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Comment Re:Damn... (Score 1) 602

I read your exchange below, and I'm still not sure that I understand what you are getting at with this comment. I can say that I don't intend to imply that there is necessarily underlying physical cause; I'm only stating (and incidentally at that) that the symptoms for mental diseases are behavioral whereas the symptoms for physical diseases are, well, physical: manifesting in the internal operations of the body rather than what we generally consider to be voluntary action. I do believe that certain mental diseases (like BPD) are often rooted in experience: when people are pushed past their breaking point, especially in early childhood, something happens to their interpretation of the way the world works. On some level, everything comes back to the physical, but the mental life is a useful abstraction.

I agree that a lack of physical causes should not be automatically assumed, and there is good evidence for things like clinical depression in some people being the result of an underlying physical/electrochemical imbalance. This however is not related to the point of my comment, and while I can appreciate a note of caution as an addendum I don't understand the tone you have taken. My point can be taken for physical diseases as well, though it's harder not to abstract "red itchy spots that just appeared yesterday" as something apart from an individual than it is to view in the same way something like "disorganized speech (e.g., frequent derailment or incoherence)," especially if the latter has been ongoing for years.

Comment Re:Damn... (Score 4, Insightful) 602

Personally, I think we should do the opposite of what you're suggesting: abandon the word "disease" for all mental differences. Stop trying to draw artificial distinctions. Stop trying to pigeonhole. Approach each one - and each person - as an individual.

When you do that, you lose most of the advantages of Western medicine--and Eastern medicine, for that matter.

A mental disease is essentially a behavior pattern. Of course each person is an individual, but certain behavior patterns routinely present themselves, and by classifying them together we gain the power of abstraction: what heals or reduces the impact of a behavior pattern (disease) for one person might work for some others; what works for twenty or a hundred people will likely work for many more. Without being able to separately classify some behavior patterns apart from the individual who exhibits them, we're stuck with a lot more trial and error. I question if it's even possible for someone to treat people who have mental diseases without, through simple process of observation, finding himself classifying behavior and responding accordingly.

Here is an illustration of how classifying mental diseases can be helpful. I dated a girl who told me she suffered from depression. And that appeared evident to me as well. She also did other things too, though. I found that when we were on good terms, I was her favorite person in the world. But if I did one thing that she didn't like, something as simple as already having plans with friends when she wanted to get together, or a comment that she took the wrong way, I was instantly on her shitlist and would remain there for a day or two. There was no in-between. She felt this way about everybody. She was very manipulative, and she'd frequently fly into hysterical rages where she couldn't be reasoned with and the only "solution" was to ignore her for a day or two.

After I broke up with her, I stumbled across a description of Borderline Personality Disorder, and it described her behavior perfectly. I told her as much, and she looked it up and agreed. She went to do a depression study, part of which involved getting an analysis of conditions, and sure enough they told her she had both depression and BPD. Since she now knows what her behavior is classified as, she also has found strategies to help her cope with it. I've spoken with her a few times since then, and I can tell that there is a difference in her, and it's a pretty drastic change for having begun only a year ago.

Without the classification, she would have lived the rest of her life being as miserable and unable to connect with other people as she had been up until then. Once the classification is there, you can call it a disease or a disorder or a condition or whatever you like, it allows us to say "We've seen this before, and here are some things to try that helped other people." The term "disease" has connotations that perhaps it shouldn't, and I don't care much about semantics so I'm not attached to any word in particular, but refusing to classify things is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Comment The summary is rather incomplete. (Score 1) 227

You can't just take a paragraph at random from the article and throw it up onto the screen. I mean, you can, but it's not useful. Having read the article it's an interesting experiment, but the summary gives me no information about the other important piece: when the number of chips to avert disaster is set at 150 and known, the players cooperate; while when that number is unknown except for "between 100 and 200" everybody skimps on contributions and loses 15 euros plus whatever they contributed.

On the other hand, the summary could just be missing the last sentence, "And that's how I became the prince of Fresh Air."

Comment Re:This isn't studio ambiance (Score 1) 163

The tone is the tone, however it is created, and the tone should always serve the song. I often find myself turning to my acoustic guitar for inspiration because there is something about the instant, expressive playability of acoustic instruments that, for me at least, engenders the best kind of creativity. Still, the goal should be to find and use whatever serves the song. I have more electronic compositions than acoustic, and the good ones are just as good.

Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek, for example, gains its power from her raw versatile voice singing atop a chorus that is electronically generated by a harmonizer, making for a highly artificial sound-bed that nonetheless retains the expressiveness she puts into her vocalizing. You wouldn't get the same kind of intimate power through an unaided a capella performance, nor would it be present if she were backed by an orchestra or by acoustic instruments. On the flipside, a piece like Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians is just boring as all get-out when it's composed electronically--everything is metered out and tightly controlled and sterile. When it's performed as written, by eighteen (or thereabouts) people banging on or blowing into things, it has an incredible sonic depth to it. (Here is a link, but be warned that it is an hour long and highly unconventional piece of music.)

There is a tendency to compare music with the visual arts which is often unhelpful, but there are undeniable parallels. I think the appropriate one here is that good visual art is good visual art regardless of whether the artist used oil, acrylic, pencil, watercolor, collage, or some mix of them. The final result is what is important.

Comment Re:squeaky wheels (Score 1) 707

If you're from another country, or an American who slept during civics class (seems like many did)...

You may realize this, given your statement about the power of the president versus state governors, but a lot of us weren't sleeping through civics class. Lots of us didn't even have a civics class, only a "Social Studies" curriculum in which the reasons for having an electoral college were mentioned briefly, almost as an aside.

I personally believe this is by design, but I'm a conspiracy nut.

Comment Re:Ready Player One (Score 2) 278

I think Stephenson takes an eternal and unjust beating about his endings. His books end when the major conflicts are in a position to be resolved by a thinking reader. There's no "and they lived happily ever after," but there is always a sense that all of the key pieces are in the right place and the outcome is decided in that the people we want to come out on top will come out on top. Chess is a very apt metaphor, in my mind: when he stops writing, you know that the Bad Guys are outmaneuvered and trapped in a corner. Does he really need, considering that he tends to be free with his words as it is, to write another thirty pages in order to gift-wrap a final outcome that is already easily imagined by an engaged reader?

Don't get me wrong; I appreciate books that have those kinds of endings. But Stephenson is more concerned with the interesting conflicts, the multiple disparate threads that weave and tangle with each other. When the massive knot becomes a loose collection of simply-twisted loops, he loses interest. I don't find that to be a fatal flaw at all, and I respect that he wants to devote all of his energy to the engaging events leading up to the point where a resolution is inevitable instead of spending a lot of time on the resolution itself.

Take The Diamond Age, for instance, the ending of which a sibling comment laments. (Spoilers follow.) We end with Nell essentially leading an army of girls who are ready to take on the status quo, and with the decentralized Seed in a position to overtake the top-down economics of the Feed. The implication is that these two things, both on their own and taken together, are forces that can and will reshape the world they inhabit. To me, in a way, it's like politics: as soon as you start to get into the details of the resolution, you're going to alienate people who think it should have taken a different path.

Comment Looking forward to a new iMac (Score 1) 211

MacRumors also thinks it highly likely that a new iMac will be unveiled at the same time. I hope so, because my 2007 MacBook Pro is getting long in the tooth, and while it serves most of my mobile computing needs it just can't keep up with my music recording software of choice. I'm confident that the curent-gen iMacs will, and if a new model is released, I'll be able to snag the newly-outdated one at a healthy discount.

I like the hardware and the OS, and I don't mind paying a bit of a premium for it. I also don't need the cutting-edge, and since my "mobile" setup already involves an audio box that requires power and a desk to sit on, I don't mind the sacrifice of full mobility. Here's hoping.

Comment Re:Done right, fracking is harmless (Score 1) 208

You seem to know what you're talking about. I'm just an armchair muckraker, so I'll defer to your numbers. I'm curious to hear your response to this question: why is it that places like Marcellus are only being drilled now? If we've had the technology to do it for so long, why didn't we start drilling there during the Reagan push for energy independence, for example?

The argument from the anti-shale-drilling folks, the ones I tend to be more sympathetic towards, is that there have been new developments "that unlocks gas that was previously not considered recoverable". I pulled that from a rebuttal to the rebuttal of Gasland by the film's creators. A lengthier quote from the same document reads,

On Chesapeake Energy's Hydraulic Fracturing "fact" site, this contradiction is evident: "Hydraulic
fracturing, commonly referred to as fracing, is a proven technological advancement which allows
natural gas producers to safely recover natural gas from deep shale formations. This discovery has
the potential to.... [emphasis added].” Later in the same passage we get the same refrain: "Hydraulic
fracturing has been used by the oil and gas industry since the 1940s..."

Since you seem to have substantially more knowledge of the industry than I do, I'd like to hear your take on that. The whole document is an interesting read, and one that seems pretty convincing to me, but again, I am very much a layman when it comes to this stuff. In any case, I appreciate your previous informed responses. I suspect that I will remain biased against shale drilling, but I do my damnedest to remain open to new information.

Comment Re:Robo Rally (Score 1) 246

I came here to suggest exactly the same game.

In addition to tracking the order of execution, the game requires you to be aware of your environment: there are board elements such as conveyor belts that always execute just after each player instruction, and failing to take them into account will make the rest of your instruction set (five instructions per turn) detrimental or even suicidal.

As far as programming goes, it's a very simplistic model. Keep in mind though that just because your nephew likes math does not mean he will like programming. I think Robo Rally is a good way to see if he's interested in the dynamic aspect of creating a system that does what you want before giving him a more substantial primer on programming. Plus, it's just a damn fun game in its own right, even for a bunch of 30-somethings!

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