Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
When I was a teenager, I worked in the woods all day long, keeping up with grown men. After the wood was brought to the house and while the men sat down for their coffee break, I split the wood and stacked it. I worked like that until dark, and then my mom, seeing me exhausted, would say I was lazy because I hadn't done any housework. Lazy! Lazy! Lazy! The word still cuts into my heart. I may have been a lot of things, but lazy wasn't one of them. Meanwhile, my goody two shoes sisters, having stayed home baking cookies, folding laundry, and dusting furniture while I worked in freezing rain with soggy cloth gloves, were held up to me as examples of industry that I should strive to emulate.
They were cheerful! They had clean dresses on while my work jeans were shredded and damp and frankly filthy! Their hands were clean and soft while mine were calloused and ingrained with soil and sap stains! They had neatly styled hair while mine had twigs and pine needles and bark tangled in it! They did dishes and housework! Their shoes weren't dirty! They were ladylike!
And they would stand there, perky, prim and proper, with white tennis shoes and pretty skirts, while I sagged with fatigue in my work boots, jeans, and flannel shirt, all thoroughly soiled with various elements of forest.
I hate it. I hate it, I tell you. I hate the goody two shoes and I hate favoritism and this is why I don't like working with other women. All they have to do to earn favor is to act all feminine and fakey-smiley-cheerful and clean-happy and they can get away with just about anything. I hate it. I can't understand why people in charge (parents, bosses, whoever) can't see through this shit. It hurts me.
Monday, June 23, 2008
I'm finally starting to make a few friends, but there's not much time to cultivate friendships. Heh. I think it might be work that's doing me in...The fourth of July is coming up and business is booming. I must have done about 6K today. I am so tired. One of the other gals said her arms ached (she did almost 7K in business that day), and I can definitely relate to that. My White's boot are being rebuilt (yeah, I wore the heels out already), and I can hardly wait to get them back.
My daughter's maturing into a really interesting person. We got her a tuberous begonia, the kind that trails, and today she asked to see a book or magazine about begonias! I am slightly stumped because I've never grown begonias before. I suppose we'll have to track something down at the library. The baby likes orca whales. I think it may have a little to do with the high contrast black/white pattern, because he likes penguins, too, but not as much as orcas. I have this urge to get him an orca whale poster for his room, maybe a T shirt, blanket, etc etc....and this is crazy because he will probably lose interest in them the moment I do. Children are so funny. Why do they hone in on one thing that way? The baby's had lots of toys and stuffed animals, including a beluga whale, but he likes the orca the best. My daughter has had exposure to all sorts of plants, and could have picked any plant in the huge greenhouse we went to, but she wanted the dried up unpromising looking tuber that would become a begonia. I'll have to see if I can track down a company specializing in begonias and get her a catalog...
Monday, June 16, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The question posed to us is whether television and other electronic media have mind altering influences, and how they affect children. Television inhibits creativity, physical activity, critical thought, and consumes vast stretches of time when the child could be learning, experiencing life, or developing positive social skills with peers (Mander). However, it has been largely superseded by video games in today’s youth, and the effects of electronic games are even more deleterious than those of television.
Drugs affect the brain by blocking or stimulating neural signals,
directly affecting and interfering with its communication
(Zimbardo, 2008). The chemicals in the drugs are what affect the
brain; however, we have already seen that altered states of
consciousness can result without chemicals, for example hypnosis,
meditation and the stages of sleep. Researchers found that playing
video games also alter the brain chemistry. Green and Bavelier
stated: “most drugs of addiction produce pleasure by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain. Using a form of brain imaging (PET) the researchers were able to determine whether playing a video game increased the amount of dopamine released by the brain. A massive increase in the amount of dopamine released in the brain was indeed observed during video game play, in particular in areas thought to control reward and learning. The level of increase was remarkable, being comparable to that observed when amphetamines are injected intravenously. “
Drug abuse typically entails physical side effects such as reduced
or enhanced appetite, impaired motor function, organ damage, and
the possibility of convulsions or death over the long term.
Video games have their own array of physical symptoms as well. An AMA report details incidence of light induced epileptic seizures and musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities. A study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia revealed a higher incidence of childhood obesity in kids who play electronic games, sometimes twice as high in comparison to youth who did not use video games.
Perhaps the most alarming finding regarding video games is that long term gaming is associated with neurological differences in the brains of frequent players. Rene’ Weber, assistant professor at MSU, conducted a study on violent video games and found that playing the games resulted in brain activity typical of aggressive cognitions, behavior, and affects (Science Daily, Oct. 12, 2005). Other studies have found that exposure to violence in video games was associated with reduced activity in the frontal lobes, stimulation of the amygdala, and activation of the posterior cingulate, a finding usually seen in rape victims and people with PTSD (Shari Rudavsky, 2004). A study by The University of Michigan found a higher correlation between media violence and aggression than secondhand smoke and lung cancer (Swanbrow).
One commonality between the studies quoted is that when age is included as a factor, children fare worse; i.e. they are more likely to show brain changes. There is quite a bit of debate over how lasting the effects are. Based on my personal experience with video game enthusiasts, most of them started playing before their teens and many are still playing well into their thirties and forties. It seems that sustained playing of that nature could impact the brain in very negative ways, particularly if the games are blood and gore types. Considering the nature of the risk in comparison to the biological, physical, emotional, and financial investment incurred in raising children (not to mention time!), it is probably prudent to disallow children exposure to video games, or at least to allow only very limited time on non-violent games, alternated with plenty of physical activity and creative endeavors.
The cognitive neuroscience of video games
C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, 2004.
Mander, Jerry, Four arguments for the Elimination of Television (1977).
AMA, "Emotional and Behavioral Effects of Video Games and Internet Overuse" (2007).
Childrens Hospital Of Philadelphia. "Electronic Game Use Is Associated With Childhood Obesity." Science Daily 1 July 2004. Science Daily
Michigan State University. "Violent Video Games Lead To Brain Activity Characteristic Of Aggression." Science Daily 12 October 2005. Science Daily
Rudavsky, Shari. “Video game violence and the brain”
November 14, 2004
Swanbrow, Diane. “Reel Violence. U-M research seeks the seeds of violence” University of Michigan Research News.
U Mich News
Zimbardo, Philip. Psychology Core Concepts, 2008.
Research: understanding the basis of mental illness aids in our comprehension of how the mind functions in the neurotypical population. As noted in the text, Psychology Core Concepts (Zimbardo,2008), the mind is a virtual galaxy of neurons. In spite of the Human Genome Project and the various methods of brain scanning and measuring tools, the brain of Homo sapiens remains very much a mystery and a puzzle. Every particle of information gathered towards that mystery, even the most obscure puzzle piece, aids in grasping the bigger picture, forges connections we may not have made before, and builds bridges across gaps of knowledge. People with mental illnesses, injuries, and developmental disorders have served both as guinea pigs and pioneers in the field of neurology. Phineas Gage (Zimbardo, 2008), Helen Keller, and Temple Grandin are but three examples of individuals with neurological and or sensory variances who were not cured but made enormous contributions to the understanding of the human brain and behavior. It could be easily argued that they made more of an impact than they would have if they had been normal.
Secondly, many illnesses are incurable. A brief perusal of these includes AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis, ADD, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, several types of leukemia, emphysema, fetal alcohol syndrome, herpes, cerebral palsy and Alzheimer’s (CDC, 2008). Although classified as incurable, research has made significant strides in the treatment of symptoms, management of the disease process, and in some cases, prevention or at least minimization of the damage of the condition. Early diagnosis often affects the long term prognosis, making research into testing and early detection key. In the course of studying these diseases, insights are made which benefit not only the sufferers and their families but also society at large. Even if cures are never found, we still enrich ourselves to learn as much as we possibly can about the cause, process, and effects of mental illnesses.
Lastly, supportive therapy can be implemented more effectively if the cause of the illness is known. A parallel can again be drawn between mental and physical disability: a blind child might never be able to see, but what a difference if he or she can learn Braille, get a Seeing Eye dog, and learn basic life skills! Similarly, with scientific evidence of a neurological basis for the disease, the patient is likely to fare better than if he or she were characterized as being “crazy”, “possessed”, or “looking for attention”. Comprehension of the origin of the illness helps to remove some of the stigma towards it. The human world is ruthless, and the individual with mental illness is poorly equipped to defend themselves against it. The popular misconception that people “choose to be ill” or should “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” or “snap out of it” persists, and will only be combated effectively through consistent education of the general public. When people realize that the “crazy cat lady down the street” is just as much a person as themselves, that her mental illness has physical, neurological origins, prejudice will begin to erode, and people will be able to seek help without fear of being permanently labeled as a “nut case”. This again, would benefit society at large. Just as it is impossible to wound a part without injuring the whole in some way, it is inevitable that the gains made in helping the mentally ill will aid us all.
Excerpts from "Babies Don't Feel Pain: A Century of Denial in Medicine"
by David B. Chamberlain, Ph.D.
Robbie Davis-Floyd & Joseph Dumit (Eds.) (1998), Cyborg Babies: From Techno-Sex to Techno-Tots. New York and London: Routledge.
The Benefits of Psychological Surgery: John Scoffern's Satire on Isaac Baker Brown
ROBERT DARBY, PhD*
Med Hist. 2007 October 1; 51(4): 527–544.
John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Zimbardo, 2008. Psychology Core Concepts, 2008. Page 64, 77.
Although my culture, age, and gender undoubtedly do color my perception of the world around me, I believe that these pale beside the potential for bias provided by AS (Asperger’s Syndrome). For years, I did not know that I had AS. I thought everyone else was strange and lacking in color. They didn’t seem to appreciate the things that so enthralled me, such as the intricate patterns of warm air meeting cold, or incense smoke curling into the air, or the perfection in the smallest part of plant life. They also seemed anosmic unless smells were virtually shouting to them, which meant of course that when someone wore a scent they could smell, it was shouting at me. They seemed to think little and to speak much, and to get angry if I couldn’t immediately process their words into a visual picture, formulate a reply, and verbalize it within seconds. By the time I spoke to them, the subject would have changed or they would be walking away. Along with being touched unexpectedly, the eye contact they were so insistent upon was excruciating. It felt like having my soul invaded and raped.
I perceived the world as being inundated with incredibly annoying people with nothing interesting to say (my own interests were rather narrow and intense). At other times I was dismayed to feel disliked and couldn’t understand why, but I enjoyed my solitude anyway. People often said that I was weird, lazy, off in my own little world, and that with effort I could be like them. Naturally, I was not thrilled by that thought! It wasn’t until I met another person on the autism spectrum and observed behavior similar to my own through outside eyes that I realized how I must look to others. I began quizzing the neurotypical people I met, to compare notes on our mental processes. I was shocked to discover that they tended not to think in pictures (or not complicated pictures anyway), that they did not have to turn words into pictures to comprehend the verbal sounds, that they did not associate people with colors or numbers, never experienced dissociation, and were unbothered by sensory stimuli which were unbearable for me. Finally, they could no more imagine the world from my point of view than I could from theirs.
So while theory of mind may be a particular obstacle to autistics, I think that on a wider scale, everyone experiences it to some degree, and in most cases, are unaware of it. This can be a contributing factor to prejudice and bias.
For example, consider the opinion that autism “sufferers” (this word alone denotes bias, as it would if applied to homosexuals or minorities) who do not speak cannot have advanced verbal abilities (Zimbardo, 2008). While facilitated communication was obviously a misbegotten fiasco, there are many non-verbal autistics who communicate extremely well through writing. Amanda Baggs communicates more articulately through writing than speaking people do even though she is a non-verbal autistic (Baggs). The spoken language is so important to humans that it is common to assume retardation when a person is difficult to understand (ask anyone who has cerebral palsy). Deaf people were assumed to lack cognition by Aristotle, a mentality that is still echoed today in the term “deaf and dumb” (NAD). These are all examples of representativeness bias (Zimbardo, 2008).
Bias as a starting point may be natural and automatic, but it can be overcome through the same methods used elsewhere in science; skepticism (challenging one’s own views), case studies (meeting and getting to know people that you would usually be biased against), careful observation, and review and questioning of factual data (Zimbardo, 2008).
Baggs, Amanda. ballastexistenz
National Association of the Deaf http://www.nad.org/deafanddumb
Zimbardo, Philip G. Psychology Core Concepts, 2008. Page 5, 29, 30, 152, 317, 511.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Silvery Fir Tree
Sungold (the only hybrid)
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Rather than viewing autism (and its attendant autism spectrum disorders) as a defect which needs to be cured, perhaps there should be more insight into why autism appears to be (I say "appear" because the evidence for the so-called "epidemic" isn't ironclad, but subjective) sharply on the rise? While perseverating on the causation of autism, perhaps they're missing the boat. Assuming that autism is genetic (and there is ample scientific evidence to back this), could it be that autism is not a scourge of society, but rather, a reaction to the toxicity of the world we've created, and even an antidote to it?
- The planet we live on is overpopulated. Natural disaster, disease, and everyday mortality have taken their toll as usual, but not so much as in the past. We find ways to outfox the boundaries imposed upon every other species; we manage to impregnate and perpetuate people who are naturally infertile, to allow those with serious or terminal genetic diseases to survive to reproductive age, to control the natural disasters as much as we can, to stem disease even though disease plays a valuable role in strengthening other species, and we tortuously prolong deaths that would have taken hours or days into months and years, as much out of obligation as of actual affection.
- Our social structure tends to be intense, but toxic. This isn't a new phenomena (see the bible, Greek mythology, and Shakespeare), but it is exacerbated by the sheer numbers we've accumulated. Contrary to what we would like to believe, humans are not benevolent, or cooperative, except for when it benefits us in some way. The more crowded the place gets, the less benefit there is from other people, and the more cost, hence less incentive to play nicely.
- With the advent of computer technology, strong in-the-flesh interpersonal bonds aren't as necessary as they were a hundred or even fifty years ago. This is an extremely dramatic change for such a short time. Neighbors used to help us build barns or bring in the hay or sew quilts, now we often don't even know their names.
- The rising tide of violence, crime, drug abuse and what I would categorize as "toxic behavior" causes many people to attempt to move away from others. However, this doesn't work either, because the natural resources are limited, and if we exterminate many more species, the results are likely to be disastrous for the planet as a whole. So, escapism is not the answer either. Besides, most socially oriented people want their friends and families to escape with them, so pretty soon, they have a new pocket of human growth, bringing with it the same old problems in due time.
- People who have a family incidence of autism or eccentricity, or what we would term "geekiness", tend to have autistic children at a higher rate than those who do not.
- Autistic people of all ranges tend to: dislike eye contact, physical touch (especially by strangers), prefer one on one interaction with known people to meeting groups of new people, be sensitive to allergens, strong artificial scents, and other extreme sensory input, mate or marry at a much lower rate than non-autistics, and to focus deeply on subjects which interest them. External rewards such as social approval, material possessions, and status often mean little to them.
In other words, if the whole world were autistic, the population would drop, and you would have small communities of people intensely interested in subjects (probably one or two interests per community), with a total disregard for materialism and acquisition for its own sake, and the people would tend to be avoidant.
In light of the current state of things, I'm not sure this would be negative. It could even be what we need.