Saturday, August 30, 2008

Channel N - Olde Time Neurobiology

A cool (in a "wow, that sucked!" kind of way) video posted at Channel N - Olde Time Neurobiology. Funny stuff.

title: Understand Your Emotions
description: "We came here to learn about emotions, not play children's games." A 1950 educational psychology film directed at teens of the day. Definitely different than Ekman's basic emotions, and so wrong about the thalamus. Amazingly boring yet comical at the same time, in that special way only time can produce.
producer: Coronet Instructional Films
featuring: unidentified bad actors
format: Flash
date: 1950
length: 00:12:53

McCain and the Beauty Queen

Integral Leadership Review - Table of Contents, August 2008

A new issue the Integral Leadership Review is online with lots of cool stuff.

Friday, August 29, 2008

John McCain and the Novice

Wow, she makes him look OLD!

McCain just gave away the election, me thinks, so thank you, Big Guy, for wanting to win a few female voters (in picking Sarah Palin) more than wanting to win an election. We -- those of us who want anyone but you to be our next president -- are very thrilled with your choice.

Here are some other views, not all of them (see Matt Springer) as disparaging as my own.

Michael Seitzman (Huffington Post):
But most importantly, what does that say about John McCain? He has now destroyed his two favorite arguments against Obama. Experience was a pretty good argument. Yesterday. But the more offensive and controversial argument is the one that inspired the McCain campaign's clumsy, communist-era slogan - "Country First." Aside from sounding like the name of a midwestern savings-and-loan, the phrase is an obvious reference to McCain's mantra that Obama "would rather win an election than win a war. " He has repeatedly challenged Obama's motives, his character, his judgment and his patriotism. Sarah Palin is the glass house inside of which McCain will now have to throw those stones. Because, what does it say about a man who chooses someone so grossly unqualified as his running mate for the highest office in the land simply because she might - might - get the Hillary vote? What does it say for his opinion of those very women he hopes to enlist?
Andrew Sullivan - Palin Appointed A Sexual Harasser:
When hiring people, doesn’t one generally ask about such things? Don’t you do a background check? Don’t you want to know if you’re going to have egg on your face, and risk public humiliation and scandal? If the media managed to pry it out of him using the strongarm tactic of…asking…wouldn’t it have worked for the Governor? The mind reels.

At first I was worried, when a friend wrote me that John McCain's VP choice Sarah Palin was a conservative anti-choice Christian, with a union member husband, a son going to Iraq, and membership in the NRA. "A deeply cynical choice," I wrote back. "Sure," he agreed, but "she is going to appeal to a lot of working-class women and Hillary supporters."

Then I got a call from my friend Wendy Strothman, an accomplished businesswoman who ran a publishing house for a decade, and worked as VP of Houghton Mifflin before opening her own literary agency (full disclosure: she's my agent). Wendy just retired after 17 years on the Corporation of Brown University, the last ten as Secretary.

She was furious. "Appeal to Hillary supporters? Choosing Sarah Palin is an insult to Hillary supporters," she said. And I think she's right on target. Sarah Palin's qualifications to be President of the United States--that's right, President. The Vice-President has to be qualified to step into the Oval Office--are simply that she happens to be a woman. We can hardly be expected to take seriously her track record: being mayor of a town of 9,000, and less than a year of being governor of a state with fewer residents than 19 American cities (if it were a city, Alaska would rank just above Baltimore, just below Charlotte).

And the Republicans have had the nerve to suggest that Barack Obama lacks experience! In what universe does Sarah Palin's experience qualify her to be Vice-President--or President--of the United States of America? The choice is not only cynical--it's insulting to women, and insulting to the entire American electorate.

Christopher Hayes (The Nation):
Very quickly. Remember when Pat Buchanan ran a number of hard-right, fringe campaigns for president in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000? Well, guess who was supporting him:

From an AP report in 1999:

"Pat Buchanan brought his conservative message of a smaller government and an America First foreign policy to Fairbanks and Wasilla on Friday as he continued a campaign swing through Alaska. Buchanan's strong message championing states rights resonated with the roughly 85 people gathered for an Interior Republican luncheon in Fairbanks. … Among those sporting Buchanan buttons were Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and state Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage."

In fact, a very committed Buchananite Buchanan himself told me he was thrilled by the choice, saying as soon as I mentioned it: "It's great for the base. I'm pretty sure she's a Buchananite!"

People seem to be missing the fact that this is a classic, Rovian appease-the-base choice.

Here are the views of a few science bloggers, which are quite interesting on issues of concern to many of us.

James Hrynyshyn (Island of Doubt):
Sarah Palin. Huh. Who would have thunk it? On the upside, I had but a few waking hours of moping over Barack Obama's failure to do more than give climate change a single passing reference and again champion the delusional notion of "clean coal" in his otherwise impressive acceptance speech last night before the Republican nominee reminded me just how little he really cares about the subject.

Now, I know vice-presidential choices never make a measurable difference in the election. But let's face it, the probability that McCain will not be able to complete one term in office is considerably higher than usual. Does anyone really think it appropriate to run with a backup whose c.v. — less than two years as governor and a stint as mayor of a suburb of 9,000 — is as weak as Palin's?

But that's not the most troubling aspect of McCain's latest demonstration of his brand of judgment. At least, not from a scientist's point of view. Thanks to Grist's rapid rundown on Palin's record, we know that she:

  • Believes intelligent design should be taught along with evolution in science classes
  • Does not attribute global warming human forces
  • Sued the Interior Department over its decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species
  • Has pushed to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling
  • Opposed a statewide ballot initiative to prohibit or restrict new mining operations that could affect salmon in the state's streams and rivers
  • Believes we can "drill our way out of our problem"

The only bright spot, and it can only be called "bright" in a relative sense, is that

On September 14, 2007, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin signed Administrative Order 238, establishing the Climate Change Sub-Cabinet.
Matt Springer (Built on Facts):

I really loathe politics, and have mostly tried to avoid writing about it. But finally something interesting has happened, and it's worth a brief comment.

In physics we like to talk about symmetry. Conservation laws and symmetry are intimately related, and you can learn a lot about one by studying the other. One of the more interesting examples of this is parity. Parity basically means reversing left and right - if you do an experiment and then rebuild the entire thing backwards, everything happens as you'd expect. If you take a picture of a physical process and flip the picture in Photoshop, the resulting picture is still a picture of a perfectly valid physical situation. But it wasn't too long ago that it was discovered that certain subatomic interactions in fact are not symmetric under parity. This was a huge deal, and resulted in a small revolution in our understanding of particle physics.

There's sort of an equivalent symmetry breaking in politics. Take two otherwise precisely identical candidates, except make one a man and one a woman. Their political fortunes will not be the same - politics is not inviariant under sex-reversal symmetry. And the consequences of this symmetry breaking are why McCain chose Sarah Palin.

Here's my reasining on why it will probably help him much more than any of the standard choices like Romney, Pawlenty, Ridge, etc.

1. It will appeal to women - especially to the all-important undecided/moderate women who supported Hillary out of solidarity.
2. It will appeal to men - let's face it, being attractive doesn't hurt. Could a man shaped like Taft ever be nominated today regardless of his political views? I doubt it and it's a shame. But political reality is political reality.
3. It will appeal to disaffected conservatives - McCain was never popular with the conservative base. Sarah Palin is considerably more popular among movement conservatives.
4. It reduces the "Let's make history" appeal of Obama - now electing the Republican ticket will produce a demographic first as well.

Does she have disadvantages, like lack of experience? Absolutely. Do those disadvantages outweigh the above? Not a chance. We have to face the facts: everyone who cares about issues and qualifications has already made up their minds one way or another. VP picks are about pulling in the rest, and Palin will do that in spades.

In running for Governor of Alaska in 2006, GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin said she supported teaching alternatives to evolution. When asked during an election debate, she said:

"Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

She later attempted to clarify her statement by saying in an interview:

"I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum

The daughter of a science teacher, Palin has said that she personally believes in creationism.

"My dad did talk a lot about his theories of evolution," she said. "He would show us fossils and say, 'How old do you think these are?' "

Asked for her personal views on evolution, Palin said, "I believe we have a creator."

She would not say whether her belief also allowed her to accept the theory of evolution as fact.

"I'm not going to pretend I know how all this came to be," she said.

It is a time for seriousness, for that overused word gravitas. And hasn’t McCain’s entire campaign been built around gravitas and the contrast with Obama’s youth and rawness? It’s the experience, but experience full of gravitas, from the military to the Senate. It’s the alleged character, but one that is allegedly serious. McCain’s very argument for himself is that he is up to task of being president, that he can step right in and lead. Obama, true, doesn’t have extensive experience, but he has obviously emerged over the past couple of years as a big-name, national-celebrity (in a good way) figure. And, of course, he has proven that he has both the judgement and many of the necessary skills to lead — and he now has the full endorsement of the likes of Bill and Hillary, John Kerry, and Al Gore.

But what now of Palin? She pales in comparison to Biden. She was mayor of a small town, Wasilla, before winning the governorship in 2006. She is something of a reformer, yes, but her experience is minimal — and certainly not national. So why her? To balance the ticket in terms of age and sex? Sure. To appeal to Hillary supporters, those still disaffected even after the convention? Sure. Because she’s an outsider with no ties to Washington, and because she can make a “change” argument of her own? Sure. Because she knows a thing or two about energy? Sure. Because she’s relatively attractive? Sure.

But so what? Does anyone really think she’s ready — with just two years in Juneau — for the national stage, let alone to step up and be president, if necessary? It’s like she’s another Dan Quayle (or Geraldine Ferraro) — less awkward, perhaps, but with even less experience. Obama, Biden, and the Democrats will have to be careful not to seem condescending — Biden in particular when they debate — but what she brings to the ticket is outweighed overwhelmingly by what she lacks.

This pick utterly destroys McCain’s experience argument. And it also destroys his gravitas argument. Sure, it’ll be pointed out that he’s the presidential candidate, not her, but she’s on the ticket now as his first “presidential” decision, and, if they win elected, she’ll be right there, next in line for the top job.

With all due respect to Gov. Palin, this is a terrible and pathetic pick. (Which gives us reason to rejoice.)

I could go on and on, but that pretty much sums all the other responses, including some conservatives who feel McCain has taken a huge risk.

Will the Dalai Lama Return to Tibet?

More on the Dorje Shugden controversy within Tibetan Buddhism, from The New Statesman.

Will the Dalai Lama return to Tibet?

  • Posted by Meindert Gorter
Meindert Gorter gives his views on religious freedom in China today and the prospects of the Dalai Lama return from exile

The Dorje Shugden Society is trying to put a stop to the ban on the worship of Dorje Shugden on the basis of India’s constitution, a country where you are free to worship almost anything. The Indian High Court is due to consider the case in September.

Advanced Buddhist hermeneutics are unnecessary to understand a protector, which is actually simply a powerful thought used for developing wisdom instead of attaining mundane goals. Increasing wisdom is never forbidden and while the Buddhist teacher Tsongkhapa’s middle way philosophy has room for interpretation you have to rely on your own teacher, because he’s your protector. Teacher and protector are indivisible and the so called ‘guru-devotion’ relationship is the heart of this Buddhist practise.

You can, however, criticise your teacher. Buddhism does not mean blind adherence to dogma but rather the opposite: individual analysis. One could say the Dalai Lama found his own truth, so than let him ban the deity, but the guru-disciple relation does not apply here. It’s a decreed dogma, justified by the Dalai’s dreams: he calls upon your faith in him.

This brings back memories of the theocratic Tibet. Alas, factual history has nothing in common with the romantic Shangri-la portrayed by Hollywood, but recalling this gets you branded as anti-Dalai Lama by most who are said to be pro-Tibet. But should not pro-Tibet campaigners be working on constructive dialogue, instead of repeating the same litany over and over, creating an atmosphere of mistrust? If any constructive dialogue with the Chinese is going on, it's taking place behind the scenes and without the Dalai Lama, thanks to his policy-making friends in the West. Maybe he could fire some compassionate arrows towards Beijing.

Criticising the Dalai Lama is as taboo as Dorje Shugden is and would instantly get you branded as pro-Chinese by the majority of Tibetans. As an outcast from society, even guesthouses don’t allow you in. The Dalai Lama is encouraging this as is widely documented. His portrait next to Mahatma Gandhi’s on the Dharamsala walls shows his appreciation for Gandhi’s style of peaceful revolution, but while Gandhi's achievements were transparent and relevant, the Dalai Lama’s ways are inscrutable. When the Dalai Lama accuses China of ‘cultural genocide’, he seems to forget times have changed. The cultural revolution has ended and Buddhism is practised by millions all over China and Tibet, with the government funding the restoration of the Tibetan monasteries that the Red Guards destroyed. Its clear that China is absolutely not democratic, but as long as Tibetans don’t mix religition with politics, they are free to practise. The Dalai Lama is welcome back as long as he’s not politically involved. And, as you can read on his website: “his commitment to the Tibetan issue will cease to exist once a mutually beneficial solution is reached”.

So, back in Tibet, the only role left for him would be a religious one. He could be the humble monk he has always claimed to be, but does he really have it in him? Or is he harbouring ambitions to become the religious leader he never was, in spite of all the naive parroting of him being a ‘temporal and spiritual leader’? Why else can he be so zealously devoted to uniting the lineages? I can’t think of another reason why he’s profiling himself as a religious chief than to create the possibility of his return to Tibet as Dalai Lama.

His dual role allows him to stop being a politician and the suffering of the Tibetans in exile ends' but the Dalai Lama seems set on leading them back as the dogmatic Buddhist pope that he never was.

Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks - Ending Blame And Criticism In Your Close Relationships

A great little post on relationships from Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks - Ending Blame And Criticism In Your Close Relationships - at Huffington Post.

Ending Blame And Criticism In Your Close Relationships

Posted August 29, 2008 | 06:53 AM (EST)

Imagine a close relationship in which nobody ever criticizes or blames! We imagined it, almost thirty years ago, but at the time, imagining was all we could do. We were both major-league critics and blamers (and if you spent a dinner hour with the families we grew up in, you'd see where we picked up the habit!)

Ending blame and chronic criticism is a task well worth taking on. According to research in marriage and relationship, the #1 slayer of intimacy is blame and chronic criticism. Marital researcher John Gottman calls criticism one of the "Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse" that spells doom in a close relationship (the other three Horsemen are contempt, defensiveness and withdrawal.) It's not just a problem in your relationships with others. Self-blame works exactly the same as blaming another person. In self-blame, you use one part of your mind as the criticizer and another part as the recipient.

As Walt Disney said, "If you can dream it you can do it," so we dreamed up the idea of eliminating blame and chronic criticism from our own relationship, as a test laboratory of whether it was even possible. We have a tradition in our work of never teaching anything to others that we haven't carefully tested in the laboratory of our relationship. Now, after many years of practice, we can proudly say we brought the dream into reality: Neither one of us has spoken a critical word to the other in at least ten years. Nobody in our house has blamed anybody for anything in so long we can't remember the last time it happened.

How did we do it? There's a secret--actually two secrets--and if you learn them, you can see a miracle happen in your living room, your bedroom and even your boardroom.

Secret #1: Open The Door With Your Commitment
It begins with commitment. Make a sincere commitment to ending blame and criticism inside yourself and around you. If you're in a close relationship, invite your partner to make the same commitment. Without co-commitment, the challenge is much tougher.

Secret #2: Practice Claiming Healthy Responsibility
Next, claim healthy responsibility for whatever issues you've been blaming the other person for. If you blame your partner for spending too much money, for example, drop the blame. Instead, claim healthy responsibility by wondering, "Hmmm, I wonder how and why I'm creating a scarcity of money right now?" or "Hmmm, I wonder why I attracted a partner with extravagant spending habits?" If you're starting to criticize your partner for not being interested in sex, stop in your tracks and wonder, "Hmmm, how did I manage to dream up a life in which people aren't begging me to have sex with them constantly?"

Ask those powerful questions with wonder, not self-blame. Wonder smooths the way for deep realizations to come to you gently.

It took us a couple of years of rigorous practice before we got good at catching criticism before it left our mouths. But you know what? It was well worth it. Instead of criticizing each other, we put that energy into positive things like writing books together, raising successful kids and having lots of good times along the way.

Obama's Acceptance Speech

Inspiring as always.

Text here.

The speech:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Satire - Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Election news from The Onion's War for the White House report:

Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Obama Is Going to Get Roved Tonight

Obama is going to get Roved tonight:

There are increasingly strong signs now that Republican Presidential nominee to be Sen. John McCain plans to axe the longstanding political tradition that each political party steps out of the way when the other party’s candidate delivers his Presidential acceptance speech — and the signs it will happen on two fronts:

1. McCain will be seen in an ad that will air around when Obama gives his speech speaking directly to Obama, looking into the camera.

2. We have predicted here that McCain would leak the name of his Vice Presidential pick right before or about the same time when Obama gives his speech in order to undercut media and an expected big national audience attention for Obama’s make-or-break speech. The Drudge Report now says the name could be leaked at 6 p.m and then confirmed at 8 p.m. The political intent is clear. When Drudge has a “scoop” sourced to a Democratic insider, it could be suspect; when it comes from the GOP side, it usually isn’t. The line line item seems like a way to tip the media off so they can start to focus on that story…tonight.

What’s happening? If the name is leaked so it steps on Obama’s speech it’ll be one more step in a process political junkies love but saddens those who seek a more respectful form of politics: the shattering of aspects previous aspects of inter-party respect and debate. The bar will be lowered once again.

McRove drags the nation into the gutter . . . again.

You can read the rest of the article here.

BBC - Surveys and Psychology Tests

Fun psych tests, courtesy of the BBC.

Surveys and Psychology Tests

Explore your memory
Explore your memory
Stretch your memory with fun challenges designed by experts. Duration: 20 minutes
Art and personality
Art and personality
Is there a connection between your personality type and the art that you like? Duration: 15 minutes
Sex ID
What sex is your brain?
Take the Sex ID test and find out more about 'brain sex' differences. Duration: 20 minutes
Do you see what I see?
The 'Do you hear what I hear' experiment
Do you see what I see? - Sagiv and Ward, UCL
Is Wednesday red? Take part in our experiment to test whether your senses overlap. Requires Flash 5
Duration: 10 minutes
Do you hear what I hear?
The 'Do you hear what I hear' experiment
Do you hear what I hear? - Sagiv and Ward, UCL
Do melodies have a colour? Take part in our experiment to test whether you hear colours. Requires Flash 5
Duration: 10 minutes
The 'What am I like?' personality test
The 'What am I like?' personality test
The 'What am I like?' personality test
A test where you discover if you are a Big Thinker, an Idealist or another of 16 personality types.
Duration: 10 minutes
Eggs in human mouth
Disgust - Dr Valerie Curtis
What makes you squirm and say "yuck"? Test your sensitivity to disgust.
Duration: 10 minutes
Friendly smile
Spot the fake smile - Prof Paul Ekman
Can you tell a real smile from a fake one? Requires Flash 6.
Duration: 10 minutes
Shopping list
Shopping list
Memory training
Try to improve your recall using World memory champion Andi Bell's technique. Requires Flash 5.
Duration: 5-10 minutes
Changing faces
Face perception - Prof David Perrett
Can you guess someone's personality from their face?
Duration: 1st Experiment - 12 minutes
Duration: 2nd Experiment - 5 minutes
Brain scan
Personality - Neil Scott
Who do you think you are? This psychology test scores you on five aspects of your personality.
Duration: 15 minutes
Scales of justice
Morals - Dr Keith Coaley
Are you a pillar of society, or do you look after number one? Find out how moral you are.
Duration: 12 minutes
Lovers kiss
Lonely hearts - Prof Robin Dunbar
Make your lonely hearts advert to reveal the hidden message of attraction.
Duration: 2 minutes
Pile of money
Millionaire - Sharon Maxwell Magnus.
Have you got what it takes to get to the top of the pile and stay there?
Duration: 1st test - 4 minutes
Duration: 2nd test - 2 minutes
Careers - Neil Scott
What style of work suits your personality?
Duration: 10 minutes
Sensation seeking - Prof Marvin Zuckerman
Find out if you're a thrill-seeker in this classic psychological test.
Duration: 12 minutes
Clutch of cards
Self-control - Paul Rincon
Are you a slave to your habits? Test your self-control against the rest of the nation.
Duration: 7 minutes
Perfectionism - Dr Randy Frost
Do your friends tell you you're fussy and meticulous? Find out if you're a perfectionist.
Duration: 10 minutes
Sybols of attraction
Adultery - Dr Glenn Wilson
Are you at risk of having an affair?
Duration: 10 minutes
Sniffing the decades - Dr Alan Hirsch
Can scientists predict your childhood decade from the smells you find nostalgic?
Duration: 3 minutes
Necker cube
Necker cube - Dr Peter Naish
Do your friends tell you you're fussy and meticulous? Find out if you're a perfectionist.
Duration: 10 minutes