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|Monday, June 17th, 2013|
|“She Must Have Deserved It”: An Uncomfortable Reality About Abuse, And Reporting It
In discussing the resistance most victims of domestic violence face when trying to explain things to their friends, someone raised an uncomfortable question about dissecting the abuser's motivations:
"Is it that hard to believe he hit her for no reason at all?"
Yes, it is.
It's hard to understand because most people, I'd argue, don't emotionally understand that other people are different than they are. Oh, they get that there are differences - Coke vs. Pepsi, Stones vs. Beatles, Romney vs. Obama - but 90% of the people I met view their neighbor as basically a reflection of their own morality, and get confused whenever they witness significant distinctions. Naturally, they're frequently confronted with evidence that people aren't pretty much all "just folks" under the hood - but when they see this, the dissonance is confusing and painful, so they either withdraw, simplify, or forget.
(This is why people tend to withdraw into echo chambers on the Internet, where everyone thinks like they do. It's easier than reformatting your entire universe.)
And the good news that emerges from this particular bad response is that most people would never hit their partner. When told, "He hit her," most people run this information through a I-am-the-world filter that goes something like this:
"Gosh, hitting the person I love? I can't imagine myself doing that. But that did happen, apparently, so how would that have come to be if I was in the driver's seat? Well, I suppose if she constantly did something designed to hurt me, all the time, on purpose, maybe - eventually - I might snap and feel horribly guilty afterwards. But what the hell kind of actions would someone take to drive me to that monstrous behavior? Because I/other people wouldn't just beat someone for no good reason. So what did she do? She must have done something."
In other words, their failure here is their inability to put themselves in the shoes of a sociopath. And so they focus on the reasons as opposed to the action. Which creates a toxic resistance to the idea that the abused partner wasn't at fault.
Their central fault is that they assume, erroneously, that there must be some large driving force behind this disproportionate response. But there isn't. The truth is that a lot of domestic violence comes from men - and women - who are eager to display power by punching powerless folks in the face. Where most people would only resort to brutality when backed into a corner, knowing the emotional damage a beating does, the abuser views physical pain as just another tool to be used in a relationship, mundane as arguing and chore-swapping.*
As such, I think the best way to fight this insidious idea that the abused brought this abuse upon themselves** is to change the narrative.
What we need to get across in the case of domestic abuse is that this is a different breed of person. This is not you and me, this is a man or woman who views the world in a way that thinks of hurting someone as just another method of control. He may be friendly, he may have made you laugh over a beer - but underneath, if he thought pain would be a better way of getting you to do what he wanted than humor, he'd drop the beer and tear your fucking hair out.
They're not you. And you gotta fight to get that one across, but when you do you've opened up a tool that gets a lot more societal justices created. Because once you get - really, fundamentally accept - that the world is not full of Mini-Mes and in fact some people's experiences has led them to something catastrophically different from you, whole worlds open up that you can begin to shape to better ends.
Because the women who got hit? They didn't do anything that warranted an ass-kicking. They just are with someone who thinks ass-kickings are a-okay, and the problem lies with him, not her.***
* - And when you're unfortunate enough to run into another sociopath with an easy out to violence, that sociopath genuinely sees the situation as "She deserved it," giving a similar end. It could be argued that most people are then sociopaths. But given the comparative - comparative - rarity of domestic violence in the Western cultures I'm familiar with, I don't think that's the case.
** - The kernel of truth within this otherwise-scurrilous claim, I think, is that if you're a victim of abuse, you need to be very careful as to who you date. Children of abusing parents are fifteen times - fifteen times! - as likely to wind up married to an abuser as so-called "normal" people, which means that your abuser broke some vital instincts within you. If you've got that kind of background, date slowly, trust carefully, because your parents have wired you to be drawn to other abusers. This is no different than anyone else's bad instincts in relationships, of course - except that if I go on autopilot, I wind up with a psychodramatic relationship, and if you do it you wind up broke and desperate with a woman kicking you in the ribs. So if you've been abused? Be vigilant. Be careful in who you choose to love. Because goddammit, you deserve better than that.
*** - Or with her, not him. Domestic violence isn't man vs. woman, it's abuser vs. abusee. Please remember that.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/310420.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
In light of the recent leaks about the NSA's illegal spying, I've decided to go back to using
M-x spook output in my email signatures.
cypherpunk anthrax John Kerry rail gun security plutonium Guantanamo
wire transfer JPL number key military MD5 SRI FIPS140 Uzbekistan
|Dominoes and dice patterns
Nico has a box of dominoes, and playing with it often consists of
me trying to arrange them into nice patterns, and him trying to
shuffle them. The box contains the usual 28 dominoes, but has coloured
Paddington Bear pictures instead of spots. The dominoes can fit into
the box in four stacks of seven; in this arrangement there are eight
squares visible but the dominoes only have seven different pictures.
There isn't a particularly satisfying choice of which four dominoes
get to show their faces.
Traditional dominoes use the same six arrangements of spots as
dice, plus blank. They are based on a 3x3 grid, in which the middle
spot is present in odd numbers and absent in even numbers, and
opposing pairs of spots are added starting with the diagonals. This
extends nicely from zero to nine:
I could solve my four-pile problem with a set of 36 dominoes with
faces numbered 1 to 8 (which I think is prettier than 0 to 7), or I
could make five piles showing squares numbered 0 to 9 if I had a
"double-nine" set of 55 dominoes.
Another way to arrange the spots is hexagonally, which also allows
you to use a translation from binary to unary. The middle dot
represents bit 2^0; two opposing dots represent bit 2^1; and the other
four dots in the hexagon represent bit 2^2:
I think this is even more pretty :-) It can also make nice
octahedral dice, and the hexagon patterns will fit in the faces
particularly well if the corners are rounded off.
ETA: Following the discussion in the comments, I have come up
with an extended layout that works up to 31 spots. It fits fairly
well in a square, but loses some of the hexagonal symmetry. It is
based on the observation that three overlapping hexagonal rings
contain 16 spots (3 * 6 - 2 overlapping spots). No great insight
that shows how to extend it further, I am afraid. See
which includes the code to draw the diagrams.
|Sunday, June 16th, 2013|
|A Much-Needed Skill, For Writing or Woodworking.
Yesterday morning, I put up this pegboard. I did not do a good job.
Now, this pegboard is a surprisingly large deal, as it’s the first time I’ve physically altered my environment with my own hands. This was the first time I ever went, “This thing is insufficient,” then went, “So why not change that?” and then ripped down part of a wall and put up another part. In terms of worldview, it’s quite the large change.
In terms of actual work? Shoddy.
If you look closely at the picture, you’ll notice that I cut the pegboards wrong. There are two boards, and one juts out a little to the left, creating an unsightly gap. If I’d done a better job, I would have noticed this before I started screwing things in. I would have cut the boards to fit, measured them in advance properly. It’s something I’ll probably be deeply embarrassed by, when I get to be good at this.
Yet I can still take pride.
I’m lucky enough to hold those contradictory thoughts of “This could use improvement” and “I’m glad I made this.” And when I look at the pegboard I’ll neither be tempted to rip it all down in disgust, nor wander away thinking this flawed work is brilliant. I can be content that I’ve done something I’ve never been able to pull off before, yet make notes for future betterment.
Which is the way I write: I’m highly critical of my stories. I can show you the soft points in every story I’ve published, even the ones I’ve been paid hundreds of dollars for; they’re riddled with errors I just couldn’t fix properly. But at the same time, those flaws don’t negate the work put into it. Like the peg board, it’s enough to hang some tools on. Like the peg board, it’s taught me something about how to do this. Like the peg board, ultimately it’s useful.
When you write. When you work wood. When you create. Note your errors, fix what you can this time around, vow to do better the next time. Yet be proud; you did a fuck of a lot more than the people who created nothing, and you’ve leveled up in some small way.
You don’t have to be perfect. You shouldn’t be casual. And you should never, ever stop.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/310019.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
|Saturday, June 15th, 2013|
|Cost to Store All US Phonecalls Made in a Year in Cloud Storage so it could be Datamined
Because of recent news reports, I wanted to cross check the cost feasibility of the NSA's recording all of the US phonecalls and processing them.
These estimates show only $27M in capital cost, and $2M in electricity and take less than 5,000 square feet of space to store and process all US phonecalls made in a year. The NSA seems to be spending $1.7 billion on a 100k square foot datacenter that could easily handle this and much much more. Therefore, money and technology would not hold back such a project -- it would be held back if someone did not have the opportunity or will.
Another study concluded about 4x my data estimates others have suggested the data could be compressed 10:1, and the power bill would be lower in Utah.
Previously, previously, previously.
Mirrored from jwz.org.
|Yo, Let's Text For a While And Then Maybe Hook Up
Hey! Exclamation point! It's my name. From that social gathering where we met within the past week. Third draft of a flirty joke relating to our brief and awkward conversation. Haha.
Yo! Exclamation point! Watered down response to flirty joke that simply repeats its initial humorous element without even remotely elaborating, thereby entirely undercutting humor of said joke. Haha.
Lol totally. Anyways. Vague invitation to noncommittal social gathering where others will be present, but you and I making out and/or engaging in fumbly and unsatisfying drunken sexual activity wouldn't be completely off the table?
Six hours pass.
Hey! Exclamation point! Sorry, an excuse happened. Question about time and location that walks the line between showing interest and buying time for another excuse to materialize?
It's at a place at a time. Supposed to be pretty cool. Should be mediocre musical entertainment as well as other elements to dampen social and sexual anxiety. Poorly thought out Hail Mary joke about lighthearted uncertainty regarding said event, however. Lol not laughing.
Oh cool yeah, no response to joke because it wasn't funny, my friend told me about that, which is not true. I've got a thing which I don't have, but I'll be in touch.
One-word response simultaneously hiding and expressing frustrations over an unfulfilled desire for human connection and intimacy.
Later that night.
Hey no exclamation point, is that thing which I know the name of still happening which I know it is because you told me it would be in writing?
Fifteen minutes of pretending he didn't take out his phone as soon as it vibrated and show his friends pass.
Heyyo backspace Hey backspace Sup backspace yo with unearned exclamation point and lowercase first letter due to starting and deleting this text so many times! Yeah, yeah, repetition for sake of informality. You comin, no "g" to imply alcohol consumption?
Name of friend who I know you don't know wants me to go to this bar in a location which I am fully aware is geographically inconvenient for you, insincere ugh. Would that work for you though I know that it wouldn't?
Oh cool I know exactly where that is, where is it exactly?
I think somewhere near an exact location which is factually correct and easily accessible given the wealth of information available through the very device I'm holding question mark?
Oh riiiiiiiiight I also just Google Maps'd it to double check, because my friends went home twenty minutes ago and I have been standing alone outside this bar playing Temple Run just in case I'd hear from you.
Second text to downplay eagerness of one long paragraph, but hmm I don't know, this thing I am basically not at anymore is pretty bumpin' haha, which it is certainly not. You going to be there for a while since I am banking my night on you saying yes?
Yeah, I think so for purpose of coming across as aloof and having the interpersonal upper hand here, but definitely will.
Laidback contraction of "alright" to counteract boost of adrenaline. Depends on what my friends who are home and going to sleep or having sex with their girlfriends are doing. Will let you know, am literally stepping into a 20+ dollar cab to come see you now no period at end of sentence because am informal and cool and sexually viable
OK sounds good, am now talking with friends and scrolling through Facebook photos of you while shrugging, panicking about whether to hook up with you or not and feeling sort of guilty for making you come here, but not really because I never promised you anything, and it's your problem if you think I did, carefree exclamation point!
My friends are being lame and are not involved in this decision, so Ima be there soon in five minutes in moderate traffic according to Google Maps, which I just checked for the second time. Just imagined if you were my girlfriend then farted in the cab just to get it out!
K cool, nervously drafting the following text.
Oh shit no wait ahhhhh there is a thing I am about to say which is not surprising to me because I've been planning it for ten minutes and ran it by each of my friends for approval!
Huh? What's up, fireball of fear churning in pit of sad stomach?
Ugh, sorry I can't actually hang, I'm dating my ex-boyfriend.
Oh haha k no big, informality upon informality to muffle fury and punch-to-the-gut sadness. I'm crashing anyway, which I am actually not and in all probability won't be able to sleep for hours, drunken teary-eyed lol.
Sorry sorry sorry repetition to blunt impact of genuine thoughts and emotions which we are both petrified of expressing and acknowledging ahhhh, frowny face masking huge wave of relief!
Well, big bucks no whammies, maybe making out is still on the table at some other informal social gathering next week please don't hit me when I'm down please I beg you?
Next week is CRAZY busy, I literally have no plans except for a thing Tuesday that I could definitely change but won't, but maybe definitely not the following week or ever?
K cool will be in touch, as I am going to swallow my anger and willingly fall down the rabbit hole of taking your word for it because I never learn!
Great, forgetting about you starting now! Have a not-very-good night anymore!
You too! I would say I love you right now!
Smiley face! Fuck you!
Smiley face! Yep, fuck me!
Mirrored from jwz.org.
|maternity leave, attitudes, and internet-induced paranoia
My maternity leave ends this week and I'm looking forward to getting back to work, but at the same time, I've been reading too many feminist forums and it's messing with me. Because in every discussion about equal pay, the anti-feminist trolls say that the gender wage gap is deserved, fair & justifiable, because women take all this extra time off from their careers to have babies.
So even though I've only taken six weeks off, checked email the whole time, even went in to check on my team, I'm super paranoid that deep down inside there are guys thinking "oh, back from your nice month and a half vacay that none of us get except you, missy? back to keep getting your cut of the profits we generated while you were off baby-gazing?"
I fear that the things anti-feminists say about women are hiding deep in the minds of everybody I work with. somehow. somewhere. unsaid, just... there. In a conservative state, in an almost all-male workplace, how could it not be?
people take medical leave for all sorts of reasons... knee replacements, heart attacks, I see those guys leave and come back and never feel an ounce of guilt.
in the grand scheme of a year, six weeks is really nothing. A lot of projects don't move much at all in that time, both this time and with my first baby immediate coworkers are remarking on how "wow, that was fast. well we're sad to say *this* hasn't changed at all..."
Oh, and can I mention that where I work, if you've been around ten years you get four weeks a year of vacation! There are guys who take off every year from Thanksgiving to New Years... just using time they've earned. no one wonders how it effects their careers or whether it'll come up in the April raise cycles, by then it's forgotten.
If I were in charge of the world both men and women would get the same paid leave, 6-12 weeks, I don't know which. It wouldn't be for any touchy-feely "men deserve it" fairness reason either, it would be for the babies who deserve bonding time with both parents. And for the women recovering from childbirth, who don't deserve to be left alone with a newborn... we don't live on farms with our 18 cousins around to jump in and help anymore. Where's the support? I would give men the same leave I have, in a heartbeat.
But none of that matters, all I hear are the forum trolls telling us that the gender wage gap is totally justified for biological reasons. Women have babies, women take time off, take your 73 cents for every dollar a man makes and stop complaining about it. Equal pay is for equal work and you, ladies, do not do equal work. We don't remember those guys taking vacations or medical leave, but it's fixed in our heads when you take maternity leave, because it's what we use to judge you the way we do. Why can't you understand that this HAS to be a mark against you? You are mothers. We won't look past that to objectively evaluate the work you do, you're lucky to be working at all.
We resent you. there it is. welcome back.
someone talk me down, tell me that's now really how men feel? I work with some really cool ones that I know are cool, but what's "normal"... please tell me the trolls who are assholes about maternity leave are a tiny minority?
|Friday, June 14th, 2013|
Ten years ago on Father's Day 2003, on a whim, I walked into Garden City for the first time to see what California poker was like. I really liked it.
I had owned a copy of Theory of Poker
for at least a year or two, so I wasn't completely on the Moneymaker bandwagon, but it was a few weeks after the series and I had been gleefully watching the first season of the WPT.
I bought in for $60, played about an hour of 3/6, and cashed out a full rack. It was a while before I got to cash out good again.
|Poseidon Adventure, Nigerian Remake
"FISH FEASTED ON THE DEAD"
After two days trapped in freezing cold water and breathing from an air bubble in an upturned tugboat under the ocean, Harrison Okene was sure he was going to die. Then a torch light pierced the darkness. [...]
Somehow Okene survived, breathing inside a four foot high bubble of air as it shrunk in the waters slowly rising from the ceiling of the tiny toilet and adjoining bedroom where he sought refuge, until two South African divers eventually rescued him.
"I was so hungry but mostly so, so thirsty. The salt water took the skin off my tongue," he said. Seawater got into his mouth but he had nothing to eat or drink throughout his ordeal.
"I could perceive the dead bodies of my crew were nearby. I could smell them. The fish came in and began eating the bodies. I could hear the sound. It was horror."
Mirrored from jwz.org.
|Two Photos That Sum Up Yesterday
I used my table saw yesterday for an actual task, which was a heady experience. It’s a small task – chopping up a pegboard so it’ll fit on the wall – but it’s the first time I’ve used my tools and my hands to alter my fucking environment. As someone who’s largely hired people to do stuff for him, saying, “I want a new pegboard on that wall” and then going all “SO MOTE IT BE” is a little crazy.
Incidentally, I’ve settled upon my first project for the workshop: an arcade cabinet. This oughtta be interesting.
And this would be my lovely wife Gini, picking up our food from the food co-op we subscribed to. A bunch of fresh veggies and fruits, all for us! We’re trying, man. I hope we can keep up with all this nature. (And now, I’m off to eat some strawberries.)
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/309898.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
|spacefem's guide to breastfeeding
Olive and I are having a fabulous time nursing, so I figured I'd put up an FAQ to help others. It's such an interesting adventure I'd hate for anyone to miss out on, see...Why should I breastfeed?
I tell people it's for the health benefits, but really I'm just cheap and lazy. Hopefully you'll find equally wholesome reasons.How do I get started?
After you have your baby, have her latch on casually whenever she wants and spend a few last precious bra-free days. Before the week is up, your milk will come in, which is the medical term for "OHMIGOD IT'S EVERYWHERE". If you have issues, call a lactation consultant, many hospitals provide them as a valuable resource.What do lactation consultants do?
You call them, and they put you on hold. But it's okay if you get this GoGos song in your head... "Lactation, all I ever wanted. Lactation, time to get away." It passes the time, then when you talk to someone you're quite relaxed.So milk comes out all the time?
No, only when your milk ducts "let down"... often this comes with a tingly feeling so you're not totally surprised that you'll need to change another nursing pad.So you can control it?
Well, no.What triggers let down?
The milk should start flowing whenever your baby latches on. It can also start if the baby cries, another baby cries, you look at your baby too long, your breasts are too full, you're driving down a bumpy road, you take off your bra, take a warm shower, think about nursing, or write up a blog post about breastfeeding where you mention the topic of "let down".Should I use a nursing cover in public?
Depends on how coordinated you are. Some women can latch a baby while elegantly draping a cover on, no sweat. Others of us end up flailing around like we're lost in there, while our babies scream their fool heads off and spin their appendages exorcist-style just to add to the illusion of twenty chihuahuas trapped under a parachute, so everyone in the restaurant turns to stare at the train wreck that is you trying to be "discrete". With that in mind, sometimes it's just easier to wear an extra tank top so you've got a layer to cover your midsection and tell the public to freaking deal.How often will my baby want to eat?
Depends. How often will you be in the same room?What cues should I look for to see if my baby's hungry?
Did you just feed the baby? No? Then it's probably time to feed the baby.
Around 6-8 months, you can start teaching your baby sign language to improve this communication, and he or she will sign to ask for milk. But when he uses the sign 500 times a day it'll pretty much just confirm that he wants to nurse all the damn time and you won't be as excited about teaching any more sign language.What if breastfeeding isn't for me?
Life will go on. Plenty of brilliant people were raised on crappier formula than what's out there today.When should I stop breastfeeding my baby?
Whenever you damn well please. In my personal opinion though, you should probably start saying "no" sometime before the kid's old enough to go to the fridge and make himself sandwiches.I've heard that around 12 months, my baby may just lose interest in nursing.
You just keep counting on that.Thanks Spacefem, you've made this sound like a beautiful experience.
It's ridiculous. But it's also awesome, trust me, just like everything else related to motherhood. Pregnancy, childbirth, telling your toddler she can only lick interior
walls... it's all rewarding and all insane. Might as well add breastfeeding to the mix, it blends right in.
|Let’s Do Equations Involving Assholes
When it came to negotiating cheap airline prices, there was no one better than Russell. He had a way of browbeating innocent clerks until, exhausted, they handed him over to their manager – and then Russell would hammer the manager, mentioning that we were a big organization, we booked a lot of flights, did you want to lose our fucking business? And while Russell made service managers weep – literally weep – he got us flights at rates that looked more like Greyhound Bus rates.
As a volunteer organization with a slim budget, this skill was invaluable. But Russell came with a cost:
Nobody wanted to work with him.
A prima donna, Russell knew he was good at his job – and he’d turn that scathing anger upon his fellow volunteers as quickly as he would the clerks. Anyone who faltered, who missed a deadline, who blew an opportunity for savings – Russell would chew into them gleefully, call them out publicly, haul out their dumbass behavior and spread it as far as he could. They’d fling up their hands and say, “I don’t want to deal with this asshole.”
And when you confronted Russell on his asshole behavior, he’d chuckle and admit that he was an asshole. But a productive one. He did the work of five of these other slackers – a fact he kept hammering home repeatedly. “If you put five guys together,” he said, “They couldn’t do half of my job! So fuck them if they want to leave!”
Unfortunately for Russ, that constant refrain actually encouraged us to formulate an equation:
One active Russell == How many lost volunteers?
Russell was, arguably better than any five generic volunteers – a herculean feat. But his asshole behavior drove people away at an astounding rate. If Russell did the work of seven volunteers, and alienated only five members, well, then we had a good deal on our hands.
But how many people was he alienating, really? Because the equation changed if Russell’s presence caused ten people to fling up their hands and walk away.
That was Stage One of my incipient Asshole Theory: Assholes will consume a certain number of other people. Whether it’s Russell booking planes for guests or a dazzling troll in some forum who raises good points, an asshole will cause some percentage of your crowd to go “Fuck this.” And the first stage in Asshole Theory is that you must place a value upon the asshole, and then figure out how many people s/he is worth losing.
This is an easy if it’s a useless asshole. Gets a little more talented if it’s a useful asshole like Russell, or a charming asshole who has slavish devotees. Then you have to start figuring exactly what sort of fallout you’re ready to endure should the asshole leave.
Yet when we started asking around about Russell, we found stage two of Asshole Theory. Turns out that the number of people who actively complained about Russell? Wasn’t the real total. When we started inviting comment upon Russell, quietly tugging people who weren’t volunteering aside to ask, “So why aren’t you helping out?” The answer was, frequently, Russell. But who wants to cross an asshole, particularly one who’s known for going off in public spaces? Who wants to criticize a guy who wields grudges like clubs?
That’s Stage Two of Asshole Theory: The number of people consumed is greater than the number of active complainers. People feel no obligation to tell you how dysfunctional your organization is; they’ll just walk, quietly, and figure you know the problem exists. (Which – and let’s be honest – you kinda do.) So that cost usually has some portion hidden, though it gets tricky to figure out if some of the complainers are also assholes.
When we investigated and estimated, turned out that yes, Russell really did do the work of seven people. (Which is pretty damn amazing.) But he alienated fifteen people… fifteen people that we could find. There were likely more. And so, once we did the hard work of doing the math and then extracting Russell from the group, we had a flood of new people who were willing to help. We did pay more for our airline flights, it’s true, but we also had more people to handle the tasks that Russell couldn’t quite keep up with.
That’s my Asshole Theory: you need to keep track of your assholes, and determine what their cost in members is – whether those members are volunteers, employees, staffers, or dues-payers, the asshole is definitely costing you some amount of them. Your job: to figure out what that cost is, overestimating if you don’t have the time to actually dig deep and find out, and then determine whether it’s better to keep the asshole on-board, or to jettison him.
Why do I bring this up today? No reason. No reason at all.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/309507.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
|Thursday, June 13th, 2013|
It occurred to me that I should say a little about the common thread that underpins pretty much everything I've written here since lifting radio silence, and will continue to do so for some time.
So I alluded to the whole aspie thing1
a few posts back. The interesting thing there is, when I first decided to look into the various non-normative functions of my brain, just before I started grad school, I was actually diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disorder
. I fit all but one of those symptoms extraordinarily well -- and indeed, everyone asked, "but how come you're so good at math?" Still, "close" counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and psychology; at the time I had recently graduated with a BA in English (minor: African Studies2
) after washing out hard in the hard-science/math weed-out courses, was working as a tech writer, and was preparing to start an MA in linguistics. It seemed reasonable to conclude that trig, while enough to land me a part-time job tutoring high schoolers for the math SAT, was about the limit of my native intelligence as far as math went.
A year later, Teodor Rus
poached me into a PhD (that I never finished) in computer science, and, well, we all know where that ended up
Apparently I am actually kind of good at math as long as I can treat it as a language
(Granted, I have been doing most of my mathematical explorations on the discrete side of the house, but there are fields that bridge the discrete and continuous realms -- michiexile
's specialty, algebraic topology, being one of them. And since michiexile
and I are pretty good at finding ways to convey ideas to each other up to and including inventing them, there has been something of an osmosis effect, though really I need to just buckle down and get a solid grounding in group theory and then go devour algebraic topology and see whether that goes any more smoothly than, I dunno, going through calculus again on Coursera and then maybe diffeq or something. But I digress.)
I didn't mention this in my post about Len, but Twitter was a lifeline for my sanity in the weeks after he died. There was so much I needed to express, but the last fucking thing I wanted to do was have to talk to somebody in person and have to deal with whatever their reactions were. I tried to write, but I couldn't string ideas together for more than a few sentences. The written language was there -- for the thirty seconds at a time I could focus on anything. And, well, bramcohen
had tweeted the news shortly after I called him3
anyway; the shoe fit well enough, so I wore it. Watching your brain put itself back together after severe emotional trauma can, as it turns out, be a fucking fascinating process -- and I was already primed, with help from a kickass therapist back during grad school who basically gave himself the equivalent of an associate's degree in computer science in order to help me come up with a set of coping mechanisms built out of CS metaphors that have significantly reduced the severity of my social anxiety, to treat my internal state as an algorithm with a panoply of inputs and outputs.
It is not too far a leap from that to "what else can language, both formal language theory and the physical science behind how organisms communicate, be a useful framing device for?" I guess when all you have is a hammer
, everything really does look like a nail. This has nothing to do with why that library has that name, but it is an unintentionally hilarious coincidence nonetheless.
Anyway, there's that. Hopefully it provides some context.1SID is pretty common among the autistic.
2It started with the Physical Anthropology 101 class I took for a social science gen ed, wended its way through primatology, human evolution, and archaeology, and rapidly turned into "Holy shit Africa is way more complicated and interesting than World History in high school ever let on."
3He was in fact the first person I called.
|Dear Japanese people, please stop exploring your eyeballs. It's freaking us out.
Eyeball Licking Causing Pinkeye In Japan
Eye experts are worried that this dangerous fad is gaining popularity with preteens, especially after news reports of elementary school students in Japan who dared to test their ocular boundaries and caused multiple cases of pinkeye.
In one classroom of 12-year-olds, one third of students confessed to "worming" or being "wormed." Officials only noticed something was up when some of the licked students showed up to school wearing eyepatches. [...]
"I got some weird offshoot of TB in my eye once. I ended up with corneal ulcers and I spent like a month in the hospital," she said. "Nobody really knows why. Well, I got over it, and I'm fine now. That was like six years ago.
"I'm just safer now, I guess ... Live and learn. I mean they don't really make tongue rubbers, but maybe they should."
Mirrored from jwz.org.