Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 9th, 2014

Inept writing in the NY Times

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This story has a very poorly thought-out sentence. Read the following paragraph from the story:

It was one of the rare invocations of the Israeli military’s “Hannibal procedure,” one of its most dreaded and contentious directives, which allows commanders to call in extra troops and air support to use maximum force to recapture a lost soldier. Its most ominous clause states that the mission is to prevent the captors from getting away with their captives, even at the risk of harming or endangering the lives of the captured Israeli soldiers.

The phrase in bold doesn’t work at all: “endanger” already conveys the idea of “risk” (or “danger”). The copy editor (if there were one) should have chosen one or the other—either:

at the risk of harming or killing

or:

if the Israeli solder is endangered

Since “endangered” implies already that the soldier is at risk of harm, up to and including death.

I think the awkwardness comes from the writer starting to write “at the risk of harming or killing the soldier” and then decided that “killing sounded rather drastic (which indeed the Hannibal Directive is: to kill your own troops so they won’t be taken prisoner is not something, for example, that the US military has done that I know of—the military fairly frequently kills its own troops, but I think that such incidents are accidents (e.g., misidentifying troops) and, when possible, are covered up without admission of the error (cf. Pat Tillman).

So the writer had started with “at the risk of harming or…” and ran into the “killing” issue, and thought to evade the problem by euphemistically writing “… or endangering the lives”—because, you see, if their lives are in danger that doesn’t necessarily mean the troops are killed. Maybe they will be fine.

But the Directive pretty clearly states that Israeli soldiers are not to be captured, and killing the soldier (and, ideally, some or all of the captors) is the step to be taken.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 8:42 pm

Interesting book for young children: My Parents’ Open Carry

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I wonder if the book is as good as the reader reviews.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Books, Guns

Video of NASA experiment

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More info here.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 11:22 am

Posted in Technology, Video

“Rise Up from Science Fiction Monoculture!”

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 11:21 am

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Addiction Is a Learning Disorder

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Maia Szalavitz writes at Pacific Standard:

Sex, food, shopping, the Internet, video games—all of these activities are being studied by neuroscientists, which frequently leads to headlines like “Oreos May Be as Addictive as Cocaine” and “Brain Activity of Sex Addicts Similar to That of Drug Addicts.”

These stories carry the very strange implication that our brains have areas “for” drug addiction that can be “hijacked” by experiences like sex, junk food, and MILF porn. Shockingly, kids today with their Tinder and Grindr and nomophobia are misusing the regions nature gave us to allow us to get hooked on wholesome pleasures like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

Of course, put that way, these claims sound completely absurd. Evolution didn’t provide us with brain circuitry dedicated to alcoholism and other drug addictions—it gave us brain networks that motivate us to seek pleasure and avoid pain in ways that promote survival and reproduction. To understand addiction, we’ve got to stop falling for arguments that obscure this truth and make unsound claims about brain changes that cannot tell us anything about its real nature.

This means that any study that says it shows that something is addictive because the stuff “lights up” the same brain areas seen in addiction is tautological. Anything that provides pleasure or certain types of stress relief will activate these regions. If it doesn’t activate these areas, it can’t be perceived as pleasant, desirable, or comforting.

If you image the brain of a musician hitting the perfect note, a coder getting sudden insight on a complex problem, a father watching his child take her first step, you will see some of these areas go wild. That means these folks are experiencing joy: It doesn’t tell us that F sharp, a particular line of code, or baby steps are “addictive.” Simply seeing activation in the brain’s pleasure and desire circuitry doesn’t reveal addiction.

In fact, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on neuroimaging research, we still don’t have a scan that can reliably separate addicted people from casual drug users or accurately predict relapse. Some studies have suggested that this may be possible but none have found a replicable diagnostic scan, even though some clinicians market the use of scanners in treatment.

Moreover, recent sex and food addiction research showing similar alterations to those seen in drug addictions strikes at the heart of arguments made about the uniquely addictive nature of psychoactive chemicals. For example, on the website of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a section on the “science of addiction” explains that “addiction is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain.” But this idea—first promoted heavily by the former head of NIDA, Alan Leshner—isn’t the whole story.

All experience changes the brain—it has to, in order to leave a mark on memory. If experience didn’t alter us, we couldn’t perceive, recall, or react to it. So, simply changing the brain doesn’t make addiction a disease because not all changes are pathological. In order to use brain scans to prove addiction is a disease, you’d have to show changes that are only seen in addicted people, that occur in all cases of addiction, and that predict relapse and recovery. No one has yet done this.

Secondly, if you can be addicted to activities like sex, gambling, and the Internet—which do not directly chemically alter the brain—how can they be addictive, if addiction is caused by drug-related brain changes?

Researchers long argued that the pharmacology of particular drugs is what makes them addictive—that, say, cocaine’s alterations in the dopamine system cause a worse addiction than sex or food do because the drug directly affects the way the brain handles that chemical. But since sex and food only affect these chemicals naturally—and can create compulsive behavior that’s just as hard for some people to quit—why should we see cocaine differently?

Of course, none of this is to say that addiction isn’t a medical disorder or that addicted people shouldn’t be treated with compassion. What it does show, I believe, is that addiction is a learning disorder, a condition where a system designed to motivate us to engage in activities helpful to survival and reproduction develops abnormally and goes awry. While this theory is implicitly accepted or stated outright in much of today’s neuroscience research on addiction—and it runs through specific theories of addiction, including theories as varied as those of Stanton Peele, George Koob, current NIDA head Nora Volkow, and Kent Berridge—its implications are not well understood by many treatment providers and the public. Instead, addiction is a seen as a “chronic, progressive disease,” which can only remit or worsen and which pretty much affects all addicted people in the same way.

But the system that goes wrong in addiction is designed to make us . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 10:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Abortion: A right like any other

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Whatever right you care to name, some people will oppose that right. The right to vote? Obviously the GOP strongly opposes that right for Democratic-leaning groups (cf. voter ID laws, intended purely to keep some people from the polls). The right to free speech? Hah. That one’s obviously opposed in many instances, along with the right of a free press. The right to peaceably assemble? Take a look at this video. And so on. Abortion, like other rights, is strongly opposed by some, generally on specious grounds.

Linda Greenhouse in the NY Times takes a look at the abortion issue:

Listening to politicians talk about abortion, watching state legislatures put up ever more daunting obstacles, reading the opinions of judges who give the states a free pass, it’s abundantly clear to me that some constitutional rights are more equal than others. Or to put it another way, there are constitutional rights and then there is abortion — a right, increasingly, in name only, treated as something separate and apart, vulnerable in its isolation from the mainstream of those rights the Constitution actually protects.

And then, forcefully to the contrary, came this week’s opinion by a federal district judge in Alabama, Myron H. Thompson, who declared unconstitutional the state’s Women’s Health and Safety Act, which required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The law would have shut down three of Alabama’s five remaining abortion clinics.

There is so much to say about this remarkable 172-page opinion that it’s hard to know where to begin. So I’ll start with where Judge Thompson ended his opinion in Planned Parenthood Southeast v. Strange and it’s a point that has gone unsaid in too many quarters for too many years: the right to an abortion is a constitutional right like any other.

Just suppose, Judge Thompson wrote, that the justices were to recognize an individual right to keep a gun at home for self-defense. (As of course the court did, six years ago in the Second Amendment case, District of Columbia v. Heller.) Then suppose that sellers of firearms and ammunition were regulated by the state to such an extent that there were only two vendors left. “The defenders of this law would be called upon to do a heck of a lot of explaining,” Judge Thompson said, adding, “and rightly so in the face of an effect so severe.”

Guns and abortion? That’s a pairing no previous judicial opinion has made. “At its core, each protected right is held by the individual,” the judge explained. “However, neither right can be fully exercised without the assistance of someone else. The right to abortion cannot be exercised without a medical professional, and the right to keep and bear arms means little if there is no one from whom to acquire the handgun or ammunition.”

Do I have to point out how delicious this analogy is? Of course, it’s unthinkable that Alabama would regulate firearms dealers to the point of extinction. But recall the June day 22 years ago when the Supreme Court, to the surprise of nearly everyone, reaffirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It was unthinkable then that nearly a generation later, states would flagrantly be regulating the practice of abortion (in the name of women’s health and safety, no less) out of business — a goal that Texas, enabled by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is close to achieving.

(In his opinion, Judge Thompson referred to “the one justice” who was in the majority in both the Heller and Casey decisions. This unnamed justice is Anthony M. Kennedy, on whom, as Judge Thompson and everyone else knows, the next chapter in this saga most likely depends.)

By pairing gun rights and abortion rights, Judge Thompson was not just indulging in shock value. He was making a profound point: that a right — any right — without the infrastructure and the social conditions that enable its exercise is no right at all.

In the abortion context, he pointed out, there is an additional, even deeper point. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 10:42 am

Posted in Government, Law

R&B brush, MWF, the Standard head, the UFO handle, & D.R. Harris

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SOTD 9 Aug 2014

I chose the R&B brush and MWF based on Gavin Groom’s difficulties with the brush. I was able to get a good (and persistent) lather, using the wet-brush method. However, with this brush, I think next time I’ll give it a shake: I think the lather might be even better with a somewhat drier brush. But I had ample lather, enough left at the end for another full shave, and the lather maintained a good structure—i.e., it did not become thin.

I am not sure what the source of the problem is. Oil can be quite lathercidal, and if he’s using a shaving oil, the brush may have picked up enough oil to create problems with the lather. I suggest that cleaning the brush is worth a try in any event. It might help. (And, of course, be sure the water’s soft: MWF is sensitive to hard water. It might be worthwhile to try dissolving a pinch of citric acid in the shaving water to see the effect of that.)

Having a good lather, the next step is to tackle the stubble. I discovered how to unscrew the little double-threaded shaft in the Standard, and then screw that little piece into the cap so that any handle can be used, and today I chose one of my UFO handles.

The shave was very nice indeed, and the added heft is pleasant. Three passes to BBS, a good splash of D.R. Harris Pink Aftershave (not a rose fragrance) made a good start to the weekend.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 August 2014 at 9:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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