. The author was, in his day, one of the most feared critics, influential poets and respected classical scholars in the world; who was he? I’ll put the answer in a comment for those who don’t know, can’t guess and don’t like waiting.

Purple William; or, The Liar’s Doom
The hideous hue which William is
Was not originally his;
So long as William told the truth,
He was a usual-coloured youth.
He now is purple. One fine day
His tender father chanced to say,
“What colour is a whelp, and why?”
“Purple,” was William’s false reply.
“Pooh,” said his Pa, “You silly elf,
“It’s no more purple than yourself.”
“Dismiss the notion from your head.”
“I, too, am purple,” William said.
—And he was purple. With a yell
His mother off the sofa fell,
Exclaiming, “William’s purple! Oh!”
William replied, “I told you so.”
His parents, who could not support
The pungency of this retort,
Died with a simultaneous groan.
The purple orphan was alone.

Daffodil, Woodstock neighborhood, Portland


When I lived in Brisbane, daylillies were the harbingers of Spring; here in Portland, it’s daffodils. Also cherry trees, tulips, magnolias, camelias, pansies and several flowers I don’t yet know the names of. Portland is a good place to live if you like flowers. (Or if you don’t.)
This is an old trick, but I never tire of it. What you do is shoot a pale flower against a dark background (the foliage will usually do), and expose for the highlights or even one stop over. Then simply process the print or digital negative so that the background is black.

Scientology vs. mental health

Chuck Currie has an entry up about the ongoing assault on mental health treatment by the Cult (I refuse to call it a church) of Scientology. I don’t have anything to add to Chuck’s remarks, which you should definitely read, about Tom Cruise and his brainwashed buddies, but I wanted to take a personal diversion into his comments section, where one “RandiHeisterWoman” says:

… The overall number of proscriptions [sic] of mental medications, particularly among children, is way, way out of control. As a teacher, you should see the length of the line of students lined up outside of the office at lunch time every day, just so they can get their ritalin. I know these kids. They’re normal. They were normal before ritalin and they’re a sedated form of normal after ritalin. You can’t look at the numbers and say that drugs aren’t replacing discipline in many (not all) cases. There is a real problem here. […]
The other legitimate problem is the fact that psichiatric [sic] medicines are prescribed primarily based on symptoms, not causes. Have you ever actually read the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders)? Every definition of every mental health illness is so vague, they could apply to anybody! … who would want a medical doctor to prescribe heart medication simply because someone reported chest pains, without doing any tests to investigate the cause? No one. Yet psychiatrists do that every single day.

If this person really is a teacher, I despair.
Have you ever actually read the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders)?
Yes, I have.
Every definition of every mental health illness is so vague, they could apply to anybody!
No, they are not. This is utter nonsense.
I am not a clinician, but I have major depressive disorder, so I have a certain stake in understanding mental illness. (I also have a PhD in molecular biology, which gives me a bit of a head start on reading the literature.)
A fairly common analogy is to diabetes: no one claims that insulin is overprescribed, or that diabetics should just “pull themselves together” — a la “I know these kids, they’re not really diabetic”. You don’t hear those things because the physiological basis of diabetes is not disputed, because the primary symptoms are in large part physical. Popular misunderstanding of an inherently flawed concept, “mind/body duality”, seems to have something to do with this: behavioural and emotional symptoms stem from the mind, which is somehow not physical, so the “cure” must be somehow non-physical as well. This is nonsense, and commenter #2, “a social worker”, is exactly correct:

Mental illness consists of chemical differences in the brain which are prompted by heredity and environment. Symptoms are behaviors and feelings that differ from the norm and are similar across cultures. “Sheer will” does not eliminate depression, just as will alone does not eliminate blindness. Medication can be an important piece of therapy by helping to balance chemicals in the brain.

Mental illness has a physiological basis regardless of trigger or treatment. That such treatments as cognitive behaviour therapy have real efficacy only reinforces the observation that mind is part of body, and the two can exert mutual influence. It does not make psychotropic drugs somehow illegitimate as a treatment modality.
In fact, the current standard of care in depression (for obvious reasons, the section of the mental illness spectrum with which I am most familiar) is to stabilise patients with chemotherapy and move on to explore the utility of counseling, CBT and so on. A further analogy is perhaps useful: if you have an infection, it is likely that your own immune system can take care of it, but this can be a long and painful course of recovery and it can fail catastrophically. For these reasons, we use antibiotics to bolster the body’s innate defenses. Similarly, psychotropic medication can be a way of restoring equilibrium (like antibiotics) or a permanent fix for a damaged system (like insulin for diabetes).
Unsupported claims that psychotropic medication prescription is “out of control”, or that “drugs are replacing discipline”, are irresponsible at best. The contention that psych meds are prescribed for “symptoms not causes” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of clinical practice in, and the nature of, mental illness. I expect better of teachers.
(Update: comments off, discuss at Chuck’s.)

linklog 060402

  • ScienceDaily: Brain Imaging Can Predict Effectiveness Of Cognitive Behavior Therapy For Treating Depression
    fMRI study: better recovery in response to CBT is predicted by decreased activity in the subgenual cingulate cortex and increased activity in the amygdala, in response to negative stimuli (emotion laden words).
  • Google Romance
    This was an Internet Jackass Day stunt, but it could be done, and it wouldn’t need Google’s imprimatur. All that is required is a standard data/metadata format for a profile — fill it out, post it anywhere (blog, lj, whatever) and wait for search hits. If I were still single I would work this up for sure.
  • ThermaSAVE Building Systems
    Polystyrene panels offer light, strong, bio/chem/env inert construction units with very high insulating capacity and moderate cost. Looks like a great match for prefab design.
  • The Citizens of Porto Alegre
    The Citizens of Porto Alegre: in which Marco borrows bus fare and enters politics, an ongoing experiment in participatory democracy. I wonder if Portland would go for something like this?
  • Intelligent Enterprise Magazine: Wikis, Blogs and Other Points of Failure
    Greenbaum misses the point entirely. Of course blogs and wikis and so on are mostly shite; everything is mostly shite. What matters about blogs etc. is how they differ from all the other shite, particularly from older publishing methods: a more level playing field for access, much shorter time lapse between observation or idea and readers’ eyeballs, searchability, community, and so on.
  • Dog thong flatulence gas odor smell
    A doggy-thong to ease the pong? Please tell me this is an elaborate Internet Jackass Day hoax. Via GeekPress.
  • Good place for a long walk | Ask MetaFilter
    Best places for long (weeks/months) walks. I suggested Shikoku, but there are heaps of wonderful ideas.

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linklog 060401

Feed Digest signups are open again, so I’ve digested my Simpy feed into html that displays on my throwaway blogspot site — now, unless I’ve screwed something else up, I should only ever need to cut&paste from the blogspot page’s source (or the Feed Digest html version) to post these linklogs.

ResourceShelf’s DocuTicker: Cesarean Delivery on Maternal Request
Note to self: print out and internal mail to Valerie King. No indication of different outcomes between CDMR and planned vaginal births, but evidence weak.
Microsoft Has Several Search and Ad Patent Applications Published, Also New App from Yahoo
This can’t be good. Dear LazyWeb, please find me an IP/web expert to evaluate these patents.
Recommend me some sparse moody instrumental music | Ask MetaFilter
Corporate Personhood- Demeaning Our Bill of Rights – Reclaim
[this looks good] “…corporate lawyers (acting as both attorneys and judges) subverted our Bill of Rights in the late 1800’s by establishing the doctrine of “corporate personhood” — the claim that corporations were intended to fully enjoy the legal status and protections created for human beings.We believe that corporations are not persons and possess only the privileges we willfully grant them. Granting corporations the status of legal “persons” effectively rewrites the Constitution to serve corporate interests as though they were human interests. Ultimately, the doctrine of granting constitutional rights to corporations gives a thing illegitimate privilege and power that undermines our freedom and authority as citizens. While corporations are setting the agenda on issues in our Congress and courts, We the People are not; for we can never speak as loudly with our own voices as corporations can with the unlimited amplification of money.”
Alicublog: What, Me Weimar?
Bookmarked just for the phrase “Duchamp’s urinal is the wellspring of her rage”, in which there must, MUST, be a poem somehow. Perhaps a villanelle.
Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Shiite Ayatollah Ignores Letter From Bush
I could wish it were someone other than Sistani, but at least here’s a leader treating Bush with the contempt he deserves. If the rest of the world would take this cue it might make it easier to get the American Taliban out of office.
Guardian Unlimited | Science | ‘When we turn the current on, the patients report the emptiness suddenly disappears’
Last year, Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Emory University’s school of medicine in Atlanta, published the results of a decade of research which pinpointed a 2.5cm-wide part of the brain called the subgenual cingulate region (SCR) as playing a major role in dealing with affective information.
My Turn: A Black Doctor’s Patient Problems – Newsweek Columnists –
“It’s too predictable. I walk in the room and introduce myself, then wait for the patient — whether he or she is black, white or Asian — to steal glances at the ID card that is attached to my scrubs or white coat. (I’ve thought of having it changed to read something like: It’s true. I’m a real doctor. Perhaps you’ve seen a black one on TV?)” See, when this doesn’t happen any more, then we’ll be making some progress.
New Scientist Technology – Device warns you if you’re boring or irritating
*snort* All it does is vibrate, though. Lame. I think it should deliver a powerful electric shock.
Adventures in Ethics and Science: Evaluating scientific credibility (or, do we have to take the scientists’ word for it?)
This is why Janet gets paid to do philosophy of science, whereas I… comment on blogs sometimes.
ICE: Internet Censorship Explorer » Blog Archive » Yahoo
Nart makes a good point: Yahoo is probably doing to you, right now, what it does to the Chinese. The only difference (for now) is what the respective governments do with the data.


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