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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A New View of the Space Program

There are a number of alternative views of the space program.

Some see it as a massive pork-barrel boondoggle, a way of wasting vast
amounts of money and time and precious bodily fluids on something not
worth achieving.

And some might say that going from this teensy little planet out to see
the rest of the universe is a waste of time. I tend to think that the
only worthwhile thing the human race can do is go out and see the rest of
the universe. Anything else is using our finger to make swirly little
cirles in piles of our own excrement -- which is the source of most of the
topsoil on our planet, after all.

There is a view that seeing the rest of the universe -- given the scales
in question, the rest of the universe -is- the universe, and we aren't
actually here, have never been here, have never been anywhere to speak of -
- is a waste of time.

This is an entirely reasonable and rational view, if Ur Head is up Uranus.

--
Grizzly's Growls <grizzly at grizzly.podzone.org>
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The Life and Times of a Minor Local Celebrity

Phantom empathy

I have a theory.

I know that I fail to understand people and their attitudes and intentions
on a regular basis, but it seems to me that I always think I do
understand. Intellectually, I know I'm not understanding, but
intuitively, if you will, I feel like I know what people feel or intend.

My theory is that there's a "space" in my perceptions where my brain might
normally have such understanding, and failing to get input from that
functionality, that would normally inform me of intentions and feelings
based on perception of body language, eye contact, or tone of voice &c,
creates those perceptions out of whole cloth.

I compare this to the "phantom pain" that amputation victims feel --
there's no limb there, but the amputee feels like it -is- there -- or the
lights blind people think they see, or the sounds deaf people think they
hear, or even "ringing in the ears." From what I've read, when you hear
that "ringing," you aren't actually hearing it. Your brain is failing to
receive anything on that aural frequancy, so it creates a sound where the
sound is missing. Likewise, I feel that my mind is creating the feeling
of a perception, a feeling of understanding, where no such understanding
exists.

--
Grizzly's Growls <grizzly at grizzly.podzone.org>
Podcast: (n.) a talk show on the Web or iPod
<http://grizzly.libsyn.com>
Subscribe: (v.) to get it delivered
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The Life and Times of a Minor Local Celebrity

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mind Modelling

I've been giving some thought to why Aspies (people with Asperger
Syndrome) have so much difficulty with carrying on conversations.

I suspect part of the process of understanding conversation is an
unconscious modelling of the behavior of the other participant. I think
one instinctively creates a "mental model" of the behavior of the other
person, based on past experience and on one's own behaviors, and uses that
to project what the other person is likely to say or ask next.

Since much of the side channel content, body language and eye contact and
tone of voice, is lost on us, and since we haven't understood previous
conversations much and our previous models were broken, our current models
are also faulty.

So while an NT would have a pretty good idea what the next question would
be and what the next answer needs to be, an Aspie guesses wrong most of
the time, and then has to spend time designing a strategy to respond to
the unexpected question or comment, and the model gets more fouled up.
This in turn creates more stresses in the conversation, which makes things
go more pear-shaped, if you will. Even if we eventually figure out what's
going on, the delays in response create a thoroughly fouled-up
conversation.

For a number of reasons (e.g. "Theory of Mind") I leave as an Exercise For
The Reader, we tend to stick by our models, even though they fail time
after time. So if all else is equal, we fail repeatedly.

With a sufficiently patient NT conversant, it can work. But patience is
hard to come by, dealing with people who find the process relatively easy.

Anyway, that might be part of what's happening.

--
Grizzly <grizzly at grizzly.podzone.org>
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Some Weird Guy Whining About His Problems

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Oh, C'mon, Get Real!

From time to time, people wonder why I'm not like some other guys --
always looking out for an opportunity to come on to some woman. I like
women a lot, and have more-than-liked (wink wink nudge nudge) a fair
number over the years.

But let's get real.

I'm 48 years old.

I'm overweight.

I have gray streaks in my beard.

I don't dress well.

I don't own a home.

I don't own a car.

In fact, I haven't driven since Drivers Training in High School.

I don't have much money.

I don't have much of a job -- hey, telemarketer, hello?

I have a quirky sense of humor.

I have a quirky personality, and everything else.

So most women will not be particularly interested in me.

I know that, and since I know that, if I come on to anyone who wanders by
and smells female -- and these days, that could mean a bunch of different
things -- I know I'm being rude, 9 or more times out of 10.

And I may have a whole lot of annoying qualities, but I'm at least not
rude.

And, well, if that's not like A Lot Of Other Guys, that's a bad thing?

If one of those rare women come along who can look at the whole package
and -still- be interested, and who interest me, well, I'm willing to
listen. Nothing has stopped working, turned purple and fallen off, so all
in all, I'm doing fine.

Other than that, what do I care?

On the other hand, I am the host of an Internationally-Syndicated Talk
Program on that Interweb thing all the kids are into these days. So one
never knows, do one?

--
Grizzly <grizzly at grizzly.podzone.org>
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Some Weird Guy Whining About His Problems

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Pound of Flesh

A friend of mine has pestered me that I should talk about more
controversial and timely subjects. I don't know that I agree; I don't
feel that the podcast should be imbued with inflamatory rhetoric and
pounding of tables and what-not. But I might have to give it a try, just
to see how I feel about it. So let's try one on, and see if it fits.

Paris Hilton was sent to jail for drunk driving. Then they let her out
because she was sick, then they put her back in because she was rich. No,
wait, that's not right, is it?

Now I'm supposed to write what I think. But I don't know what I think. I
know what I feel, but that doesn't tell me what I think.

I feel that drunk driving is a serious crime, and deserves serious
punishment.

I noticed on Court TV they were having one of those extended "panel
discussion" group rants they do, one of the attornies prefaced his remarks
with something like, "While I agree that drunk driving is the most serious
crime you can commit against a civilian person..." Huh? So blowing up
buildings, kidnappings and school shootings are misdemeanors, maybe? But
I digress.

So, I feel that drunk driving is serious. I feel that drunk drivers
should be punished seriously. I feel that rich criminals shouldn't be
treated better than poor criminals.

I feel that being deprived of freedom is a serious punishment, and more
deprivation of freedom is more serious. Now I sound like a politician:
"Crime? I'm agin it!"

BUT!

When we sentence someone to imprisonment, we're saying we think they
deserve to have their freedom taken away for 45 days, or six months, or a
year, or twenty years. And yet, we know when we send them to prison we're
sentencing them to more than that.

We know we're sentencing them to having their safety and their lives
endangered for much of that time. We know they will nearly certainly be
threatened and intimidated, they may be raped, they may be beaten, they
may be killed. We know that. If you have watched anything more than
Saturday morning cartoons on your TV, you know that.

But we sentenced them only to having their freedom taken away for a while.
We lied, and we know we lied, and we went a head and did it anyway, and
felt proud about how just we were being.

Poor people who are imprisoned are sentenced to more than someone like
Paris Hilton would be. A poor person with a record is sentenced to
probably never having a decent job. Paris Hilton will likely never need a
job. Poor folks may be turned from minor criminals into major criminals.
Paris Hilton will likely never have to turn to a life of crime to get
money. She has plenty.

So, arguably, imprisonment is more unfair to the poor than too the rich.
But it is unfair in both cases. Deprivation of freedom may be a fair
punishment. But imposing punishments without imposing sentence is unfair,
rich or poor.

So, was sending her to jail fair or unfair? I don't know what I think.
It doesn't feel fair, though. But it feels like I ought to think it's
fair.

Then, too, I saw the video of her being hauled away in handcuffs, and in
tears. I don't feel criminals should be able to cry their way out of
punishment. But I don't like to make people cry, either. Childish of me,
but that's how I feel. And I would feel bad for a poor person being lead
away in tears, too.

And if she's in for 45 days, which if I'm not mistaken means she'll be in
Jail, not in Prison. I'm told by those who would know that Jail sucks
more than Prison, if for a shorter time. And I've heard from corrections
professionals that minimum and medium security facilities are more
dangerous than (well-run) maximum security prisons.

Gee, that didn't work out well at all, did it? Not a very good rant.
That's why I don't tend to speak out on controversial stuff. I'm just not
vehement enough.

If anything good can come out of this, maybe Paris will take on prison
reform -- if that concept makes any sense -- as a personal cause. Maybe
conditions in jail will get her involved as an activist, doing something
practical to make the system work better and more fairly for everyone.

And maybe she'll just go back to drinking and partying, and get a chauffer
-- chauffeur -- um, somebody to drive for her.

And she won't have to cry anymore.

That would be good.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Sam, you made the pants too long

I reached Episode 14 on the podcast this last weekend. (Yay Me!) It turned
out to be one of my longer shows. I have done shows that were five or six
minutes, but this one and a couple others have been around 20 minutes.

Is that too long?

I understand that many people prefer shorter shows, so they can follow
more podcasts. Sometimes I run longer, though, either because I have more
to say, or because I don't have more to say but keep rambling on, anyway.
;-)

But I wonder if I ought to impose some particular time limit, for
consistency and so as to satisfy more people. I think if I really have
something to say, I ought to be able to limit length and contain the
message in a shorter format. But I don't know if I necessarily have to
have a Grand Message for the Ages. It's podcasting, not preaching, after
all, and I'm not running for anything.

At the moment, anyway, I did a few years ago.

But if I don't have a grand message, just some things to say, it isn't
easy to cut that down to just a short, "Deep Thoughts" sort of format.
So, sometimes I'm ambivalent, and sometimes I'm not.