Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Predictions for 2015


On (or by) December 31, 2015,

1. Vladimir Putin will still be in power

2. China will still be a Communist dictatorship.

3. There will be no peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

4. A major scandal will have emerged involving the Obama Administration (and not just within on the various federal agencies, e.g. the VA, the IRS).

5. Two Supreme Court Justices will have died or retired.

6. Iran will NOT have tested a nuclear weapon (but international experts will agree that they have achieved nuclear capability).

7. A major entertainer's career will implode in a serious scandal.

8. There will be no significant progress made by the U.S. toward a Mission to Mars or a return to the moon.

9. There will be a confrontation between the Japanese and Chinese navies that results in one or more fatalities.

10. The number of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan will exceed the 9,800 originally planned.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Texas Plumber's Used Pickup Falls into the Hands of Islamic Militants

Plumber's truck goes into battle
The Ford F-250 is pretty badass.

Galveston Daily News

TEXAS CITY — A local plumber is being flooded with phone calls — and some threats — after a picture of one of his old company vehicles being used by Islamist militants in Syria was posted on Twitter.

The picture was posted online by the Islamic extremist brigade Ansar al-Deen Front, according to a CBS News report. It shows a black pick-up truck with a Mark-1 Plumbing decal on the door and an anti-aircraft gun in the bed.

Mark Oberholtzer, who has owned and operated Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City for the past 32 years, confirmed it was his pickup truck in the picture. He said he no longer owned the vehicle and had no idea how it ended up in Syria."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Let Athletes Major in "Sports Performance"

My award for the best educational proposal of 2014 goes to...David Pargman, professor emeritus of educational psychology at Florida State University.

"Acquisition of athletic skills is what significant numbers of NCAA Division I student athletes want to pursue. And this is undeniably why they've gone to their campus of choice. Their confessions about their primary interest are readily proclaimed and by no means denied or repressed. These athletes are as honest in recognizing and divulging their aspiration as is the student who declares a goal of performing some day at the Metropolitan Opera or on the Broadway stage. Student athletes wish to be professional entertainers. This is their heart's desire.
Their family members, friends, and high-school coaches acknowledge and support that goal, so why not let them step out of the closet and declare their true aspiration­—to study football, basketball, or baseball? Why not legitimize such an academic specialty in the same manner that other professional performance careers, such as dance, voice, theater, and music, are recognized and supported? Why treat preparation for professional sports careers differently? Why not establish a well-planned, defensible, educationally sound curriculum that correlates with a career at the elite level of sports?
An initial two years of basic studies await most freshmen upon entering the four-year college campus, and such is expected of student athletes as well. But at this point the hypocrisy surfaces. Athletes are obliged to identify a major course of study, and many are compelled to do so disingenuously. All too many young men either completely lack interest in the mandatory and largely arbitrary and convenient choice of major or, at best, are only marginally attracted to it. Their laserlike focus is upon football, basketball, or baseball. It is here where their most powerful and meaningful motivations lie.
After those first two years are completed, a realistic curriculum for a "sports performance major" might look something like this:
    Junior year, first semester: anatomy and physiology; educational psychology (introduction to learning theory); laboratory in heavy resistance training; football, basketball, or baseball offensive strategies (scrimmage).
    Junior year, second semester: introduction to sports psychology; introduction to physiology of exercise; laboratory in aerobic fitness training; elements of contract law; football, basketball, or baseball laboratory (scrimmage); health education.
    Senior year, first semester: introduction to human nutrition; public speaking; football, basketball, or baseball laboratory (offensive and defensive strategies); introduction to sports coaching.
    Senior year, second semester: introduction to motor learning; stress and performance; elements of business law; the body in motion (kinesiology).
Such prescribed coursework would be relevant to the athlete's career objectives. And those young men who enter collegiate sports with nonprofessional aspirations (there are some, to be sure) would certainly not be required to elect the football, basketball, or baseball major. They would be entirely free to elect any major of their choosing.
During the four semesters of coursework beyond basic studies, athletes would also be participating in seasonal, on-the-field practice in their respective sports. In addition, they would continue to participate in intercollegiate competition where they would apply skills and knowledge acquired from their various educational experiences. This would be analogous to what undergraduate musicians and theater students do. They study their craft and display their acquired skill before campus audiences.
In the model I'm advocating, college athletes would truly be preparing for a well-defined, societally approved professional future. Their degree upon graduation would be a B.A. in sports performance. Their required coursework and laboratory experiences would relate to future professional needs, expectations, and demands.
Those unsuccessful candidates for professional sports positions­—those who are not signed—would deal with their thwarted dreams in the same way that rejected medical- and law-school applicants and turned-down musicians and actors would. They would keep trying or progress to alternative careers. Most significant of all, what I propose would be infinitely more honest than the charade that now prevails."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Morning Dew -- Jeff Beck Group (Rod Stewart, vocals) (1968)


Walk me out in the morning dew, my honey
Please walk me out in the morning dew, sometime
Can't walk you out in no morning dew, I'm sorry, I'm sorry
Can't walk you out in no morning dew
Thought I heard a young man cryin'
Thought I heard a young man cryin' today
You didn't hear no young man cryin'
You did not hear no young man cryin'
Thought I heard a young girl cryin'
Thought I heard a young girl cryin'
You, you did not hear no young girl cryin'
I'm sorry, but you know you didn't
You did not hear no young man cryin'
Now there is no more morning dew
Now there is no more morning dew
What they've been sayin'
All these god-darn' years has come true
I knew it would too
Now there's no more morning dew
Now there is no more morning dew, at all, oh
Now there is no more morning dew
Because, because, because what they've been sayin'
All these years has come true
That you know, and only you know
That, there's no more morning dew
Now, now there is no more morning dew
People, you know that there's no more morning dew
Because, because, what they've been sayin'
All these years has come true
It had to happen, you know
That, there's no more morning dew


Friday, December 26, 2014

Ave Maria -- Franz Schubert (ft. Maria Callas)


Ave Maria, jungfrau mild
Erhöre einer jungfrau flehen
Aus diesem felsen starr und wild
Soll mein gebet zu dir hinwehen
Wir schlafen sicher bis zum morgen
Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind
O Jungfrau, sieh der jungfrau sorgen
O Mutter, hr ein bittend Kind
Ave Maria
Ave Maria, unbefleckt
Wenn wir auf diesen fels hinsinken
Zum schlaf, und uns dein schutz bedeckt
Wird weich der harte fels uns dnken
Du lchelst, rosendfte wehen
In dieser dumpfen felsenkluft
O Mutter, hre kindes Flehen
O Jungfrau, eine jungfrau ruft
Ave Maria
Ave Maria, reine magd
Der Erde und der luft dmonen
Von deines auges huld verjagt
Sie knnen hier nicht bei uns wohnen
Wir woll'n uns still dem schicksal beugen
Da uns dein heil'ger trost anweht
Der jungfrau wolle hold dich neigen
Dem Kind, das fr den vater fleht
Ave Maria

Franz Schubert;Peter Schickele

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Do You Hear What I Hear -- Andy Williams

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
Do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold

Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere,
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
Listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

O Holy Night -- Nat King Cole (1960)

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night
O night divine
Fall on your knees
Oh, hear the angel voices

O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine
O night
O night divine


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better -- Irving Berlin

I think this is brilliant. Thank goodness for art students. The original recording is Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopat (yup, Luke Duke), from the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun. That's Elsa from Frozen and Jack Frost from some other kids' movie (Guardians of the Galaxy?).

Annie: Anything you can do I can do better
... I can do anything better than you
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can, yes, I can

Frank: Anything you can be I can be greater
... Sooner or later I'm greater than you
Annie: No, you're not
Frank: Yes, I am
Annie: No, you're not
Frank: Yes, I am
Annie: No, you're not
Frank: Yes, I am, yes I am

Frank: I can shoot a partridge with a single cartridge
Annie: I can get a sparrow with a bow and arrow
Frank: I can live on bread and cheese
Annie: And only on that?
Frank: Yes
Annie: So can a rat

Frank: Any note you can reach I can go higher
Annie: I can sing anything higher than you
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can

Frank: Anything you can say I can say softer
Annie: I can say anything softer than you
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can, yes, I can

Frank: I can drink my liquor faster than a flicker
Annie: I can do it quicker and get even sicker
Frank: I can open any safe
Annie: Without being caught?
Frank: *scoff*
Annie: That's what I thought (you crook)

Frank: Any note you can hold I can hold longer
Annie: I can hold any note longer than you
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can, yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't - yes, you can

Frank: Anything you can say I can say faster
Annie: I can say anything faster than you
Frank: Noyoucan't
Annie: Yesican
Frank: Noyoucan't
Annie: Yesican
Frank: Noyoucan't
Annie: Yesican
Frank: Noyoucan't
Annie: Yesican

Frank: I can jump a hurdle
Annie: I can wear a girdle
Frank: I can knit a sweater
Annie: I can fill it better
Frank: I can do most anything
Annie: Can you bake a pie?
Frank: No
Annie: Neither can I

Frank: Anything you can sing I can sing sweeter
Annie: I can sing anything sweeter than you
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Oh, yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can
Frank: No, you can't, can't, can't
Annie: Yes, I can, can, can, can
Frank: No, you can't
Annie: Yes, I can

Monday, December 22, 2014

Brain training games endorsed by scientists who sell brain training games!

"Just two months after a group of neuroscientists criticized commercially available brain games, a different group of scientists released an open letter on Wednesday saying the products do show promise.
In October the Stanford Center on Longevity and nearly 70 scientists issued a statement objecting to claims that such games “offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline.”
In response, more than 120 scientists have now signed an open letter to the Stanford center rebutting some parts of its criticism and asserting that a “substantial and growing body of evidence shows that certain cognitive-training regimens can significantly improve cognitive function, including in ways that generalize to everyday life.” The letter includes a list of 132 studies that its signatories say “directly demonstrate that computerized cognitive training can improve cognition.”
“The authors of the longevity-center statement properly concluded that a large body of work has shown there is plasticity throughout the brain and throughout life,” said Michael M. Merzenich, who led the effort to compose the new open letter, in a news release. Mr. Merzenich is a professor emeritus of neuroscience, physiology, and otolaryngology at the University of California at San Francisco and the co-founder and chief scientific officer of Posit Science, the cognitive-training company behind a program called BrainHQ. “It was rather astounding, then, that this same group failed to notice that we proved that through hundreds of studies showing we can drive positive change in the brain through directed, intensive computer-guided training. It’s silly that anyone would think that we can make cognitive training that works in labs, but not in people’s homes.”"

So if you ask scientists who stand to personally profit from selling this bullshit to a public scared witless about dementia, they will say that, sure, "brain-training" games work.

But if you ask scientists who actually work with people with dementia, they say, "bullshit."

What no one says often enough is that all of these "brain-training" games are horrifically boring and the effects, while "promising," are painfully small. That is, you could bore yourself to tears, spending hours on these exercises, and you wouldn't notice any difference in your everyday life. If you did, it would all be attributable to a placebo effect (just like ADHD meds!). Just because a change in say, working memory (e.g., how many digits you can listen to and then repeat back accurately) between Time 1 (before training) and Time 2 (after training) is statistically significant, doesn't mean that it is clinically significant (i.e., matters worth a damn in the real world). And just because you get better at a particular exercise doesn't mean that you have improved your memory or processing speed more generally. Finally, just because a change is observed via MRI brain imaging doesn't mean that the change is clinically significant.

Save your money and don't waste your time on these "brain-training" games.

If you are worried about cognitive decline or your everyday cognitive performance, try these evidence-based techniques: get a full night's sleep; quit smoking; drink alcohol only in moderation; exercise daily; eat well; and, use caffeine (coffee or cola) prior to cognitively challenging tasks. Oh, and have plenty of "brain to burn" (i.e., have a higher IQ than your peers when you are younger).

Wait, there's one more way to avoid dementia: die of cancer or cardiovascular disease first.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

England, 1802 -- William Wordsworth

John Milton (1608-1674)

MILTON! thou shouldst be living at this hour: 
  England hath need of thee: she is a fen 
  Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen, 
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower         5
  Of inward happiness. We are selfish men; 
  O raise us up, return to us again, 
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power!
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart; 
  Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:  10
  Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
  So didst thou travel on life's common way, 
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart 
  The lowliest duties on herself did lay



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ooh Child -- The Five Stairsteps (1970)

Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna get easier
Ooh-oo child
Things'll get brighter
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna get easier
Ooh-oo child
Things'll get brighter
Some day, yeah
We'll get it together and we'll get it all done
Some day
When your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna be easier
Ooh-oo child
Things'll get be brighter
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna be easier
Ooh-oo child
Things'll get be brighter
Some day, yeah
We'll get it together and we'll get it all done
Some day
When your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter
Some day, yeah
We'll get it together and we'll get it all done
Some day
When your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna get easier
Ooh-oo child
Things'll get brighter
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna get easier
Ooh-oo child
Things'll get brighter
Right now, right now

Friday, December 19, 2014

Psychologists in the CIA torture report

"In a secret CIA prison in Thailand, codenamed Detention Site Green, Abu Zubaydah sat shackled to a chair, naked except for a hood over his head. The windowless cell was painted white and illuminated by four halogen lights.
The terrorist said to have ranked third in al-Qaeda had been captured in Pakistan five months earlier, in March 2002. He had endured relentless questioning, but this day would be different: an American former military psychologist working as a CIA contractor and identified last week by the pseudonym Grayson Swigert would run the interrogation.
For the first time, Swigert had been authorised to use up to 11 “enhanced interrogation techniques”. According to critics of the Orwellian-sounding “EIT programme”, the US was entering the torture business.
The CIA officers interrogating Abu Zubaydah were directed by Swigert and a fellow PhD in psychology, given the name Hammond Dunbar, to place a rolled towel around his neck. They removed his hood, grabbed his face and forced him to watch a coffin being brought into the cell. He was slapped and slammed against a wall.
Six hours later, Swigert decreed that “waterboarding” would begin. Abu Zubaydah was held down as water was poured on to a cloth over his face, simulating drowning.
According to CIA records, Abu Zubaydah vomited and had “involuntary spasms of the torso and extremities”. He was to be waterboarded at least 83 times over the next 17 days. On one occasion, he “became completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth”.
An incendiary 525-page report summary released by Democrats on the Senate select committee on intelligence last week portrayed Swigert as the architect of a regime of torture. It depicted Swigert and Dunbar as profiteers who had duped the CIA into paying their company $81m (£51m).
Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialised knowledge of al-Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise,” the report stated.
Speaking at his home outside Tampa, Florida, James Mitchell, 62, a veteran of US air force special forces and a former instructor at its Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school, acknowledged that he was Swigert. He blasted the report, which has been bitterly criticised by the CIA and branded by Republicans as a partisan “hit job”. Dunbar was identified as a one-time Mormon bishop from Idaho called Bruce Jessen.
From 2002 to 2009, Feinstein said, 119 terrorist suspects — 26 of whom were innocent — were subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques, in some cases amounting to torture” at CIA “black sites” in Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Afghanistan."

Just a few points:

1. The fact that one of these guys is a former Mormon bishop should not be surprising. The War on Terror has been in many ways a battle of Our Fundamentalists versus Their Fundamentalists.

2. I tend not to make much out of the fact that both of these guys had Ph.D.s in psychology. They weren't exactly using sophisticated psychological techniques to extract information.

3. A lot of people have made a lot of money off of the War on Terror. That includes psychologists Martin Seligman and Paul Ekman.

4. As I always say, if you condone torture, you must be prepared to torture innocent people. In fact, torturing the innocent child of a suspected terrorist in front of said suspect is one of the most effective means of eliciting information. (Just ask Saddam Hussein.) What? Don't like it? Then don't open that door.

5. People need to remember that the CIA exists to do illegal and immoral things. You don't need a secret intelligence organization to do legal and moral things. In my view, their greatest crime is that anyone found out about these activities -- some secret keepers.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

North Korea's Kim Jong Un behind the Sony hack?

"I don't think Seth Rogen is funny. And James Franco? C'mon."
"In "The Interview," Rogen and Franco star as television journalists involved in a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Speculation about a North Korean link to the Sony hacking has centered on that country's angry denunciation of the film. Over the summer, North Korea warned that the film's release would be an "act of war that we will never tolerate." It said the U.S. will face "merciless" retaliation.
The film was slated to hit theaters nationwide on Christmas Day. It premiered in Los Angeles last week.
But on Tuesday, Rogen and Franco pulled out of all media appearances, canceling a Buzzfeed Q&A and Rogen's planned guest spot Thursday on "Late Night With Seth Meyers." A representative for Rogen said he had no comment. A spokeswoman for Franco didn't respond to queries Tuesday.
The FBI said it is aware of the GOP's threats and "continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate this matter." FBI director James Comey last week said that investigators are still trying to determine who is responsible for the hack.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said his department takes the hackers' threats "very seriously" and will be taking extra precautions during the holidays at theaters. The National Association of Theatre Owners had no comment on the developing situation. Neither Sony nor representatives from individual theater chains, including Carmike, responded to requests for comment."

Well, I'll watch the movie when it comes out on Showtime. If it's half as funny as "This is the End," it's probably pretty good. But I don't think I'd be able to enjoy it fully in the theater, watching my back for North Korean hit teams .

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Would-be cop-killer, Larry "Loco" Davis

Apparently, some people think that he's some kind of folk hero.

Michelle Malkin, on RCP
"Larry Davis, known as "Loco Larry" on the streets of the Bronx, had racked up a mile-long rap sheet by age 20. The black rapper-turned-drug dealer boasted arrests or convictions for petty larceny, resisting arrest, violating probation, possession of stolen property and burglary. He led violent turf wars against other crack kingpins. In the fall of 1986, police suspected him in the execution of four rivals.
When an NYPD unit descended on Davis's flat for questioning, the hoodlum came out with guns blazing. "I'll shoot them first. I want to die," he reportedly bragged to family members.
Davis shot six officers; two sustained grave injuries. Contrary to popular legend (echoed by the Union Square sign displayed last week), the officers all survived. Officer John O'Hara lost an eye. Emergency Service Unit cop Mary Buckley, 40, took shotgun blasts to the face. "Mary was a mess," her doctor recounted at the time. "Her face was mutilated. The pellets had knocked out her front teeth; her upper jaw was shot away. Your heart went out to her." After reconstructive surgery, she returned to duty as a police sniper.
Davis escaped out an unguarded window. He led police on a 17-day, five-city manhunt. Desperate, he sought refuge in a Bronx housing project, where he took a mother and her two young children hostage as he conducted marathon negotiations with law enforcement. When he finally surrendered, many residents cheered him as the ultimate "symbol of resistance." His radical left-wing lawyers William Kunstler and convicted terror helper Lynne Stewart played a minority-dominated jury like a fiddle - stoking racial resentment and asserting police corruption without evidence.
The panel acquitted Davis on attempted murder of the officers, but he was convicted on weapons charges. He was ultimately imprisoned on separate murder charges involving another drug crime. In 2008, after reinventing himself as "Adam Abdul Hakeem," he was stabbed to death by another inmate at Shawangunk Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
Larry Davis used children as human shields. He talked a big game about martyring himself for The Cause, but turned yellow when push came to shove. Revered by the post-Ferguson generation's wanna-be revolutionary hipsters, this gutless wonder shot a female officer in the face.
Former Democratic New York City Mayor Ed Koch minced no words: "Those people are fools and they are giving heroic status to a criminal." This was no righteous crusader. "He was a killer, and he shot six cops," Koch said after Davis's death. "You shouldn't take pride in the execution of anybody illegally, but I believe that there is a special oil pot in hell for him.""

In addition to Detective Donald O’Sullivan, five officers were shot and wounded by Davis. They were: Capt. John J. Ridge, 57; Det. Thomas J. McCarren, 43; Officer John G. O’Hara, 26; Officer Mary E. Buckley, 40; and Sgt. Edward J. Coulter, 44.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Genie: Secret of the Wild Child" video

"Genie: Secret of the Wild Child" video is a 55 minute video (originally a NOVA episode) that details the suffering of a horribly maltreated young girl. She was abused and neglected by her parents, and then used as a grant-earning/publication tool by the psychologists who studied her, and then discarded by them (i.e., thrown into California's foster care system).

I think that you're supposed to take away some lessons about the impact of early environment on cognitive development. But all that is overshadowed by the horror of how human beings treat each other, and especially the casually malevolent way in which they treat children. It puts one's mind in accord with Freud's conclusion that "most human beings are trash."

"I do not break my head very much about good and evil, but I have found little that is 'good' about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. That is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think, though your experiences of life can hardly have been different from mine. If we are to talk of ethics, I subscribe to a high ideal from which most of the human beings I have come across depart most lamentably."

-- Letter to Oskar Pfister, a Christian minister, c. 1922

Monday, December 15, 2014

Borderline Personality Disorder: "Back From the Edge" video

"Back From the Edge" is a 48 minute video on Borderline Personality Disorder and its treatment. Marsha Linehan was involved in its production, so it's first rate stuff.

See also my Lexicon of Madness post on Borderline Personality Disorder.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Summer Day -- Mary Oliver (1992)

The Ancient of Days, William Blake (1794)

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Somewhere Beyond the Sea -- Bobby Darin (1959)

"Throughout the 1960s, he became more politically active and worked on Robert Kennedy's Democratic presidential campaign. He was present on the night of June 4/5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles at the time of Kennedy's assassination. The same year, he discovered that he had been brought up by his grandparents, not his parents, and that the girl he thought was his sister was actually his mother. These events deeply affected Darin and sent him into a long period of seclusion." (Wikipedia)

Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waitin' for me
My lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailin'
Somewhere beyond the sea
She's there watchin' for me
If I could fly like birds on high
Then straight to her arms I'd go sailin'
It's far beyond the stars
It's near beyond the moon
I know beyond a doubt
My heart will lead me there soon
We'll meet beyond the shore
We'll kiss just as before
Happy we'll be beyond the sea
And never again I'll go sailin'
I know beyond a doubt
My heart will lead me there soon
We'll meet, I know we'll meet, beyond the shore
We'll kiss just as before

Happy we'll be beyond the sea
And never again I'll go sailin'
No more sailin', so long sailin'
Bye, bye sailin'

 Move on out, captain


Better than the Frank Sinatra version? Well, Scorsese thought so...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ketamine (Special K) for Depression

"Yup, I pretty much have my depression under control. Just keep dosing me with that horse tranquilizer."

"It is either the most exciting new treatment for depression in years or it is a hallucinogenic club drug that is wrongly being dispensed to desperate patients in a growing number of clinics around the country.
It is called ketamine — or Special K, in street parlance.
While it has been used as an anesthetic for decades [for HORSES!], small studies at prestigious medical centers like Yale, Mount Sinai and the National Institute of Mental Health suggest it can relieve depression in many people who are not helped by widely used conventional antidepressants like Prozac or Lexapro.
And the depression seems to melt away within hours, rather than the weeks typically required for a conventional antidepressant.
But some psychiatrists say the drug has not been studied enough to be ready for use outside of clinical trials, and they are alarmed that clinics are springing up to offer ketamine treatments, charging hundreds of dollars for sessions that must be repeated many times.
Dr. David Feifel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, said that what is essentially a psychedelic trip is over quickly after the treatment is ended. 
“More often than not, they really like it,” said Dr. Feifel, who is one of the only academic psychiatrists to offer ketamine as a treatment, as opposed to in a clinical trial, though only to people who have exhausted other options. He said that if he did not offer the drug, “I’m consigning you to lose another decade until ketamine might be ready. I just don’t feel that presumptuous.” 
One of his patients, Maggie, said that when she got her first infusion she was aware enough to change the tunes on her iPod, albeit slowly, but was “transported into a completely different dimension.” She added, “Everything there is completely vibrant or molten.” 
The trip ended quickly, but within hours, a lifetime of depression began to lift."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Even science involves a leap of faith

Jack Miles, in The Atlantic:

"Science is immortal, but you are not. History is immortal: Earth could be vaporized, and on some unimaginably distant planet on some unimaginably remote future date, another civilization’s historians could still choose to use the terrestrial year as a unit of time measurement. But where does that leave you? You have a life to live here and now. “Tell me,” the poet Mary Oliver asks, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” We never truly know how to reply to that challenge, do we, since more knowledge—the knowledge we do not have—could always justify holding current plans in abeyance just a little longer. But when life refuses to wait any longer and the great game begins whether you have suited up or not, then a demand arises that religion—or some expedient no more fully rational than religion—must meet. You’re going to go with something. Whatever it is, however rigorous it may claim to be as either science or religion, you’re going to know that you have no perfect warrant for it. Yet, whatever you call it, you’re going to go with it anyway, aren’t you?"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why do college students drink to excess?

University of Minnesota (Duluth) student Alyssa Jo Lommel had her frostbitten fingers and feet amputated after passing out in subzero temps in December 2013. The a-holes who dropped her off didn't check to make sure she had made it inside the house.

An interesting idea -- college students drink so much because college is so undemanding. Ramp it up, college professors -- more reading, more papers, tougher tests, and ruthless grading -- it's good for them!

Chronicle of Higher Education
"A few years ago, I found myself sitting in the corner of a campus student lounge, talking to a 19-year-old named Jessica about what brought her to college, how much she studies, and why her weekends almost never involve getting drunk. 
She wasn’t a teetotaler for religious reasons and it wasn’t because there were many other fun things to do. Her college was in Rochester, Minn., which, in midwinter, consists mainly of subzero temperatures and a lot of elderly sick people in and around the Mayo Clinic. After three days there, the hotel bar seemed particularly enticing. 
Jessica wasn’t a party animal for two reasons. First, she had a lot of school work to do. The University of Minnesota’s Rochester campus is new and unusual. There are only two majors: health professions and health sciences. The classes are small and the workload demanding. Jessica told me she spends 30 to 40 hours per week studying outside of class, far more than the typical undergraduate. 
Students...drink because they have a lot of time on their hands. Studies have found that today’s full-time undergraduates are spending fewer hours on academic work in exchange for better grades than in previous generations. Substance abuse can be a product of aimlessness and boredom, something to do to fill the time.
In the long run, the most effective alcohol-abuse- prevention policy is to be a better college: a place where students are continually challenged, provoked, and engaged by the difficult work of learning."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Washington Post book review Jonathan Yardley retires

So what does a book reviewer plan to do in retirement? Read books, of course.

Washington Post

"[W]hat I most look forward to in full retirement is reading books for pleasure rather than duty....I aim to spend a lot of time with writers whose work I love and to keep on discovering others whom for one reason or another I have not read. I promise to make one last attempt to read “Ulysses,” the gargantuan novel by James Joyce that was admitted to this country by my great-great uncle, federal Judge John Woolsey, whose famous opinion authorizing its admission I regard as considerably more engaging, witty and intelligible than the novel itself; and having fallen in love all too late in life with Henry James of the early and middle periods, I may try “The Golden Bowl” and others of the late period, though it is a daunting prospect.
Mainly, though, I simply aim to revisit writers whose work gives me the kind of delight that only books can give — lots of P.G. Wodehouse and Peter Taylor first and foremost, of course, and Flannery O’Connor, and Ward Just, and Ellen Glasgow, and Raymond Chandler, and Anne Tyler, and John D. MacDonald, and doubtless “The Count of Monte Cristo” for the umpteenth time — all the while keeping in mind that for almost half a century it was my extraordinary good fortune to be paid to do just that...."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Suicide by self-decapitation


From the CBS News, Dallas Fort Worth, December 3, 2014;

"Police are investigating after a body was found in the street Wednesday afternoon at Singleton Boulevard and Vilbig Road.
Witnesses tell CBSDFW they saw a man scribble something in Spanish on his van.  He then tied one end of a rope around his neck and the other end around a fire hydrant. The man then drove off, decapitating himself.
The van came to a stop without hurting anyone.
It’s not clear exactly what the man wrote on the van."

Yeah, people do this.

From the New York Post, September 1, 2014:

"A man decapitated himself Monday morning in a suicide that left his headless corpse lying in a Bronx street, law enforcement sources said.
The 51-year-old man attached a metal chain to a pole on Longfellow Avenue around 9:20 a.m., the sources said.
Sitting in his car, he then wrapped the other end around his neck and hit the gas of the white 2005 Honda Pilot. As the car shot forward, the chain tore his head from his body."

From the Daily Mail (UK), August 7, 2008:

"A businessman decapitated himself in his sports car to get back at his younger wife for leaving him, an inquest has heard.
Gerald Mellin, 54, taunted his estranged wife Mirrielle, 33, with threats of suicide.
He even showed her the rope he was going to use, which he kept in the boot of his open-top Aston Martin DB7.
The court heard that the day before his death Mrs Mellin had been awarded an extra £100 a week in maintenance from her former husband.
Mr Mellin had then sent her a text message which read: 'Congratulations XXX.'
It was the last time she heard from him.
The businessman tied one end of the rope to a tree, then climbed into his Aston Martin and wrapped the other end around his neck.
He then drove the £90,000 car into a busy main road, forcing other drivers to watch his horrific death."

From the March 2014 edition of the Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences [WARNING: Gruesome photos]:

"Self-strangulation is a very uncommon method of suicide. Deaths by vehicle-assisted ligature are rarely published and mainly related to decapitation. We report an unusual case of self-strangulation where a body was found dead inside a car with a rope round his neck and tied to a bridge banister. The rope was broken at 20 meters from the vehicle while the victim was driving his car away.
The manner of death was determined as suicide based on objective scene investigation, autopsy and witness testimony.
This case is reported for its rarity due to the method of suicide employed by the victim and because it was not related to decapitation."

From the November 2008 edition of Legal Medicine:

"The victim (59-year-old male) used a long hemp rope tied between his neck and a cherry tree while attempting to drive his car away, resulting in complete decapitation. At autopsy, the decapitation wound of the head and the torso corresponded perfectly; a clear-cut severance plane was found at the bottom of the skull. In contrast to suicidal decapitation by hanging and traumatic railway injury, autopsy findings for vehicle-assisted ligature strangulation are rarely reported. A review of the literature concerning suicidal vehicle-assisted ligature strangulation suggested a striking young or adult male predominance, and the wound margins were usually clear-cut with a sharply-demarcated encircling abrasion zone. The present case presented some notable autopsy findings involving wound morphology and pathological changes in organs related to the mechanisms of injury and death. Despite complete decapitation, the face was congestive, the lungs were congested with findings of acute respiratory distress, and the brain was markedly swollen with diffuse and severe astrocyte injury, suggesting that asphyxiation was involved in the death before decapitation."


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sonnet 30 ("When to the sessions of sweet silent thought") -- William Shakespeare

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan th' expense of many a vanish'd sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd, and sorrows end.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Funny Valentine -- Anita O'Day (1965)

"Yes, as a matter of fact I am going to wear white gloves and a feathered hat to the Newport Jazz Festival."

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet you're my favorite work of art

Is your Figure less than Greek?
Is your mouth a little week?
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?

But don't change your hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentines day

Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to Speak
Are you smart

But don't change your hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is valentines day

Friday, December 5, 2014

Why reporters get it wrong

A "Nazi-style" rally at a "moderate" Palestinian university, November 5, 2013.

An important essay by Matti Friedman, explicitly about news coverage of Israel. However, the dynamics described apply to all news coverage from anywhere and on any topic. The article should be read in full, but excerpts are below:

The Atlantic
"To make sense of most international journalism from Israel, it is important first to understand that the news tells us far less about Israel than about the people writing the news. Journalistic decisions are made by people who exist in a particular social milieu, one which, like most social groups, involves a certain uniformity of attitude, behavior, and even dress (the fashion these days, for those interested, is less vests with unnecessary pockets than shirts with unnecessary buttons). These people know each other, meet regularly, exchange information, and closely watch one another’s work. This helps explain why a reader looking at articles written by the half-dozen biggest news providers in the region on a particular day will find that though the pieces are composed and edited by completely different people and organizations, they tend to tell the same story.
In these circles, in my experience, a distaste for Israel has come to be something between an acceptable prejudice and a prerequisite for entry. I don’t mean a critical approach to Israeli policies or to the ham-fisted government currently in charge in this country, but a belief that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills, particularly those connected to nationalism, militarism, colonialism, and racism—an idea quickly becoming one of the central elements of the “progressive” Western zeitgeist, spreading from the European left to American college campuses and intellectuals, including journalists. In this social group, this sentiment is translated into editorial decisions made by individual reporters and editors covering Israel, and this, in turn, gives such thinking the means of mass self-replication."  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Did Stonewall Jackson have Asperger's?


I am a fan of these psycho-historical posthumous psychiatric diagnostic exercises, if only because they put so many people's noses out of joint. This one was written by Michael Fitzgerald and is titled, "Did 'Stonewall' Jackson have Asperger's Syndrome or Disorder?"

Society of Clinical Psychiatrists

"In 1944, the Austrian Hans Asperger described a number of children mainly boys who were socially odd, egocentric and who had circumscribed interests in specific topics Asperger (1944). He called this autistic psychopathy. Later Wing (1981) refined the syndrome and called it Asperger's syndrome. Later Szatmari et al. (1989) outlined specific criteria for the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome. The American Psychiatric Association (APA, 1994) also set out criteria for Asperger's disorder. Both (Szatmari et al., 1989; APA, 1994) these criteria will be used in attempting to establish whether 'Stonewall' Jackson, possibly the greatest military leader in the American Civil War, had Asperger's syndrome or disorder.
In defining Asperger's syndrome Szatmari et al. (1989) in their first two criteria for Asperger's syndrome, emphasised solitary activities and social relationship problems. It is clear that 'Stonewall' Jackson met these criteria and the evidence will now be presented. During the American Civil War his nephew Henry Kyd Douglas (1947) was with him during the campaign and he described how "the General always kept himself always very much apart . . . and he did not encourage social calls". It was not thought by those who knew him best that he was a good judge of character (Douglas, 1947). Douglas (1947) described him as "hard as nails in the performance of a duty. I never knew him to temper justice with mercy; his very words very merciless. I can recall no case when he remitted or modified a punishment that he believed to be just and according to the law . . . He was governed by his judgment alone, by his strict construction of his sense of duty, by the demands of the public service. There was no place for sentiment or pity. In the execution of the law he was inexorable, justice and mercy seemed out of place". Douglas (1947) describes how at Law School he was regarded as "such an oddity" and a classmate of his said that "old Jack is a character, genius, or just a little crazy" and that he "lives quietly and don't meddle". Douglas (1947) points out that on one occasion a soldier wanted to visit his wife before she died and he said to the man "man, man, do you love your wife more than your country?" and turned away. The man never forgave him.
His problem in social relationships was also seen when he was posted in Florida and he made allegations of immoral behaviour against his commanding officer Major French. Henry (1979) stated that here Jackson showed his "implacable and vindictive characteristics and indeed his attack of French was pitiless, narrow minded and legalistic".
As a teacher at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington he was "an appallingly bad teacher and extremely unpopular with his students. The cadets considered him a strange character, grim, aloof, unable to communicate with them in or outside the classroom, who subjected them to a petty and relentless discipline" according to Henry (1979). Jackson was known there as "old Hickory" and indeed according to Henry (1979) the authorities made an unsuccessful attempt to remove him from his job. Locally the people of Lexington "considered him to be one of their local eccentrics, but despite his shyness and odd ways" he was respected by members of his Church (Henry, 1979). People considered his appearance odd "and this, combined with his reserve and awkwardness in company, made him the object of many jokes and derisive comments" and he was regarded as having a "shy, introverted and secretive personality" (Henry, 1979).
He therefore meets all the criteria for Asperger's syndrome as set out by Szatmari et al. (1989) in social relationships with: (a) having no close friends, (b) avoiding others, (c) having no interest in making friends, (d) being a loner, (e) having a clumsy social approach, (f) have a one-sided response to peers and having difficulty sensing feelings of others as well as being detached from feelings of others, (g) he was "reticent and self-reliant" (Henry, 1979).
He also meets the criterion set out by Szatmari et al. (1989) for impaired non-verbal communication. He showed limited facial expression and indeed it was said by Douglas (1947) that he "rarely if ever laughed" and had a "reserve and awkwardness in company".
The last criterion Szatmari et al. (1989) was odd speech and he certainly talked very little. Indeed in battles according to Douglas (1947) he sometimes didn't inform people about his future military plans. We don't have information on whether he had idiosyncratic use of words or repetitive patterns of speech.
Asperger's Disorder (APA, 1994)
He certainly meets the first criterion of a qualitative impairment in social interaction (APA, 1994). He had a failure to develop peer relationships and there was a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment and interests with other people (Douglas, 1947; Henry, 1979). There was a lack of social and emotional reciprocity. Henry (1979) described him as "a withdrawn, morose, isolated personality of eccentric habits and with a hypochondrical preoccupation which bordered on the bizarre". He also said that he was "grim and humourless" (Henry, 1979). At school he was described as being "shy and unsociable, retaining much of the awkwardness of his previous personality" (Henry, 1979). During the American Civil War there were much rumours that he was "mad" and some of his fellow officers resented his aloof, high handed way of conducting his campaigns (Henry, 1979). It was noted by Douglas (1947) that when General Winder came to work with Jackson he had "a will as inflexible as that of Jackson himself and at first their relations were not very cordial and each certainly underrated the other; in many things, they were too much alike to fit exactly". Despite being a loner, being aloof and distant Douglas (1947) stated that "never in the history of warfare has an army shown more devotion to duty and the wishes of one man" as his army showed during the second battle of the Manassas.
The second criterion for Asperger's disorder (APA, 1994) are restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests and activities. He was preoccupied with religion and with war. Henry (1979) points out that he was "an avoid reader of military history and studied intensively the campaigns of Napoleon". He received the nickname "Stonewall" during the 1st battle of the Manassas when his "Virginia brigade stood up to the enemy in a very rigid fashion and Lieutenant H. Lee cried out "look! There is Jackson's brigade standing behind you like a stone wall" (Douglas, 1947).
He and his army was "well-disciplined" (Douglas, 1947). Nevertheless Jackson was described as the "worst-dressed, worst-mounted, most faded and dingy-looking general" there was ever seen (Douglas, 1947). "In all his movements in riding to a horse to handling a pen, the most awkward man in the army" (Douglas, 1947). He walked and rode in a most "ungainly" manner (Douglas, 1947). While he was "aloof and secretive he drove his soldiers mercilessly; and his discipline was almost inhumane but the troops marched and fought and died for him with remarkable devotion" (Douglas, 1947). He studied war and military matters all his life and was probably one of the greatest generals that has ever commanded an American army. He was described as being "a bold leader, probably the boldest the war (American Civil War) produced" (Douglas, 1947). Indeed it was this boldness and leading out his army from the front which was entirely unnecessary which led him to be shot at the battle of Chancellorsville an event that may very well have lost the war for the southern states (Alexander, 1996). He was entirely indifferent to bullets flying around him. He was a brilliant military strategist but then he thought of very little else throughout his life except perhaps of God" and had a great ability to "mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy (Alexander, 1996). He read no newspapers and allowed no newspaper correspondents to visit his camp.
There is no doubt that 'Stonewall' Jackson met the criteria for Asperger's disorder which gives the individual enormous handicaps in terms of social relating and empathising with other individuals but can be enormously beneficial for a leader as is shown by Jackson in his leadership of his army. He met all Szatmari's et al. (1989) except missing one additional item under the heading of odd speech for which historical data is not available. Because he was a Professor in the Military Academy and studied battles and war throughout his life he was better prepared for the American Civil War than any other military general. This extreme focus on a single topic can have enormous benefits and it is probably impossible for anyone to produce work of true genius without this exclusive focus."