Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oh, those sweet memories of childhood...

Nowadays Russian officials organize spontaneous rallies in support of Putin.

This is so ex-USSR... Too bad the article does not say what they promise the people for participation in the rallies, or what they threaten them with.

When I was young they usually promised workers free days off for participation in rallies (which usually took a lot less than 8 hours). Slave classes like secondary school and college students were threatened with various troubles. (College students were threatened with expulsion, of course, but you couldn't really kick people out of high school, so we usually just had to listen to our teachers' yelling if we didn't show up.) I don't think anyone bothered with senior citizens.

The same went for all other activism by "volunteers".

In honor of the revival of this time-honored Soviet tradition I'd like to offer to the attention of those who can read Russian, once again, Borya's posting about giving shit for the Olympic games.

And then I will tell you all about chastity and abstinence...

Sudan's president Omar Al-Bashir says he will export ethics and morals to Western countries.

Wow, thanks! We'll try to fit your classes on ethics and morals in somewhere in between Osama's lecture on world peace, presentation of the results of Ahmadinejad's Holocaust research and Saudi women's rights workshop.

Since we believe in mutual exchange of information, the United States will also proudly present Bill Clinton's sermon on marital fidelity and Dick Cheney's firearm safety workshop.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fairs, wine and manga

Been to the book, food and wine fair yesterday. Managed to escape without buying all the books, but finally got, among other things, my own copy of Kiroileva siili.

The food was unimpressive. The wine part, OTOH, was very nice.

The difficult thing about all the wine fairs where you get to taste a lot of wines for a little money is that I tend to go for the good, rather than for the unknown as I think I should. Every time I go to a wine fair I plan to taste a lot of French wines, of which I don't know much, and instead end up drinking wine made of Tempranillo grapes in the Spanish region of Rioja, about which I already know that it has 100% chance of being good (empirical observation based on the sample size of about 30).

Anyway, drank a number of glasses of various wines of the aforementioned variety, which have once again all turned out to be good.

If any of my readers know a bit about French wines and can recommend some, I am all ears.

Another thing on which I could use some recommendation is manga. I'd like to try to read some, but have no idea what would be a good place to start. The two things I'd like to see in my manga would be cute guys and violence (does not have to be extremely gory or anything). Humor would be nice too.

Eek, there are antennae under that hat!

Abu Bakar Bashir, who has recently served two years in prison for his inspirational involvement in 2002 Bali bombings, has given an interview. A few bits:

"The US has a program and has a crusade that is being carried out in an unfair way, which is by spreading the message that there is Islamic terrorism in this world and basically all the enemies, all the terrorists are Islamists and all the people who fight for sharia law."

Errr... I thought it was Abu Bakar Bashir himself who was spreading the message that there is Islamic terrorism in this world, by being, you know, an Islamic terrorist.

"ATol: So you are condemning the Bali bombers?

Ba'asyir: No. The bombers are actually counter-terrorists because they are opposing US terrorism. They are mujahids."


Let's see: bombing Indonesian nightclubs is an act of opposition to US terrorism?

The guy goes on much in the same spirit, praising Osama, etc.

Funny thing: there are many terrorist-supporting imams who like to say that everyone else is a terrorist and they are innocent freedom fighters, that London bombings happened because people are suspicious of Muslims, etc., but just in case of this particular guy, every time he speaks I get a feeling of "what planet did this creature come from, and could we please send him back?".

Sunday, October 28, 2007

They don't write about sexual market value like they used to

Some years ago a lot of people used to write about the sexual market value theory. They were, for the most part, rather entertaining about it. A lot of other people used to disapprove.

The basic idea of the sexual market value theory is that some people are more sexually desirable than others (to the members of their preferred sex on average), that some features are more desirable than others, on average, and that the more desirable people tend to be able to find more desirable partners.

The idea is simple, and intuitively understandable to most people. There is a fair amount of fun in discussing the details, if one is so inclined.

A lot of people seem to object to the idea, for fairly obvious emotional reasons. First of all, it's nice to think that one is loved for one's true self, whatever that means, rather than pay attention to the fact that before your current, former or prospective partners really start paying attention to your true self for sexual or romantic purposes they have already preselected you on a number of rather more mundane features: height, weight, age, social class, where you live, whether or not you smoke, etc., etc. Second, even a person who does not mind the idea of sexual market value as such usually prefers to overestimate his or her own sexual market value, and does not particularly enjoy hearing exactly which of his or her own features are not deemed desirable by prospective partners.

It's quite understandable for some people to write about sexual market value theory, and for some other people to answer "you evil, evil shallow person! how can you be so cynical!".

This really should not, however, be the same person in the same blog post. Or even in the same blog, if the whole blog is dedicated to the sexual market value theory. And this is what I keep seeing lately. Don't these people understand how pathetic they sound?

It's often fun to pronounce ugly truths, and fun to read people who do so, but people who do so should at least exhibit a bit of self-ironic detachment when they notice that the same ugly truths apply to themselves (or, failing that, pretend that they did not notice). As opposed to puzzlement and/or moral outrage.

For a couple examples (links not given to protect the guilty):

1. A man in his forties (IIRC) finds out that various sexual market commodities can be exchanged one for another, more particularly that a fortyish man who is a lot richer than average can find 20-year-old women a lot easier than average. He moves to a relatively poor Asian country on a first-world income and proceeds to do so, much to the understandable (but IMO unjustified) disapproval of the young guys in the new country and the middle-aged women in the old one.

So far, so good. But then the man in question, who keeps extolling the various virtues of young women is totally, completely baffled when he sees middle-aged women who prefer younger men. "Why?" - he asks. "What do they find in them?"

2. Another man keeps going on about younger women, too. Again, understandable. But then he writes a whole post full of moral outrage about older women who try to pick up younger men. "What are they trying to prove?" The post contains a picture of woman who is otherwise reasonably good looking according to the author, but whose upper arm definitely shows her age (or lack of workout). In the same post he accuses those women of shallowness.

3. A guy does not like fat women. Fine, no surprise here, most people prefer thinner partners.

Then he finds a statistic saying that newly-married women in their teens and early twenties gain 24 pounds during their first 5 years of marriage, whereas men gain 30. Dismissing the men's weight gain as unimportant (because he thinks women don't or shouldn't really care), he proceeds to exhibit moral outrage with the wives for being inconsiderate to the desires of their husbands and therefore ugly inside as well as outside.

This is funny enough in and of itself, but the same guy has also previously expressed the opinion that women who lose weight to please men are shallow.

Oy vey. "Myötähäpeä" is a really good Finnish word that English unfortunately lacks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Aivoälykkyys alas! Perseälykkyys kunniaan!

HS-raati ilmaisi mielipiteitään siitä, onko väestöryhmien ja kansojen keskimääräistä älykkyyttä vertaileva tutkimus tieteellisesti perusteltua. Suurin osa ihmisiä tietysti kiemurteli miten sattui. Toiset kielsivät älykkyyden ja toiset kansojen olemassaolon. Monet kertoivat kaikenlaisista vaikeuksista älykkyyden mittaamisessa. Jotkut muistivat myös varoittaa ettei vain tuloksia käytettäisin väärin.

Eihän siinä mitään: älykkyyden määritelmä ja mittaaminen eivät ole suinkaan ongelmattomia. Jotkut testit sisältävät geometrisia kuvioita, jotkut numerosarjoja. Testien kulttuuririippuvuudesta, Flynnin ilmiöstä ja testien painottamisesta eri kykyjen suuntiin väitellään, ja syystäkin.

Tyhmempikin kuitenkin ymmärtää (tai niin minä ainakin olin tyhmänä kuvitellut) että vaikka ei ole yksimielisyyttä siitä mitä kykyjä tarkalleen älykkyystestit mittaavat, on olemassa tosi paljon asioita joita ne eivät mittaa. Ne eivät mittaa tunneälyä, musiikkilahjakkuutta, seksuaalista kestävyyttä, kiinan kirjoitusjärjestelmän tuntemusta, kemian tuntemusta, tai metsästystaitoja. Ihan turha on syyttää älykkyystestejä siitä että ne eivät mittaa ihan kaikkia kykyjä joita ihmisillä on. Lämpömittaritkaan eivät ole täydellisiä: joskus ne ovat epätarkkoja, ja niitä joutuu kalibroimaan uudestaan eri korkeuksilla, mutta kukaan tervejärkinen ei väittäisi että lämpömittari on turha laite joka ei mittaa mitään, eikä moittisi lämpömittaria siitä että se ei mittaa aikaa eikä verenpainetta.

Mielenkiintoisempaa (ja huolestuttavampaa) oli kuitenkin se, että hyvin monet vastaajat päättivät tulkita sanan "kansa" etniseksi ryhmäksi. Ei siinä mitään, etnisten ryhmien välinen vertailu olisi mielenkiintoista sekin, mutta kysymys koski kansoja. Tarkoittaako "kansa" tosiaankin niin monelle HS-raadin tyypille etnistä ryhmää?

Parhaan heiton kuitenkin teki Mikko Lehtonen, kuka lieneekään: "Tällaiset tutkimukset ovat ongelmallisia jo siksi, että niissä "älykkyys" tulee määritellyksi eurosentrisesti, länsimaiseen ihmiskäsitykseen perustuen, jolloin "älyä" on kaikki se, mikä on poskipäiden yläpuolella (siis silmät ja aivot), mutta muu ruumis unohtuu."

WTF? Onko Lehtonen ihan oikeasti sitä mieltä että länsimaissa äly sijaitsee eurosentrisesti aivoissa, mutta muualla ihmiset käyttävät muita ruumiinosia samoihin tarkoituksiin? Vai onko se sitä mieltä että älykkyys-käsitteeseen pitäisi kuulua sellaisiakin asioita kuin kyky juosta nopeasti, tai seksuaalinen kestävyys, tai painonnostokyky?

Haluaisin välttää kaikenlaisia vitsejä siitä, missä ruumiinosassa Lehtosen oma äly sijaitsee, mutta se on hyvin vaikeaa.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To Ironmistress: about reincarnation and suffering

(In response to the thread in the previous post.)

Most Jews don't know anything about gilgul - it's not a mainstream thing, except among Hassidim. I think its idea - that people get reincarnated in order to correct the past mistakes or finish some unfinished business - is somewhat in contradiction with the rest of Jewish eschatology, where people get ressurected as a reward for having been reasonably good in their past life, not as a punishment for having been bad.

But that's OK. Jewish eschatology is more of a mess than the EU constitution, and much for the same reasons.

I get your point about religion (one's own or someone else's) being useful to some of the users. I certainly don't have anything against the fact that you use it to avoid harming yourself.

The reasoning behind the belief in reincarnation is incomprehensible to me for the same reasons that Adelphi mentioned: if the personality disintegrates, who is there to be punished or rewarded, and if the only thing that remains if some "essense of self" that does not contain any personality or memories, how is this different from a regular death?

As for my personal beliefs:

Emotionally the whole thing is even more incomprehensible to me. From my point of view, life is definitely not full of suffering, and whatever suffering there is in life is usually derived from death (and in general life's finiteness) one way or another, and not from craving. The world is not a bad place, and people are not in general evil. I'd very much like to live forever, especially if I get to remain reasonable young and healthy, and I wish most other people lived forever, except if they really don't want to.

From this point of view, reincarnation as a punishment is a strange idea indeed.

I used to know a Buddhist some years ago. He explained to be that being attached to anything on this earth is bad, because you can always lose it or live in fear of losing it, and this would cause suffering. To me the idea makes about as much sense as "absolute zero is the best temperature, because it least it can never get colder".

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Reincarnation

I've always wondered what's the deal with the religions where people reincarnate all the time. I can see how you can get some people to believe in heaven or hell or being reborn at the end of the world as we know it, but isn't it empirically self-evident that we did not have a previous life?

I suppose that the standard answer would be that the part of the soul that reincarnated is too small or too lofty to contain memories and/or personality of the previous host, but doesn't this render the whole concept of reincarnation rather meaningless?

...but it will totally stop your diarrhea

Positive thinking doesn't stop cancer, says AFP and many other news sources.

At first I thought we had a really slow news day, and looked around for the articles saying "masturbation will not make you hands hairy, either", but apparently this was a real study conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania, and countering a widespread belief that positive attitude can beat cancer.

What I want to know is: who are those people who widely believe that positive attitude can stop cancer? And do they also apply this line of reasoning to somewhat less life-threatening diseases, such as for example diarrhea?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Life: infection is officially over, but summer isn't

Been to a doctor today. He declared me completely healthy (ok, the exact words were more along the lines of "ok, your right eye does not look any worse than the left one anymore"). Apparently I did not have an abominable viral disease in my eye after all. Ate a ton of antivirals, paid $215 for them, but the insurance will pay, or, as usual, first cry and then pay.

Got over the jet lag, too, finally.

Had a session of Exalted for the first time after a long break. Luckily the next session is pretty soon now. I missed playing.

I am not sure what's wrong with the world, but two different guys tried to grab my tits two days in a row. Usually guys like that are already deep in their winter sleep this time of the year. Must be the sun, waking them up. It's surely not natural, having the sun in the sky this time of the year?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Crying at windmills

Do other people also get very acutely upset, sad, angry or scared over things that they don't have any control of and that they have known all their lives, for example the fact that we are all eventually gonna die?

I do, every once in a while, fairly regularly. From the reactions I get to it I gather that most people don't, and some have found this outright scary when I told them. A couple of people told me to get immediate help, but failed to convince me that I need help for this, immediate or otherwise (when you've been doing this all your life without noticeable ill effects it's kind of hard to believe in the problem's immediacy).

Those "moments" (or hours, usually) don't seem to be in any way correlated with stress, life situation, general health, general sadness, menstrual cycle, alcohol use, seasons, or anything at all.

"And after that we can all vote on the final solution..."

Committee to Vote on Genocide Resolution and Final US Vote On Genocide Resolution By Year End are somewhat disturbing-looking headlines, even though I know they are talking about recognizing the Armenian genocide as such.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What they don't teach you in the medical school

A few words of advice to doctors and dentists (bitter, who, me?):

1. While some patients are quite accepting of profanity, "holy shit, come here, check this out!" and "what the fuck is that?" are not phrases that are generally considered to be a good bedside manner. Neither are "eek!" and "oh my god!".

2. Telling a crying 2-year-old with an injured leg "shut up, or I'll break the other one too" is not likely to get the volume down a lot. Apart from the increased screaming it might also cause pain in your jaw if a parent is within the hearing range.

3. When you are cutting something off or up, make sure it's the right body part of the right patient. When applying local anesthesia, also make sure you apply it to the right place. If you are doing both, make sure you anethesize the part you are going to cut, and not another one. If you are not good at matching the anesthesia with the surgery, at least position yourself so that your face is out of reach of the patient's swinging arms, legs and other appendages.

4. Giving medical treatment by force is illegal in most jurisdictions except in some special cases. For reasons of personal safety it should also never be done to a person considerably larger than yourself.

5. Keeping track of people's cholesterol is important, but if you try to treat all the cases of ankle injury or eye inflammation with a cholesterol checkup referral your patients might feel a bit dissatisfied with the service.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vacation

Kilometers driven: 3000 (but Oska was driving)
New states seen: 5 (does not include Washington, Tennessee, or Michigan, of which saw only the airports)
National parks seen: 6
Calories: an astronomical number
Alcohol units: way too few
Flights: 8
Of which with food: 5
Of which with edible food: 1
Bottle openers confiscated in airports: 1 (but obviously my own fault)
Bottle openers not confiscated in airports: 1
Bras purchased: 7
Of these, actually fit onto tits: 7 (extremely good)
Slot machines played: 0 (very good, considering)
Homophobic, homicidal, Ahmadinejad-loving aunts: 1 (but is 100% of my aunts if using the strict definition of the word)
Continental breakfasts: more than my lifetime's share
Nasty infections: 1
Doctors seen in connection with same: 4
Results from said doctors: a huge black-and-white xeroxed photo of the lesion, a referral for a cholesterol test and $215 worth of antivirals whose only effect is to cause flatulence in the airplane (though that might also have been the beans they gave us).

I still had a great vacation, everything I expected and more. The Grand Canyon was very grand indeed, and the Monument Valley quite monumental. The Red Canyon was extremely red, and even the Zion Canyon had some Zionists, or at least Israelis.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Driver's education for the young

My friend Anya to her 3-year-old:

"No, Erik, we are not gonna run this red light. I ran two red lights already today, and Vera really doesn't like it when I do that. If I do that again she is gonna jump out of the car and run away. So we are not running any more red lights anytime soon. Maybe later."